Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Diocesan Convention Follow-Up

Resolutions Report

10/23/2011 - Overview
  • We voted to affirm our common participation as the Diocese of Connecticut  in God's mission of restoration and reconciliation, and accepted the invitation to mutual responsibility and interdependence.
  • We reaffirmed that the financial contribution of each parish toward the common mission and common resources is 12.5% of operating income. We identified benefits and consequences of participation at less than 10%.
  • We approved a minimum salary for clergy.
  • We approved changing our canons so that we can participate in the mandatory denominational health plan, although we delayed its implementation until January 2013.
  • We voted to revise Canon IX, which will let us appoint a Church Attorney who is not a "Member of the Church"
  • We approved a non-binding resolution asking the bishop to permit clergy to officiate at same-sex weddings. 
  • We voted to "endeavor to" adopt the Genesis Covenant principles; urged all local eucharistic communities to evaluate and reduce energy use and to perform an energy audit. We authorized creating a  new task force to help local eucharistic communities implement these plans.
  • We approved asking every local eucharistic community to study and discuss, "A Circle of Protection: A Statement on Why We Need to Protect Programs for the Poor."
  • We endorsed the August 3, 2011 "Proclamation of the Refugee Congress"
  • We approved a resolution declaring a year of dialogue on "communion of the unbaptized" [Note: no implementation info]
  • We postponed a resolution to endorse the Marriage Encounter Movement
  • We authorized moving Diocesan House, giving authority to the Bishop & Diocesan Executive Council to research and act
  • We approved a change in the standing Rules of Order, reducing the time before Convention that nominees for Standing Committee need to be identified
You can find more detail here.

An excerpt from Bishop Ian's address:
By now you have probably figured out that this diocesan convention is somewhat different from the other 226 conventions of the Diocese of Connecticut!  One of the changes is that today we are doing all of our business within the context of the Holy Eucharist.  Our time together in convention, in this place, is indeed holy time.  And it is a right, good and joyful thing that all of our conversations and deliberations throughout the day be embraced by, framed by, the celebration of God’s word and sacrament.  Given the Eucharistic framing of the day, my remarks this morning thus will be less of an address and more of a sermon.  And you might be pleased to know that this sermon will thus be a bit shorter than a normal Convention address (although perhaps a bit longer than your average Sunday sermon.)  So let’s spend a few minutes reflecting on the scriptures we have just heard by asking ourselves:  What is God up to?  What does it mean to put God’s mission first?
You can read his whole sermon here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Story from the 10:15 AM service

THE call came around 3:30 p.m. on a sultry Minnesota day. The hospice social worker, Cheryl, explained the situation in a rush. She had tried 15 judges, and all were either in court or otherwise unavailable. By chance, she had reached me directly.
This is a short excerpt from the NY Times story - Making a Judgment on Love By LLOYD ZIMMERMAN

I used this story as a way for us to think about the Gospel reading: two greatest commandments: Love God, Love others as yourself.

Another excerpt:

Thinking of my father, I made a few legal inquiries, verifying that Thomas and Donna had completed a wedding license certificate, that the family supported the wedding and it was not a ruse to divert an inheritance, and that the humanitarian nature of the wedding was real and true.

It would all have to be done by phone, and it would have to be fast.

The moment that Donna heard the news, Cheryl later told me, she rushed to put on a wedding dress that she had been saving for years.

Witnessed on their end by a hospice chaplain and the bride and the bridegroom’s family, who encircled Thomas’s bed, the couple were placed under oath. Acting in the place of the wedding license registrar, I swore them to the truth of all of the statements on their license application. Donna swore to the truth and signed the application. Thomas swore to the truth by squeezing the hospice worker’s finger “yes” and signed an “X.”

October 23 Sermon

(Sermon given at the 8 AM service.)

At Diocesan Convention

· We gathered around tables

· We got to share a little bit of our faith story with another person

· We then looked at the themes of our God encounters and their commonality at the table

It was a very different exercise from our usual work at conventions – it was relationship building and a great way to see beyond ourselves, to the people at our table and thus to the diocese made up of all these parishes and all those gathered in Farmington.

Jesus is asked, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?"

Our own Catechism (in the back of the BCP) reminds us that The Ten Commandments were given to define our relationship with God and our neighbors.

So instead of just picking one of Ten Commandments or any other, Jesus reminds us of our interconnected relationships.

Jesus said to him, "`You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

It is an ethic of love; what matters most? Our relationship, our love of God and the love of our neighbors as ourselves, they are all connected.

As Thomas Merton put it, “God does not give His joy to us for ourselves alone, and if we could possess God for ourselves alone we would not possess God at all. Any joy that does not overflow from our soul and help others to rejoice in God does not come to us from God.” Our love & joy that come from above, come from God & must be shared. The two commandments are connected.

One of the themes at our table as we shared our stories was the risk that was part of opening ourselves to the change, to the event with God. Risk is part of our lives, risk is a part of love…

Surrounded by family and friends, they exchange their wedding vows. They love each other - there's no question. Each is the other's most cherished and trusted friend. But they are understandably nervous. They know the other's quirks and flaws - and each realizes that they are not the easiest person in the world to live with, either. They also know that their dreams and hopes for their own lives will now be joined to the those of the other - and that means compromise, understanding and sacrifice. They are very much aware that loving with all your heart is a big risk . . .

She has gotten into trouble again, and again she has to be bailed out. The family has been through this before. She is deeply sorry, resolves to change, and begins to clean up her act - but quickly stumbles again. One more bad decision, one more irresponsible lapse of judgment. But her family is always there to lift her back up, to help put the pieces of her life back together. The pattern has gotten tiresome and they often resent it; helping her demands more sympathy and energy than they can manage. They have learned the risk of loving with all your strength . . .

Business has been painfully slow. His CFO advises him that people are going to have to be let go. But some of these folks have been working for him since day one. Nobody would blame him if he just closed the whole operation down; everyone knows the numbers and the market. But these are people's lives and the lives and futures of their families. So he and his management team keep at it, committed to keeping the operation going, no matter what it takes. Make no mistake, loving with one's whole mind often requires a huge risk . . .

We are not called to love the Lord our God with half a heart, part of a mind, or a smidge of spirit: nor can we truly love our neighbor as ourselves if we don’t risk anything. Whether its with our spouse, or as parents or at our job, everywhere we go requires a risk to love as fully and as completely as God asks.

And it is as true for those disciples as it is for us today: “As for the disciples, it was not by their fantastic worship, not by their biblical knowledge, not by their insight or wisdom, not by their sanctity, not by their moral uprightness that they would be known to the world. Not by their eloquent or convicting preaching. Not by their buildings, or their budgets would they be known. Not by their faith to move mountains, or by their personal purity would they be singled out as belonging to Jesus. It would be by their love.” (from synthesis, HKO)

Remember: Love God, Love Neighbor – God loves you! May we embody such love. Amen.

October 16 Sermon

The right idea will fly.

So says a billboard in Bridgeport, depicting the Wright brothers testing the world’s first successful airplane. It is part of the campaign of the Foundation for a Better Life which began as a simple idea to promote positive values, and is best known for the billboards we see. As I saw the picture I was reminded of a story about their invention…
One day during the early history of the airplane, the Wright brothers were working in their shop. Suddenly, something outside caught Wilbur's eye and he ran to the window. Running outside, Wilbur yelled back, "Orville! Come out here! Look, another aviator is using our patent!"

Orville came running out to see a figure soaring high in the sky. "He certainly is," Orville confirmed. "That's our three-axis control, with simultaneous warping and steering."

"Call the police!" Wilbur shouted. "I'm going to our attorney's! We'll file an injunction immediately! That flyer can't do that to us!"

But Orville, who had been watching through his binoculars, gently restrained his brother. "Hang on, Wilbur. Forget the attorney," he said. "It's a duck."
I don’t know if this story is true or apocryphal, but it does speak to the Gospel for today, about human invention and the source of everything: God.
“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
Jesus moves the conversation of paying taxes to the emperor from what the Herodians and Pharisees wanted to hear, a trap that Jesus couldn’t escape, to a deeper level of truth. Yes, give to the emperor that which is the emperor's, it’s his picture on the coin, give it back to the emperor. And give to God that which is God's.

In his response, Jesus is not saying, "give to the Emperor those things that are the Emperor's, and the rest to God." Nor is Jesus saying, "give to the Emperor the worldly things and give to God the spiritual things."

These statements would put Caesar equal to God, and Jesus would never make the Emperor or his stuff into a golden calf, another thing to be worshipped…

We may give our money back to the government, to the Emperor in the form of taxes, we pay bills with it, we spend it, we save it. But the almighty dollar isn’t almighty, and it belongs to God just as assuredly as we do.
“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
For God created everything that is & by God’s will they were created and have their being. Everything is part of God’s creation. We are made in the image of God. So the answer that Jesus gives, remind us that we owe God everything, & we owe God our lives: how we live them, how we give them away, it’s all important.

The miracle of flight begins with God, with the duck naturally flying and in the invention & genius of the Wright Brothers and their airplane. Both are truly gifts from God. It’s not about holding on to what we have or to defend it, but to share with our world all the gifts that we have.

So the right question to ask, as Bishop Andy Doyle puts it is, “If all things are God's, how does God want me to use everything?”

Be a talent for creating great food, or signing, or fixing things around here, or reaching out to mentor a child, or to invent, it should make us ponder and think about how God would have me help others with what I have been given. How do I as a steward of God's stuff in my life, understand and enact the kingdom of God through what I do with them? (another way of putting it)

There are emperors in our lives that demand many things of us. Be that at our workplaces, be they the government, even friends, there are many things in our lives that act like Caesar and demand of us our time, talent and even treasure.

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s…

But we are not to see in those places and those people the true control of our lives, and make them our God. We need not make fortresses to protect what we have done and then give only small offerings to God who has created all things and brings life into the world.

Render unto God the things that are God’s…

What Jesus has done these past few weeks in the parables and again today, is to remind us that God invites us into a sacred relationship with the gardener, with the vineyard owner, with the host of the great banquet, the holy one who is God, the Creator of life. And we are given the privilege of serving as stewards for all the gifts so freely given to us.

All things come from thee O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee, words from King David that we use every week at the 8 AM service. All things come from God and we have the honor to use such gifts as God wishes us to use all things of God’s creation, for it is only then will we soar with God. Amen.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October 9 Sermon

Be patient.

They are words I often tell my kids. They live in an era of now: you want a song, you can download it in less than a minute. You want a bite to eat, stop by the drive through window. Need information, google it and have it instantly on your computer. Sometimes they expect that from parents too!

Patience is a virtue, I often tell them.

We adults have a hard time with it too and need to hear those words. Our smartphones can instantly get what we need and we expect to always get someone by phone.

The Israelites were not patient, when Moses was delayed coming down the mountain. In fact, they were so impatient to hear from God, they decide to make their own gods out of silver and gold. God who was not happy with such perverse actions and was ready to get rid of the lot of them, but Moses convinces God to remember his servants, his covenants with them.

God remembers and is patient for them to cease from their evil ways, for a time.

But will God remain so? Jesus tells another parable about the Kingdom of Heaven.

A King is throwing a Wedding banquet for his son. It is a great big party and he sends slaves out to gather the invited guests. But they do not come. Again slaves are sent, but these invited guests made light of it, ignored them, beat them, killed some. The King is enraged and destroys the city that houses the unworthy guests.

And then he sends his slaves to invite everyone they meet, the good and the bad! And the banquet hall is filled. Jesus ends by saying, for many are called, few are chosen. Maybe better yet, Many are called, but few follow through…

Woody Allen’s line: "90 percent of life is just showing up” makes sense! But there is more, showing up is right & good but in the parable, the King notices someone without the proper attire. How did you get in here? The man was speechless. So the King had him thrown out. Why is he cast out? Why is he speechless?

The good and the bad were invited after the invited guests failed. But this lone wolf, got in…and it harkens back to the parables we have been hearing the last few weeks about faith and discipleship.

Show up. You bet! Everyone is invited but you do it in faith, even with doubts, you show up in faith, not speechless about why you are there. It’s grace. If we don’t get it, like that speechless man, maybe God will visit and help us learn what it means to be invited; this comes from a Jewish folk tale.

The Proud King sat on his throne, he did not listen to the words from sacred Scripture, nor did he honor the people from whom he was king. One day the King went hunting. A trumpet sounded the signal that the deer had been driven from its hiding place, and the king urged his horse forward to be the first in the chase. His majesty's steed was the swiftest in the land. Quickly it carried him out of sight of his nobles and attendants. But the deer was surprisingly fleet and the king could not catch up with it. Coming to a river, the animal plunged in and swam across. Scrambling up the opposite bank its antlers caught in the branch of a tree, and the king, arriving at the river, gave a cry of joy.

Springing from his horse, he took of his clothes and swam across with his sword. As he reached the opposite bank, however, the deer freed itself from the tree and plunged into a thicket. He found, lying on the ground beyond the thicket, a beautiful youth clad in a deer-skin. He was panting as if after a long run. The king stood still in surprise and the youth sprang to his feet. "I am the deer," he said. "I am an angel from God and I have lured you to teach you a lesson."

Before the King could recover from his surprise the youth ran back to the river and swam across. Quickly he dressed himself in the king's clothes and mounted the horse just as the other hunters came up. "Let us return," said the angel. "The deer has crossed the river and has escaped."

The King watched them ride away and then flung himself on the ground and wept bitterly. There he lay until a wood-cutter found him. "I am your King." "You are a fool," said the wood-cutter. "Come, carry my bundle of sticks and I will give you food and an old garment."

The next day, the beggar King reached the palace in tattered clothes. "I am the King," he said to the guards, but roughly they sent him away. "Woe is me," cried the King. "I am punished for my sin."

But for the kindness of the very poorest he would have died of starvation. He wandered miserably from place to place until he fell in with some blind beggars who had been deserted by their guide. Joyfully he accepted their offer to take the guide's place. Months rolled by, and one morning the royal heralds went forth and announced that the King would give a feast to all the beggars in the land.

From far and near came beggars in hundreds, to partake of the king's bounty, and the beggar King stood among them, with his blind companions, in the courtyard of the palace waiting for his majesty to appear.

"Are you a beggar?" said the angel. "No your majesty. I have sinned grievously and have been punished. I am but the servant of a troop of blind beggars to whom I act as guide."

The angel took him to a side room & said, "I know you are changed that you have repented. It is well. Now you can resume your rightful place." "Gracious majesty," said the beggar King, "I have learned humility and wisdom. The throne is not for me. The blind beggars need me. Let me remain in their service."

"It cannot be," said the angel. "I see that you are truly penitent. Your lesson is learned and my task is done. I will see that the blind beggars lack nothing, for all your people need you now."

With his own hands he placed the royal robes back on the King and himself donned those of the beggar. When the courtiers returned they saw no difference & the angel disappeared into the crowd. The King sat on the throne again, read scripture and nowhere in the whole world was there a monarch who ruled more wisely or showed more kindness and sympathy to all his subjects. (A Jewish Folk Tale: The Beggar King)

You and I are invited to God’s party. Every week we get a taste of that party, a foretaste of that heavenly banquet, here at this altar. We are invited because of God’s grace, not because we have earned it, its an invitation to all. We just have to show up in faith. And as we do, listen to St. Paul: beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Beloved, be patient, God is with you, let us think of these words & join in the celebration. Amen.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Opening Prayer (Sermon)

O Lord, open our eyes
To behold your presence.

O Lord, open our ears
To hear your voice.

O Lord, open our hearts
To receive your love.

O Lord, help us to behold, to hear and to receive you in Word and Sacrament
That our mouths may proclaim your praise. Amen.
(adapted from a prayer by David Adam)

October 2 Sermon

Francesco had the life, anyone could want. He was born into a loving home that had no need. His father worked very hard as a merchant and did exceedingly well. Francesco and his 6 siblings had the best of schools. The world was his. He tried the military, but there was no glory there. His youth was filled with many misadventures, lots of wealth but no direction. The 13th century in which he lived was a time of political unrest, a time of church infighting, a time when so many people looked for the abundant life but had a hard time finding it in the institutions of the day.

Then it happened, quite unexpectedly, after a serious illness got him thinking about the life he was living. He started to help lepers near his hometown. He went on pilgrimage to Rome for enlightenment, begging along the way for those in need. Then in dilapidated church, as he sat and prayed, he heard the words of God, “"Francis, go and repair My house which you see, is falling ."

And the life of the one we call Francis of Assisi was never the same again. What Francis heard from Jesus on the Cross of San Damiano was repair my Church. And he did that, in his own way, one stone at a time, stones that were made up of his life, living stones and the lives he changed through his witness to the Gospel. It not only happened with the Church of San Damiano but the whole Church would know of St. Francis, and to this day the Franciscans carry on rebuilding the Church just as Francis once did.

On Thursday night, we gathered as a parish to begin to think about God’s words to Francis. Rebuild my church. Our parish home is beautiful but we carry too much debt and we are not growing enough to live within our means. As we sat and listened to Peter Saros our consultant, he began by having us say why we are here, why we call St. Peter’s our home, the living stones inside of us. And then Peter challenged us to consider how we, together, can rebuild St. Peter’s through growth and stewardship, to reach stability that will enhance our mission and ministry.

It is a challenge that Francis faced and that we face, as have countless others. To rebuild the Church for our time so it can continue its mission for centuries to come.

The parable that Jesus tells, of the Wicked Tenants, is also story about the Church. A landowner leases his vineyard to some tenants. When he sends slaves to collect his produce at harvest, the tenants beat some, kill others and refuse to do what they had said they will do. When the son comes, they kill him thinking that it all will be theirs. What will the owner do? The landowner will get rid of the tenants to a miserable death and give it to others who will indeed give the produce.

Jesus is telling his parable in the midst of those who do not believe in him, they do not understand Jesus as the cornerstone but they understand his parable that he is the son and they are the wicked tenants and they want to arrest him but fear the crowds…

And yet if we think about the parable, we are now the generations who are the tenants in God’s vineyard called the Church. How do we give of the harvest today? What is our fruit?

The warning of the last line, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.” is a reminder that God has expectations that we produce fruit. Not unblemished, perfect fruit, but fruit of who we are, our time, our talent, our treasure, those God given gifts. God is not waiting for us to fail. No, God is waiting for us to follow Jesus, to live in faith so we can truly have joyous, generous & authentic lives, to be the fruit that is born from a vision of abundance, and share that with the world.

According to a Native American legend, the chief of a certain tribe lay dying. He called his three sons to him. "My sons, my life is at its end. Soon one of you will succeed me as chief. I want each of you to climb our ancestors' holy mountain and bring back something beautiful. The one whose gift is most precious will become chief."

Several days later the three returned from their journeys.

The first son brought back a flower that was extremely rare and beautiful.

The second son brought back a stone of precious gold.

But the third son said, "Father, I have brought nothing back. As I stood at the top of the holy mountain, I saw that on the other side was a land of fertile green pastures and crystal waters. I could imagine our people settling there and establishing a better life. I was so taken by what I saw that I had to return here before I could find something to bring back."

The old chief smiled and said to his third son, "You will be our chief for you have brought us the gift of a vision for a better future."

God has given us a wonderful "vineyard" that we often take for granted. Christ, the Son of the vineyard owner, comes seeking the fruit of this vineyard. The fruit that will come from all of us, the Church, this Body of Christ, will only produce abundant fruit, when we live the vision that Jesus taught, of God’s love for all creation, a vision that Francis understood and that we are challenged to live here in Monroe.

For Francis, he saw this vision, in the fruit that his friends were to live. “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”

May we welcome Christ into this vineyard of ours, aware that he calls us to the demanding vision of the Gospel, to rebuild the Church in our time, to be that loving and healing presence in our lives and in this Church, so we can share that with our world. Amen.