“For all those whom we love but see no longer.”

FullSizeRender (2)For three Saturdays during Advent this year I will have spent part of my day at the celebration of the life and ministry of another one of God’s saints who have gone on to God’s greater glory.

On more than one occasion I have heard folks say, “Is it me, or does it seem like a lot of people die during the holidays?” I have never ‘fact checked’ if it is actually true that more people do die during this time of year, in part because for me it doesn’t matter. The loss of a loved one, whether it is near the holidays or in the middle of the summer, is never easy. And regardless of the proximity of when they die to Christmas, those first seasonal gatherings without them are still painful. My mother died a couple days after Christmas and my father in February, and for a period of time every subsequent gathering was a challenge.

I’m grateful that many of our faith communities are aware of, and provide meaningful support to, folks who feel a sense of loss this time of year. I have found the season of Advent with its focus on waiting, watching, and preparing, to be a healing balm as we pray in the Burial Office, “For all those whom we love but see no longer.”

As we prepare for the coming of the Christ child, may we do so with faith that many of our loved ones are already embracing the joys of heaven.

Remembering Dan Panshin

FullSizeRenderThis last Saturday I was blessed to attend the celebration of the life and ministry of Dan Panshin. My first encounter with Dan was when he volunteered to be “my driver” if I ever needed one. I never took Dan up on his generous offer, but it was the beginning of my understanding of this real saint of the Church. I did, however, ask Dan if he would be willing to drive the Presiding Bishop when she came to Minnesota for meetings and gatherings. Little did I know of the shared history Dan had with the Presiding Bishop in Oregon.

The term is often overused, but Dan was absolutely a Renaissance man. This was made even more apparent to me as people shared about their particular perspectives and relationships at the service for Dan at St. Clement’s: he was well educated, welcoming, and gracious. Dan was an accomplished public speaker, an athlete, a dapper dresser, a historian, a true friend, a faithful man, and so much more including a poet.

In the early morning
half light preceding dawn
whites and grays and blacks
chimney plumes scurry eastward and
footsteps crunch on the snowy sidewalk.
Stars overhead like Christmas lights
as the haloed moon cast shadows
on the quiet of the city
before it wakes.
Purity of snow and frost
resilient trees and shrubs|
winter birds and urban rabbits
give us promise of rebirth that
experience has taught us will come
Dan Panshin, 26 April 1996

Sweet words for us as we embrace our Advent season of watching, waiting, and preparing for the Holy One to come. All of this as we give thanks for all our loved ones who now fully and completely embrace the Holy One they waited and prepared for.

Reflections on Ferguson, Missouri

Image-1I was standing in line with an eclectic group of people and one gentleman’s uniqueness stood out more than most. He was at least 6-foot-8 and had the girth to match. But what drew everyone’s attention to him was not necessarily his size, but what he was wearing. Propped atop his head was a Green Bay Packers hat and covering his mid-section was a Minnesota Vikings sweatshirt.

It was inevitable that some gregarious person would inquire, “So, I’m curious – whose side are you on?” The giant of the man smiled, looked at the man who asked the question, and said with clear conviction, “I like football!” Inside the noisy store and in our little circle, a reflective silence fell. It was as if our non-collective response said, “Well, you can’t argue with that.”

After I checked out and as I began to walk to my car, I found myself deeply pondering the exchange at the register. I had been musing most of the day about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, and this last encounter just pulled me even further into my own prayerful contemplation.

We live in an unjust world. And consequently, we live in a very divided world. This is not new for humanity. Our history (including our Biblical narrative) is filled with incredible accounts of how we have not only treated each other, but entire groups of people. Yet God’s mission through it all has never wavered: redemption, reconciliation, healing, and wholeness. This is the mission that God invites us to bring our gifts to. This is what we commit ourselves to in baptism:

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

It will only be when we fully live out our Baptismal Covenant by using the gifts that God has given us, that we will be fully participating in God’s mission to bring forth the redemption, reconciliation, healing, and wholeness our world so desperately needs.

Our Native American brothers and sisters have modeled well for us that it begins with listening to the stories of others. We need to hear the stories of those who have been oppressed, those who have been treated unjustly, and those who have suffered abuse. And then we need to act. We need to begin the heavy lifting of making the deep systemic changes that will impact every aspect of our common life. Until we all commit to this, God’s mission will not be realized.

Let us truly commit ourselves to God’s mission, let us truly commit ourselves to live out our Baptismal Covenant, let us truly commit to ending all forms of injustice. With “God’s help” we can bring forth redemption, reconciliation, healing, and wholeness.

Here are a few links I have found to be helpful:

Presiding Bishop’s Statement on the Way Forward From Ferguson

Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith’s Statement on Ferguson, Missouri

A Reflection on the Recent Incidences in Ferguson, Missouri from The Rt. Rev. Nathan D. Baxter

Discussion Questions for Adults and and Youth Available on the Ferguson Decision

Self-Segregation: Why It’s So Hard for Whites to Understand Ferguson

New Orleans Saints’ Benjamin Watson’s Facebook Post on the Ferguson Decision

A Way Forward: Reflections, Resources & Stories Concerning Ferguson, Racial Justice & Reconciliation

A Way Forward: Share Your Story

Voices: Stories From Our Church

Practices: Communities Respond

Episcopal News Service Blogs

Social Justice and Advocacy Engagement