Sunday, January 31, 2010

e.e. cummings – i am a little church

This is the poem I used at the end of my address. - Rev. Kurt

i am a little church (no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth's own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols of hope,
and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church (far from the frantic world
with its rapture and anguish) at peace with nature
i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring, i lift my diminutive spire
to merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

Lear more about his poem here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

On this MLK Jr. Day

Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Find a place to help out today:

A Cartoon from Jeff Stahler

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sermon: January 17

Let us remember Spring will come again
To the scorched, blackened woods, where the wounded trees
Wait with their old wise patience for the heavenly rain,
Sure of the sky: sure of the sea to send its healing breeze,
Sure of the sun, and even as to these
Surely the Spring, when God shall please,
Will come again like a divine surprise
To those who sit today with their great Dead, hands in their hands
Eyes in their eyes
At one with Love, at one with Grief: blind to the scattered things
And changing skies.
[Charlotte Mew – May 1915]
This poem written nearly a 100 years ago expresses the hope for Spring and new life in the midst of death and sorrow. It was written in a time of war but sure feels like it could have been written yesterday for we have seen the pictures and the videos of those who sit today with their great Dead, hands in their hands, eyes in their eyes.

Such grief and tragedy, its almost too much to watch and then Spring comes again, hope in the rubble, a noise, and the rescuers dig and out comes a toddler, after 3 days of being buried, is alive and well, more Spring hope when supplies reach those in need.

There are times of hope and joy in the midst of such darkness and pain. But we have seen so much death and destruction and if those images from Haiti were not bad enough, such heart wrenching scenes of destruction, we then hear from the Rev. Pat Robertson who believes that Haiti suffered from a devastating earthquake because of its "pact with the devil” some 200 years ago. Sadly, whenever a terrible tragedy happens, some ask who is to blame – it happened after the tsunami in 2004, after Hurricane Katrina, and now after the Haitian earthquake. They must have done something to deserve such a tragedy…
Jim Wallis writes, "When evil strikes, it's easy to ask, where is God. The answer: God is suffering in the midst of the evil with those who are suffering."
Theologian David Bentley Hart wrote this upon reflecting on the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004,
"We are to be guided by the full character of what is revealed of God in Christ. For, after all, if it is from Christ that we are to learn how God relates himself to sin, suffering, evil, and death, it would seem that he provides us little evidence of anything other than a regal, relentless, and miraculous enmity: sin he forgives, suffering he heals, evil he casts out, and death he conquers. And absolutely nowhere does Christ act as if any of these things are part of the eternal work or purposes of God."
That is, evil is not part of God’s plan, tragedy is not God’s way of working things out, God does willingly grieve God’s children. It is natural for us to ask where God is in all of this, and from our Scriptures, we would answer that God is in the rubble with the suffering because we know that is where Jesus would be. And when tragedy does strike, we are called to reach out and help those in need.

I think of the Wedding at Cana that we hear about in today’s Gospel. It wasn’t a tragedy but a celebration, a wedding, not only family, but all the villagers are there and in the midst of which, the wine gave out. No big deal – but for the family hosting the celebration – disgrace would be attached for not having enough; family dishonor. Enter Mary, Jesus’ mom. She tells Jesus the wine is gone. Hint, hint, help out…

Jesus isn’t concerned but Mary tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says. She forces the issue for Jesus to help out. And Jesus does – he does the first of his signs, the first of his miracles at the wedding in cana of galilee when the water turns into wine, good wine, a nice cabernet maybe. He doesn’t do it show off – in fact, he tries not to do anything – but he listens to his mother (shouldn’t we all?) and turns the situation from shame to joy.

Such service to those in need are what we are called on to do.

This week to help out, ARC had people send a text message from their phone - $10 to help with the relief effort – 1 million and counting gave that way – amazing! It took literally seconds and you made a difference. That is a small first step to help.

This past week, 2 parishioners, a father and daughter flew down with other college students to help rebuild a house in New Orleans. After Katrina and all the relief has come and gone, the long arduous task of recovery and rebuilding has begun there. Their work reminds us that right after tragedy comes the hard work to serve and rebuild, another important step.

On this MLK, Jr. weekend, we are reminded of his words that all life is interrelated and that we all can be great because we all can serve for this is another step, to volunteer our time, on a day off to help those around us in need be they in Monroe, Bridgeport or New Haven. As MLK said,
“And I know now that Jesus is right, that love is the way. And this is why John said, "God is love," so that he who hates does not know God, but he who loves at that moment has the key that opens the door to the meaning of ultimate reality. So this morning there is so much that we have to offer to the world.”
We have so much to offer, so today, let us follow Christ's call. Let us ill the emptiness of our lives, with the new wine that Jesus has made from the water of our lives and in that new wine is the Spirit, like a quenching fire that he has given to each us, these gifts of the spirit for our discipleship. We are blessed to use them for the common good, to help those in need in Monroe or Bridgeport, New Orleans or Haiti. Amen.

A Service of Prayer for Haiti - Washington National Cathedral - 6 PM

Strength through Unity -- L'Union fait la Force: A Service of Prayer for Haiti

Event image

Join the Washington National Cathedral for a service of music and prayer for the victims, families, and survivors of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. The offering will benefit relief efforts in Haiti. The service will feature prayers from interfaith representatives and a Haitian folksong sung by countertenor Jean-Luc Princivil. More details will be forthcoming.

Participants and Guests

  • The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, offering a sermon;
  • Bishop of Washington John Bryson Chane, offering the invocation;
  • Auxiliary Bishop of Washington Barry C. Knestout, representing the Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington;
  • Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III, offering the welcome; and
  • The Cathedral Choir of Men and Girls
  • Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
  • His Excellency Raymond Joseph, Haitian ambassador to the U.S.


Gracious God,
I lift my voice in prayer with all the people of the world.

Surround Haiti and her people
with your loving embrace
that they may be:

supported by the world in the work of rescue and recovery;
comforted as they grieve;
strengthened as they bury their dead;
healed as they tend their wounds;
restored in faith and the
hope of things unseen;
and transformed through newness of life in Christ.

Make me an instrument
of divine love, of mercy, of hope, and of new possibility.
Give me eyes to see,
ears to hear, the will to act, and a discerning and generous heart
that I may serve you and those who suffer in whatever way I am able.

In and through the power of the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

The service will be webcast live here. CNN plans to feature live coverage.

Friday, January 15, 2010

An Episcopal Church Portal for Haiti Earthquake Response

The Episcopal Church has set up a website:

It contains a #haiti Twitter feed, a donation link to Episcopal Relief & Development and is updated regularly with news and other information.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Where was God in the Earthquake?

Despite the absurd and ignorant rantings of Pat Robertson, all of us struggle in some ways with the horror we see on TV and the internet regarding the tragedy of Haiti after the horrific earthquake.

A priest on his blog asks:  Where Was God in the Earthquake? (Metanoia)

Precisely, the question we ask.  Read his blog post it is well worth it!

One quote from the post:
Theologian David Bentley Hart offers the best answer I know in his book The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?  He wrote it upon reflecting on the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004.  Hart reminds us that "we are to be guided by the full character of what is revealed of God in Christ.  For, after all, if it is from Christ that we are to learn how God relates himself to sin, suffering, evil, and death, it would seem that he provides us little evidence of anything other than a regal, relentless, and miraculous enmity: sin he forgives, suffering he heals, evil he casts out, and death he conquers.  And absolutely nowhere does Christ act as if any of these things are part of the eternal work or purposes of God."

Giving aid to the victims in Haiti

The Better Business Bureau reminds us that when we respond to a crisis, to give to those agencies that we know best. My suggestions are these...

For immediate relief:

Episcopal Relief & Development - Haiti Fund

Contributions to the Haiti Fund will provide critical assistance such as food, water and medicine, as well as long-term recovery and rehabilitation aid, in the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake.

American Red Cross - International Response Fund

You can help the victims of countless crises, like the recent earthquake in Haiti, around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need.

or you can send a $10 Donation by Texting ‘Haiti’ to 90999

Doctors without Borders in Haiti

Your gift today will support emergency medical care for the men, women, and children affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Please give as generously as you can to our Haiti Earthquake Response and help us save lives.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sermon: Baptism of Jesus (Jan. 10)

“I was there to hear your borning cry, I’ll be there when you are old, I rejoiced to see the day you were baptized to see your life unfold.”
This hymn written 25 years ago beautifully sets our understanding of baptism within the context of our life.

I always think of the voice behind the hymn both as my own, looking upon my children, and God looking upon my life for just as a parent knows they will be with their children forever, so it is also true with our God, who is always walking with us, even if we don’t know it.

I think of the words from our first reading, Isaiah:

Thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.

It is God who created us, redeemed us, knows us each by name. The ever present Spirit of God is present from our borning cry to our baptism and all our life.

Think of Jesus’ own baptism: when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

To hear such words, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased" sets his life and ministry off on the right foot even when his next steps will lead to the wilderness and temptation.

And don’t we all long to hear someone say to us, "Thank you. You did well. You have made me happy. I love you."
I think of a woman who no matter how hard she tries, there is no pleasing her mother. Every effort to help make life easier for her mother, every attempt to bring joy to her mother's life, is met with criticism or cynicism. Since she was a little girl, she has longed to hear her mother say to her, "I'm proud of you. I love you."

I think of a young man who loves everything about her: her smile, her wit, her intelligence. But he is out of her league. She has always been kind and friendly to him, but he cannot work up the nerve to ask her out. He's waiting for the right moment, but the moments have been there - he's just been too afraid to realize them. He will never hear her say, "You're a good guy. I love you."

I think of a Mom and Dad who struggle to stay afloat in the storm surge of the hurricane that is their teenager. But they constantly keep watch, always there to pick up the pieces, always ready to come to the rescue, always prepared to make everything OK. They love their child with all their being and always will -but nothing would make them happier than to hear their teenage son or daughter say, "Thank you, Mom and Dad. I love you."

Today, Jesus hears those words from his Father in heaven - and, in the waters of our own baptisms, God has spoken those same words to us. We are the beloved of God with whom God is well pleased; for God claims us as his own. The voice of the Father - our Father - speaks to all of us in the sacrament of Baptism; the Spirit of God descends upon us, enabling us to give to others the love, God joyfully gives to us. [Adapted from The Pastor as Minor Poet by M. Craig Barnes.]
Just think that when we were each named and presented to God in baptism; we were adopted, grafted in to God’s family, and in that baptism is a gift.

For as John said, “Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Indeed we are baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. We are cleansed and given a new life in Jesus’ name. It is that same Spirit and fire that touches all that we are, from our beginning to our end. As St. Ephraim the Syrian of the fourth century wrote:
See, Fire & Spirit in the womb that bore you
See, Fire & Spirit in the water where you were baptized
Fire & Spirit in our Baptism
In the bread and Cup, Fire and Spirit.
It is a gift that enlivens us, and reminds us just as Isaiah did that God dwells with us, in all our steps, has been with us from our birth to our baptism and continues to be with us, and is in the midst of our communion, of bread and wine, God is there in Fire & Spirit. And that same fire and Spirit will carry us to God on our final day.

Today (at 10:15 AM), Brooke Elizabeth Bennett will join us in being part of God’s holy tribe, and the fire and Spirit will be given to her, and we will recognize in her as we are reminded ourselves that God is at work in our lives and has given us things to do.

In this time after the Epiphany, when we are to manifest Jesus to the world with our lives, even as we continue to learn and grow in what it means to follow him, for the gift of Jesus, who came down for us at Christmas, we will share with the world, by making his love, his joy, his light manifest in our lives, and the Fire and Spirit will guide us…

To that ministry and to our God we live our lives today and every day, so let the light of God shine forth in your lives, by the fire and Spirit given to us at Baptism for God is present in our lives.

As that hymn (that we sung) put it:
In the middle ages of your life, not too old, no longer young, I’ll be there to guide you through the night, complete what I’ve begun. When the evening gently closes in and you shut your weary eyes, I’ll be there as I have always been with just one more surprise.

I was there to hear your borning cry, I’ll be there when you are old, I rejoiced to see the day you were baptized to see your life unfold. Amen.

Religion and Women

He makes some interesting points...

Op-Ed Columnist - Religion and Women -
Today, when religious institutions exclude women from their hierarchies and rituals, the inevitable implication is that females are inferior. The Elders are right that religious groups should stand up for a simple ethical principle: any person’s human rights should be sacred, and not depend on something as earthly as their genitals.

Religion & Climate Change

An interesting blog post on the Environmental Defense Fund's site.

Dominique Browning writes:
With every passing week, the scientific data gets more precise, and more frightening. Yet this has proven insufficient to move people to action. All the more fascinating, then, to watch the growing movement among religious leaders who use their pulpits to venture into environmental action. More than 10,000 congregations of Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist and other faiths are working in 30 states as members of Interfaith Power & Light (IPL). These religious leaders are clearly having an impact on people across the country who would never call themselves environmentalists.
Dominique Browning's Personal Nature Column » Religion and Climate Change

Prayers for those in Haiti

God of love, whose compassion never fails; we bring before you the griefs and perils of the peoples of Haiti; for the necessities of those left homeless; the helplessness of those shaken by earthquake; for the pains of the sick and injured; for the sorrow of the bereaved. Comfort and relieve them, O merciful Father, according to their needs and draw near to each; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

based on a prayer by St Anselm (1033-1109)

Loving Father, you comfort us in times of affliction: Our brothers and sisters have suffered a great tragedy and they need your healing. Send your Holy Spirit to soothe the anger, fear, and sorrow of their broken hearts. In the darkness of this moment, shine the light of your radiant love. Be their companion in their grief. In their pain, make them strong in courage, dry their tears, mend their hearts, and gently call them to newness of life. We thank you for the assurance of your love, shown in your Son Jesus, who suffered for us, died, and rose again to prepare our place in your eternal home. Amen.

The Latest News on Haiti

Go here for the latest information:

The Episcopal Church has a large presence there including the following Episcopal schools from which we have as yet no word:

St. Vincent’s School for the Handicapped (deaf, blind, and orthopedically handicapped) – the only school of its kind in Haiti, St. Vincent’s is located two blocks from the National Palace, which has been destroyed, and three blocks from the Catholic Cathedral, also reported destroyed. It is a residential school, so although it was late afternoon, many children would have been present. Pray for the students, staff, and Pere Sadoni, the director.

Holy Trinity School, Music School, and Trade School – located in the same area; music students would have been practicing and having lessons. Pray for the students, staff, and Pere Fernande Sanon, the director.

The rural schools in and near Darbonne, Leogane, and Chateau-Gaillard – these schools are located approximately on the epicenter of the earthquake. Pray for all of the students and staff as well as the clergy who are responsible for them.

Episcopal Relief & Development - Haiti Relief

Haiti Devastated by Earthquake

In the aftermath of a 7.0 earthquake, Episcopal Relief & Development is providing critical emergency funds to Haiti. We are currently accepting donations to the Haiti Relief Fund to support this assistance and will continue updating this site as we receive information.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bible as Literature

“A Literary Bible,” by ­David Rosenberg, is a large book though not, of course, a complete translation of the Hebrew Bible. Genesis is fairly full, though one looks in vain for the passage “In the beginning . . . ,” from which Genesis takes its title in both Hebrew and Greek. The Prophets, from Samuel to Jonah, get about 160 pages, and an anthology drawn from the Writings — notably the Psalms and Job — occupies the remaining half of the book. Each selection has a preface providing scholarly information and justification for the assumptions and procedures of the present translator. An epilogue, “How the Bible Came About,” makes these points in a more expansive way.

Read more about it here.

It is not in praise of the Creator that R. Crumb portrays him — in the splash page that begins his much-anticipated adaptation of Genesis in comic-book form — as Crumb sees his own father. He grew up in helpless terror of Charles Crumb Sr., a former Marine Corps master sergeant who lorded over his family with icy severity. Early in his progress on “The Book of Genesis,” Crumb was asked by Robert Hughes of Time magazine if he was drawing God to look like Mr. Natural (the burlesque cartoon shaman whom he has long employed to poke fun at pop spirituality). Crumb replied: “He has a white beard, but he actually ended up looking more like my father. He has a very masculine face.” Both paternity and masculinity are matters of dubious value to Crumb, a wonderfully unlikely candidate to breathe new life into the founding narrative of masculine privilege and paternal authority in the Judeo-Christian world.

Read more about it here.

Helping Refugees

Looking to help refugees?

Visit these sites:

UNHCR - The UN Refugee Agency

Episcopal Migration Ministries

IRIS ~ Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (New Haven, CT)

Sermon: January 3 (2nd Christmas)

“The amounts needed to rescue people are less than what is needed to rescue banks.”
High Commissioner António Gutteres for the UN Refugee Agency said last summer. There are an estimated 16 million refugees in our world today. That’s about 5 times the population of CT. That is 16 million people - families, children who have fled their country of origin to escape danger or persecution there. Why does that matter? Because on this day, we remember that Jesus was made a refugee by King Herod. We know the first part of the story…

Wise men from the East come looking for the child who was to be born. These Wise men, magi, are gentiles and they have come to pay homage to the newborn king. Can you imagine Herod's surprise? His fear and anger over one who could supplant his role as king? He wants to know about this child and he wants the wise men to report back to him when they know where he is, so he too can pay homage. But of course, we know that is the last thing he would do.

The wise men continue their search, they follow the star and are overwhelmed with joy when they find Mary & Joseph and Jesus. The wise men kneel down before the baby Jesus and offer their gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh, and having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they go home by another road. We remember the Wise Men, they are in our crèche scenes, we sing about them, but we forget that their place in our Christmas Story is also a political one. For this story is also about Herod who will do anything to hold onto his power.
As one Anglican priest put it…
"Herod represents the dark side of the gospel. He reminds us that Jesus didn't enter a world of sparkly Christmas cards or a world of warm spiritual sentiment. Jesus enters a world of real pain, of serious dysfunction, a world of brokenness and political oppression. Jesus was born an outcast, a homeless person, a refugee." (Joy Carroll Wallis)
Remember that in 6 BC, Rome was the occupying power in the land of Israel. Caesar Augustus was on the thrown, the first Roman emperor that unified the empire. Herod the Great ruled the land of Judea. He was King because Rome put him there. He was distrusted and disliked by the population because of his connections to Rome and his brutality. In the midst of this, God comes to us and Jesus is born. We remember that he was born not among family & friends, but in a stable with animals. The holy family are outcasts and would become refugees.

Our Christmas Story often ends with the Wise Men leaving by another road, but it doesn’t end there at all. For Joseph is likewise warned in a dream to leave Bethlehem and flee to Egypt for Herod wants to destroy Jesus. And Joseph listens to the dream, he protects his family and they escape to Egypt just in time. For Matthew then tells us of the slaughter of the innocents, males 2 years old and younger in the region of Bethlehem ordered killed by Herod after Herod did not hear from the wise men. Thankfully his murderous reign comes to an end, and Mary & Joseph who are refugees in the land of Egypt return with Jesus and make their home in Nazareth in Galilee after Herod's death.

Herod is not a cuddly character we embrace and we often forget his role in that first Christmas, but He reminds us that the world that Jesus was born into, is the same world we live in now. War, death, murder, political infighting, take place now as they did then. And innocent people are often caught in the middle and end up as victims and refugees. But we also know that God intercedes on our behalf in the best and worst of times; even with the power of Rome & Herod in place, God comes to us in a helpless baby in their midst. He is not recognized except for some outsiders, he is forced to flee from Bethlehem because his life is threatened, he is a refugee in a country and will find no home until Herod is dead.

Where is the star that we follow? Where does our faith call us to use our gifts?

One such ministry is called Iris - Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services. It is a program of our Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut and is the local affiliate of Episcopal Migration Ministries and the Immigration and Refugee Program of Church World Service. IRIS resettles approximately 100 refugees each year. Currently, over half of IRIS’s refugee clients come from Iraq. Others come from Afghanistan, Congo, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, and other countries.

And as reminder of what this ministry is all about, the logo for Episcopal Migration Ministries has Mary riding a donkey carrying Jesus as Joseph follows behind them looking back, as they flee to Egypt. For we are reminded on this Sunday to use our gifts, to pray, to lift up and give our voice and our actions to help those fleeing persecution and danger, to see Christ in this world through the lives of the children and how they suffer, and to stand up against the Herod's of this world.

For Christmas is more than our coming to the manger to pay homage, it is also how we give our gifts to the world in the name of the one who was a refugee, who was terrorized and threatened, who died at the hands of politics and power. It is offering our gifts to the Christ Child in our midst today...
For when the song of the angels is stilled
when the star in the sky is gone
when the kings and princes are home
when the shepherds are back with their flocks
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost
to heal the broken
to feed the hungry
to release the prisoner
to rebuild the nations
to bring peace among the people
to make music in the heart.
(Howard Thurman)
Our Christmas festivities are nearing the end, but our work of Christmas has just begun. Let us journey and find the Christ child knowing it may lead us not to palaces or to places of joy, but to refugee camps, war zones, ghettos, places of poverty and areas of destruction. Let us help shed the light of Christ to those who walk in darkness today. Because today we celebrate the Light that has come into the world for all people, and the darkness has not and will not overcome it.

Let us pray: O God, we ask your living protection of all refugees yearning for freedom and hope in a new land. May we ever remember that the Holy Family, too, were refugees as they fled persecution. Bless, guide and lead us in faith to open doors and to open our hearts through this ministry of hospitality. Give us strength, vision and compassion as we work together to welcome those in need. We ask this in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN.