Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A FAIR HARVEST (The Farm Bill)

Fairness for Farmers and Food for the Hungry at Home and Abroad
By Alex Baumgarten

Alex Baumgarten is international policy analyst in the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations in Washington DC.
Inspired by Jesus’ command to care for poor and hungry people, Christians are organizing throughout the country to advocate for changes in U.S. agricultural policy that benefit family farmers, hungry neighbors, God’s creation, and people living in poverty around the world.

This year, Congress will rewrite or renew the U.S. Farm Bill, a comprehensive law that governs U.S. agricultural, food, and farmland policies. Our nation’s current system of cash payments for some farmers benefits primarily large agricultural producers while leaving behind most small- and medium-sized farm families. The present commodity-payment system also hurts struggling farmers in poor countries and fuels the poverty that claims 30,000 lives a day around the world.

Your voice is needed to push Congress to make meaningful changes in current farm policies. Over the summer, the House of Representatives passed a bill that largely continues the current system. The burden for passing fair farm policies now moves to the Senate, which will act this fall.

Join other people of faith in advocating for a Farm Bill that:
  • Ensures that commodity payments go to those who need them most rather than the large-scale producers that receive more than 75% of current payments.
  • Reduces the harm of U.S. agricultural policies to farmers and families living in deadly poverty around the world; and
  • Strengthens nutrition, conservation, and rural-development programs.
Together we can change America’s food and farm policies to benefit family farmers, hungry neighbors, God’s earth, and people living in poverty around the world. Join us!

Helping farmers everywhere

Join the Episcopal Public Policy Network and sponsor a postcard campaign by sending your Senators postcards from your state telling them to write a just Farm Bill (visit

Call your Senators’ offices and tell them you expect their leadership in creating fair agriculture policies. (Main Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121.)

Join the cooperative efforts of the five denominations at

Other places of interest:

Reforming the Farm Bill
an op-ed piece over on the blog of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation

More on a Farm Bill to Feed the Nation here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sermon on September 23

Sunday Readings can be found here.

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
making the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver.
The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

Amos is telling it like it is. Amos came to the northern Kingdom of Israel because God had sent him. Life was great in Israel at the time. One might think that the king’s wealth and the lack of political conflicts implied God’s satisfaction with King Jeroboam II’s leadership. Jeroboam II lived in a palace in Samaria, reflecting the wealth and success of his leadership in bringing stability back to Israel. Yet, Amos came into his midst declaring that his palace of ivory carvings and inlays was to perish because of the social ills that this prosperity had brought to the land. For all of the prosperity there is injustice. The king has not taken care of God’s chosen people and their needs. Amos lets Jeroboam II know of these injustices before he declares God’s judgment upon Israel. But is sure sounds like it could be today…

The Mortgage Crisis with subprime predatory loans that were too good to be true, investors bilked out of their money by schemes fraudulently set up, companies that do anything to make sure they have their profits, (NY Times article) such as investment firms buying nursing homes to make a nice profit by cutting staff and programs, at the cost of the lives of those in the nursing homes…

Amos’ words are hard, they are tough, but they are as true then as they are today, with the rich richer and the poor poorer. God does not like our schemes, God will remember them and we are challenged to remember those in need and not to place our trust in wealth and status. Even in the hard parable that we heard today in the Gospel of Luke, we are told not to place our trust in material things.

Jesus talks about a dishonest manager in his parable, and at first the dishonesty seems to be OK with Jesus. But what is Jesus really getting at in this parable? Isn’t honesty a good thing? Think about the parable: A manager is summoned to his master who has found out that he is squandering his property. He is fired by the master but first he must make an accounting. The manager then meets with those who owe a debt to the master, he lowers their debt one by one, not because they have been over billed but he is reducing his take in their debts that he legally could take as a manager, a type of service fee. He lowers the costs to get in good with the debtors. And it works. The debtors are happy and so is the master. The master commends the manager for what he has done. So what are we to make of this parable?

I don’t think the question that Jesus asks and answers in this parable is about the manager. The manager’s dishonesty is not the point of the parable. Jesus seems to turn everything upside down by having this manager praised for acting shrewdly and commended as something for the children of light (his followers) to do, but there is more to it.

The manager acts to save himself, to be welcomed by others after he is thrown out of the master’s house. But he does it by cutting his take, his fee, so others would look upon him favorably. The possessions, the money he could make from the debts are no longer given priority. He has had a change of heart, and I think that is one message within this parable; the change of heart over possessions. He acts shrewdly by changing and making the debtors happy.

The children of light (the disciples of Jesus) need to worry less about possessions and to act more shrewdly with them, for they are mere things. Jesus has talked a lot about possessions in the Gospel of Luke and it is summed up by the last line from today’s Gospel: you cannot serve God and wealth.

Now, it almost sounds as if Jesus is telling the parable today with predatory lenders and others who are interested in profit over people, only to be called to account for their misdeeds & criminal acts. But if we are honest with ourselves, really honest, we know that is also true of us. We often put our wealth, our possessions, our status, many things in front of our Love of God, and in front of things that really matter in our lives.

I think of the movie The Family Man with Nicolas Cage, who as the movie begins is a successful businessman in investments but two days before the big merger, he wakes up to a new life. It is the road he didn’t travel, where he didn't leave his college girlfriend for a London trip. Now he's married to her, he and Kate, live in Jersey with their two kids, and is a tire salesman at Big Ed's. Everything has changed. At first, he doesn’t like this new life, but over time, he realizes how much he has missed out on by pursuing his career over relationships. We get ourselves in trouble when we buy into the images that say we have to do this or that to keep our status, our wealth, our possessions…what this society thrives on…like Nicholas Cage’s character.

Jesus tells us that we can’t serve two masters because he knows we can’t do it. We will fail. And the one thing that will be sacrificed is God, not the tangible things that are about us. Amos challenged Jeroboam and Jesus challenges the Pharisees and us. Jesus said, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Jesus challenges us to have our hearts centered on God, for our God who is love we lead us to greater joy than we could imagine. And our salvation belongs to God & not to anything here on earth. And we start with an honest look at ourselves. By seeing the role of God in our lives, and making sure God is not on the sidelines, but God is in the midst of our lives. It will take prayer. It will take effort to strive against the stuff all around us that tells us what success is & how to live our lives. And it will take time, for our lives will be filled with greater meaning, and a greater wholeness than we can imagine, if we look to God.

It reminds me of a verse from an 8th Century poem, that we often sing as a hymn, Be thou My Vision, and the verse says this…

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Be thou mine inheritance now and always;
Be thou and only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.

Are we willing to change, to put our possessions in their proper place so to please and be faithful to our God, the first in our heart? For when we place God first in our hearts, when our treasure is not our possessions but our relationship with God, then we will be made complete and everything else in our lives, all of our relationships, will fall into line. Amen.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Burma (Myanmar) in the News

There have been a lot of news reports about the protests in Myanmar (Burma).

You can read about the peaceful protests by the Buddhist monks here.

It reminds me that we at St. Peter's have supported an organization called KERF, an organization based out of East Lyme, CT:
The purpose of the (KERF) Karen Emergency Relief Fund Inc. is to provide humanitarian assistance, including food, shelter, medical and health supplies, and to provide educational and self-help projects for the Karen people.

The Relief Fund recognizes that the Karens are an indigenous, ethnic minority group of about 11 million people who have lived in the mountainous region along the border of Burma and Thailand for many centuries. Due to the ongoing strife in Burma, it is estimated that there are more than 300,000 displaced Karens who have fled into the jungle and are living in huts and makeshift camps in the border area. Those who have escaped into Thailand have not been given official refugee status, consequently they receive no direct assistance from the United Nations or from the Red Cross.

The Karen Emergency Relief Fund, Inc. may be found on Guide Star, the national philanthropic data base, and on Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, the “where to give” page,

Find out more by visiting their website:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

World Cup Soccer

Prayers for the Women's World Cup:

Lord God, the source of all life and joy, recreation and skill, we pray for all involved in the World Cup, and especially for those who represent our nation: for good health for the players, for high standards of sportsmanship and fairness, and for the safety and well-being of all who will watch, that in our shared enjoyment of the game, we may rejoice in the one who came to bring life in all its fullness, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

God of work and play, Lord of all the nations, guide, guard and protect all who work or play in the World Cup. May all who watch or engage find in this competition a source of celebration and a recognition of what it means to be made in the image of the One who played the cosmos into being. Amen.

These splendid prayers were written by the Church of England as a way to promote world peace and harmony during the World Cup matches.

To see what's happening at the World Cup, go here.

USA plays England in the quarterfinals on Saturday. Go USA!

Nets for Life Update

Our Church School kids collected money in the "Pennies from Heaven" cans this past Spring. The money was donated to Episcopal Relief & Development's partnership with Nets for Life.

Here is an update (9/13/2007 ):

NetsforLife partnership successful in combating malaria in Africa

[Episcopal Relief and Development] Episcopal Relief and Development’s (ERD) NetsforLife malaria partnership is providing life saving protection to children and families in 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The program is protecting close to 700,000 people, including mothers and vulnerable children who are most susceptible to contracting the disease.

The NetsforLife partnership encompasses ERD and a number of private individuals and corporations including ExxonMobil Foundation, Standard Chartered Bank and the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation. Christian Aid is playing a key role as well. The Episcopal Church’s Millennium Development Goal Inspiration Fund supports NetsforLife.

In its second year, NetsforLife has distributed 328,708 long-lasting insecticide-treated nets in eight countries including Angola, Zambia and Kenya as of June 2007. The program has trained more than 3,400 malaria agents, or community volunteers, who have reached over 500,000 people directly with malaria prevention messages.

“In sample areas where ERD has evaluated NetsforLife’s outcomes, knowledge of malaria transmission has increased from a baseline figure of 50% to 80% of the population,” said Dr. Stephen Dzisi, who was recently appointed Director of NetsforLife. “Increased knowledge in a community dramatically increases its health and can be observed in Angola, Burundi, Kenya and Mozambique,” remarked Dzisi.

NetsforLife was recognized during the White House Summit on Malaria last December, and in April, ERD testified in Congress to the Foreign Affairs sub-committee on Africa and Global Health.

Each day, approximately 3,000 children die from malaria. “NetsforLife ensures that as part of its education programs caregivers are able to recognize childhood malaria at the home level and take appropriate steps towards effective treatment and care,” said Dzisi. “Overall, there has been an increase in the proportion of caregivers who can identify a child with malaria from about 58% to 80%. Remarkable improvements were noted in Angola, Burundi and Mozambique,” stated Dzisi.

NetsforLife also aims to increase communities’ knowledge about the new and most effective Artemisinine-based Combination Therapy (ACTs), particularly as treatment policies change across Africa. Thus far, knowledge of ACTs has risen from almost 10% to over 40%.

Dzisi promoted as new NetsforLife director

“Stephen has worked to carry out NetsforLife with implementing partners in 16 African countries and has been instrumental in designing the program’s monitoring and evaluation protocols,” said Robert W. Radtke, ERD President. In this new role, Dzisi will oversee the day-to-day management of NetsforLife.

Prior to joining ERD as the Program Officer for Africa in 2006, Dzisi was a project officer for UNICEF and held various positions in Ghana’s health care system. He holds a Master of Science in International Health from Humboldt University in Berlin and earned his medical degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. Dzisi is an expert in infant and child mortality in Africa.

For more information on NetsforLife, please visit

Episcopal Relief and Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church of the United States. An independent 501(c) (3) organization, ERD saves lives and builds hope in communities around the world. ERD’s programs work toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. We provide emergency assistance in times of crisis and rebuild after disasters. We enable people to climb out of poverty by offering long-term solutions in the areas of food security and health care, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.

Sermon: September 16 (8 AM) - On Bishops

With Bishop Jim Curry visiting us at the next service, it’s a good day for us to think about bishops, their role and our understanding of bishops today & throughout the centuries…

We begin with the NT, which speaks of three offices of the church, the overseers, presbyters and deacons. It is from these that our modern notion of three ordained ministries exist from the baptized: bishops, priests and deacons. Bishops are the overseers, episkopos in the Greek, those who oversee church affairs. We read about them in the Acts of the Apostles, but the term overseer seems to be interchangeable with elder or presbyter in those early days. Only later the letters of 1 Timothy & Titus talk specifically about different offices within the baptized community, and they alone lay out the office of bishop.

The church then was not structured like our own, single units spread out, often fearing persecution, house churches. After the Roman emperor Constantine ended the violence against Christians, and then makes Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire does the modern notion of a bishop start to form. As more and more churches are formed, the bishop moves from overseeing one church to many churches, and this begins the emergence of what we call dioceses today that is a group of churches in a geographical area formed with one or more bishops to oversee them.

To connect us with the apostles and those early bishops, the Church has followed what is called the Apostolic Succession…[see picture frame outside the side door of the Church, next to the Lending Library]

Bishops connect us to the past, and connect the churches under them together in common mission. The chief duties of a bishop are with the administration of those sacraments that belong to bishops, that is confirmation and ordination, and the oversight of the diocese, the parishes including the supervision of the clergy… Bp. Curry – 200th Anniversary of the Parish and visitation with us in 2003 (Baptized the Huber boys!). Our diocesan Bishop, Andrew Smith was with us in 2005 for his visitation of this parish and in June when we hosted the deanery confirmation at St. Peter’s.

It is these occasions in the life of a parish that a bishop comes and celebrates with them; the same is true for a dedication of a church, or a rebuilding or restoration of a church. 200 years ago! On September 18, 1807, Bishop Jarvis came and dedicated and consecrated this church as St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. The parish and the Bishop work together for the ministry of a diocese and the bishop comes to celebrate with the parish. But of course, there have been hard times too, for a bishop can step in with appropriate authority from the Standing Committee of the diocese to oversee errant clergy, which Bishop Thomas Brownell, the 3rd Bishop of Connecticut did with the Rev. Menzies Rayner priest of the diocese and rector of this parish in 1827. Two months later, Rev. Rayner was no longer an Episcopal priest…which at least the history book recorded is what the parish wanted.

Bishops have been greeted at times with either enthusiasm or disdain…

In Milan, Italy in 374, they were looking for a new bishop. The bishop had died (who was not well liked by a majority of parishioners) and they were looking for a fresh start. Ambrose, a catechumen, but not baptized was well know and liked in Milan for his authority over the area as Governor. The people rose up and said they wanted him, he accepted after some hesitation, was baptized and ordained. A Church that was tested was brought together under his leadership and flourished.

In 1783, Samuel Seabury, a clergyperson here in the newly formed state of CT, after his election up in Woodbury went to England to receive the laying of hands and ordination as a bishop but he could not swear allegiance to the King, so he went to Scotland and was ordained bishop there. And the Episcopal Church in the brand new USA had its first bishop in 1784.

In 1989, Barbara Harris was elected suffragan bishop of the Diocese of MA. She would become the first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. She had death threats against her and bomb threats made at her ordination. Certainly, her ordination as a bishop, brought joy to some and anguish to others.

The Church, I believe, was renewed each of those times, and it began with guidance from the Holy Spirit to understood that there are no barriers for ordination. Those who are baptized into the midst of the Body of Christ are those who can be ordained, deacon, priest or bishop. And this is done in the Episcopal Church through an election by representatives of every parish, its laity and clergy. It is also true, that the ordained have a role amongst the lay people that calls them to live lives that follow Christ’s Gospel and his call to us.

I think of the words from 1 Timothy: “The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money.” Gentle, hospitable, temperate, above reproach. Wise words to live by for all of us, but certainly wise words for our bishops to be gentle not quarrelsome, not lovers of money, not drunkards… We expect our bishops, as the Book of Common Prayer states, “to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as apostle, chief priest, and pastor of a diocese; to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the whole Church; to proclaim the Word of God; to act in Christ’s name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up of the Church; and to ordain others to continue Christ’s ministry.” (855)

Of course, this is a noble task and a large task. I don’t think any bishop is perfect. They have their strengths and weaknesses like everyone else. I am reminded of the words of the great Anglican Theologian, Richard Hooker, who wrote in the 16th Century: “As for us over whom Christ hath placed them [bishops] to be the chiefest guides and pastors of our souls, our common fault is that we look for much more in our governors than a tolerable sufficiency can yield, and bear much less than humanity and reason do require we should.” This is true today. We expect too much of our bishops, near perfection, and of course they must always do what we want them to do....

We need to remind ourselves that we work together in the Episcopal Church, all of us, for the common mission. Our bishops do not have as much power as other bishops in the RC and Methodist churches for instance; we have checks and balances in the Episcopal Church that require the bishop to work with committees, conventions, with the clergy and laity of their diocese. As a clergyperson I meet with our bishops and other clergy often. It is up to us as a parish, its laity and clergyperson to work with our bishop, to make sure our voices are heard, but also our prayers, and that we continue to walk together to do the ministry of Christ here in CT. Then we will be doing what the Apostles did and we will be working together for the ministry of Jesus, just as parishioners and bishop have done for the last 200 years here in Monroe.

And in a Prayer that is used at every ordination in our church, as well as a prayer used on Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, let us pray:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle - Rest in Peace

[from Episcopal News Service] Madeleine L'Engle, a lay Episcopalian who wrote more than 60 books ranging from children's stories to theological reflection, died September 6 in Litchfield, Connecticut. She was 88.

Her death, of natural causes in a nursing home, was announced September 7 by her publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, according to the Associated Press.

L'Engle was best known for her children's classic, "A Wrinkle in Time," which won the John Newbery Award as the best children's book of 1963. By 2004, it had sold more than 6 million copies, was in its 67th printing and was still selling 15,000 copies a year, the New York Times reported.

She had been the writer-in-residence and librarian at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

You can read the rest here.

In her own words:

“Why does anybody tell a story?” she once asked...

“It does indeed have something to do with faith,” she said, “faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”

Eat Local - Part II

Great article in Yankee Magazine...

(Tod) Murphy's Law: Buy Local, Eat Local, and Prosper
Vermont's Farmers Diner may just change how America eats
by Bill McKibben

You can find out where he gets his products here:
Where to Buy Farmers Diner Food: Vermont's local food resources

Looking for a Farmer's Market near you?

Find them here: Support Your Local Growers

A Hymn for 9/11


O Father, on your love we call,
When sorrow overshadows all
And pain that feels too great to bear
Drives from us any words of prayer;

Enfold in love for evermore
The ones we love but see no more.

Our friends so innocent and dear
Were all untouched by guilt or fear;
Their precious lives had more to give
In them our hopes and dreams could live;

Enfold in love for evermore
The ones we love but see no more.

So brief, the joy since they were born,
So long the years in which to mourn;
Give us compassion to sustain
Each other in this time of pain;

Enfold in love for evermore
The ones we love but see no more.

Guard us from bitterness and hate
And share with us grief's crushing weight;
Help us to live from day to day,
Until, once more, we find our way;

Enfold in love for evermore
The ones we love, but see no more.

When friends assembled here must part,
And darkness seems to fill the heart,
Light one small flame of hope that still
You walk with us, and always will;

Enfold in love forevermore
All those we love, but see no more.

Tune: Melita (Eternal Father, strong to save)
Words by Jean Holloway and Jerry Carroon
Adapted from "Dunblane"

The Tune is best known for its connection to the Navy Hymn. You can find the hymn here.

Sermon at the Apple Festival

Reporter: How many references to an apple in the Bible?
-Genesis: Adam & Eve…the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…the fruit (not specified as an apple…)
-Psalm 17.8: Keep me as the apple of your eye hide me under the shadow of your wings. (used in Compline)

There was a religious poem written by an unknown New Englander around 1784, it has become a favorite Christmas Carol.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
From Divine Hymns or Spiritual Songs,
compiled by Joshua Smith, New Hampshire, 1784

1. The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

2. His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Quite an image, Jesus Christ the apple tree and here we are surrounded by apples, I can see why a New Englander might have come up with a great poem. That poem seems so different from today’s Gospel. What should we make of Jesus words for today?

Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple…

First we know that Jesus constantly talks about love, loving God, loving our neighbor as ourselves, so why use hate here esp. with one’s own family? But if we hear his words in the midst of a large crowd, people who were following him, but not as committed as his disciples, his words are intended to challenge that crowd to be disciples, it is a rhetorical device using hate to catch their attention for they cannot be part time followers, they cannot pick and choose when to commit, Jesus wants all of them right now. If we are to follow him, family considerations cannot hold us back, we are to bear our cross, and forsake our possessions, which is the minimum we are to do.

3. For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

Jesus came that we might have joy and have it completely. What Jesus offers to his followers is not escapism but fulfillment just as the poem alludes to. Our possessions won’t do it. Family alone can’t do it. It is by bearing our Cross, making the sacrifices and committing to follow Jesus and his way.

4. I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Even after weary days, at the moon bounce, or grill, in the kitchen or handing out pies or mums or raffle tickets or apples… Even when our days seem long and our life so short, it is with Jesus that we will find our rest, our home, Or to put in the words from the Song of Songs or the Song of Solomon from Scripture…

As an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

That fruit is from Christ the Apple Tree the fruit is his life and he offers it to us each and every week at this table with the Eucharist, but to do that we must as that reading from Deuteronomy reminds us to do, to choose life, to come and taste and see that indeed our Lord is good…

5. This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Eat Local

Having had a wonderful time with the family at the Goshen Fair, I am reminded how often we forget where our food comes from and the farmers and such that work so hard to produce that food. Eating locally is good for us and the environment...

To find an agricultural fair, visit:

The reasons to choose local food are many and diverse.

For example (from the CT DOAG website):
  • When you chose CT Grown, you get the freshest, highest-quality products available.
  • When you choose CT Grown, you fuel your local economy by keeping your money and about 50,000 thousand jobs here in the state.
  • When you choose CT Grown, you support your neighbor. You also preserve open space, which lowers the demand for municipal services, and reduces your taxes.
  • The average food on an American’s plate has traveled 1,500 miles and 14 days from its source, losing precious nutrients the entire time.
  • CT Grown foods are fresher and healthier. They are better tasting and better for you and your family.
To find CT grown products visit: CT Dept. of Agriculture website and its publications listing.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Prayer for Labor Day

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, page 261)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Johnny Appleseed

Our Apple Saint

Johnny Appleseed
(aka John Chapman)

born - September 26, 1774
died - March 18, 1845

Learn more about his life:


Swedenborgian Church

Harper's Magazine (1871)

The Johnny Appleseed Grace

Oh, the Lord is good to me.
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need:
The sun, the rain and the apple seed;
The Lord is good to me.

Oh, and every seed I sow
Will grow into a tree.
And someday there'll be apples there
For everyone in the world to share.
Oh, the Lord is good to me.

Oh, here I am 'neath the blue, blue sky
Doing as I please.
Singing with my feathered friends
Humming with the bees.

I wake up every day,
As happy as can be,
Because I know that with His care
My apple trees, they will still be there.
The Lord's been good to me.

I wake up every day
As happy as can be,
Beacuse I know the Lord is there
Watchin' over all my friends and me
The Lord is good to me.

Prayers at the Beginning of the School Year

Beginning the School Year

Dear God, today is N.’s first day of school [First Grade], a happy, exciting, scary day. We pray that N.’s teachers will be generous, wise, and gracious. We pray for N.’s classmates, so that true friendships may be found for all. Especially we pray for N. Keep her safe and well. Open her heart and mind to a world of learning, and may this be the first of thousands of days in which she knows the depth of your love and the constancy of your care. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

or this

Child of my heart,
may the blessing of the Holy Trinity go with you today.
May God’s strength keep you secure.
May Christ our true Wisdom guide your learning.
May the Holy Spirit make you glad and good.
May the enfolding of the Trinity hold you and bring you, at day’s end, safely home. Amen.

Sermon: September 2

Yesterday, one of my favorite sports began anew, college football. One of the truths is that on any given Saturday, any team can win. Even the best can be beaten by a weaker team if they believe themselves as too good for defeat…their pride blinds them…and they lose. Its true of any sport… Was it Red Sox pride that got in the way or was it just great pitching from the Yankees that lead to the Bronx Bombers beating up on Boston last week?

Of course that is true about ourselves too, pride can blind us when we do not look beyond ourselves, thinking we know it or have it all. We were not made to be prideful, to think of ourselves alone or ourselves as the greatest…in the words from our first reading: “pride was not created for human beings, or violent anger for those born of women.” It is one thing to have some pride in our work or accomplishments, to honor the gifts we have but it is quite another to see them apart from God or to believe ours are superior to everyone else. This is to be arrogant and lose sight of the ties of love that binds us one to another. The author of the first reading helps us see the wisdom of God, and how as we heard this morning: that “arrogance is hateful to the Lord and to mortals, the beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord; the heart has withdrawn from its Maker.”

I think of the story told by Muhammad Ali to his young daughter…

A king sensed something special about his slave Omar. Omar served the king well as his personal attendant. The king rewarded Omar for his faithful service with a beautiful robe and set of clothes. A courtier was very jealous of Omar and looked for a way to discredit him before the King. He noticed that every day Omar took a large sack into the royal treasury and left with the same sack. The courtier immediately reported to the king that Omar was stealing. The next morning, the king hid outside the chamber to see for himself. As usual, Omar entered the room, opened the sack - and took out of the sack his old slave robe. In the large mirror in the treasury, Omar said to the reflection: "Omar, once you were a slave. Never forget who are you are and how blessed you are."­ The king was deeply moved by Omar's humility. "I knew there was something special about you. I may be a king; Omar, but you have a king's heart." (from Hana Ali, More than a Hero)

Omar remembers who he is, he is not puffed up because of his new position or his new clothes. He does not presume to have a higher place, but it is the king who exalts this humble man whose heart is set right. God honors the humble in heart, is that not what the psalmist says, their heart is right; they put their trust in the Lord. We should not presume a place of honor or exalt ourselves. It is with pride that the heart has withdrawn from its Maker.

But in humility we find our heart is with God and that is what Jesus tells his disciples. Think of Jesus at the dinner party from Today’s Gospel. There he watches people take the seats of honor & privilege. So he tells them a parable… “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, go and sit down at the lowest place. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Don’t take one of the best seats, for there might be someone who is the more honored guest… His parable is not just about a dinner party, but about our whole lives, and those whom God honors.

Humility helps us see our place in God’s creation, that we are no better & no worse than anyone else, God created us in God’s image and equal to one another. It is a lesson for sports, a lesson for life for when we do succeed to celebrate graciously, but its not just thinking about ourselves in humble ways, but Jesus wants us to think of our neighbors, especially those who are often forgotten in our society.

Jesus said, “when you give a luncheon or a dinner, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you.” Quite a contrast to inviting the movers and shakers, the privileged, the ones who would repay us. But it is those who can’t repay us, who need our help, these are the ones Jesus said we should invite. It is to see others through the eyes of humility, out of love and respect, that not only looks to our own well being, but the well being of family, of community, of all; humility is part and parcel of being a disciple of Jesus.

As TS Eliot puts it, "the only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility; humility is endless." And in the end, today that’s all that Jesus asks of us. Amen.