I was moved by the new statue of Hungry and Thirsty Jesus outside the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, and also by the urge some obviously had to give him something–the coins are not part of the sculpture. Though I couldn’t help thinking that if we’d only put bread on that plate instead, he might have fed our hunger.

A sermon for the twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40

Beautiful baby

When my kids were little, I liked playing with some of their toys more than others. Legos and Duplos were high on my list. Today’s joy: seeing that my granddaughter likes Duplos as much as I do.

The bright colors, the even rows of bumps, the interesting way they stick together and come apart, even if the intention to build something is still a long way off. Call it mindfulness or just the wisdom we have as babies but lose as we grow up, you know if you stop and pay attention that there is such pleasure in these little things. Even the simple act of passing a blue block back and forth, hand to hand, an act of connection, can be a moment of happiness.

Terrible things are happening in our world; don’t think I haven’t noticed. Don’t think this talk of bumps and blocks is just a silly distraction from what really matters. Yes, we must be about the business of making things right, but we’ll never have strength to persist in this work if we don’t remember to stop and enjoy the simple pleasures of being human.

I loved the way people smiled at me today as I pushed my granddaughter through the streets of the city. The man who said “beautiful baby” as we passed spoke the truth, but I know that what he really meant was that life itself is beautiful.

Back home we played with blocks some more and then she fell asleep on the couch, leaning against my leg, as I sang “You Are My Sunshine” (my repertoire is limited) and rubbed her back. And that made me about as happy as I think it is possible to be.

Beautiful baby. Beautiful life.

Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Today we begin those couple of Sundays people like to call “stewardship season.” That isn’t really a very good name, but it is a convenient shorthand. Church people know what it means: You’re going to get a letter with a pledge card and a deadline for returning it, and for the next couple of Sundays the sermon’s going to be about giving in support of your parish.

But good church people should know that true stewardship has no season. It’s not a synonym for fund-raising.

It’s a way of life that begins with recognizing God’s abundant generosity, and it’s all about our grateful response. It’s about how we use what we’ve been given in all areas of our lives. It’s about how we spend our money. It’s about how we use the abilities we’ve been given. It’s about how we care for the earth.

Wee wisdom

Life has been feeling harder than usual lately, for various reasons. I seem to know a lot of people who feel that way these days. Best antidote I know: spend an afternoon playing with a baby if you can, and for those who have no easily accessible baby at hand, I offer these bits of baby wisdom about living well:

Laugh a lot. Cry when you’re sad. Wave at everyone you pass. Blow kisses if you see other people kissing. Pat the dogs if their owners will let you. Share your toys. Applaud for yourself often. Eat what you like, and feel free to toss what you don’t like on the floor. Make funny sounds with your mouth just because it feels good. Check out everything you see, even if the tall people tell you it’s trash; they have no idea how much interesting stuff there is down at ground level. And go ahead and let them put funny hats on you. Sure it’s silly, but it makes them smile and keeps them coming back for more.

A sermon for Sunday, October 8, 2017

The city of Assisi in Italy is built halfway up a low mountain in the region of Umbria, and when you approach it from a distance it’s strikingly beautiful. What you see is this long expanse of white buildings, and in the sunlight they have a pinkish glow. You have to go up the mountain to get to the city, and you can’t park or drive in the middle of it, and so when we visited last year, we parked at one end of the town and then walked down the main street to the other. The first place we stopped was the church that contains the font where St. Francis supposedly was baptized toward the end of the twelfth century. From there we went on to the place where they now have the San Damiano cross, that famous cross before which Francis was kneeling in prayer when God gave him the commission to rebuild the church. And finally, at the far end, we came to the Basilica of St. Francis, where Francis is buried. Now to get into the basilica, you have to go through a checkpoint that’s guarded by armed soldiers. And I couldn’t help wondering what Francis would think if he came back and found that he had been buried in such a grand place, and found it protected by armed soldiers. …

Live as if it mattered

“Coffee before talkie.”

Scarecrow wisdom. And pretty much how I start each day.

As I sat quietly with my coffee this morning, I happened across this advice to a student from one of the community partners working with the service program at the university where I used to be employed. It made such an impression on me that I wrote it down.

The student had just complained that the bad things in the world are so bad they seem hopeless. “There’s no way it’ll ever be fixed,” he said, “so what are we supposed to do about it, and what’s the use, anyway?”

And our community partner came right back at him: “Look, you use your brains and your hands and whatever you’ve got, you do whatever you can, but the important thing is that you get up every day and go out there and live your life as if it made a difference.”

Coffee before talkie. Live as if it mattered. Sometimes the truth is just that simple.

Love all God’s creation

Offered in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast we celebrate today:

“Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day.”

~ from The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Why beauty

If I lift up innocence and wonder, don’t take it as a denial of all that is tragic in our world. If I let the horror be all I see, I might lose the resolve to resist it.