Sunday, November 27, 2011

An Advent Story

This story comes from the Cherokee and goes along well with the Gospel reading and Jesus telling us to keep awake...

"Why Are Some Trees Always Green?" (A Cherokee Folk Tale)

Once upon a time when it was still very early upon the earth, the Great Spirit decided to visit the creatures of the earth, still new from creation. Everyone was told to stay awake and to watch and wait for seven nights. And those who stayed awake were promised gifts, gifts of power. They were all excited and determined to stay awake to get this power. They all began with chatter and wonder, questioning and suggestions on how to do it. Many thought it would be easy and boasted that they'd be able to do it.

Practically everybody made it through the first night, except for a few who slipped away and didn't dare show their faces. The second night they were beginning to think it would be easy until it grew very dark and there were no stars because of the thickness of the fog. It was getting harder, eyes were drooping and heads nodding, and jerking up again and again. By the third night no one was saying much of anything, but walking around, jumping up and down, leaning up against trees and rocks, splashing water on their faces, singing aloud, anything to stay awake.

By the fourth night most were asleep, out cold, not even trying any more, exhausted. And the seventh night came and only a few were still awake. And the Great Spirit came, found them sleeping, looked at those still watching and waiting, and smiled. Among the animals only the owl and the panther had stayed awake, and so they were given the power to see in the dark, and from then on, they'd be night creatures, hunting in the dark, preying on those who had fallen asleep and had to rest at night.

Among the plants and trees there were a few more that had made it through all the nights: the pine, the evergreen, the spruce, the hemlock, the cedar, the laurel, and the holly had been watchful. These were the faithful ones, and they were given the power to stay green through all the seasons of the year. And their leaves would have great medicine for the healing of the nations. They would keep their leaves and needles while all the other plants and trees, bushes and grasses would lose them and have to fall asleep through the long snows until spring woke them up again. And so it is until this day.

Sermon: 1st Advent (Nov. 27)

Most gracious Lord, by whose direction this time is appointed for renewing the memory of your infinite mercy to us in the incarnation of your Son Jesus; grant that we may live into this holy time, in the spirit of thanksgiving, and every day raise up our hearts to you in the grateful acknowledgment of what you have done for us. Help our souls receive your Son once again at the approaching solemnity of Christmas. And as Christ came into the world to do good to all, guide us, so we may be watchful at this time in avoiding everything that can be injurious to our neighbors, but in all things may follow the spirit of charity, bringing comfort and relief to all. Grant, O Lord that we may prepare to meet our redeemer. Amen. From John Goter, 17th Century (adapted)

Thanksgiving is over. Well, it was barely over when our national holiday of Black Friday began. There is nothing wrong with wanting to find a bargain (I clip coupons!) but to hear about such violence and such raw greed on the day after thanksgiving bothers me.

Into such darkness, our new year is born – our season of Advent, with our new blue set, in the darkest of days, hopeful of the Coming of our Savior, in the 1st Advent - Birth of Jesus and in the 2nd Advent - The return of Jesus.

Advent is our season that calls our spiritual lives to be awakened, to "cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light" as our collect calls us to do.

What are your works of darkness? Do you know them? Do you wrestle with them night and day? Is that what we saw on the news regarding “Black Friday”?

There is something about Advent that makes us suddenly mindful. Perhaps it is the clear night skies with the gaze of the moon and stars on us. Perhaps it is the windswept clarity of early winter, when the trees are swept bare, and there is no sign of the lushness of summer to hide our works of darkness from ourselves and from one another.

And what does Jesus call us to do in these days – “keep awake-- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” Why is that? Why keep awake when the rest of the animal kingdom is bedding down for the winter? Storing up for a long winter's nap? Why is it now that you and I are to be awake?

In Advent, salvation is nearer to us, nearer to us because we are preparing for the coming of the Christ child. We are preparing for the return of Christ. We are waking up to God with us.

So that is why. But how do we wake up when our bodies are telling us to hibernate with the best of them. The darkness beckons to us, lulls us into slumber, and for some of us, even into depression. How do we do we fight all of that and put on the armor of light?

Jesus said to his disciples, "In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see `the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory.”

Jesus told us that he would come again, but he didn't give us a time, lay out a plan. He only told us to keep awake, be ready, he will come at an unexpected time, in a time of darkness and suffering, but when he comes there will be glory. We fight the darkness by keeping watch…

It is like a young wife and her infant daughter who can barely contain themselves as they wait. Any moment now her husband's unit will march into the arena after a year in Afghanistan. They've talked every day via Skype, so at least she knew he had made it through another day; he saw images on his laptop of their little Sarah who was born after he left - he has yet to hold his daughter.

The waiting began with the first word that his unit would be called up; the waiting took on new urgency as he made arrangements for the family's care during his absence. Waiting was part of the couple's everyday routine until they made their daily Skype connection - and if it was late or delayed, the waiting became unbearable. Their waiting became expectation as the day approached when he would come home.

Now, on this day they have been waiting for for an eternity, their eyes meet the moment he enters the arena. A few more minutes for the formal dismissal . . . wait, wait, wait. And the long wait melts when husband and father, wife and mother, and beautiful daughter are in each other's arms again. They go home, happily awaiting the next chapter of their life together as a family.
Such a story is what Advent’s waiting and hoping and expecting are all about. Such hopefulness is the light in the darkness.

So how do we become ready?

That wonderful 17th Century prayer I said at the beginning of this says it all: that as Christ came into the world to do good to all, that we too may thus prepare to meet him, that we may be watchful at this time above all others, in avoiding everything that can hurt our neighbors and in all things following the spirit of charity, bring comfort and relief to all, si that we may prepare to meet our redeemer.

If we are doing those things, if we are waiting with such anticipation, we will be ready when he comes again in his glory with the armor of light on us.

May we in this holy time of Advent, renew our lives by waking up and remembering the gift that God gave to us so long ago in the birth of his son, and who invites us into a joyous time of preparation to remember and rejoice at Christmas, and to prepare and wait for Christ's coming again among us. Amen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Which Bible?


A portion of this Sunday's Gospel:

"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake-- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake." (NRSV - Mark 13: 32- 37)

"But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the angels in heaven and not the Son. Only the Father knows. Watch out! Stay alert! You don’t know when the time is coming. It is as if someone took a trip, left the household behind, and put the servants in charge, giving each one a job to do, and told the doorkeeper to stay alert. Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know when the head of the household will come, whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the early morning or at daybreak. Don’t let him show up when you weren’t expecting and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert! ”(CEB - Same Passage)

The NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) has been my preferred translation for many years now and is the translation we use at St. Peter's Church.  It was produced in 1989.  I spend more and more time now looking at the CEB and feeling very comfortable with it.  It is a fine translation!

Common English Bible Translation Background (from their website)

Known for being “built on common ground,” the Common English Bible is a collaboration of 120 academic scholars and editors, 77 reading group leaders, and more than 500 average readers from around the world who joined together to clearly translate the Bible’s original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages into 21st century English. More than half-a-million copies of the Bible are currently in print. It’s also available online and in 20 digital formats.

“When we say ‘built on common ground,’ we mean that the Common English Bible is the result of collaboration between opposites: scholars working with average readers; conservatives working with liberals; teens working with retirees; men working with women; many denominations and many ethnicities coming together around the common goal of creating a vibrant and clear translation for 21st century readers, with the ultimate objective of mutually accomplishing God’s overall work in the world; in essence, helping Bible readers live on common ground,” says Paul Franklyn, PhD, associate publisher for the Common English Bible.

Combining scholarly accuracy with vivid language, the Common English Bible is the work of 120 biblical scholars from 24 denominations in American, African, Asian, European, and Latino communities, representing such academic institutions as Asbury Theological Seminary, Azusa Pacific University, Bethel Seminary, Denver Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, Seattle Pacific University, Wheaton College, Yale University, and many others.

Check it out here:

From the Newstand

I read these articles on Sunday and thought everyone should take a look...

Southern Hospitality, but Not for Newcomers
IMAGINE this: It’s Sunday morning, beautiful and quiet, except for the mockingbird practicing comic routines on the sweet gum tree in the backyard. As usual, you get ready and drive your family to church. Everyone is well dressed, and the kids are singing in the back seat.

Somewhere along the way, you spot a stranger by the roadside, carrying a Bible, looking lost. As a good Christian, you pull over and offer him a ride. In the car, you introduce him to your family, making sure your kids know their manners. You chat with the stranger. Chances are, he’s from somewhere else, maybe even another country. You drop him off near where he’s going; or, God willing, he’ll come, on your invitation, to your church for the service. If the latter, it will make your day, having welcomed a stranger into the benevolent fold of the Lord.

That stranger could have been me, 20 years ago, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Fresh out of college in Beijing, I had left my home country in the wake of the Tiananmen massacre. Landing in the sleepy college town, I was disappointed that Times Square was nowhere to be seen. I started going to churches, and without a car, I had to rely on good Samaritans for rides on Sunday. A newbie not yet brazen enough, I always carried a Bible, which seemed to work better than a hitchhiker’s thumb. When kindhearted folks — men in immaculate suits and women in puffy, flowery dresses — stopped for me and asked what church I was going to, I would invariably say, “Yours.”

If the same scene is played again today, you, the good Samaritan, could be in trouble. According to an Alabama law that went into effect on Sept. 1, it is a crime to knowingly give an illegal immigrant a ride. (Read the whole article!)
After Egypt’s Revolution, Christians Are Living in Fear ...
THE images streaming from Cairo’s streets last month were not as horrifying as those of the capture and brutal death of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, but they were savage all the same. They were a sobering reminder that popular movements in some parts of the world, however euphorically they begin, can take disquieting and ugly turns.

When liberal Muslims joined Coptic Christians as they marched through Cairo’s Maspero area on Oct. 9 to protest the burning of a Coptic church, bands of conservative Muslim hooligans wielding sticks and swords began attacking the protesters. Egyptian security forces who had apparently intervened to break up the violence deliberately rammed their armed vehicles into the Coptic crowd and fired live ammunition indiscriminately.

Egyptian military authorities soon shut down live news coverage of the event, and evidence of chaos was quickly cleared from the scene. But the massacre, in which at least 24 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded, was the worst instance of sectarian violence in Egypt in 60 years.

Confusion and conflicting narratives abound. Some claim to have overheard an announcer on television encourage “honorable Egyptians” to come to the rescue of soldiers under attack by a mob of Copts. Others heard a Muslim shouting that he had killed a Christian. (read the whole article!)
Reading Between the Poverty Lines
A new and improved gauge of poverty, released this month by the Census Bureau, shows that 49.1 million Americans are poor, and that the ranks of those just above poverty are larger than previously believed. The middle class is under pressure, too, battered by stagnating incomes and unavoidable expenses like medical bills.

The older, official poverty line is still used to determine eligibility for government benefits, but the new formula offers a broader view of life both in and out of poverty. These numbers bear directly on issues of joblessness, budget cuts and health care costs — and more broadly on the question of whether government policies to help the poor and boost the economy do any good. The answer is an emphatic yes.

If only lawmakers were paying attention. Instead, they are fixated on budget cutting, generally downplaying the good that government programs do while ignoring the consequences when they fall short.

However you slice it, the definition of poverty is abysmally low.  (Read the whole article!)
Can Gary Chapman Save Your Marriage?
I HAD never heard the word “gonads” mentioned from a church pulpit. But on a picnic-perfect afternoon in August, as more than 1,000 people crowded into the Brentwood Hills Church of Christ outside of Nashville, Gary Chapman, a 73-year-old Southern Baptist pastor and author of the mega-selling phenomenon “The Five Love Languages” (7.2 million copies and counting), was talking about what he calls Christianity’s “great sex swindle.”

“That is the idea that good Christians don’t talk about sex,” he said, “at least not out loud, and certainly not in the church. I want to say that both of those ideas are fallacious. Dr. Ruth did not invent sex. Sex was invented by God.”

For the next hour, the centerpiece of a daylong conference called “The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted,” Dr. Chapman discussed the Bible’s robust support for conjugal sex. He also delivered a pastoral primer on the differing sex drives of men and women. Men, he said, explaining their relentless buildup of sperm cells, are far more driven by physical needs; women, by emotions.  (Read the whole article!)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

National Bible Week

Romans 15:4 (CEB): “Whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction so that we could have hope through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures.”
Is that bible of yours sitting gathering dust on your bookshelf or table?

Now is the time to pick it up, dust it off and read it!

Start with today's Gospel reading (Matthew 25: 31 - 46), consider what Jesus is saying and what he expects of us:

Look here for the CEB version.

Look here for the Message version.

Look here for the NRSV version.

Now, go and do (and keep reading!).

Sermon Notes: November 20

These are my sermon notes from the 8 AM service on Nov. 20, 2011 – Proper 29 (A)

Just finished a book – Sue Cappucci told me to read – The Hole in Our Gospel.
“This is a story of how a CEO faced his own struggle to obey God, whatever the cost, and his passionate call for Christians to change the world by actively living out their faith. Believing that the “good news” is more than a private transaction between God and us, the author Richard Stearns challenges readers with this question: What does God expect of us?” (from the website)
His book goes into great detail about our belief in Jesus and how too often our Bible has a big whole in it, where we have missed his message. He uses the parable we heard this morning to get us to think about how we need to reach out. What does God expect of us? The sheep have a job to do…
(1) Witnessed on a New York City street: A homeless man is sitting on the curb near St. Bart’s Church. He has set his hat out in front of him. A shabbily dressed homeless woman dragging a cart filled with garbage bags walks by. She pauses in front of the man. Deciding that he was worse off than she was, she takes out of her worn, ripped coat pocket two crumpled dollar bills and places them in his hat. It is a random act of charity that goes almost unnoticed by the world, a snapshot of compassion that both inspires the spirit and breaks the heart. That was reported in The New York Times, December 29, 2003.
The homeless woman in front of St. Bart’s manages to see beyond her own hardships to embrace Christ’s compassion in the homeless man she meets on the street…she saw a fellow human being…she saw Christ… Sometimes we don’t see Christ…

“Let me take some liberties and paraphrase these verses for today’s reader: ‘For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved.’” Rich Stearns
(2) 9 year old Austin Gutwein learned about children in Africa who had become orphaned because of AIDS. Austin believed he could do something—that he had a “talent” that God could use. “After watching the video, I realized these kids weren’t any different from me except they were suffering. I felt God calling me to do something to help them. I decided to shoot free throws and on World AIDS Day, 2004, I shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during my day at school. People sponsored me and we were able to raise almost $3,000 that year. From that year forward, thousands of people have joined me in a basketball shoot-a-thon called Hoops of Hope. By doing something as simple as shooting free throws, Hoops of Hope participants have raised over $500,000. (pp. 265-266)
When we recognize the opportunities we have been given, when we know our talents, we can explore ways that we can pay it forward. For example, if you think of “access to clean water,” then “Paying It Forward” might be something like “contribute toward building a deep well in a developing country” or “give up buying soda, coffee and other drinks and donate the money toward water and sanitation projects in the developing world.” The list of ways to pay it forward is endless. This is not about giving a hand-out to someone, but about giving others the same opportunities you have been given.

Truly, I tell you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, members of my family, you have done it for me. (Jesus)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Further Thoughts: Penn State

Now that Sandusky has given his first interview, I am still very uncomfortable with the defense of his actions and his inability to see that most of his interactions were inappropriate due to the power he had over those boys.  He wasn't simply horsing around...

There have been three articles on this scandal that I have read and were very thought provoking (here are some excerpts and links to the original articles):

A Word in Defense of the Witnesses—and the Word Is “Ambiguity” By Scott Huler (Scientific American)
You and I – and every single other decent person on the planet who has heard about the Penn State abuse allegations – are having the same revenge fantasy. Or, I don’t know, call it a Guardian Angel fantasy. We would have run into the shower and wrapped the kid in a towel; we would have grabbed a bat and whacked the coach; we would have blown our trusty whistle and dialed 911 while simultaneously pulling the fire alarm and screaming “Stop!”

Every radio sports jock on the dial has said the same thing: “You just can’t see something like that happening and walk away. You just can’t!”

Except the grand jury testimony shows – well, yes you can. People do. People did. People saw unspeakable things happening, and instead of putting on their superhero costumes and running to the rescue they … hesitated. They hoped it would stop. They walked away, and then thought better of that and called their bosses. And you know you would have done better, right?
Let’s All Feel Superior By DAVID BROOKS (NY Times)
First came the atrocity, then came the vanity. The atrocity is what Jerry Sandusky has been accused of doing at Penn State. The vanity is the outraged reaction of a zillion commentators over the past week, whose indignation is based on the assumption that if they had been in Joe Paterno’s shoes, or assistant coach Mike McQueary’s shoes, they would have behaved better. They would have taken action and stopped any sexual assaults.

Unfortunately, none of us can safely make that assumption. Over the course of history — during the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide or the street beatings that happen in American neighborhoods — the same pattern has emerged. Many people do not intervene. Very often they see but they don’t see.
And finally, A priest’s view of Penn State By James Martin SJ (Washington Post)
The terrible parallels between the horrific sexual abuse cases at Penn State and those in the Catholic Church are by now well known. But as a priest, I must say this at the outset: the vast number of children and young people abused in the worldwide church dwarf--by an order of magnitude--the number of victims at State College.

The similarities between the two institutions are striking: In both cases children were abused in the most sordid and tragic ways, scarring individuals for life. In both cases well-meaning adults reported the abuse, or at least their suspicions, to officials in the institution, assuming that this would put an end to the crimes. In both cases high-level officials could have reported these crimes to the police but did not do so (for a variety of reasons.) In both cases the abuse happened in an institution that seemed for many to be at the center of their lives. (The cheer “We are Penn State” shows a deep identification with the university.) In both places the desire to avoid “scandal” led to even greater scandal. In both cases there were complex emotional reactions about a person (a coach or a priest) who was also thought to have “done much good” in other parts of his life. And in both cases longtime members of the institutions (parishioners and students) responded with intense emotions over the scandal. (The rioting at Penn State may have shown not only frustration over the removal of Coach Joe Paterno, but also shame and anger over the public denigration of their school.)

All food for thought.  Let us pray for the victims and work for justice and safe places for all children.

Dear God our Creator, we remember those children affected by abuse.  We remember those who have lost their lives to this malfunction of our society. We pray that their souls are now at rest. We remember children living in homes of domestic violence. Deliver them and protect them from further harm.  We pray for perpetrators, that they may seek help. Help them to relinquish their need to exert power and control.  We remember current victims whose lives are filled with fear and uncertainty, those who are trapped in the psychological cycle of violence and abuse, hope and false love. We ask that you give them a new vision. Guide them with your wisdom to make sound choices that will lead to new life.  We give thanks to those who dedicate their lives to providing education, shelter, and support to the victims of abuse. Finally, O gracious God, be present with us, restore peace and hope, help us to strive for justice that we may persevere with your Holy Spirit. In faith we pray, Amen.

Adapted from a prayer written by the Rev. Angela F. Shepherd (from “Women’s Uncommon Prayers)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sermon: November 13

Success with Honor – It is the motto of the Penn State Football team & until this past week, we all thought it was true. It was tarnished as we watched the unfolding scandal there; it makes you wonder what success meant and what honor meant with the cover-up and the poor judgment that so many people engaged in over many years there.

What is success & honor?

I think of the students who in their grief and shock tried to come to terms with what happened, gathering in groups, some who felt wronged and a few who lost control, & things got out of control. I think of the riots in England. One injustice became a way for some to vent the worst of our nature upon innocent people in their own neighborhoods. Neither was a success. Neither had honor. Neither was about the injustice that had really occurred.

And then there was Tahrir Square in Egypt, where the protest stayed peaceful, it brought together different groups in a fight for justice. The Tahrir Square crowd included supporters from Cairo’s leading soccer teams, The two groups have a longstanding post-match tradition of fighting one another. Yet in the Square they stood together in solidarity and to defend against Mubarak’s thugs. And they did achieve success as the government finally fell…

What might Jesus say to us about success & honor today?

In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear the Parable of the Talents as a stark reminder that we each have been entrusted with gifts, talents, charismas. God does not want us to sit on those gifts, does not want us to hide our faith under a bushel basket in fear but God wants us to use the gifts, to show our faith, for the good of others, to build up the Body of Christ, to help restore those who have fallen away & those in need. Success and honor is tied to how we use those gifts.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” 
These words from T.S. Eliot remind me that our call to live out our faith & use our gifts, to take that first step and the next, and the next after that, is a risk, a risk that will lead us to where God calls us to go, further than we can imagine. For that is the point of the parable in the gospel…the servants are rewarded not because of the results of the talents they earned (God is not a bookkeeper checking on results) but because they were faithful servants who used the talents given them; the faithless servant refused to use the talent given him and buried it away…that is not enough says the master…that is not enough says God. We can’t live in fear for our faith calls us to risk, for without faith, we are lost…

“For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” How true it is that when we have talent, a gift, if we do not exercise it, if we don’t use it, we tend to lose it, as if it had been taken away from us. In college, I learned sign language and become somewhat proficient at it, but after college, I have used it less and less and now I barely can remember much of it, same could be said of my Spanish… I suspect we all have gifts, talents that remain unexplored, unused; but it is never too late to use them…

This is a story from the Boston globe:

They had a lived a good life together, these 39 years. But it would soon send. The doctors said his esophageal cancer was inoperable - nine months, maybe a year. So what would he like to do with the time that's left? "I'd like to have a garden."

"That would be nice," she said vaguely, surprised, since he had never shown the slightest interest in growing anything. Maybe a few tomato plants in a bucket on the deck, she assumed.

But she came home a few days later to find their yard filled with workers, boards, dirt and a Bobcat - and a 20-by-30-foot raised garden. He was sitting in a chair, watching, talking, laughing. He had told some friends what he wanted to do and they happily signed on to make it happen. He tried paying for the materials, but the guys wouldn't hear of it. She kept thanking them and telling them they were amazing. When they left, she turned to him and said, "Have we met? You don't garden. I don't garden. This thing is gigantic - what are we going to do with it?"

"I think it will bring people together," he said. Soon he was too weak to sit by his garden - nine months was now optimistic, doctors said. Their friends, who didn't want to tire him or ask how he was doing, came and worked in the garden instead. They planted and hoed and watered and weeded.

He died a few weeks later, but his garden had already yielded strawberries and lettuce. The first fruits of his garden were shared at the luncheon after his funeral.

All summer the garden became the focus of everyone who knew and loved him. It produced more vegetables than anyone knew what to do with. People came to remember him, share stories and memories, cry together - and weed. The garden couldn't cure anything or heal the loss or loneliness, but it gave everyone something to do. His wish for his garden was realized: it brought people together. He had said to his wife just before she died, "I don't want this to become a memorial garden after I'm gone. Just enjoy it. Have an eggplant on me." [Adapted from "Life in the garden" by Joan Wickersham, The Boston Globe, September 23, 2011.]

Success in the kingdom of God is not defined by the talents and resources we possess but by what we are able to accomplish with what we have been given. Every one of us has some measure of talent, ability or skill — "talents" that have been entrusted to us by the "Master." Jesus teaches in today's Gospel that our place in the Kingdom of God, is through our faith and the stewardship of those talents: whether we "bury" them in fear or selfishness or use them readily, honorably to reveal the presence of God in our midst.

Let us use our gifts, taking steps, taking risks, using our talents so that God’s glory may be made manifest through what we do today. So then at the last may we may hear what true success and honor is, with those words: “Well done, good and faithful servant of God; enter into the joy of your master.” Amen.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day

Thank you to all who served this country!

Governor of Nations, our Strength and Shield:
we give you thanks for the devotion and courage
of all those who have offered military service for this country:

For those who have fought for freedom;
for those who laid down their lives for others;
for those who have borne suffering of mind or of body;
for those who have brought their best gifts to times of need.

On our behalf they have entered into danger,
endured separation from those they love,
labored long hours, and borne hardship in war and in peacetime.

Lift up by your mighty Presence those who are now at war;
encourage and heal those in hospitals or mending their wounds at home;
guard those in any need or trouble;
hold safely in your hands all military families;
and bring the returning troops to joyful reunion and tranquil life at home;

Give to us, your people, grateful hearts
and a united will to honor these men and women
and hold them always in our love and our prayers;
until your world is perfected in peace through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

(Compiled by the Rev. Jennifer Phillips)


O judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept it disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN. (BCP)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Souls Day

The Commemoration of All Faithful Departed:

O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers: Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son; that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A Poem for All Souls (by Wendell Berry):

I tremble with gratitude
for my children and their children
who take pleasure in one another.

At our dinners together, the dead
enter and pass among us
in living love and in memory.

And so the young are taught.