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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

although i will be away from St Andrew's, I have been promised these

Another of Father Gage's sermons

Water and A Rose
Matt. 10:40-42
7/2/17
         
          You and I make sacrifices every day, for our children, spouse, parents, etc. It is important that we see those sacrifices in the context of Christ’s sacrifice for us, and that we ask Him to bless and sanctify those sacrifices. It is also important to find our lives by losing them, to obtain by giving away. That means stretching, reaching out, and trying new things in the name of Christ Jesus. We sometimes call those actions “intentional random acts of kindness.” The seeming triteness of the phrase should not mask the profundity and seriousness behind it.
          At the end of the passage in Matthew in which Jesus speaks of the conflicts that we have as a result of our faith and of following Him, and as a result of taking up our crosses, we have today’s lectionary passage, which is mercifully short. “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple - truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” (Matt. 10:40-42)
          Jesus is using the ripple effect metaphor, or we might say the DNA metaphor. There is a connectedness to things. Jesus plays upon that observation in life. He is claiming His Sonship as one sent from God. To honor Jesus is to honor God, just as honoring a prophet places one within the circle of a prophet. The reward which one receives is that of being part of the circle of believers who follow a prophet and who acknowledge a revelation from God. To give water to those who thirst is an act of compassion and mercy (charity) and places one within the circle of the merciful and hence in the embrace of God’s mercy. Behind this passage there are the connotations of Jesus as a prophet and water as the revelation and spirit for which everyone thirsts, who thirsts for mercy and righteousness.
          You and I are asked to place ourselves in the paths of the disciples and to seek to proclaim the Gospel in our lives and through our affiliation with the Church, the body of Christ. That, of course, is what we do when we come here on Sundays and participate in the liturgy and in the Eucharist. Life necessitates forms and structures, schools and traditions. Creeds are important, doctrine is important and denominational distinctions are important. We have to work with mores and folkways. But things are not always clear. Throughout history there have been schisms within the Church, rivalries and wars. Within the United States there have been times of religious intolerance (Roger Williams had to flee the Puritans and go to Rhode Island and be a Baptist). The Roman Catholics founded Maryland and Georgia as places where they could practice their faith. Right now the Anglican Communion is having dialogue and discussion. The break-away conservatives protest. One side claims the TRUTH and the other side “sees through a glass but darkly.” Oddly enough those doctrinal conundrums, problems, serve as metaphors for how difficult it is often to know what to do and what is the right thing. Often it is the smallest act, the simple instinctive act of compassion and charity that is a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to act and to care for one. Often it is not the strategic plans and mission statements, but how we treat one another in the name of Christ (we used to call it “charity”) that brings us closer to our reward of  “living in Him and He in us.”
`        Now I am going to tell you one of my favorite stories. It is a favorite not because it builds me up, but because it brought such a feeling of humility that it practically bowelled me over. For twenty years I made daily calls at Stamford Hospital. Now I go intermittently. I have looked at the various questions that confront medical ethics and at the policies and procedures for counseling and helping those who are sick or injured. Each case is so complex that it is daunting even to try to deal with it. Sometimes I just sit and cry. Other times I act on instinct and pray that my faith and the Holy Spirit will help, because I am really “an earthen vessel.” But, in the last analysis, so are we all. As we act and sacrifice and live out our faith we have to reach out in trust for the hidden hand of God and pray that we not cause harm but do the right thing.
Here is the story:
          She was black, and I was white.           She was a woman, and I was a man.           She was twenty-five and I was sixty-five.
I was stopped by the head nurse. “Would you please go in and see the young woman in the next room? She is a recovering drug addict, was pregnant, and has just lost her baby.”
I thought, “Good Lord, deliver me.”
          The young woman’s gaze met mine as I entered the room. Her eyes were filled with anger. Not apprehension, just plain rage. I introduced my self as a priest from a local parish. After a moment or so, I told her that I was very sorry about her loss. I sat with her for a few minutes, while she glared at me. Words failed me. What could I possibly say?
          She was poor, and I was well off.
          She was an addict, and I was not.
          She worked the streets, and I had a nice office.
          She was uneducated, and I had three university degrees.
          She was at the bottom of the social order, and I was way up.
          She was marginalized, and I represented “the system.”
          She was “girl,” and I was “the man.”
          She had lost her baby, and I had two healthy adult sons. 
          The gulf between us was huge. I realized that in spite of my education, training, and experience, there was nothing I could say.
          The hostility in her eyes was unrelenting. Finally she rolled over and faced the wall. I left.    That afternoon, evening, night and the next morning I thought and prayed about that young woman. I knew I must stop in and see her when I made my rounds, but I hadn’t a clue as what to do or say.          The next day on impulse, as I entered Stamford Hospital, I went into the gift shop and made a purchase. Then I walked up to the young woman’s room, knocked and entered. She looked up. There was less anger now but a lot of apprehension. I walked over to her and said, “Here. This is for you.” She reached out, and I handed her one, long stemmed red rose. She nodded and I left.
          One week later, through the chaplain’s office, I received a letter. There was one sentence. It simply said, “No one ever gave me a flower before.” Jesus said, “And whosoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Matt.10:42 RSV). I wondered, “Does a rose count?”
          Bear your cross. Sacrifice. Be diligent. Tithe. But also try a random act of intentional kindness. It just might be in God’s eyes a cup of water.
–Amen- Fr. Gage

         


Saturday, June 10, 2017

rewriting the end of the story

Not long ago,
i thought i would not live to see 60 years old...
i am 62 now,
but the reasons were because of how poorly,
i felt in the recovery phase of my operation.
that lasted 7 years.
i felt poor physically.
i felt poor mentally
and i had given up,
but there was still a spark,
somewhere deep inside,
that would not give up.
Some time in that process,
i began attending a very stogy, old episcopal church,
anglo catholic in tradition
and service,
with a priest who did not fit the conventional "norms".
Healing services after service
and on Wednesdays.
There were no lightning bolts,
but a slow gradual process.
I slowly felt better
and i will blame or credit,
God working through all of that "musty" tradition.
I am glad.
It is wonderful.
No i can not see straight.
i still wobl=le as i walk,
so that i must use a cane.
the 2 plus years that were taken from my memory are still gone
and i get reminders now and again,
but my attitude has changed
and i feel better.

Friday, June 2, 2017

It was many years ago

I woke from a dream.
The dream was vivid and real.
I was an older man,
with a straw floppy hat,
working in my garden...
i was at the place i was moving.
I was working as if there was nothing wrong,
yet, there was something wrong with the world.
I did not know from the dream what it was,
but as i crouched,
working the garden,
a person,
who happened to be my best friend at the time,
approached me.
She had walked from where i now live,
to where i will live in a few weeks.
She was alone
and asked for help,
which i was all to glad to give.
It was a good dream,
a strong dream,
for i still remember its vividness.
It is in my mind again,
freash,
as if i had it last night,
but it was many, many years ago.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

so i wonder

who is it that we serve?

ourselves,
taking care of business for our own good
or others
and in so doing,
provide riches for our souls.
that can not be counted.
I have answered that question,
at least for myself...
this life is not an end into of itself
and even if i were an atheist,
not believing that there is more beyond,
taking care of others would still be paramount.
I do see that in some who call themselves atheist,
but what surprises me,
is those who claim to have faith and yet do not.
This make no sense,
we are to take care of others first,
not ourselves.
Is this the answer to the question i posed yesterday?
Maybe.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

i don't know

Yes, my dreams of years are being realized,
but what is this i am leaving behind?
I do not understand,
people say they are going to miss me!
I do not understand...
i do not feel as if i contribute much to their lives
or being,
yet with all,
they are sincere.
and i believe them.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

what else was on my mind - another sermon

The sermon has been on my mind since Sunday, so a bit of a prefaces is needed...
I grew up an only child, with a room of my own and was very possessive about it,
but there was something always in the back of my mind (or heart) that it was all only temporary.
I loved to build sandcastles for that reason.
Why?
I do not have an answer, but as an adult, thing were very different and i shared my space continually,
well because i live in a Christian community and we hold all things together
and more so i felt that what i have is so i can share.
Now the sermon tells a still stronger story and i look forward to a day that i can have my own space....to the sermon

ROOMS
Easter 5
Mother’s Day
John 14:1-14
          Jesus Christ assures you and me of a room. Our destiny is guaranteed. We don’t have to phone ahead or take out a mortgage.
          Some time ago my wife looked up one Sunday afternoon and proclaimed, “I want a room of my own!” This was not a dainty suggestion or a reflective whimper. This was straight from her gut and reached right back to when women kicked aside the bones in the cave she shared with her Neanderthal husband and pet brontosaurs.
          Haven’t you ever felt that way? Have you not known an instinctive claim of entitlement for your own space, your own abiding place, your own spot? Parents sometimes forget this need for a room. When their son or daughter goes off to college they want to rush in and rake out their offspring’s room, hose it down, and truck in a dumpster to take away all the “junk” their kid acquired. Woe to the parent who doth such heinous deed” Kids know that a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind. If cleanliness and godliness are connected, then they will opt for ungodliness. Their room embodies their way of life. Here they tell the truth to themselves, and discover the truth about themselves. Here they have their being and find their life. Wasn’t that true for you? It may not have been your bedroom. It may have been a corner of the cellar or the garage, or a seat near a window or your side of the bed. It was your spot (Almost as hallowed as the spot in the pew where you sit every Sunday, and which you staked out eons ago). It was your spot, your room. You defined your room and your room defined you.
          Isn’t that true even now for you? My wife has her spot at her desk in the middle of the family room. But her real “abiding place”, her room, is the right-hand side of our king-sized bed, to which she retires and religiously reads for an hour 356 days of the year, as she has for 56 years. Women, I think, have a greater sense of an abiding place than do men. Although, I would literally go crazy if I did not have my own study and office, where I can physically as well as mentally deal with the way I am and what is true and false and what it is that is in regard to life.
          As you have probably guessed by now, this sermon is about rooms, women (mothers especially), and Jesus. The woman I want to talk about for a few minutes is not my wife, but my mother. For in thinking about today’s lectionary Gospel, I kept thinking about my mother, and I realized that whenever I think about her I visualize her in the context of a room. And in a sense there was a room, which identified or defined, each stage of her life.
          The earliest stories she used to tell me about herself were of her playing as a child high up in the turret of a large Victorian house in Rockford, Illinois. For hours on end she would play with her china dolls, some from Germany and some from Cathay. She would act out the routines of the lives of the aristocrats of the city, mimicking their ways, learning the truths of how people interacted, pantomiming the dance of life. Hers was the childhood of a widow’s only daughter, who looked out over the treetops and wondered about life. Surely not so unusual from moments that you and I had as a child.
          My earliest memories of my mother are of her sitting on her rocker in a corner of the bedroom, doing her sewing, mending our clothes, or darning a sweater, stitching together her thoughts as she kept vigil during my father’s long illness. Often it was a place where I would crawl onto her lap to hear a story. More often than not, it was a place where she wrestled with her private demons.
          In later years, when she was in her forties and early fifties, her room was a classroom, where she taught social studies, first at Glen Ellyn Junior High and later at Sunset Hill private girls’ school in Kansas City. There she imparted a way of life and of inquiry to her students, helped them discover the rudimentary truths of knowledge, and opened the doors of life to eager and indolent minds alike. In her late fifties and up into her seventies, her room was not in her home, but at her business, which she started. It was there that she made her decisions, melded truth with integrity and really came alive. Her business became her way of life. Her office was her absolute domain. It was the lair of a lioness. One entered it very carefully.
          She went almost directly from her office to Greenwich Hospital and then to Putnam Weaver Nursing Home. She had returned to a room of her own – one room, where she could look out over the treetops and where she sorted through her memories, and dreams, and the ways and truths of her life. Her journey from room to room, was it so unlike that of someone you know? Is it much different from that of many of us?
          At her funeral, the priest read one of the Gospel passages appointed for that service and one, which I have used at burial services over and over again:
          Jesus said to his followers, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, Believe also in me. In my Fathers house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas said to him, “Lord we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
          Jesus, who was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn, who celebrated the Last Supper in a borrowed upper room, knew the importance of having a room of your own, a space of your own. For he assures us that at the end of our mortal lives there awaits for us our own special abiding place, our own room. Our journey from the time of conception and the room of the womb is a journey with a destiny. Its destination is a room in the household of God, where we have our own place with those who have gone before, those whom we call the saints of God. Our destiny is not isolation, but a special dwelling place where we can join in the fellowship and communion of the saints with God.
          Is Jesus’ promise of a room of our own in heaven really so implausible? In these last few years I have become firmly convinced of life after death and a place in heaven. We don’t need to engage in fantastic graphics of the imagination and picture various realms of heaven as did the Gnostics and the apocryphal writers. They had levels of heaven, where there were cosmic motels on the highway of heaven, with Hell a Super 6 in Gary, Indiana, and the Heavenly Rest the Trump Plaza. That is sheer fantasy. But let’s face it, Jesus speaks to very real sense, which we all have. This is a sense of place, a sense of habitation where our identity, our way of life is defined. This where we deal with questions of appearance and reality (or Truth), and where we are in touch with the vital juices, or that positive creativity, which is the heart of life. From this way of thinking, cannot even the most doubtful unbeliever begin to make the segue from a room in this life to one which awaits us in the next?
          As Christians, you and I have, I think, a greater intimation of immortality. In our lives and in our rooms we catch glimpses of our place in heaven. For as members of the Church we have already through baptism begun to enter into the life of Christ and in the communion of the saints now and later on. Here in this present fellowship of the church, we confess Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life. In so doing we make room for Him in our room. By so confessing we come to understand Him as the authentic way of life, and as the authenticity of truth and life. We gain this sense of Jesus as the way the truth and the life through reflection upon His life as gospel and as revelation of God, and through participation in the sacraments.
          There are, of course, moral implications to having a room of our own, where we discover and know the way, the truth, and life. First of all, respect your own space and that of others. Privacy and affirmation are important nutrients on our lives. Secondly, share your abiding place, your room with your neighbor. This helps you to move along the way and to gain insights into truth and life. And thirdly, help create a room or space for someone else. This not only means encouraging our children or friends to value themselves and to make a place for themselves. It also means literally working to solve the problem of adequate housing for the poor and the homeless. This is a seemingly impossible task. But our own room is false if we have not sought to prepare a similar place for someone else.

          Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms…I go to prepare a place for you.” This blessed assurance, similar to one given by a mother to a child, frees us to deal with the space of our lives. For we know that we are not alone, but are really worth something, loved, and awaited with great expectation by none other than god Himself. What a really great Easter promise for Mother’s Day! Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

something different - flood in the evening

not of water,
but of thoughts
and feelings
and words...
Wow!
what happened,
but i suppose they have been bubbling within me all day....

thoughts of just a few years back,
when i was not doing so well still,
from all the turmoil that was my life...after.
I did not think,
or maybe i did not want,
to live passed 60.
I am 62 now.
There was a turnaround
and i improved.
Was it my attitude first
or my body?
The old chicken and egg question
and i still do not know,
but i am here
and doing better.
I looked around at that time,
for someone to be with when i passed
and could not find them.
Now, i have met that person,
but am no longer interested in going from here.

There are still more thoughts,
do i dare start them now?
No i will leave them for the 'morrow
and that will be enough!