The Kingdom of God is like Piper

Before the movie Finding Dory, there was a charming Disney Pixar Short called Piper (trailer above). A mother sandpiper is encouraging her little piper baby to learn how to forage food for herself. Sandpipers go down to the ocean and when the wave is out, they search for little clams. Bubbles indicate where some of them are, so the sandpipers look for those bubbles and quickly dig and eat before the wave returns. The young sandpiper isn't so sure about having to forage for herself. She wishes her mama would still just feed her, but with some encouragement she tries. It all goes south when a wave completely soaks her. Eventually though, she meets a family of little crabs, and the child in that family teaches the piper a different technique than the sandpipers use: the crabs burrow a little down into the sand, so the wave can't knock them off their feet. Then they are able to see underwater for a brief moment the great abundance of food that the wave has exposed and will be re-covered as soon as the wave recedes. There is so much more food available than the standard piper technique of looking for bubbles identifies. The piper is no longer afraid of the water and is able to harvest the bounty for herself and others using this improved technique.

A written description does not do the story justice; I highly recommend take six minutes to watch it ( Piper has all of the classic Pixar elements: stunning animation, perfect music and sound effects, and a focus on challenge, fear, courage, and growth. I think it is also a metaphor for the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is like a sandpiper who is deathly afraid of the ocean and unable to collect the meager harvest, until the day she meets a crab who teaches her how to brace herself in the sand and see the riches that the ocean holds, producing food that was thirty fold, sixty fold, even one hundred fold the average, enough to share with her family and sandpiper neighbors.

Jesus teaches us that the kingdom of God is already among us and within us. We need to learn how to see it. We need to open our eyes. Just like that little sandpiper, we can brace ourselves in the sand and open our eyes when the waves of life roll over us, so that we can see the abundance of God's grace in the midst of all of the difficulty. God's grace is sufficient to nourish us as we face any challenge.

Contemplation: Finding the Eternal in Daily Life

Someone I know recently told me something that Ram Das said: "If you ever begin to think you are enlightened, go and spend a week with your family."

This suggestion speaks to the dynamic within prayer and contemplation that is challenged by daily life….. the natural conflicts that occur, the intermittent chaos, sprinklings of upheaval, anxiety and fear about security in its many forms,

Initial reflections at the end of our Holy Land pilgrimage

Our Holy Land pilgrimage has ended. I am writing these initial reflections while on the plane home. The thirteen of us had a wonderful time exploring the life, time, and places of Jesus. We learned not only about the past - the historic stones - but about the present - the living stones - our sisters and brothers in Christ in the Holy Land. There are many challenges here, but their hope and faith is inspiring. Time and again, I heard the local Christians thank us for coming. Our presence there was an act of solidarity with them and brought them hope.

Introducing a New Contemplative Prayer Offering

A new service called Contemplative Prayer will soon be offered at St. Mary’s on a monthly basis. Many people meditate regularly for short periods and some participate in retreats lasting a day or longer. However, there appears to be an interest in something in between involving an extended period of time for meditation. To meet this need a two-hour monthly block of time will be available at St. Mary’s beginning in March of this year. Here are the main planning details:

On Baptism

In our baptisms, we join Jesus in his baptism. In our baptisms, we join Jesus in his death and resurrection. In our baptisms, we are adopted as Christ’s own forever. And just as a voice spoke from the heavens as Jesus came up from the Jordan, saying, "This is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased," we can hear God's voice saying the same about us. 

St. Francis Prayer

Here at St. Mary’s, and at countless other Episcopal churches, we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis on the Sunday closest to October 4th with the blessing of animals.  While stories of Francis preaching to the birds are more likely legend than fact, Francis did believe humans are meant to enjoy nature and to be faithful stewards of God’s creation.  Over eight hundred years after his death, there is no question that our pets are tremendously important to us.  I remember during a Lenten program I participated in through campus ministry at the U of O decades ago, a desperately shy student commenting in response to a question having to do with expressing affection, “Well, I could say ‘I love you’ to my cat.”  Indeed, many of us feel free to say all kinds of things to our pets that we wouldn’t dare say to another person.