Monday, July 23, 2007

Christmas Every Wednesday

I am a small farmer's daughter - and have gardened most of my life. I live in Albany now and don't have a yard or land of my own. But I've discovered Community Supported Agriculture! I can support other local small farmers and stay connected to growing food when I can't do it myself. Signing up with Full Belly Farms was one of the best things I've done in awhile! It's really the very next best thing to growing my own family's food. Every Wednesday, I go to a Presbyterian church courtyard to pick up my box of just picked fruits and vegetables. This week, the Full Belly farmers delivered melons, heirloom tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, long beans, garlic, corn and peaches! It's like Christmas every Wednesday!

Eating local is not only the best thing we can do for the environment, but it really is the best thing to do for our palates and pleasure! Try it!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Do This and You Shall Live

Proper 10, Year C.
Good Samaritan Sunday
The Rev. Linda Campbell

Wisdom from the ancient rabbinic tradition tells us that the world stands on three things:
Torah, Worship and Acts of Kindness.

"The world stands on three things." I take it to mean that these are the three most basic aspects of being human that serve the whole community of creation. These three things are at the root of what we humans have to offer in the way of safeguarding creation and ongoing life on this earth.

Jesus summed up the Torah this way: Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself. If you do not know how to love God, that is ok, because all you have to do is turn to your neighbor and take at least as much interest in them as you take in yourself. What does this do for the world? It breaks open the prison of our own egos, of the illusions of our own separateness. It opens the way towards less judgment of others and greater ability to see clearly what is right in front of you. To truly love our neighbor as much as we do ourselves is humanly impossible, really – without intervention by the Holy Spirit. But making the attempt to love in this way – to love as Jesus did – grounds us in humility, in the reality of our own selfishness, and breaks our heart open for God’s love and compassion to come pouring in. We find out that to truly love others necessitates our complete dependence and acceptance of God’s love for us. Our vision shifts – we are no longer so utterly taken up with our own survival that we are able to let God’s love flow like water into us and on through to our neighbor. The world stands on those who love in this way, and upon those who make the attempt to love in this way. Torah – love God. Love neighbor. Love self.

The second pillar is worship. Jesus summed up Worship this way: “This is my body which is broken for you – whenever you eat, remember me.” What do you remember about Jesus? I remember his own hunger. His hunger to include all kinds of people – people at the center of power, and people who had been completely discarded and left out and abandoned as useless. His hunger to make life better for those who came to him for help. His hunger for the playfulness and kindness and openness and trust of children. His hunger for those who could pray with him and trust that God was good and would act on their behalf – just as fortunate children trust their dads and moms. What does worship that remembers Jesus do for the world? When you and I take all that our lives are – the good, the bad and the ugly, offer it all to God and ask God’s blessing on all of it serves to unburden us from the past and free us from the future. When we are brought into the present with all that we are and have been and might be, and when we offer all that to God, God uses you and me for new purposes – for purposes of good and not bad, for purposes of life and not death, for purposes of reconciliation and not further tearing apart of the fabric of life. You and I can be renewed and made new – this morning – in this worship – in this bread – in these prayers – in this silence. God can and will send you out with direction and purpose and meaning for goodness and health.

The third pillar is Acts of Kindness. Jesus summed up Acts of Kindness this way: “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me”. Mark says that “Jesus went about doing good.” “We know that Jesus cared deeply and constantly for the most vulnerable and he demanded that his followers do the same. He reached out to and healed the sick, comforted the mourning, had compassion on the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd, forgave the shameful sinner, loved the unlovable, and brought the lowest person out of their isolation into the center, to the head of the table. Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “Go and do likewise.” He linked worship of God with practical acts of charity, saying that if we didn’t feed the hungry, visit the sick and clothe the naked, we were refusing to serve him, since he dwells in these people.” But most of all, he urged us to have compassion, to open our hearts and feel for those who are hurting and lost, and then be moved to do something for them.

But he also knew that he and his disciples couldn’t make everything all better. He didn’t heal everyone in every village. After he left, people still got sick and hungry. He reminded his disciples that “you will always have the poor with you.” So that could have perspective on their good works. And in the midst of doing good, Jesus didn’t neglect himself – he withdrew to recharge. He loved parties. He enjoyed life. He lived in such a way as to demand of us that we respond with great compassion and practical comfort AND that we learn to do what we can and let go of the rest, entrusting the rest to God’s care and other good-hearted people.

Acts of kindness. Practical compassion. Doing what we can with what we have. This is the third pillar upon which the world rests. It is a precarious pillar isn’t it – because we can only do so much – and there is always more to do. There is and always will be far more suffering than any one of us can possibly attend to. So this pillar relies on the whole people of God doing what they can and then unburdening themselves, “knowing that ultimately this is God’s beautiful and broken world and God will continue to care for it, using the hearts and hands of others long after we are gone.”

You’ve already heard some of the stories those of us who were in New Orleans brought back from our work in the 9th Ward, and you’ll hear many more! This morning, I want to tell you about Lilli. One morning, a family that was traveling across the country on vacation came to the Children’s Camp. It was the middle of the morning. The children were already hot and wound up. This family – Episcopalians by the way! - had brought presents for the children from the 9th Ward. A little background: This family lived in Phoenix – and one day as the mom was driving her kids, the oldest girl, who was severn years old, saw a homeless man, and immediately wanted to do something for him. Her mom explained that there was nothing they could do. But Bethie was determined. It’s hot and dry in Phoenix, Arizona, and Bethie persuaded her mom to buy a case of water bottles to keep in the car. Whenever they saw a homeless person after that, Bethie had water ready to offer. But she didn’t stop there. She began to use her birthday money, and eventually persuaded many people to send her donations. With that money, she purchases small things – like children’s books, little toys, candy, crayons – and puts them in paper lunch bags, draws a heart on the bag, and personally gives them to children in homeless shelters – along with her smile. When she found out that her family would be traveling through New Orleans on their vacation, she went shopping for supplies for 30 bags – each one labeled for older boys, younger boys, older girls, younger girls. So, there we were, at the children’s camp on St. Claude and Tupelo, hot and wound up, and Bethie and her family showed up. Bethie and Ellen, her younger sister, were amazingly shy that morning and clung by their mom’s side. Lilli, our shy little Lilli, walked up to Bethie and Ellen, and said, “Hi, my name is Lilli, would you like to come and sit with me.” Lilli held out her hand and led the two sisters to a table in which our children from California, and the children from New Orleans had already made friends. They all scooted over and made room for the new girls from Phoenix, who brought the bags – but who, even more, along with Lilli and the other children, brought the deep wisdom of vulnerability and friendship.

Torah: Love God and your neighbor. Worship: Take bread, bless it, break it, and offer it. Acts of Kindness: Share what you have with those who do not have. These are the three pillars of Christian wisdom – rooted in the more ancient Rabbinic tradition.

“Do this,” Jesus said, “and you shall live”. And Moses said, “What I am telling you is not up in the heavens, nor deep in the oceans, nor far across the sea – it is as near to you as your own mouth, as your own heart.”

* Brian Taylor, Becoming Human, Core Teachings of Jesus