Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent Meditations

This Advent my daily mediations will be posted on the Pilgrimage blog of the Diocese of Bethlehem. I invite you to join me on this preparation for pilgrimage.

Monday, April 27, 2015

I need to be a sheep

Good Shepherd Sunday
A sermon preached at St. Luke's Church in Scranton, PA
The Rev. Canon Anne E. Kitch

So last night I had an email from Fr. Sweeny saying, “You do remember that you are coming to St. Luke’s tomorrow.” This is because in an earlier email to him I had written that I was looking forward to seeing him and all the people of Good Shepherd. Now this is not because I am confused about which of our churches in Scranton I was visiting today, but because I was thinking about The Good Shepherd.

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Always on the fourth Sunday of Easter, we hear about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd is one of our powerful and treasured images of our savior, and is worthy of our contemplation as we celebrate the resurrection and new life, abundant life, of Easter.

So why a Shepherd? And what does that mean to us today, in the middle of downtown Scranton?

Shepherds hang out in the wilderness, and on the edge of things. They are nomads, in a sense, wandering from place to place to provide good grazing for their sheep. Shepherds are watchful, looking for green pastures and still waters, keeping an eye out for enemies as well …and for dangerous terrain… and for lost sheep. Shepherds are caring; after all, that is their main job to care for the sheep.

So just maybe a shepherd is useful image for the people of St. Luke’s in this time of transition. Transition can leave you wondering: what is this all about, will it ever end, will I ever feel comfortable and at home again. Perhaps a few of you have felt like you have been in the wilderness, or at least on the edge of things. So it may be a comfort to remember that
in the midst of it all comes Jesus—not just any shepherd, but the Good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd is not only on the edge of things, watchful and caring, but is the one who goes looking for every lost sheep, and goes so far as to lays down his life for the sheep. Now despite what I have read about real shepherds in the time of Jesus who might sacrifice their lives to protect their sheep from the enemy, I find it hard to fathom. I can see a shepherd being good with a slingshot, fighting off the wolves or lions that might prey on their flock. But to give their lives for those sheep?

But lest we forget the very reason we are here, this is what Jesus did—gave his life for us. Willingly lay down his life for us.  And we weren’t even born yet. After all, this is why we are all here this morning. None of us would be here if we didn’t somewhere in our heart of hearts know that we are loved by God, and that we hunger for that love.

There are many ways the shepherd leads us, but I have three thoughts this morning

One: It’s about relationship. It’s a relationship in which the shepherd cares for us, wants us to be fed and nurtured, and knows us by name. The Good Shepherd wants us to follow him, not for some great glory, but so that he can lead us to good things.

Two: it’s about the flock. Flock is a single noun that encompasses many. Jesus call us to him “so there will be one flock, on shepherd.” We are not in this on our own; we are all in it together. This does not mean that we all do the same things at the same time, or believe exactly the same things, or practice our faith in the same way. It means that we are not alone. We navigate this territory in relationship to one another. It is a shared journey; one each of you shares with everyone here today and with all the people of St. Luke’s. And you know it is more than that. You share in the life of the Diocese of Bethlehem, and beyond. Because what we are, are members together of the Body of Christ. Noting less.

What does it mean to be the flock? To be the Body of Christ? To be St. Luke’s?

Three: it’s about hospitality.  We are to remind each other that we are on the journey together and to point out the gifts along the way. When some of us are walking in the shadow of death, others are to hold up the light and remind us that God is with us. When some of us are hungry, others are to show the way to the abundance of God’s table, to offer food and drink, and, as the First letter of John commends us, we are to love “not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

How can you offer hospitality now, and in the time ahead? To one another, to someone new to come among you, to those who serve with you along the way?

This is how we survive the wilderness: relationship, togetherness, hospitality. But our lives in Christ are not about survival. This is how we celebrate being the people of God: relationship, togetherness, hospitality. This is how we live the new life, the abundant life, that Jesus gives us.

It is easy to lose sight of this. It is easy to listen to other voices that distract us from the Shepherd’s voice. We can succumb to the siren call of voices tell us we will be happy if we buy certain clothes, cars, or phones. I know that I can be distracted by voices who encourage me to be prideful and arrogant, voices who tell me I am less than who I am…or more, and voices who encourage me to join the chorus of complaint.

When we are distracted by other voices, we can see only the valley of the shadow of death and miss that the Good Shepherd is there, leading us through. Without the voice of the Good Shepherd, we can see only that we are surrounded by enemies and miss the table that is set for us in the midst of those who trouble us.

I don’t know about you, but I need to be a sheep.  I need to be one of God’s flock. I need to be cared for. I need to stop trying to do it all on my own, I need to stop trying to fix everything, I need to stop holding on to useless things and troubling practices. I need to pay attention to the one who calls me by name, who leads me to good places to rest, to holy food and life giving water.  The one who revives my soul, the one who, in the midst of trouble, sets a table in front of me and invites me to sit and taste abundance. I need to put myself in the hands of Jesus, who offers not just life—but abundant life

What does it mean for St. Luke’s to have life? And to have it abundantly? How is this already manifest among you?

In contemplating the Good Shepherd, artist and minister Jan Richardson poses these questions:
As you navigate this shared life, what, or who, is determining the direction of your path these days? Which has more influence over the shape of your path—your reactions, or your intentions? How are you experiencing the hospitality of Christ? How might he be challenging you to know and hear him in this season?

In out collect for today we prayed: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads. Be a sheep. Follow the voice of the Good Shepherd. Receive the new life, abundant life, given to you by Jesus.

Image Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo 

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Easter Day

…and the buried Alleluias burst forth all at once
breaking through husk and earth
in an instant tendrils becoming branches shooting forth
already laden with full blooms of resurrection joy

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

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Saturday, April 4, 2015


Holy Saturday

My sight has failed me because of trouble;
Lord, I have called upon you daily;
I have stretched out my hands to you.
Psalm 88:10

Through the dark
the torrents
scour the earth
then abate
leaving in their wake
a paradox of grief and release

Now the sun lavishes brilliant beams
on the storm swept
but its warmth has not yet
touched our hearts

Day of grief
day of waiting
empty hands
still reaching forth

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Friday, April 3, 2015

withstanding emptiness

A sermon preached by Anne E. Kitch
Grace Church, Allentown PA
Good Friday 2015


you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you

Sometimes… writes poet David Whyte

you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests,

this place
this time
this space where Jesus dies is troubling
this now
calls us to gaze upon love poured out

can you see it, smell it
taste it and hear it
can you touch with all of your being
the breath and life and love pouring out of the body that is broken
pooling at the foot of the cross
to be soaked up by parched earth

how does this place trouble you?
what does it request of you?

Jesus, the lamb of God
Jesus bearer of our sins
of our iniquities
of our inadequate hope
this Jesus emptied himself to become at the same time nothing
and all things
a kind of infinity of emptiness
that somehow both contains and is contained by love
we cannot possibly wrap our minds around this
and yet, nevertheless, we are here
witness to the nothingness

how does this place trouble you?
what does it request of you?

if nothing else
this place requests that we lay down all our burdens
here at the foot of the cross
after all it is too late to do anything else

we are invited--
requested but not required--
to lay down all that troubles us
our anger and disappointment and fear
our obligations and tasks and plans
the forgiveness we have failed to ask for, or to give
the broken relationships we cannot mend

and more
our pride and competencies and accomplishments
our certainty and strength and joy
and our love
our love too is poured out at the foot of the cross

the cross asks of us not only to enter into the emptiness
but to become a part of it
allowing it to scour our souls

this day asks us to stand at the foot of the cross
to stay in this moment of infinite sorrow
and to stand it as long as we can
to be with Jesus here—while Jesus ceases to be
and to stay one moment more
and then another
and to stand our ground still as that moment dissipates into a chasm beyond

It simply cannot be tolerated

we can orchestrate and choreograph our way into and out of this moment
we can give it the care and attention deserved
of the most sacred, the most holy

but it is humanly impossible to stand in the abyss
so we don’t

but Christ does

for us
love is forsaken


you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests, …

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now.

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

that can make
or unmake
a life,

that have patiently
waited for you,

that have no right
to go away*

the cross waits patiently for you
unrelenting in its demand
that you stand here and know yourself loved

because even as inadequate and broken and brave
as faithful and pitiful and beautiful as we are
we are emptied to become both less and more
vessels for God’s grace

and that grace always comes

it is finished
but God is not

*Sometimes, by David Whyte


Good Friday

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
and are so far from my cry
and the words of my distress?
Psalm 22:1

And what about the why?

Have you forsaken me?
Will you forsake me?
Please, do not forsake me!

Why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far away?
Why do you not answer?

Already forsaken
already abandoned
already broken and torn and spent.
It’s a done deal.

Except the why 
is but the opening note of a lament
flung out across the abyss
whose feeble strains are gathered by other voices
and woven into the song of hope
that will not be quenched.

It is finished.
God is not.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

The step

Maundy Thursday

Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come before you;
hide not your face from me in the day of my trouble.
Psalm 102:1

I hear the clock ticking in the early hours of the quiet house and know that I am about to inhabit a different time. I stand at the threshold, now at the point of no return. Once I set my foot on the heartlessly twisting path laid before me, I will be propelled inexorably from shared meal and tender care to garden and exhaustion and doubt and fear and betrayal.

I am driven and drawn into the sacred triduum that holds my death and my salvation. 

The sun will shine brightly today, but I will walk with deliberation through the shadow of disappointment and treachery and repudiation and on into a darkness where with others I will cry out to God.

I take the first step with a sense of relief. The hour has come. And I do it all for love.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Wednesday in Holy Week

Hear my prayer, O God;
do not hide yourself from my petition.
Listen to me and answer me;
I have no peace, because of my cares.
Psalm 55:1-2

In the evening and in the morning I offer up the day of contradictions. A celebratory lunch. Stress about upcoming events. Flowers from my husband, just because. Worrisome news from a friend. The swelling red buds on the tree outside my window juxtaposed with the intricate patterns of crystalized ice that has to be scraped off my windshield.

I am acutely aware now of the tension underlying this border territory along the edge of the wilderness. And weaving through it the faint strains of a sacred song of sorrow and heartache that is beginning to take shape. I know that holy ground can bring uncertainty, yet even still I grasp for God, wanting steadiness and reassurance.

The ambiguity of the edge of things. Will I hide? Will I stand still? Will I risk? 

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Paltry prayer

Tuesday in Holy Week

The Lord has heard my supplication;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
Psalm 6:9

I turn the corner in my familiar route home only to be thwarted. A roadblock. It was not here on my way to work, but now this street has been overtaken by construction and the hard-hatted worker flags me to halt. So I sit in my car, thinking this might be a good time to pray.

But I cannot gather my thoughts, cannot seem to connect with the holy that I know is all around me. My mind wanders over my day and discovers barrenness. I have overlooked God, missed opportunities to be thankful and to ask for guidance, to rejoice and to lament. Now my prayer is one of uncertainty. Words and intentions and purpose escape me.

As I continue to sit and wait for the way before me to open, I lay this paltry randomness before God and offer the only thing I have—the yearning itself. It will have to do.

Image Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

Monday, March 30, 2015


Monday in Holy Week

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:11

I step out into the cold to clip some branches from the forsythia. It is time. No blossoms yet, but placed in water in the warmth of the house they will bloom.

Finally the last vestiges of our relationship with winter are put away. No more boots line the front hallway and the towel for stopping the draft from under the front door has made its way to the laundry room. The ice-melt and the wiper fluid for the cars, which have been at hand, are put away.

It is time, too, to clear away any clutter gathered in the wilderness, to let go of any relics I have picked up along the way to which I am tempted to cling. It seems more than a season since I lifted my face to be marked with the ashes of this journey. Now I prepare to bare my heart before God and the wild cleansing of the desert wind, yearning for renewal, knowing that first I must encounter the cold before the spring, the dark before the dawn, the soul emptying to come.

I place the bare branches in the front hallway, where their promise of life and riotous color will greet us in our comings and goings as we walk the way ahead.

photo credit: Anne E. Kitch

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Saturday in the Fifth Week of Lent

As the deer longs for the water-brooks,
so longs my soul for you, O God.
Psalm 42:1

I wake from a nap disoriented and thirsty. Desperately thirsty. When was the last time I drank water, I think sluggishly as my brain tries to reconnect with the current reality. Synapse by synapse I cast lines as I climb from the befuddled depths.

Drinking water is so simple. And so necessary. And apparently so easy to dismiss. Like so many things, I know this. But I don’t do it.

My soul also is parched. I have pushed myself to respond without taking time to rest. Hence the unplanned nap. I know that I have more to give when I take to time to replenish my spirit. But I don’t do this either, succumbing to a misplaced value for endurance and doing it all.

When will I learn? How many times do I need to traverse the desert before I remember the importance of keeping my body and soul hydrated? Before I trust in God’s care of me enough to care for myself?

I head for the kitchen to pour myself a glass of water before I forget—or put it off again.

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Friday, March 27, 2015


Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Let me hear of your loving-kindness in the morning,
for I put my trust in you;
show me the road that I must walk,
for I lift up my soul to you.
Psalm 143:8

The traffic is slow. Really slow. Bumper to bumper, stop and go slow. I wonder if there is an accident or a detour ahead. And then I see an odd sight—a few cars ahead of me a vehicle drives up onto the median. Is he that impatient, I think? Is he crossing the median to turn out of this traffic because he can’t wait to get to the intersection?

But then it is my turn and I understand. The entire lane is consumed by a huge, ugly pothole. Honestly it is more like a ditch. There is no way around. The car directly in front of me dares to drive gingerly through it. I choose to drive up onto the median. My husband blew out a tire in a pothole encounter last week. I’m taking no chances.

In my faith life too I encounter obstacles and challenges. Sometimes the way ahead is blocked, the obvious path impassable or full of risks. In truth, I have to take chances every time I set one foot in front of another.

I know there is more than one way through the wilderness. Sometimes I am called to forge my own path and sometimes I am called to follow others. I am easily tempted to believe I already know the best way before I get there. I need to be reminded that what seem like detours can lead to oases, and what looks like a mistake may be the road to safety and sanctuary and refuge. I need to remember whose way I walk. Every morning I need to lift my voice and pray for discernment for the day ahead, and trust in God whose love precedes me, even to the depths.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cup of blessings

Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent

But I still my soul and make it quiet,
like a child upon its mother’s breast;
my soul is quieted within me.
Psalm 131:3

“Mom, will you help me with my English essay?”

I have come downstairs with a novel in hand intending to eke out half an hour to read and unwind. I know I have to send out one email, and follow up on one phone call, and read one document before I can call it a night. But I’m hoping I can dispense with these efficiently and then settle in to some leisure time.

I sit down near my daughter and ask with a bit of trepidation, “What do you need?” 

“Can you just sit here with me, and then read it when I am done?”

I can do that. And so we do our homework together in company and it feels good. And my work is no longer such a burden.  I tell her about the best part of my day, and she tells me a funny story about hers. We relax into companionable silence and even though my novel lies untouched, I feel refreshed.

I marvel at the grace discovered in the quiet, in my daughter’s presence, in the simplicity of sitting together. I sense not only the tension of the day leaving my body, but also God’s care pouring into my parched soul. I didn’t know how thirsty I was. And before I knew, God was already filling my cup with blessings. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Perplexing space

Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent
Feast of the Annunciation

Will you not give us life again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Psalm 85:6

Before I head out the door, I zip up my coat and make sure my gloves are in my pocket. I know it is colder outside than it looks. I am tired of bundling up. I am tired of bracing myself against the weather. I want to wear lighter clothes and brighter colors. I want to leave the house without a jacket and lift my face and my winter weary limbs to the sun.

It is truly spring now, that in-between time of cold days and warm days, of bare branches and new buds. Not one thing or the other.

I want to move ahead, I yearn to be out of this transitional time and into full spring. But this is a time of transformation. New life can’t be rushed.

I hesitate. What is there for me in this particular place? Can I linger here, pay attention to the roughness of it, open myself even more to the possibility for conversion? Can I enter even deeper into the wilderness journey when I am acutely aware that I am nearer the end than the beginning?

And in the hesitation itself, a rush of angel wings and the echo of God’s perplexing announcement of joy that asks to be believed before it is fully evident.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Someone else's watch

Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Lent

My help comes from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved
and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.
Psalm 121:2-3

I resist the temptation to check the time; I know it is too early to be stirring. Something is pulling at me. Not a particular something, but a whole host of somethings that do not quite shape themselves into precise cares.  I know better than to give them enough attention to become fully formed at this hour. Now is time for rest.

In my sleepy brain, I remember that God is awake. God is awake and watching over me. God is awake and watching over me and everyone else. God is awake and watching over me and everyone else and all of creation. And because God is doing all this, I don’t have to. And as a matter of fact, I can’t. God can do this because God is God. 

And me? I am a finite human being. A mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter and no matter how early I get up or how aggressively I prioritize I cannot accomplish an infinite number of tasks or will more time into a day.

So I lift my eyes and my heart and my hope to the one who keeps me safe. I place my wakefulness in the hands of the one who numbers the stars and calls them each by name. And I rest.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Waiting struggle

Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Be strong and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.
Psalm 31:24

I keep my eye on the bowl of oatmeal in the microwave as I set my tea to steep. If I am not attentive, the oatmeal will boil over and make a mess. I find I am impatient with my vigil; so many other things I could be doing rather than standing still and focusing on this one thing. 

I remind myself it is only for another minute—literally. And then I am brought up short. Am I in such a rush that I cannot give my attention to a bowl of oatmeal for three minutes altogether? Is waiting such a burden?

I have already been distracted from my prayer time this morning. I engaged in woolgathering, allowed myself to be sidetracked by email, jumped ahead to tasks set for later in the day.

In my Lenten walk too, I am tempted to jump ahead, to relax from discipline, to think I have done enough work in the wilderness. So many other things I could be doing rather than standing still and giving my attention and focus to God. But those other things are not my light and my salvation.

I gather my tea and oatmeal, take a deep breath, and pray for strength and courage.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015


Saturday in the Fourth Week of Lent

The Lord changed deserts into pools of water
and dry lands into water springs.
Whoever is wise will ponder these things,
and consider well the mercies of the Lord
Psalm 107:35, 43

I absently reach into the pocket of my sweats and am surprised to encounter some unidentified shapes. Pulling out my hand, I reveal two pieces of wrapped chocolate, partially melted into misshapen lumps.  I set them aside. In the cool house, they will harden. And they will still be chocolate. Why waste them?

Yesterday after my yoga practice a friend asked me if I had gotten all bent out of shape. “Actually, bent into shape,” was my reply.

This is what the wilderness does for me. Stretches me, molds me, asks me to reach beyond, increase my flexibility and strength. And even when I find myself misshapen, I am still me, still God’s beloved, still held in the hands of the living God, still striving to grow into the measure of the full stature of Christ.

So this morning, once again, I place myself before God who changes water-springs into thirsty grounds and deserts into pools of water. And know that I am in good hands.

Friday, March 20, 2015

It's time

Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent

For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.
Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!
Psalm 95:7

It is has not yet begun to snow, but I keep looking out the window anticipating the first flecks. If it were not for the date on the calendar, I could easily imaging that this was a day headed into winter rather than spring. My mind does a bit of a time warp, and I have an impulse to hunker down and prepare for dark and cold rather than to open myself in expectation light and warmth.

As I have shed layers of scarves and heavy sweaters and boots and winter coats, I have also set aside some spiritual burdens as I have traveled during Lent. I do not want to go back and pick them up again, but the temptation is there. To fall back into old patterns, to decide I can live with less than healthy practices, to plead that the effort of creating new habits is just not in me.

But the voice of the Holy One is never silent. God does not wait for me to show up at a particular time of a particular day of a particular season. Or in a particular place. Rather the invitation to hear and respond to God’s love for me is newly offered this day. The call for amendment of life and renewal of spirit sounds now.

There is no better time than the present. There is no better time than God’s.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rising waters

Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Let not the torrent of waters wash over me,
neither let the deep swallow me up;
do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me.
Answer me, O Lord, for your love is kind;
in your great compassion, turn to me.
Psalm 69:17-18

I remember later than I would like that I have to do a load of laundry tonight. I lift the lid of the washer only to discover that it already contains damp clothes. One of my daughters is clearly in the midst of doing her washing.

I open the dryer and find that it is also full. I would ask the offspring in question to come and take care of her clothes, only she is not home at the moment. So I begin the task myself. 

It would be easy for me on a day when those things that I have left undone are piled higher than laundry in this room to give in to the temptation to rage and indulge in feeling overwhelmed. But, I remind myself that my daughter would do the same for me, as our pattern is to help one another out in this way. I take out a shirt and fold it with care. 

I will not finish this tonight. In the morning I will rise early to fold one set of clothes and move the next load from the washer to the dryer. And there will still be laundry waiting to be done. And there will still be people to help me along the way. And God will still be there to pull me out of deep water, and kindly set my feet upon the path that is sure.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Within my house

Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

I will strive to follow a blameless course;
oh, when will you come to me?
I will walk with sincerity of heart within my house.
Psalm 101:2

“Would you mind throwing my music stuff in your car so I can practice after school?” my daughter texts, “It’s on the front hall table.”

I look at the front hall table and make a mental note to grab her music folder on my way out the door. And then I look at the table again, taking it all in.

A basket of Christmas cards still sits there, covered by programs from a recent show, a book, and some paperwork I don’t want to lose track of. The table is also acting as both the in-basket and the out-basket for the mail. Tickets for an upcoming concert lie nestled next to a random cup and a bag of birdseed that has been headed to the backyard for weeks now. And my daughter’s music stuff.

Originally, the table sat in my grandmother’s elegant front hall, but no one ever came in through the formal front door. We all came in through the kitchen. So this beautiful piece came to me in pristine shape—a condition it no longer holds.

But what it does hold is a true testimony to our household and the life we continue to build together. This table witnesses our comings and goings and the oft-ensuing chaos. Like the table I strive to keep what is important at hand and neglect to let go of what is past and collect various items along the way that really belong somewhere else. I am a bit worse for wear and could really benefit from some spring-cleaning.

But that will be later. I grab the music folder and head out the door.