Archive | July 2013

“What is your name?”

Luke 8:26-36 & 1 Kings 19:1-15a
Proper 7C – 6/23/13
St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, Alexandria
The Rev. Dr. Rosemary Beales

“What is your name?”
It’s a simple question — and one you might be asking me right now, if you haven’t looked at your bulletin, because surely you’ve noticed that I am not John Hortum.
“What is your name?” It’s a simple question, one of the first we learn to answer as babies; and one of the first we ask our own babies as they acquire the gift of language, repeating the name we gave them as one of their first gifts.
What is your name? It’s one of the first phrases we learn in any language — como te llamas, Comment t’appelles-tu? It’s one of the first questions we ask a new acquaintance —though some of us might find ourselves asking more than once, and then having to ask again the next time we meet, until we’re too embarrassed to ask any more and simply fake it.
Names have power, and knowing someone’s name is a powerful sign that you value and respect them, that you think they’re important, that you appreciate them as a person and not just the guy who mows your lawn or the woman who does your hair.
“What is your name?” is the question Jesus asks of the man in today’s gospel — the man who lives among the tombs, running around naked, tearing at his chains. In Mark’s version of this story, he’s even more deranged, for Mark tells us he is “always howling and bruising himself with stones.” Luke tells us that demons SEIZE this man, over and over, so that his neighbors fear him and keep him under guard. I am sure they have names for him — “madman,” “crazy,” “a danger to society” — “demoniac.” They have forgotten his name, and, perhaps, so has he.
It’s no wonder he lives among the tombs, feeling like every day is a good day to die.
* * *
Elijah thought it was a good day to die, too. Possessed not by demons but by the spirit of the Lord, Elijah was running from those who wanted to kill him. He had just won a showdown between the 850 priests of Ba’al and the one true God, the battle we heard about two weeks ago, in which Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume a sacrifice of oxen. His victory – God’s victory – was dramatic, but not appreciated by King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel.
Elijah is on the run, and I guess he gets tired of running, because in today’s story, he has decided it’s a good day to die. “It is enough. Now, O Lord, take away my life.”
Then old Elijah lies down in the scant shade of a scrubby tree and waits for the angel of death. Soon enough, he feels an angel’s touch — but instead of comfort, he hears a command: “Get up and eat.” Then there were hot loaves, and a jar of water, and for dessert, a second command: “Get up and eat; otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”
God was not finished with Elijah yet.
So the prophet, who wanted nothing more than to hide, journeyed 40 days and 40 nights till finally he found a cave. At last, a place of shelter, a place as safe as … a tomb. But God won’t leave Elijah chained to his fears, to his misery. God calls him out, calls him by name.
“What are you doing here, Elijah? Go out and stand on the mountain!” The last place, perhaps, the old prophet wants to go, especially as he watches the great wind, and the earthquake, and the fire; but the LORD was not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. The LORD knew how to get Elijah’s attention. With the sound of sheer silence, or as other translations have it, with “a still small voice.”
God sent Elijah forth with a commission, with a message to proclaim, for God was not finished with Elijah yet.
* * *
“What is your name?” Jesus asked the man – or was it the demon he asked? I love the ambiguity of Luke’s pronoun. It is not clear in the gospel to WHICH “him” Jesus poses the question. We know nothing of his tone of voice, his volume, or his posture. So it could be he’s shouting, arms outstretched, challenging the demon, because to know the name of an unearthly being is to gain some power over it. Of course, Jesus already HAS power over demons, so the question directed to them simply demonstrates his supremacy. I like this image because it shows Jesus telling the demons in no uncertain terms that they are finished abusing this man.
Or it could be, he’s bending gently toward the troubled man, looking into his eyes for the humanity Jesus knows is there, asking for that name once given by a father in pride, once crooned by a mother in love. Perhaps his question is the “still, small voice” the man can finally hear amid the cacophony of noises in his head. Asking for the man’s name would be Jesus’ way of getting the man’s attention, calling him back from the wilderness in which he wanders, restoring his memories and relieving his torment.
After all, in the words of a wise preacher named Spencer Rice, “Jesus came not as the person who was seeking to pass judgment on people, but with that remarkable capacity to see good in people who could not see good in themselves.” (repeat) I like this image, too, because it shows Jesus telling the man we know as “the Gerasene demoniac” that God is not finished with him yet.
Either way the question is asked, though, it’s the demons who answer, because the demons have SEIZED control of this sufferer. “Legion,” they cry, and it’s a word that resonates with the first hearers of Luke’s gospel, who know that a Roman legion could be as many as 6,000 soldiers. But military might doesn’t scare off Jesus. Oh, he grants the demons’ request to enter into the pigs nearby; he also knows that this is no escape. The demons WILL return to the abyss from which they came. The man WILL discover it’s a good day to live. He WILL be free.
Not so the people around him, at least not yet. When the swineherds rush off to tell what this strange preacher has done to their pigs (NOW who are they calling a madman?), people rush to the scene. They find the man sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. You would think they’d be relieved, you would think that they’d rejoice. But no – THEY ARE AFRAID. If this strange rabbi can cost the swineherds their livelihood, what other damage can he wreak? Will the basket-weavers or the olive growers or the cheesemakers be next? But their fear goes deeper than economic loss. They are SEIZED with fear of the unknown, fear of the kind of power they have never seen before.
So rather than welcome Jesus, rather than welcome the man as a returned brother and son, they are held captive by their fear as surely as the man had been held captive by demons.
I like to think this is not the end of the story for them, though. I like to think that God is not finished with the people of Gerasa yet. Just as Elijah received a commission, so does the healed man. No, Jesus says, he cannot hop in the boat and become a disciple. Rather, he must “return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” God isn’t finished with the man, for he has work to do. Healed, he must become a healer. Set free from howling in pain, he is sent forth to proclaim. Surely some of his neighbors listened. Surely, there is a hopeful end to this story. Surely, there is even more good news in this gospel.

For, in the words of the poet David Whyte, “None of us knows the conclusion of the story on which we are embarked.” (repeat)
God was not finished with Elijah, or the man afflicted with demons, or even the Gerasene community. And God is not finished with us. God has work for us to do, good news for us to proclaim. And that work begins by knowing our own names, by caring enough to ask each other – those here, those afraid to enter these doors, and those who are just waiting to be asked – “What is your name?”
So what SEIZES you this day? What holds your heart or your mind in thrall? What still, small voice do you need to hear? What chains can Jesus break for you, what demons can he cast out? What name can he help you recover, what new name can he help you claim?
Be sure that he will do it, for this is the good news, my friends, this is the gospel: God is not finished with us yet.

An old story “remembered”

Gen. 6—9; Matt 7:21-29
4th Pentecost – 6/1/08
St. John’s Ellicott City – 7:45, 9:00, 11:15
The Rev. Rosemary Beales

“But God Remembered . . . “

As newspaper and newscasters have reminded us this week,
Today is the beginning of hurricane season.
If we needed further reminder, we got one yesterday in
the form of torrential downpour,
and I finished this sermon with the roar of driving rain in my ears
and one nervous eye on the tornado watches.

Who can remember hurricane season and forget the grievous storms three years ago
that changed landscapes, and lives, on the Gulf Coast forever?

So it’s fitting that our gospel story today talks about a great storm,
where “the rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against a house,”
and it fell apart in the storm.
Seared into my memory from those early days after Katrina
is the image of a makeshift grave, covered with a white sheet
and spray-painted with the simple, heartbreaking words:
“Here lies Vera. God help us.”

Those hearing Jesus’ words had images seared in their memories, too —
perhaps pictures of storms they had survived,
but certainly images of the other storm we heard about today,
the flood so great it overwhelmed the whole earth.

Steeped in the stories of their Jewish tradition, Jesus, and his listeners,
could not help but remember that storm,
and let the parable of the two houses build on its foundation.

The story is a story we remember, too — or THINK we do.
We know it so well that we can fail to really hear it.
Often we see it through one of two lenses our culture gives us.

The first is the story popularized in picture books, nursery decorations and camp songs,
the merry adventure of an old man and a raft of animals on the high sea,
and a rainbow at the happy ending,.
The second is a harsher story, in which an angry judge sets out to destroy
those who disobey his orders.

Neither of these is the story given to use in scripture,
the one Jesus and his followers remembered.

I imagine they remembered the WHOLE story,
not only the parts that our lectionary version gives us today.
The version we just heard rightly focuses on God’s promise.
But it also smoothes over [flattens out] some of the hardest,
and most healing, meanings of this story.
Notice in your bulletin how the citation skips across three chapters of Genesis,
picking up certain high points.
We are whisked from the construction and loading of the ark in Chapter 6 ,
to a one-sentence summary of the food,
to the sweet homecoming in Chapter 8,
when the earth was dry
“and everything . . . went out of the ark by families.”
We get the covenant of God with Noah and his family, and we get its fulfillment.

But what have we lost in this summary?
We’ve lost the passion, the sorrow, the wild grief, that drives God’s decision.
In the verse just before this passage, God sees the destructiveness
of human beings, and cries, “I am sorry that I have made them.”
The human heart, we’re told, is full of violence.
God’s heart is full, too – not full of anger, but full of sorrow.
Anger, wrath, vengeance — words so often associated with this story —
appear nowhere in the text.
Rather, we see our Creator experience grief —
expressed with the same word that Hebrew uses for labor pains.
God labors, in sorrow, to re-birth the earth.

All that emotion is missing from our first lesson.
Missing, too, is the drama and poetry, the despair and devastation,
when “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth,
and the windows of the heaven were opened.”

We miss the anguish and the awe of those on the ark when
“the flood continued 40 days on the earth [raising arms slowly]
and the waters increased,
and bore up the ark,
and it rose high above the earth.
The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth;
and the ark floated on the face of the waters.” [arms about halfway up]

We miss the experience of those NOT on the ark,
as “the waters swelled so mightily on the earth [continue raising till over head]
that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered . . .

ALL FLESH DIED that moved on the earth,
birds, domestic animals, wild animals,
all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth,
and all human beings;
everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life, DIED.” [sweep arms down]

In our lectionary reading, we miss the direct, decisive action of God:
“HE blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground,
human beings and animals and creeping things and birds of the air;
they were blotted out from the earth. [washing motion]
Only Noah was left.”

When we miss all of this, we miss FEELING this story.

And you know what else is missing? The most hopeful phrase in the story,
the most healing phrase perhaps in the whole Bible.
It comes not after the storm, but in the midst of the storm.
And it comes in just three words:


* * *
“But God remembered Noah, and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark,” the story says.
And God used them to recreate his world, to co-create God’s dream.

“But God remembered” is a phrase that could form a refrain through all of salvation history,
as human beings forgot their creator and wandered away from God.
as Israel forgot its covenant and went weeping into exile;
as followers of Jesus have glued their eyes on glory
and failed to take up our cross.

Whenever we forget, God remembers.
As we’ll recall in our Eucharistic Prayer today,
“Again and again, he called us to return . . .”
and calls us still, because God remembers.

And where our memory is partial and flawed,
God’s is broad enough to embrace the whole world.
A part unspoken in the story of our prayer can also be expressed in the simple truth:
“But God remembered.”

For I am convinced that when God remembered Noah,
God also remembered all the OTHER people,
all the other creatures, all the other forms of creation
that had NOT been on the ark.
Overwhelmed by the rising waters of the flood, all those fields and mountains,
all those green, growing things,
and all those creatures in whose nostrils was the breath of life,
appeared to be lost.

“But God remembered.”
In the heart of God, NOTHING is lost.

There is an explanation of this truth in science,
a physical law called the conservation of matter.
As best I can understand it, this law means,
“Everything must go somewhere.”
In any physical or chemical change, matter is neither created nor destroyed
but merely changed from one form to another.
That’s a physical law, created by God and explained by science.

Theology explains it this way:
In the heart of God, NOTHING IS LOST.
Everything, everyone, continues in another form.
Everything changes, and nothing ends.

After the flood, all that God had created was returned to God’s heart, washed clean,
to be renewed and recreated for God’s purpose, God’s dream.

Noah, in his righteousness, was preserved —
not as his reward, but FOR GOD’S PURPSOE.
When God looked at the violence in the world,
all the ways that people had wandered far from the purpose of God,
he also saw Noah, a righteous man.
And what was that righteousness?
Not that Noah obeyed every commandment,
which, after all, were not yet handed down,
but simply this: Noah walked with God.
Noah lived in right relationship with God, made himself available for God’s use.
So God used him!
God preserved Noah and his family, to become his partners,
dream his dream, and renew his earth.

Which brings us back to Jesus’ parable of the great storm.
Like all his parables, it’s
a vision of the dream of God that Jesus calls the kingdom of heaven.

It’s possible to see the kingdom of heaven as the reward that we might one day receive
in return for a righteous life,
on earth.

I see it differently.
I see the kingdom of heaven not as an ark that will bear us away
from the earth that God loved enough to weep over, and to wash.

I see the kingdom as something right here, already begun yet still coming.
Like Noah, we have been commissioned as co-creators,
Preserved for God’s purposes.
Through Jesus, we are granted a share in God’s grief,
a portion of God’s passion for all that appears to be lost.

And that’s what I think Jesus wants us to remember when he promises that
“anyone who hears my words and acts on them” will be building on solid rock.
Acting on his words means first remembering –
Remembering God’s stories,
Remembering Vera and all God’s people,
Remembering all God’s creation,
And remembering that God will help us.
God will help us act in God’s name
in this hurricane season and all of life’s storms.
Because God remembers.


Praying with Jesus and Listening to the Heartbeat of God

Luke 11:1-13 (Proper 12)
7/28/13 – Sunday 8:00  & 10:15
St. James’ Episcopal Church, Warrenton, VA

 Who taught you to pray?

 That’s kind of a trick question, isn’t it, because we’re in church, and in church, everyone knows that the right answer to any question is, “Jesus!”

In the case of today’s question, though – Who taught you to pray? – it so happens that “Jesus” IS the correct answer! We have today’s gospel as our proof.

It’s a correct answer, but not a complete one. Each of us can think of people who taught us to pray, from the parents who tucked us in at bedtime, to the children WE tucked in, to the friends we’ve sat with in hospitals and funeral homes, to the most acclaimed spiritual authors and theologians. Asking “who taught you to pray?” conjures up a roll call of what the Celtic people would call anam chara – “soul friends.”

I can’t help turning to Celtic spirituality when I think about prayer today, because I am just back from a powerful journey to the Isle of Iona, off the western coast of Scotland.

There, in that “thin place” where heaven and earth seem to touch, it was easy to immerse in the treasures of Celtic spirituality, which insists on the goodness of all creation, the nearness of God, and the knotting together of sacred and secular.  By its very nature, this kind of spirituality can be practiced anywhere, but its heart is on Iona where, in 593, St. Columba fled Ireland and established the church on Scottish shores. Over the centuries, as monasteries rose and fell and rose again, as spiritual movements ebbed and flowed like the waves that buffet the island, the voice of this gentle form of faith has sometimes been drowned out. Its resurgence today speaks to the need of people in a busy, noisy, chaotic world to return to the calm Center of all being – as one writer aptly puts it, “to listen for the heartbeat of God.”[1]

*  *  *

Jesus might have been listening for the heartbeat of God on the day described in today’s gospel, when he was praying in a certain place. Surely, he was always at prayer, but in Luke’s gospel especially, we see Jesus frequently turning aside, seeking our those “thin places” where the Father was particularly present. Something in what he brought back from those times made his disciples crave the same connection. So they ask, “Lord, teach US to pray.”

In answer to their hunger, he gives them the sustenance that we call the Lord’s Prayer – the one that, in a more developed form, we recite each time we meet. Throughout the ages, Christians have clung to the prayer that Jesus taught us.

Who taught you to pray?

Did you even need to be taught?

In a sense, praying comes naturally to the human creature.

            Some people say we are ‘wired’ to pray,

                                    to seek connection with the one whose image we bear.

                                    God created us to hunger for God,

                                                and God alone can satisfy that hunger¾

                                                            as St. Augustine says,

                                                   we are born with a God-shaped hole that only God can fill.

Brain biologists in a book called Why God Won’t Go Away[2]

describe this yearning as neurotheology.

            The theologian Karl Rahner calls it “immense longing.”[3]

                        And Ann and Barry Ulanov begin their book

                        Primary Speech with the assertion,

                        “Everybody prays…whether or not they call it prayer.[4]

You might think that something so natural doesn’t need to be taught.

            But I agree with Rahner that real prayer has to be taught,

                        and that the first step in praying is to pray: “Lord, teach us to pray!”[5]

I think that’s important, because without someone to teach us –

well, to teach me and keep teaching me —

                        my own prayers might become shallow, tending to focus on asking favors

                         from a God I create in my own image and therefore think I can control.

But such a small, sugar-coated god is not a god who can satisfy our hunger,

            not the God of the scriptures,

                        and not the God Jesus invites us to know.

            The prayer he teaches today connects us to the REAL God who’s beyond our control,  but whose appetite for us is as fierce as our hunger for him.

But because our hunger for God is so deep, there are many ways to feed that need,

            just as there are many foods to satisfy our physical hunger,

                        from the bread and fish and eggs in today’s gospel,

to our summer indulgences like Boardwalk Fries and Rita’s frozen treats.


As Jesus did, early Celtic Christians set aside certain places and times for prayer.

            Columba’s monks kept the hours, stumbling down the night stairs

                        straight into the choir stalls, at midnight, and 3, and 6 a.m.,

                                    and interrupting their daily work four more times each day

                                                            to pray.

In the nearby Nunnery, faithful women kept their vigils,

            and as you walk among the ruins on Iona, you can almost hear

                        their chants rising in praise and petition.

But equally, and perhaps more, important was the prayer of the common folk,

 prayers that were nearly lost when the forces of “civilization” brought the highlands and the islands out of their isolation and into the mainstream of the institutional church.

Fortunately for us, those prayers have been recovered by dedicated seekers longing to find a new way to experience God, and finding a well-trod pathway that was there all along.

What Alexander Carmichael found in the late 1800s and what Esther deWaal and others have preserved for us today is a rich tradition of prayer imbued with deep reverence for the earth and the sacredness of all life. Even in harsh climate conditions, even under vandalism and persecution, even in poverty and pain, the early Celts kept up a constant conversation, speaking from their hearts but also listening — listening for the heartbeat of God. The most mundane tasks were offered up to the sacred Three-in-One, in close communion with all the company of heaven.


I make this bed

In the name of the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit

In the name df the night we were conceived,

In the name of the night we were born,

In the name of the day we were baptized,

In the name of each night, each day,

Each angel that is in heaven.[6]

Prayers for laying the fire, for milking the cow, for churning the butter might not be part of our daily lives – certainly not mine, in urban Alexandria! – but I wonder: can I offer a prayer for taking out the recycling? a prayer for setting up a new printer? a prayer (God help me) for driving on the Beltway?

In a hundred small moments of each day, the Celtic people are teaching me to pray.

*  *  *

Who taught you to pray?

We all can name many teachers in our lives, but above all, we can thank that

Teacher with a Capital T.

                        Because Jesus knows our hunger for God,

                                    he gives us his own words to feed our souls.            

                                    Whole books have been written on each phrase of his prayer

            and we could spend many weeks breaking apart this feast

                                    to savor every morsel.

Instead, I suggest a simpler exercise — considering how, in our own prayer lives, to weave two strands into one seamless fabric.

From the teachings of our Lord, the traditions of the Church, and the voices of millions of saints living and dead, take the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer in one hand.

In the other, take the earthiness of the Celtic tradition, the  homegrown practice of plain language, and the quiet comfort of listening for the heartbeat of God.

Blending these two rich roads to relationship with God is something I’ll be exploring in the months ahead, and maybe you’ll want to, too.  

An image from the abbey at Iona might help.

There, on a simple rock ledge near the altar, stands an ornate brass plate, leaning upright against the wall beneath a window. The plate is polished to a fine sheen, so that all of the ornamentation around the edges and the inscription in the center shine bright. It’s clearly one of the Abbey’s cherished objects.

And right next to it, equally accepted, equally valued, sits … a plastic water bottle, with the label still on, holding a handful of bright yellow wildflowers and some spiky greens that could be called weeds.

In a microcosm, this image reminds me that separation between sacred and secular is just an illusion. Common and holy are loved and treasured by the God who created all things and longs for their renewal – for our renewal.  Living and praying are one, and separation from God has been repaired in Jesus Christ, human and divine, who showed us how to live and taught us how to pray.

As we pray his words together today, I hope we’ll all listen with new ears.

Listen to what the prayer says

about the God you hunger for, who feeds you with fruits of the earth and with his own self.

            Listen to what it says about what God wants us to do

            as we BECOME Christ’s body,

            for the coming of the kingdom.

Above all, today and every day, listen FOR THE HEARTBEAT OF GOD.


[1] J. Philip Newell, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spiritualit ( Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1997).

[2] Newberg, Andrew, Eugene D’Aquill and Vince Rause. Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief (New York: Ballantine Books, 2001).

[3] Rahner, Karl. The Need and the Blessing of Prayer (Collegeville, MN: Order of St. Benedict, 1997), p. xiii.

[4] Ulanov, Ann and Barry. Primary Speech: A Psychology of Prayer (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982), p. 1.

[5] Rahner, p. 1.

[6] de Waal, Esther. The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination. New York: Image Books/Doubleday, 1997.

Let’s talk about food — and people

Acts 11:1-18 & John 13:31-35

5 Easter – 4/28/13

St. Paul’s Alexandria

The Rev. Dr. Rosemary Beales


Let’s talk about food.

If I said that to the children I teach every day, they would be all over it. There would be no hesitation to talk about favorite foods, and what they find disgusting, and what they would like to eat right then and there.

 But for many of the adults here — myself included — food has become a source not of joy, but of anxiety. We worry about how much we eat, when we eat, and above all WHAT we eat. We keep track of how much salt, sugar, and fat we consume — there’s even a book by that title, Salt Sugar Fat,[1] which is an eye-opening description of the way certain foods are engineered to be addictive. For all the right reasons, we search out organic foods, whole foods, local foods, clean foods.  Somewhere between the garden of Eden and the grocery store, food has become a source of anxiety.

 There was a lot of anxiety about food in Peter’s time, too. As a faithful Jew, he had been careful all his life to observe the dietary laws laid out in the lists in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Such observance was important as a way of maintaining the Jewish identity, keeping the faith community distinct from the gentiles around them.

 Suddenly, Peter has this strange vision about food. A great sheet, like sailcloth, floats down from heaven holding all manner of animals, clean and unclean, and the voice from above says, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” The first part of that command may be repulsive to us, insulated as we are from how our meat gets into those neat, cellophane packages. But it’s the second part that offends Peter. He is horrified at the thought of eating forbidden food. Yet, 3 times, the voice insists, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”

 Peter gets the message. And a knock comes at the door. Suddenly, Peter’s vision is no longer about food. It’s about people. Three gentiles ask Peter to come with them to the home of Cornelius, another gentile, and now Peter is no longer worried about keeping himself separate and pure. He hurries away with them, prepared to preach a powerful sermon. But while he’s still warming up, the Holy Spirit shows up, and a whole household becomes baptized.

 The book of the bible this story comes from is called the Acts of the Apostles. But in this passage, at least, it’s the Acts of God that transform both Peter and the community around him. Peter’s vision is not just about food; for God gives him the vision to see a beloved community that embraces people of all nations and tribes.

 I wonder if somewhere that night, Peter is recalling, and reinterpreting, a command he heard in an upper room months before, the command of Jesus we heard in our gospel today: “Love one another... By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love….”

 Food and love. They DO seem to go together. You know in your own life how many times they mingle. A little story from Los Angeles helps us see this connection in another way.

 An artist named Ron Finley woke up one day and realized he lived, in his words, “in a food desert.” South Central LA, he saw, had loads of liquor stores, lots of vacant lots, and a kaleidoscope of fast-food joints. Though his neighborhood has a reputation for drive-by shootings, more people, he says, were dying from the drive-THRU, eating food that was bad for them because they didn’t have easy access to healthy, affordable food. Obesity and diabetes were rampant, and Finley says, “I got tired of seeing my people die.”

 So God gave Finley a vision – instead of a food desert, a “food forest.” On median strips, vacant lots, and rights-of-way, Finley and his group,  LA Green Grounds, began to plant. Despite resistance from the city — which owns much of the land — Finley’s group, LA Green Grounds, persisted, and won They’ve taught people to garden and given teenagers paying jobs and purpose. They’ve helped people recover their health. Gardening, Finley says, is “a tool for the education, the transformation of the community. Plus, you get strawberries.”[2]

 Finley’s vision, like Peter’s, is not about food. It’s about people. It’s about LOVING people.

 For him, the way to show that love is teaching people to grow their own groceries. For you, loving people might be something different.  For all of us, it’s the Acts of God, loving us, that enlarge our vision to see in strangers a beloved community. It’s the Acts of God that give us the grace to live the gospel words we hear today: “Love one another.”                                                                                                                      Amen.

[1] Michael Moss, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (Random House, 2013).

Sermons are posted here, too!

I have decided to post sermons on this blog, as posting on church websites can be spotty, and I have served as “supply” (substitute) in a number of different places this summer. I hope this is useful both to Godly Play practitioners and to others who ask for copies.

It’s not completely irrelevant, as my work with Godly Play is what drew me deeper into the Word and the Great Story in which we all move and live and have our being. Over the years, engagement with the stories and wonder about God led me to seminary and to ordination in the Episcopal Church. Not much of my preaching explicitly mentions Godly Play, but all of it is informed by the practice of going deeper into the story and daring to ask questions of the text, always seeking the core metaphor and the essential meaning for today — all familar to Godly Players!