Thursday, October 30, 2003

Archbishop Oscar Romero has long been a hero of mine, not only because he died because he defended the poor and helpless of El Salvador but also because he managed to be passionate for justice while avoiding ideology. In my experience this is often difficult. Anyway I ran across this prayer and thought I would post it, mostly as a reminder to myself of the importance of humility in ministry. One might think that a relatively margainalized group such as we are would find it easy to be humble. Ah, that it were so! Rather the temptation is to seek status from our smallness since of course it must mean we are great in God's eyes! Its a good thing that as the first epistle of John tells us we have a God who is greater then our hearts!

If I don't post again Happy Halloween, Day of the Dead, All Saints and All Souls!

A prayer by Archbishop Oscar Romero

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.


My hope is that this will be a space where we can describe and reflect on what it is that we "crazy christian cohorts" (as my brother calls us) are doing. I thought I would write something about the outreach we do in Northampton on Friday night. This is often the hardest part of the week for me but very important in my growth as Christian. A week ago Sunday the gospel reading was what I still refer to as the rich young ruler, though strictly speaking in Mark's Gospel he is just rich. Anyway this is the one where Jesus asks/tells him to sell all his belongings, give the money to the poor and come follow him.

I once preached on this in the Chapel of my Divinity school. My second text was the part of Corinthians about the foolishness of the gospel (I'm too lazy to look up the citation but its near the beginning. ) I said half facetiously that we should be willing to surrender the rights and privileges of an Ivy League education and take up street preaching. If I recall this got a lot of laughs (more then I had anticipated). A few years later and I am a street preacher of a kind on the odd occaison. Anyway, every week we light a few candles, break out the lentils and brownies and attempt to throw an open invitation party in the midst of a busy town where all the Saabs blast NPR. When people ask us what (on earth) we are doing there we hope we have the foolish courage to explain that we are not the hosts of this party. We are just passing around the appetizers to the guests like my mother still makes me do every Thanksgiving.

It was Jesus who came up with this crazy idea of giving something away for free, beginning with food and ending with grace in the shape of the cross. Many weeks it just begins and ends with the brownies, or so it seems and often this is a relief. But sometimes God promotes one of us from waiter or waitress to the privilege of matchmaker. From the questions someone asks or the way they ask them we come to see that this is a soul that God has been pursuing for some time and we have a message He has asked us to give. So, with fear and trembling and an attempt at deep humility, we speak of the One who first loved us so much that we found that there was no choice but to love Him back as best we could.

All of which is to say that (a) God has an interesting sense of humor and (b) I have a problem with mixed metaphors! Should you ever find yourself in Northampton on a Friday night come and have a brownie outside the Academy of music.


Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Hi again-its Wednesday afternoon and soon I have to get going to Evening Prayer at my church. Her's a link to Grace Church's website gracechurchamherst.org. We've just started having Evening Prayer every night at 5:30. I make it pretty often, or try to.

Last night we had our house group. We ate squash soup and discussed Life Together. by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It was a really intense discussion as we tried to figure out what it means to be a community centered on Christ. There was so much that was said but one theme that emerged was that the basis of our communion with one another is the same basis as our communion with God: the cross of Christ and the righteousness we receive from Him and not our spirituality,ethics, politics, or anything else. What does this look like for us this side of heaven? That is to say, how do we love those that drive us crazy? How do we love our enemies, real or imagined? The answer I suppose, is not very well, but without the grace of God in our lives the answer would have to be not at all. As someone once said ,God writes straight with crooked lines. His grace is made perfect in our weakness.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Hi everyone and welcome to Ubi Caritas-This is a weblog for the Amherst/ Northampton, MA Steiger Community a.k.a. the Conspiracy for Jesus Liberation, Jakob's Well, and/or the Christian do-gooders. We are a group of Christians from many backgrounds who work to confess Christ through acts and words of love. A good way to explain what we do is to allow it to unfold in a format such as this. Hopefully, other members of our community will also be contributing on a regular basis. (This is Leah writing, right now). This way those who want to can 'listen in' to the work of the Holy Spirit in this cell of Christ's body, or perhaps help us discern if and when other spirits are interrupting. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:9 that we have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to humans. I don't know if angels have internet access, but the idea of a weblog seems to be one way that we can be as open as possible. We invite your feedback, whether you are friend, family, or stranger.

About the Name

For those of you out there who aren't high church junkies, Ubi Caritas are the first two words of a Latin Hymn traditionally sung on the Thursday before Easter while the community washes one another's feet according to the example and command of Jesus:

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:12-17)

The chorus in English is roughly "wherever charity and love are there is God."

This seems to sum up as well as anything what we know of God and how we desire to serve Him through the neighbors we have been given in this place. We ask your prayers in this divine foolishness.

Grace, Mercy and Peace


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