Saturday, September 20, 2014

Parenthood without Marriage

MARRIAGE is disappearing. More than 40 percent of new mothers are unmarried. Many young adults drift into parenthood unintentionally. They may be cohabiting at the time of their child’s birth, but about half of these couples will have split up by the time their child is 5 years old. College-educated young adults are still marrying before having children and planning their families more intentionally. The rest of America, about two-thirds of the population, is not.We’ve been worrying about these trends for years, and wondering: Can marriage be restored as the standard way to raise children? As much as we might welcome a revival, I doubt that it will happen. The genie is out of the bottle. What we need instead is a new ethic of responsible parenthood.
Is the genie really out of the bottle?  Is marriage over?

For Christians, Marriage is Holy.  “Christian marriage is a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God.” (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 422)  For Christians, parenthood and marriage go hand in hand, but we should always be aware that our ideal does not always take place.

In her opinion piece, Beyond Marriage by ISABEL V. SAWHILL, has written an article about the need for us as a citizenry to look at ways to help promote the general welfare, in light of less marriages taking place and the need for responsible parenthood.

An except:

Not only are 40 percent of all children born outside marriage (50 percent among mothers under 30), but 60 percent of these births were unplanned. New parents often come to accept and love the baby, but it is not an auspicious beginning. Research I did with Quentin Karpilow and Joanna Venator at the Brookings Institution shows that unplanned births affect children’s development, including their chances of graduating from college and earning a middle-class income...

It is in this context that any efforts, like the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby to curtail access to the most effective forms of birth control, are misguided. If we could make the most effective forms of birth control available to all women with no co-payment, we would not only have healthier children and lower child poverty rates, we would limit the extent of government assistance people need in the process...

But greater access to the most effective forms of contraception is not enough. We also need a new ethic of responsible parenthood. That means not having a child before you and your partner really want one and have thought about how you will care for that child. Those from less privileged backgrounds may worry that they will never be able to afford a child. But two full-time $10-an-hour jobs bring in roughly $40,000 a year, hardly a princely sum yet enough to support a family well above the poverty line, even after child care and other expenses. These families should be receiving child-care subsidies and other forms of help.
Prayers on family from the BCP:

O God, you have taught us through your blessed Son that whoever receives a little child in the name of Christ receives Christ himself: We give thanks for the blessing you have bestowed upon this family in giving them a child.  Confirm their joy by a lively sense of your presence with them, and give them calm strength and patient wisdom as they seek to bring this child to love all that is true and noble, just and pure, lovable and gracious, excellent and admirable, following the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those  who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among  us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love  whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance
for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you,  and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 14 Sermon

"How often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times."

Forgiveness is not easy. It may be one of the hardest things that Jesus asks of us.
“Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
As the old saying goes, to err is human, to forgive divine. And yet Jesus calls us to do just that, forgive. Again, & again and again.

On my wrist, I wear a bracelet. The bracelet has the signature of Nelson Mandela. One reason, I wear it, is because it reminds me that at the moment of truth, after decades in prison, Madiba chose forgiveness.

As you remember, Nelson Mandela was a human rights lawyer and freedom fighter, but for many of the white South Africans, he was a terrorist. In 1964, Mandela was sentenced to life in prison for his participation in several bombings around South Africa.

As Mandela wrote in his autobiography, "A Long Walk to Freedom," he was suffering at the hands of his captors, and he became determined to study his enemy. He wanted to understand them. He wanted to know them. He befriended many of his prison guards. And by the end, Mandela forgave the Afrikaners.

He forgave them. That same forgiveness Jesus asks of us. Forgiveness removed the shackles of hate that he wore & he knew that such forgiveness was going to be the key to any reconciliation in SA.
"Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear. That's why it's such a powerful weapon." ~ Madiba
Forgiveness ultimately is not about someone else. It is about us. Our hearts and our lives, if we forgive others we will be truly free. Madiba came to understand that truth that forgiveness will help us be free, to let go of whatever injury we sustained, and find healing.
As Desmond Tutu put it, “The invitation to forgive is not an invitation to forget. Nor is it an invitation to claim that an injury is less hurtful than it really is. Nor is it a request to paper over the fissure in a relationship, to say it’s okay when it’s not. It’s not okay to be injured. It’s not okay to be abused. It’s not okay to be violated. It’s not okay to be betrayed. The invitation to forgive is an invitation to find healing and peace.”
Forgiveness is at the heart of our faith if we are to be called disciples of Jesus Christ. We see this in Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant that we heard today. Again, Jesus shakes up our understandings to see the Kingdom of God in new ways.

The parable begins with a king settling his accounts. When a slave who is brought to him owing a huge sum, one he could not pay, he is ordered to be sold with his family to repay the debt. That is his prerogative. It’s his slave, and he wants his money. Sell them. But the slave promises to pay the king everything he owes, which of course as a slave he could never obtain that amount of wealth. Ever.

But the king has mercy; he has a change of heart. He releases the slave and forgives the debt. That’s it. No repayment necessary. Not even a little bit of what he owed. The slave is freed!
"But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt."
The slave who was freed, fails to show mercy like the king did to him. Unlike the king, he was not transformed, . The king hears about it and relents of his mercy and has him tortured until the debts are paid off because he did not have mercy and forgive his fellow slave. And how does Jesus end this parable?

“So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” That is blunt. Forgive your brother or sister, from your heart!
As one of my seminary professors has put it, “the main message of Jesus was about forgiveness and how it transforms lives.” (Bill Countryman) 

The king in the parable was transformed because he forgave the slave. The slave did not understand or could not do it, so his life was not transformed and he suffered for it. Jesus who died on the cross for us, for the forgiveness of our sins, gives us that gift of grace, the forgiveness of our sins. Not because we earned it, or begged in the right way, but because God wanted to do that.
As Wm. Paul Young, The Shack, puts it “Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person's throat......Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established.........Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation.........Forgiveness does not excuse anything.........You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness......”
It reminds me that every day, twice a day (morning and night), monks following the rule of St. Benedict say the Lord’s Prayer, because as the rule says, “this is done because of the harm that is often done in a community by the thorns of conflict which can arise.” They hear the words, “forgive us as we also forgive,” and are called to forgive one another, to be cleansed from the stain of such evil, so they can live with one another in love.

In his parable on forgiveness, Jesus calls everyone to be his disciples in this work, to be ready and willing to make the first move toward forgiveness and to offer it from our hearts. So will we be the king who forgives & has mercy or the unforgiving slave who is not transformed?

Today let us remember the precious gifts we have been given and share these gifts with our troubled and hurting world today, which may be as close as our own home. Amen.

Why We Forgive


I used a quote from Desmond Tutu's work in my sermon on forgiveness last Sunday.  He and his daughter have written a fine book about forgiveness.  An except of the book is given here:

http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/why-we-forgive
There were so many nights when I, as a young boy, had to watch helplessly as my father verbally and physically abused my mother. I can still recall the smell of alcohol, see the fear in my mother’s eyes, and feel the hopeless despair that comes when we see people we love hurting each other in incomprehensible ways. If I dwell in those memories, I can feel myself wanting to hurt my father back, in the same ways he hurt my mother, and in ways of which I was incapable as a small boy. I see my mother’s face and I see this gentle human being whom I loved so very much and who did nothing to deserve the pain inflicted upon her.

When I recall this story, I realize how difficult the process of forgiving truly is. Intellectually, I know my father caused pain because he was in pain. Spiritually, I know my faith tells me my father deserves to be forgiven as God forgives us all. But it is still difficult. The traumas we have witnessed or experienced live on in our memories. Even years later they can cause us fresh pain each time we recall them.
Read the whole excerpt.  Then buy the book (or get it from your local library).


There were so many nights when I, as a young boy, had to watch helplessly as my father verbally and physically abused my mother. I can still recall the smell of alcohol, see the fear in my mother’s eyes, and feel the hopeless despair that comes when we see people we love hurting each other in incomprehensible ways. If I dwell in those memories, I can feel myself wanting to hurt my father back, in the same ways he hurt my mother, and in ways of which I was incapable as a small boy. I see my mother’s face and I see this gentle human being whom I loved so very much and who did nothing to deserve the pain inflicted upon her.
When I recall this story, I realize how difficult the process of forgiving truly is. Intellectually, I know my father caused pain because he was in pain. Spiritually, I know my faith tells me my father deserves to be forgiven as God forgives us all. But it is still difficult. The traumas we have witnessed or experienced live on in our memories. Even years later they can cause us fresh pain each time we recall them.
- See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/why-we-forgive#sthash.pCcpnm5P.dpuf
There were so many nights when I, as a young boy, had to watch helplessly as my father verbally and physically abused my mother. I can still recall the smell of alcohol, see the fear in my mother’s eyes, and feel the hopeless despair that comes when we see people we love hurting each other in incomprehensible ways. If I dwell in those memories, I can feel myself wanting to hurt my father back, in the same ways he hurt my mother, and in ways of which I was incapable as a small boy. I see my mother’s face and I see this gentle human being whom I loved so very much and who did nothing to deserve the pain inflicted upon her.
When I recall this story, I realize how difficult the process of forgiving truly is. Intellectually, I know my father caused pain because he was in pain. Spiritually, I know my faith tells me my father deserves to be forgiven as God forgives us all. But it is still difficult. The traumas we have witnessed or experienced live on in our memories. Even years later they can cause us fresh pain each time we recall them.
- See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/why-we-forgive#sthash.pCcpnm5P.dpuf

Prayers (from the time of our Jesus Statue)


The Jesus statue arrived on Sept. 1 -  It was made to look like a homeless person, except for the stigmata in his hand.  Besides the statue, was a box inviting people to write down any prayers they would like.  This is what they wrote:

A prayer for seasonable weather for farmers and the homeless.

For the homeless and for the faith of America.

For all those troubled by addiction and depression, may they and their families find peace.

For the soul of [name redacted] and health & happiness of my children

Pray for peace throughout the world.  Love Jesus!

These prayers will be offered during the intercessions on Sept. 21.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 - a poem

Survivors—Found
by Joan Murray
We thought that they were gone—
we rarely saw them on our screens—
those everyday Americans
with workaday routines,

and the heroes standing ready—
not glamorous enough—
on days without a tragedy,
we clicked—and turned them off.

We only saw the cynics—
the dropouts, show-offs, snobs—
the right- and left- wing critics:
we saw that they were us.

But with the wounds of Tuesday
when the smoke began to clear,
we rubbed away our stony gaze—
and watched them reappear:

the waitress in the tower,
the broker reading mail,
a pair of window washers,
filling up a final pail,

the husband's last "I love you"
from the last seat of a plane,
the tourist taking in a view
no one would see again,

the fireman, his eyes ablaze
as he climbed the swaying stairs—
he knew someone might still be saved.
We wondered who it was.

We glimpsed them through the rubble:
the ones who lost their lives,
the heroes' double burials,
the ones now "left behind,"

 the ones who rolled a sleeve up,
the ones in scrubs and masks,
the ones who lifted buckets
filled with stone and grief and ash:

some spoke a different language—
still no one missed a phrase;
the soot had softened every face
of every shade and age—

"the greatest generation" ?—
we wondered where they'd gone—
they hadn't left directions
how to find our nation-home:

for thirty years we saw few signs,
but now in swirls of dust,
they were alive—they had survived—
we saw that they were us.

From Poems to Live By by Joan Murray. Copyright © 2001 by Joan Murray.

9/11 - a remembrance

Fr. Mychal Judge spoke these words to Engine 73, Ladder 42 in the Bronx, NY on September 10, 2001:
“Thank You, Lord, for life. Thank You for love. Thank You for goodness. Thank You for work. Thank You for family. Thank You for friends. Thank You for every gift...

As we celebrate this day in thanksgiving to You, keep our hearts and minds open. Let us enjoy each other's company, and most of all, let us be conscious of Your presence in our lives, and in a special way, in the lives of those who have gone before us.

No matter how big the call. No matter how small. You have no idea what God is calling you to. But he needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us. Keep supporting each other. Be kind to each other. Love each other. Work together and do what you did the other night and the weeks and the months and the years before and from this fire house, God's blessings go forth in this community. It's fantastic!”
Father Mike was a chaplain of the Fire Department of New York City beginning in 1992 and was recognized as the first official victim of the 9/11 attacks. On that day, when he heard that the World Trade Center had been hit, Father Mike rushed to the site. He was met by the Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, who asked him to pray for the city and its victims. Hee administered the Last Rites to some lying on the streets, and went to the command post in the North Tower to see where he could assist.

When the South Tower fell, debris from the tower entered the lobby and many were killed including Fr. Mike. A NYPD lieutenant, who was also buried in the debris, found Fr. Mike's body and then assisted by two firemen and two others, carried his body out of the North Tower lobby using a chair and took him to nearby St Peter's Church. The picture of that scene has become one of the iconic photographs from 9/11.

His story stays with me, because his life speaks of how we are to live with one another. A man who rushed to do his duty, to be a prayerful presence in the midst of crisis. A man who loved his neighbor, who cared for the fire fighters under his care, and as a Franciscan monk, he also looked out for those in need in his community.

The words he spoke are just as true for us today as they were 13 years ago in NY. God needs you and God needs me; Keep supporting each other. Be kind to each other. Love each other. From what you do, God’s blessings will go forth into our community.

9/11 Anniversary - a prayer




O gracious and loving God, on this 13th anniversary of the terror attacks on 9/11, we lift up our nation in prayer. We remember all the victims who lost their lives to hate. We remember the brave and courageous who rushed to the scene to help, to those who came to search through rubble, who cut through steel and debris. We remember those who grieve loved ones lost and for all the anxiety and fear we had in those days. We also remember how we came together to support one another in a time of need. Have mercy, Lord, give us strength and peace to not seek revenge nor turn our hurt to hate, but make us courageous in compassion and in justice for all. Help us to know your steadfast love & hope, your presence that is as near as breath; rekindle in our hearts the hope of life that conquers death. This we ask in your name. Amen.