1983 was the year the first version of Microsoft Word was launched, the English rock band The Police released Synchronicity with its hit single Every Breath You Take, and the O’s won the World Series, beating the Phillies. Those were the days when Cal Ripken, Jr., fielded grounders to Eddie Murray on first. You could count on Dennis Martinez for the win, Tippy Martinez for the save. In fact, every position, every player, could be counted on, to get that final out or to get runners home.

Yesterday morning, Team Redeemer pulled together to send one of our own Home. Bert Landman cast a spell with the organ, transforming our sanctuary, ever so subtly, into a stadium. Alex McMahon and Patty Campbell brought out all the equipment and got everything ready for gametime. Jim Gary, Anna von Lunz, Pete Partridge and Bob Carroll stood ready at their posts, greeting folks and handing out programs, courtesy of Barb Hart. Giang Vu and Mark Schroeder made sure the sound system worked, so every word, every song, could be heard by all. Leigh Lowe carried our team banner. Caroline Stewart opened with words of victory. David Ware preached a grand slam. And Ellen Chatard stepped up to pinch hit in the ninth (when wine was running low in a chalice).

Seasons come, seasons go. This Saturday is Opening Day for the Roland Park Baseball League. Sunday is the final Sunday of the season of Lent. Monday is Opening Day at Camden Yards. The following Sunday is Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week. Sanctuary or stadium, practice or gametime, the big questions are the same on the playing field of life.

How will we play, the position that’s ours to play? How will we “show up” day in, day out? Will we do what needs to be done? Will we be a team player? Will we give it our best shot, give it all we’ve got? Will we stay awake, ready and focused? And at the end of the day, when we hang up our uniforms, how will we define “victory”?

As Christians, we have a playbook and a rich tradition of coaching. “Watch what God does, and then you do it,” one coach says, “like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with God and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. … Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.

Wake up from your sleep …
Christ will show you the light!

So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get.”

Life, after all, is full of chances and opportunities to live and to love well. Every day is Opening Day until we go Home…to a New Day.


In loving memory of Winston R. Blenckstone.

Dear Folks,

When John Sanford was a boy, he spent a month every summer in a rustic farmhouse in New Hampshire.  The house was already 150 years old when his family bought it, with no appreciable modernization, and since Sanford’s dad was the minister of a modest-sized parish and always short of money, improvements did not materialize for years.  For a long time they lived in the house quite simply, without plumbing or electricity, so their water supply was an old well that stood just outside the front door.  Sanford remembers the water from that well as “unusually cold and pure and a joy to drink” and never running dry.  Even in the most severe summer droughts, when other families were forced to draw from the lake to drink, their old well faithfully yielded up its cool, clear water.

At a certain point the family’s fortunes improved enough to make some changes in the old house.  Electricity replaced kerosene lamps, a new stove was carted into the kitchen, and modern plumbing with running water was installed.  This final change required a new water source, so a deep artesian well was drilled a few hundred feet from the house.  No longer needed, the old one near the front door was sealed over and kept in reserve, in case there was ever a run on water that would outstrip the capacity of the artesian well.

Things stood this way for several years until one day, moved by curiosity and old loyalties, Sanford determined to uncover the old well and inspect its condition.  As he removed the cover, he expected to see the same dark, cool depths he had known as a boy, but the well was bone dry.  Why?  As it turns out, a well of this kind is fed by hundreds of tiny rivulets along which seeps a constant supply of water, but their continued flow depends on regular use.  Their dependable old friend which had run without failing for so many years was dry, not because there was nothing to nourish its springs, but because those sources of water had not been tapped for  a while.

That phenomenon happens with people, as well.

Sabbaticals are an integral part of balanced ministry, according to Bishop Eugene Sutton.  Taking three months every six years to step away from parish work, to reflect and restore and renew, is a custom that full-time employees responsible for program, ordained associates, and rectors should routinely practice.  With this in mind, Caroline will take a sabbatical from May 22 – August 14.  Caroline began her path toward ordination 17 years ago, and she has worked without a significant break for the last 12.  Much of that time she has devoted to the people of Redeemer, so it is fitting that we support this time away for her now.  Because the time that Caroline will take falls mainly in the quieter part of the program year, Cristina and I will be able to embrace the pastoral and program needs of the parish while Caroline is “observing Sabbath.”

Bless you Caroline, as you take a much deserved drink of cool water.



 Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you; they have testified to your love before the church. 3 John 1:5

 Do you remember times when you as a parent heard from a teacher what a good job your child had done or perhaps from another parent how well behaved your child was and the subsequent warm fuzzy feeling that you experienced? Or maybe you heard something similar from the vet about how cooperative your pet had been and again, how positive that made you feel. Well, as one of your clergy I want to let you know, as a result of a cluster of similar positive remarks I have heard about you during the last couple of weeks, I have that same warm, fuzzy feeling!

Redeemer is in the midst of increased activity that includes both worship offerings, adult educational opportunities, and use of our facility by community groups. The wonderful consequence of the amplified exposure is the significant number of ‘new’ people that are coming across our threshold. This is such great news for our community!! But what is equally exciting is how you, the members of Redeemer, are welcoming them. I am hearing over and over from our newcomers how they are feeling such a warmth and hospitality from this church. They are coming and returning because you are making an effort to reach out, to introduce yourselves, to invite them to coffee hour, to join you in a small group. This beautiful cycle of kindness is the ongoing theme of their impression of our church. And, it is a reminder of the value of continuing our habit of wearing the name tags!

I want to give you a specific example from this past week. Saturday night we welcomed 400 people for a book signing event we co-sponsored with The Ivy Bookstore. Most attendees were not connected with our parish but each one was welcomed with gracious hospitality as they came through the doors into our sanctuary. Sunday morning 3 ‘strangers’ from the night before came back to worship with us and have now completed their newcomer card.

So, dear parish, during this unexpectedly frigid week, it seems appropriate to take this opportunity to thank you for your warmth. David and Cristina join me in recognizing your genuine interest in welcoming the stranger.  It reflects that passage from John that speaks to both the welcome of the ‘stranger’ along with the testimony from those ‘strangers’. Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you; they have testified to your love before the church. (3 John 1:5) 

I conclude with a beautiful reflection from Rumi, the 13th century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, mystic and theologian:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks


Dear Folks,

How do we discover who we are?

On summer evenings to escape the heat, my family carried iced tea and cigarettes to the back porch and told stories. The adults mostly talked and the kids mostly listened, while insight and humor and regret were traded like baseball cards. We sat in the dark to keep the bugs down and to help us think we were cooler than we were. “Do you remember when Uncle Clen broke the kitchen table with his science project?” “What about the time I ran up three flights of stairs with an armload of books, skidded to a stop at the door of my sophomore English class, and my petticoat fell out of my dress in a heap on the floor!” “How long was it after Jimmy died that Louise found his gun and shot herself?” Sometimes old hurts raised their voices as we reminisced, or sorrows surfaced, or anger flashed through us again. Sometimes we got so tickled my dad couldn’t breathe. Sometimes the punchlines changed, and no one worried if a good one was repeated.

I learned more than storytelling on my family’s porch, and on the other ones which hung off the apartments and houses where friends lived.  How do you know what you value?  How do you figure out what you stand for or against?  How do you learn what to give your time to or heart to or money to?  How does the still, small voice within you reveal itself?  Family stories get us started and then most of us spend the rest of our lives deciding what to keep and what to shed from that earliest system of influence.  Friendship stories and romantic stories and work stories play their part as we mature.  Literature helps.  Stories of struggle and faith offer solace along the way.

How do we discover who we are?  We listen for stories that tell us honestly who we are as human beings and who we might one day be, and then we stretch to embody the best of them.

Start with the people closest by—family if you’ve got them, friends if you don’t. Listen to the narrative they use to make sense of life and themselves. Ask about the lessons they’ve learned. Ask about their heroes. Ask them where it hurts. You’ll hear about lost opportunities and lost keys, misplaced glasses and priorities, heartaches and headaches, things done and left undone. You’ll be witnessing a life in this telling, and at some point, you’ll begin to give voice to yours. Connect what you think to what you feel, and see if you can locate the genesis of your abiding passions.  What makes you really mad?  What makes you deliriously happy?  What happened to shape within you such strong convictions?  What are you most afraid of?  What do you have to lose?

Laura Wexler, co-founder of Baltimore’s Stoop Stories, told a full south transept last night that an engaging oral narrative is at once foreign and familiar. “A person tells her own unique story, and though her context and background may be entirely different from yours, you find common ground, if the story teller is authentic. ‘I’ve felt like that,’ you’re surprised to admit. ‘I’ve struggled like that.  I’ve thought about that too.’”  Mostly we don’t resonate with stories of triumph, Wexler reported.  “We identify with other people’s losses because we’ve had them ourselves.”  And if the world doesn’t feel safer to hear about someone else’s mishap, it does feel smaller, and maybe that’s what we long for most.

Learn your own story, and your city’s story, your country’s story and the beautiful, worrisome story of humankind, and you are more likely to have what you need to act and make a difference now in a world that’s too small for anything but truth.  The scripture has a story to tell, too.

Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Esau, Moses and Ruth and Jesus all begin to find themselves at the moment when they feel most lost and most alone: striking out on their own, away from home for the first time, at odds with fathers and brothers, mothers and wives, pharaohs and potentates, not sure what their work or alliances should be.  Their discovery was to know their family system story well enough to keep what they needed, to drop the rest, and to let the test of the wilderness be its blessing.

Our most meaningful struggles show us what we’re made of and reveal this truth: we are each other’s business.



Standing in front of Starbucks on a Wednesday morning in a long black robe, offering ashes and prayers, provides for some memorable interactions with some beautiful people – beautiful in their humanity, honesty and vulnerability.

There was a mom who wished to pray for her teenage daughter, and another mom who is adjusting to being an empty-nester.

There was a man who declined prayers on his way in, and who, on his way out, smiled and informed me he’d been praying for me as he sat inside drinking his coffee.

There were several who prayed for a sense of calm. A sense of peace. A sense of stillness.

And there was a woman who stopped mid-stride and teared up, when she heard my invitation. She turned around and said, “But I haven’t been to church in years.”

I smiled and extended my invitation again, asking if she wished to receive ashes and/or to pray together. She hesitated, then nodded through her tears and came over.

God’s love and mercy extend beyond church walls and coffee shops.

God’s embrace is wider than what we humans can get our arms around.

We are Beloved despite our best efforts to be or to believe otherwise, and so is “the other”.

I wonder, if she believed me?

I wonder, do we believe this ourselves? (Sometimes yes, sometimes no …)

This season of Lent is an invitation to believe, once again. To rend our hearts and not our garments. To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. There are a myriad of ways and opportunities at Redeemer, for us to believe and to be love, together. We can’t do them all. We can do some.

Stop. Turn around. Listen.

What is God’s invitation to you, this Lenten season?