I’m not preaching this week, but if I were . . .
I often read poetry as part of, and frequently as a substitute for, a homily. This is especially true on “high holy days” when the liturgy and the lessons of the lectionary speak so eloquently that the attempt at exegesis seems at best irrelevant and at worst intrusive, e.g., Good Friday or Palm Sunday. On such days, in such liturgies and with such lessons, the poets seem to get and to give the message so much better than I can.
There are two poems that I’ve used on Palm Sunday which look at the story focusing on or speaking through one of the often-ignored characters, the donkey which carried Christ into the city of Jerusalem. One is Mary Oliver’s The Poet Thinks about the Donkey in which the poet expresses her hopes for the animal. The other is G.K. Chesterton’s The Donkey in which the animal speaks for itself.
Lenten Journal, Day 22
Today is the 20th weekday in Lent … the season is half over!
I thought I would write some poetry, but it just turned into a limerick.
Christianity is not about pie in the sky by and by
It’s not about getting a ticket to heaven when you die
There’re no guarantees
when you fall on your knees
That a voice will answer when you ask “What?” or “When?” or “Why?”
No guarantees. That’s life. There is a Lenten guarantee, however. It ends with Resurrection.
Lenten Journal, Day 21
God, I’m depressed. “My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.”
Going through Lent without the regular support of a faith community while also recovering from major orthopedic surgery and observing the state of American politics and the state of American Christianity really has me in a blue funk and I can feel the “black dog” prowling around in the fog. It’s too much. Maybe this retirement thing, or the surgery, or both were bad decisions. “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?”
I’m pretty certain that checking the New York Times and the Washington Post, Facebook and Twitter is occasionally a bad idea, maybe frequently a bad idea.
Lenten Journal, Day 20
Sigh . . . . it’s detachment time again!
This Lent, my first as a retired priest, is certainly focusing my attention on not focusing my attention, which is just a cute way to say “Detachment.” The need to “let go” is hitting me squarely between the eyes.
I’m feeling very much like a stubborn donkey.
Lenten Journal, Day 18 – Third Sunday in Lent
Friday (day before yesterday), I wrote about “acedia,” the deadly sin of spiritual torpor or procrastination, of not caring. It got me to thinking about “not caring.”
One of the things about parish ministry that surprised me early in my ordained career was the need to make decisions about things in which I had absolutely no interest. What color should we paint the ladies’ restroom? I don’t care. What should we have on the menu for so-and-so’s reception? I don’t care. Should there be just instrumental music or some sing-along carols before the Christmas service? I don’t care.
I learned, though, that “I don’t care” was not the right answer. I learned that “I don’t care” wasn’t heard as “I have no preference and am completely and dispassionately disinterested and indifferent; you may do as you wish and I will not be concerned in any way.”
“I don’t care” was heard as “You’d best leave my church and never come back.”
Lenten Journal, Day 14
She was known to her friends as “Jo” or “Josie”. She was Josephina Magdalena Ekaterina von Binkerstaff-Wigglesbutt, Countess von Binkerstaff. Jo was a wealthy heiress (the Stilwell Wigglesbutts, you know) who, like Lady Grantham of Downton Abbey, had married into a failing aristocratic family (the Blaues Tel von Binkerstaffs) to prop up their fortunes. Widowed early, she became a patron of arts endowing several museums in her late husband’s memory.
She was also our first cocker spaniel, a stray we adopted while living in Blue Valley, Kansas (hence the “Blaues Tel” part of her story). We still remember Jo with considerable love and refer to her as “the best dog ever.” With Josephine began our tradition of inventing silly aristocratic names and outrageous histories for our canines.
Lenten Journal, Day 13
I had a first-in-the-morning appointment at the digestive disease medical office today, a pre-screening for the colonoscopy I have scheduled in two weeks. Weight, blood pressure, review of medications, instructions on which medications to discontinue ahead of the procedure, medical history review, that sort of thing … and, of course, the preparation instructions for the day before.
I can’t really think of anything more appropriate for Lent than colonoscopy prep, can you?
OK, I’m being facetious.
Lenten Journal, Day 12
A few months ago I had to take Evelyn to the Emergency Room because of rapid on-set, stress-induced, and disabling inflammatory arthritis; she had awakened about 3 a.m. with severe joint pain a quite literally could not move. We tried to deal with her situation on our own, but it became clear that more was needed. About 4:30 a.m., I called 911 and she was transported to our local community hospital. I dressed as quickly as I could and followed.
I arrived at the ER about 5:30 and waited while a man probably in his late forties checked in an elderly woman. She waited patiently while he dealt with her paperwork. He was much more distraught than she, trying to hurry the process (which only delayed things). Once all was done, he made sure she was comfortable in the waiting room, saying, “Mom, I have to go home and see to the kids. They’ll come get you soon and I’ll be back as quickly as possible.”
Lenten Journal, Day 11 – Second Sunday in Lent
It has been a busy St. Patrick’s Day although Evelyn and I did nothing in the nature of Irish celebration other than pick up some deli corned beef and Swiss cheese for lunch sandwiches and in the evening meet friends for Mexican food. Margaritas are green; they count, right? We went to church where we heard a sermon about God’s faithfulness, stopped at the store to by that corned beef, and came home to do the things married people do on a Sunday afternoon. By which I mean laundry and housekeeping.
Yesterday, I listened to an NPR interview with a musician promoting her art at Austin’s South by Southwest Festival. In the course of the interview, while she was talking about making a political witness through her art, she said, “There are so many things I don’t want to believe….”
Lenten Journal, Day 10
Is it possible to understand evil?
49 people were killed yesterday in New Zealand. Muslims gathered for Friday Jummah prayers. 49 people peacefully worshiping God were murdered. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.
The news channels and the newspapers since have been filled with commentary trying to make sense of the event. The rhetoric of politicians and public figures of all sorts has been blamed as “contributing” the killer’s action; I read that Chelsea Clinton was confronted by students claiming her comments in opposition to anti-Semitism had done so! The killer claimed to be inspired by the words of the Current Occupant of the White House. On the other hand, counter-commentary (from Fox News, of course) is denying any relationship between obviously inflammatory rhetoric and the shooter’s action.