Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

 

(The April 2012 team of missioners from the Diocese of Missouri to the Diocese of Lui, Republic of South Sudan, with Bishop Stephen Dokolo and his wife Lillian, courtesy of Lui Network)

When I was 25 years old, and was considering the possibility of returning to school to go to medical school, one of my dearest mentors told me, "If you weren't going to be a doctor, I think you'd either be a firefighter or a missionary."  I told him in no uncertain terms just how full of baloney he was about that "missionary" thing.  I had pushed religion to the periphery of my world.  I had walked out the door of the institutional church and had no intention of ever returning.  I thought his statement was absolutely crazy.

Well, it's official.  I am hereby officially eating those words I told my mentor over 25 years ago.  In fact, he's 81 years old and I told him, "Well, I was wrong and you were right."  I think he was glad to have lived long enough to get an apology from me on that one!

You see, I am on the team of missioners traveling to Lui in the Republic of South Sudan from November 25-December 12.  Believe me, it's exciting.  I hope I can bring something of myself to these people that they need to prosper in God's service.  I am sure this trip will change me, but am not speculating on the "how" of that--I think I'll leave that one open to the Holy Spirit.

If you would like to read more about my diocese's relationship with Lui, my blogging pal Lisa Fox has written about it many times on her blog.  Two of my favorite posts she's written on Lui are here and here.  If I were to pick the person who could match my own excitement about this trip, it would be Lisa.  

I invite you to be a ministry of presence for our team.  There are many ways to participate in this ministry:

1.  Follow the action in the next few weeks on the Lui Partners Network.
2.  Hold our team in prayer at this time.  (I suspect I will be thinking, "Toto, we are definitely not in Kirksville," a lot on this mission.)
3.  Offer a donation to the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri here.  Please select the "Diocese of Lui" button.  Also, at the bottom of this page is a box where you can earmark your donation; if you would earmark it in support of missioner Maria Evans, I'd be very grateful.
4.  Publicize this mission on your blog or Facebook page, or via Twitter.

Thank you in advance for your prayers and support.  I hope to be able to blog "boots on the ground" some, as well as upon my return!




Lord, take me where You want me to go,
let me meet who You want me to meet,
tell me what You want me to say,
and keep me out of Your way.

--Prayer of Mychal Judge, OFM


If I were allowed one edit of "Holy Women, Holy Men" it would be to give Fr. Mychal Judge a feast day on Sept. 11.

I won't re-iterate the whole story; it's well described at this site.  Additionally, you can watch the documentary on him here.

But for me, he's why those of those of us who embrace a more catholic form of Christianity (be it of Episcopal/Anglican persuasion, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox) pay attention to the calendar of saints and liturgical feast days.

We forget just how human saints are when we start writing icons and creating paintings and statues.  But I can sit with the humanity of Mychal Judge.

Friar.
Alcoholic.
Gay man.
Follower of Jesus in a way that sometimes ran afoul of those who had authority over him.
A person unashamed to laugh loud, weep deeply, pray always--and in the hour that became the hour of his death, to be unafraid to enter the gates of that Hell called the North Tower to find his sheep, praying almost until the moment of his death.

He's a saint to me because my deepest hope is that I could have that level of fearlessness in following Christ, and my deepest fear is that I would not.

But because of him, I can feel confident that someone whose humanity I can identify with IS capable of it.  God forbid and God willing, I hope I could do the same if it were me.

St. Mychal, pray for us on this September 11.




(Page from the Book of Job in the Syriac Bible of Paris, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

(Originally written for Speaking to the Soul, August 26, 2012) 

Daily Office Readings for Sunday, August 26, 2010:

Psalm 146, 147 (Morning)
Psalm 111, 112, 113 (Evening)
Job 4:1-6, 12-21
Revelation 4:1-11
Mark 6:1-6a

Job 4:1-6, 12-21 (NRSV):


Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered: “If one ventures a word with you, will you be offended? But who can keep from speaking? See, you have instructed many; you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have supported those who were stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?

“Now a word came stealing to me, my ear received the whisper of it. Amid thoughts from visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on mortals, dread came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past my face; the hair of my flesh bristled. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; there was silence, then I heard a voice: ‘Can mortals be righteous before God? Can human beings be pure before their Maker? Even in his servants he puts no trust, and his angels he charges with error; how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed like a moth. Between morning and evening they are destroyed; they perish forever without any regarding it. Their tent-cord is plucked up within them, and they die devoid of wisdom.’


Job's friend Eliphaz means well.  In our reading today (and in the subsequent paragraphs of this passage) Eliphaz, relating his dream, reminds Job of something that's an important reminder to all of us--that we're a pretty small speck in the universe, and it's not about "us" but about God--but then Eliphaz messes up his own soliloquy at the end.  He finishes off with that "Are you SURE you haven't done something wrong?  You HAD to do something wrong to have God THIS mad at you," bit.

Eliphaz reminds me a lot of those people, who, when I've been in the middle of a major life stressor, say things that they think are "kind"--(or even "Christian")--and by my way of thinking, they're so theologically far off the mark that I want to just take a stick and clobber the person--but they're my friends, so I don't. (Well, and also because it would be assault and the State Board of Healing Arts would have issues with that.)

"God doesn't give us anything we can't handle."  (Baloney.  God is not a personal spiritual fitness trainer, forcing me to do spiritual ab crunches "for my own good," and with a "no pain, no gain," mentality.)

"God needed an angel so that's why so-and-so had to die."  (Oh, give me a break.  God has plenty of angels.  And if I die prematurely, and I find out that was the reason, God and I are gonna have some words, for sure, pulling me out of the middle of all the good stuff I was working on, and away from all the love in my life.  That sounds kinda imperiously needy to me.)

"Everything happens for a reason."  (Well, maybe, but I don't think the reason is, "Because God is a manipulator and a micromanager.")

But you get the drift.

The fact is, we have no right to project God on any other person.  We have enough to do in sifting out God's call in our own lives.  As painful as it is for Job's friends, Job needs to be in his place of misery to get where he is going in his relationship with God.

I have read the book of Job many times in the deepest darkest hours of my own lament, and trust me, I can become very Job-like, figuratively throwing ashes on my head and not eating or sleeping well and generally looking pitiful.  But like Job, there's a place where God finally watches all this dramatic misery and finds a way to say in a roundabout way, "Oh, for crying out loud, Maria, you act as if I'm not in charge around here.  Get over yourself."  But other people telling me to get over myself never works.

The more I read the book of Job, the more strongly I wish his friends would have just sat with him in his misery and just been with him, with few words.  Maybe just pray alongside of him or offer sacrifices for healing of his tragic troubles.

This is a place where, when we fast forward, any of us might begin to see where "just being who we are in our parish community and at worship" is critically important.  It's where services such as healing services, comfort services, recovery services, and "blue Christmas" services can be deep wells of ministry.  It's where things like blessings and anointings become important parts of that healing.  Who can each of us be in those places as steadfast people of love and quiet faith?  I know when I look back at the hardest times of my life, the people who just hung out with me and checked in with me "for no reason" were the people I came to love more deeply in a new way, and it often made room for me to be the same way for someone new, who was going through a rough patch.

Where is each of us called to simply sit and be, in the course of another person's pain?  Where's the empty spot in the life of the church where we can fill a vital ministry of presence for others?



(Photo of caution sign courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

(Originally written for Speaking to the Soul, August 19, 2012) 

Daily Office readings for Sunday, August 19, 2012:

Psalm 118 (Morning)
Psalm 145 (Evening)
Judges 16:15-31
2 Corinthians 13:1-11
Mark 5:25-34

2 Corinthians 13:1-11:

This is the third time I am coming to you. “Any charge must be sustained by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” I warned those who sinned previously and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again, I will not be lenient— since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed.

But we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. This is what we pray for, that you may become perfect. So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Our Epistle today evokes remembrances of those times in our lives where we have been in the un-enviable position of knowing in our heart of hearts that we made a decision or chose a path of action that ultimately was the right thing, but all external evidence at the time we did it screamed that we had failed.  It's a reading that is flanked by two other readings supportive to it--we are reminded in the story of Samson that all of us are vulnerable to other people in certain ways or to certain people, and our Gospel story today of the woman with hemorrhages calls to mind those feelings of uncleanliness over things to which we were powerless.

Also, on a personal note, as the mysterious powers of the Daily Office Lectionary often do, this particular scripture came up on a day that for me, is the anniversary of a day some years ago that began my own personal dark walk through a situation where, in retrospect, I had done the right thing but it sure didn't seem like it at the time.  In fact, for a long time, the verdict would have been that I was the transgressor.

All of us have situations that show up in our lives where even those close to us think we're making a mistake, or popular opinion is that we are "the bad guy," or just where we happen to be carries preconceived notions.  The communities of the early church, Corinth included, were probably looked upon with a lot of preconceived notions and there's no doubt rumors circulated about them that were less than flattering.  In a way, it's no different than when people hear the word "Christian" and think that community believes things that may or may not be applicable ("doesn't believe in dinosaurs," "ignorant," "hates GLBT people," etc.)  As individuals, words carry preconceived messages, too.  In things like divorces, the firing of employees, child custody suits, arrests, and charges, people are going to believe what they choose to believe.  The only truths that last in those stories are the truths that are borne out over time--and of course, the problem is we all have to live long enough for those to surface.  It's why in all communities with a public face, the church included, that infighting and dissension become magnified in the public eye.  Human nature is that people are quick to tear down anything that has been raised up for any reason.

Paul's exhortation to the people of the church of Corinth is to do things for a greater truth--the truth of the Good News in Christ.  He asks them to do something that is a hallmark of Twelve Step Programs--to look to themselves first, and test themselves first as to their motives and actions--to always be open to self-questioning and the possibility that what, at the moment, feels like "failure" may not ultimately be failure, but instead, growth.

When you look back at the stories in your own life, where are the places that felt like "failure" but turned out instead to be growth spurts?  Where are the places that felt like despair that turned out to be seeds of a bigger hope?

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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