Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"Will you do the same this Christmas...?"


When the world was dark
and the city was quiet,
you came.
You crept in beside us. 
And no one knew.
Only the few
who dared to believe
that God might do something different.
Will you do the same this Christmas, Lord?
Will you come into the darkness of tonight's world;

not the friendly darkness
as when sleep rescues us from tiredness,
but the fearful darkness,
in which people have stopped believing
that war will end
or that food will come
or that a government will change
or that the Church cares?
Will you come into that darkness

and do something different
to save your people from death and despair?
Will you come into the quietness of this town,

not the friendly quietness
as when lovers hold hands,
but the fearful silence when
the phone has not rung,
the letter has not come,
the friendly voice no longer speaks,
the doctor's face says it all?
Will you come into that darkness

and do something different,
not to distract, but to embrace your people?
And will you come into the dark corners 

and the quiet places of our lives? 
We ask this not because we are guilt-ridden
or want to be,
but because the fullness our lives long for
depends upon us being as open and vulnerable to you
as you were to us,
when you came,
wearing no more than diapers,
and trusting human hands
to hold their maker.
Will you come into our lives,
if we open them to you
and do something different?
When the world was dark

and the city was quiet
you came.
You crept in beside us.
Do the same this Christmas, Lord.
Do the same this Christmas.

from Cloth for the Cradle, Iona Community
read at the Carol Sing at Emmanuel Church, Boston

Image (unattributed) from the blog What the Helfer

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Vigil of 1 Advent: God's patience and God's impatience

[]

Do you have an Advent wreath? Do you light Advent candles? Did you light the first candle tonight? Will you wait for tomorrow?

This is your virtual lighting of the first candle. Take a moment (or two) to gaze at the flame here, the wooden match lighting the purple candle. Simply gaze. There is no need for words. Some may come to you later. Or not.

Advent and Christmas are in some ways the ultimate celebration of space, the celebration of God entering human space in the most intimate way possible: by becoming human. The celebration of word become flesh, the discovery that God-the-other is also God-with-us (Emmanuel in Hebrew) -- that is the good news of Advent.

We celebrate in
Advent God's invitation for us to view our space --our society, our environment, our neighbor, our own flesh-- as sacred, pregnant with justice and hope, filled with hidden treasure.

But
Advent is also a celebration of time and a celebration in time.

The way in which we live time in
Advent is profoundly counter-cultural. At a time when many of us are caught in the frenzy of work and in dashing about to buy presents, we Christians are invited to step into a season of muted colors, whose mood is slow, gentle, and deep --though also, as we will see in some of the season's biblical readings, disturbing at times. In Advent, light increases gradually, week by week, instead of appearing in one great post-Thanksgiving burst of electricity. (For those of you not in the U.S., there is no Thanksgiving holiday in late November, but the great burst of electricity is there.)

There is a reason for this slowing down. If we are to hear the good news that our space and God's space have become one, we have to slow down enough to hear. Sometimes this good news is spoken to us by God very softly, in ordinary ways and places, in the daily events of our lives. Sometimes this good news is simply that there is immense treasure already present in our lives and hearts: all that we need to claim the treasure is to slow down, stop, and notice it. 

If the good news is going to take root in us --once we have begun to listen or to notice-- we need to enter God's time, God's timetable. Advent is not a flashy season. It takes time for good news to sink in, for love to grow, for wisdom to ripen, for lives to be transformed, for truth to dawn in us -- much more time than our frenzy will often allow.

So in
Advent, season of waiting for Christ, we take in the good news slowly, steadily, lighting candles one at at time, adding a new insight, a layer of understanding, a little layer of light every week, as around us in the Northern Hemisphere* the days grow darker.  (*If people from the Southern Hemisphere read this post, it will be interesting to hear about Advent and Advent lights from people for whom it is the middle of summer right now.)

Advent challenges our impatience and invites us to enter God's patience.

Yet 
Advent is also a time to enter God's impatience, a time when prophets (more on them in the coming weeks) challenge our apathy and paralysis and urge us forward, a time in which the stories and songs in the scriptures speak of a God who longs to transform our hearts, our society, and creation itself -- soon, now, urgently.

One of the challenges of this season is to figure out the connections between our time and God's time, to readjust and balance our sense of time, to discover  or rediscover --to discern-- when it is appropriate to enter into God's patience and when it is time to enter into God's impatience.

In this first night, before anything else, take time. Rest in the patience of God. All else will unfold, in God's time.

______________


This is the first post of a retreat I led last year during Advent. It appeared on the retreat's closed  blog
(i.e. a blog accessible only to retreatants, not a public blog like this one) at the beginning of the retreat. I will be offering the retreat again this year, with a few changes. Information will be available here by the end of the day tomorrow, December 1.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ramadan begins

I meant to post this at the beginning of Ramadan (also pronounced Ramazan) as I did on Facebook, but got bogged down in a major work project. I'm posting this later in July but back-dating to early July so that it appears when I intended to post it...

To those about to enter the holy month of Ramadan, Ramazan Mubarak!

To those who are not, have a look at the message below the image from Khalvat Dar Anjuman (Ibrahim Baba) about Ramazan with a few thoughts on how to honor and support the observance of Muslim friends, acquaintances, neighbors, and co-workers.

Because the calendar of Islam is a lunar one, Ramazan rotates around the seasons (and thus around the months of the Gregorian calendar). This year in the northern hemisphere, with Ramazan in the summer, the fast from sunrise to sunset, every day for a month, is particularly long and demanding.

We who are not Muslim can learn much from those who are spending this month in the ancient traditions of fasting and prayer, of almsgiving and awareness of common humanity and of the needs of the poor, of gathering for breaking the fast with family and friends, of deepening and re-focusing attention on the All-Merciful, the Creator. Can we, during this month, learn about and from our neighbors? How can we do so without burdening our neighbors, but by taking on some discipline or task ourselves? How can we attune our listening and attention? How will we be challenged to deepen our own walk, our practice, our faith, our ethics? How can we be mindful and compassionate neighbors? How can we learn to be friends on this polyphonic planet Earth?




And here is Ibrahim Baba's message, which I first read on Facebook and which he has given me permission to re-post here. (I have left the lower-case and upper-case spellings as written intentionally by the author.)


on Tuesday, 9 july 2013, many of us will enter into the Sacred Month of Ramazan, the Queen of Months. some of us will be fasting from sunrise to sunset, going about the activities of our day. others will be feeding others as their practice during this sacred time while others will build community in other ways. this is the most precious time of the year for some of us. for some of us it is a time of exceeding joy; for others it is a time of struggle. as any kind of religious time, it brings issues for some, troubling memories or fears of isolation and exclusion. it is also a time of intensifying our efforts for justice, equity, equality, access, accessibility, radical inclusion, etc. through more prayer, more dhikr, more work in our communities, etc.. because we actually have more time as we are not eating throughout the day, lol!

if you are not a muslim and know muslims who are fasting, you can offer to prepare an iftar meal for them at the end of the fasting day or cook something for their pre-dawn meal. or you can invite them to eat somewhere with you. or do something to bring smoothness to their day. for people who work all day during Ramazan, it is nice to not have to worry about their end-of-the fasting day meal (iftar). the iftar meal is often part of a community-gathering, but for some people, certain community-gatherings can be very painful and isolating. so, if you are friends with someone who is fasting and you all are part of a community that is not muslim but which unites and sustains you, perhaps that community could offer an iftar meal in recognition of your friends who are fasting. it is REALLY ROUGH to come home and have an iftar all on your own, especially if you are from a culture or place where Ramazan is a month-long party. If you find out that your friends are lonely and alone, weeping over their dates and a bowl of soup, please see with them what you could do to make some Ramazan community for them.

Greeting: Ramazan mübarek! A blessed Ramazan!
Response: Ramazan karim! A generous Ramazan/a Ramazan of generosity!

and a teaching from Sri Lankan Sufi shaykh, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, from a talk he gave entitled, "What is Ramadan?" http://www.bmf.org/ramadan/ramadan.html

Friday, June 7, 2013

Soelle in Summer: a course-retreat. We're on!


Remember the question I asked here?

Well, we're on!

Soelle in Summer: Challenge and Wonder
 an online course-retreat
 June 17-July 31, 2013


Read and reflect in community on the work, thought, and spirituality of Dorothee Soelle (also spelled Sölle). 

Soelle (1928-2003) was a German theologian, poet, peace activist, and Protestant Christian with Catholic, secular, humanist, and Jewish companions and allies; she was also a friend, teacher, spouse, mother, socialist, and from mid-life on, feminist.

  
Details of the course-retreat are here.

Soelle in Summer is designed, led, and facilitated by Jane Redmont (theologian, author, spiritual director). Seven weeks, $245. Write readwithredmont@earthlink.net. Registrations welcome till Tuesday, June 18. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Interested in Dorothee Soelle? A summer online retreat/course opportunity

I don't as they put it believe in god

but to him I cannot say no hard as I try
take a look at him in the garden
when his friends ran out on him
his face wet with fear
and with the spit of his enemies
him I have to believe


Him I can't bear to abandon
to the great disregard for life
to the monotonous passing of millions of years
to the moronic rhythm of work leisure and work
to the boredom we fail to dispel
in cars in beds in stores

That's how it is they say what do you want
uncertain and not uncritically
I subscribe to the other hypothesis
which is his story
that's not how it is he said for god is
and he staked his life on this claim

Thinking about it I find
one can't let him pay alone
for his hypothesis
so I believe him about
god

The way one believes another's laughter
his tears
or marriage or no for an answer
that's how you'll learn to believe him about life
promised to all

A poem I had posted here many moons ago. It is from the series of 10 poems "When He Came" in Dorothee Soelle's book Revolutionary Patience (1977).
 

"SOELLE IN SUMMER" - *online* June 17-July 31. A mix of retreat and course, with opportunity for both individual reflection and conversation. Interested? Read more on my web space here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The sad, glorious, fragile spring of this year

Posted the paragraphs below the photo yesterday afternoon (Sunday, May 5) on Facebook - and (why was I surprised?) though I felt like a voice in the wilderness when I posted it, it drew many comments, most of which expressed kinship and understanding. So perhaps I was giving voice to something many of us feel right now.

The photos are from yesterday and the past few weeks in Boston.



This spring feels sad. Glorious flowers everywhere, here one week but gone the next, and the world a mess. Like my friend Lindy, who wrote about this a couple of days ago, I find that some days are just for weeping --or at least grieving if the tears don't come, which often they don't. It is worse on the days one can't cry, I think. I find consolation in the fact that Dorothy Day, surely one of the strong holy people of the 20th century and among the ones who did the most good, tough as she was, sat and wept with great frequency.

Once in a blue moon she got to weep with a friend. This is a passage about times with her friend Catherine de Hueck Doherty ("the Baroness"), a woman of very different background and temperament from hers, but who was her comrade in Christian work of mercy and justice, and who after Dorothy's death, remembered:

"When I moved to Harlem, Dorothy Day and I became even closer. There were only about five miles between her house and my Harlem house. So occasionally when we both had enough money, let’s say about a dollar, we would go to Child’s where you could get three coffee refills (for the price of one cup), and we used to enjoy each cup and just talk.

Talk about God. Talk about the apostolate. Talk about all the things that were dear to our hearts.
But we were both very lonely because, believe it or not, there were just the two of us in all of Canada and America, and we did feel lonely and no question about it.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Restoration, February 1981

This story came via Fr. Bob Wild (who is doing research on Day and Doherty) on the Madonna House website, but I remember reading it in the Dorothy Day anthology edited by Robert Ellsberg.









All photos (c) Jane C. Redmont. If you reproduce them without permission or attribution, the archangel in  charge of copyrights will get fiery mad. Please give credit where credit is due. Thank you.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Donating from retreat registrations to the Walk for Hunger

As some readers know, I moved back to my beloved Boston just four months ago. Tomorrow, May 5,  is the annual Walk for Hunger. It will be the first large outdoor public gathering since the Boston Marathon. It usually draws about 40,000 people. 


The Walk was started by a group of people connected with my old church over four decades ago. It funds hundreds of emergency food programs (750,000-plus people in this Commonwealth do not have enough to eat) and its parent agency, Project Bread, also does advocacy and prevention work addressing the long-term causes of hunger. 

The last time I lived here, I did the Walk every year and then, when my feet gave out and I couldn't walk the 20 miles on concrete any more, volunteered as a Marshal. (Note: I also had Project Bread as a client for several of the years I was doing development consulting here, working for agencies addressing the causes and consequences of urban poverty.) 

So here's the deal: I'm not walking this year, but if you register for my "Hurry Up and Slow Down: Spiritual Practice in Daily Life" online retreat which begins on Monday May 6 (see here for full information) any time between this very minute and the end of Sunday (tomorrow May 5) in whatever time zone you are in, I will give $20 out of each registration fee to the Walk instead of keeping the whole fee.* Because I often scramble to pay the rent each month, but there are people far worse off than I, and we are all part of one another.

*I'd be happy to send you proof of the donation if you wish.

Here is an interesting interview with Project Bread Executive Director Ellen Parker.


Cross-posted on my professional website.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Today is International Jazz Day - and here's the live concert in Istanbul!

The International Jazz Day Global Concert is streaming live from Istanbul. 

They've just started the speeches (the concert and the day are sponsored by UNESCO) and the music will begin shortly. EVERY country in the world has some kind of celebration of International Jazz Day. Enjoy! Click here for the link.


P.S. Duke Ellington's birthday was yesterday. Did you celebrate it?

"My spiritual life needs some help..."

Did you just say that? Or think that?
 

Hurry Up and Slow Down, an online retreat designed to fit into the daily lives of busy people, might be just the right thing at the right time for you. Have a look here
 
(c) Jane Redmont
  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

On the day of the memorial service for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing

Today, behind the mourners in public places, the rescuers, the demonstrators, the loud speakers, there are --always, still-- those who clean and scrub, those who cannot get away from work, those caring for the very young and the very old, those who cannot get easily from one place to the other, and the artists, the writers, the poets, who need the quiet solitude and the unsung space and time before the singing, and who, in their own way, hold up and reweave the world. Remember them.

(c) Jane Redmont

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Maundy Thursday image


A few weeks ago I took this picture on the beach in Honolulu, a quick shot with my phone camera, late in the day. The younger woman was tying the older woman's shoe. It was an act of love and service on a beach that is largely filled with tourists on vacation and local people who come to surf or, often, just to watch the sunset. Though the picture is not literally a foot-washing, it is an icon of Holy Thursday (also known as Maundy Thursday).

I've also posted an old sermon about --what else?-- feet, for this holy day. And Jesus, of course. See here.

A sermon for Maundy Thursday (a.k.a. Holy Thursday)

 
Photo: Feet of the Campesino (Oaxaca, Mexico) by Ken Light.
**************
Here's an old thang. (Also found here.)

This sermon is from seven years ago.

I had preached a slightly different version of it in Berkeley two years before. (You can make foot fetish jokes with a Berkeley congregation but not with a Greensboro one ;-). Not sure yet about Boston, where I have not yet begun preaching. Or begun again, since I preached in this city during the 1980s and the first part of the 1990s.)

Maundy Thursday

St. Mary’s House (Episcopal/Anglican), Greensboro

April 13, 2006

Exodus 12:1-14a
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (27-32)
Psalm 78:14-20, 23-25
John 13:1-15

In the name of the One
who longs for our friendship,
and of Christ Jesus,
who calls us friends,
and of their Spirit,
who makes holy friendship possible,
Amen.


Only in the Gospel of John
is the footwashing the focus of the Last Supper story.

In the other three gospels, Mark, Matthew, and Luke,
it is the sharing of bread and wine
as Jesus the Christ’s own life
that is at the center of the meal.

This evening we celebrate both:
with our bodies and hearts and minds,
with food and drink,
*****fruit of the earth and work of human hands
*****that become part of our own blood and bone;
with water,
*****without which nothing and no one on this planet could survive;
with touch,
*****without which we humans would wither from lack of love.

In our deeply mindful present
as we listen,
*****move,
*****touch,
*****receive,
*****offer
*****and share
we also commit
an act of memory
and an act of hope.

Feet!

Although Eucharist, the holy communion we share
with Christ and with each other
*****and with others throughout space and time
is once again the culmination of our celebration,
*****the last feast before the Good Friday fast
*****leading to Easter,
the foot-washing is at the heart of this celebration.

As the youngest child asks during the Passover Seder,
“Why is this night different from every other night?”
We may ask:
Why is this night different?
Why on this night wash and be washed?
Why feet?

I should have said
“be washed” and then “wash”
–for we who are Jesus’ friends
receive
from him
before we can give.

And Peter, that bumbling, energetic character who repeatedly doesn’t get it
*****and for whom we can thus have great affection,
objects strenuously to precisely this:
that the one who teaches and leads,
the one who is holiness itself,
Jesus, child of Holy Wisdom,
the main man,
washes Peter and his friends
and washes us,
his friends and followers.
So that then and only then
we might do likewise.

And so, as in the storied beginnings of Jesus’ life,
the last are first,
kings kneel
and the powers of the world
turn upside down.

This is our memory.
This is our vision.
This is our hope.

Tonight we celebrate the sacrament of friendship,
of power turned upside down
in Jesus’ land, small sliver of earth and shore
occupied by a foreign empire
and
on our piece of earth
today.

Tonight is the sacrament of friendship
in both the table and the touch.

Tonight the tired and the hidden are held
and bathed
and tenderly handled.

Feet.

We don’t talk about feet much
in church.
We don’t do much with feet in church.
Feet are too –well, pedestrian is the word that comes to mind,
the word whose root comes from the Latin word for foot,
a word meaning all at once “ordinary” and “everyday-ish” and “plain.”
Feet are basic.
Feet take us places
–when we are not in wheelchairs
or in our cars.
In the land of the automobile,
we don’t use them enough
for going places.
But if we are car-less
or homeless
we may use them too much.
In Boston, at least two of the major shelters for homeless persons,
one day shelter and one overnight shelter,
have foot clinics, because feet take a lot of stress
when you’re out there,
especially in winter.

Feet.
Sometimes we paint their toes.
If we’re lucky, we get them massaged.
Practitioners of shiatsu, acupressure, and other Asian healing arts tell us
that they contain points of connection to every place and organ in the body.
If you’re a moviegoer who likes French films,
you will remember a wonderful scene in the movie “Cousin, Cousine”
where the two main characters
have finally made love
and they are holed up in a hotel room together,
perfectly relaxed, and one of them holds the other’s feet
and very tenderly
clips her toenails.

Now,
mention feet in relation to church
and two realities are likely to come up:
intimacy
and awkwardness.

In Jesus’ day of dusty roads and sandals
there was no need to make a point about the importance of feet
to get around.
That’s what most people used,
and the quickest non-feet land transportation
was a donkey
–maybe a horse if you were a Roman soldier;
but that didn’t apply to most people.

In Jesus’ day,
there was also no need to make a point
about the relation of feet
to earth.
Jesus didn’t have to do this
because in the world in which he lived,
this connection to the land was taken for granted.

We, on the other hand, need a reminder.
So in addition to reminding you
that when we say God loves us
we mean all the way down to the tips of our smelly toes,
I want to invite you to think of feet in this way:
feet are what we use most often
to touch the earth.

They are our connection to the earth.

“Humility” – the name of that virtue we celebrate today
in the washing of the feet
comes from the word for “earth.”
*****– Think of the word “humus.”—
“Humble” really means “close to the earth.”

Can we become again people of earth?
Can we become the people of the land?

There is an interesting connection here.

Most of the people who followed Jesus
–though, mind you, he had city folks and artisans
in his circle as well–
were what the Bible calls the am ha’aretz,
the common people,
literally, the people of the land.

“The people of the land”
is also what indigenous peoples,
diverse as they are,
call themselves in many places around the globe.

Just two years ago I heard Mark MacDonald, the bishop of Alaska,
***[Note: Mark is now in a different bishop job but still working with Native peoples.]
talk about environmental rights and human rights.
He spoke about the Gwich’in people.
They are the indigenous people
who live up in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
in Alaska
–and many, many of them, by the way, are Episcopalians.

[I did an extemp sentence here reminding people that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not “empty” – it has plants, it has caribou, and it has people, all interdependent.]

The Gwich’in have a word for what we term “subsistence,”
a term that for us has a somewhat negative or impoverished connotation,
as in “subsistence living” or “a subsistence economy.”
What we term “subsistence”
is in the Gwich’in language a word
that means, literally,
“God is taking good care of you.”

“God is taking good care of you.”

That is what you learn when you are people of the land.

This evening we celebrate what Jesus did the night before he died.

When you know you’re going to die,
you want to be with the people you love the most
and you concentrate every bit of wisdom in your body and soul
into a few words or gestures;
you compress them in time;
you leave them as a testament.

What Jesus did the night before he died
was to serve
through the washing of the feet
but also to bless
and thus to give thanks,
to receive
the bread,
the wine.
The Jewish blessing over food and wine, and anything else for that matter,
begins, “Blessed are you, Creator of the universe...”

Jesus acknowledged that the bread and the wine
don’t come from us:
they come from God
and from the earth
and from the labor of others.

And so do we.

In receiving the bread
we savor, we understand,
we remember
our relationship to creation, to our food, to our land.
We are here to receive and to taste
not to own or exploit.

And we are to receive each other
to cradle each other
to handle each other tenderly
at all times,
including when we are at our most awkward.

We learn this tonight
from Jesus
child of God
and child of earth.

We learn from Jesus
to be people who live
in the freedom of the living God.
For this is our God: the living God; the God of Jesus;
not a violent God; not a God who urges us to conquer;
not a God who urges us to acquire
not a God who urges us to consume.

A God who frees us to be
people who know
our relationship to God
and to earth
and to one another:

people of God
people of earth.

Friday, March 15, 2013

World Sleep Day (and its poster girl - or the one who should be)

Today is World Sleep Day. Yes, there is such a thing.

I have been neglecting blog fans of the Feline Bishop Extraordinaire, the Right Reverend Maya Pavlova. Just because she is on Facebook (on my FB page - she does NOT have her own FB page) doesn't mean her bloggy fans should be deprived of her presence! As I inch back into blogging, I present you with the latest photo, taken just minutes ago.

She really should be the poster girl for World Sleep Day. Don't forget to nap today -- or tomorrow on Shabbat.



Thursday, March 14, 2013

NOT a slow news day yesterday - or today

I am spending far too much time on Facebook, much of it reading and disseminating articles on the new pope, Francis. More on him, with some links, as soon as I catch up on work... Till then, peace and continued Lenten blessings. And a photo from Hawai'i, where I recently spent ten days as spiritual director in residence and visiting theological jane-of-all-trades at a large Episcopal parish in Honolulu, on the island of O'ahu. I was working most of the time, but had a bit of time off and visited Hanauma Bay (also on O'ahu), pictured below.

(c) Jane Redmont

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cat basking in winter sun






Winter at the Arnold Arboretum (3)






 




 








Winter at the Arnold Arboretum (2)
















































































Winter at the Arnold Arboretum (1)

As some readers of this blog know, I have very recently moved back to Boston after seven and a half years in North Carolina preceded by a decade in California. Because I have close family here as well as friends and colleague, I have been back for visits during those more than seventeen years, but they have been either short or very focused. It is good to be back here as a resident.

Here is some winter beauty from three recent walks (on days with very different weather) at the Arnold Arboretum.


The Arboretum is a public-private partnership between the City of Boston and Harvard University. Read a description of it here.














Sunday, January 20, 2013

Liturgy & spirituality in feminist perspective: online course

As I noted in the previous post, which announced the Merton retreat, I have begun (since last year) to offer online courses and retreats.

We have a course about to start in a week. It is called Naming Mystery, Living Justice: Spirituality and Liturgy in Feminist Perspective. It will feature Christian feminist as well as some Jewish feminist and Goddess/Pagan readings. Full information is here

All genders are welcome. You don't have to be a woman to be interested in feminism.

Note that there is a discount if you register by tonight! (Sunday, January 20.) If you don't read this till Monday morning, ask for the discount then too. 


The home page of my professional website (really a blog acting like a website) is here.

Now back to our (ir)regularly scheduled blogging...