Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dancing in a Fountain of Light- Reflection on the Mystery of Epiphany

Had a lovely day, celebrating a House Eucharist with my community and then sneaking out to St. John's Parish, the Jesuit's church on Creighton University for an evening Mass. Driving home into the sunset, and reflecting on the day's words and beauty I felt moved to share the following.)

Epiphany- Ἐπιφάνια or epiphania in Greek means "manifestation" or "appearance," and is a very holy day to Christians around the world. I've been realizing more and more a love for the ancient language of Mystery[1]
of the Church to fit my vision of the Christian faith, and felt inspired to write a few words about that Mystery, in its most Cosmic sense, as I experienced it today.

in the traditions of the Church East and West,

and my own deepest faith,
dances between two extremes...
It is not a secret ritual to be hidden from the world,
as some Greeks and Romans lived their prior traditions...
But nor is it a loud clanging gong,[2]
to bash others over the head with to change them,
as if that ever helped anyone!

But rather it is Divine center to which can be returned again and again,
Hidden because it contains more than can ever be described,
but seen because it shines out as a Light that changes all it touches,
Healing and changing the World and human hearts with the Glory of God Sometimes through, but also in spite of us Christians!

The many Mysteries of the Church's year can be what the Celts called thin spaces, peeling back to show what Christians believe is the Deepest Reality.

Epiphany, one of these mysteries goes back to the early days of the Eastern Church, especially Egypt. It echoed earlier traditions, of a god or goddess appearing to a person in wonder... or of a king who claimed Divinity coming into the city and expecting people to look impressed!

But for the Church, Jesus comes to us in a wondrous way, as a new kind of Divine King, one that changes everything by starting upside down, where He is least expected.

That the Creator of all things looked down into a Creation,
Beautiful but also Hurting,
and sent Godself into the very deepest part of it,
becoming utterly vulnerable,
and forever united to it in a special way,
So filling it with God's own Light,
a Light that bursts forth in all Creation,
making all things new,
and who Christians worship in the Face of Jesus.

Seen with joy under a star by holy men of another faith,
throwing a good party because his mother told him so,
and having the Heaven-sent Spirit dance over him like a Dove.[2]

But that Light is there not just to be worshiped,
or just there for Christians,
or even there for humans only,
It goes down deep, and spills out into all Creation,
Like a glorious Fountain, expecting us to do the same.
Striving to see, as God does,
the utter Beauty,
and deep Pain,
Of every living being...
And loving them in that Light,
till that day when All Shall be Light.

I caught a glimpse of it today...

Laughing with friends around a table...

...The sunlight dancing down to surprise us, forgetting it isn't yet spring as we step outdoors...

...Praying, later under a tall stone church for a hurting world

The bubbling of Many Waters...

...And coming out to a a line of trees, Those Who Stand Praying,[5] forgetting for a moment their winter slumber and asking me to bless them, like a crowd of children running for hugs outside a church...

I am truly grateful,
and pray I shall not soon forget it,
when the road leads through dark places.

Eternal Amen

Notes, dastardly geek that I am. :P

[1]A special thanks goes to an article by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M in the December '10 "Catholic Update" of St. Anthony Messenger Press, whose words on the holy days of the year, of "facts" and "deep truths" helped inspire some of this.

[2] The three parts of Epiphany in the Eastern church, Anglicans echo it today as well.

[3] What Paul tells us NOT to be in 1 Cor 13:1, but warns we will be without Divine Love in all we do.

[4] The Greek Orthodox church, in all its Creation-centered awesomeness teaches that on the day of Epiphany, every drop of water in the world is holy.

[5] The beautiful Mandan peoples' name for trees as they dance in the wind gloriously, calling us to pray among them.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Special Prayers for Sudan

As many may be aware, Sudan is moving towards a MAJOR vote in which the Southern region- largely comprised of Christian and indigenous religious groups long persecuted by a majority Muslim North- is approaching a vote which will continue a peace process by allowing them the right to form their own country. Unfortunately, it is widely feared the North will not recognize this vote, or that the vote itself will be rife with intimidation or abuses. My church, the Episcopal church as well as the Diocese of Nebraska in which I work has special friendships with the people of Sudan and is strongly urging everyone to keep their struggles and hopes for a peaceful vote in our prayers.

I got to personally befriend some members of their church at our region's Annual Council this past November, when a Bishop and several leaders came to spend time with us and we decided to formalize a special partnership between our regions. One gentleman who has returned to be with is family during the vote lived right next door to our intentional community.

Appreciate prayers and support from people, regardless of their faith background on this important issue. I'm including some resources on the issue, as well as a copy of the Cycle of Prayer written up by one of our clergy for the Diocese. It offers suggested prayers for each day leading up to the vote on Jan. 9th.

A video put out on this issue by my church:

A Season of Prayer for Sudan

In solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Sudan, The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, has called for a Season of Prayer. The Archbishop of the Episcopal Church in Sudan, The Most Reverend Daniel Deng Bul, has issued a Call to Prayer.

Sudan, and the region of Darfur within it, have suffered years of civil war and genocide. An important referendum on the future of Sudan and on self-determination for the people there is scheduled for January 9, 2011. But there is no guarantee that this referendum will occur peacefully. In fact, there is every indication that violence and perhaps civil war will break out again following the referendum, no matter what the outcome.

It is for these reasons that Don Peeler and The Rev. Tom Jones, Co-Chair's of the Diocesan Global Mission Committee have developed a list of daily prayers. These prayers were crafted after Don Peeler and Bishop Ezekiel visited extensively about the situation in the Sudan. These have been specially developed for the Diocese of Nebraska, but can be shared with all who wish to join us in prayer. Please print these and share them with your parishioners and friends in Christ.

Sudanese Children

December 26, 2010 How am I? In fifteen days I will be free. I know the price of freedom is great. Millions of my brothers and sisters have already paid the price, and now I am also ready to pay the necessary price to live free. So is every other person who will vote with me. Pray for the referendum. Pray that the referendum might be held as planned without interference or intimidation. Pray for Peace. Amen.

December 27, 2010 For more than 300 years my people have struggled under the control of the North. In fourteen days we will vote for separation, but it is not separation we really want. We love those who have oppressed us just as we love ourselves. We only want the freedom to govern ourselves, to control our own land, and thereby our destiny. Pray for our neighbors who do not support the referendum, that they might find it in their hearts to also love us. Pray for Peace. Amen.

December 28, 2010 My heart is not troubled on this day, nor am I afraid. My Lord's Peace is always with me. But the world does not give us the same peace as our Lord. Peace in my land is a miracle. Pray passionately for the miracle of peace, as peace in the coming days shall be a blessing granted only by God to the people of Southern Sudan. Pray for Peace. Amen.

December 29, 2010 Twelve days to go. The sins of the past have been forgiven, but what do we do now? Our homes have been destroyed. Our families have been ripped apart by war, famine, and disease. We are a broken people. Pray for unity and strength, that together we may rebuild our society, and by doing so, we will bring glory to our God and His Son, Jesus. Pray for Peace. Amen.

December 30, 2010 The referendum day approaches fast now. What shall I do? The Lord speaks to us like He spoke to Paul. Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. At this time, silence means acceptance of slavery. We are not slaves. We are the children of God. Pray for those who have, who are, and who will negotiate the peaceful separation of Southern Sudan. Pray for Peace. Amen.

December 31, 2010 One year closes, and another shall begin. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Trust in the Lord, today in the old year, and tomorrow in the new. Pray that His plan for us shall bring the fruit of His spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness to all. Pray for Peace. Amen.

January 1, 2011 The sun rose today to mark not only a new day, but a new time for our world. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, those who have been called according to His purpose. Pray that we always remember God's purpose for us, and in gratitude that He is always with us. Pray for Peace. Amen.

January 2, 2011 The time is upon us to be strong and courageous. We are not terrified; nor are we discouraged, for the LORD our God will be with us wherever we go and through whatever may come. Pray for us during this last week, and pray for the leaders of the world, that we remain steadfast in faith and firm conviction. Pray for Peace. Amen.

January 3, 2011 Our needs at this time are great, but where do we start? Spiritually we are strong. In faith, we are stronger. In all things of Heaven we are blessed in abundance. In all things of earth, we are destitute. Our food supply for the coming year was lost to this year's flood. Pray for a sustainable source of food, for the introduction of agricultural technology, for assistance rather than relief so that we might use our resources wisely to become self sufficient. Pray for Peace. Amen.

January 4, 2011 The chains of poverty have bound us tightly for hundreds of years. As freedom approaches, we know education is the key to advancing the quality of our lives. The girl's school being built in Wangulei will accept its first students in a few months. Please pray for the best of days when every child might have the benefit of an education because with education comes the understanding needed for our people to live peacefully together. Pray for Peace. Amen.

January 5, 2011 Too many babies die as the result of birthing complications. Too many mothers join their babies in Heaven. Proper health care for all is a priority of a new, free nation, yet the rate of illness is like a mountain to be moved. Pray that safe water, better nutrition through sustainable agriculture, and health education might lessen the need for medical facilities until they can be built throughout the south. Pray also that medical facilities which exist today will no longer refuse to treat those voting for separation as no one should have to choose between medical assistance and freedom. Pray for Peace. Amen.

January 6, 2011 We are now just hours away from the vote. Our clergy have done well to prepare us for the coming day, but our clergy are tired and often ill prepared to face the tasks at hand. 270 pastors tend to a growing flock of more than 600,000 Episcopalians in Twic East Diocese alone. Many use scrap cardboard for a collar. Many do not possess a Bible, and share the Good News of God from memory only. Most can barely support themselves, yet are called to support others. Pray for our clergy, for the good work they have done, and for the strength they will give us in the coming days and beyond. Pray for Peace. Amen.

January 7, 2011 Freedom is in sight, but let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author who has made our faith perfect, the man who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. If we are free, it is because of Him as He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was set upon Him, and by His wounds we shall be free. Pray that Jesus be with us in these last hours of darkness to provide the light for all to see the glory that shall be His. Pray for Peace. Amen.

January 8, 2011 Can it be? Is it just one more day for us to live under the rule of the north? It is like 300 years have passed in one moment, but at the same time took millenniums to come. We are tired, yet cannot sleep in anticipation of the dawn of a new day. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Pray for our rest from the burdens we have carried, as we cast off the burden of our load. Pray that we might soar with the song birds, and with all angels, singing praises to God for all that is good. Pray for Peace. Amen.

January 9, 2011 How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in peace!!! Today is not our day, but God's day. This is true whether we vote today or any other day. God has looked favorably upon us, and caused us to be free. Your prayers have brought us to this day, and we are grateful. Pray for us always as we will pray always for you. The joy in our hearts will be complete when you set your feet in the soil of a free and secure South Sudan.
Pray for Peace. Amen.

Blessings to all