Friday, February 27, 2009

In Honor of George Herbert

Our God and King, you called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls, a poet, and a priest in your temple: Give us grace, we pray, joyfully to perform the tasks you give us to do knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (from Lesser Feasts & Fasts)

Today is his feast day in the Church, a few of his poems:


      OVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
      Guilty of dust and sin.
      But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
      From my first entrance in,
      Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
      If I lack'd anything.

      'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:'
      Love said, 'You shall be he.'
      'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
      I cannot look on Thee.'
      Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
      'Who made the eyes but I?'

      'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame
      Go where it doth deserve.'
      'And know you not,' says Love, 'Who bore the blame?'
      'My dear, then I will serve.'
      'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.'
      So I did sit and eat.


      HROW away Thy rod,
      Throw away Thy wrath;
      O my God,
      Take the gentle path!

      For my heart's desire
      Unto Thine is bent:
      I aspire
      To a full consent.

      Not a word or look
      I affect to own,
      But by the book,
      And Thy Book alone.

      Though I fail, I weep;
      Though I halt in pace,
      Yet I creep
      To the Throne of Grace.

      Then let wrath remove;
      Love will do the deed:
      For with Love
      Stony hearts will bleed.

      Love is swift of foot;
      Love's a man of war,
      And can shoot,
      And can hit from far.

      Who can 'scape his bow?
      That which wrought on Thee,
      Brought Thee low,
      Needs must work on me.

      Throw away Thy rod;
      Though man frailties hath,
      Thou art God:
      Throw away Thy wrath!


      GOT me flowers to straw Thy way,
      I got me boughs off many a tree;
      But Thou wast up by break of day,
      And brought'st Thy sweets along with Thee.

      Yet though my flowers be lost, they say
      A heart can never come too late;
      Teach it to sing Thy praise this day,
      And then this day my life shall date.

Some online Lenten Resources

Her are a few resources to help you keep a Holy Lent:

Start with these, more to come...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday


Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Litany of Penitence

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord. Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord. Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord. Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord. Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord. Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

Clergy not role models...

A new survey conducted by Junior Achievement and Deloitte:

Out of 100 American teens,

54% - parents as role models
13% - friends as role models
6% - teachers/coaches as role models
5% - siblings as role models
3% - clergy as role models

11% - say they have no role models

80% of teens believe they are ethically prepared to make moral business decisions,
37% percent believe they need to “break the rules” in order to succeed.

Read about it here.

I have work to do!


Questions for Dambisa Moyo The Anti-Bono
Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON for the NY Times Magazine

Q: As a native of Zambia with advanced degrees in public policy and economics from Harvard and Oxford, you are about to publish an attack on Western aid to Africa and its recent glamorization by celebrities. ‘‘Dead Aid,’’ as your book is called, is particularly hard on rock stars. Have you met Bono?

A: I have, yes, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year. It was at a party to raise money for Africans, and there were no Africans in the room, except for me.

Q: What do you think of him?

A: I’ll make a general comment about this whole dependence on “celebrities.” I object to this situation as it is right now where they have inadvertently or manipulatively become the spokespeople for the African continent.

You can read the rest of it here.

My take on the interview is that she really has a problem with government aid the way it has been given out. She highlights as a way to aid Africans through microfinance. I agree there!

But, without Bono and others highlighting the need, where else would we hear about it? Who would get our attention? Who would actually fight to help those in need? Like Bono and others...

It is the old saying: give a man a fish and he has one meal, but teach a man to fish and he can do it everyday for himself and family. But if the water is polluted and he can't fish in the desert what good is the skill? I think aid given in the right way (or the lessening of debts) can help.

The Nets for Life program and others through Episcopal Relief & Development is a good way to help those in need through the proper local programs.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

St. Valentine

I know its a day late but better late than never...

St. Valentine by James Kiefer

St. Valentine is a martyr from before 312, commemorated on the 14th of February. Probably he was martyred on that date, but nothing else is known of him. (A Valentine, priest of Rome, and a Valentine, bishop of Ternia (Interamna), are both commemorated on 14 February, and now generally assumed to be the same person.)

In many parts of Europe, it was once said that birds began to pair off for the nesting season in mid-February. Since our forebears often spoke of a given day by naming a saint connected with it rather than by giving the month and the number of the day, we find them saying that birds choose their mates on St. Valentine's day. That is all. If a major earthquake took place on Columbus Day, it would probably be known to future generations as the Columbus Day earthquake, but it would be a mistake to try to connect it with Columbus. There are several stories making the rounds that try to explain the connection between valentines and Valentine. Every one that I have heard sounds like an explanation made up after the fact, probably by a Victorian clergyman lecturing to children. There are other explanations attempting to connect it with various pagan festivals of the early spring. Again, I am not impressed. That young men should send romantic messages in the springtime both in 90 BCE and in 1990 AD does not require a conspiracy theory to explain it.

Afterthought: The chief authority for the statement that 14 February is the date when birds were thought to pair off is Chaucer, who writes of "Valentine's day, when every fowl doth choose his mate." However, it has been pointed out that in addition to the two obscure Valentines commemorated on 14 February, there is a still more obscure one associated with 2 May, and that Chaucer may have had this date in mind. Two arguments for supposing that he did: (1) May seems more likely than February for birds to start building nests--but I am no expert on birds of England; (2) King Richard II was formally betrothed to Anne of Bohemia on 3 May, and Chaucer may have intended a reference to the royal couple. He was a member of the Royal Court, and was often invited to recite his own poems before the King and Queen and others, and his poems contain at least one other indirect reference to the Royal Marriage. If we accept this theory, then we must suppose that, after all memory of the May Valentine had died out in England, Chaucer's statement was misunderstood as referring to the earlier date.

Darwin II

Since I last posted, there have been lots more on Darwin on the web, here's a few I found interesting:
I find Darwin and the whole creation vs. evolution conversation fascinating because it has never troubled my faith. I grew up in the Episcopal Church, never took the Bible literally, and always found science compatible with the Bible.

This fictional interview with Darwin (originally from the German) is an interesting piece (drawn from Darwin's own words). Sadly, death of loved ones & friends and other things contributed to his loss of faith. Read it all here: Darwin Speaks: "How faithlessness stalked me"

Healing Rite

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:13-14)

“Sacramental healing is traditionally called “unction,” defined by the Prayer Book as “the rite of anointing the sick with oil, or the laying on of hands, by which God’s grace is given for the healing of spirit, mind, and body” (BCP p. 861). In Ministry with the Sick, healing is offered for any who feel the need for specific healing of spirit, mind, or body. While all Christians stand between the fullness of the baptismal gift of grace and the final consummation of that grace—and thus all are in need of healing—the sacrament is usually offered in response to some particular need or concern.” (Enriching Our Worship, p. 21)

The holy oil used to anoint the sick is pure olive oil, blessed by our bishop during Holy Week. Unlike the chrism used for baptismal anointing, no fragrance is added to oil for the sick because some fragrances can be allergens or aggravate an illness.

On the third Sunday of every month, all are invited to come to the altar rail for the laying on of hands & anointing for healing. God is always at work in us and the Holy Spirit is present to bring God’s healing grace upon us. Whenever we ask for it, healing happens! This does not mean we will be cured of our disease, or that everything will work out all right, although that might happen. It does mean that God is alive in us and healing will take place, at this moment or over time, because God desires that we be whole.

Come before the altar and lay your heart to the Lord and you will find God’s healing presence there.

Sermon: February 15

“Experience teaches that neither can we heal ourselves by will power alone, nor will God come and heal us without our active participation.” (Roberta Bondi)

Health is something we often take for granted until we become ill or have an accident, and we long for the days when we felt healthy. A few weeks ago, a quick change in direction caused my back to spasm and for the next few days, I had to nurse a sore back. In the grand scheme of things, that was not a big deal but I did long for the days when I didn’t have to worry about moving and could easily pick things up. When we no longer feel healthy, it is then we often pray to God, wanting God to restore our health.

We do this in simple ways like praying to God to give us the strength to get through the day pain free, for instance. We do this ritually when we come to this altar rail for the laying on of hands and anointing for healing. We do it for ourselves asking for God’s healing grace and we do it for others, in a kind of intense intercession on their behalf. We reach out to loved one and friends and give prayer shawls, a kind of prayer gift to embrace them as they seek healing in their lives.

As we sit with readings for this week that speak about biblical healing, we need to remember that we are talking more than just the lack of illness, and that being healthy means we need to take an active role.

As one author put it, “The word in Hebrew which refers to being healthy is shalem, which means to be whole, complete, or sound. The related term is more familiar to us: the noun shalom, "peace." Just as peace in Hebrew means more than the absence of war, so health means more than the absence of illness. In both cases, what is at issue is becoming whole, whether individually (in the case of health) or socially (in the case of peace).” (Bruce Chilton)

And how we become whole again is the focus of our readings from 2 Kings & the Gospel of Mark.

Naaman – the commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, though a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy.

I can picture Naaman quite proud of his name and his stature. He has quite a bit of power as commander of the army, but one thing he has that he doesn’t want is leprosy (remember Leprosy in the bible is not the same as we understand Leprosy today as Hanson’s disease). Then he hears from his wife about an Israelite slave girl, talk about the most powerless person around him, and she startles him with the revelation from the slave that a prophet in Samaria can cure him. Outrageous! Samaria! But…

He goes to his king who gives him permission to go and he even sends a letter to the King of Israel on his behalf. The King of Israel, though, is not impressed. He rends his garments and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me…” The King of Israel knows that he cannot bestow health on another, that is God’s domain, but like leaders of today, he sees this as a confrontation from the other king. Elisha, who is waiting in the wings, doesn’t and has Naaman come to him.

But, Elisha doesn’t go to him. He sends a messenger instead to Naaman who has his horses, his chariots, and his entourage with him. The messenger tells him to go wash in the Jordan, 7 times, and he will be made clean. Naaman was furious, felt disrespected because the prophet didn’t come out to see him, didn’t call upon God and didn’t do anything. The rivers back home are just as good as the Jordan! Impudence! But…

His servants approach him and remind him that if the prophet had given him a hard task to do, he would have done it. Why get upset about going to the Jordan to wash and get clean? And for the second time, Naaman listens to a servant, listens to the least in his presence, and he goes and does as Elisha had said. And lo and behold, he is made clean, his leprosy is gone! By listening to others and then going to the Prophet and then following through and washing in the Jordan, Naaman is healed, he is made whole. We do not know if he returned to the prophet or thanked God for the healing.

The leper Jesus healed did give thanks. This leper like Naaman sought out healing. He comes begging, kneeling to Jesus, he has heard of him.

“If you choose, you can make me clean…” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!"

And the leper was made clean, he asked for it and Jesus did it. Now by touching him, Jesus became ritually unclean but all of that is meaningless to Jesus because Jesus is not interested in ritual purity but helping make the leper, shalem, whole again so that he can be with his family. Jesus then tells him to go, show the priest, offer what Moses commanded regarding the cleansing as a testimony against them. You can sense the frustration of Jesus with a system that kept people apart rather than brining them back to wholeness and grace.

But it is the leper who came to Jesus wanting help who is made whole again by Jesus who desires that for everyone, which reminds me of a story about a couple…

"My husband and I can't say two words to each other without drawing blood," a woman cried to her therapist. "The second he walks through the door, we're at each other's throats. Deep down, I know the love's still there, but it seems hopelessly buried." The therapist listening to her intently; then he reached into his drawer, pulled out a bottle, and handed it to her. "This is special water, holy water from a sacred spring in India," the therapist explained. "For the next week, whenever your husband's about to enter the room, take a drink, hold your tongue and look into his eyes. After a couple of seconds, swallow it. You should notice an improvement in your interac­tions right away."

The woman went home and waited eagerly for her husband to return. When he walked in, she took a swig of the blessed water and silently held his gaze. He gave her a suspicious look, then grinned curiously. She swallowed the water and asked how his day went. Amazingly, they didn't argue. In fact, they had one of the warmest and loving conversations they had had in recent memory. The next night before he came to bed, she snuck another jolt of the powerful liquid, performing the same ritual. Suddenly, as if a veil was lifted, she saw him in a whole new light: she saw him as if it were the first time again; she saw the man she fell in love with. And, of course, the predictable fight never came.

The following week, the woman returned to her therapist, proclaiming that the treatment had healed her marriage and that she needed to get more of this miraculous water — and fast. The therapist smiled and revealed that the potent elixir was nothing but store-bought Mountain Spring water." [From "A Practice for Harmonious Communication" by Derek Rydall, Spirituality & Health, July/August 2005.]

It is not the "magical" water that makes the husband and wife reunite — it is the woman's desire to heal her relationship with her husband that brings about their reconciliation and helps make them whole again. The healing took place not through the water but her willingness to stop and look at her husband with new eyes, to put aside her urge to lash out and speak from the love they have in one another. That is healing, wholeness, shalem.

That is what Jesus invites us to do in our lives. Not only to the lepers in our world today who need healing and wholeness which we can by love and compassion provide, but in our own lives too and those too whom we are close. It is to look to God who wants us to be whole by our embracing of how God wants us to be, as God’s creation. May we seek to bring our needs and the world’s needs to this altar and ask for God’s healing, and find God’s shalem. Amen.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lincoln at 200

Abraham Lincoln has also turned 200!

Some interesting articles about his faith:

Abraham Lincoln's faith, from his pew

The Puzzling Faith of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln's Faith

Here is a piece from his Second Inaugural Address:

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Find more of his speeches here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Charles Darwin at 200

Charles Darwin has turned 200 years old today (Feb. 12).

For some, he and his ideas of evolution (and how they have developed) have caused many problems for faithful Christians. For many others, myself included, I find nothing in his work that says faith and evolution (science) are incompatible.

I signed on to the Clergy Letter Project, which "is an endeavor designed to demonstrate that religion and science can be compatible and to elevate the quality of the debate of this issue."

The letter that I signed states: "Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children."

More resources on Religion & Science:
Having studied anthropology at the University of Michigan, I have no problem with evolution and faith. Sadly, there are too many on the extremes that say you have to make the false choice of religion or science.

To learn more about Charles Darwin (who was an Anglican):
You can also find the works of Charles Darwin online here.

The Return of Indulgences

I was surprised to read in the NY Times that indulgences have returned to a place of prominence in Roman Catholic practice:

For Catholics, a Door to Absolution Is Reopened by PAUL VITELLO Published: February 9, 2009 in the NY Times.

What is an indulgence?

"According to church teaching, even after sinners are absolved in the confessional and say their Our Fathers or Hail Marys as penance, they still face punishment after death, in Purgatory, before they can enter heaven. In exchange for certain prayers, devotions or pilgrimages in special years, a Catholic can receive an indulgence, which reduces or erases that punishment instantly, with no formal ceremony or sacrament." (from the NY Times article)

So what does the Episcopal Church believe?

Out of our birth in the English reformation and our formation after the American Revolution, I would say that the Articles of Religion from 1801 that are in the Historical Documents section of our Book of Common prayer say it clearly:

XXII. Of Purgatory.

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God. (BCP p. 872)

In other words, we do not follow RC practice of purgatory or indulgences.

Sermon: February 8

Who are we as people of faith?

This is a question I have been hearing asked over and over again this week: Who are we as people of faith?

I was at our Diocesan Clergy Conference which is an opportunity each year for the clergy to gather to hear a speaker on a topic of interest, to have some time of fellowship and worship and to be able to meet with one another from the diocese in a relaxed atmosphere. Our speaker this year, Diana Butler Bass, helped us look at some vital congregations around the U.S., those not only growing but vibrant, alive, communities open to the Spirit and yet very grounded in their practices & tradition. She helped us ask, “who are we are as Episcopalians?” and then to see in the midst of crises in our world and the great changes taking place, to see the possibilities that are out there for vibrant ministries in our churches.

Also this week, the Primates, the head of all the different Anglican or Episcopal Churches met in Alexandria, Egypt. They not only talked about the serious situations in Gaza, the Sudan and Zimbabwe, but took time to also discuss the conflict within and between the different churches of the communion. It seemed that much of the discussion was about who we are as Anglicans. One hopeful sign in their discussions was the statement that “this is a moment "to proclaim the big vision [of love for my neighbor], living it out in practice, and witnessing, where necessary, against injustices which desecrate that vision." This vision of universal neighborliness "must not end at our geographical borders. The Church of Christ is universal and recognizes that love for my neighbor is not limited to the person next door." In particular, we call on our Churches to do all that they can to ensure commitments by governments to the Millennium Development Goals are not abandoned in the face of the current crisis… Our engagement together in Christ during these days convinces us that God is calling us and our Churches to deeper communion...” The Primates’ Communiqué

And then on Thursday, the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC took place.

Tony Blair, former PM of England, one of the speakers said, “For billions of people, Faith motivates, galvanizes, compels and inspires, not to exclude but to embrace; not to provoke conflict but to try to do good. This is Faith in action. You can see it in countless local communities where those from churches, mosques, synagogues and temples, tend the sick, care for the afflicted, work long hours in bad conditions to bring hope to the despairing and salvation to the lost. You can see it in the arousing of the world's conscience to the plight of Africa. There are a million good deeds done every day by people of Faith. These are those for whom, in the parable of the sower, the seed fell on good soil and yielded sixty or a hundredfold.” (read the entire speech here.)

Our President, reminded all gathered at that prayer breakfast, “We know that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to "love thy neighbor as thyself." The Torah commands, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow." In Islam, there is a hadith that reads "None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule – the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth. It is an ancient rule; a simple rule; but also one of the most challenging. For it asks each of us to take some measure of responsibility for the well-being of people we may not know or worship with or agree with on every issue.” (read the entire speech here.)

In each of these, I heard the question, who are we? And I heard the answer too: People of Faith, each with our own beliefs but called to a common purpose, to reach out in love to our neighbors.

As we heard this morning in the Gospel, Jesus answers that question (of who we are) by what he does with his life. After his work in the Synagogue he goes to the house of Simon Peter & Andrew. Simon’s mother in law is in bed and not feeling well and even at that moment of quiet for Jesus, he goes and heals her (and I think in her thankfulness, she goes and serves Jesus, her son in law and their friends). But that’s not all, people have heard who Jesus is and “they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons and he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”

In the morning he rose early, went out to a quiet place and prayed. When he was found, the disciples said people were looking for him. And here is an important part: Jesus said, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” For Jesus, he is not interested in a popularity contest, or praise, he sees faithfulness as his calling to go and proclaim and heal. And he takes time to refresh that vision in prayer and quiet.

Likewise, we are to understand our faith, taking time out to refresh who we are and what we are doing. I think of a story from the Desert Fathers & Mothers:

Many years ago, there were three friends who wanted to devote themselves to the work of God. The first devoted himself to the work of making peace among those who were in conflict, helping to reconcile the estranged and alienated. The second opened a small house to care for the sick and dying. The third went off to live a life of prayer in the desert. The first friend worked tirelessly to help warring factions settle their differences, but could not resolve them all. Tired and frustrated over the wars he could not prevent, he went to visit his friend who was caring for the sick, but found that he, too, was exhausted and discouraged in the holy work he had taken on. So the two friends decided to go spend time with their friend in the desert.

They told their friend the monk of their difficulties and frustrations and asked if he had dealt with the same discouragement. The monk was silent for a time; then he poured water into a bowl. “Look at the water,” he said. The water was turbulent and moving. A few minutes later he asked them to look at it again. The water had settled down — and they saw their own reflections in the still water as if they were looking in a mirror. “In the constant motion of our own lives lived among others, we do not see our own sins and tribulations; but if we embrace the tranquility found in the stillness of prayer, we begin to realize our own shortcomings.”

It is a reminder that we all need times of tranquility, a time of prayer, to settle the waters and to see ourselves clearly, considering who we are and whose we are (that is God’s creation). And from that time, just as Jesus did, to go out again, and to live that faith inside us.

Let me end with words from Tony Blair, words of a sermon he heard preached by an American in the Middle East: "While here on earth, we need to make a vital decision ... whether to be mere spectators, or movers and shakers for the Kingdom of God... whether to stay among the curious, or take up a cross. And this means: no standing on the sidelines ... We're either in the game or we're not. I sometimes ask myself the question: If I were to die today, what would my life have stood for... The answer can't be an impulsive one, and we all need to count the cost before we give an answer. Because to be able to say yes to one thing, means to say no to many others. But we must also remember, that the greatest danger is not impulsiveness, but inaction."

As people of faith, let us together find who we are by going out and living that faith in our world today. Amen.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Souper Bowl Sunday Sermon

Most loving God, as your desire for mercy for the 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; as you long for justice for the poor, may we strive for justice for all.

Open our eyes to the structures of oppression from which we benefit, and give us courage to accept our responsibility, wisdom to chart a sound course amid complexity, and perseverance to continue our work until it is finished. Breathe your life-giving Spirit afresh into your Church to free us from apathy and indifference; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(EGR Prayer by the Rt. Rev. Jeffery Rowthorn)

As millions will watch the Super Bowl this evening and see the Steelers win, we are challenged to remember those who will not be feasting before their TVs tonight, those hungry masses in our country and around the world. We have seen the need in this country grow rapidly, homeless shelters overflowing, food pantries seeing more and more clients, and the safety net is being reduced at all levels. I saw this story on Friday about those struggles…

"They started lining up at the "Faith Cafe" before lunchtime — the unemployed and the homeless, the hungry and the hopeless. They were just two miles from Raymond James Stadium, where workers were putting the finishing touches on the site of America's biggest party, the Super Bowl. It sure seemed a lot farther away to these folks, who waited outside a drab building where workers doled out sustenance to the desperate — a sandwich or two, some potatoes, maybe a doughnut. Come nightfall, they'll spread out in search of a park bench or a patch of grass, some place to sleep away another lost day. This week they've tried to make their voices heard in a city throwing a big party they're not invited to, complete with stretch limousines, steak-and-lobster dinners, high-rise hotel suites and a $1,000-a ticket football game on Sunday." (Two miles from Super Bowl stadium, another world By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP National Writer, 1/30/09)

In these tough economic times, it is the poor around the world who face the brunt of hardship, with so many in our world going hungry, it is hard to look around and see what can be done. People who live on less than a dollar a day are especially hurting. All cry out for relief, to have their voices heard. And some have heard their call… was started by a couple who spent time in Africa and saw the need for development through microfinance. – “Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.” You give them $25 and they pool together money from others and help loan money to people around the world for their business, people who could never get a traditional loan from a bank. It not only helps that one person and their family but also helps the communities they live in.


Students at three colleges in North Carolina wanting to put their energy into action to help those living in extreme poverty, have joined together to sponsor a Millennium Village, part of the UN’s MDG project. They have raised $1.5 million to help end extreme poverty in one village.


In September 2008, America’s Second Harvest changed its name to Feeding America so the country understands that its network provides food to Americans (1 in 8) living with hunger. CT Food Bank in New Haven is part of the national network.


Each of these in their own way have tried to respond in hope to the great need that is out there. As we listen to scripture, it is the prophets who remind us of our responsibility not to neglect the poor, whose words still inspire us today. As one author put it, “Prophets envision and proclaim how God’s goals for the world are relevant to the world we live in the present.” (Steven Harmon)

It is Moses who reminds us that it is we who asked for these prophets, prophets who are raised up among us who help us see what God is calling us to do.

In our own time, we look back and remember MLK, Jr. - Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘Life’s most urgent question is what are we doing for others?’ Or to Mother Teresa of Calcutta and what she said, “Do something beautiful for God. Every person, no matter how small, is a person of great dignity. Every person is Jesus-in-disguise.”

For some around this world, MLK’s words of Mother Teresa’s words may not be heard, but the sounds from the rock band U2 are. And what’s most amazing, is that if you dig into their music, you can see resonating throughout their songs, this wonderfully Christian view of hope and love and call to action. One author called them unexpected prophets, because “their songs of social engagement, not only cry out about injustice, but also dare to imagine an alternative in light of the Christian vision.” (Steven Harmon) One such song called Miracle Drug is looking for the medicine to help those in need with lyrics such as:

Oh God, I need your help tonight

Beneath the noise
Below the din
I hear a voice
It’s whispering
In science and in medicine
I was a stranger
You took me in (now that’s a Biblical view!)

The songs are in your eyes
I see them when you smile
I’ve had enough of romantic love
I’d give it up, yeah, I’d give it up
For a miracle drug, for a miracle drug
Miracle, miracle drug

Sounds like U2 has Goal 6 of the MDGs in mind: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. And indeed there is hope that such miracle drugs will reach the world’s poor who cannot afford such drugs to keep them alive. “When Jesus calls us to feed the poor and water the thirsty and provide clothing to the naked, visit the prisoner, visit the sick, heal the sick - the Millennium Development Goals are about all of those,' Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said. 'The MDGs are concrete images that people can wrap their minds around. They are a specific way of addressing the Gospel challenge to care for our neighbors. They're achievable in our own day if we have the will to do it.'

Our will to reach out to the poor, to identify those who suffer is part of our response to God’s grace, it is what Christ calls us to do. As Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people there were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, even helping the one who was possessed to be free and live a new life. Our call is to do likewise as followers of Jesus, who has taught us to see the need around us and respond.

It is as Dr. King once said, “If I can help somebody as I pass along; if I can cheer somebody with a song; if I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong; then my living will not be in vain . . . I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others.”

May our lives be one of service too. Amen.