Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween (All Hallows Eve)!

Halloween is really All Hallows Eve, or the Eve of All Saints' Day:

“All Saints' Day is the centerpiece of an autumn triduum. In the carnival celebrations of All Hallows' Eve our ancestors used the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal, the power of humor and ridicule, to confront the power of death.” – Rev. Sam Portaro from “Brightest and Best”

"Halloween is the time of year when we see that Christ has so triumphed over Evil, that even little children can mock the Devil with impunity." – Fr. Victor

You, O Lord, have made us from the dust of the earth and to dust our bodies shall return; yet you have also breathed your Spirit upon us and called us to new life in you: Have mercy upon us, now and at the hour of our death; through Jesus Christ, our mediator and advocate. Amen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Taste of the Desert

For those who missed the retreat...

A few sayings of the Desert Mothers:

Amma Syncletica said, "In the beginning, there is struggle and a lot of work for those who come near to God. But after that, there is indescribable joy. It is just like building a fire: at first it’s smoky and your eyes water, but later you get the desired result. Thus we ought to light the divine fire in ourselves with tears and effort."

Amma Matrona said, "There are many in the mountains who behave as if they were in the town, and they are wasting their time. It is better to have many people around you and to live the solitary life in your will than to be alone and always longing to be with a crowd."

Amma Sarah said, "It is good to give alms for men's sake. Even if it is only done to please men, through it one can begin to seek to please God."

Amma Theodora said, "Neither asceticism, nor vigils nor any kind of suffering are able to save, only true humility can do that."

More sayings of the desert mothers and fathers can be found here.

Visit the Library and See Wonderful Art!

Talented artists in our parish, Barbara Lopez, Ed Johnson & Linda Gilchrist are having an art show along with other artists in the community at the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library (in Monroe) until November 9. You can find the art work in the Community Room and while there, have a look at the magnificent mural restoration by David Merrill.

Our own Jim Parsons, noted and prize winning photographer will have a showing of his prints entitled “Reflective Moods” in a variety of subjects, in the Community Room of the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library from Thursday, November 15 through the first week of December.


There is a wonderful online art show called "Saints & Family" produced by members of the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts (ECVA), you can find the show here and their main web page here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sermon Notes: October 28

Since this was Family Sunday, I only used some notes for my sermon today.

Pride goeth before a fall, the old saying goes from the book of Proverbs

Story: Yertle the Turtle (text here, wikipedia here)

Pride goeth before a fall, the old saying goes…

Jesus, said, “all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Some understood humility to lead to salvation.

From yesterday’s retreat: Amma Theodora said that neither asceticism, nor vigils nor any kind of suffering are able to save, only true humility can do that.

For St. Benedict, he understood our faith journey as one of climbing a ladder of humility.

St. Benedict’s Ladder of Humility (see here)

As we ascend all of these steps of humility, we shall arrive at the love of God which being perfect, casts out all fear. If we persist in observing them, we will begin to keep them without any effort. In time it will no longer be a force of habit, but a way of life. (from the Rule)

“Humility is simply a basic awareness of my relation­ship to the world and my connectedness to all its cir­cumstances. Humility is the admission of God's gifts to me and the acknowledg­ment that I have been given them for others. Humility is the total continuing surrender to God's power in my life and in the lives of those around me.” (Joan Chittister, OSB)

Humility as a way of life. Amen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fires in California

Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers, and protect all those facing the destruction of the fires in Southern California; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, they may ever be defended by your gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

How can you help?

To prepare for the long-term recovery work, we have established a 2007 Fire Relief Fund. Individuals can make a gift to our fund. Please add: “Fire Relief” to the memo line.

Please send gifts designated for that fund to:

The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego
2728 6th Ave. San Diego, CA 92103

Donate Online here. (or see below for ERD)

In addition, we are collecting gift cards to Target, K-Mart, Walmart, and JC Penney to be distributed to people who have lost property. These gift cards can be sent to the above address to the attention of Canon Howard F. Smith. Any communication of these requests would be a blessing.

Faithfully, The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes Bishop of San Diego

All Saints' 651 Eucalyptus Ave., Vista 760-726-4280
Christ Church 1114 Ninth St., Coronado 619-435-4561
Good Samaritan 4321 Eastgate Mall, San Diego 858-458-1501
St. Andrew's 890 Balour St., Encinitas 92024 760-753-3017
St. Andrew's 4816 Glen St, La Mesa 91941 619-460-7272
St. Dunstan's 6556 Park Ridge Rd., San Diego 92120 619-460-6442
St. James 743 Prospect St., La Jolla 92037 858-459-3421
St. Michael's, 2775 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad 92018 760-729-8901

San Diego Fire's Prayer List, visit here.

For the latest wildfire conditions, visit here or you can see it mapped out here.

From Episcopal Relief and Development:

Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) is standing by to provide emergency assistance to communities affected by wildfires in Southern California. Almost 1 million people have been forced to evacuate their homes, the largest evacuation in California history. Experts fear that the number could increase within the next several days.

Since Friday, approximately 20 wildfires have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres over 600 square miles from north of Los Angeles to southeast of San Diego. Santa Ana winds, 90 degree temperatures and record low rainfalls have made the fires extremely difficult to control. There are not enough fire engines and firefighters in the state of California to battle the blazes. The flames have destroyed hundreds of homes and damaged hundreds more.

Episcopal Relief and Development is working with the Diocese of San Diego to assist with sheltering and provide psychosocial support for those whose lives are challenged by the trauma and displacement from the fires. “We need to keep our thoughts and prayers with Southern California during and after these fires,” says Rich Ohlsen, Episcopal Relief and Development’s Director for Domestic Response and Preparedness. “The needs, especially of the vulnerable populations, will be great.” Ohlsen will be traveling to the area to assist the Diocese in recovery efforts.

While many people have been able to seek temporary refuge with family and friends, the region’s more vulnerable and marginalized populations – the homeless, low-income and elderly – are in need of immediate assistance, including food, water, and blankets. Several congregations have already opened their doors to offer shelter. Funds are needed for operations and to provide psychosocial support. Once the fires are contained, these same populations will require assistance in rebuilding their lives and finding new homes.

To help people affected by the fires in Southern California, please make a donation to ERD's “Emergency Relief Fund” online at , or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development “Emergency Relief Fund” P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

Children's Health Care

(from The Office of Government Relations and the Episcopal Public Policy Network)

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:40

There are now 8.7 million uninsured children in the United States — in the richest nation in the world. They are rural, urban, and suburban. They are American Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic and White. They live in every family type, although a majority live in two-parent families; and almost 90 percent of them live in a household with one or both parents working.

There is a serious gap in our current health insurance system for children — children who do not qualify for Medicaid, but whose parents cannot afford private health insurance. For many families with children who fall into this category the State’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is their safety net.

By every measure, SCHIP has been a strong success as a program passed by a Democratic President and Republican Congress, with broad support among state governors of both parties. SCHIP’s six million participants demonstrate improved health outcomes and performance in school. Overall the program has, in the past 10 years, decreased the number of uninsured children by one-third. With votes from Republicans, Democrats and Independents, Congress recently overwhelmingly passed legislation to continue present coverage and expand it to more uninsured children. However, on October 3, 2007, President Bush vetoed that legislation.

SCHIP provides government-financed care delivered through public and private services. Far from “government-run healthcare,” this SCHIP reauthorization bill is simply a straightforward and sensible way to cover millions more children who currently are uninsured.

Our faith calls us to advocate for health coverage for all children living in America. Our nation permits every child to attend public schools. A child’s right to live, grow, and thrive should not depend on the circumstances of his or her birth. Children without adequate health coverage cannot fully benefi t from their education and reach their full potential.

Many children and families in your community face significant barriers to health care. Now is the time to rally around our nation’s best investment, our children, by calling for the achievable, smart, and right goal: health care coverage for children.


Almighty God, Heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Book of Common Prayer 830


Find out what you can do locally to support children’s health, from volunteering to help register children for SCHIP to contacting your member of Congress to urge them to keep the SCHIP program strong.

For more information on SCHIP and the challenge of children’s healthcare: Episcopal Public Policy Network http:/

More coverage, and Presiding Bishop’s comment:

or visit the Children's Defense Fund: Healthy Child Campaign

Sermon: October 21 (Children's Sabbath)

The theme at our Diocesan Convention yesterday and Friday was Giving Voice to the Voiceless: Advocating for All God’s Children. Retired Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon was our visiting chaplain for convention who put our theme and the convention in line with scripture. She reminded us that Jesus called us to follow him not worship him. Too often she said we take the easy route of worshiping him so we don’t have to do the real work of following him, of getting our hands dirty doing the ministry Jesus has called us to do in our world today.

That ministry includes giving voice to the voiceless, of being the stubborn ones who continually raise our voices for those in our society who have no voice, like the children. In many ways, today’s Gospel is about such stubbornness. Jesus tells a parable, An unjust judge in a certain city refuses to give a widow the justice she seeks.

The widow kept going to the judge, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” He refused. But she would not go to her home and give up. Over, and over again this scene would happen... The judge, as we are told, who does not fear God or respect anyone else, decides to give her justice, not for her sake as a widow or because she is right, it is not for the sake of justice, but so that she stops being a nuisance to him, very practical!

The unjust judge in the parable has all the power for he can grant justice to the widow or not. The widow of course, in the time of Jesus, is vulnerable, who can be exploited, whose very survival could be at stake because she has no husband, and maybe no kin to take care of her. She is on the margins of that society and would seem to have no power in this situation. And yet, she does not give in to his refusals. She uses what she has available to her, her persistence, & her voice, “Grant me justice.” The widow refuses to be marginalized, and uses her voice to be heard.

From the days of the OT on, widows were not the only ones who were among the most vulnerable of the society, so too were the children, esp. the orphans. Today is the annual National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths. A time when people of faith throughout our country pray for and think about all children. Creating a Harbor of Hope and Health Care for All Children is this year’s theme, reminding us how many children do not have health insurance.

Children, both in Jesus day and now are vulnerable, they can be exploited or forgotten for they do not have power of themselves to get what they need. They need others. They need us. Could the parable about the unjust judge, have a child instead of a widow crying out for justice? You bet. The parable would be an apt description of children today and the stubbornness some have to have to help their children.

This is one true story…

Since 2004, Sarah Guerrero's three children, had been enrolled in SCHIP, the state Children's Health Insurance Program for low- and moderate-income families. SCHIP coverage allowed Sarah to take the children to the doctor for regular checkups, prescriptions, exams and routine follow-ups especially for 7 year old Damian's frequent ear problems. One Friday afternoon in November 2006, that all changed. When Sarah took her kids to the doctor for high temperatures, she was told the doctor couldn't treat her kids because their SCHIP coverage had ended. She asked how much the cost of the consultation would be and was told $75 per child. As a widow who receives survivor's benefits and works several shifts to make ends meet for her family, Sarah knew that these fees were beyond her reach.

Sarah later learned that SCHIP coverage had ended because she failed to pay an enrollment fee—a fee she had never been notified was due. She tried to resolve the prob­lem with the call center. She called again and again, but customer service representatives would hang up on her, tell her that nothing could be done, or tell her that she would have to wait. She didn't give up. For months Sarah unsuccessfully fought to have her children's coverage reinstated. During that time, her children's health began to suffer—particularly Damian's. Damian has a history of chronic ear infections, but while uninsured, the problem began to worsen. He began performing poorly in school and his grades dropped. Sarah had also noticed that at home he did not respond to her when she called for him and that he turned up the volume on the TV more and more each day.

It turned out that Damian wasn't suffering from an ear infection, but severe hearing loss. Sarah was told that Damian needed surgery in his left ear as soon as possible to correct his ear problem and prevent further hearing loss. Yet Sarah was forced to delay Damian’s ear surgery until his coverage could be reinstated. She enlisted the help of others and finally hoped her problems were resolved or so she was told. When Sarah took Damian in for a pre-op doctor's visit before the surgery, she was told again that her child's coverage had not been reinstated. The health plan would not approve the surgery since the six-month coverage period noted on the letter had already expired.

Still, she didn't give up. Next, she turned to child advo­cates to join her in pleading her case. It wasn't until the advocates appealed to the highest levels of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission that Damian was successfully re-enrolled in SCHIP. Damian finally had surgery in mid December 2006 to alleviate his ear problem. While he still needs follow-up care and treatment to correct his hearing loss, Sarah is hopeful that his ear problem will no longer delay his progress in school and that in time he will be able to catch up with his classmates. (from the Children's Defense Fund)

It is so hard to imagine children having no health insurance, and yet Damian’s story is not uncommon, children who do not get the immunizations they need, nor the medicines they need when they are sick. I think of what we have gone through with my own kids. Ear infections, tubes, asthma, flu shots…all children should have access to our health care system. That is an injustice for 9 million children to have no health insurance in the richest country in the world.

“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children,” the great theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said. Our response is clear, we are to follow what Jesus would do, responding to those in need by being their advocates. By giving all children what they need, justice, hope, love and access to health care. But we should not despair at the way things are. Jesus finished his parable by reminding us how God will respond.

As Jesus said, God will quickly grant justice to them, when we call. So we start, quite simply, with prayer. For the parable reminds us about the need to pray always and not to lose heart. That God will answer our prayers. Our prayers are meant to connect us with the source of who we are, that is God our creator. It is not to change God; our prayers don’t make God act. The prayers make us act, prayer changes “us.” You and me. God acts through us in this world.

Remember the words of Theresa of Avila I spoke last week: “Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world.”

We who follow Jesus are the ones who act in God’s name, to help children. To be the advocates they need. With our hands, our heart and voices. If we hear Jesus’ parable for us today…
-would we be the unjust judge refusing to grant justice?
-are we bystanders who watch from the side, with our hands in our pockets, saddened, dismayed, angry and yet doing nothing about it?
-or do we dare stand with the vulnerable, the poor, the widow, the children, letting our voice be heard for them, in our Government, in the market place, on the streets, in our schools, in our churches, in our homes.

A voice that says again and again, Grant them justice! Amen.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

In response to Ann Coulter

On CNBC October 8:

Ann COULTER: No, we think -- we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.

Donny DEUTSCH: Wow, you didn't really say that, did you?

COULTER: Yes. That is what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws...


Good grief. Christianity (New Testament) as Federal Express...

What lies behind her words is the idea of supersessionism.

(from Wikipedia) Supersessionism or replacement theology are modern terms for particular interpretations of New Testament claims, that see God's relationship with Christians as superseding his prior relationship with ethnic Jews. Biblical expressions of God's relationships with people are known as covenants, so the contentious element of supersessionism is the idea that God's covenants with the universal Church replace his covenants with Israel. Although the word supersessionism is modern, the ideas are as old as the New Testament documents and the earliest expositors of those documents.

I am pleased to say that as an Episcopalian, we do not follow such theology. As one publication noted (The Jewish Daily Forward):

In the decades after the Holocaust, however, as Christian denominations were forced to rethink the nature of Christian-Jewish ties, many reconsidered, and ultimately repudiated, the concept [of supersessionism]. In 1988, the Episcopal Church endorsed a new set of guidelines governing Christian-Jewish relations. Supersessionism’s repercussions, the guidelines read, had been “fateful.” Rather than being a “fossilized religion of legalism,” as the Judaism of Jesus’ time was long thought to be, the church’s revised position held that “Judaism in the time of Jesus was in but an early stage of its long life.” But not all Christian denominations have followed the Episcopal Church’s lead.

The document:

Guidelines for Christian-Jewish Relations


General Convention of the Episcopal Church

July, 1988

can be found here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Red Sox Prayer

I am not a Red Sox fan, but with so many in the congregation, I thought this prayer that I got in an email (thanks Sandy!) might be of some help:
Our Father, who art at Fenway...
Baseball be thy game.
Thy Kingdom come,
Playoffs need to be won,
On Earth, then on to the Cask 'n' Flagon.

Give us this day, a perfect Papi,
And forgive us our losses,

As we forgive those,
Like Eric Gagné.

And lead us not, into desperation,
But deliver us from any losses.

For thine is the Power,
And the Glory,
To beat the Indians,
Forever and ever....the Yankees still suck

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day - The Environment

Today, bloggers from around the world are writing on the environment.

In honor of this, I posted a video from YouTube of a famous Public Service Announcement from the 1970s. I can remember seeing the ad on TV of the "crying Native American" (portrayed by Iron Eyes Cody) with trash strewn about the land and the tear in his eye. It made a real impression on me. We still need to act today!

Here is a wonderful study on creation...

A Catechism of Creation: An Episcopal Understanding

prepared for study in congregations
by the The Committee on Science, Technology and Faith of the Episcopal Church

Through Christ all things were made. “A Catechism of Creation” helps us to think about what that means. It is written in question-and-answer format, like the Prayer Book’s Catechism (pp. 843-862). Part I builds upon the Bible’s basic doctrine of creation. Part II outlines the modern scientific worldview, including the Big Bang and the evolution of life. Part III presents the biblical roots for environmental care. Each section’s bibliography encourages further study of science, technology and Christian faith.

You can find it here:

Certainly, An Inconvenient Truth reminds us that we need to act today to stop the consequences of climate change with global warming.

Here's what our congregation is doing, check it out here.

Prayer for the stewardship of creation:

O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Crying Indian - Keep America Beautiful

I still remember seeing this PSA during my childhood. Its simple message resonated with me as a child and I still hate litter.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sermon: October 14

What would happen if you became sick?
You go to the doctor or maybe a walk in clinic…

But what if you had no health insurance, so no doctor could tell you what you had. And the disease that you believe you have is infectious, what about your family? Your neighbors? What would you do? Religious dictates are set for those with such a disease, you must live apart from the community so no one else is infected. You become an outcast…

It is in that hell, that place of living and yet being separate that many people who were believed to have leprosy, lived in. And we are not talking about just ancient times, the last leper colony in the US closed in 1969! The place is called Molokai, it is in the Hawaiian Islands and for over 100 years, was the place that lepers were sent too if there was any question of what they might have.

Leprosy as we know it, Hansen’s disease as it is called today, is not the same as the leprosy described in the bible, the Hebrew word covered lots of different skin diseases or illnesses. But the truth whether then or now is that once diagnosed with any such skin disease, you became a leper and you were to join a colony to live apart from society until you were cured, if ever.

It’s the back drop for today’s Gospel reading. As Jesus entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" They kept a distance because they had to, no one was to touch them, they lived apart. Many saw them as cursed by God rather than infected with a particular disease.

But Jesus looked upon them with the eyes of mercy. When Jesus saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." To be declared clean or healthy, a leper was to show him or herself to a priest who would then make the judgment. So by sending them, Jesus healed them.

And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. And Jesus would declare, Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Jesus knew they were healed, but what happened to them? Were they faithful? It makes you wonder.

The author Martin Bell, in one of my favorite books, wrote about them in a story entitled, Where are the Nine?... (excerpt from "Where Are the Nine?")

One of them was frightened – that's all. He didn't understand what had happened, and it frightened him. So he looked for some place to hide. Jesus scared him.

A second was offended because he had not been required to do something difficult before he could be healed. It was all too easy. He had expected months, maybe even years, of prayer and fasting and washing and righteous living before he could be healed. But he had done none of this. His motto was "you get what you pay for." Jesus made it too easy.

The third had realized too late that he had not really wanted to be cleansed. He did not know what to do or how to live without his leprosy. He did not even know who he was as a person without his leprosy. Jesus had taken away his identity.

The fourth leper did not return to give thanks because in his great joy he simply forgot. He forgot. That's all. He was so happy that he forgot.

The fifth leper was unable to say thank you any more to anyone. His life of leprosy and begging had turned his heart hard and callous. He just doesn't didn't say thank you to anyone any more.

The sixth leper was a woman – a mother who had been separated from her family for eleven years because of the leprosy. She was hurrying to the priests so she could to rejoin her husband and children. She did not return to give thanks because she was on her way home.

The seventh had doubts that Jesus had anything to do with the cleansing. He knew that healing had taken place, but why and how were his questions. Certainly he did not believe in hocus-pocus, magic, miracles – any of that. There was a perfectly reasonable and rational explanation of what had happened, and he wondered if it had anything to do with Jesus.

The eight leper did not return precisely because he did believe that Jesus had healed him – that the Kingdom of God was here and the Messiah had arrived. He didn't return because he was spreading the exciting, wonderful news about the Kingdom.

As for the ninth leper, we don't know, we just don't know, why he didn't return to say thank you.

Ten were cleansed and only one returned ... What shall I say now, that the real point is not that one returned but that ten were cleansed? You already know that. That condemnation is easier than investigation, that if we take time to investigate the reasons why people act as they do, we would find that they have to act the way they do and that such action in the light of the circumstances is quite understandable and totally forgivable and even completely reasonable and just as it should be? You already know that. What then shall I say? That it is good to give thanks? Yes. That it is understandable not to give thanks? Yes. That God does not heal people and then stand around just waiting for us to say thank you and then get angry and have his feelings hurt if we don’t? Yes, that’s true. Which is the same as saying: no, he certainly doesn’t.

But what of the nine? They are on the way home, hiding in fear, refusing to believe, offended at what they call cheap grace, so happy they forgot, lost without their leprosy, unable to say thank you ever again, publishing the news of the Kingdom. Who knows where they are! The point is this: Jesus does. He knows where they are.

[from The Way of the Wolf: The Gospel in New Images, by Martin Bell, published in 1970, you can find the book here:]

Martin Bell has it right. God knows our hearts, our desires, our secrets and will seek to do us good even when we don’t deserve it or ask for it. God loves us and wants us to have our faith make us well and whole. We do have a choice in how we live and God knows where we are.

But Jesus notices the one who has faith and applauds the person. Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then Jesus said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well." The faithful one who returns to Jesus to praise God and give thanks for the healing, is a Samaritan, someone outside the Jewish faith, someone whom the disciples of Jesus or those who heard this Gospel in the 1st century would have been shocked to hear praised. And we are reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan that those who do good or are faithful are not always Israelites.

We are to follow the good examples of Ruth the Moabite from the first reading and the Samaritan, who were faithful foreigners who have shown us what it means to live in faith and trust and thankfulness. And out of that faith, trust and thankfulness to follow Jesus’ example in healing those in need.

To bind up the wounds of victims, to care and visit the sick, to help those who have no insurance get it, to advocate for the children and the poor who do not have a voice for healing and wholeness. We are the Body of Christ to bring healing to those in need. Or to put it in the words of St. Theresa of Avila whose feast day is tomorrow:

“Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world.” Amen.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Remembering the Armenian Victims

Genocide - the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group (from Websters on line)

". . . the Armenian massacre was the greatest crime of the war, and the failure to act against Turkey is to condone it . . . the failure to deal radically with the Turkish horror means that all talk of guaranteeing the future peace of the world is mischievous nonsense." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

"Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" - Adolf Hitler (1939)

"Like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it, . . . the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten." - Ronald Reagan (1981)

The son of murdered Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink has been found guilty of insulting "Turkishness", along with another newspaper editor. Arat Dink and Serkis Seropyan were convicted after printing Dink's claims that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks from 1915 was genocide. (October 11, 2007 - from the BBC)

I first heard of the Armenian Genocide when I visited the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC. There in the Missionary chapel is the the genocide memorial dedicated to the Armenian victims of the Ottoman Empire (1915-23), the victims of the Holocaust (1939-45), and other genocides.

Too often we want to forget our history, forget the bodies, forget the blood, forget the evil that was committed, but we can't do that, we must remember or it will happen again, as sadly the 20th century could be called the genocidal century.

Archbishop Williams repudiates genocide in visit to Armenian memorial, read it here.

Learn more about the Holocaust and other genocides here.

Responding to today's threats of genocide, go here.

Learn more about the Armenia Genocide, here and here.

Learn more above Save Darfur (Sudan), here.

Let us pray:

O Holy God, you love righteousness and hate iniquity: strengthen we pray, the hands of all who strive for justice throughout the world, and seeing that all human beings are your offspring, move us to share the pain of those who are oppressed, and to promote the dignity and freedom of every person; through Jesus Christ the Liberator, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Elders

“Despite all of the ghastliness that is around, human beings are those that are made for goodness. The ones that are held in high regard are not the ones that are militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. They have a commitment to try and make the world a better place. We - the Elders - will endeavour to support those people and do our best for humanity.” DESMOND TUTU

Johannesburg, South Africa (July 18, 2007) – Out of deep concern for the challenges facing all of the people of our world, Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, and Desmond Tutu have convened a group of leaders to contribute their wisdom, independent leadership and integrity to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems.

Nelson Mandela announced the formation of this new group, The Elders, today in a speech he delivered on the occasion of his 89th birthday. He was joined by founding members of the group, Desmond Tutu, Graça Machel, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing, Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus. Founding members, Ela Bhatt and Gro Harlem Brundtland were unable to attend...

You can find out more about this group here:

Here's one news story about them: Can world's 'Elders' help solve Darfur?

NPR had this story: Jimmy Carter Fights Back in Darfur Exchange


I pray that they can help find that allusive peace in Darfur (and in other regions).

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Just Say No to Steroids

Marion Jones, the former track and field star who admitted Friday in federal court that she used performance-enhancing drugs leading to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, relinquished the five medals she won at those Games to the United States Anti-Doping Agency yesterday...

One of Jones’s gold medals came in the 4x400-meter relay. Peter Ueberroth, chairman of the U.S.O.C., said that Jones’s teammates in that relay would probably have to return their medals because the race had been won unfairly. He said that he hoped they would return them voluntarily before the I.O.C. acted to force them to do so. (from the NY Times - October 9, 2007)


One of the truths of steroid abuse is that it robs not only the athlete but their teammates and the sport itself of the true joy of competition and the love of the game.

Steroids and illegal performance enhancing drugs are ways to cheat the game and cause so many of us to stop watching. What's the fun and entertainment if the athletes can't do it with their God given talent? But the truth is, we as a society have turned a blind eye to the abuse of performance enhancing drugs because of our wanting victory at all costs for our teams and athletes.

It's time as a society that we just say no to steroids.

(Note: Having a son who has asthma and from time to time needs a steroid to help his breathing, many drugs including steroids having their beneficial uses too. Its the abuse of them in non-medicinal ways that we need to stop.)

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Just Say No to Torture

President Bush, reacting to a Congressional uproar over the disclosure of secret Justice Department legal opinions permitting the harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects, defended the methods on Friday, declaring, “This government does not torture people.” (from NY Times - October 6, 2007)


The Rt. Rev. George E. Packard, Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies for the Episcopal Church, issued a statement September 15, 2006 that was delivered to both houses of Congress, reminding them of "the cherished values of our nation" in recognizing and upholding human rights.

"I want to be clear that we believe that those responsible for the violence and terrorism in our world must be punished for their acts and their disregard for human life," Packard said.

"I also recognize how difficult it is to ask that the United States deal justly with those who attack us. Yet that is exactly what we are called to do if we are to uphold the cherished values of our nation and to regain our credibility as a nation that recognizes and upholds human rights." (from


Executive Council Resolution: Condemn the Use of Torture - March 12, 2007

Resolved, That the Executive Council meeting in Portland, Oregon from March 2-4, 2007, condemn the use of torture and the practice of extraordinary rendition; and be it further

Resolved, That the Executive Council call upon the United States government to renounce and cease the use of these practices in order to be in compliance with “The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment”, to which the United States is a signatory, and to enact policies to prevent the use of these practices both domestically and abroad; and be it further

Resolved, That the Executive Council call on the United States government to provide just compensation for the victims of torture and their families; and be it further

Resolved, That members of the Episcopal Church, including military chaplains, commit themselves to supporting U.S. military and civilian personnel who refuse to obey orders to practice torture or engage in extraordinary rendition or who face discipline for exposing such illegal conduct.

Explanation: Nicene Creed, we confess that our Lord Jesus Christ was a victim of state-sponsored torture: "For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried." Remembering our Lord's suffering for us, and in imitation of his example, we commit ourselves in our baptismal covenant "to strive for justice and peace among all people", and to "respect the dignity of every human being".

Consistent with this promise, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church has adopted and promoted Amnesty International's program for the prevention of torture (EXC061, 1984). The use of torture is manifestly contrary to Christian faith and teaching, and erodes the credibility of the United States Government at home and abroad. This resolution calls for a renewed commitment to opposition to torture in all its forms and for appropriate care for victims of torture. Copies of relevant United Nations' declarations can be found at

Note: Extraordinary rendition is the practice of sending prisoners to other countries in which it is not illegal to use torture, as a means of bypassing our laws and constitution, which forbid torture.


Since we are still having the debate one year later about what torture is and what methods can be used, it seems like a good idea to remind our leaders to just say no to torture.

To find out how you can help, go here:
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture

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Sermon: October 7

We could begin with the biblical plague that seemed to drop down on the Yankees pitchers on Friday night, or the salvation of the Red Sox by a child who caught a foul ball but instead I have a couple of images for you…

Superman's "S"

Batman's "Bat"

Just holding up the symbols and you knew the superheroes. We know them from childhood and they become part of our memories (comics, cartoons, TV). We watch new films of them and we still love them. Even with everything against them, the superheroes are able to stand up against evil and save the day. But as much as our culture loves the superhero, the warrior who wins the day, we don’t need superheroes.

We remember those whose heroic acts changed our world or saved the day, and so often did it in quiet, and simple acts. Those that paved the way for our better days. I think of…

Alvin York, a simple farmer from Tennessee, whose bravery in World War I, led him to become the most decorated soldier of that war, he helped turn the tide of the battle of Argonne Forest in France and whose nearly single handed bravery captured over 130 German soldiers and allowed the allied forces to continue the battle toward victory. He is best known because of the classic film, Seargent York, when Gary Cooper played him in the movie.

Or a Rosa Parks whose tired feet, led her to sit down and refuse to give up her seat to a white woman andgo sit in the back of the bus. Through this simple action of civil disobedience, she helped start the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and is often called the mother of the Civil Rights Movement.

Heroes of America who were not born in the limelight but who had a profound effect, and whose faith helped them in the struggle. We might think to be like them that we have to have a great faith that we need to ask like the disciples did, increase our faith, Lord. Let it be huge so we can do great things.

But when Jesus talked of faith, he doesn’t talk about it using the mighty sequoia or the redwoods of California, the great cedars of Lebanon or the great charter oak of CT.

No. He talks about faith as a mustard seed…

Jesus said, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.”

Mustard Seed. Small. Tiny.

It is as if Jesus is not expecting huge faith from us, from which we would do superhuman feats of faith and goodness. There is no superhero faith because Jesus knows if we strive for that, then we will lose the faith we have.

We all have faith and doubts, struggles with our faith. Alvin York gave up Christianity after his father’s death, lived a rather immoral life but came back to the faith a few years later.

Its easy to have faith when all is going well, the struggle occurs when all is not well, too often we find our faith wanting and we lose any sense of it.

But Jesus wants us to have faith, as simple and small as a mustard seed, for then we can live in the midst of struggles and tragedy, in the midst of good and bad times, believing that good will come again, that there is a deeper meaning for our lives on the journey we each take.

“Faith is better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process than as a possession. It is
on-again--off-a-gain rather than once -and-for-all. Faith is not being sure where you're going but going anyway. A journey without maps.” (Frederick Buechner)

A great description: faith is something we rely on but sometimes lose, having faith is taking a journey without maps. It is why we come back here, each week, to be with one another, to pray and celebrate and give thanks, to taste and see that the Lord is good.

Alvin and Rosa acted with the faith they had in them, that small mustard seed faith, that led them down paths they did not know but they followed…

I think of a story…

After church one Sunday, a parishioner pulled the pastor aside. He was a dedicated member of the parish’s ministry to the sick and homebound. Just the day before he had visited the local hospital and discovered that a young couple in the church had just had a baby: a little girl with Down Syndrome. “I didn’t know what to say,” the man said to the pastor. “We visited for a few minutes. They let me hold her and I told them she was beautiful . . . I didn’t know what
to say.” He went on to describe how he had prayed with the couple, thanking God for their child and asking God’s peace and blessing on the family.

The pastor assured the man that he had said exactly the right thing and that his words and gestures were appropriate and kind. The pastor said he could not have done better

A couple of weeks later the man again pulled the pastor aside and showed him a note from the young mother. She thanked him for his visit and prayer and then concluded her note: “Thank you for not saying what so many people said and telling us how sorry you were. We are so happy to have our baby. Thank you for sharing our family’s joy.”

“That’s great,” the pastor said.

“But can you imagine people telling them how sorry they were?” the man wondered. “Well,” the pastor replied, “I guess they just didn’t know what to say."
[From “Living by the Word: What to say” by Patrick J. Wilson, The Christian Century, June 26, 2007.]

The visitor allowed his mustard seed faith to guide him to give thanks and to ask for God’s blessing on the family when he didn’t know what to say…

It is that reliance on our faith, when don’t know what to say, when we don’t know what to do, when we don’t know where we are going, but to go on our journey of faith, trusting that God indeed walks with us in the bad times and the good and with the hope and the faith that God will lead us through our deserts, through our storms to places of peace and refreshment.

I want to leave you with one last image…

Pictures of the Monks of Myanmar

These Buddhist Monks, clad in red robes, marched in protest to a brutal military junta, hoping for life and to move that mulberry tree (that is the government) with their faith, even when they knew there could be crackdowns, there could be repression. And of course, there is, as the regime has stepped in and brutally stopped the protests.

But they went anyway, not quite knowing what would happen, but with the hope for better days…

That is mustard seed faith.

And its in you and in its me.

We don’t need to increase our faith, we just need to live it. Amen.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Questions for Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Published in the NY Times: November 19, 2006

This is an excerpt:

Q. You’re very forgiving.

PB. I like the word “shalom.” I use it in my correspondence, I use it in my sermons, and that’s how I sign my e-mails — “shalom.” To me it is a concrete reminder of what it is we’re all supposed to be about.

Q. Because it means peace in Hebrew?

PB. It means far more than peace. I think it’s a vision of the human community. Those great visions of Isaiah — every person fed, no more strife, the ill are healed, prisoners are released.

Join us for our 7 week Bible Study on Shalom.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Sermon: Johnny Appleseed

St. Francis: most well known saint but least imitated

But there was an American, born in 1774, whose life I think mirrors St. Francis in some ways, even if he never knew the saint.

Johnny Appleseed, born John Chapman in 1774 in Massachusetts, is an American Legend and our own St. Francis for his love & care of God’s creation, and his humble nature. We know him best because of his planting of apple seeds from Ohio to Illinois. As a young teenager, John’s father helped begin his career by sending him to an apple orchard to be an apprentice. The skills and knowledge he learned would aid his planting of apples for 50 years!

In the late 1790s, he began his journey westward and began practicing his craft by using apple seeds from cider mills and planting those seeds in nurseries. He often gave away the apple trees he raised to needy families. It never was about profit. He often moved west as settlers moved, picking up prime real estate for his nurseries. He would come back to pick up his rent, but often forgave it. He lived his life as a nomad but was not truly poor.

He felt at home in the forests and woods. One author from 1830 collected this story about Johnny Appleseed: “One cool autumnal night, while lying by his camp-fire in the woods, he observed that the mosquitoes flew in the blaze and were burnt. Johnny, who wore on his head a tin utensil which answered both as a cap and a mush pot, filled it with water and quenched the fire, and afterwards remarked, “God forbid that I should build a fire for my comfort, that should be the means of destroying any of His creatures.”

He was known for his generous ways, often giving away good clothing to those in need while he would wear the simplest and roughest of clothing.

- Story: One Family Gave New Clothes -

He also considered himself a Bible missionary and it is said that he was respected by the pioneers and the Native Americans for his service to others. When the Natives were on the war path he knew the woods so well, he was often able to warn settlers ahead of time.

- Story: Primitive Christian -

He had similarities to St. Francis, and his simple & giving life bears all the marks of what the Lord asks of us: “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) Amen.

Sermon: September 30

After I dropped the kids off at school, I was jumping through my list of radio stations when I caught a song*…

Hey girl, you know you drive me crazy
[One look puts the rhythm in my hand]
Still I'll never understand why you hang around
I see what's going down

I thought, oh just another alternative rock band singing about love, but wait, the lines of the chorus got my attention…

Do you feel like a man
When you push her around?
Do you feel better now as she falls to the ground?
Well, I'll tell you my friend, one day this world's going to end
As your lies crumble down, a new life she has found

The song is about abuse, domestic violence, and we know from statistics that one in four women will experience such abuse in their lifetime. It is a frightening statistic, that no woman or man should ever experience. That this rock band brings it up in a song and then focuses on the new life that the victim has found is impressive. But what really struck me was its moral understanding of the consequences of our actions…

A pebble in the water makes a ripple effect
Every action in this world will bear a consequence
If you wade around forever you will surely drown
I see what's going down

They got it right. It is our actions (or lack of action) that will bear a consequence, but they also point out that it might not happen in this lifetime as a line from the chorus rightly points out…

Well, I'll tell you my friend, one day this world's going to end
As your lies crumble down, a new life she has found

About 2,000 years ago, a rabbi was making a similar point by telling a parable…

There was a rich man who sumptuously lived, dressed richly, eating the best foods. He must be blessed. There was a poor man too. His name was Lazarus. Dogs lick his sores and he longs to be satisfied with the food scraps from the rich man’s table. He must be cursed, lying at the rich man’s gate.

But their fortunes are reversed at their deaths. The poor man is carried by angels to be with Abraham, the rich man is in Hades. The rich man begs Abraham to send someone to his brothers to save them from such a fate, to which Abraham says they should listen to Moses and the prophets, for if they won’t listen to them, they will never listen to someone risen from the dead.

The implication is that those who do not listen, accept, take on what Moses & the prophets say, who have told the people to take care of the least among them, will never understand Jesus & his ministry, even when he rises from the dead. The rich man was in a way blinded because of all his stuff, he did not or would not see the poor man Lazarus who was at his gate. It sounds as if his brothers are the same way. It would have been hard to miss Lazarus, although easy to ignore him.

As St. Paul says, “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

Life is lived with our hope set on our God who has so richly loved us. Things will happen in our lives, and the riches we have one day, may be gone the next, but God will not be gone the next. Our God is with us every step of the way, whether its welcoming a new child into a family, or battling cancer, celebrating a raise or getting out of an abusive relationship.

Our eyes need to be open to seeing our God at work in the world about us, & at work in our lives. But often are eyes are blinded because we can’t look past the stuff we have, too worried about what we might lose, we often sacrifice people, God, even ourselves before we lose our things, but it is then that we have truly lost what is worth so much.

As Jesus said, "you cannot serve God and wealth;" and the life of the rich man is the perfect example. who failed to understand the consequence of his inaction toward Lazarus, living his luxurious life and only in the end trying to save his brothers after his death. We are blessed in so many ways, but our truest blessings are from our interactions with one another. And those of us who have riches in this life, are not to put our trust in them, but to be generous in our giving of them & putting our trust in our loving God.

There are lots of ways for us to be generous in this world, to be rich in good works, or in the words of John Wesley of the 17th Century:

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.

To the Lazarus at our gate, to the victim of abuse, our actions are to help them find that new life, by doing all the good we can…

Or as St. Paul puts it, “We are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for ourselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that we may take hold of the life that really is life.” Amen.

*The song is called Face Down, by the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Video can be found here and lyrics here