Monthly Archives: February 2013

Citizenship in Heaven

But our citizenship is in heaven.

citizenshipBut our citizenship is in heaven. Our citizenship is in the Kingdom of God. Paul writes this to the community of new Christians in Philippi, which was under Roman rule. The Philippians were proud of their Roman citizenship, just as most of us are proud to be citizens of Portland. But—as some of you may have noticed—it is hard to be a Christian in Portland! Not difficult the way it was back in the early Philippians’ day. Not it’s-illegal-and-we’ll-burn-you-alive-unless-you-offer-incense-to-our-pagan-gods, but still difficult. We live in an environment that is averse to, and sometimes downright hostile to, organized religion.

Organized religion has a bad name, either for people who grew up in churches that caused them grief, or for people who grew up outside of any faith community and know only what they hear in the media. They hear about communities that call themselves Christian while proclaiming hatred and damnation. Or they hear about Christian leaders caught up in scandals involving sex or greed.

Another thing about organized religion, though—and I keep using that phrase because I’m trying to rescue it from the outermost margins of society—another thing about organized religion that scares people is that any religion worth being part of asks something of us. Through spiritual disciplines, through sharing bread and wine around an altar, through engagement with a community, through financial participation—when we organize around these practices, we commit to all these things. Religion is all about practice, not about getting it right.

When Paul says “our citizenship is in heaven,” he invites us to map our lives onto the life of Jesus, and to take our place in the way of the cross, the way of the gospel.

In this morning’s gospel, Jesus models this for us with a large dose of pre-Easter intensity. In chapter 9, verse 51 of the Gospel of Luke, right after the disciples come down off the mountaintop, we read that Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem. For the phrase “Set his face” Luke uses a Greek verb not found anywhere else. The best translation is “he went with absolute determination.” This is the Jesus we meet in everything that comes after Luke 9:51.

Jesus is on a mission from God. Just like the Blues Brothers, only more so.

Jesus says Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow. What if our whole lives as practicing Christians are the “today and tomorrow” that Jesus talks about? What if we are to live as he did, doing God’s work?

What? I can’t perform miracles! I don’t know anything about casting our demons or curing people! Who do you think I am, God?

When a group of us started Rahab’s Sisters almost ten years ago, we talked with a guy who had done a lot of work with women traumatized and often nearly destroyed by the sex industry. Many of these women one could describe as being possessed by demons, unable to get out of a life that was killing them and everything good around them. He said: “if you see them, really see them, they will begin to see themselves as you see them. But you’ve got to really see them.” I’ve never forgotten that. When he said that, I thought: that’s how Jesus healed people. By seeing them. Go back and read some of the healing stories. You’ll see that healing comes when Jesus relates to someone in a new way. Being about God’s work is about being with people in their suffering. Not trying to fix them or punish them, not asking them to change in order to be cared for. Attending to them in ways that they have not been attended to before.

When we connect with one another, when we listen patiently, when we care for those in our midst who are suffering, we, too, are casting out demons and performing cures. We don’t think we are, but we are. I know many of you do this in your daily life and work.

If we read this gospel as applying the intensity of Jesus’ last days to your mission and my mission in our time—today, tomorrow, and the next day—what about Jerusalem? Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those that who are sent to it! For Jesus, Jerusalem is the place of death, the place of the religious establishment. Where is our Jerusalem? I’d like to suggest that Jerusalem represents all the forces in the world and—more to the point—in ourselves that work against God and against our own healing power. We all have those, right? I’m not a good enough person. Or: I don’t have enough of this or that training or education. Or: I’m too busy. Or: I’m too distracted by my envy or distrust of so-and-so to focus on really seeing the person who most needs to be seen by me, right?

Look at how Jesus responds to his enemies, to his time-honored forces of destruction. How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…! In effect he is saying to them that they are like little chicks….he is saying “there, there.” What if we said that to all those voices—inner and outer—that work against God’s mission in us? There, there.

During Lent, one of the ways we hope to cast out demons as a community is through the Litany of Penitence. If it sounds familiar, it’s because we pray it every year on Ash Wednesday and then put it away again for another year. My hope is that it will help us to go deeper into prayer about what blocks us from proclaiming God’s reign.

welcome homeOur mission is to be about God’s mission to cast out demons and to heal. Our today and tomorrow is after the resurrection, however. Unlike this morning’s gospel, where Jesus has not yet been crucified and raised from the dead, we live on the other side of the cross. We live in the time of already and not yet. The resurrection has already happened, the Kingdom is already being proclaimed, and it is not yet here. The world does not yet match the kingdom Jesus came to proclaim.

This is why we have each other. This is why we organize ourselves around practices that help us proclaim the Kingdom of God. Our lives are here, now, in this already-not yet place where we live. Our citizenship is in God’s kingdom.

Confession: The Language of Love

The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.

Most of you know that I’ll be away on sabbatical this summer, beginning on May 6. I’ll be working on some writing, and combining that work with a lot of travel, some with my family, and some on my own. I’m working on telling my story—the story of coming to be a person of faith, and of taking that coming to faith to the extreme of becoming a priest. (For some, being collared is the only way God can keep us in line.) I’m learning how hard it is to talk about personal faith in a way that makes sense in the world. There are a few people who do it well: Anne Lamott, Sara Miles. And there are lots of people who do it not so well. Most people rarely try writing or talking about their faith experience at all. We have trouble talking even amongst ourselves about who we are as believers, or about how we came to believe.

Faith-Story-side-web-button-3That is one reason I’m so excited for all of you: while I’m off on sabbatical struggling with these things on my own, you get to do it together. Thanks to the very generous Lilly Endowment, we’re able to hire a writer-in-residence for the summer who will offer a writing workshop and also one-on-one consultation on your process and product of faith story-telling. (There will also be ways to explore faith story-telling with music and with clay. Kids can look forward to a summer curriculum called “Godly Clay.”) Creative story-telling, faith story-telling…these are what we mean when we talk about the Faith & Story Project.

There’s another, far less popular term for faith story-telling, and that’s confession. Today, I want to talk about confession. It is Lent, after all.

People who come to the Episcopal Church from other traditions sometimes ask me about confession. Do you guys have private confession? Yes, we do. It’s called the Reconciliation of a Penitent and you can find it on page 447 of the Book of Common Prayer. The adage in our church regarding private confession is that all can, none must, and some should. (When I say that last bit I always have to be careful that I don’t look at someone in particular. J)

I want to talk about a different kind of confession, not our confession of our sins but our confession of faith, not in the sense of a written creed, but the story we tell about who we are. Confessional language is the language of love.

Today’s reading from Deuteronomy is a perfect example of the kind of faith-story-telling-confession I believe we are all called to do as disciples proclaiming the kingdom of God.

The confession is this story:

A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation…When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, …we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt … into a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.

hebrewAnd there you have it: from Abraham and Sarah to Moses and Miriam to Joshua to anyone who wants to give thanks to God for what God has done. This passage from Deuteronomy is an unimportant, anonymous individual telling the foundational story of the Jewish tradition, the story that undergirds every Christian story of deliverance and hope. It’s like a good memoir, which, I’m told, goes like this: this happened, which made this other thing happen, and then that happened, and life was never the same again. Today’s reading from Deuteronomy is the confessional faith story-telling of a whole people. But it could be your story, or my story, or our story as a community. When we bring our gift to the altar—the gift of ourselves, to feast at this table—what are the foundational stories of our own lives that undergird our coming here?

My people also settled in the land of milk and honey. We didn’t know the stories of seeking after other Gods, the stories of restless hearts and broken relationships, but we lived them. We didn’t know about Jesus whom you sent to walk and talk among us, to transform the world and restore humanity to the life and hope you plan for us. Jesus died and you even transformed death into life. I inherited my people’s restless heart, and spent the first half of life looking for love, and for you, in all the wrong places. You rescued me in the wilderness and finally my heart rested in you. Now you’re the one I work for and the one I long for. Your family is my family, your hope is my hope. When I come to this altar, that is what I want to remember, although I sometimes forget. I remember and I give thanks for all you have done in Jesus and in the world you love. Because I was once hopeless and am now full of hope, I want to be a vessel overflowing with hope and with love. This is my confession.

Confessional language is the language of love. Think about things we say—or think of saying—to those we love. To our partner, or to our children, or to someone we only wish we had in our life: You’re my everything. I love you more than anything. I want to keep you close. This is the language God wants to hear. This is the Lenten confession we can all make.

What is your story? In what language of love will you tell it?

Are you our new Writer-in-Residence?

Writer-in-Residence, Summer 2013 

Saint David of Wales Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon is an inclusive, multi-generational community that honors spiritual growth, mutual support, questioning, and celebration.  During the summer of 2013, a building-wide project, funded by a Lilly Endowment grant, will engage members, seekers, building partners and the community in exploring the connection between faith and story.

The Writer-in-Residence for the Faith and Story Program at St. David of Wales will join its existing Artist-in-Residence and Cooperative Teaching Musicians to facilitate this creative story-telling program, which is open to members of the congregation and the community at large.

During this period, the Writer-in-Residence will provide approximately 90 on-site combined hours, including an initial workshop spanning two partial days during a mutually agreed upon weekend in May.  This will be followed by ten weekly 90-minute onsite workshops over the summer and culminate in a public reading at a date to be determined in the fall.  The Writer-in-Residence will be prepared to submit by the end of March a description of the program he or she plans to offer, to be used to promote the class/program to the congregation and public.

writerThe Writer-in-Residence may work with youth through adult populations across genres, but with an emphasis on personal narrative, imagery, memoir, reflection and/or spiritual expression.  Additional activities may include phone or Email consultation with participants and planners.  It is preferred, though not required, that the Writer-in-Residence familiarize her/himself with the St. David community by attending occasional worship/prayer services, coffee hours, meetings and/or building partner activities.

The Writer-in-Residence will be selected for his or her writing qualifications as well as proven ability as an educator.  Resume and application shall include writing samples, teaching history, and references.

Stipend: $2,700, payable one-half ($1,350) upon signed agreement and the remaining $1,350 at the conclusion of the residency reading in the fall.

Application details follow:  Application deadline Friday, March 1, 2013.

Note: you can download this application here: Writer in Res JD and app


St. David of Wales Episcopal Church, Portland, Oregon

Thank you for your interest in the Faith and Story Writer-in-Residence position at St. David of Wales.  Please complete all aspects of this application and return it no later than March 1, 2013.

Emails must include APPLICATION and your NAME in the subject line:

Postal address:2800 SE Harrison St., Portland OR 97214.







Please list all post-secondary education, including name of institution(s), major or field of concentration, dates attended, and degrees granted.


Outline your history in teaching adults; please give details, institutions, dates, and a sentence or two reflecting what you learned in each of these experiences.


Provide two to three representative samples of your own work, including at least one personal account in any written genre.  We suggest no more than about 500 words for each sample.


Let us know in a few paragraphs (no more than a page) what interests you in this project as described.  What’s intriguing?  Off-putting?  What questions do you have?  Why would you be the best possible Faith and Story writer for us?


You will receive an Email confirming receipt of your application; feel free to Email if you don’t hear from us within a week.  Applicants considered as candidates will be invited to an in-person interview, most likely on a Sunday afternoon in March.  We anticipate our final decision will be made by the end of March 2013.