Saturday, December 29, 2012

I am no priest of crooks nor creeds,
For human wants and human needs
Are more to me than prophets’ deeds;
And human tears and human cares
Affect me more than human prayers.

Go, cease your wail, lugubrious saint!
You fret high Heaven with your plaint.
Is this the “Christian’s joy” you paint?
Is this the Christian’s boasted bliss?
Avails your faith no more than this?

Take up your arms, come out with me,
Let Heav’n alone; humanity
Needs more and Heaven less from thee.
With pity for mankind look ‘round;
Help them to rise—and Heaven is found.

-- Paul Laurence Dunbar

Friday, December 28, 2012

Beginning/ The Holy Innocents

I love all beginnings, despite their anxiousness and their uncertainty, which belong to every commencement. If I have earned a pleasure or a reward, or if I wish that something had not happened; if I doubt the worth of an experience and remain in my past--then I choose to begin at this very second.
Begin what? I begin. I have already thus begun a thousand lives.  -Rilke
Just as bees gather honey, so we collect from all that happens what is sweetest—and we build Him. Even with the littlest, most insignificant thing, when it comes from love, we begin. We begin with effort and the repose that follows efforts, with silence or a solitary joy, with everything we do alone without anyone to join or help us, we begin Him whom we will not live to see, any more than our ancestors could experience us. Yet they are in us, those long departed ones, they are in our inclinations, our moral burdens, our pulsing blood, and in gestures that arise from the depths of time.
I have very much enjoyed writing my blog "The Outlaw Garden" and decided it would be interesting to throw together a collection of  poems and prose that I occasionally come across and find interesting that  have nothing to do with gardening.   Some of these may express spiritual thoughts.  I find beauty in all spiritual traditions and even the lack thereof,  believe that there are many paths to the divine,  and respect all who strive to make the world a better place. I understand that  religion has been responsible for horrible atrocities, for wars, for hatred,  mistrust, and exclusion.  There is also profound beauty, charity and love to be found therin.
There may also be humorus and somewhat irreverant  words as well.  Sacred/Profane - Yin/Yang.
You are cordially invited to join me, read some words, share your own.
Stock Photography: Nativity Scene. Image: 27365892
Note: these royalty-free images are from
Recently, Ben Newland, the Priest of Christ Episcopal Church in Puyallup, WA sent the following to his parishioners:
Most Nativity scenes include the three Wise Men. Hardly any of them include King Herod raving in the background. I've never seen one with child murderers skulking through Bethlehem.
 Nativity Scene
This is not a part of the Christmas tradition that we enjoy retelling. We like the crisis point of the story to be where Mary and Joseph can't find a room. "Oh no," we think, "she's about to give birth and they can't even get a bed!" That's OK though, because the accommodating Inn-keep appears and gives them a spot in the barn. This is almost better, we imagine, because we admire humility and this shows the humility of Jesus and his earthly parents.
 Nativity Church
And so, by the time the baby is born and the Wise Men arrive the crisis has been averted-the problem solved. "Whew! That was close, but it all turned out all right in the end."
Except that isn't the end. We remember that the Wise Men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but we too easily forget that they also brought a message: "Run for your lives!" They did the best they could to put Herod off the trail. They left by another road so as to avoid leading Herod's murderers back to the Holy Family. It was too late though. They'd already asked after the newborn King on the way to Bethlehem and inadvertently ignited Herod's pathological, homicidal insecurity.
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.
-Matthew 2:16
Holy Innocents Day is celebrated by the Anglican Church (along with the Roman Catholic and Lutheran) on December 28th each year. This is unfortunate timing if you were ever hoping to attend a Holy Innocents Day mass, as the week between Christmas and New Year's is a pretty quiet time in most parish churches. I can't recall ever thinking twice about the day except in the academic sense of noticing this odd end of liturgical tradition that falls between the Feast of the Incarnation and the Feast of the Epiphany.
I probably wouldn't mention it this year either, except that it was two weeks ago today that we all learned the name of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Twenty children. Six of their teachers. A mother. A murderer. One more small town that, like Bethlehem, is marked forever by the slaughter of innocents.
The collect for this feast day outlines our response as a community of faith. We remember the holy innocents. We pray for the reception of their souls. And we pray that the might of God would, next time, frustrate evil and establish justice.
The thing about that last prayer is that when God frustrates evil in this world it is through our hands. When God establishes justice in this world it is by our will. That is what I hope we can all hold to in the weeks and months to come as we seek a way to address this cancer on the system of our society.