Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sending Us Out

Send us now into the world in peace,
and grant us strength and courage
to love and serve you
with gladness and singleness of heart.

Father, send us out
to do the work you have given us to do,
to love and serve you
as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.

We humbly
beseech thee, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy
grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do
all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in

Each of these post communion prayers reminds us what we are called to do after communion, after we leave our church...

"Let us go forth in the name of Christ to bring peace into broken relationships, healing to alienated persons, and justice into oppressive structures." Amen!

November 27 Sermon (Advent I)

Most gracious Lord, by whose direction this time is appointed for renewing the memory of your infinite mercy to us in the incarnation of your Son Jesus; grant that we may live, this holy time, in the spirit of thanksgiving, and every day raise up our hearts to you in the grateful acknowledgment of what you have done for us. Besides this, we ask your grace, O God, that we may make a due use of this holy time, for preparing our souls to receive Christ our Lord coming into the world at the approaching solemnity of Christmas. Amen. - From John Goter, 17th Century (adapted)

Moose… Stay alert.

That was our welcome to Vermont.

A bright yellow sign, warning of what may lay ahead, Moose… Stay alert. I think it’s perfect sign for Advent.

Advent is our season that calls our spiritual lives to be awakened, to “cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light” as our collect calls us to do. There is something about Advent that makes us suddenly alert. Perhaps it is the clear night skies with the gaze of the moon and stars on us. Perhaps it is the windswept clarity of early winter, when the trees are swept bare, and there is no sign of the lushness of summer to hide our works of darkness from ourselves and from one another.

St. Paul wants us to wake up, as we heard “Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.” In Advent, salvation is nearer to us. Nearer to us because we are preparing for the coming of the Christ child. We are preparing for the return of Christ. We are waking up. So that is why.

But how do we wake up when our bodies are telling us to hibernate with the best of them. The darkness beckons to us, lulls us into slumber, and for some of us, even depression. How do we do we fight all of that? How do we put on that armor of Light?

Jesus said, “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into...

She was miserable: stuck in a job she hated, no one special in her life. While her friends were busy celebrating weddings and having adorable children and prospering in careers they loved, she was alone, mired in self-pity. But her perspective changed in an instant.

She just had lunch with her mother. Her poor mom listened to her daughter's litany of unhappiness and tried to offer what support she could. Then she returned to her small apartment. While in the kitchen, she heard a noise in the hall - and suddenly remembered that she had forgotten to lock the door behind her. She got up and looked down the hall. At the top of the stairs a masked man was pointing a handgun at her. She had never experienced such fear in her life.

He demanded her cash. But she explained that she didn't have any, that she relied on her debit card. Again he demanded money, and again she said she had none. She offered to go with him to an ATM. "You can take my computer," she pleaded. All she could do now was wait for the stranger to determine how this would play out.

And in that moment of waiting, she felt her whole life - the beauty, the love, the darkest moments. She remembers: "The one regret, the unfinished business I had with this life of mine. My mother would always think of our conversation and believe that her only child had died a miserable person, unfulfilled and greatly at odds with life. That is what brought tears to my eyes. I realized what a beautiful life I had actually lived; I just hadn't always appreciated it . . . I'm sorry, Mom, I thought."

A second later, the intruder turned and ran.

"A meaningless act of violence" her family and friends said when they heard about what happened. But she disagrees: "Every day, I have the option to decide: Is my story going to be about anger, fear and unhappiness? Or can my story be about peace, forgiveness and walking a new path of gratitude and compassion? . . . It is only by God's grace that I am able to locate those virtues at all but they are there, bubbling along like an underground stream beneath the stony ground of my heart." [From "Under the gun: New life after a home invasion" by Brittany Conkle, America, December 7-14, 2015.]

Her confrontation with the intruder is an Advent awakening for this young woman. In the midst of her fear, she realizes the preciousness of her life, that life is a gift that God gives her - and all of us - in order that she might discover God in the love of others and come to realize the goodness of this world in anticipation of the next. Advent calls us to "watch," to pay attention to such signs of God's unmistakable presence in all that is loving, in all that is beautiful, in all that is life-giving and nurturing.

Jesus said, "Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Jesus told us that he would come again, but he didn't give us a time, lay out a plan. He only told us to stay alert, be ready, he will come at an unexpected time. Like the expectation of a birth of a child, it is that waiting with anticipation not knowing the exact time. As well as being a theologian, Paula Gooder is also a mom. She weaves those two perspectives together in her book The Meaning Is in the Waiting:

"As I waited for the birth of my baby, I discovered that waiting can be a nurturing time, valuable in its own right. Until then, I had assumed that waiting could only be passive, that it involved sitting around, drumming my fingers, completely powerless to do anything until the moment of waiting passed and I could be active again. How wrong I was. The waiting of pregnancy is about as active an occupation as one can hope to engage in . . .

"One of the other things I learned during pregnancy was that learning to savor the time of waiting allows us also to appreciate the event when it comes. The loss of an ability to wait often brings with it the inability to be fully and joyfully present now. Instead, we are constantly looking backward to better times we used to know and forward to better times that may be coming. The more we do this, the more we miss the present . . .

"It [also] becomes hard to appreciate the future moment even when it does come . . . We live forever in the future, so that, when the future becomes the present, we are ill-equipped to deal with it and have lost the ability to be fully present, right now.

"One of the many reasons we wait in Advent is to hone our skills of being joyfully and fully present now. After a month of doing this, Christmas Day can gain a depth and meaning that would otherwise fly past in a whirl of presents and mince pies."

The season of Advent calls us to such "pregnant waiting": to appreciate, value and cherish; to be present and attentive to family and friends; waiting opens up our vision and spirits to realize the love of God in our midst. This Advent season calls us to embrace the wisdom to be realized in "pregnant" waiting: to slow down, stay alert and see the goodness of God around us that we rush by too quickly to see, to behold Christ in every moment of compassion, forgiveness and joy we experience in the everyday Advent of our lives. Amen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Invitation to Communion

As we approach the altar on Sunday remember...

This is the table, not of the Church but of Jesus Christ.
It is made ready for those who love God
and who want to love God more.

So come, you who have much faith and you who have little,
You who have been here often
and you who have not been for a long time or ever before,
You who have tried to follow and all of us who have failed.

These are the gifts of God for the People of God.

Come, not because the Church invites you;
It is Christ who invites you to be known and fed here.

Adapted from The Iona Community, Iona Abbey Worship Book, (Glasgow, UK: Wild Goose Publications, 2001), 53.

Behold what you are, may we become what we receive.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving #prayers

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the
fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those
who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of
your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and
the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(from the Book of Common Prayer, p. 246)

Traditional Table Graces and Thanksgiving Prayers

 Bless, O Lord, this food to our use,
and us to thy service,
and make us ever mindful
of the needs of others.

Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts
which we are about to receive from thy bounty,
through Christ our Lord.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest,
Let these thy gifts to us be blessed.

Be present at our table, Lord;
be here and everywhere adored.
Bless these thy gifts and grant that we
may feast in fellowship with thee.

Thanksgiving Prayer from “We Thank Thee” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

For this new morning with its light,
Father, we thank thee.
For rest and shelter of the night,
Father, we thank thee
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything thy goodness sends,
Father in heaven, we thank thee.

Thanksgiving Prayer for Harvest Time

Loving God, all that we have
comes from your goodness
and the work of those who love us.
Bless us and the food we share.
Watch over those who care for us.
Open our eyes to the needs of the poor
during this time of harvest and thanksgiving.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
(From Blessings and Prayers through the Year, Elizabeth McMahon Jeep, Liturgy Training Publications 2004) 

A Word of Thanks

For health and strength and daily food;
for all the joys that make life worth living;
for the opportunity to help those
who need us so very much,
we give you thanks, O God. In Jesus’ name.
(From Pilgrim Prayers for Mealtime, Alexander Campbell, Pilgrim Press 2013)

Thanksgiving Prayer “That We May be Renewed”
Loving God,
bless our food and drink
our friendship and our laughter
that we may be renewed
in body, mind, and spirit
to work together
for the coming of your kingdom
of justice, love, and peace.
(By Maureen Edwards, printed in Blessed be our Table, Neil Paynter, Wild Goose 2003)  

The Hand that Made the Hands
For the hands that tilled,
for the hands that harvested,
for the hands that processed,
for the hands that transported,
for the hands that stocked,
for the hands that sold,
for the hands that bought,
for the hands that prepared,
for the hands that will hold,
for the hand that made the hands,
our hearts are forever grateful.
(By Ewan Aitken, printed in Blessed be our Table, Neil Paynter, Wild Goose 2003)

A Scottish Grace
Praise to God who giveth meat.
Convenient unto all who eat.
Praise for tea and buttered toast,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
(From Saying Grace, Sarah McElwain, Chronicle Books 2003)

Thank you to http://www.buildfaith.org/2014/11/26/thanksgiving-prayers-and-table-graces/

Sunday, November 13, 2016

November 13 Sermon

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land after our elections, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP)

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

We might think of these words from Abraham Lincoln from his famous speech in 1858 when he accepted the Illinois Republican Party endorsement for the US Senate. A prophetic speech that understood that slavery was dividing the country and the country had to go one way or the other…

Eight years before Abraham Lincoln said it, Sam Houston in the Senate debate on the Compromise of 1850 around slavery proclaimed: "A nation divided against itself cannot stand."

Of course the origin of these phrases rests with Jesus… when confronted by the Pharisees, Jesus said, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:25)

We seem to be in a time of such division. President elect Trump won the electoral college but lost the popular vote and if the figures I saw are correct, nearly half the eligible population didn’t vote. Those who voted were divided by race, gender, religion, ethnic origin…

We are indeed divided… and the news tells us this… people being attacked for their votes, minorities fearing for what their lives might be in our nation, nazi symbols appearing and other hate crimes, KKK and other like minded groups feeling energized and spreading their hate.

So where do we begin to heal the division?

It begins right here. In Church.

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

The church, the body of Christ is called to be one in Jesus. That is our unity. It should be above everything else in our lives.

Too often though, we allow partisan divides: race, gender, sexuality, conservative/liberal divide us from one another. And yet, we are still one of the few places left in our country where opposite minded folks can and do come together. We have Trump voters, Clinton Voters, independent voters and non-voters as part of our congregation. As it should be.

We are not a country club. We are not one political party. We are not a museum.

The Church is the community of the New Covenant – followers of Jesus – and our mission is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” For part of the common good, the common bond that holds us together here in the US both in church and outside of it, is that we value each person or group’s rights. And it’s up to us to do it. In the words we speak, in what we do on social media, in all of our interactions – how do we value others.

So I want you to stop and think about this:
  • How did the results of the election impact my life?
  • As part of the winning party of this election, what are my responsibilities?
  • As part of the losing party of this election, what are my concerns and needs?

Too often now we live in our own bubbles. We have self selected news, friends, etc. that connect with our worldview and we have often neglected to hear what the other side is saying (out of sight/mind).

No matter how this election went for us, I think one of the goals we need to have is “to achieve understanding of the other. Achieving understanding does not mean one has to agree with everything that the other shares. The discipline of listening helps us understand others. Take the time to discern, given what has happened, what are your needs and concerns that are significant and important to you and your group and what are our responsibilities to each other.” (Eric Law)

Why do we need to this? I think the Mexican author Carlos Fuentes put it best:

"People and their cultures perish in isolation, but they are born or reborn in contact with other men and women, with men and women of another culture, another creed, another race. If we do not recognize our humanity in others, we shall not recognize it in ourselves."

I think Fuentes is on to something, because I think he is connecting with what Jesus would expect of us, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We grow with those connections, without them we suffer. Our own Desmond Tutu gives us such an understanding through the African word Ubuntu.

“Ubuntu [...] speaks of the very essence of being human […] you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, "My humanity is caught up, & is inextricably bound up, in your humanity." We belong in a bundle of life. We say, "A person is a person through other persons [...] A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.” ― Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness

So this brings me to our life together here at St. Peter’s.

In the midst of these anxious times, we have a real opportunity to bring change and hope to our world and it begins with you and me. I hope that St. Peter’s is a place for you that not only sustains you in your life in Christ but it also empowers you to do the work that Jesus gives to all of us…

To love everyone we encounter - to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people, to make music in the heart…

And I hope when you are asked, you are able to give your offerings to help us to continue our important work in the world and to open our doors so that all can come in – all parties, races, genders, sexual identities and orientations, any and everyone may enter in and find their place at this altar and among our community. Where strangers become friends. May we listen to understand one another & may we love the other (whoever that is for us) and begin to heal the divisions in our house. Amen.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Thanksgiving Prayer

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted. Amen.

A Thanksgiving Prayer by Rev. Samuel F. Pugh

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Veterans Day

O God of peace,
we pray for those who have served our nation,
who laid down their lives
to protect and defend our freedom...

We pray for those who have fought,
whose spirits and bodies are scarred by war
and whose nights are haunted by memories
too painful for the light of day...

We pray for those who serve us now,
especially for those in harm's way:
shield them from danger
and bring them home,

Turn the hearts and minds
of our leaders and our enemies
to the work of justice and a harvest of peace...

May the peace you left us,
the peace you gave us,
be the peace that sustains,
the peace that saves us.

O Lord Jesus, hear our prayer
for our Veterans & their families,
for all those who heard the call and served
and for a lasting peace in our country & world!

(slightly adapted from the Concord Pastor)