Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pilgrims for Peace

“Praying with Their Feet"

A group of pilgrims – people of faith from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist and other traditions – will be “praying with their feet” for peace as they walk around Connecticut. The pilgrims hope to proclaim peace in the name of all people and all faith traditions and to invite neighbors to a conversation about what they can do to make peace in a war-weary world. Churches, synagogues, mosques, and people’s homes will be places of rest, refreshment and welcome to the Pilgrims on their route.

The theme of “walking,” or pilgrimage, is important for all great religious traditions, and the Rev. Emmett Jarrett, an Episcopal Franciscan priest, noted that the prophet Isaiah wrote in the eighth century BCE of “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one[s] who bring glad tidings, announcing peace.”

St. Peter’s will host the peace pilgrims on Halloween (October 31). A meal, a place for rest for the pilgrims and an opportunity for conversation with the community will take place that night. Join them for a conversation on peace at 7 PM in our Undercroft (Parish Hall). All are welcome!

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Sermon Notes: October 26

These are the notes from my sermon on October 26:

Which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Jesus said to him, "`You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

613 commandments in Hebrew Scriptures
-Jesus lifts out these two; equal importance.
-an ethic of love

Hillel the Elder (famous Jewish religious leader)
-lived during the time of King Herod
-When asked for a summary of the Jewish religion in the most concise terms, Hillel said: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it.” (2nd part)
-Shema (The Lord our God, the Lord is one…)

Love God, Love Neighbor – God loves you!

IRIS (at Diocesan Convention) Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services

· refugee resettlement arm of Episcopal Social Service, Inc., since 1982.
· IRIS has resettled over 4,000 people.
· Last year IRIS welcomed 112 refugees from 19 countries. Nearly one half came from Africa. · IRIS is a program of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut.
· Director told a story… a synagogue become a sponsor for a Iraqi refuge family from Baghdad, in thanksgiving the Muslim family joined the Jewish congregation on its first day of the celebration of Sukkoth, Feast of Booths, a week-long harvest Festival.

“As for the disciples, it was not by their fantastic worship, not by their biblical knowledge, not by their insight or wisdom, not by their sanctity, not by their moral uprightness that they would be known to the world. Not by their eloquent or convicting preaching. Not by their buildings, or their budgets would they be known. Not by their faith to move mountains, or by their personal purity would they be singled out as belonging to Jesus. It would be by their love.” (from synthesis, HKO)

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” (John 13:34)

This is a true story: An eight-year-old boy had a younger sister who was dying of leukemia. His parents explained to him that she needed a blood transfusion and that his blood was probably compatible. They asked if they could test his blood. Sure, he said. The results showed that his blood would be a good match. Then they asked the boy if he would give his sister a pint of blood, that it could be her only chance at living. He said he would like to think about overnight. The next day he went to his parents and said he was willing to donate his blood to his sister. So they took him to the hospital where he was put on a gurney beside his sister. Both of them were hooked up to IVs. A nurse withdrew a pint of blood from the boy, which was then put into the girl’s IV. The boy lay on his gurney in silence while the blood dripped into his sister. The doctor came over to see how he was doing. The boy opened his eyes and asked, “How soon until I start to die?”
[Jack Kornfield, cited in Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.]

Whether it’s a neighbor nearby like one’s sister or far away like a refugee family, our calling is simple: Love God, Love Neighbor – God loves you!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Micah Challenge Sunday

“And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

Micah Challenge Community Prayer

God of all creation: We pray to you at a moment in history of unique potential, when the stated intentions of world leaders echo something of the mind of the Biblical prophets and the teachings of Jesus concerning the poor, and when we have the means to dramatically reduce poverty.

Today, we want to commit ourselves, as followers of Jesus, to work together for the holistic transformation of our communities, to pursue justice, be passionate about kindness and to walk humbly with God. We pray that you will transform the hearts of decision-makers of both rich and poor nations, to fulfill their public promise to those living in impoverished and marginalized communities; the promise they made to bring an end to extreme poverty.

We pray that your Spirit will stir Christians everywhere to be agents of hope for and with the poor, and to work with others to hold our leaders accountable in securing a more just and merciful world. May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. In justice, mercy and humility we pray. Amen.

Sermon: October 19

Humpty Dumpty sat on Wall Street…

As one person has put it:

THE financial world is a mess, both in the United States and abroad. Its problems, moreover, have been leaking into the general economy, and the leaks are now turning into a gusher. In the near term, unemployment will rise, business activity will falter and headlines will continue to be scary.

So ... I’ve been buying American stocks. Why?

A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread, gripping even seasoned investors, but fears regarding the long-term prosperity of the nation’s many sound companies make no sense.

These words are from the Billionaire investor Warren Buffett in an opinion column in the NY Times on Thursday. He is right. We are living in a time of fear. We are waiting for the other shoe to drop…

Already pension plans have lost much; having talked with my mom the other day who is retired, she is watching money evaporate from her 401(k), sitting on a house she wants to sell but there are no buyers and there is no credit for those who might want to buy. Some have called this the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression; many of us are feeling the weight of anxiety.

Despite the grim financial news, with small businesses hurting, and everybody weary of the volatility and the crisis in home mortgages, there remains a hopefulness…

Buffett sees the hopeful signs in the sound companies that will ultimately help us get through these times. I agree with him, these businesses are good and helpful, and yet we as Christians, must place our hopefulness & faithfulness elsewhere…

The Israelites had experienced a crisis of faith when Moses went up the mountain. They had experienced moments of hunger and thirst and wondered what the days ahead would be like. There was much anxiety. After Moses went up the mountain and did not return, they began to lose their way and they created a golden calf to worship, to lead them; it was something tangible to hold on to as they had forgotten what God had done for them. They preferred the now, forgot the past and did not look forward to what God had promised.

After the calf was destroyed and those who had worshipped it were removed from the community, we hear Moses in today’s reading asking God directly to lead, asking what was next and to walk with the Israelites. And God responded to his faithful questions; each time Moses responded more boldly in his prayers and each time God responded.

It is Moses who embodies that hopefulness and faithfulness we are called to live. The reading reminds me that as we pray, we are called to pray boldly, that indeed God is with us and will answer. But it also reminds me that we must beware of the Golden Calves that exist all around us that make us “rich in things but poor in soul.”

And it is Jesus who reminds us what our priority needs to be. “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Jesus has moved the conversation of paying taxes to the emperor to a deeper level of truth. Yes, give to the emperor that which is the emperor's, in a sense give it back to the emperor. And give to God that which is God's. The emperor may collect his coin for taxes but we are made in the image of God and owe to God much, much more. What it means, is that we owe God, as Jesus implies, we owe God our life. How we live it, how we give it away.

Jesus calls us to live in this world by the values that God has given us. Jesus is not saying, "give to the Emperor those things that are the Emperor's, and the rest to God." Nor is Jesus saying, "give to the Emperor the worldly things and give to God the spiritual things."

Both of these statements put the Emperor equal to God. It is the second part of Jesus' answer that we need to examine, to give to God those things that are God's, for God created everything that is. And so it is the living out of our deepest held beliefs and convictions that connects us with the God who made us. We may give our money back to the government in the form of taxes, we pay bills with it, we spend it, we save it. But the almighty dollar isn’t almighty, and it belongs to God just as assuredly as we do.

Too often our hopes revolve around our money. It is a possession and too often it possesses us.

So in this time when we consider our stewardship of our money, how we spend it, we need to consider how we honor God, how we give to God the things that are God’s, and how our wealth is used for the glory of God. We live in these anxious times and in a culture that does not believe in generosity that sells things based not on our need, but on our insecurities so we’ll buy their products. We live in a scarcity culture where there is not enough and we have to hoard what we do have. The Emperor is not only government but is really anything that draws us away from giving to God fully…

And it is so easy in this economic downturn to hold on to everything we have, fearful of what is to come. But God has made us not so we will live in fear, in despair, in scarcity but so we will live in joy, in hope, in love.

I think of John Chrysostom, an early Church father who put it this way, “things themselves do not remain, but their effects do. Therefore we should not be mean and calculating with what we have but give with a generous hand. Look at how much people give to players and dancers – why not give just as much to Christ?”

Chrysostom words written some 1600 years ago, ring true today…look how much we give to watch a sporting event, go to a concert, go to the theater, look at how much we spend on entertainment (on players and dancers) than consider what we give to the Church, what we give to other charitable organizations.

We often give to our Emperors our first fruits and give what remains to God, but what would our spending look like if we gave to God first rather than last? What if we refused to buy into the scarcity way of thinking from the culture of the Emperor, and instead believed in the bounty and generosity that God has given us?

“Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” What if we dared to pray to God to give us a generous spirit, and a hopeful heart in the midst of these times?

Around the world today Christians from all walks of life are praying to God and asking their Emperors, their representatives in government to not only bail out the rich and mighty, but to remember the poor and needy, the neighbor nearby and far away.

Let us join in that prayer [Micah Challenge - see above post].

Jesus did not give us a blueprint on how to give to God, but he gave us a way to live: a loving heart, a generous hand, a faithful spirit.

May God bless us and guide us to do just that in our lives today. Amen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poverty: our call to help...

Today is Blog Action Day!

Bloggers are blogging about Poverty.

On this day, I invite you to say a prayer:

Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

On this day, I invite you to write your senators & congressman:

Remind them that even in the midst of this financial crisis and downturn, we need to stick to our commitments in helping the world's poor and the poor in our own neighborhoods. Go here and here to write our senators and here for our congressman.

On this day, set aside some canned goods (and/or non-perishables) for the Monroe Food Pantry:

Bring these on Sunday and help our neighbors in need this Fall. Click here to find a list of what's needed (and not).

They are out of SPAM, Canned Chicken and shelf stable Milk. If you are out, pick up these items and remember the poor and needy, Someone Praying About Me!

On this day, make out a check (or give an online donation) to an organization helping the poor:

Episcopal Relief and Development: "Working in partnership with the worldwide Church, ecumenical agencies and local organizations, Episcopal Relief & Development saves lives and strengthens communities around the world."

Bridgeport Rescue Mission: "The Bridgeport Rescue Mission works to meet the basic needs of the poor and homeless in the Greater Bridgeport area, by providing food, clothing, shelter and counsel."

On this day, sign up with the Micah Challenge:

Micah Challenge USA is a Christian campaign that is part of a global Micah Challenge campaign. Our aims are to deepen our engagement with impoverished and marginalized communities; and to challenge leaders to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and so halve absolute global poverty by 2015! "And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

It is up to all of us, to play our part and to help alleviate the poor and needy.

We can do it. One person at a time.

On this day, pray and act!

What do the candidates believe?

"Religion's role in the campaign is at the center of our program today, beginning with a special report from Kim Lawton on the religious beliefs of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates."

Read or watch the episode from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly by PBS (from 10/10/08).

"Does it matter what a candidate believes? According to an August survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, nearly half of all Americans say they get uncomfortable when politicians talk about how religious they are. But at the same time, more than 70 percent of Americans say they do want a president with strong religious beliefs."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Poll: Most in Conn. support gay marriage ruling

While I was away, the CT State Supreme Court made its ruling.

You can also read about it here.

Does it change anything for us? "Religious institutions would not be forced into providing marriage venues for same-sex couples when the state recrafts the civil-union statute into a civil-marriage law." - so says one article.

Right now, it doesn't change anything for St. Peter's. Although I agree with the court's decision and am pleased to see that all in CT can get married, this is a step that our congregation will make when it is ready.

As for Governor Rell's comments that it doesn't reflect the majority of the people of Connecticut, the latest poll would seem to indicate otherwise. I do agree with her that amending the State Constitution will not meet with success for those opposed. In fact, I think it is a waste of time.

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A new poll says 53 percent of Connecticut residents support last week's state Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay and lesbian marriages. The University of Connecticut surveyed 502 adults over the weekend for The Hartford Courant. The poll says 42 percent of state residents don't agree with the ruling, and it shows Democrats and Republicans differ widely over the issue. Seventy-two percent of Democrats say they support the court's decision, while 69 percent of Republicans are against it. Fifty-two percent of independent voters agree with Friday's 4-3 ruling. The poll's margin of sampling error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. Opponents of gay marriage are leading an effort to try to change the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Over the weekend, I read the Connecticut Supreme Court's gay marriage decision. It's actually a rather moving document: a cogent defense of gay rights that efficiently demolishes the chief arguments against marriage equality, while offering what struck me as a reasonable defense of judicial intervention in the matter." by

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Living in Fear

In the midst of these troubling times, we are reminded that God is our refuge and strength. In the midst of fear of what might happen next, we can pray.

Some prayers for these days:

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Episcopal Church, Slavery & Apology

Expressing "profound regret that the Episcopal Church lent the institution of slavery its support and justification based on Scripture," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issued a public apology October 4 for the church's involvement in the institution of transatlantic slavery.

She went on to state that "after slavery was formally abolished, [the church] continued for at least a century to support de jure and de facto segregation and discrimination."

The historic gesture of remorse drew hundreds of Episcopalians, both black and white, to St. Thomas African Episcopal Church in Philadelphia October 3-4 for the Day of Repentance -- a two-day solemn observance which included presentations that examined racism in the past, present, and future.

Read the entire Episcopal News Article here.

Read Presiding Bishop Schori's sermon here.

You can view the video on "Day of Repentance" - Hundreds of Episcopalians journeyed to St. Thomas African Episcopal Church in Philadelphia on October 3 to participate in the first of a two-day solemn observance that will culminate with the Episcopal Church publicly apologizing for its involvement in the institution of transatlantic slavery - view it here.

Traces of the Trade

Northerners like to think they bear less guilt than Southerners for our nation’s ugly history with slavery and the slave trade. They are dead wrong, according to Katrina Browne, a committed Episcopalian from Boston. Browne learned that the hard way. Now she’s spreading the word to compatriots, North and South, in a manner she hopes will help to heal what she describes as our country’s greatest wound.

Brown, 37, has created a documentary film to tell the story of her ancestors from New England, to spell out the legacy white Americans have inherited from the history of slavery. The DeWolf family of Rhode Island was the largest slave-trading family in early America. More than 10,000 Africans – kidnapped, chained, beaten – made the hellish middle passage across the Atlantic in the holds of DeWolf-owned ships. Over the course of three generations, from 1769 to 1820, 47 of these ships made runs, building trade and the family’s fortune. Katrina Browne is refusing to side-step that unsavory history. Instead she is facing it head on in a very public way … with her 80-minute feature film, five years in the making.

Learn more here and here and here.

Can you eat cage free eggs?

All Creatures Great and Small, a campaign of Animals & Religion (of the Humane Society of the US), 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.

Take a pledge to make more humane food choices for the month of October.

Endorsements for this campaign:

The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane, Episcopal Bishop of Washington

Our faithful stewardship of creation includes being mindful of the animals entrusted to our care. The principles that underlie the All Creatures Great and Small campaign are consistent with the religious spirit that compels us to show them our mercy and regard. More humane and sustainable dietary choices can be a powerful testimony of our faith and service to the Lord, especially in a time when the whole of creation depends so heavily upon our goodwill.

The Very Reverend Samuel T. Lloyd III, Dean, Washington National Cathedral

At the center of the Christian faith is a belief that the whole of God’s creation deserve reverence and respect. Washington National Cathedral is honored to support the All Creatures Great and Small campaign as an expression of our commitment to be stewards of the earth and its inhabitants. We believe improving farm animal welfare is part of a broader moral imperative to honor all living creatures and we look forward to hosting the kick-off of the campaign at the Cathedral.

The 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church 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…" (General Convention 2003 – D016. Support Ethical Care of Animals)

“Animals, as part of God’s creation, have rights which must be respected. It behooves us always to be sensitive to their needs and to the reality of their pain.”
-Dr. Donald Coggan, former Archbishop of Canterbury

Sermon: St. Francis (Blessing of Animals)

“If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” ~ St. Francis

It is St. Francis that reminds us that everything is connected. How we treat animals is the way we also deal with each other. On this day, when we remember this great saint of the Church and his words and works, it behooves us to remember the creatures we care for, our pets, and all living creatures.

I recently came across All Creatures Great and Small, which is a campaign of Animals & Religion of the Humane Society, which 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.”

Indeed the Eucharist, a Christian sacrament is deeply rooted in eating and drinking and having a meal, it is an example of the relationship between food and faith.

This year, the All Creatures Great and Small Campaign focuses on the cruel and inhumane system of battery cages for hens.

"While many of us picture an idyllic Old MacDonald's farm when we think about where our eggs come from, nothing could be further from the truth. Most eggs produced in the United States come from industrialized factory farms confining hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of laying hens in overcrowded battery cages."

This October, we are being asked to switch to cage-free eggs (or eggs substitutes), a simple commitment that can make a big difference. You can take the pledge online.

“They too, are created by the same loving hand of God which Created us...It is our duty to Protect them and to promote their well-being.” ~ Mother Teresa.

A story of St. Francis:

Once, when he was staying in the town of Greccio, a hare was caught in a trap and brought live to Francis by a brother. Seeing the hare, Francis was moved to pity and said, "Brother hare, come here. Why did you let yourself be fooled in this way?" As soon as the hare was released by the brother, he dashed over to Francis and, without being forced to do so, jumped into his lap as the safest place available. When he had rested there a while, Francis, stroking him with maternal affection, let him go so that he could return to the wild. Each time he was placed on the ground, the hare ran back to Francis' lap. Finally Francis asked that the brothers carry him to a nearby forest.

May we have the same care for animals as St. Francis did in his time. Amen.

Sermon: October 5

What does God expect of you?

I think there are times we live in fear of God’s expectations, that we could never be the person God wants us to be, we assume that God wants us to be perfect. Too often we set the bar too high, never able to meet those expectations that are often our own and not God’s expectations.

The collect of the day that we prayed earlier reminds us that it is God who is always more ready to hear than we to pray. Our God who created us, gave us breath and life, is ready to hear our prayers, what’s on our minds and hearts. And God is ready to give more than we either desire or deserve. I am reminded of a poem I read recently by Claytia Doran (God sees us as we can be):

You sometimes feel so worthless and you feel so all alone.
but you don't have to feel that way, my friend.
i've got happiness to loan.
Here's the words i'll say to you,
to make your troubles seem far,
'god sees us as we can be. but, he loves us as we are.'

He sees you striving to be the best, in everything you try.
but, he's happy with you, now.
so my friend, don't you cry.
Be glad to be who you are.
you are special, near and far.
for, god sees you as you can be. but, he loves you as you are.

It is God who sees beyond us, knowing what we could be, but loving us as the imperfect beings we are. I hear that reflected in the second sentence from that collect where we ask God to pour upon us the abundance of mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask. And we pray in Jesus name. For it is our faith in Jesus that leads us to pray for God’s love and mercy.

We hear that echoed in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, as he writes that he relies on his faith in Jesus to lead him to righteousness. That is our faith too, to rely on Jesus, the cornerstone of who we are, even as we don’t always get things right. God loves us as we are. But that is not to say there are no expectations from God for we hear in the reading from Exodus, the giving of the Ten Commandments which still guides us in how we ought to live our lives today. And we hear it, in the Gospel, in Jesus’ parable of the wicked tenets. Jesus tell us about…

A landowner leases his vineyard to some tenants. When he sends slaves to collect his produce at harvest, the tenants beat some, kill others and refuse to do what they had said they will do. When the son comes, they kill him thinking that it all will be theirs. What will the owner do? Jesus asks. They reply, the landowner will get rid of the tenants to a miserable death and give it to others who will indeed give the produce.

Jesus is telling his parable in the midst of those who do not believe in him, they do not understand Jesus as the cornerstone but they understand his parable that he is the son and they are the wicked tenants and they want to arrest him but fear the crowds…

And yet if we think about the parable, we are now the generations who are the tenants in God’s great vineyard called earth. How do we give of the harvest today? Do we give back to God a generous portion of the produce?

The warning of the last line, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.” is a reminder that God has expectations that we produce fruit. Not unblemished, perfect fruit, but fruit of who we are, our time, our talent, our treasure. Our generosity of giving these away to others is an expectation of God even as we stumble in doing this, even as we hoard and forget to be generous in difficult times. God is not waiting for us to fail so God can scold and punish us. No, God is waiting for us to follow the way shown to us by Jesus, to live in faith so we can truly have joyous and generous lives, even when our world says it knows a better way, even when others say no…

I think of a story…

For 17 years, she had been a member of the custodial staff at an elementary school, cleaning classrooms, bathrooms, offices and the teachers’ lounge. Every student and teacher at the school knew and liked the generous and hard-working janitor. Every morning, before beginning work at 1 P.M., she took courses at a local college.

After seven long years of juggling her studies with the demands of her work and caring for her family, she completed her degree in education. She then applied for a teaching opening at the very school where she had mopped floors and cleaned toilets for so long. But the principal felt that since everyone knew her as a janitor, she could not be effective in the classroom in the role of teacher. So the would-be teacher reluctantly accepted another one-year contract for a custodial position.

But one principal’s reason for rejecting her was exactly what made the janitor the ideal candidate at another elementary school. The principal there had once been a teacher at her school and remembered the care and pride she demonstrated when cleaning the classrooms. “Our kids are one step out of the projects. We want them to know what they can achieve. [She] has it, and I’m hoping she can give it to our kids,” the second principal said.

The onetime custodian now teaches fifth grade where she is beloved and respected by her students. There is one link in to her past: At the end of the day, her room is always clean: “I try to help the custodians.” [The New York Times, September 22, 1993.]

That teacher who does not forget her former days as a custodian, is one in whom God’s expectations are realized who produces the fruit of the kingdom even if some could not see beyond her former duties. God likewise is calling us forth to produce such fruit, to live by faith, to see God’s expectations as not the “do this” / “don’t do that” like our world thinks it is, but God’s expectation of us living our lives as fully as we can, in faith and hope and love.

“I have been all things unholy.” St. Francis of Assisi once said. “If God can work through me, God can work through anyone.”

Indeed, God is working through you and me right now. May we live in faith in Jesus being generous in all things, and know that God sees us as we can be, but, God loves us as we are. Amen.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Follow-up to my sermon on Greed

Greed, to put it mildly, is no longer good.

Today, Gordon Gekko could not get away with the paean to greed that he delivered in the 1987 movie “Wall Street.” Not after Alan Greenspan denounced “infectious greed” before Congress in 2002. Not when every third book about finance and corporate power has the word “greed” in the title. Not when the presidential nominee of the traditionally pro-business party is blaming Wall Street’s greed for the current financial crisis.

Denouncing greed, however, appears easier than defining it.

Read it here. Modern Market Thinking Has Devalued a Deadly Sin by PETER STEINFELS

Of course, it’s all Gordon Gekko’s fault! “Greed and irresponsibility,” blasted Barack Obama. “Greed and excess and corruption,” charged John McCain. President Luiz In├ício Lula da Silva could tell from as far away as Brazil that the “boundless greed of a few” blew up the American financial system. Why didn’t I think of that?

With the eureka moment behind us, I would suggest that this insight offers a way to try to restore the abused financial markets to health. If greed is to blame, the question is whether we can line up a reasonable array of alternative incentives — and disincentives — to do away with greed for good.

This will be no easy task. From populist opprobrium to elitist disdain — standard social behavioral devices have proved unable to dent humanity’s greedy nature.

Read it here. A Cure for Greed By EDUARDO PORTER