Saturday, October 21, 2017

#PrayFastAct for all Who Face Homelessness

From EPPN:

As the seasons transition and the days become colder, we answer the call to pray, fast, and act this month by supporting action for people facing homelessness, unaffordable heating utility bills, and extreme housing insecurity.


PRAY for our nation’s elected leaders to stand with those who struggle to secure safe and affordable shelter.

“God of compassion, your love for humanity was revealed in Jesus, whose earthly life began in the poverty of a stable and ended in the pain and isolation of the cross: we hold before you those who are homeless and cold especially in this bitter weather. Draw near and comfort them in spirit and bless those who work to provide them with shelter, food and friendship. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.” –For the Cold and Homeless, The Church of England

FAST to call attention in our own minds and actions human plight that eviction, poverty, and homelessness create.

Share on social media using #PrayFastAct and @TheEPPN. On the 21st, post a picture of a dinner place setting with the reason you are fasting this month. We fast on this day in solidarity with people who must choose between paying their utility and housing bills and buying food for their family. Consider participating in an electricity or heating fast by turning it off in your home for the day.

ACT by urging our elected leaders to support strong policy solutions that address affordable housing needs and homelessness.

Urge Congress to support strong policy solutions that address homelessness!
Learn more here.

Pale Blue Dot

As mentioned in my sermon:

Why kneel? or stand? What are we saying?

In light of the current dust up around kneeling during the National Anthem, I was thinking about the diversity of Christianity and how some in our ranks (who are Christians) do not swear on a bible, do not stand for the flag (or pledge allegiance), and some refuse compulsory military service.

Here are some articles that may help us to reflect on it:  (written in May!)

and some background:

The Power to Live & Forgive

from a Holocaust survivor...

I found the video to be a powerful testimony to what forgiveness can do to set us free.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Did you read this story?

The song Lift Every Voice and Sing is in one of our supplemental hymnals.  It is an excellent hymn and poem.  Read the words below and listen to the music:

Lift Every Voice and Sing (1900)
by James Weldon Johnson, 1871 - 1938

Lift every voice and sing   
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.   
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;   
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,   
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,   
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might   
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,   
May we forever stand.   
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Read about it here.

Play the video to hear the hymn:

Saturday, October 14, 2017

October 15 Sermon

Gracious God, help us to be glad in you always! Focus our thoughts on all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Guide us in the practice of these things, and may your peace go with us always. Amen.

Life & Death

The images from the wildfires in California are stark. I was watching some drone footage of one neighborhood where the fires ran wild; it left a path of destruction. Homes burnt to the ground. Cars melted. Vegetation destroyed. Harrowing accounts of people who fled from the fire storm & some who tried but couldn’t.

In one video, on one side of the block, there was very little left from the fire. On the other side of the street, the homes looked untouched. Beautiful green yards. Trees with leaves. Cars parked in driveways.

Life & death

For the ancient Israelites, learning to live with neighbors close by who terrorized them, enemies who wanted the land they lived on, the line between life and death always seemed very close.

But in this 25th chapter of Isaiah, our first reading today, they are reminded that the Lord will change the circumstances. God will be their shelter, a refuge from the storm. God will subdue the heat of those against them, still the songs of the ruthless.

But God doesn’t stop there. On the Holy Mountain, on Mt Zion – there will be a feast! A party! With rich food! Wine!

Not only that – but everyone will be invited. All people. God will reconcile everyone.

And death? God will swallow it up for ever.

Death can seem to have such power over our lives – not only by ending life (our mortality), but crippling it too (when we lose a love one or fear it).

But it is God who will act so that everyone will have life. God affirms life over death in Isaiah’s feast.

Likewise, Jesus tells another parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, a parable of life and death.

A King is throwing a Wedding banquet for his son. It is a great big party and he sends slaves out to gather the invited guests, who have already RSVP’d. But they do not come. Again slaves are sent, but these invited guests made light of it, ignored them, beat them, killed some. The King is enraged and destroys the city that houses the unworthy guests.

And then he sends his slaves to invite everyone they meet, the good and the bad! And the banquet hall is filled. Jesus ends by saying, for many are called, few are chosen. Another grand party, and again the Kingdom of Heaven is like, those both good and bad who accept the invitation and come to the feast.

But there is more to the parable, accepting the invitation and coming is good but the King notices someone without the proper wedding attire. How did you get in here? The man was speechless. So the King had him thrown out. Why is he cast out? Why is he speechless?

The good and the bad were invited after the invited guests failed to fulfill their invitation. But this lone wolf, got in and didn’t know why or refused to answer. There still is an expectation with the invitation!

Everyone, especially those on the margins, are invited but you do it in faith, even with doubts, you show up in faith, not speechless about why you are there. It’s grace. In the end, the importance of these celebrated feasts is God overcoming death with life, invitations to the banquet for everyone. But not everyone always feels such welcome. I recently read a story and it hit home for me…

Five years ago, going out to dinner for the Zohn family was a nightmare. Six-year-old Adin is autistic. At restaurants, the little boy would quickly grow tired of waiting for the food to arrive and would bolt from the table and grab pizza off of other diners' plates before his father could catch him, which would send Adin into a tantrum. So the family stopped going out to dinner.

But Adin's parents, Lenard and Delphine, knew they weren't the only parents of children with autism who missed dining out. So, three years ago, they started Autism Eats, a kind of supper club for families with children on the autism spectrum. Every three months or so the Zohns book a restaurant with a private room, able to accommodate a large group. They consult with the restaurant's management to make sure that the setup is autism-friendly. Food is served buffet or family style so there is no waiting. Music and lighting are adjusted to accommodate those with sensory sensitivity. Since every family who attends has a loved one on the spectrum, there is no need to apologize, explain or feel uncomfortable for a child's behavior.

More than a hundred diners attend, with some families driving two hours or more to participate. These nights out are an opportunity for families who feel isolated by a child's autism to enjoy a night out and socialize with others who have many of the same joys and challenges in common.

Since the Zohns began Autism Eats in their hometown near Boston in 2014, chapters have been established in 13 states, with more to come. One parent said that these dinners are a blessing for her family: "There's no stigma; we can relax and have fun. It sounds like a simple thing, but it's so out of reach for us," she said. "The crowds, the long waits, any surprises, are hard . . . [Our little boy] can be himself and we don't have to worry that we're bothering anyone else's dinner." [The Boston Globe, December 21, 2015.]

The "Autism Eats" club is a living sign of today's Gospel: that everyone has a place at God's feast - even though some of us may need a little more help than others to fully participate in the banquet. If we are to be truly faithful to God's vision for all people, then we must embrace a faith-centered vision that sees beyond race, physical abilities and mental acumen, ethnic stereotypes and economic distinctions to see all men, women and children as made in the same image and likeness of God in which we are all created.

"The king's wedding banquet" & the feast on the holy mountain are celebrated in many different times and places, when everyone has a place at God's table - a table that extends from this altar & our own family/banquet tables in this time and place to God's great banquet table, that holy feast in the next. For when we bring the party to everyone, like Autism Eats, we help bring life from death. Amen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Changing Columbus Day?

As our nation celebrates Columbus Day, this holiday may bring conflicted experiences and emotions for different Americans. For many in the Native American community, it serves as a painful reminder of the brutal European settlement and conquest of the Americas. Many in those communities and beyond want us to change Columbus Day into one that recognizes the Native (indigenous) Americans in our midst.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori offers the following statement: "I urge you to learn more about the Doctrine of Discovery* and the search for healing in our native communities. But this is also a matter for healing in communities and persons of European immigrant descent. Colonists, settlers, and homesteaders benefited enormously from the availability of 'free' land, and their descendants continue to benefit to this day. That land was taken by force or subterfuge from peoples who had dwelt on it from time immemorial - it was their 'promised land.'"

Learn more here: Doctrine of Discovery repudiation found here.

"It can also be a time of learning and understanding," said Sarah Eagle Heart, the Episcopal Church's officer for Native American and Indigenous Ministries. "Columbus Day could instead be a time to turn away from those things done 'on behalf' of Native Americans so that we all might come to live in justice and peace with all people."

A Prayer for Healing and Hope
O Great Spirit, God of all people and every tribe,
through whom all people are related;
Call us to the kinship of all your people.
Grant us vision to see through the lens of our
Baptismal Covenant,
the brokenness of the past;
Help us to listen to one another,
in order to heal the wounds of the present;
And give us courage, patience, and wisdom to work together
for healing and hope with all of your people,
now and in the future.
Mend the hoop of our hearts and let us live in
justice and peace
through Jesus Christ,
the One who comes to all people
that we might live in dignity. Amen.
The above includes an adaptation of materials, Copyright 2011, the Episcopal Church Center

*An occasion of unprecedented significance in the history of the Episcopal Church (2011)

This “Lament over the Doctrine of Discovery” is the first time in the history of the church that we have attempted to come together as followers of Jesus Christ, Native and other people, to openly acknowledge, honor and lament before God and each other, the grievous circumstances of the settlement of this nation. As General Convention 2009 had the courage to repudiate the Doctrine of
Discovery and to call us to transformed understandings, practices and relationships, tonight we gather here in Indianapolis and throughout the Episcopal Church to share this event with those who participate in Local Laments over the Doctrine of Discovery.

What is the Doctrine of Discovery and what does it have to do with me?

The “Doctrine of Discovery” is a term referring to several documents and policies of church and state that legalized the violent and unjust settlement of North and South America, giving these actions, and their long-lingering tragic consequences, the full sanction and blessing of church and state. Without some awareness of the reasons why and ways in which these policies and actions grievously violate the values of our Christian faith – to continue in the prayers and fellowship, preserve in resisting evil, proclaim Good News, seek and serve Christ in all persons, strive for justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being – we cannot live out that faith with honesty and integrity.