Thursday, January 31, 2008

Theology on Tap - Where everyone knows your name

Theology on tap
Gatherings mix spirits, spirituality
By Jennifer Roes, Boston Herald

Jesus and the apostles drank wine in their times of fellowship. Is a beer-and-theology pairing really that far off?

At Theology on Tap, a religious lecture series held periodically at bars around Boston, beer and the Good Book are increasingly the norm. First belly up and order a cool draft. Then settle in for an intriguing spiritual discussion.

During a recent evening chat at Cheers, part of the “Portraits of Jesus” series sponsored by the Church of the Advent, an Episcopal church on Beacon Hill, the relaxed atmosphere was a big draw.

You can find the article here.

When Christ comes a callin'

Jaeger finds joy in serving others
Former tennis wunderkind now a nun practicing what she preaches
By Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post

Kelley Coco was 16 when cancer invaded her body. Frightened, and searching for something, or someone, to hold on to, she journeyed from Boston to the Silver Lining Ranch in Aspen in the summer of 2000.

That's when she met Andrea Jaeger.

Coco had no clue that Jaeger, at age 16, had been the second-ranked tennis player in the world, a pigtailed, 5-foot-5, 130-pound pixie who slammed winners from the baseline. Coco didn't know that Jaeger escaped the insular world of professional tennis at age 19, searching for something more fulfilling in her life. All Coco knew was she felt a warm glow when Jaeger flashed a smile and welcomed her with a sisterly hug.

Read it here.

At the age of 41, Andrea Jaeger became a Dominican nun in the Episcopal Church in 2006.)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Annual Parish Meeting

My address and other pertinent information will be posted on our website in the coming weeks.

But here are a few things from the Rector's Address:

Opening Prayer:

O God, make the door of this parish wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife. Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children, nor to straying feet, but rugged and strong enough to turn back the tempter's power. God, make the door of this parish the gateway to your eternal kingdom. Amen. (adapted from a prayer by Thomas Ken, 1637 – 1711)

Opening Theme Music:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

You wanna go where people know, people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

("Where Everybody Knows Your Name" by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo)

and two quotes from the address:

So why would I choose to live out my faith here at St. Peter’s? Because this is where I believe I can best give myself to others and because, most simply, this is where I believe I am being personally invited to live out my baptismal covenant. In the final analysis, I believe that we do not choose the parish so much as discern whether it is a place we can find the intimacy we are called to and seek. By the sacramental reality of baptism, we are each called to holiness, to intimacy with God, and therefore we each need a special place in our lives where we can look after that relationship. This is mine. What is yours? [original by Jean Chivley, OSC]

“Mission is about how we live every day of the week. When we were baptized, we became missionaries -- servants of the kingdom, [builders of God's dream. When we dream that dream and do something about it, when we feed the hungry or clothe the naked or help a child resolve a schoolyard spat, we're being invited to the feast. Jesus says, "Come and share the banquet with my brothers and sisters, with my friends, with my poor and hungry and those on the margins." In serving them we are invited to sit down at the feast and meet Jesus, the master who serves, the king who puts on an apron and waits tables. Suddenly we discover that the guests of honor are those poor and hungry, but also those who serve them. This waiter-king has broken down all dividing walls. Everyone, absolutely everyone, is invited to the feast -- all that's needed is to know hunger -- your own and someone else's.]”

“Remember what it is to be missionaries and dreamers of God's dream. Be alert, be ready, for the opportunities are all around us! There is Jesus, and here, and out there! Ho, you that hunger and thirst, turn in here, dream God's dream, join the feast at Jesus' table, keep inviting the guests. Ho, you that hunger and thirst, turn in here. We're going to keep on building this table bigger and bigger so that all the guests can join the feast.” (Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, from A Wing and a Prayer)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

EPPN Lenten Series

Join the Episcopal Public Policy Network for our Lenten Series – “For the Beauty of the Earth”. During Lent we will explore our responsibility to the environment and what steps we can take as a community and as individuals to maintain God’s amazing creation. The climate is changing and that affects all aspects of life around the world. This Lenten Series will look at opportunities for advocacy and personal conservation as well as share stories about what Episcopalians across the country do to honor creation.

Join the EPPN “For the Beauty of the Earth”

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Radical Love Gets a Holiday (The New York Times)

Radical Love Gets a Holiday
Published: January 21, 2008

IN 1983, Ronald Reagan signed a bill honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a federal holiday. Reagan opposed it, but back then, in the olden times of checks and balances, the vote by 338 representatives and 78 senators establishing the holiday threatened certain veto override.


Here’s what Dr. King got out of the Sermon on the Mount. On Nov. 17, 1957, in Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, he concluded the learned discourse that came to be known as the “loving your enemies” sermon this way: “So this morning, as I look into your eyes and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you: ‘I love you. I would rather die than hate you.’ ”

Go ahead and re-read that. That is hands down the most beautiful, strange, impossible, but most of all radical thing a human being can say. And it comes from reading the most beautiful, strange, impossible, but most of all radical civics lesson ever taught, when Jesus of Nazareth went to a hill in Galilee and told his disciples, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.”

Read the whole article here.

The Moral Instinct (The New York Times)

The Moral Instinct
Published: January 13, 2008

Which of the following people would you say is the most admirable: Mother Teresa, Bill Gates or Norman Borlaug? And which do you think is the least admirable? For most people, it’s an easy question. Mother Teresa, famous for ministering to the poor in Calcutta, has been beatified by the Vatican, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and ranked in an American poll as the most admired person of the 20th century. Bill Gates, infamous for giving us the Microsoft dancing paper clip and the blue screen of death, has been decapitated in effigy in “I Hate Gates” Web sites and hit with a pie in the face. As for Norman Borlaug . . . who the heck is Norman Borlaug?

(Hint: Norman Borlaug is "father of the 'Green Revolution' that used agricultural science to reduce world hunger, has been credited with saving a billion lives, more than anyone else in history.")

A very fascinating article, read it here.

Sermon: January 20

These words were preached by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965 in a sermon on the American Dream. (You can find the whole sermon on the web here.)

Oh yes, love is the way. Love is the only absolute. More and more I see this. I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate myself; hate is too great a burden to bear. I’ve seen it on the faces of too many sheriffs of the South—I’ve seen hate. In the faces and even the walk of too many Klansmen of the South, I’ve seen hate. Hate distorts the personality. Hate does something to the soul that causes one to lose his objectivity. The man who hates can’t think straight; the man who hates can’t reason right; the man who hates can’t see right; the man who hates can’t walk right.

And I know now that Jesus is right that love is the way. And this is why John said, "God is love," so that he who hates does not know God, but he who loves at that moment has the key that opens the door to the meaning of ultimate reality. So this morning there is so much that we have to offer to the world.

We might seem far removed from the South that Dr, King was preaching about, but we still live in a world that is full of violence, hate, and oppression. So what do we as a community of faith have to offer to our world? Echoing Dr. King’s words, Jesus is right that love is the way and this morning there is so much that we have to offer to the world!

What we offer is God’s love, welcoming everyone on their journey of faith. Be they a newcomer, a visitor, a new parishioner or long time member, each of us has a place here where we offer everything we are up to God, where we are nourished by God’s spirit, where we taste and see that the Lord is good.

It is in this community of disciples, that we, together, gather to hear scripture for guidance today.

John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Our life as Christians is not defined purely by doctrine or ritual, by conformity or tradition. Our hope, our witness, our belief are grounded in the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. It is Jesus who brings life, bring forgiveness, who offers all of us to come and see, to come and see his activity in ages past, through scripture, through the lives of saints, but also to see Jesus active today in our world, with the Spirit of God that was always with him. It is that same spirit that is given to us to be bearers of Christ in our world today, in our every day lives…

An eight-year old boy is facing surgery. He asks his doctor, “What’s it like to die?” Neither the doctor nor anyone else on the medical staff can answer his question directly — but one hospital employee can. She isn’t a doctor or nurse or child psychologist. She cleans the floors. One night the boy asks her, “Are you afraid of dying?” She puts down her mop, looks up from the floor and replies, “Yes, I am, but I do something about it.” She talks to the boy as an equal, not as a superior. She tells him that she believes in God and finds comfort in the words of Jesus. The two talk for a long time. She has put the boy at peace simply by listening to him. [Guideposts, December 1990] Here is the Lamb of God . . .

A high school student is struggling with his algebra homework. The frustration builds and the teenager slams the book shut. His father comes into the kitchen and asks if he can help, but the teenager says, “They didn’t even have algebra in your day.” Defeated and angry, the boy goes off to bed. At 4 A.M., his dad shakes his son awake and sits him back down at the kitchen table. The father, who works two jobs as a janitor and a chauffeur, sat up all night to read the algebra book from cover to cover. He worked the problems through until he understood them enough to be able to explain them to his son. With his dad tutoring him, the student finally grasps the equations and completes his homework. That night, a father taught his son much more than algebra. [NPR’s StoryCorps] Here is the Lamb of God . . .

Within a month, she had lost both her father and her mother. It was something neither she nor her husband knew how to deal with. She was devastated; getting through the days was often more than she could handle. He thought he might be able to lessen the blow by being a more attentive spouse or more romantic husband. He felt more and more inadequate at not being able to do something to alleviate her grief. Then the night came for them to see the musical Wicked. The tickets had been bought months before. The two leads sang a song that always reminded her of her mother. That’s when he realized his role: to be there to hold her hand, to have Kleenex at the ready, to let her know he would be there when the music ended and the lights came back on. [The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, November 25, 2007] Here is the Lamb of God . . .

In every selfless act of generosity, acts of humble compassion, acts of loving kindness, Jesus, the Lamb of God walks in our midst and we in turn witness to this fact by what we do and say. No matter our age or profession, our skills or ability — we have been called, as John the Baptist was called, as Andrew and Peter were called, as Martin Luther king, Jr. was called, to point to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who dwells among us and walks with us in our doubts, our hurts, our fears, in good times and bad.

John declared his witness to the Lamb of God in his preaching and baptizing at the Jordan River. Our witness to Jesus, the Lamb of God, may be proclaimed in less vocal ways than John the Baptist, but it does not mean that our witness is less effective or meaningful. As Dr. King said some 42 years ago, “I tell you this morning once more that I haven’t lost the faith. I still have a dream that one day all of God’s children will have food and clothing and material well-being for their bodies, culture and education for their minds, and freedom for their spirits.

We are the people today who are welcomed and nourished in this place, who will go out and help make that dream a reality, a dream that came from the heavens, and was proclaimed on earth and given to us to undertake. As we heard from the prophet Isaiah: The Lord said, “You are my servant in whom I will be glorified.” Let us be witnesses today, as God’s servants, of the love that was given to us in Jesus, and make that love manifest in our lives by giving that love to all of God’s children, and helping fulfill the dream of Dr. King’s that all of God’s children can have the fullest of lives.

We have so much to share and offer this morning! Amen.

Friday, January 18, 2008

MLK, Jr. Day - Day of Service

What is the best way to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King? How would the civil rights leader, activist and clergyman want people to remember him?

In 1994, the United States Congress answered that question when it passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the third Monday in January as a national Day of Service. The Act asked
Americans to see the day not just as time off from work or school, but as an opportunity to honor King’s legacy by taking part in community service projects. In short, they were asked to “make it a day on, not a day off.”

On January 21, 2008 millions of Americans across the country — including many Episcopalians -- will conduct food drives, paint schools and community centers, recruit mentors for needy youth, and bring meals to homebound neighbors, among many other projects. For 2008, in recognition of the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s death, the Corporation for National Community Service, a government agency charged with carrying out the service aspect of MLK Day, has announced a new initiative: “40 Days of Nonviolence: Building the Beloved Community.”

This year, King Day of Service will kick off 40 days during which families, schools, faith communities, and other organizations will plan service projects and educational activities promoting Dr. King’s message of nonviolence and social justice. (For more information, visit

The King Day of Service brings together people who might not ordinarily meet, breaks down barriers, leads to better understanding and ongoing relationships, and gives organizations an opportunity to recruit new volunteers for their work. Participation in the King Day of Service has grown steadily over the past decade, with hundreds of thousands of Americans each year engaging in projects. Episcopal congregations throughout the nation will take part this year in the Day of Service, many of them in cooperation with other churches and community organizations.

Information and photos from the Corporation for National Community Service. (from Episcopal News Service]


Sunday, January 20, 4 – 6 pm
17th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday
Commemoration of Litchfield County
Trinity Episcopal Church, Torrington
Speakers include Dr. Bernard LaFayette, Jr., director, Center
For Nonviolence and Peace Studies, University of Rhode
Island. Sankofa Kuumba Dancers and Drummers and Peace
is Possible Chorus. Cosponsored by Connecticut Center
for Nonviolence ( and Community
Foundation of Northwest Connecticut.


Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last; Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated annually in January between the feast of the Confession of St Peter (Jan. 18) and of the Conversion of St Paul (Jan. 25), the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is another way in which Christians around the world remember one another in prayer.

Lord Jesus, you prayed that your disciples might be united with each other, in a unity grounded in your oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit. May your prayer for unity grow in the depths of the hearts and minds of all Christians and especially those gathered in the churches of Monroe. May we be one in our words, that a single reverent prayer might rise before you; may we be one in our yearning and pursuit of justice; may we be one in love, serving you by serving the least of our sisters and brothers. Lord, make us one in you. Amen.

(adapted from a prayer by Mgr. Donald Bolen)

Confession of Saint Peter - January 18

Almighty Father, who inspired Saint Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sermon: Baptism of Jesus

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

The baby Jesus of last week who was manifested to the gentiles on the feast of the Epiphany, has become the adult who was manifested again, this time at the River Jordan with John the Baptist. John at first refuses to baptize Jesus, recognizing the Son of God before him, but consents when Jesus asks him to do it and John baptizes Jesus. Jesus who was born as one of us, who was baptized as one of us, invites us to see these events not as voyeurs looking on from afar as if these events have no real meaning for us, but to see them connected to our own lives, when God was present with us, in birth, in baptism…

Think of that baptismal moment when Jesus was baptized, the intimate connection of the Trinity. The voice of God the Father speaks, the Spirit descends like a dove as Jesus rises out of his baptismal waters, this is my son the beloved, with whom I am well pleased. No matter what your age, no matter how or when it happened, on your baptismal day, the God who had knit you together in your mother’s womb, proclaimed God’s love for you on that baptismal day. When your parents and godparents named you before God in baptism, the Spirit came upon you at your baptism and indeed God was well pleased! And on that day, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.

The season of Epiphany, of Christ made manifest to us and the world as the Son of God, is also the season of invitation to make Christ’s life manifested in us. As Evelyn Underhill put it, “The first point about Epiphany is that all are called and welcomed and accepted. Our own adoration and deep certitude, if God in his mercy gives us that, is never to break our brotherhood with those who come longer journeys by other paths.”

The story of Jesus baptism is laced with the words of Isaiah. The servant of the Lord, whom we heard about in the first reading. The servant of the Lord, brings forth justice, opens the eyes of the blind, and brings out prisoners from the dungeon, sharing the light with those who sit in darkness. This is our baptismal calling. This is the path that Jesus took. This is the path that the Spirit of God leads us on to make him manifest in our lives.

So how have we been God’s servant? Promoting justice, sharing that light and love with this world that so badly needs it. With war and terrorism, with threats and finger-pointing, with a slow economy and lay-offs abounding, it seems that times couldn’t be worse. Now is the time for us, with the authority of our baptism to speak in God’s name, to live as Jesus has showed us and to know that we are loved by our God. For as we are marked as Christ’s own forever, we are reminded on this celebration of Jesus baptism, to recommit ourselves to the meaning of our baptism, to live out the Good News of Jesus in our lives.

I am reminded of the movie The Apostle starring Robert DuVall. Duvall portrayed 'Sonny', a traveling evangelist, who grew up attending African American church services, absorbing their spirit to make him a persuasive preacher despite his sins. After he leaves town because of an altercation, he prays that God will call him to a new ministry. At a lake on the way, he rebaptises himself, takes on a new name and moves on to begin his new ministry in Louisiana. What strikes me about the movie and the character, is that as he starts over again, he wants to start off right, so he rededicates himself to God, rebaptizing himself in that river and goes about his way.

Every year after the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over and we begin a new year, we stop and remember the baptism of Jesus and recall our own baptisms even if we don’t remember them. And as we stop today, we are called to renew that baptismal calling that is inside of us, not by being baptized again, but by recalling the words of our baptism, and trying to live out those baptismal vows in our lives as followers of Jesus. In just a moment we will renew our baptismal vows, but it is more than that simple act, we are also invited to live the vows out in our lives…

By taking part in the Eucharist, in the breaking of bread, in the prayers, to resist the evil all around us, and repent and return to the Lord when we sin. Through our lives by word and example, we are called to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves and we need to strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being. That is how we start today to live out of our baptism, of following Christ, of helping to make Christ manifest in our lives and others…

I know of a college graduate who was looking to do something meaningful with her life when she found out about the Peace Corps. She now teaches English in Mozambique. A fellow priest heard about a need for chaplains, and became an army chaplain and has just finished his first deployment to Afghanistan.

Every evening on her way home, an elementary school science teacher passed a launderette. The scene was always the same: While parents did the mountains of laundry, their kids played video games, stared at the laundry’s television, raced around the long narrow aisle playing bumper carts until a mom finally had enough. Like every inner-city educator, this teacher’s biggest challenge was getting students interested in reading outside the classroom. What she saw at the launderette sparked an idea. With the enthusiastic help of the launderette owner, the teacher gathered a collection of 50 books — ABCs, picture books, books on science, books that had everything to do with fun. Just before the “after dinner rush” at the launderette, she set up the books on tables provided by the owner. The surprised parents had never seen their children talking so animatedly about books before. One night, one of the library “regulars,” came running up to the teacher. With a huge smile, she announced, “I remembered the words you helped me with last night!” and spelled the four words that they worked on the night before. The happy little girl hugged the teacher. [From “Home work cycle” by Georgina Smith, Guideposts, September 2006.]

Each embraced the calling that they heard, each are living out their baptisms. As one author put it: “Today’s Gospel proclaims that there is one important thing…to hear the voice that says “this is my child, the beloved with whom I am well pleased” as underlying the whole of life.

To live out your life in this identity is the calling each one of us has.” Indeed, may we all hear that voice too from Isaiah:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

Today our ministry begins anew. Amen.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Win-Win Episcopal Buckeye/Tiger Challenge

(from the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio)

More than two years ago, Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. On Jan. 7, 2008, the Ohio State University Buckeyes will take on the Louisiana State University Tigers in the same stadium that offered refuge in the days following the hurricane.

Today, thousands of people still are homeless. The people of New Orleans need our help. Bishop Breidenthal asks the people of Southern Ohio to join him in this win-win challenge. Make a pledge now to donate to the Diocese of Louisiana each time the Buckeyes score. It’s a win for OSU fans -- and a win for New Orleans.

Louisiana Bishop Charles Jenkins welcomes the assistance from Southern Ohio.

"I wholeheartedly accept Bishop Breidenthal’s generous challenge, although I am concerned that the Buckeye fans won’t have to buy very many Bundles of Hope. We know they will have a hard time scoring against the Tiger defense," he says. "We truly appreciate the volunteers and the donations from the Diocese of Southern Ohio, and we are grateful for the help in rebuilding New Orleans."

The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana has established a program for supporting the recovery effort called “Bundles of Hope.” A $20 donation buys a Bundle of Food, while a $50 donation buys a Bundle of Care, helping provide wellness and medical care. The bundles are available at $100, $250 and $1000 levels of giving as well. Visit Bundles of Hope at to learn more.

How to help: (anyone can join in)

• You decide how much you want to pledge (i.e.: a bundle of food or care for each touchdown or field goal).

• After the game, donate safely and securely online at
or send your check directly to the Diocese of Louisiana at

Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana
P.O. Box 5026
Baton Rouge , LA 70821


I am taking up the challenge, BUT, as you can see I changed it a bit...

I will be pledging for the LSU Tigers. Go Tigers!

Take up the Bishop's challenge!

Epiphany Sermon

Merry Christmas, Happy Epiphany!

If you weren’t in Church today, you would think I was crazy for saying such things, but today is the last day of Christmas as we celebrate the Epiphany, the arrival of the three kings at the manger, El Dia de los Reyes. Most of our country has sadly, forgotten about the 12 days of Christmas and its ending with Epiphany, stores are already stocking up for Valentines Day. Thankfully the Church and the Latin American culture that is present here remembers los Tres Reyes, the three kings and their presence in the Nativity.

We know from the Gospel of Matthew that wise men from the east (Gk. Magi) came looking for the baby Jesus following a star. King Herod is frightened that they are looking for a baby born “King of the Jews”… The wise men, leaving Herod, continue to follow the star and find Jesus with Mary and pay him homage and offer their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They are warned in a dream not to return to Herod so they return home by another road.

Later tradition says there were three wise men or three kings because there were three gifts, and the names of Gaspar, Balthasar and Melchior gets attached to them. The gifts they offer, recognizing Jesus and in anticipation of his life, are symbolic with gold for a king, frankincense for the son of God and myrrh for his death as a human being. But those were not the only gifts. The birth of Jesus was a gift not only to the Jewish people but to the world. His manifestation to the wise men, symbolically reminds us that this gift was to be shared with the world, for the light of God has come into the world. And it is up to us in our lives to share that gift, of the light that has come into darkness…

One gift I got this past week was to watch a lot of football. After Michigan beat Florida (Go Blue!), I was in a great mood. As I watched USC dismantle Illinois in the Rose Bowl, I heard the announcers talk about an article on the coach of the USC Trojans, Pete Carroll. Pete Carroll has built USC into a college football powerhouse but he does not keep himself locked up on the beautiful grounds of USC. At night, some times you can find him in the rough parts of LA…

This is from an article in LA Magazine… (you can find the article online here.)

"They (Pete Carroll and Bo Taylor) make late-night journeys through the dicey precincts of Los Angeles. Alone, unarmed, they cruise the desolate, impoverished, crime-ridden streets, meeting as many people (mostly young men) as possible. The mission: Let them know that someone busy, someone famous, someone well known for winning, is thinking about them, rooting for them. The young men have hard stories, grim stories, about their everyday lives, and at the very least Carroll’s visit gives them a different story to tell tomorrow. Carroll says: “Somebody they would never think would come to them and care about them and worry about them—did. I think it gives them hope."

And its not just a one time visit…

"A young man stops Carroll, takes the coach aside and becomes emotional while explaining how much this visit has meant to him. He gives Carroll a bracelet, something he made, a symbol of brotherhood and solidarity. Carroll accepts the bracelet as if it were a Rolex. He’ll wear it for days, often pushing back his sleeve to admire and play with it. He gives several young men his cell phone number and tells them to call if they ever need to talk. One, an ex-con, will call early the next morning and confide in Carroll about his struggles feeding his family. Carroll will vow to help find him a job. (So far, Taylor said, Carroll has found part-time jobs for 40 young men.) "

from 23 Reasons Why A Profile of Pete Carroll Does Not Appear in this Space in Los Angeles Magazine By J.R. Moehringer

That is bringing the gift of light into darkness, of taking his coaching to an all new level and indeed bringing hope into dark places. He used his gift of coaching to reach a whole different segment of the population. Indeed we are called to bring our gifts, to celebrate once again at the manger, but to go out and offer our gifts to a world in need, like Coach Carroll. We must not tarry too long or we might miss our chance.

And that is the story of Befana, an Epiphany legend…

Befana the Housewife, scrubbing her pane,
Saw three old sages ride down the lane,
Saw three gray travelers pass her door -
Gaspar, Balthazar, Melchior.

"Where journey you, sirs?" she asked of them.
Balthazar answered, "To Bethlehem,
For we have news of a marvelous thing.
Born in a stable is Christ the King."

"Give Him my welcome!"
Then Gaspar smiled,
"Come with us, mistress, to greet the Child."

"Oh, happily, happily would I fare,
Were my dusting through and I'd polished the stair."

Old Melchior leaned on his saddle horn.
"Then send but a gift to the small Newborn."

"Oh, gladly, gladly I'd send Him one,
Were the hearthstone swept and my weaving done.

"As soon as ever I've baked my bread,
I'll fetch Him a pillow for His head,
And a coverlet too," Befana said.

"When the rooms are aired and the linen dry,
I'll look at the Babe."
But the Three rode by.

She worked for a day and a night and a day,
Then, gifts in her hands, took up her way.
But she never could find where the Christ Child lay.

And still she wanders at Christmastide,
Houseless, whose house was all her pride,
Whose heart was tardy, whose gifts were late;
Wanders, and knocks at every gate,

Crying, "Good people, the bells begin!
Put off your toiling and let love in."

(Befana by Phyllis McGinley )

The kings have come, the gifts given, and we are invited to again celebrate the gift of the Christ child, to offer our gifts, our hearts again at the crèche. But as we celebrate this day, and leave here in awe and wonder for the gift given to us, the light that has entered the world, let us in turn share our gifts and help spread that light in the darkness today.

Let us pray.

Light of the world, we bow before You in awe and adoration. Bless us and our simple faith seeking understanding. Epiphany means manifestation, lifting the veil, revelation. Reveal to us then what we need to know to love You, and serve You, and keep Your word with fidelity and truth, courage and hope, this day and always. Amen. (prayer by Miriam Therese Winter)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Christmas Sermon

This is the sermon I gave at 10 PM on Christmas Eve.

Leaving Lucy’s Psychiatrist’s stand, Charlie Brown still doesn’t feel like he understands Christmas. He’s not really happy… On the way he walks by Snoopy’s dog house, who was decorating his doghouse with heaps of shiny ornaments. "What's going on here?" Charlie Brown asked. Snoopy showed him a flyer.

Find the true meaning of Christmas. Win MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. Enter the Christmas lights and display contest!

"My own dog has gone commercial," Charlie Brown wailed. "I can't stand it!"

With our news focused on whether or not retailers will have a good Christmas shopping season, these words uttered by Charlie Brown some 42 years ago, ring true today. For some, Christmas is about money, about stuff (material things).

We are gathered here tonight, not to avoid the commercialization of the holiday, but to focus once again on the true meaning of Christmas, what it means for our lives, and to grab hold of that joy we want deep down in our souls. Think of our opening hymn:

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him,
Born the King of angels:
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

This is what we are doing here tonight. As faithful pilgrims on our journey, we come once again to St. Peter’s to put ourselves in Bethlehem, to celebrate with joy and behold that Christ the Lord has been born for us. We commemorate Jesus’ birth, bring out the party hats, and enjoy this wonderful gift God has given to us.

But too much of our joy is spent on buying things, or on winning (as Snoopy was trying to do) and too little is spent with each other, loving each other and giving thanks to God for it all. This was not always true. Some of our forebears, especially in New England did not care for some traditions of Christmas and fines were levied by the Puritans on those who kept Christmas. This happened for over a century in some parts of this region, to keep down the revelry, the celebrations, the wassailing…

Its hard to imagine such a strict observance for Episcopalians…

But now we have gone to the other extreme, and we are bombarded by Christmas since Thanksgiving with the busiest shopping day of the year becoming a national holiday. As one author, Bill McKibben put it, “We were Christians, and we felt that the story of the birth of this small baby who would become our Savior, a story that should be full of giddy joy, could hardly break through to our hearts amid all of the rush and fuss of the season.”

Christmas now is so full of fuss and rush, focused solely on the gifts given one day, and we are gorged on carols and everything Christmas, before we even get to Christmas and the 12 days following which are meant to sustain us throughout the year. For Christmas is not just about gifts, and family and food, although for Christians this is one of our big celebrations, and we are meant to enjoy it. But God did not send his son to us so that we could have one day filled with presents, food and fun and forget about it the next day (unless we are returning those presents) and then we get on with our lives. This is not about the stuff the world wants us to buy, which ultimately do not satisfy us. It is about what sustains us, what is lasting in our lives.

God’s son is born to us this night to show us how to live, how to be sustained by God’s love. The message of God this night to the lowly shepherds on the hillside is also the message to us. “Don’t be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy, to you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is the messiah, the Lord.”

As Martin Luther put it nearly 500 years ago: “The true Christian religion...does not begin at the top, it begins at the bottom. You must run directly to the manger and the mother's womb, embrace this Infant and Virgin's Child in your arms, and look at Him - born, being nursed, growing up, going about in human society, teaching, dying, rising again, ascending above all the heavens and having authority over all things.”

Our challenge in the hustle and bustle is to remember that God has given us the gift of life and loves us so much that his son is born to us to share that love and to help us in our lives find that joy we long for. For, "Christmas is a time for enormous celebration, but also a time for pondering, for reverence, for awe at our sheer good fortune that God sent His only child into our midst." (McKibben)

All of our Advent preparations have lead us to tonight. So let us celebrate Christmas and begin anew our Christmas journey so that we celebrate life each day. May the message of the angels enter our hearts and may we live it in our lives. For this is a gift we carry all our days if we are really willing to let Christmas not be just one day, but to enter our hearts.

For what we all want is joy, and we want "to emerge from Christmas relaxed, contented, happy to have kept this season. To emerge closer to our family than when Advent began. To emerge with some real sense that Christ has come into our world." (B. McKibben)

Indeed, for “unto us is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is the messiah, the Lord.” Amen

The Epiphany

The Feast of the Epiphany
January 6th

Some Christians are grateful for the feast of the Epiphany ('the manifestation (epiphaneia) of Christ to the gentiles') on 6 January each year because it offers a second-bite at the greeting card cherry: any number of Christmas cards carry the familiar Three Kings as the artwork, and if not posted by December 25th, they won't look at all out of place in early January. Indeed, it may even imply a certain textual and theological superiority on the part of the sender.

The cameo by the magi - the 'wise men' - in Matthews infancy story (2:1-12) has been encrusted over time with many well-intentioned details, not least of which is the confident ascribing of the number 'three' (not mentioned by Matthew); their status as 'kings' (Tertullian called them fere reges, 'almost kings'); and even names (Gaspar, Melchoir, and Balthasar, which monikers arose spontaneously in the sixth century).

Their fame lives on, and they are recurring stars (no pun here) of stage, screen and Sunday School tableaux, where many a bed sheet has been sacrificed in their honour.

From William Wyler's Ben Hur (1959), to Catharine Hardwicke's The Nativity Story (2006), there is no telling of the birth of Jesus without these three, to whose enduring memory everything from incense to playing cards to a very pleasant pub in Clerkenwell, London, has been named.

But what does Epiphany mean?

At very least, it seems to me that Matthew's take-home message is that God has had enough of the barriers which divide, and that God's passion is - and always has been - for the world.

Matthew's artfully structured story makes great good sense when it is re-read/re-told in the light of the dramatic epilogue to this gospel, the so called Great Commission. In the Epiphany, cast as it is in the opening scenes of Matthew's Gospel, the infant Jesus is revealed to a select but representative group of outsiders: 'the nations' have come to light that God has focused in the pinpoint of one truly human life. When the curtain comes down, the risen Jesus turns the inside out with the command to go and make disciples of 'all nations'.

Whether or not there were three, four, or any number of Magi (Matthew's Greek plural); and no matter their assumed status as professional astrologers , interpreters of dreams, and masters of secret arts; whether they were high-born or self-made of peasant stock, the walls began to crumble. And woe to those who seek to re-build them - a thread which runs through Matthew's telling - to keep out those whom God is letting in.

What became of these strange 'almost kings' after their privileged moments in the light, and their dangerous audience with Herod? With no apparent regard for a good ending, the storyteller simply sends them home - but with the broadest hint that things are different now. The walls are down....

Article from: The Perth Diocesan Magazine - by The Rt Revd Mark Burton - Bishop of Perth, Northern Region, Anglican Church of Australia