Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

from "Ash Wednesday"
by T.S. Eliot

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Bless├Ęd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pancakes, Paczki and King Cake

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), a day to eat and eat and eat, prior to the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, when, of course, we will all fast all day long ... right?

Many cultures have ways of celebrating this last moment before six weeks of fasting and abstinence. In Brazil and the Caribbean, there is Carnival, with parades and partying in a very serious fashion. Mardi Gras in New Orleans also taps the party spirit with its parades, and multicolored King Cake (with a variety of small charms baked inside to bring the finders an assortment of luck in the years ahead).

But for those of us from Northern European cultures, the key element of Fat Tuesday seems to be fried food ... paczki, a deep-fried jelly donut from Poland ... faschnacht, a deep-fried donut from Germany ... or pancakes.

The tradition was to use up all the fat, butter and sugar in the home prior to the fast of Lent. Apparently, all these cold-weather cultures decided donuts and pancakes was the most efficient way to do that. This has led to strange manifestations in our culture ... National Pancake Day at IHOP tomorrow, and the appearance of paczki in all our local groceries.

But the most important cultural manifestation from our perspective is the annual Church Pancake Supper. We will celebrate our Fat Tuesday tradition at All Saints at 6 p.m. tomorrow in the undercroft with more pancakes than you can cram into your face ... also activities for the children and the burning of last year's palm branches to make this year's ashes for Ash Wednesday.

Come and pig out with us tomorrow. And don't eat too many paczki, or you won't have room for pancakes!

+ Kit

Friday, February 20, 2009

Alone Time? What's That?

This video was posted over on Episcopal Cafe. I watched and first, recognized myself, and second, realized that this portrays reality for most people under age 40, and certainly under age 30.

I like Facebook, and many of you are my Facebook friends. But I wonder about this sense of being continually available, continually on, continually plugged in. Do I need to know that Clare's house is clean and she has marzipan? Or play yet another Scrabble game? Or follow one of Tamara's links?

I have been pondering whether to give up Facebook for Lent. Watch the video, and then use the comment function to share your thoughts on whether I should or not ... or what electronic umblical cord you might think about laying aside for six weeks.

+ Kit

Zulu Basket Sale Benefits South African Students

Today and tomorrow, you can visit All Saints, where the LATTICE organization is holding its annual Zulu Basket Sale.

The sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at All Saints Episcopal Church, 800 Abbot Road, East Lansing. More than 150 museum-quality Zulu baskets and a special, small shipment of Sikhosiphi Nene's beaded jewelry will be on sale.

Prices for the baskets range from $18 to $280, depending on size, color and complexity of the weave. Jewelry will sell for $12 to $60.

All proceeds go to provide scholarships for Zulu students in KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reading Ahead: You May Ask Yourself, Well, How Did I Get Here?

When last we left Jesus and his friends, it was at the end of Chapter One of Mark's gospel. A lot had happened in just a few verses. John appeared in the wilderness, announcing the Messiah. Jesus turned up, was baptized, then driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted. He returned to Galilee, began his ministry, called disciples, healed in the synagogue, healed Peter's mother-in-law, went out to other towns to proclaim the message and healed a leper.

Whew. That was one intense chapter.

But now, as is its wont, the lectionary schedule of readings has picked us up just as we were ready to dive in to Chapter Two, and plopped us here, on this mountaintop, with Peter and James and John and Jesus ... and Elijah and Moses!

And -- as Talking Heads memorably said -- you may ask yourself, well ... how did I get here?

The Last Sunday after Epiphany is always given over to this story of the Transfiguration. Whether or not it makes any sense. So we have gone from Chapter Two to Chapter Nine of Mark in the blink of a week. What have we missed in the interim?

Healings, controversies, fights with Pharisees and others, calling of the twelve apostles, casting out of demons, telling of parables (which no one understands), the beheading of John the Baptist, feeding of the 5,000, walking on water, and finally, finally, after chapters and chapters of no one understanding who he really is, he asks his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"

And Peter says "You are the Christ," and Jesus begins to tell them that the Son of Man must go to Jerusalem and be handed over to the authorities and be crucified and on the third day be raised. And Peter doesn't like this idea and scolds Jesus, and Jesus lays him out and says "Get back, Satan!"

And tells us what it means to follow him: "If any would be my disciple, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."

OK, NOW we can talk about what Jesus and his friends are doing on this mountaintop.

This mountain top is the hinge point of Mark's gospel. On the front side of it, only the demons know who Jesus is. His identity is a secret. He does great deeds of power. He heals, he exorcises. Now, here on this mountain, his friends hear the voice that only Jesus heard at his baptism. The voice from heaven that declares Jesus his son. They see Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets. They see Jesus as he appears to his Father, shining and pure and good.

Everything after this is an inexorable walk to the cross. There are few, if any healings after this moment. Jesus seems powerless, yet powerfully focused on the road to Jerusalem. He is on the move, teaching his friends what must happen, yet they don't get it. He is trying to explain to them what it looks like to walk the way of the cross.

We pause here, on the mountain, looking down at the road out of Epiphany into Lent, the road that leads to the cross. We know who Jesus is in this moment of glory on the peak. Will we recognize him when he is lifted up, broken and battered, on that cross?

That is the question for the next six weeks. How shall we answer it?

+ Kit

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Get Ready! It's Almost Here! Have You Planned For It???

Yes, Lent begins one week from tomorrow. This annual period of reflection, self-examination and repentance lasts for six weeks, so we can prepare our hearts for the journey to the cross and the empty tomb.

The time to think about Lent is now ... not on Ash Wednesday. What do you want the next six weeks to be like? What do you want to read? What disciplines do you want to take on? What plans will you make to get closer to God? What habits of your life need examining or reforming?

There are a variety of resources for you to pick up at church to help you with this ... our annual parish Lent brochure, Forward Day by Day devotional, an Episcopal Relief and Development devotional, and the always-engaging Lent poster by Jay Sidebotham. These are useful tools to help you chart your course for a Holy Lent.

+ Kit

Monday, February 16, 2009

Being at Peace ... Shalom

The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, means much more than simply an absence of hostilities, or a neutral position. It means a completeness, a wholeness, all parts in balance. As Christians, we can think about the central point on the cross being the position of shalom ... perfectly balanced between God and humanity (the vertical beam) and all humans with one another (the horizontal beam). When we are at peace with God and with one another, we know the true meaning of shalom.

I offer you a shalom exercise for the day. Try to experience each aspect of your life as in balance, even if you might not always think it is in balance. For example ...

The weather. Be at peace with the weather (even Michigan weather!), however it happens to be, without wishing it was hotter or colder, snowier or sunnier, simply accept and enjoy it as it comes to you today.

Your body. Be at peace with your body. If you have aches and pains, accept them as they come, just sitting with them. For one day don't wish you were fatter or thinner, younger or older. Just accept your body and enjoy it as you inhabit it today.

Your colleagues. Be at peace with the people you share the day with today. Don't expect them to be any better than they are. Understand that they have stories they have never told you, problems they have never shared. Let them be in your space with you however they are today. Just accept their humanity and enjoy it as it is displayed to you today in all its weirdness and wonderfulness.

See what it feels like to rest at that balancing point of harmony between us and God, between us and other people. Breathe deeply. Be at peace.

Shalom aleichem.

+ Kit

Friday, February 13, 2009

Saint of the Week -- Absalom Jones

Absalom Jones was the first African-American priest in the Episcopal Church. His saint's day, which falls within Black History Month, is often a cause for particular celebration in our church. Our diocesan celebration of Absalom Jones Day is this Sunday at 3 p.m., at Christ Church-Detroit.

Jones was born into slavery in Delaware in 1746, and was later sold to a store owner in Philadelphia. While still a slave, he married Mary King, and saved to purchase her freedom first, so that their children could be born free. Jones did not purchase his own freedom until he was 38.

Along with Richard Allen, Jones led a movement of African-Americans out of the Methodist church where they had been worshipping. Tired of being relegated to upper galleries and treated like second-class members, Jones and Allen took their compatriots out of the white church and established churches for their own people.

The church Absalom Jones established, St. Thomas's African Church in Philadelphia, petitioned to become an Episcopal parish. Jones was ordained a deacon in 1795 and a priest in 1804. For his entire life, Jones worked and spoke and prayed for an end to slavery, and for more decent treatment of slaves and freed Africans.

(Richard Allen established his church within the Methodist tradition, founding the African Methodist Episcopal -- AME -- denomination.)