Thursday, October 28, 2010


I love it! Thanks to the Episcopal Cafe for posting this and to Austin the artist! Bravo!

When you think of Christians & Gays/Lesbians...

Sadly its this picture that springs to mind.

It must make God weep to see some who claim to be followers of Jesus more interested in hate than living out the life that Jesus calls us to do.

A recent NPR Story (Religious Undercurrent Ripples In Anti-Gay Bullying) states:

The Department of Education sent a letter to schools, colleges and universities Tuesday warning them that failing to stop bullying could violate federal anti-discrimination laws. The letter comes amid growing concern that there may be a religious undercurrent to the harassment of teens who are seen as gay.

Consider Justin Anderson, who graduated from Blaine High School outside Minneapolis last year. He says his teenage years were a living hell. From sixth grade on, he heard the same taunts.

"People say things like, 'Fags should just disappear so we don't have to deal with them anymore'; and, 'Fags are disgusting and sinful,' " he told the Anoka-Hennepin School Board. "And still, there was no one intervening. I began to feel so worthless and ashamed and unloved that I began to think about taking my life."

Anderson told his story at a public hearing last month — a hearing convened because in the past year, the district has seen a spate of student suicides. Four of those suicides have been linked to anti-gay bullying.

Justin Anderson survived. Justin Aaberg did not. Aaberg, 15, loved the cello, both playing and composing numbers like "Incinerate," which he posted on YouTube. Justin was openly gay. He had plenty of friends, but he was repeatedly bullied in his school. In July, his mother, Tammy, found her teenage son hanging from his bed frame.

"They were calling him, 'Faggot, you're gay,' " she recalls. " 'The Bible says that you're going to burn hell.' 'God doesn't love you.' Things like that."

Read the whole story here.

What should we say to those being bullied? They are children of God and loved by God! Go here for a blessing for those who are being bullied.

We can also make a pledge to follow the Golden Rule. It simply says:
This is what I’m doing:
I pledge to treat others the way I want to be treated.
Will you join me in this pledge?
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31).
Find out more here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Diocesan Convention

On Oct 22 - 23 was the 226th Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of CT.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Blessing for those who are being bullied

Episcopalians "Believe Out Loud": A Blessing for those who are being bullied: "If you are a GLBT boy or girl, man or woman, who is being bullied, then this blessing is for you. Carry it with you. Keep it near you at all..."

Just found this! Bravo Integrity & Bishop Charleston!

October 24 Sermon (Proper 25)

On my way up to Hartford for Diocesan Convention, I passed by a Pumpkin Farm off of I-91. The farm was large but the number of pumpkins, hundreds and hundreds of them, was amazing. It seemed like they stretched on forever; the crop was abundant. I thought of a line from today’s psalm:
You visit the earth and water it abundantly; you make it very plenteous.
In the days of the OT, the Hebrew Scriptures reminded farmers that after such a bountiful crop, to leave some on the fields for the poor to glean. The most famous story of such gleaning we might remember is from the story of Ruth who would meet her soon to be husband (Boaz) after she gleaned his field. Ruth was an ancestor of Jesus. Such generosity to remember the poor was to be practiced by all. You hear those words echoed in our first reading from Sirach…
Give to the Most High as he has given to you, and as generously as you can afford. For the Lord is the one who repays, and he will repay you sevenfold. He will not ignore the supplication of the orphan, or the widow when she pours out her complaint.
Through the generosity of God, God expects us to reciprocate, to be generous not only to God but towards others too, to remember the orphan and widow, the poor, those on the margins of society. For God will hear the cry for justice from the orphan and widow, the cries of the poor, and God looks to us to help from the abundance we have been given. But we struggle with such help and we struggle because we live alienated from one another, as Bishop Douglas talked about at convention:
In our country, it seems that everywhere we look we are increasingly alienated from each other in ever more distorted human and political relationships…
there is no lack of incivility and even hate in our society today as we scapegoat the “other,” the marginalized, the one who is different, in an attempt to alleviate our fears, our insecurities, and our sense of loss.
We hear such alienation echoed in our Gospel reading this morning:
And the Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.'
Jesus short little parable this week is his commentary on humility, on how we put down others to make ourselves the righteous ones. The Pharisee does not see himself like the others. And yet, the tax collector is the one praised and the Pharisee is not, Jesus again shakes things up and wants us to see our place as with other people. For it is the tax collector who doesn’t give thanks for not being others or praising his own works, but simply prays for God’s mercy, as a sinner. He is the one who speaks rightly. As Jesus said,
“for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."
We need to practice such humility, never putting others down to build ourselves up, always looking towards God’s mercy and love. Generosity toward others and humility towards ourselves is a good start for our lives as Christians. What does this look like today? How might we tell the parable today? One might use a story from The New York Times’ "Metropolitan Diary." In a recent diary (June 21, 2010), a correspondent reported observing this scene:
While waiting for the neighborhood parking garage to open one evening, the writer saw five young men hanging out. On the trunk of their car were two large pizza boxes and five Snapple bottles. The guys were having a great time - but their horsing around was getting out of hand. The extra pizza slices were being thrown around and the empty Snapple bottles were smashed on the pavement. The observer wrote that he was getting angry at the mess and noise, but did not want take on five rather large young men alone, so he remained in his car.

That's when the clown appeared. A real clown - greasepaint, a big rubber nose, baggy clothes, big floppy shoes - the whole clown bit. He looked as if he had just stepped out of the Ringling Brothers circus tent. Apparently he was on his way to entertain at a child's birthday party.

When the clown came upon the scene, he said nothing. He walked to the trunk, picked up one of the boxes and stooped down to pick up the broken glass and pizza globs on the street. The clown then walked to the corner and deposited the mess in a trash container. The young men were dumbfounded. When he had finished, the clown walked up to the five and passed his hat. The five sheepishly dug into their pockets and gave him their change. The clown bowed and went on his way.
As one author put it after reflecting on that story:
“We are not the center of the world, that realization that we are part of a much larger "circus" than our own little "sideshow." That is the Gospel value of humility: to realize that all the blessings we have received are the result of the depth of God's love & grace and not because of anything we have done to deserve it.” (Jay Cromier)
If our lives are marked with such generosity and humility, then we will be living our lives as St. Paul [and our Bishop at convention talked about], living as “ambassadors for Christ” and through such generosity and humility “to be drawn more deeply into God’s passion and mission to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” Amen.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Emmett Jarrett, RIP

The Rev. Emmett Jarrett, TSSF, a wise and gentle soul, my one time spiritual director, died last week. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Homeless advocate, peace activist Emmett Jarrett dies
By Kathleen Edgecomb Day Staff Writer

New London - Emmett Jarrett, an Episcopal priest known for his love and kindness to all, died Saturday the way he lived - at peace, in a home filled with books, religious icons and a community of family and friends.

"We were all there with him. He shared his life and his love of life, and he shared his death with us all. It was a privilege and an honor,'' said his friend, Paul Jakoboski, vice president of Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center. Jakoboski has lived for the past 18 months at St. Francis House, the home at 30 Broad St. that Jarrett and his family opened to any and all.

Jarrett, 71, helped organize the New London Homeless Hospitality Center Inc. and was a popular figure in the antiwar movement. For years he was a regular at peace vigils at the base of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, participated in three Peace Pilgrimages across Connecticut and was arrested several times while protesting the war in Iraq.

But he is most remembered as the man who opened St. Francis House on Broad Street 10 years ago. It was an experiment by Jarrett and his wife, Anne Scheibner, to create an "intentional Christian community." It was a place to pray, a center for peace and justice ministry, and a home that welcomed the homeless, those in transition and those looking for a more spiritual life.

Read the whole article here.

Emmett wrote several books and composed poetry. Here is one of his writings.

Fireflies in Winter: Imagine Peace by Emmett Jarrett, TSSF

Think of a baby, sucking at his mother's breast,
her eyes, half-closed, brimful with satisfaction.
Or the urgent yearning of a boy to discover,
touching the body of a girl, an answer.

Imagine a man at work in the heat of day:
he digs the ground where the vine is planted, prunes
the bare brown arms that reach into the arbor.
See him stretched out under the fig tree, tasting its fruit.

Think of a woman walking through her garden:
she stoops to pinch the suckers from tomatoes,
pick blueberries, gather an apron full of peas.

Imagine an old man and woman, in front
of the fire on a winter night. They look out
at the cemetery: the moon shimmers
on the ancient snow. Headstones peep out
from the white carpet like houses on a village street
lit from behind by fireflies.

Civility & our Response

"Civility costs nothing and buys everything."
- Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 1689-1766
We are just a few weeks away from the November 2 elections and there is no better time for us to remember to be civil in our conversations and to encourage others to do the same. Take the civility pledge ( or sign our board in the Narthex:
  • I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
  • I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.
  • I will stand against incivility when I see it.
Why now? If we listen to the conversations going on, there is a lack of depth to them and discourse is more about the sound bite. Civility is a biblical imperative, because it is how we treat (love) one another. “We don’t need to give up our values, water them down, or throw out our convictions to have civil conversation. It is exactly these beliefs that allow us to engage in real dialogue.” (
"There can be no high civility without a deep morality."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1862

On Civility II

Choosing civility by Eric Thomas Weber

On a hot summer day, young girls gave out lemonade in their neighborhood. The fact that they were not charging for their kindness launched columnist Terry Savage of the Chicago Sun-Times into a rage. According to Savage, these girls were the problem with America and a symptom of it.

Savage yelled "No!" at the girls and berated them. They were giving away their parents' property, Savage thought, assuming that the girls had no allowance of their own to use as they pleased. She failed to imagine that their parents intended to instill a spirit of giving in their children. To her the only point of a lemonade stand is to learn about business, never about the value of charity or kindness. Just think of how mad Savage must be about Jesus' miracle of feeding the multitudes, which, according to her logic, contributed to inflation and involved giving away his father's property.

The lemonade story is a clear example of the problem of incivility in America...

Read his whole text here.

You will also fin a follow-up editorial which also wonderful examines civility for us.
What is lost in the growing incivility of public discourse at every level is the sense of American community.

October 17 Sermon (Proper 24)

“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children,” the great theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said.
Today is the annual National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths. A weekend when people in Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, the faithful of all religions throughout our country pray for and think about children. “Blessed to Be a Blessing: Lifting Up the Next Generation" is this year’s theme, reminding us to be advocates and supporters of children, that children are indeed a blessing. Children, both in the days of Jesus and today are vulnerable, they can be exploited or forgotten for they do not have power of themselves to get what they need. They need others. They need us. Could the parable about the unjust judge we heard this morning, have a child instead of a widow crying out for justice?

Think of the Gospel and the parable that Jesus tells, An unjust judge in a certain city refuses to give a widow the justice she seeks. The widow kept going to the judge, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” He refused. But she would not go to her home and give up. Over, and over again this scene would happen...

The judge, as we are told, who does not fear God or respect anyone else, decides to give her justice, not for her sake as a widow or because she is right, it is not for the sake of justice, but so that she stops being a nuisance to him, a very practical step! The unjust judge in the parable has all the power for he can grant justice to the widow or not. The widow of course, in the time of Jesus, is vulnerable, she can be exploited or forgotten, her very survival could be at stake because she has no husband, and maybe no kin to take care of her.

She is on the margins of that society and would seem to have no power in this situation. And yet, she does not give in to his refusals. She uses what she has available to her, her persistence, & her voice, “Grant me justice.” The widow refuses to be marginalized, and uses her voice to be heard. From the days of the OT on, widows were not the only ones who were among the most vulnerable of the society, so too were the children, esp. the orphans. Time & time again, you hear God pleading with Israel to take care of the poor, the widow and the orphan.

Jesus follow in this line asking us to help those in need and to respond to those in need by being their advocates. By giving all children what they need, justice, hope, & love.

We have done just that, by making one of our outreach projects, the orphanage at Biro #1. Remembering children half way around the world, who have no one speaking up for them or supporting them. It will be tough work, but we should not despair at the way things are. Jesus finished his parable by reminding us how God will respond.

As Jesus said, God will quickly grant justice to them, when we call. So we start with prayer. For the parable reminds us about the need to pray always and not to give up. That God will answer our prayers. Our prayers are meant to connect us with the source of who we are, that is God our creator. It is not to change God; our prayers don’t make God act. The prayers make us act, prayer changes “us.” You and me. God acts through us in this world.

We often describe our worship together on Sundays as liturgy. We forget that the word liturgy means the work of the people. "To stand before God and pray is to stand before God and work. Always to pray for our children is always to work for our children. To pray for our children’s blessings implies that we work for their blessings. Sometimes, this worship-that-is-work involves real struggle against injustice, and, therefore, to pray for justice is to work and struggle for justice." (Mark Bozutti-Jones)

We who follow Jesus are the ones who act in God’s name, to help children. To be the advocates they need, with our hands, our heart and voices. We hear that voice that says again and again, Grant them justice! I think of a story…
Once there was a little boy who wanted more than anything to play in the band at school. The boy went home from school one day and asked his parents if they would buy him an instrument and let him sign up to play in the band. Well, the boy's parents didn't say yes, and they didn't say no. They said, "We'll have to think about it. After all, a musical instrument costs a lot of money and we aren't sure you will stick with it."

A few days went by and the boy's parents still hadn't said anything, so the boy decided he should ask again. The boy's parents didn't say yes and they didn't say no. They said, "We are still thinking about it."

On his way home from school the next day, the boy decided to stop by the local music store to check out the musical instruments. When he walked in the store, the first thing that caught his eye was a beautiful, shiny trumpet. It wasn't new, but it was in very good condition and it had a really cool fake alligator skin case. It was just what he wanted.

That night at supper the boy said to his parents, "I went by the music store today after school and they have a really nice used trumpet. It is exactly what I want and it only costs $100."

The boy's father turned to his wife and said, "I guess we had better go take a look at that trumpet or we are never going to hear the end of this." The next day, the boy went to the music store with his parents and they bought him that trumpet.

The boy joined the band -- and he did stick with it. He played in the band all through high school and when he graduated from high school, he went on to college and studied music. After graduating from college, he became a music teacher. Now I wonder, how differently his life might have turned out if he had asked his parents for that musical instrument one time and never mentioned it again.
The boys persistence pays off – but more than that, he used his voice to advocate for himself and look what he became. The same is true for us, as we use our voices for Biro #1 and the other children in the US and the world. Let us pray.
Almighty and everlasting God, you have blessed us with children and called us to be a blessing. In Christ who came to bring good news to the poor and welcomed the children, you have revealed your intention for justice and compassion. Prosper now the work of our hands that we may faithfully serve you by lifting up the next generation; through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

While it is alive by Emily Dickinson

Portion of this poem read at Jim Parson's Funeral...

While it is alive
Until Death touches it
While it and I lap one Air
Dwell in one Blood
Under one Sacrament
Show me Division can split or pare —

Love is like Life — merely longer
Love is like Death, during the Grave
Love is the Fellow of the Resurrection
Scooping up the Dust and chanting "Live"!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Prayers for Blog Action Day (Water)

Adapted by me to fit today's action:

Loving God, whose hand is open to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Break down the barriers of ignorance, indifference, and greed, we pray, that the multitudes who thirst may have it quenched by your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Make us worthy, Lord, to serve those people throughout the world who live and die in poverty and thirst. Give them through our hands, this day, their daily bread and water, and by our understanding love, give them peace and joy. Amen. (adapted from Mother Teresa)


Today is Blog Action Day. Topic: Water
An ancient people tells us that when the moment of a great teacher’s death was near, the disciples said, “What is it we will see when you are gone?” And the master said, “All I did was sit on the river bank handing out river water. After I’m gone I trust you will notice the water.” ~ Recounted by Joan Chittister

A great charity to support is Water for Sudan:

Water for Sudan, Inc., based in Rochester, New York, USA, is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation founded in 2003. We operate successfully with a small paid staff, a network of committed volunteers, supported by civic, educational, and faith-based groups and individual donors as well as grants from foundations.

Our mission is simple: drill borehole wells which bring safe drinking water to the people in Southern Sudan's remote villages, transforming lives in the process. This mission is inspired and led by our founder, former “Lost Boy” Salva Dut.

As of May 2010, Water for Sudan has successfully drilled 76 borehole wells, bringing clean, safe water to tens of thousands of people in Southern Sudan.

Monday, October 11, 2010

October 10 Sermon (Proper 23)

“Love is unselfishly choosing for another's highest good.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Love, unselfish, & good, words that should describe followers of Jesus. But you would be forgiven if you watched the news lately and saw Christians and wondered if we are loving, unselfish, and good.

1st you had Fred Phelps & his Westboro Baptist Church before the Supreme Court arguing for their free speech as they picket soldier funerals with their hate filled rhetoric. They have picketed at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, several times, and when it was in Philadelphia, I remember having to walk through them. Its amazing to me that Christians would argue that God hates others, and Phelps and his cult think they know God does. They believe they should be able to spew such nonsense wherever they are. There is no love of neighbor in their hate. Sadly, there is no room for God either in their ministry.

2nd you had some Christians arguing that the fire department was right, that the man who lost his house in that TN fire while the fire department stood by, because he had failed this year to pay his $75 fee, did the right thing because compassion is not the only Christian value. "In this case, critics of the fire department are confused…because they have fallen prey to a weakened …version of Christianity that is only about softer virtues such as compassion and not in any part about the muscular Christian virtues of individual responsibility and accountability." I did not make that quote up. Sadly, when faced with someone grieving the loss of much of what he owned, instead of compassion , some feel its right to wag their finger at them. Where is the love in that?

And finally, when an anti-bullying bill came before congress in September, one Christian group argued against it saying it would limit their free speech. They warned their members that such a bill was following a radical agenda that would prohibit Christians from speaking the truth. Such worry does not help the students that are harassed and bullied at school; and no kid at any school at any level should fear going to school; bullying is Not a Christian value and we should be less worried about our free speech and more worried about the victims. The tragic case of the Rutgers student who took his own life is just one more sign that we have failed to take bullying seriously in this country.

It is no wonder that when one survey asked young adults (age 18 – 30) to use words to identify Christians they used words such as: Hypocritical, too focused on getting converts, bigoted, sheltered from reality, motivated by one political agenda and judgmental.
Love is unselfishly choosing for another's highest good.
We are challenged in our lives, to be the loving, unselfish good that God expects us to be, especially when the world sees others Christians acting in ways that hurts our loving witness to the world.

When the 10 lepers approached Jesus asking for mercy, Jesus sent them to be seen by priests, for priests were the ones who designated someone a leper or not, and en route, they were healed. Only one came back to thank Jesus and praise God. And lo and behold, it was a foreigner, a Samaritan. Jesus told him to,
“Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Faith once again was lived out in the other, the one not expected to be faithful. The Samaritan again did the right thing. What happened to the other nine? I wonder if we Christians are like the other nine, who have felt that healing power from God, who have beheld that deep love and peace from heaven above, but have failed to give thanks to God for it and to share that with the world.

Instead we quickly left Jesus, claiming hate in the name of God (be it for Gays/Lesbians, or Muslims or illegal immigrants, or you name it), we are more worried about ourselves than others, and we have left compassion at the door for responsibility. And we have done so because we are not always truly thankful to God for what God has done for us, because we can be so focused on me and my life, that we can’t see beyond our own box, to these needs of those around us.
An American relief worker who was visiting an orphanage in El Salvador, was offered a mango by one of the orphans who had found it on a tree near the orphanage. It was rare to have fruit at the orphanage - the usual fare was very plain and simple, such as beans and tortillas. And so the visitor said, "No, thank you" because she wanted the little girl to enjoy the mango. Later, the visitor's host, who had grown up at the orphanage herself, explained that in El Salvador, one does not refuse such an offer. The correct response is to receive the gift no matter the condition of the other person or the gift, because it is in receiving the gift that the recipient acknowledges the dignity of the giver. [Victoria Cavanaugh, Catholic Digest, October 2009]
To strive for justice and peace and to respect the dignity of every human being is part of our calling as Baptized Christians in our interactions with the world. And it is always done in gratitude for what God has done for us. As one author has put it:
“Gratitude, in the spirit of the Gospel, is not an expression of thanks for a single act of kindness but a perspective of seeing every human being as worthy of respect as a child of God.” (Jay Cormier)
The soldiers who have died serving this country deserve such respect. The man whose house burned in TN deserves such respect (so do the fire fighters). So do the victims of bullying, and all those who are abused, neglected, and in need. They need our respect and they need our love. We come together each week to offer our thanksgiving to God and we do so in our prayers, in the offerings we give, and from that gratitude & grace we leave this sacred space for a world longing for us to be the Christians that God has called us to be.
“Love is unselfishly choosing for another's highest good.” ~ C.S. Lewis
May we choose the highest good we can offer others through unselfish love following the example of Jesus. Amen.

A Prayer for those who feel Hated

A wonderful prayer I found for all those who feel excluded, rejected, marginalized, shamed, bullied or made fun of...

"A Prayer When I Feel Hated"

Loving God, you made me who I am.
I praise you and I love you, for I am wonderfully made,
in your own image.

But when people make fun of me,
I feel hurt and embarrassed and even ashamed.
So please God, help me remember my own goodness,
which lies in you.
Help me remember my dignity,
which you gave me when I was conceived.
Help me remember that I can live a life of love.
Because you created my heart.

Be with me when people make fun of me,
and help me to respond how you would want me to,
in a love that respects other, but also respects me.
Help me find friends who love me for who I am.
Help me, most of all, to be a loving person.

And God, help me remember that Jesus loves me.
For he was seen as an outcast, too.
He was misunderstood, too.
He was beaten and spat upon.
Jesus understands me, and loves me with a special love,
because of the way you made me.

And when I am feeling lonely,
help me remember that Jesus welcomed everyone as a friend.
Jesus reminded everyone that God loved them.
And Jesus encouraged everyone to embrace their dignity,
even when others were blind to that dignity.
Jesus loved everyone with the love that you gave him.
And he loves me, too.

One more thing, God:
Help me remember that nothing is impossible with you,
that you have a way of making things better,
that you can find a way of love for me,
even if I can't see it right now.
Help me remember all these things in the heart you created,
loving God. Amen.

James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest and the author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything and My Life with the Saints.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

St. Francis (Blessing of Animals) Sermon

St. Francis & Mustard Seed Faith

This morning’s Gospel on faith – Mustard Seed
St Francis had mustard seed faith
– not at first Being born in a wealthy Italian family
- a wild youth
- a brief & unsuccessful career as a soldier

In a dilapidated Church, Francis had a conversion experience – “Francis, Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins" It changed his life. It inspired him to give up his family’s wealth and devote his life to God.

He not only fixed up that particular Church but went about preaching about God and fixing the Church wherever he went. Francis' deep love of God overflowed into love for all God's creation—expressed not only in his tender care of lepers and his unsuccessful attempt to negotiate peace between Muslims and Christians during the fifth Crusade, but also in his prayers of thanksgiving for creation, his sermons preached to animals, and his insistence that all creatures are brothers and sisters under God. And on this day when we bless animals, here is one of those stories about St Francis & animals:
"Once he went to a village called Alviano to preach. The people gathered and he called for silence. But some swallows nesting there were shrieking so much that he could not be heard at all. In the hearing of all, he spoke to them: 'My sister swallows, now it is time for me also to speak, since you have already said enough. Hear the word of God and stay quiet until the word of the Lord is completed.' As if capable of reason, they immediately fell silent, and did not leave from the place until the whole sermon was over. All who saw this were filled with amazement and gave glory to God."
May we live out our mustard seed faith like Francis - loving all of God’s creation – and be loving stewards of the pets that are in our care. Amen.

October 3 Sermon (Proper 22)

“Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.” – St. Augustine
These words of some 1600 years ago from St. Augustine, one of the pillars of Western Christian faith, remind us that faith is forward looking, hoping, ready to see before us what we believe in our hearts. But our first reading from Lamentations is depressing. It is a lament for the fall of Jerusalem and a loss of faith…
How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations!
It is a writer’s reflection on what has befallen the chosen people. As we hear in the reading, it is a voice filled with desolation & despair…
Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter.
Indeed it is a bitter reflection on what has come to pass and it would seem that God has let it all happen. But in the midst of this is another voice, a faithful voice, a voice that says all is not bleak, God is still here. It is what we read together this morning from another part in Lamentations, words of waiting & hoping
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
They are familiar words to us. Often read as the first lesson at a funeral, they remind us that God is faithful & just. It is where this author has placed his hope. For with the Lord is salvation and with God we must wait for our redemption. But it is hard work. We look around and sometimes its hard to see God’s work, God’s mercies, God’s faithfulness. We see destruction & death, we see debt & hate, we feel in our bones that things are unsettled and we look to the future with nervous anticipation (much like the first author in Lamentations).

It was also true of the disciples, who eagerly asked Jesus to increase their faith. They had an inkling that rough times were ahead. But Jesus, as Jesus so often does, makes them see things in such a different light. Mustard Seed. Tiny specs. A good wind like we had just the other day would have easily scattered this seed. But if we had faith as tiny as this seed, we could move mountains said Jesus. For we are both called to live such faith as faithful servants, and we can with that faith do such things as would seem impossible. It reminds me of the words from a Franciscan Benediction,
"May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done."
It is that last piece that really resonates with this mustard seed faith Jesus is talking about, the faith of the voice in Lamentation full of hope and the words of St. Augustine: “Faith is to believe what you do not yet see…” And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

The difference we make is in living with our faith, which will lead us to life, to trust in that faith, reach out with that faith, even when we struggle to keep it when others cannot or will not see such faith in us. I think of Leo Tolstoy with his struggles with his own faith and as we hear from his Confession, it is on a journey of faith that he found it & life. In his words:
“"What more do you seek?" exclaimed a voice within me. "This is He. He is that without which one cannot live. To know God and to live is one and the same thing. God is life." "Live seeking God, and then you will not live without God." And more than ever before, all within me and around me lit up, and the light did not again abandon me… I returned to a belief in God, in moral perfection, and in a tradition transmitting the meaning of life. There was only this difference, that then all this was accepted unconsciously, while now I knew that without it I could not live. What happened to me was something like this:

I was put into a boat (I do not remember when) and pushed off from an unknown shore, shown the direction of the opposite shore, had oars put into my unpracticed hands, and was left alone. I rowed as best I could and moved forward; but the further I advanced towards the middle of the stream the more rapid grew the current bearing me away from my goal and the more frequently did I encounter others, like myself, borne away by the stream. There were a few rowers who continued to row, there were others who had abandoned their oars; there were large boats and immense vessels full of people. Some struggled against the current, others yielded to it. And the further I went the more, seeing the progress down the current of all those who were adrift, I forgot the direction given me. In the very centre of the stream, amid the crowd of boats and vessels which were being borne down stream, I quite lost my direction and abandoned my oars. Around me on all sides, with mirth and rejoicing, people with sails and oars were borne down the stream, assuring me and each other that no other direction was possible. And I believed them and floated with them. And I was carried far; so far that I heard the roar of the rapids in which I must be shattered, and I saw boats shattered in them. And I recollected myself. I was long unable to understand what had happened to me. I saw before me nothing but destruction, towards which I was rushing and which I feared. I saw no safety anywhere and did not know what to do; but, looking back, I perceived innumerable boats which unceasingly and strenuously pushed across the stream, and I remembered about the shore, the oars, and the direction, and began to pull back upwards against the stream and towards the shore.

That shore was God; that direction was tradition; the oars were the freedom given me to pull for the shore and unite with God. And so the force of life was renewed in me and I again began to live.” (Part 12)
Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe. It was true for St. Augustine, it was true for Leo Tolstoy. It is true for us too & that is mustard seed faith. And its in you and in its me. So we need not worry about increasing our faith, or if we have enough, we just need to live it, get in our boat and row. Amen.

Bullying is NOT a Christian Value

"But the child’s sob in the silence curses deeper than the strong man in his wrath." ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sadly, we have heard too much about bullying in the past few weeks as gay teenagers have taken their own lives in the face of taunts, invasion of privacy and harassment. The teenage years can be rough enough but to have people specifically targeting gay youth is unjust. As Christians we must stand up and say no to bullying, even when other Christians (like focus on the family) say its OK. Jesus' commandment that we love one another does not allow us to belittle others or question their dignity in the name of God.

You can find great resources around this topic here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

October is Underage Drinking Awareness Month in Monroe

The Monroe Youth Commission and Alcohol and Drug Awareness of Monroe (ADAM, Inc) are co-sponsoring a campaign in October to raise parent and community awareness about the issue of underage drinking. This campaign was developed in response to survey results published by Regional Youth/Adult Substance Abuse Program (RYASAP) which revealed that the incidence of binge drinking and alcohol use by teens in Monroe is among the highest in the region and above the national average.

Alarmed by these results, community leaders worked together to develop this campaign with its message to “Care Enough to Say No: Don’t Provide, Don’t Ignore, Don’t Excuse Teen Alcohol Use”. The campaign will culminate in a 9th grade student and parent forum on underage drinking at Masuk High School on November 3. Teen drinking poses very serious risks.

As a result of alcohol use, 5,000 teens die each year in the United States in motor vehicle crashes, drownings, falls, suicides or homicides. There are also 190,000 emergency room visits each year by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol. In addition, youth who start drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21. Parents and peers play a major role in whether or not a teen will drink alcohol. It is estimated that 65% of kids get their alcohol from family and friends.

In the RYASAP survey, 35% of Monroe teens reported that they either did not know how their parents felt about alcohol use or they believed that their parents did not think it wrong. For some of those parents, the illegal distribution of alcohol to minors is justified by their belief that the children are going to drink anyway and should be in a “safe” place while they do. They are operating under the erroneous assumption that the risks of underage drinking can be avoided if a teen drinks only at home. Not only are they putting these teens at great risk, individuals who knowingly permit minors to possess or consume alcohol may be fined, imprisoned, or both.