Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Update - Service Cancelled

Due to the arrival of Hurricane Irene tonight - conditions for travel will be treacherous - the Sunday Service is cancelled.

Stay home - stay safe.

A prayer:

O God, the life of all who live, the light of the faithful, the strength of those who their trust in you, and the repose of the dead: We thank you for all the blessings of this life and humbly ask for your protection through the coming storm. Watch over all those in the path of Irene and protect us from all danger through him who died and rose again for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of 9/11

You can find what the Washington National Cathedral is doing here (A Call to Compassion) and what Trinity Wall Street/St. Paul's Chapel is doing here (Remember to Love).

We will hold our service of the Holy Eucharist with music and prayers in commemoration of the anniversary on our Green at 9 AM. Please bring your own chairs!

Our historic bell will toll ten times at 8:46 am, 9:03 am, 9:37 am, and 10:03 am in honor of the anniversary.

A prayer:

God of steadfast love, who led your people through the wilderness: Be with us as we remember [and grieve on] the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. By your grace, lead us in the path of new life, in the company of your saints and angels; through Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. Amen.

Apple Festival

Its that time of year!

Our Apple Festival returns - September 10 & September 11.

You can learn more here.

“This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree."
~ Joshua Smith, New Hampshire, 1784

Preparing for the Hurricane

We await the arrival of Hurricane Irene here in CT (hopefully it will be a Tropical Storm by then!). Sunday services are still on for Sunday - 9 AM.

A prayer:

O God, Master of this passing world, hear the humble voices of your children. The Sea of Galilee obeyed your order and returned to its former quietude; you are still the Master of land and sea. We live in the shadow of a danger over which we have no control. During this hurricane season, we turn to You, O loving God. Spare us from past tragedies whose memories are still so vivid and whose wounds seem to refuse to heal with the passing of time. Gracious Father, all the elements of nature obey your command. Calm the storms and hurricanes that threaten us and turn our fear into praise of your goodness. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.


And a prayer fro those already affected by Irene:

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 Irene. 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.

(both adapted from different sources)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Prayers for England (London)

In the midst of riots in London and the unrest in England, some prayers for England:

God of compassion, look in mercy on all who suffer because of the riots —
the anguished, the frightened, and the pained,
all who are wounded,
all who mourn,
and all who have lost home or livelihood.
May they know respite, relief, and hope. Amen.

God of love, whose compassion never fails; we bring before you the griefs and perils of England; the necessities of the homeless; the helplessness of the aged and weak; the sighings of prisoners; the pains of the sick and injured; the sorrow of the bereaved. Comfort and relieve them, O merciful Father, according to their needs; for the sake of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

- after Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family and especially on England; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

- The Book of Common Prayer

God our refuge and strength: may we be so assured of your near presence, so confident of your love for all your children, so committed to your promise of life eternal and fullness of joy, that we may stand fast through our distress and continue to serve you and minister to your world, though our foundations be shaken and we be brought to the time of testing; we pray through Christ our Savior. Amen.

- The Rev. Jennifer M. Phillips

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Looking at Religion (in the NY Times)

Last weekend, there was a couple of articles that caught my attention.

The Man Behind the Anti-Shariah Movement
really tells the tale of one person who made a ripple, that became a movement based on the fear of "Islam."

In Afghanistan, Rage at Young Lovers
shows us what happens when old customs and religion confront new realities.

Coming Together to Pray, and Also to Find Reduced-Rate Energy Deals
is an example of how diverse communities of faith can come together to be better stewards of the earth and to lower their bills!

From yesterday...

Prayer Rally Draws Thousands in Houston is an example of a way to engage the public in praying for the needs of this country. However, sadly it is also an example of how partisan and how one sided this prayer can become.

One response has come from Roger Ebert (He gives it a thumbs down): The Error of Political Prayer

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Speaking Christian: An Interview with Marcus Borg

There is a great interview with Marcus Borg on his new book "Speaking Christian."

Here is an excerpt:

"Sometimes words in the Bible are wrong." That's a dangerous thing for clergy to stand up and say in American churches, yet that's one of the main messages of your work.
MB:  I would love it if every clergyperson would stand up and say to their congregations: "Sometimes the Bible is wrong." There is a taken-for-grantedness in conservative American Christian culture—and it's true, I think, in much of mainline Christianity today as well—that understanding the Bible is simple. And, if the Bible says something is wrong, then that pretty much settles it. There are very few Christians who are willing to stand up and say, "Sometimes the Bible is wrong." Yet, I think that's really important for Christians to say occasionally.

Before some of our readers start throwing things at their computer screens, let's remind them that what you're saying actually makes a lot of common sense if we stop to think about the whole scope of the Bible.
MB:  Obvious examples are passages in the Bible that say slavery is OK. And, there are some passages in the Bible that absolutely prohibit divorce. In Mark 10:9, it's complete. Matthew has an exception clause: except for reasons of adultery. Then, there are clearly passages in the New Testament that expect Jesus to come again very soon from their point in time. Now, 2,000 years have passed. There are so many more examples where in plain terms we need to say, "Sometimes the Bible is wrong."

Read the whole interview here.

Find the book here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Words from Levi & Jefferson

Since I used them in my sermon, let their own words also speak to you of their wrestling with God...

Shema by Primo Levi

You who live secure
In your warm houses
Who return at evening to find
Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider whether this is a man,
Who labours in the mud
Who knows no peace
Who fights for a crust of bread
Who dies at a yes or a no.
Consider whether this is a woman,
Without hair or name
With no more strength to remember
Eyes empty and womb cold
As a frog in winter.

Consider that this has been:
I commend these words to you.
Engrave them on your hearts
When you are in your house, when you walk on your way,
When you go to bed, when you rise.
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your house crumble,
Disease render you powerless,
Your offspring avert their faces from you.

(Translated by Ruth Feldman And Brian Swann)

From Thomas Jefferson's letter to John Adams, 1823

The truth is that the greatest enemies to the doctrines of Jesus are those calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them for the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.

Monday, August 1, 2011

July 31 Sermon

In the silence of the stars, In the quiet of the hills, In the heaving of the sea, Speak, Lord. In the voice of a friend, In the chatter of a child, In the words of a stranger, Speak, Lord. In the stillness of this room, In the calming of our minds, In the longing of our hearts, Speak, Lord. In this our service of word & sacrament, Speak, Lord, for your servants listen. Amen. [adapted from a prayer by David Adam]
The past few weeks we have walked together through the book of Genesis. It began with
· Testing of Abraham – near sacrifice of Isaac – the Lord will provide
· We then walked with his and Sarah’s son Isaac who married Rebekah and their sons Esau & Jacob, how Jacob gained Esau’s birthright, Jacob found two wives (Leah & Rachel)

In today’s story, while Jacob waited for his brother Esau to come (sending the family away), he waited alone; he got Esau’s birthright and now he feared Esau wanted his life. And then something happened near Bethel, Jacob wrestled with a man all night. When the man did not prevail, he put Jacob’s hip out of joint. I can only imagine the pain. But Jacob did not give up the struggle and wanted a blessing. Like his struggles with Esau, Jacob needed a blessing. But he got much more.
“You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”
The man had given him a new name because of what he had done. Jacob asked for his name; but the man did not give it. And then Jacob now Israel was blessed. Who was that masked man? Jacob might of asked but he already knew.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”
Jacob knew that he had wrestled with God. That God had given him both a name and life. Many people looking on this story would see the wrestling as a metaphor between God and all his people Israel, even all the world.

I first thought about this idea of wrestling with God when I read the works of Primo Levi in college. Primo Levi was Italian, a chemist, later he would become an author & poet; but what came to define his life was his Jewish heritage, which led to his being interred in a concentration camp in 1943. In 1944, all the Italian Jews in the camp were sent to Auschwitz, one of Hitler’s death camps. He would survive Auschwitz, barely, when the Soviets liberated what was left of the camp, mostly dying prisoners.

In several books, Primo Levi would recount his time in the death camp and his journey home. The books are not for the faint of heart. But the words that I still think of, is in another of his works when he considers why he and so many others were subject to such terror, cruelty and death. He walked away not believing in God but I think he still wrestled with God. And what he came up with, is that he was the other, the one in whom God did no bless. He would struggle with that and the horror that he witnessed for the rest of his life.

150 years before Primo Levi, Thomas Jefferson wrestled with God too. In the age of enlightenment and deism, he wondered about God and wrestled with the words already written. He was so distressed by what was written, that he considered most of it to be of no use, he created his version of the Gospels of Jesus so to get rid of all the error, so one could truly live the life that Jesus had meant. He wrestled with God and found that we had misread and misunderstood God. The feeding of the five thousand recounted in today’s Gospel does not appear in Thomas’ re-write.

We have always struggled, wrestled with God in our lives. People still try to understand God and our relationship with God. What does Jacob’s story of wrestling with God say to us & our relationship to God? Will God bless us as he did Jacob? These are questions we must wrestle with, if we want our faith to be alive. To wrestle with God is to honor our relationship with God. And that reminds me of a poem by Aaron Zeitlin:
Praise me, says God;
I will know that you love me.
Curse me, says God;
I will know that you love me.

Sing out my graces, says God.
Raise your fist against me and revile.
Sing out my praises or revile.
Reviling is also a kind of praise, says God.

But if you sit fenced off in your apathy, says God.
If you sit entrenched in: "I don't give a hang."
If you look at the stars and yawn,
If you see suffering and don't cry out,
If you don't praise and don't revile,
Then I created you in vain, says God.
This wonderful Yiddish poem is a reminder that we are called to praise and to struggle, like Jacob, with God. To wrestle with the words given to us in Scripture. To wrestle because we believe and there we may find blessings for our lives. But we should also remember Jacob’s injury and know that we may walk away with our own limp. Amen.