Our Sister Phoebe, a Deacon

Theological musings inspired by the Spirit and totally Ellen…

Archive for the category “God”

>Yokes That Are Tailored to Fit

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I’ve been off the radar for the last couple of weeks due to a nasty infection – oral surgery is not one of my favorite pastimes. During an uncomfortable time, Jesus’ words offered a lot of comfort. When I don’t have the strength, or am in pain, there’s someone to lean on.
This last Sunday’s gospel from Matthew 11:16-18, 28-30 is one of those passages in the Christian scripture that despite Jesus’ denunciation of Bethsaida, Chorazin and Capernum, he invites us to come to him that our burdens may be lifted from our shoulders, and how beautiful the invitation is:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give
you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble
in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

(Matthew 11:28-30).

Such a deal, one might think! I can just let Jesus take care of everything.

It’s this deacon’s opinion that nah, don’t think so.

Jesus offers a shoulder to lean on, but I think he would expect that in dark times, in times of uncertainty, frustration, fear and pain, we turn to Him for guidance, to learn from His example. And while we’re being offered support, maybe that will give us time to put matters to prayer and have the strength to act on whatever we’re being called to do in Christ’s name. From Jesus of Nazareth we can model His new command-ment – love one another as Christ loves us.

I often quote this and mention it in conversation and sermons and in my writing, but it bears repeating, that and his paraphrasing of Deuteronomy 10:12-15 at Mark 12:29-30 and Matthew 22:34-40:

“The most important one,” {commandment} answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength. ‘ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than this.”

(Mark 12:29-30)
Loving your neighbor, whether a friend, a stranger, or a co-worker with which you barely share three words in one day, is difficult. Love comes more easily if we let our egos and human frailty, our tendencies to want to be first, and our search for perfection in beauty and mind, to be the center of the universe. And that’s where Jesus’ yoke comes into play. Yokes are those harnesses that go over the shoulders of an ox or horse to keep them attached to a wagon, cart, or plow. It’s used to help bear heavy loads. Made of hardwood, they’re pretty heavy – but not as heavy as the cross-beam Jesus carried on humanity�s behalf in his exhausted state to Golgotha. Once we get out of the blinding sun of our own wants and needs, and step into the shadow Jesus we are able to take up the yoke � one made with Jesus’ support and the strength of love and faith, of submitting our hearts, souls and minds to the ever-present, ever powerful, unconditional love of God and loving Christ as we love the Father.
Go in peace, dear ones!
With God’s love and mine, Ellen+

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>Wandering In From a Spiritual Desert

>I’ve been in a desert of sorts.
A few of my friends ask why I feel I’m having difficulty connecting with God; after all, who’s my Daddy?
The last weeks have been painful – spiritually. I haven’t felt God’s presence, nor can I hear the Word.
Having one’s hands annointed, being consecrated an ordained leader, wearing all the trappings on Sunday mornings and holidays doesn’t guarantee instant spiritual connection or enlightenment.
What it does guarantee are moments of uncertainty, doubt, loneliness – just like everybody else.
I keep asking why? I keep asking where are you? When I meditate and use the image of the walk in the forest, there’s a boulder in the path – like the giant stone rolled in front of the entrance of Jesus’ tomb, or the giant marble that chased Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Let me give you a back story.
When I begin my contemplative prayer, I close my eyes and put myself on a path leading into a forest from a field of wheat. I walk through the forest on the path, heading toward a gate, beyond which is a clearing that leads down hill into a valley where there’s a castle (well, there’d have to be a castle if it’s my imagery, right?) and a village surrounded by hills and lush greenery. It’s my goal to pass through the gate and go down to the castle.
I’ve only reached the gate once.
Lately, as I walk on this path in my mind and heart, the boulder is in the way. There’s no way around it. The trees are too thick to walk around and the boulder is too heavy to move.
So I’ve been trying again and again to walk through this path.
A few minutes ago, while typing the foregoing, it hit me.
I’M THE BOULDER IN THE PATH.
I’m preventing my spiritual connection and journey.
I’ve let my unhappiness and loneliness build up a wall of sorts to God, when all I need to do is let God.
I need to let it be.

With God’s love and mine,

Ellen+

>Wade in the Water

>It’s a safe bet that a majority of people raised in the church don’t remember their baptisms because they were infants or toddlers when they were emmersed, sealed and marked as Christ’s own. Then there are those Christians who for whatever reason weren’t baptised until they were older children, youth or adults. I’m in the second category.

Actually, I’m not.

My baptism happened when I was eight years old on a warm August evening. For days I’d been pestering my mother about becoming Christian. All of my friends were Roman Catholic (the largest denomination in town) and I wanted to be part of that exclusive club. Not because everyone else was doing it, mind, but because from an early age, I felt it was necessary for me to be who I was.

Let me give you the back story: my parents were Roman Catholic on my mother’s side and Lutheran on my father’s. My parents were married in the middle of World War II in a civil ceremony. Because of this, we weren’t baptised as children due to the prohibitions of the church in those days.

I pestered my mother with questions about God, religion, Jesus, Mary and Joseph – which is what she used to sigh when I posited yet another question: “If women can’t do anything in the church like boys, why did Jesus see Mary first?” – “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Ellen! The questions you ask!”

I continued my quest for baptism until one night my mother had had enough of my questions and sent me to bed.

I climbed under the covers so my sister couldn’t hear my sobbing. When it was quiet and I was sure everyone was asleep, I went to the bathroom and turned on the taps. Filling up a glass of water, I tossed it on my face saying, “Father, Son, Holy Spirit – you’re baptised! Amen!”

That’s not what my mother said when she came in and saw the water all over the bathmats and tiles.

I didn’t mind the week of restriction for payment for audacity. I felt I had done the right thing.

My truly Christian baptism came 34 years later at the age of 42, at my home parish of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, at the Great Vigil. Here I was sealed and marked, and seared – the baptismal water was a tad warm and I was the first to be baptised that evening. The rector whispered to me, “It’s a little warm,” as she baptised me. I still have a mark on my forehead where the first drops of water landed. I consider it my outward and visible sign.

Why did it take me so long to be baptised?

I went through Roman Catholic catechism and I read the baptismal covenant. Frankly, I didn’t think I could keep the promises I was being asked to make: “Will you proclaim by word and exaple the Goods of God in Christ?” Well, I figured, in order to do that, I’d have to be better than others – act better and live a better life than most. “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” For me, it was hard to find a loving Christ in fellow office workers, family members, even myself – and serving them!

For years I struggled with these questions, and then I realized that God doesn’t want me to be perfect, just do God’s perfect work. Christ said, “Be perfect as our Father is perfect.” But what does that mean? God created our world! God is everywhere! How am I able to do that?

Creation is full of little mistakes and imperfections, just like me. God wants me to to strive for the holiness one can only have with a deep and committed relationship with Him through Christ and creation, through my brothers and sisters.

Baptism, I discovered, doesn’t make you holy, it sets in motion a wonderful, frightening journey towards the Kingdom of Heaven. Eventually, we all get there. How we get there is up to us and God and it begins with one step at a time, the first when we put a toe in the Jordan River.

Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord,

Ellen+

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