Tuesday, June 26, 2007

When Preaching Flops (from NY Times)

When Preaching Flops By DAVID BROOKS
Published: June 22, 2007 (NY Times)

A little while ago, a national study authorized by Congress found that abstinence education programs don’t work... But in this realm, nobody has the right to feel smug. American schools are awash in moral instruction — on sex, multiculturalism, environmental awareness and so on — and basically none of it works. Sex ed doesn’t change behavior. Birth control education doesn’t produce measurable results. The fact is, schools are ineffectual when it comes to values education. You can put an adult in front of a classroom or an assembly, and that adult can emit words, but don’t expect much impact.

Read the whole article here.

I would argue that values, meaning, etc. must come from the home first and from the beginning, otherwise the impact from schools is very little. Schools can reinforce our values but they start at home.

I believe its also the same for the Church. The Church can wonderfully reinforce the values and meanings we give at home, but they cannot take the place of the needed work that parents must do with their children.

Eat in, Help Out - MDG (1/2 Way Point)

On Saturday, July 7th, we will be at the halfway point of the time frame set for acheiving the Millennium Development Goals. To mark this day, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation is sponsoring "Eat In to Help Out" -- a national night with friends and family that will help us reflect on the MDGs while building community, both in our own homes and abroad.

And it's as easy as doing something you'd love to do anyway on a summer's eve -- have some friends over for dinner!
Here's how you do it:

STEP 1 - Instead of going out to eat, invite your friends to come
over to your apartment or house one evening. Ask them to bring the money they would normally spend going out to eat.

STEP 2 - Enjoy a great meal together, using some simple resources EGR will provide to have a discussion about global poverty and the MDGs.

STEP 3 - Take the money you would have spent "eating out" and "help out" - give it somewhere to help make the MDGs happen. You can give online to Episcopal Relief & Development find a microfinance project on www.kiva.org, give to something you're already involved in - it's your choice.

STEP 4 - Get on the map. Once you've decided to host a party, put yourself on our online map, and let us know you'll be doing it. After your group has made their gift, log into our other online map and record:

-Where the dinner was (e.g. San Francisco)
-How many attended (e.g. 7)
-How much money was raised (e.g. $120)
-Where the money was given (e.g. through Kiva to a project in Kenya)

Check back and see how we all did!

When we're all done we'll have a big map of all the places that"ate in," all the places in the world that were "helped out" and arunning total of diners and how much money we raised. Not a bad
night's (or week's) work!

If you can't do it on Saturday, July 7 -- don't sweat it. We'd love everyone to host meal sometime during the week of July 1-7, but if you can't do it then, do it some other time! The idea is for these dinners is to be a low-key way to engage people one on one with the MDGs. They don't have to be fancy and you don't have to make a formal presentation! Do whatever works for you and your friends. You can invite friends who are already working with the MDGs, or people who have never heard of them before.

For more information, visit here.

Sermon: Patronal Feast of St. Peter

He said, “I had a face-to-face confrontation with him because he was clearly out of line…” Is this from an article in the NY Times…about politics, about religion, about both? No. It was from last week’s reading from Galatians, well Paul writes that he confronted Cephas (that is Peter) over his exclusivity, as Paul was committed to bringing the Good News of Jesus to the Gentiles.

There were many times that Peter and Paul did not agree and we are reminded that even in the early Church, there were arguments, difference of opinions, there were even factions vying for support of the Church. And yet they each carried the mission of that early church forward because of their commitment to Christ… and we remember them on the same feast day as we observe the tradition that they both died as martyrs in Rome during the persecution under Nero, in 64.

They are in some ways the odd couple. Paul was a well-educated and well traveled Jew of the Dispersion, and Peter was an uneducated fisherman from Galilee. No wonder they had differences of opinion in the early years of the Church concerning the mission to the Gentiles. But Peter and Paul were dedicated to proclaiming and spreading the Good News and their mission is now our mission.

So what might be said to us today regarding their lives? I think of some words written nearly 1700 years ago about Saints Peter and Paul that can help us put it all in perspective. Here are the words from a sermon by Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, in the year 430.

This day has been made holy by the passion of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. We are, therefore, not talking about some obscure martyrs. For as Scripture says, “Their voice has gone forth to all the world, and their message to the ends of the earth.” These martyrs realized what they taught: they pursued justice, they confessed the truth, and they died for it.

Saint Peter, the foremost of the apostles and a fervent lover of Christ, heard his merits acknowledged when the Lord addressed him: “I say to you that you are Peter.” For Peter had himself said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Then Jesus said: “And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church." He meant that "Upon this rock I will build the faith that you now confess, for you have said to me, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Therefore, I will build my Church on you, for you are Peter." The name Peter comes from petra, the word for rock, just as the word Christian comes from Christ.

As you are aware, Jesus chose his disciples before his passion and called them apostles; and among these in a virtually unique way then, Peter can be said to represent the entire Church. And because of the role which he alone had, he merited to hear the words: "To you I shall give the keys of the kingdom of heaven." It was not an individual who received those keys, but the entire Church considered as one. Now insofar represented the unity and universality of the Church, Peter's preeminence is clear from the words: "To you I give," for what was given was given to all. But it is clear that it was the Church that received the keys of the kingdom of God from what the Lord says elsewhere to all the apostles after his resurrection: "Receive the Holy Spirit," adding immediately, "whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins you retain, they are retained."

It was logical, therefore, that the Lord after his resurrection should entrust Peter with the care of his sheep. He was not the only disciple who was worthy of this responsibility, but in speaking only to this one man, we should understand that Christ was speaking to all. Peter was addressed because he was foremost among the apostles. Therefore do not be disheartened, Peter; answer once, twice, yes three times. This threefold confession of love is necessary to recover what you lost three times by your fear. Untie by love the knot that you tied about yourself through fear.

Paul emerges out of Saul, the lamb out of the wolf; at first enemy, he becomes an apostle; at first a persecutor, he becomes the preacher. The Lord showed him the things that he too had to suffer for his name: chains, beatings, imprisonment, shipwrecks. The Lord sustained Paul in his sufferings, and brought him to this day.

Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one, even though they were martyred on different days. Peter went ahead, Paul followed. Let our way, then, be made straight in the Lord. It is a narrow, stony, hard road we tread; and yet with so many gone before us, we shall find the way smoother. The Lord himself trod this way, the unshakeable apostles and the holy martyrs likewise. So let us celebrate this feast day made holy by the blood of these two apostles. Let us embrace their faith, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their teaching.

To follow the example of Paul & Peter in the words of Augustine is to untie by love the knot that we tied about ourselves through fear. That love is given to us by God in Jesus Christ and we need not fear… So on this day as we remember our patron Peter, let us remember that Jesus asked him to feed his sheep, and we too follow that example, knowing that we like Peter may fail once, twice, even three times but Jesus will still ask us, “Do you love me?” And we like Peter will show our love by how we feed and love his sheep. Amen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Engines of Our Ingenuity

From the University of Houston...

No. 2229: CHILDREN AND SCIENCE by John H. Lienhard

The part that struck me was this...

"The same's true of our origins: children leap to the obvious notion that animals and humans were created in their final finished form in an instant. Here again, we must work to face the complex mechanics of biology and evolution. Once we do, the process can well become more, rather than less, miraculous. But the hurdle must be met and overcome.

The authors also watch children dealing with scientific facts in a world that sends mixed messages. One would never speak of a belief in gravity; gravity is simply the way things are. Nor would one speak of believing in a round Earth. Once digested, a round Earth is a simple fact of life. But many grownups are still stuck on their childhood view of the Creation. So children learn to see evolution as a belief instead of as a well-grounded scientific fact.

The article mentions a child's bent toward teleology -- explaining things in terms of purpose rather than cause and effect. Asked to explain clouds, a child might say they exist to make rain. Scientific literacy can follow only when that child learns to trace evaporation and condensation. It can follow only when she learns to trust the scientific process that reveals workings of the brain, of evolution, or of our lovely round planet's gravitational field."

Read the whole episode here.

The Engines of Our Ingenuity is a radio program that tells the story of how our culture is formed by human creativity. Written and hosted by John Lienhard, it is heard nationally on Public Radio and produced by KUHF-FM Houston. Among other features, this web site houses the transcripts for every episode heard since the show's inception in 1988.

Sermon: Proper 6

On this Father’s Day, we are going to hear about Men Behaving Badly from two of our scripture readings today: First up is King David from our first reading. We remember David, David who slew Goliath, King David who defeated King Saul and the 2nd Book of Samuel tells us that he was blessed by the Lord.

In our reading for today, it was a time of war in Israel. King David had dispatched his troops with Joab in command. David was living in Jerusalem. One day on his rooftop; since he is the King, his house is the largest, and he can see down upon many of the houses nearby, he sees a beautiful woman bathing nearby…

He is captivated by her beauty and sends someone to find out about her… She is Bathsheba…wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s top soldiers… She is married…but David doesn’t think about that, he has his own harem but he wants Bathsheba… He invites her over and they have a one night affair and Bathsheba becomes pregnant. David brings Uriah home so that he can be with his wife and lie with her so that he will believe that the child is his…but Uriah refuses to leave David, his King, and go to the comforts of home while his fellow soldiers are in the field…David tries and tries…

Finally, David sends Uriah back to the front. He carries a note from the King to Joab, the note says to send Uriah into battle and to pull back the troops and thus have Uriah killed. And thus, David’s problems would be over… Joab does not get the chance to implement David’s plan, for Uriah is killed in battle, in a mistaken error on the part of Joab and his siege of the city… When the news arrives in Jerusalem…David celebrates, Bathsheba mourns, and Joab covers up his mistake… After her period of mourning for her husband, Bathsheba becomes David’s wife, the child is born and all seems to work out for David.

But that’s when in today’s reading, it becomes clear that the whole affair has displeased the Lord. It may be the adultery and the attempted murder or the lust and deceit, the Evil plans… The sin is not specified, but we could assume that the Lord was angry about it all… So what is the Lord to do with his anointed king? Enter Nathan the Prophet. Nathan tells a parable, one that David is not ready to hear…

A rich man without pity takes from a poor man his only lamb whom he loved and cared for, when the rich man could have used any of his flocks to feed a traveler who has entered his house…he takes what is not his… David is furious. The rich man should die for an act such as this! Returning the lamb four fold… Stealing from the poor He deserves no pity… David stands self-condemned for Nathan says to him; You are the man! His deceit, his lust, his adultery, his murder, everything has come into the light…David is shamed…you are the man.

David acknowledges his sin, he is forgiven, but like a pebble thrown in the pond, the reverberations from his sin reach his family, and tragically the child becomes sick and dies… It is a story as old as the bible and still alive today…

Then secondly, there is Simon the Pharisee, the other man behaving badly… He has invited Jesus to his home for a meal, he is curious about this man from Nazareth… A woman in the city having heard where Jesus was, also entered into Simon’s home, bathing the feet of Jesus with her tears and anointing his feet with ointment… Simon is upset that such a woman has entered his home, such a sinner, and he questions how prophetic Jesus is because he is letting this woman touch him. Jesus knows what is in Simon’s heart, and tells a parable just like Nathan did to David, to show his hypocrisy. A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt."

And Jesus goes on to tell Simon that he is right BUT as Jesus entered his house; Simon had no water for his feet, he was not greeted with a kiss (a sign of peace) and there was no oil for his head, but the woman has bathed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, she has not stopped kissing his feet and she anointed the feet of Jesus with ointment. Jesus says, “I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven and Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Remarkable! The woman was who identified as sinner, although we do not know what her sin was, is forgiven by her loving acts. Simon is the man who neither sinned much nor loved much and in turn is not praised like that woman! David and Simon were both taken to task for not living up to what God asks of us… We have seen this happen with people (those who have affairs) and we have seen this happen in other areas of our lives too (people who sacrifice everything for their work; or for a material thing (car, jewelry) or money or power); and those who love so little, and through it all they estrange their relationships with their families and their friends…

So why does this happen to us? Because we are not satisfied with who we are and what we have. I am not saying we shouldn’t dream or strive for greater things…but I think we first must look inside ourselves to our core. If we do not love ourselves, if we do not see the image of God inside of us, feel the goodness of God’s creation (right here (heart)) that we fall into the temptation to look outside ourselves for satisfaction & salvation. We lust for things to help us feel better…and often we miss what is right beside us, our family and friends, the relationships we do have…those that enrich us and love us…instead we seek out things that in the end, will destroy what we do have…such is the sad fate of many who fall like David to the temptation of adultery or murder and to Simon who seemed to love so little.

Forgiveness is always possible, because God will be there waiting for us, with forgiveness. We will all face situations like David and Simon, it is part and parcel of our human nature; however the temptations that come before us, will give us opportunities to follow God’s will and avoid them or we may hear the words from God “you are the one…”

May we follow our hearts, our hearts that are turned to God and follow the right road, away from such sin, so that our lives are filled with the glory of God and what we give to others is love and forgiveness because that is what God has given to us. Amen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

ONE Vote

For an Episcopal News Story on this, go

In a statement released to the media, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori expressed her support for the ONE Vote launch, calling it "an ambitious effort to make global health and extreme poverty top foreign-policy priorities in the 2008 presidential election." She acknowledged that "Episcopalians, like people of faith across the United States, are prepared to play an active role in ONE Vote in their congregations and communities."

"The next President of the United States will have an unprecedented opportunity to lead our nation in making good on the promises it has made to eradicate extreme poverty and deadly pandemics," she added. "Solutions are now more affordable, and closer at hand, than ever before. Winning the fight against deadly poverty and disease is essential to meeting one of the central global challenges of our time: building a more prosperous, secure and peaceful world for all God's people."

At its 75th General Convention in June 2006, the Episcopal Church launched a grassroots partnership with ONE, called ONE Episcopalian, which seeks to rally Episcopalians -- ONE by ONE -- to the cause of ending extreme poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"ONE Vote is the most important component of that mobilization to date," Jefferts Schori said. "I pray that all Americans will see, in ONE Vote, the opportunity for our nation to bring hope to the world and healing to the whole human family God so loves."

From the website:

ONE Vote '08 focuses on five achievable goals that are fully costed and proven and can have a rapid impact on the ground.

If the U.S. takes a leading role, in an effective partnership with other donors and poor countries, these cost effective solutions could achieve the following:

5 Achievable Goals

1 Save 15,000 lives a day by fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, three of the world's most devastating diseases.
2 Prevent 5.4 million young children from dying each year from poverty-related illnesses and 400,000 women from dying in childbirth each year.
3 Provide free access to primary education for 77 million out-of-school children with a special emphasis on girls.
4 Improve the living conditions of vulnerable populations by, for example, providing access to clean water for 450 million people and basic sanitation to more than 700 million people.
5 Reduce by half the number of people in the world who suffer from hunger, resulting in 300 million "fewer" hungry people each year.

Unlike many issues in the 2008 presidential campaign that deeply divide Republicans and Democrats, ONE Vote '08 brings both sides together. The 2008 presidential election provides a not-to-be-missed opportunity to raise awareness about global poverty and its impact on America's global reputation and future security. Through the 2008 campaign, we have a chance to shape our foreign policy for years to come.

ONE Vote '08 has developed a presidential-platform of achievable solutions that – if championed by the next U.S. president – could have a profound impact on the poorest people in the world. The platform is built on the foundation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed to in 2000 by the United States and 188 other nations to achieve poverty reduction and sustainable development by 2015.

I encourage everyone to be a part of the One Campaign and One Vote! - Rev. Kurt

God puts an Ad in a Newspaper

Read all about it here.

You can see the larger Ad here.

A Sunday Meditation

Since I was away last Sunday, here are two meditations by Barbara Crafton on texts that were read on Sunday.

Jesus Without Makeup

This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country. - Luke 7:17

Jesus is becoming a celebrity. People have heard of him, they want to see him in person. Jesus is like Paris Hilton.

Well, not exactly like Paris Hilton, the young woman whose face we know, who is famous just for being famous. But Jesus' celebrity endangers him in the same way Paris Hilton's has compromised her: when people know you superficially, they may never bother to inquire more deeply into what lies beneath your surface. The person behind the face may disappear. Or, even sadder, may never emerge, as he begins to believe his own press.

People need privacy to grow and become wiser. Everyone needs to make his or her quota of mistakes by which to learn important lessons -- fully human as well as fully God, Jesus must have learned in this way, too, by falling on his face now and then. Successes and failures composed his life, as they compose ours, and he needed space in which to make them, as we do.

So we see him hiding from his own celebrity, sometimes: commanding his friends not to tell people when he performs a healing, seeking to avoid the crowds who pursue him everywhere he goes. We see him misunderstood, repeatedly. In the end, he dies from misunderstanding.

We take what is good: beauty, talent, intelligence -- and we commodify it. We reduce a person to his appearance, her wit, that one day in the sun that sticks in our memory. But each of us is more than our worst bumble and less than our finest moment.

Enough Already

The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah. - 1 Kings:16

On one level, this is just a story of a magical event: a jar of meal and a jug of oil that replenish themselves. Such things appear often in the folk tales of the poor, for whom scarcity is a way of life.

But we can read it in other ways. The miracle occurred using ordinary things: meal and oil. The miracle used what the woman already had in the house: this wasn't manna from the sky, not this time. God used what was already there.

Manna from the sky is the exception. Usually, God uses what's already there. Episcopal Relief and Development's work in poor countries mirrors that divine economy: use what is already there. Make what already exists in a community able to do better what it already does. Turn to local leaders, who already know their people, and give them the tools they need to do what they do better. Strengthen a community's capacity to sustain itself with the relationships of bartering, buying and selling it already has, and a small amount of money will go a long, long way.

In Puno, Peru, for example, where 78% of the population lives in poverty, ERD partners with the Anglican diocese and the Episcopal Church Loan Fund in offering loans to establish small businesses -- very small by our standards, twenty-five or thirty dollars being enough to get one off the ground. Almost always, the indigenous Queucha and Aymara borrowers pay back their loans very quickly, something American lenders encounter only in their dreams. Thus the money becomes available to be lent again, and remains in the local market economy.

So the jar never empties, and the jug never runs dry. Because the people themselves continue to fill them.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Crafton

Find more of her meditations here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Rest in peace...

Two shinning lights in the Episcopal Church died this past week...

The Rev. Dr. John Macquarrie, an influential theologian whose graceful writing and sagacious melding of existentialist philosophy with orthodox Christian thought offered intellectually penetrating rationales for belief in God, died on May 28 in Oxford, England, where he lived. He was 87.

Dr. Macquarrie was a Scottish Presbyterian minister turned Episcopal priest who never lost his enthusiasm for preaching in parish churches. But he earned his reputation as one of the 20th century’s leading theologians for lucidly combining the thinking of philosophers like Martin Heidegger, whose works he translated, with his own and others’ interpretations of the Bible. One of his goals was to develop an accessible theology relevant to a world that after the Holocaust and World War II seemed to doubt divine guidance.

From the NY Times obituary.

"God is a God of love, whose purpose in creation was not to bring into being a fascinatingly beautiful universe, but to be confronted with an "other" who could respond to love with love, who could live in communion. God's creation is a sharing, a self-giving. Its purpose is to realize through as much travail as it takes that Kingdom in which we may evermore dwell in God and God in us." - John Macquarrie

Bishop James Kelsey of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan was killed in a road accident at around 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 3, while returning to Marquette from a parish visitation.

"The Episcopal Church has today lost one of its bright lights," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said. "We will be less without the easy grace of Bishop James Kelsey -- Jim to most of us -- and we shall miss his humor, insight, and passion for the ministry of all. He gave us much. We pray for the repose of his soul, and for his family. We pray also for the Diocese of Northern Michigan. All of us have lost a friend. May he rest in peace and rise in glory."

You can read more about Bishop Jim Kelsey here.

"Do you see? ...that the Dream, God’s Dream, is something which reaches beyond us; beyond the horizon of our own perspective, beyond the outer limits of our sight, beyond what we can imagine possible..." - Jim Kelsey

The foundation of all ministry is baptism, we’re indelibly marked and gifted to share...” -Jim Kelsey

Sermon: Trinity Sunday

Today is Trinity Sunday, it is also Say Something Nice Sunday or at least that’s what a historic Baptist church from Charleston, SC is trying to get started.

According to the news release, “On this Sunday Christians of all denominations are urged to step back from strident discourse and to utter no word of criticism about another person or another religious group. In fact they are urged to go further and to say nice things about others and other religious groups.” Its an interesting idea, so why have a Say Something Nice Sunday? From their website: “The simple answer is that words are powerful. Words have the power to build or destroy. Words have the power to heal or wound. With our words we have the power to build up a Christian community or to destroy it.” I agree…words can be a powerful weapon or can promote love, peace and concord…

The website goes on to say: “Nowhere are words more powerful than within the church. This is a day to say thank you to those who make our lives better just by being a part of them. This is a day to recognize those who contribute to our lives in specific ways. This is a day to apologize for words spoken in frustration, anger or disappointment. One day is one day, but perhaps we can stretch it to two days and then just maybe if we encourage one another and ask God’s help we might change the world.”

I have to say I reacted negatively when I first read the news release, it reminds me of what I say to my kids as they head out the door, play nice, but as I read their materials, I understood that the Sunday invitation went beyond just being or playing nice. We were being invited to take a new step, away from a culture that loves the fights, the words of destruction and polarization, and to return to civility, which for me means to return to that love which God commands us to give.

And on this Sunday, we are reminded that our faith tells us that we know our God in three ways as Father Son & Holy Spirit, and one way to understand the Trinity is to think of the three persons as distinct but so intimately connected that their relationship is one Love. Jesus commands us to love one another, just as the Father had loved him; the Trinity is unified in love…

It is the House of Love, as Henri Nouwen put it, that he experienced in his meditation on an icon of the Holy Trinity. This icon, created by Andrew Rublev in 1425. The three persons seated are the three strangers that come to visit Abraham and Sarah in the book of Genesis, chapter 18. Abraham and Sarah offer their hospitality to the three (offering food, drink, rest) and they in turn announce the unexpected birth of Isaac. Rublev uses this encounter to paint the scene of three angelic figures, representing the three persons of the Trinity: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are seated together and look at one another. The Son points to the sacrificed lamb on the table. The Father has a blessing gesture in the scene and the Holy Spirit points to the opening in front of the table or altar. One can see the connection between the Father’s Blessing, the Son’s sacrifice, and the opening of salvation of the world by the Son through the work of the Spirit. They are indeed connected by one love.

For Nouwen, “the spiritual life keeps us aware that our true house is not the house of fear, in which the powers of hatred and violence rule, but the house of love, where God resides.” Just as that Baptists Church in Charleston is asking for us to say and do something nice, civil today, we do it, because in Nouwen’s words, we find ourselves in the house of love and we feel compelled to offer that love. As Jesus told the disciples, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

And one aspect of the Truth is that God will lead us to that place of love… For Sara Miles, a secular intellectual, journalist, skeptic, going to church was never part of her life and then one day she writes, “I walked into St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. I had no earthly reason to be there. I'd never heard a Gospel reading, never said the Lord's Prayer. I was certainly not interested in becoming a Christian -- I went in, on an impulse, with no more than a reporter's habitual curiosity... I walked in, took a chair and tried not to catch anyone's eye. There was no organ, no choir, no pulpit: just the unadorned voices of the people…We sat down and stood up, sang and sat down, waited and listened and stood up and sang, and it was all pretty peaceful and sort of interesting. And then we gathered around that table. And there was more singing and standing, and someone was putting a piece of fresh, crumbly bread in my hands, saying, "the body of Christ," and handing me the goblet of sweet wine saying "the blood of Christ," and then something outrageous and terrifying happened. Jesus happened to me.” (Take This Bread, pp. 57-59)

Her conversion experience did not end there but she reflected on it when after some time past being in the parish, she began helping with communion… She continues, “What happened once I started distributing communion was the truly disturbing, dreadful realization about Christianity: You can't be a Christian by yourself... Just like the strangers who'd fed me in El Salvador or South Africa, I was going to have to see and understand the hunger of other, different men and women, and make a gesture of welcome, and eat with them. And just as I hadn't "deserved" any of what was given to me - the fish, the biscuits, the tea so abundantly poured out back in those years - I didn't deserve communion myself now. I wasn't getting it because I was good. I wasn't getting it because I was special. I certainly didn't get to pick who else was good enough, holy enough, deserving enough to receive it. It wasn't a private meal. The bread on that Table had to be shared with everyone in order for me to really taste it.” (Take This Bread, pp. 96-97)

Our God, who created us, redeemed us and sustains us, not only guides us to say something nice, but we are invited to share the love that we have felt in this place, tasted in this bread, greeted with one another, to share it and live it in our world. Just as the Trinity has shared the love that unities God, we are invited into relationship with others to share our love. We can’t be Christians by ourselves, it involves our lives, our words and actions, to live into that House of Love, the House of God.

As Henri Nouwen pointed out that there is room around the divine table “for those who are willing to become participants in the divine sacrifice by offering their lives as a witness to the love of God.” For when our hearts are drawn deeper into that mysterious God, known in three ways, we can be “committed to the struggle for justice and peace in the world while remaining at home in God’s love.” Amen.

To read the chapter on Nouwen's House of Love, visit here.
To read more about Sara Miles and her conversion, visit here.
To find out more about "Say Something Nice Sunday", visit here.