Sunday, June 18, 2017

For Such A Time As This: A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Advocacy


We will continue by fasting for one day a month—the 21st of each month—through the close of the 115th Congress at the end of 2018. We fast on the 21st of the month because that is the day when 90% of SNAP benefits run out for families. We hope you will keep the focus on protecting programs to help hungry people struggling with poverty and that you will encourage a monthly fast on the 21st.

We are calling for prayer, fasting, and advocacy. Fasting is an effort to clear our bodies, Fasting from food is one option that many will choose. But we invite people to take on the discipline of self-denial, which will help them rely more fully on God. Some may fast from technology, social media, or television. These days of fasting should also be days of advocacy to oppose cuts to public programs that help hungry people who are living in poverty.

The fast is inspired by Esther in the Hebrew Scriptures, who bravely risked her life to ask the Persian king to save the Jewish people — her people — from genocide. In the days leading up to her meeting with the king, she called for a time of national prayer and fasting among her people.

Learn more: http://bread.org/blog/call-such-time
& http://www.episcopalchurch.org/events/such-time-call-prayer-fasting-and-advocacy

A prayer: Loving God, whose hand is open to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Break down the barriers of ignorance, indifference, and greed, we pray, that the multitudes who hunger and long for sustenance may share your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

World Refugee Day




World Refugee Day: Tuesday, June 20

According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, there are now more than 60 million refugees and displaced people worldwide. This is the largest number of refugees the world has known anytime since World War II.

There are three durable solutions for refugees: repatriation, integration, and resettlement. Thankfully, in many cases, refugees are able to repatriate or return to their home countries once the conflicts there have ceased and civil society has stabilized. Other refugees, who may not be able to return home, are able instead to integrate into the country of first asylum – the country to which they fled for safety. The remaining group of refugees – less than 1 in 100 refugees – is resettled to another nation.

Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) is the refugee resettlement service of The Episcopal Church – a living example of the Church’s commitment to be a presence of hope, comfort, and welcome to refugees. Each year, Episcopal Migration Ministries provides a wide spectrum of services, including resettlement, employment, and intensive medical and mental health services, to more than 5,000 refugees, asylees, special immigrant visa holders, and Cuban/Haitian entrants. These new Americans receive assistance as they rebuild their lives in security and peace in 30 communities across the United States. In addition to Episcopal Migration Ministries’ collaboration with local affiliate partners to welcome and serve arriving refugees, EMM staff members equip, support, and empower dioceses, congregations, and individuals to learn about and find their own place in the welcoming ministry of refugee resettlement. Additional information, videos, and resources about Episcopal Migration Ministries may be found at www.episcopalchurch.org/emm

A prayer: Almighty and Loving God, you who have crossed the boundaries of Heaven and Earth to be with your people, visit those who must flee their homes because of violence and oppression and lead them to a land of safety. We give thanks to you that you hear our intercessions on behalf of our refugee brothers and sisters. We thank you that love swallows fear, that in your compassion we learn to walk with those who suffer, that when we give of ourselves we receive far more, and that when we receive those who stand knocking at our doors, we receive Christ the Beloved One. May all praise, glory and honor be to our God, the Most High. Amen.


June 18 Sermon (6A)

Blessed Lord, be near to defend us, within to refresh us, around to preserve us, before to guide us, behind to correct us, above to bless us, who lives and reign with the Father & the Holy Spirit, ever one God. Amen.

God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. – Paul’s bold statement in his letter to the Romans is a helpful reminder that God continues to be with us, pouring love into our hearts, guiding each of us through the Holy Spirit.

Through such faith, Jesus calls his disciples to go out from him to proclaim the Good News in the world. And how do they tell about this Good News?

Jesus says to them, “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is near – the signs of which: the sick are cured, dead raised, lepers cleansed and demons cast out. The sick, the dead & dying, the lepers, and those with demons are the outcasts of society. The poor and neglected, the forgotten. They are not the powerful movers and shakers. Jesus wanted everyone to taste the goodness of God and Jesus sends his disciples to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

And in this ministry that they were sent out to do, they are not to take advantage of it, no payment is part of it. They are following Jesus. Proclaiming the Good News for The Kingdom of Heaven has come near to the lost and suffering. But it is not always easy living out this calling.

A young priest had recently begun his first call. One day he visited an older priest, a retired pastor who had served as his mentor. The senior cleric welcomed him warmly and asked how things are going.

As they talked, the new pastor lamented the many demands made on the church's charity.

"I know we're supposed to help the poor, but these people are asking for help with a bus ticket or a utility bill or gas money or food. Is that really their story? The last thing they're likely to spend that money on is a bus ticket or a utility bill or gas or food. I'm not naïve. They'll probably spend it on something we shouldn't be supporting, something that I certainly don't support."

Finally, the young priest sighed, "It gets exhausting justifying who I'm going to help and why."

The older priest said nothing, letting his young colleague's words hang in the air. Then the older priest replied, "What business is it of yours to determine who gets help and who doesn't? Why exhaust yourself with that burden? You are a follower of Jesus Christ. Your task, therefore, is to share out of the wealth of God's abundance. Your work is to love others as God loves you. Your job is simply to give. Judgement is God's domain - and he's much better at it than you and I are."

Compassionate charity is at the heart of discipleship. But Jesus calls us to give and serve not according to some divinely-sanctioned measuring device or formula to determine what is "fair" and "justifiable" charity;

Dorothy Day put it this way – “The Gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the undeserving and deserving poor.”

For the purpose of our giving to others is not to make us feel good about ourselves or superior to the poor and broken. Jesus calls us to give in a spirit of gratitude for the blessings we have received in our lives, to realize that whatever blessings we have received by God are meant to be shared. The good we do - healing, restoring, lifting up, forgiving - should not be statements of dogmatic conviction but prayers of humble gratitude to God who has loved us and blessed us abundantly and who has called us to give it away to others.

And sometimes, what we are to give from our abundance, may simply be the space and love for someone longing for acceptance and a place to be.

Once there was a struggling young Christian who felt she couldn’t share the truth about who she was and avoided intimacy with anyone she met in the church because she assumed straightaway that she would meet with rejection and exclusion. Eventually she found the courage to open her heart to a gentle companion, who simply said, ‘What you have told me is that you are a human being. I see that as cause for compassion, not for condemnation.’ Those words changed her life. From that moment on the young Christian found a freedom she’d never known, and resolved to spend her life having the liberating effect on others that her companion’s wisdom had had on her. She realized that there was something deeper than that others had rejected her. What was really going on was that she’d rejected herself – or at least a part of her that was a source of life and growth and hope. She’d been the builder that had rejected the stone. In devoting her life to liberating others who had known similar rejection, she turned the stone that she had rejected into the cornerstone. (Sam Wells)

Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith, the stone rejected by builders, came down to us to heal the broken, bring life to the dead, cast out demons of darkness, and bring back into the fold those who are lost or marginalized.

We likewise as followers of Jesus are called to do the same in our lives to reach out in love and “kindness, for everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden…” (Rev. John Watson)

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.

What will you do today to proclaim the Good News?

Amen.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trinity Sunday Sermon

O Lord our God, accept our fervent prayers and in the multitude of your mercies, look with compassion upon us and all who turn to you for help; for you are gracious, O lover of souls, and to you we give glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

On this Trinity Sunday, as we consider our relationship with God & understanding of God, I think of the words of St. Julian of Norwich, a saint from the 14th century in England. This is from her book, Revelations of Divine Love:

"So when he made us, God almighty was our kindly Father, and God all-wise our kindly Mother, and the Holy Spirit their love and goodness; all one God, one Lord… I saw the blessed Trinity working. I saw that there were these three attributes- fatherhood, motherhood and lordship- all in one God… In this uniting together he is our real, true husband, and we his beloved wife and sweetheart. He is never displeased with his wife, as God says: 'I love you and you love me and our love will never be broken.'"

Julian saw our triune God in aspects of both fatherhood and motherhood, but most importantly, in a loving relationship with us, God’s creation. The lover of souls as that opening prayer put it. To which, our connection with Jesus who we follow is important, Again in Julian’s words:

“And Christ rejoices that He is our Brother, and Jesus rejoices that He is our Savior.” Again it is relational for he is our brother, but Julian also reminds of his saving work, for he is our savior too.

So what does our brother and savior Jesus ask of us today? I think of his last words in Matthew that we heard in the Gospel of Matthew this morning.

To the 11 disciples, he calls them to go and make disciples, baptize and teach the way of following Jesus, and to remember that Jesus is with us always...

That call is also to us – to go and make disciples, baptize (which we will do today! welcoming little Arlan into the household of God) and then we are called to teach the commandments that Jesus has given us.

As one author puts it: “If we are going to make disciples, we need to teach commandments. If we ourselves are to follow Jesus, we are to obey commandments. But what are the commandments of Jesus? You can find various lists online. They certainly include the commandment to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbors. There are many more. We are to forgive others. We are to repeat Jesus' last meal by celebrating Holy Eucharist. We are not to store up treasures on earth. We are to love our enemies. These are not easy--impossible even--to obey all the time. As we say in our baptismal covenant, we do these things with God's help. And as Sunday's Gospel reminds us, God abides with us always, "I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).” [Rev. Scott Gunn]

In other words, Jesus is asking us to follow him and live out those commandments of love and forgiveness, of celebration and fasting in what we say and do. It is not the easy road, and we will often fall short of following Jesus, but the importance remains on us journeying with Jesus, with this God we understand in three ways (F + S + HS), who loves us always and is always with us.

A woman in need of help saw a row of cars parked at a church at noontime. Hoping that someone there might be able to help, she went inside and found a group gathered in a small meeting room. She asked if the church might be handing out food, but she was told that she had come on the wrong day. This was the weekly midday Scripture study group. The food pantry would be open next week.

The woman was embarrassed for interrupting the Bible study, but said her family needed food that day, not next week. The parishioners apologized and said that she would simply have to wait until the twice-monthly food giveaway came around again. With a look of disappointment, the woman backed out of the church door and walked away empty-handed.

That's when the group was interrupted a second time - but this time, the interruption was transformative rather than intrusive. Several participants got up from their chairs and followed the woman out the door. They did their best to meet her needs from their own resources. A couple of the women even offered to give her a ride to the grocery store and then back to her home with the food they had helped her to purchase for her family.

In that interrupted Scripture study, the group was able to hear in the distressed woman's voice more than a plea for food. They heard God's invitation to partner in the work of making whole again the world that God loves so much. [From "Living by the Word" by Cleophus J. LaRue, The Christian Century, June 24, 2015.]

That perfect love that binds God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to us - manifests itself in our lives in ways so ordinary that we often barely notice. God "interrupts" our lives in different voices and people and circumstances - all guiding us to the meaning and purpose of our lives – which is realized in embracing others and being embraced in the creative, sustaining love of God.

In the words of Julian of Norwich – “Our life too is threefold- being, growth, and perfection.” Each of us is made in the image of our triune God, for we have our being from God (our creation), we are continually growing in our life and finally we will find that perfection is found in love.

On this Trinity Sunday, may we know ourselves to be loved by God so deeply, that we are his beloved, his sweetheart, that what we say and do in our lives today, this week and always, is a response out of that love towards others & our God.

Amen.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Climate Change Sermon


If you had forgotten (and who hasn't?) that I preached on climate change and what we should be doing, you can look back to February 12 when I preached on the subject in connection with Moses and his last words to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 30).

You can find it here:

Choose Life (Climate Change)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Paris Climate Agreement

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry has issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s action and the Paris Climate Accord.

With the announcement by President Donald Trump of his decision to withdraw the commitment made by the United States to the Paris Climate Accord, I am reminded of the words of the old spiritual which speaks of God and God's creation in these words, "He's got the whole world in his hands." The whole world belongs to God, as Psalm 24 teaches us. God's eye is ever on even the tiny sparrow, as Jesus taught and the song says (Luke 12:6). And we human beings have been charged with being trustees, caretakers, stewards of God's creation (Genesis 1:26-31).

The United States has been a global leader in caring for God's creation through efforts over the years on climate change. President Trump’s announcement changes the U.S.’s leadership role in the international sphere. Despite this announcement, many U.S. businesses, states, cities, regions, nongovernmental organizations and faith bodies like the Episcopal Church can continue to take bold action to address the climate crisis. The phrase, “We’re still in,” became a statement of commitment for many of us who regardless of this decision by our President are still committed to the principles of the Paris Agreement.

Faith bodies like the Episcopal Church occupy a unique space in the worldwide climate movement. In the context of the United Nations, the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, we are an international body representing 17 countries in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia and the Pacific. We also are an admitted observer organization to the UNFCCC process, empowered to bring accredited observers to the UN climate change meetings. Furthermore, the Episcopal Church is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the third-largest Christian tradition, and we remain committed to ensuring that Anglicans everywhere are empowered to undertake bold action on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

We know that caring for God's creation by engaging climate change is not only good for the environment, but also good for the health and welfare of our people. The U.S. is currently creating more clean jobs faster than job creation in nearly every other sector of the economy, and unprecedented acceleration in the clean energy sector is also evident in many other major economies.

My prayer is that we in the Episcopal Church will, in this and all things, follow the way, the teachings and the Spirit of Jesus by cultivating a loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God, all others in the human family, and with all of God's good creation.

In spite of hardships and setbacks, the work goes on. This is God's world. And we are all his children. And, "He's got the whole world in his hands."

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

Prayer:

Almighty God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honor thee with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of thy bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

D-Day Prayer


Franklin Roosevelt's D-Day Prayer
June 6, 1944

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far. And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas -- whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them--help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.