Monday, April 30, 2007

Wisdom for Today

There is a widely accepted misconception among us that when one becomes involved in work at home or in business, immediate­ly one steps out of the godly realm and away from God-pleasing activities. From this idea, it follows that once the desire to strive toward God germinates, and talk turns toward the spiritual life, then the idea inevitably surfaces: one must run from society, from the home - to the wilderness, to the forest.

Both premises are erroneous!

Homes and communities depend on concerns of daily life and society. These concerns are God-appointed obligations; fulfilling them is not a step toward the ungodly, but is a walking in the way of the Lord.

Theophan the Recluse

from the book "The Monastic Way: Ancient Wisdom for Contemporary Living"

Sermon: 4th Sunday of Easter

This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday…

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” Our beautiful stained glass window shows Jesus holding a sheep and the rest following him, they hear his voice and they follow him…

Those who are baptized here are given a sheep at their baptism, reminding them and us that we each are added to his flock…

At the next service, I will tell the Children the story of the Good Shepherd through our Godly Play Curriculum, where it is called the Good Shepherd and World Communion… The words tell us a delightful story:

“There was once someone who did such wonderful things and said such amazing things that people wondered who he was. Finally they couldn’t help it. They had to ask him who he was.” When they finally asked him, he said, “I am the good shepherd.” “I know each one of the sheep by name and they know the sound of my voice.” “When I take the sheep from the sheepfold, they follow me.” “I walk in front of the sheep to show them the way.” “I show them the way to the good grass.”

“This is the table of the Good Shepherd (the altar).” “Here is the bread and the wine of the Good Shepard. Sometimes it seems like we need to have a something on the table to remind us that this is the table of the Good Shepherd, but the Good Shepherd is in the bread and the wine, so we don’t really need anything to remind us.” “Sometimes someone comes to read the very words of the Good Shepherd, and to give us the bread and wine.” “Sometimes the people of the world come to this table and even the children come.”

(words are from Lesson 11, Volume 4 of the Complete Guide to Godly Play)

And the world shares communion with their creator through Jesus, the Good Shepherd. But as I consider the Good Shepherd, I also think of his love toward others, toward his sheep. I think of Christopher Marlowe’s pastoral poem, “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love” from 400 years ago and what it might say to us…

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
by Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields
Woods or steepy mountain yields

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flower, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs;
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

And I think of Jesus leading his sheep, and I hear the voice of the passionate shepherd calling our souls to come follow and be loved. It is Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, who calls to all of us this day, calls our souls, our bodies, all of us, to be amongst his sheep, to feast at this altar, to live with him and be his love. May we when we hear his voice, know it is the Good Shepherd who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads. Amen.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Water for Sudan

During my Good Friday sermon, I preached:

When Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said, "I am thirsty." Thirst is something we all experience. I think of a long summer day, we want something to quench our thirst.

In Jesus own life, we have seen him perform his first miracle in Cana., turning water into wine, helping to quench the thirst at a wedding party, we have seen him ask for a drink after a day’s journey from a Samaritan woman at the well, and of course, at the last supper he takes, blesses, brakes and gives both bread and wine and reminds the disciples to do this in remembrance of him.

But in Jesus’ words at the cross, “I am thirsty” it reminds us of his humanness, his pain and suffering that he experienced after a night of beatings, mockery and now upon the cross, he is suffering and with his parched mouth, he utters his dying words and they are for us: “I am thirsty.”

As Peter Gomes wrote, “to state’s one’s thirst is to invite someone to quench it. Suddenly, we are no longer mere bystanders, voyeurs, kibitzers. We are invited, by implication and sympathy, into the narrative. If we are looking for a place of resonance, of response, this is it. Jesus does not do his kingly death scene in silence or alone. We are now invited in.”

Jesus’ pain was real and so too his thirst. When I am thirsty, I can open the refrigerator or turn on the faucet, I don’t really know thirst. When I think of others in our world, like Africa for instance, so many there among the poorest of the poor are emaciated, lacking the proper nourishment, lacking the clean water that keeps us alive.

Salva Dut, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, fled for his life from Sudan in 1991 at 11 years old, eventually coming to this country in 1996 with the help of St. Paul’s Church, Rochester, NY. In January 2002, Salva learned that his father was very sick and sensing that this could be his last opportunity to see his father, Salva returned to Sudan for the first time in 11 years. Salva discovered that his father was suffering from worms from unclean water, and a hernia from carrying heavy jugs of unclean water many miles each day. After his father’s operation, his father was told not to drink unclean water if he wanted to live. They had to move his father about a hundred miles away so he could find clean water. Salva, too, became infected with water-borne parasites during his trip to Sudan.

The trip opened his eyes wide to the terrible truth of everyday life for the people of southern Sudan and he said he wanted to do something to help his father and his friends. So Salva formed a charitable organization in 2005, Water for Sudan, to enable him to drill wells and provide clean, fresh water in his homeland. The past two dry seasons, he has put in 7 wells, trained the villagers to maintain the wells and has brought clean water to 26,000 Sudanese.

Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” Much like Salva’s brothers and sisters in the Sudan. And Salva responded to the need. “I am thirsty.” Those words are spoken every minute of every day on our planet.

As the Rev. Grover Zinn put it. “'I am thirsty'--words from the Cross; words heard in the midst of drought stricken lands, in the poverty of inner cities, in the midst of wars. I am thirsty--words of spiritual emptiness heard in urban centers, in green groves and on barren plains. Perhaps our greatest challenge is to find the deep wells of physical and spiritual nourishment that will slake the thirst of a wounded and weary world.”

As we stand beneath the cross on this Good Friday, and remember the sacrifice that our Savior made on behalf of the world, let us hear his words, I am thirsty and know that we are invited to quench his thirst in our world today.

You can learn more about him in an Episcopal Life article here. You can find info on Water for Sudan and how to make a donation here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Africa Malaria Day 2007 (Episcopal Relief & Development)

Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) commemorates Africa Malaria Day 2007, April 25. The theme for this year, created by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, is "Leadership and Partnership for Results." It is also the first Malaria Awareness Day in the United States.

ERD is committed to combating this deadly disease through the NetsforLife malaria prevention program, which aims to distribute one million long-lasting insecticide-treated nets and educate three to four million people in 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The program teaches people about the disease through community health education and awareness programs. NetsforLife is a partnership of private donors, churches and corporations including Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, Standard Chartered Bank, the Exxon Mobil Foundation and the Starr Foundation.

To date, the program has trained more than 2,000 community malaria agents and distributed more than 210,000 long-lasting insecticide-treated nets in countries including Zambia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. NetsforLife addresses Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) #1, 4, 5, 6 and 8.

Read the entire article here.

Go to Episcopal Relief and Development here.

Go to Nets for life here.

Study: Religion is Good for Kids

Kids with religious parents are better behaved and adjusted than other children, according to a new study that is the first to look at the effects of religion on young child development.

The conflict that arises when parents regularly argue over their faith at home, however, has the opposite effect.

John Bartkowski, a Mississippi State University sociologist and his colleagues asked the parents and teachers of more than 16,000 kids, most of them first-graders, to rate how much self control they believed the kids had, how often they exhibited poor or unhappy behavior and how well they respected and worked with their peers.

The researchers compared these scores to how frequently the children’s parents said they attended worship services, talked about religion with their child and argued abut religion in the home.

Read the entire story here.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sermon: 3rd Sunday of Easter

We just want things to return to normal…
-it happened after 9/11
-it happened after the tragedy at VA Tech
-even in the midst of mourning, there is a need to return to some type of normalcy in our lives…
-the disciples experienced that after the death of Jesus, they went fishing, they returned to what they had always done, how they made a living…

Jesus shakes all that up in the resurrection…
-giving them an abundance of fish
-and they recognize him
-and again they share a meal with Jesus

Others didn’t recognize him until they had a conversion experience…
-think of Paul -> Saul, persecutor of Christians
-he did not know Jesus when he was alive.
-he only saw the threat of his followers, those who believed in Jesus.
-he was determined to stamp it out! A violent man…
-conversion on the road to Damascus…
-risen Christ who calls him.
-he is made blind, like the blindness he had to Jesus before his conversion
-Annanias: is sent, he protests, but God assures him, and he ministered to him, in Jesus name, and his sight returned, he was baptized and ate and regained his strength. He became a changed man because of his experience…

Sadly, Seung-Hui Cho, the VA Tech gunman will never have such an experience as Saul, and turn away from the violence and evil that overtook him…

But as one author put it about Saul, “The light on the road and the voice that spoke out of the light stopped Saul cold, but his transformation is taken the next step by the ministrations of Ananias as a representative of the believing community in Damascus. The insight that Saul claims in the last verse of the passage, that Jesus is the Son of God, is not a private matter between him and Jesus: "It took a community." And a man of violence is then transformed into a missionary for God..” (Mary Schertz)

And this does happen today, good is brought out of evil and people are transformed by their encounters with God, even in prison…

James Tramel was 17 years old in 1985 and was part of a so-called thrill killing of a homeless man in SF. He was sentenced to 15 years to life for second-degree murder, even though he did not actually commit the murder. During his years in prison, Tramel would earn an undergraduate business degree in prison before applying in 1997 to study for a master's degree in theology from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley…

I remember his application coming into the registrar’s office, as I was helping there before graduation from CDSP. He was ordained while in prison, having finished his studies and he has shown deep remorse and proved his faith and was paroled last year… One person couldn’t imagine a clergyman who had a role in committing murder, "I cannot imagine any church having him," she said. "As Christians, we have to welcome him, but I can't see him in a leadership role."
And yet, Jesus is not done with him or any of us yet, and like Paul being transformed from his violent self into a man of God, James Trammel has likewise been transformed from his old self, touched by God in prison, reformed his life into a priest and now is preaching the Good News, of one who was saved by the grace of God…one who was lost but now is found, was blind but now sees…

And on this earth day, as we consider God’s creation and our part in it, I am reminded that God still moves things from evil to good, from useless to useful…

A drug that was introduced in the 1950s to help pregnant women with morning sickness which was not properly tested for safety among pregnant women called Thalidomide, caused over 10,000 birth defects worldwide and the drug was shelved. But Thalidomide is back because it has been found useful in some specific treatments with a certain cancer and with a painful skin infection associated with Leprosy and is being investigated to see if it can help with certain diseases associated with AIDS.

And God brings life out of death, good out of evil and through the resurrection of Jesus, God has given to us new life… We gather, we share a meal here at communion, and our eyes are opened to see God at work about us, even in the midst of tragedy and violence, God is at work in you and me, transforming what is dead, what is evil, into what is life and what is good for us and for our neighbors…

Let us celebrate that in our midst, in our Eastertide Jesus walks with us still. That wherever we find ourselves, Jesus will be with us and he asks us to do his ministry in the world now, a world full of hurt looking for that new life. Let us pray using the words of the Collect of the Day...

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Prayers for VA Tech

Loving God, Jesus gathered your little ones in his arms and blessed them. Have pity on those who mourn for all those killed at VA Tech yesterday, innocents slaughtered by the violence of our fallen world. Be with us as we struggle with the mysteries of life and death; in our pain, bring your comfort, and in our sorrow, bring your hope and your promise of new life, in the name of Jesus our Savior. Amen.

May their souls, and the souls of all the departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

An Episcopalian blogger has added links on his site to morning and evening Offices of the Dead, which can be found here.

Episcopal Campus ministry reaches out in response to campus shooting (ENS)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Noah's Ark Watch


Flood Warnings are up!

So we are in a Noah's Ark Watch.


There have been no sightings as of yet...

Sermon: 2nd Sunday in Easter

"The doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked in fear and Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord." The disciples were gathered together for the first time according to the Gospel of John, after they had dispersed, ran away after the arrest of Jesus.

Now they were locked in a room, in fear of being captured by the Roman & Jewish Authorities. And Jesus comes to them in Peace. And when they understand it is Jesus before them, they rejoice, their fear is relieved, and they begin to understand that they have only started their journey as his disciples. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them… Its not enough to be locked into the room together and believe, No. Jesus sends them out in peace with the Holy Spirit…

It reminds me of an earlier episode when Jesus was talking with the 12 disciples who were frightened and he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” The Peace of Christ, unlike the peace of the world, is given to us, to strengthen our resolve even when the world goes to hell in hand basket all around us. The peace beyond our understanding is given to us in love.

As the author and pastor Frederick Buechner put it, “for Jesus, peace seems to have meant not the absence of struggle, but the presence of love.” There will be struggle, but in the midst of it, is the peace and love which Christ offers to us… But as Julian or Norwich reminds us, Peace and love are always alive in us, but we are not always alive to peace and love.

Today, the Jewish people around the world are remembering the days when many Jewish people had locked their doors, hidden themselves away, in fear of being captured by the Nazis and sent to places like Bukenwald or Dachau, or worse yet Treblinka and Auschwitz. Today is Yom HaShoah, the Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust of WW II. As someone of German and Polish descent, I look back at the Nazi regime and the Holocaust with great sadness, and also because there was a Professor Kurt Huber in Germany who stood up to the Nazis and was executed for his resistance (part of the White Rose).

Something as big as the Holocaust can cause us to look away, to miss that even in the midst of such tragedy, hope and peace and love still existed, God was still at work in this world when evil tried to destroy the Jewish people… On this day of remembering, let me offer three stories I believe touch on that peace that comes from above…(stories are from the book "Small Miracles")

(1) Rabbi Shapira from a Polish Village
-always greated everyone, kind, loving…
-even Herr Mueller, silent farmer
-day after day, “Good Morning Herr Mueller”
-one day, he replied, Good Morning herr Rabiner.
-the pleasantries and respect, every day until the Nazis came, all changed
-all the Jews were shipped off
-Rabbi went to Auschwitz
-soldier putting the people into two lines: one for death, one was life
- Good Morning Herr Mueller
- Good Morning herr Rabiner
- sent to the line, to life

(2) Young boy in a concentration camp, a young girl across the fence, tosses an apple to him -happens for days until he is shipped off to a new camp
-but the memory of the young girl and the apple gave him hope even on the worst of days -after the war, they meet again on a blind date and learned about each other and were married -on Oprah Winfrey in 1996, their story was told…

(3) A rescuer, (righteous gentile) “Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who helped thousands of Jews leave the Soviet Union while serving as the consul of the Empire of Japan to Lithuania; Sugihara continued to hand-write visas (reportedly spending 18–20 hours a day on them, producing a normal month's worth of visas each day) until September 4, when he had to leave his post before the consulate was closed. When asked why he risked his career to save other people, he quoted an old samurai saying, ‘Even a hunter cannot kill a bird which flies to him for refuge.’” (from Wikipedia)

In Sugihara’s honor, Israeli Officials planted a grove of cedar trees as one of the rescuers in WW II. Later they learned his name means, cedar grove in Japanese.

We remember because, we live in hope, we remember so that we do not have new holocausts before us, we remember because we live in that peace, love and hope that God has given to us in Christ. We stand as witnesses to the dead and the living today…

From Tomorrow On (By Motele – a young boy in the Warsaw Ghetto)

From tomorrow on, I shall be sad---
From tomorrow on!
not today. What is the use of sadness---tell me that?---
Because these evil winds begin to blow?
Why should I grieve for tomorrow---today?
Tomorrow may be so good, so sunny, Tomorrow the sun may shine for us again:
We shall no longer need to be sad. From tomorrow on, I shall be sad---
From tomorrow on!
Not today: no! Today I will be glad.
And every day, no matter how bitter it be,
I will say:
From tomorrow on, I shall be sad,
Not today!

And for us, Jesus comes into our lives, the fear that holds us back, the doors we have barred shut, Jesus gives us his peace, and sends us out, and all that fear, all those doors are thrown open in peace and love… What will we do? – We will remember… Peace Pole!

To date, more than 200,000 Peace Poles have been dedicated in over 190 countries around the world. Peace Poles can be found in town squares, city halls, schools, places of worship, parks, and gardens - any place where the spirit of peace is embraced by people of good will.

“O God, make us children of quietness and heirs of peace.” – St. Clement of Rome

A Prayer attributed to St. Francis (BCP p. 833)

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Yom HaShoah (Remembering the Holocaust)

In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom Hashoah.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is a day that has been set aside for remembering the victims of the Holocaust and for reminding Americans of what can happen to civilized people when bigotry, hatred and indifference reign. The United States Holocaust Memorial Council, created by act of Congress in 1980, was mandated to lead the nation in civic commemorations and to encourage appropriate Remembrance observances throughout the country.

Learn more here.

"First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me." — Martin Niemoeller

An interesting article, "The Holocaust’s Lessons for the Church" can be read here.

Other groups were also persecuted and killed by the Nazi regime, including some 220,000 Sinti and Roma (see Porajmos), as well as the disabled, homosexuals, Communists and other political prisoners, Jehovah's Witnesses, Polish citizens, and Soviet POWs (Ukrainians, Russians and Byelorussians). Many scholars do not include these groups in the scope of the Holocaust, defining it as the genocide of European Jewry, or what the Nazis called the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" ("Die Endlösung der Judenfrage"). Taking into account all of the victims of Nazi persecution, the death toll rises considerably: estimates generally place the total number of victims at 9 to 11 million. (from Wikipedia)

What can you do today? Respond to the threats of Genocide and speak out. Look here.

Jackie Robinson Day "42"

Jackie Robinson burst onto the scene in 1947, breaking baseball's color barrier and bringing the Negro leagues' electrifying style of play to the majors. He quickly became baseball's top drawing card and a symbol of hope to millions of Americans. With Robinson as the catalyst, the Dodgers won six pennants in his 10 seasons. He dominated games on the base paths, stealing home 19 times while riling opposing pitchers with his daring baserunning style. Robinson was named National League MVP in 1949, leading the loop in hitting (.342) and steals (37), while knocking in 124 runs. (from the Baseball Hall of Fame)

Quotes from Jackie Robinson :

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."

"I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being."

"Life is not a spectator sport. If you're going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you're wasting your life."

Find out the impact of his life here: National Baseball Hall of Fame, and the NY Times.

An interesting op-ed called "Breaking the Truth Barrier" can be found here in the NY Times.

On a related topic:

What is the Episcopal Church doing about anti-racism? Look here.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Ecclesiastical charges dropped

An elected Episcopal Church review committee has decided to drop all charges brought against Bishop Andrew D. Smith by the rectors and vestries of six parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut.

Find out more here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wisdom for Today

"The spiritual life is not a specialized part of daily life. Every­thing you do in the day, from washing to eating breakfast, having meetings, driving to work, solving problems, making more prob­lems for yourself once you have solved them, watching television or deciding instead to read, going to a restaurant or a movie or going to church, everything you do is your spiritual life. It is only a matter of how consciously you do these ordinary things, how attentive you are to the opportunities they offer for growth, for enjoyment, and how mindfully, how selflessly, how compassion­ately you perform them."

Laurence Freeman, osb

from the book "The Monastic Way: Ancient Wisdom for Contemporary Living"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Religious Literacy

"U.S. citizens know almost nothing about the Bible. Although most regard it as the word of God, few read it anymore. Even evangelicals from the Bible Belt seem more focused on loving Jesus than on learning what he had to say.

In a religious literacy quiz I have administered to undergraduates for the last two years, students tell me that Moses was blinded on the road to Damascus and that Paul led the Israelites on their exodus out of Egypt. Surveys that are more scientific have found that only one out of three U.S. citizens is able to name the four Gospels, and one out of 10 think that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. No wonder pollster George Gallup has concluded that the United States is "a nation of biblical illiterates."

Biblical illiteracy is not just a religious problem. It is a civic problem with political consequences. How can citizens participate in biblically inflected debates on abortion, capital punishment or the environment without knowing something about the Bible?" (Stephen Prothero is chairman of the religion department at Boston University and the author of "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- and Doesn't.")

Find his book at

Take his test at

Learn more at his website here.

Easter Sermon

Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. An idle tale, they thought…

Another version said, “it all seemed to the men like so much female chatter, and they wouldn’t believe them.” The women are the 1st witnesses to the resurrection. He is alive! And they go to tell the other disciples… Nonsense… Idle tale… Female Chatter…

But the women disciples remembered the words of Jesus and were ready for Easter, ready for the resurrection. The 11 disciples were not. They were stuck on Good Friday in grief and mourning. They probably were still feeling ashamed for abandoning Jesus…

Those faithful women had walked with Jesus to Jerusalem, were there on the road putting down palms and garments, shouting hosanna as Jesus rode by on a donkey, they were there to celebrate the Passover with Jesus, they agonized as they watched him beaten, condemned and crucified on a cross… The women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance as he died on that cross, watching these things.

But there at the tomb they were confronted with a new reality. Outrageous. Nonsense. The stone was rolled away… They did not find the body. Suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them and said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you…” And they remembered…

But even as the 11 had trouble with this, Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened… And the word began to spread, it couldn’t be contained. That idle tale was Good News, he is alive!

As one writer put it, “Why do you look for the living among the dead is the question for Easter morning. Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen. It's not over. It's only begun. Don't think you can come here and hide. Go into the streets and look for him. Go to the prisons and soup kitchens. Go to the ghettos and hamlets. Go home to your families. He is there among your spouses and children, your coworkers and friends, your classmates and teammates. In other words, beat it! The best part of the story is ahead of you.” (Garrett Keizer in The Christian Century)

In Jesus’ final moments, only the women disciples were left. The women would be witnesses to the Cross, to the empty tomb and the Resurrection. And they go out from those angels, telling the others that he is alive and indeed the best part was still to come, experiences of the resurrected Christ and the beginning of their new journey…

It didn’t end on Good Friday, it just began on Easter and the women helped the other disciples get there. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “To live the Christian life means being human by virtue of the incarnation, that is God born for us in Jesus, Christian life means being judged and granted mercy by virtue of the cross, Christian life means to live a new life by virtue of the resurrection. One is not without the other.”

Our journey goes from Christmas, to Good Friday, to Easter and beyond. The road to Easter is a journey with no short cut. We must travel from a glorious birth, through his ministry and finally through the suffering and the cross. It is a journey that takes us through the best of times and the worst of times leaving us before the cross and the tomb. But, our God is faithful and the journey never ends on Good Friday, we can’t get stuck there!

Because God shows us the best of times with Jesus’ resurrection and with our own empty tombs, resurrected lives, for he bring us salvation. It is Easter and God wants us to join those women and the disciples and celebrate that Christ is risen! Today we are the witnesses of the resurrection. We like Mary Magdalene and Peter and the other disciples, tell about our experiences of God and spread the Good News.

We are witnesses, like Mary and the other women to the surprising and amazing event of Easter. God still surprises us today because through suffering, new life and hope can be born in us, if we are faithful and are willing to bear witness to the cross of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter. Mary was transformed and so to we can be if we remember the words of Jesus and believe them…

Today we begin our journey anew, not with some idle tale, but with life, for we speak of the Good News of Jesus, of a tomb that was empty, of his resurrection, and God’s saving grace. How wonderful Easter is! Alleluia! Christ is risen. Amen.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Maundy Thursday

MAUNDY THURSDAY by Barbara Crafton -

On this night of Jesus' last supper with his friends, he instituted what we would come to call the Holy Eucharist and also washed the disciples' feet, as if he were not their master, but their servant. These things, he said, were dramatic examples of a new commandment, that we should love one another as he has loved us. Unstinting. Self-giving.

(read the rest of this reflection here...)

New life out of death: a message for Easter

By our PB, Katharine Jefferts Schori

I write at the close of our recent House of Bishops meeting. On the way from the airport to the meeting, we saw a few wildflowers, of one or two varieties. They stood out from the grass, just beginning to turn to the green lushness of spring. During the week we met in Texas, the trees went from mere hints of green in the topmost branches to having leaves unfolding on all their branches. And on the way back to the airport a week later, the riot of wildflowers was astounding. The new life of resurrection can be just as surreptitious -- we look and things seem quite dead, we look away, and when our focus returns, we discover that God has been at work making all things new. Anyone who has grieved the death of a loved one will recognize the pattern. Those who experience the loss involved in moving away from a beloved community will know it as well. As this Lent draws to a close, take a careful look at your life. Where has God been at work during this fast? What new life can you discern?

For my own part, I will celebrate the new life that has been growing hidden in the lives of leaders in this church. We are blessed with leaders, lay and ordained, who are increasingly aware of their God-given ministries to lead this people into fuller participation in God's mission of healing the world. I celebrate the work of God expressed in the gathering of Anglican women at the United Nations in late February and early March, who were able to say to the world that attention to mission is what unites us as a Communion. I celebrate the gathering of people from all across the world in South Africa, at the TEAM (Towards Effective Anglican Mission) conference, to build stronger partnerships for doing that healing work, especially around AIDS and HIV. I celebrate the gracious way in which the bishops of this Church engaged each other in discussing challenging and difficult matters in the meeting just past, and affirmed the focus of this Church on mission. I celebrate the many, many healthy and vital congregations of this Church, engaged in God's mission of healing the world. The Executive Council joined in worship at one, St. Michael and All Angels, in Portland, Oregon, recently, and saw passionate engagement in children's ministry, the work Episcopal Relief and Development, abundant outreach in the community, and a lively life of worship.

Among my mail when I returned to the office was a generous check from a congregation in North Carolina. Members there had read about a fire in the Bronx that had killed several members of an immigrant family from Mali, and left others injured and homeless. Somehow the news of their suffering had reached across the mountains and plains to touch the hearts of people of St. James in Wilmington, and they responded. A new heart of flesh is growing in countless places across this Church.

Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

-- The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori is Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Opening Day...

A few thoughts...

"I can't believe they pay us to play baseball - something we did for free as kids." - Sparky Anderson

"You give us the pitching some of these clubs have and no one could touch us, but God has a way of not arranging that, because it's not as much fun." -Sparky Anderson

"I repeat what I said when I started out — that I have no axe to grind, that I'm not asking anybody for anything. It's all water over the dam as far as I am concerned. I can say that my conscience is clear and that I'll stand on my record in that World Series. I'm not what you call a good Christian, but I believe in the Good Book, particularly where it says "what you sow, so shall you reap." I have asked the Lord for guidance before, and I am sure He gave it to me. I'm willing to let the Lord be my judge." -Shoeless Joe Jackson

"A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it's home or on the road." -Yogi Berra

PLAY BALL! Go Tigers!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Sermon: Palm Sunday

When Jesus comes to Jerusalem for the last time, I often think of his humility as he enters that holy city, he rides no great steed, no war horse, he’s not carried in by the people, but he rides a colt, a foal of a donkey. And I think of the poem written by G.K. Chesterton, called THE DONKEY

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

I love that poem because in the donkey’s perspective even as the donkey is derided, the devil’s walking parody, the donkey recognizes that he had that one great hour, a shout about the donkey’s ears with palms at the donkey’s feet… The donkey was carrying Jesus and the people came and shouted Hosanna, they laid palm branches and garments along the path, hailing his coming to Jerusalem, welcoming him in grand fashion.

You get a sense of the love the people had for Jesus and how the crowd was around him; but there was also others watching Jesus, those who feared his arrival. Some among the Jewish leadership were not convinced that Jesus was the messiah, some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop as he entered Jerusalem." Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out." The same Jesus who challenged authority in the villages, by the sea, out in the highways and byways had now come to Jerusalem.

It was not time to back down, even the stones would shout out… Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!"

But the Pharisees were not the only ones there… For in that same week, there was another grand procession. This one began at the Governor’s capital of Caesarea on the coast. Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, and a imperial cavalry had come to Jerusalem to reinforce the troops there. Pilate who oversaw Jerusalem and all of Israel for the Roman Empire, was there to make sure there was no trouble during the Jewish Passover. The entrance procession of Jesus into Jerusalem with shouts from the people of blessed is the king, would have roused the Roman interest.

The next day when Jesus threw the merchants out of the Temple, he would not only have angered the Jewish authorities who were looking for a way to arrest him, but also the Romans, who would want to quell the disturbance created by Jesus and his disciples. Jesus understood that through his actions, and the actions of his disciples and the crowd that he was confronting power and authority in a way that would change the world but also lead to his death…

As William Stringfellow wrote, “The real witness of Palm Sunday is not the parade or what the disciples or secular authorities saw; it is the encounter between Christ and the power of death.”

By Jesus own actions, it put him in the sights of the empire that would destroy anyone who would not live by their Pax Romana. Jesus confronted the power of death in the occupying imperial empire of Rome As two authors put it, “The contrast is clear: Jesus versus Pilate, the nonviolence of the kingdom of God versus the violence of empire. Two arrivals, two entrances, two processions—and our Christian Lent is about repentance for being in the wrong one and preparation to abandon it for its alternative.” (Marcus Borg & John Dominic Crossan)

When Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him, it is a call to follow him not only in the triumphant entrance to Jeruslaem, but throughout Holy Week from celebration, to betrayal, to abandonment, to the cross…

We are called to follow the one who came in the name of love and peace, who rode humbly on a donkey, who threw out the merchants so God’s house could be a house of prayer for all people. The one who confronted death with his life. We are challenged to repent of our allegiance to the way of prosperity and power and to once again follow the way of the cross. To shout out with the crowd and those stones: Hosanna! Blessed is the king!

Let me end with a poem by Boris Pasternak called "The Evil Days", the author famous for Doctor Zhivago, who talks about holy week and helps us place ourselves there…

Not more than a week had passed
Since Jesus rode into the city,
And palm fronds were strewn in His path,
Hosannas resounded in greeting.

Yet each day brought new gloom and fresh menace.
Hearts untouched by love were unmelted,
And eyebrows were clenched in contempt,
And then came the postlude, the ending…

And the yards of the town were oppressed
By skies filled with leaden foreboding,
While Pharisees sought for their proofs
And fawned like vixen before Him.

And sinister powers of the temple
Deferred to the judgment of scoundrels,
And now He was damned with a fervor
No less than the praise that resounded.

And there, in the neighboring gateway,
A throng of spectators now crowded,
And they heaved and surged back and forth
And jostled, awaiting the outcome.

And whispers passed down the streets
And rumors invaded the precincts,
And His childhood now seemed like some dream -
All those tales of His flight into Egypt…

He remembered the grand elevation
Of the desert [wilderness scarp] and the mountain
Where He quelled the satanic temptation
And renounced earthly might and a kingdom.

And the feast at a wedding in Cana,
Where the throng was amazed by that wonder,
And the time when, in mist, as though walking
On land, He had trodden the waters.

And the hovel where paupers were gathered,
And the candle-lit stairs He descended,
When the flame in its fright was extinguished
As the dead one was now resurrected. Amen.