Category: homilies

Micro-sermons, speech-ettes, and other oomphy things possibly delivered live.

Meditation: 10 December 2017 (Columbia, SC)

[Presented at Jubilee Circle in Columbia SC with Rev. Candace Challew-Hodge]

This August while you Columbians celebrated the Great American Eclipse from your porches, I went road tripping to Missouri following the Path of Totality. My soul was in need of something celestial and miraculous and had been longing for a quest off the beaten Path of Banality, seeking new lessons of trust that everything in this crazy world happens with good reason. When you ask the Universe for new lessons though… watch out!

The Holy One sets the prisoners free;
The Holy One opens the eyes of the blind.
The Holy One lifts up those who are bowed down;
The Holy One loves the righteous.
The Holy One watches over the strangers.

This is the perfect Psalm for anyone who has ever found themselves at the bottom of a granite crevasse when it’s almost a hundred degrees out, having escaped fatal injury- but bleeding out a bit- and upon realizing it was all a magnificent lesson in accepting everything’s going to be alright- no matter what- so all you could do is laugh out loud from your pain like a crazy person there in the heat and dust stuck down in these stone cracks in the Earth. The perfect Psalm. Allow me.

The day before the Eclipse felt right for a little rock scampering. Elephant Mounds State Park is a majestic beauty of massive pink granite boulders with fascinating geometry created by cooling magma ejected billions of years ago. It’s a giant stone jungle gym where little kids dart through the narrowest of canyons, with not at all dangerous heights and depths for out of shape adults with treadless sandals and heavy camera gear to schlep around on. I’m scuttling along, and I want to hop across a small-ish gap. I’d already chucked my gear over, now it was time to chuck me over.

Do you remember those cartoons of the Road Runner, as he was about to go over a cliff? Everything would stop for a second- he’d take a final panicked look at the camera- uselessly spinning his legs in the air- and plummet. After impact, I realized just how stupid that was. I’m not Indiana Jones. I’m Asheville Joslin. I had several gashes, one on my elbow was especially prolific. I had put together a little first aid kit, kinda meager but there it was. And I just started laughing in my pain, trying one-handedly to bandage myself up, nothing was working because of all the sweat and the dust and my awkwardly wedged position. It was ridiculous.

The Holy One sets the prisoners free;
The Holy One opens the eyes of the blind.

In my youth, gravity was too kind. I believe I was spared a few “whoopses” then so I could do more with modern-day graceless miscalculations. Other than having this penchant for wanting to learning things the hard way, there had to be a reason for all of this- that’s when I heard the voice behind me. It belonged to a kid, maybe 10 years old, who stood with ready confidence.

“Hey mister, my name is Brandon and I’m certified in First Aid and my Mother is an EMT Tech and she’s right over there and I’d like to offer you help if you want it if that’s okay?”

Imagine my shock. I’d just dropped perilously in-between walls of stone and out of nowhere here’s a medically trained 10 year old who is fearlessly offering help to a sweaty, puffy, bleeding, struggling, crazy looking… stranger. Stranger danger is instilled in our bones, yet breaking all conventional wisdom was radical kindness embodied in this Midwestern Messenger.

The Holy One lifts up those who are bowed down;
The Holy One loves the righteous.
The Holy One watches over the strangers.

“I would like to offer you help if that’s okay,” says the child. Says the child to the wounded. Says the child to the Unknown. When did we last say those words- to a child? When did we last say those words- to the Unknown? What a world of miracles it could be- starting right now- if with the bravery of a child, we offered help. What a world of learning trust it could be- starting right now- if we worked to overcome the fear that prevents us from asking those questions. I don’t believe this child was exceptional- I believe what he did was entirely natural. It’s how humans “do” being human- when we aren’t stuck on subdividing ourselves into this and that. We are in the Holy Days, we are in the days of celebrating the light we carry and how we increase that light within each of us- through acts of grace, mercy, and love. It’s more than saying these things that assures us that the light shines— it’s doing them. Breathe Deeply.
Xavier Rudd is an Australian musician who has the rare distinction of being fully initiated and accepted as an Aboriginal despite his European ancestry. His lifelong work for Aboriginal and Ecological justice through music and the arts has earned recognition from the United Nations and a worldwide respect among First Nations peoples. This song is not a holiday song in the least, but I suggest it is about making these days holy.

Follow, follow the sun
And which way the wind blows
When this day is done.

Breathe, breathe in the air
Set your intentions
Dream with care.

Tomorrow is a new day for everyone,
Brand new moon, brand new sun.

Today we are on the cusp of celebrating Chanukah, a miracle of assurance that an inextinguishable light is far more than oil and wick- it’s the miracle of divine assurance. You know assurance Jubilants, when you leaned into it and said that we are now keeping open a Sanctuary where we affirm the Holiness of all of Creation. That includes the divinity of every being that has been or will be- even the beings that oppose us. It ties in directly with the message of Chanukah. The oil burned for eight days instead of one; so why go through life with a “one day faith?” Lean into assurance! Lean into a new “meant-to-be-ness” to make way for the holy to do its work through your hands.

So follow, follow the sun,
The direction of the bird,
The direction of love.

Breathe, breathe in the air,
Cherish this moment,
Cherish this breath.

Tomorrow is a new day for everyone,
Brand new moon, brand new sun.

Tomorrow is a new day for everyone alright. It’s a new day that calls for us to show up. People say that we don’t have the miracles of the books of old anymore- well we can argue until we’re blue in the halo about that, but I do believe in the Holy and I do believe that we don’t need those kinds of miracles even if they did exist. We need miracles of compassion, of grace, of mercy, of justice, of deep and substantive social listening, and personal acceptance. Miracles aren’t magic tricks- miracles are gifts of complete surprise that incapacitate ordinary thinking and doing. A new day is a given, because the Earth spins- making a gift out of that by asking “how can I help?” is what can make it a miracle for someone else.

When you feel life coming down on you,
Like a heavy weight;
When you feel this crazy society,
Adding to the strain-
Take a stroll to the nearest water’s edge
Remember your place-
Many moons have risen and fallen long, long before you came-

So which way is the wind blowin’,
And what does your heart say?

“Greetings, favored one! God is with you.” (said the Angel Gabriel to Mother Mary). But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid

, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

So here, we get to experience Mary’s shock. An angel comes down- already this is a big deal. Remember the angels you put on top of trees are not the angels that are always described- sometimes, we’re looking at many wings, not an aerodynamic situation. Gabriel has frightened people before. So when he says “Do not be afraid,” Mary be like “Tell me not to be afraid!” And she even has to handle the news that she’s going to be carrying a child, without… Joseph’s help. Who just trusts that? And… we know the rest of the story; two millennia of civilization have been built on it- for better or worse. For some, this is quite literal. When you think of how many moons have risen and set before your brief time here, how many spins around the sun we get to take, and are taken without us… hearken to the permanence of the mantra “be not afraid.” Why not? Why not let go of fear and accept the angels standing before us? It is both frightening- and astonishing- to suddenly recognize our fragility and our divinity, and the strange angels among us reminding us- “be not afraid”?

So follow, follow the sun,
And which way the wind blows
When this day is done.

Brandon, the 10 year old medically trained angel told me where he and his mother would be and pointed toward the way out.  “Okay, you be safe mister, bye!” I wiggled free from the narrow crevasse, only to find that I could’ve avoided the jump and walked down the other side of the rock, gotten back to the path, and even had a nice little sit on a bench. As I was putting myself back together, another kid, a few years older, was about to come tumbling over the rock. I told him where he could shimmy down. “Thanks man,” he said. “I could’ve really busted my ass.” No problem, I said. “Someone showed me the way.”

So follow, follow the sun,
And which way the wind blows
When this day is done.

[w/m (c) 2013 Xavier Rudd]

When a way of life has a birthday


Audio here.

Jubilee’s birthday is a solemn occasion. Astrologically, Jubilee isa Leo, meaning we’re humble, meek, and never ostentatious. Allow me therefore to don this very somber hat. [I put a basket on my head, in lieu of a proper silly hat]

I was born under the sign of Jubilant and destiny unfolds in its own time, so to stumble down this pathway the planets had to align just so. My best friend found Jubilee first, reporting I’d like it because “there’s jazz.” I wasn’t immediately swayed, there’s all kinds of jazz, and I was then entrenched in another congregation’s committees whose holy book was Robert’s Rules of Order. Yet it was inevitable- the Dances of Universal Peace called me in, the Aramaic Study Circle called me in, then in 1998 you called me in. On the cusp on the Millennium, I’d collaborated a bit on a New Year’s Eve service; when everyone was freaking about Y2K I was freaking about my soul. Midnight struck, the room was lit by candles, everyone sang “This little light of mine,” fireworks boomed around us- and I broke down, right over there. I finally admitted to the Universe that I was a being- what mends that? Looking up from tears I saw light. Light upon light. Ubi Caritas mended me

, Anam Cara mended me, Ishq Allah M’abud Lillah mended me, holding hands and praying with others mended me. Do I still have cracks in me? Oh yeah. We all are a tad cracked, so may it be, as the saying goes “Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light.”

The joy of this community is that we are community. That’s among the many components of the Main Thing. Crossing that doorway, we’re  immersed into an ecosystem where the self is found in the spirit of service; to other humans, fellow creatures, the Earth, the Cosmos, our Ancestors, Successors and in service to This Holy Moment. That right there is legacy.

I’ve heard we Jubilants are too dang upbeat sometimes; that’s a symptom of Keeping The Main Thing The Main Thing we’ve gotta live with. It’s what you get for practicing acceptance regardless of belief, loving without question, and giving because it’s a call to life, not a By-Law. Some of you will know the phrase “we can only keep what we have by giving it away;” by that, we are overflowing in an abundance that’s steadfast and changes lives forever because of you.

If Jubilee’s your new thing, wade in the water for a while- it’ll take getting used to but it’s best experienced when you’re soaked and splashing the heck out of each other. It’s our birthday, it’s a party y’all, and when we blow out candles on our cosmic cake consider your wish. Perhaps it’s for us to love more, to stand for justice more, or summon the Holy into sweat-drenched efforts to uplift the shunned more. These are gifts we get to unwrap only by gifting what we have for the good of our crazy, sweet, cracked yet healing world. In the words of a New Radicals song:

“You’ve got the music in you

One dance left

This world is gonna pull through

Don’t give up

You’ve got a reason to live

Can’t forget

We only get what we give.”

Introduction: Bellringer

Welcome to Point Be, a collection of brief weekly meditations as inspired by a new transformative journey I’ve begun with a beautiful community called Jubilee!, here in Asheville NC. I accepted ordination from that joyous gaggle last week, which was/is/will be a wildly transformative experience. Below is the text of a micro-homily I gave that morning, and it’s both a test of this new site and serves as my first entry. Welcome friends.

Last Week I was in SC with Candace, our minister with Columbia’s Jubilee Circle. Then, the most controversial piece of cloth in the US waved silently in the Solstice sun behind the state house. Now, I’m tearing up at a cartoon of a confederate flag descending, the rainbow flag ascending- while Charleston’swounded families show the world what radicalforgiveness looks like. What a week for Amazing Grace! Can I get an Oh Yeah?

The Story of today begins when I was a 3-ish year-old toe-headed daydreaming ragamuffin when my first transcendent, spiritual experience. I grew up in NewCastle Delaware, a colonial town with a church at its heart that began construction in 1598. At three, that church was a huge jungle gym that creaked and glistened. One Sunday, the important looking people in the balcony invited the boy in oversized Navy Blues to come and pull the rope

, ringing the bells during a sunshiny Eucharist. Some of you know that I really put a lot-sometimes too much- effort into volunteering my time. Well…

I may not have been eating my spinach but the result of that pull lifted me way up into the air, and the robed folks around me tugged me back to Earth with muffled laughter. I had flown! I was Superman, but also much more, the sound of that bell vibrated something in me, shook loose a screw, and I yanked again when they thought it was all over, the bells clanged, I laughed, and savored again for those few seconds ecstatic flight, boundlessness, maybe a force that drew me to that God Thing I was supposed to begin noticing and minding.

Like birds, spaceships, shooting stars, for mere seconds, I shared a communion with the improbable, the nameless. Meanwhile,the city of New Castle heard bells ringing slightly out of order. Surely, some townsfolk noticed.The rung bell is an ancient call to attention. Something is happening, is changing, people, draw ye near. When those bells ring, it’s not about the bell ringer, it’s the bell. It’s the message, not the messenger.//If I had a bell, I’d ring it in the morning,I’d ring it in the evening, All over this land. //For every hung-up person int he whole wide universe …we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing. Or,apropos to marriage equality- or queer lil’ ol’ me, you can ring my bell! Jubilants, 39 years passed since I was first lifted into the lofty air of another church called Immanuel, a name pregnant with meaningfulness today. Emanuel: God is with us,through us, as us, and still mysterious unto us. What we do know is that we have each other, and in this place we call Jubilee, we ring bells calling us to attention and intention, regardless of our personal understanding of God. Holding hands after the bell sounds- feeling the warmth, the pulse of life, the very exhalation of stars, momentary expressions of a Universe that stumbledupon a formula called you. As we move onward from this holy moment, I thank you for the honor you bestow, and ask you- to whom will you offer the bell to today? And when the bell rings, how will you answer?


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