Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Open Communion

aka, Communion for those not baptized.

After our brief discussion on Sunday, I thought I would point to excellent articles on this subject (pdf format):

The opening of the eucharistic table to the unbaptized is a practice inspired by the radical hospitality of Jesus. Too often, however, the practice of open communion is adopted casually, without the systematic theological reflection called for by something so central to ecclesial identity and mission. Among the issues the practice raises are (1) its reliance on the claim that Jesus would not have shared a ritual meal with his disciples alone, (2) its departure from the paschal ecclesiology at the heart of contemporary liturgical renewal, which links baptism and eucharist to a post-Constantinian understanding of mission, (3) its failure both to appreciate the pastoral value of longing, and to avoid a modernist commitment to the immediate gratification of individual desire, (4) its naive assumption that boundaries are necessarily inhospitable, and (5) its taking the place of genuine evangelism and public ecclesial witness. This first essay, while not an exhaustive argument against open communion, addresses these critical issues.

Baptism, Eucharist, and the Hospitality of Jesus: On the Practice of “Open Communion” by James Farwell

This second essay engages in an extended dialogue with James Farwell's essay,  rebutting many of his arguments against open communion and suggesting a number of theological considerations that might lend support to the practice of inviting unbaptized persons to take communion. The logic of the relationship between baptism and eucharist is discussed in light of the reference of both to the kingdom, and tied to the various forms of Jesus' meal ministry in the gospels. The essay also speculates about what in the present context of Episcopal church life might be driving the trend toward open communion. Finally, there is a review of factors to be taken into account in deciding whether the consequences of open communion for Christian life are acceptable.

In Praise of Open Communion: A Rejoinder to James Farwell by Kathryn Tanner

Here is an essay by one community that practices "open communion" and the rationale behind it.

Come to the Table: a reflection on the practice of open communion at saint benedict’s table by Jamie Howison

an article by Rick Fabian on "First The Table, Then The Font" that also gives a rationale for such open communion.

and a blog post by Tobias Haller on "communion before baptism" in which he argues against such open communion and the devaluing of baptism.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Do you tithe?

Insightful analysis is here:

To Tithe or Not to Tithe ... (NY Times)

(Oh, and I think you should!)

Oscar Romero Poem/Prayer

A Future Not Our Own

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

Final Prayer on Sunday

This was the final prayer used at our Annual Meeting:

O GOD of all the ages, the God of our fathers and mothers, we thank you for the heritage and witness of all who have gone before us in this parish of St. Peter’s.  Keep us, we pray, faithful to their vision, and eager for the promises of your call to service in our time.  In the swift and uncertain changes of life today, let us not draw back into contentment with things that have been, for fear of things that may be. Reveal to us in the face of all people the image of our Savior Christ, that by the guidance of your Spirit, we may help them to grow with us into the full measure and maturity of his humanity, in truth, in freedom, and in peace; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Adapted from a prayer by the Rev. Massey Shepherd (1978))

210th Annual Parish Meeting

To find the Rector's Address and the Reports, you can find them here:


Sunday, January 29, 2012

January 22 Sermon

A long time parishioner and a newcomer were discussing the new priest at coffee hour just after his first sermon.

"Oh, thank God the last one is gone!" the veteran parishioner went on. "He always preached that if we didn't mend our ways and reform our lives we would all go straight to hell."

"But isn't that just what the new reverend said today?" the newcomer observed.

"Yes but our old pastor seemed happy about it."
Jonah would have been happy if the Ninevites were going to hell. He hated them.

The Ninevites, a neighbour to the north, were an enemy of Israel. God was looking for a prophet to send to them to have them repent of their evil ways.

God called Jonah. Twice! When God first sent him to the Ninevites, Jonah ran the other way as fast as he could go.

Eventually a big fish brought Jonah back and as we heard this morning, God called Jonah a second time and sent him to the Ninevites. He proclaimed what God asked of him and the people of Nineveh listened.

God did not destroy them because they repented of their evil ways. Jonah, though, was angry. He knew God might forgive. And now the hated Ninevites were saved.

God said to Jonah the reluctant prophet, "can’t I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred twenty thousand people who can’t tell their right hand from their left, and also many animals?" (Jonah 4:11 CEB)

Jonah could only see the hated enemy, but God saw his creation, a people who have erred and strayed like lost sheep.

And yet God called Jonah anyway…

Jesus called his first disciples... Nathaniel who doubted anything good came from Nazareth, and this week, the fisherman, Simon and Andrew, James and John. He called them to fish for people. He called the doubters, he called the zealots, and…

It is Jesus who calls each of us even in the rush of our lives today he calls us to come follow him.

And how we follow could be as simple as how we love, and a mom learns about the power of a mother’s kiss:
“My youngest daughter always had me kissing her boo-boos. I did it because, as every mother knows, it makes it feel better. What I never understood was the thought process behind the action.

"One day my daughter asked me to kiss her boo-boo when I was pressed for time, so I hurriedly obliged. She cried, telling me it wasn’t any good because my kiss didn’t have any love in it. I realized that kissing boo-boos was really about loving the pain away.

“This simple truth, along with the value of mindfulness my daughter taught me, has encouraged me to slow down, to become more aware and present in the moment. Slowing down is a conscious decision to live at a gentler pace and to make the most of the time I have.

“When my own mother passed away, I did not forget the love she gave me; it will live on in my heart forever. She gave me life, but beyond that, she gave me love . . .

“With that errant kiss, I realized it was my responsibility as a mother to watch over my child’s spiritual growth . . . By simply showing my child kindness through listening, I believe I have satisfied my child’s earliest spiritual needs. By being genuine — that is, personally connected and physically present — I have satisfied my child’s developing spirit.” [Mary Ann Rollano, writing in Spirituality & Health, November/December 2005.]
It is Jesus who entrusts to each one of us — whether we are a fisherman or a mom or even reluctant like Jonah — the work of discipleship: to extend, in whatever our circumstances, the love of God to all; to proclaim, in our own homes and communities, the compassion, the forgiveness, the love that is bound in the life of Jesus.

As God is present to us in the person of Jesus, we are called to be present to one another in our love and care. To be the “fishers” that Christ calls us to become and to “cast the net” of God’s love that we have experienced upon the waters of our time and place, to reach out and grasp the hand of those who struggle and stumble, to “love” away the hurt and pain and fear in ourselves and others.

Jesus calls you and me, today, to come follow him, will you answer or will you run the other way? Amen.

January 15 Sermon

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial. Is how our second reading puts it this morning (NRSV). I have the freedom to do anything, but not everything is helpful. Is how another translation puts that same line (CEB).

St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, was reminding his flock in Corinth that just because they could do something, doesn’t mean they should. Not everything benefits us. Not everything is helpful or good.

He was particularly concerned about those who gave their bodies away to sexual immorality, which seemed to be an issue for the Corinthians, as it is for our society today!

Many in the Corinthian Church struggled with how to live, earlier in the letter Paul tells the wealthier members of the congregation have to treat the poorer members with more respect. Paul reminds them that to honor God, it all begins with the understanding that their body, not only the gathered body of the faithful, but each of them is a temple of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit is in each of them.

The Holy Spirit that descended upon Jesus like a dove at his baptism is the same Spirit who was in the Corinthians and who we each were given at our baptism. We were sealed by the Spirit and Paul appeals to this understanding in how we treat and use our bodies.

It would not take a great leap to go from the sin of Paul’s day to the indulgent appetites of today in our culture. We are bombarded with images from TV to the internet and beyond that tell us to crave sex, food, wealth, the latest and greatest gadgets… and our lives are so busy, we don’t take the time to treat ourselves right – to eat the right food, to exercise properly, no matter what our age, to quit those bad habits like smoking that make our lives shorter.

“Don’t you know, St. Paul asks, that you have the Holy Spirit from God, and you don’t belong to yourselves?”

Our ethics lies in how we treat our body because Paul reminds us, it is connected with who we are, with everything about ourselves.

But even more than that, St. Paul was trying to get those in Corinth and those in our day, to see beyond our individual selves, to see beyond the cravings and lusts we have, and to remember that God is in each of us, the God who knows us each by name, the ground of our being, and that we no longer live for ourselves alone, but for Jesus who died for us so that we would truly live.

What might this look like today? An incident observed and reported in The New York Times' "Metropolitan Diary" [July 12, 2010] comes to my mind:

On a rainy afternoon, a woman finished lunch at the cafe at the Museum of Modern Art. She then gathers up her oversize pocketbook and large bag of gifts she has purchased in the museum shop and then steps onto the escalator to the museum lobby. As she steps off and onto the hardwood floor, the heel of her boot hits a damp spot and she slides forward. She loses her balance and falls flat on her face in front of a tour group, her packages and pocketbook scattered all over the lobby - a lobby packed with people waiting out the storm.

A man in his mid-20s rushes over and helps the woman to her feet.

"OK?" he asks, and then, quietly, "But you're embarrassed, aren't you?" He smiles, winks - and suddenly he falls to the floor. He fakes a tumble that closely resembles the woman's genuine fall.

His fall diverts the attention of onlookers from her clumsiness. "Boy, that floor is slippery - someone should mop it up before someone gets hurt," someone in the crowd says.

The young man scrambles to his feet. He makes sure the woman is OK. And she is - thanks to the sensitivity and creativity of a kind stranger, both her balance and dignity are restored as she retreats unnoticed into a nearby gallery.

It was a simple act of kindness from a stranger, but it truly mirrors the love of God in how he used his body to help another!

Consider that God became one of us in Jesus, taking on our humanity in all its messiness, clumsiness, embarrassments and disappointments and he showed us how to deal with it all with generosity, compassion and grace. St. Paul tells us to follow Jesus and honor God with our body, to turn our attention away from ourselves, but to what God has given to us to use for others.

And on this MLK, Jr. weekend, to put it in the words of MLK, Jr. “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

I have the freedom to do anything I want, but not everything is helpful to me or to this world. So what will you do with God’s spirit today? Amen.

Baptism of Jesus Sermon

“When we touch our baptism, we touch our past, but also our present and our future. Whenever and however our baptism took place and however much or little regard has been paid to it since, it is a sign in our flesh of the enduring love of God.” (Daniel Stevick)

On this day when we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, we also remember our own baptism (even if it is what our parents did for us long ago) we think about the baptisms that have taken place here in this church for 210 years, as we also look forward to Katelyn Elizabeth Bender’s baptism this morning at 10:15 AM. The Past, Present & Future are all wrapped together in baptism and God is in the midst of it all.

As we imagine the scene of the baptism of Jesus, we think of John the Baptist standing near the river, wearing camel’s hair, people are flocking to him, to confess their sins, out in the wilderness.

Several Jewish groups of that time observed some type of ritual baptism, and yet John knows that what he does, his proclamations, his baptisms, are just a beginning, they anticipate the one who is to come, the messiah. His baptism by water for repentance will become the baptism by the Spirit.

John the Baptist prepares the way of the Lord much like his ancestors did from Abraham and Sarah to Moses and Miriam to David and Jeremiah. It all comes to fruition when Jesus of Nazareth comes and all that John had anticipated happens; Jesus is baptized.

And it is Jesus who sees the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descending like a dove upon him and a voice that proclaims, “You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

It is God’s Spirit who descended that day, anointed Jesus for the mission and ministry that would encompass his life for the rest of his time on earth and that same Spirit sent Jesus away from his baptism to go and do.

In our own day, baptism is our ritual of initiation into God’s community the Church. As our rite says, “In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.”

Today, Katelyn will be baptized into the household of God.

There will be many people around the world who will be baptized on this day, and God will hear their names presented and it is God who will act by sending the Holy Spirit upon them. And no matter where that baptism takes place, it is that baptism that propels them & us into the future.

For the Spirit of God also rests on us, reminding us that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God, for we are all sealed by the Spirit and marked in Christ’s name.

And it is that same Spirit that calls us, moves us to live out our baptismal lives in this world, where so many people are in need of that love that God gives to us; which reminds me of a story…

Two friends are having lunch at a local restaurant when one woman is distracted by a scene two tables over.

"What's the matter?" her friend asks. "See that couple over there? We're sharing the same waiter except they're being so demanding that he barely has time for anyone else. Look at how they turn up their noses at everything he brings them."

"Maybe their order just isn't to their liking." "No, that's not it at all. I was a waitress in college and I know the game. They're just trying to berate that kid into a free lunch."

Just then, they watch as the manager walks over to the table and stands next to the waiter. The couple complains loudly about the food and service. The manager takes the check from the waiter and motions him away. "See what I mean?" the woman says.

The embarrassed waiter comes over to the women's table. "Is there anything else I can get you?" he asks, his eyes downcast as he places the check on the table between the two women.

The former waitress snatches the check before her friend can even look at it and pulls out several bills from her purse. She hands everything to the waiter.

"Keep the change."

"But ma'am, that's . . ."

She takes the young man's hand and squeezes it. She looks him in the eye and says, "I know the kind of afternoon you're having. You're a terrific waiter. And you've earned every dime of this. So don't argue with an old lady who's been there." [From The Other Ninety Percent by Robert K. Cooper.]

It is a simple act of generosity, a simple act of love. And when we become vehicles of God's love, when we become the means for manifesting God's presence in our world to others, we live out of our baptism; of that knowledge that we too are God’s beloved and God is pleased with us.

In time Katelyn will join us in that, but for now, it is all of us gathered here, her family, friends and this praying and caring community who will witness to the great love of God by what we do in this world.

May all that we hold, may all that we touch, may all that we are, realize the true miracle of God who came among us in Jesus, who lives in each of us now, and who guides us on our journey for just as Mother Teresa put it, “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” Amen.

Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK Day of Service

Don't forget to do something today for the good of a neighbor, community or our nation.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Holy Scriptures (Bible)

From the Book of Common Prayer (Catechism)

The Holy Scriptures

Q. What are the Holy Scriptures?
A. The Holy Scriptures, commonly called the Bible, are the books of the Old and New Testaments; other books, called the Apocrypha, are often included in the Bible.

Q. What is the Old Testament?
A. The Old Testament consists of books written by the people of the Old Covenant, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to show God at work in nature and history.

Q. What is the New Testament?
A. The New Testament consists of books written by the people of the New Covenant, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to set forth the life and teachings of Jesus and to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom for all people.

Q. What is the Apocrypha?
A. The Apocrypha is a collection of additional books written by people of the Old Covenant, and used in
the Christian Church.

Q. Why do we call the Holy Scriptures the Word of God?
A. We call them the Word of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible.

Q. How do we understand the meaning of the Bible?
A. We understand the meaning of the Bible by the help of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church in the true
interpretation of the Scriptures.

All we need - The Bible - Which one?


I recently learned of a "Conservative Bible Project" that aims to eliminate the liberal bias in the Bible and hold on to the glorious ideal of conservatism (as they define it).

Is that what we really need?

Thomas Jefferson cut his Bible up to suit his needs.  In many ways, we all look to passages in the Bible that conform to our understanding of God and humanity, but to cut out what we disagree with seems to narrow God into our nice little box.

Instead, we should have translators from around the world, from different denominations and different theologies to help guide the translations of a bible so that we can engage it all.

The Common English Bible from their website:

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.  Additionally, more than 500 readers in 77 groups field-tested the translation. Every verse was read aloud in the reading groups, where potentially confusing passages were identified. The translators considered the groups' responses and, where necessary, reworked those passages to clarify in modern English their meaning from the original languages. In total, more than 700 people worked jointly to bring the Common English Bible to fruition; and because of the Internet and today’s technology it was completed in less than four years.
The CEB and the older NRSV help me engage the Bible daily.  What translation helps you?

Sermon for Holy Name

Intro:   The celebration of this scriptural festival marks three events: first, the naming of the infant Jesus; secondly, the performance of the rite of circumcision as a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham "and his children for ever"—thus Christ's keeping of the Law; thirdly and traditionally, it is honored as the first shedding of the Christ's blood. The name Jesus means literally "Yahweh saves." The feast of the Holy Name of Jesus has been observed in the Church since at least the sixth century.

This name "which is above every name" has all things in it, and brings all things with it. It speaks more in five letters than we can do in five thousand words. It speaks more in it than we can speak today; and yet we intend today to speak of nothing else, nothing but Jesus, nothing but Jesus.

Before his birth the angel announced that this child, born of Mary, would be great: "he shall be called Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give him the throne of his father David." The angel thus intimates that this was a name of the highest majesty and glory. And what can we say upon it, less than burst out with the psalmist into a holy exclamation, "O Lord our Governor, O Lord our Jesus, how excellent is thy name in all the world!" It is all "clothed with majesty and honor;" it is "decked with light;" it comes riding to us "upon the wings of the wind"; the Holy Spirit breathes it full upon us, covering heaven and earth with its glory.

But it is a name of grace and mercy, as well as majesty and glory. For "there is no other name under heaven given by which we can be saved," but the name of Jesus. In his name we live, and in that name we die. As Saint Ambrose has written: "Jesus is all things to us if we will." Therefore I will have nothing else but him; and I have all if I have him.

The "looking unto Jesus" which the apostle advises, will keep us from being weary or fainting under our crosses; for this name was set upon the cross over our Savior's head. This same Jesus at the end fixes and fastens all. The love of God in Jesus will never leave us, never forsake us; come what can, it sweetens all.

Is there any one sad?—let him take Jesus into his heart, and he will take heart presently, and his joy will return upon him. Is any one fallen into a sin?—let him call heartily upon this name, and it will raise him up. Is any one troubled with hardness of heart, or dullness of spirit, or dejection of mind, or drowsiness in doing well?—in the meditation of this name, Jesus, all vanish and fly away. Our days would look dark and heavy, which were not lightened with the name of the "Sun of Righteousness"; our nights but sad and dolesome, which we entered not with this sweet name, when we lay down without commending ourselves to God in it.

So then let us remember to begin and end all in Jesus. The New Testament, the covenant of our salvation, begins so, "the generation of Jesus"; and "Come Lord Jesus," so it ends. May we all end so too, and when we are going hence, commend our spirits into his hands; and when he comes, may he receive them to sing praises and alleluias to his blessed name amidst the saints and angels in his glorious kingdom for ever.

from a sermon of Mark Frank