I have decided to post some of the messages I’ve given over the past year, because that seems to be where most of my writing is these days. And also because this community that I’m blessed to serve inspires me every week and I hope it will also inspire you. Enjoy.
If you have half an hour to kill (yeah, it’s kind of long), here’s the talk I had the pleasure of giving at Unity of the Blue Ridge on July 31, 2016. This was week nine of a 12-week series on The Twelve Powers, in case you’d like to learn more. Enjoy.
I haven’t written anything recently that seems like something that needs to be shared. So I decided to look back and see what I wrote five years ago and found this sermon. The references to recent shootings were at Tucson, when Gabrielle Giffords was shot among others. But I’m sad to say there have been so many shooting since then that this could reference just about any month in the five years since I wrote this.
January 23, 2011 – A Sermon on Matthew 4:12-23
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
When my husband and I had been married for one year, we decided to quit our jobs and become live-in house parents in a halfway house for ex-offenders. A progressive Catholic Church ran the program out of an old house in a sketchy neighborhood as an extension of their prison ministry held at the maximum security men’s prison. Our housemates were mostly men who had done some pretty serious time for some pretty serious crime. Continue Reading →
Over the last few years, at any given time I’ve had at least two friends whose CaringBridge site I was following. If you don’t know CaringBridge, it’s a wonderful online way to keep in touch with family and friends while going through an illness. Often it’s cancer, but not always. It’s also been ALS, heart disease, difficult surgeries. When I see an update in my inbox these days, I don’t automatically know who it’s about. It could be one of several.
I’ve thought about that a lot while lying on my couch recovering from my own surgery. Mine was no big deal, so I didn’t need a CaringBridge site. But I did send out an email to a number of friends and they’ve been so great at stopping by with food or coming to walk my dog or sending super sweet prayers via email and phone.
Even though I think that my gratitude practice is pretty good – I’ve been at it since childhood and it’s kept me sane through the toughest times in my life – there’s nothing like a little time without one’s usual capacities to put that gratitude in perspective. Like, how often recently have you been grateful for the ability to bend over and pick something up? Continue Reading →
On a muggy summer day in 1987 in a courtroom in downtown Chicago, I waited to be called by the court security officer for my chance to enter lock-up. Other women waited for their chance to get out; I was waiting to get in. I was 24 on that first day I walked into the dark cell and heard the thick metal door clang shut behind me with a frightening finality. A dozen tired, strung-out women sat or lay on the hard benches along the walls of the cell, all arrested the night before for street prostitution. My job was to let them know about services available to them and to teach them safe sex techniques. As if I had any clue about what might make these women safer. Continue Reading →
Fall 1985, New York City.
An Upper West Side apartment.
The Food and Justice Committee
gathers for a potluck
planning our next action –
A woman swoops
into the room,
places a large bowl of grapes
in the middle of the table.
We awkwardly eye the offending fruit,
glance sideways at each other.
January 20, 2009, Washington, DC.
Eight days ago my father died.
I stand in the crush of millions,
joyous, reverent, crying.
Aching with cold,
aching for audacity.
A poet preaches.
An oath is taken.
and I am here.
July 2015, Asheville NC.
I shell peas.
The washing machine whirs.
The coffee grows cold.
The voice of that poet
sings to me from my computer,
her own words – and Audre’s and Adrienne’s and Gwendolyn’s –
and tears stream.
Sings praise to farm workers and women in kitchens
and I shell peas
“What if the mightiest word is love?”*
*From “Praise Song for the Day,” the poem written and recited by Elizabeth Alexander on the occasion of the Inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama.
My poem, written quickly – too particular, too many allusions for general consumption – but nonetheless I share it. Maybe one day I’ll even edit it.
Through these last weeks of watching the Charleston massacre and Bree Newsome’s beautiful act of courage taking down the Confederate Flag and now our nation’s annual celebration of independence on July 4th, I have been reflecting on my own family’s American history.
Here is the story I have enjoyed telling since I moved to Asheville, NC, nine years ago:
My great-great grandfather and great-great grandmother took a train to these mountains from the eastern part of North Carolina in the 1860s and settled in Big Sandy Mush. My great-grandfather, Nicholas Arrington Collins, served in the Asheville Police Department and, as a young detective, gained some bit of local fame when he solved the Emma Post Office Robbery of 1901. He later became the Chief of Police for the APD. Continue Reading →
On Sunday, June 28, 2015, I led worship at the North Anderson Community Church, Presbyterian in Anderson, South Carolina. When I arrived the rainbow was being installed behind the pulpit. The prelude was a beautiful rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Below are the call to worship, the readings for the day, and the sermon I preached. Continue Reading →
I am sick.
When Trayvon Martin was murdered, I wrote this. When Mike Brown was shot down in Ferguson and his body left unattended in the street for four long inexcusable hours, I was outraged. And more so when the police officer was not even indicted, much less convicted.
And then Tamir Rice, age 12. 12 years old! I felt too numb to even say his name.
And now nine people at prayer and Bible study, massacred. Nine Black people. Black leaders and teachers and pastors. The senior pastor who was also a state senator. Continue Reading →
Rising and writing the date in my notebook, I see that 62 years ago my mother married my father. This will be my mother’s seventh wedding anniversary without him. Today she will take the champagne of celebration to another couple’s house to celebrate their anniversary, married the same day, one year apart, each standing in the other’s wedding.
I imagine my mother now, walking the aisle in a dress borrowed from her sister-in-law, carrying a bible with a magnolia blossom – her faith and beauty represented there – moving toward my father. Continue Reading →