Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Circle Of Prayer

I have been talking about what it means to live your life in circle; a circle of mutual support, affirmation, inspiration, and work. Living, working, and growing with others.
Today we will gather to say goodbye and celebrate the life of Jack Mapes. So I wish to use this historical day to speak about two circles that Jack and Hazel, his beloved, shared their lives with for over 4 decades.

The first circle is the circle of prayer. Jack’s life was blessed and full because he made a weekly habit of gathering in circles of prayer. I watched Jack do this for the past eighteen years, and I know he had been doing so for twenty plus years before I arrived. I watched Jack gather with others in the hood room, and later the lobby, every Tuesday. I watched Jack pull into parking lot along with a few others every Thursday at 2 pm. After watching Jack do it for a number of years, I began to wonder, just how much blessing and burden-carrying Jack and a handful of others were bearing on behalf of the parish? How good was my life as a priest, or how fortunate were we, because Jack and Hazel and few others were committed to being a circle of prayer on your and my behalf?

So a few years back, coming out of the CDI experience, I was increasingly compelled to embrace the idea of forming circles of prayer. And, it became obvious, that such a practice was ingrained in our tradition via the Daily Office. I began to share such an experience in the chapel on Fridays at noon. Stew and Judy Lauterbach, along with Medora Kennedy, have shared such a circle using the Evensong Service of the community of St. Julian. They have faithfully maintained that circle for the past ten years or so. Tom and Susan Richey, along with Coleen Kebrdle, have shared in a circle of prayer every Monday at noon. And the Eucharist on Tuesdays has become for myself, Corrine Givens, Medora Kennedy, and Coleen Kebrdle, a circle of prayer and reflective conversation.

Jesus taught his disciples, wherever there are 2 or more, gathered together in my name, I am present. In my own experience, and as I have seen in the life of others like Jack and Hazel, when you give your life to a circle of others who are aware of the power and bonding it brings, your life becomes larger than the flesh that holds you and the blood that flows through your veins. If you give effort and attention to gathering with a circle of only a few, to offer the daily office as members of the universal church, you begin to see your world and the world around you change. You give your life to being the conduit between the seen and unseen world, there is no limit to what your life becomes a part of.

Beyond the work of prayer, I believe a second gift is received when you give yourself to such a circle, is the gift of Anam Cara, which is the gaelic term meaning “soul friend.” Those with whom I gather have become my soul friends and I have become theirs. It doesn’t happen at once, but over time, those with whom you share the daily office, the community requests, the seasonal passages of scripture, the passing from one season to the next, the conversation evoked by all the above. The persons you share such with become like brothers and sisters. It is akin, I think, of what persons share more intensely in monastic or communal life together. Over time, true sacred friendships are cultivated when you share together a circle of prayer. Persons with whom you may have little or nothing in common, become eternal kin.

Jack is no longer with us in person to carry all that work of prayer that he bore on our behalf, but I believe something. I believe that Jesus was speaking truth when he told his disciples that they would be better off for him to pass form their sight to be with them in the spirit. Likewise, I am believing that in Jack’s departure, many will rise to carry on. I believe the gift and power and place and fellowship of prayer that Jack Mapes cultivated in this parish, can yield ten, twenty, fifty, and hundredfold. I believe that the weight Jack carried will fall upon us, and I believe, at least some will choose like Jack chose in 1977, “Come on Hazel, let’s begin a circle of prayer and change our life and our world.” And, by God, that is exactly what he did.


Click here to listen.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Life In Circle III

Jesus came down with the twelve and stood on a level place… Jesus shared his life with a handful of others and together they changed the world. Together they broke bread and shared it with others, they healed diseases and practiced compassion and they blessed the poor, the hungry, the mournful, and the troubled.

I think when we find ourselves in the right kind of circles we can change the world too … at least … at least we can change our world. Yesterday I shared the circle of the kitchen. In the parish kitchen you share life with those who serve, who create feasts and offer hospitality. If you enter the circle of the kitchen you will get to know Tom Richey, Marvin and Jody Howell, Michael Ashworthe, Chuck Lewis, to name a few of the constants… others will come in and out of the circle experiencing the joy of serving and being in community.

Jesus came down with the twelve and stood on a level place… I think sharing the right kind of circle brings you to a level place, to a well-rounded, healthy, balanced place. The circle as a symbol is significant. It’s not a line, or a box, or a dot… it’s a symbol of people living, and working, and thinking together…in unity and in diversity. It is where ideas and perspectives get bounced around and balanced. Its where those seeing things looking one way live in community with those who see things from a different perspective.

On Sunday mornings at 9am I share a circle with a small number of people who come to our adult formation class. Together we read reflections about what it means live your life in a vocation. My life is changed as I share that time with them, the wisdom we read together, and the unique and insightful thoughts that are shared together. I wonder how often you gather with others to intentionally expand and enrich your life and perspective and wisdom?

Jesus came down with the twelve apostles and stood on a level place… and the multitudes gathered and were taught, and healed, and comforted, and encouraged. I imagine the life we share in the parish as a circle. Every year we walk the seasons of the church creating the circle of Christ’s life from conception to resurrection. Together we offer the prayers, divine wisdom, make the Eucharist – all for the sake of the world. I hope by sharing this liturgical circle in the community of the parish your own life finds and lives in this holy and eternal rhythm of grace and peace, life and death and resurrection.


Click here to listen.
(With poetry by Andrea Gerig)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Circle II: Catching People

We are reflecting upon the circles in, or lacking in, our life. It seems evident that whenever a person senses and follows the call of the divine in their life, they are drawn together with others who affirm, resonate, encourage, and challenge our life. We see this in the life of Jesus, we see this in the life of the disciples, of Paul, of the saints, of the church. People called and drawn together for the sake of mutual purpose, work, and love. Simply put, the journey in God is always done in community, in circles.

Jack Mapes was a man who lived his life amidst circles. He told me this was not the case before he became spiritually renewed. But in 1977, Jack and Hazel attended the faith alive weekend here at St. Andrew, and Jack had an experience like Peter did in the Gospel this morning. Jesus got in Jack’s boat (though in Jack’s case, perhaps Jesus got into Jack’s dentist chair) and Jack told Jesus, “Lord, you can’t sit in my chair, I have too many other patients to deal with”. Jesus said, “don’t be so anxious, Jack, follow me and you will be catching people”.

After that weekend in 1977, Jack and Hazel opened their home and invited any and all who wished to share circle with them. That circle remained for over 40 years. That was not the only circle Jack would make. He met in a men’s prayer breakfast for decades. He would gather with others to intercede on behalf of the church in the chapel. He and Hazel maintained the circle of fellowship here at St. Andrew by being present every Sunday for over 50 years. When you live your life in a circle, your life is shared. Your life is known, it is loved, it is needed, it is supported.

In 1978, I experienced a similar awakening as Jack did a year earlier. Jesus got in my boat. Unlike Peter’s and Jack’s, my boat was just bobbing in the water, not really going anywhere. But Jesus said the same thing he said to Peter and Jack, “Don’t be afraid, Richard, follow me and you will be catching people”. I don’t really like that phrase “catching people”, but as I have watched it lived out in my own life, and in the lives of people like Jack Mapes, or Liz Karavitis, or Doug and Vicki Miller, or in Rick Alexander’s life, and in Annie Lightsey’s life, and in Chuck and Mel Lewis’, I think what it means is we cease living our lives simply for ourselves, with ourselves and by ourselves, and we let our life become a circle. Your heart opens, your mind believes, your home welcomes, your arms offer a wide embrace. People come into your life and your life becomes a place that others sense acceptance, affirmation, love, encouragement, partnership, support, inspiration, joy. Prayers, once religious requests, take on the spirit of bringing persons into the realm of grace and wisdom and blessing and family.

I watch the choir come together year after year after year. They love to sing and bring the music that Rick and Danny lead them in. But, what is really keeping them together? I think it is because they are a family, a circle together. They experience friendship, encouragement, help in times of need, and joy of being together. Rick doesn’t simply lead them in the music, he leads them in a circle. In fact, ever since I arrived at St. Andrew, only a few months after Rick Alexander had been called to St.Andrew, I believed that Jesus had jumped in Rick’s boat. Like Peter did, I have watched Rick shy away from being the person Jesus saw Rick to be. “ Jesus, what are you doing in my boat”, Rick would say, “I am Gay.” But Jesus said the same thing he said to Peter, and to Jack, and to me… “Do not be afraid, Rick, Follow me and you will catch people”. Rick and Allen live their life in a circle, in community, in mutual love and care with persons who have shared their life for years. The choir is not simply a Sunday morning and Thursday rehearsal experience. It is a sacred and loving circle they share amongst themselves and welcome others to share it.

I missed the Pilgrim’s experience this year. Since 2005, at least for me, it became a cyclical community that a number of us would share year after year. Every year, along with so many others here in the parish we would gather on Tuesdays for a shared meal, reflection of the seasons of the church, the scriptures, the liturgy, Benedictine spirituality. It was a circle that moved with the seasons, shared intensely by a few of us, shared in some degree or another by the whole parish. The Pilgrims circle moved in the Benedictine cycle, the Gospel story, the cosmic circle of coming in for renewal and going out for meaningful work. We would gather together to walk through the life of Jesus from advent to Easter and we would disperse to be sent out into the world filled by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

This year was a year for stepping back to review and reimagine what we offer for initiation and annual spiritual formation in and through the parish. I am extending a call out to all who wish to help restructure and organize our cathecumenal and spiritual formation pilgrimage at St. Andrew.

I think sharing life in a circle is how people catch people. I don’t think evangelism
and conversion is what Jesus meant by catching people. Annie likes to say we
collect people. We are drawn into relationship and care. Circles emerge and we
find our lives receiving others. If your life is open you will draw others into circles
 of care and companionship. This is what it means to catch people. To walk with
people, laugh with people, cry with, pray with, suffer with people, rejoice with,
live with, and love people.

When Jesus gets in your boat and tells you “follow me, from now on you will catch people”, say yes, and watch your life become a circle. A circle of mutual care, accountability, beloved community: loving one another and the world we all share.


Click here to listen.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Life In Circle

Our journey in Epiphany has covered the visitation of the Magi, the emergence of Jesus out of silence and anonymity into the waters of the Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist, to the unique light that Jesus brought to his world and time, leaving us to ask the question, What is the light that we bring to our world and time? For what is Epiphany if it is not about light? The dawning of light amidst the darkness. The light of compassion, of wellness, of kindness and justice, of care for the sick, the poor, the ones pushed to the margins by cultural dominance and preference.

From the beginning of Epiphany I have wanted to talk about circles. Circles of relationship – support – encouragement – and exhortation. Our world and time boasts of global connection and community through the internet, but all are in agreement we suffer from a lack of human community. The more that grows available through technology, the less we cultivate in reality. Creation, human kind included, need to live in circles – circles of family, friendship, support, protection, companionship, community that work together for the benefit of one another and the blessing of the world in which they live.

If you have read the gospel story, then you know that the life of Jesus was all about living in a circle. In the gospel of Luke, which is written to reflect historical accuracy, Jesus emerges out of the quiet life of Galilee into the waters where John is baptizing. He is then compelled to go out into the desert to experience 40 days and nights of solitude and vision for his life. He returns from the 40 days of solitude and according to all three synoptic gospels, goes back to his home and begins a public ministry.

Based upon the story in Luke, Jesus begins his public ministry alone. He goes to the synagogue in Nazareth where he proclaims a provocative interpretation from the Prophet Isaiah, creates such a negative impression he is almost pushed off a cliff by an angry mob. He survives that encounter, moves from a teaching ministry to a healing ministry, where he manages to gain both fans and adversaries. But early into his public ministry Jesus realizes he cannot do this life without a circle. So he begins to call persons who he perceives will share his life, and with whom he can share in their life.

I was raised in a big Irish catholic family. There were 8 of us who lived at 1417 El Rancho Drive, and my earliest memories were all about big family life. Dinners together, going to baseball games, swim matches, and holidays. I was the youngest, and as my life evolved from childhood to adolescents, I could plot on a graph the decline of my family circle. As the circle of my family eroded, my sense of isolation and loneliness grew.

By the time I was fifteen, the circle of eight had pretty much diminished to a circle of 2. Though all of my family members were alive, the circle of family had been broken. As any of us reflect upon life, we could all share a similar story. The emergence and diminishment of the circles we share. But just because a circle is ebbing, we are not restrained to build new circles of life and community. In fact, in a round world, it is necessary. There are always new lives, new needs, changing environments that bring the fall and rise of circles in our life.

At 18, I emerged from the broken circle that was my family and high school friends into the circle of a church community. Now I was raised in an Irish Catholic Church, but I never knew that church as a circle of community. It was a place we belonged and we attended, but at least I did not experience the church as circle. Perhaps it was the estrangement and brokenness of my own family life that kept us marginalized from parish life. For whatever reason, I was 18 years old when I experienced a sense of community in a church. And I took to it like a duck takes to water.

A spiritual awakening coincided with a social awareness, that family was not the only family we had. We have a sacred family between humankind and all other parts of creation. We are not here, alone. We are here, together. We are not a dot on a board, a segment of a line, but we are part of a body, a sacred, celestial, universal body. And our life is to be lived in micro – how the whole universe exists in macro – infinitely and eternally coexisting – co-creating, co-evolving, co-habitating –in mutual interdependence and rhythmical balance with all other.

Life, in its smallest and remote manifestation to its infinitely unmeasurable reality, is lived in a circle – a web of mutual care, love, acceptance, and belonging. Jesus taught this. The Buddha taught this. Mohammed teaches this. The Torah teaches this. All the sacred and scientific traditions teach that humankind was not intended to live alone. We live in circle – having all things in common – mutually committed to the sharing of resources, spending much time together, breaking bread together, sharing glad and generous hearts together, praising the Divine Spirit in all things together, and working for the goodwill of all. In case you do not recognize those words, it was the description of the earliest church in Jerusalem recorded in the second chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. So… for the remainder of Epiphany I wish to talk about circles. The circles we share – and perhaps the circles we lack.

Last week I concluded with the question, what is the unique light you bring or wish to bring to this time and your world? Keep asking yourself that question, and add a second question to it. What is or are the circles in my life?


[No audio available]