Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Overture To Catholics, From an Episcopal Priest

This is by an Episcopal Priest in Connecticut:
I have no authority whatsoever to speak for my Church, nor would I presume to do so. But as an Episcopal priest, I call on my ecclesiastical superiors to make a special overture to Roman Catholics who are disgruntled by the pedophilia scandals in the Catholic Church; scandals that increasingly point to the complicity of the man in charge of the Vatican, Benedict XVI. My reference here, of course, is to the declaration last fall by the very same Benedict seeking to lure conservative Anglicans and Episcopalians to the Roman Catholic Church.

Read the whole article by Randall Balmerhere.

Palm Sunday Sermon

We know all too well the cruelties, hurts, and hatreds that poison life on our planet. We know that the catalogue of injuries that we can and do inflict on one another is not the whole story of humanity. We are indeed made for something more. We are made for goodness.
These words from Desmond Tutu and his daughter remind us that when God created us, God saw our creation as very good. Each of our stories begins in that goodness. Our Palm Sunday begins in that goodness too. You get a sense of that goodness with the love the people had for Jesus, laying their garments down, palm branches and the crowd around him shouting,
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
His jubilant entry with the crowds coming out to see him certainly was a joyful time. The disciples must have felt it was the best of times. But there were others watching Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem, those who feared his arrival. Some among the Jewish leadership were not convinced that Jesus was the messiah. Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out." Of course, Pontius Pilate was also watching, making sure the pax romana was in place, and he would quash anybody who disturbed that peace, even stones…

It is that shift, from joyous Palm Sunday entry to the Passion of Holy Week that reminds us of the “cruelties, hurts, and hatreds that poison life on our planet.” Joy one day and deep sadness the next. That shift from a joyous crowd seeking life & goodness to a hooting mob full of hurt and cruelty, looking for death, is captured well in a poem by Langston Hughes:

I met You on Your way to death,
Though quite by accident
I chose the path I did,
not knowing there You went.

When I heard the hooting mob
I started to turn back
But, curious, I stood my ground
Directly in its track
And sickened suddenly
At its sound,
Yet did not
Turn back.

So loud the mob cried,
Yet so weak,
Like a sick and muffled sea.
On Your head
You had sharp thorns.
You did not look at me—
But on Your back
You carried
My own Misery.
Jesus carried us on his back with him during the passion and it is Jesus who calls us to go with him. For when Jesus calls each of us to take up our cross and follow him, it is a call to follow him not only as part of the crowd at his triumphant entrance to Jerusalem waving our palm branches, but traveling with him throughout Holy Week from celebration, to betrayal, to abandonment, to the cross. And yet, even with such horror, goodness will have its say, for in a scene found only in Luke's Gospel:
As Jesus hangs in agony on the cross being taunted by the bystanders, even one of the criminals crucified with him joins in the jeering. But the other criminal will have none of it. Luke doesn't explain how or why, but something opens up within the heart of the "good thief." Despite his own impending death, he realizes the injustice of Jesus' execution and senses God both with and within this rabbi hanging next to him. He rebukes the other criminal, admitting that both he and the other criminal are guilty but that Jesus is innocent.

And then, in a plea that resounds through the centuries, he turns to Jesus and asks, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." The dying Jesus responds out of compassion and mercy. "Today you will be with me in Paradise." Enduring excruciating pain and facing imminent death, Jesus holds to a greater certainty: Paradise is real. The kingdom of God he preached, a kingdom built on love, justice and reconciliation, has come. His place in the house of God is secure. Paradise is his destiny, source and home. And ours, as well.

His promise to the good thief is made to every one of us: From now on we're in this together. I won't leave you behind. My place is your place. Welcome to Paradise, the kingdom of my Father. [Adapted from Christ's Passion, Our Passions: Reflections on the Seven Last Words from the Cross by Margaret Bullitt-Jones.]
It reminds us that as we stand with all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, at a distance, watching these things, that goodness will win out. We are made for goodness and as Christ’s witnesses today, we need to live out of that place in our lives. Amen.

Haiti and the Devil

Haiti and the Devil
by The Rt Revd Pierre W. Whalon, D.D.
Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe

On a recent visit to the Église Épiscopale d’Haïti, the Episcopal Church’s largest diocese, I heard a great deal about how many people are claiming — or at least thinking — that the people of Haiti have brought the greatest natural disaster in recorded history upon themselves. In a sermon preached under a tarp next to the rubble left from the collapsed Cathédrale Sainte-Trinité, on March 7, I explicitly repudiated this theology. During the sermon, I had the idea to repeat
the text (in English) at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, where I preached the following Sunday.

After the Eucharist at St. Paul’s, the large crowd passed through the west door of that great church, where I stood with the celebrant, the Reverend Canon Giles Fraser. While most gratified me with enthusiastic comments — rather than the polite and perfunctory thanks usually proffered to the preacher — several remonstrated with me, saying that Haiti had only got what it deserved for worshipping the Devil. It occurred to me that perhaps many more think this, but are too intimidated to speak it aloud.

Read it all here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Women's History Month: Episcopalians

Harriet M. Bedell
(March 19, 1875 – January 8, 1969)

Harriet M. Bedell. Episcopal deaconess and missionary among American Indian and Alaskan Native peoples. A students from the New York Training School for Deaconesses, Bedell was set apart as a deaconess in 1922, after she worked as a missionary among the Cheyenne in Oklahoma, and as a teacher and nurse in Alaska, 40 miles south of the Arctic Circle, where she traveled by dogsled to remote villages. During her last years in Alaska, Bedell opened a boarding school that was eventually closed due to a lack of funds.

In 1932, she learned about the plight of the Seminoles in Florida and used her own salary to reopen a mission among the Mikasuki Indians. Though forced to “officially” retire at age 63, she continued her ministry of health care, education, and economic empowerment until 1960 when Hurricane Donna wipes out the mission. Active into her 80s, she drove an average of twenty thousand miles per year during her ministry. Deaconess Bedell was one of the most popular writers in the national Episcopal mission periodical, The Spirit of Missions.

She won the respect of indigenous people through her compassion and her respect of their way of life and beliefs. While active in ministry among the Cheyenne, she was eventually adopted into the tribe and given the name “Bird Woman.” Bedell emphasized health and education rather than religious conversion in her work with the Seminoles; their spiritual and physical comfort was more important to her than religious conversion, and her work and friendship with the Seminoles of Florida reflected those values.

The Episcopal Church commemorates her on January 8, the anniversary of her death.

Earth Hour - Saturday Night

On Earth Hour hundreds of millions of people around the world will come together to call for action on climate change by doing something quite simple—turning off their lights for one hour. The movement symbolizes that by working together, each of us can make a positive impact in this fight, protecting our future and that of future generations. Learn more about how Earth Hour began, what we’ve accomplished, and what is in store for 2010. Go here.
Once again, St. Peter's will be participating and turning off our lights at 8:30 PM. The Vestry is also looking into ways that we can be better at our environmental stewardship and help save money too!

The Washington National Cathedral will also be going dark. Here's the news.

What are you doing for the Earth that God has created for us?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sermon: March 21 (5th Sunday in Lent)

"Religion is not ours till we live by it, till it is the Religion of our thoughts, words, and actions, till it goes with us into every place, sits uppermost on every occasion, and forms and governs our hopes and fears, our cares and pleasures."
These words from William Law, an Archbishop of Canterbury in the 17th century, reminds us that our religion, our faith, is not ours until we truly own it in our lives and live it in every place we go. And as we live it in our daily lives, and we have new experiences, new epiphanies, our faith will change, or our faith will become fossilized or rigid, where we are unable or unwilling to grow in our faith and thereby get stuck in our ways. God is always at work creating new things and we must be open to the newness that God will bring to our faith and our lives. As our first reading put it,
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
For the people of Israel returning from their exile, God tells them through the prophet Isaiah, that the Lord is making things new (do not remember the former things, the days of old, of slavery) It is a time of hope, a time of fortunes restored, a time of renewal for the people of Israel, “look to this newness” God says.

Looking to this newness & expecting new ways of living in our faith could be the difference between inhabiting a living faith and a faith that is dead.

There once was a devoted priest who wished to have a vision of both heaven and hell, and God gave way to his pleading. The priest found himself before a door which bore no name. He trembled as he saw that it opened into a large room where all was prepared for a feast. There was a table, and at its center, a great dish of steaming food was set. The smell and the aroma tantalized the appetite. Diners sat around the table with great spoons in their hands, yet, to the priest's surprise, they were miserable— gaunt with hunger. They tried desperately to feed themselves, but gave up—cursing God—for the spoons that God had provided were so long that they could not reach their mouths. So these pitiable self-feeders starved while a feast lay before them. The priest had seen enough, so the door to this room closed before his eyes.

Next, the priest found himself standing before another door that appeared the same as the previous one. He began to despair, for he did not want to see that scenario again. Again, the door opened, and it led to a room just like the first. Nothing had changed. There was a table at the center of the room with a dish of steaming, delicious food. Around it were the same people. But there were no cries of anguish, and no one appeared gaunt and starving, even though they, too, had the same elongated spoons. Nothing had changed, yet everything had changed. With the same long spoons these people reached to each other's mouths, and fed one another. And their joy was over flowing.
Are we ready to see what God is doing today that is new? Is our faith open enough? It can be frightening not knowing what is in store, but it is God who invites on this journey, and there will be refreshment:
for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself.
We need to trust that God will lead us where we need to go, for our job is to seek out where God indeed is doing new things & from their we will be fed… Maybe we need some theme music…{cue star trek theme song}

Which means we must boldly go as Christians, to seek out that new life, that new civilization that God wants us to begin here on earth. For us on board the USS St. Peter, it begins as we boldly go with our new mission to reach out in love to children in need in a Russian Orphanage. But this isn’t just about us reaching out to them, but knowing we will also be transformed as we learn about a different culture, as we learn about the faith they inhabit, as we hear their music, taste their food. This is mission is really a two way street, a street that God has us traveling. That our faith will be made new as we reach out our hand in love to others.
“The Church’s mission is response to the living God Who in God’s love creates, reveals, judges, redeems, fulfills. It is God who moves through our history to teach and to save, who calls us to receive His love, to learn, to obey and to follow. Mission is not the kindness of the lucky to the unlucky; it is mutual, united obedience to the one God whose mission it is.”
We live out our mission by what we give, what we say, and how we in turn see the new thing God is doing in our lives by God’s mission in this world today. As one person put it,
“Make your life a mission – not an intermission.” (Arnold Glasgow)
It can be scary but it is also enlivening, for the Spirit of God will lead us in fulfilling God’s mission today. So on this day, as we look to see what new things God is calling us into here at St. Peter’s Church and the call for each of us to live out our faith in our daily lives, I invite you into a prayer, a prayer from the Metropolitan Bishop of Moscow in 1876 that speaks to our search for God’s will in our life:
O God, I do not know what to ask of you. You alone know my true needs and love me more than I know how to love. I ask neither for cross nor consolation, but only that I may discern and do your will. Teach me to wait in patience with an open heart, knowing that your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts. Help me to see where I have erected idols of certitude to defend myself from the demands of your ever unfolding truth: truth you have made known to us in the one who is the truth, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

"I am having a hard time with this, Chaplain"

An excellent piece at the Daily Episcopalian, written by an Episcopal Hospital Chaplain (Rev. Marshall Scott) explores the cliche: "God won’t give you more than you can handle." Read it here.

An excerpt:
“God won’t give you more than you can handle.” This is another of those axioms that most folks think is found somewhere in Scripture. It’s like “The Lord helps those who help themselves,” a saying so pervasive in our culture that it has its own aura of authority. Everyone says it, so it must have an authoritative source; and since the subject is God, the source must be Scripture.

Like to many other common sayings about God, though, this one doesn’t really paint God in that good a light. Perhaps we wrestle with the second half of the saying, “more than you can handle;” but I have a great deal more trouble with the first: “God won’t give you.” It continues that belief (and, honestly, one that can be based in Scripture) that God is directly and personally responsible for each event in our lives, both the blessings and the injuries.

Religion Aided a Home Run Chase, and May Have Led to Its Failure

There is an interesting article in the NY Times by Howard Megdal and as a Detroit Tiger fan, it caught my attention.

It asks an interesting question:
When Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers made a run at Babe Ruth’s season home run record, falling two short with 58 in 1938, was he pitched around because he was Jewish?
Statistically, something happened but was it antisemitism? Will we ever know?

I would not be surprised if it played a role, read the article here...

10 minutes with … Bishop Jean Zache Duracin

An interview with Bishop Jean Zache Duracin of Haiti done by Religion News.

You can find it here.

An excerpt:
Q. Where is God in all of this?

A. I think God is there. We’ve always been taught that we live in a fragile world. Our existence is fragile; that’s why we always ask God to be with us, to protect us. Even in the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to deliver us from evil --it is not that there is no evil just because God is there. God is there, and that’s why I think we have hope and why I think many people are alive, because God is with us and God has his plan for us.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sermon: March 14 (4th Sunday in Lent)

Today is Refreshment Sunday, it is a kind of half time when we loosen our Lenten Disciplines and enjoy a day of feasting and rest in the season of Lent. Maybe tell a joke or two…
St. Peter and St. Paul are at the Pearly Gates. Paul is looking through The Book of Names, and he says to Peter, "There are more people in heaven than there is supposed to be! Go find out what has happened!" Peter runs off, and some time later he returns to Paul. Paul says, "Did you find out why there are too many people here?" Peter says, "It's Jesus. He's helping people in over the back fence again..."
Today is a day for laughter, a day when we could kick up our heals and enjoy the sound of rain (instead of snow)… and wouldn’t it be nice, if we had a lot of money, we could travel and see the world and be our own boss. Isn’t that part of the American dream after all? But we also know that money does not equal happiness & a good life and there are some famous athletes who prove this to be true.

John Daly who gambled away 60 million of his earnings, or Evander Holyfield who lost 250 million in earnings through poor business decisions and extravagant living, then there is Mike Tyson who lost 400 million, and we could go on… Sadly, such stories are not uncommon even among those who do not have such millions, earnings lost to addiction or extravagant living or even a poor business decision that really turns bad in the midst of this economy. The parable of the prodigal son is lived out each day, all around us, but what is most extraordinaire is not the son but the forgiving father.

The parable is captured in these images:

- an icon of the father holding the son

- a replica from a statue in the gardens at the National Cathedral in Washington

– father holding the son (Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son)

As one author put it,
“The prodigal son knows he’s a dead son. He can’t come home as a son and yet in his father’s arms he rises from the dead and then he is able to come to his father’s side. The dead son, the no good Prodigal Son, is home. He has been raised from the dead by his father’s embrace. He has done nothing to earn it…” (Robert Farrar Capon)
As Jesus once told this parable, a parable about family. Isn’t it true that often there is a child who is sulking and another laughing: one who is in trouble and another who was good and listens, failure and achievement often sit side by side in our house. And yet in this parable, the father lovingly embraces the son who ran off, and calms the other son who is fuming at his return… The father loves. He forgives his child before he can really apologize. He tells his other child that he is always with him and all that he has is his, but he had to rejoice for he who was dead - is alive, because he who was lost - is found. In these reassuring words are the words of God to us…

For the father in the parable is often identified with God, and we are identified as the two sons, the younger and the elder, the one whom fumes and the one who sulks… The parable shows us through the father figure, that God’s forgiveness is for us all. It is grace. Not because we earned it, but because God wills it. And the son is restored, but what about the good kid? Don’t many of you here feel more like the eldest than the youngest. The one who stood by his parents, never leaving and yet feeling left out at the end…

We may wonder if the eldest ever did go in and enjoy the party and welcome back his brother. But the real questions for us, is will we? Will we, the good kids go in when the not so good are welcomed back? And the father looks at us and give us those words, “You are with me always and all I have is yours” No matter what, its all yours, you are always with me, says God. Drop the resentment, the anger, let it go and come, enjoy the party! The only way we get left out in the cold is if we decide to stay there.

No matter what part of the parable you see yourself in, the father, the Prodigal Son, the good ol’ son, know that here at this table you are invited, welcomed at this party, this feast…for in the midst of our Lent, on this day of Refreshment, God gives us life in the bread of heaven and cup of salvation, so that God can live in us and we in God.

May the story of the Prodigal Son and the words of assurance from our God guide your life, help you to forgive others, be the cornerstone of your house, and help you trust in the surety of God's good heart for you. Amen.

Women's History Month: Episcopalians



Vida ScudderVida Dutton Scudder (December 15, 1861- October 9, 1954), educator, activist and founder of the Episcopal Church Socialist League was born to Congregationalist missionaries in India. In the 1870s, Vida and her mother were confirmed as Episcopalians by Phillips Brooks. After studying English literature at Smith College and Oxford University, Scudder began teaching at Wellesley College. Her love of scholarship was matched by her social conscience and deep spirituality. As a young woman, Scudder began the College Settlements Association, joined the Society of Christian Socialists, and began her life-long association with the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross in 1889. In 1893, Scudder took a leave of absence from Wellesley to work with Helena Stuart Dudley to found Denison House in Boston. Scudder experienced a breakdown in 1901 due to the stress of teaching and activism. After two years of recuperation in Italy, she returned renewed and became more active in church and socialist groups; she started a group for Italian immigrants at Denison House and took an active part in organizing the Women’s Trade Union League. In 1911, Scudder founded the Episcopal Church Socialist League, and formally joined the Socialist party. Her support of striking textile workers in the Lawrence, Massachuetts strike in 1912 drew a great deal of criticism and threatened her teaching position. Though she initially supported World War I, she joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1923, and by the 1930s she was a pacifist. Throughout her life Scudder’s primary relationships and support network were women; her closest companion was Florence Converse, who shared in her religious faith and political ideals. After retirement, Scudder authored sixteen books on religious and political subjects, combining her intense activism with and an equally vibrant spirituality. She was the first woman published in the Anglican Theological Review. The Episcopal Church commemorates her on October 10.

from the Episcopal Women's History Project

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Desmond Tutu, Insisting We Are 'Made For Goodness'

An NPR interview this morning.

You can read a transcript or listen to the interview here.

One excerpt from his book (written with his daughter):
We know all too well the cruelties, hurts, and hatreds that poison life on our planet. But my daughter and I have come together to write this book because we know that the catalogue of injuries that we can and do inflict on one another is not the whole story of humanity, not by a long measure — as I hope you will see and as you no doubt know in your heart. We are indeed made for something more. We are made for goodness.

Made For Goodness
By Desmond Tutu & Mpho Tutu
Hardcover, 224 pages
List price: $25.99

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

God Helps with Personal Decisions, Most Americans Say

The results from 2 recent national surveys of Americans and their beliefs about God's involvement in their everyday lives is published in the March issue of the journal Sociology of Religion.  Here are some highlights from the new findings:

    * 82 percent of participants reported that they depend on God for help and guidance in making decisions.
    * 71 percent said they believe that when good or bad things happen, these occurrences are simply part of God's plan for them.
    * 61 percent indicated they believe God has determined the direction and course of their lives.
    * 32 percent agreed with the statement: "There is no sense in planning a lot because ultimately my fate is in God's hands."

You can read the article that mentions all of this, here.

You can find the journal itself, here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Women's History Month: Anglicans

The Rev. Florence Li Tim-Oi (1907 – 1992)
the first woman to be ordained in the Anglican Communion

In 1944, faced with a situation in the diocese of Hong Kong that called for pastoral care, Bishop Ronald Hall ordained Ms. Li to the priesthood. Although this action was well received in the diocese, it caused a storm of protest in the wider communion and pressure was brought to bear on the bishop, requesting that she relinquish the title and role of a priest.

When Ms. Li became aware of the concern of the wider church and of the pressure on Bishop Hall, she did not get angry and leave the church but made the decision to resign the exercise of her ministry in 1946. For the next 39 years, she served faithfully under very difficult circumstances, particularly after the Communists took over mainland China.

In 1983, arrangements were made for her to come to Canada where she was appointed as an honorary assistant at St. John's Chinese congregation and St. Matthew's parish in Toronto. The Anglican Church of Canada had by this time approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and in 1984, the 40th anniversary of her ordination; Ms. Li was, with great joy and thanksgiving, reinstated as a priest. From that date until her death in 1992, she exercised her priesthood with such faithfulness and quiet dignity that she won tremendous respect for herself and increasing support for other women seeking ordination.

The very quality of Ms. Li's ministry in China and in Canada and the grace with which she exercised her priesthood helped convince many people through the communion and beyond that the Holy Spirit was certainly working in and through women priests. Her contribution to the church far exceeded the expectations of those involved in her ordination in 1944. The Episcopal Church commemorates her ordination on January 24.

The True Cost of an Item

I saw this article and immediately thought of our stewardship of this planet and how at times we forget the real cost of producing the stuff we buy.

The Story of Stuff: Externalized Costs and the $4.99 Radio
by Annie Leonard
Walking to work one day I wanted to listen to the news, so I popped into Radio Shack. I found a cute little green radio for $4.99. Pleased with my bargain, I stood in line to pay, but then started wondering: how could $4.99 cover the cost of extracting the raw materials, manufacturing the parts, assembling the radio, and getting it into my hands?

Whenever I go to buy something I get sidetracked, thinking of how it got here. It's an occupational hazard. I spent a decade traveling around the world, visiting the factories where our stuff is made and the dumps where it goes when we don't want it any more. What I learned makes it impossible for me to look at anything and not see the journey it made through the global take-make-waste system.
Read the whole article here.

Her website can be found here.

Refeshment Sunday (March 14)

The 4th Sunday in Lent is Refreshment Sunday:
The Fourth Sunday in Lent is sometimes
referred to as Refreshment Sunday. It is
a moment in liturgical time when people are
invited to ease their Lenten discipline for a day
and refresh themselves through feasting and
resting. The day reminds us that we are saved
by grace and not by stringent effort. Carl Jung
once noted that he had to be careful not to
deny himself too much. Refreshment Sunday
supports that observation.

In the days of yore, this same Sunday was
known in England as Mothering Sunday. It was
a day when servants and apprentices were
allowed to take a day off and go home to visit
their mothers. That tradition later became
linked to parochial life as people made pilgrimage
to the church of their youth, their “Mother
Church.” On this day, people gathered at the
church to play games, eat pastries and engage
in various festivities.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Elders: Q & A

I just found this, a Q & A with three of the elders:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter and the first woman President of Ireland Mary Robinson (who was also a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights), were gracious enough to answer a few of my questions, providing the following inspirational and thoughtful answers. Desmond Tutu enthusiastically praised the role of technology in fostering connection and "global cooperation and understanding." Mary Robinson emphasized the importance of including girls in the global movement for equal rights, for "it is in adolescence that events can have a huge effect on a girl's life." And Jimmy Carter spoke about violence and discrimination against women as a "global scourge" and challenged those "who use the word of God to justify discrimination."

These world leaders sound off on issues they are passionate about and the Elders are working hard to address, through the many important campaigns you can find out about at their site. And though the world may face many challenges, these Elders still find many reasons to remain hopeful. As Tutu eloquently puts it, "It may seem daunting, but I am a prisoner of hope. We are more connected than ever before, we have more knowledge, and there are solutions if we work together." He reminds us, "What unites us is our common humanity."
Read the whole Q & A here.

Mass-Market Epiphany

A fascinating article in the NY Times on mysticism.

A couple of excerpts:
Mysticism is dying, and taking true religion with it. Monasteries have dwindled. Contemplative orders have declined. Our religious leaders no longer preach the renunciation of the world; our culture scoffs at the idea. The closest most Americans come to real asceticism is giving up chocolate, cappuccinos, or (in my own not-quite-Francis-of-Assisi case) meat for lunch for Lent.
“Kabbalism apart from Torah-observance is playacting; Sufism disconnected from Shariah is vague theosophy; and Christian mysticism that finds no center in the Eucharist or the Passion of Christ drifts into a form of self-grooming.”
Read the whole op-ed piece here.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

March Gladness 2010

Welcome to Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation's March Gladness!

March Gladness combines two of our favorite things -- Making Poverty History and the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Here's how it works. Like your regular NCAA pool, you fill out your tournament bracket -- picking each game in the field of 65 right up to the championship game. Like your regular pool it costs a little to get in. Like your regular pool, the people who do the best picking the games win the pot.

Here's where Madness turns to Gladness:

*Instead of an entry fee, there is a small donation ($10). CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION OF $10 PER BRACKET (Max. 5 brackets)

*Along with your bracket(s) you designate a nonprofit (must be an official 501(c)3) whose work contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals that you will be picking for. Be sure and put "MARCH GLADNESS" and the name of the nonprofit you're picking for on the "Designation" line when you give.

*Fill out your NCAA men's basketball tournament brackets, picking the winners all the way to the national champion. (You'll need a Yahoo ID to do this. If you don't have one, it's OK, it's free, easy and zero risk -- click on "Sign Up" when you click to register) CLICK HERE TO REGISTER YOUR BRACKET - MAKE SURE YOUR BRACKET NAME IS YOUR NAME + THE NAME OF YOUR NONPROFIT (e.g. Michael Jordan -- Nets For Life)

*Instead of the winners taking home the pot, all money raised will be given to the designated MDG-related organizations.

*At the end of the tournament, all money donated will be given to MDG-related nonprofits with the following distribution:

1st place - 50%

2nd place - 25%

3rd place - 15%

4th place - 10%

That's it ... it's that easy. Invite everyone you know. The more people enter, the more $ in the pot, the more your favorite nonprofit gets when you win!

To begin.....visit our March Gladness Event on the EGR Facebook Page (!/event.php?eid=318258036524). Check he box, I will be attending. We will contact with instructions; how to sign up, pay your fee, and to fill out your bracket.

If you are not on Facebook or do not wish to join, you can sign up to receice instructions by emailing

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

There is a great Q & A in the NY Times Magazine.

You can find it here.

A new book by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, writing with his daughter, Mpho Tutu, comes out March 9, 2010, Made for Goodness: And why this makes all the difference.

There is a you tube video and mention of his book with his daughter here.
“I speak to audiences across the world and I often get the same questions. ‘Why are you so joyful?’ ‘How do you keep your faith in people when you see so much injustice, oppression and cruelty?’ ‘What makes you so certain that the world is going to get better?’

What these questioners really want to know is what do I see that they’re missing? How do I see the world and my role in it? What are the spiritual practices that uphold me? What do I see in the heart of humanity and in the sweep of history that confirms my conviction that goodness will triumph?

This book is my answer.” ~ Desmond M. Tutu

Sermon: March 7 (3rd Sunday in Lent)

Loving Father, you comfort us in times of misfortune: 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.

Sitting in the Checkout line, I see the headlines…

· Satan Captured
· Heaven Is a Neat Place

Of course, these are outrageous lines and also nonsense, only there to try make us buy their tabloid. But what about these titles?

· Hurricane Katrina God's punishment for sin in New Orleans
· Tsunami in SE Asia formed by sin and faithlessness (and)
· Haiti’s earthquake was divine retribution for a pact with the devil that was sworn long ago

People actually said these things and believe them too. They look to the bible and see divine punishment and make judgments upon today’s tragedies. We have even heard people say that 9/11 was a day God punished America. In their words are no comfort or caring but finger pointing and judgment. Certainly you can find such judgment in the Bible but there are other voices in Scripture that question the idea that sin brings calamity. One could look at the book of Job or read in Isaiah, the call to seek out & call upon God, to turn to the Lord…
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Thankfully, we are not God, we don’t know it all, for there is much we do not understand, but this we can be sure, it is Jesus who reminds us that God does not work that way. On Wednesday nights, we have joined our brothers and sisters from the Lutheran Church for our annual Lenten study. We have been looking for God in the rubble of Haiti. Asking the questions: did God cause it? Why didn’t God prevent it?

In Today’s Gospel, Jesus is confronted with such questions, some told Jesus about the Galileans who Pilate murdered…and of course there was the Tower of Siloam that fell on 18 people who were killed. Obviously they were sinners right, Jesus? Where is God in all of this? Jesus replies, were they bigger sinners than you? No. BUT, you will perish as they did if you do not repent.

I think the point Jesus makes is that our lives have uncertainty, and tragedy befalling a person or family or nation does not mean that God is angry with them, against them or caused it. The frailty of the flesh is that we are mortal and things do happen to us, but we also need to repent of our fear of death and live our lives with God’s gracious gifts. And to illustrate his point, Jesus tells us a parable about a barren fig tree.

The owner wants it cut down for wasting the soul because it has not produced anything for three years, but the gardener says to let it be, while the gardener tries again to help it produce fruit. As parable about the Kingdom of God, it Jesus who is reminding us that we are to produce such good fruit, fruit that comes out of repentance, that is born in a life lived fully. Jesus is the divine gardener who is looking to help our barren lives produce.

If we spend our times condemning others for their supposed sin, pointing out where God has acted against them, we will miss God really acting in the world through us & others. Miracles do happen, There is much to our mysterious God in the ways that God moves through our world in the Spirit. And in the midst of tragedy, whether caused by the Pilate’s of our world who murder others, or in natural acts when earth shakes and towers fall, we are called to live into our faith. In the midst of the tragedy of Haiti, the voice of the Episcopal Bishop, Duracin speaks clearly to that faith:
“As for resources, we have next to nothing. The wreckage is beyond imagination. However, this situation delivers us into faith. I look at this as a baptism. We who are still alive have had the blessing of survival, but in many ways we have died to the ways of the past. We have the opportunity to rise up and start anew. In this moment of grief and mourning, life must continue.”
But Bishop Jean Duracin also sees God’s hand in the tragedy, through the Spirit of God helping them live again…
“It is natural to question, but we hold on in faith to God – God who is always good, the God of infinite compassion. That we were struck by this tragedy does not mean God is not with us. He is here. We must always remember that God lives in this world. There is pain, but there is also joy. He gives us assurance not of the life that ends, but the life that is eternal. In the middle of all the deaths, there is a God of love and of life, and we must shout Alleluia with the living.”
This is our witness too, in the midst of our lives, there is a God of love and of life, and we must shout (or maybe in Lent whisper) Alleluia with the living. That is also evident in the lives of others in Haiti…

Romel Joseph was born to a poor Haitian family, he became so accomplished in the violin that he won a Fulbright scholarship to study at Julliard. He returned to Haiti in 1991 &opened the New Victorian School to teach music to the children of the poor. The New Victorian School was destroyed in the Haitian earthquake. No students were in the building at the time of the quake but Romel was trapped inside the rubble for 18 hours. Tragically, Romel's pregnant wife perished in the earthquake. Romel was flown to Miami where he was treated. Doctors don't know if he'll ever be able to play the violin again. Yet, even in the heartache and wrenching loss, Romel Joseph is determined to rebuild the New Victorian School. "As long as Haiti has children, you have a purpose being there. As long as there are kids there, they have to have a reasonable level of health and they have to have an education. I need more than an earthquake to make me stop my work in Haiti."
[As reported by the Miami Herald, CBS News and National Public Radio.]
That is fruit the Jesus is talking about in the faith of a Bishop, and in the determination of a teacher & musician. And the Gardener said, “Let it alone …If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down…” May we bear that good fruit that God expects from us in our lives today. Amen.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Reflections on Suffering & Serving: Lent 2010

From the Humane Society:

is in full swing. During the 40 days before Easter, many Christians worldwide observe the season with prayerful reflection, fasting, and abstaining from meat and dairy products. Some folks use this time to actively serve others with good works.

The Humane Society of the US has delicious recipes for Lent as well as ideas for helping animals in your community. Find out more about animal protection issues in your state, as well as perfect projects for youth groups.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Phoenix at odds with church that feeds needy

Speaking of faith & politics, I just saw this over the wire...
PHOENIX – On Saturday mornings, crowds of homeless gather with other needy people at picnic tables outside a church in an upscale Phoenix neighborhood, listen to sermons and settle in for sausage, pancakes and scrambled eggs.

The pastor says it's the Lord's work. Neighbors say it should be done elsewhere.

Residents say the homeless create blight and pose a danger to them, pointing to the case of a homeless felon caught with child pornography in the neighborhood. A complaint prompted city officials to order the year-old breakfast halted, saying it violated zoning laws.

Now, the dispute is in federal court in Phoenix, with the church saying the city is violating its First Amendment rights and a federal law that protects religious groups from city zoning rules.

"This is what it means to be a church," says the Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank of the CrossRoads United Methodist Church. "We're just trying to take care of some people who are hungry and trying to reach out to our neighborhood."

City officials say they've never disagreed that the church is doing good work, but that it's operating as a charity dining hall in violation of zoning laws. The church is on a busy street, lined with homes with well-manicured lawns.

Read the whole thing here.

A Prayer for Lent

Grant us, Almighty God, that by our annual observance of Lenten discipline, we may grow in the knowledge of Christ, and make our lives worthy of his love; for his sake, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sermon: February 28 (2nd Lent)

You can imagine the wanted posters up around Israel, with titles declaring him Activist, Criminal, Rebel. All the terms that Herod would have used against Jesus. John the Baptist was already arrested. His cousin Jesus had now attracted enough attention from Herod, think of the healings, the parables, and Jesus who never accepted Herod’s authority and avoided his capitals. Some Pharisees felt they had to warn Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him. And Jesus replied,
"Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way."
Those words remind us that Jesus lived in a time where politics and religion were intertwined, as they are today. He knew that Herod Antipas had no power to stop him but he also knew there was a price too…
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!"
Jesus knew he would get into trouble from the powers that be. He challenged them directly and indirectly. But they would not interfere in his mission, in what he was called to do, in his proclamations, in healings, in all that was part of his ministry. 2,000 years later, sometimes we lose the sense of the provocative nature of his ministry but not always. I think of…

Those in the unofficial Church in China, who stay hidden to hear God’s word without oversight from the Chinese Government.

A Washington DC Church which started a soup kitchen; local residents took the church to court to shut them down.

A National Church Body that was denied an opportunity to advertise during the Super Bowl when the network rejected their ad showing that gay people were welcome at their worship services.

The IRS announced that it will investigate an Episcopal Church for a sermon given just before election day that criticized the president and the war.

These are but a few examples of where Churches get into hot water because they were following God’s call to mission and those in power reacted. But we can also get overly connected with the political system too. In a study of the religious habits of young adults, the Millennial Generation, the study concluded
“But youth's religious disaffection and dropping out of organized religion is largely due to discomfort with religiosity having been tied to [conservative] politics."
For many in the younger generation have looked at the Church being too cozy with partisan politics, that the Church and the parties have become too synonymous, that the Church is OK with the status quo. Religion and politics has been of the American landscape, especially when we consider the movements to end slavery (the abolitionists) to the suffragettes to the temperance movement, to the civil rights movement & today with our care for creation with the environmental movement. As Martin Luther King, Jr. put it,
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”
We must have a voice in today’s politics but it must go hand in hand with our Gospel beliefs. When Desmond Tutu, the retired Anglican Archbishop of South Africa was criticized for being too political , he said
“I don't preach a social gospel; I preach the Gospel, period. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned for the whole person. When people were hungry, Jesus didn't say, "Now is that political or social?" He said, "I feed you." Because the good news to a hungry person is bread.”
The challenge remains for us to not get tied down to the politics of the day but rather make sure what we are doing is in line with the Gospel. John Danforth, was once a senator from Missouri and an ambassador to Sudan, he also happens to be an Episcopal Priest. When asked about his view on religion and politics he said,
“it's what like St. Paul says, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. I mean, you're not going to know, and that's the point, to bring to this humility, but to bring to it a good-faith effort to try to live a faithful life and to try to act in the realm of politics as a faithful person. Knowing, however, that you are not the grand oracle of God's wisdom and that God's truth is not your truth — there's going to be a gap there — and a recognition that the other person who has come to very different conclusions also has made a good-faith effort to be a follower of the Lord. So, I mean, I think it's a matter of good faith and trying your best, but bringing humility to bear.”
Danforth’s moderate approach has much to be said for it. Whenever we enter into politics faithful, humility should also be with us. As I thought about how some might today be bringing their faith into the realm of politics in a way that make it the conscience of the state and not a tool, I think of a group called the elders.
“The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.”
They are working in places like Cyprus and Sudan, Gaza and Myanmar, to “promote dialogue and peace building; and supporting efforts to alleviate human suffering, particularly caused by armed conflict, extreme poverty, injustice or intolerance.” Two of the elders that I know best are Jimmy Carter, our former president and Desmond Tutu, both of whom are doing this out of their own faith. It strikes me that what they are doing is what Jesus talks about
“How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…”
And I think we get it right, when we know that Jesus would be walking with us, to help alleviate poverty and end war, to help reconcile those torn a part, to raise the concerns of those in need and to help witness to the love that God has for all of God’s children.
“Despite all of the ghastliness in the world, human beings are made for goodness. The ones that are held in high regard are not militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. They have a commitment to try and make the world a better place.”(Desmond Tutu)

Speaking of Faith

This page is the transcript of an interview with John Danforth entitled: Conservative Politics & Moderate Religion

I used his thoughts in my sermon & it is well worth a read (or a listen if your prefer) on politics & religion.

Favorite quote of his:
Well, I think you, you know, I mean, it's what like St. Paul says, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. I mean, you're not going to know, and that's the point, to bring to this humility, but to bring to it a good-faith effort to try to live a faithful life and to try to act in the realm of politics as a faithful person. Knowing, however, that you are not the grand oracle of God's wisdom and that God's truth is not your truth — there's going to be a gap there — and a recognition that the other person who has come to very different conclusions also has made a good-faith effort to be a follower of the Lord. So, I mean, I think it's a matter of good faith and trying your best, but bringing humility to bear.