Thursday, February 26, 2015

#We are St. Lawrence

This can be found here, from the committees that have made, proposed and formulated the budget:
Sauls said he believed that “the church exists to do two things: to serve the poor and create servants of the poor.”

He told the committee the story of St. Lawrence of Rome, a third century deacon, who was ordered by a Roman prefect to bring him the treasure of the church. The prefect was expecting to receive the church’s money and property, including vestments and communion vessels made of precious metals and jewels. Instead, on the appointed day, Lawrence assembled before the prefect the poor people of Rome. Lawrence was martyred because of his answer.

“That is a terribly important thing for us to remember,” Sauls said. “The church as I see it, as it administers its property which, though it rarely feels like it to us, is vast, exists to be the trustee of those who are poor.”
Really? Terribly important thing for us to remember? The church as a trustee for those who are poor? (Expletives deleted.) Then how could what has been proposed even have been proposed?

PB&F’s listening initially will come in two primary forms. First, committee members will get comments and questions as they make budget presentations to the pre-General Convention synods about to begin in each of the church’s nine provinces. Second, a web-based comment process open to the whole church is due to be available within the week.
It floors me.

Many of you have written, asking what to say to your Deputations. Please make sure that someone goes to the pre-GC provincial synod and tell them two things: 1) the process has been abhorrent and demeaning --abhorrent because it was 'sprung' on these dioceses without warning or input or preparation --demeaning because of the same, and because of the assumptions....  2) #We are St. Lawrence.

And ask your sympathetic deputies to GC to be prepared to do the same at budget hearings at GC.

Some history: The Missionary District of Niobrara was created in 1871 as a work of the whole Episcopal Church, as a mission to and amongst the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota Peoples. At the time of its creation, the District included all of South and North Dakota, parts of Wisconsin and Nebraska and Wyoming. The work on the Cheyenne River itself began earlier; in 1868 the first St. John's was already established. An Episcopal presence was here even earlier --even before 1862.

The history of the Church as a colonizing tool is just that --the institution agreed with the Federal government to "educate" and westernize the People.

The model of mission work was so "successful" that Bishop Hare, the first Bishop of the Niobrara District, was sent to Japan to establish a similar pattern there.

Early on, the push for local ordination of deacons and priests was a tremendous and primary effort. With substantial success. And the elevation of the ministry of the laity was of primary importance.

And then... gold was found in the Black Hills. And the anguish of the People became amplified. In every generation, the land-grabs all over the Niobrara District were successful.

The first St. John's prospered. Until it had to leave behind its cemetery because the boundaries of the Cheyenne River Reservation were made much, much smaller, and St. John's and its rectory were moved 90 miles upstream (the Missouri) in 1890.

Then, in 1910, the reservations were opened (without Tribal sanction) to white settlers. More than half the Reservation was gobbled up and railroad towns were created. Between gold and railroad access, the influx of white Episcopalians increased and they asked for parish churches of their own --all over the Niobrara District.

In 1950, the Oahe Dam was created, and St. John's had to be moved again --a third location. Six other Cheyenne River churches and their cemeteries were also moved. St. John's cemetery was dug up and moved to LaPlant, just above the flood plain --mostly-- and ancient patterns of ancestral burial traditions were ignored. Graves were numbered, un-named.... Hundred were left to be swallowed by the water. (That is what I have been told.) St. John's buildings and people were moved to Eagle Butte. To this day, St. John's no longer has its own cemetery.

In 2002, the original 1868 structures of St. John's burned to the ground in Eagle Butte.

In all of this, the Church suffered what the People suffered. One of the early priests, the Rev. Arthur B. Ffennell (d. 1872), hearing of the false arrest of two People, went and paid for their release. The two men were so furious, they vowed to kill the first white people they saw. Unfortunately, they killed the very priest who paid for their release. The two men were so deeply moved, they became baptized, and committed themselves to the Christian life.

In all of this time, the work among the Niobrara congregations has been a mission of the whole church.

Until 1971, when the Diocese of South Dakota was created. There were 90 congregations in South Dakota belonging to the Niobrara District. There are still more First People's congregations in South Dakota alone than in all other Dioceses which receive funding from GC combined.

In contrast, Navajoland was created by GC from 1977 to 1987. For the sake of the people there. And that is a good thing. And I support it. Fully. Whole-heartedly. And I am NOT saying it shouldn't receive the full support of the whole church. It should. What I am saying, in bringing that little bit of history up, is that South Dakota as a Diocese was carved from Niobrara... The congregations have a different history....

And now.... the poor that Bishop Sauls seemingly exalts, will be set free, made independent... perhaps gradually, perhaps not... Given the endless list of broken promises....

Other models of support available to us?

The model offered by the Church: Self-sufficiency... probably not, in one of the most remote areas with 80% unemployment and in the poorest area of the Nation, and in an area where it costs more to have the utility companies 'buy back' solar or wind power locally generated than it does to purchase power from said utility companies.... There is no "tourist trade" here either.... There is not even a large enough population base to open a casino....

Another model: find rich donors who wish to support this mission. Perhaps create an endowment to fund it.... But that is just switching the funding source from the Church to some 'one' else. The "dependency" that Church supposedly de-cries is merely shifted. What does that do?

Another model: locally trained clergy and support systems. Yes. Absolutely. Shifting from a ministered-to community to a ministering community is wide spread and welcome in the whole Church. It will take 25 to 30 years here for the cultural shift to happen. What will happen in the meantime? Who will help us get there? Should we truly make that cultural shift? What cultural systems would be lost? Do we have time to even think it through?

Another model: trust God, and prepare for the Spirit to be unexpectedly at work amongst us. But that is the model we already undertake.

Oh Church....

At prayer this morning (from John 3)

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light....

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Thank you Dylan Thomas.

#We are St. Lawrence

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How can these things be?

The back stairs were slick this morning as I took the dogs out. It had rained before it started to snow. And now, before coffee, it has begun to really snow in earnest. Yesterday afternoon I called Joel out of the house and made him sit with me on the patio. It was sixty degrees (F). We rolled up our sleeves. Pointed our chins at the sky. Stretched out like lizards warming in the sun. Laughed. Talked about all the birds we have seen --the geese flying crazy to the east. Those small birds that winter here, shoved aside by the robins. I think I also saw the starlings cleaning the ground by the dumpsters. Talked about the wonders of sitting in the warm sun in February. Talked about how of all places in the world we never expected to fall in love with --and we have.

It isn't supposed to stop snowing until we can't see the ground any more. It will be a good day to stay inside.

Except I won't. Not only will the dogs make me venture forth several times, I like being out in it --my humanity refreshed and renewed by a storm. No place to hide from God in a storm. Joel says, 'I understand rain, it just is bleched out of the sky --but snow... a million gazillion little flakes... it's a miracle...'

See... .

Sometimes life is so sweet. Overwhelmingly sweet. This morning is one of those times when the wonder and joy has filled me to the brim. Like fresh, hot coffee. While it is snowing outside. Beloved. Two dogs.

I am so very grateful. Even for the rough parts --even for the devastation I have known. I am so very grateful.

At prayer this morning (John 2:23 – 3:15)

When Jesus was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”

Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Hmmmmmmmm.... This little exchange begins and ends with 'testimony'... So, it's not about being 'born again' for one's own salvation, it's about what must happen so that your testimony can be true and trusted. Born of the Spirit. Like the wind.

Mind you, Nicodemus does come to Jesus in the middle of the night.... Who sneaks around in the middle of the night except one who has something to hide?

How can these things be?

Off I go....

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

restore us, O God of hosts

I know how exhausted I am.... not even sure if I want to laugh or cry or scream.... or all of the above. I hope never again to work a week like the last week... burial of a teen, three young people 30 something, three folks about my age --the deep loss of two elders. And that was on the heels of a week almost like it with too many burials of too many folks younger than myself by decades --and a visit from the powers that be that want to "spin" a decision to cut and eventually eliminate our funding by the Church and call it self-determination.

So, I know how exhausted I am... .

But I am not any where near as exhausted as the People I serve. This I know. One of the families with whom I walked to the graveside this last week has done that same walk four times this year --an infant, a young father, and two elders --not counting the various relatives in the mosaic of relations.

So I lament. And I am taking the time today and tomorrow to do the spiritual work I must do to keep myself present for the sake of the People --deeply grateful that I have the opportunity to do so.

Deeply grateful.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 80)

Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; *
shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.
In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, *
stir up your strength and come to help us.
Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

O LORD God of hosts, *
how long will you be angered
despite the prayers of your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears; *
you have given them bowls of tears to drink.
You have made us the derision of our neighbors, *
and our enemies laugh us to scorn.
Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

You have brought a vine out of Egypt; *
you cast out the nations and planted it.
You prepared the ground for it; *
it took root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered by its shadow *
and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.
You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea *
and its branches to the River.
Why have you broken down its wall, *
so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?
The wild boar of the forest has ravaged it, *
and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.
Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven;
behold and tend this vine; *
preserve what your right hand has planted.
They burn it with fire like rubbish; *
at the rebuke of your countenance let them perish.
Let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, *
the one you have made so strong for yourself.
And so will we never turn away from you; *
give us life, that we may call upon your Name.
Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

Peace out.

Monday, February 23, 2015

young, old, rich, poor, imprisoned, free...

I hurt the low part of my back yesterday... today, it is searing pain every time I move.

Sheesh. Not what I needed.

And, today, I will preside at the seventh funeral in nine days... that would be because of not burying any one on Sundays... and, I am so very grateful for the lay readers. They have really been a blessing to the People all week. Today, I will not drive the ninety miles to the cemetery because a catechist will do the interment out at Blackfoot. And, so, I will be able to keep my appointment to formally meet the Chairman of the Reservation.

What I truly like most about our funerals is that the prayers are the same --whether you are a king or a pauper, a saint or drunk, you get the same respect from the church. I think that says volumes. And last night, at the wake, I learned that the one we are burying today died in prison.

Last night, one of the kids kept asking 'when are you going to do the bread and wine thing?' Tomorrow, I said. 'But, I'll be in school --can't you do it tonight?' His hunger and fervor for the Eucharist were almost overwhelming. He has come on Sundays. He reminded me that I asked him to come up and put the candles on the altar out. He carries the name of a prophet. I remember being that age and aching for bread and wine, too....

God works in such funny ways.


At prayer this morning (Hebrews 2:11-18)

For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
And again,
“I will put my trust in him.”
And again,
“Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”

Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
...the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father.

It is very good to remember this... young, old, rich, poor, imprisoned, free....

And, love always wins.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

that one I get....

Snow fell last night. It is still falling. The low gray clouds aren't moving. It is 18 degrees (F) (-8C).

We will travel across the prairie. Slowly. To bury an elder. On the ridge above Iron Lightening. By the mini-badlands there.

Yesterday, it was so warm in town that I left my jacket and hat and gloves, and out in the cemetery at the edge of Eagle Butte I nearly froze to death --at least that is what it felt like. It was 48 degrees in town --balmy compared to what we have been getting. But out in the prairie with the wind.... My usual winter rule of not leaving town without hat, gloves, jacket was broken... and I regretted it. Terribly.

But, who knew three miles west the air would hurt so?

South Dakota fool. That's what I was.

I was not alone. Fools. Many of us.

Joke from the wake last night:

If you enter the outhouse as an American, and you leave the outhouse as an American, what are you while you are in the outhouse?

I don't know. What am I?

You're a-pee-an. (European).

And, after I prayed in Lakota, one of the kids was pestering his grandparents in amazement.
'She prayed in Lakota!'
'Of course she did.'
'How could Mother Margaret pray in Lakota?'
'Because she's Lakota, just like us.'
'No, she's white.'
'No, she's Lakota.' And the kid looks and looks and looks at me. I make big googly eyes at him. None of us says another word because we are laughing too hard. With food in our mouths. Grinning with food between our teeth. The poor kid still can't figure it out.

Earlier in the day, after the thought-it-was-going-to-be-warm burial, we came back for the feast. And after the feast was the give-away. Everyone got a star-quilt --the musician, the cooks, the pall bearers, the guy who prayed in Lakota --every one except me. They packed up six extra quilts and carried them away in the car. That happens half the time. Is it because.... I don't know. So I vacuum the rug instead.

After the wake last night, after the dinner, I turned down the lights in the church and closed up the sacristy. Someone commented on it, asked me why. I tried to explain... that it makes for a quieter evening for me --with experience there are fewer police calls, the bands tune it down, the people can sleep in the church part if they choose.... It was nearly 10pm. I realized after I got home that they probably didn't want an explanation of why I turned the lights down --they probably wanted the lights turned up.... I probably insulted them. And this morning I will apologize.

And I was so exhausted... but, sometimes English is too linear... and my mind too western.

Today is the fifth burial this week. Then Sunday. Blackfoot and Promise. Then tomorrow night, another wake and a funeral Monday. I was going to be formally introduced by an elder to the new Chairman of the Tribe on Monday... but, we will have to postpone. Again.

At prayer this morning (Deuteronomy 7:17-26)

If you say to yourself, “These nations are more numerous than I; how can I dispossess them?” do not be afraid of them.

Just remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the LORD your God brought you out.

The LORD your God will do the same to all the peoples of whom you are afraid.

Moreover, the LORD your God will send the pestilence against them, until even the survivors and the fugitives are destroyed. Have no dread of them, for the LORD your God, who is present with you, is a great and awesome God.

The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to make a quick end of them, otherwise the wild animals would become too numerous for you. But the LORD your God will give them over to you, and throw them into great panic, until they are destroyed. He will hand their kings over to you and you shall blot out their name from under heaven; no one will be able to stand against you, until you have destroyed them. The images of their gods you shall burn with fire.

Do not covet the silver or the gold that is on them and take it for yourself, because you could be ensnared by it; for it is abhorrent to the LORD your God. Do not bring an abhorrent thing into your house, or you will be set apart for destruction like it. You must utterly detest and abhor it, for it is set apart for destruction.

Hmmmmm... that one I get... the joke's on us, folks. We are that 'Nation' which will be thrown in to panic, little by little.

That one I get.... if I didn't, I wouldn't be just a fool. I would be a tragic fool.

But, there's still time... God is unrelenting in giving us opportunities to turn around....

Friday, February 20, 2015

a slave not just to death....

We won't be able to do the Stations of the Cross today at the church because of the back-to-back funerals. So.... I offer these Stations, written to reflect local circumstances... --these still could use some work --comments welcome.


Opening Prayer

LEADER: Father, our compassionate and caring God, we are your children, brothers and sisters, living in this amazing world you created. But it is a world of beauty punctuated by sadness, poverty, hunger, and violence.

READER: Let us remember that it is all too easy to focus only on ourselves and to place our needs and desires before others. It is common for us to think: “I don’t want to know about people suffering. It only makes me sad.” “I’m only one person and I can’t change what is happening here.” “I’ve already given enough money or time and I’m tired.” Please remind us Lord, as we may be exhausted physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially, that Jesus walked a difficult path in choosing to give hope and life to others.

ALL: Father, as we pray the Stations of the Cross, please help us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, together with those who are suffering. Inspire us to help our brothers and sisters with whatever means we have, that we choose the way of love, compassion and generosity instead of greed, laziness and willful ignorance. You gave your only Son to redeem us and we humbly pray for your mercy and grace in forgiving our faults. Please grant us strength and courage to make life-giving choices. Amen.

(sung or said in procession to next Station)
Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station One

LEADER: Jesus is condemned.

LEADER: Jesus begins to walk what is to become the Christian Way by being betrayed. Everyone, even Pilate, knows that Jesus is innocent of the charges brought against him. But Pilate does not want any trouble that day so he turns away from Jesus and does not help him

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: Let us remember that there are many types of betrayal. A nation can betray its people; a friend can betray a friend; family can betray family. Betrayal is the ultimate denial of someone else’s humanity. Betrayal can be as simple as not speaking up for someone.

ALL: Lord, how many times have we let something happen to others because we were afraid to speak out or didn’t want to be bothered? How many times have we looked away when someone was being hurt or needed help? How many times have we let the gossip continue? We pray for those who have been betrayed. Forgive us for all the betrayals we have committed or participated in. Lord Jesus, let us never turn away from you or from those in need.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station Two

LEADER: Jesus carries the cross.

LEADER: Jesus is taken out to the street and a heavy wooden cross is placed on his shoulders. He is already weak from hunger and beatings, but he carries the cross because what else can he do?

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: Let us remember that there are many who have a difficult cross to carry, especially in lands devastated by war or neighborhoods wracked by violence. The greatest casualties are those who are innocent and helpless, especially the elderly and children.

ALL: Lord, give us grace to face hard and difficult things so that our hearts and spirits can grow and be like yours. Each of us has something that is sad and hard to carry. Each of us has something we need courage to face. Lord, you challenged us when you said: “unless you take up your cross and follow me you cannot be called my disciple.” We pray that you grant courage and that peace which passes all understanding to all those carrying a heavy cross.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station Three

LEADER: Jesus falls the first time.

LEADER: The road to the place of execution is outside the city. It is long and steep at times. As Jesus carries his cross, he begins to feel weak and dizzy. Finally he falls to the ground and has to be helped up again. All of this is happening because he challenged people to look at their religious beliefs.

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: Let us remember that there are many in this world that are persecuted because of their religious beliefs: Each group has experienced violence and hatred that threatens to overwhelm. Let us remember that we are called to constantly challenge our assumptions at what Jesus has called us to do in faith.

ALL: Father, whenever we see someone who is of a different faith tradition, help us to remember that Jesus welcomed all with love. We pray for greater understanding, respect, and courage to grow in closer community with those of other faiths. Help us to challenge our own assumptions of faith.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station Four

LEADER: Jesus meets his mother

LEADER: Jesus looks up and sees his mother, Mary, who is standing by the side of the road. They do not speak but they see all they need to know in one another’s eyes. Both are filled with pain and love. Mary remembers that her son always said he was bread for the world. She wonders how this awful suffering, which is breaking her heart and killing her son, can give the people the food they need.

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: What mother can stand to see her child suffering? We sometimes feel helpless or a failure to stop those we love from getting hurt. Poverty is the worst form of violence, and it is everywhere, especially where parents have difficulty feeding their children. One out of every 7 people in the world are malnourished. Food banks have risen to the highest number on record. Enough food is produced to feed everyone in the world, yet not all can feast at the table.

ALL: Father, how often do we eat, taking eating for granted? With the current economy and the many factors that keep families poor and malnourished, we pray that you give the people the bread they truly need. We pray for generous hearts that we may share what we have to help those who are hungry.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station Five

LEADER: Simon helps Jesus carry the cross

LEADER: Jesus seemed to be staggering a lot, and the soldiers were worried that Jesus wasn’t going to make it. So they pulled a man out of the crowd and forced him to help Jesus carry the cross.

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: Let us remember that children are precious in our lives and are a blessing. How often does a child’s smile or laughter brighten our day and lighten our load? In some places children have little time to play or study because they are pressured by the drug or alcohol abuse of their parents or other family members. Or children do not attend school because they lack the support to get there. Instead they are left on their own in unsafe conditions, forced to carry crosses others have made.

ALL: We can take up the cross like Simon and help the children. God our Teacher, we pray for the little ones who struggle to survive, that they may have an opportunity to learn while growing in the warmth of a loving family.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station Six

LEADER: A woman wipes Jesus’ face.

LEADER: It was a woman who risked confronting the soldiers and stepped forward from the crowd to wipe Jesus’ face. She risked violence and danger to her own body in order to help relieve the suffering of Jesus.

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: Let us remember that women perform much of the world’s work, but they receive less income, and own even less. They are less likely to receive an education and are often oppressed in many ways. Yet despite this, some women find the courage and dare to help others, even at the risk of their own lives. Some rise above the restrictions placed on them by their society to help others.

ALL: Father, we pray for the awareness and boldness that this woman who wiped the face of Jesus showed, that we may look beyond our own concerns and see people in their true light –as your sons and daughters. We pray for all women who are oppressed, that they may be as courageous in serving those in need.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station Seven

LEADER: Jesus falls a second time.

LEADER: In spite of all the help, Jesus falls to the ground again. He has lost a lot of blood and he struggles hard to get up onto his feet. Despite his suffering and the awful pain in his body and soul, he gets up and continues down the road.

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: Let us remember that we know what it means to fall down, and we have to pick ourselves up again. Sometimes we can’t do it by ourselves and need help. Sometimes we feel discouraged or ashamed. It’s hard to get up and start again and continue on. There are many challenges to our life’s journey in this place, especially for those who suffer with diabetes, AIDS, cancer, addiction and other diseases.

ALL: Compassionate God, we pray for your mercy in helping us as we fall and stumble through whatever difficulties we face. We pray especially for those who suffer in health, where each moment is a struggle of pain or despair. We remember Jesus once said to a sick person: “Your faith has made you well”.  May the very sick and their families have the faith to continue a hard journey knowing you love them and have suffered bodily weakness yourself.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station Eight

LEADER: Jesus comforts the women.

LEADER: Jesus looks up and this time sees a group of women crying for him. All they can give him are their tears of anguish and despair. Jesus reminds them that they must care for themselves and their children; that there is hope.

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: Let us remember that sometimes all we can do for others is to listen to them and cry with them while they go through a period of suffering. Our tears are all we can give to them and offer to God to show that we care and that they are not alone.

ALL: Father, help us remember that Jesus said: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall find comfort.” We pray that all those who need comfort shall also find hope and peace. We pray for those who are suffering.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station Nine

LEADER: Jesus falls the third time.

LEADER: Jesus falls a third and last time. It seems as though he does not have the strength to go on, but the soldiers force him to his feet. This man must be executed on the cross. Those are their orders.

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: Let us remember that sometimes we can be like those soldiers, just following orders, never sacrificing anything of ourselves in what we are doing, just going through the motions. We overlook the needs people have because we don’t see, we’re too busy to get involved or because of fear.

ALL: Father, we pray that you will move our hearts and help us to do the right thing when we know something is wrong, even while we are working at our jobs, when we are with family, or even at the market or driving down the road.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station Ten

LEADER: Jesus is stripped.

LEADER: Jesus is brutally stripped of his clothing and his dignity. And yet, he stands. He knows he was given work to do by his Father, and that his dignity and self worth do not come from the opinion of others. He is not ashamed, even though he is naked and accused.

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: Let us remember that sometimes we forget who we are and that God made us and loves us. We think our self worth is based in the clothes we wear or how much money we make. And yet, there are times when we suffer insults to our dignity. When we think of those we love, we hope we would meet any indignity for their sake. Sometimes that indignity comes to us at work. Sometimes, those who are working do so out of desperation and love in order to care for their family. They may work long hours in conditions with dangerous equipment, unsafe drinking water, unbearable temperatures and poor air circulation. They not only accept these health risks, but can also suffer from verbal, physical and sexual abuse. Those who speak up for their rights publicly, may be fired or worse. These workers have little choice but to endure.

ALL: Father, help us to remember that you made us in your image, and that you are always our source of dignity and self worth. We pray that employers improve the conditions of laborers, treating them with greater dignity and respect. We pray that you bless us in all the work you have given us to do.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station Eleven

LEADER: Jesus is nailed to the cross.

LEADER: The sound of the hammer pounding the nails pierces everyone there and sends a shudder through the crowd, and the earth itself. Nailed to the cross, he is raised high for all to see. He is seen by many as just another worthless criminal. Perhaps he is also seen as a necessary scapegoat to appease those in power so they won’t come after them. But the faithful are stunned and sickened by the destruction.

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: Let us remember that we find it difficult to love as Jesus does. We are ready to make choices and act in ways that lead to death rather than life – whether it is a spiritual, emotional, or economic death, we are ready to drive the nails through flesh and blood into the cross for lack of love.

ALL: Father, we pray that we may behold your love so that we might be transformed and choose actions that build up the life we share in you. Help us remember that you take the cross and turn it into the Tree of Life for love’s sake.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station Twelve

LEADER: Jesus dies on the cross.

LEADER: To some, Jesus looks poor and weak. He is covered with blood and dirt. He has been executed as a criminal. And now he is dead.

(Silence may be kept.)

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: Let us remember that Jesus is The Word God spoke at the very beginning of Creation. Jesus is the one who holds all life, all things in being. When Jesus dies on the cross, Creation itself is dying. When we don’t honor Creation and Life, we don’t honor Jesus. When we drive our cars and pollute the air, when we throw away too much garbage instead of recycling, when toxic waste is everywhere –we are witnessing the death of Jesus again.

ALL: God our Creator, we pray for the eyes to see you present in all Creation so that we may respect and love all that you have made. Please help us to live a more simple life so that we use the earth’s resources wisely, and that we may cherish everything in creation as gifts from you, and not as something to be used and thrown away. We also pray for people everywhere who wish to live in close relationship to the earth, to recover their land, heritage, and traditions.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station Thirteen

LEADER: The body of Jesus is taken down.

LEADER: There are no words to express how it feels when someone you love dies. So it was for the mother of Jesus and those of his followers who stayed to help remove the body of their dear friend. They were not afraid of the soldiers or the government. There were not afraid to show they cared, or that they were associated with Jesus. ---Or, maybe they were afraid, but did it any way….

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: Let us remember that sometimes it is difficult to “pour ourselves out” to help others who are in trouble or are condemned. We may be afraid of associating with people who don’t meet socially acceptable standards or are regarded with low esteem (whether it is based on skin color, sexual orientation, criminal background or age). We may get in trouble and suffer what they suffer if we help them at all.

ALL: Father, give us the courage to risk shame, harassment, isolation or persecution when showing our support for those not considered acceptable. Help us remember your son was treated like a criminal. May you give strength to all those who are outcasts, that they may know your love.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Station Fourteen

LEADER: Jesus is buried.

LEADER: Jesus was a poor man who owned nothing, so his friends have to borrow a grave. Joseph of Arimathea offers a tomb he had made for the day of his own death. He is honored to give it for the Lord’s burial.

ALL: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

READER: Let us remember that there are too many who have been murdered in past and ongoing genocides, and too many buried in unmarked or mass grave sites. Many people chose to be bystanders, taking the quiet and easy way out. Others were afraid of their own death. In all these genocides there were those who committed murder, bystanders who allowed it to happen, the victims who died, and those who survived.

ALL: Father, we pray that we have the courage to be your witnesses if we see someone being hurt by another. We pray for all victims of violence, may their souls rest in your peace. We pray for the families who have lost loved ones. Please grant us all your mercy, your peace, and your comfort.

Holy God,

Holy and Mighty,

Holy Immortal One,

Have mercy upon us.

Closing Prayer (In front of the altar or in a circle)

LEADER: Jesus said, “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies it produces much fruit.... If anyone would serve me let him follow me.” (Jn 12: 24, 26)

ALL: Loving Jesus, help us remember that in baptism we died with you and have been raised with you to eternal life. Give us strength and courage to do all the work you have given to us to do, and through your mercy, help us remember it is by your cross you have redeemed the world; and because we follow Jesus and share in his work, the cross has become our Way. Amen.

Let us pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread. 

And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us. 

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. 

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

The blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be upon us all, now and always.

Let us go to love and serve.
Thanks be to God.

At prayer this morning (Titus 2:1-8, 11-15)

But as for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine. Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance. Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you.

Preaching without words --but in our life.

Hmmmmm.... the part they left out... verses 9 through 11 were about slaves submitting to their masters. What a grievous part of our history....

--and too bad we can't see and acknowledge all that to which we are "slaves"...

Off I go. God willing, a slave not just to death, but also hope and Resurrection.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

I almost fell for it

Running a marathon requires that all else be okay....

Just got a call --they said my account was past due, and I needed to pay, immediately. When I asked for a number to call them back, he said, 'can't you just pay the $49 ???' I asked them again for a call back number. He really pressed in to me. When I insisted on a call back number he said the account was in my name, and my credit was being ruined. When I got angry and insisted on a call back number so that I could talk to my husband, he hung up.

I dialed the number that showed on my phone --it was a Wells Fargo answering machine system that asked for my account number. An area code 515 --Iowa.

I was so furious that the guy hung up on me, I wanted to talk to his manager. So, I googled the number. It was a scam --a phishing scam to get bank account numbers... but, they already knew I had an account at Wells Fargo...

--and I almost fell for it.

So.... Be careful folks.

Still running. Funeral this morning. Wake tonight, funeral tomorrow. Wake tomorrow night, funeral Saturday. Two Sunday services to the east. Wake Sunday night, funeral Monday.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 37:1-18)

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; *
do not be jealous of those who do wrong.
For they shall soon wither like the grass, *
and like the green grass fade away.

Put your trust in the LORD and do good; *
dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
Take delight in the LORD, *
who shall give you your heart’s desire.
Commit your way to the LORD; put your trust in the LORD, *
who will bring it to pass.
The LORD will make your righteousness as clear as the light *
and your just dealing as the noonday.

Be still before the LORD; *
wait patiently for the LORD.
Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, *
the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; *
do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.
For evildoers shall be cut off, *
but those who wait upon the LORD shall possess the land.
In a little while the wicked shall be no more; *
you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.
But the lowly shall possess the land; *
they will delight in abundance of peace.
The wicked plot against the righteous *
and gnash at them with their teeth.
The Lord laughs at the wicked, *
knowing that their day will come.
The wicked draw their sword and bend their bow
to strike down the poor and needy, *
to slaughter those who are upright in their ways.
Their sword shall go through their own heart, *
and their bow shall be broken.

The little that the righteous has *
is better than the great riches of the wicked.
For the power of the wicked shall be broken, *
but the LORD upholds the righteous.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.


Off I go.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Off I go.

The planet was bright in the sky as I turned to go to Cherry Creek. My heart always skips a beat when I turn off the highway here. This is where it begins to get ancient --and wild... Cherry Creek used to be so far away, so remote, so inaccessible it became one of the places where the old songs and old ways were still sung and prayed --even though it was against the law. I am told it was one of those places the grandmas hid the children when the authorities came to take them away to school.

It was the place where they tried to stop Spotted Elk (Big Foot) from going any further when he took his family and began that desperate run that ended at Wounded Knee. The people in Cherry Creek knew he shouldn't go --they knew... and convinced some to stay... and the survivors ran back there... to their relatives.

I followed the road slowly... thinking. Praying. Heading west.

When I got to the town, it was pitch-dark. Mostly, the street lights in Cherry Creek have been shot out, and it's in a valley where the shadows gather quickly --I turned feeling half-blind to go to the Community Center. When I walked in the door, it was like walking in to a brick wall. 'Are you the other singer?' the old guy sitting by the door asked. 'Oh, I don't think so,' I said, laughing; his eyes tried to hide the surprise, but I saw it. 'But I'll try if you really want me to,' I said... We both laughed.

Singers are men. They sit at the drum. Women don't. Ever. Well, I've seen one, once, in twenty years. But she was an elder, and no one was going to tell her what she could or couldn't do. She had merely taken her husband's place at that drum.

But the brick wall wasn't about being a woman.

It was about being a Christian --a white Christian... a wasicu Christian.

I am not sure I can tell you how I knew that they were Traditionalists... but, I knew.

I paid my respects at the coffin. I turned and offered my respects to the family sitting in the folding chairs close by. I tried to turn my 'receptors' up so I could figure out who to approach, who to ask what to do. I sat down at the side of the room.

It was the middle son. Taller than I am. When it got close to the time, I went to him. He said, 'we called just to let you know we wanted permission to bury him the cemetery with family.'

'I apologize,' I said. 'There were three other deaths that day. I just phoned the funeral home and worked things out with him. He never said. I do not wish to offend or intrude. If you would like me to stay and pray, I would be honored; if not, I understand, and I will be happy to leave.'

So, he went around to the elders, they talked; consulted one another. Went and asked others. The women all looked at me as I sat in the folding chair toward the back of the room. Children gathered and looked at me, pulling on the necks or hems of their t-shirts.

Some decision was made. They all sat down, satisfied. But no one came to me. I still didn't know what to do. But I was not anxious. Someone would come tell me. Or, time would pass, and it might become obvious. Maybe. Hopefully.

Two men went forward to begin the prayers in Lakota. I understood some-- Tatanka Oyate, Wambli Oyate... anpetu washtay, lila washtay.... the Buffalo People, the Eagle People, a good day, very good... Lakota is imagery, and poetry... They both spoke of rejecting the wasicu (Fat Stealer --the name for white people) way... On the way back to his seat, one of the elders stooped and said, 'Now you pray.' I was surprised.

I went forward. I introduced myself. I apologized for speaking, asked for forgiveness before I began. That is good manners.

--and when I prayed, I told the Creator who I was, and that he knew how I prayed, and that I hoped I was praying in a good way for the People.... I didn't say I was praying in the Name of Jesus. A funeral is not the time to stake out ground in theological arguments and replay hurtful/deadly history. I had been given a role of trust and honor even though I was an unexpected and not-wanted presence.

God help me, was the prayer singing in the back of my head...

--and I closed my eyes, and just prayed... trusting God to put the right prayers in my mouth, watching the words form in my heart and rise in my throat with surprise and great trepidation, not hearing them myself because I was already working, preparing the way for the next few....

Strange prayer. In a holy place. With holy people. At a holy time.

When I finished, I shook hands with the family. The singers at the drum began to sing their prayers.... I went and sat down.

After a while, I went back to the front by the coffin to retrieve my jacket. I went to the son and shook his hand. "Thank you," I said. He said, "See you tomorrow --but we will not need the bread and wine stuff, but we would like you to come and pray again."

At prayer this morning (Hebrews 12:14)

Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

On this most joyous day, when we fast and remember that we are all made of dust, I will go and help a family plant a loved one in the earth.

God help us.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

liberals have no enemies

It began to snow in earnest just as we began to fill in the grave. It was those small snow flakes, that don't drift down in that lazy way, lifted by the slightest movement of the air. It was those small snow flakes that fall with a determination --too full to float, too cold to hiss or melt.

I had finished my prayer, and the Grandfather had come down from Standing Rock to do the Traditional ceremony of feeding and releasing the spirit. And then they lowered her in to the ground.

Just sixteen.

The girls' basketball team all stood together. She had been the student manager. The hard, palpable, initial curve of grief had been spent at the wake service when they had opened the coffin for the long night of watching, praying and weeping. Three meals later, the finality of Mother Earth was welcome relief.

Most of the young women didn't return for the meal and give-away. They had a game --a basketball game against Pine Ridge.

I drove home in the late afternoon. 'One commended to you, Father,' I thought to myself. 'Three to go.' I arrived home, let the dogs run in the yard. It was in the high twenties --a relief from the bitter cold of the weekend. Paeha went crazy, running as fast as he could, careening about, leaning in to his curves. 'Oh, such a fine athlete,' I said, and clapped my hands at the show. Mr. Witty danced at all the commotion.

I called Joel --he remains in Rapid for an appointment with the doctor --and with four funerals, I couldn't bring him home and then back again. Not this week. We talked. It was snowing like crazy in Rapid. Couldn't see out the window.

And then I began the task of creating a Presider's booklet for Ash Wednesday --a Catechist will take the noon service, imposing ashes, leading the people in prayer. Communion will be offered at the 6pm service when I will return. After burial #2.

Then the phone calls began... more deaths. I arranged two more funerals... for this week.

Six funerals. In one week.

Dear God. The people have had enough. Have pity.

Dear God. Sustain me. Help me be fully present to each family.

For one family, this is the fourth death in three weeks --including a one-month old baby, and now the last of the oldest generation --the eldest.

It is hard to fathom.

There is no 'Valley of the Shadow of Death.' There is no 'Shadow.' The corpses have piled up. A mountain of death.

So... I ask your prayers for the P, C FB families in the loss of C.

For the H family in the loss of V.

For the LB family in the loss of M.

For the T and RA families in the loss of R.

For the D and IL families in the loss of V.

For all the relatives of WA.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 28)

O LORD, I call to you;
my Rock, do not be deaf to my cry; *
lest, if you do not hear me,
I become like those who go down to the Pit.
Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, *
when I lift up my hand to your holy of holies.

Do not snatch me away with the wicked or with the evildoers, *
who speak peaceably with their neighbors,
while strife is in their hearts.
Repay them according to their deeds, *
and according to the wickedness of their actions.
According to the work of their hands repay them, *
and give them their just deserts.
O LORD, they have no understanding of your doings,
nor of the works of your hands; *
therefore you will break them down and not build them up.

Blessed is the LORD! *
for you have heard the voice of my prayer.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; *
my heart trusts in you, and I have been helped;
Therefore my heart dances for joy, *
and in my song will I praise you.

You, O LORD, are the strength of your people, *
a safe refuge for your anointed.
Save your people and bless your inheritance; *
shepherd them and carry them for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Yeppa. That's about right.
Well... at least... that's all I can do this morning.

I know --I'm supposed to love my enemies... not wish them a righteous smack-down. But this morning... least you can tell I'm not a liberal... because liberals try to get along with everybody... they have no 'enemies' --right?!

Off I go.

Monday, February 16, 2015

even so, you are the healing, that is the prayer

We bury a young girl today. It is such difficult work. For everyone. All the adults who spoke were desperate to try to reach the young people.... Too many words. Too much 'hope'.

Don't they remember? It's adults who have messed everything up... perpetrated the betrayals... --the lies... saying one thing and doing another....

--even so, you are the strength, you are the power, you are the healing....

We had communion last night, because today they will move the last part of the funeral over to the auditorium. There will probably be a slide show, some more talking and then the final 'viewing' --the long line of tears and farewells.

And the grief will surge fresh, raw, anew.

Like sex and just about everything else, including betrayal, grief will be tried on by those who haven't worn it often. Or, more likely, who haven't worn it out of the house and down the street. Not as their own.

And grief is such a strange garment, weighty, smothering, yet leaving all your guts exposed.

In a world of hurt.

All the folks are wearing bracelets in her memory with the words "Be Brave; Be Kind" crafted in to them.

Weighty words full of disciplines few adults care to take on --fewer adults still who even know how to take them on well.... In a world of hurt.

At prayer this morning (Psalm 25)

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
my God, I put my trust in you: *
let me not be humiliated,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
Let none who look to you be put to shame; *
let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

Show me your ways, O LORD, *
and teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, *
for you are the God of my salvation;
in you have I trusted all the day long.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, *
for they are from everlasting.
Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
remember me according to your love
and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

Gracious and upright are you, O LORD; *
therefore you teach sinners in your way.
You guide the humble in doing right *
and teach your way to the lowly.
All the paths, O LORD, are love and faithfulness *
to those who keep your covenant and your testimonies.
For your Name’s sake, O LORD, *
forgive my sin, for it is great.

Who are they who fear the LORD? *
the LORD will teach them the way that they should choose.
They shall dwell in prosperity, *
and their offspring shall inherit the land.
The LORD is a friend to the God-fearing *
and will show them the holy covenant.
My eyes are ever looking to the LORD; *
who shall pluck my feet out of the net.

Turn to me and have pity on me, *
for I am left alone and in misery.
The sorrows of my heart have increased; *
bring me out of my troubles.
Look upon my adversity and misery *
and forgive me all my sin.

Look upon my enemies, for they are many, *
and they bear a violent hatred against me.
Protect my life and deliver me: *
let me not be put to shame, for I have trusted in you.

Let integrity and righteousness preserve me; *
for my hope has been in you.
Deliver Israel The People Who Struggle With God, O God, *
out of all their troubles.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Off I go. Pray for us.

It just started to snow....

Saturday, February 14, 2015

How long will you tarry?

Some where. Between the rocks. I saw the deer print. The ground has been unfrozen for days now. So the print was deep in the soft soil.

It's funny, because I am in Rapid. And life is so tame here. Pavement everywhere. Trimmed bushes.

And yet, there it is. In my yard. The deer print.

Later, when I got too close, the rabbit that lives in the hill ran away. Up in to the thick shrubs behind the neighbor's yard.

There it is. In my yard. The rabbit.

The wildness doesn't creep in. It is there. Before we were. Always.

I am grateful. Messengers. Of God's presence. Always.

This morning it is cold. The first time in about ten days that it's been below freezing. In Rapid.

In Eagle Butte, it has remained cold. Up there. Exposed. The ground still frozen. I have come to learn why The People moved here by the Black Hills for the winter. Left the open prairie and its hidden river valleys. Came here for the winter. It's always warmer. Always.

This morning in Rapid, the temperature has dropped since the sun rose. Dropped from thirty to about twenty-five. In Eagle Butte is was eight degrees. It is now minus three (F).

Here, it means the moisture from the dirt will have turned the deer print into a cavity filled with frost and ice crystals. The ice will have heaved the dirt as it froze, disfiguring the delicate ridges and callous cavities. I will stick my finger in the remains of the print and feel the winter determination on my flesh. Just to make sure.

There, in Eagle Butte, even the cedar trees will take on a winter hue, pretending to be dead.

I wonder how long this winter onset will last. I saw and heard the geese. Flying east to the River. The mallards along the road startled me. The lilac bushes have begun to swell their buds in anticipation.

I think of last week --having done three funerals. I prepare for three more --one of a sixteen year old girl who couldn't bear the hurt any more. The weight of the generations. Wounds handed down. Her inheritance. Another funeral of a young woman --age thirty three. I don't know the story yet. But I can guess. The third --an older man.

And Ash Wednesday. But no one I serve needs to be reminded of their mortality. No one I serve needs to hear that they are dust. Not really. As the talks of more cuts to social services and food stamps fill the air, the silences are filled with the present remembrance of children having beer cans and beer thrown at them at the game. The authorities call for patience.

Patience is what happens while promises and treaties are broken, and another generation suffers. Awakens to the stories, now made real. In their flesh and blood.

Surely the geese do not lie. Surely the deer who seeks will find. The first bud. Surely the rabbit...

Stand at the grave. Pray the promises aloud. Feel the grit and ice with my fingers.

Hope for something yet unseen.

At prayer this morning (beginning at 2 Timothy 4:1)

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

(And Psalm 90)

Lord, you have been our refuge *
from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born, *
from age to age you are God.
You turn us back to the dust and say, *
“Go back, O child of earth.”
For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past *
and like a watch in the night.
You sweep us away like a dream; *
we fade away suddenly like the grass.
In the morning it is green and flourishes; *
in the evening it is dried up and withered.

For we consume away in your displeasure; *
we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.
Our iniquities you have set before you, *
and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
When you are angry, all our days are gone; *
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The span of our life is seventy years,
perhaps in strength even eighty; *
yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,
for they pass away quickly and we are gone.
Who regards the power of your wrath? *
who rightly fears your indignation?
So teach us to number our days *
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry? *
be gracious to your servants.
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; *
so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.
Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us *
and the years in which we suffered adversity.
Show your servants your works *
and your splendor to their children.
May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us; *
prosper the work of our hands;
prosper our handiwork.

Off I go.

Friday, February 13, 2015

how might we be a prophetic voice in dead-end situations?

So-- what is needed? How do I best say what needs to be done?

I was unprepared in so many ways to say what really needed to be said. I was knocked off my feet by the assumption that the way forward --of cutting funding-- was already a done deal --that it is necessary for the sake of the whole church to work on eliminating the work done on Reservations in South Dakota from the budget.

All I could do was yell.... mostly about my own neck... which is not the most important nor most pressing part....

So, what is needed?

A business plan? (I wonder what St. Paul would have said...)


What is needed is consistency of presence. Long-term consistent presence.
Opportunities for children to experience, participate in and express worship, learning and fellowship.
Engaging, culturally relevant liturgy and learning for all ages.
Accessible (in every way) education for locally trained/ordained clergy.
Low-cost sustainable, off-grid places to gather, baptize, share bread and wine, celebrate, pray, and bury.

--In these circumstances:

--in the places of the lowest income in the US. The two counties that comprise the Cheyenne River Reservation are ranked 4th and 11th. Of the first ten lowest income places, South Dakota is listed five times... all of them on Reservations.

--in a place where genocide --cultural and physical-- have been perpetrated....

--in a place where the promises have been broken, again, and again, and again, and again....

--in a place where the Church has been a player in all this....

As I said in a note to my Bishop this morning:

--in order to build a culture of understanding all Christian life and ministry, especially ordained ministry (it's taken the greater church at least a generation to begin to fully accept and embrace some of the theological implications of our prayer book revisions --and those implications are largely un-taught here, or run counter-culture).

--to build the programmatic infra-structure of education and training for all ages

--to find ways to 'house' worship and programs in low-cost, off grid, durable structures.

To do such would require more trained clergy right now, on every Reservation, and a unified push, a consistent presence.... because what we are doing now is, indeed, not sustainable. Through previous budget cuts, we have been forced in to unsustainable patterns of ministry that do not build, but are on a dead-end path.
So, the first action the Church must take is to support (at least) South Dakota's first asking of the Budget Committee --an increase.

And why should the greater Church support this ministry?

--as my Bishop said, for the sake of its own soul...

If the whole Church cannot support such ministry as a sign of repentance, reconciliation and restoration, then it has already lost the Gospel, and has nothing to say --to any one.

What the heck does it mean to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery if we then do nothing to repent of it --true, sacrificial repentance....

At prayer this morning (Isaiah 61:1-9)

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines;
but you shall be called priests of the LORD,
you shall be named ministers of our God;
you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations,
and in their riches you shall glory.
Because their shame was double,
and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot,
therefore they shall possess a double portion;
everlasting joy shall be theirs.

For I the LORD love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed.

Oh My!!!

And then this (Mark 10:32)

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.

Yeppa. That's about it....

How might we be a prophetic voice in dead-end situations?


Wednesday, February 11, 2015


I have the story all wrong... I'm sorry....

It's not that the monies for this place will be slowly eliminated... it's that the Church will give a grant so that the People here can figure out how to become self-sustainable, because the current model for mission is not sustainable.... And, in the meantime, what money is in the General Convention Church budget will be frozen at the same level as was given three years ago.

That's not "eliminated."

Besides, don't you know, it might be spiritually degrading to be on the receiving end of such "mission" --it might create unhealthy dependency....

I don't care how it's spun... who can't read between the lines? Who can't understand the intent?

I have to admit my absolute electric shock to be on the receiving end of the words 'spiritually degrading' and 'unhealthy dependency...'. It was good for me.

I hope I said something to the effect of --the church helped make these circumstances... it can't just wash its hands and walk away.

But, I think that is exactly what the church will do. It will do all it can to protect the survival of the institution first.

It's an interesting time to be an Episcopalian, heh?

This is not the reading for today --but this is the reading I was tempted to offer tonight for the Eucharist. I won't. But, I should.

At prayer this morning (Mark 10:17-27)

As Jesus was starting on his way again, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; do not cheat; respect your father and your mother.’”

“Teacher,” the man said, “ever since I was young, I have obeyed all these commandments.”

Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.”

When the man heard this, gloom spread over his face, and he went away sad, because he was very rich. Jesus looked around at his disciples and said to them, “How hard it will be for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God!”

The disciples were shocked at these words, but Jesus went on to say, “My children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It is much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” At this the disciples were completely amazed and asked one another, “Who, then, can be saved?”

Jesus looked straight at them and answered, “This is impossible for human beings but not for God; everything is possible for God.”

What little the poor have will be taken away... while the rich get richer.... That would be another good one....

Of course it is the ministry to the poor that will be eliminated from the budget first... of course.

Off I go --yesterday, we went to bury the young man, but the grave had been dug in the wrong place... so, hopefully, it will have been dug in the correct place by this morning....


In the meantime, there is another young man who died in a car accident --and there is no one there to walk with the family to his grave... I wish I could learn to be in two or three places at the same time....

In the meantime, I know that is impossible for human beings but not for God; everything is possible for God...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

time to get salty

It was so foggy yesterday; it was like trying to see through quilt batting --you couldn't. And it made the ice lace thick and heavy every where. This morning, it is breaking off the tree above the house in such a way that it sounds like breakers hitting the beach --the unrhythmic consistency of gravity and sun playing a strange music with ice.

I will have to run from the house, because the tree is just over the door...

Fortunately, there are no trees to throw ice at us near the grave where we will bury the young man today. He is waiting for me now --in his coffin in front of the altar... I forget when it stopped being strange to me --having an open coffin in front of the altar... because I was always taught that open coffins were not allowed in the sanctuary of the church. I wonder why we made that rule...

It seems so honest to bring the corpse in to the church --lay it out at the altar... another offering... a strange Pietà.

--except this mother's son is all decked out in his 'colors' --his blue bandannas.

--what to say to a room full of folks that put their trust in that....

--what to say.... ?

At prayer this morning (2 Timothy 1:1-14)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, my beloved child:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

Preach it, Paul.

And... the Gospel... (Mark 9:42-50)

Jesus said, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Time to go get salty....

Monday, February 9, 2015

the fast I choose

A funeral for a baby this morning.

A wake for a young man this evening --funeral tomorrow.

My Bishop called, and one of our visitors can't make it out of New York.... I am hoping he will re-schedule. The other visitor and our Bishop will come --looking forward to that.

I have noticed one thing --it is nearly impossible to think theologically without sharing dog cookies in the morning... maybe it's just me....

At prayer this morning (Isaiah 58:1-12)

Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.

Is the fast that I choose a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.
Hmmmmm.... we will have Eucharist together on Wednesday night --maybe we should use that as the first reading....

Off I go.