Wednesday, July 27, 2011

John Stott, RIP

John Stott died today. Here's the obit from the NY Times.

One of my favorite prayers of Easter is his:

Lord Jesus, risen from the dead and alive for evermore. Stand in our midst this morning as in the upper room; show us your hands and your side; speak your peace to our hearts and minds; and send us out into the world as your witnesses, to the glory of your name. Amen. (John Stott)

May he rest in peace and rise in glory!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Harry Potter Prayer

I have not read the books. I have seen some of the movies. It defintily has lots of theology to chew on. Here is a taste of one person's thoughts on this:

(from - The Harry Potter Prayer by Betsy Shirley)
Almighty God, we praise you for creating all things in your image: muggles and wizards, beasts and humans, the magical and the mundane.

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts. Remind us that our hope does not lie in philosopher’s stones or deathly hallows, but only in your hallowed name.
Merciful God, teach us to walk humbly. We confess that we often raise our wands at the evil we see in the world, ignoring the darkness lurking in ourselves.

Forgive us for creating social systems that marginalize and oppress. Stir our hearts to build relationships with house elves, muggles, squibs, and all who are made vulnerable by injustice. Give us courage to advocate on their behalf, confronting those who would exclude them from our communities...

Read it all at!

Prayer for Norway

Eternal God, we come to you with our fear and great unrest. We are struck, God, by violence and terror. We have known the great joy of an open and safe society. Now we are experiencing devastating bomb attacks and people being shot. Many people are killed and many injured. God, how can such things be? It is so unbelievably bad that society and innocent people are affected by blind violence. God, look to all who are in grief over having lost their own. Look at all those wounded and those with intrusive memories of what has now happened. God, we pray; in your mercy hear our prayer.

Jesus Christ, you are always close to us in our suffering; look to all the young people who were on Utøya. Be near to all relatives and injured. See us, God, when we cry over anyone who is affected.

Give us strength to face each other with comfort and closeness. Help us to walk together through all this evil across both religious and political divides. God, we pray; in your mercy hear our prayer.

God, give strength and perseverance to all who work with the wounded and survivors. Thank you for the solidarity and willingness to be there for each other. Help all believers to show love and kindness and give courage to work against hatred and terror. God, we pray; in your mercy hear our prayer.

God, you created us to manage life and community. Help us build a society where pleasure and safety are secure. We pray for our king and his house. We pray for our government and all those in the community. Give strength and comfort to our leaders who are badly affected by Friday's terror. Help us to build our country in peace and contribute to the respect and confidence between peoples and nations. God, we pray; in your mercy hear our prayer.

(from the Lutheran Church of Great Britain)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Common English Bible - Coming Soon

I like what I have read thus far from the new bible translation.

This from

New Bible Aims for 'Common' Language, Gender Neutrality By: Tim Newcomb
We didn't know Jesus being called the “Son of Man” was so confusing. But the publishers of the Common English Bible translation want to clear up anything and everything that can confuse those inclined to dive into the Bible, so “Son of Man” now reads “the Human One.” Not exactly poetic, but arguably modern.

In an effort not only to make the Bible more accessible to modern readers, but also to appease both conservative and liberal denominations, the multi-denomination publishers of the new Bible translation—the Common English Bible Committee, an alliance of five publishers—out digitally now and in print in the next few weeks didn't just toss together a few new catchy phrases, though. They took the task seriously.

With more than 200 biblical scholars and church leaders representing more than 20 denominations, the committee translated straight from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts, says associate publisher Paul Franklyn. When field-testing showed passages appeared confusing, project staff worked in modern phrasing. USA Today notes the committee was made up of "a coalition of Protestant denominational publishing houses owned by the United Methodist Church, one of the nation's largest denominations, and the Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ."
read the whole article here.

Go to the website here:

More poems by RS Thomas

An Anglican Priest and Poet from Wales, I have always found his poetry very moving. Here are a couple more of my favorites:

The Coming

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, A river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. many People
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

The Moon in Lleyn

The last quarter of the moon
of Jesus gives way
to the dark; the serpent
digests the egg. Here
on my knees in this stone
church, that is full only
of the silent congregation
of shadows and the sea's
sound, it is easy to believe
Yeats was right. Just as though
choirs had not sung, shells
have swallowed them; the tide laps
at the Bible; the bell fetches
no people to the brittle miracle
of bread. The sand is waiting
for the running back of the grains
in the wall into its blond
glass. Religion is over, and
what will emerge from the body
of the new moon, no one
can say.

But a voice sounds
in my ear. Why so fast,
mortal? These very seas
are baptized. The parish
has a saint's name time cannot
unfrock. In cities that
have outgrown their promise people
are becoming pilgrims
again, if not to this place,
then to the recreation of it
in their own spirits. You must remain
kneeling. Even as this moon
making its way through the earth's
cumbersome shadow, prayer, too,
has its phases.

The Country Clergy

I see them working in old rectories
By the sun's light, by candlelight,
Venerable men, their black cloth
A little dusty, a little green
With holy mildew.
And yet their skulls,
Ripening over so many prayers,
Toppled into the same grave
With oafs and yokels.
They left no books,
Memorial to their lonely thought
In grey parishes; rather they wrote
On men's hearts and in the minds
Of young children sublime words
Too soon forgotten.
God in his time
Or out of time will correct this.

The Empty Church

They laid this stone trap
for him, enticing him with candles,
as though he would come like some huge moth
out of the darkness to beat there.
Ah, he had burned himself
before in the human flame
and escaped, leaving the reason
torn. He will not come any more

to our lure. Why, then, do I kneel still
striking my prayers on a stone
heart? Is it in hope one
of them will ignite yet and throw
on its illumined walls the shadow
of someone greater than I can understand?

July 24 Sermon

I had a great time at Camp Washington, got home in the heat. Wow! 100 degrees! Then I heard the news about the attack in Norway. Norway? A terrible tragedy. As more and more details about the attacker come forth, I have begun to wonder about the seeds that were sown in his soul.

From what I have seen from the news, the seeds were filled with much hate, against the immigrants coming to his country, against Muslims, but why he attacked Norway in the way he did, we still don’t know. Sadly, we have seen the fruit of his hate. What are the seeds that we plant? What are the seeds planted in us? Jesus used a parable about a seed to talk about the kingdom of God…
"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."
Mustard seed – tiny! From this tiny seed – the greatest of shrubs… That bursting forth, from nearly nothing to something that gives life is what the Kingdom of God is all about. I think of a story I first learned three years ago…
In 1992, the beautiful city of Sarajevo was being torn apart in the ethnic strife of the Bosnian civil war. On the afternoon of May 27, a bomb was dropped on one of the last functioning bakeries in the city - 22 people who were waiting patiently to buy bread were killed. Vedran Smajlović witnessed the bombing from his apartment window. He was horrified and enraged at the massacre. But what could he do? He was not a politician or soldier. He was a musician, an accomplished cellist. All he knew was music.

So that is what he did for 22 days ­- one day for each of those killed - Smajlović played at the same spot. Every evening after that, at 4 P.M., the time of the fatal explosion, the 37-year-old cellist, dressed formally as if for a concert performance, took his cello to the site of the crater created by the bomb. And there he would play one of his favorite pieces, Albinoni's "Adagio in G minor." All around him mortar shells and bullets would fly, but he would continue to play. He played for the sake of human dignity that is the first casualty of war. He played for life, for peace, for hope. He was also known for playing for free at different funerals during the siege, even though such funerals would often be targeted by enemy fire.

Today, Vedran Smajlović is revered as a hero by the people of Sarajevo. A statue of a musician, sitting on a chair and playing a cello, was erected on the spot where Smajlović first played. But Smajlović says in all humility, "I am nothing special. I am a musician, I am part of the town. Like everyone else, I do what I can."
He could have been swallowed by hate, instead, seeds of life and hope were planted by Smajlovic, using his God given talent, to a weary and worn torn city. What happened at Camp Washington this past week was planting such seeds.

And I am not just talking about my role. As chaplain I did lead the worship, both the morning formation period and the Compline that ended each night. And seeds were planted there. But the staff, through the love and compassion they shared with each camper, the fun times and the free play they engaged in. To the activities that each child signed up for, led by a staff member whose gifts helped them enjoy their activity. All that went on, even the space of Camp Washington helped them enjoy themselves in the beauty of God’s creation. Many seeds of life were planted this week, seeds of God’s love and understanding one’s self in God’s creation.

The tragedy in Norway gives me pause to think about the seeds we plant in our children, and those seeds of faith that we have in our lives. But it isn’t about the past or the future. It is about the Kingdom of God right now…
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field for
a while, and gone my way and forgotten it.
But that was the pearl of great price, the one field
that had treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have to possess it.
Life is not hurrying on to a receding future,
nor hankering after an imagined past.
It is the turning aside like Moses
to the miracle of the lit bush,
to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

~ The Bright Field by R. S. Thomas ~

Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 10 Sermon

“Listen carefully my child to the master's instruction and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”
These words were written by St. Benedict 1500 years ago to guide the monks of his monastery. Since then, his rule has been adopted and used by countless monks and nuns and other Christians to help guide their Christian lives. His feast day, the day we remember him, is tomorrow. I have always been struck by the opening sentence of his prologue: “Listen carefully my child to the master's instruction and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” Listen and attend to them with the ear of your heart… In the rush of our days, we need to stop and listen, really listen, to the words that will guide our lives, the masters instructions.

And what is Jesus first word to the crowd that comes to hear him speak, “Listen.” And then he tells them a parable. Now remember that a parable is not like an Aesop Fable with a moral at the end, it is not like the stories we so often hear. Parables are rooted in images of everyday life and yet they are metaphors, and as the parable unfolds the metaphors are shattered, things are not as they seem, and they challenge our vision of reality.

The parables are open ended, with multiple meanings and layers to those stories, they are not so simple. That is why the disciples often asked Jesus to explain his parables. If Jesus had wanted to, he could have given a simple story or command like “love one another” as he did elsewhere. But to the crowd and his disciple he often spoke in parable. A parable is
“where the ordinary has gone askew and thereby shocks us into realizing that the parable leads us into another way of thinking about life.” (John R. Donahue)
So Jesus tells a parable to the crowd (and us) about a sower sowing seed on the ground.
· Some falls on the path, birds eat
· Some on rocky ground, no root & withered away
· Some fall on ground that is chocked by thorns
· But some fall on good soil and produce grain, 100 fold, 60 and 30.

“Let anyone who has ears listen,” says Jesus. That’s the 9th verse, what we don’t have in today’s reading is the disciples flummoxed by what Jesus said, in the missing verses. When asked, he gives them an interpretation. The seed is the word of the Kingdom of God:

· Some falls on the path, and Satan snatches it away
· Some on rocky ground, hear the word joyfully, but when trouble comes, they fall away
· Some fall on ground that is chocked by cares of the world, wealth, faith yields nothing
· But some fall on good soil and produce fruit

So what is the meaning of the parable for us? Are we the sower, the seed, the ground? Which one? As you sit and listen with your heart to that parable, let me end with two stories that play on the meaning of this parable.
A sower went forth to sow. Some of his seeds fell upon stony places. Centuries passed; millennia. And the seeds remained. And the stones crumbled and became good soil, and the seeds brought forth fruit.

"Wait a minute," said one listener. "You can't play fast and loose that way with the natural facts. The seeds would die long before the soil could receive them."

"Why would they die?"

"Because they can't hold out in stony places, for thousands of years."

"But, my dear, what kind of seeds do you think we're talking about?"

The Parable of the Sower by Stephen Mitchell *Portraits and Parables.* © 1990
Once upon a time there was a little seed. Because it was only a seed, nobody seemed to notice or care. The seed didn't consider himself very important, either. One day, the wind picked up the seed and threw the seed mercilessly into an open field. The sweltering sun beat down on the little seed; rain pounded the helpless seed into the ground; snow and ice trapped the shivering seed for long periods of time. The little seed was broken, confused and lonely. Time went by. Then, one day, a traveler came up and sat beside the seed. "Thank you, O God, for this place," the seed heard the traveler say.

"Excuse me." The seed spoke up. "What are you talking about?" People had stopped by his little plot of earth before, but no one had ever spoken like this. The seed thought the traveler was making fun of him.

The traveler was startled. "Who's speaking to me?"

"Me. The seed." "The seed? You're no seed. You're a tree - a goliath of an oak!"

"Really?" asked the seed. "Yes! Why else do you think people come here?"

"Why?" "To rest under your shade. Don't you realize how you have grown?"

It took a moment for the seed to realize what the traveler was saying. The seed smiled for the first time in his life. The years of restlessness and struggle, of brokenness and loneliness, finally made sense to him. "I am worth something," rejoiced the one-time little seed, now a great oak. [Adapted from a story by Novoneel Chakaborty.]
In this Indian parable, a simple seed learns though struggle and discovery, what it is to grow in good soil. Stephen Mitchell’s poem reminds us that even on stony ground, good soil can come, eventually. Listen says Benedict. Listen says Jesus. And the Spirit of God inside of us will help us find meaning in parable because the Word of God is planted within our hearts. Amen.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Prayers for Independence Day

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Almighty God, whose wisdom and whose love are over all, accept the prayers we offer for our nation. Give integrity to its citizens and wisdom to those in authority, that harmony and justice may be secured in obedience to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Our National Hymn

The hymn was written in 1876 for a cel­e­bra­tion of the Cen­ten­n­i­al Fourth of July.

God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

July 3 (Proper 9) Sermon

O God, in the course of this busy life, give us times of refreshment and peace; and grant that we may so use our leisure to rebuild our bodies and renew our minds, that our spirits may be opened to the goodness of your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Being the July 4th weekend, it feels like summer is finally here. The kids are out of school, vacations are planned and we are ready for a break! And I know of no better Gospel passage for us for summer than what we heard in the Gospel of Matthew:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
So for a moment, I want you to close your eyes, take a deep breath and let it out slowly… Relax in the Spirit – God is here. But there is more to Jesus words than rest. This is about our souls, our lives, & our salvation. For this passage from Matthew begins with the knowledge of John the Baptist’s murder by the authorities. They did not listen to John the Baptist because they dismissed him as possessed said Jesus and they count me as a glutton & drunkard, a sinner, who is friend with tax collectors (traitors) and sinners. He tells the crowd that this generation failed to really listen for God in their midst.

But wisdom tells us differently, that John and Jesus both did the work of God, indeed, Jesus taught us directly what God expects of us. And who understands? Who takes in this wisdom?
“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants”
Infants. Children, the young of heart who embraced what Jesus taught and did. Jesus not only taught us the divine wisdom, he was the divine wisdom. Again hear his words…
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me...and you will find rest for your souls.”
We will only find that true rest when we learn from Jesus. The Jesus who befriended a tax collector, who ate with sinners, who refused to let the religious elite of his time put a yoke upon those who were suffering and in need. Jesus brought healing and life wherever he went. That is the Jesus we learn from and in whom our souls find rest. His was such a wise & holy life. I recently came across another wise life…
One of the early leaders of Zen Buddhism in Japan was a priest named Tetsugen Doko, who was the first to translate the holy books of his faith into Japanese in the 17th Century. Tetsugen sought to print several thousand copies of the books in Japanese so the people could read it (sounds like the early reformers in England!). He traveled the length and breadth of Japan to raise the money for the printing. Rich and poor alike donated to the project. The priest expressed equal gratitude to each donor, whether their gift amounted to hundreds of pieces of gold or a few pennies.

After ten long years, Tetsugen had enough money for the printing. But just as the making of the holy books was about to begin, the river Uji overflowed its banks, leaving thousands of people without food and shelter. The priest halted the project immediately and used all of the money he worked so hard to raise to help the hungry and homeless.

Then Tetsugen began the work of raising the funds all over again. It took another ten years of travel and begging before he collected the money he needed to publish the holy book. But an epidemic spread across the country. Again the priest gave away all he had collected to care for the sick, the suffering and the dying.

A third time Tetsugen set out on his travels and, twenty years later, his dream of having the holy books printed in Japanese was finally realized. The printing blocks that produced the first edition are on display at the Obaku Monastery in Kyoto. The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen actually published three editions of the holy book -- the first two are invisible but are far superior to the third. (Reps, Paul; Nyogen Senzaki. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings)
Jesus invites us to embrace the rest that he gives which can only be realized by our learning from his example of humility and gratitude, to take on his yoke of humble, joyful service as we journey together to the dwelling place of God. & Like Tetsugen, we proclaim the Gospel most effectively and meaningfully not in words but in the generosity and compassion we extend to others. Our loving actions toward others will long be remembered before any of our words. And in our welcome to all who approach our tables, we make the word of God a living reality in our own time and place.

As we take the time this summer for some R & R, let us not forget Jesus in our lives, that in the wisdom he offers we will find rest for our souls. And in generous acts like Tetsugen and like Jesus, such compassion for others, we will rebuild our bodies and renew our minds, for God will be with us there. So for a moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath and let it out slowly… Relax in the Spirit – God is here. Amen.

June 26 (Proper 8) Sermon

Just a brief thought about the Gospel for today – How do we welcome Christ?

That is the challenge before us from the Gospel, how to welcome others in the name of Christ. Whether it be the stranger who comes before us or a friend, we are to treat them as if it was Jesus himself and by doing this we follow in his footsteps in how Jesus treated others. We can think of such hospitality through the acts we have given…

· Helping Tom Gilbane become part of this community, even for such a short while, as we gave him a Bible and a place that was a spiritual home for a wandering soul.

· I think of those who walked those Peace walks a few years ago around CT, who stayed here with us for a night, we offered them food, conversation, a place to rest.

Such acts are indeed what Christ calls us to do. They are part of our mission: to welcome everyone with God’s love on their journey of faith. Be it here at this altar or in our undercroft. But how do we do welcome Christ into our busy lives?
The writer Barbara Jurgensen tells the story about how her busy life had kept her from living the kind of Christian life she wanted to live. And so one night, she prayed to God to help her live a really Christian life the next day.

Before she even got out of bed the next morning, her next-door neighbor phoned, saying she had a terrible toothache. The dentist could see her right away, but her little boy was in bed with the measles. So Barbara went over, gave the child his breakfast and took care of him. That filled the morning.

After lunch, a friend who had been in and out of a mental hospital stopped with a couple of dresses, asking if Barbara would help her shorten them. The two women worked together for most of the afternoon.

Near supper time her husband came in announcing that he’d invited two new acquaintances to dine with them, a married couple. The man was having trouble finding work because of a prison record. “I hope it’s okay with you that I invited them,” her husband said and Barbara agreed. By bedtime, Barbara wondered how, with all those interruptions, she could live the kind of Christian life she’d like to. (Barbara Jurgensen’s You’re out of Date, God?)
She eventually realized, of course, is that God had been in all those interruptions. “One sign of God is that we are led where we did not intend to go.” She had welcome Christ into her midst by her Christ like acts during that day. She wasn’t thinking about it, but she did it all out of love. May our lives be filled with such love, such generous acts to friend and stranger, so that we can embody Christ by what we do and welcome all. Amen.