Saturday, January 31, 2009
A Confessional Prayer -- to be said before watching football games
Most merciful God,
Forgive us for what we are about to do;
For our blood-curdling cries,
Lord, have mercy;
For our lust for violence,
Lord, have mercy;
For our emulation of military conquest,
Lord, have mercy;
For our favor to the strong,
Lord, have mercy;
For our scorn upon the weak,
Lord, have mercy;
For the vengeance which we seek
upon enemies whom we oppose for the most arbitrary of reasons,
Lord, have mercy.
We acknowledge and bewail our mortal sins and weaknesses;
We are troubled by these dark comparisons:
the football stadium and the coliseum;
the fans and the pagan mobs;
the star athletes and the demigods;
the linebackers and the gladiators;
the cheerleaders and the furies;
the commentators and the chorus;
the corporations and the slave owners.
We can only hope that you see, as we do,
that this is only a game;
and that you haven't lost your sense of humor.
Despite appearances to the contrary, our heart remains faithful to you.
Even as we glory in the spectacle of our football enemies
being pounded into the dust, we will strive to remember you.
God, be with those who will taste dirt this day.
Heal those who will be injured;
Console the losers with gratitude for the privilege of having played;
Ennoble the victors with gentle reminders of their mortality;
And show your favor toward all contestants
Who this day will shed their blood and break their bones
for our trivial sakes, AMEN.
Written by The Rev. Matthew Lawrence
This prayer was read over Michigan Public Radio twice: on the day before, and immediately preceding their broadcast of the first game of the Wolverine's 1998-99 season. They lost the game, and the next one too...
Over 6 million Jews as well as gays/lesbians, Roma, mentally/physically disabled persons were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.
Sadly there are still too many who think it never happened be they a Bishop reinstated by the Vatican or the President of Iran.
To read more on this, look here:
By PETER STEINFELS
Published: January 30, 2009 - NY Times
Does the Roman Catholic Church believe that popes, in conducting the ordinary affairs of the church, can never make mistakes? Ask any Catholic bishop that question, and he will reply, “Of course not.”
One would expect that at least one U.S. bishop would have questioned Pope Benedict's action in revoking the excommunication of four bishops, including one who has denied the Holocaust.
Read it all here.
and read this:
Holocaust by bullets: French priest digs up beginnings of Nazi genocide
By MARIA DANILOVA and RANDY HERSCHAFT
Associated Press Writers
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- The Holocaust has a landscape engraved in the mind's eye: barbed-wire fences, gas chambers, furnaces.
Less known is the "Holocaust by Bullets," in which over 2 million Jews were gunned down in towns and villages across Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Their part in the Nazis' Final Solution has been under-researched, their bodies left unidentified in unmarked mass graves.
"Shoah," French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann's documentary, stands as the 20th century's epic visual record of the Holocaust. Now another Frenchman, a Catholic priest named Patrick Desbois, is filling in a different part of the picture.
Desbois says he has interviewed more than 800 eyewitnesses and pinpointed hundreds of mass graves strewn around dusty fields in the former Soviet Union. The result is a book, "The Holocaust by Bullets," and an exhibition through March 15 at New York's Museum of Jewish Heritage.Read it all here.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
The article is written by Dr. Deirdre J. Good is professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary; you can read it here.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
A Prayer of Remembrance:
Almighty God, we remember before you this day those killed during the Holocaust, for the innocents murdered, for those who wrongly used your name to kill, and for those who did not speak up against such injustice. Guide us in our efforts to root out intolerance and prejudice in our world, that we may not make peace with oppression and may stand as witness to those who died. Help us to work towards the day when no one will fall to such a sword. We ask this through him who was executed as a criminal by an oppressive state, Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Read the rest here.
As someone who signed the declaration against torture, I am thrilled with the president's action today.
Learn more here.
[Episcopal News Service] Editor's note: Lily Watson, who is 15 and an active member of Christ and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Westport, Connecticut, attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. on January 20 as part of a program sponsored by LeadAmerica, a Boca Raton, Florida-based youth leadership organization. She filed these impressions:
I noticed a lot of references to faith and religion during the actual ceremony, the most obvious being the Rev. Rick Warren's opening prayer. I was surprised at the bad reception when the prayer was first announced -- most people looked around in a confused or tense manner and I even heard a "boo" from over my shoulder. Once the prayer began, I folded my hands and bowed my head, only to look up a few minutes later to realize that I was the only one. I was surprised when the crowd even cheered at the mention of President Obama's name during the prayer, which I'm not used to. Everyone seemed to enjoy the prayer, and some people, including me, began reciting the Lord's Prayer along with Warren at the end. After the "Amen," he received loud, enthusiastic cheers from the crowd, which cheered me up considerably.
I then realized that perhaps Obama, as a president, could re-inspire those who had lost their faith to return to their religious communities. His influence could do a great thing for Christians and people of any religion. I also noticed that both Obama and Vice President Biden included "so help me God" at the end of their swearing-in. Although I am aware this is a tradition based on the words of George Washington, I was pleased with the boldness of the way they said it, like it had a true meaning rather than just words that they had to memorize.
My favorite religious reference was in Obama's speech, when he talked about the diverse religions in the country and even mentioned the non-believers. For me the speech was very symbolic because it showed that despite differences, whether they be religious or racial, a country can still pull together under a strong leader. Obama symbolizes overcoming differences to overcome crisis which means a lot in our current national situation. I felt like I was experiencing a one-of-a-kind moment that not many have experienced and not many will ever experience again. I became overwhelmed with emotion after the speech and felt like I was floating on air despite the hunger, cold, and extreme crowd crush. It was like everything melted away for a few moments and I was able to experience the true glory of what I had witnessed. It was truly unforgettable.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Gracious God, whose glory is in all the world:
We commend this nation to your merciful care that, being guided by your Providence, we may dwell secure in your peace.
Grant to Barack Obama, President of the United States,
and to all in authority, your grace and good will.
Bless them with your heavenly gifts.
Give them wisdom and strength to know and do your will.
Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness,
and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve the people of this land in honor of you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Drawn in part from George Washington’s Inaugural Prayer Service - April 30, 1789
On this radiant day we give thanks to you, O God,
for the freedom to gather united in prayer.
Strengthen and sustain Barack, our President,
that in the days to come he may lead your people
with confidence and compassion.
Grant patience and perseverance to the people of this Nation.
With malice toward none, with charity for all,
may we strive to finish the work you have given us to do
that we may achieve a just and lasting peace.
In this time of new beginnings, new ventures, and new visions,
light in us the fire of justice, and the passion for forgiveness.
Give us the strength to hold fast to what is good
that we may go forth renewed and committed to make hope a reality. Amen.
Drawn in part from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address - March 4, 1865
The Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery began with James Weldon Johnson's hymn text, Lift Every Voice and Sing:
God of our weary years, god of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our god, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee.
Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to thee, oh God, and true to our native land.
We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day.
We pray now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration.
He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national, and indeed the global, fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hands, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations.
Our faith does not shrink though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.
For we know that, Lord, you are able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.
We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that yes we can work together to achieve a more perfect union.
And while we have sown the seeds of greed -- the wind of greed and corruption -- and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.
And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.
And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques or wherever we seek your will.
Bless President Barack, first lady Michelle. Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.
We go now to walk together as children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone.
With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around . . .
. . . when yellow will be mellow . . .. . . when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. Let all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen
Let us pray.
Almighty God, our Father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of you alone. It all comes from you. It all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory.
History is your story. The Scripture tells us, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One.” And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.
Now, today, we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time. We celebrate a hingepoint of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.
Give to our new President, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.
Help us, O God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all. When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us. And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ.
Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you. We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.
I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus, who taught us to pray:
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."
Monday, January 19, 2009
(apparently this was given around 2:20 PM, just before HBO began airing the "We are One" event - too bad they missed it. -Rev. Kurt)
A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama
By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire
Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009
Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.
O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…
Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.
Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.
And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.
Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.
And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
In a few days many people (including some who didn’t vote for him) have hope that a change in administration will change our economy, our outlook. Of course, there is so much happening right now (economy, war) and politics are so full of compromises but there is a sense of hope that we will get back on the right foot again. But with that hope is real mix of anxiety about the present.
As we heard in our Scripture readings this morning, they were living in anxious times too. Our first reading tells us that the Word of God was rare in those days, visions were not wide spread. You get the feeling the Israelites who always had God right there for them might be feeling a bit lost. Not so sure of themselves. But the lamp of the Lord had not gone out in the temple; the ark was still there and Eli one of the priests was doing his sacred duty. Samuel would hear the voice of God calling to him. But he did not understand. He thought it was Eli who was calling him.
Three times he went to Eli, “Here am I, you called me,” and finally the third time Eli understood that it was the Lord who was calling and he told Samuel what to do. And when the Lord called again, Samuel said, “speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
We live in times where God’s word seems silent, where visions are not widespread. But God still calls and we are sleeping, we do not hear the call. It is Samuel and Eli who remind us to listen, really listen for the voice of God in our lives. The Light of the World has come and the light has not gone out!
We might remain skeptical. Like Nathaniel in the Gospel reading. Philip heard Jesus say, “follow me” and that is all he needed. He heard the voice of God and he responds! He runs to tell Nathaniel. “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
This is good news in the days of Roman occupation. The messiah has come. Philip is ready. And so what does Nathaniel say… “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel is not impressed. Jesus of Nazareth. But Philip is not deterred by his friends lack of enthusiasm. “Come and see.” says Philip.
And Nathaniel does and his interaction with Jesus changes everything. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” And Philip and Nathaniel both follow Jesus.
Why is this important for us?
Even in the midst of our anxious times, we, as Desmond Tutu put it, as Christians are prisoners of hope. It is a hope that lies outside ourselves, a hope that God is at work in the world. There is a hymn attributed to Charles Wesley - whose first lines are:
Prisoners of hope, arise, and see your Lord appear;
Lo! on the wings of love He flies, and brings redemption near;
Redemption in His blood He calls you to receive:
“Look unto Me, the pardoning God.
Believe,” He cries, “believe!”
Indeed, we are prisoners of hope, for we are called to believe, just as God called Samuel, Samuel – and his servant was listening God called Philip to follow and he followed God called Nathaniel to come and see and it changed his life.
It is God who is still working in this world, the Light of the World has come and the darkness has not and will not put it out. It is that God, your God who calls to you, calls you by name. It is God who looks to you to share that light in a world so full of darkness.
Tomorrow is MLK, Jr. Day. “In 1994 Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the King Holiday as a national day of volunteer service. Instead of a day off from work or school, Congress asked Americans of all backgrounds and ages to celebrate Dr. King's legacy by turning community concerns into citizen action.”
Ellen and I the kids will be doing something in connection with a local drive for winter coats at a homeless shelter. There is so much need out there, each of us can help spread the light, give hope in the midst of despair.
“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.” (MLK., Jr., The Trumpet of Conscience)
Or to put it another way…
“I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” (Albert Schweitzer)
Today, listen to God’s voice calling you, and respond. Amen.
Let us pray that we may learn from Christians of other traditions. Let us pray that they may learn from us. May they and we remember that Jesus prayed for us to be sanctified in truth before he prayed for us to be one. May God so guide us that we might seek unity through the truth. Lord of mercy: Hear our prayer.
Friday, January 16, 2009
For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority
For Sound Government
O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth. Lord, keep this nation under your care.
To the incoming President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties. Give grace to your servants, O Lord.
To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations. Give grace to your servants, O Lord.
To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and justice served. Give grace to your servants, O Lord.
And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name. For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Amen.
I pray for those who have no home,
who walk the streets,
who trudge the roads.
I pray for those who want to help them
with the door of welcome
and the meal of companionship
and the bed of rest.
May they be a blessing, the one to the other. Amen.
I climb into my soft bed
and remember those who life is hard;
I snuggle under my warm quilt
and remember those whose life is cold;
I lay my head upon my pillow
and pray that you will give us all rest. Amen.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
By Matthew Davies, January 14, 2009
[Episcopal News Service] As the embattled residents of Gaza struggle for survival 18 days into a bloody Israeli military operation, the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City continues to bring some semblance of hope to the local Palestinian community through its commitment to providing critical healthcare services to anyone in need.
One of 37 institutions run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, the hospital has struggled to meet the increased demands on its already-overburdened staff, who have tended to the wounded despite being surrounded by conflict, the challenges of diminishing medical supplies, and their own fatigue.
Please read the whole article here.
[ACNS] Today (Wednesday 14 January 2009) brought more injured and wounded patients to Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, as each of the last 18 days has. One patient who came to Al Ahli recently was Mohan’nad, a 9 year-old boy whose leg was badly injured when a building near his home was damaged. Thankfully, the doctors and staff at Al Ahli were able to save his leg.
But this day also brought hope and much needed assistance for Al Ahli in the form of several trucks filled with medicines, medical supplies, blankets, and food that arrived in convoys coordinated by UNRWA. The hospital to date has received some limited assistance through various aid agencies, but the trucks arriving today represent a huge boost to the hospital’s ability to continue its urgent humanitarian mission of medical care for anyone in need, even under the current dire circumstances. The hospital’s location in the very heart of Gaza City is now placing added responsibility on its work, which is being carried out so bravely and selflessly by the hospital staff.
Read the whole story here.
In-person focus groups will be held in February. Details will be available by next week.
The Committee strongly encourages everyone to participate in at least one, if not both of these discovery activities.
PDFs are available to preview the survey or print out for a friend. Some bulletin inserts, text, etc. available also. See related election web pages.
+ Sat. Jan. 17, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., St. Paul's, 60 East Avenue, Norwalk;
Initiated by Congress in 1994, King Day of Service builds on that that legacy by transforming the federal holiday honoring Dr. King into a national day of community service grounded in his teachings of nonviolence and social justice. The aim is to make the holiday a day ON, where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to improve lives, bridge social barriers, and move our nation closer to the “Beloved Community” that Dr. King envisioned. (from the website)
Learn more here.
There is more info. on where you can serve, here.
At past inaugurations, ceremonial prayers uttered on behalf of the incoming president drew about as much attention as the flags on the podium. Not this year. Barack Obama's choice of clergy is under scrutiny like no other president-elect before him, alternately outraging Americans on the left and the right as he navigates the minefield of U.S. religion."I can't recall any prayers drawing so much attention," said Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center who specializes in religion in public life.
Gay advocates assailed Obama, while many conservative Christians were heartened, when he invited the Rev. Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist who opposes gay marriage, to deliver the inaugural invocation on Tuesday.
The tables turned when Obama asked V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, to lead prayers at Sunday's kickoff for the inauguration at the Lincoln Memorial. Gay rights groups rejoiced, while some conservative Christians wrung their hands.
The Inauguration Committee has only released one clergy name so far for the Jan. 21 National Prayer Service that caps the inauguration. The Rev. Sharon Watkins, the first woman president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a Protestant group, will deliver the sermon.
The Associated Press has learned additional details.
A prayer will be offered at the National Cathedral by Ingrid Mattson, the first woman president of the Islamic Society of North America, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. The Islamic Society, based in Indiana, is the nation's largest Muslim group.Three rabbis, representing the three major branches of American Judaism, will also say a prayer at the service, according to officials familiar with the plans. The Jewish clergy are Reform Rabbi David Saperstein, Conservative Rabbi Jerome Epstein and Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, sources said.It is also traditional for the incoming administration to ask the Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington to lead a prayer. The Most Rev. Donald Wuerl leads the archdiocese.
And like many incoming presidents before him, Obama will attend a service at St. John's Episcopal Church, dubbed the "Church of the Presidents," before his swearing-in.
Read it all here.
More details here.
Our Presiding Bishop is also participating. Details here
You can see a live webcast of the prayer service starting at 9:30 am on Wednesday, January 21, 2009, here.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
On this day when we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, we also remember our own baptism (even if it is what our parents said or simply a date) as we look forward to Luke’s baptism this morning, we think about the baptisms that have taken place here for 202 years, for indeed we touch our past, present and future in baptism and God is in the midst of it all.
Luke is also touching the past for he is wearing his great grandfather’s baptismal gown, Bob wore it 80 years ago and he is wearing his godmother’s cross (and godfather's too) she wore at her christening. Both connect him with the past as he in the present will receive baptism in our font and live that baptism out in his future.
The Past, Present & Future are all wrapped together in baptism. When we think of the past…
We remember that Jesus was baptized like we were. As we imagine the scene with John the Baptist standing near the river, wearing camel’s hair, people are flocking to him, to confess their sins. Several Jewish groups of that time observed some type of ritual baptism, and yet John knows that what he does, his proclamations, his baptisms, are just a beginning, they anticipate the one who is to come, the messiah. His baptism by water for repentance will become the baptism by the Spirit. John prepares the way of the Lord much like his ancestors did from Abraham and Sarah to Moses and Miriam to David and Jeremiah to John the Baptist.
It all comes to fruition when Jesus of Nazareth comes and all that John had anticipated happens; Jesus is baptized. And it is Jesus who sees the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descending like a dove upon him and a voice that proclaims, “You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) It is God’s Spirit who descends that day, anoints Jesus for the mission and ministry that would encompass his life for the rest of his time on earth. And then there is no time to relish in the moment, for then that same Spirit sends Jesus away from his baptism to go and do.
In our own day (present), baptism is our ritual of initiation into God’s community the Church. As our rite says, “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.” Today, Luke Michael Rosati will be baptized into the household of God. I suspect there will be many more around the world who will be baptized on this day, and God will hear their names presented and it is God who will act by sending the Holy Spirit.
His baptism reminds me that as I looked at the website for oversees chaplains, I saw a wonderful picture of a chaplain in water among the reeds baptizing one of our soldiers in Iraq. This scene from a couple of years ago reminds us that baptism happens in a sacred spot that generations have come to worship in, and happens in the desert in a small body of water in the midst of war. And no matter where that baptism takes place, it is that baptism that propels us into the future.
For the Spirit of God is also sent to rests on us, reminding us that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God. And what we do out of that love, out of being baptized into the household of God is to “confess the faith of Christ crucified and proclaim his resurrection.” Or in the words of St. Francis, we are called to “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
For it is that Spirit that calls us to live out our baptismal lives in this world, where so many people are in need one way or another; helping feed the hungry, soothe the suffering, giving love and hope to those who have neither…
In time Luke will do just that, but for now, it is all of us gathered here, his family, friends and this praying and caring community witnessing to the great love of God by what we do in this world. Or as Mother Teresa put it, “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” Amen.
In 6 BC, Rome was the occupying power in the land of Israel. Caesar Augustus was on the thrown, the first Roman emperor that unified the empire. Herod the Great ruled the land of Judea. He was King because Rome put him there. He was distrusted and disliked by the population because of his connections to Rome. In the midst of this, God comes to us and Jesus is born. We remember that he was born not among family & friends, but in a stable with animals. The holy family are outcasts and would become refugees. And if that wasn't enough, that God would come to us, be with us, even in the worst of circumstances, outsiders come to visit. Wise men from the East come looking for the child who was to be born.
Wise men, magi, we are given such little information about them, they are steeped in mystery (legends abound). But this we know. They are gentiles and they have come to pay homage to the newborn king. Can you imagine Herod's surprise? His fear and anger over one who could supplant his role as king? He wants to know about this child and he wants the wise men to report back to him when they know where he is, so he too can pay homage. But of course, we know that is the last thing he would do. The wise men continue their search, they follow the star and are overwhelmed with joy when they find Mary & Joseph and Jesus. The wise men kneel down before the baby Jesus and offer their gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh, and having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they go home by another road. And often we end our reading there but there is more to the story.
For Joseph is likewise warned in a dream to leave Bethlehem and flee to Egypt for Herod wants to destroy Jesus. And again Joseph listens to the dream, he protects his family and they escape to Egypt just in time. For Matthew then tells us of the slaughter of the innocents, males 2 years old and younger in the region of Bethlehem ordered killed by Herod after Herod did not hear from the wise men. Thankfully his murderous reign comes to an end, and Mary & Joseph who are refugees in the land of Egypt return with Jesus and make their home in Nazareth in Galilee after Herod's death.
Herod is not a cuddly character we embrace and we often forget his role in that first Christmas, but He reminds us that the world that Jesus was born into, is the same world we live in now. War, death, murder, political infighting, take place now as they did then. And innocent people are often caught in the middle. Sadly we watch as the innocents get hurt in Israel’s battle with Hamas in Gaza.
But we know that God intercedes on our behalf in the best and worst of times; even with the power of Rome & Herod in place, God comes to us in a helpless baby in their midst. He is not recognized except for some outsiders, he is forced to flee from Bethlehem because his life is threatened, he is a refugee in a country and will find no home until Herod is dead. Where is the star that we follow? Where does our faith call us to use our gifts? Not only within our community of faith, but in the world too...
To use our gifts to help those in need, in our own town (Monroe Food Pantry – now 150 families) or the help we give to families who are refugees who have come to our country or refugees displaced by war and terror in Sudan, we are called to pray, to lift up and give our voice and our actions to help those in need, to see Christ in this world through the lives of the children and how they suffer, and to stand up against the Herod's of this world.
For Christmas is more than our coming to the manger to pay homage, it is also how we give our gifts to the world in the name of the one who was a refugee, who was terrorized and threatened, who died at the hands of politics and power. It is offering our gifts to the Christ Child in our midst today...
For when the song of the angels is stilled
when the star in the sky is gone
when the kings and princes are home
when the shepherds are back with their flocks
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost
to heal the broken
to feed the hungry
to release the prisoner
to rebuild the nations
to bring peace among the people
to make music in the heart.
Our Christmas festivities are nearing the end, but our work of Christmas has just begun. Let us journey and find the Christ child knowing it may lead us not to palaces or to places of quiet, but to refugee camps, war zones, ghettos, places of poverty and areas of destruction. Let us help shed the light of Christ to those who walk in darkness today. Because today we celebrate the Light that has come into the world for all people, and the darkness has not and will not overcome it. Amen.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Almighty God, kindle, we beseech thee, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with thy wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that in tranquillity thy dominion may increase till the earth is filled with the knowledge of thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Episcopal Relief & Development Supports Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza
During this time of crisis, Episcopal Relief & Development remains in close contact with its partner the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Episcopal Relief & Development has responded to an urgent appeal from the Diocese by sending initial emergency funds to the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.
"We continue to monitor the needs of the Diocese of Jerusalem and are preparing to send additional emergency funds. Please pray for the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Ahi Arab Hospital as they risk their own lives to provide lifesaving emergency care to people injured in the ongoing conflict" said Rob Radtke, President of Episcopal Relief & development.
Ahli Arab Hospital, located at the heart of Gaza City, has treated more than 100 injured civilians since the beginning of the December attacks. The hospital continues to provide essential emergency health care to injured civilians. Ahli Arab Hospital has not turned anyone away despite increasingly dire conditions. The staff and volunteers at the hospital desperately need medicine and emergency supplies to continue their life saving work.
"We join Episcopalians around the world in a prayer for peace," said Radtke.
Presiding Bishop Speaks Out About Attacks on Gaza
By: The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori - Date Posted: 12/29/2008
Yesterday afternoon in New York, outside the Episcopal Church Center, a demonstration took place in front of the Israeli consulate. The demonstrators included orthodox Jews. All were calling for an immediate end to the attacks in Gaza. I join my voice to theirs and those of many others around the world, challenging the Israeli government to call a halt to this wholly disproportionate escalation of violence. I challenge the Palestinian forces to end their rocket attacks on Israelis. I further urge the United States government to use its influence to get these parties back to the negotiating table and end this senseless killing. President-elect Obama needs to be part of this initiative, which demands his attention now and is likely to do so through his early months in office. I urge a comprehensive response to these attacks. Innocent lives are being lost throughout the land we all call Holy, and as Christians remember the coming of the Prince of Peace, we ache for the absence of peace in the land of his birth.
Immediate attention should focus on vital humanitarian assistance to the suffocating people of Gaza. In March of this year, I spent a day in Gaza visiting religious and community leaders and the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Since that visit, the situation, which was already devastating, has only worsened, with supplies of food, fuel, power, and medical supplies either cut off or indefinitely delayed. Our hospital must now try to treat the wounded under the most impossible circumstances.
I ask all people of faith to join with the Episcopalians in Jerusalem who this Sunday dispensed with their usual worship services and spent their time in prayer for those who are the objects of this violence. I pray for leaders who will seek a just peace for all in the Middle East, knowing that its achievement will only come when they have the courage to act boldly. But they must do so now, before the violence escalates further. It is only through a just and lasting peace that the hope of the ages can be fulfilled, that hope which we mark in the birth of a babe in Bethlehem.
The Presiding Bishop Calls for Immediate Ceasefire
By: The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori - Date Posted: 1/5/2009
We are deeply saddened by the first-hand reports we are receiving from Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza about the casualties they are treating under the most horrific circumstances. Not only do they lack basic medical supplies, but with windows blown out they are even struggling to keep patients warm. The high number of civilian deaths and injuries, which continue to include noncombatants, women, and children, will only prolong the violence years into the future. Israel’s disproportionate response to the rockets being fired into its cities may well encourage violence beyond Gaza and Israel. The first steps toward peace will only come if all parties unite behind an immediate ceasefire. Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded the world that “an eye for an eye soon leaves the whole world blind.” May we seek to end this blinding violence.