Saturday, February 26, 2011

Prayers for Discoery

As it undertakes its last space mission, we keep the STS-133 crew aboard the space shuttle Discovery in our prayers (as well for those astronauts on the International Space Station):

Creator of the universe, your dominion extends through the immensity of space: guide and guard those who seek to fathom its mysteries especially those on board the Discovery. Save us from arrogance lest we forget that our achievements are grounded in you, and, by the grace of your Holy Spirit, protect our travels beyond the reaches of earth, that we may glory ever more in the wonder of your creation: through Jesus Christ, your Word, by whom all things came to be, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Reinventing the Sabbath - A Day of Quiet

Next Friday - Reinvent the Sabbath by unplugging yourself.

Reboot, the nonprofit sponsoring the event, includes “Ten Principles” to guide participation (which they encourage you to edit!):

1) Avoid technology;
2) Connect with loved ones;
3) Nurture your health;
4) Get outside;
5) Avoid commerce;
6) Light candles;
7) Drink wine; (or beer (that's my addition))
8) Eat bread;
9) Find silence;
10) Give back.

You can learn more here.

An article on this can be found here: Turn Off, Slow Down, Drop In: The Digital Generation Reinvents the Sabbath | Culture | Religion Dispatches

I think this is a great idea and will try to do it myself!

A Reflection on Aligning Food Choice and Faith : The Humane Society of the United States

As we approach Lent, some thoughtful words from an Episcopal priest on our food choices:

A Reflection on Aligning Food Choice and Faith : The Humane Society of the United States

An excerpt:
As Christians, we owe it to ourselves, and to the God who has provided us with food in abundance, to become educated about these issues and to make food decisions that are consistent with the faith we live out in the rest of our lives.

Read the Bible

From Rabbi David Wolpe:
Why should we continue to study the Bible? That is not a question if you consider it the unalterable word of God. But for those who are uncertain, there is another powerful reason to pore over this sacred text.

Everything has changed since biblical times -- language, communication, dress, medicine, technology -- everything except human nature. We still cry as did David, dance as did Miriam, dream as did Jacob, suffer as did Job. Our marriages are troubled, families fractured, hopes thwarted. When his brothers are jealous of Joseph's special status and envious of his dreams, we understand. When Moses explodes in frustration against a people who will not follow the only path he knows will save them, we nod our heads in rueful recognition. This is not alien to us. As the Latin proverb has it, change the names and the story is about you.
He is right. Change the name - it is our story. Read his whole article here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Lazarus Effect

We watched this on MDG Sunday - Feb. 13. We will watch this again on Lazarus Sunday - April 10.

Prayers for Countries Facing Unrest & the Cry for Freedom

Prayers for the Middle Eastern countries facing unrest and uncertainty

O God you are in the midst of us
and we are called by your name.
As the foundations of our society
are shaken and our future is uncertain,
may we be given the grace to trust in you.
May we find our refuge and strength in
your eternal changelessness,
today and for ever. Amen.
(Church of England)

O HOLY GOD, you love righteousness and hate iniquity: Strengthen, we pray, the hands of all who strive for justice throughout the world, and, seeing that all human beings are your offspring, move us to share the pain of those who are oppressed, and to promote the dignity and freedom of every person; through Jesus Christ the Liberator, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Rev. L. Paul Woodrum)

O RIGHTEOUS GOD, you sent your Christ to establish the reign of justice, on earth as in heaven: Prosper every effort to root out arrogance, intolerance, and prejudice, and to eliminate all forms of discrimination, degradation, and oppression; through him who died at the oppressors' hands, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (The Rev. L. Paul Woodrum)

News & Prayers for New Zealand

News from New Zealand and the aftermath on the earthquake...

Another prayer:

Merciful God, in your hands are the caverns of the earth and the heights of the hills: our times also are in your hands. Hear our prayers for those suffering in the aftermath of earthquake in New Zealand; soothe those in distress; watch over those trapped and hoping for rescue; comfort the bereaved; strengthen those who labor to help others, lift up those who cannot help themselves; and in every danger be their very present help by the power of your Holy Spirit; we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (The Rev. Jennifer Phillips)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Prayers on this Washington's Birthday

On this anniversary of Washington's Birthday, let us in prayer remember our president and all in authority...

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to the President of the United States, the Governor of this State, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
(BCP p. 820)

And a prayer from George Washington (1783 - from one of his letters)...
I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for brethren who have served in the field; and finally that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.

Prayers for New Zealand (after the Earthquake)

Prayer for the People of New Zealand (from the Church of England)

God of consolation
grant to those who suffer and sorrow at this time,
the spirit of faith and courage,
that they may have the strength to meet the days to come
with steadfastness and patience;
not sorrowing without hope
but clinging to your goodness and love,
through Jesus Christ who is the resurrection and the life,

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

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

And from another source...

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

February 6 Sermon (Epiphany 7)

You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
So which is easier, holiness or perfection? Is God asking more than we can really handle? As I thought about what God is asking of us, I was listening to the radio with my kids, and I heard songs with these lyrics:

Pretty, pretty please
Don't you ever, ever feel
Like your less than
F***in' perfect

Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like your nothing
You're f***in' perfect to me

You're so mean
When you talk
About yourself
You are wrong
Change the voices
In your head
Make them like you
Katy Perry
You don't have to feel like a waste of space
You're original, cannot be replaced
Do you know that there's still a chance for you
Cause there's a spark in you
You just gotta ignite the light
And let it shine
And even Lady Gaga…
My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars

"There's nothin' wrong with lovin' who you are"
She said, "'Cause He made you perfect, babe"
"So hold your head up, girl and you you'll go far,
Listen to me when I say"

I'm beautiful in my way,
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Each in their own way, these singers celebrate our individuality and our common humanity. And I find that these songs speak the truth of who we each are as created by God, each unique, none a mistake, that we all have that spark inside, we are all beautiful in our own way.

It reminds me of a picture of a frayed teddy bear I had as a teenager, that said, something like God sees us as we are (frayed) but loves us for who God made us to be. It is important to remind ourselves that we are all children of God.

William Stringfellow, a lawyer, theologian and Episcopalian, put it this way,
“To become and to be Christian is to become utterly vulnerable to God’s own affirmation of one’s existence . . . and, as it were, to participate in God’s affirmation of one’s self and of all things.”
At the root of who we are is the affirmation that we are part of God’s creation and we are called to participate in that affirmation. (Think of Paul's words to the Corinthians - We are God's temple, the Spirit of God dwells in us.) Just like in those songs, but it doesn’t stop there. We are called to participate in that affirmation of all things and all people. And maybe that is the key for our understanding of what God asks of us to be holy or perfect.

For we need to see God’s work and hand in the world around us, and especially in God’s creation and all of God’s children. Think of that first reading and what Moses tells the congregation of Israel in regard to our interactions with others and what the Lord expects of us:
When you reap the harvest, leave some for the poor and the alien. You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. You shall not defraud your neighbor; You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; You shall not render an unjust judgment; and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. In Leviticus it is an ethical injunction about loving our neighbors as ourselves.
This love of self is made holy by those interactions with others and following what God has laid out in that passage. In Matthew, Jesus takes it even further than we heard in Leviticus…

Eye for and Eye – Tooth for a Tooth becomes if they slap your cheek offer the other, take your coat, give them another, not as passive resistance but in shaming them for an action against another. Because we are not called to strike back, seek vengeance, against other, but help show them another way. We cannot hate one and love another says Jesus. This does not profit us. Perfection and holiness are not found inside ourselves, but are lived out in our human interactions. By the love we share as human beings.
"Being holy . . . does not mean being perfect but being whole; it does not mean being exceptionally religious or being religious at all; it means being liberated from religiosity and religious pietism of any sort; it does not mean being morally better, it means being exemplary; it does not mean being godly, but rather being truly human." ~ William Stringfellow (A Keeper of the Word)
It is about being ourselves like in those songs, we need to be who we are and from such a place move into loving actions towards others. In her memoir Marriage and Other Acts of Charity, Kate Braestrup writes about reading St. John's letter on love with her little son Peter. She writes:
"God is love, John's Gospel tells us. That's a whole theology in three words. The practical application of that theology - God is love - is nearly as simple. Be as loving as you can, as often as you can, for as many people as you can, for as long as you live. Why should you do this? Because. "It's simple enough for a child to understand. 'I can do it,' Peter said stoutly when I explained it to him. 'I can be loving toward anyone. Even an ax murderer.' "'Start with you sister,' I told him. "Start with your spouse. That's what I had to do. Whomever you start with, it doesn't end there. Once I'd gotten the principle more or less down as it applied to [my husband] Drew, it quickly became obvious that the same could apply to other people, and not just the safely distant murderer who has taken the ax to a stranger. The principle might also apply to the guy who swipes my parking spot at Stop & Shop, or the telemarketer who calls at suppertime, or even - imagine this! - to my relatives!"
In Leo Tolstoy’s parable ‘The Two Old Men’. Two elderly peasants, Efim and Elijah, save up and set out on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem but only Efim arrives. Elijah is way-laid by caring for an ailing, starving family and providing for their material needs which exhausts all his pilgrim’s funds. He reasons with himself, ‘Of what avail is it to go across the sea to seek Christ if all the time I lose the Christ that is within me here?’ Efim reaches the holy places but always sees the likeness of his absent companion before him in Jerusalem and as he returns home he knows of the great deed his companion had done for that family and he realizes that to follow God’s will is “to show love and do good to others.”
You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Perfection and holiness are not out of reach. They are simply already part of us, when we live from the core of our souls, that beautiful person that God has made, each and every one of us, and we show it by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Amen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February 13 MDG Sermon (Epiphany 6)

This sermon was given at the 8 AM service (some of which was also given at the 10:15 AM along with a children's sermon):

O Loving God, we bring before you this day the burden the whole world carries as so many people endure extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable disease. Stretch out your loving arms, we pray, to embrace the suffering women, men and children whose bodies, minds and spirits are shrinking before our very eyes. Kindle within each one of us a flame of love and purpose, and then enable us to channel our love into action in every way possible and impossible. For this we pray, in your son’s name. Amen. (adapted from a prayer by Mimi A. Simson)

Think back 100 years. What was medicine like? It certainly wasn’t like today… We took Hannah in to the Pediatrician on Friday, she was complaining of a sore throat and was wheezing. She had two breathing treatments at the doctor’s office and after a visit to CVS, we had 3 prescriptions to help her feel and get better. (She is doing much better.)

None of that was possible 100 years ago, although, researchers were well on their way then in developing the antibiotics we use today to treat our illnesses. Now, we can pop a simple pill in our mouth and treat those bacterial infections. Now, we can, effectively treat cancer, it no longer is a death sentence for many (think Relay for Life – and all those survivors). For those with HIV or AIDS in the US, there are effective treatments making it a chronic disease. We have come a long way!

Which is true in the US but our brothers and sisters in Africa, and in many other places around the globe, look more like the US 100 years ago then what we have today. That is what the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) were created. To help those in extreme poverty, overcome it through universal primary education, combating preventable diseases like hiv/aids, malaria, TB, ensuring environmental stability, improve the lives of mothers and children and eradicating that extreme poverty and hunger.

It is a global partnership, helping to develop countries, so we are not just giving them fish, but training them to fish on their own, as the old saying goes. For so many people in Africa, dealing with AIDS, it starts with a simple pill to help what could be fatal turn into something treatable. It is the Lazarus Effect. Where people with AIDS had a bleak future, it is now filled with hope because of the AIDS medicine they are receiving. A treatment that in 40 days transforms their lives (40 days – wandering in the wilderness – Jesus).

When these ARVs (antiretroviral medications) first came to Africa they were very expensive and people had to decide between money for rent, money for food, or money for the ARVs. And its neighbors talking with neighbors, getting rid of the stigma and getting real help and medicine for those in need. But now through partnerships like the Global Fund, the people that need those medications are getting them. It is indeed a miracle. I think of the song “Miracle Drug” from U2
The songs are in your eyes
I see them when you smile
I've seen enough,
I'm not giving up
On a miracle drug

Of science and the human heart
There is no limit
There is no failure here sweetheart
Just when you quit

Beneath the noise
Below the din
I hear a voice
It's whispering
In science and in medicine
I was a stranger
You took me in
That is why today’s offering is going to the Global Fund. Since 2003, programs supported by the Global Fund have saved 6.5 million lives through providing AIDS treatment for 3 million people, anti-tuberculosis treatment for 7.7 million people and the distribution of 160 million insecticide-treated bed nets for the prevention of malaria.

Why is this important for us? Because it is what is expected of us as followers of Jesus. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live – Moses told the Israelites – obey the commandments. (Loving your neighbor.) Jesus wants us to lay our offering at the altar and go reconcile with our brothers and sisters. For Jesus, what was most important was our relationships, with God and with one another. That’s what he wants us to focus on.
“The MDG’s serve as an invitation to get on with what God wants us to be about; to join with sisters in brothers in Christ, with people of other faiths, with wider global civil society to be about the repair of the world.” (Bishop Ian Douglas)
Repairing the world through love, through care, through the medicines people need to live.
“This is our moment, this is our time, this is our chance to stand up for what is right. Three thousand Africans, mostly children, die every day of mosquito bites. We can fix that. Nine thousand people dying every die of a preventable, treatable disease like Aids. We have got the drugs. We can help them.” (Bono of U2)
We can do it. As you leave this place today, with those songs ringing in your ears, think of this little marble as a symbol. A symbol of hope that you gave in your offering today. A symbol of life, when someone will get the medicine they need for AIDS or TB, or nets to sleep safely and soundly. It is a symbol to remind you of what God has given to you, it is marble of great value because we know God brings life to all and today we have tried to share that with the world. Amen.

February 6 Sermon (Epiphany 5)

"It was a dark and stormy night."

These words written some 180 years ago, it is a phrase oft repeated… I think of the comic strip Peanuts and Snoopy sitting on top of his dog house with his typewriter. Again, again, he is trying to write the great novel, "It was a dark and stormy night."

It is phrase true of our lives. All of us have those dark and stormy nights in our lives and those dark and stormy nights can be very scary and it is good to be prepared for such times, maybe a flashlight to light things up can help (or maybe just the dawn) but there are some people who live every day of their life in darkness. They are lost and alone with no light to show the way.

I think of the movie I am Legend with Will Smith – years after a man made plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters, the one survivor in New York City struggles to find a cure in the daylight, for at night (in the darkness), those infected but not dead roam the city (afraid of the light). His hope is to bring light to those in darkness through finding a cure. And at the end, he brings life by finding the cure and through his death, passes it on to bring that light, that hope to others.

In a world that is full of darkness, with people who are suffering it is the good that we can bring into their darkness, to let our light shine for the good of others and praise to God. Jesus said,
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
It is up to us. We are called to be the salt of the earth. We are to let our light shine and not hide it away. Just like the Living Beatitudes I spoke about last week – that salt and light is living out of those blessings by the good we do today. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,
"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
We can show others the way by letting our light shine. If they see that we have the light, they will want it too. It is just like it says in the song we all know, "This Little Light of Mine":
1. "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!"
2. "Hide it under a bushel? No, I'm gonna let it shine."
We know the song, now what we need to do is do what Jesus said. We need to let our light shine to show others the way. I think of a story about a community that let their light shine:
The small French Town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon lived quiet, unnoticed lives as farmers and shopkeepers in their remote French mountain village. Then, at the outbreak of World War II, Jewish families began arriving at the town's small train station desperately seeking refuge from the Nazi horrors. The French Vichy government, collaborators with the Germans, banned harboring Jewish refugees. But the Chambonnaise, led by their pastor, defied the law and began offering refuge to any Jew who came to their village.

Members of the little church took Jews into their homes, fed and clothed them, provided money and forged identification papers, and educated their children. Despite the growing suspicion of the French state police, the Chambonnaise managed to carry on their work in secrecy. It is said that between 1940 and 1943, there was not a wine cellar or hay stack or attic in all of Le Chambon that had not sheltered a Jewish child.

In the dark of night, villagers would hide the children in their hay wagons and transport them across the mountains to safety in Switzerland. No resident of Le Chambon ever turned away, denounced or betrayed a single Jewish refugee. It is estimated the Chambonnaise had saved more than 5,000 Jews from the Holocaust.

An old villager later recalled, "We didn't protect Jews because we were moral or heroic people. We helped them because it was the human thing to do." The pastor, Andre Trocme, who led the work, said of his parish's actions, "We did it because we wanted to be with Jesus." [FOR MORE: Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There by Philip Hallie and Weapons of the Spirit, a film by Pierre Sauvage.]
The story of Le Chambon mirrors Jesus' call to his followers to be "salt" and "light" for the world. Jesus' words challenge us to live the Gospel we have heard and profess to believe. Until our hopes for justice become our work for justice, until our prayers for peace and unity in the world are first lived in our own home and community, until our professed belief in God as Father of all affects every one of our relationships, we are as good as flavorless salt, we are as useful as light hidden away under a basket.

Pastor Trocme and the parishioners of Le Chambon accepted that call in their courageous but little known work to help Jewish refugees. May we realize our own vocation to be salt to a world desperate to realize the joy and hope of God's presence; may we be light for those who have lost their way in the darkness of violence and injustice. “In the dark and stormy night” let our light shine for all the world to see. Amen.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Prayer for Australia

Cyclone Yasi has now reached the coast of northeastern Australia. It is a destructive category 5 (US scale) and adds more misery to a region already struck by devastating floods earlier in January.

Lord, you who calmed the storm at sea, quiet the fears, ease the pain, tend the grief, and light the darkness of your children affected by Cyclone Yasi. In stunned silence, be their voice. In rages against the night, be their balm. In bewilderment, be their hope. Lead rescuers to the lost, shelter the waiting. Sustain those who work to make life's necessities spring forth in this desert of gloom. Blanket the weary with your tender touch. Shake us from our comforts to share out sisters and brothers' sorrow and burden and assist and pray them into new life. We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus, who suffered and was raised to new life. Amen.

Candlemas (& Groundhog Day)

It may seem like we are stuck in Bill Murry's movie Groundhog Day with our pattern of winter storms, but in the calendar, today is significant.

As reported by Old Farmer Almanac (Thanks to Episcopal Cafe):
It's no accident that Groundhog Day and Candlemas are celebrated together, for both signify the triumph of light over darkness, spring over winter.

Candlemas was originally a Celtic festival marking the "cross-quarter day," or midpoint of the season. The Sun is halfway on its advance from the winter solstice to the spring equinox. The Christian church expanded this festival of light to commemorate the purification of the Virgin Mary and her presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple. Candlelit processions accompanied the feast day.

Since the traditional Candlemas celebration anticipated the planting of crops, a central focus of the festivities was the forecasting of either an early spring or a lingering winter. Sunshine on Candlemas was said to indicate the return of winter. Similarly, "When the wind’s in the east on Candlemas Day / There it will stick till the second of May."

A bear brought the forecast to the people of France and England, while those in Germany looked to a badger for a sign. In the 1800s, German immigrants to Pennsylvania brought their Candlemas legends with them. Finding no badgers but lots of groundhogs, or woodchucks, there, they adapted the New World species to fit the lore.

Today that lore has grown into a full-blown festival, with Punxsutawney Phil presiding. For all things groundhog, visit the folks at Punxsutawney and see what Phil is predicting this year.
A prayer for Candlemas Day (Presentation of Jesus in the Temple):

Almighty and everliving God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From my Address at the Annual Parish Meeting

These are excerpts from my address at the Annual Parish Meeting: (you will be able to find my address at our website shortly)

Opening Prayer:

O God, make the door of this parish wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife. Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children, nor to straying feet, but rugged and strong enough to turn back the tempter's power. God, make the door of this parish the gateway to your eternal kingdom. Amen. (adapted from a prayer by Thomas Ken, 1637 – 1711)

Poems in the Address:

If you come this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion.
You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report.
You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid.
And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

~T.S. Eliot

i am a little church (no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
- i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april
my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth's own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)
children whose any sadness or joy
is my grief or my gladness
around me surges a miracle
of unceasing birth and glory
and death and resurrection.
~ ee comings

Living Beatitudes
This week, if you do something for someone else for no other reason than to bring joy to their lives, blessed are you.

If you find yourself feeling the loss of a friend or loved one and, in missing them, you realize that you experienced the love of God in their love for you, blessed are you.

This week, if you put yourself second for the needs of another, blessed are you.
If you do the "right" thing when the conventional wisdom is to do the "smart" thing, blessed are you.

This week, if you forgive someone or if someone forgives you, blessed are you.
Sometime in the next few days, if you stop, unplug and spend even just a moment thinking about all the good in your life and find yourself embraced by a sense of gratitude, blessed are you.

This week, if you can diffuse someone's anger, if you can bridge the chasm between you and another, if you bring a positive perspective to an otherwise negative situation, blessed are you.

If you risk being laughed at or misunderstood or if you endure a "funny look" from someone because you took a stand based on what was morally and ethically right, blessed are you.

You have reason to be glad.

In the blessings you give, you have been blessed.

To be a people of the Beatitudes is to embrace the spirit of humility that begins with valuing life as a gift from God, a gift we have received only through God's mysterious love, not through anything we have done to deserve it. Jesus calls all who would be his disciples to live the "blessedness" of the Sermon on the Mount: to embrace a spirit of humble gratitude before the God who gives, nurtures and sustains our lives and to respond to such unfathomable love the only way we can: by returning that love to others, God's children, as a way of returning it to God. ~ Jay Cormier

Praying for Egypt

As we watch the protests, the call for change, and the upheaval in Egypt, let us keep them in our prayers:

O Holy God, you love righteousness and hate iniquity: Strengthen, we pray, the hands of all who are striving for justice in Egypt, and, seeing that all human beings are your offspring, move us to share the pain of those who are oppressed, give aid to those who promote the dignity and freedom of every person in Egypt; through Jesus Christ the Liberator, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

O Righteous God, you sent your Christ to establish the reign of justice, on earth as in heaven: Prosper every effort to root out arrogance, intolerance, and prejudice, and to eliminate all forms of discrimination, degradation, and oppression in Egypt; through him who died at the oppressors' hands, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Nurture us, O Loving God, in the dignity and worth you give to all your creatures. Keep us in the discipline you command, that we may respect the diversity and richness of your creation; and that we may work for equity and justice for all people, and especially for those crying out for freedom and change (in Egypt, Tunisia...); through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.