Saturday, October 17, 2009


Here are some poems from my Canticle of the Sun project. The first, Brother October, is in memory of my brother, Justin Warfield (5/25/89-10/17/07). The second, Luther to Ancient and Beautiful Rome Came or The City of God is inspired by Luther's journey to Rome, which inspired him to write the "95 Theses."

Brother October

Mother earth, sister sky
Brother October with your falling leaves and silent birds
night of the eagle’s eye

the frost that kisses the grass so lightly
the quiet ambient noise of wind passing
through the solid trunks of the giant sturdy trees
dressed in vibrant colors or some naked without their leaves

gentle snowfall and the burning smell of leaf and fire
red and orange and yellow
golds and silvers
oh October, where have you gone?

I want your confident voice back
the music that only autumn provides

a frosty warmth,
wild and fancy free, spirited hellos and farewells and
the wind pulls the leaves into cartwheels on the earthen floor
no more.

Instead, Jupiter winter, you give no consolation
no warmth or tender touch
hyper bright snow reflecting glaring sun
barren ashy desert of snow

serene and gentle, perhaps
but cruel and bitter, too
Bleak: snow on snow, snow on snow

oh Brother October, where have you gone?

Luther a bellissima e antica Roma e' andato or de civitate Dei

Carried on the back of a horse
the texture, the movement the slight of hand
to the city of God

in each hand you hold the truth
of each and every day
countless backs upon them whipped
and broken down and hurt inside
and that’s the way it goes

into this earthen mess
the snow flies up from ground
into sky to swirl free
before being cast abroad

and here that mess and mixture brings
a heart of toiled pain
a movement in your deepest guts
compassion to set free

and with the winds the earth does shake
and loose it’s slumbered hands
upon the shoulders of Atlas great
the sky does sit to stand

the trees too sway and bend and bow
in a fervent dance
beneath the sun and moon and sky
and saints and sinners both

a sound of trumpet sounding out
the city of God appears
the world opens up to show
its broken heart emerge

in this city a castle’s built
from the blood and sweat of all
the broken backs of countless ones
who under soil lie

take a look at the dirt its rusty color
and taste the earthen soil
it tastes like blood and iron too
and hooven shapes do form

don’t forget the lyre song
its sweet harmonies
they tell the tales of prophets fierce
forgotten with the time

let the spire of this full tow’r
upon your backs to break
the truth will come at last to free
and lay these chains to rest.

Bethany Sermon II

My second sermon at Bethany Village, on the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, Mark 10:17-31. Those of you who were in my preaching class last year might recognize the beginning, lol.

A woman is in line at a department store, her purchases in tow, during the Christmas Rush. The line is going by quickly, and the woman is happy—maybe she’ll be in home to catch her favorite television show, and even relax before her children get home from school. She gets to the cashier and pulls out her cash, and realizes that she does not have enough money to pay for the dresses. The line comes to a screeching halt behind her and people become angry as they are forced to wait while the woman fumbles around, trying to find out what item to take off of her total. Suddenly, a voice from the heavens sounds down “What’s in your wallet?” And then the logo for Capital One credit cards appears across the television screen.

I’m sure you have seen commercials like this one on your television in the past five years or so for Capital One Credit cards. It seems that in every commercial, you have to have this special card or you’re a nuisance to those around you. If you have this special capital one credit card, life will somehow be easier.

The Bible passage also makes me think of the pyramids in Egypt. These great big tombs which are full of gold and riches. You ever hear the phrase “You never see a U-haul behind a hearse?” Guess the Egyptian pharaohs of old missed that memo. Maybe a voice out of the heavens should have asked “What’s in your pyramid?”
Well, in today’s gospel lesson, Jesus is approached by a rich man. We know the story—the rich man asks Jesus what he can do to get inherit eternal life. And Jesus asks if he’s followed the commandments—the rich man says yes—and then Jesus looks on him with love and says then give away all your possessions and come follow me. The rich man, probably with head hung low and tail between his legs, probably mumbling and grumbling to himself, goes home sad because he had many possessions. Jesus tells his disciples the famous saying: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get inherit eternal life. This makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Let’s let this sink in for a little bit… count to five…
Hmm… So, apparently Bill Gates does not have a place at the great banquet, huh? Just kidding, it’s easy to point the finger. But what about us? Is this lesson supposed to be a warning for us? Well, I heard earlier today that if you make only $1,000 a year, you are richer than over fifty percent of the world. Can you imagine? Only $1,000 a year and you are already sitting pretty compared to some of our brothers and sisters around the world. Even in an unstable economy, we are still one of the wealthiest nations in the world. I think this is supposed to make us feel uncomfortable. Like the disciples said, “Who can be saved?”

In the words of a friend of mine, “Oh Lawdy, this passage is makin’ me sink! Let me up for some fresh air!”

But Jesus answers them, “For mortals, it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Jesus is saying, with love—remember, he looked at the rich man with love, not with anger—Jesus is saying that we can’t do it without God. God has to be present and active in our lives, because if we want to inherit eternal life on our own we’d never be able to do enough. So often we can be like the rich man, saying “Well, I follow all the rules, I got to church every Sunday, I read my Bible every day.” Jesus points out that we can do more. But with God, all things are possible.

I think Jesus is telling us to be responsible with our resources. It certainly is impractical in this world to give up everything. We would not survive. To purposefully give up our house and all our money and all our family and all our possessions, to become a homeless person, wondering the streets is to be irresponsible of what resources we have, and to become a burden to others. But we can be more intentional about where we spend our resources.

What’s in your wallet might be a good question for us—we could take out our bills or maybe our calendars and see where most of our time and money is going. For instance, I love reading and books. I love spending time with my friends. Maybe next time I’m at Borders and I want to buy a book, I’ll stop, and I’ll give the money that I would have spent on that book to an organization designed to help illiteracy rates. Maybe next time I plan on spending time with friends, maybe I could invite them to go to church with me instead. Maybe next time I plan on watching a movie I’ll pray or read from the Bible instead. What can we do in our lives to be better stewards of our resources?

Well, I would like to say in my short time at Bethany I have had and continue to have the privilege and blessing to work alongside and with many of you. I have seen people give up their time and their talents for the good of this community and use their resources in ways which blow my mind, sharing with one another the good news and helping one another. The seeds have been planted here—wondrous seeds of truth and love and hope. But the road still stretches out before us, the journey is not over until it’s over, so let us continue to grow in the rich goodness God has given us. Let us continue to look out for our sisters and brothers around us. Each and every day we are given the choice to use our richness—the blessings God has given us, friends, family, time, and talents, and so much more—to give to others and by giving we are following Christ. In uplifting the poor and weak and last among us, we are doing the work God commanded us. And even when we do not feel good enough, God is good enough. Through God all things are possible, and through God even the rich can pass through the eye of a needle.

Jesus tells them that the last will be first, and the first will be last. Jesus looks on the disciples with love; and tells them that when things are given away, or even taken away, that we can rest assured in the promise that one day will come when all things will be made right again, where things are not taken, but are given, where illness fades away and wellness blossoms, where loved ones and old friends who have gone will welcome us home, and where the last among us and the least among us will be first, and where our broken bodies will be made whole and one again. And we will be met with the old and beautiful words, “Well done, good and faithful soldiers, well done.”

Let us pray: Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us your gift of faith, that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead, we may follow the way of your commandments and receive the crown of everlasting joy, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Bethany Devotion VII

My seventh devotion (I think?) at Bethany Village in Mechanicsburg, PA.

John 6.35b “[Jesus said] whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.

Before I went to seminary this year, my mother gave me a plant. I don’t garden nor have I ever tended one, so I am not sure why she gave me this plant. It is a basil plant. I have it situated by a window so it gets plenty of light and warmth. Although I have never really kept a plant before, the plant seemed to be doing very well, its long green leaves reaching up towards the sun, the green a healthy and vibrant color. This past weekend I went home for a few days, and I forgot to water the plant. I came back to the seminary and saw that the once strong green leaves were now drooping, not just a little, but a lot. Some of the green had faded and some of the leaves began to turn brown around the edges. I had only not watered it for three days, and it was already drooping. I immediately gave the plant plenty of water, hoping that it was not too late to save the plant.

By the next day, after just watering the plant, the basil was already returning to it’s healthy self again. The color was restored to the leaves, the plant was once again reaching its viney tendrils towards the sun. The basil plant filled the air with its sweet aroma once more, its leaves growing in that sweet flavor that is so unique to basil.

Water is such an important part of life. It gives the world life. Growth. Nurture. The flooding of rivers gives rich nutrients to the soil. Rain brings growth to fields. Humans are composed of between sixty to seventy percent water, and if we do not drink enough liquid, we can feel parched, just like my basil plant, only to be refreshed the moment we drink more water.

Many of you I know read your bibles every day, and pray without ceasing. For the word of God is like water. It fills us up, gives us life, and opportunity for growth. Water is used in baptism, and along with the powerful words of the trinity, that water binds us to God forever. The great oceans are full of fish and whales and all sorts of creatures beyond imagination. Jesus said that whoever believes in him is never thirsty. Whoever lets the word of God fill them like water will never be the same again, but will be reborn. Let us continually drink from the living water that is the word of God, so that we may grow in faith and love, and so that we may let justice roll down like a mighty river and righteousness like a never ending stream.

I ended the devotion with Martin Luther's "Flood Prayer," and, of course, the Lord's Prayer.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bethany Devotion VI

I know it's been a while since I posted a devotion, but I've been doing 'em.

Micah 6.8
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

“If you have made another person on this earth smile, your life has been worthwhile.”
~ Sr. Mary Christelle Macaluso

I used to work at Starbucks Coffee as a Barista—a fancy word Starbucks uses for people who serve coffee. I enjoyed it at first—the smell of fresh coffee—that is bitter and sweet at the same time. The atmosphere of Starbucks was one of sophistication and hurriedness, as people rushed in and rushed out with their coffees off to their busy lives. Making the coffee products were enjoyable, too. But, after a while, the days became longer and the business caught up to me. I remember one particular day I was making tea and I tripped, spilling the boiling hot water all over my hands. The day did not get any better, as the lines got unusually long, making customers unhappy as they had to wait, customers who had grown accustomed to their own special routine that included a warm cup of sweet, flavorful Starbucks coffee. And I remember complaining to my manager at the end of the day how bad it was.

“I just feel like I got nothing accomplished,” I said.

He replied, “What do you mean?”

I responded, “Well, the lines were long and customers were unhappy. I burnt myself. I just feel like today was a waste. Like today was a really bad day.”

My manager responded, “But you did your job. Even though the lines were long and people were unhappy, you were able to help brighten people’s days just by being there, simply by listening to their concerns and helping them get their coffee.”

My managers words were unexpected. I had not realized that my job was more than simply getting people their coffee. My job was more than that. It was serving people with a smile, helping them in perhaps the smallest way possible get through their day. And even though serving someone coffee is quite simple, I was able to help people smile, even if only for a few minutes on their way to work in the morning.

In life, so often we can get caught up in the disappointments in life. We can have bad days. Sometimes bad weeks or bad months! And it can feel like we’re not helping anyone. But just by being there, being a listening ear, being someone that smiles and says hello in the hallway, we can brighten someone’s day.

In the Bible verse I read, the prophet Micah is asking what all he needs to do to give God the praise God deserves. Micah asks if ten thousand rams would be enough, if rivers and rivers of oil would be enough. If that’s not enough, then what? Micah offers to give his first born child up to God! And yet, at the end, Micah realizes that all God requires is to love mercy, love kindness, and walk humbly alongside our God.

Just like a smile and a cup of coffee was a very humble means of serving another person, it was still serving them. It was still one small thing I could do to brighten someone’s day. Just by being kind, loving mercy, and walking humbly through the ups and downs of life we are serving our neighbors, and we are serving God.
So for today, I’d like to ask you to reflect on a few questions. How can we walk humbly in our lives? What small ways can we show kindness to one another?

Let us pray. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe. You have protected us all through this night and with each new day comes new opportunities to serve you and to serve one another, so that we may act justly, love mercy and kindness, and walk humbly in your Holy Name O Lord. Let us pray together the prayer your Son taught us:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.