Sunday, May 30, 2010

Trinity Prayer

from the New Zealand Prayer Book:

God of unchangeable power,
you have revealed yourself
to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit;
keep us firm in this faith
that we may praise and bless your holy name;
for you are one God now and for ever.

NZPB p.606

Trinity Sunday (Poem)

Lord, who hast formed me out of mud,
And hast redeemed me through thy blood,
And sanctified me to do good,

Purge all my sins done heretofore;
For I confess my heavy score,
And I will strive to sin no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charity,
That I may run, rise, rest with thee.

by George Herbert

Trinity Sermon

Taxiing my kids between sporting event this week, I heard a song on the radio with these lyrics:
I'm still alive but I'm barely breathing
Just prayed to a God that I don't believe in
(Breakeven by The Script)
It is a song about broken hearts, broken dreams, but it is that line about “praying to a God I don’t believe in” that caught my attention. I wondered what God they were talking about. From childhood? From our culture? And then I thought about what our prayers say about us and what we believe. Who is our God?

The author C.S. Lewis tells us what our prayers say...
An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God--that Christ is standing right beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying - the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on - the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers.
The truth about the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is said in our prayers. Its not so much an understanding, a belief beyond us but God within us. As Jeremy Taylor, bishop and one of the authors of the King James Bible, put it this way:
No man can be convinced well and wisely of the article of the holy, blessed, and undivided Trinity, but he that feels the mightiness of the Father begetting him to a new life, the wisdom of the Son building him up in a most holy faith, and the love of the Spirit of God making him to become like unto God.
For St. Patrick and the Celtic Christians, the Trinity was often used in prayers. Patrick said, "I must teach from the rule of faith of the Trinity." As he ministered to the people of Ireland as bishop and missionary, it was the Trinity that he used to confess: of God the Father, Son & HS and the people converted to faith in Jesus Christ and faith in the Trinity. "We confess and adore him, one God in the Trinity of sacred name."

The shamrock has become a symbol of the Trinity and is used to remember Patrick and his work with the Irish and the Trinity to which he confessed. Legend has it that he used the shamrock as symbol of the Trinity with its three leaves. Patrick's life was full of dangers and hardships but his prayers and confession speak of his faith & reliance on the Trinity, on our God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As Christians, following in the footsteps of Patrick, Jeremy Taylor & C S Lewis, our prayers are grounded in the Trinity even if we are unaware, for the Father who created us, the Son who redeemed us and the Spirit given to us at baptism to guide us now, are still all active in our lives today.

Maybe the best way to understand it all, is through a poem, for maybe it is the poets who can help us best today. George Herbert, priest and poet in the Church of England lived some of his life in faithful service of his congregations in Cambridgeshire and Salisbury. And it is there he wrote his poem for Trinity Sunday. Herbert prays to the triune God, here described as creator, savior and sanctifier, for forgiveness and the power to serve God all of our days. This is a prayer that we can make our own on this Trinity Sunday:
Lord, who hast formed me out of mud,
And hast redeemed me through thy blood,
And sanctified me to do good,

Purge all my sins done heretofore;
For I confess my heavy score,
And I will strive to sin no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charity,
That I may run, rise, rest with thee.

Two Thoughts on the Gulf Oil Spill

(1) Sins Against Nature and God: We Are All Accountable for Ignoring the Global Consequences of Environmental Exploitation by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Once again, in a matter only of a few years, the eyes of the world are turned with suspense toward the Gulf Coast. Sadly, the oil spill is following a path similar to Hurricane Katrina and threatening the coast of Louisiana as well as neighboring states.

As citizens of God's creation, we perceive this monumental spill of crude oil in the oceans of our planet as a sign of how far we have moved from the purpose of God's creation. Our immediate reaction is to pray fervently for the urgent and efficient response to the current crisis, to mourn painfully for the sacrifice of human life as well as for the loss of marine life and wildlife, and to support the people and communities of the region, whose livelihood directly depends on the fisheries of the Gulf.

But as the first bishop of the world's second-largest Christian Church, we also have a responsibility not only to pray, but also to declare that to mistreat the natural environment is to sin against humanity, against all living things, and against our creator God. All of us -- individuals, institutions, and industries alike -- bear responsibility; all of us are accountable for ignoring the global consequences of environmental exploitation. Katrina -- we knew -- was a natural calamity. This time -- we know -- it is a man-made disaster. One deepwater pipe will impact millions of lives in several states as well as countless businesses and industries.
Read the whole article here.

(2) A Lesson from the Gulf Oil Spill: We Are All Connected by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

The original peoples of the North American continent understand that we are all connected, and that harm to one part of the sacred circle of life harms the whole. Scientists, both the ecological and physical sorts, know the same reality, expressed in different terms. The Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) also charge human beings with care for the whole of creation, because it is God's good gift to humanity. Another way of saying this is that we are all connected and there is no escape; our common future depends on how we care for the rest of the natural world, not just the square feet of soil we may call "our own." We breathe the same air, our food comes from the same ground and seas, and the water we have to share cycles through the same airshed, watershed, and terra firma.

The still-unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is good evidence of the interconnectedness of the whole. It has its origins in this nation's addiction to oil, uninhibited growth, and consumerism, as well as old-fashioned greed and what my tradition calls hubris and idolatry. Our collective sins are being visited on those who have had little or no part in them: birds, marine mammals, the tiny plants and animals that constitute the base of the vast food chain in the Gulf, and on which a major part of the seafood production of the United States depends. Our sins are being visited on the fishers of southern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, who seek to feed their families with the proceeds of what they catch each day. Our sins will expose New Orleans and other coastal cities to the increased likelihood of devastating floods, as the marshes that constitute the shrinking margin of storm protection continue to disappear, fouled and killed by oil.

Read the whole article here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day Prayer

ALMIGHTY God, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy and especially for those men and women who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to those who are commemorated on our memorials in Monroe and those written in our hearts your mercy and the light of your presence. And give, O Lord, to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will. And in your name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Winds of God (Poem)

Oh, the winds of God are blowing,
So keep your sails unfurled.
And the winds of God will take you,
To safe harbors of the world.

Forever they’re in motion,
to take you where you will.
Forever full of power,
if there are sails to fill.

But they cannot do their duty,
If you should reef your sail,
The winds would still be blowing,
But they blow to no avail.

So, if upon your voyage,
Becalmed your ship or slow,
Oh, blame it not to winds of God,
He doth not wish it so.

So take the helm, be master.
Unfurling sails your part.
And the winds of God will take you,
to the Harbor of your heart.

[“The Winds of God” By Nellie Olmsted Lincoln - used in my Pentecost Sermon - first came across this at St. Dorothy's Rest in CA.]

Pentecost Sermon

Enter our hearts, O Holy Spirit, come in blessed mercy and set us free. Throw open, O Lord, the locked doors of our minds; cleanse the chambers of our thoughts for thy dwelling: Light there the fires of thine own holy brightness in new understandings of truth, O Holy Spirit, very God, whose presence is liberty, grant us the perfect freedom to be thy servants today, tomorrow and evermore. Amen.
Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu has observed that “God is continually breathing into our nostrils.” In a wonderful way, Tutu reminds us of the fact that not only is our life the creation of God, but that every moment of our life is also sustained by God. And on this day of Pentecost, we are reminded that the same Holy Spirit that blew at the beginning of creation, where God breathed life into all living beings, into creation, is the same breath God gave to each of us.

Today we celebrate with those who were confirmed yesterday that the Holy Spirit continues to move in their lives as the bishop laid hands on each of them, asking that the Holy Spirit strengthen and empower them for their lives in Christ. It is that same Spirit that will come upon Emmerson, Edward, Caroline and David when they are baptized this morning. In these actions, both at baptism and confirmation, we remind ourselves that God is continually breathing into us, that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives.

Last week, I spoke about the ascension of Jesus. That after his resurrection appearances to the disciples, Jesus ascended to heaven, he was no longer with them, and he let them go, so they could do their work, for it became their ministry and they were entrusted with it. How they were able to do that ministry is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit that breathed over creation at its birth, is the same rushing wind that is poured upon the disciples in the first reading from Acts of the Apostles:
“Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”
The Spirit rested on each one, like fire, empowering them to proclaim the Good News in the languages of those who were present in Jerusalem. The people hear about Jesus in their own language and about God’s deeds of power, and they are amazed. The Church continues to bear witness to the world by the Holy Spirit which guides it, strengthens it, reforms it, equips it for the ministry that Jesus has shown us and for which God intends us to live.

In Baptism, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. In Baptism, we become part of the body of Christ, for there is one Body and One Spirit. At confirmation, we recognize those baptismal vows and once again the Spirit is recognized as force in our lives. It is that Spirit that is given to each of us at our baptism and remembered in our confirmation, the Spirit of God that guides us for the common good.

But what does it mean to be led by the Spirit today?

One way to think of the Spirit is like that wind on that first Pentecost. The Hebrew word for Spirit can mean wind or breath. The early Christian community experienced God's spirit as a "wind" propelling the ship, the Church; for they perceived the Spirit in their midst as the very breath of God filling their community with his life and love and animating them to do the work of the Gospel, which Jesus has called them to do.

Today, I think of a young lady who is sailing around the world. Her name is Abby Sunderland and she is attempting to become the world's youngest solo circumnavigator in a sailboat at age 16. The wind is a big deal for her.
In sailing, the best condition is to have the wind at your back; the worst is no wind at all because you don’t move. But the most common situation is a headwind coming at your craft from varying angles. So skilled sailors learn how to reach their destination in a headwind by "tacking" into the wind: setting their sails so they can move forward, indirectly, toward their destination in a zigzag fashion. Progress can be slow, but it is steady, and the best sailors are those who have learned to "read" the wind: who know how to make the best forward progress against the wind's resistance, when to "come about" to make a turn and reset their sails.
The challenge of Pentecost is to sense God's Spirit in our midst. Sometimes the Spirit of God requires us to "come about" and move more slowly, more intentionally, than we'd like; often the Spirit forces us to "tack" in directions that cause us to pause and reconsider our decisions to move forward. It is the Spirit that moves us forward that animates us to do the work of the Gospel, that makes God's will our will, the Spirit of God living in us and transforming us so that we might bring his life and love into our broken world.

But we must do our part, be open to the Spirit blowing into our lives, God breathing into us, to have a sense of God guidance. Let me end with a poem I found a few years ago about the Winds of God:

Oh, the winds of God are blowing,
So keep your sails unfurled.
And the winds of God will take you,
To safe harbors of the world.

Forever they’re in motion,
to take you where you will.
Forever full of power,
if there are sails to fill.

But they cannot do their duty,
If you should reef your sail,
The winds would still be blowing,
But they blow to no avail.

So, if upon your voyage,
Becalmed your ship or slow,
Oh, blame it not to winds of God,
He doth not wish it so.

So take the helm, be master.
Unfurling sails your part.
And the winds of God will take you,
to the Harbor of your heart.

[“The Winds of God” By Nellie Olmsted Lincoln]

World Cup Prayer

The Archbishop’s prayer reads:

God bless the 2010 World Cup: bless those who compete, and those who watch, bless those who host, and those who visit, and help all who love the 'the beautiful game' grow in the love you have given us to share. Amen

You can read the article here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A though for Pentecost

Excerpt from Prayers for the Breaking of Bread: Meditations on the Collects of the Church Year by Herbert O’Driscoll (Cowley Publications, 1991).

Desmond Tutu of Capetown observed recently that “God is continually breathing into our nostrils.” It is a vivid way of expressing the fact that not only is our life the creation of God, but that every moment of our life is also sustained by God. We are not only made. We continue to be made. It is possible to say that we are not so much human “beings” as human “becomings.”

[The collect for this day] begins, “O Lord, make us. . . .” It is so easy to leave those four words behind, so easy to hurry on to the seemingly more significant words that immediately follow. But we would be wrong to do so. Instead, it is very much worth our while to stop and reflect on the fact that God not only has made us, but continually makes us. . . .

In what sense does God make us? We are most aware of being made physically. . . .As we learn to see life more in terms of the whole, we come to perceive it as a great web of being. We realize we are being made in every way—physically, mentally, psychologically, spiritually.

The reason it is so important for us to realize this is that only then can we open all the elements of our lives to God. Western culture has so thoroughly divided up reality that we have lost a sense of the whole being through which God’s grace is manifested. Our physical exercise, our eating habits, our sexuality, our thinking—all these can become as spiritual an activity as receiving the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Our reading, our use of television or movies, our education, and our job can all be channels for God. Our concern for self-development and the development of others around us, our fostering of relationships, all this energy in our lives can be understood as the process of God’s making of us. Thus our spirituality does not float around on the margin of our lives, but every activity is the stuff of spirituality. To achieve this realization is to become a man or woman made by and for God, a truly whole human being.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Eucharistic Poem

I found this lovely poem the other day as I read through Wendell Berry's A Timbered Choir.

It struck me as poem that would fit well with our understanding of Eucharist and the journey we each take to find such a welcoming place where wine and bread are offered.

Remembering Evia
by Wendell Berry

We went in darkness where
We did not know, or why
Or how we'd come so far
Past sight or memory.

We climbed a narrow path
Up a moon-shadowed slope.
The guide we journeyed with
Held a small light. And step

By step our shadows rose
With us, and then fell back
Before the shine of windows
That opened in the black

Hillside, or so it seemed.
We reached a windy porch
As if both seen and dreamed
On its dark, lofty perch

Between the sky and sea.
A lamplit table spread
Old hospitality
Of cheese and wine and bread.

Darker than wine, the waves
Muttered upon the stones,
Asking whose time it was,
Our time or Agamemnon's.

The sea's undying sound
Demarked a land unknown
To us, who therein found
Welcome, our travel done.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay.
Want more of everything made.
Be afraid to know you neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery any more.
Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something they will call you.
When they want you to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something that won't compute.
Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace the flag.
Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands.
Give you approval to all you cannot understand.
Praise ignorance,
for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium.
Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit.
Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees every thousand years.
Listen to carrion--put your ear close,
and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable.
Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap for power,
please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade.
Rest your head in her lap.
Swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it.
Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn't go.
Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Easter 7 Sermon (May 16)

I remember teaching my children to ride a bike. First came the training wheels and then came the day they wanted them off. Slowly, slowly, they pulled away from me as I held the bike up. A few crashes later they were confident and riding around the parking lot on their own. Part of life is in giving them the freedom to learn, to crash, to pick themselves sup, try again and to trust themselves.

That in a nutshell is what the Ascension is all about The disciples were lost without Jesus when they thought it was all over with his crucifixion but after the Resurrection when he kept appearing to them, helping them understand their ministry, their calling, they grew confident in who they were. Then in the Ascension, as they watch Jesus leave, he has let them go to do their work. They will crash, they will have bumps and bruises but it is now their ministry and they are entrusted with it.

We see that in the ministry of Paul and Silas in Macedonia. It was Jesus who confronted Paul on that road to Damascus and the Holy Spirit becomes his guide for his ministry; setting him free from hatred to love others as Christ loved him. In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles:

-a slave-girl: spirit of divination, profit source! she knows Paul and his companions: proclaim a way of salvation.

-Paul is annoyed by her and he casts out her spirit…and she is set free, but the owners cannot exploit her anymore and they are angry. Paul & Silas are thrown into jail; beaten for such an act.

They never get to that place of prayer that they were headed too, but they do continue their ministry.

-so even in jail, shackled away from others they pray and sing songs to God; prisoners were listening of course it was midnight, how could they sleep? An earthquake strikes, the doors open, they are free

-the jailer is ready to do himself in, he would be blamed, but they are still there: What must I do to be saved? The jailer asks. Believe in the Lord Jesus.

Such persistence in their calling pays off as the jailer hears the words of salvation: Believe in Jesus. And the Holy Spirit moved that night; Paul & Silas are free; the jailer brings Paul & Silas to his home to take care of their wounds, to give them food and the jailer and his household are baptized and freed. Salvation comes to that household and the grace of God is present in their witness.

Part of our calling as Christians is to discover our ministry. For we live after the Ascension, when Jesus is gone. We live in that Eastertide, in the New Life Jesus has given us. Its up to us, relying on the Holy Spirit, to discover our mission in God’s grand scheme of things and then go out and do it.

Josh was a college student spending his vacation working with a relief organization that built housing in underdeveloped countries. Josh made friends with a number of the children in the village. One boy, Obioma, especially endeared himself with the college volunteers. Always upbeat and smiling, Obioma was eager to do whatever he could to help. Josh noticed that Obioma wore the same dingy shirt every day. So he scrounged up three T-shirts from what he and the other students had brought and that family and friends back home had donated. The shirts were a little big on Obioma, but he'd grow into them.

When Josh gave the shirts to the little boy, Obioma gave him a big hug and broad smile. The next day, Josh saw two older boys wearing shirts he had just given to Obioma. Fearing the worst, Josh went looking for Obioma to make sure he was all right. "Those gifts were for you, Obioma, so you'd have a change of clothes," Josh told his little friend. Obioma replied, "But, Mr. Josh, you gave me so many!" [From More Random Acts of Kindness.]
The generosity that Josh shares is returned by Obioma as he shares generously with others. In his calling to reach out and help, Josh not only discovered his mission but he helped another live out his mission too. We live out our mission where we are, as the poet, KY farmer and Christian, Wendell berry reminds us that Jesus’ call to live the abundant life means: We become “conscious, consenting and responsible participants in the one great life.” Right where we are.

Or as he puts it in one of his poems:
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
Practice resurrection.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ascension Day Prayer

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rogation Prayers

Rogation Days - Days set apart for special prayers for God's blessing on crops, flocks, herds and other agricultural means of livelihood. From the Latin word rogare, meaning "to beseech." Rogation Days are observed on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Day.

The prayers for Rogation Days:

I. For fruitful seasons

Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: We humbly pray
that your gracious providence may give and preserve to our
use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper
all who labor to gather them, that we, who are constantly
receiving good things from your hand, may always give you
thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

II. For Commerce and Industry

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ in his earthly life
shared our toil and hallowed our labor: Be present with your
people where they work; make those who carry on the industries
and commerce of this land responsive to your will; and give
to us all a pride in what we do, and a just return for our labor;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for
ever. Amen.

III. For stewardship of creation

O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the
needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for
your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the
account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards
of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with
you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Where were the Leaders?": The MDGs at Ten-Years Old

The Millennium Development Goals are now 10 years old.

Here is an important article by Alexander Baumgarten:
One of the heroes of the Anglican Communion, Father Gideon Byamugisha, an HIV-positive priest in the Church of Uganda, asks us to imagine a world in 25 years that did not summon the moral and political will to eradicate extreme poverty and deadly disease. He speaks of those who will be “survivors” twenty-five years from now.

“The greatest and most obvious gaps that survivors will wonder about, and be angry about” he says, “are the missed opportunities, the lack of political will and the lack of total commitment by those of us in leadership positions to use all that we knew and all that we had to fight [poverty and disease.] They will surely ask ‘What went wrong?’ ‘What prevented us from transforming the knowledge and the resources we had, into focused will and targeted action?’ ‘Who were the world leaders at that time?’”

The world is now less-than five years away from the completion point of the Millennium Development Goals, the commitments made a decade ago by world leaders to cut deadly poverty around the world in half by 2015. By some measures, important progress is being made in impoverished countries as a result of MDG initiatives. Consider, for example, the way in which debt cancellation has allowed poor countries like Tanzania to boost primary-school enrollment rates to unexpected levels.

But what about political will in countries like the United States, the momentum that will define whether the world makes it over the finish line for the MDGs by 2015?
Read his whole article here.

And as reminder of the hard work left to be done, is this piece from the NY Times:

At Front Lines, AIDS War Is Falling Apart

An excerpt:
Uganda is the first and most obvious example of how the war on global AIDS is falling apart.  The last decade has been what some doctors call a “golden window” for treatment. Drugs that once cost $12,000 a year fell to less than $100, and the world was willing to pay.  In Uganda, where fewer than 10,000 were on drugs a decade ago, nearly 200,000 now are, largely as a result of American generosity. But the golden window is closing.
Uganda is the first country where major clinics routinely turn people away, but it will not be the last. In Kenya next door, grants to keep 200,000 on drugs will expire soon. An American-run program in Mozambique has been told to stop opening clinics. There have been drug shortages in Nigeria and Swaziland. Tanzania and Botswana are trimming treatment slots, according to a report by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders.

The collapse was set off by the global recession’s effect on donors, and by a growing sense that more lives would be saved by fighting other, cheaper diseases. Even as the number of people infected by AIDS grows by a million a year, money for treatment has stopped growing.
Read the whole article.

A prayer for us and the MDGs:

Most loving God,
as your desire for mercy for the poor is unrelenting,
may we be unrelenting in our pursuit of mercy for all;
as your compassion for the suffering of the poor knows no limit,
may our hearts overflow with compassion for all;
as you long for justice for the poor,
may we strive for justice for all.
Open our eyes to the structures of oppression from which we benefit,
and give us courage to accept our responsibility,
wisdom to chart a sound course amid complexity,
and perseverance to continue our work until it is finished.
Breathe your life-giving Spirit afresh into your Church
to free us from apathy and indifference;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(from EGR)

Easter Blessing used on Sunday

Live without fear: your Creator has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Go in peace to follow the good road and may God’s blessing be with you always. Amen

(From St. Clare)

A Song of Christ’s Goodness

A Song of Christ’s Goodness by Anselm of Canterbury (1033 – 1109)

Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you; *
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

Often you weep over our sins and our pride, *
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgment.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds, *
in sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us.

Jesus, by your dying, we are born to new life; *
by your anguish and labor we come forth in joy.

Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness; *
through your gentleness, we find comfort in fear.

Your warmth gives life to the dead, *
your touch makes sinners righteous.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy, heal us; *
in your love and tenderness, remake us.

In your compassion, bring grace and forgiveness, *
for the beauty of heaven, may your love prepare us.

Easter 6 Sermon (May 9)

On this Mother’s Day, we pray for all the mothers among us today: for our own mothers, those living and those who have died; for the mothers who loved us and for those who fell short of loving us fully; for all who hope to be mothers someday, and for those whose hopes to have children have been frustrated; for all mothers who have lost children. We pray this all in the name of our one, holy and living God, who has chosen to be our Mother in all things. Amen.

Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, it is the right time to remember the mothers of our faith who have helped spread the good news, who taught others about faith and perseverance, about love, joy and hope.

Our first reading tells us about a woman named Lydia, who was a worshiper of God from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. She listened to what Paul said, and the Lord opened her heart. When she and her household were baptized, she offered hospitality to Paul and others at her house. She caught the fire of the Spirit that day, and as Lydia’s heart was opened by God, she opened her house to Paul & others. One wonders how many heard the Good News that day at her house. It is people like Lydia, who not only heard the word of God, but responded to it in their lives, that helped spread it.

A few centuries later it would be another mother passing on her faith to her family. Monica mother of Augustine of Hippo, helped her son’s conversion and embrace of the Christian faith. It was Monica’s care and guidance that would help Augustine embrace what his mother long held even when he had wandered far from his childhood upbringing. Augustine is an important figure in the early church and his writings, such as his Confessions of St. Augustine & The City of God, would be two important cornerstones for the Western Church. Even as Monica lay dying in a foreign city, she still passed on her faith to her family.
“It does not matter where you bury my body. Do not let that worry you. Nothing is far from God, and I need have no fear that he will not know where to find me, when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world.”
Her hope and faith would live on in her sons, for she not only heard the word of God, she passed it on. A millennium after Monica, Dame Julian of Norwich was a spiritual mother to anyone who sought her help. She was an anchoress (a type of religious hermit) and lived in a small dwelling attached to the Church of St. Julian in Norwich (England) and was known for her knowledge of the Lord and her good counsel. Such care for others was for Julian connected with our loving God, in her words…
God chose to be our mother in all things
and so made the foundation of his work,
most humbly and most pure, in the Virgin’s womb.
God, the perfect wisdom of all, arrayed himself in this humble place.
Christ came in our poor flesh to share a mother’s care.
Julian likewise sought to care for all those who came to her, with such words that God had given to her:
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
And passing along wise counsel, she passed along the faith to new generations of Christians in England. In Lydia, Monica & Julian we find the foundations of our faith. Today we are the children of the faith that they passed on to others. Whether they shared it with disciples, their children or anyone who came seeking God, these mothers to our faith helped carry on and plant what we harvest today. So how do we, following their example share that faith today?

Mother’s Day has become an important day to remember the mothers in our lives & those who have given us motherly care but also a day when we can begin to transform our world and help mothers throughout the world live the fullest of lives with their children. When Mother’s Day was conceived a century ago, those celebrations called for an end to war and now we see in many celebrations the honoring of women for the work they do providing for their families, we hear calls for the changing of unjust laws, we see mothers risking jail or death for a better life for their communities and the world, and many working for a safe and healthy world for all families.

Today, is a day we can act and empower women around the world, for this is our act of faith today. It is up to us for we have been given the Spirit to act, to live into the fullness of life that God has given to us. For it all belongs to God and we are called to share it with others, like Lydia, Monica & Julian. And as Anselm of Canterbury put it nearly a millennium ago, it all rests in Christ’s goodness and motherly care for us all. So let us end with Anselm’s words (see this blog post). Amen.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Easter 5 Sermon (May 2)

Jackie DeShannon sang to us “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”
The Beatles told us, all we need is love.
U2 asked where is the love?

Of course St. Paul said “The greatest of these is love.”

And it is Jesus who tells us about love in today’s gospel. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The greatest challenge that we have as Christians, is to be that open, loving person that Christ calls us to be. It is a love as Jesus and his disciples understood it, love that connects one to kin or friends, family or village. It wasn’t just a feeling but love that also entailed an action, one that supported the well being to those whom one loved.

At home the other night, it was a child waking up from a nightmare, needing the hug of reassurance from mommy that everything will be OK.

We see that love in the life of Jesus, who gave his life for his friends, to those whom he loved. A saving action that shows the depth of his love and his connection to them & us. We are his family & he gave his life for us. It is this love that Jesus tells his disciples to follow, to give to one another. It is not his new suggestion, or his new idea, or his new thought. This is Jesus new commandment for us. Jesus never held back his love and yet we constantly put barriers around ours, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. Sure, we have loved people who look like us, or talked like us, or believed the same things as us, but Jesus will not allow us to live with such a narrow view of his love.
I am reminded of a beautiful collect from the Book of Common Prayer, which begins with… "Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace. "
What Jesus asks of us, is to help with that saving embrace, how we reach out our arms of love to this world. A world that is so filled with hate, spite, violence, inequality, and death. As we think of that saving embrace and that love that Jesus commands us to give, I thought about what is that love to a homeless man …
His name was Hugo, and he was homeless, but one night he stepped in to help a woman in need. He was stabbed while attempting to rescue a woman from an attacker, and as he lay dying on the New York City sidewalk, two dozen people walked by without stopping or calling for help. We failed to see his humanity for he was homeless and he died alone on a street in a city of millions, if just one person had called... Any animal that is hurt on the street, the city or anybody walking by goes to rescue it. But in this case, he saved this woman’s life, and where was the conscience of the people around him? They have to realize that it could be a member of their family who is the next victim. - Rolando Tale-Yax, Hugo’s brother (Source: USA Today)
We need to love even those in our midst whom we are not used to loving or seeing, like the homeless or immigrants or anyone. For if we love one another as Jesus commanded, loving as deeply as we can, than we honor the love of God even when we don’t think we are loving God. For this love is not just about loving those whom we like or agree with. Think of the Last Supper with Jesus, and at the foot washing of the disciples, Judas, his betrayer was among them. He ate with them, his feet were washed. Jesus still loved Judas, even when Judas refused to love… This love Jesus commands is much more complicated and difficult, for it asks us to do more, to love even if we don’t feel like it.
As the monk Charles de Foucauld wrote: “love consists not in feeling that you love, but in the will to love.”
So what is love to someone in need of a transplant?
East Haven Mayor April Capone Almon offered to be tested as a potential match after Carlos Sanchez, one of more than 1,600 of her Facebook friends, posted a status update on the social networking site last summer that said his friends and family all had been tested and couldn't donate a kidney to him. (from NPR) She was tested and was a match and she donated her kidney to him. "I don't want people to see this as something larger than life," she said. "There's nothing special about me. Anybody can try to do this, and if it's meant to be, you'll be a match and a donor and you can really help someone."
Indeed we are all called on to love one another. It’s the will to act, to love and not sit on the sidelines that marks us a Christ’s own. To share with someone in need, to be tested is an act of love to a complete stranger or a facebook friend. It can be a small simple act for a loved one and after the town was made purple yesterday in support of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, I thought of this story I recently read:
Cindy was diagnosed with breast cancer. After surgery and six rounds of chemo therapy, Cindy's hair first shed and then fell out in clumps. "Shave my head," Cindy asked her husband. So Cindy sat down on a bathroom chair and Willie slowly and gently began to shave his beloved's head. When he finished, Willie gently massaged her shoulders and squeezed her hands as Cindy looked in the mirror. But her image in the mirror mattered little; what Cindy remembers was the closeness of that moment. As Cindy watched Willie gather up the scraps of hair. She remembers: "I could see that the act of shaving my head had given my husband great joy; he'd been able to do something for me at a time when he'd felt helpless to help me. As for me, it was perhaps the most romantic, spiritual night of my wedded life." [From "The Most Spiritually Intimate Minutes of My Marriage" by Cindy Williams Newsome, Spirituality & Health, January-February 2010.]
The love of Christ exists in such seemingly small moments and acts of compassion, hugging a child after a nightmare, giving a kidney to someone in need, helping a spouse deal with their cancer. Our identity as disciples of Christ is centered in such persistent and constant love towards our loved ones and strangers. Today, we are called in faithfulness to imitate the compassion and forgiveness of our Risen Lord with an openness of heart and in a spirit to love selflessly, completely and unconditionally, just as God has loved us in Jesus Christ. Amen.