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It was a beautiful day; the sun shining, the garden greening, no bugs yet. But somehow I just couldn’t get a break. The handyman wouldn’t return my calls and I needed STUFF
FIXED NOW, the car was making a funny sound, I received a surprise medical bill, everyone seemed to be disappointing me one way or the other. I must have said “Are you bloody kidding me??!” dozens of times.

And then then the wind shifted, a friend called, the car kept quiet, and I felt that things would work out. I breathed again.

Some people call that the Holy Spirit.

The disciples were having a series of bad days and a cold fear was in the air. Persecution was intensifying; Jesus was leaving (again) and the usual arguments were taking place. But then Jesus promises to send a “spirit” to help.

The apostles were celebrating a Jewish harvest festival when it happened: The wind shifted and everything changed. The disciples stopped arguing and started doing good things. Peter preached up a storm and converted thousands on one day.

Sunday is Pentecost – a confusing celebration if there ever was one! It’s about tongues of fire and people speaking in different languages and still understanding each other and is called “The Birthday of the Church”. The color of the day is red (for the tongues of fire).

But mainly it’s about “spirit” and what that means for us now. When this Spirit touches us through words, music, the Bleeding Heart in the garden, or a feeling that won’t quite go away, we might call it coincidence, wishful thinking, or our imagination. We can dismiss it and reason it away.

Or we can listen, and pay attention, and see what God has to say to us. It can be pretty interesting and sometimes even save the day. Or our life.

And I’m not just being dramatic here. There will be plenty of drama on Sunday! But there will also be more……

See you in church.

Barbara

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By The Rev. Barbara Mraz

Mary Johnson and Dr. Lynn Hartmann each spent over thirty years working at the world-renowned medical facility in Rochester. Lynn was an oncologist and Mary was a chaplain. They’ve been together for 24 years and married for five. They recently moved to St. Paul, started attending St. John’s last year, and can usually be seen at the 8am service.

At the upcoming OWLs luncheon on May 14, they will speak about their experiences and the insights they have gained during this time. Following are two brief bios:

Mary Johnson:

I was born and raised on the banks of the Missouri River in a small, college town in South Dakota. I became a Minnesotan when I moved to Rochester to complete my chaplaincy training in the late 1970s after finishing my theological education in Seattle.

Hospital chaplaincy at The Mayo Clinic was a wonderful privilege. Over the course of 30+ years at the bedside, I had the opportunity to work with individuals and families from all over the world whose lives were in transition because of life-limiting or life-threatening illness. They were my greatest teachers.

At this point in my life, my spiritual journey brings me to the Episcopal Church where I find warmth, hospitality, intelligent theological reflection, and meaningful spiritual practice.

Dr. Lynn Hartmann:

I was born and raised in the Chicago area but migrated to Minnesota in 1986 to start an Oncology fellowship at Mayo, after medical school (Northwestern) and Internal Medicine training (University of Iowa). While I have come to love Minnesota deeply, during my first years here I was still a Cubs fan and thus missed rooting for the 1987 and 1991 Champion MN Twins!

Some highlights of my years at Mayo: Meeting my life partner Mary Johnson; being the first woman to join the Oncology staff in 1988 and helping to mentor and recruit numerous trainees and young staff—women now make up 30% of the Oncology staff!

My areas of focus in Oncology were breast and gynecologic cancers, especially improving options for prediction of risk of developing these conditions, and options for risk reduction. I started the Women’s Cancer Program at Mayo, which today is the largest program in the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

What I enjoyed most about my career at Mayo was the team spirit among the staff and sharing in the lives of so many remarkable patients.

Originally published in the May-June 2019 Evangelist.

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Image of the altar cross at Notre Dame

Holy Week is easily ignored by most Christians. Maundy Thursday and especially Good Friday are some of the least-populated services of the church year. Is it because they’re too confusing? Too sad? Too intimate? It’s easy to skip from the Palm Parade to the party Saturday night and the lilies and alleluias of Easter morning.

Yet for those of us who do attend, perhaps it is proof of our desire to draw nearer somehow to God. Any “proof” needed that this is real is the yearning we feel in our hearts as we sit in the pews.

On Good Friday, there is no winning, no victory. Instead of a short- term political victory, what we get is a divine validation of every single thing we have suffered. God in Jesus tells us that there is

no wound so shameful,
no betrayal so scathing,
no pain so searing,
no loneliness so enduring,
no exhaustion so total,
no regret so bitter,
no sadness so unending,
no fear so terrifying,
no anxiety so crippling,
no disappointment so compete,
no cross so high,
no grave so deep,
that He will not have been there before us
to mark the way back.

The women deacons are preaching on Maundy Thursday and Good
Friday. Above is an excerpt from what I’m working on as I think about how the immense pain in the world is reflected on our two of our holiest days.

See you in church.
Barbara

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THE FACE OF FEET

“Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy…”

Simon and Garfunkle

I sported band-aids on one knee or other on a regular basis from age three to ten. My mother said I bloodied my knees because I was always in a hurry. Running when I should be walking. Not paying attention. For the rest of her life, she remarked that I was “always so busy.” Sometimes I think this was a thinly-veiled compliment or even a sign of mild envy that I had a lot going on, but more often criticism that I was heedless somehow. I thought I was just excited about life and eager to get to the next thing.

In early and mid-adulthood, I was strictly a high-heels girl but this slowed me down not a whit. I trotted around Blake in my red leather pumps, sailed down the aisle at St. John the Baptist in my black patent leather Easter heels, and wore two-inch wedged sandals to the swimming pool with the kids. Loved them.

I’m a tall person so I definitely do not have Cinderella-feet. Growing up, I got the impression this was a shameful quality, and admit to resorting to buying shoes a half-size too small because my real size looked gigantic to my sensitive, teen eyes. Later, teaching Women’s Studies and studying the Chinese custom of foot-binding, I learned that the painful binding of young girls’ feet at age seven so they would be forever tiny and therefore sexy (each culture defines “sexy”), also slowed the women down in various ways. Who could run away or move rapidly towards anything when you could only mince along? So only rich women got their feet bound; the others had to work.

I decided I had woman feet, not girl feet and that my culture’s efforts to make women small and “cute” were not going to work on me! At one point, I informed the manager of the shoe department at a  local department store  that their policy of not carrying larger sizes for women was sexist and that women were taller (and therefore had larger feet) now and they could improve sales if they wised up.

Okay, so I was young….

Feet are often considered funny appendages: smelly feet, big feet, clumsy feet (falling over your own feet), awkward feet (putting “your foot in your mouth”). My dad’s side of the family had such wretched feet (bunions, corns, and all matter of deformities) that my brother and I would ask our aunts and uncle to take off their shoes so we could be horrified and scream — a breath-taking gesture of rudeness, in retrospect.

Then I had big-time chemotherapy.

It was five years ago and it wasn’t too bad, really; I was very lucky. Yet one of the after-effects has been with my feet. Neuropathy—periodic pain and numbness, usually experienced by much older people.

Of course, there are drugs. They help a lot except at unpredictable moments the numbness occurs and I have to stop and be mindful of where I put each foot so I don’t trip on my own feet. It’s embarrassing and maddening and yet a small price in the big scheme of things.

So now I move more mindfully, sometimes more slowly than I would like. I also notice more things, and feel more connected to other people for some reason, maybe because I can’t race by as quickly.

Feet aren’t funny to me anymore.

But I’m still “feeling groovy.”

Here is Bishop Steve Charleston’s meditation which sustains me more than I can say and I hope touches you as well:

“How must I look to you, O God, coming to you every Sunday, dressed in all my pomp and circumstance? Beneath my robes do you not see me, a little boy with a scraped knee, so proud he survived the loss of a tooth, with dirty fingernails and grass stains on his knees? As a child I began this journey. As a child I shall reach journey’s end. No need for vanity along the way. No need for pretense or ego or any of the brave fronts we put on to impress ourselves before time’s patient mirror. Beneath it all the One who made us, sees us for who we are and always shall be.”

Although I originally published this in 2012, i will again be referencing FEET and more in this Sunday’s sermon: March 24, 2019.

See you in church.

Barbara

 

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St. John’s Faith Formation 9:00 Sunday:

Three mothers lose children in this film. How is the death of a son or daughter the foundation of the movie – and of Christianity?

DEAD MAN WALKING, 1995
With Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, directed by Tim Robbins; nominated for four Academy Awards with Sarandon winning as Best Actress. Based on a book by Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ.

Since this movie was made in 1995, the world has exploded with violent crimes. Individually and as a society. How do we who follow Jesus regard those who have committed unspeakable crimes against society as well as those who have hurt us individually beyond measure? Can forgiveness be bought with the price of a confession?

“This movie ennobles filmmaking.” Roger Ebert, January 12, 1995

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Round 1: Weather Anxiety

What if I get stuck in the alley? What if the alley doesn’t get plowed until late? What if the garage door freezes shut? What if no one shows up at church? What if I fall and break a major thing? What if we can’t get to Theater La Te Da on Sunday night to see my friend’s favorite play in the whole world? Should we change the tickets? Do they even do that? What if it blizzards on the date I change them to? Who do we call if we get stuck?

Round 2 Performance Anxiety

What if the sermon bombs on Sunday (especially worrisome because people are going to “unpack” it Wednesday night).  What if I duplicate some “forgiveness” themes that I should save for the movie class Thursday and the following Sunday? What if the movie I’ve chosen to use is dated? What if the projector and other equipment fails me (as it always does)? What if ……?  Oh no….What if the power fails (see 1 above)?

Winter can breed a sense of increased vulnerability and dependence. The media ramps it up with dire predictions and talk of records, while using the “wind chill” as the realair temperature (You’re not fooling me, channel 11).  Spinouts everywhere! Worst ever!  Stay home if you can! School closings march somberly across the bottom of the TV screen.

I admit to being a worrier. Always have been. It’s never helped me one   bit. What does help me on Sunday mornings is living two blocks away from the rector who is a pretty fearless driver and who is wiling to pick me up).

What also helps me is picking up a book  — sometimes at random – and getting rebalanced. I rely on some favorites for this and one of them is anything by the former Bishop of Alaska, now residing in Oklahoma, the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston. He also has a daily Facebook post that feeds me regularly.  Here is the section I opened to today:

You have known moments when what you believed was so clear, it was like ice, sharp and clear and pure.  You have also known disappointments so profound that they have numbed you with the blunt trauma of doubt. You have felt called. You have felt abandoned. You have seen healing. You have seen death. You have seen dreams fulfilled. You have seen hope slip through your fingers like sand.  You have the patience of Job and the temper of Peter. You are proud You are obedient.  You are still here. You are a disciple.

I never thought of myself that way before.

But maybe I am.

Read it again. Maybe you, are, too.

Disciples.\

 

See you in church.

Barbara 

 

*FromHope as Old as Fire, A Spiritual Diary, by Steven Charleston, Red Moon Publications, 2012.

 

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RESOLUTIONS, BELATED

Some of the things I am striving for this year, as interpreted by three of my favorite supporting players. I hope you, too, find something in their words.

I. ACKNOWLEDGING VULNERABILITY

Barbara Brown Taylor: “Being ordained is not about serving God perfectly, but about serving God visibly, allowing other people to learn whatever they can from watching you rise and fall.”

… And there’s certainly plenty of that… the rising, the falling, the rising, the falling….

II. ENDURANCE

Bishop Steven Charleston: “We all bear the soul scars of a wrong done to us… Feel the warm hand of one who was there and loves you all the more for what you have endured.”

… since life doesn’t really get easier….

III. AUTHENTICITY

Howard Thurman (Jesus and the Disinherited) “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

IV. HARD WORK

Hymn #541, or as I like to call it “The Norwegian National Anthem”

“Come, labor on!
Who dares stand idle, on the harvest plain
While all around him waves the golden grain?
And to each servant does the Master say,
Go work today!”

These themes may be reflected in next Sunday’s sermon which I am attacking with vulnerability, endurance, authenticity, and you know the rest. The lesson is the Wedding at Cana and it is (to use one of Craig Lemming’s favorite words) fabulous (the lesson, not necessarily the sermon but it’s coming along).

See you in church.
Now get back to work…..

Barbara

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