Saturday, November 30, 2019

Advent 1 sermon (if the snow lets me preach it)

Advent I 2019-Emmanuel, Killingworth

                   “Hello Darkness, my old friend,
                   I’ve come to talk with you again.
                   Because a vision softly creeping,
                   left its seeds while I was sleeping,
                   and the vision that was planted in my brain
                   still remains—within the sounds of silence.”
                                      --Simon and Garfunkle

          If you are of a certain age—oh, like mine, for example—the words of that song may act like a memory magnet. Of course, if you remember the 60’s and 70’s you weren’t really having a good time….

          But as I’ve thought about today’s readings and about the beginning of Advent, that song kept appearing and reappearing in my mind and heart.

          Advent is a time of “darkness”, a time of “visions”, a time of “sleeping” and a time of “silence”.
          Each day of Advent has less light than the day before. Each day is only a few minutes darker—but by the time Advent is ending the effect is startling. As we wait for the Christchild we are waiting in the darkest time of the year. And Darkness—for all the fear it brings—can be a dear and valuable friend.

          Advent is a time chock full of “visions”.  Isaiah, in today’s reading, sees a vision of the new Jerusalem descending to the mountain of the Lord. He sees visions of peace and visions of the end of war. He sees visions of a time of unity among all nations and a time of learning to walk God’s path and not our own—a time of walking in the Light….
          Paul’s vision in Romans is the vision of LOVE replacing the LAW—a vision of compassion and caring for the well being of others taking away the need for rules and regulations. Paul’s vision is one of walking in the Light….
          Then there is Jesus’ “vision” from Matthew’s gospel—a vision of the coming of the Son of Man. It is a vision of sudden judgment and sure distress—and yet, even in that vision, God comes to gather the children at an unexpected time….

          Advent is a time of darkness and visions and sleeping.
          The earth is falling asleep. The trees are bare, the flowers are dead, the animals are nesting and the ground is freezing. The air chills us and the moon and stars shine brightly, larger than usual, in the cold sky. It is a time to sleep through the long night and dream of the Light.
          Advent is a time of silence. Think about it. The insects are asleep. Many of the birds are gone. Night comes quickly and stays long so many of the sounds of the day go missing early. And, it seems to me at least, the cold, heavy air muffles the sounds that are left. Silence, like a blanket, falls over us during Advent.
          Human beings are not creatures that appreciate silence and darkness. We long for light and sound. Advent tends to make us anxious. No one likes to “wait”—and Advent is all about “waiting”—and most of us fear the dark and fill our lives with noises. So Advent…a time of “waiting” in the darkness and the silence…well, it is problematic for most of us most of the time.

          And there is this: it is in darkness that we discover the secret places of our soul and it is in silence that we begin to hear the voice of God. Darkness and silence force us to “be alone”—and in that “loneliness” we discover our deeper selves AND that we are not, ultimately, alone.
          Advent is a time to experience darkness and silence—lean into them, embrace them. And it is not something we do gladly or willingly. It is something we must practice.

          Do me a favor—if you would. Close your eyes and keep them closed.
          See how close darkness always is?
          And now—eyes still closed—I’m going to stop talking for a moment….
          See how close silence always is?

          We are waiting, we are waiting, in a dark and silent place…we are waiting….
          But in our waiting, as we touch the darkness and the silence, we come to know we are not alone
          Others are waiting with us….We are not alone…without opening your eyes, simply sense the people who are with you…those here and those in your heart….
          And beyond that, there is Another who waits with us…deep, deep in our hearts, God waits with us…in the darkness and the silence…there is God….
          The New Jerusalem is coming….the Son of Man is coming….the Christ child is coming….the Light is coming….
          All our waiting will bring that to pass….
          In the darkness and the silence…..       Amen and Amen   


Snow on the way

I can't get clear about the coming snow.

When's it starting?

How much will there be?

Will we have Church in Killingworth?

Can I get out of my driveway at 9 a.m.?

I guess we just have to wait and see.

Tomorrow morning will come--snow or no snow.

I told the Sr. Warden if I 'didn't call' I was coming.

Snow probably worse here than Killingworth--much closer to the shore.

We shall see.

That's all we can do...wait and see....

Life is like that--and not just the weather.l

Deep breath.


Wait and see.

(My advice for you.)

Friday, November 29, 2019

The day after....

Mimi, Tim and Eleanor left this afternoon. Bern and I had a second Thanksgiving meal for dinner.

As always, Bern got the house back to normal and orderly after they left.

Things move slowly on the day after any big deal.

The dog almost is over the change from a full house to a normal one.

Bern is watching TV, I'm doing this.

Soon, Brigit will go out for the last time tonight.

Then reading in bed ans sleep.

It's the day after...things slow down and move quietly.

I love the 'day after' days.

Just my speed.

Hope your Thanksgiving was a joyful as ours.

And no political arguments--all anti-Trump Democrats at our dinner.

Be well and stay well.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving and a poem

Mimi, Tim and Eleanor are here for Thanksgiving. John Anderson, a friend since college came up from New Haven for dinner. Great food and Great company. What a joy!

Also, I came across this poem I wrote over 16 years ago.

Walking out of Shadows

This poem has three things
(four really...)
a back porch, badly lit,
a deck in shadows,
and a Puli dog.
(The fourth thing comes at the end.)

My back porch is small.
4 by 6 or so,
and the light bulb,
surrounded by opaque plate,
is 40 watts at best.

The deck is largerer--12 by 20, mabe,
and gets little illumination from the porch light.

The Puli is black as black can be.
So black there are highlights
of more blue and brown in his coat
in direct sunlight.

But at night, when the dog walks on the deck,
I cannot see him for the shadows
and he emerges suddenly
from darkness into light.

Now the fourth thing--the crux of the matter--
how much is that like you and me, all of us,
in the most profound and deepest way,
wandering mostly in places we cannot be seen,
emerging sprisingly,
into some dim light?
Only some of our hearts and souls
are visible at all.



Tuesday, November 26, 2019



Since you've had your recent cold,
I've been thinking again about
something I think about entirely too much
(and shouldn't ever reveal to others,
not even in passing.)

It is astonishing and thought provoking
to me how much fluid the human body can produce.

Bags of skin full of mucus, blood, bodily fluids and bone.
Sucked out of unconscious patients
Sneezed onto the steering wheel
Coughed up like little guppies
Hard little creatures blown out of my nose
Draining through a plastic tube from a surgical wound
Marcus Aurelius' "a bag of bones and foul smell"
Oozing from around scabs
Running from the eyes and hardening up like plaster overnight
Gushes and gushes from a fleet enema
The breaking of the waters of the womb
And the cheesy stuff that covers newborns--
Never mind the placenta itself, a veritable freezer bag of gunk
Vaginal discharges the puss from venereal  diseases
The gook, inexplicably, in your ears. Where does that come from?
The body is a mucus making machne.
Like flows of syrup from a maple tree.


Advent I

(Since it's coming up, here is last year's sermon.)

Advent I 2018

          In the name of the God who is coming among us, Amen.

          “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near….”
          That’s what Jesus says in today’s gospel. He is teaching in the Temple. He is standing in the holiest spot on the face of the earth for his people and he is teaching about the end of days, the Last Things, the Apocalypse, the signs that will signal the coming of the Son of Man in power and great glory. “Heaven and earth will pass away,”  he proclaims, “but my words will not pass away….”
          And what does he tell his disciples to do? How does he want his followers to face the end of all things? “Stand up!” he says, “stand up and raise your heads…your redemption is drawing near….”

          We tend to see Advent as the time to prepare for the celebration of Christmas. We tend to spend these weeks talking about “preparing our hearts for the Christ Child.”  But that misses the more dominant theme of Advent. Advent is a time to reflect, not on Jesus’ birth, but on his promised return to Earth as the Son of Man. Advent not about the ‘first coming’ of Jesus. It’s about his second coming…and the end of days.
          “When you see these thing taking place,” Jesus teaches in the temple, “you know that the Kingdom of God is near….”
          When I went to Israel 18 years ago now, our group toured an archeological site called Megiddo. Megiddo is located on the south side of the Jezreel Valley on the Eeron Pass—the route taken by conquerors from the Pharohes of Egypt to King Solomon to the Roman Legions to the British Army in World War I.
          Megiddo is a vital strategic location for anyone seeking to control Israel. That is why twenty different cities have been built on that one spot—one on top of the other. Each conquering army destroyed the city they seized and built their new fortress on it’s ruins.
          The first settlement at Megiddo dates back to 4000 B.C.—6000 years ago, at the dawning of human civilization. To stand amid the ruins of Megiddo today is to stand on a spot that dates back to the Stone Age. That is almost impossible to ponder—a place that takes in the whole of human history.
          But after telling us all this and more about the history of Megiddo, our guide told us something else. Megiddo has another name. It is also known as Armageddon.
          The hair on the back of my neck stood up. For a moment I could hardly breathe. All the old stories of the Pentecostal preachers of my childhood rang in my ears and in my heart. The Day of the Lord…the Second Coming…the last battle of planet earth—all that was contained in that single word: Armageddon. We were standing on the place where the Book of Revelation tells us the world will end….
          When I was a child, the end of the world through nuclear war was something almost everyone imagined could be true. We got under our desks in grade school and covered our heads, practicing for the Atomic bomb attack.   And today, the ecological crisis should provoke our imaginations as well. It is possible that we human beings could bring death to the planet through our carelessness and greed. The end of the world, in that way, is not unthinkable.
          When I was 25 years old, I spent many hours over the span of a week, sitting by my mother’s deathbed. I took turns sitting there with other members of my family, watching for the signs and portents of the end of my mother’s days. It was over 45 years ago, yet the memories of those days and hours and moments are still vivid in my heart. Though she was in and out of a coma and never spoke during that week, she did wake up enough one day to let me feed her a little cup of vanilla ice-cream with a plastic spoon. She drifted away before she had eaten it all and I took the last bite. I still remember that as one of the most delicious and sensuous bites I’ve ever had. All my senses were heightened because I knew each moment I sat there might be the last moment of my mother’s life.
          I would try to match my breath with her breath, try to breathe in rhythm with her. And in those moments, every breath I took was distinct and different. Like snowflakes, no two breaths were the same.
          Most of the time, I don’t even notice that I’m breathing.

          Jesus tells us this today: Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down…and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap….Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.
          Advent is the time to wake up. Advent is the time to remember to be aware, on guard, alert while we are waiting. Most of the time, we just don’t notice how life is flowing around us. Most of the time, we are asleep.
          While I sat and waited for my mother to die, each moment took on “meaning”, every instant was important, the normally unnoticed seconds of my life were precious and rare and like snowflakes, all different from each other.
          While we are “waiting for Christmas” or “waiting for the Coming of the Son of Man”, the gift and meaning of Advent is that the “in between time” is precisely where we will find love and purpose and hope and wonder and God…and each other.
          It’s not What we’re waiting for that’s important. What’s important is what we do with the “waiting time”.  Our lives have purpose. Our love “makes a difference” in this world. Every bite of ice cream, every moment of waiting, every second of our lives is full and overflowing with the glory of God.
          Advent calls us to “be always on the watch”, wide awake with anticipation, leaning into every hour of our existence as if God were always breaking into our lives.
          Advent calls us to wake up and notice every breath as if God were breathing in rhythm with us. The Kingdom of God is that close to us, as close as our next breath…
          “Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.