Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Advent - Meditations


1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to [b] me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.

19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God!
Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!

20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD,
and abhor those who rise up against you?

22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

First Meditation:

“I Am Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”

Advent is a penitential season. A “little Lent” was the description once used for this period. Unlike Lent, penitence is not the prevailing mood of Advent. In Lent we look forward to The Passion before we can look forward to the Resurrection. Easter does not happen without Good Friday. Advent, by contrast, is a season of joyful anticipation. We do not bury the Alleluia but we look expectantly to the feast of the incarnation, Christmas. The penitence of Advent is preparation. We are preparing a home in our hearts and in our lives to welcome the newborn King.

When I was conceiving a quiet day for Advent I was struck by how disembodied is the expression of our faith, particularly in the Episcopal Church. Not for nothing are we described as God’s “Frozen Chosen”. Our BCP liturgies have been letting go of the more embodied experiences of prayer in favor of some older forms borrowed from our Jewish heritage. So we stand throughout much of the Eucharistic liturgy as was customary in Jewish prayer.

The calisthenics of the rite one liturgies and the 1928 prayer book were imbued with a certain physical logic. Our bodies expressed our prayer. We stood to offer our praise and thanksgiving (as one might stand to dance for joy). We knelt with heads bowed in penitence or supplication. The bowed head is a posture of vulnerability. The penitent or supplicant exposes their neck to the sword of the one who stands above. In liturgies rich with the language and imagery of kingship we figuratively knelt before our God and king and exposed our necks for beheading should God see fit to deal with us in that way.

Teresa A. Blythe in her book 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times observes that “It is easy in our busy lives to begin to think that we ‘have’ bodies rather than that we ‘are’ bodies”. As we look forward to the feast of the incarnation I invite us to spend this day fully inhabiting our bodies. I invite us to recognize that we both have and are bodies.

For this Quiet Day we offer some fully embodied prayer.

We live in a culture that conditions us to act as those who ‘have’ bodies. We learn early to override the wisdom that our bodies offer. We “whip our bodies into shape” with diet and exercise. We ignore aches and twinges to power through to the end of our ‘to do’ lists. We no longer know what it is to feel hungry or what it feels like to be satisfied. We work when we’re tired. We sleep when we’re depressed. We hold back our tears, swallow our laughter, cover our smiles and stuff our rage.

Advent is a countercultural season. In a culture that prizes instant gratification Advent prizes waiting. In a culture that treats your body as an object with needs, drives, and desires that have nothing to do with us this season invites us to heightened awareness of ourselves as bodies. We are bodies that hold their own logic and wisdom. We encounter other people as bodies with particular form and features. Before infants know themselves as discrete beings distinct from their mothers, they experience their bodies with all their drives, demands and comforts.

I invite you to use this simple practice of physical self-awareness. For this meditative prayer we will engage in a body scan. The prayer consists of noticing. You are not required to make any adjustments in posture or any judgments about how you are holding yourself. All that I will ask of you is that you notice yourself.

Close your eyes. Offer this time and all you experience in this time to God.

Begin with a few breaths. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Begin the scan at the tips of your toes and travel up your body.

Notice how you hold each limb.

Notice where there is pain or discomfort.

Notice where there is ease, relaxation or comfort

Continue this scan until you reach the top of your head or the tip of your hair

Just noticing, not judging yourself. When you have completed this scan offer thanks to God for you are indeed awesomely and wonderfully made.


This practice builds on the body scan. It is adapted from Teresa Blythe’s book.

You may want to write during this practice. If not you can journal once you have completed your prayer

Invite God to be present to you through your bodily experience.

Begin with some centering breaths. Breath in through your nose, out through your mouth.

Allow your awareness to follow your breath

Notice the place where your breath rests. Allow your awareness to rest in that place. Notice any sensation or emotion that resides in that resting place.

What place in your body wants your attention now? What is the feeling that needs listening to?

Communicate with this felt sense. Tell it “I am here, I am listening.”

Sit with this felt sense. If you can, describe it. Is there a sound or an image associated with this felt sense? Does it have a name? Does it have an emotional quality?

Sit with this felt sense without judgment.

Ask this felt sense “What do you need?”

Ask your body to show you how healing would feel.

Ask God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to help you care for this part of yourself.

When you and this felt sense are ready you may offer a prayer of thanksgiving.


How was it to pray in this way?

Did you learn anything that needs to be applied in your life?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Advent Quiet Day - Dec. 5th, 2009

The holidays are coming and with all the hustle and bustle, retreat to our Advent Quiet Day, Dec. 5th. One more week until the Nov. 20th registration deadline. Visit our website for details and registration form www.tutuinstitute.org

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs."

Hello friends,
Am asking for your assistance and enthusiasm here. Please pass this info to folks in your email address book, your facebook page, your twitter followers, your co-workers, your church, your friends and relatives... everyone. This matters a lot to me.

This Monday, Nov 2, I will be on Good Morning America to release "Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs." Early reviews of the book have been wonderful, and folks say there are left smiling, and re-remember why Mattie inspired us so profoundly with his words, his message, and his wit and wisdom. The book is available on online sites like amazon for pre-orders. And on Wednesday, Nov 4 at 7 pm, the book release event will take place at the White Flint Mall Borders Bookstore on Rockville Pike/North Bethesda, MD. Please visit Mattie's website (www.mattieonline.com) for info about the book and updated info about publicity.

Thank you so much my friends,
Jeni ("Mattie's mom").

Jennifer Smith Stepanek, Ph.D.
MDA National Vice President
Chair, Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation
402 King Farm Blvd. #125
Rockville, MD 20850


Monday, October 26, 2009

Advent Quiet Day - Dec. 5, 2009

The Tutu Institute for Prayer & Pilgrimage
Advent Quiet Day - Incarnation: Body, Mind and Spirit – Register today!
Lead by The Reverend Mpho Tutu & Tai Chi Instructor, Raymond Franklin-Vaughn.
WHEN: December 5, 2009, 9am-4pm. Registration deadline: November 20, 2009.
WHERE: St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (Foggy Bottom) Washington, DC 20037.
PRICE: $20 (in advance) $25 (at the door). Includes Continental Breakfast, Light Lunch & Materials (no credit cards please).
For registration form and more information, visit our website http://www.tutuinstitute.org/events.html or contact us at 703-677-5642 or email info@tutuinstitute.org.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

9/11 Unity Walk - October 18th, 2009

The events of September 11, 2001 shocked the world. For a moment the world seemed poised on the edge of a question, should we fly apart in fear or can we come together as a witness for peace. The creators and participants of the first 9/11 Unity walk chose to answer the despair of those days with hope and humility. They came together as people of different faiths and no faith at all to show the world that with respect for each of our diverse beliefs we can build peace.

Each year since all the churches, temples, mosques and synagogues on Embassy Row in Washington, DC, and near Ground Zero in New York City, open their doors to continue this faithful witness. On October 18th, this year a multi-faith throng will make the march again. We walk in memory those who died on that day, and on the days after. We walk to express our belief that religion can be and is a force for good. We walk side by side with people who believe differently than we do. We walk trusting that the people we walk with have something to teach us, as we have something to teach them. We walk because we refuse to be chained by ignorance and imprisoned by fear.

Along the way, through mutual respect, we sow the seeds of true and lasting peace.

In addition to our traditional stops at the Washington Hebrew Congregation, the Islamic Center and the Gandhi Memorial, this year participants will have the opportunity to tour other houses of worship they may never have entered before. They will be able to experience some of the riches of religious expression that Washington has to offer. Participants will chant with the Soka Gakkai Buddhist Congregation; they can try turban tying at the Sikh Gudwara; they can explore the Russian Orthodox cultural festival; and they can join Baha'i musicians at the Khalil Gibran Memorial. Children are also welcome to make artistic expressions of unity at the Children's Unity Wall.

Beyond this day on which we celebrate our faiths we will continue to unite in interfaith service to our community.

In January, the Youth Service Initiative of the 9/11 Unity Walk partnered with the Earth Conservation Corps to draw an inter-religious group of 175 young people together for a clean up of the banks of the Anacostia River and inter-faith dialogue. In April, young people of many faiths from around the region gathered for a weekend of environmental service projects for poverty alleviation. In September, the Unity Walk hosted "Fast 2 Feed": over two hundred people participated in an interfaith food drive and Iftar - a dinner that marks the end of the Muslim fasting day in the Holy month of Ramadan - at the Historic Synagogue at 6th and I. That effort collected hundreds of canned goods for the Salvation Army.

It is only by celebrating our faiths and uniting to serve that we can turn our world from the bloody violence that marked 9/11 to a hope-filled place of peace for all people. We can begin by taking a first step this Sunday at the Unity Walk.

Rev. Mpho Tutu, an Episcopal priest at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Washington, DC., and the founder and executive director of the Tutu Institute for Prayer and Pilgrimage. Learn more about Sunday's Unity Walk at www.911unitywalk.org.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Don't forget about our pilgrimage-Jan. 16-29, 2010!

Please join us on our upcoming pilgrimage to South Africa, January 16-29, 2010. The registration deadline is approaching fast, October 15th! Space is still available! Visit our website for details www.tutuinstitute.org

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Please pray...

Please pray with me today for Nate, his mom, Chris and Nate's grandma at Boston Children's Hospital. Little Nate will be having his sixth brain surgery. He's not yet three years old.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Blog Will Return on Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Due to a hectic travel schedule, my blog will return on 10/7/09. Thank you all for your prayers during these travels. God Bless.

"Made for Goodness"

"Made for Goodness" - a new book by Archbishop Desmond Tutu & Rev. Mpho Tutu. Due out March 9, 2010.... www.madeforgoodness.com or www.tutuinstitute.org for more information.

Vancouver Peace Summit: Sept. 26-29, 2009

Sept. 26-29, 2009 - Dalai Lama at Vancouver Peace Summit: Archbishop Desmond Tutu was scheduled to attend but has suffered a ruptured disc and cannot travel. His daughter, Mpho, will appear in his place.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

September 19th, 2009 Sermon from Bishop Provenzano's Ordination

If you're interested in viewing the video & sermon of the Ordination, please go to this link http://www.dioceselongisland.org/

John 21: 1-17

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” THey answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So SImon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they has finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him “Tend my sheep.” He said to him a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to hi a third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

I speak in the name of the One, Holy, and Living God who is, who was, and who is to come. Amen

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the the disciples by the sea of Tiberias.

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. The disciples, those men who had been witness to the life and ministry, trial and death, and the post resurrection appearances of the Christ. The preceding three years had been a real mental, spiritual and emotional roller-coaster ride. In fact, the preceding three weeks had been jarring enough. No wonder the guys wanted to go fishing!

You will remember that in this evangel, in John’s gospel, the disciples would invariably be the “before” picture of those “before and after” images so popular in advertising. The disciples, the men, (no message there!) are the ones who, consistently, don’t get it. Their role is to ask the stupid questions that we, the readers might want to ask. In that way we, the readers, can stand next to the narrator feeling superior because we saw, we got it, we understood.

So here are the disciples. It is more than a week after the Risen Christ appeared to them while they cowered in the locked room. It is after he spoke the word of peace. It is after the disciples received the breath of the Holy Spirit. It is some time after he appeared in the closed room to invite Thomas to touch and see the marks in his hands and side. It is after these things. Have the disciples set off in a missionary frenzy? No, they’ve gone fishing!

If we are honest we will all recognize the impulse. When we don’t know what to do, we do that thing we know how to do. I make tea. No one drinks it but making tea is the one thing I am always able to do with some degree of competence.

Life had changed for the disciples in ways that they did not understand. Life, death, resurrection, Holy Spirit breath, what was next? They didn’t know. They couldn’t see the markers for the road ahead so they went back to what they knew. They were fishermen, they went fishing.

Except this night their expertise did not serve. Sometimes we do what we know how to do and discover that we don’t really know how to do it anymore...or it’s not needed anymore. How familiar are the tales of the new economy that has rendered so many jobs obsolete? How many of us have set out on a career path that initially made us dance with joy and found ourselves five, ten, thirty years down the line dragging ourselves to a job that has become numbingly soul-destroying? Something else is calling and we’re just too stuck or too scared to listen.

If we do dare to listen what we will hear is not a frightening harangue. We will not hear the voice of judgment and condemnation that berates us for our failings. We will hear compassionate voice of utter tenderness.

“Children, you have no fish, have you?”

Sometimes we charge ahead with our plans and schemes relying on our own skill, on our own talents, on our own resources. And we are disappointed by the results. We forget that the risen Lord is as close as a prayer, the Holy Spirit breathes in our breath. We have only to pause to ask the teacher, the Holy Spirit, our advocate and guide. Then we will know what we are to do.

“Cast your nets to the right side of the boat.”

Our skills are not wasted, just redirected or refined. When we hear and heed the direction offered by the living Christ we are called out of the paucity of our plans into the abundance of God’s grace. The night of futility ends. Our nets are laden with enough and more than enough to meet our needs.

I read the beautiful document, “Calling a Bishop Coadjutor for the Diocese of Long Island”. It is a lovely testament of hope. And it lays out an exhaustive - and perhaps exhausting - list of things to do. Larry, you and the leaders of this diocese may be tempted to plunge ahead with beautiful and important plans for responding to needs laid out in front of you. But notice, before Jesus charged Peter to feed his sheep, Jesus fed Peter. “Come and have breakfast”

The risen Christ spoke the word of peace to the disciples fear. He offered touch and seeing to dispel Thomas’s doubt. Now he offers abundance to the disciples paucity. He provides rest for their fatigue. He prepares food to meet their hunger. His own presence to still their need. We are here because we too are disciples. There is big work to do. But before we go we must pause in the presence. Often and again along the journey we must let the Risen Christ minister to our need.

We are called and fed, to be asked and sent.
Only after they had finished breakfast did Jesus turn to Simon Peter.

Simon son of John do you love me more than these?
Simon son of John do you love me?
Simon Peter you denied me, do you love me more than these?

Each of the gospels reports that on the night of Jesus trial Peter denied him three times. Alexander Shaia notes, in his forthcoming book, “the Hidden Power of the Gospels” that in this evangel Peter’s denial was not a betrayal. There was no bitter weeping when the cock crowed.

Peter’s denial was the expedient lie. It was the wrong thing done for the right reason. Without the first denial Peter would not have been allowed through the gate to stand in the courtyard. Without the second denial he could not have stood at that other charcoal fire to hear the course of Jesus’ trial. Without the third denial Peter might have found himself in chains before the cock crowed. Peter could not have admitted to knowing Jesus and still have been permitted to stay near him. But the fact of the lies were evidence that Peter was doing the wrong thing. It was not for him to stay near and listen. If he had not been too impulsive and proud to wait and hear he would have learned the place that his Lord wanted him to be.

In time, if we have not already done so, we too will make the wrong decisions with the right motivations. We will promise before we pray. We will find ourselves bound to a service that doesn’t serve us, or anyone else. Then we too will speak the protective lie or hide the uncomfortable truth.

On the beach, on this morning the Risen Lord does not face Peter with the voice of judgment. Instead, with his three questions he offers Peter a sacrament of healing. With each affirmation Peter is allowed to reverse the denial. Question, answer and charge are the symbols by which the relationship is reclaimed.

“Simon son of John do you love me more than these?”
“Yes Lord; You know that I love you.”
“Feed my lambs.”
“Simon son of John do you love me?”
“Yes Lord; you know that I love you.”
“Tend my sheep.”
“Simon son of John do you love me?”
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
“Feed my sheep.”

Jesus tells Simon, “Feed my lambs.”
Our church has lambs in need of feeding. The Diocese of Long Island identified the youth as its strength; youth programs as an area of opportunity; outreach to youth as a top challenge; and programs for youth as a top wish. The young and those young in their faith need the food of fellowship, word and sacrament to grow strong in the faith. Feeding the lambs is not work for the shepherd alone. The people of this Diocese know what needs to be done. It is the task of the bishop to lead, guide, and support his people in this ministry. It is the joy and privilege of the bishop to pray for his flock.

Jesus says to Peter, “Tend my sheep.”
I don’t know much about sheep. Usually, by the time I meet them, they are wrapped in cellophane in the supermarket fridge. But I did read something written by a shepherd, Phillip Keller and quoted by David Humpal about tending sheep. The metaphor is apt. I had to marvel at the evangelist’s economy with words. In one short sentence he laid out a whole job description. From what I have read I understand that tending sheep is more than merely finding good pasture. Sheep tending is demanding work. It requires that the shepherd knows his flock. He rises early to see how they have passed the night. From time to time throughout the day he will look again to ensure that all is well. The shepherd will know in an instant if something is amiss with his flock. He will know if the sheep are healthy or ill. He can tell if they have been troubled by predators or infected by parasites. He will find them shelter from the storms, ample food in the winter months and clean water all year. The metaphor is apt. “Tend my sheep” the Lord tells Peter. Tend my sheep Christ says to the bishops of the church. Know your flock. Feed those in your charge with word and sacrament. Minister to their needs. Care about their concerns. Pray with them in joy, challenge, and sorrow. Guard them against the enemies of faith. Draw back those who are drifting away(That’s why you have the hook at the end of your crozier). Show compassion to those who suffer. And defend those who have no helper.

The risen Lord charges Peter to feed his sheep.
Feeding is different from tending. For the shepherd of souls it is nourishing those who are mature in their faith from the riches of God’s grace. No one is fit for that task who does not have the mind of Christ. No one can have and sustain the mind of Christ who is not faithful in prayer and the study of Holy scripture. On airplanes we are reminded to take our own oxygen first. In this ordination service the bishop elect first promises to pray and only after that does he promise to serve.

Larry, it is not a relationship that needs to be restored but a new relationship that you enter today. It is a new vocation before God and a new covenant with the people of this diocese. These questions will be asked in other words. These commandments offered in other voices; but know that today our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ stands with his church to ask you
Larry son of Larry do you love him more than these? Then feed his lambs.
Larry son of Marie do you love him? Then tend his sheep.
Larry, beloved child of God, if you love him then feed his sheep.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Prayer for Strength and Faith

In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, Dear Lord, see me through these hard times. In these troubling times, I am filled with unspeakable fears. I reach out my hand to you now, And ask you to walk beside me. I cannot carry all my burdens, But I know you can, and will. Please walk beside me. Please guide me. Please help me hold on strong, Through the trials and storms. Help me hold on to my faith, In even the darkest hour. Stay with me Lord, And show me Your way. In your love and Holy Spirit I abide. Amen.
Source: Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Prayer for Guidance

Let me not wander in vain. Let me not labor in vain. Let me not mingle with the prejudiced. Let me not leave the company of the virtuous. Let me not fly into anger. Let me not stray off the path of goodness. Let me not seek for this day or for the morrow. Give me such a wealth, O Almighty!
- Pattinattar (10th century poet)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Prayer for Resting in God's Love

Father God, I come into your presence so aware of my human frailty and yet overwhelmed by your love for me. I thank you that there is no human experience that I might walk through where your love cannot reach me. If I climb the highest mountain you are there and yet if I find myself in the darkest valley of my life, you are there. Teach me today to love you more. Help me to rest in that love that asks nothing more than the simple trusting heart of a child. In Jesus name, Amen
Source: Written by Sheila Walsh author of "Let Go"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Please pray for us...

Dear Readers,
I am away on Pilgrimage in South Africa. I ask that you please pray for me and my fellow pilgrims: Jim, "K" & Ann while we are on this journey. Thank you and many blessings.

Weathering the Storm

Father God, Today I am afraid. I look around me at this world that is changing so fast and I feel lost like a small boat in the midst of a storm. I am not built to weather the battering waves or the howling wind. So I wait now in your presence. You spoke the oceans and the four winds into being. You threw the stars in the sky and separated the sea from dry land. You took the hand of Peter who was sinking into the depths of the water and walked him to safety. I choose now to fix my eyes on you and not on the storm. I settle my heart on your love and not on the current that threatens to pull me under. Thank you that you are my firm anchor even through the darkest night, Amen
Source: Written by Sheila Walsh author of "Let Go"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Watch Over Us

Lord Jesus who dost love us,Oh spread thy wings above us,Shield us from all harm.Thou Satan would devour us,Let Angels guard sing over us,These children of God shall meet no harm.Amen
Source: Posted by Kei1352

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Date Change: 14 Day Pilgrimage to South Africa - Jan. 16-29, 2010

Register today!
Join the Reverend Mpho Tutu & the Reverend Katherine Stiles for a 2 week retreat to South Africa and experience a journey of the spirit and an opportunity for spiritual refreshment.
WHEN: January 16 – January 29, 2010. Registration deadline: October 15, 2009.

PRICE: $5,500.00 based on double occupancy. Includes round-trip airfare from Dulles International Airport, accommodations in SA, travel and ground transfers in SA, museum and tour fees, safari and most meals in SA. A $500 non-refundable deposit is due by the registration deadline. Visa and MC accepted. For registration forms, tentative itinerary and more information, please visit our website at http://www.tutuinstitute.org/ or contact us at 703-677-5642 or email info@tutuinstitute.org.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Show Me the Course

Steer the ship of my life, good Lord, to your quiet harbour, where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict. Show me the course I should take. Renew in me the gift of discernment, so that I can always see the right direction in which I should go. And give me the strength and the courage to choose the right course, even when the sea is rough and the waves are high, knowing that through enduring hardship and danger in your name we shall find comfort and peace.
- Basil of Caesarea (c. 329-379)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mark 14: 12- 26 (NRSV)

12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" 13 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there." 16 So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. 17 When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me." 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, "Surely, not I?" 20 He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born." 22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24 He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." 26 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

“Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me...It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me.”

Have you ever eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant? The meal is served on a common platter. Each diner takes a piece of bread and uses that bread to pick up the morsel of food. Ethiopian dining is akin to the dining experience Jesus would have shared with his disciples. They would have reclined to dine and shared a common bowl in which to dip their bread.
Jesus identification of his betrayer was actually no identification at all. Or was actually more true than it seems at first look. We know that Judas betrayed him to the authorities and so we think, projecting our knowledge back through time, that Jesus had singled out Judas. Actually Jesus had identified all of his disciples as betrayers. And it was so. When Jesus was arrested the disciples fled. Each, in his own way, betrayed Jesus.
Each, in his own way, betrayed Jesus. But each, except Judas, was able to face the truth of his failing. So all of them, except Judas, lived to see Jesus again. Judas betrayal was complete. He betrayed Jesus to the authorities and then he betrayed the hope that was in him. Each of us will be guilty of a betrayal at some point in our lives. We may betray a loved one or a friend. We may betray our own ideals. If we have the courage to face our failings Jesus will be there to to redeem them. Only when we abandon hope will any betrayal be complete.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Mark 14: 1- 11 (NRSV)
1 It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; 2 for they said, "Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people." 3 While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. 4 But some were there who said to one another in anger, "Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her." 10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
“You will always have the poor with you.” Jesus tells those who witness the unnamed woman’s act of adoration. The rebuke may come as a dismissive surprise. But there is no diminution of the needs of the world in it. True, sustained and sustainable care for the world begins in the prayer of adoration.
I was given ACTS as a mnemonic for the well rounded pattern of prayer. Adoration or loving contemplation of God; Contrition, that is repentance for sins of thought, word, deed and things left undone; Thanksgiving for the innumerable gifts and graces that God showers on us each day; Supplication, asking God to meet the needs of the world, the needs of those I love, and my own needs.
The opening movement of prayer is adoration, in a way all other movements of prayer flow from that first. Loving contemplation of God awakens the recognition of how we have fallen short of the glory of God and our contrition. Contrition for our misdeeds calls to awareness all of the mercies for which we must give thanks. All that we have to give thanks for reminds us of those things and situations for which we offer our prayerful pleas to God. We are the way that God answers prayer. Ours are the hands, feet, eyes, ears and hearts that are God’s answers to the supplications of God’s people. And so the cycle begins again, our work in the world calls us into adoration...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Keep Awake!

Mark 13: 28- 37 (NRSV)
28 "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 "But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake-for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."
Keep awake!
Most of us, I am sure, have had the experience of the untimely nap. Who has not dozed off during a soporific lecture or sermon; studied the insides of their eyelids instead of the assigned text; or sunk into a dopey slumber in the middle of a meeting? In those instances we are jerked awake and embarrassed by our inattention.
There is another way of dozing off. It is the sleepwalking through life that popular culture allows. It is that practice of Christianity that merely goes through the motions: we trundle our bodies off to church on Sundays, we say our daily prayers, we may even tithe or volunteer. But we do not hold our days and our decisions up to the scrutiny of our faith. If Jesus stood beside us he might not recognize our thought, words, and deeds as patterned on his.
The Holy Spirit is within us from moment to moment from day to day. We do not have to travel far to know what obedience to the Christ entails. The journey of faith does not demand mindless adherence. The journey of faith demands that we keep awake!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ask the Question

Mark 12:28-34 (NRSV)
28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, 'Which commandment is the first of all?' 29Jesus answered, 'The first is, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." 31The second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these.' 32Then the scribe said to him, 'You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that "he is one, and besides him there is no other"; 33and "to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength," and "to love one's neighbor as oneself," -this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.' 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' After that no one dared to ask him any question.

After that no one dared to ask him any question. Is that a good thing? One would think that having a teacher who answers wisely in your midst would prompt you to ask all your questions. But, perhaps that is not the point that the evangelist is pressing. Perhaps the evangelist is writing with more than his immediate audience in mind. Maybe he is letting us know that we will not have answers to all of our questions and that we will have to learn to live with mystery.
My younger child is in the “why?” phase of toddlerhood. Each question opens the door to another question. “Why do I have to take a bath?” “because it’s almost time for bed.” “why do I have to go to bed?” “because you need rest” “But why do I need rest?”...you can see where this is going.
Having asked the first question and received a wise answer why didn’t the scribe ask the next question “If I am not far from the kingdom of God, what would draw me nearer?”
Maybe, like many of us, he didn’t really want to know the answer. Loving God and neighbor is enough work to be getting on with for now. If there is more required to enter the kingdom better not to know.
Maybe the reason that question remained unasked is that the answer is different for each of us. All of us are required to love God with heart and mind, soul and strength. Each of is commanded to love neighbor as self. When we have done those things the last step to draw us into the kingdom is as unique as a fingerprint. Ask the question, God will answer you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Mark 12:18-27 (NRSV)
18 Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, 19'Teacher, Moses wrote for us that "if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother." 20There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; 21and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; 22none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. 23In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.'
24 Jesus said to them, 'Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? 25For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob"? 27He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.'

So what is at issue here? This is one of those passages that I, as a Christian, read and decide there is some obscure theological point I am just not getting. I know that Jesus is giving some snappy answers to silly questions but it seems to fly way over my head. I don’t get what the argument is about.

To get what the argument is about and to understand why it matters to a Christian of the twenty-first century requires a few facts about Judaism of Jesus time.

The Sadducees say there is no resurrection. A man’s only hope of eternal life - and it was only men who could hold this hope - was in having progeny. Specifically a man lived on in his children. A man who died with no children was dead for all eternity. The custom of levirate marriage, was the priestly solution to this problem. If a man died with no children then the law of Moses prescribed that his brother should marry the widow. Any offspring of that union would be considered children of the deceased brother and he would live on through them.

For the Sadducees the law of levirate marriage, carried to its logical conclusion, would preclude the possibility of resurrection.

Jesus answers “You have it all wrong!” In the minds of the Sadducees the resurrection life looks like this life except that it happens after we die. But Jesus says the resurrection life is not just an overpopulated version of this life. It is different in ways that are still shrouded in mystery for us. The certainties and assumptions of this life will not hold true. And eternal life does not begin with death eternal life starts now and here. God is not a “God is not a God of the dead but of the living.”

So what does this mean for a Christian of the twenty first century. It means that we are called not to be slaves to the certainties of our time. We are called to live as citizens of God’s kin-dom coming. We who claim a resurrection faith must live with that faith constantly in mind.

What difference does it make that death is not the end? If death is not the end then life must be lived with an eye on eternity. If death is not the end then what we do today tomorrow and next year all play a part in shaping forever. If death is not the end, and forever doesn’t look like this then faith demands that we pattern our lives on the blueprint of love that Jesus showed us. We called in faith to build shalom, peace and flourishing for all God’s creation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Mark 11:27-12:12 (NRSV)
27 Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him 28and said, 'By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?' 29Jesus said to them, 'I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.' 31They argued with one another, 'If we say, "From heaven," he will say, "Why then did you not believe him?" 32But shall we say, "Of human origin"?' -they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. 33So they answered Jesus, 'We do not know.' And Jesus said to them, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.'
Then he began to speak to them in parables. 'A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 2When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. 3But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. 5Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. 6He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, "They will respect my son." 7But those tenants said to one another, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours." 8So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10Have you not read this scripture:
"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes"?'
12When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.

How do you respond when someone finds you in error? Do you try to deny or conceal your wrongdoing? Do you react angrily? Do you accept the criticism and the opportunity to change?
My guess is that, at one time or another, each of the above has been true.

The parable that Jesus tells offers his hearers a chance to see themselves and change their ways. They choose otherwise. They allow themselves to be driven more deeply into rage and wrong.

We can take the questions that the parable provokes as an opportunity for course correction. We can ignore challenge and continue to do those things that hurt us and harm those around us. What do you choose?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Prayer for the Poor

For the poor and the oppressed, for the unemployed and the destitute, for prisoners and captives, and for all who remember and care for them, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

Source: Book of Common Prayer 1979

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Inner Dolphins

My older daughter, Nyaniso, had a slip of the ear. She heard that physical activity releases not, endorphins but “inner dolphins”. The image delights me.

As I took my grumpy self on a morning jog I could see my inner dolphins being set free to play and chasing my grouchy mood away.
Take a little time today in a fully embodied act of praise and release your inner dolphins.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

South Africa 4 Day Mini-Pilgrimage Sept. 10-13, 2009

The Tutu Institute for Prayer & Pilgrimage on a
September 10 - September 13, 2009
Lead by The Reverend Mpho Tutu
Level 1 Price: $1,750.00(US)* if paid in full by Friday, July 31, 2009**
Level 2 Price: $2,000.00(US)* if paid in full by Monday, August 10, 2009**
Level 3 Price: $2,500.00(US)* if paid in full between August 11 and September 1, 2009**
*All price levels are based on double occupancy and include accommodations, meals, and ground transportation in South Africa. There are limited single occupancies available for an additional fee of $499.00(US). Prices do not include airfare.

PILGRIMAGE Itinerary (subject to change)
DAY 1 --------- Registration and Orientation
DAY 2 ---------Visit historic Robben Island Prison where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were incarcerated. A scenic drive will take end at a game lodge for an overnight safari experience.
DAY 3 ---------An early morning game drive followed by breakfast at the game lodge before return to Cape Town. Explore the District Six museum. A community built site that retells the story of one area demolished by the apartheid government.
DAY 4 ---------Experience Sunday worship with a congregation in one of the black townships. Enjoy a panoramic view of Cape Town from Table Mountain. Lunch and a closing ceremony mark the end of this mini pilgrimage and prepare you for the beginning of the CHI World Congress.

**No refunds for cancellations
For more information please visit our website at http://www.tutuinstitute.org/ or contact us at 703-677-5642 or email us at info@tutuinstitute.org

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cupboard Love

John 6:24-35
The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, `He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

I don’t know whether the phrase is current or if it is just a term dredged up from the recesses of my memory. What the crowd experienced was cupboard love. It is that which made our grandmothers say, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
The crowds had eaten their fill the day before and came chasing Jesus and his disciples in the hope of getting more. They wanted more of that good bread. But Jesus wanted to give them more than just good bread. More than just stomach satisfaction. Food for the stomach is good for today but then tomorrow you have to come back for more. What Jesus wanted to give was the bread of life. Jesus wanted the crowds to have food for the Spirit that feeds forever.
How long can you fast? A day? Ten days? With juice or water a month or longer? What sustains you through the fast? A thought, an ideal, a passion or a principle?
Jesus talks to the crowd. He talks to us through space and time. Stop chasing after what is enough for now that leaves you hungry later. Seek out what will sustain you even when the physical cupboard is bare. Nurture and nourish your body. But do not forget to feed your soul and your spirit. Spiritual hunger may be hard to recognize; it devours the person in need then reaches out to ravage everyone in its path. Feed your spirit and your soul.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fifty Under-Fives

Yesterday I joined children, teachers, and parents from my younger daughter’s school on a field trip. We went to a farm and then to one of those noisy child-centered restaurants for lunch.
I was struck by the easy grace with which the teachers managed the day. The teachers in my daughter’s class returned from the field trip to ready the children for afternoon naps and prepare themselves for activities with the children after nap-time. I went home exhausted to take a nap myself. I could see fatigue etched on the faces of other parents who had come along for the fun. As I closed the door on my daughter’s classroom it was good to see the teachers, though busy preparing cots for nap-time, still available with a smile and a hug for a tired toddler whose mommy was heading out of the door.
Child-care workers are not among the highest paid employees in this country though we trust them with our children - perhaps our greatest treasure. They are among the people who make our way of life possible.
Today please join me in prayer for all the people who take care of our children.

God, guard and guide all child-care workers.
Bless them in their work and in their leisure.
Sustain them with your loving presence when the children are a trial,
Give them loving patience.
May they be filled with joy in their special ministry.
In the name of Jesus. Amen

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Proper 12-Sermon for St. Mary's Foggy Bottom-July 26, 2009

2 Kings 4:42-44
A man came from Baalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.”
But his servant said, “How can I set this food before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” He set it before them, and they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord

John 6:1-21
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea f Galilee, also called the sea of Tiberius. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with is disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked u and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Sic months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered up the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done they began to say, “This is indeed a prophet who is come into the world.”

When Jesus realized that they were about to tale him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountains by himself.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. the sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him in to the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

My husband once told me that when he starts to feel anxious about money he reminds himself that this is the time to be generous and open-handed. God, he says, cannot put anything into a clenched fist.

His theory of stewardship is one that I have seen at work in some of the poorest of places.
I spent a year of my seminary education at the college of the Transfiguration, the Anglican Provincial seminary in Grahamstown, South Africa. I did what was called field education, hands on training, in two parishes there. St. Clement’s and St. Philip’s. St Philip’s was a Xhosa-speaking congregation in Rhini, the black township that clung to the hills surrounding Grahamstown. The population of Rhini was, for the most part, desperately poor. Unemployment ran at about fifty-percent. And that figure took no account of those who were underemployed. Many only worked two weeks each year during the period of the Grahamstown Arts Festival when the city became a tourist Mecca.

The congregation at St. Philip’s was marginally better off than average. That is not saying much. But some members of the congregation had steady jobs: they were teachers, nurses, shop assistants or domestic workers. Others relied on remittances from family members who had found work on the mines near Johannesburg or in coastal city of Port Elizabeth. No one was wealthy and many lived only a half-step from destitution.

On one Sunday of each quarter there was an ingathering of gifts. Individuals and families made their annual pledges not to the common pot but to their guilds, associations and societies. Every member of the congregation belonged to a guild or a society. The children belonged to the Sunday school or the youth guild; the young girls belonged to the St. Agnes Guild, the women to the Anglican Women’s Fellowship or the Mother’s Union, the men to the Bernard Mzeki fellowship. On the ingathering Sundays we knew to fill our pockets with change and to prepare for a long service. At the offertory each guild would process up the aisle with their gift dancing to a joyful hymn. They would be accompanied by people who did not belong to that particular guild. The intent of the accompanying congregants was to demonstrate their support. Adults would accompany the Sunday school; women would process alongside the Bernard Mzeki fellowship; men would dance alongside the Mother’s Union or the members of the AWF. The expectation was that to accompany a guild you must bring a coin to the table. The coin was, almost invariably, slammed down with a flourish. In this way each guild exceeded its pledged and collected income. The ingathering Sunday was a day of particular joy and fun. The joy and the generosity were surprising in those surroundings. It was a wonder that anyone had any extra to offer. It was a wonder that anxiety didn’t close its fist around those precious coins. Joblessness and hunger were not abstract ideas in Rhini. They were the immediate experience of those who filled the pews. So the question ‘if I offer this money today how will I have enough for tomorrow?’ was not an idle one.

The year in Grahamstown taught me so many lessons about the shape of faith. Dancing up the aisle on ingathering Sunday I was reminded that anxiety and fear can not make a home where faith lives.

Fear is something so familiar. We know the taste of it. For almost a decade it has driven decisions at the highest levels of government and at every level of citizenship in this country. Fear made racial and religious profiling okay. Fear opened a prison at Guantanamo. Fear dropped bombs on Baghdad. Fear has us stripping down at airports: unbelted, unbuckled, unshod with bags and jackets in clattering bins. Fear permitted all kinds of invasion of privacy and abrogation of civil liberties with barely a blink. The power of fear is that our fears are not baseless. Terrorists have struck this country. Enemy combatants may have had nefarious designs on our security. Airplanes have used as a weapons. And Richard Reed did hide a bomb in his shoe. Fear is powerful because it is based in fact. And fear is a flavor that we know all too well.

Now, the shape of our fear has shifted. Jobs are scarce. Each day we hear news of more layoffs. The newspapers are full of home foreclosures and short sales. The television and the radio tell us high rates of credit debt default. The money people have seen the money they set aside for retirement has vanished. We are facing an uncertain future and we are afraid. We are afraid that we will not have enough. The word of today’s Gospel is written directly to us.

The disciples in John’s gospel are seldom portrayed in a flattering light. The pericopes or stories that we read today are no different. If John’s gospel employed the “before” and “after” images of advertising the disciples would, generally, represent the “before” pictures. Unfortunately the disciples, all too often, represent us too. They personify our tenuous grip on faith. Philip’s practical observation sounds like the view from where we stand. “Six month’s wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little,” he says, looking at the swelling crowd. We can join him in that sentiment. Even if we had more we wouldn’t have enough. How are we ever going to...engage in outreach, repair the building, pay our assessment, cover our costs? The list goes on you can add your own concern. Our anxieties are not baseless. If they were baseless it would be the work of an instant to dispel them. In this version of the feeding Jesus doesn’t dissolve Philip’s fear in an explosion of miracle. He waits.

You see, Philip is right. The truth is that we never will have enough. There is never enough to go around. There is not enough love to fold us in a warm embrace. There is not enough money to meet our endless needs. There is not enough food to silence our hunger. There are not enough guns and bombs to keep us safe. We live in fear and our fears are based in fact. The fact is that when we rely on our own resources we will never have enough.

But, you know, there is another way. It is seen in the open hand of a young boy, “I have this...” Like Andrew, we may not trust the gift. After all, what are five loaves and two fish among so many people? What is the paltry coin that I have in the face of the overwhelming need? But faith puts what we have in the hands of Jesus who can take, give thanks, and share. Then whatever we have no matter how little or how much it is enough with some to spare.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thank you

This week I have had two unexpected thank you notes. I had done nothing that struck me as particularly noteworthy but the notes touched and moved me very deeply.
Saying thank you is such a small and easy thing. We teach it to children as a courtesy, “Say thank you.” or “What do you say.” But being on the receiving end of a genuine “Thank you” is being on the receiving end of a wonderful gift.
Give generously.

Loaves and Fishes

In my Bible Study this week we were reflecting on the feeding of the five thousand men as described in John’s Gospel. This is the feeding story in which a boy comes to the disciple Andrew and offers his lunch: “I’ve got this.” Andrew, presents the offering to Jesus who blesses, breaks, and shares the gift with the gathered crowd. Five thousand men were fed (not counting women and children) and twelve baskets of left-overs were gathered up.

We are in a period of economic anxiety. There is so much need and we often feel we have barely enough for ourselves and our families, let alone enough to share. Imagine how it would be to be the child who told the disciple “I have this...” No, it, alone, is not enough. But whatever we offer to God gets blessed, and broken, and shared and somehow the little we have becomes more than enough.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Trusting Our Own Prayer

My day is filled with “running prayers”. Running prayers are not the solid chunks of time to sit and study the Bible or to read for my spiritual edification. They are not the certain rhythm of the Hours: Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline. They are not the time of meditation of contemplation, just being with God. The “running prayers” are the chatty hanging with (what my twelve-year old would call) my bff prayers. “Good morning God, thank you for the night of sleep. Thank you for my husband getting up early with the toddler. Bless them into this day. Please shove me out of this bed to work out. Thank you. Unclench my teeth as I try to rouse the preteen. Help me to shape this day under your guidance.” Listening to the news of the day “Be with all the people who are homeless or are living in fear of losing their homes or their livelihood” “Attend those detained without trial. Be with hostages and their families. Be with those wrongfully arrested”. Then “go ahead of me into my meeting”...and so on through the day.
A friend sent me an email last week. She had helped out someone laden with too many bags. The person had emailed her thanks and said in the message “I had been praying for an angel to help me, and there you were.” What was interesting to me was the surprise. The surprise of having a prayer answered “Yes” in the moment. I do not write this as a criticism, I note it as a reality. A bishop once said “When I pray coincidences happen. When I don’t, they don’t.”

God always answers our prayers. God may answer “Yes”. God may answer “No” or the answer may be “Not yet.” Our role is to ask and trust that God wants good for us.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Moment at the Oasis

Summer slow down.
As the mother of two children, a busy toddler and an active preteen, I find the notion of slowing down for the summer to be a lovely fiction.
My father says we are all "closet contemplatives". I think I am more of a "water-closet contemplative". Sometimes it is only the moments in the bathroom that are meditative space.
Spiritual reading can be very discouraging in that way. The writers of these lovely prayer journals and meditations didn't have to concern themselves with petulant preteens or toddler tantrums. They had time for the beautiful unfolding of conversation with God. They could sit uninterrupted through an hour of lectio.
I have come to believe that God will take the whole of life as prayer if we offer it.
Even in the midst of the hectic lives we lead if we offer what we do to God, then God will take charge of how we do it.
Then, maybe, even the interruptions can be a part of our prayer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Maybe the world has tilted on its axis, I don’t know.
The Episcopal church has voted to ordain gay clergy and Bishops. Perhaps we were only telling the truth of what has already happened. Maybe all we have said is that gay people need no longer lie about their sexuality in order to serve as they have heard themselves called. I have not yet experienced truth as a bad thing.

I am not in Anaheim. I was not present for the discussion or debate, I do not not know what form it took. Somewhere in me is an ache. I am sad that we make decisions in terms of winners and losers. I am sad that we are talking about marketing our faith and whether the consequence of this decision will be growth or decline for the denomination. I pray that each voting delegate had the courage to vote their conscience, to vote Christ as they have heard Christ speak to them.

For those who disagree with this decision I pose the question: Is the role of human sexuality the whole story of your faith? As you discern your denominational home is this the one thing that establishes or corrodes the foundation of this habitation?
For those who believe that the decision was right: Can you believe that there are those who faithfully differ with your understanding? What does it mean to be Christian when your views are on the winning side and those whose views differ may question a fundamental attribute of your being?
Where is Christ in all of this?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Acts 12: 1- 17 (NRSV)
1 About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. 2 He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. 3 After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) 4 When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. 5 While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him. 6 The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, "Get up quickly." And the chains fell off his wrists. 8 The angel said to him, "Fasten your belt and put on your sandals." He did so. Then he said to him, "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me." 9 Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel's help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting." 12 As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying. 13 When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. 14 On recognizing Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, "You are out of your mind!" But she insisted that it was so. They said, "It is his angel." 16 Meanwhile Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. 17 He motioned to them with his hand to be silent, and described for them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he added, "Tell this to James and to the believers." Then he left and went to another place.

I don’t know what captivates you in the stories of our faith. One of the things that strikes me is the small detail. The miraculous visitation of the angel who freed Peter from his cell, the grogginess, the broken chains the unlocked door are not what carried me into prayer. It was Rhoda, in her excitement, leaving Peter outside the gate while she ran to tell the news of his release. Such an unnecessary detail yet one that gives the ring of reality to the account. Sometimes faith flounders, it is then we need the human stories of very human people to remind that God is near. I pray that you experience the nearness of God in your own human story today.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Parents

That I may come near to her,
draw me nearer to thee than to her;
that I may know her,
make me to know thee more than her;
that I may love her with the perfect love of a perfectly whole heart,
cause me to love thee more than her and most of all. Amen. Amen

That nothing may be between me and her,
be thou between us, every moment.
That we may be constantly together,
draw us into separate loneliness with thyself.
And when we meet, breast to breast, my God,
let it e on thine own. Amen. Amen.

Temple Gardiner, (1873-1928) before his marriage.
Quoted in The Oxford Book of Prayer.

From what I have seen my parents have a lovely marriage. They delight in each other’s company. The kiss and tease like young lovers. They share private jokes and a public devotion. Before I married I asked my mother the secret to their marital success.
She answered that every marriage is its own garden. There is no single almanac that will work for every couple in every instance. Each couple must find the ways of life together that work for them.
You look so happy after all these years. How do you do it?
“A good marriage is like one of those gardens in a stately home: When you visit the lawns are manicured, the flowers bloom luxuriantly, the paths are clear and the beds are immaculate. It is as though someone has come with a magic wand and made it so. What you don’t see is all the hard work that creates the vision. The weeding and seeding, the mulching and digging, the plants that must be uprooted, the things that must hacked down and wheeled away. Marriage is hard work. Lots of prayer and hard work.”Perhaps that, then, is the ultimate secret of marital success: that we hide our hearts in God. If we can not each hide our hearts in God then maybe in marriage we had best find our way to each other through God.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sometimes it is movement that stills me. Sitting in contemplation can be a form of warfare for me. My mind is not a monkey, it is a battalion determined to destroy my composure. My preferred form of meditation is running. I do not have an ipod. I let the music of the breeze and the distant traffic noise accompany my steps. In my mind I repeat a prayer that came folded inside the Anglican rosary that one of my spiritual directors gave me:
Be the eye of God dwelling in me
the foot of Christ in guidance with me
the shower of the Spirit pouring on me, richly and generously.
I bow before God who made me
I bow before Christ who saved me
I bow before the Spirit who guides me
in love and adoration
I praise the Name of the One on high
I bow and adore the Sacred Three, the Ever one, the Trinity.
Thoughts and concerns drift into my mind and wash out again carried off by the sweat and the breath. In that hour Jesus gently untangles the snarled nest of my worries; running I rest.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 4th - A Day at the Beach

I asked four-year-old Onalenna to read the letter she had written:

Dear God,
Me and daddy and mummy and Nyaniso are going to the beach.
You have to put your bathing suit on.

I think God joined us at the beach last week; delighted by the simple invitation.


Four years ago my parents stood before me and renewed their marriage vows. Today, July 2, they celebrate fifty four years of marriage.
I am a great fan of the Anglican Prayer Book liturgy. It is the liturgy my husband and I used when we married. The promises we made were simple yet profound. We promised to love each other. We promised to comfort, honor and protect each other. We promised to forsake all others and be faithful to one another as long as we both shall live.
One of the saddest things I heard this week was South Carolina governor Mark Sanford’s declaration that he was going to try to fall back in love with his wife.
Perhaps in their marriage service the Sanfords promised to stay in love. The wisdom of the old liturgies is that they do not require one to do what one cannot, govern the unruly emotions. Being in love is how we feel. I know that in the course of my brief fifteen years of marriage there have been whole hours when I was not in love with my husband. But I have loved him every hour. Love is what we do. It is how we act. The promise to love is a promise anyone can keep. It doesn’t depend on how we feel. Jesus loved sinners, Jesus loved those who opposed him, Jesus loved those who nailed him to the cross. Did he feel a warm fuzzy affection for them? I would suspect not. Did he love them? Without a doubt.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rev. Tutu's Sermon-June 28th at St. Mary's in D.C.

Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus has crossed again in a boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and presses in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”
Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’”He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James “When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

I once saw a cartoon that showed a cow lying on its back its feet stuck straight up in the air. The caption read, “No, really, I’m fine!” That cow was an Episcopalian.

Clearly Jairus wasn’t an Episcopalian. Although he had status enough to spare he was not standing on ceremony. Here he was prostrate at Jesus feet pleading, not asking but pleading repeatedly for Jesus to come with him.

I don’t know what Jesus had on the agenda for that day. Perhaps a chance to gather with friends, maybe some time at the synagogue, after all he was just back in his home territory of Galilee after a trip across the lake into the land of the gentiles. But his fame had preceded him. He had been preaching and teaching and healing. Although he admonished those he healed not to say a word, clearly someone had said something because here he was, barely off the boat, and a crowd had gathered.

Here, in this crowd, Jairus fell at his feet. Jairus isn’t just anybody. He is described as a leader in the synagogue. That is a kind of biblical shorthand. It means that Jairus was a leader in the community and a wealthy man. “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands upon her so that she may be made well and live.” Perhaps it was that the plea was not offered on his own behalf that made it possible for the important man to so humble himself. There is no end to the kinds of discomfort we will endure on behalf of our children.

More than once, I’m sure, I have given my parents occasion to make a similar plea. One time that I heard my mother’s prayer it touched me deeply. The year I married I spent several months at home in South Africa with my parents. At the time my father was the Archbishop of Cape Town. I accompanied him and my mother on an archiepiscopal visitation to the diocese of Klerksdorp. On the Thursday of the visitation we went to the Mother’s Union meeting. The Mother’s Union is a organization similar to Daughters of the King a group of women dedicated to prayer and the ministry of marriage. The group met o Thursday because it was the traditional “Sheila’s day” (Sheila was the name that white employers gave to their black domestic workers because they could not be bothered to learn to pronounce their African names.) Thursday was “Sheila’s day” because it was the traditional day off for domestic workers. Not the weekend when the madam and Master might have need of her. Not Monday when she would be tasked with getting the household ready for the week, r Friday when she must ready the home for the weekend but Thursday so no one, but “Sheila” and her family would be inconvenienced. Most of the women gathered in that church made their living as domestic workers. A very few might be teachers or nurses, some were grandmothers and retirees but most cleaned houses, cared for other people’s children, cooked and did laundry for a living. I don’t know what message the women expected from my mother, a well educated world traveller and a very eloquent woman of deep faith. I don’t suppose they anticipated the prayer they heard from her. “I come to you not as the archbishop’s wife but as a mother like any mother. You see my child here. Soon she will marry and cross the sea to a land far from home. I ask you prayers for her and for her husband. I ask your prayers for us, her parents. Keep her under God’s guarding and guiding.” Like Jairus my mother went to Jesus as her first resort. Through all the joys, the sorrows, the tensions and turmoils of marriage I am comforted by the knowledge that my mother and that gathering of women of faith have prayed for our union, they asked Jesus to lay his hands upon it and keep it whole.

If Jairus and my mother came to Jesus as their first resort the woman with a flow of blood came to Jesus when she had reached the end of her rope. Jesus was her last resort. She had tried everything else and it hadn’t worked. Desperation drove her through that crowd. There are so few taboos in our society that it is hard for us to imagine the mixture of hope and anguish that made her take this risk. For twelve long years she had suffered with this flow. Twelve years and how many doctors had she seen? How much money had she paid? That piece is familiar, from our tabloids and news media or even from our own families and friends. We all know or have heard the stories of dwindling hope as patients travel the globe to try one treatment after another, “maybe this will be the one.” Sometimes it is. Often it is not. For twelve years this woman’s wealth had been consumed in the pursuit of a cure. In all that time she could have no place in the life of the community because she was ritually unclean. This day tasted like a jailbreak. She dared to step outside her house. She dared the walk to the shore with the crowd. Here she is hoping, praying, that no one sees her face, no one recognizes her. She is trying, despite the press of bodies, not to touch anyone, not to let anyone touch her. In a moment, there he is, Jesus. She reaches out her hand, Just a moment, just an inch, just a corner of his robe, and then...

Which calamity will finally force us out of the prison of shame and embarrassment and make us brave the crowd so we can touch Jesus? Some years ago, I think the first time I had taken a group to South Africa on a pilgrimage we worshipped on Sunday at a church my family often attends when in Soweto. It was a chilly rainy day and the church was packed, as was usual. International visitors often came to St. Paul’s because the worship was a rich sensory experience. The red and white of the acolyte’s vestments was softened by the thick fragrant smoke of incense. The polished wood of the cross and the brass of the candles gleamed through the haze. The service might have gone on for two hours. But it was two beautiful hours of polyphonic singing, dancing, clapping and prayers in many of South Africa’s eleven official languages. As the service drew to a close, the priest invited those with particular thanksgivings or petitions to come to the altar to ask the prayers of the church. There were the usual thanksgivings for an anniversary, for a piece of unexpected good fortune. There was a prayer for someone anticipating surgery. And then a woman stood to ask our prayers. “My son is in jail” she began. “He is charged with murder. I have no money for a lawyer. In January my daughter died. She was my only girl. She had AIDS. My husband couldn’t cope. He walked out of the house one day. He hasn’t come back. That was six months ago. I have come here with a heart so heavy. My burdens are so heavy I can’t lift them to Jesus.”

I don’t know if you’ve slid to the end of your rope. I don’t know if sickness or sadness has imprisoned you inside your own mind. Maybe your job has vanished or you home feels less like a slice of heaven than like a corner of hell. Maybe you are burdened in ways I can not even begin to imagine and you too are yearning to reach out your hand and touch Jesus. Maybe this is the day that you can not stand decorously through the prayers of the of people, this is the day that life has knocked you to your knees to plead. It’s okay, that’s why you’re here. This is not the country club where you are required to smile your brittle smile and intone the mantra “I’m fine!” This is the shore of Galilee where Jesus waits to lay his hands on your life and assure you that your faith has healed you and you can go in peace.