Dear Friends,

This Sunday we will gather from 9:00-9:45, "Between the Times," in the large classroom upstairs for our annual Budget Review. This is a chance to see and celebrate, to have help understanding the numbers, to ask all your questions, and to imagine for the future.

Many thanks go to all who Pledged, the Finance Committee, our Treasurer, Bert Cooper, and the Vestry for working hard to bring the 2018 Budget together as a faithful numeric representation of our hopes and commitment for the year ahead.

The the Proverbs say, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens the wits of another." We have done a lot of sharpening of each other and these numbers in the course of budget preparation. The last few years have seen tangible growth in the transparency and translatability of our finances; from the budget, to our endowment, to our inner financial processes. That work continues. The Vestry has chosen to be bold and show both the side of our finances that is trim and clear, and the side that is still coming into view. Their stance is coherent with the best Christian theology.

While much of our culture may demands perfection before presentation (how long is your morning face washing routine?), Christ invites simply our full selves to come forward, and promises to go along the way with us as we grow into his perfection.

If you desire, I hope you'll come be a part of that work, and sharpen yourself and us a bit more, this Sunday morning.

In Peace,

Reed

For you yourself created my inmost parts;
     you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I will thank you because I am marvelously made;
     your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

Dear Friends,

This week's psalm is the kind that seems to take up residence in the spirit. You may know it in a different translation...for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. The words we'll pray from the psalm on Sunday are both comfortable and powerful.

It is an expansive psalm too. We'll only pray about half of it in worship. The rest includes more loving depth, and also somewhat more edgy power and vehemence. It was the favorite psalm of Howard Thurman; mystic, prophet, mentor, professor, activist, and pastor of the 1900s. And his insight always leads me to consider the psalm in its entirety when I hear just a part of it recited.

The edgy part of the psalm has to do with "opposing the enemies of God." On the whole, I'd say this is appropriate to leave aside in communal worship. We must, must take seriously the difference of the sentiment when prayed by the mouths of (originally) a handful of oppressed Israelites living away in the mountains, as compared to the mouths of contemporary Americans with a military presence that circles the globe and our president blustering about nuclear weapons on social media. But Howard Thurman found the value of the full psalm at the personal, devotional level.

Growing up in Daytona Beach, Florida, in the segregated black village on the outskirts, he knew that people could act as enemies to God; could assault the dignity of their neighbors and seek to strip it from them. But Thurman found a refuge in his family, and in the quiet, dark Florida woods, and in the Word of God. He heard in Psalm 139 both the intimate closeness of God, and the transcendent power of God to save and to ultimately distinguish without ambiguity between good and evil. By finding the fullness of God's care in the fullness of the Psalm, Thurman was set free to live with love.

I trust the Psalms to hold this gift for all of us. They can help us celebrate, grieve, commiserate, rage, be still, recover, and much more. With 150 to choose from, there is a Psalm for every need. In the "Ordinary Time" after the Epiphany, we remember that God is present for all of life. God "created our inmost parts" and is faithful as we discover them ourselves.

In Peace,

Reed

Dear Friends in Christ,

On this 11th Day of Christmas I suspect many of you, like myself, are "snowed in." Except for those few times when this is perilous, I find it quite wonderful. Presently I'm listening to the laundry in the dryer and the snow-muted wind chime outside, with Christmas tree lights and sheep moccasins keeping me warm in body and spirit. I hope you've found some space to listen, to be, and to be warm today.

In his book Dwelling in Possibility: Searching for the Soul of Shelter, Howard Mansfield reflects on the quiet and profound differences between a house and home. He proposes that "the real possibility we seek is habit; it's the ordinary. We want room for the mundane." Agents and builders often speak of great rooms and granite counter tops, "But we should ask: Give us room for tumult and quiet, for solitude and passing the time with friends. Give us room for ordinary pleasures, for a day well lived." 

Or in God's words from Isaiah, "In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength."

I've never heard anyone speak of or write on the "Cozy Christ," but surely the Christ of so many dinner tables, picnic meals, common homes, and that first hallowed stable was a person who knew the power of places that were, perfectly, ordinary.

May the Cozy Christ bless each of your ordinary places to be perfect today. May forced rest find you ready to receive its teachings, and necessary snow-drives return you home in safety to warmth and dryness. God bless the cozy mundane. Amen.

One in our Savior,

Reed

Dear Friends,

I hope you are having a good Advent. I'm only partially sure what that means, actually; a good Advent. A holy time making new space for God's appearing in your life.

When we're around the Christmas Tree, and while we sing carols, and at the beautiful dinner table...we often practice at allowing God's goodness into those moments. But during tense holiday phone calls, arguments about the Christmas Card, and memories of hurtful holidays past? What does it mean for those to be good? We're less practiced at that.

I've mentioned a couple times now in announcements about the special worship service this Sunday the 17th at 7PM, A Grief Observed: An Advent Service of Healing. This will be a distinct time to together make space for God that in parts of our lives that aren't happy, but might still become good.

Our God is one who desires a full and rich relationship with us, in all parts of our lives. Our God was born, as Bishop Rob wrote recently, "a helpless and poor child in a feed-trough who eventually dies in humiliation to draw all humanity to a life of freedom and purpose." Our God has chosen to be with us in both happiness and hurt. In this Advent service of healing, we're going to respond to that vulnerability with some trust of our own, and I expect to learn more about the fullness of a good Advent along the way.

If Advent healing calls out to you, or you have a friend in need of Advent healing, I hope we'll see you and them this Sunday evening. And God bless you in all the Advent moments.

My great gratitude goes to Dan Andrus and the Rev. Dave Ferner, the pastoral leaders of St. John the Evangelist, Dunbarton, and Holy Cross, Weare, who have put much of this service together. We'll share this time of healing with folks from across our communities.

In the Peace of God, which passes all understanding,

Reed