Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sermon: September 28 (Faithfulness)

Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?

The Israelites had lost their faith. They are thirsty and feel that God has abandoned them in the wilderness. Moses is frustrated by their testing of God’s faithfulness. And what does God do? Moses strikes the rock, and water flows, and the people’s thirst is quenched by God.

Be it a rainbow, or water from a rock, a birth of a child or health after illness, there are lots of things that we give thanks to God for and we remember God’s goodness in our lives. That is faithfulness. But we also have a little voice inside each of us, which is like those Israelites, the voice that has forgotten what God has done for us, but only sees the pain of our current circumstances and sees them devoid of God. We are constantly challenged to live by faith.

St. Paul said: It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

St. Paul reminds us that God is working through us in our lives not only for us but for the whole world. Faithfulness is the old fashioned word for it. It is faith that is en-fleshed through what we do. This is not couch potato faith but one that rolls up the sleeves and gets to work, always looking to go beyond just sitting with the Bible, hearing it on Sunday morning but putting the words into action.

I think of 3 vestry members who joined me for a Habitat for Humanity project a few years ago, in faith hammering and working on a home for another, or the youth who will be going to a soup kitchen this fall to serve a meal, or the prayer shawls knit each week and given away to those in need. Each of these are faith filled acts, because we believe in them, we want to do them because it is God who is at work in us. It is not that these works of faith make us more worthy for salvation. Jesus already accomplished that on the Cross.

Jesus not only wants us to believe in him and follow him, but to have faith in him and live it out by our actions. And Jesus challenges us with his parables to make us consider more deeply where we place our faith and how we live that faith. Consider the parable of the two sons we heard in the Gospel account this morning.

Two sons are asked to go work in the vineyard. The first says “No” but later changes his mind and goes. The second, “says Yes, sir” but does not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? Jesus asks. The first. Of course, the one who actually did what the father wanted, he changed his mind, the other never followed through…

But Jesus does not let the parable remain abstract, he ties it to the chief priests and elders who stand before him and question him. The first son is like the tax collectors and the prostitutes, those who do not seem to be doing the will of the father and yet they believed John the Baptist. The second son is like the chief priests and elders who said yes to God but have refused to believe in John the Baptist, and refused to follow through.

Faithfulness and belief go hand in hand. As one professor put it, “for Jesus, the faith that doesn't result in faithful action is mere talk. The truth of your commitment lives in your heart. And what you do is the best measure of what's in your heart.” (Gracia Grindal)

I think our difficulty as Christians, living our life of faith is that we know what it is to be the second son in Jesus parable. The one who says yes but does not do it. We always have the best intentions to be more faithful in prayer, in giving, to be more loving and welcoming to others…but those intentions often get away from us in the busyness of our lives. With 4 kids, I know!

But we must realize from the parable that when Jesus said the last shall be first and the first last, the last shall be first because they believe, not because they had turned their lives around & had become the perfect Christians. “Believe in God, believe also in me,” Jesus said to his disciples in the Gospel of John.

As a parent, I want my sons and my daughter growing up in the faith & to live lives that proclaim their belief. Maybe they will be the next Martin Luther King, Jr. or Dorothy Day, or maybe just another Christian who lives a quiet, faithful life that makes this world a better place. But I also know that at some point, I have to trust their faith to God. I can help plant those seeds of faith, can help nurture and tend to them while they are young, but it is God who gives the growth. If they do fall away from the faith, there is always the hope that they will return to the faith, when the no of earlier becomes belief and renewed faith. I think of a story I read about…

“One Sunday morning, a pastor interrupted his sermon on hope. 'Those of you who have adult children that you're praying for, children who have left the faith or never embraced the faith and are now living apart from God, I want you to stand,' he said. The rest of us sat and watched as these grieving parents stood. 'Now, those of you who were once wayward children, who in your adult years had strayed far from God and have since returned, I want you to stand.' As dozens of us rose to our feet - he said, 'Moms, dads, there's your hope.'” (Meditations for Misfits, Marcia Ford)

That’s the meaning behind the parable, even if we say no, walk away, and live lives that saddens God, there is always the opportunity to remember the faith that is in us, to change one’s mind and to believe again. It is to walk as Jesus would have us do, in faith and hope, believing that our God loves us and wants to be a part of our lives. To change our no, to yes and go and do… And we also place our trust in God, that those in our lives who seemed to have lost their way with God, who may have said No that God is still at work in them too.

It is God who is at work in you, says St. Paul.

God is working in us to move beyond the words, beyond just understanding the faith, but to live it. To give our time to what we believe in, to use our God given talents for the betterment of our families and society: That is faithfulness.

To give away our treasurer so that all can feel the love of God in their lives. To turn in an offering card and give our hard earned money away so that our mission and ministry here at St. Peter’s can do the work God has called us to do. That is faithfulness.

Today, may our lives profess what we believe by the way we live them out in today’s world. Amen.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blogging what's happening at the UN on MDGs

If you visit here.

You will find that Bono and Jeffrey Sachs blog for from the Millennium Development Goals summit and surrounding meetings in New York

Bono is lead singer of U2 and co-founder of the One campaign

Jeffrey Sachs is a development economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the author of The End of Poverty.

Interesting thoughts from them. I like Bono's comments here...

"We’ll be talking a lot about where we are falling short on the MDGs, but it’s worth also talking about the good news. Since the turn of the millennium, 29million more kids are in school in Africa.

Since 2002, 2million Africans are on lifesaving ARVS.

Since 2003, 59million bednets have been distributed in Africa. In the last 2 years, Rwanda and Ethiopia have cut malaria cases and deaths by more than 50%.

For those of you, the many of you, questioning aid on this site, you’re not wrong to suggest that it’s not the only answer. Of course it’s not. It’s trade, it’s governance, it’s private investment. But aid is critical… ask Germany, ask Ireland. See it as a leg-up, not a hand-out."

Check them out!

More on the MDGs

Members and friends of the Episcopal Church marched in a "walk of prayerful witness" on September 25 in New York to UN headquarters in support of the Millennium Development Goals. From left, Debi Frock of the Diocese of Maryland, Bishop Nelson Onono-Onweng of the Diocese of Northern Uganda, Bishop Nedi Rivera of the Diocese of Olympia, Alex Baumgarten of the Episcopal Church's Office of Public Policy.

The Ven. Michael Kendall marched on September 25 in the Episcopal Church's "walk of prayerful witness" in support of the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

[Episcopal News Service] Parts of New York City September 25 were more awash than usual with diplomats, business leaders, royalty, advocates young and old, Episcopalians and Anglicans as the United Nations convened a day-long "high-level event" aimed at gaining a recommitment from the world's leaders to the Millennium Development Goals.

Meanwhile, in fulfillment of the recent Lambeth Conference's call, the Episcopal Church designated September 25 as a day of prayer, fasting and witness.

Halfway between the birth of the MDGs in 2000 and their target for achievement in 2015, the General Assembly session, with its surrounding activities, was meant to "inject new energy into the global partnership for development," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of South Korea told the assembly. "We are the first generation to possess the resources, knowledge and skills to eliminate poverty. Experience shows that where there is strong political resolve, we see progress."

Ban asked the assembly to agree to his proposal for what he called "a formal summit" in 2010 to take stock again of MDG achievements and announce a plan for the last five years before the target date.

Read the rest here.

Global Poverty Project

Learn more about what you can do...

Learn more about what you can do...

Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (EGR) is an Episcopal grassroots movement of connection and collaboration to seek and serve Christ in the extreme poor around the world.

What is EGR's mission?

Direct the Church's attention globally - Using the Millennium Development Goals as a structure for living out Christ’s call to seek and serve him in “the least of these” (Matthew 25)

Make explicit the Christ center of the MDG movement in the Church - Draw people to this mission not as a secular agenda but as a way to fulfill Jesus’ words “that all might have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10)

Herald a call to conversion at every level of our common life - Lift up the opportunity and need for confession, repentance and amendment of life. Let Christ change us so we can be part of God’s mission of global reconciliation – individually and corporately.

ONE Episcopalian™ is a grassroots partnership between The Episcopal Church and the ONE Campaign to rally Episcopalians – ONE by ONE – to the cause of ending extreme poverty in our world and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The ONE Campaign is a movement of American of all beliefs and every walk of life, united as ONE to help make poverty history. Join this historic campaign, as ONE by ONE we change the world.

Out on the front lines...

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church of the United States, guided by the Episcopal Church’s principles of compassion, dignity and generosity as we work to heal a hurting world. We take our mandate from the words of Jesus, found in Matthew 25: 37-40, that call us to feed the hungry, care for the sick and welcome the stranger.

The MDG Inspiration Fund
was launched in 2007 by Episcopal Relief & Development, Jubilee Ministries and the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. Focusing specifically on achieving MDGs 4, 5 and 6, the Fund implements programs to fight malaria and other preventable diseases in Africa and Asia, and provides basic health care, health education, and sanitation systems in Latin America and the Caribbean.

With just a few simple interventions, we help to save millions of lives:
  • Long-lasting insecticide-treated nets provide protection from malaria — a preventable illness that kills 1 million people every year.
  • Basic sanitation systems and wells eliminate water-borne diseases that claim the lives of 4,000 children every day.
  • Smokeless stoves reduce acute respiratory infections and chronic respiratory disease — the leading cause of death in children under 5 in Latin America.
  • Knowledge about HIV/AIDS prevents the spread of the disease, which has now killed 25 million people and left 15 million orphans.

The Karen Emergency Relief Fund Inc. exists for the sole purpose of helping a group of people in need -- the Karen people of Burma. In 1999 and 2006 the United Nations mounted great efforts to stop the killing in Kosovo and East Timor (newly named as Timor-Leste). But nothing was done to end the killing, robbing and raping of the Karen people of Burma -- or to stop the oppression conducted by the illegal military dictatorship of that country.

The Karen Emergency Relief Fund, Inc. works to ease the sorrow and pain of the Karen people – especially women and children – who are suffering the horrors of ethnic cleansing.

Archbishop of Canterbury calls for greater co-operation to meet MDGs

Archbishop calls for greater co-operation to meet MDGs

Wednesday 24 September 2008

On the eve of the United Nations General Assembly meeting on Millennium Development Goals in New York, the Archbishop of Canterbury has underlined the commitment of the Anglican Church to continue to work for the eradication of poverty.

In a video message the Archbishop has backed calls for a renewal of the pledges made by the international community in 2000, and spoke of the need for the Anglican Church to work in harmony with governments and NGOs around the world in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015:

"...much of the work that's being done by the Anglican Church covers very comprehensively the Millennium Development Goals. We want to anchor that work in worldwide co-operation. We want to do that work in synergy with those governments and NGOs who are working for the same end. And we want to let Governments and NGOs know that we are there and we are ready. ....Let this meeting in New York be an occasion where the consciences and the hearts of all are truly touched and changed, turned towards the needs of the poorest, turned towards the recognition that we have it in our hands to make a difference"

The video message follows on from the manifesto that was formally handed to Gordon Brown PM at the conclusion of the Walk of Witness during the Lambeth Conference in July. In the manifesto the bishops of the Anglican Communion urged that:

"When they meet in New York at the United Nations on 25th September, world leaders must find greater political commitment to addressing poverty and inequality. A timetable for achieving the MDGs by 2015 needs to be created. Our leaders need to invest in and strengthen their partnership with the Church worldwide, so that its extensive delivery network for education and health care, alongside other faiths, is fully utilised in the eradication of extreme poverty."

The video message can be viewed on the Lambeth Palace YouTube channel:

Letter to the Church in the US

Let all those who can hear, listen to what our brothers and sisters from the south are saying to us...

August, 2008


As the Church of the Lord in what is known as the “Southern” part of the world, moved by the Holy Spirit to fight for the abundant life that Jesus Christ offers, we address our Christian family in the United States, a Church of the same covenant, faith and love. Grace and Peace to all of our brothers and sisters.

We know your works of love; these works have allowed millions of human beings for many generations in our countries in the South to receive the gospel, the Grace of Jesus Christ and the power of His Salvation. The U.S. church’s untiring missionary effort planted in our lands Hope in Him who came to reconcile EVERYTHING.

Nevertheless, the political, social and economic situation in the places where this hope has been announced is increasingly distressing. Millions of people in the global South are dying of hunger, violence and injustice. These situations of poverty and pain are not simply the product of the internal functions of our countries; rather they are the results of the international policies of the governments that wield global power.

Therefore, we have this against you, brothers and sisters, that along with this powerful announcing of the Gospel, the Church from the United States has not also raised its voice in protest against the injustices that powerful governments and institutions are inflicting on the global South - injustices that afflict the lives and ecosystems of millions of people who, centuries after the proclamation of the Gospel, still have not seen the sweat of their brow turned into bread.

The worsening inequality and poverty in the South is alarming. Seven years since the United States and 191 other nations publicly promised to cut extreme global poverty in half by the year 2015 through the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), your country has made only a little progress towards fulfilling its commitments.

The MDGs should stir us to action because they echo the calls of the biblical prophets for justice and equity. Further, they are achievable and measurable markers on the roadmap to end extreme global poverty. And so we ask you as sisters and brothers, citizens of the wealthiest most powerful nation on earth, to publicly challenge your candidates and political leaders – now and after the elections are over - to lead the world in the struggle to cut global poverty in half by 2015. If you who know the Truth will not speak for us who will?

The Church in the United States has the opportunity today to be faithful to the Hope that it preaches. We urge you to remember that the Hope to which you were called as a messenger demands that you seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s justice.

Out of love for us, the global Church, in holiness, use your citizenship responsibly for the benefit of the entire world; it is for this very reason that the Lord poured out His life on the Cross.

All who have ears, let them hear what the Lord says to His Church.

28 Pastors of Global South Churches

Prayers for MDG Day

Some prayers for today:

Almighty and eternal God: may your grace enkindle in all hearts a love for the many unfortunate people whom poverty and misery reduce to a condition unworthy of human beings. Arouse in the hearts of those who call you Father a hunger and thirst for social justice and for love in deed and in truth. Grant, O Lord, peace in our days, peace to souls, peace to families, peace to our country, and peace among nations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. - Pope Pius XII

Lord God Almighty, our help and defender: Deliver those of us who are oppressed, have compassion on the humble, lift up the fallen, reveal yourself to the needy, heal the sinners, call back those who have gone astray, feed the hungry, liberate prisoners, raise up the sick, and encourage the faint-hearted. May all the nations know that you alone are God, that Jesus Christ is your Son, and that we are your people and the sheep of your pasture; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. - Saint Clement of Rome

Most loving God, as your desire for mercy for those who are poor is unrelenting, may we be unrelenting in our pursuit of mercy for all; as your compassion for the suffering of the poor knows no limit, may our hearts overflow with compassion for all. Open our eyes to the structures of oppression from which we benefit, And give us wisdom to chart a sound course amid complexity, and perseverance to continue our work until it is finished. Breathe your life giving spirit into your Church to free us from apathy and indifference; through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen. - adapted from St Paul’s Cathedral, London

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


Today is MDG Day, people the world over are marking this Day of Prayer, Fasting and Advocacy for the MDGs.

I will be blogging all day about the Millennium Development Goals and our role in them.

You are invited to:

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

Loving God, whose hand is open to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Break down the barriers of ignorance, indifference, and greed, we pray, that the multitudes who hunger may share your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

+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.

Click here to send an email to your Congressional leaders urging our nation to keep its promises to make the MDGs happen!

More to come!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The MDGs: Marking the half-way point

The year 2008 is the halfway point to 2015, the target year for accomplishing the eight Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000 by the United Nations.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has called a “High-Level Event” on Thursday, September 25 at which world leaders and others will discuss the progress toward the MDGs and the efforts that will still be needed to accomplish them.

To mark this occasion, the Anglican Communion will hold a solemn Evensong on September 25 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church will celebrate: Archbishop of York John Sentamu will preach.

The Primates of the Anglican Communion have been invited to the Evensong by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan D. Williams through the Office of the Anglican Observer at the United Nations.

The observance was endorsed by the bishops attending the recent Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, England, who said in their reflections document, “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.”

What can be done to help?

Several organizations within the Episcopal Church are working continually on ways to fulfill the MDGs, in response to Christ’s command to care for the people of the world:

Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, in solidarity with people of faith throughout the world and in response to the Anglican Communion’s call, invites all church members to commit on 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 MDGs.

For more information, or to participate, visit

The Episcopal Public Policy Network will identify an MDG advocacy action for September 25. For information, visit

Episcopal Relief and Development is working actively throughout the world to achieve the MDGs. To donate online, visit; by mail, Episcopal Relief & Development, P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, Virginia 22116-7058; by phone (with a credit card), 800-334-7626, ext. 5129.

"The year 2008 should mark a turning point in progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. Together with the President of the General Assembly, I am convening a special High-level Event on the MDGs on 25 September in New York. This gathering will bring together world leaders, representatives of the private sector and our civil society partners to discuss specific ways to energize our efforts. I expect the meeting will also send a strong message that governments are ready to rise to the financing for development challenge. I look forward to working with Member States to make the September event an unqualified success. Together, we must make this year one of unprecedented progress for the poorest of the poor, so that we can realize a better, more prosperous future for all.”
—Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, April 1, 2008

Sermon: September 21 (Stewardship)

Greed is good, Greed is right, Greed works! And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA…

words of Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street (1987)
watch the clip here:

How times have changed since 1987!

Our country would not be in this financial mess, if some of our financial institutions did not get greedy over mortgages and risky loans. But the fault also lies with us, as we have lived into this greed too with our own over consumption of goods getting too debt ridden ourselves, and our mortgages to boot. We are in the same boat together, you and I. Living in a culture that like that movie character says - Greed is good, Greed is right, Greed works - it has been part of our financial landscape for a while...

We know that greed will not save us. We have tasted that greed and found it isn’t good, it destroys lives, it isn’t right and it doesn’t work except for a few who are indeed becoming richer in this mess.

So what should we do?

Get supplies, run for the hills and wait ‘til it’s over.
Hunker down, spend less, and live in fear of what might happen next.

No. I think we should soar. Let me explain…

As I watched the financial mess unfold these past couple of weeks, I kept thinking about stewardship. For it is stewardship, (as the dictionary defines it) “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care” that we each have responsibility. Those big heavy weights in finance failed to be good stewards of their investments, instead taking on risky loans and mortgages and they have paid the price.

We too have been entrusted with our time, talent and our treasure. Not to hoard or store them up here on earth, nor to lose them in frivolous living but we are called forth to use them as good stewards. Good stewardship is about using our resources wisely, to give thanks for the blessings in our lives and to live as generously as we can with what we have. When we do that, we soar because we are set free!

I hear that in the parable of the landowner, a parable of God’s generosity.

Its time to harvest the grapes, so the landowner hires workers early in the morning. But he doesn’t stop there he goes out again and again and again. Each time hiring those who are standing idle, who haven’t been hired, and he tells them they will get paid whatever is right. When evening comes, all those hired get paid, the daily wage. No matter if they worked all day or if they only worked since 5, they all got the same pay. Those first laborers cry foul. They worked harder than anyone else, why should those who didn’t work as long earn the same as them? That’s no way to run a vineyard. But this vineyard is the Lord’s, and it is a parable of the kingdom.

The generosity of our God knows no bounds. The parable speaks to the open invitation to God’s kingdom, an invitation to all, be they first or last, for we all receive the same pay, the same salvation, we are free. Greed will not save us. Fear will only hold us back. But the generosity of God reminds us that we need to place our hopes elsewhere…

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. (Is. 40:31)

As we think about that generosity, let me end with this tale…

Once upon a time, a monk, in his travels, found a precious stone worth a great deal of money. The monk kept it wrapped in a cloth in his traveling bag. As he continued on his way, he met a traveler, and offered to share his meager lunch with him. When the monk opened his bag, the traveler saw the jewel and asked the monk if he could have it to feed his family. The monk readily gave the jewel to him.

The traveler departed, overjoyed with the unexpected gift of the precious stone that would give him and his family wealth and security the rest of their lives. But a few days later, the traveler sought ought the monk at his monastery and gave him back the stone. "I have come to ask for something much more precious than this stone," he ex­plained. "Give me whatever enabled you to give it to me."

Today let us soar. Let us open ourselves to hear God’s Word. Let us open ourselves up through prayer, caring for each other, and doing the little things like the “three ways to soar” stated in the brochure you received this week. Let us open our hearts and be generous like that monk, like that landowner, like God! and give of ourselves. Amen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Soccer dad

Soccer dad By Tim Schenck

Nothing screams “suburban dad” quite like standing on a soccer field on a Saturday afternoon. It’s one thing to stand in front of a smoky grill with tongs at the ready or walk around the backyard with beads of sweat dripping from your forehead while wielding a weed whacker. But when you’re staring at a bunch of kids swarming around a soccer ball on a weekend morning when you should still be in bed drinking coffee and reading the paper, you’ve reached suburban nirvana. You may as well take out a second mortgage on the house because you’re not going anywhere for awhile.

It’s fascinating to me how the most popular sport in the world binds American families together in a common weekend pursuit. At the appointed hour thousands of cleated kids pour out of mini vans all across the country. Parents, carrying travel mugs of coffee and those fold-up soccer mom chairs, trudge out behind them. This ritual continues every weekend during the fall and spring. At least until our kids graduate high school. Then no self-respecting American could care less about soccer. Which may be why the United States has never won the World Cup.

While most of us enjoy watching our children engage in athletic endeavors, it’s amazing how many parents feel imprisoned by weekend youth sports...

Read the rest of it here. Something to think about! He ends by saying (and he's right!)...

In the meantime, I’ll see you on the soccer field. I’ll be the one cursing the Good Humor truck that always seems to pull up just as the game is ending.

From What Size Are God's Shoes, copyright Timothy Schenck 2008, and used by permission of Church Publishing. The Rev. Tim Schenck, rector of All Saints, Briarcliff Manor, New York.

Lord's Prayer and the Rule of St. Benedict

St. Benedict understood that within a community (or a family or workplace, etc.) conflict can arise in the group. The Lord's Prayer is a wonderful corrective to remind us of the forgiveness that we have received at Christ’s hand, and our call to forgive others. It can transform our lives if we are willing.

As the rule says...

The Office of Lauds and Vespers (Morning & Evening Prayer), however, is never to end without the Lord's Prayer being said aloud by the superior, so that all may hear it, because of the thorns of scandal which are wont to arise; that the brethren, by the covenant which they make in that prayer when they say: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," may cleanse themselves of such faults.

Use the Lord's Prayer at home, at work, wherever you may be!

Sermon: September 14 (Forgiveness)

Peter came and said to Jesus, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” 77 times (or 70 times 7). We would lose count if we tried to keep track, which is the point. Jesus is talking about forgiveness beyond our calculation.

Forgiveness is not easy. As the old saying goes, to err is human, to forgive divine. And yet Jesus calls us to do just that, forgive our brother and sister. I think of the Amish in that Lancaster County village, who after five of their children were murdered in a one-room schoolhouse, began turning the other cheek, urging forgiveness of the killer and reached out to the killer’s family. Many members of that community supported the family that was left behind when the killer committed suicide.

"I hope they stay around here and they'll have a lot of friends and a lot of support," Daniel Esh, a 57-year-old Amish artist and woodworker whose three grandnephews were inside the school during the attack, said of the Roberts family. (from the AP)

Forgiveness is not easy and its not about someone else. It is about us. Our hearts and our lives. I believe it is the most challenging way to live, and yet it is at the heart of our following in faith if we are to be called disciples of Jesus Christ.

As the book of Ecclesiasticus puts it: “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned. Remember the end of your life, and set enmity aside; remember the commandments, and do not be angry with your neighbor; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook faults.”

Sometimes that forgiveness is not sought until the end of our days… I think of the movie the Bucket list. Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson’s character): has terminal cancer, in the middle of the movie he talks about the estrangement from his daughter. He tried to help with an abusive husband and went too far and they hadn’t spoken since. Even after all he does on the list, it still nags at him that he is not reconciled with her. We see him finally after all, going to her house and asking for that forgiveness.

Forgiveness and our relationships are so intertwined that it speaks to how we live our lives of faith. We see this in Jesus’ teaching and in the parable of the unforgiving servant that we heard today.

The parable begins with a king. A king settling his accounts. When a slave who is brought to him owing him owing a huge sum, one he could not pay, he is ordered to be sold with his family to repay the debt. That is his prerogative. His slave, and he wants his money. Sell them. But the slave begs for mercy, promising to pay the king everything he owes, which of course as a slave he could never obtain that amount of wealth. Like a child who says he will stop x behavior to get out of a punishment that you known darn well he will repeat again…

But the king indeed does have mercy; he has a change of heart. He releases the slave and forgives the debt. That’s it. He expects nothing from the slave. No repayment necessary. Not even a little.

"But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt."

The slave who was freed does not understand the gift given to him by the king. So he refuses to show mercy to a fellow slave who owed him money and throws him into prison. The king hears about it and has him tortured until the debts are paid off because he did not have mercy and forgive his fellow slave. And how does Jesus end this?

“So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” That is blunt. Forgive your brother or sister or share the fate of the slave in the parable.

As one of my seminary professors has put it, “the main message of Jesus was about forgiveness. and how it transforms lives.” (Bill Coutryman)

The king in the parable was transformed because he forgave the slave. The slave did not understand or could not do it, so his life was not transformed and he suffered for it. Jesus who died on the cross for us, for the forgiveness of our sins, gives us that gift of grace. Forgiveness of our sins. Not because we earned it, or begged in the right way, but because God wanted to do that. It is offered to us, do we accept?

That acceptance is how we practice forgiveness in our own lives today, how it transforms us and our hearts. Do we forgive our spouse? Our child? Our relative? Our neighbor? Or do we hold on to their debts to us? Even if they don’t ask for it. Even if they don’t deserve it. Do we forgive them? Jesus says yes. Do we?

It reminds me that everyday, twice a day (morning and night), monks following the rule of St. Benedict say the Lord’s Prayer, because as the rule says, “this is done because of the harm that is often done in a community by the thorns of conflict which can arise.” They hear the words, “forgive us as we also forgive,” and are called to forgive one another, to be cleansed from the stain of such evil, so they can live with one another in love.

Could we adopt this practice in our homes? At our work, wherever we are? The practice of using the Lord’s Prayer to remind us of the forgiveness that we have received at Christ’s hand, and our call to forgive others. It can transform our lives if we are willing.

"Imagine this scenario:

You are sitting one night with your family. You are irritated, overtired and underappreciated. Something happens to push you beyond your patience and you suddenly lose your temper. You yell at everyone, tell them they are selfish and stupid, throw your coffee across the room, and stamp out, violently slamming the door to punctuate your anger. Then you sit in your room, alienated and feeling utterly and helplessly alone. Slowly, sanity and contrition overcome self-pity, but wounded pride and the rawness of what has just happened make it too embarrassing for you to go back and apologize. Eventually, you fall asleep, leaving things in that unreconciled state.

The next morning, now doubly contrite and somewhat sheepish, but still wounded in pride, you come to the family table. Everyone is sitting there having breakfast. You pick up your coffee cup (which didn’t break and someone has washed and returned to its hook!), pour yourself some coffee, and without saying a word, sit down at the table — your remorse and your wounded pride showing in every move. Your family is not stupid and neither are you. Everyone knows what this means. What is essential is being said, without words. You are making the basic move toward reconciliation, your body and your actions are saying something more important than words: I want to be part of you again. At that moment, the hemorrhaging stops (even if only for that moment). If you dropped dead on the spot, you would be reconciled with your family." [From The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality by Ronald Rolheiser.]

“Christ calls us to create within our families and communities that place and environment in which forgiveness is joyfully offered and humbly but confidently sought.” (Jay Cormier)

In his parables on forgiveness and reconciliation, Jesus calls everyone to be his disciples in the work of reconciliation, to be ready and willing to make the first move toward forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift that we can share. So will we be the king who forgives or the unforgiving slave?

Today let us remember the precious gift of life, and the gift of forgiveness, and share these gifts with our troubled and hurting world today, which may be as close as our own home. Amen.

Sad Day for the Hubers

Yesterday, we buried our oldest dog, Alef.

A companion for 15 years, he leaves a big whole in the family and is greatly missed.

As we buried him, we said these prayers (prayers written by Rev Robert Stiefel and the Rev. Frank Logue):

A Liturgy in Remembrance of Alef

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, a gentle Father, and the God of all consolation, who comforts us in our sorrows, so that we can offer others, in their sorrows, the consolation that we ourselves received from God. -2 Corinthians 1:3-4

O God, you created all that is, and you love all that you have made: we come to you this day in grief and with thanksgiving. We grieve the death of our beloved Alef, who has been our companion on the way, and we thank you for the gift of his presence among us as an effective sign of the richness of your creation and of the generosity of your love; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

And if thy heart be straight with God, then every creature shall be to thee a mirror of life and a book of doctrine, for there is no creature so little or so vile, but that sheweth and representeth the goodness of God.-Thomas à Kempis

O God our Maker, from the beginning you have permitted us, the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, to name our brother and sister creatures of earth, sea, and sky: We commend Alef to the arms of your everlasting love. Amen.

O Christ our Savior, in your love you gave yourself to death that the whole world might have life: Console us who grieve, and by the sign of the rainbow help us to trust in your everlasting love. Amen.

O Spirit and Giver of Life, you abandon no creature that the flame of your presence has enlivened: Abide with us in this world and sustain in us the hope that we may yet again rejoice in the companionship of Alef in the world to come. Amen.

Most merciful God, we return to you Alef, a creature of your own making and your gift into our lives. We praise you for his beauty and strength, for his grace and power; we thank you for his faithful companionship in our joys and sorrows; and we bless you for the time during which you entrusted him into our care. Receive now Alef back into the arms of your everlasting love, O Giver of life, through whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ all that is lost to death is restored to life, and in whose Name we pray. Amen.

May Christ the Good Shepherd enfold us with love, fill us with peace, and lead us in hope, this day and all our days. Amen.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Audacity of Claiming the Last Word on This Word

Peter does a great job of illuminating the problem of giving people the title of orthodox (one of my pet peeves). Read on!

The Audacity of Claiming the Last Word on This Word

When it comes to religion, “orthodoxy” is a fighting word. That is why it is peculiar, to say the least, when the news media make themselves the arbiter of who is, say, an orthodox Roman Catholic or an orthodox Buddhist and who is not.

A recent New Yorker article on religion and the presidential race, for example, counterposed Catholics who welcomed the changes in the church initiated by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s with Catholics “who hewed to orthodoxy.”

Pope John Paul II, the article said, reinterpreted Vatican II “along orthodox lines” and found allies in a group of Catholic bishops who were “fiercely orthodox” and determined “to steer the American church more toward orthodoxy.”

Does this mean that the Catholics who rallied enthusiastically around Vatican II, and the popes who preceded John Paul II in interpreting it, and a majority of bishops who had been steering the American church for two decades, were not orthodox? Were they all, knowingly or unknowingly, unorthodox — or even heretical?

That would be a pretty sweeping judgment, but it is one held, explicitly or implicitly, by many conservative Catholics. (Of course, there are ultraconservative Catholics who think John Paul II was also a heretic.) The real question is, Why should The New Yorker decide?

To be fair, the New Yorker article by no means stands alone. This matter-of-fact assignment of the label “orthodox” to one faction among others has occurred frequently in the press, occasionally in this paper.

Read the rest here.

Lets talk about sex II

What happens when we don't talk about sex?

Here's one example...

In Tangle of Young Lips, a Sex Rebellion in Chile By ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO (NY Times)

SANTIAGO, Chile — It is just after 5 p.m. in what was once one of Latin America’s most sexually conservative countries, and the youth of Chile are bumping and grinding to a reggaetón beat. At the Bar Urbano disco, boys and girls ages 14 to 18 are stripping off their shirts, revealing bras, tattoos and nipple rings.

The place is a tangle of lips and tongues and hands, all groping and exploring. About 800 teenagers sway and bounce to lyrics imploring them to “Poncea! Poncea!”: make out with as many people as they can.

And make out they do — with stranger after stranger, vying for the honor of being known as the “ponceo,” the one who pairs up the most.

Read the rest of it here. I think we neglect this at our own peril.

My first post on this can be found here.

Please also read my first comment on that post, which includes an excerpt from Lisa Kimball's Human Sexuality: Teenagers and the Church

"I have often said that the silence in our churches around the subjects of human sexuality and alcohol is the ticket to our extinction." She is exactly right.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Helping those in the path of the Hurricane

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 Ike. 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.

To support people on the Gulf Coast impacted by hurricanes, please make a donation to Episcopal Relief & Development’s “US Hurricane Fund” online at, or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief & Development “US Hurricane Fund” P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058. For contributions assisting those in Haiti and the Caribbean, please give to Episcopal Relief & Development’s “Hurricane Relief Fund”.

When people are victims of a hurricane, the American Red Cross is ready to provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance. You can help people affected by the Hurricanes of 2008, by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Go online to or call 1-800-REDCROSS to donate today!

You can also use your cell phone to donate $5 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund by text messaging the keyword "GIVE" to "2HELP" (24357). Donations will appear on monthly bills or be debited from a prepaid account balance. All applicable text rates apply.If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, you should call 1-800-REDCROSS. To learn more about hurricane preparedness, visit