Monday, August 31, 2009

St. Albans' Chapel, Sunday, August 23 taken by Andrew Kerr, Diocesan Communications guru

Unlike Garrison Keilor who says, "It's been a quiet week in Lake Woebegone," it has been a busy couple of weeks in preparation for today, the day the sabbatical begins. Last weekend we had our annual celebration of the Holy Eucharist at St. Alban's Chapel in the Snowy Range. From 10,000 feet, looking across the Laramie Valley and up to Medicine Bow Peak, it is a spectacular place to worship. Quoting the lovely Wyoming liturgy written by Linen Greenough, "We thank you that we live in a place where the glorious revelation of yourself is all around us. The prairie bursts with song from wind and birds and waving grasses. The abundance of animals roaming freely reminds us of our own freedom, and the many ways you provide sustenance in your kingdom. From the depths of the ocean floor you lifted your massive mountains and pointed them toward the heavens. We, like your son our Lord, are called to these high places to get away and rest in communion with you. We marvel as we wander through stately pines and twirling aspen along the creeks, where trout dance on their tails above the rocks, and deer and elk sip from the water's edge; and we remember that you have given us the Living Water to quench our thirst. Our spirit is refreshed and our strength renewed.
We welcome the passing of seasons in broad circles of time, with anticipation of new things to come, and we recognize that same feeling of hope that encircles our faith. Our lives are lived between sunrises and sunsets and brilliant colors. But at night the limitless stars have a way of pushing back the boundaries of our lives and we dream of heaven and your wonder."
After a summer of worshiping in the undercroft, it was a joy to have so much space around us and then to gather up around the table as close as we possibly could to celebrate the holy mysteries.
The rest of the week included numerous meetings to iron out details concerning my absence. It is so good that a number of folks in the congregation are stepping up to the plate to see that everything gets done. I know that this sabbatical time is an opportunity for us all to grow in faith and to experience new ways in which God takes care of us and guides us to serve one another in God's name. In just a few moments the Wardens and I will meet with Father Tom who will be offering pastoral care while I'm away; then I turn over the keys to the church and my home and hit the road on this adventure to taste and see that the Lord is good.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fall is in the air

Mushrooms found on a trail a couple of years ago on French Creek in the Snowy Range
Preparations continue for leaving on sabbatical. Last week, I tackled the office, tossing away about a half of dumpster of dusty old files, papers, and things that left me wondering, "Why did I want to save this?" Some of it was left by the previous occupants of my office. The place is so neat and tidy, I can almost envision working there again. I've started in on getting the house similarly straightened up so that Father Tom will have some space for his things and will be able to make himself at home while I am out of Laramie. With each load to the trash, I am thinking about what a great object lesson this is, taking my hint from Jesus' admonition to his disciples when he sent them out telling them to "take nothing for their journey, except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics." (Mark 6:10) Traveling light is my hope for my sabbatical travels and learning to sit more lightly about possessions in general in my dream for the future.
The nearly completed itinerary for the travel portion of my time away arrived by e-mail yesterday. It will take me to more places than I'd originally anticipated and to an extra cooking school. Spain, France (the unexpected place), Italy and Greece! I am feeling a good bit of tension, excitement at the prospects and anxious with the "stuff" that needs to be done before feeling like I am leaving well.
In the last two days I drove about 500 miles round trip for the last of the Episcopal Search and Transition Committee meetings I will attend for a while. It is a great pleasure working with the diverse and talented folks on both committees. Our work, while often confidential in nature, is marked with respect for varied opinions, delight with others' gifts and ideas. We try to keep a focus that God already has called our next bishop and our task is to discern who that individual is as we work through the process. Driving across Wyoming at this time of year--the nip of fall is definitely in the air; it frosted in some parts of town last night; and the hay fields are mowed and bailed. The corn is a few weeks away from harvest. It is another sign for me of God's abundant provision this year as we've had good rains and good hay. Some creeks are still running which are normally dry by now.
Today as I preached yet again on Jesus as the bread of life, I fondly recalled the first communion of a four year old in my first parish. His folks didn't think he was ready or understanding of what it all meant; but after visiting with him, I thought he was plenty ready. When I extended the invitation, "These are the gifts of God for the people of God," he bolted out of the pew, ran to the altar rail and extended his hands with the urgency and desperation that indicated he must eat this bit of bread as if his life depended on it. And it does. "Thank you, Jesus," he very audibly whispered to my delight of me and his amazed parents.
Just a bit of bread, just a sip of wine. It makes all the difference in making us one, making us alive, fully alive to the possiblities God holds out for our delight. Thanks be to God for these many ways of tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

You satisfy the hungry heart with gift of finest wheat

As another step in preparing for the Sabbatical, I spent Friday and Saturday with my long-time friend, Roxanne, at her farmhouse in southeast Wyoming. She has graciously invited my dogs, Fargo and Rebel, to stay with her and her dogs, Winny (short for Winston Churchill) and Moose (short for Mussolini). It was a very relaxing time on the farm, getting the dogs acclimated to a new place. They liked all the new smells and places to explore. The quietness of the countryside, the amazing stars where there is no light pollution, the changing colors of the fields. Looking across the landscape is the light brown soil which has been plowed, the tan of wheat stubble, the gold of uncut wheat, and the bright green of irrigated corn, stripes of color stretching as far as the eyes can see. I shot some photos of some ripe wheat. I was just a field ahead of the combines, so it is probably cut by now.
On this Sunday as we hear again how Jesus is the bread of life and what it means ultimately to believe in him so that we neither hunger or thirst, I am grateful to have seen this wheat scattered upon the rolling hillsides of Wyoming. Scattered, gathered, made into one loaf to feed us, so that we can be scattered to share the nourishing Word with our neighbors.
I didn't preach about this, but rather retold the David story, summarizing last week's affair with Bathsheba, then moving to Nathan's indictment, concluding the words which our lectionary unfortunately omits, "Now the Lord has put away your sin." The merest ackknowledgement of sin and forgiveness comes as unexpected and amazing grace. Even God's judgment becomes an occasion for grace. What an assurance that none of us are so good that we have no real need of grace and none are so bad that we are beyond the scope of grace. What the world needs know is grace, sweet grace, amazing grace, grace upon grace... it's the only things that there's just too little of.