Prayers, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Relationship – The Law and the Spirit of the Living God

I have to admit, Matthew 5:21-37, is not the scripture I would like to choose to introduce myself to a new congregation. None-the-less, God’s sense of humor is vast and the Holy Spirit is tugging at my core to acknowledge the tension in the entirety of the lectionary. Truly I would like to preach on Deuteronomy 30:15-20. We can talk about choices, We can talk about life, and death and blessings and curses, or perhaps just refresh in the words of Paul’s letter to the 1Corinthians 3:1-9 and talk about how we are all connected through the Body of Christ, but Matthew tugs and cannot be silently pushed aside.

I think as my colleagues and I pondered over this passage, one thing was clear, this passage elicited personal reaction and reflection. It is difficult, not only because of what Jesus is requiring of us but because it is a passage that has been misused through-out generations to suppress or oppress another. For instance, should a woman stay in a marriage that is toxic and abusive? The answer is no. “But Mother,” you say, “Jesus, said, 31 “anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

I say to you, it is important to look at the societal context in which Jesus was preaching as he fulfilled the law. Marriage was used as a way for a woman to hold status and be cared for and hold a place in society. Jesus emphasized in the Sermon on the Mount that marriage and all the laws go beyond the legality or the external expression of the law, and that love and care for another and their well-being continues regardless of status, a marriage or divorce certificate; we are to care for one another as persons, as a community.

Allow me to go deeper. Who among us has not been angry? Who among us has not been hurt or wounded in such a way that we react or lash out? Of course, we have. We are human and feeling is part of the unavoidable human experience.

Jesus is setting the bar high here, why?

Looking up from behind the Altar

In my life, I have held a great privilege. In the church I was raised from, I held a key to the sanctuary. It was a beautiful sanctuary. In the morning, the sun softly lit the altar, midday it penetrated through the small stained glass windows above the chancel and at night in the dark, the moon presided over quiet contemplation. Yes, I visited often, daily for some time. Some days, I walked the aisle, felt every pew, as the presence of the Holy Spirit swept me to and from the altar. I sat, I prayed, somedays I just laid behind the altar with God as I gazed up at the dust dancing in the sunlight. Time stood still.

This place, especially at that time, was a place to wrestle with God. You see, I was a victim of a horrendous injustice, and as Jesus requires and inspires the only place I knew where to go was the altar. I was angry, I was hurt, betrayed, traumatized and sought what no person could give, a sense of peace, of wholeness, of reconciliation. My world was shattered and it would never be the same, of course, I was angry. “Forgive me, forgive them, forgive us O’God.”

As sinners, we, you and I are constantly breaking the law, in thought, word, or deed. That’s why we seek reconciliation before we feast at the table. That’s why we give the sign of Peace. We are all sinners.

So what do we do with all that?

We seek God! We seek the spirit of the living God.

We go to God. We know that we cannot go it alone. We build and deepen our relationship with God, so our relationship with each other can grow and manifest into the Glory of the Kingdom that Jesus has prepared for us. We love one another, we care for one another, we embrace one another as one body in Christ as Paul teaches, and we choose life. We choose God, we choose one another and build community and we choose to walk in love to manifest God’s good grace in each other fostering an understanding of our human flaws. this is what compassion looks like.

So, let your yes, be yes and your no be no. Mean what you say and say what you mean. When you resist evil, say NO, Satan! When you embrace forgiveness and reconciliation, say YES to God, say Yes to life, say Yes to the spirit of the living God, to each other and let go, trust, have faith and allow God and the Holy Spirit the room to dwell among us, reviving the heartbeat of the living Christ within each one of us.

Be kind and be gentle, to yourself and one another.

May our Lord, teach and guide us to always seek God first in everything we do, and may our love be filled with genuine affection, honoring the dignity of one another through the Spirit of the Living God.

Blessings,
Mo. Allison+
The Spirit of the Living God

Archive, Prayers, Thoughts, Uncategorized

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+
Prayers, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Rabbi, How do you know light?

I haven’t written in some weeks. It’s been a rollercoaster of a January. We have had much to celebrate and just as much to mourn. On the bright side, I have accepted a call as Rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Stone Harbor, New Jersey and my brother-in-law was gifted with a new heart. On the down side I lost a dear friend to breast cancer and like many am mourning the current state of our nation. It has been a difficult month to keep focus as I wrap up all that is ending and embrace all that is beginning.

As I steadily sort through my things, letting go of what’s no longer needed, prayerfully boxing what I’m keeping, I find myself adrift. Recalling memories as I sort through pictures and revisiting my life’s journey, I am reminded of both those times of light and dark. I gather it is apropos as we celebrate groundhog day tomorrow here in the States, along with the Feast of the Presentation/Candlemas on our church calendar.

With it’s foundation in ancient pagan religion, Groundhog day is the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, a middleway as days lengthen. Legend has it that if an animal sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter. I’m happy when it doesn’t.

Ancient Celtic Religion marked this day as Imbolc, it’s actually two days, Feb. 1st and 2nd. It is the ushering in of Spring and the beginnings of new life. Imbolc comes from the gaelic word, Imbolg, meaning in the belly. It is the expectant mother nature full of hope and potential. It is life stirring from within waiting to be reborn, a time of both letting go and making space for all that is to come. Yes, I’m right where the planets have aligned on this very day.

Imbolc gained its ties to the Christian church through the connection of the pagan goddess Brigid and St. Brigid of Kildare. Bridgid was a goddess of healing, craft and poetry. She was a goddess of fire and fertility. In the year 450 Brigid of Kildare was born in Ireland. Sharing the name of the ancient goddess and devouting her life to Christ and the church, the two would be linked forever. Brigid was baptised by St. Patrick, she performed many works. She fed and healed the poor from a very young age and took her final vows from St. Patrick himself. Legend has it that when Saint Patrick heard her final vows, he accidentally used the form for ordaining priests. When the error was brought to his attention, he simply replied, “So be it, my son, she is destined for great things.” And great things she accomplish.

After taking her vows St. Brigid founded a monastary, the Church of the Oak, that was built upon the pagan shrine for the celtic goddess. She organized a religious order and founded two monastic institutions, one for men, the other for women. She later found a school for art.

On the grounds of the Church of the Oak is an eternal flame that was left behind from the pre-christian pagan shrine. St. Bridgid and her religious order relit the flame. The new fire represented the new light of Christianity in Ireland. Today, the Brigid Light is still guarded and tended in Solas Bhride as it was in Kildare many centuries ago by the Sisters of St Brigid. The flame burns as a beacon of hope, justice and peace for Ireland and our world.

Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation is celebrated this day, February 2nd, a time where we bless the candles of the church resembling the outward and visible sign of Christ who illumines our world. We bless the candles to be carried in the procession, the candles that will be used throughout the liturgical year, and candles that are given to the congregation to take home.

Light, we are reminded of light.

The Feast of the Presentation is a celebration of the Purification of the Holy Family. Under Jewish Law, on the eighth day, after Jesus’ birth, he was circumcised. Mary continued to stay at home for 33 days for her blood to be purified. After the 40th day, Mary and Joseph came to the temple with Jesus for the rite of purification. This rite generally included the offering of a sacrifice — a lamb for a holocaust (burnt offering) and a pigeon or turtledove for a sin offering, or for a poor couple who could not afford a lamb, two pigeons or two turtledoves. Joseph and Mary made the offering of the poor (Lk 2:24), two pigeons and did not bring a lamb, as Jesus was the lamb of God.

Before entering the temple the Holy Family encounters Simieon,

Lord, you now have set your servant free
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel.

A light… Here is that symbol again, light. A Light to enlighten the nations, there is hope…

When I paint, I generally start backward. I wonder if my prayers are set that way. A little backward, starting from the dark and working my way to the light. You see, I set up my canvas, and like most canvas’ it sits on the easel blank and starchy white. I never know what to make of that, no matter the plan or thought or even the sketch, so the very first thing I do is paint it black. From their, I gather my prayers, play my music, light my incense and wait for the Holy Spirit to fill my palate and move my brush. Little by little from out of the dark a creation is born. Sometimes the birthing process is short-lived, other times it is fostered out of months of looking for the light to come from the shadows of the dark.

The world in its divisions can seem dark at times. It can easily distract from the promise of new life and seem rather hopeless and unjust, however; when I think of our celebrations this Sunday, and I think of the new life about to be born of me, the new life that’s about to take hold of my congregation, the new life that has gifted my brother-in-law and all whom he has touched, and the new life my son is about to engage in on his own, I see the light coming from out of the darkness. I see the hope and gladness of a new day. I see that we like St. Brigid are connected by this eternal flame that gives us breath, Jesus the light to enlighten the nations.

I am reminded of the Rabbi who asked his students, how do you know light? And the first student said, “When you can see the difference between a sheep and a dog in the field.” The Rabbi said, “No. How do you know light?” And the second boy said, “When you can see the difference between a fig tree and a peach tree.” “No,” said the Rabbi. Frustrated the boy said, “Then how do you know light, Rabbi?” and the Rabbi responded, “You know light when you look at another and see that each is your sister and brother. Then and only then will you know light.”

I am reminded that even in the midst of our divided world that Christ lives in each of us and every day is a chance to renew our lives in Christ. Like the flicker of a flame we will bend, and brighten, but we shall live eternally in Christ our King. Like St. Brigid, we must tend the flame that lights the world, feed the poor, clothe the homeless, and love one another. There is hope, even in the dark. There is life waiting to be born and born again.

Lord, you fulfilled the hope of Simeon and Anna,
who did not die until they welcomed the Messiah.
May we, who have received these your gifts beyond words prepare to meet Christ Jesus when he comes to bring us eternal life; for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Blessings, 
Mo. Allison+

Prayers, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Christmas II: The Eve of the Epiphany, “Recalculating, destination Jesus”

Remember back in the day when the trending question was “WJD, What would Jesus do?” I could be wrong, but it seemed we communally cared about the values and life of a living Gospel and living into that Gospel. Christian or not our attention was drawn to a God whose authority we sought with moral intention. Not to say there wasn’t evil or war in the world, or the harshness of injustice in community, driven by our institutions riddled with racism, bigotry, sexism, classism and more, but we sought to be better. We cared enough to want better not only for our own generation, but for generations to follow.

Without question my heart aches deeply for our nation and our world who struggle to find God in the midst of earthly chaos, and instead settle for instant comfort in power and greed, neglecting the tender care of all of God’s creation. My ache is shared with Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Jews around the world. Even those who choose not to believe in God at all, weep with me over our lost way. I lament, once we strove to be better.

When I was in marketing and sales for the health and wellness industry, before GPS systems and Google Maps, I carried paper maps in my car. I even had maps that were in books and broken down by county. I was sure to find my way, no matter how far I wandered, toward my destination. Sure on some sunny days, I went off road abit for my long needed conversations with God, but always came back and recalculated as I headed toward my final destination. No longer in sales, I still like long drives, especially those where I wander some. The difference today is that my Google Maps and I argue. She says turn left, and I’m like, nah – not gonna do it, and this goes on for awhile until I return to my route and quiet resumes.

The Magi didn’t have maps or gps or google, they had a star. They had a star in which to follow to lead them to the King of Kings, Jesus Christ and then they had a decision, a decision between two kings. Go back and worship Herod or worship Jesus the new born king, the son of God? They chose Jesus.

As we are navigating our lives, we too have a similar decision. Are we followers of God the incarnate, the God who became man to live and dwell among us or are we followers of man who author themselves a king?

Jesus, the Messiah, the hope, the light, the Christ has given us the gifts of grace, mercy and love. Do we pay it forward? Do we look upon our neighbor and give the same?

When we worship, are we worshipping peace, love and justice or do we worship money, power and things? When we break bread do we pass it along to everyone, or just a chosen few? Do we act and make decisions from a place of love or do we react from a place of fear? Do we share in our abundance or hold back in scarcity?

As a priest and member of the Episcopal Church, I am grateful for my Baptismal Covenant, which provides a guide, a map, like a shining star in the sky that leads my every decision back to Christ. No, I’m surely not perfect. I still wander from time to time, but certainly I strive every day to be better, to do better.

Next week we will renew our covenant at the Baptism of our Lord, but I refer to it every day, and encourage you to do the sme, especially in times of decision and discernment so we may not wander too far from Christ Jesus.

Perhaps, like a GPS the world needs a little recalculating to set it once again on the right course, to want to strive to be and do better, and perhaps we can offer that to our friends and neighbors and loved ones as we remind ourselves and recalculate our lives setting our face on God.

The Baptismal Covenant

Celebrant:Do you believe in God the Father?
People:I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
Celebrant:Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People:I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Celebrant:Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People:I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Celebrant:Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
People:I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant:Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People:I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant:Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
People:I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant:Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
People:I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant:Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People:I will, with God’s help.
With Peace and In Christ,  
Mo. Allison+ 

For Peace Among the Nations

Almighty God our heavenly Father, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Coca Cola Commercial – I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony) – 1971
We are the World
Prayers, Uncategorized, Video

“Welcome Home!” A Christmas Eve Sermon for 2019

I had the opportunity to preach and serve at St. Barnabus Episcopal Church in Monmouth Junction over the Advent season and for Christmas services. I am grateful for their presence and witness. My heart is full! It was simply wonderful.

A Blessed Christmas to one and all and a very Happy New Year!

In Christ,
Mo. Allison+

“Welcome Home!”
Christmas Eve 2019
Thoughts, Uncategorized

Advent IV : The Prophetic Word, Making decisions in a noisy world…

Every day we wake we make decisions, from small decisions like what to wear, and whether or not to put cream in our coffee to large decisions that affect the course of our lives and the people around us. As an Episcopal Priest I seek God’s Wisdom and utilize the guidance of my vows, my Baptismal Covenant and the gift of my Spiritual Director at Mt. St. Mary’s House of Prayer. I also look to the prophetic voices around me who strengthen my obedience to the will of God. Fr. Johny Panamtham, SSP, Societ of St Paul says, “When our decisions affect the lives of others we must seek God’s wisdom and then be willing to follow through no matter how difficult they may be.” Giving up control, trusting and allowing God the space to work in our lives can often be difficult. We expect joy, we expect easy, but sometimes doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do, may feel scary or uncertain, anything but easy.

We live in such a noisy world. Many voices speak, speak loudly but how are we to determine the Wisdom of God? Fear, stress, earthly concerns often weigh us down. If I do X will I be able to my bills? If I say no, will have another opportunity? If I say yes, what does success look like? What does failure look like? So many words are spoken from outside opinions to our own inner conscious, determining where those voices come from is often the difference between our peace and our distress. Are those voices or opinions coming from our wounds, our fears, our hurts or sorrows, experiences or God? How are we to determine which it is?

Our lectionary this weekend addresses the prophetic word and our willingness to accept God’s wisdom in our noisy world. King Ahaz often referred to as the “puppet king” is a descendant of David. He finds himself in a difficult position. His kingdom, Judah, in the south was in danger from the kingdom to the north, Ephraim. In the scripture just preceeding our lectionary, God speaks to Isaiah and tells him to go to Ahaz and say, ” Be careful, keep calm and do not be afraid. Do not lose heart… remain firm in faith, seek God’s counsel and do not compromise with invading nations….” Obediant, Isaiah follows through, but the King is not willing to listen.

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. 13 Then Isaiah[b] said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman[c] is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.[d] 15 He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

(NRSV)

Ahaz refused God’s help and instead tried to buy aid from the Assyrians using silver and Gold. This only brought more trouble, unrest and no peace. One may think that Ahaz was acting righteously by saying “I will not ask, I will not put my Lord to the test” but indeed it is God who asked Ahaz to ask him for a sign. Was his disobedience righteous? I think not. Ahaz was afraid of what God would say. He was afraid of how God would answer. How many times do we excuse what we know in our gut to be right? How many times do we try to rationalize what we know to be wrong in our hearts simply because we are afraid to let go and trust? Ahaz didn’t want to know the will of God, because God’s will may not have aligned with Ahaz.

Isaiah responded to Ahaz, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also?” Expressing patience and pointing to promise, that one day love will come into this world and justice will reign. That one day the Son of God will be born whether or not Ahaz asks for a sign, the sign will be granted. Trust and hope in the Lord our God. Immanuel is to come and is all ready here. God is with us.

While Ahaz refused Joseph obeyed.

Imagine being Joseph. The young woman you are betrothed to comes to you and says she is pregnant. She tells you she is still a virgin, that the child to be born is God’s. Imagine what your response would be. Outrage? Feelings of betrayal? Mistrust? How can this be? Doubt? Joseph’s rational thinking must have told him to break it off, to leave, to let Mary go in fact he had planned to do so quietly.

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;[b] and he named him Jesus.

(NRSV)

Joseph obeyed the prophetic voice of the Angel who came to him. Can you imagine how difficult that was? Can you imagine what his family would have said? Can you imagine the looks from the people who knew them both? Can you imagine how community received them? Joseph did what was right in obeying God but certainly his obedience was not the easier softer way. It was the way and the path God set out before him, a holy path and Joseph was willing and able to say yes.

We make decisions each and every day of our lives, some big and some small. When our decisions affect the lives of many we are to seek the wisdom of God, listening to the prophetic voices and signs God sends our way. Ignoring the prophetic and seeking control of our own human desires only gets in the way of the work God would otherwise have us do and is doing in the world. As Christians we too must lift the prophetic voices in witness to God’s glory. Joseph having steadfast faith, trusted God and helped to usher in God’s love for the world through Jesus. Can you imagine what would have come of Mary if Joseph, like Ahaz disobeyed? What if Joseph went his own way instead of the way of the Lord? It’s unimaginable.

So how do we seek and obey the wisdom of God?

Pray, discern, find that quiet space in the home of your heart to listen to the voice that nags you deep inside, ask God for a sign, and allow yourself the space to recognize that sign when it comes. This is the work we do in Spiritual Direction, sorting through the outside noise and distractions that lead us away from God, to hear, listen, obey and trust, remaining steadfast in faith.

May the grace and love of God give you an awareness of God’s wisdom and strengthen you in your decisions.

Peace and Blessings,

Mo. Allison+

One of my most favorite scenes of all time in any movie, “God’s trying to tell you something” from the Color Purple. When God is trying to tell you something, are you listening?

Poetry, Prayers, Uncategorized

Advent III : “A warm blanket, cup of cocoa and a kiss from God”

I am looking forward to this evening where I will lend my voice in celebration and prayerful reflection of Father Andy Kruger transitioning from Priest in Charge to Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Cranford. Gathered together we will chant Taize. It brings gladness to my heart. I am looking forward to tomorrow, where I will humbly present Tammy Young for ordination to the Priesthood at St. Mark’s in Basking Ridge. We’ve journeyed long together and I am overwhelmed by how far we have come. I am looking forward to Sunday, where I will celebrate the Eucharist and witness the hope, love and joy of Christ’s peaceble Kingdom at St. Barnabas in Monmouth Junction. These are some of the candles burning brightly in the midst of the Dark winter days of December. It brings a welcome break to the constant news cycle and the chaos of the week which brought gunfire and hate to my friends and loved ones at home in Jersey City, New Jersey.

This week’s reading from Isaiah 35:1-10 wraps me like a needed warm blanket on a cold day, given a cup of cocoa and kissed on the forehead by God, “It’s going to be ok my child.”

The Return of the Redeemed to Zion

35 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
    the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
    and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
    the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
    the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
    “Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
    He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
    He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,[a]
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,
    and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,[b]
    but it shall be for God’s people;[c]
    no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
    nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
    but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain joy and gladness,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

“The desert shall rejoice and blossom”

I’ve never been a good Gradner. I’ve attempted some potted herbs from time to time only to have weeping basil on my kitchen sil. I am in awe of those who can grow things. Take a little seedling, plant it in soil, nurture it with water and love and allow God’s magic to take place in the time in between, lifting and sprouting that seedling into a flourishing blossom. The congregation at St. Peter’s in Spotswood, New Jersey does an amazing job of cultivating food from the earth and spreading God’s abundance in community. I watched and learned over the growing season as they prepped the beds, planted, and tended to its growth with love, hardwork and prayer. I’ve learned alot about actively being patient, and I’ve learned just as they have tended to the seeds, so have they tended to me with patience and love.

There are often no words for those who grieve that ease the pain of loss especially this time of year when all the world seems aglow with holiday preparation. There are no words for a community terrorized by hatred and violence that ease the pain of being victimized and targeted. There are no words for a mother who loses a child or a child who loses a parent. No heady, rational verbal expression can explain away the depth of sorrow or create a sympathetic understanding, but it does not mean that we sit in the stillness of dark days without action, void of love’s expression. No, we have a duty to God and to one another to stand up and tend to each other with love, patiently awaiting the coming of Christ who loves us.

“Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.”

Tending to a garden is not comfortable work, especially as we get older. I find my joints are stiffer, the arthritis is creeping further and the knees aren’t as reliable as they once were. I don’t kneel in worship at times where I once did, instead I gently bow giving rest to my aching knees. The brokeness of the world is as taxing on the body as it is our spirit. Loving earnestly with an open heart as we battle the evil among us is often not easy. It can be rather uncomfortable. After the Tree of Life shooting that took the lives of eleven of God’s faithful people, an older woman approached me at the end of service and asked, ” How am I supposed to love a person who has done such harm?” My heart melted as I listened and understood deeply her anguish.

Pray for strong hands and firm knees as we battle the acts of evil in our earthly world. God’s is with us, Emmanuel even as we await the birth of our incarnate Christ.

Many of my friends and colleagues are exhausted by the the Trauma and relentless attacks on our communities, on communities of color, on our religious communities especially our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters, on communities of refugees, on our border communities, on our poor communities and communities who are food insecure, on our LGBTQI communities and on our hispanic communities. We, as many of you, are exhausted and sometimes overwhelmed by the evil acts often committed under the cover of Jesus’s name. It’s tiring, often down right infuriating. We ask for God’s strength and light in the darkness and look to the one that is to come.

I can imagine that as John wrote from prison (Matt. 11:2-11), he may have been tired too, “Are you the one that is to come?” I can also imagine that like the Isaiah passage above is to me, the apostles’ words and witness was to John, a warm blanket, some cocoa and a kiss on the forehead. ” You my child, will be ok.”

As we await for the birth of our incarnate Lord may we live like the apostles, bringing good news and witness to those who sit in the darkness of injustice, pain or grief. May we cultivate the seed of hope, love and joyful expectation to the one that is to come. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”

May we be living witnesses, loving radically, abundantly, becoming the warm blanket, cup of cocoa and kiss from God for all. O’ come, O’ come Emmanuel!

Peace,

Mo. Allison+

Archive, Prayers, Thoughts, Uncategorized

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+

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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+

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Love Inscribed

Job 19:23-27a

Job said,
"O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!
O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another."

Last fall I offered a meditative session to our youth gathering called “Give and Take.” The object was to engage our senses through tactile learning. We collectively wrote our Thanksgivings on a pumpkin that sat on the center of a table. Then we picked up a rock that was inscribed with something we wished to take with us, whether it was something we needed to hold and pray for ourselves, or to pass on to another. The tactile engagement with our thoughts and prayers made them real and relavent. They became tangible and alive. Last night I met a friend who attended that gathering and she said, ” I still carry that rock with me, you know.” I didn’t know, and my heart smiled.

Inscribed in each and every one of us, like the hope inscribed on those Thanksgiving stones, is the love of our living God never wavering, solid and true. Here for us now, for all whom we touch, and for generations to come. Like Job, however, in our human angst and uncertain world, knowledge of God’s love and presence alone sometimes fails to provide us the needed comfort we long for. It is heart-wrenching to watch someone you love suffer, or to bear witness to injustice, trauma, illness or grief. These are the times we reach for a mediator, a friend, a loved one to ease our cries; searching for that hug, touch, or simple nod of understanding. Like the inscribed stone, they draw us closer to our living God, awakening in us the sense of God’s presence. Yes, I know there are those who suffer in darkness, alone yearning for a like soul. They too may be touched by the inscripted surrender to God.

Job’s inscription placed for generations to plead his case before God and to make known his strong faith even in the midst of his own confusion and pain gives us an awareness of the smallness of our own humanity. How often do we wrestle for the reasoning of God? How often do we beg for God’s intervention in an unjust world and wonder why so much sufferring is abound? Starvation and homelessness, war, violence, abuse, neglect, greed, power and destruction leave us with heavy hearts and open wounds, begging, yearning for God’s intervention. Is God lying dormant, silent and still or have we simply become so overwhelmed by the darkness and uncertainty of the world that we fail to see the living God among us? Like Job our pain in a sufferring world is valid and true, but also like Job we must hold steadfast in Faith, trusting that our Redeemer lives and opening our hearts to receiving God’s blessing.

Upon my return from a short trip to Aruba last month I found myself depressed. I am not where I expected to be when I first planned the trip. I await a call and bills are mounting. I find myself occasionally wondering if what God has planned for me I’ve all ready completed. I’m cranky and weep with a trusted few. I pray, I paint, I make art and keep busy in the house. My happiest days are Sundays. presiding over the Eucharist, breaking bread and being in communion and fellowship with all who seek Christ. I am energized and alive at least on Sunday. I have to admit, I have occasionally overlooked the presence of Christ Monday through Saturday, wallowing in my own sadness as a way of control. Yes, I can acknowledge those moments when Christ was present or arrived through the encouraging words of my sister, the love and support of my wife and son, the guidance of my mentor and friend, the gripe sessions with another wrestler of God, or even the cashier at the Home Depot who was so nervous about my collar she felt the need to reveal her son was in the musical, “Nunsense”. It was a good chuckle.

Just because we don’t acknowledge or ignore God from time to time, doesn’t mean God is ignoring us. God is very much here among us. God’s loving inscription is within us. This I know, and yes even trust. It’s control and expectation that leaves us unsettled; our plans, our vision verse the vision and plans God has for us. Truth be told, I know when I surrender, God’s plans are far better than my own. I know when I surrender, I recognize Christ among us. I recognize the beauty of Christ’s existance in the helpers as Mr. Rogers would say, and in the lovers, the friends, and in creatures great and small, even in the spirit of the wind. So, like the old twelve step saying goes, “Let Go and Let God.”

May we, like Job, inscribe upon the stones our unending faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in his love for us even as we wrestle with him. May we come to know God’s loving inscription upon our hearts growing in the way and likeness of Christ.

Blessings, 
Mo. Allison+