Sunday, August 3, 2014

Praying for Peace in Israel & Gaza

Following a recent update from staff at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken publicly (after many private contacts) of his concern for the deteriorating situation in Gaza.
Archbishop Justin Welby said today:

“You can’t look at the pictures coming from Gaza and Israel without your heart breaking. We must cry to God and beat down the doors of heaven and pray for peace and justice and security. Only a costly and open-hearted seeking of peace between Israeli and Palestinian can protect innocent people, their children and grandchildren, from ever worse violence.”

“My utmost admiration is for all those involved in the humanitarian efforts on the ground, not least the medical team and staff at Al Ahli Arab Hospital. Providing relief and shelter for those displaced is a tangible expression of our care and concern, and I encourage Church of England parishes and dioceses, as well as the wider Communion, to pray for them and support the Diocese of Jerusalem’s emergency appeal.

“While humanitarian relief for those civilians most affected is a priority, especially women and children, we must also recognise that this conflict underlines the importance of renewing a commitment to political dialogue in the wider search for peace and security for both Israeli and Palestinian. The destructive cycle of violence has caused untold suffering and threatens the security of all.

“For all sides to persist with their current strategy, be it threatening security by the indiscriminate firing of rockets at civilian areas or aerial bombing which increasingly fails to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, is self-defeating. The bombing of civilian areas, and their use to shelter rocket launches, are both breaches of age old customs for the conduct of war. Further political impasse, acts of terror, economic blockades or sanctions and clashes over land and settlements, all increase the alienation of those affected. Populations condemned to hopelessness or living under fear will be violent. Such actions create more conflict, more deaths and will in the end lead to an even greater disaster than the one being faced today. The road to reconciliation is hard, but ultimately the only route to security. It is the responsibility of all leaders to protect the innocent, not only in the conduct of war but in setting the circumstances for a just and sustainable peace.

“While it is acceptable to question and even disagree with particular policies of the Israeli government, the spike in violence and abuse against Jewish communities here in the UK is simply unacceptable. We must not allow such hostility to disrupt the good relations we cherish among people of all faiths. Rather we must look at ways at working together to show our concern and support for those of goodwill on all sides working for peace.”

Echoing the prayer of Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin concluded by saying, “Let us pray to the Prince of Peace who so suffered in a land of violence that hearts may turn to peace and the innocent be helped.”

During recent weeks Archbishop Justin has expressed his concern about the violence in Gaza. He fully accepts that Israel has the same legitimate rights to peace and security as any other state and to self-defence within humanitarian law when faced with an external threat. At the same time he shares the despair, and acknowledges the growing anger felt by many, including Jewish people to whom he has spoken, at the recent escalation of violence by all involved. All this highlights the need for underlying issues to be addressed, whether the ongoing terror threat to Israel or the expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The failure to find constructive paths to peace poses a threat to the future of all the peoples of the region. [from ENS]

A prayer for peace:

Almighty God, kindle, we beseech thee, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with thy wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that in tranquillity thy dominion may increase till the earth is filled with the knowledge of thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who
liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monroe Food Pantry Needs

Items Needed: Juice, Canned Pasta (Beefaroni, spaghetti O’s) ,Tuna (water packed) ,Canned Tomatoes, Jar Pasta Sauce, Cereal (hot or cold), Bisquick and Pancake Mix Syrup, Cooking Oil, Snack Items, Canned Fruit , Baked Beans, Packaged side dishes (rice, noodle, potato), Salad Dressing (any flavor), Condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise), Coffee, Tea and Hot Chocolate, Canned Soup, Canned beans (chick peas, kidney, cannellini), Pasta, Egg Noodles, Rice and Stuffing, Macaroni and Cheese, Baking Mixes, Sugar and flour, Canned vegetables (No Low Salt or Reg.), Laundry Detergent, Soap, Shampoo and Conditioner, Deodorant, Tooth Paste and Tooth Brushes and school supplies for the new school year.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Review: Stitches by Anne Lamott

I just finished my first book of summer: Stitches by Anne Lamott.  I have read at least one other book by Lamott as well as a few articles.

This small book, just 96 pages, is well worth the read.  It's subtitle is "A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair."  And it begins with Newtown.  Is there any meaning to be taken from that tragedy? She asks. "Not yet," as Lamott quotes a friend.

And so through these pages she sits with tragedy.  Finding meaning in that sitting.  Finding meaning in coffee filter creations with the kids on a Sunday morning.  Finding meaning in those wonderfully stories she shares.

"Helping one another stand up in a wind and stay warm" goes a long way, she writes. And "meaning is always going to have to do with love."

Lamott says. "It is not helpful to many people if you say that it's all part of God's perfect plan or that it's for the highest good ... or that more will be revealed," she writes "Because at least for me, if someone's cute position minimizes the crucifixion, it's [b.s.]. Which I say with love."

Go out and read this book!

A Poem for a Monday

by Mary Karr

Before my first communion, I clung to doubt
         as Satan spider-like stalked
                the orb of dark surrounding Eden

for a wormhole into paradise.
       God had formed me from gel in my mother’s womb,
                injected by my dad’s smart shoot.

They swapped sighs until
         I came, smaller than a bite of burger.
                Quietly, I grew till my lungs were done

then the Lord sailed a soul
         like a lit arrow to inhabit me.
                Maybe that piercing

made me howl at birth,
         or the masked creatures whose scalpel
                cut a lightning bolt to free me.

I was hoisted by the heels and swatted, fed
         and hauled around. Time-lapse photos show
                my fingers grow past crayon outlines,

my feet come to fill spike heels.
         Eventually, I lurched out
                to kiss the wrong mouths, get stewed,

and sulk around. Christ always stood
         to one side with a glass of water.
                I swatted the sap away.

When my thirst got great enough to ask,
         a clear stream welled up inside,
                some jade wave buoyed me forward,

and I found myself upright
         in the instant, with a garden
                inside my own ribs aflourish.

There, the arbor leafs.
         The vines push out plump grapes.
                You are loved, someone said. Take that

                and eat it.

Source: Poetry (January 2004).

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pray for the Middle East

In light of all that is happening in Iraq, Syria, and Israel/Palestine, a prayer I first saw from Diana Butler Bass:

- Posted using BlogPress from Rev. Kurt's iPhone!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Remembering MH 17

Gracious God, look in mercy on all to whom great sorrow has come. Console and protect those who have lost loved ones. Strengthen those who minister to the grieving. Give your light in darkness to all who are near to despair, and assure them that you hold all souls in life. Amen. [ACNS]

Loving God, comfort and sustain the families and friends of those who were aboard flight MH 17. Help them and us to know and feel that bidden or unbidden you are always with us, and that no life on Earth is apart from your loving presence. Amen.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 6 Sermon

Kids say the darn’dest things.

I remember the Bill Cosby version of the late 1990s, some of you might remember Art Linkletter who used this program both on his radio show and then on his TV series from the 1940s to the late 1960s. In response to a question, a young child would respond with some type of cute response. We would laugh. Kids say the darn’dest things.

In our Gospel today, Jesus reminds us that kids have a faith and often see things, understand things, that us adults miss or have forgotten. Sometimes what we need to hear, is what a child has to offer us.
Two years ago, Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on his right side. A month after the stroke, all the senator could do was lie in bed - he couldn't swallow, he couldn't sit up, he couldn't move. The senator was devastated. Among the many get-well cards and letters Senator Kirk received was this:

Dear Senator Kirk,

My name is Jackson Cunningham. I live in Oakwood, Illinois, and I am nine years old. Last year on February 19, 2011, I had a stroke. I was a healthy kid. [Then] I couldn't move a muscle on my left side. After a month in the hospital, I went to RIC [Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago]. After the first two days they took away my crutches and I have been walking since then. A lot of therapy helped . . . This past fall, I started school again. I go for half a day. I am still doing therapy on my left side. I can talk fine . . . I wanted to wish you good luck. Here's some advice: Do not give up on yourself. All the hard work is worth it. They make you work hard [in rehab] and you get lots of things back fast.


Jackson Cunningham

Jackson's letter was the beginning of a fast friendship that continues to this day. They regularly exchange letters, sharing their passions for Legos, baseball and video games, as well as keeping each other updated on their individual progress and cheering each other on. They have also gotten together several times in Chicago and Washington. Senator Kirk and Jackson have also appeared together at various events to raise awareness about strokes and the resources available to help the victims of strokes and their families.

Before his stroke, the 54-year-old senator described himself as a "pessimist," "a half-glass-empty kind of guy." But no more. "Here I was," Senator Kirk writes, "a grown man and a senator of Illinois, getting advice from a young boy I had never met. But his words were exactly what I needed. He gave me such strength . . . Jackson showed me how he could run, and I immediately felt inspired. It made me believe that one day, I would run again too.

"As for my recovery, it came just as Jackson said it would. After a year of intense therapy, I climbed to the top of the Capitol and returned to work on January 3, 2013. With every step I took, I thought of Jackson and his strength. He helped me climb those steps that day." [People, September 30, 2013; Reader's Digest, May 2014.]
Kids say the darn’dest things.

When Christ calls his disciples to embrace the simple faith of "little ones," he is not saying that we should be children. Christ is calling us, instead, to embrace a faith that is centered in the "simple" but profound love, compassion and hope of God. Which we as adults often forget and kids do not. In Jackson's reaching out, Senator Kirk comes to see the possibilities for healing and purpose in his life despite his illness. May the "wise and learned" among us embrace the spirit of generosity and directness of "little ones" just like Jackson Cunningham.

And then Jesus takes it a step further and invites us to participate in, that easy yoke he has, for all of us to take that light burden on and share it with others. Our challenge is to live out of such love in our lives that the wisdom we have from Jesus is vindicated by the deeds that we do.

One of the masters of Zen Buddhism is a priest named Tetsugen Doko, who was the first to translate the holy books of his faith, the Sutras, into Japanese.

In the 17th Century, the priest sought to print several thousand copies of the books in order to make the texts of his religion available to everyone. He traveled the length and breadth of Japan to raise the money for the printing. Rich and poor alike donated to the project. The priest expressed equal gratitude to each donor, whether their gift amounted to hundreds of pieces of gold or a few pennies.

After ten long years, Tetsugen had enough money for the printing. But just as the making of the holy books was about to begin, the river Uji overflowed its banks, leaving thousands of people without food and shelter. The priest halted the project immediately and used all of the money he worked so hard to raise to help the hungry and homeless.

Then Tetsugen began the work of raising the funds all over again. It took another ten years of travel and begging before he collected the money he needed to publish the holy book. But an epidemic spread across the country. Again the priest gave away all he had collected to care the sick, the suffering and dying.

A third time Tetsugen set out on his travels and, twenty years later, his dream of having the holy books printed in Japanese was finally realized. The printing blocks that produced the first edition are on display at the Obaku Monastery in Kyoto. The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen actually published three editions of the holy book -- the first two are invisible but far superior to the third. [from wikipedia & connections]
Wisdom is vindicated by our deeds.

Jesus invites us to embrace the joyful sense of fulfillment that can only be realized by “learning” from his example of humility and gratitude, to take on his ‘yoke’ of humble, joyful service to one another as we journey together to the dwelling place of God. Like Tetsugen, we proclaim the Gospel most effectively and meaningfully not in words but in the deeds of generosity and compassion we extend to others.

May our work for justice, for love, for hope, our dedication to reconciliation & forgiveness, our welcome to all who approach our tables, make the word of God, a living reality in our own time and place for the youngest among us to the oldest. Amen.