Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday Sermon

O Lord, in our weakness, be our strength; in our troubles, be our peace; in our danger, be our shelter; in our fears, be our hope; and help us in our hearts to remember you walk with us always. Amen.

Jesus lived on borrowed time.
Think about the story of his life: Jesus was born in a borrowed place and laid in a borrowed manger. As he traveled, he had no place of his own so he spent his nights in a "borrowed" space somewhere.

In the account of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, the Gospel of Mark makes a point of the fact that the donkey was borrowed. He sends two disciples to a nearby village where they find a colt. If anyone questions you, Jesus directs, tell them that "The Master needs it" and assure them it will be returned.

And so Jesus enters Jerusalem, seated on a borrowed donkey, acclaimed by the crowds as the "one who comes in the name of the Lord." He ate his final meal in a borrowed upper room. And when he died, his body was placed in a borrowed tomb.

What kind of Messiah, what kind of king, makes his grand entrance on a borrowed donkey? Buried in a borrowed tomb?

Think about what St. Paul says to us today, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus… who, emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”

Jesus owns nothing. He possesses nothing. He takes nothing for himself but shares whatever is given him. His only possession is compassion: love freely given, without limit or condition or expectation. That is what he asks of those who would follow him. For it is the Kingdom of God - a Kingdom built of justice, of mercy, of reconciliation, of peace.

It is that Kingdom of God that Jesus preaches and models and ultimately dies for - on a cross that was borrowed, as well. [Adapted from sermons by William Carter and Rob Elder, Day One.]
Be of the same mind, says St. Paul, think of how Jesus lived, who emptied himself of his very divinity to take on the cross for the sake of all of God's creation.

As we walk with Jesus this Holy Week, may we learn to empty ourselves of our egos, our wants and expectations, our possessions, in order to make room in our lives for the simple, liberating love of God, to take up our cross and follow him on the path he walked.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “We need to immerse ourselves over and over again for periods of time and very quietly into the living, speaking, acting, suffering and dying of Jesus, so that we may recognize what God promises and what God fulfills.”
May we borrow from the humble of spirit of Jesus, as we carry our cross, enabling us to build the Kingdom of God in this time and place of ours. For it is in taking the time to live into his experience, from the last supper through the cross and beyond that will help our lives understand God’s promise to be with us always and will guide us in helping this hurting world.

Teach us the path, show us the way by Malcolm Boyd
from Are you Running with me, Jesus? (1965)
(Rev. Malcolm Boyd died this year at age 91.)

They say that everyone has a cross to bear, Jesus. And you once said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” What do those things mean? I think they mean that every person ultimately has to face up to reality – face one's own calling, destiny, nature and responsibilities.

In your own life, Jesus, you faced reality directly and unequivocally. You incarnated the truth as you believed it. You didn't pander to any easy or obvious popularity. You attacked the hypocrisies of the human power structure head on. You rejected status quo in favor of obedience to the Realm of God. And when it came to taking consequences, you didn't shy away from torture and execution.

The way of the cross was your understanding of your mission and your faithfulness to it. The way of the cross seems to be, for every individual Christian, the reality that dictates styles of life, defines mission, and brings a person into communion with you. Help me bear my cross on the way of the cross, Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Holy Week Prayers


Prayers from Are You Running With Me, Jesus? (1965) By Malcolm Boyd

 Why is reality about you so shocking to us, Jesus?
 
     I know the real cross wasn't pretty at all. But I guess I understand why they want to make copies of it out of fine woods and even semiprecious stones because you hung on it.
     Yet doesn't this romanticize your death and give it a kind of gloss it didn't have? Your death was bloody and dirty and very real. Can't we face it that way, Jesus?  And can't we face the fact that you were a real man, living a human life, as well as God?

- - - - - - - - - -


We're praying for repentance
 
      Take fire and burn away our guilt and our lying hypocrisies/
      Take water and wash away our brothers' and sisters' blood which we have caused to be shed.
      Take hot sunlight and dry the tears of those we have hurt, and heal their wounded souls, minds and bodies.
      Take love and root it in our hearts, so that community may grow, transforming the dry desert of our prejudices and hatreds.
      Take our imperfect prayers and purify them, so that we mean what we pray and are prepared to give ourselves to you along with our words.

- - - - - - - - - -
 
Thanks for what you did about success and failure

 
       Jesus, you ruined all the phony success stories forever when you didn't come down from the cross, turn your crown of thorns into  solid gold, transform the crowd at Golgotha into a mighty army, march on Rome, and become the king.
       Now every success symbol looks so shoddy and short-lived when it is placed against your cross. You accepted and overcame death.  You showed us the dimension of life in God's  eternal dispensation that makes the careers we plan and the standards we accept look absurd.
       When you refused to play the role of a Great Man, or the ultimate Big Shot, you really made us level with you as yourself, Jesus.

- - - - - - - - - -

What is love, Jesus?

 
     It seems so important, Jesus, that you called on God to forgive your torturers because, as you put it, they didn't know what they were doing.
     You kept on loving, even then.
     Help us to learn from you, Jesus, how to keep on loving when we feel like hating. It's hard. Some of us have turned your cross into a symbol of hate. When the Ku Klux Klan burns a cross, the blasphemy of it startles me.  Doesn't this mean, in a very real sense, joining the ranks of your own executioners?
     Nevertheless you were actively, creatively, responsibly loving, even on the cross, Jesus. Help us to see that love for what it is -- in all its fierce passion and sweep of forgiveness.

- - - - - - - - - -

     The kids are smiling, Jesus, on the tenement stoop

 
     The little girl is the oldest, and she's apparently in charge of the younger two, her brothers. Suddenly she's crying and her two brothers are trying to comfort her. Now everything seems to be peaceful and she's smiling again.
     But what's ahead for them, Christ? Home is this broken-down dump on a heartless,tough street. What kind of school will they go to? Will it be a hopelessly overcrowded? Will it be a place that breeds despair? Will it change these kids' happy smiles into angry, sullen masks they'll have to wear for the rest of their lives?  
      I look at their faces and realize how they are our victims, especially when we like to say they are beautiful children, but we don't change conditions that will make their faces hard and their hearts cynical .
     Have these kids got a chance, Jesus? Will they know anything about dignity or love or health? Jesus, looking at these kids, I'm afraid for them and for all of us.

- - - - - - - - - -

      Teach us the path, show us the way

 
      They say that everyone has a cross to bear, Jesus. And you once said, "Take up your cross and follow me." What do these things mean? I think they mean that every person ultimately has to face up to reality -- face one's own calling, destiny, nature and responsibilities.
     In your own life, Jesus, you faced reality directly and unequivocally. You incarnated the truth as you believed it. You didn't pander to any easy or obvious popularity. You attacked the hypocrisies of he human power structure head on. You rejected the status quo in favor of obedience to the Realm of God. And when it came to taking the consequences, you didn't shy away from torture and execution.
     The way of the cross was your understanding of your mission and your faithfulness to it.
      The way of the cross seems to be, for every individual Christian, the reality that dictates style of life, defines mission, and brings a person into communion with you.
     Help me to bear my cross on the way of the cross, Jesus.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Welcome to the Episcopal Church


The Episcopal Church welcomes all who worship Jesus Christ, in 109 dioceses and three regional areas in 17 nations. The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The mission of the church, as stated in the Book of Common Prayer’s catechism (p. 855), is "to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ."

The 2012 General Convention established the Anglican Communion Five Marks of Mission as a mission priority framework:

·         To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
·         To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
·         To respond to human need by loving service
·         To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
·         To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

from our national website: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/

To get a glimpse of those who are traveling with us, newly joined, check out:

On “Going Episcopal”
March 25, 2015 by Rachel Held Evans
As Searching for Sunday makes clear, I am profoundly grateful to evangelicalism and the first people to introduce me to Jesus. They taught me to love and learn Scripture, to share my personal testimony, and to deliver a flawless lip synch performance to Newsboys’ “Shine” which I am certain will come in handy one day. And I haven’t exactly “converted” to the Anglican tradition. (I’ve not even been confirmed yet!) I just happen to worship with a community of Jesus-followers at an Episcopal church, where I’ve reconnected with the power of communion and the sacraments, and where I’ve been loved mightily for just showing up, even with my doubts in tow.
She also includes links to others who have written on this topic of coming to the Episcopal Church.

Welcome to the journey with us Episcopalians!

March 22 Sermon

Living God, you break into our mortal loneliness by your coming among us.
You clothe the dry bones of our lives with the flesh of your new creation,
and from the fearful tombs you call us to come out and live unbound,
through the power of Christ’s resurrection, in whose strong name we give thanks. Amen. (Rev. JP)

Yesterday, at the Spring training & gathering for the EC in CT, we talked a lot about our stories, our personal stories and our connection to our faith. It got me thinking about lyrics to a song by David Haas: “We come to share our story. We come to break the bread. We come to know our rising from the dead.”

We gather each week, to share our story, to break bread together and to hear the redeeming words of Scripture for us today.

In our first reading, God says to Jeremiah, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the LORD," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”

Know the Lord. It is true for our journey today as it was in the day of Jeremiah the Prophet.

But people forgot. They walked away, generations later, the question and the hope resurfaces, a longing for connection to the Divine. A yearning we all have. In the Gospel we are told, Greeks at the festival in Jerusalem came up to Philip saying, “We want to see Jesus.”

To see Jesus is to Know the Lord. It is to see with our eyes and hearts. God is always speaking, always present. But we need to listen.
The late Henri Nouwen put it this way, “The church is a spiritual director. It tries to connect your story with God’s story. Just to be a true part of this community means you are being directed and you are being guided. The Bible is a spiritual director. People must read Scripture as a word for themselves personally, and ask where God speaks to them.”
Holy Scripture is not only a story of long ago, but it is our story today, connecting with each of us here and now. Speaking to you and me and our lives.

The children of our Godly Play class move towards the celebration of Easter by taking 7 classes to listen to the stories of Jesus’ journey to the cross and resurrection. It is called the Mystery of Easter. Using 7 pictures of Christ (from Godly Play), it helps them wonder and consider their place in the story. It begins with...

Jesus’ Birth & Grown (I)

In the beginning a baby was born. God chose Mary to be his mother. And the Mother Mary & Father Joseph kept the baby close and gave that baby everything he needed to grow. Love!

Jesus is Lost & Found (II)

The baby grew and became a boy. When Jesus was around 12, he accompanied Mary & Joseph and many others from Nazareth to Jerusalem for one of the high holy days. After the celebration, the Nazareans went home through the great high gate, but Jesus was not there. Mary & Joseph searched for him & finally found him in the temple with the rabbis/priests. "Didn't you know I would be in my father's house?" And Mary treasured these words in her heart.

Jesus’ Baptism & Blessing by God (III)

Jesus grew and became a man, and around the age of 30 was baptized in the river Jordan by his cousin, John. He didn’t want to, but Jesus persuaded him and as he came out of the waters, they saw a dove and heard a voice, "this is the beloved." Jesus then went into the desert, where he stayed 40 days & nights to learn more about who he was and what his work was going to be.

Jesus’ Desert & Discovery Experience (IV)

In the desert there was little to eat or drink and there he was tempted: stones to bread, jump to test God, King over all kingdoms. Jesus said, No to all the temptations. After this, he went back across the Jordan to do his work.

Jesus as Healer & Parable-Maker (V)

His work was to come close to people, especially those no one else wanted to come close to, like Healing the blind man. When Jesus came close to people, they changed, they became well. He also told parables to the people. To help open their minds and their hearts to the Kingdom of God.

Jesus offers the Bread & Wine (VI)

Jesus went to Jerusalem one last time. As he rode a humble donkey, he was greeted by people waving palm branches, laying down branches and their garments on the road. In an upper room, the disciples and Jesus shared a last meal. Jesus took some bread and wine and gave it to them, each time telling them whenever they gather, to break bread and drink wine, to do it in remembrance of him.

The One who was Easter & Still Is (VII)

After supper, Jesus went with his disciples to Gethsemane, there he was betrayed, arrested and taken to Jerusalem for his trial. That next day outside the city walls, Jesus was crucified. Afterwards, he was laid in a tomb. On Sunday, they went to the tomb, found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Jesus who died on the cross, had risen, and was still with them, as they gathered as they shared in the bread and wine.

One side of the picture is Easter, the other crucifixion. You cannot take them apart, you cannot have one without the other and that is the mystery of Easter, a mystery where we find God.

In that mystery is a journey, a memory of what has happened. Verna Dozier remind us that our parish family is “a Scripture community which is a community with a memory. Deep in that memory is some event in which we shared either by actual participation in it or by being brought into the story. The memory has to be kept right. A Scripture community is a community with a ritual life that keeps the memory fresh.”

We keep Lent to remind us of the journey to Easter, to the event that changed the world and changed our lives that brought life out of death. For each Sunday we come to live into that event ritually reminding us that indeed Jesus is always with us and we find him in our gathering as we hear our sacred story, offer our prayers, and break bread together. Amen.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Holy Week Schedule


Remember our Church is open 24/7/365.
You are welcome to come in anytime and pray this Holy Week.

Here is our Holy Week Schedule:

Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday, March 29
Services at 8 & 10:15 AM (Church School at 10:15 AM)

Chapel on the Green (New Haven) - 2 PM


Holy Wednesday, April 1
Tenebrae (Service of Darkness) - 7 PM

Maundy Thursday, April 2
Holy Eucharist & Washing of Feet - 6 PM*

Good Friday, April 3
Children's Stations of the Cross - 12 noon*
Good Friday Evening Service - 7 PM

Holy Saturday, April 4
Easter Vigil at St. Peter's - 7 PM

Easter Sunday, April 5
Easter Sunrise at Wolfe Park - 6:30 AM (Led by the Monroe Clergy Assoc.)
Our Easter Morning Festal Services at 8 & 10:15 AM

*especially appropriate for children

All are welcome to all of our services.

The Good Friday Offering will go to the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Monroe Volunteer Intiative

Looking for a way to help your town?

Looking for a way to help your neighbors?

Check this out:
Volunteerism is one of the core attributes of a vibrant and successful town, and the Town of Monroe is extremely fortunate to have an incredible number of residents who are willing to pitch in and make our community a wonderful place to live, work, and play.

The Monroe Volunteer Initiative is an effort to recruit, organize, promote and honor the many residents who are willing to volunteer for the benefit of the Town. The Town has created an online tool for residents to submit their contact information and indicate their preferred types of volunteer opportunities. This new system will enable the Town to more effectively recruit, recognize and manage our volunteers in the most efficient way possible.

Please fill out your contact information and select as many volunteer options that you may be interested in participating. The volunteer options will likely be expanding in the near future, so please check back often! Questions regarding the Monroe Volunteer Initiative can be directed to the Office of the First Selectman (203) 452-2821.
Homepage for the MVI: http://www.monroect.org/content/343/2468/4164.aspx