Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Father's Day Prayer

Heavenly Father, you entrusted your Son Jesus, the child of Mary, to the care of Joseph, an earthly father. Bless all fathers as they care for their families. Give them strength and wisdom, tenderness and patience; support them in the work they have to do, protecting those who look to them, as we look to you for love and salvation, through Jesus Christ our rock and defender. Amen.

[from the Church of England]

A Prayer for Ordinary Time (Summer)

God of seasons and Sabbath,
God of our days and our hearts;
You bless us with greening time,
that we might be renewed.

Teach us to live slowly,
and taste the goodness of your love.

Show us how every moment
is alive with you,
far from ordinary,
trembling with hope,
shining with glory.

Through Christ,
who found you in corners of quiet,
and in whose arms we find rest.

prayer by Rev. Susan Bock

June 19 Sermon - Trinity

To God the Father, who created the world;
To God the Son, who redeemed the world;
To God the Holy Spirit, who sustains the world;
Be all praise and glory, now and forever. Amen.

On this day when we consider our relationship with our triune God, God in three persons, I turn to a poet to hear it put to words.
Lord, who hast form’d me out of mud,
And hast redeem’d me through thy bloud,
And sanctifi’d me to do good;

Purge all my sinnes done heretofore:
For I confesse my heavie score,
And I will strive to sinne no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charitie;
That I may runne, rise, rest with thee.
This poem for Trinity Sunday by George Herbert, written in 1633, expresses our understanding of what the Trinity is (you can find the poem I just read in your leaflet); it is all about the Trinity without actually using the words Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God who created us out of mud, who redeemed us in Jesus blood, who sanctifies us through the Holy Spirit to do good. From that understanding, Herbert then in both confessing language and hopeful language asks God to purge his sins, to enrich his life, so that he can run, rise, rest with God.

I find Herbert’s poem to be about his relationship with God. The triune God who is part of our lives, from the beginning to the end, in whom we run, rise, & rest. Ultimately what this Trinity Sunday is about is our relationship to God and its importance. The Trinity is how we experience our relationship with God like Herbert’s poem. And maybe a child can help us with this, this is from a story from the NY Times a few years ago...

For Dana and her husband, God plays no role in their lives. Like so many young people brought up in strict religious homes, they abandoned the faith of their families long ago. They assumed they had stranded their four-year old son Luke in the same spiritual wilderness. But then Dana's husband was sent to Iraq.

While Dana was numb with anxiety, Luke was surprisingly calm. He missed his Daddy but he wasn't scared. One night, Dana and Luke were watching television. A story came on about a soldier on leave from the war for his wedding. The soldier began to talk about how dangerous it was in Iraq and how afraid he was to go back. Dana reached to switch the channel, but Luke wanted to watch. Out of the corner of her eye, Dana saw Luke steeple his fingers and bow his head for a split second.

"Sweetheart, what are you doing?" Dana asked. But Luke wouldn't tell her. A few minutes later, he did it again. Dana said, "You don't have to tell me, but if you want to, I'm listening." Finally, Luke confessed, "I was saying a prayer for Daddy." "That's wonderful, Luke," Dana murmured, surprised and abashed that somehow Luke would be embarrassed to pray for his father in his own home. Dana asked Luke when he first began to believe in God. "I don't know," he said. "I've always known he exists."

Luke's mother, Dana, wrote this: "It was as if that mustard seed of faith had found its way into our son and now he was revealing that he could move mountains.... I was envious of him. Luke wasn't rattled, because he believed that God would bring his father home safely. I was the only one stranded. For Luke all things are possible.... His prayers can stretch to infinity and beyond, but I am limited to one: Help thou mine unbelief." [From "Coveting Luke's Faith" by Dana Tierney, The New York Times Magazine, January 11, 2004.]
Luke, like so many children, possesses that openness of heart and spirit that enables him to realize God's presence in his life and in the lives of those dearest to him, his parents, even when he didn’t grow up in a religious house. He was not in a spiritual wilderness for Luke is able to sense the Spirit of God loving him and protecting him and his Mom and Dad and family. That is faith at its most basic, at its most enduring, it is the relationship with God we adults long to have, a faith and trust in God who loves us always and will never lose us.

Trinity Sunday celebrates God as we behold him in our simple every day lives; God the Father: The Giver of our lives; God the Son: Jesus, the human face of God who has redeemed us; and God the Spirit: the love that binds us to one another and to God, the Spirit that is still with us to guide our souls to pray and to do good in the world. In the end, its not about doctrine or what we say in the creeds. Its about what is in our hearts and our souls, that longing for connection for something bigger than ourselves, the source of our being, our triune God.

Luke in his prayers and calm hope helped his mother find it, even in her disbelief. May we possess the faith of four-year-old Luke: to be able to find God in the joys and sorrows, victories and hurt that are part of all our lives. Then we may like George Hebert say:

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me, O God,
With faith, with hope, with charitie;
That I may runne, rise, and rest with thee. Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Remembering Evelyn Underhill

Today in our calendar of Holy Women & Holy Men we remember Evelyn Underhill.

You can find a bio. on her here and here.

You can also meet her here.

Why is she helpful to us today?
Miss Underhill taught that the life of contemplative prayer is not just for monks and nuns, but can be the life of any Christian who is willing to undertake it. She also taught that modern psychological theory, far from being a threat to contemplation, can fruitfully be used to enhance it. - James Kiefer
A Prayer of Evelyn Underhill, For Wholeness
O Lord, penetrate those murky corners
where we hide memories and tendencies
on which we do not care to look,
but which we will not disinter
and yield freely up to you,
that you may purify and transmute them:
the persistent buried grudge,
the half-acknowledged enmity
which is still smoldering;
the bitterness of that loss
we have not turned into sacrifice;
the private comfort we cling to;
the secret fear of failure which saps our initiative
and really is inverted pride;
the pessimism which is an insult to your joy, Lord;
we bring all these to you,
and we review them with shame and penitence
in your steadfast light.
A poem of Evelyn Underhill, Corpus Christi

Come, dear Heart!
The fields are white to harvest: come and see
As in a glass the timeless mystery
Of love, whereby we feed
On God, our bread indeed.
Torn by the sickles, see him share the smart
Of travailing Creation: maimed, despised,
Yet by his lovers the more dearly prized
Because for us he lays his beauty down—
Last toll paid by Perfection for our loss!
Trace on these fields his everlasting Cross,
And o’er the stricken sheaves the Immortal Victim’s crown.

From far horizons came a Voice that said,
‘Lo! from the hand of Death take thou thy daily bread.’
Then I, awakening, saw
A splendour burning in the heart of things:
The flame of living love which lights the law
Of mystic death that works the mystic birth.
I knew the patient passion of the earth,
Maternal, everlasting, whence there springs
The Bread of Angels and the life of man.

Now in each blade
I, blind no longer, see
The glory of God’s growth: know it to be
An earnest of the Immemorial Plan.
Yea, I have understood
How all things are one great oblation made:
He on our altars, we on the world’s rood.
Even as this corn,
We are snatched from the sod;
Reaped, ground to grist,
Crushed and tormented in the Mills of God,
And offered at Life’s hands, a living Eucharist.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

And now for the rest of the story...

I remember many a day listening to the radio in my parent's cottage in Oscoda, MI and hearing Paul Harvey's words, "and now for the rest of the story..."

Ever since Sarah Palin misspoke about Paul Revere, lots of ink has been spilled regarding it, but this article from CNN, I think, is the most helpful:

Palin and the truth about Paul Revere By Kenneth C. Davis, CNN, June 8, 2011

He rightly reminds us that too often we mangle history to fit our own needs. Even when corrected, we fail to see our errors.

Here's an excerpt:
But it is also dangerous when people "cherry pick" pieces of the story to suit their purposes, when the foot is cut to fit the shoe. A sanitized but incomplete, or worse, wildly inaccurate, version of history can be cited to support just about any political stand. Like scripture, the words and deeds of the Founders, mixed with bits and pieces of American mythology, are trumpeted to support positions on every issue from individual rights, states' rights, gun rights or gun control, to taxes, immigration, public prayer and, most dangerously, taking the nation to war.

When American history is gutted, innocently, ignorantly or deliberately, the outcome can be deadly. If we are told that there is no separation of church and state in the First Amendment, that the Founders worked tirelessly to end slavery or that the Revolution was all about taxes on tea, we are hearing half-truths or outright fabrications. Our extraordinary history deserves better. The truth shall set you free.

Indeed the truth shall set you free. Read it all here.

Thou Shall Not Misquote the Bible (at least so badly)...

A fascinating article from CNN...

Actually, that's not in the Bible By John Blake, CNN (June 5, 2011)

Guess what's not in the Bible?

  • “God works in mysterious ways.”

  • “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

  • “God helps those who help themselves.”

  • “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

NFL legend Mike Ditka was giving a news conference one day after being fired as the coach of the Chicago Bears when he decided to quote the Bible.

“Scripture tells you that all things shall pass,” a choked-up Ditka said after leading his team to only five wins during the previous season. “This, too, shall pass.”

Ditka fumbled his biblical citation, though. The phrase “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t appear in the Bible. Ditka was quoting a phantom scripture that sounds like it belongs in the Bible, but look closer and it’s not there.

Ditka’s biblical blunder is as common as preachers delivering long-winded public prayers. The Bible may be the most revered book in America, but it’s also one of the most misquoted. Politicians, motivational speakers, coaches - all types of people - quote passages that actually have no place in the Bible, religious scholars say.

Read it all here.

June 12 Sermon (Pentecost)

O Lord, still me. Let my mind be inquiring, searching. Save me from mental rust. Deliver me from spiritual decay. Keep me alive and alert. Open me to your truth. O Lord, teach me so that I may live in your Spirit. Amen. (adapted from The Sacrament of the Word by D. Coggan)
Come Holy Spirit; breathe on us and set us free.

On Friday night, you could feel the Spirit alive at Masuk High School. People were gathered from Monroe & Trumbull to celebrate life, to remember and to fight back against cancer. So many people were engaged in the cause that it was awe inspiring. At the Luminaria Ceremony, it was very moving to see people walking silently around the track, you could only hear the rustle of fee, each one with a glow stick, surrounded by those luminaria lit to remember loved ones who have died and honor the living. It was a fitting tribute for the place was alive with God’s spirit, because it was all about life. (The Nicene Creed reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the giver of life.)

Yesterday afternoon, 11 different churches gathered at Trinity Church in Southport for our deanery confirmation. Many people came before Bishop Ian to be confirmed or received in this church and the Spirit was alive in that church as we sang and prayed and broke bread together. Ray Lopez from St. Peter’s was confirmed The laying on of hands by the bishop and the prayerful presence of so many people gathered, made you feel that God was in the room at that moment.

This morning we are gathered once again at our altar for the Holy Eucharist, to taste and see that the Lord is good. Today we will welcome Benjamin Wokanvoicz into the Body of Christ, as he is baptized. In Baptism, each of us was sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. In Baptism, we become part of the body of Christ, for there is one Body and One Spirit.

At Confirmation, we recognize those baptismal vows and once again the Spirit is recognized as force in our lives. It is that Spirit that is given to each of us at our baptism and remembered in our confirmation, the Spirit of God that guides us for the common good, and at Relay for Life on Friday night, our faith was put into action and the same spirit that was with us at our baptism and confirmation was alive that night on that field at Masuk.

Come Holy Spirit; breathe on us and set us free.

Our Scriptures tell us two different accounts of the bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon the gathered church. In the Acts of the Apostles we have the big public event, with lots of people and dramatic special effects. The event takes place on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter.
They were "all together in one place [when] suddenly there came from heaven a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability" (Acts 2:1-4).
In the Gospel of John, the Spirit comes to the disciples on Easter Day, in the evening, in an intimate setting. Jesus gave his gift of peace to the disciples and "breathed on them" to commission them: "as the Father has sent me, so I send you" (John 20:21).

The word Spirit in Hebrew & in Greek comes from the word for wind or breath. They are two different stories but they each speak to the power of God’s spirit that frees us from fear and sends us out to use the gifts God has given us for the world. Emmett Jarrett my former spiritual director put it this way,
“Two very different pictures of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church at Pentecost confront us in our readings. But both of them speak the same message of the Spirit's power to triumph over death and sin, and the church's commission to proclaim the Gospel of new life and forgiveness to the world.”
Come Holy Spirit; breathe on us and set us free.

The Spirit is always active in our world. We need to look for it; to see it in our lives, happening at our Church, in the fields at our schools and even unexpected places…
In the last years of his life, the great cellist and conductor Pablo Casals suffered greatly from rheumatoid arthritis and emphysema. At 90, he was badly stooped and his head pitched forward; his breathing was labored. He needed the help of his wife, Marta, to get dressed in the morning. Marta would then help him shuffle into his studio where he would, with great difficulty, arrange himself on the piano bench. Casals would then manage to raise his swollen, clenched fingers above the keyboard. A visitor describes what he saw one particular morning:

“I was not prepared for what was about to happen. The fingers slowly unlocked and reached toward the keys like the buds of a plant toward the sunlight. His back straightened. He seemed to breathe more freely. Now his fingers settled on the keys. Then came the opening bars of Bach’s Wohltemperierte Klavier [Well-tempered Clavier], played with great sensitivity and control . . . He hummed as he played, then said that Bach ‘spoke to him here’ — and he placed his hand over his heart.

“Then he plunged into a Brahms concerto and his fingers, now agile and powerful, raced across the keyboard with dazzling speed. His entire body seemed fused with the music; it was no longer stiff and shrunken but supple and graceful and completely freed of its arthritic coils. “Having finished the piece, he stood up by himself, far straighter and taller than when he had come into the room. He walked to the breakfast table with no trace of a shuffle, ate heartily, talked animatedly, finished the meal, then went for a walk on the beach.” [From Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration by Norman Cousins.]
It is the Spirit that set Casals free from the bondage of that arthritis to do as God gave him breath to do, to give life with the beautiful gift of music. God has formed us into a community, the church, an instrument for bringing his life and love into our world. But what makes our Church more than just a gathering of good people is his “breath” infusing the Church with his Spirit to go and use the gifts we have.

Today we celebrate the presence of God in our midst, that promised gift on Pentecost. In Jesus’ breathing upon the assembled disciples the new life of the Spirit, the community of the Resurrection — the Church — takes flight and is free. In the outpouring of the Spirit on the disciples from the book of Acts, they go out to speak the Good News to everyone.

That same Spirit continues to blow through our Church giving life and direction to our mission and ministry, to preach the Gospel to every nation, and to guide us in all that we do. For today we are called to walk in that Spirit, for the Spirit also blows through us to the world. How will we use our God given gifts today?

Come Holy Spirit; breathe on us and set us free. Amen.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 6 Sermon (7th Easter)


Discovered 4500 years ago by a Greek physician, who wrote about the illnesses he found and the treatment that worked. On that papyrus with the list of diseases, for the tumor he found in the breast, he wrote there is no treatment.


In our own time it was a word said in hush tones, if you said it too loud, you might catch it. It was a scary word. It was a disease that no one wanted to talk about. For most it was a death sentence, just like that Greek physician found so long ago. And then things started to change.

The medical field aggressively started to detect and treat cancers with new therapies, new drugs, new surgeries, and new ways of catching the tumor early. People started to talk about the disease they had and the fight they were in the midst of, and then more and more people got to say… I am a cancer survivor. Today, June 5 is National Cancer Survivor Day. It is “an annual, worldwide Celebration of Life.”

We have had heard from survivors, from Joy, John, Christine, Fred. (Have I forgotten any?) Thank you for your witness to us, and the celebration of life! We also know of other survivors too and their caregivers: the spouses, children, family members that have stood by their loved ones through various treatments and surgeries.

Cancer is no longer a death sentence for everyone and it is no longer a word said in those hushed tones. We talk about it, we walk to find a cure, we are no longer afraid to say: Cancer. And yet the battle is far from over. We know that Cancer is insidious for it attacks us from within, turning the body on itself. The root of the word tumor in Greek comes from the word for mass or burden and if you take it back further, it means to carry a burden from one place to another. And those with cancer are burdened, they have to carry that burden, that mass in their life, through the treatment. In the words of St. Peter:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings…
Cancer burdens us. It will try to take over your whole life if it can. It goes where ever it can in your body. We know that Cancer knows no boundaries. It doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, male or female, black or white, young or old, it doesn’t care if you are Christian or not. Cancer tests us. Again in the words of St. Peter:
Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.
Cancer like the devil wants to devour us. Take away our love and hope and finally our lives. We must resist the temptation to be defined by it, the temptation to give into it. Resistance is the only way to live and fight cancer. As William Stringfellow once put it,
“Resistance to the power of death is the only way to live humanly.”
To resist is to fight against it and to know the prayerful support of others, who walk with us. For we are reminded that cancer is not a solo act, it affects so many people the world over and we know the suffering they are going through is like ours, and the caregivers that stand by them too. But as Viktor Frankyl put it,
“In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.”
Frankyl survived the Holocaust and was able to find meaning so he could really live his life, even through such terrible suffering and horrors he felt and witnessed. For Frankyl, to resist such suffering is to find meaning, which is not to say it is part of God’s plan, for God does not give anyone cancer, nor is cancer reasonable. What I think he means is what I read in this story from the NY Times (Brooke wrote about the horrible experience and how her mother helped her through it in an essay in The New York Times (April 11, 2011))
Brooke had been married for only a year when her life suddenly became a nightmare. The FBI burst into their house at 6 AM & arrested Brooke & her husband on charges of fraud and conspiracy. Brooke would soon learn that her husband had used her identity to embezzle tens of thousands of dollars from his workplace. She had no idea. In an instant, she lost her home and her marriage.

The federal charges were held against her for 90 days. So Brooke went home to her Mom and Dad's. For 90 nights, she slept on their couch - and for those 90 nights, Brooke's mom slept on the love seat, across from the couch. Brooke did not ask her mom to sleep there. She just did. Brooke's mom quietly shared every sleepless night, every meal that went uneaten, every moment of anger and grief and despair, with her daughter. "Are you OK?" Mom would whisper during those long nights. "Are you OK?" Brooke would whisper back.

"It was our code," Brooke writes. "There was no real answer, but asking the question was enough. To know that someone loved me so much, was willing to feel my pain so intensely . . . made me feel encased in a bubble of protection. I began to wonder if sadness was this finite thing, a big black mass of which there was only so much in the world. If so, my mother was sharing it with me so that I did not have to bear the full weight. The more she took, the more she was unable to eat and sleep, and the faster her heart raced, the less [pain] there was for me."

Later, when the charges against her were dropped and she began to rebuild her life, Brooke shared the whole ugly story with her doctor. "How have you survived this?" the doctor asked. Brooke thought for a second. "While the charges were held against me, I slept on the couch in my parents' house. I spent 90 nights on that couch." Brooke paused. "And my mom? She slept for 90 nights on the love seat." The doctor blinked, unable to hold back her tears. "What a mom," she said softly, "what a mom."
The meaning in the suffering for Brooke was the Mom who loved her so much that she would spend 90 days on the love seat just to be with her daughter in her pain. That is faith and that is love. It is carrying the burden of another. For it is St. Peter who tells each of us, to hold on to that faith we have inside of us, even in the midst of suffering. For in the end, Christ will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.

It is amazing to me to see how many people in our community resist cancer by coming together year after year, to raise money and walk for a cure, to take a stand and fight against, as one book puts it, the emperor of all maladies. To walk because we know of other’s pain, the burden they carry with cancer and the suffering through treatments, for a night we can help bring meaning to those who carry such an awful burden.

May our faith sustain us in our suffering and may our faith compel us to help others, even if its just to walk for a cure or to sit next someone in pain, that by our faithful presence they know our love. And in faith, let us help celebrate life and help everyone reach another birthday. Amen.

Relay for Life

Relay for Life
Friday & Saturday
June 10 & 11

Masuk High School

St. Peter’s Rockers
(our spaces are near the Survivor’s Tent

Friday Night
6 PM – Opening Ceremony
Survivor's Lap then Caregivers join in for a lap
6:45 PM – Survivor & Caregiver Reception Dinner
7:45 PM – Birthday Lap for St. Peter’s Rockers
8:30 PM – Hero Lap
9 PM – Luminaria Ceremony
11:30 PM – Fight Back Ceremony

Saturday Morning
7 AM – Breakfast & Team Awards Announced
7:30 AM – Awards Lap
8 AM – Closing Ceremony

A Prayer:

Strengthen your servants, O God, to go where they have to go and bear what they have to bear in their fight against cancer; that, accepting your healing gifts at the hands of doctors, surgeons, nurses, and technicians, they may be restored to wholeness with a thankful heart; strengthen all survivors and caregivers that they may feel your presence upholding them; guide us who walk in solidarity with them and all who have cancer; and give us all the courage to fight back and have hope for a future free of cancer. We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen. (adapted from Enriching our Worship 2)