Sunday, January 14, 2018

Prayers of the People using the Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Intercessor: Let us before all else give thanks for the love of God revealed to the world in the life and death of Jesus Christ:

People: "The Cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community."

Intercessor: Let us give thanks for the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and for the enduring power of his dream:

People: "I have a dream that one day 'every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low... and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.'... With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day."

Intercessor: Let us commit ourselves to pray and work for peace:

People: "One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal… How much longer must we play at deadly war games before we heed the plaintive pleas of the unnumbered dead and maimed of past wars?"

Intercessor: Let us commit ourselves to walk in the way of nonviolence:

People: "The non-violent approach... first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally, it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality."

Intercessor: Let us commit ourselves to pray and work for a just ordering of our world:

People: "Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals…This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is the time for vigorous and positive action."

Intercessor: Let us commit ourselves to the vision of a world without poverty and disease:

People: "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits."

Intercessor: Let us commit ourselves to seek the spiritual renewal of our nation:

People: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

Intercessor: Let us commit ourselves to seek the spiritual renewal of the Church:

People: "In spite of being disappointed, in spite of being left out without any initial response, millions of people are still knocking on the door of the Church and turning to it for the answers to the basic problems of life. The great challenge facing the Church today is to keep the bread fresh."

All: "And now unto God who is able to keep us from falling and lift us from the dark valley of despair to the mountains of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy, to God be power and authority, for ever and ever." Amen.

--------- Quotes are from the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and prayers are organized by Bishop Jeffery W. Rowthorn. --------

MLK Beloved Community

 
THE BELOVED COMMUNITY
(The Rev. Martin Luther King., Jr.’s Philosophy)

“The Beloved Community” is a term that was first coined in the early days of the 20th Century by the philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce, who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation. However, it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, who popularized the term and invested it with a deeper meaning which has captured the imagination of people of goodwill all over the world.

For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the Peaceable Kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony. Rather, The Beloved Community was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.

Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.

Dr. King’s Beloved Community was not devoid of interpersonal, group or international conflict. Instead he recognized that conflict was an inevitable part of human experience. But he believed that conflicts could be resolved peacefully and adversaries could be reconciled through a mutual, determined commitment to nonviolence. No conflict, he believed, need erupt in violence. And all conflicts in The Beloved Community should end with reconciliation of adversaries cooperating together in a spirit of friendship and goodwill.

As early as 1956, Dr. King spoke of The Beloved Community as the end goal of nonviolent boycotts. As he said in a speech at a victory rally following the announcement of a favorable U.S. Supreme Court Decision desegregating the seats on Montgomery’s busses, “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”

An ardent student of the teachings of Mohandas K. Gandhi, Dr. King was much impressed with the Mahatma’s befriending of his adversaries, most of whom professed profound admiration for Gandhi’s courage and intellect. Dr. King believed that the age-old tradition of hating one’s opponents was not only immoral, but bad strategy which perpetuated the cycle of revenge and retaliation. Only nonviolence, he believed, had the power to break the cycle of retributive violence and create lasting peace through reconciliation.

In a 1957 speech, Birth of A New Nation, Dr. King said, “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation. The aftermath of violence is emptiness and bitterness.” A year later, in his first book Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King reiterated the importance of nonviolence in attaining The Beloved Community. In other words, our ultimate goal is integration, which is genuine inter-group and inter-personal living. Only through nonviolence can this goal be attained, for the aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of the Beloved Community.

In his 1959 Sermon on Gandhi, Dr. King elaborated on the after-effects of choosing nonviolence over violence: “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, so that when the battle’s over, a new relationship comes into being between the oppressed and the oppressor.” In the same sermon, he contrasted violent versus nonviolent resistance to oppression. “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”

The core value of the quest for Dr. King’s Beloved Community was agape love. Dr. King distinguished between three kinds of love: eros, “a sort of aesthetic or romantic love”; philia, “affection between friends” and agape, which he described as “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” an “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative”…”the love of God operating in the human heart.” He said that “Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people…It begins by loving others for their sakes” and “makes no distinction between a friend and enemy; it is directed toward both…Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.”

In his 1963 sermon, Loving Your Enemies, published in his book, Strength to Love, Dr. King addressed the role of unconditional love in struggling for the beloved Community. ‘With every ounce of our energy we must continue to rid this nation of the incubus of segregation. But we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community.”

One expression of agape love in Dr. King’s Beloved Community is justice, not for any one oppressed group, but for all people. As Dr. King often said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He felt that justice could not be parceled out to individuals or groups, but was the birthright of every human being in the Beloved Community. I have fought too long hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concerns,” he said. “Justice is indivisible.”

In a July 13, 1966 article in Christian Century Magazine, Dr. King affirmed the ultimate goal inherent in the quest for the Beloved Community: “I do not think of political power as an end. Neither do I think of economic power as an end. They are ingredients in the objective that we seek in life. And I think that end of that objective is a truly brotherly society, the creation of the beloved community” (taken from http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy)

***

The Episcopal Church, in keeping with Dr. King’s teachings and living out of our discipleship with Jesus, embraces the conviction that the Beloved Community can be achieved through our commitment to nonviolence and loving our neighbors as ourselves. The idea is to carry out the Christian faith in such a public way that others see the Gospel of Jesus Christ being lived out today. How might we in our lives and in our congregation, work towards becoming the Beloved Community? How might we live out the Gospel in a way that our neighbors will take notice, not for the sake of our church but for the sake of the Good News of Jesus? Read + Remember + Celebrate + Act

Sermon: January 14 (2 Epiphany)

Our Insistent God, by night and day you summon your slumbering people,
So stir us with your voice and enlighten our lives with your grace
that we may give ourselves fully to Christ's call to mission and ministry. Amen.
(© 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress.)

How will you respond to the voice of God?

Our first reading from Samuel tells us that the Word of God was rare in those days, visions were not wide spread. The Israelites who always had God right there for them must be feeling a bit lost, not so sure of themselves or what to do next.

But the lamp of the Lord had not gone out in the temple; the ark was still there and Eli one of the priests was doing his sacred duty. Samuel would hear the voice of God calling to him. But he did not understand. He thought it was Eli who was calling him.

Three times he went to Eli, “Here am I, you called me,” and finally the third time Eli understood that it was the Lord who was calling and he told Samuel what to do. And when the Lord called again, Samuel said, “speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

It is Samuel and Eli who remind us to listen, really listen for the voice of God in our lives. The Light of the World has come and the light that we celebrate this season of Epiphany has not gone out! We are called to listen and to respond, “speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

For the Lord is calling to you and me this morning. How will you respond to the voice of God?

We might remain skeptical. Like Nathaniel in the Gospel reading.

Philip heard Jesus say, “follow me” and that is all he needed. He heard the voice of God and he responds! He runs to tell Nathaniel. “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

This is good news in the days of Roman occupation. The messiah has come. Philip is ready. And so what does Nathaniel say… “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Reminds me of a certain pres…oh never mind.

Nathaniel is not impressed. Jesus of Nazareth. But Philip is not deterred by his friends prejudice or his lack of enthusiasm. “Come and see.” says Philip.

And Nathaniel goes to see Jesus and his interaction with Jesus changes everything. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” And Philip and Nathaniel both follow Jesus.

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, God is calling all of us to this ministry.

In South Sudan, he became their vessel used to help at a very crucial season of their life. Every week at Parolinya camp (the second largest refugee camp) in northern Uganda, Anglican Bishop Emmanuel Murye’s congregation – made up mostly of South Sudanese refugees, meet under a tree for Sunday service.

They came to the camp at the start of 2017 from their homes in Kajo Keji, South Sudan – as the government and two rebel groups battled for control in a war sparked by a feud between the President and his former deputy.

The Bishop said, “We told them the position of the church, we are a church and we are neutral. Both of you are ours, whether in the government or in the opposition.”

Bishop Murye had been installed as the new Anglican bishop of Kajo Keji county just days before the fighting broke out. He sheltered dozens of families in his church compound until the fighting died down. Thousands of people fled to Uganda.

Murye stayed and organized trucks to carry over 100 people across the border.

Kajo Keji became a ghost town – almost everyone left and Bishop Murye decided to follow his church.

“The kind of test of my faith and maybe of my leadership is when the people move out in big number and I was left with no people and it was terrible, all people moved out. And as a Bishop, as your Bishop also, I could not stay there, it is a great temptation and I was asking God ‘why, why am I consecrated, called a leader at this time’. And even the government, the army barracks, they expect us to be there. But the only thing we did actually was, we could not stay there without people because I was called to be leader of people, not a custodian of the soil, of the tree or of the houses, but I have to take care of the people,” he said. (from africanews.com)

Bishop Emmanuel Murye listened to the voice of God and he went and found the people he was called to minister to, refugees from a war not of their making…

In our country…

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, and uncle were all preachers. When he became the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, however, he still hadn’t had a firsthand experience of God. But then Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus and Martin found himself in the middle of a boycott. Although he had only been in Montgomery a year and he was only twenty-seven years old, he quickly became a leader of the movement. It wasn’t long before his family started getting threatening phone calls. He wondered if he could take it. He wanted out. Then one night, around midnight, another threatening call came: “We’re tired of you, and if you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow your brains out and blow up your house.”

Dr. King prayed aloud that night. He reports hearing a voice calling him to stand up for righteousness, justice, and truth; the voice of Jesus promising to be with him through the fight. Dr. King’s life from that moment on is a testimony to his response to that prayer. What would we hear if we listened for God’s voice? (from Ministry Matters, Brett Younger)

Today Addison Meng Waller Hickey will respond to the voice of God and she will be baptized in our midst. What will you do this MLK weekend? How will you respond to the voice of God?

As the Savior so taught, listen…go now and overcome.
Overcome racial hatred with love and understanding.
Overcome sexism with mutual honor and respect.
Overcome social inequities with fair and equal educational and employment opportunities.
Overcome mean-heartedness with a kind word or good deed.
Overcome war, poverty, hunger, and suffering throughout our urban streets and lands abroad,
by sharing the love of Christ Jesus with your neighbor.
Listen to the word of the Lord. Go now and overcome!
(adapted from The AfricanAmericanLectionary.org.)

Amen.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

#SilenceisnotSpiritual - Speaking of #MeToo in the #ChurchToo

As we have been having a discussion in our society as of late regarding the violence and abuse that women (and others) have suffered at the hands of the powerful. These three articles grabbed my attention that I think the church needs to respond and speak out:

Female Evangelical Leaders Call on Church to Speak Out on Violence Against Women

The Golden Globes Held a Funeral. Now Let's Hold One in Church

No, #MeToo Is Not a Witch Hunt

Much for us to ponder, think about and act.  No more silence.


Monday, January 8, 2018

January 7 Sermon (1 Epiphany)

O God of grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit you have given us new life in the waters of baptism; strengthen us to live in righteousness and true holiness, that we may grow into the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

A New Beginning

We just celebrated New Years – a new year has begun, a time when many people make resolutions for the upcoming year, most of the resolutions are along the self-improvement side, never a bad thing.

Which reminds me of a sticker that was next to the light switch in my room when I was growing up…

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life” & so each day like New Years can be a new beginning for us.

As we gather today, we heard the words from Genesis, words from the beginning of the bible, that get us to think about God – God who created light in the midst of darkness. And it was good. A New beginning.

For Jesus, the light of the world – today’s Gospel story is a new beginning for him –in the Gospel of Mark, we don’t start with the birth of Jesus or his childhood. We begin day 1 – at his baptism.

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased…”
“Today, Jesus hears those words from his Father in heaven - and, in the waters of our own baptisms, God has spoken those same words to us. We are the beloved of God with whom God is well pleased; for God claims us as his own. The voice of the Father - our Father - speaks to all of us in the sacrament of Baptism; the Spirit of God descends upon us, enabling us to give to others the love, God joyfully gives to us.” [Adapted from The Pastor as Minor Poet by M. Craig Barnes.]

Just think that when we were each named and presented to God in baptism; we were adopted, grafted in to God’s family, and in that baptism is a gift. It was a new beginning for all of us as Christians.

We are baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire as one Gospel puts it. We are cleansed and given a new life in Jesus’ name. It is that same Spirit and fire that touches all that we are, from our beginning to our end. As St. Ephraim the Syrian of the fourth century wrote:

See, Fire & Spirit in the womb that bore you
See, Fire & Spirit in the water where you were baptized
Fire & Spirit in our Baptism.
In the bread and Cup, Fire and Spirit.

It is a gift that enlivens us, and reminds us that God dwells with us, in all our steps, has been with us from our birth to our baptism and continues to be with us, and is in the midst of our communion, of bread and wine, God is there in Fire & Spirit. And that same fire and Spirit will carry us to God on our final day.

Today (at 10:15 AM), Lily Rose Bender will join us in being part of God’s holy tribe, and the fire and Spirit will be given to her, and we will recognize in her as we are reminded ourselves that God is at work in our lives and has given us things to do.

In this time after the Epiphany, when we are to manifest Jesus to the world with our lives, even as we continue to learn and grow in what it means to follow him, for the gift of Jesus, who came down for us at Christmas, we will share with the world, by making his love, his joy, his light manifest in our lives, and the Fire and Spirit will guide us…

To that ministry and to our God we live our lives today and every day, so let the light of God shine forth in your lives, by the fire and Spirit given to us at Baptism for God is present in our lives, in what we say and do…

A story: Kailey was about to turn eight. When her mom and dad asked her what she wanted for her birthday, Kailey's request stunned them. She wanted shoes. Three-hundred-fifty pairs of them, to be exact.

Her parents did not take her request too seriously, but Kailey asked again and again.

Kailey saw a story on the Disney Channel about another girl who collected shoes for children from families in need and Kailey decided that's what she wanted to do. Kailey thought it would be neat to pass shoes on to other kids who needed them to be able to do the same things she enjoys doing, like go to school and play outside.

So, for her birthday, she asked for 350 pairs of shoes. Her parents posted the request on Facebook and Kailey's birthday request went viral. The response exceeded their wildest expectations. Kailey was receiving packages and donations every day for weeks after the posting. "Kailey's Fantabulous Footwear," as she named the project, collected more than 400 pairs of shoes. Kailey and her family donated the shoes to Cradles to Crayons, a nonprofit organization that provides children living in homeless or low-income situations with the essential items they need to thrive at home, at school and at play.

Kailey's parents are understandably proud. Her mother says the lesson in generosity was the greatest gift. "Listen to your kids when they want to do something . . . get them involved in the community, let them come and help."

"It's emotional," Kailey's proud dad says. "It just makes you feel so good that we've raised a child who cares to take care of others before she takes care of herself."

A little girl's generosity manifests the light of God, enabling the love of God to come down and fill her small corner of the earth with hope and joy. As God expresses his pleasure in his Beloved Son at Jesus' baptism in today's Gospel, God speaks his same joy and love in our own simple and ordinary attempts to imitate Jesus' compassion, justice and reconciliation in our world.

May the Spirit we received at our own baptisms continue to move us to do the work of Jesus' Gospel, to share the light of God and give voice to the love of God in our homes and schools and communities and churches.

Amen.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

For the Time Being

Note: Christmas Trees should remain up through January 6!

Excerpt From For the Time Being by W.H. Auden

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes –
Some have got broken – and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week –
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted – quite unsuccessfully –
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry
And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.

This selection is excerpted from Auden’s long poem “For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio” (1942), which can be read in full in W.H. Auden: Collected Poems (Modern Library, 2007, Copyright by The Estate of W.H. Auden).

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