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Born a Texan, but traveled the US extensively.  Now staying on the East coast.

Monday, February 13, 2017

so often

so often,
i have to be reminded,
 like when the donkey,
spoke to  the prophet running away from his duty.
I have to be reminded just how much others mean to me...
It happened again,
some one spoke,
they were alone,
I am not.
They reached out,
because they went through.
something similar to me
and were concerned.
They were alone,
 but i am not
and i forget to be thankful
and grateful
and that needs to stop.
I live differently than most of you
and that is why i am not alone.
I have seen married couple,
live together alone.
I am not married,
but i am never alone.
I am thankful
and to reminded of that love,
is a truly great gift.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Smells and bells, today and yesteryear

i walked into church today
and there was an unmistakable aroma of incense.
It happens at times,
for this is a "high" episcopal church,
anglo-catholic by name,
but today, the incense transported me back,
to my childhood
and in my mind,
from those memories long ago,
two or three cantors,
sing songing words,
in a language i did not understand,
back and forth
and it was HOLY.
For those who do not know,
i was raised in a Greek Orthodox tradition,
but never learned the language.
Others filed in, remarking on the same incense aroma.
The service was typical
and mostly unremarkable,
save one song,
that i knew by heart,
from another Episcopal church in Houston,
and the sermon.
The song, memorized in my heart
from the services at the church of the Redeemer,
a renewed, charismatic, community traditional (?) church,
help me begin my spiritual journey.
The sermon..
Father Gage is not like most Episcopal priests,
as he puts it,
for he puts it plainly,
mocks the Anglican upiness
and talks about he and all christians,
saving souls,
in how we live
and speak
and have our being.

It was powerful to me.

Friday, February 3, 2017

i have been trying to understand

No, i never do "politics,
ever!

I love being with people.
I love being alone.
Are they truly opposites,
or simply different sides of the same coin?

I have accepted all the things that have happened to me,
even tho i struggle to accept the condition it has left me.

Some one read something to me,
from something i was very familiar with,
yet presented in a different way.
The story was of someone who was considered great,
Paul of Tarsis,
some 2000 years ago.
He had a handicap,
which is rarely spoken of
and the interpretation said he was thankful for this issue,
and considered it a gift.
That is too much for me,
yet the person who spoke these words to me,
has lived with a significant handicap,
all of his life
and i have struggled only 8 plus years.

A gift,
 that is running through my mind constantly now.

Along with other challenges to the way i think
or feel.

There is nothing more but growth in front of me
and i shall continue on.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

this one i needed to hear

Jungle Gyms and Mulch
Epiphany 2
Jn. 1:29-42
          Do you remember the last time you stopped for a few moments and took some time to reflect on things? It probably was not too long ago. Perhaps you got a clearer impression of things, or at least a better look at them. You may have followed an insight and gone on a journey of the imagination. Often times you and I find ourselves on spiritual journeys or pilgrimages that have odd stops along the way. During this season of Epiphany you and I are invited to reflect on God’s showing forth of Himself in Jesus, the Babe in the manger. We are asked to consider this Jesus whom we will come to know even better during this new liturgical year as the Christ and the Son of God.
          Some time ago I had a little time for reflecting and looking at things. My wife and I were in Fairfax, Virginia. We went down there to baby sit Faye’s twin grandnieces, Kayleigh and Madeline. One warm and sunny day we walked the twins down to the park, where there is an extensive play area. The play area is a marked off section of solid Virginia clay and subsoil. It is carpeted with cedar-bark mulch over which sit monkey bars, jungle gyms and slides, all elaborately interconnected. The equipment is an updated and reconfigured version of what I played on over sand at the Forest Glen Elementary School in Glen Ellen, Illinois in the 1940’s. Kayleigh and Madeline’s park has good, sturdy, childproof stuff. As the twins played, they were joined by eight other children between the ages of two and four, who were accompanied by a woman in her late forties. She was the overseer of the children and was sort of a combination prophet and shepherdess. With a semi-prophetic voice she would guide, cajole, form and reform the behavior of her flock. For about an hour and a half I sat and observed this scene. Periodically this Deborah-Naomi figure would intone, “NO THROWING OF THE MULCH. You can shape it, sift it, and form it. But there is to be NO THROWING OF THE MULCH.” Apparently that is the number one rule of the playground. “Not a bad rule in life,” I said to myself as Faye and I left with Kayleigh and Madeline.
          Now, when I looked at the first part of today’s gospel lesson from The Gospel of Saint John, I was impressed that John the Baptist didn’t “throw the mulch.” There was no chatter, no ³”f¹s,” “and’s,” “but’s,” or “or’s.” He did not talk about “turf” or “process” or Robert’s Rules of Order. John gracefully made the transition from his leadership and baptizing ministry to that of Jesus’. History owes John the Baptist a huge debt of gratitude. John did not put up a protest or barriers for his disciples to move on and to follow Jesus as the Christ. John the Baptist didn’t “throw the mulch.” He was content to serve as the prophet-herald-precursor to Jesus the Messiah.
          Continuing to read more of the passage this week I got intrigued. So I went back and read it in the Greek. Two things emerged that caught my attention. First of all, the passage is loaded with major Christological titles. They are as follows: “Son of God,” “Lamb of God,” “Messiah” as well as the term “Holy Spirit.” Each of those titles, or terms, conveys major theological concepts: incarnation, sacrifice, salvation and the presence of the power of God. These titles and concepts are not new. Although they are found in The Old Testament, they are reformed and reworked in the New Testament gospels and epistles. Those titles and concepts have become the major tenets of our faith. The titles and concepts are grounded in Israel¹s history, experience and thought. What John the Baptist is doing is reworking Israel¹s history and tradition and reshaping a future understanding of what incarnation, sacrifice, salvation and the Holy Spirit will mean over against the life of Jesus. From this point on, the writers of the gospels will be the major sources of interpretation and the touchstones for authenticity. The Church will pound, stretch, shape, form and reform, and plunge the depths of the terms “Son of God,” “Lamb of God,” “Messiah” and the “Holy Spirit” as she seeks to understand the meaning of those concepts and tenets.
                   The second thing that caught my attention in my re-reading of the passage is that it is dominated by two words. They are “see” and “follow.” In the context of linear time and history, the followers of Jesus (unlike the Essenes and others) are to be seekers and believers actively seeing and following in the here and now. Both John the Baptist and John the Evangelist are saying that this is a special time. This is a time to follow and to explore how God has been revealed. Right now the disciples are to look at and to follow the concepts/titles of “Son of God,” “Lamb of God,” “Messiah” and the “Holy Spirit.” For the disciples, now is the time for epiphany, the time of revelation and reflection. How those disciples saw and followed the titles/concepts contained in today’s passage in the Gospel of John shaped history and much of Western and world thought.
          In the life of the Church each season of the liturgical year focuses upon one of the above titles/concepts/tenets. Christmas is the time for thinking about incarnation (Son of God). Lent is the time for thinking about the Lamb of God (sacrifice). Easter is the time for thinking about the Messiah (salvation) and Pentecost is the season for concentrating on the Holy Spirit (the power and presence of God in Christ). Epiphany is in a sense an introductory season for thinking about the manifestation of God in all of those titles/concepts before they are broken down into specific seasons.
          Now to return to where we began. During these weeks of Epiphany you and I are called to “see” and to “follow.” We are called to look at the theological concepts/titles/tenets embedded in the life of Jesus Christ and to get familiar with them as a group. Climb on them. Push and pull. Shake them; let your mind slide up and down them. Each of us is an amateur theologian. There are systematic theologian that methodically and logically work out each concept and title. I, on the other hand, am a “random abstract” and am not systematic. I am an experiential theologian. I live with an idea, constantly working it through my experiences and observations. I constantly embrace and wrestle with the significance and life of the orthodox tenets of our faith. You can take these ideas, concepts and titles and work on them anyway you want. They are the pillars of our faith and will stand. They are firmly planted in the ground that God has created, which is the life of salvation history — the life of the Church. Moreover, since the life of the Church is the body of Christ, (changing metaphors for a moment) then the tenets of our faith are firmly grounded in the life of Jesus Christ. They have endured and will continue to endure.
          Do whatever works for you as long as you “see” and “follow.” Let Jesus Christ be manifested to you and allow epiphanic moments of revelation to rise up and to guide you on your faith pilgrimage. Some, like Martin Luther King, have been inspired by the tenets of our faith and have made incredible changes in the lives of millions. Others like Luther and Mother Theresa have changed both the world of thought and the lives of others. Many of you allow the tenets of our faith to inspire, comfort, guide and sustain you as you deal with the burdens of responsibility, tragedy, loss and personal struggles. To pull, climb and slide down the meanings of salvation, sacrifice, incarnation and the presence of the Holy Spirit is what you and I are called to do not only during the season of Epiphany but also throughout all the seasons of our lives. Those tenets are planted deep in the soil and subsoil of God’s will, creation and salvation history. They stand over a defined area and a covering of the ideas, needs, concerns and demands of our religious personal and social lives. As Christians you and I are constantly called to be active in the playground of our faith, sifting and shaping our needs and ideas while climbing about on our tenets of faith. So be active in the playground of your faith. Do it with gusto and imagination, without extremism, prejudice, judgementalism and condemnation. Remember these words of caution, “No throwing of the mulch.”

Amen. - Fr. Gage.

This sermon is deep

WHO CARES?
The Beatitudes
Matt. 5:1-12

Like many of you, I am a Great Depression baby – born right in the midst of the worst economic catastrophe of the 20th century. There have been countless recessions in our life times, and we have just dug out of the Great Recession. There have been seven major wars in our life times. We are just winding down one of them – a 10-year war. There have been countless natural disasters. My wife was born right before the hurricane of ’38 and remembers many hurricanes that touched Old Saybrook, where her grandfather built a summer cottage. You and I weathered hurricane Irene and hurricane Sandy. How many of you can remember other major disasters – if not here, then in your country of origin? For me the first really big disaster was the flooding of Kansas City in 1950 when half of the city was wiped out.
Mankind is resilient and endures, as the author, John Steinbeck, pointed out. Oddly enough, our society has always had a civic religion that is formed by optimism and the common heritage of the Judeo-Christian tradition. When things have been tough, troubadours and songsters have tried to lift our hearts. This past weekend out of the reservoir of my memory  the song by Vincent Youmans keeps ringing in my head.
“When you’re down and out, lift up your head and shout, there’s going to be a great day. Angels in the sky promise that by and by there’s going to be a great day.” I thought of those lyrics, when I read the Beatitudes from St. Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount. It is strange how we make connections.
The Beatitudes really are an outrageous statement of faith and hope. They also carry serious ethical implications. In the Beatitudes, Jesus presents a timeless message to a timely audience: the poor, the hungry, the grieving, and the outcast, as well as to the rich, the satisfied, and the admired. The Gospel of Matthew moves from the literal perspective of the Gospel of Mark. Mark speaks of literal poverty. Matthew broadens the meaning of poverty, “poor in spirit,” and places our lives in the experience of the Church. Even so Matthew is never far from the literal meaning of “poor”, “hunger”, and “mourning.”
          To be a priest is to confront and receive pain. For years I have been confronted by the poor, the homeless, the grief stricken, and the outcast. Their plight cuts me to the quick. My discretionary fund is always empty. Affordable housing is scarce; unemployment is high; the vagrants are ashamed; the bereaved hurt. Last year in Connecticut 16,000 people lost their homes and had to stay in shelters. Thousands more were forced to sleep outside or in their cars. Last year in Connecticut 3,000 children were homeless. What can I possibly say to people? “You should have planned better?” “You didn’t try hard enough?” "That's life?" "Things are tough all over?"
          Now, I want to tell you a story of faith of one of "those who mourn". Mary was elderly, arthritic, bird-like, fiercely independent, proud of her $2 a week pledge. Poor, she was in the shadows of the congregation of the faithful. For years Mary cared for her husband, tending him as she had her children who died years before. When her husband died, I put my arms around Mary and told her how very sorry I was for her. She knew that Joe was with God and with her children. She could recite, "Blessed are the poor; blessed are those who mourn." Mary was spent and heart broken. She certainly did not feel blessed, but within time she accepted Joe’s death and rejoiced in the Lord. Mary's faith was deep and a lamp by which she found her way and warmed her self.
          At her funeral I quoted a passage from Ecclesiastes. I am sure you know it.
          "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace." (3:1-19)
          This passage speaks of the rhythms of life and is somewhat comforting. It assures us that there is some balance, some order, and that life goes on. Whereas Prophetic literature tells us that God is known through dramatic revelations, Wisdom literature, such as Ecclesiastes, reminds us that God is also known through reason, understanding, and the order we see in nature and the universe.
          Although Wisdom literature is very old, it probably articulates the faith of most believers and nonbelievers today. We say, "Life goes on." "These things happen." "You still got your health."
          This view of life was familiar to the poor, the homeless, the grieving and the despised who came to Jesus to hear Him preach and to be healed. They were familiar with the Torah, the law, rewards and punishments, and the common sense aphorisms of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
          So what did Jesus say? Did he say, "Tomorrow’s another day."  "One day at a time". "Wait until next year". NO! He said: "Blessed are you who are poor, who are hungry, who weep, who are despised."
          Jesus is saying, “You have a special closeness to God. God is not far from you. You have value. You are not forgotten. You are appreciated right now -- in bad times and in good. You do not have to wait for the rhythms of nature and of history. You do not have to depend on the winds of change, nor on a series of reincarnations. God, the essence of all being, moans and groans with you in your travail. God offers His creative being, His presence, His love in the midst of your life.” This is the healing message of Jesus. Jesus speaks of the love of God, of His bounteous mercy and generosity, of the abundant joy and reward there is when one participates in God's presence, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven.
          It is such an outrageous statement! To the poor Jesus says, "You are blessed". To the hungry, "You are blessed". To the grieving and to the despised, "You are blessed". This message is a reversal of our values; it flies in the face of contemporary wisdom. This message is an affront! And yet it is the message for which Jesus died. It is the message of healing then and now. It is a message we tend to deprecate, depreciate, and discount. It is a message that for 2,000 years has fed the soul and brought joy to the heart.
          It is the message I repeated to Mary in her grief. “You are not alone. You are not abandoned. God is close to you. God knows and feels and shares your pain. God holds you close. God cares. You count. You are supported. You are loved. You have value.”
          And isn't this the real fear and agony of the hungry, the homeless, the shunned, the bereaved -- the fact that they feel despair, abandoned, devalued, depreciated, that their lives are meaningless, that they are insignificant and don’t count?
          Who among us is in one sense or another hungry? Raise a finger. Who feels a physical, emotional, or spiritual hunger? Who among us is to an extent poor? Raise another finger. Who feels a poverty of money, of talent, of love, of hope? Who mourns? Raise yet another finger. Who among us feels a profound sense of loss or grief for a loved one, a career, a dream, a series of missed opportunities? Who among us suffers disapproval, scorn, censure? Raise a finger. Who from time to time feels an outsider, insignificant, unappreciated, forgotten, overlooked, unimportant?
          By now, you like me, have all your fingers raised. And when they are raised you and I have hands that are open and reaching out to one another and to God.
          In our poverty, hunger, grief, outcast state, you and I are affirmed. For to be blessed is just another way of saying that we are affirmed. God in Christ counts you and me to be of value, proclaims His love, and reaches out for our hands so that we can walk with Him. That walking, that taking of God's hand is called faith. Its products are hope and charity.
          This outrageous message of blessedness, of faith and hope, in the Beatitudes does not trash the importance of material necessities, hardships, or rewards. Jesus is not a transcendental Gnostic new age spiritualist. He heals. He goes to weddings. He parties. He feeds the hungry. But above all He reverses the high priority of the values of the world, with its materialism, stoicism, and hedonism. This is the ethical side to the Beatitudes, and it makes us cringe. You and I are warm and dry and live better than many in Calcutta, Haiti, or Africa. You and I laugh while others weep. You and I are full in relation to those who suffer malnutrition. You and I appreciate our status and kudos of approval. The Beatitudes censor our urge to trust in ourselves, to feel entitled, to be self-centered, to hide our poverty, our hunger, our grief, our worthlessness.
          Yes, the Beatitudes are outrageous. They do not magically give money to the poor, food to the hungry, home to the homeless, life to the dead, nor honor to the shunned. Rather, the cutting edge of the guilt they induce remind us that it is our job to deal with those literal, basic, righteous, human needs.
          The Beatitudes proclaim the outrageous message that in our weaknesses -- at our most vulnerable points - God is present. God reaches out and takes each of our fingers of poverty, of hunger, of grief, of insignificance, of desperate need into His loving and sustaining hand. The Beatitudes lead you and me to the triumph of the cross, the triumph of good over evil, hope over despair, eternal life over death, a heavenly banquet over our hunger for love and righteousness. They point to “a great day,” to Gabriel and his trumpet, to our blessed life with God in Christ.
          I suspect each of you knows all this in your own secret way. That is why you come to church Sunday after Sunday to share the bread and wine in the Eucharist of Christ's body and blood. As I stand at the altar and hold up the pain and sorrow, hunger and hopes of us all, you and I sense the gift of God's nearness, God's blessedness. We reach out our hands to be fed and blessed in the heavenly banquet at the altar.
          It is the Gospel’s message of faith, hope and love that you and I affirm each Sunday here at St. Andrew’s and that we should share through our presence and actions with one another, and with the world. So, maybe we can be a little outrageous today and with a smile and a little humor, sing, “When you’re down and out, lift up your head and shout, there’s going to be a great day. Angels in the sky promise that by and by, there’s going to be a great day. Gabriel will warn you, some early morn you will hear his horn. It’s not far away, lift up your heads and say, it’s going to be a great day.”* Hallelujah and Amen.    –Fr. Gage-


*Lyrics words and music by Edward Eliscu, Billy Rose and Vincent Youmans.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Strong like a bull

it has been many years since i heard that phrase,
uttered in a broad Haitian accent,
which was used to speaking creole,
not english.
and this person was not a doctor,
not a Physicians assistant,
nor a nurse,
not even a nurses aid...
he was only some one God chose,
at that moment,
to reaffirm that strength,
that i had been given.
I do not normally write this time of day,
late in the evening (for me),
but those words echoed in my head,
all day long
and no longer could i ignore them.
Those few words,
spoken by someone,
this world considered insignificant,
gave me hope
and gave me life.
They echo in my head because,
those words still HELP!
I have met others who were
and are,
strong like a bull...
my mother,
who was so active until she was 88 years old.
My neighbor,
who is 92 and still tills her own garden
and many others,
but these are notable.
They keep reminding me,
to keep moving forward,
until we can not any more.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

all quiet on the Connecticut front