Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Instructions on Gratitude By David Steindl-Rast, OSB

Whatever is given is a gift—even the most difficult experiences and traumatic events can be seen as Wake-Up calls, and therefore gifts. And the appropriate response to any gift is gratitude. In the depth of our heart, we can turn fear into courageous trust, agitation and confusion into stillness, isolation into a sense of belonging, alienation into love, and irrational reaction into Common Sense. The creative imagination of gratefulness will suggest to each one of us how to go about this task. Here are five small gestures that can help you show gratitude and stay awake.

1. All gratitude expresses trust. Suspicion will not even recognize a gift as gift: who can prove that it isn't a lure, a bribe, a trap? Gratefulness has the courage to trust and so overcomes fear. The air has been electrified by fearfulness these days, a fearfulness fostered and manipulated by politicians and the media. There lies our greatest danger: fear perpetuates violence. Mobilize the courage of your heart, as the truly awake ones are doing. Say one word today that gives a fearful person courage.

2. Because gratitude expresses courage, it spreads calm. Calm of this kind is quite compatible with deep emotions. Join the truly compassionate ones who are calm and strong. From the stillness of your heart's core reach out. Calmly hold someone's hand today and spread calm.

3. When you are grateful, your heart is open—open towards others, open for surprise. During big wake-up calls in your life, or in our collective lives, we often see remarkable examples of openness: strangers helping strangers often in heroic ways. Others turn away, isolate themselves, dare even less than at other times to look at each other. Violence begins with isolation. Break this pattern. Make contact with people whom you normally ignore—eye-contact at least—with the agent at the toll booth, the parking lot attendant, someone on the elevator. Look a stranger in the eyes today and realize that there are no strangers.

4. You can feel either grateful or alienated, but never both at the same time. Gratefulness drives out alienation; there is not room for both in the same heart. When you are grateful you know that you belong to a network of give-and-take and you say "yes" to that belonging. This "yes" is the essence of love. You need no words to express it; a smile will do to put your "yes" into action. Don't let it matter to you whether or not the other one smiles back. Give someone an unexpected smile today and so contribute your share to peace on earth.

5. What your gratefulness does for yourself is as important as what it does for others. Gratefulness boosts your sense of belonging; your sense of belonging in turn boosts your Common Sense. Your "yes" to belonging attunes you to the common concerns shared by all human beings. We have only one enemy, our common enemy: violence. Common Sense tells us: we can stop violence only by stopping to act violently; war is no way to peace. Listen to the news today and put at least one item to the test of Common Sense.

You can find more on his ideas of Gratitude here.

Christ the King Sermon (Nov. 21 - Proper 29)

How do we follow our king on this Christ the King Sunday? King?

Think of the images…

Jeremiah – Shepherds (scatter flock) & raise up a righteous king

Jesus – King & Humility (Crucifixion)

Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy (1903)
It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid, and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake. And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to anyone who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do.

And learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently.

[In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right time for every action, one must draw up in advance, a table of days, months and years, and must live strictly according to it. Only thus, said they, could everything be done at its proper time. Others declared that it was impossible to decide beforehand the right time for every action; but that, not letting oneself be absorbed in idle pastimes, one should always attend to all that was going on, and then do what was most needful. Others, again, said that however attentive the King might be to what was going on, it was impossible for one man to decide correctly the right time for every action, but that he should have a Council of wise men, who would help him to fix the proper time for everything. But then again others said there were some things which could not wait to be laid before a Council, but about which one had at once to decide whether to undertake them or not. But in order to decide that, one must know beforehand what was going to happen. It is only magicians who know that; and, therefore, in order to know the right time for every action, one must consult magicians. Equally various were the answers to the second question. Some said, the people the King most needed were his councilors; others, the priests; others, the doctors; while some said the warriors were the most necessary. To the third question, as to what was the most important occupation: some replied that the most important thing in the world was science. Others said it was skill in warfare; and others, again, that it was religious worship.]

All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom. The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted, and he received none but common folk.

So the King put on simple clothes, and before reaching the hermit’s cell dismounted from his horse, and, leaving his bodyguard behind, went on alone. When the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. Seeing the King, he greeted him and went on digging. The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily. The

King went up to him and said: “I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what affairs are the most important and need my first attention?” The hermit listened to the King, but answered nothing. He just spat on his hand and recommenced digging.

“You are tired,” said the King, “let me take the spade and work awhile for you.” “Thanks!” said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the King, he sat down on the ground. When he had dug two beds, the King stopped and repeated his questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out his hand for the spade, and said: “Now rest awhile – and let me work a bit.” But the King did not give him the spade, and continued to dig.

One hour passed, and another. The sun began to sink behind the trees, and the King at last stuck the spade into the ground, and said: “I came to you, wise man, for an answer to my questions. If you can give me none, tell me so, and I will return home.” “Here comes some one running,” said the hermit, “let us see who it is.”

The King turned round, and saw a bearded man come running out of the wood. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood was flowing from under them. When he reached the King, he fell fainting on the ground moaning feebly. The King and the hermit unfastened the man’s clothing. There was a large wound in his stomach. The King washed it as best he could, and bandaged it with his handkerchief and with a towel the hermit had. But the blood would not stop flowing, and the King again and again removed the bandage soaked with warm blood, and washed and rebandaged the wound.

When at last the blood ceased flowing, the man revived and asked for something to drink. The King brought fresh water and gave it to him. Meanwhile the sun had set, and it had become cool. So the King, with the hermit’s help, carried the wounded man into the hut and laid him on the bed. Lying on the bed the man closed his eyes and was quiet; but the King was so tired with his walk and with the work he had done, that he crouched down on the threshold, and also fell asleep –so soundly that he slept all through the short summer night.

When he awoke in the morning, it was long before he could remember where he was, or who was the strange bearded man lying on the bed and gazing intently at him with shining eyes. “Forgive me!” said the bearded man in a weak voice, when he saw that the King was awake and was looking at him. “I do not know you, and have nothing to forgive you for,” said the King. “You do not know me, but I know you. I am that enemy of yours who swore to revenge himself on you, because you executed his brother and seized his property. I knew you had gone alone to see the hermit, and I resolved to kill you on your way back.

But the day passed and you did not return. So I came out from my ambush to find you, and I came upon your bodyguard, and they recognized me, and wounded me. I escaped from them, but should have bled to death had you not dressed my wound. I wished to kill you, and you have saved my life. Now, if I live, and if you wish it, I will serve you as your most faithful slave, and will bid my sons do the same. Forgive me!”

The King was very glad to have made peace with his enemy so easily, and to have gained him for a friend, and he not only forgave him, but said he would send his servants and his own physician to attend him, and promised to restore his property. Having taken leave of the wounded man, the King went out into the porch and looked around for the hermit.

Before going away he wished once more to beg an answer to the questions he had put. The hermit was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been dug the day before. The King approached him, and said: “For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man.” “You have already been answered!” said the hermit still crouching on his thin legs, and looking up at the King, who stood before him.

“How answered? What do you mean?” asked the King. “Do you not see?” replied the hermit. “If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug these beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards, when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business.

Remember then: there is only one time that is important–Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with anyone else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!”
And I would dare say that is how Jesus lived his life: in the now, with those whom he was with and he always did good. What kind of King is this?
Napolean Bonaparte: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I founded empires; but what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions [of men] would die for Him.”
Jesus, who is “the King of Love My Shepherd is…”

If we follow our Lord & King, then: we do it now, for the persons we are with, and we do good (for it is the empire of Love that we long to belong too). Amen.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Live Like were Dying Lyrics

Sometimes we fall down, can't get back up
We're hiding behind skin that's too tough
How come we don't say I love you enough?
'Til it's to late, it's not too late

Our hearts are hungry for a food that won't come
And we could make a feast from these crumbs
And we're all staring down the barrel of a gun
So if your life flashed before you, what would you wish you would've done?

Yeah, we gotta start lookin' at the hands of the time we've been given
If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinkin'
If every second counts on a clock that's tickin'
Gotta live like we're dying

We only got 86 400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell 'em that we love 'em while we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we're dying

And if your plane fell out of the skies
Who would you call with your last goodbye?
Should be so careful who we left out of our lives
And when we long for absolution, there will be no one on the line

Yeah, we gotta start lookin' at the hands of the time we've been given
If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinkin'
If every second counts on a clock that's tickin'
Gotta live like we're dying

We only got 86 400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell 'em that we love 'em while we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we're dying, oh, like we're dying, oh, like we're dying
Like we're dying, oh, like we're dying

We only got 86 400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell 'em that we love 'em while we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we're dying

You never know a good thing 'til it's gone
You never see a crash 'til it's head on
Why do we think we're right when we're dead wrong?
You never know a good thing 'til it's gone

Yeah, gotta start lookin' at the hands of the time we've been given
If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinkin'
If every second counts on a clock that's tickin'
Gotta live like we're dying

We only got 86 400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell 'em that we love 'em while we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we're dying, oh, like we're dying, oh, like we're dying
Like we're dying, oh, like we're dying

We only got 86 400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell 'em that we love 'em while we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we're dying

Kris Allen: Live Like We're Dying Lyrics
Songwriters: Frampton, Andrew Marcus; Kipner, Stephen Alan; O'Donoghue, Daniel John; Sheehan, Mark Anthony;

November 14 Sermon (proper 28)

The end is near. Repent. This theme of the end times, thoroughly biblical has always struck me as strange. I know for many it has been helpful, some have been obsessed. I have never found predicting the end as useful. As humans we have expected the end around certain dates on the calendar: the year 1000 was one such moment, Y2K (the year 2000) another, others used elaborate (or not so elaborate) mathematical means to compute the date from biblical codes or clues from the bible. Some have looked to plagues, earthquakes, astrological signs all as predictors of the end times.

Of course, all of those predictions failed, there were many great disappointments, many lay folk angry at clergy for giving dates that proved to be untrue. But we still think about the end times, its been in our music… In 1969, there was a hit song called “In the Year 2525” – a one hit wonder that explored our unease with technology and wondered if life would ever end, and in the year 7510 the song said, if God’s a coming, he ought to be here by then…The song writer Prince had a hit song called 1999 an apocalyptic, yet upbeat party song. In 1987, the rock band REM came out with the song, “It’s the End of the World as We know it, and I feel fine.”

Many may remember that this song was played on Fox after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. [Some did say that the Red Sox victory was a sign that the end times were near, however, such thinking really only holds for the Chicago Cubs if they ever win the world series.] The end times have been explored in countless movies from the recent 2012 (based on the Mayan Calendar) with oceans covering the earth, to asteroids, nuclear war, etc. You have the great poets who wonder too…
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great And would suffice. Robert Frost
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper. TS Eliot
So what should we think about the end times? When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said,
"As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."
Such words from Jesus must have surprised and frightened those who heard it. The temple, destroyed !?! And in fact, the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed in the year 70 by the Romans – many of the items being taken to Rome as the spoils of the sacking. But Jesus words weren’t predictions but reminders that the things they will build, even beautiful, God dedicated buildings, like everything else will one day end.

Where our hope must be placed, is on what God has given to us, our faith, not on an earthly thing. There will be others claiming to be Jesus, offering salvation, do not believe them says Jesus. Don’t be terrified of natural events, these are just the beginning. Some will even be persecuted for following me, says Jesus. And we have seen that in today’s world.

But this doesn’t give us clues about the exact end date, it is as if Jesus expects us to live our lives faithfully no matter what happens.
“It may be that the day of judgment will dawn tomorrow; and in that case, we shall gladly stop working for a better future. But not before.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
As we number our days on earth, we know that no one will live here on earth forever. The challenge from Jesus is for us to live faithfully right now, building a better future for our world, gaining the endurance for our souls as he put it, and to live even if we don’t know when it will all end for us. In 2009, a song was released by Kris Allen, an American Idol winner, entitled Live like were Dying, with lyrics saying…
Looking at the hands of the time we've been given
If this is all we got and we gotta start thinking
If every second counts on a clock that's ticking
Gotta live like we're dying

We only got 86 400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell 'em that we love 'em while we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we're dying
Indeed, we gotta live like we are dying, for that would be to live faithfully even in the midst of death. No matter when the end comes, if we love God and love our neighbors as ourselves, if we do what is right, we have it covered and need not fear what is to come, today, tomorrow or the year 7510. Amen.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Flanders Field

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

A thought on peace...

Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war. ~ Otto von Bismarck

Almighty God our heavenly Father, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. (BCP)

Veterans Day Prayers

Governor of Nations, our Strength and Shield:
we give you thanks for the devotion and courage
of all those who have offered military service for this country:

For those who have fought for freedom;
for those who laid down their lives for others;
for those who have borne suffering of mind or of body;
for those who have brought their best gifts to times of need.

On our behalf they have entered into danger,
endured separation from those they love,
labored long hours, and borne hardship in war and in peacetime.

Lift up by your mighty Presence those who are now at war;
encourage and heal those in hospitals or mending their wounds at home;
guard those in any need or trouble;
hold safely in your hands all military families;
and bring the returning troops to joyful reunion and tranquil life at home;

Give to us, your people, grateful hearts
and a united will to honor these men and women
and hold them always in our love and our prayers;
until your world is perfected in peace through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

(Compiled by the Rev. Jennifer Phillips)


O judge of the nations, 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. Grant that we may not rest until all people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept it disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN. (BCP)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Word from the Desert

"Let Christians care for nothing that they cannot take away with them. We ought rather to seek after that which will lead us to Heaven; namely wisdom, chastity, justice, virtue, an ever watchful mind, care for the poor, firm faith in Christ, a mind that can control anger, hospitality. Striving after these things, we shall prepare for ourselves a dwelling in the land of the peaceful, as it says in the Gospel." ~ Athanasius, Life of St. Anthony


"Summit on Happiness," hosted by Emory University's Center for the Study of Law and Religion, gathered spiritual leaders from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist traditions.

An article on the summit said:

His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, the star of the show, has said that the very purpose of life is to be happy, so long as "one person or group does not seek happiness or glory at the expense of others." He didn't disappoint at the summit, sticking up for happiness as well as world peace at every opportunity, and laughing or chuckling fairly consistently throughout the event.

The Dalai Lama was joined on the panel by the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and Islamic scholar Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University.

They agreed wholeheartedly that faithfulness and happiness were not mutually exclusive.
You can read the whole article by Mary Loftus, here.

What did they say? Here's one excerpt:
Happiness is not all about us.

"Jesus' ministry, his public work, is most essentially focused on feeding, healing and teaching people -- in that order," said Jefferts Schori. "Using the blessings of this world for the benefit of all."

"Once it was asked of a great Sufi master, 'What do you want?' and he said, 'I want not to want,'" said Nasr. "We must transcend the stifling prison of the ego."
You can find more about the summit here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Civil Exchange

Thinking about civility? Take a look at this...


A glimpse at Sparky Anderson

Since I spoke of Sparky Anderson in my sermon, I thought you should get a better glimpse into who he was.

This is from the NY Times, Dave Anderson:

To everyone in baseball he was Sparky Anderson; hardly anybody called him George. But as a manager, he was not just a spark. He was a bonfire who sometimes burst into a three-alarm blaze.
Read the whole article here.

All Saints Sunday Sermon

Do you remember what you were doing on October 14, 1984? I was 12 years old and watching the Detroit Tigers on TV beat the San Diego Padres in the World Series, winning the series 4 games to 1. It was great to be a kid that night watching the Tigers win.

The manager of the 1984 Tigers was Sparky Anderson, he managed the Cincinnati Reds to two world series championships in the 1970s before coming to the Tigers. As one sports writer put it, “he was among the brightest, most well-liked and decent people ever to fill out a lineup card.” (Tim Kurkjian) He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, giving all the credit to his players.

Sparky died on November 4 at the age of 76 from complications from dementia. At his request, there would be no funeral nor memorial service. Which is too bad, I understand that he was a humble guy, but a funeral isn’t for the dead, its for the living. Its for us to remember and celebrate life and say our good-byes. And so many of his former players, staff and others want to celebrate his life and will in their own way.

The Christian faith is all about remembering. We read the stories from the Bible to remember, we celebrate the sacraments to remember. “Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus says. It is a faith that is being passed on to us, to remember and live. That’s why at the end of our Baptismal rite, we are called to “confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share in his eternal priesthood.”

Our faith is connected to the past, in what happened to Jesus in his life through the crucifixion and resurrection, and by how we today through confession and proclamation speak of our faith and remind ourselves that we share in that priesthood of all believers. And there is no better way to think about how we live out our faith than by thinking about our connection to the saints.

Today is All Saints Sunday, a day when we remember the saints, not for their sake, but for ours. So that by God’s grace we may follow the saints in all “virtuous and godly living.” When we think of saints, too often we think of saints as sinless, perfectly pious and moral, who got everything right.
“How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints,” wrote CS Lewis.
The self-absorbed tyrants and proud conquerors are nothing compared to the saints, for they are gloriously different because they hear the voice of God in their lives and it changed them. Life was no longer just about them, Francis gave up the family wealth, the readymade job, glory in war & life of the upper class, and chose instead to heed the voice of God and rebuild God’s church. It lead Dietrich Bonhoeffer to abandon the safety of the US to actively work against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Regime. Elizabeth, Princess of Hungary, gave away her great wealth to the poor of her land, setting up hospitals and caring for those in need, even as the elite in the court did not like her extravagant almsgiving.

What’s true of the saints, is they found joy by doing what God called them to do. To use the words of the late William Stringfellow,
“In truth, all human beings are called to be saints, but that just means called to be fully human, to be perfect—that is, whole, mature, fulfilled. The saints are simply those men and women who relish the event of life as a gift and who realize that the only way to honor such a gift is to give it away.”
Life is a gift and the saints found by listening to God, they would find fulfillment and happiness in what they did. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Jesus said.

For Sparky Anderson, his life besides his family, was baseball, the players and the team. He loved the game and it showed, and his players loved him for it. Life as gift and joy begins ritually in our rite of baptism, remembering the past, connecting with our life now and hoping for the future. As Verna Dozier put it,
“to be called to be saints means we are called to be members of the household of God. That's what a saint is.”
Today, David Daniel Stinson joins the household of God. And through the witness of parents, Godparents, family and friends, he will be baptized and will grow up and learn about the gift of life, a gift to be lived and enjoyed and given away.

Our challenge on this All Saints Day and always, is to remember the saints and listen to God like they did, for calls each one of us, to do unto others, by giving of ourselves (time, talent & treasure) and find that indeed life is a gift, it is joy, and it is meant to be given away. Amen.

All Hallows Eve Sermon

Happy Halloween! How often do you get to see your priest in rainbow hair?

Today is a day of fun, a day of merriment, when the child inside all of us is allowed to dress up and enjoy life, a day when we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Today reminds me of Fat Tuesday, when people celebrate life in mardi gras or carnival, eating the richest of foods, a day of revelry before the fast of Ash Wednesday begins and the time of Lent with its simplicity and introspection reigns until Easter.

But one big difference is that All Saints Day which we anticipate in our celebrations on Halloween is not a solemn fast like Ash Wednesday – it is a principal feast day – a celebration like Easter. In addition to All Saints Day, we have November 2 which is a lesser feast day called All Souls (or the Commemoration of all the faithful departed) . So in fact, we have three feast days, three celebrations that help us look to the past to connect with our present faith and guide us into our hopeful future. As one priest put it,
“All Saints' Day is the centerpiece of an autumn triduum. In the carnival celebrations of All Hallows' Eve our ancestors used the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal, the power of humor and ridicule, to confront the power of death. The following day, in the commemoration of All Saints, we gave witness to the victory of incarnate goodness embodied in the remarkable deeds and doers triumphing over the misanthropy of darkness and devils. And in the commemoration of All Souls we proclaim the hope of common mortality expressed in our aspirations and expectation of a shared eternity.” – (The Rev. Sam Portaro from “Brightest and Best”)
In other words… Halloween is a day of carnival celebrations when we use fun, humor even ridicule to live into our baptism and defy the power of death over our lives. As one Orthodox priest said,
“Halloween is the time of year when we see that Christ has so triumphed over Evil, that even little children can mock the Devil with impunity." – Fr. Victor
Halloween can be a moment when we give thanks and enjoy the gifts that God has given to us, even in the midst of the growing darkness around us and our sense of how close death really is. Which then leads into our All Saints Celebrations remembering those saints, as the great hymn puts it…
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
It is the saints who indeed lived their lives by faith, not worried about the power of death because Christ has triumphed, they lived lives as God had called them to be. We remember St. Francis, St. Peter our patron, St. Mary Magdalene, and the list goes on and on. I suspect we each might have our own saint that we treasure for their witness. For me, to coin a phrase from one of my favorite theologians, those saints “lived humanly in the midst of the powers of death.”

And the saints challenge me to do the same. To live by faith. To live as humanly as I can in the midst of darkness and death, knowing the light of Christ still shines. All Saints leads into All Souls, the day to remember the dead of my family, my friends, my parish, who now rest with the saints in heaven with God. Like Memorial Day, it is the Church’s witness to the resurrection and that new life given to all of us in Jesus Christ. But the days do grow short, like our lives and the darkness creeps closer.

Our ancestors near All Hallows Eve often built bonfires to ward off the spirits they believe came around this night. We no longer fear such spirits, if you go outside at night, its never truly pitch black with the glare of our cities, not like the deep darkness our ancestors had with the night. But it isn’t the spirits that lie in the darkness I fear but the life our culture says is the real life. That is the darkness around us today. As one professor put it as he reflected on the saints,
“Unlike the celebrity, and all who desire to be celebrities, the saint is the one who rejects such an identity and continually returns to the fact that they are who God says they are, no more and no less. The saint repeatedly turns from the identity others attempt to impose on him or her and only identifies himself or herself as God's beloved son or daughter. The saint sees the notoriety and prestige that the celebrity has (and the rest of us seek) as an illusion . . . The saint is different from the rest of us, not in being sinless but in the awareness of their sin and the need for repentance. Unlike the rest of us who try to cover or excuse our sin in order to appear sinless, the saint exposes his or her sin in order to become ever more aware of God's forgiveness and love. Likewise, unlike the rest of us who seek celebrity and wealth in order to make us bigger than we would otherwise be, the saint seeks littleness . . . When all else is stripped away, we are no more than God's creation - God's beloved sons and daughters . . . In contrast to the ladder of success our culture tells us we should climb, the saint's journey is downward. Indeed, we enter heaven as we descend into the littleness of the child who is aware of nothing but their father's love. This will be our heavenly state, but the saint, unlike the rest of us, desires to live as close as possible to that state now. [James Danaher, Professor of Philosophy at Nyack College, New York, in "The Saint," New Blackfriars, volume 90/issue 1027, May 2009.]
On this All Hallows Eve as we prepare in merriment to remember the saints and our faithful departed, may God help us to live lives that mirror the saints and help spread God’s light and love throughout the world. Let us pray.

Almighty Father, even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil, for Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, has conquered evil and death, illuminating even the darkest valley. Therefore, we entreat you: Protect us from the enemy, Defend us from all evil, and give us the grace, to walk in the light of your Son, who lives and reigns, with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Religious Persuasion

An interesting NY Times book review on "American Grace."

An excerpt from the review:
At first glance, the authors of “American Grace” would seem to suffer from very bad timing. Between the completion of their manuscript and its publication, the dispute over the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan erupted, followed by the ­Koran-burning controversy, and somewhere along the way a New York cabdriver was stabbed, apparently for being a Muslim. All this gives a quaint air to their declaration, in the book’s first chapter, that “America peacefully combines a high degree of religious devotion with tremendous religious diversity.” And it seems to render moot one of their main goals: to illuminate the source of this inter­faith ­tolerance.

Actually, though, the story told in this book, by the social scientists Robert D. Putnam of Harvard and David E. Campbell of Notre Dame, is urgently relevant to the recent surge in interfaith tension.

True, America’s tradition of peaceful religious coexistence is largely about harmony among Christian denominations, and so doesn’t speak directly to the question of Islam’s place in America. But it’s also true that there was a time when many American Protestants viewed Roman Catholics no more charitably than a certain Pentecostal preacher in Florida views Muslims. In the 19th century, a Massachusetts convent was destroyed by anti-Catholic rioters, and civil unrest in Philadelphia — set off by rumors that Catholics wanted to rid the public schools of Bibles — led to some two dozen deaths and the destruction of two churches.

The question of how this changed, how Protestants came to stress their commonality with Catholics, is, generically speaking, the question of the day: How do mutual fear, hostility and suspicion give way to amity, or at least tolerance? How do supposedly deep doctrinal chasms recede from view? The answers offered by Putnam and Campbell deserve the attention of everyone concerned about America’s future cohesion.
You can read all the review here.

AMERICAN GRACE: How Religion Divides and Unites Us
By Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell with the assistance of Shaylyn Romney Garrett

Read an excerpt: ‘American Grace’

A new Children's Bible

Desmond Tutu retells more than fifty of his most beloved stories, artfully highlighting God's desire for all people to love one another and to find peace and forgiveness in their hearts. Many of the finest artists from around the world have been selected to illustrate the stories. In an attempt to create the first truly global Bible for children, the artists have been invited to portray the stories with the style and richness of their own culture. Their stunning color illustrations allow readers to experience the Bible stories as if they were there---with Adam and Eve in the garden, with Noah on the ark, with Abraham in the desert, and with Jesus on the mountaintop. Every story shows how God works through history and ends with a short prayer, which personalizes the message for each reader's own life. Archbishop Tutu's wisdom, compassion, and sense of humor shine throughout, as he reminds us that 'We are all God's children.'
Target Ages 4-8

I haven't read this yet, but am very interested...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day

Go Vote!

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States and of this community in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

All Souls Day

The Commemoration of All Faithful Departed:

O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers: Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son; that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints Day

All Saints Prayer:

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

A wonderful All Saints Day message...

A message for All Saints (from 2008)

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
What saints will you remember this year on their feast? It's an occasion to remember all the faithful, whether we know their names or not. The Good Shepherd knows them by name, even if we don't. This year I'd invite you to celebrate the ones whose names you know and the ones whose names you haven't yet learned.

In your neighborhood, who is the saint who picks up trash? Who looks out for school children on their way to and from school? Who looks after an elderly or frail neighbor, running errands or checking to be sure that person has what is needed?

In your community, what saints labor on behalf of the voiceless? I recently read about a prison law program in Michigan, about to be shut down for lack of funds, where one lawyer has worked for decades on behalf of those who have no other helper. Sandra Girard's work has helped to free many who were wrongly convicted, and to ease the circumstances of those who will spend most of the rest of their lives in jail. She points out that, "Most of the people I've helped in prison have also been victims. Long before they committed a crime themselves, they were victims of violence, poverty or something else." I met a member of the clergy in Missouri recently who also told of seeing many victims in prisons, but also that the penal system there is the most highly regarded in the U.S., for its focus on reparative and reconstructive justice. What saints are visiting the prisoners in your area? That is one of the ways Jesus urges us to bring good news and care for the least and forgotten among us (Matthew 25:37-40).

The saints are followers of Jesus, and fellow travelers on the journey toward the City of God. They come in all shapes, ages, colors, and theological stripes. Some of them, like Jerome and Jeremiah, can be difficult to live with. The children of the churches of the Convocation in Europe recently compiled a book of saints, complete with short accounts of their lives and illustrations by the children. Their list had some familiar names, like Joan of Arc and Hildegard, and some unexpected ones, like Anne Frank and Edith Cavell. Some, like Miss Edith, would not be known beyond the local congregation, but have had even more influence on their young charges' lives than any saint of an earlier age.

As you gather to celebrate on the feast of All Saints, take with you the name of a saint whose example you have seen in action, and one whose name you don't know, and give thanks. The appropriate companion prayer to one of thanks for the witness of other saints is that we, too, might be holy examples to those whom we meet.