Hold that thought

This is Michele — John and Kit may not be at Refocus tomorrow.  We can still meet in the library and do our best!  Also, there will be hot cross buns in the Great Hall for Palm Sunday.

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Poem Sunday

The American poet Emily Dickinson, though shrinking from offering a definition of poetry, once confided in a letter, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”

One poet called a poem “a thought, caught in the act of dawning.” Another said a poem is a means of bringing the wind in the grasses into the house. Yet another stated, even more enigmatically: “Poetry is a pheasant disappearing in the brush.” (from National Endowment for the Arts website)

Poetry can elicit very difficult subject matter, and draw a direct connection to the reader.  “Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.”  That was how Marianne Moore captured it in an early draft of her poem, “Poetry”.   Poems often draw us into complex concepts through a side door; suddenly, we realize where we are, but aren’t sure how we got there, and have the sensation that we are the first ones ever to do so!  In the end, my favorite poems are short and seemingly simple, but leave us thinking harder, feeling more deeply, and asking harder questions that we did before.

Okay, here’s a different perspective on this Sunday before Easter, kicking off Holy Week.  I find Christianity to be both impossibly difficult (e.g. doctrine of the Trinity), and sometimes starkly simple (e.g. feed the hungry).   To me there is an element of poetry here, and maybe poetry is just what we need to delve into our faith in this holiest of weeks before the resurrection.    We’ll see.

Here are three poems written about Palm Sunday.

 

Palm Sunday

The smell of church reminds me of my childhood

but over the years, the priest becomes a foolish man.                                                I’ve pondered over my faith for so long.

Sometimes I reach into my conscious and pull out steaming fistfuls of pop         culture         like,                                                                                                                                                            I watched Rosemary’s Baby on Saturday. Was God dead in the 50s?

Not nearly as much as he is now.

Today was Palm Sunday, and I felt like a baby, so naked in the desert sand.

Delicate church, how do you reel me in?

Kyra Rae, Apr 17, 2011

Palm Frond

Holy Monday

walking with

my dog in

the burbs

I spied

a palm frond

laying by

the curb

still moist

and pliant

fresh to

touch

what

blasphemer

discarded this

icon beloved

so much?

one day

removed

from

Palm

Sunday

glory

does the

heathen who

disposed of it

know this

precious

leaf’s

story?

it was then

I recalled

its reason

for being

its a carpet

for a King’s

footsteps

its not for

keeping

so there

it lay

where

it should

be

as my

dog and I

resumed

our closer

walk with

Thee

James Bradley McCallum, Mar 22, 2013

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

G. K. Chesterton, 1927

After you have read these a few times, see if you feel tugged by something written…Read that part again.  Come this week with those lines in mind, and we’ll take the discussion from there.  And then we will take time to consider how we will wrap up this Lenten season, to ready ourselves for Easter.  Oh, it’s not too late.

See you Sunday at 9:14 in the Library.  Stay warm.

John

PS don’t forget church clean up – we need your help!  Saturday morning from 9-12.  Bring gloves, gardening tools, and layers.  There will be a light lunch following, thanks to our very own Sheila Franklin!

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Not Invisible

We spent last week considering things we do not see.

Blind spots.

People and problems that are invisible to us.

This week we are going to work on seeing something: the opioid crisis.

Just after class last week, I read this take from Andrew Sullivan, which grabbed me, in part, because he framed the crisis with the same “invisibility” frame we discussed:

Those of us who lived through the AIDS epidemic retain one singular memory: The plague that ravaged our lives was largely invisible to others. The epidemic was so concentrated for a while in a gay male subculture often itself veiled by various closet doors  that straight people without gay family members or friends couldn’t see it. There was blanket media coverage, of course. But in your everyday life, if you were straight, you could live quite easily in the 1990s without coming across someone with AIDS. While gay men were living in a medieval landscape of constant disease and death, many others carried on in safe, medical modernity, that elysian period in human history when most diseases can at least be treated, if not cured.

It occurred to me reading this reported essay by Christopher Caldwell that the opioid epidemic is the new AIDS in this respect. Its toll in one demographic  mostly white, working-class, and rural  vastly outweighs its impact among urbanites. For many of us in the elite, it’s quite possible to live our daily lives and have no connection to this devastation. And yet its ever-increasing scope, as you travel a few hours into rural America, is jaw-dropping: 52,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2015. That’s more deaths than the peak year for AIDS, which was 51,000 in 1995, before it fell in the next two years. The bulk of today’s human toll is related to opioid, heroin, and fentanyl abuse. And unlike AIDS in 1995, there’s no reason to think the worst is now over.

He references this article entitled American Carnage that you should take some time to read before class.  

In the article, the author discusses the anesthesiologist Russell Portenoy.  We’ll have Curtis Markham as our special guest this week, and he shared with me this article about that anesthesiologist’s change of tune regarding opioid use.  Curtis told me that this anesthesiologist’s work had been a precipitator that would become the “perfect storm” of the opioid crisis.

We’ll work together to understand the different precipitators and the state of the crisis now. In other words, we’ll do the work of opening our eyes to what has been in front of us for some time now. Curtis will help us, and I look forward to seeing you all in the library at 9:15 on Sunday.

Kit

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Invisible

Hi all-

Let me rewind a bit and share with you the prayer that I read in class a few weeks ago.

In the name from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.

It is by Pàdraig Ó Tuama and the following link is the recent On Being that I mentioned.

Ok, now to the present.

Is anyone else struggling with the quiet, intentional space of Lent and the firehose of national news? Let’s check in a bit. What practices are supporting you? What insights can you share?

Our gospel reading this week is John 9–that’s the one about the man who tells of his experience that though he was blind, now he sees.

It has me thinking about blind spots and new ways of seeing life.

How does the way we look at our world influence our ability to see?

What do we demand to see? What are we willing to not see?

What is the difference between being blind and just not noticing?

When have you been blind and later could see?

When has our community been blind and later could see?

How does a community notice blind spots? How do we talk about those blind spots with each other? Like for real. Right now. How do we do this?

How do new ways of seeing come to be? What do those new ways of seeing make possible? Like for real. This week. What becomes possible?

Of course, everything makes me think of U2.  Here is Invisible from the Paris concert that followed the terrorist attacks. The way this song is staged is something else.

 

See you in the morning.

kit

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ReFocus today…

Hi all,

I had a cold at the end of the week and now find that I have more or less lost my voice completely.  I had hoped it would be better this morning, but it is not – So, with Kit also gone this week, I’m afraid I will not be able to lead class this morning, and will need to cancel.

I hope you all get this in time to adjust – I think you could join the Lectio Divina group (in Katie Barr room) or the Loiterers in the Great Hall.

I hope you all enjoy this lovely day!

John

 

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What’s your Role?

Hi all,

We recently had a parish leadership retreat, and followed that with our first Lenten soup supper program, both exploring what St Andrews looks like now, and what we’d want it to look like, say five, or eight years from now.

This has led to some rich discussion and creative ideas for how we continue to achieve our mission while recognizing some financial and demographic trends which don’t work to our advantage.  These include an aging population, declining pledges…and these trends extend beyond our parish to the national church.

So, in that vein, I’d like us to contemplate our roles in the community of St Andrews.  What part(s) do WE as individuals play?  Why?

This week, we’re going to try a creative exercise aimed at helping us understand our role and maybe give some new insights.

Come ready to share, learn, and have some fun.  You’ve earned it!

John

PS  watch the St Andrews facebook page  for news of how this weekend’s weather might affect services and Sunday School.  Stay safe!

PPS Episcopal news service had this article on Episcopalians and political action.  http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2017/03/09/episcopalians-differ-on-churchs-activism-and-mixing-faith-and-politics/

 

 

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We’re only Human…

Hi all-

It’s the last Sunday before Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. We enter this period of examination of our lives before the great celebration of Easter.  This time of year we often survey various religious and spiritual practices we might try during lent to help us to grow closer to God and our true self.  So here is a follow up to last week’s class with a challenge for us.

Last week’s Gospel reading from Matthew (5:38-48) has some of the most provocative and singular calls for us as Christians.  We often will say to ourselves that all of the major religions say similar things in terms of how we are to behave, e.g. be good to your neighbors, welcome the stranger, take care of those less fortunate.

But, here Christianity seems to go a step of two further.  Love your enemy?  Pray for those who persecute you?  Be perfect as your father is perfect?

I think we get to that last phrase and say, aha – we know we can’t be perfect like God, so this part must all be sort of tongue-in-cheek, or something to aspire to, but no one really expects us to really do.  After all, we’re only humans, and God is, well, God.

And then there’s Jesus.  Jesus’s coming to live and die among us seems to say something different.  Humanity is special and yes, we have a fantastic arsenal of god-like powers at our disposal.  Forgiveness, humor, sacrifice, thought, love, prayer, and of course, God’s grace.

Humanity, as Fr Steve said, can’t be seen as a barrier to us, but rather a means to reaching towards God.  It is not an obstacle to be human, it’s a ladder.  But we have to extend the darn thing, and take a step or two up.

So this week we are aiming high.  Love our enemies?  We’ll try.

Come and see how – 9:15 am in the library!

John

 

PS – here’s a link to some of the information about opioid abuse in TN that has come up in the past few weeks. Is there anything we can do? http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2016/09/19/there-more-opioid-prescriptions-than-people-tennessee/90358404/

 

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