Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy New Year!

I am away on vacation.

My sermon from Christmas will be posted when I return.

Have a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Great "O" Antiphons: Sunday & Monday


O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me?
The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

Final Refrain:

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel!

Sermon: Advent IV

Look in the Mirror
My sons do, straightening their hair, looking at the missing tooth that came out…

Look in the Mirror
See the person who was named in Baptism before God and the congregation

This Sunday, with all the advent candles lit, the light of God has grown brighter and we hear Jesus named by the angel to Joseph in a dream in the gospel of Matthew…

When Joseph heard the angel speak to him in that dream, he had a decision to make. Joseph was engaged to be married to Mary. He found out she was pregnant. He knew it wasn’t his. What was he to do? He could throw her out, and make a huge stink and let everyone know about the child conceived out of wedlock. He could get the people to ostracize her. But Joseph was a righteous man, and he decided to dismiss her quietly. A generous and merciful act. But in that dream an angel of the Lord appears to him and everything changes.

I think the poet and author Rainer Rilke captured that moment:

AND the angel, taking due pains,
told the man who clenched his fists:
But can't you see in her robe's every fold
that she is cool as the Lord's morning mists?

But the other, gazing gloomily, just murmured:
What is it has wrought this change in her?
Then cried the angel to him: Carpenter,
can't you see yet that God is acting here?

Because you plane the planks, in your pride
would you really make the Lord God answerable
who unpretentiously from the same wood
makes the leaves burst forth, the young buds swell?

He understood that. And now as he raised
his frightened glance toward the angel
who was gone already . . . slowly the man
drew his heavy cap off. Then in song he praised.

It is a startling dream and it must have shook his soul. “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, and you will name him Jesus and he will save his people from their sins.”

Joseph had set his mind on leaving her. He could have said no to the angel. But Joseph does not, he listens, he takes Mary as his wife. And Jesus is born. Again, all will change because of this child. The words of Isaiah ring in our ears: “The young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”

When we hear these readings we look back, we can see God's saving work in Isaiah and in the Gospel of Matthew. God has sought out men and women to be in relationship with their God, the creator, and to guide them toward salvation. In each reading God speaks of salvation through the birth of a child. For our God is the Lord of heaven and earth, of the history of nations and from the greatest in Israel to the least; for Emmanuel, God is with us.

In these last moments of Advent, we await the second coming, we long for it as we again walk our steps to that first encounter in the manger in Bethlehem. This waiting, this hope, this salvation is not something we sit passively by and wait to happen to us. It is about our actions and our relationship with the One in whose image we are made.

We can chose to ignore the God who speaks to us now; to ignore the words of the prophet, to refuse to follow where Jesus has led the way, and chose our own path thinking we know the better way. Or we can follow Joseph's example. The willingness to change our mind when confronted by God’s word and God’s spirit. The courage in the midst of fear to follow God’s way even if one does not know where it may lead. It is as W. H. Auden wrote:

To choose what is difficult all one’s days
As if it were easy, that is faith. Joseph, praise.

May we have the courage of Joseph, to say yes to God, to welcome the birth of Jesus at Christmas with all the anticipation and hope that we have had this season of Advent. In the words of Madeline L’engle

GOD did not wait till the world was ready,
till . . . nations were at peace.
God came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

God did not wait for the perfect time.
God came when the need was deep and great…

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!


Friday, December 21, 2007

The Great "O" Antiphons: Friday & Saturday


O come, thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadow put to flight.


O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Joy to the World?

Christmas is nearly upon us again, and for many, the yearly remembrance of our Lord’s birth brings with it a sense of renewal and hope for the future. In most parts of the northern hemisphere, the earth lies dormant; not barren and lifeless but rather in a purifying slumber that tells us it will once again burst forth in life. The liturgical year began anew on December 2nd and hopefully for all of us the season of Advent has afforded us the chance to reflect on the past year while looking forward to the new one.

But something just doesn’t feel right...

Read the rest of this wonderful article from Br. Cuthbert here. (a pdf file)

Br. Cuthbert is a monk at St. Gregory's Abbey in Three Rivers, MI. (Episcopal Benedictine)

The Great "O" Antiphons: Tues - Thurs


O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times didst give the law,
in cloud, and majesty, and awe.


O come, thou Branch of Jesse's tree,
free them from Satan's tyranny
that trust thy mighty power to save,
and give them victory o'er the grave.


O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Jesus was Born in Bethlehem, Oklahoma

Monday Night Humor

Saw this on another website...

Were you born in a barn?

Well, yes...

The Great "O" Antiphons of Advent: O Wisdom

Antiphons sung before and after the Magnificat at vespers on the seven days before Christmas. The texts are of unknown origin and date at least from the ninth century. Each antiphon begins with the letter "O" and a name or attribute of God from the Hebrew Scriptures: O Sapientia, "O Wisdom"; O Adonai, "O Sacred Lord"; O Radix Jesse, "O Root of Jesse"; O Clavis David, "O Key of David"; O Oriens, "O Rising Sun"; O Rex gentium, "O King of nations"; and O Emmanuel, "O Emmanuel."

In the medieval Sarum (Anglican) use they began on Dec. 16, adding on Dec. 23, O Virgo virginum (O Virgin of virgins). The Great O Antiphons have been adapted as a popular Advent hymn, "O come, O come, Emmanuel" (Hymn 56), whose verses may be used as antiphons for the Magnificat on the appropriate days.

Today's O Antiphon (from Hymn 56):

O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.

Sermon: December 16

This are my notes from the sermon that would have been heard at 8 AM (the 10:15 AM service had the Christmas Pageant).

Robert Louis Stevenson tells a story of growing up in Scotland in the 1850s.. His family lived on a hillside, outside of a little town. Each evening he would sit in his family’s kitchen, look down on the town and watch the lamplighter light each of the town’s street lamps. He would say, “Look, Mother, there is a man who punches holes in the darkness.”

Third Sunday – Light grows, darkness fades. Joy (stir up) Sunday – Pink Candle, it stands out

Like the words form Isaiah today: The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.
Repent for the Kingdom of God has come near.
-John the Baptist, last week

This week: John in prison – Jesus at work, is he the messiah?
-sends his own disciples
- Are you the one or are we to wait for another?

Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

Fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, Jesus lays out the signs of the Messiah, and that his ministry to those least in the society…

One author I read asks:

Whom did you expect? A King who is easily observed and readily identified by his royal garb and his flock of attendants? One whose image is plastered on political posters and carried by the mass media? Those with eyes to see have missed him. But the blind receive their sight.

Whom did you expect? A Messiah borne on the shoulders of excited crowds? One whose very presence would command respect? Those with able bodies and minds go about their business. But the lame walk.

Whom did you expect? A leader who would deploy legions of angels to carry out the work of the Lord? One who would deal with the anxieties of the elite? But he reaches out to untouchables. And lepers are cleansed.

Whom did you expect? A Christ whose teachings would be so sublime and obvious that all could easily understand? Those with perfect ears do not catch the message. But the deaf hear.

Whom did you expect? A prince who would bring instant happiness? One who would not dirty his hands with the mortuary business? But the dead are raised.

Whom did you expect? A politician who would realize that the world’s power is in the hands of the wealthy? One whose attractiveness would get him invitations to all the right places? But the poor have the Good News preached to them.

Whom did you expect? A baptizer of the status quo? One whose life and message would avoid scandals? But blessed are those who take no offense at Jesus.”
(from Synthesis)

Literally, Jesus says, Blessed are those who are not scandalized by me…
How do we fulfill this?
-if we follow him, his scandal is our own
-we can’t run away from it

On this third Sunday, I am reminded that we are to bring joy into our lives and that of others. We are the ones now helping to bring the light, punching holes into the darkness. In our own way to help: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers be healed, the deaf hear, the dead have new life, and the poor have good news brought to them

We do this, we will be blessed because we will have shown that we are not scandalized by Jesus.

Stir up your power O lord and with great might come among us. Amen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Messages

From our Presiding Bishop

Eyes to see

Finding Immanuel as immigrant, wanderer, child

In what form will you find the Christ child this year? The fact of the Incarnation in a weak and helpless babe says something significant about where we focus our search. I am convinced that it is part of our call to exercise a "preferential option" on behalf of the poor, weak, sick, and marginalized. The long arc of biblical thinking and theologizing has to do with seeing God's care for those who have no other helper. Indeed, Jesus is understood as that helper for all who fail, by the world's terms, to save themselves. More accurately, we understand that Jesus is that helper for all.

One of the great gifts of the way in which those in our cultural surroundings celebrate Christmas is the focus on children and on those who have few human helpers. We delight in the wonder of children as Christmas approaches, and many of us make an extra effort to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and care for the needy. The challenge is to let our seasonal "seeing" transform the way we meet our neighbors through the rest of the year, and through all the coming years. How might we begin to see that child in those around us: strangers and aliens (both Immanuel and Immigrants); wanderers (Homeless, like Mary and Joseph, for whom there was no room); widows and orphans (Social Outcasts); babe born in Bethlehem (Palestinian and Israeli alike; or the boy babies whom both Pharaoh and Herod sought to kill); divine feeder of thousands (Soup Kitchen worker); and savior of the world (Peacemaker, Bringer of Justice for All, Reconciler, Just and Gracious Lawgiver...). If God comes among us as a helpless child, then the divine presence is truly all around us. Where will you meet Jesus this Christmas?

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori,
26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Chruch


One of the strangest yet most moving expressions in the New Testament is a verse in the Letter to the Hebrews (11.16): God 'is not ashamed to be called their God'. The writer is talking about the history of God's people. When they have been faithful to God, faithful in keeping on moving onwards in faith rather than settling down in self-satisfaction, when they are true pilgrims, then God is content to be known as their God. He declares himself to be the God of pilgrims, of people who know that their lives are incomplete and that they are still journeying towards the fullness of God's promises. Visiting refugee camps in the Middle East, as I did this October, brings home so powerfully what it is to be literally and absolutely homeless, not able to be confident in any resources, inner or outer. People in these terrible circumstances will never be complacent, they will always be looking for a future. They are in the most obvious way those whom God is not ashamed to be with, people whose God he is happy to be. He is at home with the homeless. But it is also an image of God's relationship with all those who are homeless or wandering in other ways.

What an odd expression, to say that God is not 'ashamed'! It's as though
we are being reassured that God, in spite of everything, doesn't mind
being seen in our company. Most of us know the experience of being
embarrassed by someone we are with - children are embarrassed by
parents, parents by children; I have sometimes found myself walking down
the road with someone who is talking loudly or behaving oddly, and
wishing I weren't there. But God is not embarrassed by human company
when that company is turning away from self-satisfaction and ready to
move on. We might think that God would be 'ashamed' of human company
that was imperfect, confused, even sinful. But God is happy to be the
God of confused and sinful people when they recognise their own
confusion and face the truth of their need. That's what the great
parables of Jesus in St Luke's Gospel are so often about, especially the
Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

So at Christmas, God shows that he is not ashamed to be with us. He has
heard our cries of weakness and self-doubt and unhappy longing, he has
seen our wanderings and anxieties, and he is not ashamed to be alongside
us in this world, walking with us in our pilgrimage. And because he is
content to walk with us, we are challenged about whose company we might
be ashamed to share. So easily we decide that we would be ashamed to
share the company of the sinful, the doubting or the outcast. But God,
it seems, is not ashamed to be seen with such people. If he is ashamed
to be called the God of any human group, the text from Hebrews strongly
suggests that he is most 'embarrassed' by those who think they have
arrived at the end of their journey, who think they have already
attained perfection (compare St Paul's angry and scornful words in I
Corinthians 4.8 - 'Already you have become rich!'). And it is clear why
God would be ashamed to be the God of such people: they behave and speak
as if they didn't really need God, as if they didn't really need grace
and hope and forgiveness.

God loves the company of those who know their need, and that is why he
comes at Christmas to stand with them, to live with them and to die and
rise for them. He is the God who blesses the poor - not only those who
are materially poor, but those who are without the 'riches' of
self-satisfaction and complacency, those who know all too well how far
they fall short of real and full humanity. And so we are to pass on that
blessing to the poor of every sort, those who are without material
resources and those who are 'poor in spirit' because they know their
hunger and need. Let us ask ourselves honestly whose company we are
ashamed to be seen in - and then ask where God would be. If he has
embraced the failing and fragile world of human beings who know their
needs, then we must be there with him.

May God give us every blessing and joy in the Christmas Season.

+Rowan Cantuar

Monday, December 10, 2007

Alternatives for Gifts this Holiday Season

Looking for alternative gifts for Christmas?
Want to help others in this world and honor a family member or friend?
Don't get them a tie or an ipod, look below!

Consider "Gifts for Life" from Episcopal Relief & Development. You can give animals, the basics of life, help with HIV/AIDS, emergency relief, gifts kids can give and seasonal gifts to make a difference in our world and in honor of a family member or friend.

Go here.
Another great place to choose a meaningful gift to give a loved one and help children and families around the world receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant is through Heifer International.

Go here.


And lastly there is the Karen Emergency Relief Fund Inc., which exists for the sole purpose of helping a group of people in need -- the Karen people of Burma.

In 1999 and 2006 the United Nations mounted great efforts to stop the killing in Kosovo and East Timor. But nothing was done to end the killing, robbing and raping of the Karen people of Burma -- or to stop the oppression conducted by the illegal military dictatorship of that country.

The Karen Emergency Relief Fund, Inc. works to ease the sorrow and pain of the Karen people who are suffering the horrors of ethnic cleansing.

Find out more and how to give here.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sermon: December 9

“Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” These words from John the Baptist remind me of the work done around this Church a short time ago, axes, pruning shearers, chainsaws, and the memorial garden was cleared and tress were taken down so we can complete the fence at the playground. It was wild kingdom out there and a good cleaning, pruning and cutting was needed.

But of course, John is talking about our lives and that symbol of an ax before us makes us uncomfortable. John wants us to repent, to turn away from the sin that holds us back and to prepare for our Lord.

I read that when the people of Wolverhampton learned that Queen Victoria would be coming to their town in late 1866 , the town went into a flurry of activity, as “every man who could handle a pick, saw a board or drive a nail found employment”. Everything stopped to prepare for the Queen: “Galleries were put on the house-fronts, and then bedecked with flags and wreaths. As well as gas-lit illuminations, arches depicting local industries were constructed along the way, including a three-ton coal arch. If you’d been away from Wolverhampton for the week, you’d not have recognized the town on your return. Only the best will do for the Queen’s visit and that is what the town tried to do. There was much excitement and they wanted everything just right…

It is John the Baptist who heralds the news that our monarch, our Lord is coming and we, the people are called to make urgent preparations, not only in the outward display of faith and life, but in inner renewal. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near! To prepare is to repent and as the author Frederick Buechner put it, “to repent is to come to your senses. True repentance spends less time looking at the past and saying, “I’m, sorry,” than to the future and saying, “wow!””

When I hear John’s words, “repent for the kingdom of God has come near,” I don’t sit fearful of what is to come, I hear an invitation to become more than who I am today. That’s Good News. That’s the wow that Buechner talks about. To look toward the future, having made changes in our lives that we believe God calls us to do. That is bearing fruit!

However, its when we feel that we have it all made, that we like everything about ourselves and our lives, that we grow forgetful about our own self-examination. We forget the need for repentance. We become like the Pharisees and Saducees who come before John the Baptist. Too assured of their righteousness because of the rituals they practiced and knowing that Abraham was their ancestor, they did not come seeking repentance, to make any changes…

No wonder John yells at them. John the Baptist makes it clear to them and to us, that our blood lines, our rituals, all of who we are will not grant us salvation. That is God’s domain. But it is up to us to bear good fruit, fruit worthy of repentance. It is to come to our senses, knowing we don’t always live like we know we should or the way we want. We want to be better, to live more like God wants us to live.

That is the preparation we do in Advent, preparing for God coming among us in the babe of Bethlehem and when he comes again in glory; the preparation to become more human, more of whom God has called us to be, which John calls us to do through repentance, is to make those changes in our lives, not looking in sorrow, but in hope for the future.

What will the tree of our lives look like?
-will we have pruned it right?
-what seeds will come from our pruning?
-will it bring life to others?

I think of a work by Maya Angelou in a 1993 book of hers. In it she writes: (Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (New York: Random House, 1993))

“There is an immutable life principle with which many people will quarrel. Although nature has proven season in and season out that if the thing that is planted bears fruit at all, it will yield more of itself, there are those who seem certain that if they plant tomato seeds, at harvestime they can reap onions.

Too many times for comfort I have expected to reap good when I know I have sown evil. My lame excuse is that I have not always known that actions can only reproduce themselves, or rather, I have not always allowed myself to be aware of that knowledge. Now, after years of observation, and enough courage to admit what I have observed, I try to plant peace if I do not want discord; to plant loyalty and honesty if I want to avoid betrayal and lies.

Of course, there is no absolute assurance that those things I plant will always fall upon arable land and will take root and grow, nor can I know if another cultivator did not leave contrary seeds before I arrived. I do know, however, that if I leave little to chance, if I am careful about the kinds of seeds I plant, about their potency and nature, I can, within reason, trust my expecta­tions" (pp. 91-92).

I find her words helpful in our understanding of repentance. If we fail to see that what we plant, is what we sow, that our lives if barren of repentance, will sow seeds barren of repentance. Or if we dare repent, knowing Christ is coming and wanting to be prepared, then we have the opportunity to have lives bearing fruit worthy of that repentance and fruit that will give seeds that bear the hope, love and peace we seek and wish to give to others. Which may or may not grow, but is what we offer.

If we live lives that have no room for repentance, then we live lives that are not everything that they could be. I think of the saying that the unexamined life is not worth living. I think that is true of our lives if we do not repent, if we do not come to our senses from time to time and stop those things that give no life to us or the world about us, then our lives are not worth as much. And isn’t that what John the Baptist is getting at in today’s Gospel. Our lives could be much more…

The ax is lying at the root of our trees. Do we dare pick it up and prune ourselves and decide on a better life…or do we leave the ax, praying it will pass.

Today, hear John’s words : Repent! Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Lives worthy of what God has given to us.

For repentance helps us come to our senses, to see the future full of hope, full of life and love, full of wow because Christ is coming. Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2007

When a Nativity Scene goes bad

Friday Night Humor

I saw this Nativity Scene on another site and laughed a lot!


Apparently the Irish did save civilization!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thought for the Day

A young monk once went to see his superior: 'Father,' he said, 'I must leave the monastery because I clearly do not have a voca­tion to be a monk.' When the older monk asked why, the younger monk replied: 'In spite of daily resolutions to be good-tempered, chaste and sober, I keep on sinning. So I feel I am not suited to the monastic life.' The older monk looked at him with love and said: 'Brother, the monastic life is this: I rise up and I fall down, I rise up and I fall down, I rise up and I fall down.' The young monk stayed and persevered. - Christopher Jamison, OSB

Could this also be true for all of us?

With that in mind, here is my retelling...

A parishioner once went to see his priest: 'Reverend,' he said, 'I must leave the parish because I am clearly not a good Christian.' When the priest asked why, the parishioner replied: 'In spite of daily resolutions to be good-tempered, chaste and sober, I keep on sinning. So I feel I can't come to Church.' The priest looked at him with love and said: 'Listen friend, our Christian life is this: I rise up and I fall down, I rise up and I fall down, I rise up and I fall down.' The parishioner stayed and persevered...

St. Nick's Day

Today is the Feast Day of St. Nicholas!


There was a good bishop who lived long ago
His memory is glorious, His legends are bold
We call him St Nicholas, a servant of Christ
Who loved little children and taught what was right

He is Father Christmas and Santa Claus too
He helped many people, the stories are true
At Christmas he calls to us, both young and old
To see that the story of Jesus is told

The gifts that he brings us are signs of the love
That comes down at Christmas from heaven above
We see Mother Mary, the babe in the stall,
With Joseph, the wise men and shepherds and all

O blessed St Nik'las we hail you today
The patron of many, you show us the way
To be good and generous, to help those in need
To be kind to others in both word and deed

Suggested tune: ST DENIO (Welsh)
written by JMR2000

A Prayer

Almighty God, in your love you gave your servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea: Grant, we pray, that your Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (from Lesser Feasts and Fasts)

Who was St. Nicholas?

The story of St. Nicholas offers a possible way of dealing with the "Santa Claus" problem, to parents who do not want to lie to their children, even in fun, but do not want to say simply: "Bah, humbug! There is no such thing as Santa. Forget about him."

Nicholas was a native of the western part of what is now Asiatic Turkey. He became Bishop of Myra in the fourth century, and there are many stories of his love for God and for his neighbor.

The best-known story involves a man with three unmarried daughters, and not enough money to provide them with suitable dowries. This meant that they could not marry, and were likely to end up as prostitutes. Nicholas walked by the man's house on three successive nights, and each time threw a bag of gold in through a window (or, when the story came to be told in colder climates, down the chimney). Thus, the daughters were saved from a life of shame, and all got married and lived happily ever after.

Because of this and similar stories, Nicholas became a symbol of anonymous gift-giving. Hence, if we give a gift to someone today without saying whom it is from, it can be called "a present from Saint Nicholas (or Santa Claus)." Some parents explain this to their children and invite the child to join them in wrapping a toy (either something purchased for that purpose, at least partly with the child's allowance, or else a toy that the child has outgrown but that is still serviceable) or an outgrown but not shabby item of the child's clothing, or a package of food, and then going along to donate it to a suitable shelter that will give it to someone who will welcome it. This gift is then called "a present from Santa," so that the child understands that this is another name for an anonymous gift given to someone whom we do not know, but whom we love anyway because God does. (Presents within the family can be "From Santa" or "From Santa and...")

written by James E. Kiefer

Very little is known about the life of Nicholas, except that he suffered torture and imprisonment during the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian. It is possible that he was one of the bishops attending the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325. He was honored as a saint in Constantinople in the sixth century by the Emperor Justinian. His veneration became immensely popular in the West after the supposed removal of his body to Bari, Italy, in the late eleventh century. In England almost 400 churches were dedicated to him. Nicholas is famed as the traditional patron of seafarers and sailors, and, more especially, of children. As a bearer of gifts to children, his name was brought to America by the Dutch colonists in New York, from whom he is popularly known as Santa Claus.

from Lesser Feasts and Fasts

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Advent Prayer

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.

Christ came into the world to do good to all. Grant, O God, we may thus prepare to meet him. Grant we may be watchful at this time above all others, in avoiding every thing that can be injurious to our neighbors, whether in afflicting them, or giving them scandal, or drawing them into sin, or casting any blemish on their reputation; but in all things O God, may we follow the spirit of charity, being forward in bringing comfort and relief to all, as far as their circumstances shall require, and ours permit. Grant, O Lord that we may prepare to meet our redeemer. Amen.

From John Goter, 17th Century (adapted)

(This is the Advent Prayer mentioned in my sermon and was read at the Christmas Tree lighting.)

Sermon: December 2 (Advent 1)

-helps us wake up
-In our spiritual lives, we also need to be awakened

The Church has its own clock (the liturgical seasons)
Help us awaken our spiritual journey
Colors, music, candles, prayers – change

And our church today begins a new year: Purple (or Blue) – Advent
"the coming" – Coming of our Savior
First Advent - Birth of Jesus
Second Advent - The return of Jesus

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. What are your works of darkness? Do you know them? Do you live with them and ignore them? Or do you wrestle with them night and day, only to succumb when the hour is growing late? You know what time it is. It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. And why is that? Why do we wake when the rest of the animal kingdom is bedding down for the winter? Storing up for a long winter’s nap? Why is it now that you and I are to wake from sleep?

There is something about Advent that makes us suddenly mindful. 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. 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 keep awake, 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…

How do we become ready?

There is a wonderful 17th Century prayer I found, the prayer says that as Christ came into the world to do good to all, that we too may thus prepare to meet him. The prayer reminds us that by doing what Jesus would want us to be doing -- loving one another, caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, and helping the poor, we will be preparing to meet him. The prayer goes on to pray that we may be watchful at this time above all others, in avoiding every thing that can be injurious to our neighbors and in all things following the spirit of charity, being forward in bringing comfort and relief to all, as far as their circumstances shall require, and ours permit. And ends, Grant, O Lord that we may prepare to meet our redeemer.

If we are doing those things, we will be ready when he comes again in his glory and we will have put on the armor of light. In this holy time of Advent, we can renew our lives by waking up and remembering the gift that God gave to us so long ago in the birth of his son, and who invites us into a time of preparation to remember and rejoice at Christmas, and to prepare for Christ’s coming again among us. Amen.

Friday, November 30, 2007

On-Line Advent Calendar

The calendar features a Nativity scene decorated with numbered windows that are opened by the click of a mouse. Behind each window visitors will find a photograph from the crèche exhibit and links to a meditation, a carol, an audio reflection on the daily readings and a giving opportunity.

Created by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington (D.C.), you can find it here:

An on-line devotional for students can be found here:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day - December 1, 2007

From the Presiding Bishop

For the Congregations of The Episcopal Church

I give thanks as you gather to reflect on the impact that HIV/AIDS has had on the families, congregations, and communities in and beyond the Episcopal Church. I pray that our efforts to prevent and develop effective treatment for this disease will be strengthened, once again, by calling to mind those who have died as a result of this disease. I also pray that new generations will be inspired by the many who have answered the prophet Isaiah’s call to bring “the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a mantle of praise instead of a faint heart.”

As we enter the second quarter-century of this disease, I am mindful of how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. I continue to be inspired by the ingenuity of the human spirit as people around the world work to develop effective prevention programs and new treatments for HIV and AIDS. Since 1988, the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition has served as a witness to these gains. Through their ongoing work, our church is better equipped to bring God’s healing embrace to many who suffer from this disease.

These gains, however, do not negate the fact that HIV/AIDS continues to spread in distressing ways both within the United States and abroad. The statistics tell what has become an all too familiar story—namely, that HIV/AIDS devastates society’s most marginalized communities.

Among people who are HIV positive, the groups showing the fastest and highest increases within the United States are youth, women, and people of color. We must attend to, and work to change, the ways in which social stigmatization, particularly racism and gender discrimination, serve to exacerbate the spread of this disease.

All of us are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in bringing God’s hope and healing to those who live with this disease. I am particularly grateful for the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition’s work in challenging the stigma that still haunts this disease. NEAC’s work, along with that of so many others, makes manifest the gift of God’s persistent love. It is as bearers of this love that we are called to bring “the oil of gladness instead of mourning.”

Know that you are in my prayers.

I remain your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori

HIV/AIDS 2007: Facts & Factors
from National Episcopal AIDS Coalition

The severity of the HIV/AIDS crisis, both worldwide and in the U.S., continues to increase. The Episcopal Church must meet this problem with increased awareness and action. Recently, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, (ELCA), with whom TEC is in communion, has renewed programs and work in this area.

Although HIV/AIDS has slipped off the front pages of the media, 2.6 million people have contracted the disease in 2004 making a worldwide total of nearly 40 million people living with some form of the disease. In Africa, especially, infection rates have soured in some countries. Lesotho, for example, has a prevalence rate of 23%. In many places, antiretroviral drugs are not in sufficient supply allowing the disease to progress unabated.

The epidemic has taken a somewhat different characteristic in the U.S. and most countries of Western Europe but continues to ravage populations in those locations also. The number of new HIV infections per year in the U.S. has stabilized at 40,000 per year and projections indicate that this rate will be sustained into the future. Some 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV/AIDS and 25% of them do not know it, and therefore take no precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. Further, about half of the people in the U.S. who have the disease are not under medical care.

The dominant modes of disease transmission in the U.S. are known. The highest risk groups are the African-American population as a whole, with women being the most affected subgroup with an infection rate 20 times that of white women in the U.S..

The introduction of HAART therapy (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) in 1996 has resulted in a continuing extension of lifespan for infected individuals. This extended lifespan results, of course, in a somewhat increased infection rate since there are more infected individuals alive to transmit the virus.

The use of the HIV rapid test over the last few years has helped to identify infected individuals before they vanish into the population. The rapid test offers results in as little as 20 minutes. Many people took the previous antibody tests for HIV but never returned to fi nd out the results. Since no prospects for a vaccine against the disease are on the horizon, education continues to be the best weapon available to fight the disease and our church needs to pursue this avenue of prevention.

For more information, visit the Center for Disease Control website,, or NEAC at

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sermon Notes: Christ the King

From the notes on my sermon…

-good food, good fun (except Lions lose)
-joy filled and full of thanks giving

Today – Last Day of the Church Year
-remember – restore all things in Jesus
-King of Kings & Lord of Lords
-free us from sin (which divides/enslaves us)

How do we live each day of the year with such knowledge? To follow Christ our King?

I remember a sermon my wife Ellen preached here…
-Pastor Eloy Cruz (Cuban-American in Brooklyn) (from Jimmy Carter)
-Followed this: “You only have to have two loves in your life—for God, and for the person in front of you at any particular time.”

He follows Jesus’ Greatest Commandment, love God with your whole being and secondly, to love you neighbor as yourself. And certainly that is to follow Christ our King…

This short vacation, I sat with a short story of Leo Tolstoy’s called: The Three Questions, which also I believe helps us consider how we follow Christ the King.

(You can find the short story here.)

"It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.

And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do. And learned men and women came to answer the three questions and they all answered it differently…

And because all the answers differed, the King agreed with none of them, and gave no reward. He instead sought out a hermit, known for being very wise, and disguised himself for the hermit would only entertain common folk.

The King came to the hermit's hut, seeing him outside gardening, this very fragile, weak man, he asked the hermit the three questions. The hermit would not answer him but kept on working, but the king seeing the hermit struggle offered to take the spade and work awhile which the hermit heartedly agreed to. Some hours passed and the hermit would not answer. Finally, as the king was to give up his questioning of the hermit, a man ran up who was bleeding from his stomach and collapsed in front of them.

The king and hermit took care of the man and staunched the bleeding. The man asked forgiveness from the king because he wanted to assassinate the king because he executed his brother and seized his property. But the king whom he was to kill saved his life and he asked for forgiveness. And the king was glad to have made peace with an enemy so easily. Before going away he wished once more to beg an answer to the questions he had put.

The King approached him, and said: "For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man." "You have already been answered!" said the hermit, still crouching on his thin legs, and looking up at the King, who stood before him. "How answered? What do you mean?" asked the King.

"Do you not see," replied the hermit. "If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug those beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business.

Remember then: there is only one time that is important -- Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!"

(here ends Tolstoy's story)

How do we serve and follow Christ the king? – it is the answer to those three questions – we do it now, with the person we are with, and to do that person good. When we do this, we honor Christ the king and we are freed in his service. Amen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Upcoming Middle East Summit: Praying for Peace

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President George W. Bush will host a key conference on November 27 aiming to revive the Middle East peace process and pave the way towards a separate Palestinian state, US officials said Tuesday.Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will open the conference involving more than 40 countries from around the world on Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland, State Department officials said.

This prayer is from the Churches for Middle East Peace (of which, the Episcopal Church is a member) find their website here.

Let us join together in prayer in support of our government’s efforts and for the success of this important meeting.


O God, we come to you with open hands and open hearts.

We pray for peace and for all those that suffer violence and injustice in the midst of war and conflict. We pray for the innocent, combatants, peacemakers, and religious and political leaders. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the holy city of God and spiritual home to all the children of Abraham.

O God of mercy and compassion, Embrace our Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters. They have endured profound loss and sorrow. They are fatigued by fear and anger. Mend their broken hearts and failing spirits. Ignite in them sparks of hope. Comfort them and guide them onto the road of peace.

O God of peace and reconciliation, Lift up the international leaders who search for peace. They have talked before without success. They face a difficult road and many obstacles. Inspire them to move from words to actions that fulfill a greater vision of peace. Arouse in them a passion for righteousness. Bless them and their work for peace.

O God of all creation, Your people cry for peace. May your promise of justice and enduring love Breathe renewed Life Into our commitment to a sustainable peace, When two states – Israel and Palestine – are a reality, Living side-by-side in security, harmony and peace. Amen.

Thought for the Day - What we owe ourselves

You owe it to yourself. This is the proverb of the one who clutches the good things - money, time, pleasures - tightly to oneself, sur­rendering nothing. The reward system is built in and functions smoothly. The consumer mentality, on this principle, plays into the hand of the myriad industries eager to cater to every desire and turn a profit. The ego is at the center of the world, firmly ensconced, like a spider jealously guarding its web and drawing everything in.

What this mentality reveals is greed, that most profound and insatiable desire of the human heart. But hidden deep within the damning dictum is the echo of Augustine's cry: 'Our hearts are made for you, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.' Nothing so reveals the true destiny of the human spirit as this insatiable quest for more and more. This most powerful of all human instincts leads, if we will but lift our eyes, toward the Infinite Love which we do, indeed, 'owe' to ourselves. - Hilary Ottensmeyer, osb

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

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.

Blessed are you, O Lord God, King of the Universe, for you give us food to sustain our lives and make our hearts glad; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Funeral Sermons

Funeral Sermons for
  • Kate Burgess
  • Sven Svensson
  • Don Dorne'
will not be posted here, but I will email you a copy if you would like.

You can find my email here.

Sermon: November 18

We come together each week to share a sacred meal at this table, at this altar. And every week, before we do that, we sit and hear the story of God’s people in the OT and the NT. The Eucharist is always connected to our hearing the words of Holy Scripture. We don’t have one without the other. The Bible or Holy Scripture is central to our faith.

For Anglicans & Episcopalians, since the later 16th Century, and the works of Richard Hooker, we have held a type of middle way between those who believed in interpreting Scripture through the lens of tradition alone, and those who believed in Scripture alone, a pure interpretation that made everything in the Bible about salvation. Our understanding uses tradition and reason to interpret Holy Scripture, not to dilute the meaning, but to have it meaningful for our lives as we live them today. This is the gift that Hooker gave to the Episcopal Church. Its been called a three legged stool, but I like a tricycle as one author mentioned. The front tire is Scripture which directs us with tradition and reason helping us along.

The purpose of our studying Scripture in Church and at home is to help us enter into the story, to get us to connect with God’s people of time past, to enter into the salvation story, and to hear what God is calling us to do with our lives today. I think of WC Fields who was visited on his deathbed by a friend who caught him reading the Bible. “Why are you reading that Bible, WC?” he asked. Fields replied, “Looking for loopholes, looking for loopholes!” We don’t read the Bible looking for loopholes, we don’t read the bible just at the end of our days or the end of the world, we read the bible now because we believe it has something to say about our lives.

One of my favorite collects of our Church Year is the one appointed for this Sunday, “Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.” God caused the bible to be written for our learning. For our faith seeks understanding. And to do that we must hear the Scriptures, we must read them, mark them, learn them, and inwardly digest them. I love that phrase: “inwardly digest them.” To digest something is to have take root inside of us, so we don’t even have to consciously think about it, we just do it. For when we inwardly digest it, I think of the meanings that will play out in all parts of our lives and Scripture will be inside us to guide us.

In Stewardship, our managing of our own resources as gifts to be shared, is also something that can take root inside us of so we don’t just think about it, we just do it. We have recently buried members of this parish who were very generous in giving of their time, talent and treasure to this parish over many years.

One parishioner paid their pledge first, every month, not because they had to, not because they got a call from the Rector, but because it was so much a part of them, they just did it. On our retreat we heard from Amma Sarah living in the desert of Egypt who said, “It is good to give alms for men's sake. Even if it is only done to please men, through it one can begin to seek to please God.” Reminding us even when we take pleasure in giving our alms, giving away our treasure, it can begin to please God. Or I think of St. Aidan who walked the roadways of England exhorting others to do good works, to live as Christ has called them to live and to give alms, to be generous in giving.

All of this is based on Scripture being inside of us, leading us on. I think of William Stringfellow, an Episcopalian and theologian who wrote, “The ordinary Christian, lay or clergy, does not need to be a scholar to have recourse to the Bible, and indeed, to live within the Word of God in the Bible in this world. What the ordinary Christian is called to do is to open the Bible and listen to the Word.”

If the Bible is to have meaning for us, if the salvation story is to become our story, then we must sit and listen to God’s word.

In another church, a parish meeting was called to discuss building a new sanctuary A wealthy and powerful gentleman from the parish arose in protest and suggested re­pairing the present facility. He sat down rather hard, jarring the pew, which shook the side of the build­ing, which shook the wall, which shook the ceiling, which shook loose a piece of plaster, which fell down and hit him on the head. He quickly rose and exclaimed, "This building is in worse shape than I thought. I pledge $20,000 to­ward a new building." A voice from the back murmured, "Hit him again, Lord, hit him again."

We don’t need to be hit in the head to be generous, we just need to remember what Jesus taught that money can be a threat to our well being because we can let it control our lives, or we can see the responsibility we have of giving it away, of helping others not for the sake of praise or feeling good or salvation, but to do it because that is what is asked of us. Our generosity, our giving away, our stewardship of things is connected with our understanding of the Bible and its meaning for us.

Is the Bible some relic that sits dust covered in our home, or is it something we try to read and study? Is Scripture heard on Sunday mornings only, or do you take the time to sit with the Sundays readings during the week (taking the bulletin home), to listen and hear the word of God?

If we study Scripture, if we live it, digest it, and follow where it leads, we will find ourselves in the place of hope & faith & love. No loopholes. No plaster falling from ceilings or lightning either. Holy Scripture can teach us if we are willing to listen, to open ourselves up to the generosity of our God, to hear the stories of old and make them our own and in turn give away our love, our treasure, our hope, so that we are truly the vessels of God. Amen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007



A crucial date for members of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America is the consecration of the first Bishop of the Anglican Communion in the United States. During the colonial era, there had been no Anglican bishops in the New World; and persons seeking to be ordained as clergy had had to travel to England for the purpose. After the achievement of American independence, it was important for the Church in the United States to have its own bishops, and an assembly of Connecticut clergy chose Samuel Seabury to go to England and there seek to be consecrated as a bishop.

However, the English bishops were forbidden by law to consecrate anyone who would not take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. He accordingly turned to the Episcopal Church of Scotland. When the Roman Catholic king James II was deposed in 1688, some of the Anglican clergy (including some who had been imprisoned by James for defying him on religious issues) said that, having sworn allegiance to James as King, they could not during his lifetime swear allegiance to the new monarchs William and Mary. Those who took this position were known as non-Jurors (non-swearers), and they included almost all the bishops and clergy of the Episcopal Church in Scotland. Accordingly, the monarchs and Parliament declared that thenceforth the official church in Scotland should be the Presbyterian Church. The Episcopal Church of Scotland thereafter had no recognition by the government, and for some time operated under serious legal disablities.

However, since it had no connection with the government, it was free to consecrate Seabury without government permission, and it did. This is why you see a Cross of St. Andrew on the Episcopal Church flag. In Aberdeen, 14 November 1784, Samuel Seabury was consecrated to the Episcopate by the Bishop and the Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness. He thus became part of the unbroken chain of bishops that links the Church today with the Church of the Apostles.

In return, he promised them that he would do his best to persuade the American Church to use as its Prayer of Consecration (blessing of the bread and wine at the Lord's Supper) the Scottish prayer, taken largely unchanged from the 1549 Prayer Book, rather than the much shorter one in use in England. The aforesaid prayer, adopted by the American Church with a few modifications, has been widely regarded as one of the greatest treasures of the Church in this country. (
by James Kiefer)

We give you thanks, O Lord our God, for your goodness in bestowing upon this Church the gift of the episcopate, which we celebrate in this remembrance of the consecration of Samuel Seabury; and we pray that, joined together in unity with our bishops, and nourished by your holy Sacraments, we may proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fall Reading

A taste of what's on your Rector's night stand:

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil (Random House, 2007) by Philip Zimbardo.

"In this book, I summarize more than 30 years of research on factors that can create a "perfect storm" which leads good people to engage in evil actions. This transformation of human character is what I call the "Lucifer Effect," named after God's favorite angel, Lucifer, who fell from grace and ultimately became Satan."

An excellent book!

You can get a taste of it here from The Engines of Our Ingenuity on NPR or go to the official website here.

I have just begun...

The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response (HarperCollins, 2004) by Peter Balakian .

Peter Balakian's The Burning Tigris places the story of the Armenian genocide in its larger historical context, which includes the international response and the emergence of a fledgling human rights movement that, two decades later, turned its attention to events in Nazi Germany. Balakian's book also illustrates how quickly the victims of history are pushed aside and forgotten in the greater geopolitical picture. Adolf Hitler, addressing his generals as they prepared to invade Poland in 1939, told them to be as ruthless as Genghis Khan and ominously asked, "Who today ... speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

Read the whole article: "Do-gooder dilemma: the limits of humanitarian intervention" by Victoria Barnett here. (from The Christian Century, August 10, 2004)

Peace Pole

Peace poles are four or six-sided obelisk shaped poles decorated with the message and prayer for peace - “May Peace Prevail On Earth.” The planting of peace poles is an expression of our love for all of God’s children and wish for global peace and harmony. Through the active support of individuals and organizations the world over, peace poles are continuously being planted as an international symbol of peace. There are more than 250,000 Peace Poles in 180 countries all over the world dedicated as monuments to peace. They serve as constant reminders for us to work for and pray for peace.

On this day, November 11, 2007, as we again remember the veterans who nobly fought of old to win peace in our world and for those who continue to fight for peace in our world today, we ask for God’s blessing upon and dedicate this Peace Pole at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Monroe, CT, in loving memory of Jay Sheppard.

Let us pray.

God of all goodness, you have been our refuge from generation to generation. Your will is that peace should shine on all people everywhere. With your spirit, guide the efforts of humankind to bring peace and justice to the nations of the earth, and give strength to rulers and all who work to establish peace and justice in the world.

Inspire those who come together in search of ways to bring about peace, and through your word, change the hearts of all people so that we shall strive for: Peace and not war, the Common good, rather than individual wellbeing, your Justice, instead of our own glory.

You have given us your peace. Enable us to share that peace with those around us, so that love and harmony may be always present in our lives, that all the world may know happiness, that we may live with dignity as brothers and sisters, and that all may rejoice in your presence. May this peace pole be a reminder to us as we call upon your infinite grace, humbly asking you to receive our prayer and make us instruments of your peace. Amen.

Veterans Day


O judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept it disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

You can find "A Veterans Day Reflection” by the Rev. Dr. George Clifford, U.S. Navy Chaplain, Captain (Retired) as well as other resources (prayers, etc.) at the Office of the Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies (The Episcopal Church) here.

A document on Honoring our Veterans (pdf) from Episcopal Life This Week.

Sermon: November 11

Wherever Jesus went, people approached him. Some wanted to hear this rabbi/teacher they had heard about on the streets. Others sought him out to be healed. Some wanted to learn the wisdom of God. And there were those who wanted to test him, question him, see if this is really the messiah like the Sadducees. The Sadducees find Jesus in Jerusalem. They are part of the priestly class, wealthy and aristocratic, they believed that the first five books of Moses, the first five books of our bible are authoritative. They do not believe in resurrection of the dead, or oral tradition, and this often got them into heated debates with the Pharisees (also part of the priestly class).

The Sadducees stand before Jesus in our Gospel reading today, and ask him a question, to see if he can pass their test. Following the law as laid out by Moses, they ask if a widow married her husband's brothers because she was childless and was hoping to produce an heir but fails with all seven brothers, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? Do the Sadducees really care about the woman? No. They want to intimidate Jesus for they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. They were not mourners looking for hope, or believers asking a question. They were here to embarrass this so-called Messiah by trapping him in an important theological question. As Jesus so often does, he understands the question in a deeper way than those who ask the question.

Jesus responds that life on earth and in heaven are different. On Earth, in our relationships with one another, we do indeed get married and are given in marriage. In Jesus time, marriages were arranged through families. Jesus says, in the age to come, if one is, considered worthy of a place there, one does not get married or is given in marriage, there is no need for such arrangements. In the age to come, we are children of the resurrection, children of God. There is no more death, we become like angels in the Kingdom of God. So our existence will be much different and it is a gift from God. Jesus then mentions the story of the burning bush where we hear that our God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God is not a God of the dead but of those who are alive. So Abraham, Isaac & Jacob must be alive to God. They are children of resurrection and have a place in that age to come.

The question about new life, about resurrection, is an old question. "If mortals die, will they live again?" asked Job. Job whose life was idyllic but whose life is turned upside down through calamities, plagues, and tragic death, three friends who judge him and his own feeling of abandonment by God. Job searches for the wisdom of what life will be. Resurrection is about knowledge. The knowledge that death is not an ending, but a transition.

“Death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance.” Said Martin Luther King, Jr.

That transition begins not when our earthly bodies pass away, but when we become children of God, children of resurrection. Jesus did not come to teach us about death, he came to teach us about life and about living our lives not as people who will die, but as a people who are alive, and who will continue to live now and in the age to come. There will be cynics among us, the Sadducees of today (those who write about the God Delusion and such) who will scoff at the idea of something beyond our mortal lives. Prove it they say. What will it be like? Can we be married there?

"The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God." says the Wisdom of Solomon. "In the eyes of the foolish, they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction, but they are at peace." The Sadducees scoffed at such an idea. Jesus in turn points out that our God is a God of the living, whether we are alive on earth or in the age to come. We like the disciples and others gather around Jesus in Jerusalem to see this questioning take place. He answers the Sadducees and we are amazed, but if we leave it at that, then we have missed the teaching of Jesus.

The God who created life, the same God who created the institution of marriage, is the same God who provides new life after death to those who accept God's gracious gift. Our worthiness is how we accept that gift and live it in our lives. Living as children of the resurrection is about living with hope and without fear - physical or emotional. We are called to live without fear because as Christians we are given that gift of knowledge of the resurrection. The knowledge that our Lord & Savior overcame death for us - so that we can be free - free to live our lives as God want us to live - with hope and without fear.

Job knows that hope. From our reading today, Job says, "I know my Redeemer lives, and that at last he will stand upon earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another." In Job's words, we find hope and comfort. We feel a connection to our redeemer, our Jesus. Even Job understood that in the end, when all is gone, he shall see God. Job wants vindication for all that he suffered. Job wants to know that there is meaning in his life, even at the worst of moments, in plague, in death. And in his words, is the voice of hope.

This reading from Job is used at funerals for it connects with our hopeful longing for redemption and for the resurrection. This hope, the knowledge of resurrection is not just for those who have died, because Kate Brugess, Sven Svensson and Don Dorne (and all our loved ones) already taste that redemption through the resurrection in their new lives.

It is for us today. The resurrection is not just about what happens when we die a physical death - it is about how we live our lives today ~ wounded, yes, broken, sometimes, but because we already have knowledge of the resurrection, and in our hope, we are able to heal, and can do the work we are given to do because we know, we have that gift of eternal life - and that life begins now. I know my own dad lives in the resurrection after his death 10 years ago but even more so, I know my mother does, for I have watched her life go from the terrible pain of losing a spouse, to the full blossom of a life that she leads today. I have experienced it in my own life too. In fact, we all have in big and little ways. There is new life. There is hope. Our own Sadducees may deny it or refute it. But there my hope lies, in our God, the God of the living, for to God all of us are alive. So let us accept that gift of resurrection and be alive today. Amen.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Thought for the Day on Humility

"Avoid being bashful with God, as some people are, in the belief that they are being humble. It would not be humility on your part if the King were to do you a favor and you refused to accept it; but you would be showing humility by taking it, and being pleased with it, yet realizing how far you are from deserving it. A fine humility it would be if I had the Emperor of Heaven and earth in my house, coming to it to do me a favor and to delight in my company, and I were so humble that I would not answer His questions, nor remain with Him, nor accept what He gave me, but left Him alone. Or if He were to speak to me and beg me to ask for what I wanted, and I were so humble that I preferred to remain poor and even let Him go away, so that He would see I had not sufficient resolution.

Have nothing to do with that kind of humility."

St. Teresa of Avila
"Way of Perfection"

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Go Vote! - Yes You!

Today is Election Day in the U.S.A!

Don't forget to vote!

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States and of this community of Monroe 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.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sermon: All Saints' Sunday

“A Christian is not a [person] who never goes wrong, but a [person] who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble—because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death that Christ Himself carried out.” These words written by CS Lewis in his wonderful book, “Mere Christianity,” remind us of the truth that Christians, like every human being, make mistakes.

But because the Spirit of God is inside us, given to us to live out that Christ life from baptism, we can always pick ourselves up, repent and begin again… We can always do that, there is always the possibility of life anew. In the midst of our struggles, it is God who helps repair us, enabling us to do Christ’s ministry in the world. In many ways, CS Lewis is talking about holiness that is part of the Christian life, the ability to pick up and start again by the grace of God.

A temptation that confronts us on this day of All Saints, is to put the saints in a box and believe they are the holy ones, not you and me, they got it all right, they are the heroes of the faith. And we can leave the virtuous or the holy life for them while we live our ordinary lives. But the saints can’t be put into a box, and yes they are in one sense heroes of the faith for the actions that we remember them for, but just like us, they screwed up, they ran away, they failed to commend the faith that was in them, they made mistakes.

Francis of Assisi sought glory in battle. Teresa of Avila, after her mother’s death, sought comfort in world’s pleasures and materials. William Wilberforce lived well with his wealth enjoying gambling, singing, and the life of an upper class politician in England. Thomas Becket was trained in law and was also an ordained deacon and as chancellor of England under Henry II helped him politically against the Church.

And all of these people changed their ways, began anew and we remember them today as saints because of their actions after they repented and started again.

“In truth all human beings are called to be saints, but that just means called to be fully human, to be perfect – that is whole, mature, fulfilled. The saints are simply those men and women who relish the event of life as a gift and who realize that the only way to honor such a gift is to give it away.” These words written by William Stringfellow in 1966 remind us that indeed we are called to be saints too, to be fully human, living our lives as a gift. And those saints we remember and those whose deeds are forgotten but whom God honors, we can find that they made mistakes, but they lived their lives as gift, being fully human and following Jesus.

But how do we approach All Saints? How do we understand ourselves becoming saints on the path God has called us to follow?

The words of the Prophet Micah come to mind… What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Elizabeth of Hungary, daughter of the King of Hungary, born in 1207, lived the life of the daughter of a king, she married a noble, raised children, lived a life of royalty but she would not forget those in need in the realm, taking from the treasury to help those in need or sickness, even helping to found hospitals when the plagues came. She acted justly.

Bishop Nicholas of Myra was known for his outreach to the sailors who entered the port of Myra and for caring for the children of the city & countryside; he often brought gifts, clothing, blankets to the children and their families (to the sailors too); he loved all those who he came into contact with and to this day his name St. Nick, is one of the most revered saints of the church, ask any child. He acted with kindness.

Aidan was a gentle monk who lived off the coast of England in Lindisfarne, would help re-establish Christianity in England in the 7th Century. He was known for his walking the countryside engaging both rich & poor, and as one historian put it “he invited them, if pagans, to embrace the mystery of the faith; or if they were believers, to strengthen them in their faith and stir them up by words and actions to alms and good works.” He walked humbly with God.

Each of these saints of the Church followed the Lord in their age, in their context, reaching out as they followed Jesus. To follow the saints, is not about carrying out great penitential acts to show our unworthiness nor is it refraining from all the enjoyment that life can bring. Rather, as one writer put it, it “can be seen in hands ready for acts of justice, hearts overflowing with tender compassion, and heads bowed in humble acknowledgment of who we are before God.” (Penelope Mark-Stuart)

And it may be as simple as recognizing the Christ who is in our midst, given to us at our Baptism, who awaits our notice, our love, prayers and guidance…

Even someone like CS Lewis, who gave us that great quote, who has given us such great literature, he left the Anglican faith he was raised with in his adolescent years but throughout his long academic and scholarly career began an inner search that led him from atheism to agnosticism to theism and finally back to faith in Jesus Christ. With that in mind let us hear that quote from him again…

“A Christian is not a [person] who never goes wrong, but a [person] who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble—because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death that Christ Himself carried out.”

He understood intimately in his own life the words he wrote: that you can start again and that it is God who repairs us. And so it is for you and me, and for all the saints of ages past and yet to come. Pray that on this day, we might have the faith, the courage, the understanding to continually repent and pick ourselves up and follow Christ anew, and remember those blessed saints for their virtuous and godly living and for picking themselves up by God’s grace, that we too may come to those ineffable joys that God has prepared for all God’s people. Amen.