The Trinity Bird

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towhee photo from sue schmoyer

(Photograph of Eastern Towhee by Sue Schmoyer; used with permission.)

This poem brings together the joy I find in both birding and in theology.

On spring days, Towhee,
I hear you sing,
“Drink your tea!”

And the theologian
In me also hears,
“Tri-ni-ty!”

Your April sound
Echoes through the woods,
Alerting us that spring is here.

It is fitting
That the time you appear
Is near Easter Day,

For you sing of hope:
The forest comes alive
After winter dormancy.

Towhee, not only in sound,
But in color,
You are the Trinity Bird:

Black for Good Friday,
White for Easter Sunday,
Rufous for Pentecost Day.

In appearance and song,
You bear witness to
Three-in-One, One-in-Three.

Your invitation to tea
Reminds me of the invitation
Of Jesus at Table:

“Come–eat–drink–
This is my body–
This is my blood–

“Given for you,
For all of you,
For all creation.”

Towhee, your words
And your colors
Are signs of God’s inclusive grace,

A grace which embraces
White, and black, and red,
And every shade of God’s creation.

 

Lent Devotion, April 15, 2017

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This Lent, we’ve considered the question “Who is welcome in the grace of God?” It is a question that has been asked for centuries, and continues to be asked today. Over the course of time, my own thoughts on the matter have changed. This change did not come suddenly, but happened over many years. There are folks who I was once convinced were out, but who now I am sure are in.

Oh, I could still tell you the Bible verses that argue for keeping them out. But I’ve also realized there are Bible verses that keep just about any of us out. And I’ve grown to see that the Bible isn’t a rule book to settle all questions for all times; it’s rather a conversation among the people of God, a conversation that is on-going and continuing. Through this conversation, there are new things to be learned. As Jesus said to his disciples the night before he died, “I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; . . . he will declare to you all the things that are to come.” (John 16:12-13)

And as I have come to see the Bible in a new way, I have come to see people I once considered to be “out” in a new way. I stopped looking at stereotypes, and started looking at people as individuals.

And in some I had labeled “outsider,” I saw faith in Christ deeper than mine.  And I saw a commitment to the Church that exceeded my own. And I saw love for others that puts my weak love to shame.

In light of all that, I can no longer say, “You’re out; I’m in.”

I found—and am continuing to find—that God’s grace is much larger than anything I can begin to imagine. This inclusionary grace is one of the wonders of Easter.  And for that I say, “Thanks be to God!”

           Thank you, Lord God, for opening our eyes to the vastness of your grace. Amen.

Lent Devotion, April 7, 2017

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While Jensi was driving home from the Donut Shop, she was thinking about the story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman. A poem began taking shape in her mind. When she got home she made a few notes. Waking up early the next morning, she looked at the notes, and then wrote these words.  


She was not of his kin nor kind,
Yet came to him for grace.
He gave her quite a silent stare,
With doubt upon his face.

 The disciples came and said to him
“Please send her far away.
She’s loud, annoying, bothersome
Throughout the whole long day.”

She came and knelt before him then
With whispers, more she pled.
But he replied, “It’s just not fair
That dogs eat children’s bread.”

And then right back at him she said
“You’re right; no doubt on that.
But even dogs get crumbs that fall
From where their masters sat.”

Then Jesus looked at her and said,

“God’s love is yours today.
Your faith, my sister, shows to me
God’s grace has come your way.”        

Loving God, give us the faith of the Canaanite woman, that we will trust in your grace. Amen.

Lent Devotion, March 30, 2017

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(In the story “Boaz’ Field,” three shepherds are discussing how some people consider shepherds to be among the “not so holy.” Suddenly—)

—a bright light flashed in the sky, and fell upon them. And when a voice began to speak from the light, these normally courageous shepherds began to tremble in fear.  They heard the voice say, ‟Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy for all the people. To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will a find a child wrapped in bands of cloth, and lying in a manger.”

Then there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‟Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth among those whom he favors.”

And then the angels were gone.

The first shepherd said, “I don’t know if this is the field of Boaz or not. I don’t know if this is the spot at which God was at work to include a foreigner in the divine plan. But whether the spot or not, the same thing is happening. God has come to marginal people like us, just as God came to the foreigner Ruth. God is at work, welcoming the outcast; and making room in his grace for everyone.”

            Lord, keep us always open to the surprise of grace. Amen.

Lent Devotion, March 25, 2017

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“Since we’re talking about God, the Scriptures, and welcoming the stranger,” Clint said, “let me tell you about an interesting conversation Matt and I had when we were in the Holy Land. We were near Bethlehem, and we wondered if we were anywhere near the field where Ruth had met Boaz.”

Ron (who you recall has little religious background) said, “Hold on a minute. Ruth? Boaz? Who are they?”

Matt said, “Ruth was a Moabite, who married into a Jewish family living in the land of Moab. After the deaths of their husbands, Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi went to live in Bethlehem. Ruth met and married a man named Boaz. They had a son named Obed. Obed had a son named Jesse, and Jesse had a son named David: the David who became Israel’s greatest king. So David’s great-grandmother was a non-Jew. The story of Ruth is remembered to argue that non-Jews are in the circle of God’s grace.”

Then Clint said, “Thinking about Ruth inspired us to write a short story expressing God’s love for all. The story is on our church web site, to indicate the inclusive spirit for which St. Barnabas strives.”

“Can you read it to us?” asked Jensi.

“Sure,” said Clint, pulling out his mobile phone.

(On Monday, we’ll begin to hear the story, which is called “Boaz’ Field.)

Thank you, God, for the story of Ruth and Boaz, and the witness it makes to your all-embracing love. Amen.

Lent Devotion, March 15, 2017

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When Jensi’s great aunt Elizabeth shared that she sometimes struggles to accept new people, her pastor was surprised. He said, “I’ve known you for the past 15 years, Elizabeth; you were one of the first people I met on becoming pastor of St. Mary’s. Your kindness immediately impressed me. You are beloved by the children of our church, and I know that some of our teens, when troubled, have sought your counsel. You are probably the most accepting, loving person I know. I’ve often thought that while I teach people words about grace, the way you live shows them what grace looks like. You certainly don’t come across as someone who has trouble accepting people.’

“I’m glad I come across that way. It’s how I want to live,” Elizabeth replied. “But it’s not always easy. It sometimes takes a great deal of effort. I try to treat everyone kindly. Sometimes it takes a lot of prayer to do that.”

Lord Jesus, in your earthly life, you showed self-giving, accepting love. Touch us with your Spirit, so that, in our imperfect way, we might follow your example. Amen

Blogging, By Golly!

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“And a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6d)

In this case, the child’s not so little: he’s my forty-one year old son, who back in the 1990s led me into the world of email and the internet. Now I’m following him again, this time into the blogosphere. He calls his blog the Scholtes Blog. Again, I’ll follow him and call mine the Elder Scholtes Blog, with the nickname “BBG Blog.”

Why those letters? They say something about who I am, and the main influences and joys in my life.

BBG stands for “Bonnie Boyer’s Great!”–I know; I’ve been happily married to her for forty-six years.

BBG stands for “Bouncing Baby Gents”–Three of whom I have been privileged to hold in my arms: My son Michael, and my grandsons Benjamin and Miles.

BBG stands for “Bouncing Baby Girls”–Two of whom I’ve held, my daughter Christy and my grand-daughter Zoe.

BBG stands for “Beanie Baby Grace,” who entered my life as a gift, and for several years partnered with me in teaching my parishioners that grace is “God’s love freely given.”

BBG stands for “Bible Birding Gnosis,” which is a fancy way of saying that much of what I know I’ve learned from reading the Bible and watching birds. Or, as I used to say before my retirement, “My vocation is parish pastor; my avocation is hawk watching.”

With these words, my blogging life begins. I’m not entirely sure where it is headed, other than it will often talk about life from the perspective of Scripture and the joy of creation. In whatever direction it goes, I’ll have fun writing it. And if it accomplishes nothing else, it will help keep my aging mind active!

Thanks for reading. Have a blessed, bountiful, and grace-filled day.