God the Good Gardener

“Every branch that bears fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Look at the stained glass windows around you this morning.  They’ve been given at various times for various members of the community, and as any chorister will tell you, they’re a symbol of how God’s light shines through each of us.  As we look closely at the passage from the Gospel of John this morning, I want to offer these to you as a metaphor for God’s work in us as we consider what it means to be pruned, and where exactly the Good News is in the revelation that we should expect spiritual amputations. Continue reading

Happiness List: Good Friday Edition

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I offer this afternoon a few pieces of art for contemplation, instead of the usual trappings of my happiness lists.  These efforts have invited me into the drama, depth, and grace of Holy Week in a new way this year, for which I am grateful. Continue reading

Liturgy: It’s not the Work of the People

“I hope and pray that those charged with being custodians of the Church’s worship will do so in a way that honors the gifts and talents of their congregations.” Words on liturgy by the Rev. Canon Robert Hendrickson

A Desert Father

One of the more persistent phrases one hears in Episcopal Church circles is that the liturgy is “the work of the people” based on a translation of the Greek word Leitourgia.  This translation of the word often is then used as a way to say that the liturgy should be more “participatory” or involve more lay people in planning or more responsive to the desires of laity.  I would actually agree with all of these though I might quibble with what any of them actually means.

For example, if we say the liturgy should be more “participatory” this is often interpreted as meaning lay people say more or do more.  Yet in a culture in which we are constantly pressured to do and say the actually challenging act of participation may be to simply adore – to learn to be present with our hearts opened to God’s.

Liturgy+Sermon+Series+SlideYet, my…

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what a ridiculous outfit

– said by myself, about myself; 10pm last night.

It’s Holy Week over here in Christianity, and as my place of work is rather permissible about dress code, I’ve been wearing a black nightgown since Sunday.20140416-133002.jpg

Sometimes it’s called a cassock, and at the Cathedral, they’re rarely worn (ours is not a particularly stuffy diocese), but I love the frippery and was inspired to wear my black pajamas throughout Holy Week by a Lutheran pastor friend in upstate New York (it occurs to me that he may wear his cassock morning-to-night throughout Holy Week because he serves something like four different parishes, and it’s just impractical to take it off every time he gets in the car to drive to the next church for a service, nevertheless).

I was struck yesterday when a colleague joked with me, “and where’s your big wooden cross?!”  And now you, dear readers, may have a laugh: I hadn’t thought of the cassock as a symbol of suffering or asceticism until that very moment.  Then I realized, of course!–many might see and assume that I was shaming myself, covering my body with black so to be clearly marked as sinful and dead.

My motivation is quite, quite different, however: it’s been my understanding that part of the reason priests have worn cassocks throughout history is to remind themselves that they are dead to themselves (this notion takes stark form when priests lie on the ground during the first set of prayers at their ordination to the priesthood) and alive in Christ (Romans 6:11).

For one, it’s been a bit warm in South Carolina this week, and reminding myself of the moment I laid on a cold stone floor on a December evening is a relieving memory indeed.

For another, wearing a big black dress cuts down on the whistles directed at me while walking down the street.  People stop seeing Emily as an object or a skinny blonde (brunette?) and instead see me as a curiosity, or maybe even as a person.

Finally and mostly, I am a priest, called to point to Jesus in front of others (just as we’re all called to do!), and Holy Week gives me the push I need to drag the beautiful drama of the relationship between God and people out into the world.  We put on special clothes when we go into the sanctuary to worship, clothes that remind us of what we believe we’re doing.  For this week, I’ve gathered up the courage to dance around Columbia’s public streets in those clothes, marching my belief in Jesus as the Son of God into every place I walk.

For whatever reason, I flourish on contradiction; I am addicted to irony.  I joyfully prance around in dark, trench-coat-like clothes, knowing that the death of my ego is the beginning of my real life.  My church growing up didn’t allow women to be spiritual leaders, but instead of leaving the whole project behind, I held onto my Evangelicalism for dear life and became a minister anyway.

Isn’t the biggest (and best) irony of all time that God came to earth to be a human, and if that wasn’t enough, he lived as a poor servant, and if that wasn’t enough, he allowed himself to be unjustly put to death–and if that wasn’t enough, HE CAME BACK TO LIFE! (but I’m getting ahead of myself–it’s not Sunday yet, people.)