Dear Friends,

I know that, on a technological level, this won't be for everyone, but I want to share with you a "podcast" that begins airing this Sunday, Pentecost. It's The Way of Love with our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. A podcast is nothing more than a little radio segment that's been packaged up for you to listen to whenever you want. You can click the link to hear the introductory podcast for The Way of Love, and can either subscribe or just check back on Sunday to catch more.

These are reflections on faith and spirituality from the leader of the Episcopal Church, whom you might have seen preaching at the latest royal wedding. He's down to earth, tells stories from his own life, and knows how to really let scripture breathe and come alive as he shares what he has discovered within it.

Whether of not you're into podcasts, you may like to know that "people of the Way" is the first name given in scripture to the distinctive followers of Jesus Christ. It's still a good name for us to claim again today. We've been lifting it up at St. Andrew's with our "on the way" distillation of the Emmaus Road story; Walking Together, Recognizing Jesus, Practicing Resurrection.

Being on the way owns the fact that we're headed somewhere particular, and also acknowledges that we have more to learn. Also, if we're "on the way" then welcoming others to join us becomes easier. No one is early, or late. If you're on the way, then you're on the way. And that's that. There's no pressure for me to pretend perfection, just the steady invitation for me to keep walking and becoming more, and to share with those walking alongside me.

And being on the way of Love, well, that makes all the difference. Because there are plenty of other ways to go in life. (Jesus often contrasted his way of Love pointedly with the ways of Legalism and of Empire that surrounded him. The ways of Consumerism, Bullying, and Cotton-in-the-Ears are other popular ways I see today.)

For some good companionship going farther along our chosen way, the Way of Love, check out Bishop Curry's podcast; at home, in the car, or wherever you're headed.

In Peace,

Reed

Jesus said to his disciples..."Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

-Luke 24: 46-53

Dear Friends,

Today is the Feast of the Ascension of Christ (you just read the story right there, from Luke). The Ascension is an event closely connected to the Christian vision of "the Kingdom of God", which I wrote about last week.

Like Jesus' birth story, the Ascension is not recounted in the earliest Gospel (Mark). It's seen by many as a later growth of the Jesus story; a way of witnessing (like the birth narratives) the reality of the permeability between God's Kingdom out beyond us and the Kingdom of God alive in Creation here and now. The Ascension is an apocalyptic ("revealing of Reality") experience, and the Reality that is revealed is the closeness of God.

This permeability, the access we have to God, is distinctive of Judaism, and in a slightly different way, of Christianity. It is how we can be bold to claim the possibility of personal relationship to God.

Someone asked me this week, "So, I think I get God as the Creator of everything. But what about Jesus? What about the Holy Spirit? How am I supposed to relate to them?"

This question brings joy to my heart. Because how could exploring that question bring anything but good discoveries and a fuller relationship to God along the way?

The Vestry actually responded to a similar question on our Retreat together last weekend. "Who do you say that Christ is? How do you relate to Christ?" Their answers were diverse, but all reflected the immanence, the closeness, of God in Christ; whether known in our worship, in neighbors, in nature, in the cosmos, or by an interior sense of God's will. It's this immanence we mark in the Feast of the Ascension. We make a "Feast" of it because Jesus traversing with grace the path between us and the Father, is worthy of a celebration; of praise, adoration, wonder, laughter, and awe. Sometimes God's presence is known in the cognitive, but in the image of Jesus "carried up into heaven," we give permission to our imaginative, emotional, and spiritual perception.

Amen, come Lord Jesus by heavenly paths, and be known to us again in our daily lives.

In Peace,

Reed

In the spirit the angel carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

-Revelation 21:10,22

Dear Friends,

You've probably heard many times the phrase, "The Kingdom of God" or "The Kingdom of Heaven." This is an image Jesus used often, as a contrast to the Kingdom of the Romans, or more broadly to all the worldly Kingdoms we build.

There aren't a whole lot of formal Kingdoms left today, but we can recognize plenty of "little k" kingdoms still, all around us; every time we or anyone seeks to build our power separate from God, that's kingdom-building (and not the kind Jesus calls us to!).

Alternatively, we are in fact called to kingdom-building, if that kingdom is the Kingdom of God; characterized by all kinds of self-giving, compassionate, reconciling actions. ...That's our work. But there is also a very steady promise carried by the people of God that recognizes God's ultimate will of wholeness for the Creation, and that neither our worst or best efforts can change the reality of God eventually accomplishing a full Reconciliation. This is what Saint John's Revelation has been laying out before us this Easter season in the epistle (letter) readings each week.

The Kingdom of God has a playful aspect to it in terms of timing, and of how it manages to show up here, within our own time and place. The passage from Revelation, above, speaks of the "New Jerusalem" (the Kingdom of God) coming down out of heaven in glory and light; which also sounds like "Jacob's ladder" from the Old Testament, with angels ascending and descending from heaven. Jesus often says, "the Kingdom is among you" or "within you". Saint Paul wrote of being "caught up" into heaven; a sort of directional movement we also see as Moses, Elijah, and Jesus are taken up bodily at the end of their earthly walks.

Like so many other parts of the Bible which paint the same image from different vantages (the two back-to-back Creation stories, the four different Gospel accounts of the empty tomb...), these diverse visions of the how the Kingdom of God actually shows up are a blessing in their diversity, if we will accept the blessing.

Today might be a day when you don't know how to look within yourself for the Kingdom, but you do know how to let God show up with it. Or maybe it's a hard day for you to trust the Divine, but you can trust the Spirit living within you, or living within a friend.

Some days we want to be 'caught up' out of this world. Some days we know such holiness on earth that we'd rather heaven come here to us.

Somehow, it seems that these are each trustworthy ways that God works.

I hope this is encouraging to you.

I hope this lets you know that you can pray all kinds of different prayers - whatever comes to your heart and mind. I hope this lets you know that you can speak up for where you've seen God, even if you've never heard another person see God that way. I hope this lets you try something, something that seems like kingdom-building, even if "we've never done it that way." Saint John gave us one of the craziest books in the whole Bible, but it's inspired more songs and given us more language for prayer that most any other!

Whether you take the stairs, the ramp, the elevator, a slide a jetpack, or just recline in the easy chair...may you find yourself in the Kingdom this day, in the days to come, and most certainly in the great Day to Come.

In Wonder,

Reed

Dear Friends,

In this busy week in the life of St. Andrew's, I pass along a wonder-making story from the Desert Fathers. It is an Easter story, a parable, a puzzle for the critical mind, and a story about how the Easter sustenance stays with us beyond that single day, "Easter".

Saint Apollo was living in a cave in the mountain with five brothers. He had recently come from the desert and there were his first disciples. Easter came, and when they had finished giving worship to God they ate whatever they happened to have. There were a few dry loaves and some pickled vegetables. Then Apollo said to them, 'If we have faith, my children, and are true sons of Christ, let each of us ask of God what he desires to eat'. ...He therefore prayed with a radiant face and they all said 'Amen'.

At once in the night a number of men arrived aat the cave, complete strangers to them, who said that they had traveled a long distance. They were carrying things that the brothers had not even heard of before, things that do not grow in Egypt: fruits of paradise of every kind, and grapes and pomegrantes and figs and walnuts, all procured out of season, and honeycombs, and a pitcher of fresh milk, and giant dates, and white loaves still warm although brought to them from a foreign country. The men who brought these things delivered them simply with the message that they had been sent by a rich magnate, and immediately departed in a hurry. The brothers partook of these provisions until Pentecost and satisgied their hunger with them, so that they wondered and said, 'Truly these were sent by God'.

What have you asked of God this Easter? What has shown up in your life beyond the pickled vegetables you had in your spiritual pantry leading up to Easter? Anything you hadn't even heard of before? Have you eaten through the bounty yet? (We're not quite to Pentecost!)

In Holy Curiosity,

Reed