Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lambeth & Poverty

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today announced plans to mount an unprecedented mass walk of bishops and other faith leaders through central London during the forthcoming Lambeth Conference to demonstrate the Anglican Communion's determination to help end extreme poverty across the globe.

The Archbishop will be joined by approximately 600 other archbishops and bishops, and their spouses, alongside other UK faith leaders for the high-profile symbol of commitment to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight promises made by world leaders to halve world poverty by 2015. Taking place on Thursday 24th July, the event will culminate in a rally in the grounds of Lambeth Palace, the London home and office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The event is being organized in partnership with Micah Challenge UK, part of the international Micah Challenge movement dedicated to uniting Christians to work together for an end to world poverty.

Read the rest of the news report here.

Learn more about the Micah Challenge in the US, here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Lambeth Conference

"When the bishops of the Anglican Communion convene in Canterbury this summer for the 2008 Lambeth Conference, they will find a gathering differing in many ways from its predecessors and one that is intended to strengthen their sense of a shared Anglican identity and help to equip them for their roles as leaders in mission." Read the rest here. (pdf file)

The May 25 bulletin insert offers an overview of the 2008 Lambeth Conference of bishops, set for July 16-August 3 in Canterbury, England. The insert is the first in a nine-part series on the Lambeth Conference and the Anglican Communion.

You can find the inserts here.

Sermon: May 25 (on St. Paul)

“Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries.”

Servants & Stewards – Paul does not put himself and the other apostles on a pedestal, as those to be looked up to but instead wants the Corinthians to see them in the light of service and stewardship because they are trustworthy. Paul writes to them to encourage them, but how did Paul write his letters, where did it all come from?

I will be using the images and words from the Godly Play class on Paul’s Discovery, for the Holy Spirit was active after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus as Paul discovered on the road to Damascus. He knew Jesus in a new way and explained as such in his letters, but I am getting ahead of myself…

Leaving Tarsus – Paul’s Birth - I

In the beginning, a baby was born, named Saul by his mom and dad, after the first king of Israel. They lived in Tarsus by the sea. He learned to make tents as his father did. He read the Torah with his parents. He wanted to know more. When he was old enough he left Tarsus to go and learn more…

Studying at the Temple - II

He went to the Temple in Jerusalem. There he prayed, he studied. Under Gamaliel, he learned much about the Torah and how to be a Pharisee. He worked hard to keep the laws of God and had no patience for those who did not. He was determined to stop those following the way, who believed Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. He was there at the stoning of Stephen, and from there he left to catch more of those followers in Damascus.

Experience on the road to Damascus (Baptism by the Holy Spirit) – III

On the way to Damascus, a bright light knocked him down, a voice asked Saul “why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked, “who are you Lord?” “It is I Jesus, whom you are persecuting but get up and go to Damascus and you will be told what to do.” He had to be helped to Damascus for Saul could not see. For three days and nights he stayed on Straight Street until he heard another voice. “I am Ananias. I was sent by Jesus to lay hands on you and bless you.” And something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes. They ate together and after he regained his strength, Saul preached at the synagogue about the Good News he experienced.

Escape from the Damascus (Paul’s journey in the Desert) – IV

But they did not want to hear such news and they tried to arrest him. They blocked the gates of the city. But the followers of Jesus helped him escape. They got him to the city wall. Tied a rope to the basket and lowered Saul down, outside the city wall. Saul disappeared in the darkness into the desert of Arabia to pray and discern what God was calling him to do now. God came so close to him in that desert and Saul came so close to God that he knew what he was to do. To go and spread the Good News, to go the ends of the earth and share how he had changed, how hate had given way to love, and he would share that with the new churches, writing letters and visiting.

Letters to New Churches – V

Saul began to write letters to churches to help them. He traveled by boat, he walked across land. He went to Jerusalem and met up with Peter, James and John and many others, now called Christians. At first they were suspicious of him but they told him to go and continue his mission and to speak the Good News to the gentiles. Saul even changed his name, to the Roman name, Paul. He helped start churches and he wrote letters, Ephesians & Philippians, Thessalonians and Corinthians and in his letter to the Romans, he told them he would visit them and go on to Spain.

The Final Journey to Jerusalem – VI

Paul returned to Jerusalem to pray at the temple. But some did not want him there, a fight broke out, and the Roman Soldiers rushed in and arrested Paul and saved his life. He told them he was a Roman citizen. He was held for two years in Caesarea along the coast. He was then taken by boat to Rome to be judged by the Roman courts. The boat sank en route but Paul was saved. He continued the journey to Rome.

Paul’s Death – VII

There in Rome, Paul was kept prisoner. He was guarded but he could go and visit friends while the courts decided what to do… Some say he did go and visit Spain, most believe he was executed after the great fire in Rome in the year 67. But Paul lives on traveling to the ends of the earth because his message of how he found love after giving up hate on that road to Damascus, how Jesus had changed his life; his story and his letters are still being read today.

St. Paul said, “Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries.”

And now we are entrusted with that ministry of service and stewardship, to tell the Good News of our lives, of how Jesus has touched us and opened our eyes. Amen.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Prayer of George Washington

(or is it Thomas Jefferson's?)

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Memorial Day Prayer

Looking out from the Church, at the corner of Fan Hill & Route 111, seeing the memorials of our soldiers who have died in the line of duty and for all those who served:

ALMIGHTY God, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy and especially for those men and women who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to those who are commemorated on those memorials and those written in our hearts your mercy and the light of your presence. And give, O Lord, to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will. And in your name we pray. Amen.

Give Blood! Give Life!

The American Red Cross, CT Chapter is issuing an open invitation to regular blood donors, donors who haven't given blood in awhile and, especially, to people who have never rolled up their sleeves to give the gift of life.

Please consider yourself asked and give blood. Studies have shown that people say they've never given blood because they've never been asked. We’re extending this invitation to everyone eligible to give blood throughout CT.

If you've never given blood before, or haven't done so in a long time, we hope you'll Consider Yourself Asked and come in. For more information on donating blood, click here.

or schedule your appointment today: click here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Poems from the Sermon

Want to read those poems mentioned in my Trinity sermon?

You can find James Weldon Johnson's poem THE CREATION here.

You can find Joseph Addison's hymn THE SPACIOUS FIRMAMENT ON HIGH here.

Here are some others:

By R. S. Thomas (1913 – 2000)

God looked at space and I appeared,
Rubbing my eyes at what I saw.
The earth smoked, no birds sang:
There were no footprints on the beaches
Of the hot sea, no creatures in it.
God spoke. I hid myself in the side
Of the mountain.
As though born again
I stepped out into the cool dew,
Trying to remember the fire sermon,
Astonished at the mingled chorus
Of weeds and flowers. In the brown bark
Of the Trees I saw the many faces
Of life, forms hungry for birth,
Mouthing at me. I held my way
To the light, inspecting my shadow
Boldly; and in the late morning
You, rising towards me out of the depths
Of myself. I took your hand,
Remembering you, and together,
Confederates of the natural day,
We went forth to meet the Machine.

From Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

We are dressed in the scaffold of creation:
in seeing—to recognize all the world,
in hearing—to understand,
in smelling—to discern,
in tasting—to nurture,
in touching—to govern.
In this way humankind comes to know God, for God is the author of all creation.

From Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)

"In this vision he showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, and it was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought "What may this be?" And it was generally answered thus: "It is all that is made." I marveled how it might last, for it seemed it might suddenly have sunk into nothing because of its littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: "It lasts and ever shall, because God loves it."

Sermon: Trinity Sunday (May 18)

[Music: Fanfare for the Common Man]

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good…

I though it needed a soundtrack and I think Aaron Copland (Fanfare for the Common Man) would be a good choice.

In the beginning,
-the beginning of our story
-the beginning of the bible
-the beginning of everything

The beginning of the book of Genesis and the Creation story is a wonderfully imaginative story of our creation. As God created, God looked upon the creation and saw it was good. Lately whenever we hear about creation, we don’t talk about its goodness but we seem to fall into the trap of making it a story of controversy. The creation story is not some competing explanation for the world, totally separate from other understandings of creation like the Big Bang theory.

Faith & science need not be enemies. We can indeed believe in both. The Creation story gives us a wonderful image of creation, of God’s why it all happened. The Big Bang theory may tell us how it happened. But Science can only look back so far before there is nothingness, and in that nothingness, is a spark at the beginning, that bang, and in the end it was all good. So why did it happen that way…

I look to poets to help me with that understanding.

And God stepped out on space,
And He looked around and said,
"I'm lonely -- I'll make me a world."

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said, "That's good!"

This poem from James Weldon Johnson, an African American sermon of about 100 years ago, gets me thinking about why God created us. Out of loneliness, out of love, with just a smile and bang the light was born, and it was good! I think he picks up on an aspect of creation that God created because God desired relationship.

On this Trinity Sunday, we understand God as one being and yet known in three ways. And people have understood that three-in-one in many ways over the centuries. Traditionally, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Lover, the Beloved and the Mutual Love is what St. Augustine called the Trinity 1700 years ago, although he said it in Latin.

Robert Farrar Capon, in his book Genesis: the Movie, thinks of the Trinity as: The Producer, the Star and the Director. A thoroughly modern way of looking at the Trinity but I think it works: God the Father is the producer of the whole creation, God the Son is the savior and the star of the show and the Holy Spirit is behind the scenes directing it all.

“The truth is that God meets you in the Scriptures, whether you recognize him or not,” says Capon. “This is the case, of course, with any great film: it's not until you've lived with the entire picture in your mind that you can decide whether you've met anybody worth meeting — let alone who it is you've met. But it's also the case with the church, the community of faith, that's been watching the biblical movie unfold ever since the Exodus.” (p. 28)

This understanding of being part of the biblical narrative, of watching it unfold, knowing the players behind the scenes and the star, of re-creating these events year after year to have those events be a part of our story too, is what living in creation is all about. It is part of our faith journey. To carry Capon’s image a little farther and in his words…

“It is seeing the Bible as a movie to be taken in rather than a book to be deciphered. They show you the liberation from literalism you might find if you can stop asking questions of the biblical text and just watch it. Only God knows the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Only the Father, who holds Truth Itself in his beloved Son, actually owns It.” (p. 297)

Understanding the creation story, understanding the role of God as Trinity plays in our lives, is to watch the film, take in the bible not as something to decode for our lives, with some secrets embedded if we but search long and hard enough but to watch the whole thing, get the whole picture and in that catch a glimpse of God’s truth and then participate in that truth with our lives.

As Hildegard of Bingen said nearly 1000 years ago…

We are dressed in the scaffold of creation:
in seeing—to recognize all the world,
in hearing—to understand,
in smelling—to discern,
in tasting—to nurture,
in touching—to govern.
In this way humankind comes to know God,
for God is the author of all creation.

We are living in God’s creation, made in God’s image, we are loved and the bible invites us in to know God and to take our part in the biblical story which is part of our lives. It is as the poets have told us:

He looked on His world with all its living things,
And God said, "I'm lonely still." Then God sat down
On the side of a hill where He could think;
By a deep, wide river He sat down;
With His head in His hands,God thought and thought,
Till He thought, "I'll make me a man!" (JWJ)

Or maybe it’s the stars and planets that sing about creation as in Joseph Addison’s hymn:

In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
Forever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine.”

Or maybe it’s a song like Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man or Franz Joseph Haydn’s The Creation. Poets and song help us to place ourselves in the midst of God’s creation, realizing as Julian of Norwich did that creation began and “it lasts and ever shall, because God loves it."

God’s creation began with a bang long ago, the light of which has never stopped travelling, the truth of which we are still coming to understand. Let us this day, celebrate creation, celebrate God who made us in God’s image, who wants a relationship with us, desires us and know that in it all, it is all very good. Amen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Prayers for China and Myanmar

God of love, whose compassion never fails; we bring before you the griefs and perils of the peoples of China and Myanmar; for the necessities of those left homeless; the helplessness of those shaken by earthquake or surrounded by water; for the pains of the sick and injured; for the sorrow of the bereaved. Comfort and relieve them, O merciful Father, according to their needs and draw near to each; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

based on a prayer by St Anselm (1033-1109)

Loving Father, you comfort us in times of affliction: Our brothers and sisters have suffered a great tragedy and they need your healing. Send your Holy Spirit to soothe the anger, fear, and sorrow of their broken hearts. In the darkness of this moment, shine the light of your radiant love. Be their companion in their grief. In their pain, make them strong in courage, dry their tears, mend their hearts, and gently call them to newness of life. We thank you for the assurance of your love, shown in your Son Jesus, who suffered for us, died, and rose again to prepare our place in your eternal home. Amen.

(based on a prayer, Surviving a Tragedy)

Want to help?

To help people affected by the earthquake in China (or the typhoon in Myanmar), please make a donation to Episcopal Relief and Development’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.

Episcopal Relief and Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church of the United States. As an independent 501(c) (3) organization, Episcopal Relief and Development takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Together with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners, Episcopal Relief and Development strengthens communities today to meet tomorrow’s challenges. We rebuild after disasters and empower people by offering lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Baseball - For the love of the Game

Some interesting articles on Baseball...

Baseball at breaking point over maple bats

and over at the NY Times:

Tiger Stadium Faces Partial Demolition Amid Opposition

My brother caught a foul ball at the old Tiger Stadium, I can remember many a game there, including seeing Detroit play a interleague game against the Marlins. It is very sad! Too bad they couldn't save part of it to be used as place for old time baseball, or a historic place...

Mother's Day Prayer

Loving God, on this day of Pentecost,
as we give thanks for the Spirit that you have sent into our lives,
we thank you for the love of our mothers,
who have nurtured our souls and blessed our lives.
May we see your loving Spirit behind them and guiding them.
We pray for those mothers in our world today where war or famine, violence or illness have hindered their care for children.
We ask you to bless them with your own special love.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, who was loved by his mother Mary.

Sermon: Pentecost (Mother's Day - May 11)

Holy Spirit, still me. Let my mind be inquiring, searching. Save me from mental rust. Deliver me from spiritual decay. Keep me alive and alert. Open me to your truth. O Lord, teach me so that I may live in your Spirit. Amen.
(adapted from The Sacrament of the Word by D. Coggan)

"Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts!” so begins the Mother's Day proclamation, first uttered in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe, rallying mothers to stand up and speak for peace in our world. We have forgotten that piece of our history of Mother’s Day with its humble beginnings after the civil war to promote peace, it was revived in 1908 and finally in 1914 recognized by president Woodrow Wilson as a way for American citizens to honor those mothers whose sons had died in war. Mother’s Day has continued to evolve, and has become a day for others in the family to honor their moms with gifts, with relaxation, with love.

Today is also Pentecost, 50 days after Easter when the Holy Spirit blew into town, settling upon the disciples and the church was born. I was reminded that today’s celebration of Pentecost, invites us to see God in another way — to think of God in terms other than as a noun. Pentecost is about God as verb. God as doing, being, acting. The Spirit of God is God breathing in us, God animating us, God pulling us together as a Church. God loving and healing and reconciling. God sanctifying the everyday, God comforting the grieving, God seeking out the lost. The Spirit of God is the manifestation of God as a verb — God not only is but does.

That Spirit is still alive today, still animating us to go and do. I was reminded of one mother who recently did what the Spirit of God led her to do. “I want to love the world, but I need to make sure that it happens one person at a time that I encounter.” These words are from the Rev. Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest in Nashville, TN. Inspired by her own mother who rebuilt their lives after their father’s sudden death by a drunk driver had ended his ministry as an Episcopal priest in TN, she has reached out in love with that Spirit of God that called her forth to go and do.

Becca founded Magdalene House in Nashville, a non-for-profit recovery community for women with a criminal history of prostitution and drug abuse, and Thistle Farms, a for-profit cottage industry launched to help support Magdalene House and its residents. With all of that ministry and her ministry as a college chaplain at Vanderbilt, she felt a call to go with some from Magdalene House and share the message of love and hope that has been part of the Magdalene House with women in Rwanda.

Becca writes: “Rwanda was amazing! The women we met fell in love with the message and community of Magdalene. We read letters the women from Nashville sent and in response, the women who are part of the sisters of Rwanda started sharing their experiences of surviving incest, violence, addiction and prostitution…the stories that are hauntingly similar. Rwanda is full of people walking around with ghosts while new life is strapped to the backs of women. Hearty crops are blooming next to people so poor they can't feed their children. It was so much to take in sometimes my legs would shake or my head would throb. Sometimes it's just a fishing pole people need. They already know how to fish. The faith we saw was inspiring and a little intimidating. The singing and dancing were beautiful. The landscape is hilly with mists that come in like sweet blankets. It is strange to think of a million people dying on that land.” (from her blog)

Becca Stevens is a mother of three and many of those sisters in Rwanda are also moms, but mothers who lived through the worst of violence, the worst of what we can do to each other, still trying to live, giving love to their children, learning how to make ends meet, and survive it all. In the midst of such a meeting is the Spirit of God, who breathes into us, the love, the hope, the longing for the richness of life that God gives. And that same Spirit that calls us to do, to reach out in love, one person at a time. A Spirit that called sisters in one part of this planet to visit others, to reach out in love and hope.

This morning, the Spirit has called us to welcome into this fellowship, into this Body of Christ, Bianca Davila and Nichole Tabor, who will be baptized this morning and sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. It is that Spirit that dwells with us from our Baptism that empowers us through the gifts of the Spirit – wisdom, knowledge, discernment, prophecy, miracles, tongues, and interpretation – that is given by the one Spirit for the well-being of the common good. The same Spirit poured upon each one of us allows us to do the ministry that God gives to us to do with the gifts we have. Bianca and Nicole will in time join us in sharing their gifts with the world.

Like those tongues of flame that once rested on the disciples, God gives us that fire, that spirit to go, to speak out, to touch, to love, to do. I think of a story from the Desert Fathers who knew so intimately in their walk with God about what it means to be a soul burning with the Presence of God. Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace, and, as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” The old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire, and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

The Spirit of God is blowing through this world and some have caught hold of that flame which is active, for God is doing things, enabling disciples to be “fire-givers” in the name of Jesus like the Rev. Becca Stevens, or the Desert Fathers or the mothers whom we honor and cherish this day. "Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, everyone who has heart!” May we lift up our Spirits to do what God is doing in our world and try to become that flame that touches others in Jesus’ name. For Today we celebrate our mothers and we celebrate the Holy Spirit that has ignited and empowered the Church to be Jesus Christ in the world; for we are all called to arise and play our part. Amen.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sports & Tragedy

Two recent articles for your thoughts...

EIGHT BELLES by Barbara Crafton (from Geranium Farm)

Such a brief period of excitement, the running of the Kentucky Derby -- most of us notice it right before it occurs, read about the front-runner, and then turn on the television for our annual peek into the world of thoroughbred racing. Maybe somebody has a Derby party, at which everyone has a mint julep.

For those involved in it, of course, it's the culmination of years of work and thousands of dollars. And for everyone, this year, it was over in a sudden stab of heartache, the impressive performance of the winner overshadowed by the tragedy of the only filly in the race being put down right where she fell, having broken first one ankle and then the other. In the newspaper photograph, she raised her beautiful head to look in agonized disbelief at her injury, while her people gathered around her to keep her from struggling to her feet and her rider stood numbly off to one side. Moments later, she and her terrible pain were both gone.

They are such beautiful animals.

Read the rest here.

Need for Speed Brings Tragedy at the Derby
by Frank Deford (from NPR)

More and more, sport — especially in the United States — has been reduced to speed and power. The very nature of sport, its elemental base, has always been about who's the fastest or who's the strongest. But guile and gumption used to play a larger part in our games.

No one knows why the filly Eight Belles collapsed, her front ankles fractured, right after finishing second at the Kentucky Derby last Saturday. She looked just fine up until the moment she fell. It was like the sad little two-sentence notices you read in the newspaper every once in a while and then forget ... about some apparently healthy high school or college athlete who suddenly, mysteriously collapses and dies at practice.

You can read the rest here.

Burma Relief

Episcopal Relief and Development is providing emergency assistance to communities in Burma (Myanmar) affected by Cyclone Nargis. The storm, packing winds up to 120 miles per hour, swept through the country on Saturday, leaving at least 23,000 people dead and 41,000 people missing. The low-lying Irrawaddy Delta region suffered the most severe damage. The situation in Burma is dire. Reports indicate that tens of thousands of homes were destroyed, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without shelter. The full extent of the damage throughout the country remains unclear due to poor communications and roads made impassable by the storm. In Rangoon, the capital, machete-wielding monks have taken to the streets to assist with clearing the wreckage.

Working with our partner, the Anglican Church of Burma, Episcopal Relief and Development is sending funds to secure shelter, food water and other relief needs for people displaced by the Cyclone. As part of our long term strategy, we have been working for the past two years with five dioceses on economic development including agriculture, livestock, and micro-loans, clean water and education programs.

Episcopal Relief and Development’s response to the cyclone will involve a long term recovery and rehabilitation strategy for affected areas in which the church has a presence.

To help people affected by the cyclone in Burma, please make a donation to Episcopal Relief and Development’s “Myanmar & Cyclone Response Fund” online at, Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development “Myanmar & Cyclone Response” P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

Sermon: Easter & Ascension (May 4)

What do Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian Novelist and Thomas Jefferson, one of our founding fathers, have in common? They each created their own Bible. They each fought with the church of their time, struggled with their faith and came to the conclusion that others were not getting Jesus right.

So The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 and The Gospels in Brief by Leo Tolstoy in 1884 were written. The books are essentially about his teachings and the life he lived. No miracles. No mystery. They had no interest in resurrection and certainly not Ascension. From their very rationalistic and moral understanding of what Jesus said and did, the feast of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven must have given them fits in their own day! Such a feast day did not fit into their understanding of Jesus, it just wasn’t necessary.

For us, the Ascension is a celebration of our faith, of not some obscure event or fable but one that has meaning for how we live our lives today. 40 days after Easter, is the feast day of the Ascension. The day when Jesus ascended into heaven before the eyes of his disciples as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. For Luke who wrote both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, it finishes Jesus’ time on earth. He was resurrected on Easter, but now he ascends, he no longer is here on earth. The disciples are on their own. A most glorious and terrifying day, I imagine, of Jesus going to God and of those who remain behind to do what he has given them to do…

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “The Ascension of Christ is the parting from his disciples, from the world he loved. It was a long, difficult way that they had walked together. He had told them many things—but now the hour has come when he must leave them alone. Now they must go, without being always able to look upon him. Now the end of his time on earth has come. They walk a last bit of way together— then the last moment arrives. He puts his hands on them in blessing, and then he is taken from their sight. They are alone. The curtain has fallen. He went from the wicked world to the heavenly Father. Lord, have mercy on us.”

The Ascension becomes a turning point in the lives of the disciples, for all that they had experienced, had known as followers of Jesus, their lives change because Jesus is no longer with them and all that they had done together with Jesus is now entrusted to them. They are on their own with each other as friends in faith.

Today as we consider the Ascension, three of our youth are marking their own rite of passage (at the next service). On their journey toward adulthood, we are recognizing Hugh, Betse and Nicole as men and women who are part of the Rite-13 class. The faith of their childhood is making a transition to the faith of men and women as we celebrate with them today. In the Rite-13 liturgy, “we recognize the gift of womanhood or manhood that God bestows on each one of us. This is a free gift that we cannot earn and need not prove. This gift is the essence of who we are. As we grow and mature in the journey to adulthood, our knowledge and skills increase, but the magical core of who we are remains the same.” Becoming men and women, they each are starting to make the choices of their faith, asking questions, seeking out Christ in others, looking beyond their families to friends and others as support and as companions on their journey.

All of us, as we seek to live faithful lives, live in the resurrection of Jesus and also his ascension when his physical presence is no longer with us. But as we shall see next Sunday, the promise by Jesus that the Holy Spirit will be with us, is fulfilled and we have another advocate, comforter, guide to be with us. We do not walk alone, for God is still present, even as we walk our journeys together.

It may seem to be a strange Sunday, the ascension of Jesus to heaven, from a very rational modern sensibility. And yet, it is this day that reminds us that we all have made that journey, a journey from childhood, to manhood and womanhood and then on to adulthood, when our faith as a child surrounded by family evolved into our own faith today, when we began to walk that journey on our own. The disciples faith evolved from one dependent on the presence of Jesus to their own faith after Jesus had left them.

It was true then and as it is now, that our faith journey will be a struggle, a journey that will be full of mystery, full of the unknown with as many questions as answers. But for us who follow Jesus, it is a journey that will lead to joy and hope and peace and finally will lead to our place eternal in the heavens, when we shall see him.

As Dietrich Bonheoffer said, “Rejoice, O Christian! Jesus has returned home to the Father. He prepares the lodging for you, the home in his kingdom. He will take you home in his time. Wait calmly and rejoice! He will return.” Amen.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Holocaust Rememberance Day

The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance as our nation's annual commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to those victims. In accordance with its Congressional mandate, the Museum is responsible for leading the nation in commemorating the Days of Remembrance, and for encouraging and sponsoring appropriate observances throughout the United States.

Observances and remembrance activities can occur during the week of Remembrance that runs from the Sunday before "Yom Hashoah" (Holocaust Remembrance Day) through the following Sunday. Days of Remembrance are observed by state and local governments, military bases, workplaces, schools, churches, synagogues, and civic centers.

Our prayer:

Almighty God, we remember before you this day those killed during the Holocaust, for the innocents murdered, for those who wrongly used your name to kill, and for those who did not speak up against such injustice. Guide us in our efforts to root out intolerance and prejudice in our world, that we may not make peace with oppression and may stand as witness to those who died. Help us to work towards the day when no one will fall to such a sword. We ask this through him who was executed as a criminal by an oppressive state, Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Pray for the Lambeth Conference

Bishop Curry asked the gathered ECW members yesterday to pray for the bishops who will be going to the Lambeth Conference this summer from around the Anglican Communion; to pray for open hearts so that they may listen to one another and to God.

Here is a prayer to get you started:

Pour down upon your bishops, O God, the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that those who prepare for the Lambeth Conference may be filled with wisdom and understanding. May they know at work within them that creative energy and vision which belong to our humanity, made in your image and redeemed by your love and that they may have open hearts to listen to one another and to you at the conference, we ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(adapted from a prayer written by the Dean of Canterbury, the Most Rev'd Robert Willis)

What is the Vestry working on?

Ever wondered what your vestry is reading, studying, working on?

Here is an excerpt from the book we are currently studying...

"From the beginning, God has been about the business of creating, reshaping, and making things new. The record of Scripture is filled with images of a God who turns things upside down in order to get them right-side up, and creates something from what would seem to be nothing. Open the Bible to almost any page and you will see the evidence. In the beginning the Creator God takes the formless, watery void and brings forth life with a word and a touch. Later, we meet Abraham and Sarah, the unlikely patriarch and matriarch of Israel, both too old to expect to be the new parents of a great, holy people. Then we greet Moses, the stumbling, mumbling, ever-reluctant prophet and leader of Israel."

You can read this meditation in it entirety here:

The God of Transformation by Stephanie Spellers (from her book Radical Welcome)

And here is an excerpt from an interview:

NS: What are some of the common factors you've seen in these different people and places that are doing transformation?

SS: I’ve seen a lot of prayer going on. I think that prayer is where we get to that centered place, where we know that this transformation is of God and where we know that this transformation will not destroy us. Where we know that we have the courage and the strength and the energy to walk this journey toward transformation. Communities that are prayerful about the transformation seem to live into it really beautifully – and I think there are communities that are listening to each other. So there's the listening to God and then there are moments when they are able to listen to each other.

Read the entire interview here:

The God of Transformation: An Interview with Stephanie Spellers