Palms, Permaculture, and the Passion

Palm Sunday

Luke 19:28-40

Philippians 2:5-11

Luke 22:14-23:56

Last Fall, I spent ten intensive days studying permaculture with Chris Grataski–a theologically astute, justice driven, ecological designer. Sitting with a group of students around folding tables in a cramped upstairs classroom in my church, we had our minds opened to a whole new way of thinking about life and human relationships with the whole of creation. Chris offered many definitions of permaculture, but the most robust, if my notes serve me, was this: “Permaculture is a principled design discipline concerned with the cultivation of high-biodiversity human habitats where the needs and desires of the human community are met through serving the needs and desires of the non-human community.”

Chris went on to reflect theologically about the nature of the permaculture design philosophy, arguing that it is essentially kenotic, and more that, there is an underlying kenotic nature to the whole of creation. If we seek to serve our own ends, we end up with a world that is depleted and diminished; if we seek to make room for the life of others, for their own flourishing, then we will join in wholeness that is also health–our own humanity will come into its fullness.

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Marriage for All

Second Sunday After Epiphany, Year C

Isaiah 62:1-5
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11

Eight years ago this week, a friend of sang a gospel rendition of Amazing Grace that echoed across the nave of our church, my young nephew vomited in the chancel/choir stall during the church service, and Emily and I shared Holy Eucharist with friends and family who spanned our individual and common lives.  It was our wedding and it was a joyous day to whose memories I still return to often.

Among the best of those memories are the many people who came together to make it happen. Emily and I have always had a greater abundance of community than we have of cash, and so when planning the wedding we made it a community event.  Our photographer was a friend with a serious hobby; our reception was a feast of soups and breads made by colleagues and companions on our journey together. Our cake, one of the best I’ve ever had, was made by an amateur baker and displayed on a beautiful stand made by her husband.  

All these things were gifts, given in celebration of the gift Emily and I had found in each other.  It was a day in which love was made visible, both in this sacrament between two people, but also among all those who celebrated it with us.

Given that my anniversary is this week it was hard not to think of that day as I read our lessons for this Sunday.   Read more

What We Owe

Luke 7:36-8:3 (Proper 6:Year C)

At one time I taught at a Christian high school where most kids were relatively well off and for the years I taught there I always worked in a discussion on privilege. The students would assure me that they were not privileged and that their parents weren’t either. “My dad built his business from scratch,” they’d say, or “my parents have worked hard for everything they’ve got.” The lines, rehearsed and repeated, were the same every time.

I’d lead them through a series of exercises and thought experiments that would help most, in the end, see their advantages—the head start, however hard the work, they had over many others from different backgrounds and races than their own. But I’d always leave a little sad, because since this was a Christian school it should have been one saturated in gratitude. These children had been firmly raised in the belief that salvation comes from Jesus, but they’d also been taught that everything else comes from hard work and the beneficence of the free market.

I thought of that time when I read the Gospel for this Sunday. It is a passage about gratitude and the hospitality that comes from it; about debt and the jubilee release of all debts. It is a profound study in vulnerability and knowing the truth about our selves.

Simon doesn’t know that he’s in debt. He enters the scene as someone confident that he is not a sinner, wondering in his mind how Jesus could not immediately know that this woman was someone who owes a debt to God and to society. Read more

Danger: Holy Ground

Third Sunday in Lent, Year C

Exodus 3:1-15

Psalm 63:1-8

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Luke 13:1-9

I have two daughters; one is four, the other one. I am not a particularly anxious father, but it doesn’t take much to recognize the fragility of life, the many dangers that threaten it. There are cars, there are electrical sockets, there are long flights of stairs; there are hard things and sharp corners, there are choking hazards everywhere. The world is full of dangers and part of the process of growing up is learning the habits to avoid them.

“Don’t put that in your mouth.” “Don’t put your finger in that socket.” “Look both ways before you cross the street.” “Watch for cars in the parking lot.”

We know these things; to avoid them feels instinctive…until we have children, until we realize much of our ability to avoid danger has been learned through teaching that ingrains these lessons in our bodies.

There are other dangers that even adults forget, whole peoples even. These dangers are subtle or incremental, but dangers all the same. Dangers like climate change and soil erosion, dangers for which our culture has not yet written a protective response in our bodies. Then there are dangers unlike any other dangers, ultimate dangers like God. Read more

Recreating Eaarth

Proper 24: Year C

Jeremiah 31:27-34

“There is…no inconsistency between creation and salvation”–so says St. Athanasius, the 4th Century Bishop of Alexandria.  Athanasius was trying to articulate how it was that God could become incarnate in human flesh–a mind boggling reality as much in our day as it was in his.  For him, the turning of the human will against God had not only resulted in a loss of communion, but also a kind of de-creation.  As Athanasius put it, “Man who was created in God’s image…was disappearing, and the work of God was being undone.” Christ, being God’s Word present and active in creation from the beginning, had to come in human form so that he could re-create the world and show humankind how to be human in the face of the “dehumanizing of mankind.”

I thought of Athanasius, of the mixing of creation and salvation, when I read Jeremiah 31:27-34 in our lectionary for this Sunday.  Here we have the people of God, Judah and Israel, very much in a state of de-creation–broken down, overthrown, destroyed.  But against this, God is promising that the “days are surely coming…when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals.”  This seed isn’t for the same kind of humanity, the kind that turned and turned again against the grain of the universe.  Instead this new humanity, saved and recreated, will have the laws of God on their heart–the ways of acting rightly in the world will be a part of their very nature. Read more