Archive for April, 2007

Compassionate Eating: Homegrown Tomato Gravy

April 24, 2007

On the plane on the way home from Philly, I was reduced to reading the airline magazine.  Happily, it included an article on eating in Asheville, with the recipe for the tomato gravy served at the excellent Early Girl Eatery.  Good vegetarian gravies are a challenge, and this is a particularly nice one, IMHO:

Early Girl Homegrown Tomato Gravy

A beguiling use for the first tomatoes of the season. Serve over split and buttered biscuits for breakfast or, for dinner, alongside a plank of country ham or a slice of pork loin.  (Well, I wouldn’t, but you might! – JP) This recipe affords leftovers which, pulled from the freezer, make a great base for pasta sauce too.

6 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 cups onion, diced fine
5 tablespoons flour
1/2 tablespoon basil, dried
1/2 tablespoon thyme, dried
2 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

In heavy saucepan, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Stir in flour and cook a minute or two to form a light roux. Add remaining ingredients, along with a bit of water if the mixture doesn’t appear soupy. Simmer on low for 30 minutes, whisking occasionally, until the tomatoes have almost broken down and the whole has thickened to the consistency of gravy.


Do not do what you hate

April 23, 2007

Last night, I returned from Philadelphia, where I attended the always wonderful annual retreat of the Order of St Michael (   Interested parties should note that next year’s retreat will also be at Temenos, outside Philadephia – April 18-20, 2008.   I am still recovering from some late nights filled with “recreational theology” – and am getting ready to leave for North Carolina on Thursday morning to interview Carol Parrish ( for Quest Magazine. 

In the meanwhile, here is a word from Brother Jeremy Puma’s fantastic new commentary on the Gospel of Thomas (you can find details and ordering info at  Jeremy is commenting on part of Logion 6, where Jesus tells the disciples: “Do not do what you hate.”

Notice, Jesus is not telling the disciples to do whatever they want to – he tells them not to do anything they do not want to do.  This is an important idea.  When one prays, or gives charity, or observes a specific diet, but hates doing it, one is acting dishonestly.  Better not to pray at all than to pray because it is a chore that the law proscribes.  It does not matter one bit if one gives to the poor just because he or she is told to give to the poor.  What matters is that the person giving, or fasting, or obeying the “law” does this because he or she knows for him or herself that it is the right thing to do, that it is something worth doing because it is pleasing to God.

Exactly what Jesus means by prayer, charity, fasting, etc, is left up to the reader/listener.  Jesus has confidence in humanity’s ability to recognize the good for what it is, and follow through in action. When one comes right down to it, in spite of the heaviness and intricacy of Judaic legal code, one’s diet, one’s chosen method of prayer, one’s decision to fast, one’s decision to give to the poor – these are all relatively unimportant and focusing on them is worthless. The important thing is honesty to God, one’s self, and one’s neighbors.  

(Br Jeremy Puma, The Face of the Sky and Earth: Meditations on the Gospel of Thomas, Palm Tree Garden Publications, 2007, p.13)


April 15, 2007

As you can tell, I am behind on my weekend posting.   Erratic posting will probably continue for the next couple of weeks, due to two trips, on which I do not plan to take my laptop.  I will get reflections posted eventually, but they may be early or late. 

The Sunday after Easter in many traditions is the time for telling the story of Thomas’ encounter with the Risen One.  While the LCC reading is the Road to Emmaus, I have found myself pondering on Thomas in recent days.  How often do we reach into wounds – our own and those of others – and scratch around, breaking open the sore so that it bleeds afresh? I can tell myself to let go, and yet I’m back to the wound again, picking away.  

Thomas reaches his hand into the wounds of the Christ, but he does not addictively perpetuate pain.  Rather, he finds there a redemptive vulnerability which remakes his life.  The blood which flows onto his hands re-animates his heart.   We might remember the teaching in some western esoteric schools that the hands are the most direct point of connetion to the spiritual heart.  Thomas’ hand reaches into the wounded side of the Risen One, touching the very heart of Christ, and his own heart is ignited with the fire of the Spirit.

In touching our wounds and those of others, how can we encounter the very nature of Christ in those raw places?  How can the blood, the life-stream of Christ, pour out in regeneration and grace, instead of deepening bitterness and pain?  I don’t know the answers, but I think that Easter is the season for reaching out boldly to Christ, and placing our hands in his side, so that our wounds, like his, may become radiant points of light.

Easter is a season of surprise.  The disciples on the road to Emmaus walk a long way with the Risen Christ, and yet do not know him until he breaks bread with them.  Upon their recognition, he vanishes from sight.  Thomas struggles with doubt and a desire to lay hold of the Resurrection in flesh, and Christ suddenly stands before him, offering his wounds to Thomas’ touch.  What surprise, what startling newness, will this Easter bring to us?

Compassionate Eating: The Seitan O’Greatness

April 15, 2007

Giving in to urging from the infallible Isa Moskowitz, I tried this recipe for baked seitan:

Putting it simply, it is insanely good.  Even if you think you don’t like seitan (an Asian protein food made from wheat), I dare you to give it a spin!  I made most of my first batch into taco filling, and will be trying other permutations in the near future.

Firing up the ipod: Friday Morning Drive

April 13, 2007

As I type, Marc Hill is in the midst of a particularly good “Friday Morning Drive” program:

You can listen on-line (and find archives) at:

(Also well worth a listen on WRVU is “Sacred Hymns” on Wednesday morning:  Orthodox liturgical music and some Gregorian chant, hosted by Father Parthenios Turner.)

Thoughts for the day

April 13, 2007

Indeed, everything took place in us by means of images, for we ourselves are images of Christ. 
(from a discussion on sacramental initiation in The Jerusalem Catecheses)

Give me one person who is willing to take a risk, even if it doesn’t turn out right, over ten who just want to be good.
(Father Paul Blighton)


April 12, 2007

In our experience, and in the traditions which we inherit from our forbears, we make a claim that we find God’s revelation.  We cannot prove this claim to others in any rational way, but can only say with Jesus: Come and see.  Together with other Christians, we also find a primary source of revelation in Scripture, both canonical Scripture, and for some Independent Sacramental communities, other writings such as the Gospel of Thomas.  All of these documents display the divine/human encounter in a troubling, inextricable mix of profound inspiration, and human weakness.  The Bible, or the scriptures of the community however defined, is never the pure Word of God.  We have to struggle with it, like Jacob and the angel, refusing to let go until it speaks to us of God. 

In a 1976 promotional booklet for The Christian Community of the Holy Order of MANS, we read the following about revelation: 

It is scripture, but it is more.  It is John the Beloved rapt in vision on the isle of Patmos; it is Francis of Assisi at one with God through all the varied forms of the “natural” world; it is Dante beholding the face of God in a rose and weeping with joy; it is the anonymous soul whose life is changed by a brush with death and the momentary glimpse of ultimate Reality.  There are endless such examples.  Not only individuals, but groups also may be penetrated, informed, and guided by Divine Presence and Purpose. 

At times, the Independent Sacramental movement has been filled with a holy daring to challenge the church on issues such as race, gender, and sexuality.  It has also, in some places, been willing to profess the teaching of universal salvation, without reserve, and to engage in interpretations of the faith from an inner or esoteric perspective.  It has lived a prophetic ecclesiology, demonstrating different ways of incarnating the Kingdom.  To my mind, all of the foregoing is best understood as manifesting continuing revelation.  Jesus tells the disciples that the Spirit will guide them into all truth, and that they will do the works that he has done, and greater!  Why should we believe the canon is closed, and that the Spirit has nothing further to say? 

Of course, if we consider the possibility of open, ongoing revelation, then we have to wrestle with how to decide what is truly revelation, and what is personal fantasy or delusion or egoic manipulation.   And once we decide, how do we interpret it?  There are no easy answers to these questions, but even reading and interpreting the canonical Scriptures result in similar dilemmas.  As communities and as individuals, we cannot ultimately escape the responsibility of saying, “So it seems to us,” and letting the fruits of our labors bear us out – or not.   

We can also benefit immensely from the traditions of other Christians, but we are best able to do so, when we know our own tradition well.  Likewise, hopefully, other Christians will be able to somehow benefit from our work and wisdom, our foibles and craziness.  We all bring our unique offerings to the one table of Jesus.  As host of the cosmic eucharistic potluck, we can trust him to sort out all the contributions into a glorious feast.  Other religions and other fields of human knowledge have their contribution to make, as well.   

In all the foregoing, I only speak for myself.  However, I hope that others will find these thoughts useful – even if in reaction against them – in findings ways toward a distinctive Independent Sacramental Christian theology.

The Sacraments: a source of theology and ethics

April 12, 2007

One of the most striking characteristics of our movement is the intense focus on the sacraments.  In our modern tendency to mental abstraction, we may think of the sacraments as ritual expressions of an underlying theology.  If we do so, we have it exactly backwards: the keys to a viable theology may be discoverable in the sacraments themselves.   These magical (in all senses) and grace-filled acts can never be fully explained: the more we ponder, the more we find in them.  To offer only a small bit (to which you all can add in the comments):

In baptism, we find the consecration of our living and dying, and our re-making in the Divine.  New beginnings are always available.  Our body, in all its messy fleshy mortality, is washed in the stream of power flowing from the Christ.  The rivers of God pour out upon the earth, and separation becomes a lie. 

The fire of confirmation opens us as a window, that the light of Christ may shine through us upon the world.  We are no longer our small selves, but vessels of God, filled with the gifts of the Spirit.  We may neglect these gifts, but they are always with us, if we follow the ray of light which peeks through the grimiest portal. 

In confession or reconciliation, we deepen our awareness of God’s presence to us through others, as we hand our need for forgiveness to Christ through a sister or brother priest.  Forgiveness is something which happens eyeball to eyeball.  Thought the work of indie ancestors like Rudolf Steiner and Mario Schoenmaker, we learn that we can offer not only our failings, but all of our lives, and our future potential, to God in this sacrament, for transformation.  We can even hand over our struggles to forgive others.  A friend of mine recently pointed out that Jesus on the cross does not directly forgive his tormenters, but prays, “Father, forgive them.”  Likewise, when life is too much for our small and fragile selves, we can hand forgiveness to God.

Marriage displays the union of polarities, from simple personal separateness, to God and Not-God.   Marriage, in its ideal state, also shows us the enduring faithfulness of love, for which we long, even if we find it hard to incarnate.

Anointing shows us that God is always working towards healing and wholeness in our lives, and brings these graces to us through others.  As Lloyd Meeker liked to say, blessings are not given to us for us, but through us to others and through others to us – a web of graceful interchange.  Christ stands with us in the passages of sickness, decline, and death, as much as he does in birth, and love, and growth. 

Almost all churches will admit that all baptized people are part of the priesthood of Christ, but how often is this confirmed through the sacrament of holy orders?   Such sharers in the “priesthood of all” need not engage in some sort of public, traditional ministry, but may mediate the presence and transforming activity of Christ through their daily lives.  I am increasingly convinced that some offering of holy orders is appropriate, for all who are willing to prepare and commit themselves.  I was ordained in the old step-by-step way, minor orders one by one, and then the majors, and this can be a lovely way to consecrate steps in preparation.  However, some years back, a friend asked if it might make sense to shift to a one-step ordination:  the fullness of the priesthood, period.   I was scandalized at the time, as this would effectively make each ordinand a bishop, but now I wonder??

Finally, in the eucharst, Christ shows us his self-giving, his sacrifice, his redemptive and forgiving presence.  He places himself into our very hands, vulnerable to us.   Can we live this (as ethics) and teach it (as theology)? 

In all the foregoing, can you see the seeds of a theology of embodied grace, mediation in community with others, service, love, and a God who pours himself out as gift?  I think we will see a vibrant theology grow, if we can continually ask ourselves how well our lives and our teaching conform to the sacraments we celebrate.

Of course, one might rightly point out that the sacraments have been so emphasized in the ISM, that the Word (Scripture, preaching) has suffered.  However, our Polish National Catholic sisters and brothers have taught us to see the Word as Sacrament.  The Word is living and true, meeting us in transformation, challenging us, cutting through all that binds us.  Ink on the page and the power of human voice (in reading and preaching) mediate God as truly as bread and wine.   For Christians, the Word is always Incarnate.  As such, is the Word not always sacramental?  And how can our words, our use of language and communication in all forms gradually come to more truly mirror that sacramental, incarnational grace?

I know this is somewhat rambling.  It is Thursday night, and I am tired!   But I will go ahead and post it, and welcome your reactions, corrections, and insights, whether on-blog or privately.

Kurt Vonnegut, RIP

April 12, 2007

Here’s the famous Palm Sunday sermon of this “Christ-worshipping agnostic.”  Years ago, I heard him read this piece at Fordham:

People don’t come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God.

A word from Doug Pagitt

April 12, 2007

For all the good that has come from the servant leadership model of church leadership, which has gained well-deserved acceptance in recent decades, there are those of us who want to move beyond servanthood as the model for our engagement with one another and take the dangerous leap into friendship as the way of understanding one another.   (in D. Pagitt and T. Jones, eds., An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, p.19)