Friday, December 21, 2012

Love, Forgiveness & Honor

Dentis Shaw traveled from North Carolina to share his goal of honoring all those who have died from violence and cancer. He will speak at Edith Wheeler Memorial Library this Sunday from 1:30 to 3:30 PM.

You can read about it here:

His website is:

I have stickers from Dentis that I will hand out on Sunday.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 16 Sermon

Sermon preached by Deacon Christopher Holms at the 8 & 10:15 AM services on Advent III - following the tragedy in Newtown...

It is no easy thing that I stand before you today to preach the Good News that has come down through the ages to bring comfort, freedom, and understanding of our place in God’s universe. I was quite prepared to speak about St. John the Baptist and his calling to herald in the dawn of a new age by proclaiming the coming of the Messiah to desperate people in desperate times.

I do not get the easy task of reading that sermon. It has disappeared from my mind and replaced by something I would rather not have to acknowledge. On this third week of Advent, we light Mary’s candle. As Mary awaits the birth of her son with all the love and excitement an expecting mother has, we in turn pray to her for all of the mother’s who have lost the lives of their sons and daughters this Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

We call out to God, “Why did you let this happen? Why did you not send your angels to help the innocent?” I have even heard atheists put grieving Christians to the test by declaring that we worship a God who uses people to kill children. This deranged statement is not something new when one is trying to break down another person’s faith. And this question is was part of my own painful cries as I sat in my living room crying in the moment of confusion, anger and sadness.

Faith should always be questioned; otherwise we are merely children reciting verse which we do not understand. This is the struggle of faith. However, I would rather struggle with my faith than be a self absorbed atheist where there is no hope, no redemption, nor any belief at all. This is the problem of pain, as C.S. Lewis had written. This problem of pain, of terror, of God's silence that we all struggle for deeper meaning and purpose in our lives and our universe.

So, I struggle with the question of why? In today’s gospel reading we come to an eccentric man shouting out “Salvation” and “Repent”. He has sworn off material things and has dedicated his entire life to the Word of God. People from all over ask John, “How can we be saved?” And he tells them to treat people fairly and respect them with love.

How is this any different than the teachings of the prophets, the books of Wisdom, the teachings of Jesus Christ himself, or any other teacher of peace? It’s not. So then why do we keep asking the same question over and over and over again? What makes us sincerely ask, “What must I do?” and then not be able or willing to do it?

It is as Christ has said to Peter, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” We acknowledge the spirit, as a society, but it is becoming a concept as we turn to worship the flesh. The flesh is always an easier path, a quicker path to pleasure and that is what we want as a society. The spirit is much more difficult to pursue, but once mastered offers the individual freedom that no Constitution can offer.

I was in a debate with an atheist about what had occurred and my answer went as such, "When God and morality are taken out of school, government, our courts and homes something else will come to take its place. People need to wake up. Today was the first time I cried in years because of these innocent deaths and the realization of what parents and society are doing to our children.

“We people of faith have given permission, and silent confirmation, that it is okay for God not to be part of our lives. We have dismissed God as nothing more than a catch all for bad news to point a finger at, or a lucky blessing for when something good happens. So, what takes God’s place? What has entered into the school systems, the homes, the courts, and our government to take His place and the place of his teachings?

I recently took a two hour course, which really should have been six hours, on human trafficking and the underage sex trade business. It was horrifying to realize that in this day and age there are more slaves on earth than any other period in history. That here in Connecticut in our small towns and cities boys from Haiti are being forced as housekeepers, and our young girls are being forced to prostitute themselves.. This business is flourishing so well that it jumped to the second most profitable crime in the world next to drugs.

Children are playing rated M video games with their parent’s permission. They watch the evening news and adult television depicting crime, violence, rape, foul language, and the worship of money. Their young and underdeveloped brains are being desensitized to violence and pain. As they shoot time after time at men and women and while laughing, because after all it’s only a game, their heart rates increase at the excitement and death becomes fun. What is the average per week that they play these games and watch these shows that are replacing the compassion of God with violence and cruelty? If we look at Adam Lanza’s video game collection I have no doubt in my mind what he played.

So, where is the hope in all this mess? One of my favorite quotes from Anne Frank is this, “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.” This written by a girl who for two years hid in the attic avoiding Nazi persecution. She is correct. This is how we all start off. But when we refuse to spread the word of God, when we deny the teachings of Jesus, and when we do not give sufficient love to our innocent children then that “goodness” of which Anne speaks of turns into something terrible.

I want to remind you of something that many people may have missed in the chaos and sadness of this event, and every event that imitates it. It is a lesson from Mr. Rogers. I grew up watching Mr. Rogers and I loved him. As I grew as a teenager, I found him silly and could not appreciate his teachings any more. Now, as an adult I see his wisdom and crave to hear him speak again.

He said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."

And that is the thing, isn’t it? The world is full of goodness. There are people who are following the teachings of John the Baptist, who are striving to do the right thing. It may seem to be less and less in this world, but that is simply not true. We hear of the evil that has penetrated our sleeping society, but there are good people, people like the ones sitting in this church every Sunday, who are trying to do our best.

There are teachers like Victoria Soto who hid her first graders in closets and drawers and then stood toe to toe with Lanza, died telling him that her class was in the gym and saving their lives at the peril of her own. That is a hero! The officers, paramedics, priests, counselors, people we never knew all rushed to the scene to help. Those are heroes! Those are people who have heard St. John’s message and responded to the call.

Before I leave today to watch my two boys and Reverend Kurt’s son perform their first Nutcracker, I want to leave you with these words from my brother, Adam, who is their ballet master.

"Today's lesson - perspective. The core of my teaching philosophy is to nurture and celebrate children. Today not only solidified this belief but also put dance into perspective. Dance for children should be nothing less than joyful. Yes, strive for kids to reach their best but keep in mind that dancing is one more chance for children to be free, one more chance to create a memory. To all my nutcrackers I love you, this weekend is a celebration of you and a celebration of those who are not able to dance."

Go home and celebrate the blessings in your lives. There are those of us who this Christmas cannot. It is time for us to not be afraid of who we are. It is time for us to be Christians and evangelize the lessons as St. John the Baptist would have us do. This Christmas, don’t worry so much about the gift, as nice as they are to give and to receive. This Christmas focus on love, focus on being together.

Thank you, Amen.

Eulogy for the Martyred Children

As I sat and processed the terrible tragedy of last Friday in Sandy Hook, I found help in thinking about it through the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Eulogy for the Martyred Children
18 September 1963
Birmingham, Ala.

[Delivered at funeral service for three of the children—Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, and Cynthia Diane Wesley—killed in the bombing. A separate service was held for the fourth victim, Carole Robertson.]

This afternoon we gather in the quiet of this sanctuary to pay our last tribute of respect to these beautiful children of God. They entered the stage of history just a few years ago, and in the brief years that they were privileged to act on this mortal stage, they played their parts exceedingly well. Now the curtain falls; they move through the exit; the drama of their earthly life comes to a close. They are now committed back to that eternity from which they came.

These children—unoffending, innocent, and beautiful—were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.

Follow the link to read the whole sermon.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stages of Grief

As a nation, we are grieiving over the loss of so many children & teachers in such a violent way.  It may be good for us to remind ourselves about the stages of grief we go through.

Thoughts on the stages...
The stages have evolved since their introduction and they have been very misunderstood over the past three decades. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss. Our grief is as individual as our lives.

The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. Our hope is that with these stages comes the knowledge of grief ‘s terrain, making us better equipped to cope with life and loss.
Learn more here.

Prayer as we Mourn with Newtown

God, as Mary stood at the foot of the cross, we stand before you with broken hearts and tearful eyes. Keep us mindful that you know our pain, and free us to see your resurrection power already at work in the lives of the children and teachers who have died in Sandy Hook. In your time, raise us from our grief as you have raised them to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Thoughts from Sunday Morning

This is what I said on Sunday Morning:

This morning we gather as we do every Sunday but today we gather together in pain and sorrow. We may be angry, fearful, and feel as if the darkness has overcome the light. We have so many questions and too few answers. The events of Friday are so close, we are in the midst of an uncomfortable grief, feeling shell shocked by what has taken place just 9 miles from here.

Let us pause & remember: These children were our children. These families are our families. There are no words to explain the littlest angels ripped from their families, there is only deep sadness that we share with neighbors who have had the unthinkable happen to them, and a deep, deep gratitude for our own families. But we who are gathered here know that when all seems lost, God finds a way. We who are gathered here know that when our world is shaken, God is steady.

As I sat and watched the images on Friday, I grieved, I looked for hope in that darkness. I saw it in all the faces of those helping out, even through the tears and sorrow. As I reached for words to guide me, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King in his Eulogy for the Martyred Children from 1963 helped me in my distress.
Dr. King said: “In spite of the darkness of this hour, we must not despair. I hope you can find some consolation from Christianity's affirmation that death is not the end. Death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance. Death is not a blind alley that leads the human race into a state of nothingness, but an open door which leads man into life eternal. Let this daring faith, this great invincible surmise, be your sustaining power during these trying days.

Now I say to you in conclusion, life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. And if one will hold on, one [he] will discover that God walks with him and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.”
As we sit in the desolate valley, let this daring faith, be your sustaining power during these trying days. And let us pray for the victims & for ourselves:

Almighty God, giver of light and life, in whose hands are both the living and the dead: We offer to you our sorrow and confusion in the face of the cruel deaths of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As you were present in the midst of the gunfire and chaos, so we trust you are present now with those who have died. Receive them into the arms of your mercy and cover them with your love. In your boundless compassion, console all who mourn, especially parents and family members, and give to us who carry on such a lively sense of your righteous will that we will not rest until our country is safe for all your children. All this we pray in sighs too deep for words and in the name of the lover and protector of our souls, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Hymn for the Children

God, We Have Heard It

God, we have heard it, sounding in the silence:
News of the children lost to this world's violence.
Children of promise! Then without a warning,
Loved ones are mourning.

Jesus, you came to bear our human sorrow;
You came to give us hope for each tomorrow.
You are our life, Lord God's own love revealing.
We need your healing!

Heal us from giving weapons any glory;
Help us, O Prince of Peace, to hear your story;
Help us resist the evil all around here;
May love abound here!

By your own Spirit, give your church a clear voice;
In this world's violence, help us make a new choice.
Help us to witness to the joy your peace brings,
Until your world sings!

Tune: HERZLIEBSTER JESU: Johann Crueger, 1640 (Ah, Holy Jesus)
Hymn text copyright © 1999 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.

Another Prayer for Newtown

From the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine:

Almighty God, giver of light and life, in whose hands are both the living and the dead: We offer to you our sorrow and confusion in the face of the cruel deaths of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As you were present in the midst of the gunfire and chaos, so we trust you are present now with those who have died. Receive them into the arms of your mercy and cover them with your love. In your boundless compassion, console all who mourn, especially parents and family members, and give to us who carry on such a lively sense of your righteous will that we will not rest until our country is safe for your children. All this we pray in sighs too deep for words and in the name of the lover and protector of our souls, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Thoughts on the Tragedy

From the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church:

We grieve with the many families and friends touched by this shooting in Connecticut. We mourn the loss of lives so young and innocent. We grieve that the means of death are so readily available to people who lack the present capacity to find other ways of responding to their own anger and grief. We know that God’s heart is broken over this tragedy, and the tragedies that unfold each and every day across this nation. And we pray that this latest concentration of shooting deaths in one event will awaken us to the unnoticed number of children and young people who die senselessly across this land every day. More than 2000 children and youth die from guns each year, more than the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Will you pray and work toward a different future, the one the Bible’s prophets dreamed of, where city streets are filled with children playing in safety (Zechariah 8:5)?

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Prayers for Newtown II

Holy One, you do not distance yourself from the pain of your people, but in Jesus bear that pain with us and bless all who suffer at others' hands. Hallow our flesh and all creation; with your cleansing love bring healing and strength to the victims of this shooting; and by your justice, lift them up, that in the body you have given them, they may again rejoice. Amen.

A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. (Jeremiah 31: 15)

God, as Mary stood at the foot of the cross, we come before you with broken hearts and tearful eyes. Keep us mindful that you know our pain, and free us to see your resurrection power already at work in the lives of the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School. In your time, raise us from our grief as you are raising them to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17)

God our strong deliverer; when those charged with the mediation of your healing power feel overwhelmed by the numbers of the suffering, uphold them in their fatigue and banish their despair. Let them see with your eyes, so that they may know all their patients are precious. Give comfort, and renew their energy and compassion, for the sake of Jesus In whom is our life and hope. Amen.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom. (Isaiah 40:11)

Prayers for Newtown

Tragic news of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Please keep all those affected in your prayers.

God our saviour,
we pray with those in Newtown,
who are shocked, grieving or in pain.
In your mercy, look on this wounded world,
and hold us closely to your promise of hope
in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

There’s No War on Our Faith

I invite you to go over to Christian Platt's blog and check out:

Dear Christians: Relax.  Ther's no war on our faith.

It is worth reading before you buy into the "war on Christmas."

Where to Donate

Consumer Reports looked at charitable donations and the organizations that those funds went too:

"Charitable giving often comes to mind this time of year. The holidays might have you thinking about the less fortunate, or charitable donations might be part of your year-end tax strategy. Whatever the reason, make sure the group you choose will put your money to good use and not spend it on big salaries for its executives or huge payments to professional fundraisers."
Who should you choose?

Check out there page:

Notice:  Under international relief next to Doctors without Borders, high marks also go to our own Episcopal Relief & Development.  Bravo ERD!

Check out ERDs page and give!

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 9 (Advent II) Sermon

In just over 2 weeks, two wonderful teachers in our school district died suddenly: David Martin & Kathleen Kuhl. My kids didn’t have Kathleen but Jared had David as an advisor. Days of joy have turned to days of grief and shock. In between Thanksgiving & Christmas when we are in the midst of the “happiest season of all” as one song puts it, some are walking with grief and there are many of us who are reminded of loved ones who are no longer with us.

For many, this time of year is more dark than light and as the darkness grows this time of year, so does those moments of sadness and sorrow, of longing for those loved ones lost. We do at times struggle to find our way in the darkness, groping around, trying not to stumble.

And in that darkness is also mystery for in the midst of such darkness Christ is born, in such darkness is a prophet preaching repentance by the shore, in such darkness lies our hope, for in the dark we find light. For the Israelites in exile, those away from Jerusalem and their homeland, I suspect many wondered about their days ahead, they longed for the past when life was good in the land of Israel. Now they lived in strange lands with strange peoples – their days seem dark and they groped for a way forward.
Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.
Baruch writing to the exiled Israelites ends his short book of the bible with a psalm of hope.
For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory…
Baruch’s psalm is a call to hope in the midst of their sorrows, to see that God was leading them forward into a brighter future, even when they could not see it for themselves, when the land of Israel would be theirs again to inhabit.

When we are in the midst of such darkness, it is hard to find the light, to be lead by the light… But that theme of being lead to be a better place is throughout scripture, of being led from slavery to freedom, from sin to life, from death to resurrection. There are many passages of such hope.

And it is Baruch and the Gospel of Luke that we heard this morning that both look to the Prophet Isaiah for such hope in darkness…
"Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
That is hope that all shall see the salvation of God, all will see their loved ones again, all will know that this present darkness is not all there is, there is light…

And as we journey through this season of Advent and the darkness washes over us and we sit and wait for Christ’s coming, maybe it isn’t that the light breaks upon us all at once. Maybe it’s in slender incursions of splintered light, God’s glory breaks through and we catch glimpses of it, and we can feel God with us, and our hope is renewed. Let me end with a poem that looks for such hope in the midst of darkness
From A Slender Grace: Poems by Rod Jellema

I have to look in cracks and crevices.
Don’t tell me how God’s mercy
is as wide as the ocean, as deep as the sea.
I already believe it; but that infinite prospect
gets farther away the more we mouth it.
I thank you for lamenting his absences—
from marriages going mad, from the deaths
of your son and mine, from the inescapable
terrors of mankind: Treblinka. Viet Nam.
September Eleven. It’s hard to celebrate
his invisible Presence in the sacrament
while seeing his visible absence from the world.

This must be why mystic and poets record
the slender incursions of splintered light,
echoes, fragments, odd words and phrases
like flashes through darkened hallways.
These stabs remind me that the proud
and portly old church is really only
that cut green slip grafted into a tiny nick
that merciful God himself slit into the stem
of his chosen Judah. The thin and tenuous
thread we hang by, so astonishing,
is the metaphor I need at the shoreline
of all those immeasurable oceans of love.
In such slender incursions of splintered light, live into the hope & the repentance, and remember, for as the Prophets are reminding us today… we will see the glory of God! Amen.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Praying for the DRC

Praying for the Democratic Republic of Congo

Our fellow Anglicans in the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to experience violence and displacement. Since April, there has been a significant rise in violence promulgated by a new rebel group, M23, and several existing ones. The violence has caused the displacement of 320,000 within DR Congo, and 60,000 into Uganda and Rwanda.

The work of the Anglican Church in Congo continues to be of the highest quality and responsiveness, rooted in the love of Christian for neighbor. During a visit there in July of 2011, we saw firsthand evidence of the work done by Mothers Union and other groups on behalf of the least of these – women, children, and orphans, all victims of the violence of war. The internal displacement of hundreds of thousands since then, and the flight of still others into neighboring countries, has made the situation much worse. Many thousands are living with fear and insecurity, hunger, sickness, and poverty, while they yearn to return home and live in peace.

Archbishop Henri Isingoma of the Anglican Church of Congo asks us to join in a prayer for peace in DR Congo, initiated by the Congo Church Association. Pray for an end to the conflict, an end to violence and the atrocities, that the needs of the suffering may be supplied, and that peace may prevail

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church

A Prayer for the People of DR Congo

O God, Loving parent of all, comfort your children displaced, wounded, lost or orphaned by conflict in D R Congo; and give the people of that country courage to seek enduring peace with justice and freedom, that their children might grow up without fear, for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

(Adapted from a Prayer from the Congo Swahili Prayer Book 1998)

A short prayer, based on part of the South African national anthem:

God bless Congo:
guard her children,
guide her leaders.
and give her peace;
for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.

Other prayer:

Almighty God, maker of all, enemy of none, we pray to you for the people of Congo, whose troubles are in your heart and ours, whose hopes are set in your promises. Stretch out your arm, your mighty hand, and touch this wounded land. Lord of heaven and earth: bring peace and healing.

Touch those whose lives have been scarred by violence and death; as they look on the cross of Christ, bring them from pain to joy. Lord of heaven and earth: bring peace and healing.

Touch those who are guilty of greed and cruelty; by your Spirit bring them through repentance to new life. Lord of heaven and earth: bring peace and healing.

Touch those who wield power, of government, of arms, and of commerce: give them a vision of Congo rebuilt, united, free and prosperous. Lord of heaven and earth: bring peace and healing.

Touch your church, troubled and tired, and give it new strength, so that with Bible and hoe, prayer and medicine, it can tell of your love and show your compassion. Lord of heaven and earth: bring peace and healing.

Touch our hearts too, renew our solidarity with our brothers and sisters, and show us how we can support them in their difficulties.  Lord of heaven and earth: bring peace and healing.

Stretch out your arm, your mighty hand, and touch the wounded land of Congo; for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

December 2 Sermon (1st Advent)

Cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Our collect this morning for this first Sunday of Advent reminds us that by God’s grace, we are invited on a journey from darkness into light and that we have a role to play in that journey as we cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Our journey in the midst of this cold and dreary time as we move into darker and darker days does not need to overwhelm us, it does not need to override our lives because we walk toward the light. Of course we know people whose lives are permeated by darkness, those who suffer from depression this time of year, those who are suffering because of Hurricane Sandy, those who have experienced death so close to them that the darkness seems to be right at their doorstep. But our readings today reminds us that even in the midst of such darkness there is light and we live in that hope.

Jeremiah reminds us that a righteous branch will spring forth, what God has promised will come to pass. Thessalonians reminds us to love one another and all and that God will strengthen our hearts. Our first two readings tell us that even during these dark days, to hold on, there will be light!

I got to experience that myself as we were preparing to come home from Vermont after a wonderful Thanksgiving away with family. As I was ready to get the car packed, we had a flat tire and even after AAA changed the tire, we found that the tire was not full size but an emergency tire that might not have gotten us home. So we needed to fix our flat tire but who would do it for us in the middle of Vermont on a cold, cloudy and snowy day? Driving home we passed a Ford dealership and we stopped in, not only did they fix the flat tire and put it back on so we could get home but they refused payment. In the midst of darkness there was light.

Many you have probably seen in the paper or on Facebook the picture of the NYPD Officer Larry DePrimo giving a homeless man new boots and new socks. What's interesting about the story not only is it about giving to someone in need and how the officer himself has been changed by this interaction when he learned that this homeless man never had shoes & he saw the blisters but that the officer still carries the receipt around with him to remind him that there are people always worse off. That is light in the midst of darkness.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us not to fear signs of the earth in distress, or when nations are confused. But to be alert, raise our heads, redemption is surely coming, we need not fear. He is telling us that light will overcome the present darkness.

The Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Congo has asked for our prayers. (The DRC is the 2nd largest land area nation in Africa; its capital alone is bigger than the State of CT!) There are many articles in the paper about the violence there, of a major western city in that country, Goma that was overrun by rebels. These rebels seek to overthrow the government and the prayers that we are asked to pray is for an end of the violence and for all the parties in the conflict to come to a place of peace. The DRC is a nation where the people sit in deep darkness wondering what their lives will be. It is a nation confused and overwhelmed.
We have been asked by our Presiding Bishop to pray “for an end to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an end to violence and the atrocities, that the needs of the suffering may be supplied, and that peace may prevail. Our fellow Anglicans in the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to experience violence and displacement.”
So over the next few weeks in this season of Advent we will do just that we will remember the DRC, the Democratic Republic of Congo, we will remember the Archbishop and the church there and its ministry among all the people, we will remember those who are suffering and we will pray for peace. We will pray for them in our prayers of the people (and at 10:15 AM our Eucharistic prayer will be from the church in Congo and will help remind us of our solidarity with them as we gather around the altar.).

So in this Advent, in this time of waiting & praying expectantly, we live in hope, we ask God’s grace to cast off our works of darkness and put God’s light into us and transform us, so that through our prayers and action we can help bring light into the darkness of this world.

As the author and priest Henri Nouwen put it:
“To trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings […] trusting that God molds us according toa God's love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction.”
That is the season of Advent, we hope for new things. Amen.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

World AIDS Day

A prayer for those living with AIDS:

Merciful God, we remember before You all who are sick this day, and especially all persons who live with HIV. Give them courage to live with their disease. Help them to face and overcome their fears. Be with them when they are alone or rejected. Comfort them when they are discouraged. And touch them with your healing Spirit that they might find and possess eternal life. All this we ask through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Prayer for "Black" Friday

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ in his earthly life shared our toil and hallowed our labor: Be present with your people where they work; make those who carry on the industries and commerce of this land responsive to your will; and give to us all a pride in what we do, and a just return for our labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (from the BCP)

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

A thought from Chapel on the Green

Thankfulness is the memory of the heart.

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the  fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

November 18 Sermon

“Awaken me this morning, Lord to your light, Open my eyes to your presence.
Awaken me, Lord to your love, Open my heart to your indwelling.
Awaken me, Lord to your life, Open my mind to your abiding.
Awaken me always, Lord to your purpose, Open my will to your guiding.”
Amen. (David Adam)
Repent! The end is near! or some would like us to think…

Some predicted a doomsday with the election. Others look to certain dates, like December 21, the supposed end of the Mayan calendar, which it actually doesn't really end at all. There is even a TV reality show on National Geographic called Doomsday Preparers. Others on TV and on the internet make a living by selling fear. Many feed off the fear that their pronouncements make.

Some look to the bible, to passages similar to what we are reading today, and use it as a way to predict the end of the world. There are some passage that talk about the end, Apocalyptic visions, many with vivid imagery. Many look to these passages, thread them together to give an aura of authenticity. But too many do this to instill in us fear.

I think of a song from Philip Philips I heard on the radio recently with these words:
Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home
I could hear Jesus saying these words to us that we are not alone. It is Jesus who journeys with us. Don’t pay no mind to those who want to fill us with fear, trouble might drag us down, we might get lost, but you can always be found!

As Christians, we don't need a bunker mentality, we need not buy into the fear and anxiety of our age, we need to live into that hope that god entrusts us with...
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
The reformer Martin Luther put it. Such hope in the face of it all is what we can give to a society that can’t see such hope.

When the Jewish people were dispersed from their homeland. When they didn’t know how to have faith in a foreign land. When they wondered if they had a future. It is Daniel who brings them such hope. For Daniel tells of his vision:
“At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, but at that time your people shall be delivered."
The vision from God that Daniel shares is a reminder to the Israelites that even though they have been taken from their homeland, God is with them and they will be delivered. It is a message of hope in a bleak time.

In the gospel of mark, the disciples are enthralled with the beauty of Jerusalem. The stones and structures. But Jesus knows such things do not last.
“Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."
This unsettled the disciples but Jesus went on…
"Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed.”
There will be wars, famines, earthquakes… these are but the birthpangs.

We hear those words as rockets are raining down on Israel and Israel returns fire with their own rockets. It is hard not to be alarmed at what Jesus says but I don’t think he is doing that to upset us, but to make us aware of the struggles we will have to follow him. People who would lead us astray, terrible things in our world like wars, famines, earthquakes. But it is just the beginning. The kingdom of God is almost be here. Don’t be alarmed.

But how do we remain in hope?

I think it comes down to how we cultivate our lives and how we want to change the world by living out of our faith and hope and love.

As Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, says
“We mend and renew the world by strengthening inside ourselves what we seek outside ourselves, and not by demanding it of others or trying to force it on others.
If you want others to be more loving, choose to love first.
If you want a reconciled outer world, reconcile your own inner world.
If your situation feels hopeless, honor the one spot of hope inside you.
If you want to find God. then honor God within you, and you will always see God beyond you. For it is only God in you who knows where and how to look for God.”
(I’m handing out a small sheet with Rohr’s words, because I think it’s the right message for us today. Post it on your fridge or on your bathroom mirror and think on these things.)

Emily Dickinson said, “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers—That perches in the soul—And sings the tune without the words—And never stops—at all” She’s right! Hope doesn’t stop. Its in you and its in me. Don’t listen to the fear mongers. Listen to God and start with yourself, “If you want others to be more loving, choose to love first.” Jesus did. Amen.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A New must have App!

Forward Movement has come up with a wonderful app called Day by Day that I recommend for everyone.

The details:

Forward Movement has released its first mobile app, Forward Day by Day, for iPhone. The app offers the daily meditation from Forward Day by Day, the Daily Office, biographies of the saints, the lectionary, and prayer resources. While the app is formatted for iPhone, it works on an iPad too.

Available from the Apple App Store at an introductory price of $6.99, the app offers a savings from the print subscription price of Forward Day by Day. Throughout the app, you can share what you see using the built-in sharing tool. Currently, the app offers sharing by Facebook or email.

Each day's Forward Day by Day meditation is available. At the bottom, you can click a link to visit the web page on the Anglican Communion Office website for the diocese that we are praying for in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer. There's also a list of all the assigned lectionary readings for that day.

Throughout the day, the app will provide the appropriate office, based on time of day. You can pray morning prayer, noonday prayer, evening prayer, or compline. For each office, the complete text is provided, including lessons, psalms, and collects (prayers). You can select Rite I or Rite II.

The app provides the complete biblical texts from the lectionary each day, using the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. At the moment, the app provides the daily office lectionary. Soon there will be an option to select the Revised Common Lectionary for major feasts and Sundays.

When the current day is the commemoration of a saint from the official calendar of The Episcopal Church (Lesser Feasts & Fasts), the app will offer a devotional essay and prayer.

Some prayers from the Book of Common Prayer (1979) are included in the app, along with popular prayers from Forward Movement.

You can purchase the app directly from Apple for $6.99. This price will include Forward Day by Day through at least the end of 2013.

Forward Movement is a ministry of the Episcopal Church whose mission is to reinvigorate the life of the church. Since 1935 we have published the quarterly devotional Forward Day by Day, as well as pamphlets, booklets, and books that foster spiritual growth and encourage discipleship. As a self-sustaining agency of the church, Forward Movement relies on sales and donations to carry out its work.

- Posted using BlogPress from Rev. Kurt's iPhone!

Inheritence of Greatness

Deacon Christopher Holms has written a marvelous book...
How do I pass on to my children the legacy of a man who meant the world to me and taught me so much now that he is gone? This is the question I had asked myself after the death of my grandfather and mentor, Alfred Holms. Sitting alone one night I began typing a letter to my grandfather asking him to help me to remember the things that he had taught me so that I could pass them on. What was meant to be a private meditation instead blossomed into the creation of Thomas Carver and with him, The Inheritance of Greatness.

Thomas Carver is a fourteen year old boy growing up in Fairfield, Connecticut during the year 1809 and has done his best to follow his family"s expectations of him entering the priesthood. As the New England autumn darkens the skies, so, too does Thomas? thoughts and feelings as he unexpectedly embarks on a journey into manhood. One afternoon, after another incident with neighborhood bullies, Thomas arrives home to find his grandfather waiting to take him through Fairfield, Saugatuck and Norwalk where Thomas meets his grandfather's friends who become his mentors. Thomas comes to understand that the anger inside of him is a manifestation of his own fears about who he has been trying to be for everyone but himself. Thomas' mentors teach him that he must inherit the greatness that is bestowed upon all young men by God, the chance to be great.

As the young man gains an understanding of himself as a farm boy, a journeyman, a poet, a blacksmith, a witness of death and finally a knight he enters the Great Watch where he takes part in a secret ritual that solidifies his inheritance from God in a faithful and spell binding way. Step inside and join Thomas on his journey as stories of ancient Greek, Celtic and Norse mythology intertwine their forgotten wisdom with the faith that our hero has seemed to have misunderstood.

"The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness could not comprehend it." John 1:5
I invite you to purchase your book or Kindle edition:

Paperback or Kindle

Darwin Revisited

One of my links from an old post on Darwin is no longer usable.  Thanks to Melissa for noticing!

I encourage readers to learn more about Charles Darwin and his contributions to science and society.

Best way is to google.  The current link has been removed.

November 11 Sermon

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.
“Can anyone understand how it is to have lived in the White House and then, suddenly, to be living alone as the President's widow?”
Those words from Jackie Kennedy remind us the terrible price that widows pay, and many of you I know could indeed answer her question of what it is like to live one day with your spouse (or partner) and the next, be living alone.

Today, we find three faithful widows in our stories. We have Ruth & Naomi in our first two readings and an unnamed widow at the treasury in the Gospel.

You noticed I added a reading from Ruth today and skipped Hebrews. Last week we would have read the first chapter of Ruth, but it was All Saints and we used that day’s readings. So I decided to include it today because it helps set the scene for what we heard in chapter 3 of the book of Ruth, our second reading (you can read Hebrews at home at your leisure, quiz next week.).

So we know that there was a famine in Israel, so Elimelech and Naomi with their two sons go to the land of Moab. Elimelech dies and leaves Naomi a widow with two sons who then marry Moabite wives. Ten years later, her sons die and the famine in Israel is over, so Naomi plans on returning to her homeland, but graciously prays for Orpah and Ruth to return to their people and to their gods. But Ruth refuses to let Noami go…
"Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die-- there will I be buried. May the LORD do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!"
And with that faithful statement, Naomi and Ruth returned to the land of Israel. But Naomi, as we heard in our second reading, was concerned that Ruth should not stay widowed, so seeing an eligible kinsman, she tells Ruth to seek out Boaz, and in very euphemistic words to offer herself to him and they indeed become husband and wife.

So Ruth the Moabite, faithful to Naomi & Boaz would conceive Obed who would be the father of Jesse, Jesse would be the father of David, & down the line to Jesus. Our God not only works with the chosen people of Israel but with the faithful of every generation and every people.

Such faithfulness is what our Bible says about our relationships to each other and to God. Ruth and Noami being wonderful examples of this in their widowhood and in their lives!

Jesus in the Gospel understood the difficulty of life that many widows lived, for we might not have to worry about scribes, but we sure do have to worry about banks and predatory people and lenders who devour widow’s houses today and yet like to be treated with honor and privilege.

But honor does not lie in their hearts… so Jesus at the treasury points out to the disciples and to us, the widow’s mite as it used to be called, for Jesus said:
“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
The widow here is faithful to her giving and Jesus sees that her gift comes from the heart. The real "honor" in giving is not the amount but what compels us to give in the first place.

As we begin our stewardship season together, it is important for us to bear in mind the widow’s mite and a heart that gives.

For in exalting the gift of the poor widow, Jesus wants us to realize that, in the economy of God, numbers are not the true value of giving. It is what we give from our want, not from our extra, that speaks of what we truly value, what good we truly want to accomplish, what we want our lives and world to be. What we give to this parish is part of our hopes for this world and for our lives together.

In the Gospel, it is not the measure of the gift but the measure of the love, selflessness and commitment that directs the gift that is great before God. We see that in the story of Ruth & Naomi and we heard it proclaimed by Jesus in the Gospel, and so it is for all of us.

For Christ calls us not to seek greater things or talents to astound the world but for greater love and selflessness with which to enrich the world.

May we through what we give enrich the mission and ministry of our parish so that in God’s love we can welcome everyone, stranger and friend alike, on the journey of faith. Amen.

Prayers for Veterans Day

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 the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Prayers after the Election

For Our Nation (& the World)

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; 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.

For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We  commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant  to the President of the United States, the Governor of this State, and to all in authority, wisdom  and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful  of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
For Congress or a State Legislature

O God, the fountain of wisdom, whose will is good and gracious, and whose law is truth: We beseech thee so to guide and bless our Senators and Representatives in Congress  (or in the Legislature of this State), that they may enact such laws as shall please thee, to the glory of thy Name and the welfare of this people;  through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Courts of Justice

Almighty God, who sittest in the throne judging right: We  humbly beseech thee to bless the courts of justice and the magistrates in all this land; and give unto them the spirit of  wisdom and understanding, that they may discern the truth, and impartially administer the law in the fear of thee alone;  through him who shall come to be our Judge, thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

All Saints' Sunday Sermon

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.

There is a song on the radio with these words:
Oh Lord, I'm still not sure what I stand for
What do I stand for? [What do I stand for?]
Most nights, I don't know anymore... ("Some Nights" by fun)
The song asks what we stand for and on this All Saints Sunday, we remember & celebrate those who knew what they stood for, who understood their lives and their faith, and it guided their actions.

But this celebration really begins on the night of All Hallows Eve, or the eve of All Saints, what we call Halloween. When we use fun, humor even ridicule to live into our baptism and defy the power of death over our lives by a carnival type of celebration. As one Orthodox priest said, “Halloween is the time of year when we see that Christ has so triumphed over Evil, that even little children can mock the Devil with impunity." (Fr. Victor)

Halloween can be a moment (if we get to celebrate it!) when we give thanks in revelry and enjoy the gifts that God has given to us, even in the midst of the growing darkness around us and our sense of how close death really is. For we remember that Christ has brought us out of death into life, out of darkness into light. The saints live in that light.

That celebration continuers with All Saints Day, when we remember the saints from long ago and not so long ago…asking God to help us follow them in all virtuous and godly living… “In the New Testament, the word “saints” is used to describe the entire membership of the Christian community, and in the Collect for All Saints’ Day the word “elect” is used in a similar sense. But from very early on, Christians have also used the word “saint” primarily to persons of heroic sanctity, whose deeds were recalled with gratitude by later generations.” (Lesser Feasts & Fasts, 2000)

And so we remember the saints who lived the godly life, to which our first reading from Ecclesiasticus reminds us: “Let us now sing the praises of famous men and women, our ancestors in their generations.” Men and women who in faith lived lives that found joy by doing what God called them to do. To use the words of the late William Stringfellow:
“In truth, all human beings are called to be saints, but that just means called to be fully human, to be perfect—that is, whole, mature, fulfilled. The saints are simply those men and women who relish the event of life as a gift and who realize that the only way to honor such a gift is to give it away.”
Life is a gift and the saints found it by listening to God. They would find fulfillment and happiness in what they did, for some they made their name by how they ruled, others by their counsel, some spoke in prophetic oracles; some led the people by their wise words; others by their musical tunes.

We remember them like President Abraham Lincoln and Q. Emma and K. Kamehameha IV.

We remember them for they reached out with wise words to their native tribe, John Johnson Enmegahbowh and to those who were deaf, Thomas Gallaudet.

We remember them for their prophetic words, Dorothy Day, or their prophetic actions, Sister Constance & her Companions who stayed when others fled as Yellow Fever ravaged Memphis.

When we think of words we remember Walt Whitman and when we remember those who put it to music, we think of Mahalia Jackson.

Each of these saints followed the Lord in their age, in their context, reaching out as they followed Jesus. But our celebration does end there.

Our celebration of the saints ends with All Souls Day, or (as our BCP puts it) the Commemoration of all the faithful departed. We remember our loved ones, family members, friends, even those whose name has become silent, with no lips to speak their names. Even they are commemorated on this day. They are no less members of the community of the faithful in heaven then the saints we think of, but they are not recognized except by those who remember and love them.

Today, I think of Steve Kulwicki, who died after a 2 year battle with cancer. This summer when Ellen and I and the kids were at the family reunion in Indiana. Steve opened his pool to us so we could get refreshed on those very hot days there. He and his wife delighted in seeing all of us use his pool when he himself used it less and less.

A very simple, caring act, but he manifested what Jesus asks of all of us, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Steve did that and I know today he has found a place with the saints and angels of light.

On this All Saints Sunday, may we in our lives, mirror that of the saints & live by faith. To live as humanly as we can in the midst of darkness and death, knowing the light of Christ still shines and it can shine through what each of us does today. Amen.

A Poem for All Souls Day

I used this poem in a funeral sermon recently and I think it works well in our thoughts for All Souls Day...

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.
-- Wendell Berry in Leavings: Poems (2005)