Monday, February 8, 2016

The one advertisement from the Super Bowl we need to watch! #NoMore

Learn more here:

What is NO MORE?

NO MORE is a unifying symbol and campaign to raise public awareness and engage bystanders around ending domestic violence and sexual assault. Launched in March 2013 by a coalition of leading advocacy groups, service providers, the U.S. Department of Justice, and major corporations, NO MORE is supported by hundreds of national and local groups and by thousands of individuals, organizations, universities, and communities who are using its signature blue symbol to increase visibility for domestic violence and sexual assault.

NO MORE was conceived to amplify the power of the domestic violence and sexual assault movement using a unifying symbol to drive awareness and break down the barriers of stigma, silence and shame that keep people from talking about these issues and taking action to prevent them. Co-founded as a public/private partnership, NO MORE was created as a platform for those working to end domestic violence/sexual assault, in the belief that greater dialogue will fuel enhanced funding for direct service, advocacy and prevention.

Souper Bowl of Sunday - #FlintWaterCrisis

For today's "Souper Bowl of Caring," all monetary donations in the soup kettles and the offering plate will go to #FlintWaterCrisis*; all canned goods will be donated to the Monroe Food Pantry.

*St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Flint & other churches serve as water distribution points to make sure the city’s residents had access to clean water. One of the ways churches are looking to respond to residents’ needs is by making sure they have access to healthy, fresh foods. Evidence has shown that foods rich in iron and vitamin C can ameliorate the effects of lead poisoning, said Rev. Scheid. “The issue is that much of the food that comes through the food bank is on the verge of spoiling and getting appropriate food from the food bank is a challenge,” said Scheid, adding that Flint is a food desert. “This is something we are looking at, could we do something to address nutrition in a meaningful way, could we purchase top quality food for distribution to families.” Another long-term issue is addressing residents’ spiritual and psychological needs. “The trauma, the fear and the anger of the adults, parents and grandparents, knowing that you may have given children contaminated water for months and months and the associated guilt,” said Rev. Scheid.

Prayers of the People for Souper Bowl Sunday

Brothers and sisters in Christ: Before he was crucified, our Savior Jesus Christ promised to draw to himself all things whether in heaven or on earth. Let us pray, therefore, that the peace accomplished through the Cross of Christ may be realized in our own world and our own relationships. Let us pray for the Church and the world God so loves, for peace among all nations, and for the reconciliation of all people and all things in the Name of Christ. Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We pray for the one billion people who live on less than one US dollar per day and for each child of God who dies every 3½ seconds from hunger. Lead us, O God, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We pray for the more than 100 million children who are not in school this day.
Lead us, O God, to achieve universal primary education for all children.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We pray for women who because of gender discrimination never realize their full potential.
Lead us, O God, to promote gender equality and empower women.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We pray for those precious children under the age of five who die every 3 seconds due to disease caused by unclean water, sanitation and poor nutrition. Lead us, O God, to reduce child mortality.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We pray for the more than 500,000 women who die each year from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Lead us, O God, to improve maternal health.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We pray for those who die each day from preventable diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Lead us, O God, to combat these diseases. Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We pray for our environment. Make us good stewards of your creation so that all of your children may lead productive and fruitful lives. Lead us, O God, to ensure environmental sustainability.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We pray for a fair trading system, increased international aid and debt relief for developing countries so that all peoples may realize their dreams and their potential. Lead us, O God, to create a global partnership for development. Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We pray for all those on our hearts this morning... (Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.)

Rev Kurt will add names and all will end with the following prayer (#62 - p. 833):
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

U2charist X

This was our 10th U2charist on the “Souper Bowl of Caring” Sunday. The U2charist is an Episcopal Eucharist service that features the music of the band U2, and a message about God's call to rally around the Sustainable Development Goals. The music in this service is replete with images of our connection with God and the importance of caring for your neighbor, particularly the most vulnerable and those in need. Bono, from U2, is calling people worldwide to a deeper faith and engagement with God's mission. Our U2charist continues to be an extension of this ministry in our parish.

“I believe in the Kingdom Come…You carried the cross, and my shame. … You know I believe it.” (I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, U2 (1987))

Listen for biblical and theological references, for traditional Christian imagery and language, as well as for very nontraditional language, used to paint very traditional images of Christian theology. The traditional understanding of faith as an insatiable desire for God is a common theme, and “you” in U2’s lyrics is often indicative of God addressing the human, as it is the person of faith addressing God.

"We've found different ways of expressing it…. Maybe we just have to sort of draw our fish in the sand. It's there for people who are interested." – Bono

St. Augustine once said, “Those who sing, pray twice.” Join U2 and sing!


Prelude: Where the Streets Have No Name (1987)
Opening Song: Pride (In the Name of Love) (1984)
Song of Praise: Jesus Christ (sung by U2, written by Woodie Guthrie, 1961)
Psalm: 40 (1983)

"So then we had this slightly unusual piece of music and we said, 'OK, what are we going to do with it?' Bono said, 'Let's do a psalm.' Opened up the bible and found Psalm 40. 'This is it. Let's do it.' And within forty minutes we had worked out the last few elements for the tune, Bono had sung it, and we mixed it. And literally, after finishing the mix, we walked out through the door and the next band walked in." - The Edge, U2 By U2 2006

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song

He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm
Many will see
Many will see and hear

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song

The portion of Psalm 40 that inspired Bono's lyrics:

I waited patiently for the Lord
And He inclined to me and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction
Out of the miry clay
And He set my feet upon a rock, making my footsteps firm
He put a new song in my mouth
A song of praise to our God
Many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord

Offertory: Love and Peace or else (2004)
Communion Song I: One Step Closer (2004) – a song for the journey
Communion Song II: White as Snow (2009) – a song to the Lamb
Closing Song: Beautiful Day (2000)
Postlude: When Love Comes to Town (1988 with co-lead vocals from BB King)

Sermon: February 7

Sermon given at 8 AM service.

Most loving God, as your desire for mercy for the poor is unrelenting, may we be unrelenting in our pursuit of mercy for all; as your compassion for the suffering of the poor knows no limit, may our hearts overflow with compassion for all; as you long for justice for the poor, may we strive for justice for all. Open our eyes to the structures of oppression from which we benefit, and give us courage to accept our responsibility, wisdom to chart a sound course amid complexity, and perseverance to continue our work until it is finished. Breathe your life-giving Spirit afresh into your Church to free us from apathy and indifference; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Prayer by the Rt. Rev. Jeffery Rowthorn)

This past September at the UN, countries from around the world adopted a new set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each of the 17 goals has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years and these replace the 8 MDGs.

I have spoken in the past about the MDGs and our role to play in their achievement. This is no less important with the new SDGs.
“Pope Francis' address to the UN General Assembly reminds us of the crucial role played by faith groups in achieving development goals in local communities, but often ignored when governments & development agencies are producing their plans. Faith groups are the key to engaging with communities living in extreme poverty, which are usually the most difficult to reach by other agencies.” (Dr Peter & Jean Rookes)
I think of our work in Mozambique, helping bring a nursery school and clean water from a local well to the people of Magumeto, a small village, many kilometers away from the main road. We helped deliver mosquito nets to prevent malaria and last year helped bring communication to remote parts of the diocese.

Such work is part and parcel of our Christian lives, to reach our in love to those in need.

Our own Bishop, Ian Douglas, believes that this commitment to sustainable goals "is consistent with how we understand God's mission of restoration and reconciliation" and that it supports "the missiological invitation ... to heal a broken world and a broken creation."

Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said "Participation by people of faith in the work to abolish poverty and hunger through the accomplishment of the goals is...a witness to the gospel."

So our work in Mozambique will continue. For our faith and these new goals will not let us be complacent, thinking our work is done.

Our first reading today from Exodus tells us that “Moses came down from Mount Sinai, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.”

The real truth of course is that encounters with God change people, but God doesn’t let them stay where they are. Moses might have had an awesome moment on that mountain, but God sends him back down the mountain to be with the people. He glowed from the encounter but his work had just begun with the Israelites. Captivity was behind them but their lives were before them and they were just beginning the journey.

Peter, James & John on the Holy Mountain had a most extraordinary experience with Jesus. Before them Jesus was transfigured… he glowed like pure white (better than Clorox!) and with him was Moses and the prophet Elijah… and Peter was so into the moment he wants to capture it, remain there, but this experience would lead them onward, down the mountain, back into life, on the way to Jerusalem.

This experience we have with God changes us and calls us to keep going, not just stay where we are, but to open our hearts to the needs we see and hear all around us.

7 year old Scarlette threw her arms open wide and giggled with excitement when she saw the growing mountain of cases of bottled water stacked in the McFall Elementary hallway ready to be delivered across the state Friday afternoon. "It's a whole bunch of water. I think they're going to be happy," she said.

Scarlette said she came up with the idea after her mom, Macenzie Smallwood, talked to her about what was happening in Flint, MI. Scarlette's solution was simple. "I just said why don't we take some of our water to them, so we did," she said.

She and her Mom loaded up their vehicle and drove to Flint last weekend to do what they could to help. "We took about 20 cases over. That's about all we could fit," Macenzie said.

But Scarlette said after seeing the conditions in Flint and watching the families wait in lines to get one case of water, she wanted to do more. "It made me sad to see all the people have to stand in line just to get water. And they could only get one case for everything they need. And they need a lot of water to wash their clothes and wash their hands and take a bath and wash their dishes and just everything," said the big-hearted first grader.

Dubbed "First Graders for Flint" Scarlette asked McFall principal Jon Washburn if other students could help. And it's become a flood of support from there. Scarlette and her family are planning to make a second trip this weekend to Flint to bring even more water. Macenzie said a company is donating a 26-foot cargo van to help move the water from Middleville to Flint and another family friend is planning to follow in a truck and trailer. One local company has also donated three pallets of bottled water.

Scarlette said she's surprised by how many people wanted to help and how many people have donated water. "People just keep bringing in more and more and more. There's like a whole bunch of bottles now," she said with a bright smile spreading across her face.

Macenzie said their plan is to drive into some of the poorer areas of the city and leave cases of water on the curb for anyone who needs it. Scarlette said she hopes it brings smiles to the people who need the water.

"She (Scarlette) always says things like 'Well when I become President...' and I tell her she doesn't have to wait to become President to make a difference. You can be 7 years old and make a big difference and no one needs to vote for you," she said. (

Jane Goodall once wrote, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

God calls us to be transformed, to glow with our faith, but not sit still, our work is not done. We are called to give of our lives serving others; it’s up to us to decide the difference we will make. Amen.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Our Discipleship Project - 2016

Our part in the Jesus movement is our Call to Discipleship:

· Discipleship means learning to lead the lives we should as God’s people.
· Growing in discipleship involves prayer, study, worship and service.
· This is the path towards human flourishing and care for God’s creation.

In 2015, St. Peter’s Church began a journey together. A journey we are calling The Discipleship Project (based on The Restoration Project of the Rev. Christopher Martin). There is a hunger in the lives of all of us to be in deeper relationship with God. This is precisely what is promised by Jesus. Jesus is the way to come to know God personally, intimately and reliably, like a loving parent…like a father or mother.

To that end, we began a project to focus on “Pray & Worship & Serve,” which represents three practices that are part of the foundation for disciples of Jesus. These disciplines will not only satisfy one’s desire to serve and please God, but are in fact the very means by which we come to know and love God better.

20+1+5 = three ancient practices, commended to all by Holy Scripture and perfected by countless years of human experience:

20 – Pray twenty minutes a day.
1 – Worship one hour a week.
5 – Serve five times a month.

We are restoring ourselves and our community through 7 Core Christian Practices:

• Pray
• Worship
• Serve
• Give
• Learn/Study
• Listen
• Join

If you want to know God better and be a more faithful disciple, please join us in this project dedicated to nurturing disciples of Jesus. This is an invitation to spiritual depth, as we give, learn, listen and join in this discipleship. Our Discipleship Project joins a movement of churches that have developed reliable and well-tested structures for spiritual growth. We are a learning community of Christians. You are invited to explore and join this movement in 2016. Not simply a program but an entire way of being that affects everything you do.

“So much in our lives has obscured our God-given beauty. The integrity of the likeness of God has broken apart; the foundation has not been firm. We have tried to fix things and often made it even worse, and the environment in which we live can be toxic, violent, and aggressive.” This project helps restore the beauty and clarity of our relationship with God. ~ Rev. Christopher H. Martin.

Sermon: January 31

O Almighty God, who pours out on all who desire it the spirit of grace and of supplication: Deliver us, when we draw near to you, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with steadfast thoughts and kindled affections we may worship and serve you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

“When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.” (Luke)

No, this is not a news item from this parish wanting to throw me off a cliff. It’s hard to believe the hometown crowd was angry enough to throw Jesus off a cliff. But the Gospel of Luke tells us so. They began by loving him – he spoke so well, he was so gracious.

But Jesus wasn’t home to be praised; he came to offer Good News even when the people might not be receptive to it.

Jesus said, “But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

Jesus used these examples of the prophets of Israel ministering to gentiles, a widow in Sidon along the coast and the cleansing of Naaman, Commander of the Syrian army. These stories were not the gracious stories that they expected but challenging stories of God working outside their boundaries. Jesus praised foreigners, for they received God’s prophets. Jesus message was not going to be limited to Israel or to the Jewish people. He challenged the narrative, he challenged their understandings, he challenged them. And they were upset, to say the least.

I think of the story of Chris Borland. Chris Borland was on his way to a dream career in the NFL. With 107 tackles in his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2014, Chris was going to be star in the league. But his first season playing pro football would be his last.

Chris retired at the age of 24. Chris saw how repeated concussions had left thousands of former players racked with debilitating headaches, anger and confusion, and the early onset of dementia. Despite the success of his rookie year, Chris was unwilling to play another season because he was concerned that he would continue risking injury in pursuit of a paycheck. He didn't want to risk not being able to play with his own kids someday.

Chris' decision to walk away from football has won the admiration from some, but he has his critics - especially the NFL. The league points to the new protocols it has put in place for player safety with those who suffer concussions during games. Others deride Chris as "soft" and accuse him of trying to ruin the national game.

Chris willingly returned most of his signing bonus to the 49ers. "That was the biggest surprise for me. People can't get over the money," Chris said. "That's all they think about. But your health is a little more important."

Chris is adamant: the game cannot be made safer as it is now being played and coached and marketed. He's reluctant to even watch the game because he is concerned for his friends and teammates still playing. Chris turned down a role in the new movie Concussion and several endorsement opportunities. "I don't want to monetize head injury in football. I think that attacks your legitimacy." Chris has offered himself as a subject for concussion research.

Because of his courageous decision to walk away from fame and fortune in the NFL, ESPN calls Chris Borland the "most dangerous man in football." [From "Why former 49ers Chris Borland is the most dangerous man in football" by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, ESPN The Magazine, August 31, 2015.]

Chris rejected the narrative that the NFL was espousing. He in his own way was an unexpected "prophet," those who, in their integrity and courage, speak the truths we don't want to hear. And many were upset by it, to say the least. Such "prophecy" demands the courage and conviction to confront who we are, to recognize the gulf that often exists between the values we profess and the values we live.

Throughout the Gospels and Scripture, many who encounter Jesus and the prophets are unable to hear, accept and act on God's call to change the evil systems that dehumanize them and our need for transformation in God. This is what discipleship is all about. It isn’t about accepting a set of ideas or an institution, its about a way of life, one shaped by our walking with Jesus.

In the words of a great lay leader in our church, Verna Dozier: "The call to discipleship [ministry] is the call to be a citizen of the kingdom of God, in a new way, the daring, free, accepting, compassionate way Jesus modeled. It means being bound by no yesterday, fearing no tomorrow, drawing no lines between friend and foe, the acceptable ones and the outcasts. Ministry is the commitment that all of God’s creation will live together in peace and harmony and fulfillment, and God has called us to have a role in its restoration."

The call to discipleship is a call to transformation. I believe we as the members of St. Peter’s Church are being called to such change in our lives. Discipleship means learning to lead the lives we should as God’s people. We grow into this through prayer, worship and acts of service, and when we learn to give of ourselves and our abundance, when we learn & study, when we listen and join together in love. This is the path towards human flourishing, transformation, and care for God’s creation.

“I go to church to be with the people of God, people transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.” ~ Rachel Held Evans

But this journey we are called on will not always be easy; there will be times when we are tested; there may be times when others are upset by such discipleship. Sometimes, those difficulties are our own hearts. Filled with our misperceptions, or own prejudices that blind us to the word of God, to where God may be calling us here and now. Like Jeremiah we don’t think we are worthy. But Jesus comes to break down our hard hearts, to give us a heart of flesh, a heart that loves and feeds on God’s word.

I see the faces of people here who have come faithfully to be in the presence of God in this place, who have found a safe space to worship, to ask questions, to doubt and struggle, to celebrate and to live out our lives in a community of faithful people who are striving to seek understanding and the truth of what God has called us to be.

That is the gift of Anglicanism, of the Episcopal Church. With the Bible in one hand, with the tradition of the Church in the other, and are God given reason in between (that is our head and our heart), we move forward to find God present all around us, to find in the face of each other, our savior Jesus Christ.

I hope this place is your spiritual home, where you not only find sustenance, but also challenge, where you find truth and you’ll find the questions to wrestle with in your life that will lead you home to God.

Today (and everyday), by the grace of God we go into uncharted territory looking to find the divine: in our prayers, in our bible study, at our Apple Festival, at our meals together, in our acts of service & love to Chapel on the Green or Mozambique, on a Sunday morning or whenever the faithful gather together here, God will be in the midst of us. So in all that we say and all that we do, may God bless us in our undertaking.