Sunday, August 28, 2016

Supporting Brody (a young parishioner)

This campaign is to raise awareness and provide support to Brody and his family as his battles adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a very rare genetic disorder that causes damage to the protective covering of the nerves causing severe and potentially fatal neurological and endocrine symptoms.

Brody's story began something like this......Every parents dream, just giving birth to your beautiful healthy baby boy and having your eldest son melt when meeting him. Hearts full of love, joy and emotion as Tara and Jeremy looked at their boys and imagined the future of their perfect family of four.

This was the case for the Meadys until Brody's first appointment after leaving the hospital. A disease called Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) crept into their lives and tore apart their dreams of watching their perfect healthy boys grow. The doctor noted that this test came back positive on Brody's newborn screening. Now this was only a screening- there could be a chance of a false positive. But it would take weeks before they knew for sure. Even big brother Finn needed to have blood drawn. Tara's and Jeremy's lives became a whirlwind of uncertainty. Statistics and information were thrown at them every other second. "What do you mean our beautiful, perfect boy can be taken from us?" Doctors appointments, lab tests, IV infusions have become the norm for poor Brody-- and he is barely two months. Tears and fear have become the norm for Tara and Jeremy because with ALD you don't know what type or severity until symptoms develop. After weeks of testing and waiting, anxiety, tears and fear, the tests came back. Finn, their handsome 2 1/2 year old was healthy (additional confirmatory test spending). But Brody's tests were positive for ALD. The most common symptoms begin around ages 4-10 and are usually behavioral changes. Other symptoms include visual loss, seizures, deafness, disturbances of balance and coordination, and progressive dementia- to name a few. Can you imagine having to wait for symptoms to appear?

The state of Connecticut just began testing newborns for ALD as a part of the newborn screening in October 2015, thanks to Jean Kelley from Branford, CT. Jean's son was diagnosed later in life and this makes managing the disease much more difficult. Early diagnosis and intervention are paramount to beating this disease. Brody is only the second child in CT to be diagnosed with ALD on newborn screening.

Brody and his family are in for a long life of tests after tests and traveling to various places to see experts, such as Boston and Minnesota for the very best, top notch treatments for precious Brody.
Brody's adrenal function must be tested periodically and treatments with hormones can be lifesaving. As of right now there is no cure for ALD. But there is a lot of symptomatic support including for physical therapy, psychological support, and special education. Recent evidence suggests that a treatment with certain oils and acids can prevent or delay the appearance of the disease. Bone marrow transplantations can provide long-term benefit to boys who have early evidence of the childhood cerebral form of ALD, but the procedure carries risks as well.

Prognosis for patients with childhood cerebral ALD is generally poor unless bone marrow transplantation is performed early. Death usually occurs within 1 to 10 years after the onset of symptoms.

Brody and every little boy diagnosed with ALD deserve the chance to fight. By donating or simply sharing this page you will help ease in financial burden for the Meadys and raise awareness of this disease and the need for every state to require ALD newborn screening. Please continue to share this page and Brody's Facebook page (Brody's Battle)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1218589201506356/ 

To support the family & see updates go here: https://www.youcaring.com/tara-meady-jeremy-meady-brody-meady-582910

Here is a report on their story: http://www.wfsb.com/story/32834335/ct-becomes-second-state-in-the-country-to-test-for-ald#

 

Standing Rock Sioux & Our Advocacy

Learn more about the Standing Rock Sioux and the advocacy of the Episcopal Church:
Two NY Times articles on the issue:

Listening to People of Color (& then acting)


As we continue to live with the reality of violence in America, we continue to consider how we listen to people of color in our country... a few articles for your consideration:


https://blackandwhiteandinlivingcolor.com/2016/07/09/what-white-churches-can-do-about-racism-aside-from-just-praying/

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/31/opinion/sunday/nicholas-kristof-after-ferguson-race-deserves-more-attention-not-less.html


https://grist.org/justice/after-525-years-its-time-to-actually-listen-to-native-americans/


and some responses...

http://www.episcopalcafe.com/north-dakota-episcopalians-stand-with-pipeline-protestors/ 

http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/08/19/episcopal-peace-fellowship-endorses-black-lives-policy-platform/

Sermon: August 28

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” is how the author C.S. Lewis looks at humility. A gentle reminder we are not the center of the universe and I think that understanding is key to the scripture we heard this morning. It is thinking about ourselves less with hope, humility and grace.

Which reminds me of a story the late Muhammad Ali, the one who said, “I am the greatest,” told his young daughter…

Once upon a time there was a slave named Omar. He had been brought before the king with one hundred other slaves. A king sensed something special about his slave Omar & made him his assistant. It was not long before Omar gained the trust and confidence of the king, who put him in charge of his treasury, where all of his precious gold and jewels were kept. Omar served the king well as his personal attendant. The king rewarded Omar for his faithful service with a beautiful robe and set of clothes. A courtier was very jealous of Omar and looked for a way to discredit him before the King. He noticed that every day Omar took a large sack into the royal treasury and left with the same sack. The courtier immediately reported to the king that Omar was stealing.

The next morning, the king hid outside the chamber to see for himself. As usual, Omar entered the room, opened the sack - and took out of the sack his old slave robe. In the large mirror in the treasury, Omar said to the reflection: "Omar, once you were a slave. Never forget who are you are and how blessed you are." The king was deeply moved by Omar's humility. The king looked at Omar with eyes full of tears and said "I knew there was something special about you. I may be a king; Omar, but you have a royal heart." (from Hana Ali, More than a Hero)

Omar remembers who he is, he is not puffed up because of his new position or his new clothes. He does not presume to have a higher place, but it is the king who sees his humility and exalts this humble man whose heart is set right.

At a meal on the Sabbath thrown by the Pharisees, when there would be a pecking order, Jesus watches people take the seats of honor & privilege. So he tells them a parable… “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, go and sit down at the lowest place. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Jesus in his wisdom, using an old proverb, reminds all to not take one of the best seats, for there might be someone who is the more honored guest & you would be disgraced. His parable, though, is not just about a dinner party and where to sit, but its about our whole lives and the willingness to humble ourselves knowing that God honors those who are humble.

For humility helps us see our place in God’s creation, as both created in God’s image and equal to others. And through that humility, Jesus wants us to think of our neighbors, especially those who are often forgotten in our society. Too often we see the needs of others through the filter of either our own privilege or our own need.

Jesus said, “when you give a luncheon or a dinner, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you.” Quite a contrast to inviting the movers and shakers, the privileged, the ones who would repay us. But it is those who can’t repay us, who need our help, these are the ones Jesus said we should invite to our banquets, our dinners.

It is to see others through the eyes of humility, out of love and respect, not looking down upon them; humility is part of our calling as disciples of Jesus. Even when what we do might cost us more than we get back. That is the sacrifice & the humility that discipleship with Jesus calls us to live, to see the humanity in everyone.

“All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.” – Desmond Tutu

At a small school outside of Amman, Jordan, a Syrian refugee mother begged the principal to accept her daughter into the school. The principal explained that there was no space. The Syrian refugee crisis had added tens of thousands of refugee children to all of Jordan's already-crowded schools, and this small school was no exception.

But this mother, who had already been turned away by several schools, would not give up. So the principal, Maha Salim Al-Ashqar, made a deal with her: "I will register your daughter, if you bring a chair for her. I will not make my students sit on the floor so we need a chair…"

That was three years ago - and that's been the policy at the Khwala Bint Tha'alba Elementary School for Girls ever since. Bring a chair - and you're in. Many families who have fled violence and war in their home country have brought all kinds of small plastic chairs for their children so they would have a place to learn. Already filled to capacity with almost 300 Jordanian students, the school has accepted an additional 65 chair-carrying Syrian students.

But simply accepting the students is only the beginning. Many of the children have suffered untold trauma and are in need of special counseling and care as a result of the violence they have seen in their homelands and on their dangerous journeys to freedom. Principal Al-Ashqar and her teachers make sure that their students not only get an education but find a place of safety and a sense of belonging in their new home. The school offers refugee students, who otherwise might get no schooling or attend low-quality schools, the chance at an equal footing with their Jordanian peers. Parents who would have been happy if their children could learn just to write their names now dare to have bigger dreams for them.

"I really love my school, and I also love my students," the principal says. "And I think love is giving as much as you can, by helping and supporting them to take away their hurt." And love at the Khwala Bint Tha'Alba School begins by pulling up a chair. [from NBC News; mashable.com]

Jesus envisions his Church to be a place where there is always room for another chair. What has happened at the Khwala Bint Tha'Alba School is what Jesus asks not only of our schools & towns & nations but of our churches and institutions and even our homes: to embrace a spirit of welcome and respect that mirrors the limitless, unconditional love of God. Jesus assures us that to make room for another chair at our table is to make room for our own chair at God's table in eternity. (Jay Cormier)

May we have such a royal heart, a humble heart that welcomes the refugee at a time of great fear, a grateful heart that gives so others may simply live and dream of better days, a giving heart that is ready to do good and to share what we have. May the heart of Jesus live in us so we can by the grace of the Holy Spirit offer the world the love we have been given & make it a better place for all of humanity & creation. Amen.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

August 21 Sermon (audio)

Link to audio: August 21 Sermon: August 21 Sermon

Election - Our Role



Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Election Message

This November we will gather together as a nation to vote not only to elect a new president but to elect governmental leaders on a variety of levels.

We are blessed. We are blessed as a nation to be able to do so as citizens of this country. This is a right, an obligation, and a duty. And indeed the right and the privilege to be able to vote is something that was won through an American revolution. Something that was won even more through civil rights and women’s suffrage. A right and a privilege that was won for all. So I encourage you to please go and vote. Vote your conscience. Vote your perspective. But vote.

But it’s not just simply a civil obligation and duty. Voting and participation in our government is a way of participating in our common life. And that is a Christian obligation. Indeed, we who follow in the Way of Jesus of Nazareth are summoned to participate actively as reflections of our faith in the civil process.

In the thirteenth chapter of Romans, sometimes a chapter that is debated among scholars and among Christians, St. Paul reminds us that we have a duty and an obligation to participate in the process of government, “For that is how our common life is ordered and structured.” And at one point he actually says, “For the same reason,” going on, he’s expanding, he says, “For the same reason you also pay taxes for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with everything.” That’s probably very true. “Pay to all them that is due them. Taxes to whom taxes are due. Revenue to whom revenue is due. Respect to whom respect is due. Honor to whom honor is due.” Now he’s talking about the role of government as helping to order our common life. But here’s what I want you to really hear. He continues and says:

“So owe no-one anything except to love one another. For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments ‘You shall not commit adultery’, ‘You shall not murder’, ‘You shall not steal’, ‘You shall not covet’, any other commandment, they are all summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

For St. Paul, the way of love, the love of neighbor, is the fulfilling not only of the moral law of God, but the way to fulfill the civil law.

Go and vote. Vote your conscience. Your conscience informed by what it means to love your neighbor. To participate in the process of seeking the common good. To participate in the process of making this a better world. However you vote, go and vote. And do that as a follower of Jesus.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Learn more here:

http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/EpiscopaliansVote 

Our Prayer:

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from the BCP)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sermon: August 21



Help us Lord:
to live in your light, to act in your might, to think in your wisdom, to walk in your kingdom, to abide in your love. Amen. (David Adam)
Last Sunday I was reading the NY Times, and found this paragraph perfect for this morning:

“It’s worth remembering that colonial Rhode Island had attracted so many Jews, Quakers, Baptists and other denominations because non-Puritans were persecuted in neighboring Massachusetts. And that in 1774, the First Continental Congress almost fell apart in its first five minutes because a couple of Episcopalians refused to pray with a bunch of shifty Quakers and Congregationalists.”

Ah yes, shifty Quakers and Congregationalists.

Thanks be to God that times change and such opinions blow away like dust in the wind. I am very happy that Episcopalians and Congregationalists (and any shifty Quakers among us!) can gather in prayer and fellowship without such acrimony anymore.

The days of such hatred among us is well behind us now for Christians, mostly, but today we have a new enemy, one that needs to be controlled, watched, examined, even removed from our shores and blocked from entering. They are those who come from another side of our family tree with Abraham, those who are Muslim.

Sadly, we have allowed terrorists and criminals dictate to us how we need to feel about Muslims, many of whom have been here for a long time. Which has me thinking about that article I mentioned to you, called, “Join the Army and Choose Whichever God You Like” by Sarah Vowell – she looks back to our founding as a nation and what it may say to us today.

She remind us that the oldest synagogue in the USA, Truro, RI reads a letter every year at this time that President George Washington sent to them on August 18, 1790. It is a remarkable letter that everyone needs to hear again in these disquieting days. It reads in part:

“The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support…

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.” (George Washington, “Letter to the Jews of Newport”, 18 August 1790)

Oh I wish some politicians would read it! I love that President Washington brings them greetings and helps the Jewish congregation see that they are indeed part of this beautiful country. Not on the margins, mind you. But full citizens, like everyone else. Worshipping the God in their own ways under their own vine and fig tree where no one should be fearful because of their religion (or today we might add no religion).

When I think of fear and control, instead of freedom and life, I think of the story this morning in the Gospel of Luke, of Jesus healing on the Sabbath. Notice that in the story Jesus as he is teaching, sees her in the synagogue. Has compassion for her. Bent over. He brings her over into the midst of the congregation and declares she has been set free.

Challenged for healing on the Holy Sabbath, Jesus refuses to ignore the hypocrisy of those who use the Sabbath for their own will and have not set others free from their burdens. As the author & theologian Walter Wink writes, “By healing her on the Sabbath, Jesus restored the Sabbath to its original meaning of healing from bondage.”

It is a story of healing, a story of being set free, but there is more.

Wink points out that in this story: “Jesus calls the woman a "daughter of Abraham," giving her full standing on her own as a woman in the synagogue; he places her in the center of the synagogue, a place of male prerogative; and he claims that her illness was not divine punishment for sin but was satanic oppression.”

Jesus is taking on the culture & the religious restrictions of his day.

Wink then concludes: “This tiny drama thus takes on world-historic proportions. In freeing this woman from Satan's power, Jesus simultaneously releases her from the encompassing network of patriarchy, male religious elitism, and the taboos fashioned to disadvantage some in order to preserve the advantage of others. Her physical ailment was symbolic of a system that literally bent women over. For her to stand erect in male religious space represents far more than a healing. It reveals the dawn of a whole new world order.”

That is what Jesus invites us into, a new world order, that puts love & compassion first & foremost in the center of our life. Jesus heals a woman bent over for some 18 years by Satan, and frees her so she can stand in the midst of the congregation and be free. George Washington in his own way, brings the Truro Synagogue and all the people into this new nation, into an understating that we all stand as equal citizens, that no one should feel on the margins because of their religion. It’s not tolerance, its equality & justice.

And our work is not done. Who is bent over in our country today? Who needs to be set free from the ailments and bondage that Satan has wrought through us today? Who are at the margins longing for more than a piece of the great freedom and community of this country?

It is up to us. Episcopalians and shifty Congregationalists together for the works of Satan are alive and well today. Seeking division and hate over love and community.

I think of the words of the slain Archbishop Oscar Romero, ““You cannot reap what you have not sown. How are we going to reap love in our community if we only sow hate?”

We need to sow love and community in a country that is diverse and cries out for harmony. To help everyone, those on the margins, those bent over, those new to our shores and those who have been here a long time, enjoy the freedoms we have and to know they will not be harmed for their faith or any reason.

But this will only happen if we want it to be or we can lock ourselves away into our homes, offering words of hate and suspicion and fear, fretting about what was, when God is already working on what will be.

May our merciful God scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations sufficient for the here and now. Amen.