Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sermon: August 26

As a child, having the last name of Huber always put me in the middle. I was never first nor was I last. The A names and the Z names either had it best or worst depending on what order the teacher started. There is something inside of us that wants to be first. My kids always, whenever there is line, jockey for position. I’m first, no me. All of you parents know what I am talking about…

I remember that line from a commercial with Bob Uecker, when the ushers come to him in the box seats, “must be in the front row” he says. And that is right about us. We like to be first, in the front row, on top. However you put it, its where we want to be… But like that commercial, Bob Uecker gets moved from those box seats to the bleachers and there is no front row for him, and so often we find ourselves in our lives envious of the front row, the first, as we sit way up, in the bleachers, and if you are at place like Fenway in Boston, you are probably behind a pillar too.

Jesus said, “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last." We have heard this phrase from Jesus before, it happens in the other Gospels but this time, it is in response to someone who asked him, "Lord, will only a few be saved?" It is a question of worry, how many Lord, only a few, a set number? But why worry? Because we want to be in that number, the few, the proud, the saved.

But Jesus doesn’t give an easy answer. Jesus says, “strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.” Narrow door? What is he talking about? Let me get at this through another story.

A science professor had a no-nonsense method for assigning grades in his courses. A student’s final letter grade was based on how many points the student had accumulated throughout the semester. The points, in turn, could be earned in a variety of ways: daily quizzes, lab reports, a lengthy midterm, and a final exam. If, by the time of the final exam, you had already built up enough points for a B or C, and if you were content with that grade, you could skip the final. Or you could take it easy early on, skipping quizzes and lab reports, and hope that by cramming you could get the points you needed on one of the big tests.

The instructor, who also let it be known that he had no use for religious beliefs, had a way of introducing his points-system to his classes. “There is no Jesus factor in this course,” he would announce. A former student of this teacher, now a college professor himself, remembers: “I have often wished that I had asked him what he meant exactly by a ‘Jesus factor.’ But I think I have some idea. He wanted to eliminate all subjective factors in his grading. In his classroom, you got what your earned, and what it took was clearly spelled out . . . No excuses: Show me the points! In a word, there is no room for mercy in his system, and he was proud of it. “Actually, his system worked quite well. He may have been too rigid in his attitudes, but his total-points method was quite appropriate for a biology course. But I’m glad when it comes to dealing with the larger issues of life, there is indeed a Jesus Factor. Mercy is what the Gospel is really all about. If the Lord were simply to add up the points earned, we would all be miserable failures . . . I am glad that when we all face the real final test — the Last Judgment — God isn’t going to pass me or fail me on my ability to show the points. On that Day, the Jesus Factor will be my only hope.” [From Praying at the Burger King by Richard J. Mouw.]

The Jesus Factor is that narrow door we are to strive to enter, it is open to all who believe in Jesus. There are no points to be earned, its is not about the good we have done, the evil that we have avoided, nor the good we have failed to do, the evil we have done, none of which has anything to do with that door. That narrow door is the faith in Jesus Christ and it is by God’s grace it is open, we just believe and walk through it.

There are those old Smith Barney ads featuring actor John Houseman with his famous line: "We make money the old-fashioned way. We earn it." Or to translate it for this sermon, “we are saved the old fashioned way, we earn it.” But that’s the problem we do not earn salvation, it is a gift. A gift some will choose not to take, not to go through the narrow door, but the door is open. Salvation is not a transaction between God and us, that we have to offer God our worthiness, our good deeds, anything at all, as if salvation is a reward for the righteous. As Episcopal priest and Theologian Robert Farrar Capon puts it, understanding salvation is earned, “it becomes a transaction through which God deigns to reward the cooperative and excludes the unacceptable.” Then it would not be by God’s grace that salvation is feely offered to all.

Nor is that door solely opened by faith, as if we have enough faith then we can enter it, because faith then just becomes another transaction between us and God, like good works. It is open because God has it so, and if we desire to strive through it, even if we don’t always get it right, then we are indeed striving to enter that narrow door. But as I hear the parable that Jesus gives to explain it, the Jesus Factor is our following him. Lord, open the door to us,' then in reply he will say to you, `I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, `We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, `I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!' Its not just knowing who Jesus is or doing the right things.

As Robert Capon said, “And what is the narrow door the householder has still left open? Well, it is the remote possibility that, instead of nosily insisting on their own notions of living their way to salvation, they might just join him in the silence of his death and wait in faith for resurrection.” For Jesus is that narrow door and he invites us to come. Jesus turns our world upside down, upsetting things, the order we see is changed, first last, last first, indeed salvation is in God’s hands, it is more than a mere moment of one's life, it is the striving to enter the narrow door. As Frederick Buechner puts it, Salvation is a process not an event.

There is no interest in numbers, counting who will or will not be saved. There are no predestination games going on here. Salvation is open to all peoples. Jesus said, "Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God." One's birth, one's bloodline, family status, wealth or power are not part of the equation. We do not earn salvation, that is God's gift to us, an open narrow door, but we strive to enter through it as if our admission into the Kingdom, our salvation, depended on it but knowing in the end it depends on the grace of our loving and merciful God.

We are challenged to walk humbly with our God on that path to the narrow door and beyond, not worrying about numbers or salvation, not arrogantly trying to get others to follow us but to walk together in love and follow where Jesus has led the way. Amen.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Virtual Pipes (Great Music)

The 2007 Organ Festival from Trinity Wall Street is online!

The Trinity Church Conservatory Stars Organ Festival honors John Weaver

John Weaver was Head of the Organ Department at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia from 1972 to 2003, and also Chair of the Organ Department at The Juilliard School from 1987 to 2004. Five of his former students are involved in the Festival: Cameron Carpenter, Felix Hell, Alan Morrison, Paul Jacobs, and organ builder David Ogletree of Marshall & Ogletree.

You can watch and listen here.

Great music!

No Longer Lost, a Refugee Accepts Call to Leadership

In Grand Rapids, Mich., the Rev. Zachariah Jok Char serves an Episcopal congregation that welcomed Sudanese refugees.

Published by the NY Times: August 19, 2007

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — About 7,000 miles separate Grace Episcopal Church here, where the Rev. Zachariah Jok Char preaches most Sundays, from the small town of Duk Padiet in Sudan, where he was born.

Read it all here.

Prayers for the Miners

[from Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Diocese of Utah Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish offered this prayer for all Utah congregations to use during worship in the coming days:

O God our times are in your hands. Look mercifully on those who mourn the loss of their loved ones in Crandall Canyon, those miners who remain trapped there, and those who care for the injured. Let your Holy Spirit abide within and among them, reminding us all of our call to care for all God's people. We give thanks for all who risk their own comfort and safety for the sake of others and all whose work puts them in harm's way. Keep us mindful of our responsibilities to press for increased safety measures in their work places. We pray in the name of the one whose very name is Mercy. Amen.

Sermon: August 19

Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”

As I sat with that statement of Jesus, I thought of the wild fires that I have been reading about in the West, one near Yellowstone, others in Washington & Montana. And as I read, I did some searching on the internet, its amazing what you can find on the internet. Not only our website and my blog, but I found a website listing all incidents of wildfires in the U.S., both current and contained. 153 Incidents with 80 Active,73 Contained, and 4,412,781 Acres burnt. The stats may seem meaningless but it struck me that over 4 million acres have been burned this year…
If we lived in the west, like Montana or Wyoming, we certainly would have the wildfires on our minds, Here in quiet CT, the reality of a wild fire is not on our radar screens.

When I think of my childhood, I remember the great fire that ripped through a national forest near my parent’s cottage in MI. A month after the fire, we returned to the cottage to find miles and miles of national forest gone, it was hard to see any life. The only thing the huge fire missed was the town’s schools, located in that forest, to the disappointment of many kids. It finally was stopped less than a mile from the outskirts of the town. Unlike the fire outside Yellowstone started by a lightning strike in dry weather, that fire in MI happened because of an unattended campfire. The next year, where everything the previous summer was burnt, new seedlings had popped up. The plants that grew on the forest floor had come back. It was hard to tell that the area was just devastated except for the noticeable lack of large trees. Signs of new life were seen everywhere throughout the forest. The fire had not only destroyed but it had also renewed the ground. From that destruction, new life was born, and that forest is alive and well today.

A few years ago, I was hiking through Yosemite in California, and I walked through the remnants of a controlled fire. The underlying forest floor had been burnt but not the large trees, so that the fuel that would help a forest fire grow would not be there. It was amazing to walk through it, and see the controlled burn, smoke still lingering, still smoldering in some parts and knowing that the ground and the forest would be reborn, and the large trees would still be alive! Fire can destroy, but fire also can purify and pave the way for new growth.

I wonder if that’s what Jesus had in mind… Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!” I don’t think Jesus was talking about a fire that would consume the earth and destroy everything... For God so loved the world, that he sent his only son to destroy it…no, that’s not it. This is after all, the Jesus who gave us the commandments about love. I think Jesus came to set our souls on fire, to purify us and to kindle in us the love for God and each other, to move us away from our self-serving practices and our ego trips, and to serve and love each other and all of God’s creation.

For that fire is passed to us through baptism by the Holy Spirit. It is in baptism, just like Jesus’ baptism, that we are named by God, and not just named but sent forth into the world to proclaim through our lives the Good News, to love each and every person who comes before us, and to love our God who created us.

Today, Ian Hudson Chichester will be baptized and the fire of God will be given to him, and will slowly grow with him as he grows into his faith and life. And as we all follow Jesus, through the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, and then out into the world to minister in Jesus’ name, it is his fire that burns in us, renewing us, restoring us, making us whole. It is the Holy Spirit that comes and kindles God’s will and message into our lives.

But sometimes, we seem to lose the fire; and to regain it some will go on a spiritual retreat, or renew their worship and prayer life; some will revisit their service to others. Like a controlled burn, these are ways we can help renew the ground of our lives and allow for new growth with God. And for some, it is the circumstances of their lives, that bring opportunities for new life even in the darkest hours. For it is this same Spirit that will kindle hope when we have none. It will give strength when we are weak. When things look dead & gone, the Spirit will be with us to renew us and give new growth and our lives will change.

A story is told of some workers in Africa who received a box, as they often did, from the States: "Only this box of clothing and help—this care package, as it were—had a note and many, many strips of cloth. The note said, 'We are former members of the Alabama Klu Klux Klan. Recently we have been converted to Jesus Christ and we've taken these robes that we used to wear and cut them into strips. We thought you might be able to use them as bandages." (The Rev. George Antonakos)

It is the Holy Spirit who is most active in our lives even when we don’t see God’s activity. For it is the Holy Spirit who guides us to life, who helps us grow and thrive in God’s will, to live and move and have our bring. In the lives of some Klu Klux Klan members, it is that Holy Spirit that moved them into real life and real relationship with Jesus, using their former robes to bring healing to our world in the name of Jesus. Jesus is our teacher, who tells us there will be conflict, there will be division if we follow his ways but his fire can renew us and lead us to true life, that through faith in Jesus we can live and hope and persevere.

So maybe its time for us to put on our work boots on and our hard hats and go out into the world, to spread the fire of God’s love that fills our souls, to bring hope & forgiveness where death & destruction lay, to fulfill our baptism and follow God’s ways, so that there can be new growth for everyone. God wants us to be part of the message, part of the mission of the Kingdom of God. If we look out into the world with the eyes of faith, we will see that God’s hands, are indeed at work in the world around us. So lets gets those boots on, and help kindle that fire, a fire set by the Holy Spirit, for there is more life that God is ready to give! Amen.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The One Campaign & You

"With them, with black men and white men, with all of life, in Him Whose Name is above all the names that the races and nations shout, whose Name is Itself the Song Which fulfills and 'ends' all songs, we are indelibly, unspeakably One." -Jonathan Myrick Daniels, 1965

ONE Episcopalian ™ is a grassroots partnership between The Episcopal Church and the ONE Campaign to rally Episcopalians – ONE by ONE – to the cause of ending extreme poverty in our world and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

More than one billion of God's people live on less than one dollar eachday. More than fifteen-thousand people die each day because of AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria, all preventable diseases.

It doesn't have to be this way. The world holds in its hands the resources, strategies, and capabilities to eradicate extreme poverty.

What's missing is the political will. That makes your participation, your voice, joining together as ONE with people around the world so important.

Become a ONE Episcopalian Today!

Sign the ONE Campaign pledge and become a ONE Episcopalian through the EPPN. As a ONE Episcopalian you will receive periodic emails from the EPPN and ONE campaign. Find out More!

Wear a White Wristband

Whenever and wherever you wear a ONE wristband you say -- even without saying a word -- that you are part of a movement calling for Americans to join as ONE to end global poverty. Pick one up in our Narthex.

Tell A Friend about ONE Episcopalian

ONE by ONE we join together. Together we build the political will for ONE world without poverty. Tell your friends about ONE Episcopalian. Invite them to join - because together we can change the future. Find out More!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

St. Mary the Virgin

The honor paid to Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, goes back to the earliest days of the Church. Two Gospels tell of the manner of Christ’s birth, and the familiar Christmas story testifies to the Church’s conviction that he was born of a virgin.

In Luke’s Gospel, we catch a brief glimpse of Jesus’ upbringing at Nazareth, when the child was
wholly in the care of his mother and his foster-father, Joseph. During Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, we learn that Mary was often with the other women who followed Jesus and ministered to his needs. At Calvary, she was among the little band of disciples who kept watch at the cross. After the resurrection, she was to be found with the Twelve in the upper room, watching and praying until the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Mary was the person closest to Jesus in his most impressionable years, and the words of the Magnificat, as well as her humble acceptance of the divine will, bear more than an accidental resemblance to the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount.

Later devotion has claimed many things for Mary which cannot be proved from Holy Scripture. What we can believe is that one who stood in so intimate a relationship with the incarnate Son of God on earth must, of all the human race, have the place of highest honor in the eternal life of God. A paraphrase of an ancient Greek hymn expresses this belief in very familiar words: “O higher than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim, lead their praises, alleluia.” (from Lesser Feasts and Fasts)

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Remembering Jonathan Daniels

Jonathan Myrick Daniels was born in Keene, New Hampshire, in 1939. He was shot and killed by a deputy sheriff in Hayneville, Alabama, August 20, 1965.

From high school in Keene to his years at VMI and graduate school at Harvard, Jonathan wrestled with the meaning of life and death and vocation. Attracted to medicine, the ordained ministry, law and writing, he found himself close to a loss of faith when his search was resolved by a profound conversion on Easter Day 1962 at the Church of the Advent in Boston. Jonathan then entered the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In March 1965, the televised appeal of Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Selma to secure for all citizens the right to vote drew Jonathan to a time and place where the nation’s racism and the Episcopal Church’s share in that inheritance were exposed. Conviction of his calling was deepened at Evening Prayer during the singing of the Magnificat: “‘He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things.’ I knew that I must go to Selma. The Virgin’s song was to grow more and more dear to me in the weeks ahead.”

He returned to seminary and asked leave to work in Selma where he would be sponsored by the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity. Jailed on August 14 for joining a picket line, Jonathan and his companions were unexpectedly released. Aware that they were in danger, four of them walked to a small store. As sixteen-year-old Ruby Sales reached the top step of the entrance, a man with a gun appeared, cursing her. Jonathan pulled her to one side to shield her from the unexpected threats. As a result, he was killed by a blast from the 12-gauge gun.

The letters and papers Jonathan left bear eloquent witness to the profound effect Selma had upon him. He writes, “The doctrine of the creeds, the enacted faith of the sacraments, were the essential preconditions of the experience itself. The faith with which I went to Selma has not changed: it has grown. . . . I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord’s death and resurrection. . . with them, the black men and white men, with all life, in him whose Name is above all the names that the races and nations shout. . . .We are indelibly and unspeakably one.”

Taken from Lesser Feasts & Fasts of the Episcopal Church, 2003.

“A Christian martyrdom is never an accident, for Saints are not made by accident. Still less is a Christian martyrdom the effect of man's will to become a Saint, as a man by willing and contriving may become a ruler of men. A martyrdom is always the design of God, for His love of men [and women], to warn them and to lead them, to bring them back to His ways. It is never the design of man; for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God.” (T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral)

For more see my sermon from Sunday, August 12.

Marchers commemorate death of rights martyr by Alvin Benn

Jonathan Daniels' violent death was commemorated Saturday in 103-degree heat by 200 marchers honoring the white seminary student who gave up his life to save a black teenage girl 42 years ago. Read it all here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Communion Matters

A discussion on Communion Matters will take place after the Sunday services of August 19 & 26.

The Theology Committee of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops on June 1 released a study document aimed at helping the bishops respond to the requests made to them by the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

Bishop Smith has asked each congregation to engage in a discussion of the document and to let him know of our response.

The 15-page "Communion Matters: A Study Document for the Episcopal Church" is available online. A color PDF version of the document is available here. A black-and-white PDF version is here.

You can find additional documents and links to help with the study document here.

Sermon: August 12

[The Scripture readings for Sunday can be found here.]

Just a week ago I was Gazing at the Green Mountains of Vermont
-enjoying a nice cold beverage
-leisurely, without a care in the world…
-kids playing in the pond, catching frogs
-it is what vacation is all about…

Some R&R, we all need it, even Jesus went away from his ministry to rejuvenate, to get some R&R with friends or up on a mountain…

But as I read this week’s Gospel, I was reminded that Jesus often couches his calls of discipleship in terms that will not gently bring us in, he calls us into action, right now. Jesus said, “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet… You must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” We must always be aware that our call to discipleship, to follow Jesus, is never meant to be brushed aside until we have time, forgotten about, wait until fall but engaged each and every day of our lives. For sometimes, the Holy Spirit moves us to engage our world right now.

In March 1965, Jonathan Myrick Daniels sat in the chapel at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, MA trying to decide whether or not to heed the call of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who asked clergy, students and others to join him in Selma, Alabama for a march to the state capital in support of his civil rights program. The Magnificat, the Song of Mary, is one of the canticles that is sung or said at the Evening Prayer service.

Jonathan Daniels wrote: “I had come to Evening Prayer as usual that evening, and as usual I was singing the Magnificat with the special love and reverence I have always felt for Mary's glad song… Then it came. "He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things." I knew then that I must go to Selma. The Virgin's song was to grow more and more dear in the weeks ahead.”

Jonathan Daniels and others would travel from Cambridge to Selma. They participated in the march. After returning to the seminary for final exams, Jonathan and some others continued working in Alabama for several months helping with the civil rights movement. They stayed with local families, registered African Americans to vote, protested and marched, and tried to visit local Episcopal Churches. Most saw them as outside agitators and Jonathan and the families with him were often rudely treated at church. Arrested on August 14 during a march in Fort Deposit, Alabama, the group was released on August 20, as he and three others approached a local grocery store, Jonathan was shot and killed by a deputy sheriff in Hayneville, Alabama. His last act was to thrust Ruby Sales, a young African American woman, out of the path of the gunfire that took his life and seriously wounded another civil rights worker.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, "One of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry and career for civil rights was performed by Jonathan Daniels." And Jonathan Daniels was led to the South by the Holy Spirit as he sang the Magnificat early in 1965. I first became acquainted with Jonathan Daniels in an article in a magazine I was reading in college. His life and his faithful witness have always struck me as what God calls all of us to do as disciples of Jesus.

Not that we all should be martyrs in the sense that we need to die to show our faith. But the word martyr, from the Greek means witness and in one sense we are all called to be martyrs. Jonathan understood this and put his life on the line to witness to his faith by helping with the civil rights movement. In the words of T.S. Eliot… “A Christian martyrdom is never an accident, for Saints are not made by accident. Still less is a Christian martyrdom the effect of man's will to become a Saint, as a man by willing and contriving may become a ruler of men. A martyrdom is always the design of God, for His love of men [and women], to warn them and to lead them, to bring them back to His ways. It is never the design of man; for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God.” (T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral)

August 14 is the day we remember Jonathan Daniels’s witness in the Episcopal Church. Jonathan shares August 14 with another martyr of the 20th Century, Maximilian Kolbe, a RC priest imprisoned in WW II in Auschwitz. After a man escaped from the death camp, the SS condemned 10 men from the same barrack to be starved. Kolbe took the place of one of those men when he heard the man’s anguish cries about his family. Kolbe died on August 14, 1941.

The man, Franciszek Gajowniczek, and his wife, Helena, survived the war. In 1993, he said, “so long as he had breath in his lungs, he would consider it his duty to tell people about the heroic act of love by Maximilian Kolbe.” In the Chapel of Saints and Martyrs of Our Own Time at Canterbury Cathedral in England, Maximilian Kolbe name appears alongside Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jonathan Daniels. Jonathan and Maximilian were both instruments of God, who helped us see the horrors of oppression and evil that existed in our society. They each saved a life, Ruby & Franciszek, by their actions.

And that is what discipleship is all about, giving life to ourselves and our world by our faithful action. For we are called by Jesus to be ready, to be witnesses to our faith, for as the letter to the Hebrews reminds us, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And our witness to our faith is to be people who share heroic acts of love, just like Jesus and Jonathan and Maximilian by living out our Christian faith in our everyday lives.

Let us end, by saying together the prayer for August 14 commemorating the witness of Jonathan Myrick Daniels:

O God of justice and compassion, who put down the proud and the mighty from their place, and lift up the poor and afflicted: We give you thanks for your faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression; through Jesus Christ the just one: who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa

The head of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (the Rev. Mike Kinman) wrote this:
I know a lot of you are working on the MDGs in your congregations and elsewhere. Well, this article from the Washington Post should be required reading for everyone working with the MDGs and global mission. It gets to the heart of the unique gifts the Church has to bring to the Millennium Development Goals. As Christians, we see people not as economic entities or as things broken that need to be fixed. We see each person as a uniquely gifted creation of the divine, bearing the image of God. For us as Christians, the work of the MDGs is about all of us bringing our gifts to the table and seeing where God is calling us to use those gifts together for the building up of the whole Body of Christ and the healing of the whole world. For us as American Christians, the most important virtue we need to bring to the table is not material generosity (though that is important, too), but humility.

To that I add, Amen.

Read the article:

Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa By Uzodinma Iweala
Sunday, July 15, 2007

Last fall, shortly after I returned from Nigeria, I was accosted by a perky blond college student whose blue eyes seemed to match the "African" beads around her wrists.

"Save Darfur!" she shouted from behind a table covered with pamphlets urging students to TAKE ACTION NOW! STOP GENOCIDE IN DARFUR!

My aversion to college kids jumping onto fashionable social causes nearly caused me to walk on, but her next shout stopped me.

"Don't you want to help us save Africa?" she yelled.

It seems that these days, wracked by guilt at the humanitarian crisis it has created in the Middle East, the West has turned to Africa for redemption. Idealistic college students, celebrities such as Bob Geldof and politicians such as Tony Blair have all made bringing light to the dark continent their mission. They fly in for internships and fact-finding missions or to pick out children to adopt in much the same way my friends and I in New York take the subway to the pound to adopt stray dogs.

This is the West's new image of itself: a sexy, politically active generation whose preferred means of spreading the word are magazine spreads with celebrities pictured in the foreground, forlorn Africans in the back. Never mind that the stars sent to bring succor to the natives often are, willingly, as emaciated as those they want to help.

Read the entire article here

Monday, August 6, 2007

Eight Ways to live the MDGs

A great article from Trinity Wall Street!

Eight Ways to live the MDGs by Sarah Grapentine

Sarah Grapentine is program assistant for the Trinity Grants Program and a participant in the Trinity Academy of Servant Leadership.

This article appears in the Transformation issue of Trinity News (the magazine of Trinity Church - St. Paul's Chapel).

The Episcopal Church is abuzz about the Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs are the United Nations’ goals for eradicating extreme poverty, empowering women, providing primary education, creating environmental sustainability, and combating disease. These goals can seem pretty big — and they are. But a small change can be part of a big difference — even in our individual, daily lives.

Break the (piggy) bank. The Episcopal Church has committed 0.7% of its budget to programs that support the Millennium Development Goals, and is asking you to do the same. But where to find this money on top of your other charitable donations? Pocket change can really add up: in 2004, users of Coinstar’s coin counting machines donated $3 million in spare change for charity.

A woman’s place is in the marketplace. Donate those pennies to a microfinance program helping women start small businesses. Why specifically empower women? Studies show that overall family welfare, including children’s nutritional status, is likely to be higher when microfinance is provided to women rather than men. Try, and become a microfinancier. Browse microloan applicants from around the world and make a $25 loan directly to the small businesses of your choice, get updates on their progress, and even see the profiles of other lenders supporting that business.

Change with the seasons. Respect the natural change of the seasons when you sit down to dinner. Rather than buying products out-ofseason, shipped from far-off places, connect with a local farmer through a Community Supported Agriculture organization like Just Food . Over the course of a season, you can get 40 different types of vegetables, all locally grown. Some farmers will even take your biodegradable garbage away as compost for the crops.

Give gifts that are fairly traded. It’s more than just coffee. From soccer balls to wine to flower seeds, it’s all available online. Serve Episcopal Relief and Development’s Bishop’s Blend coffee at your next parish meeting. To see the future of fair trade, jump the pond to the British website

Write a letter. We all receive emails asking us to write letters to our congressperson regarding issues we care passionately about, but how often do we follow through? Print one such request and stick it with your bills. At the end of the month, when you sit down with your bills in hand and your envelopes out, you’re already in the groove!

Travel widely and responsibly. Seeing the world can change the way you see your role in it, and your tourism dollars can really help too. Want to do more? Balance your carbon footprint by building a TerraPass into your vacation budget. For under $40, you can sponsor a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that is directly proportional to the emissions created by your plane flight.

Complete the cycle. Support recycling long before your paper hits the blue bin by purchasing products that are 100% post-consumer recycled. This means the paper is made entirely from the contents of your trusty recycling bin, and not mixed with virgin tree fiber. Most office-supply chains carry it in their stores or on the environmentally-friendly section of their websites.

Connect with others. Build your own partnerships for development by seeking out others who are interested in the MDGs. Find inspiration and recharge your batteries by getting together regularly. A support network will keep you motivated and, most importantly, keep you thinking.

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Transfiguration of our Lord

O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening:

Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Luke 9:28-36

About eight days after Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"--not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.