Sunday, August 31, 2008

Prayers for those in the path of Hurricane Gustav

O God, Master of this passing world, hear the humble voices of your children. The Sea of Galilee obeyed your order and returned to its former quietude; you are still the Master of land and sea. We live in the shadow of a danger over which we have no control. The Gulf, like a provoked and angry giant, can awake from its seeming lethargy, overstep its conventional boundaries, invade our land and spread chaos and disaster.

During this hurricane season, we turn to You, O loving Father. Spare us from past tragedies whose memories are still so vivid and whose wounds seem to refuse to heal with the passing of time.

Gracious Father, all the elements of nature obey your command. Calm the storms and hurricanes that threaten us and turn our fear into praise of your goodness. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.


Lord, you who calmed the storm at sea, quiet the fears, ease the pain, tend the grief, and light the darkness of your children affected by Gustav. In stunned silence, be their voice. In rages against the night, be their balm. In bewilderment, be their hope. Lead rescuers to the lost, shelter the waiting. Sustain those who work to make life's necessities spring forth in this desert of gloom. Blanket the weary with your tender touch. Shake us from our comforts to share out sisters and brothers' sorrow and burden and assist and pray them into new life. We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus, who suffered and was raised to new life. Amen.

(both adapted from different sources)

Sermon: August 31

What is our true religion? Some think its baseball, others wealth or a life of ease...

In our collect this morning, we prayed that God would increase in us true religion. What is this true religion we are praying for?

I think I caught glimpses this week of that true religion…

I listened to NPR the other day and heard about a shrimp boat captain who stayed aboard his vessel as Hurricane Katrina hit 3 years ago. I can only imagine his fear being walloped by that wind and rain and waves. In the aftermath of that terrible storm, he used his vessel to help many of the stranded victims in St. Bernard’s parish as the flood waters rose. "He poured coffee, heated up biscuits and gumbo for the survivors. He had the kids climb down below for safety into the hold where he stores shrimp. 30/40 people slept on his boat that first night." (source)

Sounds like he was being a good neighbor…

This week, I read to Jared & Aidan, my two oldest, a story from the Magic Tree House series of books where they were introduced to the Civil War and to the heroic sacrifice of a woman named Clara Barton. Clara Barton who founded the American Red Cross in 1881, was an angel of the battlefield who often used her own money to help care for wounded soldiers in the Civil War, putting herself in danger as she brought the wounded off the battlefield. After the war she set up an agency to help find out what happened to soldiers and to relay that information to their families.

Sounds like she was being a good neighbor…

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

These words from St. Paul to the Christians in Rome, set out his understanding of our faith. It is based on love, lives in service, rejoices in hope, is patient in suffering, perseveres in prayer, helps others out…that is our true religion.

That shrimp boat captain and Clara Barton let their love be genuine for those in need who were right before them, loving their neighbors as themselves.

But it is not what our world sees as truth, for truth in our world is connected with power, prestige, status and wealth. It is the logic of this fallen world where we can see fingerprints of the adversary, of death, violence, hate, division; Satan wants others to suffer and wants us to focus on ourselves alone, our needs, our wants, to forgot about the neighbor nearby or far away.

But our faith calls us to follow Christ, to be transformed, not to let ourselves go down the easy path that Satan has before us, a path that does not bring us closer together but divides us one against another. Seeing a neighbor in need and having a boat to bring them to safety, or feeling that we must help out even as war wages, is I believe true religion, to follow Jesus wherever he calls us to go.

Of course, even those closest to Jesus didn’t always get it right… Jesus tells the disciples of the suffering and death that will happen, but Peter does not want to hear it… In both a prayerful and rebuking tone, Peter tells Jesus “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” Peter who was praised last week, you are the rock upon which the Church will be built becomes the stumbling rock this week… Get behind me Satan.

The adversary who tempted Jesus at the beginning still exists, this time its in Peter’s rebuke of Jesus. Jesus command is for Peter to get behind him and follow him, not the other way around. Suffering and death are part and parcel of what is to come and they cannot take the easy way out of it. True religion, hopes in the midst of suffering and does not run away from it…to put our mind on heavenly/divine things…

The good easy life is what Jesus warns them and us against… “For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” True religion is a theology with the cross smack dab in the middle…

And integral to our true religion is the two sacramental acts that will happen today: baptism & Eucharist.

Today, Alexandra Fortier Rowe will be baptized and enter into the household of God. As we celebrate her baptism and remember our own, the words of the baptismal rite remind us what our faith is about: We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. In Baptism we are named before God and the congregation, we are baptized with water, sealed by the Holy Spirit with the chrism, and in it we are marked as Christ’s own forever.

And what baptism begins in us, is fed and nourished by our participation in the sacrament called Eucharist. Eucharist means thanksgiving, and each week we give thanks to God for our lives and for the gift of Jesus Christ. For we are nourished by the body & blood of Christ and we go out into the world to proclaim God’s love to the world and continue in the risen life of Christ.

True religion then is begun in baptism, nourished in the Eucharist and lived out in the world by the love we share with our neighbors. All of which we do in Jesus name.

May we in our lives, remember our baptism, partake of the Eucharist and reach out our hands in love to those around us.

Let us pray together the collect of the day found on the first page of your bulletin:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Genesis and the origin of the Origin of the species

The argument that God exists based on design figures nowhere in the Hebrew Bible

by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
(Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth )

There are some even in this skeptical age who still believe that God is an old man with a long beard. His name is Charles Darwin, patron saint of scientific atheists. Next year will be a double anniversary for followers of Darwin: the 200th anniversary of his birth and the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species. We will no doubt hear it asserted that Darwin dealt a death blow to religious belief.

That, it should be said, is quite untrue. What it dealt a death blow to was one very poor argument for the existence of God, namely the argument from design. This argument figures nowhere in the Hebrew Bible. It does not even belong to its world of thought. It belongs instead to the tradition of Ancient Greece and to the idea that the most important truths are those that can be proved.

In fact none of the most important truths can be proved: that right is sovereign over might, that it is better to be loved than feared, that every human being however poor or powerless is worthy of respect, that peace is nobler than war, forgiveness greater than revenge, and hope a higher virtue than resignation to blind fate. Lives have been lived and civilisations built in defiance of these truths, yet they remain true.

What might a religious believer say to Darwin’s heirs? The following thoughts are purely hypothetical, but he or she might say, first, that Darwin helped us to understand the “how” of God’s “Let there be”. The Creator created not just life but life that is in itself creative.

Read it all here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Batting Averages, Evolution, and the Economy

I heard this on NPR this morning (Engines of our Ingenuity).

BATTING 400 by John H. Lienhard

Stephen Jay Gould is up to an odd business in his book, Full House. His theme is subtle. He says we don't look at the full range of cases when we talk about progress. For example, we talk about the evolution of species as though human beings were the highly organized end result of evolutionary progress. To do that we have to close our eyes to the full range of biodiversity. In nature's "full house" of all living things, the most successful species aren't humans; they're bacteria. The mass of living bacteria is far greater than the mass of all other life. The diversity of bacterial species is far larger. And bacteria have survived far longer than any other living creatures.

Gould (who loves baseball) uses batting averages to make his point. He asks, why has no one batted over 400 since 1941? Does that mean today's batters aren't as good? No, Gould assures us, it's actually because the quality of baseball players has risen. Does that sound crazy? Well, it makes perfect sense if you know some mathematical statistics. Gould looks at statistics through the eyes of an intelligent layman, and he leads us through his learning process.

The gist of it goes like this: In a world filled with possibility, everyone does well and there's less variability. Though Gould doesn't mention it, economists have known this for a long time. They track income inequality. In a healthy free economy, a small range of incomes indicates good times. When times are hard, the variation increases and you find many poor people balanced by a few very rich ones. As quality of baseball play has improved, it has also become far less variable. In earlier days of baseball, a few great batters were far better than the average batter. And they were up against far more variable pitchers, basemen and fielders. Therefore batting averages were far more widely distributed. Now the distribution of ability among all players has tightened up as they become more uniformly good. And we'll never see anyone bat like Ted Williams again in our lifetimes.

Gould goes on to describe what he calls the right wall. Distribution curves for performance approach absolute human limits on the right side. The closer we come, the less the variation can be. He doubts that Isaac Stern or Vladimir Horowitz play any better than Paganini or Liszt did. We've long since come close to that right wall of human performance in violin and piano playing. Gould tells us we can't understand evolution without looking at the full house -- the whole variation -- of living things.

Evolutionary adaptation has produced many living things, ourselves included. Without understanding the variation, we'll believe all the wrong things. We'll believe that baseball has deteriorated -- and we'll believe that we are the end product of the Creation.

I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston, where we're interested in the way inventive minds work.

Listen to it here.

All Creatures Great and Small

The Humane Society of the United States is announcing its 2008 “All Creatures Great and Small” campaign, which involves a pledge to either switch to cage-free eggs or egg substitutes for the month of October. Nearly 280 million laying hens in the United States are confined in barren, wire cages so small the birds can’t even spread their wings, and consumers can reduce animal suffering by making a few simple changes in their purchasing.

"All Creatures Great and Small, a campaign of Animals & Religion, aims to raise awareness about our responsibilities to all animals, including those raised for food. In recent decades, agriculture has taken a harsh turn and animals on factory farms are treated like mere objects. Eating is an activity that has moral and spiritual significance."

The HSUS is joining with religious leaders to ask people of faith to pledge for one month to either switch to cage-free eggs or egg substitutes as a way to end the cruelest confinement systems employed by the egg industry.

Why is This a Faith Issue?

"The connection between food and faith is built into many of our religious traditions. From fasting to feasting, Kosher to Halal, there are numerous examples of people selecting food based on their faith and applying their principles to the raising and slaughtering of animals. The Eucharist, a Christian sacrament deeply rooted in eating and drinking and having a meal, is also an example of the relationship between food and faith.

The 74th General Convention approved a resolution which "encourages its members to ensure that husbandry methods for captive and domestic animals would prohibit suffering in such conditions as puppy mills, and factory farms… [and committed to] educating its members to adhere to ethical standards in the care and treatment of animals [and]… advocating for legislation protecting animals…" (Episcopal General Convention 2003 – D016. Support Ethical Care of Animals)

Find out more and sign the pledge here.

I signed!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Common Cup & Infection

From time to time, people have asked me about our use of the common cup and if it transmits colds, etc.

Here are two articles on this...

From the ELCA:

Holy Communion and Infection Risks: an Age-Old Concern by Anne LaGrange Loving (1999)

From the Anglican Church of Canada:

Eucharistic practice and the risk of infection By David H. Gould (2001)


To summarize:

"It must be stressed that the present use of the common cup is normal for Anglican churches, follows the practice of the universal church from its beginnings until well into the middle ages, and poses no real hazard to health in normal circumstances."

"No episode of disease attributable to the common cup has ever been reported. Thus for the average communicant it would seem that the risk of drinking from the common cup is probably less than the risk of air-borne infection in using a common building."

"A microbiologist shows, through scientific studies, that receiving Holy Communion does not increase one's illness rate when compared to the general population which does not take communion."

My suggestion:

If you have the flu, a cold, or a cold sore, then don’t drink from the cup. I would suggest washing your hands before communion (or using the hand sanitizer in back) and just receiving the wafer alone or intincting your wafer in the wine.

Faith vs. Science

An interesting article from the NY Times...

A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash
By AMY HARMON - Published: August 23, 2008

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — David Campbell switched on the overhead projector and wrote “Evolution” in the rectangle of light on the screen. He scanned the faces of the sophomores in his Biology I class. Many of them, he knew from years of teaching high school in this Jacksonville suburb, had been raised to take the biblical creation story as fact. His gaze rested for a moment on Bryce Haas, a football player who attended the 6 a.m. prayer meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the school gymnasium.

“If I do this wrong,” Mr. Campbell remembers thinking on that humid spring morning, “I’ll lose him.” In February, the Florida Department of Education modified its standards to explicitly require, for the first time, the state’s public schools to teach evolution, calling it “the organizing principle of life science.”

Spurred in part by legal rulings against school districts seeking to favor religious versions of natural history, over a dozen other states have also given more emphasis in recent years to what has long been the scientific consensus: that all of the diverse life forms on Earth descended from a common ancestor, through a process of mutation and natural selection, over billions of years.

Read the rest of the article here.


My thoughts...

I signed on to this letter because I believe it accurately states my own beliefs.

An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science from American Christian Clergy

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

In short, I don't believe it is faith versus science, but faith and science each teach me valuable things about how I live in God's creation.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sermon: August 24

“Who do you say I am?” asks Jesus.

A Nice guy, Full of wisdom, Lover of souls A Carpenter, Prophet, Healer

Who do you say I am?

Son of David, Rabbi


Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” A powerful statement of faith to which Jesus blesses Peter. For it is Peter’s confession that has become our belief as we follow Jesus: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

We make this statement our own, at our baptisms or at least our parents & godparents do on our behalf, we declare this at confirmation when we renew our commitment to Jesus Christ and with God's grace to follow him as Savior and Lord. Every time we come here and take communion, eating bread, drinking wine as we remember Jesus, we profess this faith.

As we call ourselves Christian, it is easy to say our faith here, confess it, but our lives should reflect that faith that Jesus is the Son of God all the time. I think of one of Aesop’s fables…

A Hunter was searching for the tracks of a Lion. He asked a man felling oaks in the forest if he had seen any marks of the lion’s footsteps or knew where his lair was. ‘Oh yes,’ said the Woodman, ‘I will take you to the Lion himself.’ The Hunter turned pale from fear and stuttered, ‘No, thanks. I did not ask that; it is only his track that I am looking for, not the Lion himself.’

Our faith compels us not to be just the hunter where we profess our faith but really are not seeking to have our lives really changed, we draw back from actually finding Jesus in our lives. We are just happy looking. No that’s not it. So how does one live one’s life with that faith being proclaimed by who we are?

I think we live it out in two ways, one be being who we each are (who we know ourselves to be deep down), and by trying to keep that faith before us throughout our days. I recently read a story about a man who went to a Nursing Home to visit his wife:

Every day, for years, he visited his wife in the nursing home. She suffered from Alzheimer’s disease; with each day she slipped further and further away in the fog of dementia. Every day he would feed her lunch. He would sit with her and show her the pictures of their children, telling her the latest family news and stories she would forget as soon as she heard them. He would patiently remind her who he was and explain that they were married and had been for the past 52 years and they had two daughters and a son and four beautiful grandchildren. He would hold her hand as she drifted in and out of consciousness. Before leaving, he would kiss her and tell her how much he loved her — and she would never realize nor remember later that he had even been there.

His heartbroken friends would ask him, “Why do you keep going when she doesn’t even know who you are?” And he would always reply, “Because I know who I am.” [From Overcoming Life’s Disappointments by Harold S. Kushner.]

The husband’s faithfulness to his wife and the faithfulness to himself, speaks to me of how we live our lives in faith. There will be disappointments, hard times, but it doesn’t change who we are deep down, our faith can be the rock that anchors us as we live that out in the humblest of deeds.

At our baptisms, we were named before God and the gathered congregation. We were sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. To live out of our baptism is to worship God each and every day of our life, not just Sundays. It is to live as God would have us live in our work, in our play, in all aspects of our lives. If we live our faith only on Sundays then we miss what our faith is all about and we are not whole. If we believe Jesus is the Son of God, if we believe in God’s love, than it is not enough to say it or live it one day a week. We need to live it every day. And it may be as simple as the act of loving a spouse who can’t reciprocate because of disease.

We are challenged to keep that faith before us as we journey each day. There is a famous text from Russia called The Way of a Pilgrim, which chronicles the journey of a pilgrim as he learns what it means to pray unceasingly as St. Paul put it. The pilgrim sees himself by the grace of God as a Christian and wants to deepen his devotion, his faith, his walking with the Lord. Then he learns from a spiritual father what it means to acquire the habit of prayer and do good. And in the midst of his journey he learns a very simple prayer called the Jesus Prayer or the Prayer of the Heart: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” He learns to pray this prayer, using a prayer rope, to direct his thoughts and his heart and he felt peace in his life.

Today, taking his first baby steps on his journey is James Anthony Bender who will be baptized and joins us on our journey like the pilgrim, to live faithful lives, and to remember Jesus the son of God each day of our lives. And in remembering, to live out that truth and faith. May we proclaim in word and deed what we know in our hearts: Jesus is the son of God. Lord have mercy. Amen.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How should children behave in church?

An interesting article (my comments below)...

How should children behave in church?

by Giles Fraser, Church Times (England)

This week, I have had two con­versations that have given me a headache. Both were from kind people who have left my church for another one.

The first was from a gentleman who had been coming for a year or so, but was unable to cope with the noise made by the children at the end of the communion service. He now attends a church were they are more “under control”.

The second was from a mother who has gone elsewhere because she was offended by the way the clergy were pressing parents to think more about how to manage their children’s behaviour in church.

I can see both sides. You don’t come to church to take part in a zoo. Prayer often requires peace and quiet — and that is not available when a toy car is being repeatedly whacked on the seat behind. That sort of thing can turn even the most irenic parishioner into Herod.

On the other hand, the Church is a family for all. And I am not in the business of imposing some fantasy of 1950s child-rearing. “Seen and not heard” is no Christian principle that I know of. Moreover, as someone once said: the children are not the Church’s future, they are its present — just as much so as the adults.

Read the rest of the article here.

My comment: Every Church struggles with noise and such, however, when our whole prayer life is wrapped into Sunday mornings, our expectations of it being my spiritual time, just for me, collides with the reality that it is the prayer time of the community which includes children.

We need to pay better attention to our prayer lives outside of church and give thanks to God that our church has those wonderful voices of children!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Importance of Sunday

Nothing is more important to the life of a community than what happens during that one hour on Sunday. At the most pragmatic level, the Sunday liturgy is the only time in the regular life of a community when everyone gathers.

From Sunday to Sunday, individual members of the community and subgroups within the community live out their particular vocations within the baptismal vocation. On Sunday, however, the body of Christ experiences itself in its totality. The Sunday Eucharist is a pivotal moment, both in the church's expression of what it is and in being formed into what it is.


The Sunday assembly of the church is the most important moment in the church's relationship with itself and in its relationship with the world. Done well, ministering at the Sunday Eucharist facilitates the church's seeing and experiencing itself as the body it is growing into and, at the same time, showing the world an image of how human beings live when God's kingdom comes on earth as in heaven.

Ultimately, all of this depends on God. But, as the catechism says, the sacraments are means of grace, of an encounter with the Divine. They change people, and so they change the world, even on those normal days when hearts are not moved to conversion and worlds do not seem to be blowing up. The changes usually run deeper than that, more quiet, more subtle, but no less real.

We cannot afford to spare energy or imagination in our common prayer, and we surely cannot rely on that greatest of all liturgical principles, "We have always done it this way." Lives are at stake, and nothing less.

You can read the entire article here at Episcopal Life online.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Raising our voices on Poverty

"The Provinces of the Communion call for a day of prayer and fasting and witness on 25th September 2008 when there is a special session of the United Nations to discuss the Millennium Development Goals." (2008 Lambeth Conference Reflections Document)

In solidarity with people of faith throughout the world and in response to the Anglican Communion's call, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation invites you to commit on Thursday, September 25 to:

+Pray. Say prayers with special intention for the extreme poor throughout the world.

+Fast. Skip at least one meal in solidarity with the nearly 1 billion people who go to bed hungry each night. (As possible depending on health ... consult your doctor if in doubt)

+Witness. Participate in an online advocacy action promoting our government's fulfilling its promises to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Read about it here.

I will be blogging more about this and will be part of the World MDG Blogging Day.

A Prayer for Children

I saw this on the blog of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation. It is a moving prayer.

[from A Prayer for Children by Ina Hughs. Wm. Morrow and Company, NY., 1995. Pgs XIV-XV.]

We pray for children
who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.

And we pray for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
who never "counted potatoes,"
who are born in places we wouldn't be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.

And we pray for those
who never get dessert,
who have no safe blankets to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can't find any bread to steal,
who don't have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser,
whose monsters are real.

We pray for children
who spend all their allowances before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those
whose nightmares come in the daytime,
who will eat anything,
who have never seen a dentist,
who aren't spoiled by anybody,
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for children who want to be carried
and for those who must,
for those we never give up on and for those
who don't get a second chance.
For those we smother…and for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.

[The poem was written following the Oklahoma City bombing by Ina Hughes, columnist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel.]

At Camp Washington last week...

A couple of photos:

at Eucharist

No one warned me about the ducks...

It was a great week!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Church Attendance Boosts Student GPAs

Interesting article...

If you want to boost your teenager's grade point average, take the kid to church. Or, a new study suggests, find some similar social activity to involve them in. Researchers found that church attendance has as much effect on a teen's GPA as whether the parents earned a college degree. Students in grades 7 to 12 who went to church weekly also had lower dropout rates and felt more a part of their schools.

On average, students whose parents received a four-year college degree average a GPA .12 higher than those whose parents completed high school only. Students who attend religious services weekly average a GPA .144 higher than those who never attend services, said Jennifer Glanville, a sociologist at the University of Iowa. The study does not suggest God is smiling on the students, per se. Rather, it identifies several reasons the students do better:
  • They have regular contact with adults from various generations who serve as role models.
  • Their parents are more likely to communicate with their friends' parents.
  • They develop friendships with peers who have similar norms and values.
  • They're more likely to participate in extracurricular activities.
Those factors account for only half the predicted effect, Glanville and colleagues say...

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Platforms Against Poverty

2008 can be the year that both political parties make the struggle to end global poverty a policy priority. Senators Tom Daschle and Bill Frist will deliver your petition to the party platform committees when they meet with them, so don't miss the chance to make your voice heard.

Here's the petition text:

As a proud American, I urge you to make ending extreme poverty and global disease in the developing world a core part of your 2008 platform by including commitments to:

  • Fight AIDS, TB and malaria and improve basic health services, particularly for mothers and young children
  • Ensure access to clean water, basic sanitation and sufficient food supplies
  • Spur economic growth through equitable trade and investment policies
  • Modernize and increase development assistance, focusing on partnership, transparency and accountability
  • Achieve universal primary education
Click this link and we’ll add your name to the petition

Offering of Letters

Some did this during our worship service, others wanted the information posted regarding Bread for the World's offering of letters (see here).

Here is the information from their site:

An effective letter to Congress needs three things:
  1. Put your name and address at the end of your letter AND on the envelope, so your members of Congress know that you are one of the people they represent.

  2. Ask for specific action, using the sentence below or your own words:

    Please work to increase poverty-focused development assistance by at least $5 billion. In addition, pass the Global Poverty Act so that our assistance will have the maximum impact for those with the greatest need. [ADD THIS SENTENCE WHEN WRITING TO SENATORS: Please cosponsor S. 2433.]

  3. Give reasons why. Examples are:
    • Rising global food prices are having a devastating impact on poor and hungry people. As many as 100 million people could be worse off because of this crisis. We cannot afford to let this happen!

    • While there are immediate actions our nation must take, we also need better-funded U.S. aid programs to help improve agriculture, nutrition, and education. These programs can build long-term solutions for communities worldwide and help small scale farmers improve their yields so they can feed their families and communities.

When finished, please place your letter(s) in the offering plate at St. Peter's Church. I will send them out after I return from Camp Washington.

Sample Letter


Dear Rep. ________ or Dear Sen. ______,

Rising global food prices are having a devastating impact on poor and hungry people. As many as 100 million people could be worse off because of this crisis. We cannot afford to let this happen!

While there are immediate actions our nation must take, we also need better-funded U.S. aid programs to help improve agriculture, nutrition, and education. These programs can build long-term solutions for communities worldwide and help small scale farmers improve their yields so they can feed their families and communities.

Please work to increase poverty-focused development assistance by at least $5 billion. In addition, pass the Global Poverty Act so that our assistance will have the maximum impact for those with the greatest need. [ADD THIS SENTENCE WHEN WRITING TO SENATORS: Please cosponsor S. 2433.]

Your Name
Your Address

(There will be sample letters available for you at church...)

A Love Supreme (the liner notes)

Dear Listener:

All Praise Be To God To Whom All Praise Is Due.

Let us pursue Him in the righteous path. Yes it is true; “seek and ye shall find.” Only through Him can we know the most wondrous bequeathal.

During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through His grace. ALL PRAISE TO GOD.

As time and events moved on, a period of irresolution did prevail. I entered into a phase which was contradictory to the pledge and away from the esteemed path; but thankfully, now and again through the unerring and merciful hand of God, I do perceive and have been duly re-informed of His OMNIPOTENCE, and of our need for, and dependence on Him. At this time I would like to tell you that NO MATTER WHAT…IT IS WITH GOD. HE IS GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL. HIS WAY IS IN LOVE, THROUGH WHICH WE ALL ARE . IT IS TRULY—A LOVE SUPREME--.

This album is a humble offering to Him. An attempt to say “THANK YOU GOD” through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor…

May we never forget that in the sunshine of our lives, through the storm and after the rain—it is all with God—in all ways forever.


With love to all, I thank you,

John Coltrane

Sermon - A Love Supreme (Aug. 3)

“This album is a humble offering to Him. An attempt to say “THANK YOU GOD” through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor.” – John Coltrane

These words from John Coltrane written in the liner notes for his album, make clear that he saw his album as an offering to God, a work of thanksgiving.

“I would like to tell you that no matter what…it is with god. He is gracious and merciful. His way is in love, through which we all are. It is truly— a love supreme.”

Coltrane understood God as that love supreme that guided his life and no matter how he failed, that God’s mercy and love would be with him. His words are for us to hear today! That love supreme he talks about, is what I see in the actions of Jesus. And there is no better representation of the love that Jesus has for humanity, than in his feeding of 5 thousand people.

Jesus looks around the countryside and has compassion for all the people gathered there. Many healings took place. It became late. The disciples want to send the people back to the towns to find food and lodging. To let others offer hospitality. But Jesus tells the disciples that the people need not go, you are to offer that hospitality, you give them something to eat.

The disciples only saw their puny rations: 5 loaves and two fish. Barely enough for themselves, how was it going to feed so many?

And Jesus takes what they have, he blesses it, brakes the loaves and gives it to the disciples who in turn share them with the crowd. It is a scene reminiscent of Moses and the tribes with manna raining down from heaven, and everyone had their fill. Or when Elisha has a disciple of his feed 100 with 20 loaves of barley. And Elisha tells him, “Thus says the Lord, they shall eat and have some left.”

The point is all were fed, God’s mercy and abundant love helped feed the people. With Jesus, all were fed and had their fill and 12 baskets (like the 12 tribes of Israel or 12 disciples) remained. This act of love towards the people is like the love supreme with the bread and wine we share at the meal of the Eucharist, as Jesus had done with his disciples.

It is what we are doing this morning, with the music of John Coltrane helping us feel in worship that Love Supreme which we will taste in bread and wine in just a moment. And I think of this poem:

Bread of heaven, on thee we feed,
for thy Flesh is meat indeed;
ever may our souls be fed
with this true and living Bread;
day by day with strength supplied
through the life of him who died.
~Josiah Conder

Our souls are indeed fed with that bread and wine, but I think of Jesus words to his disciples in the midst of the feeding, you give them something to eat, and I hear those words directed at me. How do I help feed others today?

Often I get information from various Christian relief agencies. I actively support Episcopal Relief and Development, and help as I can the Karen Emergency Relief Fund, but most others get deposited in the circular file. Just too many!

But as I looked at the Bread for the World materials, I was struck by how they invited us not only to send in financial offering to aid the world’s poor but to use my voice and contact my representatives in Congress through an Offering of Letters.

"Bread for the World's 2008 Offering of Letters is pushing for more and better poverty-focused development assistance—funding for programs in the U.S. budget that give people in poor countries the skills and opportunities to break the cycle of poverty permanently. These include long-term investments in things like education, agriculture, nutrition, health and clean water. More and better poverty-focused development assistance is a critical component of the effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)."

It can be an act of love to raise our voice for those who have no voice and convince those in power, to help the less fortunate in our world, to give them the aid they need to live the fullest of lives. I invite you today or this week, to write a letter to your congressman or senators and let them know you are asking their support to help fund more and better poverty-focused development assistance. (see the post above this one)

You give them something to eat, Jesus says to us. As we celebrate the Eucharist today and give thanks to God and eat that bread wine given to us by Jesus, may we in turn remember the poor and hungry in this world and offer our love and letters in support of them so they may indeed have something to eat.

Let us pray.

Jesus, you blessed, broke and gave five loaves and two fish and a multitude was fed. Give us the conviction, to answer your call to serve and to speak out for hungry people. We believe that you are moving in our time to end hunger, and we are grateful that you include us as a part of this great liberation. We pray for the leaders of our nation—the decision makers who can change policies and redirect funding to create help and opportunity with the stroke of pen. Open all of our hearts, our eyes and ears, our hands, gracious and holy God. Let the multitude be fed once again. Let your Spirit move in our midst, O God, our love supreme. Amen.

(prayer adapted from a litany by Bread for the World)