Tuesday, May 31, 2011
He was not one of the 12 disciples, in fact, he was a persecutor of some of them, but in a flash of light, his life changed. Saul came so close to God and God came so close to him in that event that he would come to understand what God wanted him to do. His life and his name changed!
Saul would become Paul, and he would become a saint in the church because of his witness to the world. Much of his work was to try to say how his hate had turned into love. He begin to settle churches where people could show how this was to be done, to love one another. And he preached to everyone. But we must remember how this all began…
1. Paul’s (or should I say Saul’s) life began in Tarsus, in south central Turkey, (the place of the first meeting between Mark Antony and Cleopatra). He was named Saul after the first King of Israel. He and his family were both Jewish and Roman Citizens. He loved learning, he knew the Greek language well but he loved Hebrew and his faith.
2. This led him to leave Tarsus and to make his first journey as he went to study at the temple in Jerusalem. Scripture tells us that he was as a student of Gamaliel the Elder, or at least within his school of the Sanhedrin. He worked hard to keep all the laws of the Torah. But Saul was troubled by the Christians who claimed Jesus was the Messiah. Saul persecuted Christians.
3. And then as he traveled to Damascus because he heard there were Christians there, He experienced God on the road to Damascus. A blinding light knocked him down – the voice of Jesus asked why he was persecuting him. And his companions took him to Damascus because he could not see. (Acts 9: 1-9)
4. He stayed with Ananias in Damascus, a Christian who was reluctant to minister to Saul the persecutor. But God told him to take care of him and he did. Saul was healed from his blindness and no longer persecuted others, instead his name changed to Paul and he proclaimed the Good News of Jesus. When others wanted to arrest him for this change of heart, he escaped from Damascus, being lowered over the wall and he spent time in the desert.
5. He taught about Jesus. He took many journeys along the Mediterranean to tell others his experience. The story from today from Acts 17 before the Athenians on Mars Hill is one such story about his teaching, helping the Athenians learn that this unknown God they worshiped was the God Paul knew. For Paul listened to the longing in their hearts for faith and hope and love, he saw their intellectual curiosity and their restless creative spirit, and spoke boldly of God who is near each one of us, “in whom we live and move and have our being.”
5. He wrote letters to new churches. We remember their names from the people he wrote to… Corinthians, Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, Romans…and every Sunday its one of his epistles (letters) that we hear that help us how to live as Christians in our world today, just as he had written to the Christians so long ago guiding them on how to live in that love that he found in Christ, that they can share in their places (churches).
6. Then finally, he went to Jerusalem for the last time, in a ministry that probably lasted around 30 years, he went to preach the Good News and while there he was arrested by the Romans. And being a Roman citizen from Tarsus, they sent him to Rome to await his punishment.
7. Even in house arrest in Rome, he continued to write and support the Churches. And then it came time for Paul to face his punishment, and he was martyred by the Romans; years later the Roman Emperor Constantine who converted to Christianity would build a church on the spot where tradition said he died.
8. The church of St. Paul Outside the Walls was built there in 324.
and yet St. Paul still lives, because his letters are still read in churches today. We hear the accounts of his life from the Acts of the Apostles and we continue to try to live as Christ would have us live. Paul came so close to God and God came so close to him that he would understood what God wanted him to do, to share the love of God as he had felt in his life. And now it’s up to you, to share that love with others. Let us pray:
O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant that your Church, instructed by his teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit and your love, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Monday, May 30, 2011
adapted from the BCP and other sources...
Thursday, May 26, 2011
A great book on this is: The Rapture Exposed by the Barbara Rossing
Here she is on a You Tube video debunking the Rapture:
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 the tornado in Joplin and throughout the US; 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)
God our refuge and hope:
Hear our prayers for those whose lives have been overturned by disaster.
Direct relief to the desperate,
comfort the injured and bereaved,
calm the fears of those who do not know where to turn,
cheer and protect the downhearted,
strengthen those who lend help,
and in all things increase compassion and care for the commonweal;
through Jesus who knew our sufferings
and opens for us the gate of new life. Amen. (The Rev. Jennifer Phillips)
For our distress:
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
As new reports come in from Joplin, MO and the terrible death and destruction there, just upon the heels of the outbreak of Tornadoes that devastated several states, we continue to ask where Go dis in all of this.
For some, it is divine intervention that saved them.
Read this article from the NY Times:
Recovering from Twisters
Another news source: WEST MISSOURI: Church members 'shocked and dazed' but safe after deadly tornado
“That’s lucky,” I said.
“That’s God,” he said.
One of the best stories I heard from these terrible events:
“That’s where Squirrel stayed,” Carolyn said, pointing across a small pond. Squirrel wasn’t his real name, she assured me, but she didn’t know his real one. He had survived, but his trailer was gone, lost in the blast thicket. Worse, he’d been unable to find his dog.
It came trotting back a week after the storm, while they were out picking through the wreckage. They found some rope and tied it to something heavy. Somebody called Squirrel. He left his job and raced over in his truck. “My dog, my dog,” he said over and over, embracing the animal. Carolyn grinned widely, telling about it. “He was so happy,” she remembered. “He kept saying: ‘I don’t care about my house. I don’t need a house. I got my dog, man. I got my dog.’ ”
Here is an article from the NY Times on this:
Why the King James Bible Endures
The King James Bible, which was first published 400 years ago next month, may be the single best thing ever accomplished by a committee. The Bible was the work of 54 scholars and clergymen who met over seven years in six nine-man subcommittees, called “companies.” In a preface to the new Bible, Miles Smith, one of the translators and a man so impatient that he once walked out of a boring sermon and went to the pub, wrote that anything new inevitably “endured many a storm of gainsaying, or opposition.” So there must have been disputes — shouting; table pounding; high-ruffed, black-gowned clergymen folding their arms and stomping out of the room — but there is no record of them. And the finished text shows none of the PowerPoint insipidness we associate with committee-speak or with later group translations like the 1961 New English Bible, which T.S. Eliot said did not even rise to “dignified mediocrity.” Far from bland, the King James Bible is one of the great masterpieces of English prose.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
For some, it was serious. They believed in the particular prophesy. His addition seemed right, it must be May 21. They were ready. Others thought it was joke and they held rapture parties to welcome the end of it all. My kids heard about it at school and asked “is it the end of the world?” No, I said. I am sad for all those kids whose parents gave up everything, and anyone confused or hurt by it all.
Its amazing that such an interpretation of scripture, that is under 200 years old, has gained so much notoriety. There have been many people who predicted the end before, that the rapture of the righteous would happen, and then it didn’t. You can look on Wikipedia, you can see the failed predictions, the origin of the rapture, those who believe such things, the pre-melenialists… Episcopalians (and many others) have never believed in such interpretations. Yes, Christ will come again, as we say in the Eucharist, but when, we do not know nor can we predict it. As one professor put it,
“Biblical prophecy tells us not the specifics of what the future holds, but who holds the future. We can know the most important thing about us: God is the one who holds our future.” (Barbara Rossing)
So its not just some guy in California who through his own logic and his search through particular passages from scripture that he interprets & comes up with the date of rapture and a date for the final judgment, We too have worried about it… But will the end really be some violent destruction, with the chosen ones escaping from it and the rest of us sinners doomed to it?
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
“Biblical faith promises the consummation of all created life, in all its range and diversity, in the end and fullness of time.” (William Stringfellow)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” Said Jesus.
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” (from her vision)
“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”Our focus is on doing the works of Jesus – that’s what we are to do now. For we know Jesus will be with us in what we do, as he said. The late Fred Rogers - Mister Rogers to five generations of young TV viewers - told this story of his own childhood in his 2002 book The Mister Rogers Parenting Book:
'When I was a boy I would see scary things in the news, and my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's comforting words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."
“Christians are those human beings who live now within the efficacy of the resurrection.” (William Stringfellow)
Sunday, May 15, 2011
The graph shows the difference in many of the faith groups in America, % of those with income above $75k and % of those with a college education.
We Episcopalians are the fourth dot from the right and from the top.
An interesting position...
Here is an article with thoughts on this:
Is Your Religion Your Financial Destiny? By DAVID LEONHARDT (NY Times)
It is also true of our discipleship, that there is no royal road to follow, but a gate, a sheepfold and a shepherd who calls us each by name. And just as the King had a hard time following what the young Euclid was teaching, so the disciples did with Jesus and his teaching. We are told:
“Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.”Do we understand? Gate, sheep, shepherd, or would it be easier to deal with modern geometry? “I am the gate for the sheep.” Jesus said. Jesus is direct. I am the one who will let you through, who rescues his sheep, brings them safely into his sheepfold.
“Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”Abundant life is in the sheepfold. The gate into the sheepfold is not something we can buy, earn or get from here. It is what God offers to us through Jesus. It is gift. But we do have to respond to his voice, to his call, to walk through that gate…
I think of a story from St. Anthony's Church in San Francisco that has served meals to people in need for many, many years. Over the doorway to its dining room the church has posted a sign bearing the inscription: Caritate Dei. One day a young mechanic, just released from jail and new to St. Anthony's, entered the door and sat down for a meal. A woman was busy cleaning the adjoining table. "When do we get on our knees and do the chores, lady?" he asked. "You don't," she replied.
"Then when's the sermon comin'?" he inquired. "Aren't any," she said. "How 'bout the lecture on life?" "Not here," she said. The man was suspicious. "Then what's the gimmick?" The woman pointed to the inscription over the door. He squinted at the sign. "What's it mean, lady?" "Out of love for God," she said with a smile, and moved on to another table.
I think of a poem by Christopher Marlow, called The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, and as you hear a portion of his poem, consider that the passionate shepherd is our Good Shepherd Jesus who woos our beloved souls in whom he delights, calling us to live with him…
COME live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Or woods or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my Love.
Today and throughout all our length of days, may we hear the voice of the shepherd, and walk through the gate, for we know his goodness never fails; O Good Shepherd, may we sing your praise and live out of your love forever. Amen.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
we thank you for the love of our mothers,
who have nurtured our souls and blessed our lives.
May we see your loving Spirit behind them and guiding them.
We pray for those mothers in our world today where war or famine, violence or illness have hindered their care for children.
We ask you to bless them with your own special love.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, who was loved by his mother Mary.
It was the presence of Jesus that the disciples missed on that first Easter. They were dealing with their grief.
“Nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love, and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute; we must simply hold out and see it through.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on griefSimply hold out and see it through is what those two disciples were doing, after Easter, on the road to Emmaus. The death of Jesus seemed to end their hope, that horrible crucifixion. But just that morning, women found an empty tomb, an angel proclaimed he’s alive! They must have been discussing it all and wondering about life without Jesus, when a stranger approached them. They didn’t recognize Jesus but they told him everything.
Oh how slow of heart to believe! Jesus then opened scripture to them – from Moses to the Prophets – the Messiah would suffer but then there would be glory. And then he broke bread with them, and there eyes were opened and they recognized him. And then he was gone.
Those two disciples understood now – how their hearts burned when Jesus taught them through scripture – how their eyes were opened when Jesus broke bread with them. They go back to tell the other disciples for they know how to live, because he is alive. They held out and saw it through and they were rewarded, for they know saw that Jesus is still with them.
The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is also our story. We have come from different places; we have come through different faith experiences. But here in this place, out stories connect, each and every week. We do this because it is where we expect to feel the presence of God: We expect it in the Scripture we hear; to feel it in the prayers we offer and then in the broken bread and wine, to taste God’s presence in remembrance of him. And then in the fellowship we have, to feel God’s presence as we enjoy the company of one another.
Our stories, our journeys are united for we are the Body of Christ, present on Earth and we take in that Body of Christ each week at the altar. It is mystery and it is hope and we know it is our salvation too. We continue to celebrate Easter, new life springing up. Just look around, for Easter is here and God’s presence is too, springing up from the ground, from the trees, even in the hope that one’s baseball team might just go all the way and maybe in places of destruction too.
In the midst of the destruction of his town by tornado, the mayor of Phil Campbell, AL, spoke about the loss, the darkness of a struggling town with so much gone (on NPR), but he had hope. He talked about “a caravan of pickup trucks and machinery, chainsaws, coming from Oklahoma to help” and “from the Mobile area, they came in with backhoes, with tractors, with Bobcats. Said, we come to pay back when you all came and helped us during Katrina.”
And such generosity gave that mayor some hope, and Easter came through their Good Friday, and the risen Christ was present again, this time in the love shared by those who came to help. As one author put it…
“In taking one another's hand, we take the hand of Christ, who leads us to whatever Emmaus we need to go. Christ travels with us on our own road to Emmaus; Christ is present in the broken bread of compassion and healing we give and receive from our fellow travelers. Easter faith is to recognize the Risen One in our midst: in our wanting to understand, in our struggle to make things right, in our brokenness. May our Easter celebration open our hearts and spirits to recognize Christ among us in every moment of our lives, in both life's bright promising mornings and dark, terrifying nights.” (Jay Cormier)
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”These words were written by St Catherine of Siena and spoken by the Bishop of London at the Royal Wedding on Friday. It was a wonderful way to start that royal sermon for that beautiful couple, Will & Kate, and such wise words for them.
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”You could also picture Jesus saying this to his disciples in that locked room after Easter. Hidden away, fearful of their lives, Jesus comes into their midst. “Peace be with you.” And when they see him and his wounds, they finally feel his peace and their fear drops away. As Dietrich Bonheffer put it,
“Peace with you"—that means: he who himself is this peace, Jesus Christ, the crucified and resurrected, is with you. The word and sign of the living Lord bring the disciples joy. Community with the Lord, after anxious, dark days, has been found again.”
But Thomas doesn’t just want to hear about their experience, he wants to feel it himself. To see the wounds, to know it is the Lord. And a week later he gets the chance; Thomas with the other disciples are in that same room, and Jesus comes again into their midst, and shows Thomas his wounds, Do not doubt but believe, he tells Thomas, and Thomas does believe.
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”The disciples leave that place and go tell others about Jesus; they start to do the ministry Jesus had called them to do and they began to set the world on fire. As we know, Jesus would appear to his disciples several times after his death & resurrection in order to give them instructions on how to continue the mission of God. And maybe another quote from Catherine of Siena might also be true of the journey of Thomas and the other disciples:
“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”So what happened to Thomas? Tradition has told us that Thomas went to India. One story from an ancient Syriac manuscript called the Acts of Thomas:
As the story goes, after Easter, the disciples cast lots to see what regions of the world that they would go to. Thomas pulled out India but refused to go. Jesus appeared one night to Thomas in his own room to speak to him, urging him to accept his assignment. But Thomas still refused, saying he was a simple Jew who knew nothing about India or its people. It would be useless for him to go there. During the day Jesus appeared in the marketplace in Jerusalem. He approached a man named Habban, whose business was buying and selling slaves, a legal and very common occupation in those days. Now on this particular day, Habban happened to have an order from an elderly Indian king who needed an carpenter — a skill that Thomas just happened to have.
And so Jesus appeared out of the crowd and offered to sell his slave Thomas to Habban. Habban agreed to buy Thomas and a bill of sale was written and Habban said, "I'll buy the man if we go to him together and if he admits in front of us both that you are his rightful owner." And as Thomas strolls down one of the winding streets of Jerusalem just after the first Easter, Jesus points to Thomas, walking up the street. Habban runs and takes the startled disciple by the arm. Habban gestures to Jesus: "Is this man your master?"
Thomas looks up in adoration and answers, "Yes, yes, my only Lord and Master." Thomas in that upper room who wanted proof is now the disciple who freely calls Jesus Lord & Master. And Habban said: I have bought you from him. And Thomas held his peace. The next day, Thomas prayed: I will go where you go, Lord Jesus: your will be done.
So what will our story be? What remains locked for you, preventing you from following God’s call in your life? (Jenna & Julia) & for all of us gathered here this morning, let us in this Eastertide be led by the Spirit so that we can indeed set the world on fire by being the person who God meant each of us to be. Let us pray.
Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised though you well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen. (A Prayer of St. Chrysostom)
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
But for now, its time to turn to some prayer to remind us of what we should be doing and a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that might help us in this moment:
For our Enemies (from the BCP):
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For the Victims (orig. Maria Hines):
God of merciful love, help all families who are victims of terror
To accept the reality of such senseless acts of violence
Without, at the same time,
Succumbing to the despair of so great a loss.
May this violence become for them, instead,
A steppingstone toward greater union with you.
Teach them the forgiveness that was exemplified
By Jesus as he said,
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
And through his redemptive love,
Show your mercy to the perpetrators of these crimes
and help change their souls.
Fill the emptiness of their hearts
from the terror that touched them
With the fire of your divine love
So as to transform their losses
Into a healing power
For themselves and for our world.
For Peace (BCP):
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
and in the words of Dr. King:
"Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence and toughness multiples toughness in a descending spiral of destruction."