Thursday, April 26, 2007

Though He slay me, Yet will I praise Him

I would welcome and appreciate your prayers this evening. I'm very tired--physically, spiritually, probably in other ways that I haven't thought of.

The baby is cranky and teething. Aedan is trying to learn the use of the facilites, to put it delicately, and the house is continually wrecked. No matter how hard I work at it, the dirt never seems to actually go away. I've been making stock and bread and doing dishes and sorting clothes and laundry and calling lists of people and being short with me children who are tired also of my bad mood for the last four days, really without leaving the house. I'm tired.

But even more than that I'm weary of my sins, of rolling the big rock of Church Work up the mountain and having it flatten me again the next week, of not having the energy to be cheerful and joyful even.

We're hosting classes for an upcoming Franklin Graham Festival in June and the miriad of details and emails to sort out and parking to worry about and chairs to rearrange has stressed everyone, but also me. And then at the last minute we're going to do the annual vestry breakfast for Good Shepherd Sunday, even though no one rememberd until the last minute and it will mean getting to church at 6:30 in the morning to cook eggs and sausage and set up tables and chairs.

And every time I turn on the radio I hear another sermon about Job, because everyone seems to be preaching through the whole book, verse by verse. Which just makes it worse because I don't have it that bad. All my children are still alive. I'm not covered in boils. I have nice friends instead of awful ones. But I still feel like I am sitting in the dust.

And yet, from the dust, I will praise Him.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

my sermon from this morning

For those of you who are highly routine oriented, I apologize for cutting out the New Testament, the Acts reading scheduled for today. I wanted to be able to work through the whole text of today’s Gospel but found, when I sat down to work, that the best part is left off. The only way we ever read John 21:15-17 is if it’s the feast of St. Peter which is 99.9 % of the time on a week day, And also, the Acts reading is such a wonderful story that it deserves a whole morning of its own, so I hope Matt will pick it up another time.

Easter Sunday I had a couple of lovely young ladies in Sunday School and we looked together at Mark’s account of the Empty Tomb. You see I have it right here. We read a section about the women coming to the tomb and finding it empty. And the young man who is there instead of Jesus says to them, “go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

We wondered about these words.
“I wonder why the man said to tell Peter especially that Jesus had risen.”
My young ladies were honest.
“I don’t know”, they said.

“Really?” “You don’t know what happened to Peter?”
“No,” they said, “who’s Peter?”

So let me ask you. First of all. Do you know who Peter is?
Right, one of the twelve disciples, or the 12 closest friends of Jesus.
So, let me ask you also,
“I wonder why the man said to tell Peter especially that Jesus is risen from the dead?”

Turn back a few chapters to John 18, beginning verse 15. I’m going to skim through it, so keep up
“Simon Peter followed Jesus and stood outside at the door. And a servant girl went out and brought Peter in. And the servant girl said to Peter, ‘are you not also one of this man’s disciples?’ and what did Peter say? “I am not” he said. And then a little later, verse 25, Peter is standing warming himself, and someone else said to him, ‘you are one of his disciples’ and Peter denied it again, ‘I am not’ and then one of the servants of the high priest, related to the person who had had their ear cut off by Peter earlier in the evening in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Peter was clearly with Jesus, defending him, said, ‘I saw you in the garden with him,’ and Peter said no a third time. And then a rooster crowed as Jesus had promised and in another gospel it says that Jesus turned and looked Peter square in the eyes.

“I wonder why Peter denied Jesus” I asked my ladies.
Because he was afraid.
That’s true, it’s a very scary time. What’s going on with Jesus while Peter is warming himself? Right, he’s on trial to be executed. It’s pretty clear that Jesus is not going to make it out alive at this point, and it would be a scary moment to be associated with him.

Someone else thought maybe Peter didn’t like Jesus that much, a good time to ditch an unwanted friend.

But we know that’s not the case.
Peter loved Jesus. Peter had left everything behind for Jesus. Peter had allowed himself to be rebuked by Jesus. Jesus had taken Peter up on the mount of the Transfiguration with James and John to show the three of them who he really was. Peter hadn’t want Jesus to wash his feet, and then wanted a whole bath when he found out what Jesus was doing. Peter loved Jesus.

And so, you can imagine how completely and utterly devastated he would have felt when Jesus was condemned to die and then executed and Peter was left with his denial of his friend and no way to apologize or fix it or do anything. From what we can tell, Peter had gone into hiding with the other disciples and was no where to be found the hours that Jesus hung on the cross. We only know that John and the Marys were with Jesus in his last moments.

I can imagine how he felt, I would have gone to hide as well. I would never have wanted to see the light of day again.

But there is a difference between the devastation of betrayal in love, and the despair of betrayal born out of anger and hatred. You may have wondered, as you read through the accounts of Jesus’ life why Peter, after betraying Jesus, didn’t kill himself, the way Judas did. Judas betrayed Jesus, sold his life off for a cheep 30 pieces of silver and then, when the magnitude of what he had done set in, threw himself off a cliff.

But Peter didn’t, he hid out, he stayed close, he remained with the other disciples.

What was the difference?
The difference was love.

The despair of indifference and hatred leads ultimately to death. If you dislike, or hate, or don’t really care, death already lives in you. If you don’t care about God, and live in your sins and dislike the people around you and harbor malice, you carry death in your body and in your heart.

But if, for just a moment, that indifference and malice and hate is pushed aside and you choose to love, to see God, to love Jesus, no amount of sin will keep you from clinging to him ultimately.

And the sin of betrayal, of denial. That’s a big one. Of looking at your Lord while he is going unto death and saying, ‘I don’t know him’. There are a thousand ways we do this in every day life. When, in the world, you let the demands and necessities and pressures of life draw you away from complete devotion to Jesus. When given the opportunity to stand up and say, ‘I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, I love him very much and try to do what he says’ but don’t say this because you know the person you’re talking to will lower their eyes and look at you in disdain.

When given the opportunity to shed the light of Christ on your children, to tell them how much God loves them and that he cares and that their behavior is out of line with his will and purpose and you don’t say anything because its embarrassing and you don’t want them to think you’re a spiritual freak.

Or when God has done something amazing in your life—lifted a great unbearable burden from you and given you power and freedom and joy and you don’t tell anyone because you know they’ll think you’re odd. These are small denials, small turnings away that we easily push aside and forget about.

But Peter, Peter said aloud with his lips the fear he had in his heart. Because ultimately its fear, isn’t it, that keeps us from announcing from the roof tops the work that God has done for us, the love he has poured out for us, the work he is doing here in this church.

Peter was afraid. And so he hung out in Jerusalem for days in hiding. When Jesus appeared to the disciples and let Thomas touch his side and his hands, Peter hung around in the back ground.
He couldn’t be anywhere else because he loved Jesus, more than anything, more than his sin, more than his shame, more than himself. But then, not seeing Jesus again, Peter becomes antsy. You can’t sit holed up in a dark room hiding all day. He goes fishing. The least he can do is work with his hands and maybe put to rest the anxiety and sorrow of a broken life and relationship.

Peter spends the night in a boat with his friends. They work hard and don’t catch anything. As the dawn is making the sky pink and glorious, a man appears, in the near distance, on the shore, and calls out to them. ‘So, not catching any fish huh?’

Well, clearly, they’re exhausting themselves to no purpose.
‘Try the other side of the boat’

And so they catch 153 fish—the kind of number that sticks in your mind for its oddity. Not 150, 153.
But before then John realizes it is Jesus. Who else would stand on the shore and laugh at them? John tells Peter, “It is the Lord.”
But Peter probably already knows.

And then Peter does what you do when you love someone so much you don’t care about becoming ridiculous. He jumps in the water and swims to shore. This is his chance. This is his moment. So far from death, from despair, Peter’s whole being clings to hope. We don’t know what Jesus says to him when he gets there, soaking wet, out of breath. But the other disciples pull up and get out of the boat. And they all eat breakfast together and then Jesus takes Peter aside.

Peter, he says, do you love me?
Well, yes, that’s the basis, that’s the rock, that’s the only thing that has held Peter together over the horror of the last few days.
Yes, says Peter, you know that I love you.
Then feed my lambs, says Jesus.
And then Jesus asks him again. Peter, do you love me.
Yes, says Peter, you know that I love you.
Then tend my sheep, says Jesus. And Jesus says again, Peter, do you love me.
And Peter is hurt. What can he do? What more can he say?
‘Yes, Jesus, you know that I love you’
Then feed my sheep, says Jesus.

Three times denied. Three times forgiven.
The hope that Peter had lived and breathed is made sure, is accomplished. And the same for you. If you love, if you hope, if you believe in Jesus, that he has the power to forgive you of all your sins, of every last lonely shameful thing you have ever done or said or thought, and you ask him to forgive you, than he will. The love that you have for Jesus is a tiny drop of the love he has for you, the forgiveness he has for you. Do not despair. Do not live in the death of indifference and sin and malice and hatred. Because that is not really living. The only way to live is to be with Jesus. The only way to live forever is to love Jesus. The only way to live now in freedom and courage and joy is to throw everything aside, and jump into the great sea of his love for you. Get out of the boat, this morning. Cling to him.
Because he is risen. Alleluia! Amen.

Friday, April 20, 2007


I'm working on a sermon so I have no business being online at all, let alone blogging. However, I did just want to put down an interesting little exchange from yesterday.

Emma: 'Daddy, can we go camping? I will pick the spot and collect my favorite things to take with us.'
Aedan: 'I will be a spider man when I grow up and you can be one too daddy.'
Matt: 'OK'
Emma: 'Will there be bears when we go camping?'
Matt: 'I don't think so, we will go somewhere where there are no bears.'
Emma: 'Maybe you can kill the bears when we see them. Are they good to eat?' (Emma is always hungry)
Matt: 'Well, I don't think we will need to meet any bears and we can take some other food to eat.'
Emma: 'How bout owl, can we eat owl?'
Matt: 'I guess so. I guess owl could taste good. But we could probably just take food with us.'
Aedan: 'No, I will be a dinosaur when I grow up. And you can be a dinosaur too, Daddy.'
Emma: 'Its OK to eat bears and owls because they will rise again when Jesus comes back in the resurrection.'
Matt: 'That's right.'
Emma: 'How? Will they rise again in my tummy?'
Anne: 'Supper time!'
Matt: 'Oh thank God.'
Matt: 'You hate beans, Anne. Why are we eating beans?'
Anne: 'I don't hate beans. I've always loved beans.'
Matt: 'That's a bald faced lie.'

Supper menu: black beans, red beans, avocado, corn, tortillas, hot sauce, sour cream, fish sticks, and sardines. Basically my whole family is repulsed by the things I want to eat right now. I've never had cravings before (other than for straight lime), but this time, there's something about beans and rice and sardines that I just can't get enough of.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I refuse to be a posting other people's news blogger, but I did just want to offer a prayer of thanksgiving today for the ruling of the Supreme Court regarding Partial Birth Abortion and draw your attention to it, if you haven't seen it yet. As many others are busy saying, its only a first step, but its a particularly necessary and happy one. Now, on to more prayer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More Death

I found myself caught up in the blame and outrage half way through the day. I will admit to clicking on the tube and being glued to it. Of course, events like this are like Christmas for 24 hour news. You can see journalists struggling to maintain an appropriate balance of sorrow and thrill. It was fascinating to see the news being formed, created almost, in spite of the amazing dearth of facts and information.

Given that I was critized on some other blog last week for my comments about the Iran hostages (and given that I can't remember the name of the blog, how to find it, what they said or what I said), I welcome any discussion from you all about the use of force. More and more I'm pro (at least for the US) responsible gun ownership. Of course, I'm married to a Texan, so how can I be otherwise. On the other hand, I'm not for, say, the flooding of guns into Africa. Part of the horror in Liberia, Sierra Leone and finally Ivory Coast was the ready availability of guns and ammunition. But western fear of responsible gun ownership and use is looking more and more foolish. We have sensible laws. They could be implemented.

Anyway, I can't write more because Emma is begging for attention by asking the same question over and over.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The death of Maddening Spring

There are no cats in the window this morning. They are all trying to sit on me and each other to keep warm. God finally is dumping snow down as fast as possible. We waited long after those brilliant weather liars said it would snow, but eventually it did. And, mercifully, there's no school, which means that the neighbors are home and have taken all our kids to their house to play for the day, even the baby. So now I'm trying to will myself into standing up and going and tackling the appalling state of the children's room. What better, then, to just pause and blog for a moment. Since I utterly failed my promises of last week to write on many topics and be fascinating. Can't even remember what was going on last week.

Oh yes, Anna Nicole Smith's baby does have a father. That's a great relief. What particularly interested me, as I wasted time reading articles about this happy discovery and looked at pictures, was how hollow all the players seem to look--their eyes all have a sort of glazed over hollow look. Its rather disconcerting. Have decided to pray for this baby who is sure to have a wretched and unhappy life, far from the love and power of Christ. She is just about the age of my baby and so I feel rather sad, and wish that a sensible person would come along and tell them all about Jesus and encourage them to give all their money to the poor. Or something.

And of course, I'm sorry to say, I spent all the extra wasted moments reading about Imus and listening to various commentators on the radio. And talking to our neighbor who has listened to him every morning for 14 years. I had a lot of opinions about this catastrophe until I talked to our neighbor and found that he had a lot more than I did and most of them were more interesting. So I will move on and only recommend everything that NRO wrote about it last week.

And then, amazingly, I've seen three movies in the last week. I spent an outrageous amount of money to go out and see Blades of Glory in the theater and eat a large bucket of pop corn. I actually went mostly for the pop corn and because a very wonderful friend looked at me a few days ago and said, kindly and sadly, 'you really need to have an evening out'. So we went and it was ridiculous and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Actually more disturbing that Will Farrell and the other actor, whose name I completely forget, skating unhappily together, was the blatant and unveiled incestuousness of the rival skaters. Very funny. If, like me, you're looking to escape from reality, I highly recommend this flick. I you're more of a realism person and don't like comedy (like Matt) then you would probably be miserable the whole time.

Which brings me to Keeping Mum, which many of you have recommended to me. Excellent. Really well done. Really disturbing. Really almost too realistic, particuly the wretched flower committee. About a year ago a rumor began flying around Good Shepherd that Matt had made the unilateral decision to move the ECW (Episcopal Church Women) closet from the first floor, to the third floor, far away from everything and not accessible by elevator. He was planning to do this, obviously, because he didn't like the old ladies and he wanted them to be unhappy and possibly even fall on the stairs and break something. As all rumors, it led a fleeting and exciting life, flying all the way round town, through the other 9 Episcopal churches, so that every Episcopalian in town was able to nod slowly and say, 'oh yes, of course, Matt Kennedy, what an evil jerk'. If you visit Good Shepherd today you will find the ECW continues to reside on the first floor and that it is little children who have to climb the many stairs to go to Sunday School.

All right, I have more to say, but Matt is actually pulling the computer out of my tight grasp and we are about to start shouting at each other. Hopefully, hopefully, I'll have a chance to get back to this later.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Party Preparations

Everything chucked out of window, including blogging, for next 24 hours while I try desperately to create a bear out of cake for Aedan who will be THREE tomorrow. Too tired to do secret birthday shopping. Ended up taking him and Emma and Baby with me to buy necessary party items, including present.

Alright kiddo, I said, here are the trucks. Which one do you like?
Speechless, eyes enormous, he reached out his grubby little mit and pointed to a buldozer that actually bulldozes.
I want to hold it, he said.
No, it goes under the cart, I'm going to wrap it up and you can have it tomorrow.
I want to hold it, he said.
I want to hold it.
I want to hold it.
I want to hold it.
No. Heavenly saints, Aedan, not until tomorrow.

You can see how the day has been.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Day wrecked. Nothing accomplished. Will blog tomorrow.


I really have to get out of bed. This has been the most amazing week. I haven't slept past 6 o'clock, really, since being married, except maybe once or twice. And here, every morning this week, I've been late and lazy a bed. Anyway, I have a number of things I intend to post about today, and was going to write at this moment, however, Matt is planning to steal my computer so hopefully they will appear here, over the course of the day.
Expect brilliance on the following topics:

1. My fabulous night out at the movies to see Blades of Glory.
2. My response to someone or other's opinions about my opinions on their blog re the Iran hostage imbroglio
3. property hype and hysteria in the Episcopal church
4. My plans to rearrange furniture
5. Don Imus/Anna Nicole Smith/Rosy O'Donnell and other pop culture issues on which I have been wasting much valuable time

That's right. All that and more, coming up here! Now on to arguing with Matt about the use of my computer, his, unfortunately, being completely and totally dead.

Maddening Spring

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Instead of blogging today, I folded clothes. Matt has been doing laundry every night for the last month and I haven't folded any since Palm Sunday. So after reading a novel all morning and then taking a four hour nap this afternoon, I folded laundry. And as a result, I have absolutely nothing to say. I haven't thought any thoughts, I haven't read anything sensible, I've just folded laundry. So, there you are. Hopefully I will think something tomorrow and then I can write it down. Good Night!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Providence of the Most High

For about a year I’ve been feeling guilt over my food shopping habits. Part of what has made life in Binghamton bearable is my weekly trip to Wegmans, our local super market/grocery store, whatever you want to call it. Other options in town include Giant and something called, I think, Price Chopper (haven’t been) and of course Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart. But from day one I have steadfastly and indulgently gone to Wegmans.

Here are some of its finer features:
* Customer with child and stork parking
* Large/enormous produce/fresh food section including local produce and organic food (not that I’m willing to pay more, but its available)
* Perfect Bagels
* Large variety of good quality Wegman’s brand foods and products which are significantly cheaper than name brands. For example, I exclusively buy Wegman’s brand butter, coffee, meat, diapers, formula etc.
* Large bulk spice and health food section.
* Beautiful and convenient lay out.
* Several cart options—very small two tiered cart for quick shoppers, standard size, two tiered option with two child seating, large enormous SUV cart where children pretend to drive car
* Very good coffee and cart cup holders
* Restaurant section with very eatable sushi, subs, Chinese food, Italian and very interesting soups and salads

This is just a short list. I think about my Wegman’s trip all week. I dress up for it. And I enjoy it the whole time it’s going on.

However, we’re basically poor. There are 5 of us, soon to be 6 (including 2 in diapers) in this house and we’re really pinching to make it on Matt’s extravagant priest salary. If it weren’t for the rectory, utilities and health insurance provided by the church, we’d be on food stamps. But by God’s grace we’re eking by and learning to be frugal. And this necessary frugality has introduced, in the back of my mind, a nagging feeling that I ought to be shopping at Wal-Mart. Most people in our church shop there and Giant (our quick stop if we’ve run out of milk (half the selection, none of the savings) and look at me askance when I talk about running all the way to Wegmans (I mean! It’s a 15 minute drive). That’s so expensive, they say.

And so, in the power of our resurrected Lord, after sleeping until nearly 10 o’clock because Matt is so wonderful and didn’t wake me up, I decided to check it out—Wal-Mart that is. I ran a comb through my hair, warmed up the car and drove over there. I even parked and got a cart and went in and spent a whole hour, AND, just as much money as I normally spend at Wegmans WITHOUT getting everything on my list. I still have to get back in the car and go to Giant because I couldn’t find light bulbs, or decent chocolate and I gave up looking for frozen peas.

AND I came home shattered. I collapsed on the couch and had to be revived with tea and some child’s left over Easter bunny.

And, even though you may not care to read it, I have to put down what Wal-Mart was like, in comparison both to Wegmans and all the hype about Wal-Mart, just to process the experience.

Upon entering I was confronted with disorganized and badly presented bins of produce, some of them full of rotting vegetables and fruit. I’m not joking, at least three bins with much of the food rotting. No asparagus, mushrooms (I wandered around looking and gave up), zucchini, lettuce (unpackaged), seedless cucumbers, I could go on and on. I ended up with a bag of wimpy looking tomatoes, a bunch of bananas and a bag of spinach. Now, if I had wanted precut, pre-washed, pre-handled carrots, those were in a abundance. But really not much else. This was deeply frustrating because half my grocery cart, generally, is vegetables that I bring home and cut and chop and wash and cook myself. So I don’t know what we’re going to eat this week, except bananas.

From there I went to meat and poultry and found it all very expensive. I got half of what I normally get. Good thing we have leftovers from Easter dinner because otherwise we would be starving this week.

Milk was, admittedly cheaper, but not butter, eggs, cereal, OR diapers, amazingly. And then I wandered the entire store twice, including furniture and shoes, looking for shampoo and cat food, which turned out to be far away from everything, in the corner, so that I would be sure not to find it. Furthermore, I was constantly stumbling over people stocking the shelves, in the middle of the day (1pm in fact). Nearly every aisle was being stocked and there were whacking great obstacles everywhere. By the end I had a splitting headache and wanted to cry (but then, right now I want to cry all the time, so that’s not the best indication of anything).

So here are my general Thoughts:
If I wanted to buy pre-done cheep frozen food, I think Wal-Mart would actually be an excellent and economical choice. The frozen section is easily accessible and well marked, unlike Wegmans where the frozen section is at the back of the store, far from everything else.

Probably one of the reasons we’re all reasonably sized people is that we buy food uncooked and cook it ourselves. And one of the pleasures of cooking is beautiful ingredients. And Wegmans provides those beautiful ingredients, many local, many exotic at a very decent price in an attractive and easily accessible venue.

Wal-Mart must either by lying or going down hill. I’m not opposed to low prices, in general (I’m looking for them) and don’t think Wal-Mart is an evil gigantic corporation that is ruining the soul of America. I do think it’s really very unpleasant. The lighting is poor, the layout is poor, the checkout system is inefficient, AND the prices are not that great, at least in food. I have yet to check out all the other stuff—office supplies, furniture, other stuff I don’t need right now and hopefully won’t for a long long time. And so for all the people going there, at least to the one here in Binghamton, NY, I don’t at all agree that it’s the best deal. I’m going to assume Walmart is not lying because I have no proof, and am going to go with the theory that they’re going down hill. And by gum, they better do something about because I don’t see how they can compete against other stores with the product I just experienced.

Which leads to me to my final thought/realization. I am a consumer, I do have go out and buy stuff for us to survive. I don’t have time to dig up my bag yard and make it into a vegetable garden and then preserve all the produce to get through the winter. My time is better spent building up the church and looking after my family. (I do have time to make my own bread which, by the way, was made difficult by the expensive flour provided by Wal-Mart and the lack of choice.) And so, while I am a consumer, I am consumer with a spiritual soul and my experience of shopping should feed and nourish my soul, while drawing out of my pocket book. It should not deplete and exhaust me, unless it is really severely cheaper. And so I chalk this whole day up to the providence of God in his care for me. My guilt is laid aside. I don’t have to go somewhere unpleasant and am allowed instead to be sustained by my weekly outing out. Thank God! Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Alleluia! He is Risen!

I did not intend to take a whole week off from blogging. But I have basically been living here in the church office for the last 5 days, trying to get bulletins and liturgy and music and sermons sorted. And given my thick headedness, its taken me twice as long as usual to do the simplest things. However, here we are, in the home stretch. Matt is preaching vigorously to the 8 o'clockers. I'm about to head up to the atrium to sort out my empty tomb and have a much needed moment of quiet. This afternoon we will go home and absolutely collapse, hopefully to resume a much missed online life tomorrow. In the meantime, here is my sermon from last night. I post it with apologies to my mom and dad for my misrememberings and bad spellings. As most children, I have probably completely romantecized and over analayzed ordinary life. So, I hope they'll forgive me. And for everyone else, Happy Easter!

Sermon for the Great Vigil of Easter
We didn’t take ordinary holidays when I was a child. First of all, I was at school for three months at a time, and then, when I came home for a break, my parents were always busy—doing the pressing work of language learning, translation, and anthropological research. Plus the business of living took up a huge chunk of every day. We had to take the time to cook each meal, wash dishes, fill lamps for the evening, light them before dark, make sure the jars were full of water, the house swept free of dust and bugs. But we always had some kind of outing when I came home.

A favorite was a visit to Miserikoros, a huge ancient volcanic rock sticking out of the ground, some several hours from our house. We would pack up a picnic, and hats, and walking shoes, lots of water, binoculars and the dogs, and usually one or two village friends—Ali or Jai—and head out. The road was fine through town, but once we left the paved and then the dirt road it was a rough drive. Part of the journey was praying fervently that the car would make it all the way. We’d find a shady tree, park, pack up our gear and hike to the rock, with the goal, ultimately, of climbing all the way up to the top from which there was a fine view. It was a steep walk, and hot, and buggy. But once there you could see for miles, the greatness of Africa spread before you, dry, endless, vast. After a rest we would climb around down into the rock itself, a huge dark cave, surely filled with bats and other creatures, but most especially with bones and ashes.

Which brings me to why this was an odd choice of an outing. Miserikoros is one of the many possible places one can go to make a sacrifice in that region. There are all kinds of reasons one might need to make a sacrifice. It may be a matter of routine—to ask for rain, or good health, or prosperity. But it may be because there’s a serious problem—someone is very sick, or you haven’t been able to get a wife, or someone has put a hex on you, or your wife has been unable to have a child. In which case, the sacrifice of a chicken, the spilling of its blood, its life force, on the ground, or, if the problem is really serious, the killing of a dog or a goat or sheep is the best option to gain the favor of those spirits and powers that have ultimate access to God, and also the ancestors, who continue to meddle in the affairs of the living. Because the Senufo people don’t have full access to God, as they see it. God, out of anger at them, has gone very far away into the sky, and left here humans and spirits to muck it out and make the best of it. And the best that the humans can do is to spill out blood on the ground and ask, to intercede, to request that those with power do something. The cave of Miserikoros is dark, the stench of blood thick in the air, the bones scattered liberally. ‘What are you sacrificing’, a man asked my father one time. ‘Oh, nothing, we’re just here to have lunch and see the view’. The man eyed our pudgy dogs and drew his own conclusions.

But we were really just there to see the view, the beauty of God’s creation and care. And I imagine Isaac, on his way up the mountain, at least the first part of the way, felt the same such freedom and security. After all, he was his father’s son, his only son, whom he loved, as much as any longed for, prayed for, delighted in child can feel secure and loved. But as they climb up the mountain, in the heat of the day, slapping away bugs, greater than the heat, is his father’s deafening silence. You can hear it in each line. They walk and walk and climb and nobody says anything. Finally, as the intense heat of noon begins to slack and the relief of the cooler afternoon approaches, Isaac puts words to a basic anxiety.
"My father!" He says
and Abraham says, "Here am I, my son."
And Isaac asks, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"
And Abraham says, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son."
So they went both of them together.

As long as I have read this story, in the position of knowing the end even as I read the first line, I have always thought that Isaac must not believe Abraham. How could he believe him? There’s no lamb for the sacrifice. But that is ridiculous. Isaac doesn’t know the end of the story. And his father loves him. If his father, who loves him, says, ‘God himself will provide for the sacrifice’ than I am sure Isaac believed him and was relieved. Because they went both of them together. Isaac didn’t take off running back down the mountain. And look at the continued trust, the immense trust of Isaac who lets Abraham bind him, and place him, maybe even lays himself down on the altar, and watch Abraham raise the knife, and says nothing. Isaac is silent. Trusting. Willing, unimaginably, to die, because at this point he had to have understood.

But what of Abraham? When I hold my babies in the evening, wrapped up in a big furry blanket, I sometimes wonder if I really love God. Because I really love my babies. And if they were required of me, my own children, whom I love, I don’t know what I would do. Do I love God, that much? Enough to give them completely into God’s hands, enough that they might be taken from me? But Abraham did, he loved God that much, he bound his son, the thing, the person he loved most in the whole world, the person on whom all his hopes rested, and laid him on the altar and raised the knife, and said nothing. Abraham and Isaac silent before God together, utterly at God’s own mercy. Abraham loving God enough to trust him completely. Isaac loving his father enough to trust him completely.

This is the trust and love of a religious nut. I sat in this vast church yesterday, on Good Friday, at noon, the hour that Jesus hung, silent, on the cross, broken, bleeding, facing the full wrath and alienation of God, his father, I sat here with 5 other people. At first, as we sat silent together, I thought, why are there so few of us? Are we nuts? Everyone is driving by outside as if nothing is happening. Why are we here, alone with our Christ, remembering this brutal, appalling, merciful moment in history? Jesus himself was alone, on his cross, on the altar of the world’s sin, his mother and friend alone with him. Silent at his feet.

Because that is what we are really seeing. As you look at Abraham and Isaac high on the mountain, alone against the sky, the knife raised, perfect trust, perfect love, you are really seeing God, the Father and his Son, his only Son Jesus, whom he loves. Only where God staid Abraham’s hand, where God had mercy and provided a ram so that Isaac did not die, when it was his own son, Jesus, he did not stay his hand. Jesus himself was the sacrifice promised by Abraham to Isaac. God himself will provide a lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham said. And that sacrifice was Jesus.

In the cave, surrounded by bones and stench, its easy to wish that there was no need for a sacrifice. It’s easy to hold your nose and hope for the best. It’s easy to run through life keeping it together as best you can, hoping that your good will outweigh your bad, or that catastrophe won’t strike. But the Senufo know better. They know that things aren’t ok, that life doesn’t go the way you want, that there is sickness, malice, barrenness, evil, drought, they know that they need the power of something greater to help them with these problems. They are right. There does need to be a spilling of blood on the ground. There does need to be someone to come into the world to fix the mess that we have made, to atone for the sins of the world. What the Senufo don’t know, and so many of us here in America, and thousands around the world, is that high up on a mountain, on a stone, in the hottest part of the day, that blood was spilled. And that the blood spilled in that one hour was enough for the whole world. That Jesus, in his flesh, in his holy perfection as God and Man was enough. That no more blood needs to be spilled. We need only to have his blood written in our hearts, in our minds, in our souls and we are saved, we, like Isaac, are spared from death, eternal unending death. By his blood, with the power of his blood we can live forever.

But there’s another part the Senufo don’t know, and that many of us forget. That it wasn’t just that Jesus died. The blood spilled out and the atonement, the sacrifice was made. But that was only half. Jesus, his body, bereft of blood, was taken down from the mountain, laid in the cool desolation of a tomb and for three days it laid there. And if he had continued to lay there then everything he said would have been a lie, a sham. All the claims he made, all the promises, including the one to Abraham, would have been completely false. But on the third day, God, in his mercy and goodness and providence and perfect love, breathed life into that flesh once more and gave us back the body we had broken. Jesus, fully alive, fully restored walked out of the tomb and had breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, several of them, with his friends. He didn’t stay dead. He rose, the first of us who will rise with him when he comes again. He died and rose, so that we will never have to die. His blood is enough.

In the cool of the day we would climb down the rock and drive home as the sun would sink, orange and then red and then purple. The trees would become strange giants in the dark. Abraham and Isaac, at the end of their ordeal, climbed down the mountain and met up with their servants at the bottom, relieved to go home to the monotony of dinner preparations and the lighting of lamps. But they would never be the same again. The morning Jesus walked out of his grave and told Mary to stop crying, we have never been the same. We live in sure and certain promise and security of God’s perfect love. We can trust him, completely. Whatever it is that he asks of you to do, whatever sacrifice he requires of you, whatever promise he makes you, you can completely trust him to provide for you, to take care of you, to give you everything you need. Why? Because he loves you, perfectly, enough to die, enough to rise again.
Alleluia, he is Risen!
The Lord is risen Indeed. Alleluia!

Monday, April 02, 2007

some small moaning

I'm sorry to say I'm not up to writing anything this evening. For those of you commenters who would like justification for my intolerant, obviously evil theological positions, you'll have to wait till tomorrow. Hope you can be patient. And for everyone else, I'm trying to let thoughts ruminate into something interesting, but I'm surprising physically uncomfortable. I mean by that that I'm in pain, nausea, sore throat and general misery. I'm trying not to complain (although you can see its not working) and that this too will pass, but I just can't get beyond it at this moment.

In the meantime Matt has run around and done laundry, fed the children, put them to bed, made me a delicious supper, cleaned the kitchen and just generally been wonderful. This was supposed to be his one day off this week.

So, until tomorrow, may God sweep all the stones out of your path and give you peace.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sunday Conversations

Anne in a sleep laden effort to sort out the implications of the Don Armstrong/Grace Church imbroglio (that's right, I've given up reading anything but PG Wodehouse): So, let me try and understand. If you commit tax fraud, its the IRA that would care and come after you. The bishop might care, but really, its the IRA that would prosecute? Is that right?
Matt: The IRA?
Anne: Yeah. And you would have to have intent to commit fraud, right? You would have to really be trying to embezzle money. Right?
Matt: The IRA?
Anne: Is that right?
Matt: The IRA? Do you mean the Irish Republican Army or the Internal Revenue Service?
Anne: Oh, I guess not the IRA. Although, that would make things even more interesting wouldn't it?
A: Why is mommy crying and laughing?

A: I waaant some meooook.
Anne: I waaant some meoook.
A: I don't like that sound.
Anne: Well, that's what you sound like.
A: I want to stop whining and say may I please have some meok.
Anne: That's a good idea. Why don't you do that?
A: Okay.
(All speech by A several pitches higher than the average human being can stand.)