Friday, July 13, 2012


Under the category of "don't take church too seriously," I offer these observances:

Recently, I attended "The Welcome Table" worship, the Sunday Morning service at 8am at Epiphany Episcopal Church, in downtown DC.  This congregation consists of fifty to seventy five street people, the ten or so lay volunteers who serve a hot breakfast for them, and a half a dozen folks like me who simply enjoy this diverse crowd.  (This is very different from the later morning service, that I have not attended, which consists of folks who work and live in DC, making their career in politics or hospitality or other DC-like vocations.)

At The Welcome Table service, the "prelude" is sung by the sometimes out of tune walk-up choir of three or four people who belt out a popular hymn. Or, one of the street folks offers a heart-felt solo.  After we all read an opening prayer together, the Liturgy of the Word continues with readers for the lessons and someone guides the congregation in sharing the psalm.  Sometimes their speech impediment prevents clear understanding.  Sometimes the words are difficult for them to pronounce.  Sometimes they are shy at the lectern.  Always, their countenance is love.

During the homily, I heard stereophonic snoring.  The man sitting in the pew directly behind me was fast asleep, gurgling as he breathed deeply.  A man a few rows up was out cold, head tilted uncomfortably to the left.  The "cool cat" with the sunglasses on in the front row was perusing a magazine, turning the pages of his reading material quite loudly.  The smell of someone who had not showered in, say, an entire season, waifed across the sanctuary. Occasionally someone from the back, agreeing with the preacher, shouts an "Amen!" that wakes up a few people.  Always, the congregation gathered respects each persons' needs and dignity.

In the midst of the Eucharistic prayer, when the celebrant touches the bread and says, "on the night that Jesus died, he took bread, and when he gave thanks to you, he broke it..." - *just* then, a wandering street person traipsed in front of the raised altar platform with his rolling bag and all his belongings, to cross the space to get to the other side.  He was mumbling to himself, quietly, but he was quietly ignored by the celebrant.  The prayer continued with out missing a beat, "and gave it to them and said, Take Eat, this is my body given for you." Always... his body given in so many forms.

On Tuesday, when I attended "Street Church," there was a similar mid-Eucharistic prayer interruption.  The enthusiastic lay helper tapped the celebrant on the shoulder, offering her some hand sanitizer.  Seriously, it was mid-prayer just after blessing the bread but before the wine was blessed. 

As I reflect on my year of Episcopal formation, learning the "proper" forms of prayers, the "proper" hand movements, the "proper" way to be with the congregation, I realized *this* was a time to learn how NOT to take church so seriously.  What is serious, is that mid-Eucharistic prayer interruptions by well-meaning people in all their humanness might give a pause, but that pause brings glory to God.

Seriously - love, love and love.  That's all.  That matters.  Seriously.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Eye training

"You have to train your eye to see them..."

This was my friend's remark back to me, as I lamented that I couldn't see any of the bush beans that we were picking. It was hot out and the sweat was running in my eyes.  "Really," she said, "the beans look so much like the bush."  And so I began pulling up the leaves, staring and looking, actively, for sign of bean.  Still looking.  Still seeking.  Staring. 

AHA! I see them! 

There they were - right in front of me.  I chuckled to myself. 

The same thing happened when we visited the zucchini patch, the crook-neck squash patch, the snap-peas rows, and the fig tree.  I had to train my eye to see the vegetables, growing right in front of me.

I wonder if this is what it takes to recognize God's work and presence in the world.  I have to train my eye to see God, yet I know that this can only happen with God's help.  In that sacred moment of God's love, secure in God's faithfulness, I can train my eye to see the Sacred all about me.

How are you seeing the Divine, right before your eyes, in this moment?

As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. There were two blind men sitting by the roadside. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, “Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!” Jesus stood still and called them, saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him. Matthew 20:29-34

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Gospel. Art.

My friend said we were "fools for Christ" to get to church by 6:45.  In the morning.  Downtown.  "Yea, well," I replied, "I love the Gospel and I love art.  Let's go!"

So we gathered in the parish hall of the downtown church with a 8 to 10  folks who were homeless (or otherwise dependent on the goodness of others), as my friend opened with a gentle prayer.  The folks who gathered around that table knew the protocol.  They arrive, get their "breakfast" number, and head to the hall for a discussion of the day's Gospel reading, which one offered to read.  A deep discussion ensued.

This is a group who love God. And the bible. And their neighbors.  And love to talk!  What fun...
  • "I think it represents how we are all afraid of death, but life in Christ gives us freedom to live fully into the knowledge that God loves us."
  • "To me, I have to confess that sometimes I lose my faith. This reading reminds me that despite my life being in a stormy time, if I have faith that Jesus will calm the storm, it will work out."
  • "In the end, it wasn't that they were praising him as a hero, but that they were praising God for all God had done.  Even after that storm. It reminds me to be thankful for blessings that I have in my life.  For this place, for example."
After about a half an hour of discussion, one man closed us in prayer. We opened up the art supply closet and each participant carefully chose a set of pencils, or oil paints, or water colors, or felt tip pens.  They picked out a sketch pad or construction paper or a small wooden, unpainted birdhouse or basket to embellish.

Silence fell on the room (except the busy workers in the kitchen who were preparing breakfast.)  The space was prayerful, as each pray-er got in the zone of making art.  For some, their art reflected the day's gospel.  For others, this it was simply a time to continue a project they had going on from weeks earlier.

For me, I sat with a plain piece of paper and attempted to draw Jesus in the crowd, Jesus on the water, Jesus in the boat, Jesus with the disciples.  I frowned at my stick people.  "He looks just like everyone else," I shared with my table mate.  This wise man who otherwise couldn't finish a sentence earlier, looked right at me and said, "well, don't holy people have one of those things...?"  He demonstrated with his hands by raising his arms like a big hoop over his head.  "A halo! of course!"

So I added a halo to my Jesus and voila!  Me and my tablemate made Gospel. Art. Together.

Here's the link to the art show that was held last year. 

How are you expressing your gospel, or your art, in this moment?