Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

The Jesus Message- lighten up, do not worry, smile!

The Jesus message is about shalom, peace, seeking well-being for self and others in chaotic times. 

In the story of the healing of Peter’s sick mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31) Jesus lifts her up ( helps her to be filled with energy) and she serves a meal. The word used is diakoneo, the root word of deacon. I imagine that since her home was a meeting place for Jesus and his companions, there were lots of gatherings, delicious food ,and of course plenty of laughter. So too, at every meal, we remember that Jesus gathers at our tables - lifting us up- telling us not to worry, assuring us to  be at peace  and smile even if the sink overflows with dishes and our lives are a  hot mess!

Monday, June 3, 2024

Homily for Corpus Christi Sunday by Barbara Glatthorn MSW CSW, Free Spirit Inclusive Catholic Community, North Carolina


Homily for Corpus Christi Sunday by Barbara Glatthorn MSW CSW:


The Scriptures andJesus in particular, use a lot of stories or parables set in the material world that could be tasted, touched, heard, and seen to point to a deeper spiritual reality – to attribute characteristics to God, the Divine Transcendent Mystery.  But from the perspective of the science that we have available to us today, nature in and of itself reveals the Divine, not just by metaphoric comparison, but rather in terms of what we know to be true about the universe and our planet Earth.  Nature also reveals to us who we are in terms of the whole of reality.  In other words, creation reveals the Creator.  St. Augustine said in his time that:  Nature is the first revelation of the Divine.  It’s just that at the present time we know so much more about the universe that there are far greater revelations to be had than were possible for previous generations.

The core of our service today is the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus during the course of the Passover meal just prior to the point of climax in his earthly life.  Mark’s rendition is very short, just the bare facts:  Jesus takes bread and wine and refers to them as his body and blood which is to form a new covenant – a new relationship with the Divine, just as the Exodus covenant formed a relationship between Yahweh and the early Israelites.  Jesus does this within the context of a meal which naturally is a relationship builder.  How many times has that been true in our own lives?  We make friends in the sharing of bread and wine and the conversation and laughter that ensues.  Later, Paul introduces the idea that we are the Body of Christ.  For me the celebration of today’s feast is amplified by our understanding of relationship as the core principle of the universe.  Thomas Berry called it communion and referred to the universe “not as a collection of objects but a communion of beings”. The universe is about relationships and the interconnectedness of all things.  I think that the expansion of the narrow perspective that we had in the past – as the Body of Christ to be reverenced and adored – is changing into a more dynamic reality that is strongly supported by science.


As we begin today, I’d like to ask each of you to engage with me in a very short exercise:  please place your hands on your heart firmly enough to sense your beating heart.   We’ll take just a few seconds.  As you sense the rhythm of your heartbeat, you are experiencing your deep connection to the Universe: a universe in which everything is interconnected.  Your heartbeat is dependent upon a tiny atom of iron that is only produced by supernovas and galactic explosions.  This tiny atom of iron is contained within the hemoglobin protein that transports oxygen from your lungs to your heart.  We are literally connected to the stars.

Similarly, we are indebted for our breath to a single-celled microorganism that many years ago began to produce oxygen by using sunlight for energy (a process we call photosynthesis). Over time enough oxygen was produced by these tiny organisms in the sea to displace the earth’s atmosphere that was heavy with carbon dioxide. Over time, the accumulation of oxygen on earth produced the Ozone layer without which no complex life would be possible.  Without which we could not live. Every breath we take is an inhalation of oxygen from this atmosphere and an exhalation of carbon dioxide which, in turn is taken in by the trees.  

We are deeply interconnected with trees, who are the major producer of the oxygen we consume.  Trees

Themselves are a fascinating example of interconnectedness.  A forest or woodland is actually a community of trees.  Through their roots and the numerous microbes and fungi that travel along those roots, trees are able to communicate with each other.  They are able to emit a warning that an infectious disease has affected some of the community, allowing trees further up the line to prepare themselves with antitoxins.  Trees help one another by passing resources of nutrients and water.  The forest of trees that circumvents the globe is making it possible for oxygen to be carried through our lungs to our heart – and that tiny atom of iron is keeping our heart beating at this very moment.  We often glibly say “Everything is connected,” and we often wish that we could believe that that is true.  But, from the perspective of the universe, it is literally true. 

Thomas Berry, a prolific writer about creation care, refers to the Universe not as a collection of objects, but as a communion of subjects.  Today, we celebrate communion Sunday.  The Oxford dictionary defines communion as “the sharing or exchange of intimate thoughts and feelings especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.”  For us Christians, communion also refers to a ritual in which bread and wine is used to commemorate the Passover meal of Jesus.  For Jesus, as depicted in the gospel of John, that meal was an intimate sharing and exchange of his intimate thoughts and feelings about union with the Father. His desire that we might all be one in him as he is one with the Father.  Jesus’ command that we love one another as he has loved us is the fire, the energy that makes union possible.  I think it no coincidence that Jesus wanted to be remembered in the Ritualized context of a meal which automatically brings people together.  Meals are the way we socially interact:  we get together for lunch, we have conversations over dinner, we build friendships and make our families cohesive over meals. And it is probably the sharing food and eating together around a fire millions of years ago by our early ancestors that fostered our most human of characteristics – that of compassion and attending to one another in the sharing of food.

As we celebrate communion Sunday today, let us also remember that Jesus used elements of nature:  bread and wine (the basic elements of most meals) with which to be remembered. In those two elements we also see the interconnectedness of nature:  bread and wine, require wheatfields and vineyards that need air, sun, water, soil, and human ingenuity to combine the elements from which bread and wine are made.  Bread and wine are concrete:  we can touch, smell, and taste them.  Bread and wine both contain a multitude of elements that are essential to our bodily function: (calcium, nitrogen, potassium, magnesium).  These all are produced by the Universe and the earth. 

In the first letter of John: we are reminded that the message proclaimed to us was for the purpose of our union with one another so that we may be united with God.  The Passover chapters of John’s gospel repeat Jesus’ desire for unity:  that we may be One.  And that we may be one so that our joy may be complete just as His joy is complete.  What better image for spiritual union can be found than that of the vine and the branches, contained within those chapters.   I particularly noticed in preparing for today that Jesus adds that he’s telling the apostles these things “so that my joy may be in you.”  Knowing we are interconnected with all of creation and in union with God, Creator of all is certainly cause for great joy.  We all know from personal experience the joy of belonging and feeling connected to nature.  I think that being more conscious of our interconnectedness with the natural world is a spiritual act – an act of communion that intensifies our thoughts and feelings and enriches our spiritual life.

In psalm 50 God is depicted as making the point that it is not the sacrifice of oxen he needs or wants, but” the sacrifice of thanksgiving instead.”  We cannot be truly grateful for or joyous about what we do not know.  We need to become more intensely aware of our interconnectedness with the earth so we can exercise our responsibility to be cocreators with God of a world where unity and true communion reign.  Teilhard de Chardin, an anthropologist and theologian, is often quoted as saying: “Someday, after mastering the winds, waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”


Question for Reflection:  What does this mean for and to us? What are we to do with this new understanding of the interconnectedness that is an integral part of our material life and essential to our spiritual growth?  


Sunday, June 2, 2024

Breaking the rules and the people who break them by Rev. Diana Butler Bass


Mark 2:23-3:6

One sabbath Jesus and his disciples were going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

July 1975. Six of the first women to be Episcopal priests celebrate communion a year after they were ordained. Episcopalians often forget how shocking pictures like this were 50 years ago.


This week, I’ve been thinking about breaking rules and the people who break them.

And if you are under the impression that this is a reflection about the news this week and Donald Trump, well, you’re wrong! I will mention this week’s events a bit below, but as an example, not as the point. The point is broader than the headlines. 

Ruminating on rules started about two weeks ago when I screened a new documentary — The Philadelphia Eleven. The film tells the story of the first eleven women to become priests in the Episcopal Church. They were ordained in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974. Hence, “the Philadelphia Eleven.” This summer, the Episcopal Church will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their ordination. 

It seems so easy now to write that line, to state it as an historical fact. But the truth is that it was a long and contentious battle within the church before and after 1974. And that ordination service in Philadelphia was anything but conventional. The service didn’t take place on Philadelphia’s tony mainline where one might expect such an event. Instead, it was hosted by a Black Episcopal church, in a packed building, and was covered by every major news network in the United States. 

The ordination wasn’t approved by the church. According to canon law at that time, priests had to be men. 

Fifty years ago, in the midst of decades of discussion and wrangling regarding the status of women in the church, three male bishops and eleven women (and more than a few deacons and witnessing priests) took matters into their own hands. They broke their clerical vows and church rules — in the process, they upended an entire denomination to carry out these “irregular” ordinations (that’s what opponents called them). The church nearly split, people and congregations left the denomination, local priests who supported their new female colleagues were brought up on ecclesiastical charges and lost their positions. The women themselves were shunned and threatened.

That’s what the documentary is about — a group of women and men who broke the rules. In doing so, they changed an entire church and its future. 

Now, I will bring up this week’s news: Donald Trump broke some rules. And, as a result, a court and a jury of his peers found him guilty on thirty-four felony counts. 

What’s the difference between eleven women breaking the rules and Donald Trump doing so? When do we celebrate rule-breakers and when are they rightly held accountable? And is there a difference between the two?

Today’s gospel lesson speaks directly to these questions — and points to rule-breaking of the right sort. 

In this passage, Jesus broke rules about the sabbath twice. In the opening episode, he and his disciples harvested grain to eat (yes, green wheat can be eaten raw) on the sabbath. In the following one, Jesus healed a man at a synagogue. When some other rabbis — the Pharisees in these stories — questioned his actions, Jesus responded with a poetic remark and a theological question: “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” and “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” 

The comment and question reveal Jesus’ intention in both incidents: Jesus helps others. He breaks the sabbath (that was pretty shocking in his context) for that great purpose.

In the first case, it doesn’t appear that he and his followers were being purposefully provocative. They were hungry. Perhaps they’d misjudged the length of their journey on that particular day (which, generally, shouldn’t have been too long on the sabbath) and hadn’t packed enough food in advance. When they reached a grain field, they picked some grain and ate. They got called out by some Pharisees for what appears to be an inadvertent infraction. Jesus responds by saying, “hey, King David did this and worse, so don’t judge us.” In effect, Jesus bent the rules — and appealed to Jewish tradition in doing so. 

The second episode, however, seems more purposeful. Maybe Jesus went to the synagogue to heal this man. Maybe his critics set up at trap. Whatever the case, it seems staged. Jesus intentionally broke the rules to provoke those watching him. Even though he violated the sabbath to heal a man, clearly a good outcome, his actions aggravated the other religious leaders. People took sides and Jesus got theologically testy: “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” 

This short text reveals an intensification of rule-breaking on Jesus’ part — the first is a bit of rule bending and the second is outright defiance. But, in both cases, the overall result is the same. Jesus isn’t breaking the rules to help himself. You may agree or disagree with his actions (his peers certainly did), but he broke the sabbath to help others, to enact justice (to feed and heal), and to make an important spiritual point about the sabbath (a point that he believed his critics had missed). 

Ultimately, it wasn’t about him. It was about other people and served a greater purpose, justified and empowered by Jesus’ connection with God.

That’s the primary test of rule-breaking: For whom is the rule being broken? For yourself, your own purposes, your power or status? Or, is the rule being broken to serve those in need? To transform what has become rote and rigid in its application? To proclaim a greater truth about community and fairness? 

And there will be consequences. That’s an important aspect of this text, but one less obvious to contemporary readers. Pay attention to the response of the critics, the Pharisees, whom Jesus angered as a result of his rule-breaking. 

Christians have long misunderstood the Pharisees. Recent scholarship, often done by Jews and Christians in collaboration, has reevaluated who the Pharisees were and how Jesus was related to them. Some believe that Jesus himself was a Pharisee; others think he was influenced by them while maintaining his own theological distinctiveness. However, it is becoming clear from history and biblical scholarship that the Pharisees weren’t quite the villains that Christian have made them out to be — and that Jesus was closer to the Pharisee’s reform movement than we were taught in Sunday school. 

That’s the unnoticed aspect of today’s gospel lesson — not that the Pharisees were bad guys. Rather, their reaction shows that if you break the rules, your colleagues, co-workers, and co-religionists will be madder with you than anyone else. 

Just ask the Philadelphia Eleven.

The parallels between today’s reading and the events surrounding women’s ordination in the Episcopal church are obvious. Indeed, it might be that the original participants modeled their actions on biblical texts like this. At first, Episcopalians who thought women should be priests worked within the system. They followed proper procedures for debate and resolutions; they played by the rules. The system, however, failed to bring about meaningful change — and, not surprisingly, even lawful attempts at reform resulted in conflict and backlash. At that point, advocates began to bend the rules, annoy the rule keepers, and taunt the system. Eventually, they broke the rules, made the change without permission, and provoked the church to face the injustice of its own policies. 

They did it because they loved the church and dreamed of a more just community. They sought what would be right and good for the whole church, for women called to the priesthood, and for generations of girls and women to come. Sure, there was a benefit to their own situation — they became priests. But that priesthood wasn’t really for themselves; ultimately, it was for others. And, in the midst of the conflict, they could have surely echoed Jesus’ point, “the priesthood was made for humankind, and not humankind for priesthood.” 

Who got mad at them? Not the editors at the New York Times or the evening news anchors. Not Presbyterians or Jews or Buddhists. Not secular college students. Outsiders didn’t much care, except that it might be cool to see women do religious stuff or fun to watch a church fight. The people who threatened the new priests with punitive actions, violence, and even death were other Episcopalians. Their own tribe. Those closest to them. 

As the documentary makes clear, the women knew there would be consequences. Years later, I got to know many of the people involved in the 1974 ordination. One of the women said to me, “The church has punished me ever since then. The institution never forgave us.” They chose to do the right thing even when their actions came at a cost. 

It won’t be for a long time, like fifty years if you are lucky, that the institution you challenged decides to celebrate you. That’s how these things work. Jesus knew that. Jesus experienced that. Jesus bent and then broke rules in the same way. And the same people became infuriated with him — those in his own community. The Pharisees were his people. 

And back to the news for a moment: The different nature of Donald Trump’s actions should, by now, be clear. He didn’t break the rules for others. He broke those rules to protect his campaign, his business, and his self-image. 

For what it is worth, many people break rules for their own advantage (even sometimes when a rule is also a law). At one point in the trial, Trump’s lawyers argued that their client did all these things to protect his wife — because smart lawyers know that rule-breaking for the sake of others is, in some cases, considered acceptable. But the jury didn’t buy it. Because they didn’t believe that was the defendant’s purpose. And intention makes a genuine difference when breaking rules and laws. 

The second test for Trump’s actions is also obvious in relation to today’s text: He lost no supporters. Those closest to him haven’t questioned or criticized him. They don’t admit that he broke the rules or the law. Instead, they complain and blame. They applaud the rule-breaker. They don’t interrogate his motives. In this situation, a rule-breaking leader bends the rules for his own benefit and his followers support him without question. He refuses to explain why or accept any consequences for his actions, because he doesn’t appear to think rules and laws apply to him. 

The Bible isn’t as arcane as we might sometimes think. Occasionally, a gospel story is as current as the week’s top story. There’s a practical wisdom in these old tales that is too often overlooked. 

It is possible to follow Jesus the rule-breaker, the one who challenged his friends to find the deeper justice expressed in the law. But rule-breaking should be a considered path, only pursued for the sake of others and mindful of the consequences. Occasionally, you change history. Sometimes you lose your job, your friends, and your reputation. But, if you bend or break the rules for a greater good, you can take comfort knowing that another person’s life was changed for the better — someone ate or someone was healed — because you took a risk on their behalf.