honey, venom, and community

A stained glass window from The National Cathedral honoring bees.

The five bee hives on our cathedral are sometimes a lovely set of colonies on our roof, sometimes a political bouncing ball, sometimes a tool for power and control but always a source of rich, dark yellow honey.

After seven years of bee-keeping on a 19th century farm in New Hampshire, I know a lot about bees and a lot about communities. This is the problem with being so old.

Much ink has been spilled to wrestle the bees from place to place, people to people, power to power.  They will soon be installed, temporarily in the Dominic Park gardens, near fresh, flowing water, across the front entrance of the cathedral’s doors across 14th street while we fix the roof and will be cared fro by landscape, gardens and facilities leaders - as they should be.  They will thrive under that leadership.

The irony of these near-silent, harmless, productive bees being such a political football is hard to miss. Bees sting when angry, produce lots of sweet honey when happy and make life on our planet possible by their engagement with the world.  Never have I seen a non-human being so similar to humans. 

Many religious traditions use bees as a primary symbol of community and often the queen and her colony have been used as a metaphor for God and God’s sentient beings on this planet.

I approach my annual vacation - a couple of weeks in an internet-less cabin on an Island off the coast of Maine (an affordable rest made possible by a generous church asking only that I preach and teach a bit.) I need this rest.  It has been a hard year.  But what I am learning about church and life is that people, like bees are lovely, most days.  They don’t sting, most days.  They produce sweet nectar, most days.  And they even swarm and leave, sometimes. But they make the planet work.  And they are to gardens what humans are to church - Christ-incarnate - making the church work, when they are at their best.

Sabbath and Self Worship


This is an image from Prague.  I took the photo walking from my home, into the city the day I was hit by a train.  I remember, now, how hard I was working to see Prague - how hard I was working to see every museum, every park, every castle, every palace, every market - I was destroying my Sabbath by "working hard" at Sabbath.  And it nearly killed me.  Literally.  And left me without two of my five senses.

Indeed, God did not hit me with a train.  I stepped out in front of one with my exhaustion because I was working so hard to explore when I could have rested some between museums. Now food tastes like wax and I am left to live without flavor forever.

Rest is very important.  Rest is despised by a culture bent on work which earns money.

Our culture agrees with the words over the Auschwitz doors "Work will set you free."

It will not.  It will kill you.  In whatever form you find it.

Sabbath is the pathway to the fields in which God lays in the sun waiting to be with us. But we must walk the pathway that leads through the proverbial woods of the many tree-like tasks which so seduce us from the commandment to take rest with God.
Are we courageous enough to walk the pathways which lead through our “to-do-list forests” to that distant field in which God rolls in the cool grass under a hot sun like my Dog Kai and smiles?
But so many of us, especially church leaders, are self-worshippers.  We believe that if we rest, the worlds and work in which we live will unravel without us there to hold it all together like little gods playing with our toys as if they are kingdoms.  One who prays, really prays, and listens, and keeps their Sabbath Holy can tell, at a glance, which clergy are faking Sabbath.  And prayers, for that matter. And the irony is that they think we cannot see.
But do not try to keep Sabbath Holy if you are lacking in courage.  It takes great courage to put down cell phones and alcohol, impressive work products and television and Facebook feeds to simply be in silence and rest with a God who would like to chat.  A God who is both shy and vulnerable.  And patient.
What would it be like to set down our cell phones and to-do lists and walk through those woods to where God awaits us in fullness.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.
It stuns me that we so rigidly keep doing the Eucharist over and over, like little liturgical terrorists, absolutely sure that this way or that way is right.  Repeating it week after week with our liturgical toys, wielding rubrics like bricks. And yet, when it comes to keeping Sabbath Holy, we are terrified of what that silence and stillness might reveal – so we self-anesthetize with busy-ness in order not to have to face our God, stripped naked of all our vestments and hymns – nothing left between us but breath and exposing love.

It may seem that life is unraveling around us.  Change in church, change in families, change in bodies - change is hard.  But in real rest, real silence, real Sabbath, we are with a God who shows us the new pathways if only we will sit alone with God in the silence long enough to listen.

 If we choose a new Dean for our cathedral it will be a disaster.  If we sit with God and discern a new Dean for our cathedral in silence and prayer, begging God for God's perspective and not falling pray to the self-worship which says "I can see and I know best!" then we have a chance for the unraveling to be a precursor for the kind of divine change which will save our cathedral and even save our city and her people.

The future of our cathedral depends on prayer, not choices. As does the future of our very lives.  If we keep the Sabbath Holy and use it to listen to a God trying to speak to us, we have a chance to thrive.

May God so incline us in these noisy and busy days. 

The Daily Sip will now take Sabbath Rest until August when it will resume after the Canon Steward keeps a Holy Sabbath (which our secular culture names "vacation.")

The Daily Sip will resume August 1, 2016.

Sunday, July 17

Sunday, July 17

A little over a year ago, Saint John’s Cathedral entered a time of transition between the departure of one dean and the arrival of another. Fr. Patrick Malloy has been your temporary shepherd thus far. And now I have the privilege of being your temporary shepherd for the remainder of the journey of transition. Your wardens, vestry, and other parish leaders along with Bishop O’Neill and the diocesan staff have extended generous hospitality, for which Gay and I give thanks.