Buddhist Christmas

I’ve never been away from my extended family during the Christmas holidays. Christmas is my favorite season full of wonderful memories. But this year we spent the holidays in Vietnam and Cambodia. Weather-wise, it was the best time to go. It was also the best time for my husband, Philip, to be away from work. My children were rather dismayed that we would be gone at this time of year since we are the prime gatherers at holidays. When they asked, “what about Christmas?,” I told them we would celebrate when we got home and make sure no one was left alone!
It’s an odd feeling spending Christmas in primarily Buddhist countries. It was even odder that there were Christmas lights and decorations everywhere. Families even hire Santa’s to bring gifts to their children. All of this with no connection to Christianity. Since we were with a Viking cruise, there was no opportunity to even find a church to attend services. The boat did have an artificial tree and did serve a turkey dinner on Christmas but that was it. It was the strangest feeling.
The trip was wonderful but I’m glad to be home and in church again with all of you. Perhaps being away makes one appreciate ones own traditions in a deeper way. I don’t think we will be gone at Christmas in the future. Family did send pictures of your “white Christmas” and it must have been magical.

An Advent Reflection

Advent is the season of the seed. Christ loved this symbol of the seed. The seed, he said, is the Word of God shown in the human heart. The Advent, the seed of the world’s life, was hidden in Our Lady. Like the wheat seed in the earth, the seed of the Bread of Life was in her. The Glory of God was enshrined in her darkness.
Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of Divine Love growing in silence. By his own will, Mary formed him from herself from the simplicity of her daily life. She had nothing to give him but herself. He asked for nothing else. She gave him her working, eating, sleeping, forming his body from hers. From her humanity she gave him his humanity. Walking the streets of Nazareth, she set his feet on the path of Jerusalem. Every beat of her heart gave him his heart to love; a heart to be broken by love.
All her experience of the world about her was gathered to Christ growing in her. Looking upon the flowers, she gave him human sight. Talking with her neighbors, she gave him a human voice. Sleeping in her still room, she gave him the sleep of the child in the cradle, the sleep of a young man rocked in the storm-tossed boat. Breaking and eating the bread, drinking the wine of the country, she gave him his flesh and blood which would feed us all.
This time of Advent is essential to our contemplation. It is a time of darkness, a time of faith. We shall not see Christ’s radiance in our lives yet; it is still hidden in our darkness. Nevertheless, we believe this and relate everything to this incredible reality. This attitude makes every moment of every day and night a prayer.

Saints for the Journey- St. Benedict (480-550)

Few saints have left such an impact on the world as St. Benedict. A monk who’s Rule of Life set a standard for Western monasticism. From a brief account written by Pope Gregory the Great, we know Benedict was born in Nursia of a distinguished family. Even in boyhood he showed a mature nature, strength of character beyond his years and a desire to serve God alone. He was sent to Rome to be educated in the liberal arts. Benedict’s desire for God reached a crisis point in Rome. He was disgusted by the moral squalor of his fellow students.
These were troubled times. The world was searching for meaning and stability in the decline of the Roman Empire. There was changing political structures and various nations conquering territories. There was war and plague.
The church too was changing. This was the era of great heresies, church councils and theological conflicts concerning the nature of Christ. Monasticism became a haven for stability in a changing world and a way to respond to God’s presence and work.
Benedict abandoned his studies and devoted himself to the quest of God and sought solitude in a cave. Gradually he attracted other seekers. He agreed to organize them into a group of monasteries and the monastery of Monte Cassino became the birthplace of the Benedictine order. Here he wrote his famous Rule, a pattern for living a balanced life of work and prayer. Benedict had the extraordinary gift that enabled him to read and discern the souls of others and the rare insight into human nature. This proved to be evident in the development of his Rule.
In earlier monastic practices, the stress had been on a rigorous asceticism of self-denial and self-imposed mortification. But Benedict’s rule was designed for ordinary people. His monk’s focus was not the exterior but on the interior, from the flesh to the will. Their discipline was in humility, obedience, stability and the all important life of the community as a school for holiness.
Benedict’s balance of work, prayer and community life set the pattern for Western monasticism. Today in a world desperately seeking balance, people have rediscovered Benedict’s wisdom. It is as relevant now as it has always been. To pray with Benedict is to listen and respond to God with the ear of our heart to God’s word and allowing the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to make us into holy people of God.

Saints for the Journey- Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich was a late 14thC English mystic. We don’t know much about her. Even her name is uncertain, possibly taken from the church of St. Julian in Norwich. In her later life, she was enclosed as an anchoress to the church. As such, she was literally sealed in a dwelling attached to the wall of the church with a window into the interior as well as a window to the outside world. Through the interior window she could participate in the Mass and receive Eucharist. Through the exterior window food was delivered to her and she received visitors and gave spiritual counsel. She may have enjoyed a garden and she had a cat for companionship. Mostly she lived a life of prayer and reflection.
Today what seems strange to us was an important social function in her time. Her writings testify to the profound love and compassion of her solitary life. The details of her life come from her writings “Showings”. From this we know she was born in 1342. At age 30 she was seriously ill. She did not die but while gazing at a crucifix, she received 16 revelations concerning Christ’s passion. After these visions, the illness left her completely.
Julian’s great illness was a major conversion experience. Any death experience is a stripping away of one’s past and a resurrection into a new life and a new beginning. Julian’s encounter with God put things in perspective for her. She reexamines patriarchal images of God. She sees the feminine aspects and tells us of Christ’s immense courtesy. God’s courtesy makes him supremely respectful of us, patient with our failings and honoring of our freedom. How could we not love a God who is so solicitous of us?
Spiritually, Julian sees into the depth of God’s love and goodness including the value of creation, the power of atonement and the impotence of evil. Creation amounts to no more than a hazelnut in the hand of God. Physically it is small but spiritually its value is measured against God’s love. The smaller our value the greater is God’s love. For our Creator, who is our Protector, is also our Lover, working good through all manner of things. We are enclosed in the goodness of God. Over and over Julian applies the words from her revelations that somehow in the mystery of God, “All will be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Saints for the Journey-St. Francis

St. Francis was born in the Umbrian city of Assisi in 1182. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant. Francis was a privileged young man and was attracted to adventure, frivolity and romance. With dreams of glory, he went off to war with a neighboring city-state. He was captured and spent a year in prison before being ransomed. He was very ill and his recovery was very slow. These experiences provoked a spiritual crisis in the young man.

Francis had always been a fastidious person with abhorrence to the poor and sick. One day while riding he came upon a leper. He shared his cloak with him and moved by divine impulse, kissed the leper. Francis’ life began to reshape around a completely new agenda.

While praying in the dilapidated church of San Damiono one day, Francis heard a voice speak to him: “Francis, repair my church.” Francis took this literally and divested his father’s warehouse to pay for the repairs. His enraged father had him arrested and brought him to trial in the marketplace before the Bishop. Francis returned the money and then in an extraordinary gesture stripped off his rich garments renouncing his earthly father, saying: “Our Father, who art in heaven is now my father." The Bishop hastily covered his nakedness which Francis marked with a cross.

At first Francis, camped out in the open and caring for the sick, brought ridicule, but gradually his witness to the gospel attracted other young men. They became the start of a new religious order, the Friars Minor or the Franciscans. The hallmark of his spirituality is to live a simple life free of the materialistic values of the world and of nonviolent resistance to evil.

Francis had a vivid sense of the sacramentality of all creation whether living or inanimate. All reflected God’s love and were due reverence and wonder. His life and his relationship to the world’s values, his concern for the poor and those in the margins, for all creation speak profoundly to us today. It represented a breakthrough of a new model of humanity and the cosmic community then, which speaks profoundly to us today with our urgent needs. Truly, St. Francis is a companion for our journey.


Saints for the Journey-St. Stephen

We all need companions on a journey and our spiritual journey is no different. Companion comes from two Latin words: “com” meaning with and “panis” meaning bread. Companions nourish our hearts, mind, soul and body.
Throughout history, there have been faithful companions who followed Jesus and the Apostles. These saints and mystics have taken the journey from conversion, through suffering to resurrection. They were inspired by the holy people who went before them. So too they can inspire and nourish us on our spiritual journey. I plan to write on a series of these saints and mystics in the hope that their lives will support, challenge and affirm your spiritual journey and be bread for the soul.
It is appropriate, I think as your deacon, to start with St. Stephen. He was the first disciple to shed his blood in witness of Christ. His story is recounted in the Acts of the Apostles in chapters 6 and 7. Stephen was one of the first of 7 deacons appointed to help with the distribution of funds to widows freeing up the apostles to focus on prayer and preaching.
Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and performed many miracles. He was full of wisdom and very outspoken. He was opposed by some members of the synagogue and in a fiery speech accused them of killing God’s messengers. They became infuriated and hauled him out of the city and stoned him to death. A young man stood and watched with approval. His name was Saul. After his conversion, we now know him as Paul.
The death of Stephen marked a new foundation for the early church, underlying the fact that the disciple met the same fate as his Master. Dying, like Jesus, with words of forgiveness on his lips, the martyr was given a vision of Christ in glory, a pledge of the reward that awaits all who remain faithful to the end.

All Saints Day

November 1st is All Saints Day. We will be celebrating it on Sunday the 5th. In reality we are all saints, but historically who were the ones we remember on this day? And what is a saint with a capital S and how does one become one?
A saint is someone having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God. But some are considered worthy of greater honor. Official ecclesiastical recognition and veneration is given through the process of canonization in the Catholic Church or glorification in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Many religions have similar concepts. Saints across various cultures and religious have the following qualities: exemplary model, extraordinary teacher, wonder worker or exert a powerful attraction and touch the inner lives of others in transforming ways, intercessor, a life of refusing material attachments, and possession of a special revelatory relation to the Holy.
The Catholic Church teaches it does not make or create saints, but rather recognizes them. The stages of canonization is a lengthy process and often takes years or even centuries. A saint may be designated as a patron saint to a particular cause, profession or invoked as protector against specific illnesses or disasters. People may often be attracted to the charism or spirituality of a particular saint such St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, or St Ignatius.
The calendar of saints is a tradition of assigning a saint for a day on the calendar commemorating the date of his or her death. These Holy Days are also called feast day. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about a few of these saints.
On the feast day of All Saints, let us be thankful for the bonds of love that connect us to all the saints and holy people who have gone before us and continue to journey with us. Let us be consoled by this gift of powerful goodness.

Four Christian Formation Sessions for Fall

Beginning Sept. 17th, I will be giving a four week Sunday series on spirituality and prayer. You may think spirituality is only for those who are ordained. Or you might think you have no more room in your very busy life to squeeze in one more thing such as prayer, except in emergencies. But you will find in the Book of Common Prayer: “prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.” Many spiritual traditions echo this inclusive definition of prayer. Prayer is a form of life!
Prayer is a mindset, an attitude, dedicating every act, no matter how trivial, to God. A life set apart from the world for prayer is not our life. We want our faith and our life to connect. People pray doing their work but don’t consider it prayer. Respect for the natural world and enjoyment of its beauty feels sacred, but don’t think to call it prayer. We sense God’s presence in sport and physical movement, but don’t think we are praying with our body. Putting our faith into action, doing acts of kindness for others is our way of being spiritual.
Prayer may not be a quiet time set apart. It may be embedded in our actions, the compassion we show, or the art we create. Our love and respect for beauty in the world causes gratitude to well up in our hearts, but we hesitate to call it prayer, of living a spiritual life. Our lives are too busy, too complicated, too worldly to have the quality of what we consider prayer. Yet our lives are filled with prayer. Prayer takes a variety of forms: in action, a kindness, an attitude, and in creative endeavors. Even in the busyness, sacred moments break through: in the nudge to go here and not there, an intuition is given us, at moments when awe and wonder overwhelm us. Prayer on the go like this count. Our life and work are sacred callings and are holy.
The desire to connect with God is a seed planted within us by the Holy Spirit. We didn’t plant it, God did. We water it and nourish its growth. Our daily lives become a living prayer, our response to the unceasing presence of God within us and around us.
This is what we will be looking at during the four weeks of the series. We will explore how our lives are really more spiritual than we were aware of. We will also explore different ways of praying that traditionally are called spiritual disciplines. There are dozens of pathways of prayer because not one way fits all. We will look at how to pray with scripture, Centering Prayer, praying with beads and walking a labyrinth and much more. Hopefully this will pique your curiosity and desire to learn more about our spiritual life and God’s presence with us.
Deacon Kathryn
NOTE: On September 10, a preview of the two adult formation classes will be presented at 9:15am, followed by a forum introducing the new Sammamish Police Chief, Michelle Bennett.

"Spirituality and Prayer"

Over 2000 years of Christianity has left us a wealth of timeless spiritual prayer practices. Not all of us relate to God in the same way. Each one of us is unique and so is our way of approaching God in prayer.
Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Spanish mystic, wrote: “Prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything.”
Prayer teaches us to be honest-before God and with oneself. Honest prayer arises in an attitude of humility that opens the mind and heart, our whole being, to God. In humility we renounce our own power and acknowledge our dependence on God. It is in this truth that we practice the presence of God in the midst of our sometimes chaotic daily lives. 
Join me on a journey of discovery to look for ways to mature and grow into a practice-centered life of prayer, prayer that speaks to each of us wherever we are in our journey of faith. Starting Sept 17th through Oct. 8th I will be offering four Sunday forums on ways to pray that cover a wealth of timeless Christian tradition.

"Spirituality and Prayer"

Where is the summer going? It seemed slow in getting here and now fall is speeding towards us. Program planning and calendar scheduling all create feelings of both excitement and anxiety. Oh for the endless spacious summer days of childhood!
One of the exciting things at Good Samaritan this fall is that Adult Formation will be offering two options. Fr. Steve will be giving one and I’ve been asked to give four Sundays on Spirituality and Pathways of Prayer. This should be a fun time to discover what spirituality is and what that means in our lives.
Most of us grew up learning to pray in very simple and limited ways: saying grace at meals, bedtime prayer, asking God for things, thanksgiving, and intercessions for others. There are many more ways to finding the presence of God. One way of praying doesn’t fit everyone. And our prayer needs change during different times and situations of our life. The great pilgrims and saints in our Christian history have left us a wealth of wisdom and ways of praying to fit our own individual spirituality and personalities. 
Our lives are already so busy with work and family. There is a tyranny of time in our culture. We truly desire more time for prayer in our lives, more peace and serenity in the chaos, but there seems to be not enough time. This will not be a time to add one more thing to carve out more time for. You may be surprised to discover that you are already praying with your life but never considered it real prayer. I hope you will come to explore and share the struggle of living a spirit filled life in the midst of the grist of living.

June 24th Retreat

When was the last time you were on a quiet retreat? Maybe you’ve never been on one. Or the only retreats you’ve attended were job related and it was concentrated brain-storming. That is not what will be happening on June 24th. On that day I will be creating a quiet space to reflect on how God has been revealing himself through your life. It will be a time away from the busyness of our hectic lives, a time away to relax and allow yourself to rest in God’s presence.
I remember the first retreat I attended. Actually it was three days of silence. I was in nursing school and the Catholic girls had to make an annual retreat. The first year I stayed in the dorm with the other Protestant girls. It was very boring. The following year I got curious and signed up. I wasn’t sure I could be silent that long and I had no idea what would happen. There were three or four short talks in the chapel during the days and lots of time to walk the grounds of the retreat house and read. I discovered I really liked this kind of retreat. Now I go on quiet retreats every year and come back totally refreshed.
If you are longing for an oasis of peace in your life consider signing up for the retreat on June 24th, 9:30-2:30 at my home.

Country Retreat

Rumor has it that Philip and I live “waaaay” out in the country. Well, it’s all relative, isn’t it? I drive to Good Samaritan in 22 minutes. In the morning, Philip gets to the U. of Wa. in 35 minutes. Bellevue is half an hour away. The drive here is lovely. You leave behind the noise and traffic. Soon you are in the trees and countryside. You pass cows grazing knee deep in grass and by the time you arrive you are no longer frazzled and need a Scotch. You are de-stressed, relaxed and happy. The peace and beauty surround you. You get out of the car and look at the view, take a deep breathe and everything is better.
We looked for property for 2 ½ years. Then one day it all fell into place and happened suddenly. Philip saw a listing. The next day I drove out for a drive-by. The seller was there and beckoned me in for a look. We talked and found we had so many of the same connections that I knew it was no coincidence. 
We came out with our realtor that same evening, made a bid the next morning and it was accepted at our asking price. No haggling. A God moment! Same thing with Good Samaritan. I visited, and then invited Philip to visit as well. Within 5 minutes he tells me he feels comfortable here. Another God moment. 
The giftedness of this place demands that it is not just for us but must be shared. The spaciousness allows for family weekend gatherings, dinners on the huge porch and lots of space to stroll or run about on the lawn, through the vegetable garden and orchard beyond.
And that is why I’m offering a Saturday retreat on June 24th 9:30 to 2:30. It will be a quiet day to pause and reflect on the sacredness of our lives and try perhaps some new ways of praying that can enrich your spirit.  A simple lunch will be served. The sign up sheet is in the back of church. The space is limited to 12 so don’t hesitate. I will post directions later on.

What Do the Palms Say?


What do the palms say?
    We are the rustling witnesses.
    We hear the cheering crowds, the color, the clamor.
    Jesus, constant and solemn on the colt, no victor’s stallion.
    Tense times with the threat of arrest.

What do the palms say?
    We know what you want-
    More free loaves and fishes,
    More miracles and healings.
    Oh, you fickle people.

What do the palms say?
    You want a king to free you from Rome,
    A king like David of old.
    You long to relive the past.
    Alas, you think you know what Jesus’ kingdom should look like.
What do the palms say?
    But our thoughts are not God’s thoughts,
    Our ways not His ways.
    Jesus teaches love.
    His kingdom is of peace,
    He is the Prince of Peace.
What do the palms say?
    Two wrongs never make a right or peace can never reign.
    His kingdom absorbs all hurts, heartaches and harshness.
    It is about peace and service to other, giving, going the extra mile.

What do they the palms say?
    You are caught up in the present excitement.
    The test comes in the coming week when all will change.
    Can we stand by him in conflict?
    Can we wash his weary feet?
    Do we stay awake in the garden?
    Stand by at the cross,
    Our hearts and souls pierced?

What do the palms say?
    This is the test of our faithfulness.
    Can we strive for holiness in tough times
    When God seems far and all is dark,
    When life seems empty and aimless?
    Can we trust such times are growing times,
    Growth in faithfulness and holiness?

What do the palms say?

What do the palms say to you?

A Lenten Reflection

I’m not exactly surprised when Lent arrives, but I am never quite ready for it either. It somehow comes too soon and it takes me a while to sink into it. It’s a long journey with Jesus to the cross. I know what is coming and it’s hard not to shrink from it. It’s not just the death but the unjust, agonizing torture. I’m humbled by the extent to which pure love will go for me, for all of us.
I’m not afraid of death. I’ve looked it in the eye many times as a nurse. I’ve stood at the foot of the cross of cancer as my first husband died when a young man. It’s the intense anxiety I hate and the pain when part of my very heart is ripped out, leaving a throbbing hole.
Lent is a time to once again peel another layer of attachments and ego away. It is death to selfishness. It creates a hole, a tomb that can only be filled by love, the pure love of Christ. And in his crucifixion, he comes into that tomb to bring his light which bursts forth into the new life of his resurrection. 
All births feel like death. I’m sure a fetus feels like it is dying when it is squeezed and pushed through the dark before bursting into the blinding light of life. Our own death, through the tunnel of darkness into the brilliance of heaven, is a birthing into the new life of resurrection. 
Dying and rising. It is the pattern of life. Each day dies at evening and night dies with each new dawn. We ritualize it in our baptism. We die to the old in order to rise into the new life of Christ, to become members of his very body.
Lent is a time to pray for the grace to walk with Jesus to his ultimate fate. We cannot desire this on our own but must ask God for the grace to open us to this intimacy with Jesus, to share his sorrow and have compassion for him. As mind-boggling as it may seem perhaps, Jesus wants us near as part of our mutual friendship; it is a comfort to him. This grace fills us with compassion. Indeed, the mystical body of Christ is still suffering in all the people who suffer on this earth. Such compassion means taking on the heart of Christ and the compassion of God.
Love is mutual sharing of what one has and is; thus, God, who is love, shares with us what he has and is. We would not exist if God did not share life with us out of love. Moreover, God wants us to share in his own community of life, the life of the Trinity. God also desires that we share what we have and are with him. God desires our love and mutual friendship. We are also called into the universal community where we share and care for everyone. Then, we truly are part of the joy of the Trinity and God’s dream for the world.

"Fasting and Feasting in Lent"


The Church instructs use to fast, pray and alms-giving during Lent in preparation for Easter. Better than giving up chocolate, perhaps this might be a better way to go.

Fast from judging others; Feast on the Christ dwelling within them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; Feast on the unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; Feast on the reality of light.
Fast from words that pollute; Feast on phrases that purity.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; Feast on trust.
Fast from complaining; Feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; Feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; Feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; Feast on non-violence.
Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; Feast on compassion for others.
Fast from discouragement; Feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; Feast on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; Feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from idle gossip; Feast on purposeful silence.


Last Sunday's Gospel - Matthew 4:1


Usually this Gospel reading about the temptations of Jesus is talking about the worldly values of prosperity, power and prestige. I found this reflection by the Loyola Press, a Jesuit Ministry, an interesting poetic twist.

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert.
There was so much sand in all directions that it seemed like air or water-not a thing in itself, just what contained everything else. So it was the scattered stones, the only objects in that barren landscape, that Jesus noticed. And when the voice came, what else was there to talk about? Turn these stones into bread, it said. Or send angels to save you from dashing yourself on a rock. Jesus stayed seated among the stones. And see these stones laid out like kingdoms? The voice said. “All these I shall give to you.” Yet it was not the stones at all but the man who was the bread of life, the stumbling block, the kingdom. So the voice disappeared, and suddenly it was as if every stone became an angel and gathered around the one who was and is the everlasting Rock.

“Turning the Tables”

Rev. Kathryn Ballinger
As a child, I was taught that Jesus was gentle, meek and mild. Now, I also believe he was strong, courageous, and very clever. Much of what we have been taught doesn’t tell the whole story. What did some of his teachings really mean in the context of his time, culture, and life in an oppressed nation under Roman rule?
Once I attended a workshop given by a Seattle University professor where I learned some very enlightening interpretations on Matthew 5. Jesus has been saying, “Do not resist an evildoer; if someone strikes your right cheek, turn the other also; if anyone sues you and takes your coat, give him your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to walk one mile, go the second mile.” So how do we reconcile Jesus’ teaching about non-violence and what we have been taught as the Christian way, which seems passive and even cowardly?
Jesus never displayed that kind of passivity. The Greek word for “resist” means to “stand against.” It is a military term meaning to stand your ground and not flee the enemy. Jesus is telling us to oppose evil by transcending it by finding a way to be assertive yet non-violent.
What about turning the other cheek? A right handed strike would land on the left check. To hit someone on the right cheek would require the left hand which was only used for unclean tasks. The only feasible blow is a backhand which was meant not to injure but to insult and humiliate. It was a sign of domination to a non-equal subject. Turning the other cheek makes it impossible to use the backhand. Only equals fought with their right hands. The last thing a master wanted was to establish equality. By turning the other cheek, the inferior one is saying: “I am a human like you, I refuse to be humiliated. I am your equal and won’t take it anymore.”
In a second example, a creditor has taken a poor man to court over an unpaid loan. As collateral, the poor man has given up his coat, but by Old Testament law it had to be returned at night because it was all he had to sleep in against the cold. Roman taxes were exorbitant, humiliating the Jews be stripping them of their lands and goods, even the clothes off their backs. Jesus is not advising people to renounce justice, but to use the system against itself. By giving up his cloak as well, the poor man would be walking out of court stark naked! Nakedness was taboo in Judaism. Shame fell less on the naked person than on the person viewing or causing the nakedness. By stripping, the debtor brought shame on the creditor. The debtor had turned the tables on the system. Imagine the guffaws this saying must have evoked.
The rank and file Roman soldier had to carry his own pack and baggage, but he could legally coerce someone to carry it for one mile and no more, as was the command to Simon the Cyrene who carried Jesus’ cross. The second mile was an infraction of military code and was punishable by stiff fines or flogging. By walking the extra mile, the oppressed took the initiative and threw the soldier off balance. Imagine the soldier pleading with a Jew to give back his pack. The humor was not lost on Jesus’ listeners.
Jesus’ teaching on no-violence reveals the evil of an unjust system by unmasking the cruelty and offers a way for his people to liberate themselves from servile actions and mentality. It is integral to the dawning of the reign of God, a way to recover their dignity and freedom while still under Roman rule. Jesus offers a way to oppose evil, fired in the crucible of love, a way where we do not become what we hate. He points us toward a new way for personal and social transformation today as well.

"What is a Deacon?"


Many people seem confused about deacons. Some people don’t even realize we’re clergy and ordained, even though we wear a collar. They see us every Sunday in the liturgy, proclaiming the Gospel, bidding the prayers of the people and leading confession, setting the table, distributing the bread and wine, cleaning up and giving the final dismissal. But they are not clear about how we differ from priests. Reading the ordination promises of each in the Book of Common Prayer spells it out.


Deacons function not only in the liturgy, but they must have a ministry outside of the church. They are the bridge between the church and the world, bringing the concerns of the world to the church for prayer and action, and living the gospel in the world. Many deacons have ministries with the poor, sick and lonely, and in social justice. The ministry depends on the gifts and charism of each deacon.


My ministry is holistic health: body, mind, and spirit. I have been a Registered Nurse for over 40 years with a Master’s in Counseling and I have 35 years of experience in spiritual direction. A more modern term might be spiritual companion or guide. It is not counseling. The formation takes years of study and training but also experience in in-depth prayer. Spiritual direction is the process of accompanying people on their spiritual journeys. Simply put, it is helping people tell their sacred stories. It explores the deeper spiritual aspects of being human and also the different pathways of prayer and meditation. It is all about finding meaning and purpose in relationship to the Holy One. The Holy Spirit is always in the midst of such conversations. God is constantly and gently drawing us to Himself. He turns all the grist of the mill of life into good. A spiritual director helps discern where God is in the experiences of life and to learn to listen to what God is saying to us.