Friday, December 28, 2012

Contemplating Holy Birth

From the Advent Writing Circle
Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville, 12/20/12
Written by Merrill Farnsworth

Contemplating Holy Birth

I sat at the kitchen table one afternoon in late November talking to my
daughter, Evie, who was home from college for Thanksgiving break. We were
in the midst of epic side dish preparations the big feast. Evie has a deep,
poetic, saucy and compassionate nature, so I always enjoy meandering
through long conversations with her (lucky me - all three of my children
are philosophers, writers and musicians). As we sliced, diced, mixed,
mashed and stirred, I mentioned the Advent Circle I'd been invited to
facilitate and we began discussing the familiar story of Mary, Joseph and
the Holy Birth. I mentioned I was searching for new windows into old
stories. As our conversation rambled from virgins to angels and then to
cows in a manger, she said an amazing thing. She said, *What if a person
could give birth to the thing inside them that makes them feel sick or
ashamed? What if the dark things inside us could be pushed out into the
light?* *What if this is holy birth*?

At first it seemed scandalous to link the idea of shame to the story of
Holy Birth, but then it also seems scandalous to even halfway believe a
virgin was mysteriously impregnated with the son of God and that God
conceived and followed through with a plan for His perfect and beloved son
to be nailed to a cross. So I opened my mind, allowing my daughter’s idea
take root in my imagination and got lost in the bubbling up of words and

*What if I give birth to my darkness? *

*Perhaps my shadow, coming into light, will finally see Love’s true and
shining face.*

*What if I give birth to my hate?*

*Maybe my hate would be free to walk the winding labyrinth toward the sweet
Center of forgiveness.*

*What if I give birth to my despair?*

*I envision despair reaching out to take hope’s strong and reassuring hand.*

*What if I give birth to my fear?*

*Then fear could slowly open her eyes and see courage giving her an
encouraging wink.*

* *

I opened my eyes and smiled, looking across the kitchen table at my
daughter who had just gifted me with a new vision of Holy Birth while
deeply involved in her task of crowning the South Carolina Sweet Potato
Casserole with butter, brown sugar and pecans.

Monday, December 24, 2012

not enough angels too many animals

Advent 4C 12/23/12
Episcopal Church of the Epiphany
The Rev. Cynthia Hizer

Not enough angels too many animals.

I have started my annual worry about the epiphany pageant.
About getting enough animals and shepherds and angels. We had been chronically short on angel costumes, so last year I ordered several more = like ten more.
Then the sign-ups came in – and no one signed up to be an angel.
Maybe a couple did = but then when they saw all the cool animal costumes they threw off their angel wings and asked to be an animal instead.

What red-blooded child would want to float on clouds all day? 
This is the complexity of the incarnation. Jesus came for us to be fully divine and fully human –
both angel and animal.

We are told that Mary, mother of Jesus was chosen because she was without sin. Immaculate – she was totally clean. Obviously an angel. And even Mary’s mother Anna was without sin. Immaculate.
An angel.

That makes us feel even worse.
Two generations of immaculatness – of sinlessness – angelness.
Juxtaposed against our – animalness.

As if being an animal – an incarnation – is somehow sinful. As if coming into the world in the normal way – the way most of us get conceived and born – is sinful. God created us to have relationships with each other – to fall in love, to enjoy our animalness.

This is far away from the Garden of Eden – with Eve eating the apple and the cursing of the serpent. It was written to set up fear of our animalness and I dare say –
our animal wisdom.

Because that kind of wisdom plants us firmly on the earth in our bodies.
It plants us in the animal body of Mary.
And makes even little children know it is more fun and just more real
to be an animal than an angel in the Epiphany pageant.

So I say,
Thank you Jesus, for Mary.

For bringing us back down to earth.
She may have been sinless, but at least she gives birth in the usual way, not out of the side of Zeus’s head, the way Athena was born.

At least she gives birth after riding on a donkey, not floating on clouds.

Thank you Jesus, for Mary.

At least she gave birth on a stable floor –
in the midst of straw and dung and darkness and all animal things – the parts of our own story that we can’t brush aside or air-brush to look as if our whole life story took place in the company of angels.

Thank you Jesus, for Mary,

for trusting in the incarnation,
for the inherent animal wisdom of our children who knowThat coming from the earth
That being a part of nature
That being incarnational is good. 
And even more than good, it’s whole. It’s the whole package of who we are.

It makes us the complicated people we are – people who live in both worlds,
who wait for the creative spark to be born in us,
- the new life to be born in us,
- the divine to be born in us

Right where we are – right now, on the stable floor.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

As Advent Advances Dec 23 Poetry Chaz

Color Me Being* (Like a bird watching as shadows play)

call to be
to free the power of the color to give life to canvas,
and to retreat
into the silence
moving ahead brushing by the branches, catching my breath
in the cold wordless breath of winter sky
listening to the songs
singing lives in spring, summer, and fall,
bringing in the sheaves
of gold and brown and emerald shadows.
always asking for more
life to give,
calling out to live . . . while the whole world
like a mountain
in the deep lake
is waiting for us.

waiting for us to be!

And this is a day of listening to what hurts and blesses,
the banging of the sound of frustration, the slamming of some doors,
quiet opening of others, and in the midst of poems and paintings and songs,
a note gently spoken in what is left unsaid
in prayer that hangs in the evening like a bright ripe orange persimmon on a high branch
of a leafless
winter day.

And the sun sets, sun rises, on a new day,
even if we do not see it,
God gives out in joy
what lasts.

·      for Julie, Frank, and Dan- family near and far away

c. hill December 3, 2012 in Hawaii and Tennessee, when one tries being into awareness of the bigger act.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 22 Advent Meditation

As Advent Advances, and the Immaculate Mary as Earth
a series of daily contemplations on birth through the eyes of earth

It is only when we are aware of the earth and of the earth as poetry that we truly live. Ages and people which sever the earth from the poetic spirit, or do not care, or stop their ears with knowledge as with dust, find their veins grown hollow and their hearts an emptiness echoing to questioning. 
For the earth is ever more than the earth, more than the upper and the lower field, the tree and the hill....It is this earth which is the true inheritance of man, his link with his  human past, the source of his religion, ritual and song, the kingdom without whose splendor he lapses from his mysterious estate.

-- Henry Beston, Herbs and the Earth

Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21 Advent Meditation Winter Solstice

Advent Mediation on the Day of Solstice Return

"All living creatures and plants derive their life from the sun. If it were not for the sun, there would be darkness and nothing could grow -- the earth would be without life. Yet the sun must have the help of the earth. If the sun alone were to act upon animals and plants, the heat would be so great that they would die, but there are clouds that bring rain, and the action of the sun and earth together supply the moisture that is needed for life.

The roots of the plants go down and the deeper they go the more moisture they find. This is according to the laws of nature and is one of the evidences of the wisdom of Wakan'tanka. Plants are sent by Wakan'tanka and come from the ground at his command, the part to be affected by the sun and rain appearing above the ground and the roots pressing downward to find the moisture which is supplied for them. Animals and plants are taught by Wakan'tanka what they are to do."

--Okute (in Densmore, Teton Sioux Music)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 20 Advent Meditation

As Advent Advances, and the Immaculate Mary as Earth
a series of daily contemplations on birth through the eyes of earth

December 20, 2012

...far are we from the forests of our rest
Where the wolf nature from maternal breast
Fed us with strong brown milk
Yet still our souls keep memories of that time
In Sylvan wildernesses, our soul's prime
Of wisdom, forests that were gods' abode.

- Edith Sitwell, Elegy on Dead Fashion

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

As Advent Advances, and the Immaculate Mary as Earth
a series of daily contemplations on birth through the eyes of earth

"A newly developing plant embryo, unlike a human embryo, has no sterile womb in which to grow and so, in a sense, makes its own. As soon as germination begins, the new plant starts releasing compounds though its tiny root system to essentially make a sterile zone around the emerging rootlet. This action protects the seed from harmful organisms and makes space in the soil for its growth."   from The Lost Language of Plants  by Stephen Harrod Buhner.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Gourd People in Flight

Advent 2B Dec 9, 2012
The Rev Cynthia Hizer
The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany

On the Wednesday nights during Advent, I hold a class here at Epiphany using one of our Nativities  scenes from our large collection -  along with Lectio Divina – a meditation in four movements - and we look at the scene from four different directions.

In each movement, we heard the birth narratives from Scripture, formed some prayers out of it, did a little meditating. After the first reading, we were so curious about the nativity scene we sat down on the floor right in front of it – to figure out what materials the artist was using, if there was any social or political message embedded in the materials and even more - who was in the scene, and who wasn’t – who was included in this narrative, who was not included.

This particular nativity scene didn’t have a star hanging above the stable – it didn’t even  have a stable; it had no shelter at all, no sanctuary. It didn’t have an angel, or any animals, no kings.
It didn’t seem to come with much of a story.

Yet it came with a big story, an ancestry, a lineage.
It told us the story of a little family trudging through the sand, eyes down, focused on the child, the mother made of a nice plump gourd, her body rising out of it as if out of the lush earth. if you lift it up you can hear the seeds shake - it still has the seeds in it! It is a "real" gourd.

The father, a taller, slimmer gourd – these gourd people and their little baby who was being carried in a tiny gourd, cut in half to make a basket. The couple was leaning forward slightly, road warriors, intent on their journey, maybe fleeing from Harod. We heard about Harod today.

In our Scripture readings today, all the pieces and players are being set in place for the story of an upcoming birth. Prophets and heros throughout history have always had interesting births – sometimes checkered but always somehow important. Jacob and Joseph and Samuel and David – we know their parents, we know their birth stories, we know their lineage.The birth narrative of Moses takes up the first chapter of Exodus and half of the second. And it starts with a very full description of his lineage.

Jesus’ birth is being set up for us now. His lineage.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, Pontius Pilate of Judea arrives, along with Herod, and his brother Philip, the priests Anna and Caiaphas. And John makes his entrance again, through the lineage of his father, Zechariah, this time. This is the story that Mary and Joseph – the gourd people -- enter – people of a conquered nation, an oppressive emperor, a people disinherited, a people without a stable or a shelter or a sanctuary. This is their lineage.

Mary, in this little scene, is making space in the world for her son, who will speak out for those without a stable, a shelter, without sanctuary – the hungry and homeless, the disinterited. Mary in our little nativity scene is trudging through the sand, the baby at her side – she a subversive and now this baby too –  he will become a subversive, he who will love people with “indiscriminate inclusivitity. " He who will become for them a stable, a shelter, a sanctuary.

Yet, some weeks ago, a few Episcopal churches left the Episcopal fold, almost an entire diocese left. They said their reason for their departure was that they disagreed with the Episcopal church’s “new stance” on what they called the “false gospel of indiscrimate inclusivity.”

Meaning, that we will let anyone in.
Of course, its too late.

We have already been indiscriminately inclusive. We have been for a long time.

It’s the gourd-people fault!
We have already let in the gourd people.
And they – fleeing mother, subversive son - created a church out of it – a stable, a shelter, a sanctuary to be indiscriminately inclusive.

To be indiscrimately inclusive -- is our lineage.

It is why we feed people and uphold the dignity of all people, why we build houses for people – shelters and sanctuary. It is why we make church, why we come here, why we show up here. Because church is a sheltering presence for our journey. 
We are gourd people too.

We have some folks going to the Cathedral this afternoon to be confirmed in the Episcopal church. They are choosing to be sheltered in a church that has been called “indiscrimately inclusive,” and maybe they are choosing to join for that very reason, for this lineage. 

I think of Mary and Joseph running with the baby – with no shelter – no covering, no sanctuary, no container to hold them in their journey. Because of them we have a shelter, thankfully, here, this room, this church  –  a shelter for our journey, no matter who we are or where we are headed, 
for all of us are gourd people
 in flight.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Winter Light - Hazelbrand Forest Hermitage

Winter Light

The light this morning, grey-green
filtered through pine and fog,
slants across the pasture
then my room
and stops - in resting pose,
to wait out winter.

Cynthia Hizer, Dec 4, 2012