Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sermon: March 29

In the midst of a global financial crisis, people are looking to the past, rediscovering what we have been missing, returning to the basics. A video hit on YouTube, which allows anyone to broadcast themselves to the world, has “91 year old cook and great grandmother, Clara, recounting her childhood during the Great Depression as she prepares meals from that era.”

Why is it a hit? Not only because Clara is interesting but her stories of frugality and how to cook with basic, simple items and create delicious food out of it, is what we long to hear and be able to do at this time. Clara spoke also of the garden she kept in the depression because they had to supplement what food they could afford and that is also true today.

There has been much press given to the fact the people are once again gardening or increasing their size of their garden to help cut down on their own costs. Even community gardens are seeing an increase interest. We are discovering again what we can do to live through hard times.

In the Gospel of John, we heard Jesus talk about a grain of wheat falling into the earth, something that the agrarian society would have readily know in Jesus' time, its life cycle would be basic knowledge, so he uses it as a symbol of his passion and as a symbol to call his disciples to come and follow him by losing all in their lives that holds them back. I think as we once again take up our own gardens and learn again what farmers have long know about the life cycle of seeds and plants, we can better understand what Jesus meant.

Now, if Jesus had lived and walked through the Northeastern United States, he surely would have used maple syrup as a symbol, instead of wheat. Not Log Cabin or Aunt Jemimah or any other corn syrup, but real honest to goodness maple syrup. We are at the end of the sugaring season, for about 6 weeks, from late February through mid-April, maple trees are tapped for their sap. The frozen sap in the maple tree thaws as winter ends and spring begins and the sap begins to move and buildup pressure within the tree. When the internal pressure reaches a certain point, sap will flow from any fresh wound in the tree. Farmers and producers collect the crystal clear sap, then boil it down in an evaporator over a blaring hot fire. Nothing is added -only water is removed. The sap becomes more concentrated until it becomes maple syrup.

So what would Jesus have said to us today using the symbol of Maple Syrup. Let me change our Gospel reading for today a little bit, not the meaning of the passage but its symbolism...

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Southerners. They came to Philip, who was from Bridgeport in CT, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless the sap of the maple is tapped in season, it remains inside the tree; but if it is tapped, and boiled, it will be sweet and add much flavor to all it touches. Those who love their life will keep their sap, those who hate their life in this world will let their sap flow for all to taste. Whoever serves me must follow me, and allow their sap to be given to the world in my name, for God will honor you. Now my soul is troubled, there is too much fake maple syrup around. Okay, you get my point.

There are lots of ways for us to think about our lives with Jesus, in light of the symbols he uses, and certainly maple syrup would have been one of his symbols just like wheat. Just as the farmer would know that the grain of wheat falling into the earth, dies to produce much fruit, those who tap maple trees have faith that each sugaring season will produce sap, which will in turn produce maple syrup. If we can allow the Spirit of God to fire up and boil away all the self-preoccupation we have, than we can become more like Jesus, to become that person fully alive, to become that sweet syrup! We need to have faith that in us lies the Holy Spirit, that like wheat and sap, we too can produce sweet fruit. As Ireanus said, "The glory of God is the human person fully alive."

And like the Maple Tree which gives its sap away, we must be willing to give of ourselves for others, following the example of Jesus, and allow ourselves to be transformed by the life and love of Jesus. But it is not just Jesus who believes that we need to be transformed, the prophet Jeremiah reminds us that God is ever acting towards us, looking to reset the covenants we have once made with God. "This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

I will write it on their hearts... Similar words are uttered by Moses to the Israelites before they entered the promised land... "The word of God is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to do it."

I believe this is true for us as well. When we were baptized, the Spirit of God came upon us, and is part of our daily lives. The Word of God lives in us because the Spirit of God lives in us and is in our hearts so we can follow God. But so many things can get in the way of us knowing in our hearts that God is with us & how God expects us to die so that we might really live.

That’s why Jesus takes a very familiar symbol like a grain of wheat to help us see how it fits in the cycle of life. For some growing a garden is more that just cost cutting, or health and food safety, for many its about climate change and global warming and how we should produce food more locally.

Last night people around the world (in over 2,000 cities) turned off their lights for an hour to bring attention to climate change. Buildings such as the Sears Tower, Empire State Building all went dark & St. Peter’s too! The “Earth Hour,” organized by the World Wildlife Fund is trying to help us all respond to climate change and global warming and to begin to make changes now in our lives (like using energy efficient devices, turning out unused lights, using the right light bulbs) that will make a lasting effect for generations after us.

In many ways, the sacrifices we make now can help those who come after us have some of the same resources we have. It’s called good stewardship of the earth and as followers of Jesus, it’s part of our nature to make sacrifices to ensure others can enjoy this beautiful planet that God created for us. Unless we become like wheat and die to ourselves, we cannot produce fruit that God needs, unless we are willing to let our sap be boiled to make maple syrup, we can give away that sweetness to others. And it starts right now for us, right in our very seats.

As one author put it, “As we come to see and to know God in worship, that most elemental expression of the Christian community, God helps us to become intercessors ourselves, who believe the future into being.” (Richard Spalding)

Our God awaits us at every moment, so let us be like that sap that is tapped, boiled and becomes sweet, and let us give away our lives in fruitful service for that is to follow where Jesus has led the way, into our being fully alive and becoming intercessors for our world, for we are called to help guide it into the future that God has created, for we are discovering again how to live to the Glory of God. Amen.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Lights are Out

The lights are out at the church, parking lot and rectory of St. Peter's, Monroe, CT USA for Earth Hour.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Earth Hour - Saturday Night

8:30PM local time, wherever you live on planet earth. Saturday 28 March 2009

"This year, Earth Hour has been transformed into the world’s first global election, between Earth and global warming.

For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming. WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion votes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009."

Learn more here.


The Rectory will shut off all unnecessary light!

Prayers for those Affected by Floods

Keeping in our thoughts and prayers those near Fargo, ND:

Most merciful God, in the midst of natural disaster we look to you in hope and trust, acknowledging that there is much in life beyond our present understanding. Accept our compassion for the suffering; bless those who are working for their relief; and show us what we can do to share in their task, as servants of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O merciful Father, who has taught us in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity on the sorrows of your servants for whom our prayers are offered. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness, lift up your countenance on them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wave of Prayer

From Sabeel...

Each week at 12:00 in Jerusalem Sabeel holds a Communion service that is open to the community. It is a time to join together to celebrate the eucharist, to discuss how the scriptures apply to our lives today, and to pray for the specific needs of this region. Our hope is that in our respective time zones, individuals and groups around the world will pray together at 12:00 on Thursdays, in solidarity with Sabeel in Jerusalem and with “Friends of Sabeel” worldwide. Starting in Australia, passing through Palestine, and continuing on around the world we pray for Peace with Justice and focus on specific issues each week.

Learn more about the Wave of Prayer here.

Learn more about Sabeel and its ministry here.

Two Prayers:

Merciful and loving God, we give you thanks for the many blessings you have so graciously given us. Thank you for your presence and guidance as we walk the way of peace. Bless the work of Sabeel and its friends, local and international. Guide its ecumenical, interfaith, and justice ministries. Grant us all the courage to confront oppression. Strengthen our commitment to the work of justice, peace, and reconciliation among all people and especially between Palestinians and Israelis. Help us all to see your image in each other. Empower us to stand up for truth and to respect the dignity of every human being. And to you alone be glory and honor now and forever. Amen. (from Sabeel)

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. (from BCP)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

AIDS, Condoms, and more...

Sadly, AIDS is on the rise...

AIDS Rate Soars in Nation's Capital By RACHEL MARTIN, ABC News March 15, 2009

Washington is the nation's capital, home to the President and his family, and a tourist haven -- but it has the highest rate of HIV-AIDS in the country. City officials are expected to release a report Monday showing 3 percent of the city's general population has been infected with the virus. It's the first time the city has done a comprehensive analysis of infection rates in the district. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the definition of an epidemic is 1 percent of the population. Washington's rate of infection with HIV-AIDS is three times that.
Read the report here.

The pope visiting African countries, raised the issue of condomn use in fighting AIDS...

Pope Says Condoms Won't Solve AIDS by The Associated Press, March 17, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday that the distribution of condoms is not the answer in the fight against AIDS in Africa. Benedict has never before spoken explicitly on condom use although he has stressed that the Roman Catholic Church is in the forefront of the battle against AIDS. The Vatican encourages sexual abstinence to fight the spread of the disease. You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," the pope told reporters aboard a plane headed to Yaounde, Cameroon. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."

You can read it here.

And finally, responding to the idea that current approaches to AIDS are ineffective, comes these words...

AIDS and the Churches: Getting the Story Right by Edward C. Green and Allison Herling Ruark, April 2008
...the central fact that has emerged from all the recent studies of the HIV epidemic: What the churches are called to do by their theology turns out to be what works best in AIDS prevention.
You can read it here.


I believe we should use all the tools available to us to help end the AIDS epidemic, which would include abstinence approaches (fidelity) and condom use.

A prayer for those with AIDS:

Merciful God, we remember before You all who are sick this day, and especially all persons who live with HIV. Give them courage to live with their disease. Help them to face and overcome their fears. Be with them when they are alone or rejected. Comfort them when they are discouraged. And touch them with your healing Spirit that they might find and possess eternal life. All this we ask through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Episcopal Church and the Visual Arts

The mission of The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts (ECVA) is to encourage artists, individuals, congregations, and scholars to engage the visual arts in the spiritual life of the church. ECVA values the significance of visual imagery in spiritual formation and the development of faith, and creates programs to support those who are engaged in using the visual arts in spiritual life.

Welcome to ECVA's first Open-Studio Exhibition, "Gifts." The Call for this exhibition asked for artists' best or favorite work which had not previously been shown at ECVA. The exhibition title addressed a primary characteristic of the artist's life, of the spiritual life, that of gift-giving and gift-receiving. You will see great diversity in this exhibition. And underlying it all is the great generosity of artists sharing their gifts.

Visit the exhibition here.

Sermon: March 22

Snakes in Scripture…

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made…The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’ The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.” (Genesis)

“So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did as the Lord had commanded; Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Each one threw down his staff, and they became snakes; but Aaron’s staff swallowed up theirs.” (Exodus)

“The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.” (Isaiah)

Snakes in Popular Culture…

Snakes on a Plane & Indiana Jones

36% of adults in the US fear snakes (from a recent Harris poll)

Fear is part of who we are – we all fear something: snakes, taxes, death, UConn losing…

But running away from fear we cannot do…

The Israelites in the wilderness had tried that, and died. Their constant complaints and murmuring led to the poisonous snakes ravaging the people. Its only when they stopped and confessed their sin, asking Moses to intercede on their behalf that God put a stop to it. The cure that God offered was staring at the very thing they feared. The serpent on the pole was offered to allow the people of God to face their terrors, to heal them and set them free. They looked into the image of death on that pole, not to worship it, but to see the power of God at work and know it was God who was saving them.

“For when the terrible rage of wild animals came upon your people and they were being destroyed by the bites of writhing serpents, your wrath did not continue to the end; they were troubled for a little while as a warning, and received a symbol of deliverance to remind them of your law’s command. For the one who turned towards it was saved, not by the thing that was beheld, but by you, the Savior of all.” (Wisdom of Solomon)

That symbol of a serpent and a rod is connected with the rod of Asclepius (an ancient Greek symbol of the god of medicine in Greek and Roman mythology) now tied to health or medical organizations.

For us, it is Christ who becomes the serpent on a pole.

"Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (Gospel of John)

Looking at Jesus on that cross, we see what we fear; agonizing suffering and a bloody death. But it is that fear, that horrible picture that is transformed by God, for now we look to it, we see that indeed if we believe we will have eternal life. It is God’s promise, for just as God promised in that wilderness that the power of God would heal those looking at the serpent, God promises to those who look to the cross will be saved. And not only look but to believe and live that faith in our lives. For our faith is not just understanding with our minds and hearts but an active faith of what we say and how we live.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John)

Christ was lifted up, so all could come to him, to find release, healing, freedom, life.

As one author put it, “That promise is about facing the terror of pain and death in the world, and being blessed in the facing of it. That story underlies all the other terrors we need to deal with, and if we do not face it, we cannot face them. We need to turn and face that serpent because only by looking steadily on its face can we hope to gain healing for our other ills.” (Rosemary Hannah)

For we look to the cross, to see in it, not just fear, death and crucifixion, but the one was lifted up for us, who brings us healing, brings us eternal life, and that is Jesus Christ. Through the cross of Good Friday, comes the joy of that empty tomb on Easter. Through the cross, our fears will be transformed into hope and life. And that journey to the cross is one of faithful repentance for the cross shows us God’s forgiveness and healing in our lives.

May the rest of our Lenten journey remind us of the cross that stands before us to make us whole again even through the darkest and most fearful of times. For the light of the world has come and is ready to bring hope and life where fear and doubt existed. May we be ready for that light. Amen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Episcopal Church

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Episcopal Church meeting in Hendersonville, North Carolina, March 13-18, 2009 to the Church and our partners in mission throughout the world.

I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

--Philippians 4:11b - 13

As the House of Bishops gather at the Kanuga Camp and Conference Center for our annual Spring Retreat, we are mindful of the worsening financial crisis around us. We recognize there are no easy solutions for the problems we now face. In the United States there is a 30% reduction of overall wealth, a 26% reduction in home values and a budget deficit of unprecedented proportions. Unemployment currently hovers at over 8% and is estimated to top 10% by the end of the year. There are over 8 million homes in America that are in foreclosure. Consumer confidence is at a 50-year low.

Unparalleled corporate greed and irresponsibility, predatory lending practices, and rampant consumerism have amplified domestic and global economic injustice. The global impact is difficult to calculate, except that the poor will become poorer and our commitment to continue our work toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 is at great risk. A specter of fear creeps not only across the United States, but also across the world, sometimes causing us as a people to ignore the Gospel imperative of self-sacrifice and generosity, as we scramble for self-preservation in a culture of scarcity.

The crisis is both economic and environmental. The drought that grips Texas, parts of the American South, California, Africa and Australia, the force of hurricanes that have wreaked so much havoc in the Caribbean, Central America and the Gulf Coast, the ice storm in Kentucky—these and other natural disasters related to climate change—result in massive joblessness, driving agricultural production costs up, and worsening global hunger. The wars nations wage over diminishing natural resources kill and debilitate not only those who fight in them, but also civilians, weakening families, and destroying the land. We as a people have failed to see this connection, compartmentalizing concerns so as to minimize them and continue to live without regard to the care of God's creation and the stewardship of the earth's resources that usher in a more just and peaceful world.

In this season of Lent, God calls us to repentance. We have too often been preoccupied as a Church with internal affairs and a narrow focus that has absorbed both our energy and interest and that of our Communion – to the exclusion of concern for the crisis of suffering both at home and abroad. We have often failed to speak a compelling word of commitment to economic justice. We have often failed to speak truth to power, to name the greed and consumerism that has pervaded our culture, and we have too often allowed the culture to define us instead of being formed by Gospel values.

While our commitment to the eradication of extreme poverty through the eight Millennium Development Goals moves us toward the standard of Christ's teaching, we have nevertheless often fallen short of the transformation to which Christ calls us in our own lives in order to live more fully into the Gospel paradigm of God's abundance for all.

Everyone is affected by the shrinking of the global economy. For some, this is a time of great loss—loss of employment, of homes, of a way of life. And for the most vulnerable, this "downturn" represents an emergency of catastrophic proportions. Like the Prodigal who comes to his senses and returns home, we as the people of God seek a new life. We recognize in this crisis an invitation into a deeper simplicity, a tightening of the belt, an expanded Lenten fast, and a broader generosity. God's abundant mercy and forgiveness meet and embrace us, waiting to empower us through the Holy Spirit to face the coming days.

In a time of anxiety and fear the Holy Spirit invites us to hope. Anxiety, when voiced in community can be heard, blessed and transformed into energy and hope, but if ignored, swallowed or hidden, fear and anxiety can be corrosive and lead to despair. We Christians claim that joy and hope emerge for those who have the courage to endure suffering. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul goes so far as to boast of his suffering, because "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." Our current crisis presents us with opportunities to learn from our brothers and sisters of faith in other parts of the world who have long been bearers of hope in the midst of even greater economic calamity.

We can also learn from our spiritual ancestors, who found themselves in an economic and existential crisis that endured for forty years – on their journey from Egypt to Israel. While they groaned in Egypt, they murmured at Sinai – at least at first. And then after their groaning, complaining and reverting to old comforts of idol worship, they were given Grace to learn and understand what the Lord wanted to teach them.

They learned that they needed the wilderness in order to recover their nerve and put their full trust in God--and to discover their God-given uniqueness, which had been rubbed away during their captivity in Egypt. They adopted some basic rules that enabled them to live in a community of free people rather than as captives or slaves – the God-given Ten Commandments. And perhaps most importantly, our spiritual ancestors discovered that the wilderness is a unique place of God's abundance and miracle, where water gushed out of a rock and manna appeared on the desert floor – food and drink miraculously provided by God.

As we go through our own wilderness, these spiritual ancestors also point the way to a deep and abiding hope. We can rediscover our uniqueness – which emerges from the conviction that our wealth is determined by what we give rather than what we own. We can re-discover manna – God's extraordinary expression of abundance. Week by week, in congregations and communities around the world, our common manna is placed before us in the Eucharist. Ordinary gifts of bread and wine are placed on the altar, and become for us the Body and Blood of Christ, which, when we receive them, draw us ever more deeply into the Paschal mystery of Christ's death and resurrection.

As our risen Lord broke through the isolation of the disciples huddled in fear for their lives following his suffering and death, so too are we, the Body of Christ, called to break through the loneliness and anxiety of this time, drawing people from their fears and isolation into the comforting embrace of God's gathered community of hope. As disciples of the risen Christ we are given gifts for showing forth God's gracious generosity and for finding blessing and abundance in what is hard and difficult. In this time the Holy Spirit is moving among us, sharing with us the vision of what is real and valued in God's world. In a time such as this, Christ draws us deeper into our faith revealing to us that generosity breaks through distrust, paralysis and misinformation. Like our risen Lord, we, as his disciples are called to listen to the world's pain and offer comfort and peace.

As we continue our Lenten journey together we place our hearts in the power of the Trinity. The God who created us is creating still and will not abandon us. The Incarnate Word, our Savior Jesus Christ, who in suffering, dying and rising for our sake, stands in solidarity with us, has promised to be with us to the end of the age. God the Holy Spirit, the very breath of God for us and in us, is our comforter, companion, inspiration and guide. In this is our hope, our joy and our peace.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Martin Bell, RIP

I just read that Martin Bell died in January.

From the St. Ignace News:

Martin Bell, 71, of St. Ignace, died Sunday, January 18, 2009, at Northern Michigan Regional Hospital in Petoskey. He contracted aspiration pneumonia while recovering from surgery.

Mr. Bell lived a remarkable life; he inspired and influenced thousands of people across the country and across the world and was a nationally known author, educator, lecturer, preacher, and musician. He was also an ordained Episcopal priest.

Of his seven books, the best known is "The Way of the Wolf: The Gospel in New Images," a collection of stories, poems, parables, and songs. The book has remained in print ever since its publication in 1970.

Over the years "Barrington Bunny," the lead story in "The Way of the Wolf," has become a Christmas classic. It is a story written for adults, but one that has touched the hearts of readers young and old. For many families and many congregations, reading "Barrington Bunny" is a treasured Christmas tradition.

You can the rest of the obituary here.


I was one of those whom Rev. Bell influenced through his writings. Having read The Way of the Wolf as a teenager, I was struck by his new images of the Gospel. Barrington Bunny remains one of my favorite stories. I also enjoyed his book of psalms and many other stories. His writings have lit my own imagination to see God at work in the world about us in many different ways! He will be missed. (He was also one time chaplain at the Canterbury House at the University of Michigan.)

Father of all, we pray to you for Martin, and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Almighty God, in your providence you chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you: Grant us so to walk in that light that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Patrick by James Kiefer:

Patrick was born about 390, in southwest Britain, somewhere between the Severn and the Clyde rivers, son of a deacon and grandson of a priest. When about sixteen years old, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. Until this time, he had, by his own account, cared nothing for God, but now he turned to God for help. After six years, he either escaped or was freed, made his way to a port 200 miles away, and there persuaded some sailors to take him onto their ship. He returned to his family much changed, and began to prepare for the priesthood, and to study the Bible.

Around 435, Patrick was commissioned, perhaps by bishops in Gaul and perhaps by the Pope, to go to Ireland as a bishop and missionary. Four years earlier another bishop, Palladius, had gone to Ireland to preach, but he was no longer there (my sources disagree on whether he had died, or had become discouraged and left Ireland to preach in Scotland). Patrick made his headquarters at Armagh in the North, where he built a school, and had the protection of the local monarch. From this base he made extensive missionary journeys, with considerable success. To say that he single-handedly turned Ireland from a pagan to a Christian country is an exaggeration, but is not far from the truth.

Almost everything we know about him comes from his own writings, available in English in the Ancient Christian Writers series. He has left us an autobiography (called the Confession), a Letter to Coroticus in which he denounces the slave trade and rebukes the British chieftain Coroticus for taking part in it, and the Lorica (or "Breastplate" a poem of disputed authorship traditionally attributed to Patrick), a work that has been called "part prayer, part anthem, and part incantation." The Lorica is a truly magnificent hymn, found today in many hymnals (usually abridged by the omission of the two stanzas bracketed below). The translation into English as given here is by Cecil Frances Alexander, whose husband was Archbishop of Armagh, and thus the direct successor of Patrick. She published nearly 400 poems and hymns of her own, including the well-known "There is a green hill far away," "Once in royal David's city," "Jesus calls us; o'er the tumult," and "All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small."

The Lorica, or, St. Patrick's Breastplate
   I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever,
by power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
his baptism in the Jordan river;
his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb;
his riding up he heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet "Well done" in judgement hour;
the service of the seraphim;
confessors' faith, apostles' word,
the patriarchs' prayers, the prophets' scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord,
and purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun's life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

[Against the demon snares of sin,
the vice that gives temptation force,
the natural lusts that war within,
the hostile men that mar my course;
of few or many, far or nigh,
in every place, and in all hours
against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
against false words of heresy,
against the knowledge that defiles
against the heart's idolatry,
against the wizard's evil craft,
against the death-wound and the burning
the choking wave and poisoned shaft,
protect me, Christ, till thy returning.]

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

March Gladness

Its time for March Gladness! (sponsored by Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation)

Let your NCAA Tournament bracket win $$$ for your favorite MDG nonprofit! Just $10 a bracket and 100% of the proceeds go to the nonprofits picked by the winners. Click here to go to our March Gladness page and find out how. Sign up today -- then tell your friends! The more people sign up, the more $$ your nonprofit gets when you win!

I am supporting in March Gladness:

Kerf, Inc. -

and Water for Sudan -

Sermon: March 15

For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

St. Paul’s words remind me that I do not have all the answers. My kids also remind me of this with the questions they ask and when I help them with their homework. A humbling experience but a reminder that it is God who has all the answers. We don’t have all the answers. In a week where we watch tragedy in Germany & in Alabama unfold in violence. As people continue to lose jobs, and their seems to be so much fear and anxiety around, its hard not to have the answers, to know what’s going to happen next. In the midst of this is the cross. A symbol for some of death and despair, a symbol to some of fools worshipping an empty sky, others a symbol of loss.

The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Again St. Paul tells us that the message of the cross seems to be foolishness, nonsense. But to us, it is the power of God. It is salvation. We are making a journey towards that symbol of both death and life.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.

Finally, St Paul tells us that even though we don’t have to fully know it or understand it, we need to believe it, for there our salvation lies. The cross is our symbol that God is still with us and is at work even in the most terrible of moments and God will save us still.

When Moses went up the mountain, it was a tense time for the Israelites, some wanted to return to Egypt and found the rough sojourn in the wilderness too much to bear, other were seeking guidance, what should they do? God gives Moses on Mount Sinai what we call the 10 commandments. The first four deal with our relationship with God, the final six with our relationships with each other. In many ways, these are just basic rules for us, and yet if we truly followed them…

Bernard Madoff would not have stolen the money he did and bear false witness about what the funds were for. We wouldn’t have a renegade militia in N. Ireland trying to destroy the long sought after peace there.

Those 10 commandments are there to guide us into our best selves. What might we look like if we truly took the Sabbath seriously and took it off? It helps to remember God didn’t give us all this to burden us, but to help us become the best of who we are.

When Jesus entered the temple, he did not see the best of us, he saw a marketplace instead of worship, he saw a place that did not honor God but was more interested in making sure people paid their way to right worship. That was not what God intended and Jesus was furious. He drove them out with a whip of cords. I think of a story about another rabbi…

A rabbi had a busy week, so busy that he never got around to visiting the sick members of his congregation in the hospital. As a result, he had to cancel a planned family outing on Sunday afternoon to make his calls. But after an hour, it was clear he had wasted his time: two of the people he had come to see had been discharged the previous afternoon (and were now probably angry that he had not come to see them); two others were sleeping and he hesitated to wake them; another had a roomful of visitors and saw the rabbi’s presence as an intrusion;

and the last patient he visited spent twenty minutes complaining about her aches and pains and previous afflictions and cited them as the reasons she could no longer believe in God or value prayer. The rabbi could not help thinking of all the ways he would rather have spent the hour. Walking back to the parking lot resenting the time he had wasted, he passed an office building where a security guard was on duty in the front. “Good afternoon,” the guard said to the rabbi, which prompted the rabbi to stop and say, “It’s Sunday. The building is closed and empty. Why are you standing here?” “I’m hired to make sure nobody breaks in to steal or vandalize anything. But what are you doing here in a suit and tie on a Sunday afternoon? Who do you work for?”

The rabbi was about to tell the guard the name of his congregation when he paused, reached into his pocket for his card, and said, “Here’s my name and phone number. I’ll pay you ten dollars a week to call me every Monday morning and ask me that question: Remind me to ask myself, Who do I work for?”[From Overcoming Life’s Disappointments by Harold S. Kushner.]

The rabbi was reminded by the security guard for whom he was working. Not only the people of his congregation but for God too. The same can be said of us. Too many merchants and others we have allowed into our lives and we have forgotten the presence of God in our midst, our creator. There is no space for God when we over extend ourselves with all that life has to offer. For it is then we look at our life and wonder how we can make it better.

Lent is that time to make it better. As one author put it, “Lent challenges us to cast out the money changers who shortchange our time and attention from the important things of life; these days call us to drive out the useless, the meaningless, and the destructive that desecrate the sacred place within us where God should dwell, the God “whom we [ultimately] work for.” (Jay Cormier)

The cross is that stark reminder in our lives of God’s presence with us even in the midst of this hurting world. And it is God who calls us to follow where Jesus has led, away from the marketplace, towards that sacred ground where we remember our relationships with both God and our neighbor. To some, our faith is foolishness, but to us, we know, deep down, our faith leads us on the path to be our best, to the cross and beyond, for it leads us to God.

“The one who has found Jesus Christ on the cross knows how wondrously God hides in this world and how God is just there, closest, where we believe God to be farthest.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

This Lent may we open ourselves to God and get rid of all that hinders us on our journey. Let me end with Niebuhr’s Serenity prayer (let us pray):

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Amen.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Faith & Healing

This Third Sunday of March, we will have our regular rite of healing following the service.

Time Magazine in February had several articles on faith and healing - some very against the idea.

The Biology of Belief

Faith & Healing: A Forum

Keeping (or Finding) the Faith

But some of the best comments come from the Inbox and people's response to those articles. I liked what one writer had to say...
In my opinion, health professionals who are able to recognize that physical illness is often accompanied by complex emotional and spiritual challenges, and who can competently and sensitively address these concerns in order to take care of the whole person, are the most likely to achieve the desired clinical response with better patient satisfaction.
Faith and Healing are complex issues but our faith does aid in our healing for God is at work in us. It takes faith to believe this and to understand God is at work making us whole.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Women and men united to end violence against women and girls

International Women's Day May 8, 2009

"Each year around the world, International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. Hundreds of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women."

Visit here for more information.

A Prayer:

You gave us to each other, Lord,
In love to live and grow,
One flesh created, giving life,
Delight and trust to know.

With grace for joy and constancy
You bless each human soul,
To mirror your self-giving love,
Make mind and body whole.

But anguished cries now rise to you
From hearts betrayed and shamed,
By lashing tongue and thrusting fist,
And touch unasked, unnamed.

The hands you made for tender care,
Love's openness to tell,
Strip self-esteem, wreak fear and death,
Make home a hidden hell.

Stretch out your nail-marked hands in love,
Make violence to cease;
Heal those whose cruel acts and words
Destroy their loved ones' peace.

Restore the homes deprived of joy,
Deliver those in pain,
Bring justice, liberty from fear,
And hope to live again.

by Anna Briggs
(Found in the SPCK Book of Christian Prayer)

We pray for the end of violence against women and girls...

Sermon: March 8

A ten year old boy was in a terrible auto accident. He lost his left arm; during his recovery, his parents though it would be good if he took up something to help in his healing. He began lessons in Judo.

His sensei (or teacher) was an old Japanese Judo master. The boy was doing very well. But he could not understand why, after months of lessons, the master had taught him only one move. "Sensei," the boy asked, "shouldn't I be learning more moves?" "This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you'll ever need to know," the sensei replied. Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy continued training and mastering his move.

Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. The boy, to his surprise, easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly employed his one move and won the match. Still amazed at his success, the boy was now in the finals. This time his opponent was bigger, stronger and more experienced. The boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened. "No, let them continue," the sensei insisted.

Soon after the match resumed, the boy's opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard and the boy used his move to pin him. The boy won the match and the tournament. On the way home, the boy finally summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind. "Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?" "You won for two reasons," the sensei answered. "First, you've almost mastered one of the most difficult moves in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm."

The boy trusted his sensei, and his cross to bear, the loss of his left arm, became the source of his great strength. It did not hold him back. It all happened because of his trust and faith in his sensei.

Abram trusted God. When God asked him and Sarai to move, they did, and it was the right move. Now Abram and Sarai did not have any children and God again came among them…

"I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous."

Abram is overwhelmed by God’s presence and promise, and falls down before God. Because of their faithfulness, God renames them, blesses them and and makes the promise of a son to the renamed Abraham and Sarah. It is their real faith, which helps creates the connection to God who gives them a son, Isaac, when Sarah and Abraham could not conceive before. It was through the line of Isaac that the descendents of Abraham would make many nations as God had told him.

Both God and Abraham were found as faithful... As one author has put it, "God took the risk that Abraham would respond. Abraham took the risk that God would provide." (Eugene Roop) Abraham used his trust and his faith in God, for he experienced God as just and giving, and was able to live into the unexpected, to be prepared and to follow through with what God had commanded him.

Peter on the other hand struggled with his faith and trust. Peter who had left his fishing nets behind to follow Jesus, who proclaimed that Jesus was the messiah, is unable to handle the unexpected news from Jesus that he is going to die and three days later rise from the grave. No, that's not the messiah, he will conquer.. .Peter rebukes Jesus in private.. .but Jesus will have none of that.

Peter is missing that faith and trust that Abraham had. So Jesus turns to the disciples and utters that monumental instruction to help them understand their faith: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."

To follow Jesus, in his ways, is to carry our cross, to believe and to trust that God will see us through whatever we have to get through.

I think of a story that Bishop Festo Kivengere used to tell:

One day a little girl sat watching her mother working in the kitchen. She asked her mummy, 'What does God do all day long?' For a while the mother was stumped, but then she said, 'Darling, I'll tell you what God does all day long. He spends his whole day mending broken things.'"

To carry our cross is to follow Jesus believing that God is at work mending broken things all around us and in us too. And through faith we are called to help God in this endeavor in our world. That is faith we are called into, to believe and trust and hope that all is being made new and whole again.

As St. Paul said, “For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham.”

The young boy trusted his sensei. Abraham believed what God told him, Paul rested in the grace of faith and Peter struggled and doubted but would come to fully believe what Jesus had said. Each gives us a glimpse of the faith that God so graciously gives to us.

“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace. It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times,” is how the reformer Martin Luther put it; for the martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “with God, one does not just mark time, rather one walks on a path.”

Today, may we take up our cross and follow Jesus in faith on the path that is before us. Amen.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Reading the news...

Sometimes I weep (or get angry!)... These are from MSNBC...

A Roman Catholic archbishop says the abortion of twins carried by a 9-year-old girl who allegedly was raped by her stepfather means excommunication for the girl's mother and her doctors. Despite the nature of the case, the church had to hold its line against abortion, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho said in an interview aired Thursday by Globo television.

Read it all here.

The lack of charity by the Archbishop is stunning and no where, and I mean no where does the Archbishop say anything about the incest/rape! Shame on him!

All those excommunicated are welcome in the Episcopal Church.


The image was blurred and the voice distorted, but the words spoken by a young Ohio woman are haunting. She had sent nude pictures of herself to a boyfriend. When they broke up, he sent them to other high school girls. The girls were harassing her, calling her a slut and a whore. She was miserable and depressed, afraid even to go to school.

And now Jesse Logan was going on a Cincinnati television station to tell her story. Her purpose was simple: “I just want to make sure no one else will have to go through this again.”

The interview was in May 2008. Two months later, Jessica Logan hanged herself in her bedroom. She was 18.

Read it all here.

Technology is both a blessing and a curse and sadly, Jesse found out the curse side by her ex-boyfriend and those to whom he sent the pictures. All those who exploited her (bullied), share the blame in her death.

We need to remember that what we send by phone or internet may be used against us. May Jessica rest in peace.

God & Baseball

Some interesting articles on the web...

Spring training

Early this week was bitterly cold in these parts, but baseball's spring training is underway, and I am warm with anticipation for another year of God's game. (Yes, that's what I said, and believe.)

by Rev. Bill Tully, St. Bart's, NYC - Read the rest here.

Ten reasons why baseball is God's game

The story is told of the aristocratic English cricket supporter who dies and appears at the Pearly Gates. St Peter checks his list, but, alas, the old gentleman is not on it. “There must be some mistake,” the man protests, “I have a permanent seat in the Lord’s enclosure!”

Well, Lord’s may be the home of cricket, but if cricket is heaven – and I write as an American expat who has lovingly lived in the UK for over thirty years – then heaven is as the cartoonist Larson depicts it: a bored bespectacled soul sitting on a cloud, thinking (in his thought balloon): “Wish I had a magazine.” Cricket is indeed baseball on Valium, while baseball is “chess at ninety miles an hour” (Roger Kahn). Baseball is God’s game. And here are just ten reasons why...

by Kim Fabricius - You can find the 10 reasons here.


Someday when I have a moment, I will compose why I think soccer (football everywhere else) is God's game but the blog post and article are both well worth reading.

By the way, I like reason #5:

It has its saints – e.g. Lou Gehrig (the Iron Horse) and Jackie Robinson (the first African-American player of the modern era) – and sinners – e.g. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (who took a bribe) and Barry Bonds (who is alleged to have taken steroids). And there is the Great Satan: the New York Yankees.


Go Tigers!

Lent is time of training for life

Lent is time of training for life says our Presiding Bishop.

"We are dust hoping to be worthy of the image of God," the Presiding Bishop said during her sermon, adding that humans are "made of the same dust that comes ultimately from the stars."

"Lent is our opportunity to bless this dust so that it can shine even brighter than the stars like the light of Christ," she said. "Our world needs this light resurrected from dust."

Jefferts Schori traced the Ash Wednesday invitation to practice a Holy Lent through self-examination and repentance, prayer, fasting, self-denial, and reading and meditating on Scripture. She likened Lent to spring training in baseball but added "this training is for life."

An audio recording of Jefferts Schori preaching in both Spanish and English in the semi-open air chapel at Hogar Escuela Episcopal is available here. [From ENS]

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Archbishop's Reflections on Lent

Brushstroke Meditations for Lent

Lenten Gospel Reflections through Chinese Characters

This series on Chinese calligraphy for Lent comes from Rev. Elyn MacInnis in Shanghai, China. Elyn, her husband Peter, and two daughters, Mika and Charlotte, have lived in China for the past nineteen years during its explosive period of modernization and economic growth. She has pastored two international congregations, at Saint Paul’s Church in Nanjing, and later at the Congregation of the Good Shepherd in Beijing. Her work with service projects supported by her congregations has taken her throughout the country and given her a rich understanding of China and the Eastern way of thinking. In 2004, Harvard Divinity School awarded her the Katzenstein Award, “honoring among its graduates one who exhibits a passionate and helpful interest in the lives of other people, an informed and realistic faithfulness, an embodiment of the idea that love is not so much a way of feeling as a way of acting, and a reliable sense of humor.”

She is delighted to share with you the deep spiritual wisdom and understanding that she has discovered in the roots of Chinese characters.

Find the Lenten Meditations here.

Lenten Stewardship of the Earth

"Our ultimate purpose is to honor God as Creator in such a way that Christian environmental stewardship is part and parcel of everything we do. Our goal is to make tending the garden of creation, in all its aspects, an unquestioned and all pervasive part of our service to each other, to our community, to God's world."
-Calvin B. DeWitt, Reading the Bible Through a Green Lens

From The Episcopal Public Policy Network

Lenten Discipline: Practicing Stewardship

This week commit to one simple change in your routine that will conserve or reduce your impact on the environment every day. Replace one regular light bulb with a fluorescent compact light bulb and save up to 300lbs of carbon per year. Turn off electronic devices when you are not using them and save up to 1,000lbs of carbon per year. Take along reusable shopping bags and containers when shopping and save up to 1,200lbs of carbon per year.

There are some long-term changes you can make. If you are able, choose carpooling, taking mass transit, or riding a bike to work or to your next destination. If possible, develop an electricity use plan with your family and identify ways that each of you can save energy. Install a programmable thermostat to control home heating. Plant a tree.

Learn more here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

God, Grace & Sex

Two from the March issue of the Atlantic...

Very good articles.

The Velvet Reformation by Paul Elie

The place of gay people in the church is one of the bitterest disputes in Christianity since the Reformation. The Anglican Church is trying to have it both ways—affirming traditional notions of marriage and family while seeking to adapt its teachings to the experiences of gays and lesbians. Presiding over the debate, gently—too gently?—prodding the communion toward acceptance of gay clergy, is Rowan Williams, the brilliant and beleaguered archbishop of Canterbury. He’s been pilloried from all sides for his handling of these issues, but his distinctive theology and leadership style may offer the only way to open the Anglican Church to gay people without breaking it apart.

A Flock Divided by Justine Isola

Paul Elie talks about Archbishop Rowan Williams's balancing act, and the schisms threatening the Anglican Church. Interviewed Elie by phone and email at the end of January.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Episcopal Moment

Brian McLaren's keynote address to the 2009 diocesan convention of washington is available here on streaming video in Windows Media Player.

Click here (it is an excellent video!).

I am Episcopalian

Visit for more...

Sermon: 1st Lent (March 1)

With today’s possible snow, I had thought about what to preach on and whether anybody would be here to hear it. Thank you for being here! And as I thought about it, a little voice inside said, oh, no one will be there. Just use an old sermon, they’ll never know. Temptation crept in. Don’t work on a sermon no one will hear it, take the easy way out. You deserve it, go do something else.

It is so easy to justify the easy way out, especially when it seems like no harm will be done. We are all tempted. Every day. Maybe it happens like this…

So you’re in charge. You’ve given instructions, you’ve explained the goals, you’ve assigned responsibilities. But some of your coworkers are not holding up their end. As you are seething, you hear that voice inside: These incompetents are going to make you look bad. Call them in and fire the lot of them. Move on without them. They’re not worth caring about.

Or you’ve worked hard on a project. You’ve put in a lot of time behind the scenes doing the research, making the contacts, taking care of all the details. As you apply the finishing touches, you hear that voice: You know, when it comes time to take the bows, you’re going to be pushed right off the stage. Never mind trying to make it work for everyone — raise your profile. Make sure everybody knows who’s the star here. And if you have to shove a few people out of the way, fine.

Or you realize that things are not going well for many people around you. You feel for the plight of the struggling and poor, you‘re outraged by the injustice being perpetuated against the innocent, you’re frustrated by the prevailing That’s just the way it is attitude. As you’re trying to figure out what you can do, you hear that voice: Hey, relax. They aren’t your problem. Survival of the fittest, and all that. They made a mess of things and now they’re paying for it. There’s nothing you can do. Besides, you’re fine. You’ve got yours. It’s the way of the world, Don Quixote — you’re only tilting at windmills. Keep your head down, your mouth shut and your own little kingdom intact . . .
[Suggested by Harvey Cox in When Jesus Came to Harvard. – reproduced by Connections]

It’s hard for us at times to visualize Satan with Jesus — but we have all heard Satan’s voice urging us to take the easy way out, to knock down whoever gets in our way, to make sure we get ours regardless of the cost to others.

“Come, said Satan, come away, I’ll soon see if you’ll obey! You can turn those stones to bread…” These words from a William Blake poem, has Satan talking to Jesus but it could just as well be to us. For we live in that wilderness. The temptations that Satan confronts Jesus with are also temptations that Satan uses on us to tempt, to have us betray ourselves for some easy, immediate need, making stones our bread.

As Jesus struggles with the choices Satan lays before him, may we, in our own Lenten wilderness experience, take on that voice and understand clearly the way of God in our decisions. For Jesus time in the wilderness was a time of preparation. To prepare for his ministry, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Jesus says.

For just as Satan still stands today ready to tempt us away from where God would have us go, we have the tools in our Lenten arsenal to help us stay the course. Lent is a time for us to once again prepare not only for Easter but for the rest of our lives. The practices we take on, the self examinations we do and the self denial that becomes part of who we are, help us not only progress toward Easter through the cross but for the days after as well.

Our perseverance this Lent, is in our work towards making our decisions in line with God. For it will not do to come to Easter without making our hearts ready for Satan will tempt us to take the easy way out, but God will help us.

'Whether we gaze with longing into the garden or with fear and trembling into the desert of this we can be sure - God walked there first! And when we who have sinned and despoiled the garden are challenged now to face the desert, we do not face it alone; Jesus has gone there before us to struggle with every demon that has ever plagued a human heart. Face the desert we must if we would reach the garden, but Jesus has gone there before.' - James Healy - Amen.