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What does it mean to Retreat in a secular world?

They say the beach in which my room overlooks is known for its healing qualities. If I had any doubts when I first arrived they have all been alliviated now.

The word retreat in the Christian world conjurs up so many thoughts and memories. For some it draws us back to retreat houses, talks and quiet reflections, for others it’s the thought of monastaries and convents, a quiet rule of life with common worship and meals. As retreat houses, convents and monastaries close what are we to do and where are we to go as christians to restore, refresh and deepen our relationship with God in our secular world?

There are many types of retreats and various offerings one can find, if you are willing to search and/or travel. There are health and wellness retreats, spiritual retreats, contemplative retreats and more. There are even retreats centered around one particular intrest like music, the arts or religion. There are directed group retreats and solo self-directed retreats as well. There are retreats in cities and in rural areas.

If you have the discipline and clear intention you can retreat in just about any place in the world, away from where you are right now, but be careful not to confuse retreat with vacation. A vacation isn’t necessarily restorative or focused on the awesomeness of our God. How many times after coming home from time away have we uttered the words, “I need a vacation after my vacation just to recover from vacation.” No a retreat has a clear purpose and objective. It requires discipline. Even a silent retreat in a convent full of nuns requires discipline to adhere to a rule of life. It is not passive. I went on a silent retreat before becoming ordained. Unfortunately it was the last retreat I was on before now. I don’t normally like to go this long, but much like the world around us, COVID got in the way.

Having been so long and living through 2020 and most of 21, I was long over due to sit with God away from my usual surroundings with the clear intention of healing mind, body and spirit in and with the presence of God discerning the path ahead. I was long over due in allowing myself the time and space to release, heal and restore in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The obstacle I encountered was that all of my favorite nearby retreat houses closed in recent years and another had waiting list into the new year. Upon the advice of my spiritual director who has walked beside me for many years, this time with God could no longer wait so I set out to create a meaningful self directed, solo Christian retreat in a secular world.

I share this now with you because many of you have inquired to where I was going and what I was doing. After sharing the following with my son, he said jokingly, “Ma, it sounds like a spiritual rehab.” He’s not all that wrong, I tapped into my roots, my foundation and set out to create a mind, body, spirit christian retreat in which I have found to be restorative while deepening my relationship with Christ.

In addition to the two books I’ve read, Joan Chittister, The time is Now and God’s Voice Within: The Ignatian Way to Discover God’s Will by Father Mark E. Thibodeaux SJ, what follows are some, not all but some of the modalities I used during my retreat over the course of this week.

The Artist’s Way

The Artist’s Way
Julia Cameron

Every day began with Morning pages.

In 2009 I had the spectacular blessing of sitting in class at Lincoln Center in New York City with Julia Cameron as my teacher. She is an author, artist, poet, playwright, novelist, filmmaker, composer, and journalist. Best known for her book The Artist’s Way (1992), she taught us about nurturing the divine creativity within and provided three tools that I utilized on my retreat this week. You too may find them useful in your day and or week. Below is a summary of the three and if you choose to learn more about Julia, The Artist’s Way, or any other of her works you may find her at the following link: https://juliacameronlive.com/

According to Julia’s book and website:

1) The bedrock tool of a creative recovery is a daily practice called Morning Pages.

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.

2)The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you.

The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask
yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.
Learn more about the Artist date at the following link: https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/artists-dates/

3) Walking as Prayer

“When I wrote The Artist’s Way, I got all the way to week twelve and said, P.S. Walk. I have been teaching now for twenty years since the publication of the book, and I now realize that there are three basic tools, not two, and they are Morning Pages, Artist Dates, and Walks.”

“All large change is made through many small steps. Notice that word in there– “step.” Walking leads us a step at a time. Walking gives us a gentle path. We are talked to as we walk. We hear guidance. It comes from within us and from the world around us. Walking is a potent form of prayer.”

The Divine Office

Now empty of my own distractions I was preparred to move onto the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours, Prime-6:00 am, Terce-9:00am, Sext 12:00pm, None-3:00pm, Vespers 6:00pm, and Compline 9:00pm) I used the Roman Catholic App The Divine Office which can be downloaded at https://divineoffice.org/ I use this app alot and enjoy praying with people across the world. The readings do vary a bit from our Episcopal tradition, but I enjoy the prayers, chants and hymns that are embedded in the office.

Spiritual Direction

Spiritual direction is an ancient practice in which one person helps another to listen for the voice of God in his or her life. The first known spiritual directors were the desert fathers and mothers, the fourth-century hermits have often been considered the first Christian monastics who lived in the Near Eastern desert and helped each other as they tried to live Jesus’s teachings. Spiritual direction has been a part of the Catholic and Anglican traditions for many centuries.

Spiritual Direction does not prescribe the “right way” to pray or live one’s faith. Instead, spiritual directors are trained and experienced in sacred conversation. Through attentive Holy listening, storytelling, reflection, conversation, prayer, or silence, a spiritual director helps a directee come to better understand God’s movements, presence, and callings in one’s own life. Hence deepening the relationship between the directed and God.

Some resources you may find useful in Spiritual Direction:

Margaret Guenther, Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction. Cowley, 1992.
A wise book on how to give others the gift of disinterested, loving attention.

Kenneth Leech, Soul Friend: An Invitation to Spiritual Direction. HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.

Anne Winchell Silver, Trustworthy Connections: Interpersonal Issues in Spiritual Direction. Cowley, 2003. This is one of the most practical books about the how-to of spiritual direction, addressing many of the issues and challenges that can arise with wisdom and clarity. (Ann was my teacher at General Theological Seminary)

Contemplative Prayer

What is Contemplative Prayer and why is it so needed?
Richard Rohr

The Healing Power of Water

I spent a good deal of time in the water, drinking water and gazing over the water in prayer.

Water is mentioned a total of 722 times in the Bible, more often than faith, hope, prayer, and worship. Genesis 1:2, “The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Water is an essential component of life, it was created on the very first day.

In Revelation, water is mentioned again, and it is almost the last words of the Bible. Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.”

Water flows throughout the scripture, and this reminds us of its importance…both spiritually and physically.

“St. John Damascene summarized, “Water, then, is the most beautiful element and rich in usefulness and purifies from all filth, and not only from the filth of the body but from that of the soul, if it should have received the grace of the Spirit”. (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith– Book 2: Chapter 9). Water has the power to heal, as can be seen from the stories of Naaman – the Syrian cured from his leprosy in the waters of Jordan (2 Kings 5:1-14) and the annual miracles at Bethesda in Jerusalem (John 5:1-9). Water has the power to purify, to provide deliverance, and it can also destroy evil and enemies as in the stories of the Flood (Genesis 6:17) and the flight of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 14:1-15:21).

Christ of the Abyss–Cristo_degli_abissi 70 to 75% of the earth’s surface is covered with water. Roughly 70% of an adult’s body is made up of water, and about 85% of the adult brain is made up of water. Water is essential to life, and all living things need water to survive.”

In the waters of baptism, we are lovingly adopted by God into God’s family, and given God’s own life to share, and we are reminded that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ. Holy Baptism, which is performed through the pouring of water or immersion in, marks our formal entry into the congregation and in our wider Church. Water, therefore, is a reminder of not only life but our life in Christ through the vows we share in our Baptismal Covenant. We are marked as Christ’s own forever.

Sound Bath Meditation

I read somewhere that a sound bath helps tune the nervous system just as one would tune a piano.

What a glorious meditative experience I had with Abra at Shift Studio in Ventnor, NJ. My words alone cannot do this experience nearly enough justice. Surely this will not be the last visit.It was thouroughly healing.

Many of you inquired about this method of meditation as I eagerly shared that I could not wait for this experience. The following is what I found on the web:

“Sound baths have nothing to do with a relaxing soak in the tub, and yet more psychiatrists, therapists, and other wellness experts are acknowledging the practice as ultra restorative and cleansing. A sound bath is a meditative experience where the individual or those in attendance are “bathed” in sound waves. These waves are produced by various sources, including healing instruments such as gongs, singing bowls, percussion, chimes, rattles, tuning forks, and even the human voice itself.

It may seem like sound baths are a New Age trend, but sound therapy is as old as time, dating back over 40,000 years. Ancient Greeks used flutes and lyres to treat digestion and mental health, Tibetans used singing bowls for over 2,000 years for meditation purposes, and Australian aboriginal tribes played the didgeridoo to heal the sick.

There’s a ton of research on the benefits of sound healing, which is why many health experts say sound baths are a promising tool. The practice can have a tremendous impact on the mind and body.

Most sound bath programs last 45 to 60 minutes. The sessions are led by a sound bath practitioner trained in how to use various instruments and use vibrations — gongs, chimes, tuning forks, singing bowls — all assist to facilitate deep meditation, relaxation and, healing.”

The following is a meditative piece with one of my favorite healing artists, Ashana. This piece has the addition of Piano by Thomas Barquee. You can imagine yoursef here giving yourself to God, having Jesus wrap his arms around you, loving you and holding you. Ashana uses the Crystal bowls and her voice to bring deep restorative peace. Close your eyes and enjoy 10 minutes of calm.

Prayer through Art

Just by taking a look around this blog site you can see the artwork that I produced all through the power of prayer. No plan, no insight, no thought, just prayer that gives life through color and reflection. I took time to pray doodle and create with the Holy Spirit this week. On a side note, there were times in my life in which I had no words, I couldn’t speak, prayer through art radiated the message that needed to be heard. It simply said what I couldn’t.

We generally think of prayer as something we read, say, or listen to. But prayer can also be a visual experience. As the saying goes, “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” Images (and all forms of visual arts) can often evoke rich nuance and meaning that cannot be replicated in words. Similarly, art can bring another dimension to prayer.

There are two main modes from which to approach prayer through art: meditating on art as a starting point for prayer and creating art as an expression of prayer. While they are in some ways opposites, they both use visual means to engage in and nurture prayer, reflection, and meditation.

Art has a long history within the Christian church. Paintings, tapestries, sculptures, friezes, stained glass, and other images and icons were some of the first ways the common people could understand the stories of Christianity. It was not until the 1450s that the printing press began to make the Bible accessible to those outside of the church, and even then the majority of people in Europe and the U.S. were not literate until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (and globally not until the mid-to-late twentieth century!). For thousands of years, oral and visual traditions were the primary means through which people were exposed to the Bible and the Christian faith. The result is a wealth of religious artworks in every style and media—a treasury from which we, today, can draw inspiration.

From Retreat September 2021

Blessings+

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Lent 1: Illusions in the Wilderness: Pleasure, Pride, and Possessions

There was a priest I knew who lived in Princeton. One evening he went to visit with a gentleman from his congregation. He had never been invited in until this day. As he approached the home and drove into the long drive, he took special notice to the meticulously taken care of lawn. It was a seven-bedroom estate, large, and beautiful.

In awe of his surroundings, the priest crossed the threshold, and the man led him to the living room. He sat on a chair that was tattered and worn and quickly noticed the silence. The home was nearly empty. This was the only furnished room. The priest was confused, the gentleman never missed a tithed, showed up on Sunday regularly and was always dressed in a suit and smiled at those he greeted.

The walls were bare, the space was silent, and the man began to weep before his priest.

According to Homer in Greek mythology, there are creatures, hideous monsters, half-bird, and half woman, referred to as Sirens. They lived on an island and lured sailors to their death. They would sing and by the power of their sweetness in their song, they stirred an illusion to every sailor who would hear, an illusion of beauty, the sailors couldn’t resist.

Our Gospel tells the story:

Jesus went out into the desert for forty days and forty nights. This is an image of a new Exodus where Israel spent 40 years before reaching the promised land, with Jesus as the new Israel. He would face a time of testing, temptation, and struggle.

Wherever in the bible we see the number 40, note the struggle and temptation. The number 40 represents the purification from sin. For instance, Noah and the flood, there were 40 days and 40 nights of rain. Moses spent 40 days on the Mount before he could be received in the presence of God and Elijah fleeing from Jezebel spent 40 days and nights in the desert preparing to meet God, a time of preparation and purification.

This is our Lenten season. So how do we prepare ourselves for our Lord?

Sirens of Greek Mythology

Well, going back to our Greek myth and the story of the Sirens; Odysseus who was the King of the isle Ithica who wanted to hear what the fuss was all about so he ordered his men to tie him, tightly to the mast and not let him out. The men, knowing better and not wanting to fight temptation, took beeswax and put it in their ears. As they rowed by Odysseus heard the song and frantically tried to undo his ties, yelling at the men to realease him, but the men could not hear, and rowed on by.

The men who rowed with beeswax in their ears simply walked away from temptation, but Odysseus, wanting to hear, basically tasted temptation then couldn’t resist without the help of his mates.

And then there was Orpheus, a beautiful poet, and musician. He was considered a prophet of his time who learned to play the Lyre from the Greek God, Apollo. It is said that his music was so powerful, he could make the trees bend and the animals dance. As the Argonauts passed through the waters where the Sirens could be heard, he remembered his gift, he pulled out his Lyre and played the most beautiful song, drowning out the call of temptation. Filling his boat with all that is good, true and beautiful.

Jesus in the desert is tempted by the Devil. Like our Greek myth, he is tempted with the sin of Pleasure, by the Flesh, to satisfy his hunger.

“if you are the son of God then just change the stones into bread and fill your
belly, eat your fill.” Jesus resists that temptation by saying “man doesn’t live by
bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Jesus quotes scripture.

Then knowing Jesus quoted scripture, the devil levels up, he takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and says,

“if you’re really the son of God then throw yourself down because ‘he will give his angels charge of you.”

Here the devil veiled himself with scripture, Psalm 91,

“God will give his angels charge of you and they will bear you up less you strike your foot against a stone.”

Jesus Tempted in the Desert

He tried to tempt Jesus with the sin of Pride. If you are who you say you are, then do this, prove it.

Finally,

“the devil took him to a high mountain and showed him all the
kingdoms of the world and all of their glory; and he says ‘I’ll give this to you if you
just worship me.”

The devil knew Jesus was here for all the souls of humanity, so he tempted him with the sin of possessions and offered them up, in a way that would eliminate Jesus’ suffering and humiliation, via death on a cross, if he just turned his back on God.

Jesus replies, once again with scripture, “you should only worship the Lord
your God and him alone shall you serve.”

We live in a world full of illusions, the temptation of the devil, the call of the sirens dress in glamour, glitz and beautiful sounds to satisfy our instant need of pleasure, to embolden our pride, our ego or to relish and clothe ourselves with material things. Each gives us an appearance of wellness or satisfaction but leaves us thirsting for the spirit of God who is the only power who can give us the fullness of life both here and the hereafter.

I opened with a story of a man who appeared to be wealthy, no one knew the depth of his suffering, his wounds or scars. He was too proud to ask for help before this day or admit to his failures. He had fallen into sin and darkness. He gave in to the flesh, cheated on his spouse, and drank to numb his pain. His son died of drug addiction, and though he owned a multi-million dollar business, he was spiritually bankrupt and had nothing. He lost everything in the hunt for the easier softer way.

The Christian life is not an easy life. It is filled with suffering and pain, obstacles and temptation, but when we are wise and aware of the devil’s tricks and tactics, how he hides in false prophets, quotes scripture, offers instant gratification, or the promise of goods, we have the tools to resist with the help of one another, through prayer, fasting, giving alms, and reconciliation.

Over the next 40 days, arm yourself with wisdom in the reading of our scriptures, arm yourself with prayer calling on God to walk with you and guide you, and give of yourself to another human being and to the church assisting one another on this journey through a Christian life.

Love, Lift, guide and support one another, for the mercy of God is Great and the Power of God is forever.

Blessings,
Mo. Allison+
The Lord’s Prayer sung by Jackie Evancho
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Sacred Mountains: Recognizing Christ Among Us

Have you ever had a dream in which you didn’t want to wake? Perhaps you wanted to sleep long enough to see the ending, to see what happens next. Perhaps you didn’t want to let go of the feeling or of the place. Perhaps there were people in your dream that you haven’t seen for years or who have passed on. People who made you feel loved, or safe, or empowered. People who by their very touch, or presence you knew were special, or magical, or connected to a higher power in some way, connected to God.

I had such a dream last night. My teacher, my PEER Leader, and mentor from High School appeared. She was as stunning as ever. She was the type of woman who never seemed to age. Well dressed, make up perfect, her hair lit golden in the sunlight as she smiled at me. She hugged me, brought me food, nourished me and then she talked about how she was going to design this new place of hers in the finest of materials. She was peaceful and endearing as she had always been. Wise, we exchanged conversation. Then I noticed my Joe, he was my protector, my friend, my contemplative guide who passed many years ago. He looked at me with a nod, and when I looked back toward my teacher she was gone. I didn’t want to wake. I wanted to hold on to her, to that moment, to that place. I wanted to see what happens next. I wanted to see the finished room adorned with everything she imagined. I wanted to feel her presence with me.

Transfiguration

Tried as I might, I kept my eyes tightly shut, “No No, don’t wake! I want to stay here for a while.” But the sun shone through my window and my eyes defied my appeal and into the world here, I awoke, to fulfill God’s call, at the very least for another day. Somehow though, through the mystery of our Lord, her presence remains. I can see her eyes, smell her perfume and feel her touch.

Matthew 17:1-9
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

I understand why Peter didn’t want to leave the Mountain. How he wanted to hold that very special moment and those very special people. He himself must have felt special, being invited up with Jesus, being in the presence of God.

My first day at Seminary, as I was moving boxes in, I wore a T-shirt. It said, “God loves you, but I’m his favorite.” I can’t say I didn’t prepare them for who they were about to form. I wonder who on the mountain top would have worn such a shirt. Would it have been, Peter, James, or John, or would Jesus after being transfigured turn around like a superhero and glaring on his chest, ” My Father loves you, but I’m his favorite.” Thoughts like that make me chuckle.

Every day of our lives we climb mountains, sacred mountains, some are as small as hills, others as big as Mt. Tabor, the place in Israel historians point to where our Gospel story takes place, or bigger, the size of Everest. Sacred mountains of what appears as scarcity, or illness, or sacred mountains of achievement and success. Every day we journey forward with Christ by our side, interceding where he sees fit. Sometimes in ways that are fiercely notable, like when the disciples saw Moses and Elijah, or when they heard the voice of God or witnessed the very transfiguration before them. We know when we come across that special person, that gift, that spirit whose connection changes us in some way, significantly. At other times, we recognize the workings of the incarnate Christ, maybe after the fact or in subtle ways, like when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am” and only Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” The others knew he was special, they knew he was connected, they just didn’t or couldn’t recognize him for who Jesus really was, but after this moment, they can see, recognize and know who was standing before them.

Thinking back, I can see those times, where I can say, “Oh, that was you, God. It was you who come to me on the side of the road, you who lifted from despair, you who guided my success and comforted me in my failure. You who fed me when I was hungry, nourished me when I was thirsty and comforted me when I fell.”

Can you see those times in your life? Can you see, hear and recognize the voice of God in those moments past and present? Will you allow yourself to be touched and unafraid as you move forward, off your mountain and into the Loving Grace of God?

I can see, now, the living Christ in my teacher who cared for every child she met like we were her own, the living Christ in my Joe who protected and guided me and the living Christ among us all who has the power to open us to the experience of God, the power of God and God’s good, good grace.

Yes, God loves you, and Yes, YOU, we are God’s Favorite. Allow God to awaken in us the Spirit of His Grace and the Power of His Love to walk down from the mountain and share our witness with those among us, Transforming the World, one disciple at a time.

At the Transfiguration, God, You showed Jesus in glory, a glimpse of what His disciples
would see in His risen life. Bless us in our humanity, with an awareness of Your presence, leading us to share in Your divine life even in our daily struggle.
Help us to deepen our knowledge of the Law and the Prophets, channels of Your grace throughout history, and signposts for our journey.
 
Amen.

Blessings,
Mo. Allison+
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The Prophetic Voice of my Son, Salt, Light and the Law

Matthew 5:13-20

I have struggled to sit and write this week, not for any lack of what to say, but of a lack of courage to be vulnerable. I attempted to silence the spirit that is moving within me, perhaps out of fear. Even as priest, I am still very human and the anticipation of entering the unknown is unsettling, even as the excitement is building for the journey ahead.

The rain didn’t help my anxiety this week. Each day I rose with the hope of the sun breaking through the clouds, but it was cold and windy, and like an episode from The Magic Garden, the harder the wind blew the more I wanted to tuck my head under a blanket and hide away, but the Holy Spirit has a persistent grace. Every time I picked up the prayer book or sat quietly in contemplation she whispered the words of my son. Like particles clinging to a magnet, I could not separate myself from his words, and our scripture, and my living experience in this moment.

Here’s what happened…

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

After a long day, in the dark of the night, I jumped in my car for my journey home. My son called and we had a beautifully deep conversation about politics, humanity, and God. My Daniel is just two weeks shy of his nineteenth birthday, in regard to my new call he said to me, “Mom, remember when you walk through the doors there is just you and the table, there is just you and God, preach the way you have always preached, love them and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.” His words moved every corner of my heart and soul. I was overcome by his love and faith. As we eneded our conversation in the silence to follow the words of God spoke, “You are the Salt and the light.”

I am a disciple entering the mission field as Christ commands.

As a disciple of Christ, I am ever so mindful of the many uses and values of salt. Salt heals wounds, salt calms inflammation, salt preserves and draws out the flavor, salt even helps us stay afloat and balances our composition, but if salt ceases to be salt it is nothing. It is useless. To be the Salt of the earth we are tasked by Christ as living disciples to build and draw upon the goodness of God’s creation. We are to restore the health in mind, body, and spirit of humanity and every living being honoring the dignity of all. We are to love and allow ourselves to be loved for who we are authentically in Christ.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

“You are the Light of the World.”

I like you have been given many gifts from God. Those gifts and our awareness of the grace of those gifts are a great reflection of our witness to Christ’s love for us and the spirit of his life in us. Some are given the gift of voice with a beautiful song, others the gift of abundance to share, some the gift of writing or the gift of numbers. Some have the gift of compassion, of art, of science, of charism or leadership. We all have many, many gifts, discovered and some yet to be uncovered as we live more fully among one another. We are tasked to gather our gifts, go out into the world and share them with many allowing others to see us as disciples of Christ giving thanks to the glory of God who blesses us along our journey. And in the words of my dear mentor, “You be you.” Live and Love authentically in Christ.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,[a] not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks[b] one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

While we often pay very close attention to the first part of our scripture, the salt, and light, the second part about the Law and the Prophets is sometimes lost. We must not let it fall away from the scripture, in fact, we must pay close attention to it’s call to responsibility as we move forward in our discipleship as the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World. Here Jesus reminds us to be of whole conscious in leading others to him. He reminds us that any misrepresentation of law to intentionally mislead and/or deceive others to break the law alongside us will not be rewarded. He also reminds us that we are to live as we preach, not to be hypocrites.

In the words of my Daniel, I heard God’s command, not only as Salt and the Light being a disciple, but also to live authentically and fully into the laws that have bound me to my freedom in Christ. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Love one another. Truly, love one another, and allow the spirit of God the room to grow the bonds between us as we grow in Christ’s love for us.

May the power of God that gives light to the stars, that gives breath to every living being, enkindle in us the fire of the Holy Spirit and empower us with strength and courage that we, as bearers of love and justice, become a living blessing for all the world.

Blessings, 
Mo. Allison+
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Preparing the Way : Advent II Peace

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had the benefit of taking a break from my usual writing and studies. I took the time to spend with family and friends, and tend to tasks around the home giving gratitude for the blessings in my life; reflecting upon the discovery of my sisters, new friends and precious time with my wife and sons.

Since graduating from seminary I have found myself engaging in “busy” projects, catching up from my three years mostly away from home. I’ve tackled closets, rooms, cluttered spaces and a dark and dingy basement. I’ve loaded garbage bag after garbage bag empting all that I could. Slowly our house has become, home again. Fresh paint, a new dining room, updated floors, created a whole new space in the basement for study, prayer and gathering. I hung pictures of the boys back up on the walls which were once removed for updating. It’s warm, it’s peaceful, it’s home again! All this in preparation for what is to come. Whatever is to come. Wherever the spirit leads. It reminds me of the time before Connor (my oldest son) was born. As a young wife in a new home I nested. I cleaned every corner, folded and stacked baby items, painted, and organized everything I could all with the anticipation of my little one’s arrival.

Now Advent is here and with that same anticipation, we are busy preparing for Christmas day. Making room for the tree, hanging stockings and lights, playing carols and shopping. I remember as a child, gleefully circling items in the big Sears Christmas catalog. I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning, literally. There came an age, a right of passage, where my brother and I would hunt for hidden Christmas presents. Waiting is hard, even with hope and great anticipation, but the season of Advent is more than waiting, it ‘s a time of preparation and transformation.

Our Gospel this Sunday (Matthew 3:1-12) addresses how we are to prepare for the coming of our Lord. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” Preparing our homes with festive lights and decorations is fun, but it is merely an external symbol of what John is asking us to do. John is telling us that we in preparation for Christ must clean our internal homes, our heart, mind and soul. “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.”

The thought of confession or the Rite of confession in the Episcopal Church is frightening to some. Generally speaking, traumatized former Roman Catholics have voiced to me the depth of their uncomfortableness. It is with deep humility that I recognize and honor their fears. The gifts of the Rite of Reconciliation however is far too great to ignore or to set aside. When we open ourselves to reconciliation we begin to truly transform, emptying ourselves of preconceived predjudice and ideas, allows us the space to receive the gifts of God’s mercy, grace and peace.

I heard a story once told about a zen teacher who receives a university professor. They sit for tea and the teacher begins to pour the tea into the cup. He pours continuously allowing the tea to flow over the top. The professor urges him to stop as there is no more room and then the teacher says, “You see, you are like this cup, full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty the cup.”

In a world full of unrest and a longing for deep peace, reconciliation provides us a vehicle to emptying our cup, our heart, mind and soul, opening ourselves to God and to the Holy Spirit leading to our transformation. Through this opening of selves and transforming spirit may we be ready to receive Christ, the King of Peace.

“Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Blessings,

Mo. Allison+

Archive, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Trusting God to Provide

Trusting God to provide sounds almost cliche, but it’s just about where I am as I reflect on our Gospel for this weekend. As I was writing, my wife called in a panic and upset. Her car died in the fast lane somewhere in Connecticut, about two and a half hours from home. In unfamiliar surroundings, she didn’t know what to do. I gently calmed her down, made sure she was in a safe place, and instructed her to call 911. Thank heaven for technology, and thank you Jesus, she was unharmed. The car was towed, and she called from the shop, “I got bad news and more bad news.” “OK” I said. “The timing belt went and ceased the engine, it will cost $2300.00 at least to repair,” she said, “or I can sign the title over to the shop.” The car is more than 11 years old. “Go ahead and sign the title over. We’ll figure it out.” I said. “God will provide.”

How this all ties in:

I find it hard to extract this week’s Lectionary Gospel reading Luke 21:5-19 from the rest of the chapter without being led astray into an apocolyptic wonderland. It’s easy to insert ourselves and think of all the doom and gloom destruction happening in our world around. Famine, earthquakes, floods, war; we have become all too accustomed to seeing violence and death. The images from our news of rubbled buildings and crushed stone from missile and rocket launches easily come to mind as we read the warning from Jesus in our Gospel. Even today, as I write from the comfort of my own home, nations, and people are being bombed, and another senseless school shooting grasps our attention.

Do not be dismayed. Do not be led astray. There is more than this impending destruction. There is more, much more to the story. There is more to this chapter, and what Christ has to offer, what Christ is promising. It is ever so important to understand this passage in its proper context to the whole of the chapter and not isolated from the entirety of the story. It is more than a warning of impending doom. It is wisdom and promise.

The Wisdom:

At the end of Chapter 20, Jesus warns against the scribes, the teachers who are well dressed, and speak lofty prayers but devour the widow, the poor and those who are most in need. It’s a warning against being led astray by those who live false lives.

In the beginning of Chapter 21, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, and the story continues with Jesus in a part of the temple known as the court of women. This is where the treasury boxes for donation sat out for worshippers to donate. Seven in total, one was dedicated for temple tax and the others were freewill offerings. These freewill offerings were used to expand and adorn the temple over a 46 year period under Herod the Great.

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

Jesus shares with the diciples the story of the poor widow and explains that this woman, giving her two coins gave more than any other. He exclaims that the wealthy gave out of excess, but she havng no excess willingly gave all that she had and was. She did not live on money and riches; she lived with strength and faith trusting that God will provide, putting God first above all things.

The disciples see the external adornment of the temple, its grandiosity takes them and they fail to see the spiritual bankruptcy. I heard a priest from a wealthy congregation once say, “People think my congregation is just fine because they are sitting in six million dollar homes, but they fail to realize that they are sitting alone with their stuff. They are sitting worried over their heroin addicted child. They are coping with their terminal diagnosis, or the loss of their spouse.” He wanted to state a point. He wanted to let us know, his people were hurting too, they weren’t their adornment.

Jesus makes the disciples aware of their failure to see past the facade, to see the hypocricy, and the oppression of the institution. He prepares them for rejection, and the impending death of the Son of God, which will happen at the hands of the well-adorned religious authority. Jesus brings them awareness, then prepares the disciples for the difficult times ahead. He warns them again against false prophets, political chaos, natural disasters, and persecutions. He then gives the disciples assurance, that they will not be alone, that the Holy Spirit will be with them, comfort them and give them the words they need when the time comes. God will provide.

The Promise:

19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.

I don’t ascribe to the saying, “You will be tested.” I don’t believe God “tests” us. I do believe however, that life our lives on earth will experience with human heartache and pain. That there are disasters and wounds beyond our control and that God calls us to remain steadfast in faith with trust and prayer. The poor widow stood in the temple. She had the gift of strength, the gift of resiliency and endurance, and gave it back to God, trusting and believing, putting God first.

Thoughts for this week: Where are we? How far have we come? What are the gifts God has given us? Do we use these gifts to put God first. Perhaps you are in a time of life that is in the midst of destruction, that is tearing down the old and all that you knew. Have faith and know that a resurrected life in Christ is coming. It’s hard in the middle of pain, in the middle of illness, in the middle of trauma, in the middle of whatever it is that distracts us from God to recognize the promised life to come. Hold still, endure, keep faith. Give what has been given to you and know, God will provide!

And if you happen to be in a place of grace, whole and uplifted, having come through adversity or pain, give thanks and reach for another.

Blessings and Love,

Mo. Allison+

Archive, Uncategorized

Saints and Mosaics, the shaping of our Lives

One of the magical pieces to visiting the Holy Land are the remnants of many lasting mosaics left by those who came before us. Floors of synagogues, homes, public spaces and temples that withstood the test of time, speak stories. Speak stories of those who cultivated the tile, those who colored and designed it, those who carefully cut and laid it, those who commissioned it, those who walked upon it, kneeled and prayed on it, shared in liabations, created families and built relationships. Deep, in the grit, they tell the stories of the footsteps of war, and peace, and education, knowledge, hope, faith and history. They echo ancient voices in song of wonder and lament, absorb tears from heaven and invite us to touch our ancestors today. Though weathered, through the dust of ages they remain. They take to the shape of the ever shifting ground on which they were laid. Uneven swells and decline, like the softness of clay, pressed upon by the potter’s hand, perfectly imperfect. We are witness to their display, and formed by their existence.

Our lives, like that of the mosaic, are similiarly formed. Bit by bit, piece by piece, reflecting both darkness and light. We are formed by the people we encounter, ever changing , ever growing, ever shifting, even if so slightly amending to the swell and decline of life’s waves, rippling ups and downs over the course of time.

There are those who have touched our lives with soft and gentle hands, with the sweetness of oil whose memories remain dear and wholesome, leaving that piece, that section, that time of our life with buffed and soft edges adding to the brightness of our mortal soul and the gladness in our hearts. These are our teachers, mentors, loved ones and friends, sometimes even strangers who left their tender mark with kind words, an assist, a smile, a nod or lent a hand when we were in most need. Oh, how we remember these our Saints.

There are also those long dark pieces, the ones with the sharp and ridgid edges. The ones that have been shattered, put back together and repositioned. The ones that were left and marked by the people who disappointed us, let us down, betrayed or hurt us deeply. These special pieces mended and re-afixed, they too are the beautiful pieces that create and form us into becoming who we are as one body in Christ. Though sometimes we wish to forget, these too, we are compelled to remember.

This weekend, we celebrate the Saints, we celebrate all who have come before us and have left an indelible mark on our lives and the life of our Christian Body. We recognize and give thanks for the struggle, the strife and the ultimate victory of each who followed in the footsteps of Christ, creating the mosaic of our lives. Perfectly, imperfect.

As we remember, may we also hear the charge. Christ calls us to strive and to live as the Saints, picking up our cross, marching to Calvery and proclaiming Christ’s victory over death. Here we have a responsibility to each other and to the body of Christ; to Love one another, to Love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who abuse us, to offer forgiveness and mercy and to selflessly give to everyone, no barrier, no exception, everyone! Diligently working in good faith, may we act toward each other as we would have others act toward us, for we are the crafters of the mosaics in each others lives. Be the person who buffs, shines and smoothes the edges of another. Leave no ridgidness in scar. Heal and mend the broken pieces.

Dying for our sins, Christ has given us new life, eternal life in him. Give thanks for the gift of witness, the gift of all who have come before us and for those who continue to touch our lives and buff our edges and color our soul with the brightness of Christ, the Love of God. Soon we too will be called and welcomed home; until then may we continue to form, grow and add lovingly to the mosaic of our lives.

Blessings, 
Mo. Allison+
Archive, Prayers

 

9/27/2018

senior sermon

The Collect

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.