Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Having a martini with you


Having a drink with you

is even more fun than going to such exotic places as St. Malo, Inverness, Gdansk or Milnor
or being sick to my stomach on Broadway in Fargo
partly because in your perfectly 1950s dress you look like a better happier St. Gianna Molla
partly because we like each other, partly because you love wine and I, teetotaling vegan that           I am, love virgin mojitos
partly because of the music that plays in my world and your world
partly because of the secrecy we share about the people we love and wish for
it is hard to believe when we’re together that our bartender notices not you but me,
who promises to lick even the last drop of that delicious liqueur from the shaker he so expertly handles like the hands a lover has for the one he loves
and still, despite that, we share there a solemnness as unpleasant as the talk of a pretentious composer of popular music
in the warm Fargo 9 o’clock light in which we are drifting back and fort
between our talk like the sun which is escaping us in this dusk we ignore

and the mirror beside us reflects not our faces but the clothes we wear and the pain
we bring to this table with its inlaid crescent moon
bronze as the skin of those we long for and love with a love so intense it brings tears to our 
               eyes
and in this instant we wonder

why
why in the world anyone ever ignore us or not love us or refuse to see in us
the beauty we see in each other

                                                                   I look
and you look and we would rather look at all those people we know and love who
stare back at us like portraits in a gallery with all their pains drawn on their faces  except possibly the ones we long for and love most who stare back us at like
the elongated turqoise wonder of the frescoes at Decani or the incessant haloes honesty of 
           Keelan McMorrow
and it’s not this at all but rather, as Frank O’Hara said, at the Frick
which we thank the heaven we hope in together
and which some day will welcome us with a beauty we can only glimpse at
now in this hidden corner of an out –of-the-way bar far from those
we can’t escape

we sit here straddling 40
the same age Frank O’Hara was when he stepped out in front of that dune buggy
on Fire Island in that summer before we were born
and the life that lies behind us
and the life that lies before us
is laid out so clearly we can’t quite recognize either
and yet still we know that’s all there
all planned out for us
all written out for us as the prophecies of some wild-eyed
visionary who gazed into the void and saw
in that clarity
the heaven toward which we are headed

but we haven’t gone to that heaven yet
to that place our dear friend Ron has gone to too early for our comfort
and the fact that we move through this dusk so beautifully more or less takes care of
the scared music we hear in our that spark of life within  us
just as intense and Baroque as Mikolaj Zielenski’s Beata es virgo or
at a rehearsal of a singer whom we envy and love in our own way
and what good does the liturgies and music of the church do us or them
when they never got the right person to sing their hymns
we don’t sing hymns
we sings songs of love lost or resurrected or ascended
like that One we know loved and lost and was resurrected and was ascended

oh let’s face it
we’re the pure ones
we have thought long and hard about all of this
we have been tossed to the whim of love for too often in our lives
and it seems that we have been cheated
because others have had this experience and are content in their daily lives
snuggling and hugging each other and whispering sweet-nothings to each other
in nights that never end but go on blissfully like heaven
while we are here drinking and crying
but it’s not lost on me
oh no
which is why I am sitting here in this dusk telling you about it


(after the poem “Having a Coke with You” by Frank O'Hara)

 for Michelle Gelinske

From the chapbook Having a Drink with You by Jamie Parsley, copyright 2011, published by Enso Press, Fargo.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

3 Epiphany

Annual Meeting Sunday
 January 26, 2014


1 Corinthians 1.10-18; Matthew 4.12-23

+ This past week I had a strange malady that seems to occur only at this time of the year. My stupid ulcer. Ugh! It seems like every January I have a flare-up of that stupid thing.
Anyway, this past week I just happened to make that observation—this ulcer always seeming to flare up in January—on Facebook. And our own John Ranney said, It must be Annual Meeting time.
 I think for some priests, Annual Meeting time IS a time for ulcers.  I have been to Annual Meetings in other congregations that were contentious and divisive.  So, no wonder those priests are so apprehensive.
 But not so for me. Being the priest here at St. Stephen’s, I can say Annual Meeting time is actually a good time for me.
 Why shouldn’t it be? It was an amazing year last year at St. Stephen’s And I am looking forward hopefully to 2014.

 This is a  great time to be at St. Stephen’s. There are ministries ‘a poppin’, shall we say. This past year, people at St. Stephen’s just stepped up to the plate, again and again. We have a very solid acolyte corps. We have a great Altar Guild. We have people stepping up to do things like Lectoring and Worship Leader and Eucharistic Visitor. We have people working in the gardens and on the maintenance of our building. We have people helping out in the Pride Parade and Sundaes on Sunday and Salvation Army, and many other areas.

 Our liturgical and musical life here at St. Stephen’s rivals that of many cathedrals.

 Yes, this so-called “little church” in northeast Fargo is a power house. There is an abundance of spiritual energy emanating from this place, emanating from the people here, emanating from this altar.  It is an amazing place to be, as we all, this morning, know full well.

 In our collect for today, we prayed

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works…

That could be the prayer for all of us at St. Stephen’s Because that is what we are doing here. We are readily answering the call of Jesus to proclaim to all people the Good News of salvation.  We are doing so in our actions. We are doing so by our presence. We are doing so when we stand up against injustice or suffering or inequality, which we do very well here at St. Stephen’s.

We are leading the way in what the Church should be—a place in which love dwells. A place in which love of God is proclaimed and the love of others is shared.  We are living out that commandment to love.

That commandment to love is not a burden to us. But it is, rather, a call to freedom. It is a call to service. It is a call to be Christian.

These past few weeks, I have been preaching about Baptism again and how important Baptism is in forming us as followers of Jesus.  Our Baptism, of course, is the basis for all that we do here at St. Stephen’s. In those waters of baptism we were called to carry out the ministries we now do here. In those waters, in which we were marked as Christ’s own forever, we were washed in the love that is now the basis of our ministries here.  It was there in that font that we began following Jesus. It here, now, that we truly recognize the wonders of following him.

In today’s Gospel, when we find Jesus and his first followers going through Galilee, “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom,” we realize that the call to us to be “fishers of people” is not necessarily a call to preach wordy homilies to people.  Most of us here at St. Stephen’s do not do that. I don’t  even do that outside of Sunday mornings.  Proclaiming the good news and being fishers of people simply involves  communicating the truth of that reality through our personality.

And let me tell you, in case you haven’t noticed, we have personality here at St. Stephen’s. Quite a personality. And if you don’t think we do, you aren’t listening to what others are saying about us. People are talking about the amazing thing that are happening at St. Stephen’s.

This past week I had lunch with Canon Zanne Ness. Mother Zanne will be here on Sunday, February 23 while I am on vacation.  At our lunch, she shared with me some of the stories she’s heard throughout the Diocese of what people have heard about St. Stephen’s—about our growth, about our vitality, about the amazing ministries we are doing here, about what God is doing here.  People are talking about the new way in which we are doing things, and how we are doing these new things while still keeping our traditional worship.  (She was particularly impressed with the title we have been given as Smoky St. Stephen’s).

Our demeanor, the choices we make as a congregation, the commitments we make, the love we share and the very way we live our lives in this congregation is a noticeable thing.  Our whole presence as St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Fargo, North Dakota,  is essentially a kind of walking sermon, even if we personally don’t say a word.  And to a large extent this personality, this charisma the Holy Spirit has granted to us, was formed long ago in those waters of our baptism.

This morning, as we plan for another year of ministry, we gather here together and with all the Church that has already been and that will be long after us.  We gather to ponder and pray about the ways in which we may proclaim God’s Kingdom.  We come together, marked as Christ’s own forever, to think about the ways in which we can use this distinctive personality we have as a congregation.

“Follow me and I will make you fishers for people,” Jesus said to those first followers.

And, this morning, on this Annual Meeting Sunday,  he is saying it to us as well.  So, let us follow him.  Together.  Let us follow him from the waters in which we were washed to whatever place he leads us in our lives in this coming year.  And, as he does, let us follow him with joy and gladness singing in our hearts.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2 Epiphany

January 19, 2014


John 1.29-42

+ I realized something the other day. I have a reputation. I have being someone who, when I start something, I am committed to it. For better…or, sigh, for worse.

If you don’t want something done, don’t ask me to do it. And if I’m committed to something, I am committed.

Well, to prove that point, if to no one else but myself and God, in a few weeks, on February 6 to be specific, I will be observing a one-year anniversary.  It’s not one that’s probably important to anyone else, but to me. On February 6th, I will be observing my one year anniversary of being a vegetarian.  If you can believe it.

I was, for the better the better of last year what is known as a lacto-ovo vegetarian,
meaning I didn’t meat, but I did eat milk and eggs.

There was a problem with that, however. Ever since I was about 21 years old, I knew I was lactose-intolerant.  A situation I ignored for the better part of these twenty years.  Ignored to my own detriment. Well, going lacto-ovo vegetarian only put everything into perspective for me.

So, I’ve actually even taken it all a step further. Six weeks ago, I went vegan. Vegan meaning, I am not just not eating meat. It means, no dairy, no eggs either.

Or to put in the words of the character Todd from one of my guilty pleasures, the film Scott Pilgrim Versus the World:

“I partake of neither the meat, nor the breast milk nor the ovum of any creature with a face.”

Despite my dairy intolerance, I can tell you, being vegetarian was fairly easy. Being vegan—well, not so easy. In fact it was daunting. It was just so…hardcore. It was like joining the Marines or the Trappists or something.

But it’s been very good for me.  My health has blossomed in ways I never even expected.  And the longer I’ve been on it, the easier it’s been.  Well, except for the fact that people I used to dine with have stopped asking me over for meals.  And I get lots of weird looks for restaurant servers when I order things like cheese-less pizza.

Of course, along with being vegan, one realizes that there is a health issue on side of it, and there is a moral issue on the other. One of the best side effects is my new appreciation of animals. Now that I’m not eating them or things that come from them, I’ve just been more aware of them and appreciative of them and I enjoy them more than ever have.

And for someone reason, this past week, as I was meditating on our Gospel reading for today, the whole image of Jesus as the Lamb of God really hit home to me in a new way.

In today’s Gospel reading we find John the Baptist calling out not once but twice, identifying Jesus as the Lamb of God. Now, I know, you’re thinking: “Geeze Louise! Now that he’s gone vegan, he’s getting all soft on us. Now we’re getting a sermon about sweet little lambs.”  Ahhh, not so.  Sweet and gentle is not what John saw when he observed Jesus at the Lamb of God.

For John, what he observed when he looked at Jesus and saw the Lamb of God walking past, was truly a  thing that would make most vegans cringe: he saw that sacrifice that was seen in the Temple in Jerusalem. There, the lamb was sacrificed—and quite violently sacrificed—as a sin offering for the people.  And before John, prophet that he was, walked One who was one day going to be the sacrifice as well.  He saw before him not Jesus the man, but the Lamb, broken and bleeding.

In our images of the Lamb of God, we don’t have just a fluffy little lamb.  In our images of the Lamb, if you look at them closely, we see the Lamb pierced.  We see blood pouring from the side of the Lamb.  We see a sacrificed Lamb.

In our Sunday Mass, we have been singing the Agnes Dei—the Lamb of God—after I have broken the bread.  I am so happy that we do.  This “fraction anthem” as we call it, carries such meaning.

In it we sing, essentially,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, Have mercy,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

Then you see me hold up the chalice and that broken bread and you hear me say,

“This is the Lamb of God. This is the One who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are we who are called to this supper.”

I cannot tell you how many times I have stood at this altar during that anthem and looked down at the broken bread on that paten and looked into that cup and had a moment of spiritual clarity. So many times I have looked at the broken bread and the cup and thought, this is Jesus.  This is the Lamb of God.

For me, that moment of spiritual clarity is very much like the moment John recognizes Jesus as the Lamb.  For me, it might as well be the Baptist’s voice in my ear, announcing to me that this is the One. And it should be for all of us.

But more than just some mystical experience is this concept of the Lamb being broken.  Why do we break the bread at the Eucharist?  Why do I, when I hold up that broken bread with the chalice, and say, “This is the Lamb. This is the One who takes away the sins of the world…”?

Yes, we do it to symbolize the broken body of the Lamb.  The Lamb was broken.  The Lamb was sacrificed.  And it is importance to recognize that.

But it symbolizes something even more practical.  We break bread, so we can share it.  We break this bread and then break it and then break it again until it becomes small pieces that we must share with one another. And not just here. It also means we take what we have eaten here—this Lamb, this Jesus—and we share him with others, through our love, through our actions of love, through our acceptance of all people in love.

This Lamb that we know and recognize also is broken so we can share him with others.  It is not enough that we simply recognize the Lamb.  We must recognize the Lamb, broken for us, so that we can share the Lamb with others. And that is the purpose of our lives as Christians.

Yes, we gather here and are Christians.  But we are also gathered here so we can go out and share this Lamb that has been revealed to us.  And in sharing the Lamb, others too can share the Lamb.

So, let us listen to the voice of the Baptist proclaiming in our ears, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

Let us hear that voice when I hold up the Bread and the Chalice.  Let us hear that voice as we come forward to share that bread and drink from that chalice.

But let us continue to hear that voice too when we leave here.  Let us hear that voice proclaiming the Lamb of God as we share Christ with others, in all that we do as Christians, in the differences we make in this world around, in all the good we do and say in our lives. When we do heed that voice, we will find ourselves, as we heard in the beautiful collect from this morning, “illuminated by [God’s] Word and Sacraments” and being illuminated, we will “shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped and obeyed to the ends of the earth.”


Sunday, January 12, 2014

1 Epiphany

Baptism of Our Lord
January 12, 2014


Matthew 3.13-17

 + I’m only speaking for myself here. It might be different for you. But 2014, for me, is a very important year. Why, you might ask? Well, on June 11, I will be celebrating the 10t anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood.

 10 years as Priest.  It’s a big deal. Not a lot of priests make it ten years. It’s a hard job, after all.  But I very grateful I am going to be celebrating my 10th anniversary.

 These past ten years have certainly been interesting…. And I have been busy. As many of you know, I am bit obsessed numbers, at times. I keep track of numbers.  I like keeping track of numbers.

 Well, on Ash Wednesday, if all goes as scheduled, I will be celebrating my 1,000th Mass as a priest.  This Mass is actually my 989th Mass.

 1,000 masses in ten years!  You wonder why I look forward to my vacations each year!

 I have also officiated at 55 weddings. And I have done just over 50 baptisms in that times.

 After Mass, Baptisms especially have been my joy as a priest. Ok. I know some of you are already sensing where this is going. It’s gonna be another of one of those Fr. Jamie Baptism sermons.

 Yes, I have to say, it is.  After all, we’re celebrating the Baptism of Jesus today!  And so of course we’re going to talk about baptism.  And ministry Because this is what it’s all about for us as Christians.

 All ministry—the ministry we all do together—stems from that transformational event of our Baptism.   In fact, to be baptized means, essentially, to be called to ministry.  It means to proclaim the God we have found in Jesus by the very lives we live and by the joy we carry within us at being a people in relationship with that God.  When we look at our spiritual lives and our ministries in the “big picture,” we cannot do so without seeing that big picture circling and being centered on the singular event of our baptism.

 For those of you who have visited the rectory you have no doubt seen my own baptismal certificate on my wall.  It is there with my ordination certificates.

It is there to remind me and to help me commemorate that incredible event in my life 44 years ago—this event that changed me and formed me.

 And we all should do that in our lives.

We all should find our dusty baptismal certificates and write down the dates of baptisms and celebrate that event in our lives.  After all, everything we do as Christians should come from the joy and amazing beauty of that simple event. As you all know, as you have heard me preach from here many, many times, probably to the point you start rolling your eyes, Baptism is not a sweet little christening event for us as Christians.  

 It is not a quaint little service of dedication we do.  For us Episcopalians, it the radical event in our lives as Christians.  It is the event from which everything we do and believe flows. And when we look at the actual service of Baptism in the Book of Common Prayer, the words of that service drive home to us how important that event is.

 For example, after the Baptism, when the priest traces a cross on the newly baptized person’s forehead, she or he says, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever.”

 You have heard me preach on those words before. And trust me, I will preach them again and again. I will because they are probably the most important words we are ever going to hear in our lives.  That is not just some nice little sentiment.  Those words convey that something transformational and amazing has happened in the life of that person.  This is essential to our belief of what happens at baptism.

 In baptism, we are marked as Christ’s own.  For ever.  It is a bond that can never be broken.  We can try to break it as we please.  We can struggle under that bond.  We can squirm and resist it.  We can try to escape it.  But the simple fact is this: we can’t.

 For ever is for ever.

 On this Sunday on which we commemorate Jesus’ own baptism—on this Sunday in which we remember the fact that Jesus led the way through those waters of baptism and showed us a glimpse of all that happens in this singular event, we should remember and think about what happened at own baptisms.  Yes, we might not actually remember the actual event.  But the great thing about baptism is that, our own individual baptismal event was, for the most part, just like everyone else’s.

 In those waters, we were all made equal. In those waters, the same water washed all of us—no matter who are. In those waters, there are no class distinction, no hatred, or discrimination or homophobia or sexism or war or violence.  In those waters, we are all equal to one another and we are all equally loved.

 In a few moments, we will stand and process to the font and renew the vows we made at baptism.  When we are done, I will sprinkle you with water.  The sprinkling of water, like all our signs and actions that we do in this church, is not some strange practice a few of us High Church-minded people do.  That water that comes to us this morning is a stark reminder of those waters we were washed in at Baptism—those waters that made us who we are Christians, those waters in which we all stand on equal ground, with no distinctions between us.

 Here at St. Stephen’s, all of our ministry—every time we seek to serve Christ and further the Kingdom of God in our midst—is a continuing of the celebration of baptism.  Sometimes we lose sight of that.  Sometimes we forget what it is that motivates us and charges us to do that wonderful work. Here at St. Stephen’s, we have wonderful reminders to us of how important and life-changing this baptismal event was and continues to be in our Christian lives.

 For example, the baptismal font in the narthex—the place we actually baptize—is always uncovered and always filled with fresh, blessed water.  This is not some quaint, Anglo-Catholic tradition that spiky Fr. Jamie introduced here. This is a very valid and real practice, and a vital reminder to all of us how that event of our baptism changed and transformed us.

 It is good for us to take that water and bless ourselves. It is good for us to be occasionally sprinkled with water as a reminder of that event in our lives.  It is good to feel that cold water on our fingers and on our foreheads and on our faces as a reminder of the waters that washed us initially.  And, as you have heard me say many, many times, it is good to remember the date of our baptism and to celebrate that day, just as we would a birthday or a wedding anniversary.

 Today, on this first Sunday in Epiphany, we start out on the right note.  We start out celebrating.  We start our commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan.  And by doing so, we commemorate our own baptism as well.

 In our collect today, we prayed to God to “Grant that all who are baptized into [Jesus’] Name maybe keep the covenant that they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Saviour.”

 That should be our prayer as well today and always.  We pray that we may keep this Baptismal covenant in which we seek to follow Jesus and serve all people equally and fully in his name, no matter who they are.  And we pray that we may boldly confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, by all that we do as Christians in seeking out and helping others in love and compassion.

 May we always celebrate that wonderful baptismal event in our lives.  And may we each strive to live out that baptism in our ministry of love and service of God and of one another.  Amen.

 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2 Christmas/Epiphany


January 5, 2014
 
Matthew 2.1-12
 

+ I don’t mean to rub it in your faces or anything. I really don’t. But, I just got back from Mexico this past week. The temperatures were in the 70s and 80s. And of course I am counting the days until my vacation to Florida (38 days)

 Sorry, but it’s what gets me through these winters.  After all, we are, this morning, suffering through the coldest temperatures here in twenty years—temperatures not that far off from what it is on Mars.

 Now, I love to travel. Well…actually, I love to go to wonderful places. But, I don’t really like traveling per se. I don’t like connecting flights, and getting up early in the morning to catch a flight and sitting on crowded flights.  I don’t like the act of traveling.  When, oh when, will all that stuff we sat on the Jetson’s finally take place—you know, instant travel to exotic places!

 Now, here I am complaining today and, we have just heard about these wise men who traveled under worse conditions than anything I ever had.  You gotta give them credit.  It would take great faith and great bravery to load up everything, including valuable like gold and spices into that time of highjacking and robbery and just head off into the unknown.  But these men did just that. These “wise” men did something that most of us now days would think was actually na├»ve and dangerous.

 Originally, of course, the word used for these men was “astrologers,” which does add an interesting dimension to what’s occurring here. Astrologers certainly would make sense.  Astrologers certainly would have been aware of this star that appeared and they would have been able to see in that star a unique sign—a powerful enough of a sign that they packed up and went searching for it.  

 And it certainly seems like it was a great distance.  They probably came from Persia, which is now modern-day Iran. And they would’ve come in a caravan of others.  These Magi are mysterious characters, for sure.

 We popularly see them as the three wise men, but if you notice in our Gospel reading for today, it doesn’t say anything about there being three of them.  There might have been four or five of them for all we know. Certainly, it might seem strange that I am talking about the Christ child and the Magi.

 It’s the beginning of January, after all.  Christmas already feels long over.  Most of us have put away our Christmas decorations.  Trees came down quickly in the first few days after Christmas, the rest in the days immediately after New Years.  Since we’ve been hearing about Christmas for months, we are maybe a little happy to see the Christmas season go away for another by this time.   We’re ready to put those trappings aside and move on.

 The fact is: the Christmas season, for the Church, began on Christmas Eve and ends today. Tomorrow is the feast of the Epiphany, which we are sort of commemorating today, despite the fact, as I heard from one priest friend of mine, it is a very major violation of the rubrics to move the Feast to today.  We’re still celebrating the Second Sunday of Christmas today. The greens are still up.

 But, I think Epiphany is important for us, and so, hoping God and the Bishop will forgive me, we’re gonna talk about it today. And we’re still gonna Proclaim the Date of Easter, Bless the Chalk and have 3 Kings Cake.  After all, I seriously doubt most of you are going to show up tomorrow for a special Mass for the Feast of Epiphany.  

 So, what is the Epiphany really?   Well, the word itself—Epiphany—means “manifestation” or “appearing.”  In this context, it means the manifestation of Christ among us.   God, in Christ, has appeared to us.  And in the story that we hear this morning, it is the appearing of God not only to the Jews, but to the non-Jews, as well, to the Gentiles, which we find represented in the Magi—those mysterious men from the East.   Epiphany is the manifestation of God in our midst.  Epiphany is a moment of realization. 

 In this feast we realize that God is truly among us—all of us, no matter our race or our understanding of this event.  Epiphany is the realization that God is among us in the person of this little child, Jesus.   Over the last month or so, we, as the Church, have gone through a variety of emotions.   Advent was a time of expectation.   We were waiting expectantly for God to come to us.  Christmas was the time of awe.   God was among us and there was something good and wonderful about this fact.

 Epiphany, however, gets the rap for being sort of anti-climactic.   It is the time in which we settle down into the reality of what has come upon us.   We realize what has happened and we accept it.  A bit of the awe is still there.   A bit of wonder still lingers.

 In this morning’s Gospel, the wise men are overcome with joy when they see the star stop over Bethlehem.   But, for the most part, despite the joy they felt, we are now moving ahead.   There are no more angels singing on high for us.   The miraculous star has begun to fade by this point.   The wise men have presented their gifts and are now returning to home to Persia.  It is a time in which we feel contentment.  We feel comfortable in what has happened. 

 But, in a few weeks, this is all going to change again.  We will soon face the harsh reality of Ash Wednesday and Lent.  Now, I know it’s hard even to think about such things as we labor through the deep freeze that have descended upon us lately. But it is there—just around the corner. In March. The time of Christmas feasting will be over.   The joys and beauty of Christmas will be replaced by ashes and sackcloth and, ultimately, by the Cross.

 But that’s all in the future.   Christmas is still kind of lingering in our thoughts tonight and, in this moment, we have this warm reality.   God has appeared to us, as one of us.   When we look upon the face of the child Jesus, we see ourselves.

 But we see more.  We see God as well.  In this Child the divine and the mortal have come together.  And for this moment—before the denial of our bodies in Lent, before the betrayal and torture of Holy Week, before the bloody and violent murder of Good Friday, we have in our midst, this Child.

 We have God appearing to us in the most innocent and most beautiful form of humanity possible.  It is the Child Jesus we delight in now. It is the Christ Child we find ourselves worshipping at this time. And in the Christ Child we find ourselves amazed at the many ways God chooses to be manifested in our midst. For now, we are able to look at this Child and see God in our midst.

 With Lent coming upon us, we will find God manifested in other ways—in fasting, in penitence, in turning our eyes toward the Cross.

 For now, we are the Magi.  We are the ones who, seeking Christ, have found him. We are the ones who, despite everything our rational minds have told us, have decided to follow that star of faith we have seen. We, like them, have stepped out into the unknown and have searched for what we have longed for. We are the ones who have traveled the long journeys of all our lives to come to this moment—to this time and place—and, here, we find Christ in our midst. We have followed stars and other strange signs, hoping to find some deeper meaning to our lives. We have trekked through the wastelands of our life, searching for Christ.

 But our Epiphany is the realization that Christ has appeared to us where we are—right here in our own midst. And this is what we can take away with us this morning—on this day before the feast of the Epiphany.  This is the consolation we can take with us as we head through these short, cold, snow-filled days toward Lent. No matter where we are—no matter who we are—Christ is here with us. Christ is with us in all that we do and every place we look.

 So, let us look for him.  Let us see him in our midst—here in our lives.  And whenever we recognize him—that is our unending feast day of Epiphany. 

 

 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Vegan Diary: 4 weeks

Today I have been vegan four weeks. It has been an incredible ride so far. No allergies (for the first time in my entire life). I have never slept this well ever. I feel better than I have in a long time.

And yesterday was  five weeks without Diet Coke. It now all seems like some distant dream. I am no longer even remotely tempted. And I have had to word hard on breaking myself of simply ordering it at a restaurant (after so many years of doing so, it’s just natural).

The veganism has definitely been the best things I could’ve ever done for myself. My weight is own. Not as much as I’d like it to be. But, I realized that because I have been having such fun these last four weeks exploring a whole, brand-new variety of foods, that probably explains the lack of more weight loss. Now that veganism is starting to lose its initial luster and I am settling into it all, I will return to my old schedule of eating.

Having said that, however, I can say that although the scale has been slow, the noticeable loss has been unique. After looking in the mirror and seeing the loss, I expect the scale to reflect that same loss. Not necessarily so.

Also more trial and error: I realize that much of the so-called “vegan food” is really heavy in carbs and fat. I have found myself going more natural in the foods I eat, and, now that I have passed the four week mark, I will cut back a bit on what I eat once again.

Once I discovered almond milk, the whole dairy issue was gone for me. I realized as long as I have almond milk, coconut milk, etc., I never need dairy milk again.

I have been trying to visit all my own restaurant haunts to see if I can find something vegan. The good news is that most of them are very accommodating. The wait staff almost always says they will double-check to see if anything I ordered contains dairy. Some even sympathized with me. I did get a strange look from the wait staff at Old Chicago the first time I ordered cheese less pizza, but the ensuing conversation we had was worth it all. (She did tell me the cook was worried he was going to burn the pizza—he had never made one before—but it was good and I made sure to send him my personal appreciation for doing it).

It’s certainly been a great experience so far!