Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Biblical Call to God’s Mission

"The great American Episcopalian biblical scholar and Christian educator, Verna Dozier once said: “If you can’t tell the Biblical story in ten minutes, you don’t know it.” Dr Dozier was a skilled and accomplished storyteller in the best of the African America oral tradition. For her, the Bible had a common thread, a common theme, a common message that runs from Genesis clear through to Revelation. And that common thread is that God loves the world and all that is in it, and God seeks to make all things new and whole.  For missiologists, scholars of the history and theology of Christian mission, the love of God for all of creation and the desire of God to make all things new is understood as God’s mission, God’s purpose, in the world. Thus for Verna Dozier, and for mission scholars alike, it is imperative that we see the Bible as an integrated whole with a clear and unified message. And that message has everything to do with the mission of God, the missio Dei."

Read all of Bishop Ian T. Douglas thoughts here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Prayers on Earth Day

From the Book of Common Prayer

For fruitful seasons

Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: We humbly pray that your gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper all who labor to gather them, that we, who are constantly receiving good things from your hand, may always give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For stewardship of creation

O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For the Right Use of God's Gifts

Almighty God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honor thee with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of thy bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the Conservation of Natural Resources

Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the Beauty of the Earth

We give you thanks, most gracious God, for the beauty of earth and sky and sea; for the richness of mountains, plains, and rivers; for the songs of birds and the loveliness of flowers. We praise you for these good gifts, and pray that we may safeguard them for our posterity. Grant that we may continue to grow in our grateful enjoyment of your abundant creation, to the honor and glory of your Name, now and for ever. Amen.

3rd Sunday of Easter (April 22) Sermon)

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”
These words written by the great reformer, Martin Luther, nearly 500 years ago, reminds us that Spring is a wonderful symbol of Resurrection; that from the death of wintertime, comes new birth, new life in Spring, although if you have allergies, I suspect a little more winter would have been preferred!

As we continue to celebrate the 50 days of Eastertide, of our Lord’s resurrection, today we also celebrate Earth Day, a secular holiday that began 43 years ago to highlight Earth’s natural environment and bring awareness to what is negatively affecting our environment.

Martin Luther’s quote reminds us that we too have connection to Earth Day, because we recognize that the Earth is part of God’s creation, just as we are.

But more than that, we are called to be stewards of this creation that God has given into our care, that conservation is important so that we can pass this planet to our children & our children’s children in a healthier state that we received it. To do this, I believe, is to remind ourselves that it is God’s creation.
As Meister Eckhart of the thirteenth century put it: “Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things. Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. Every creature is a word of God. If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature – even a caterpillar – I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature.”
This planet abounds with God’s creation, its creation is full of God, full of life, for it is God that gives life to our world. And we are God’s children, the first letter of John remind us, and we called to do what is right. Part of this is our call as Christians to stand up and witness to our Lord’s creation that it shouldn’t be exploited, neglected or destroyed for profit.

How can we bear witness?

Many years ago, a group of settlers made their home in a beautiful valley between two spectacular mountain ranges. One day a young man managed to climb the highest mountain peak overlooking the valley and the village. What he saw took his breath away. He told his family and friends that he saw the world from the perspective of an eagle; he saw the world as one in all its beautiful color.

Everyone wanted to see what the young man had seen - but the climb was treacherous. Several villagers slipped and fell, some were killed trying. A stonemason in the village decided to build a series of steps up the mountain. Working with only a hammer and a chisel, it took him months to create the first step. His neighbors scoffed at the idea - this could never be completed in their lifetimes. But, undaunted, the mason continued to work on his stone path. Years later, the mason, now an old man, had finished just four steps. The villagers thought that was the end of the project - until an apprentice of the old mason took up the work. Despite the ridicule, he continued carving the steps up the mountain. Years later, the second mason was succeeded by a third, then a fourth, and later a fifth.

Decades went by. The village grew into a city; electric lights replaced the lighted street poles; automobiles made the horse-drawn wagons obsolete; new businesses were established. But the work on the steps continued. The stoneworkers were considered eccentric oddities by the townsfolk, but everyone agreed that they were the most determined people they had ever met. Over the years, nearly fifty stone carvers worked on the steps.

One day, almost a hundred years after it began, the last stone carver walked into the office of the mayor. "The work is done," the mason said. "These tools belonged to the first stonemason. They have been handed down each time another mason took up the task. They are our gift to the village. The work is done." [From Keep Going: The Art of Perseverance by Joseph M. Marshall III.]
The ministry of the Risen Christ has been turned over to his first witnesses, those who had walked with him, heard his words and experienced the Resurrection. Now the apostles and the first Christian communities have passed on the work of building the path to us, making us the stone carvers for our own time.

In our struggles to live his Gospel in the simplicity of our everyday lives, in the complexities of our work places, in our work to realize our hopes and dreams for ourselves and our families, we complete a step to the reign of God, we add one more stone to the foundation of God's kingdom, we live into the Springtime of God’s resurrection for all of the creation.

So let us join together in committing ourselves to live into the Gospel on this earth day, to our work as God’s masons in God’s creation and be such witnesses in this glorious Eastertide. I invite you to turn to page BCP 259 and the prayer for the stewardship of creation, and let us pray it together.

O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Holocaust Memorial Day

The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance as our nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims.  The day marks the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom Hashoah. In 2012 the date is Thursday, April 19.
Our prayer:

Almighty God, we remember before you this day those killed during the Holocaust, for the innocents murdered, for those who wrongly used your name to kill, and for those who did not speak up against such injustice. Guide us in our efforts to root out intolerance and prejudice in our world, that we may not make peace with oppression and may stand as witness to those who died. Help us to work towards the day when no one will fall to such a sword. We ask this through him who was executed as a criminal by an oppressive state, Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

Holy Humor

Humor from today's service on Bright Sunday:

A Sunday School teacher, having trouble finding subjects to talk about, was discussing with her class how Noah might have spent his time on the Ark, the teacher volunteered, "Maybe he went fishing." A boy countered, "With only two worms?"

Little Johnny and his family were having Sunday dinner at his Grandmother's house. Everyone was seated around the table as the food was being served. When Little Johnny received his plate, he started eating right away. "Johnny! Please wait until we say our prayer." said his mother. "I don't need to," the boy replied. "Of course, you do "his mother insisted. "We always say a prayer before eating at our house." "That's at our house." Johnny explained. "But this is Grandma's house and she knows how to cook."

a nation of heretics?

From Episcopal Cafe:

Ross Douhat, author of Bad Religion: How we became a nation of heretics, interviewed about his new book on NPR. The 3 main heresies of today are found in the popularity of the DaVinci Code, the preaching of Joel Osteen and the prosperity gospel, and of the narcissism of books like Eat, Pray, Love:

The United States ranks as the most religious country in the developed world. And New York Times columnist Ross Douthat says that despite our politics, debates and doubts, this country is as God-besotted today as ever.

But in his new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Douthat argues that religion has fallen into heresy (hence the feisty subtitle). Douthat recently spoke with NPR's Linda Wertheimer about why he thinks American Christianity has become distorted.
Read transcript or listen here.

An excerpt:
"I don't have sort of a five-point plan for rebuilding Christianity in America. ... The main point that I'm trying to make is that whatever happens to the institutional churches, individual Christians can try to essentially be better Christians, and honor the complications and paradoxes and tensions of this ancient faith a little better, and not just go as quickly to the easy answer."

2nd Sunday of Easter Sermon (April 15)

O Christ our light, like Thomas we need to see, need to touch, need to be sure before we believe. When we don't know, help us to trust; when we can't see, help us to keep on walking. Hear this prayer, so that we may learn to put our whole trust in you, our Lord and our God. Amen.
The Gospel of John tells us, “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked because they were living in fear.”

The Acts of the Apostles tells us, “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”
There seems to be at first, a tension between the story in acts and the story in John, between a community living in fear and a community full of life.

But it really isn’t a tension at all but the same story about the disciples of Jesus after the resurrection. At first they lived in fear. Fear of arrest. Fear of what might happen to them. Fear of the story that Jesus wasn’t in the tomb. The community stopped living at Jesus death.

And then Jesus stood among them. He breathed on them. Told them not to be afraid, but to live in his peace. And the community was resurrected, they no longer lived in shut doors, they shared what they had with one another, and they shared their faith with others. Their journey continued.

It is also the story of Thomas, of belief and doubt. He followed Jesus, asked the questions others didn’t but in today’s Gospel story, he is the one not there. He wouldn’t believe their words, he wanted to experience it himself. He was still stunned at the crucifixion, couldn’t move beyond the death; he wants to see what they had seen, to touch Jesus again.

And Jesus came again and Thomas’ doubt was transformed. The faith Thomas had was already there but now it was unleashed by the resurrected Christ. “Come and see, don’t doubt but believe” said Jesus, “My Lord & my God!”(Thomas) – “Blessed are those who have not seen and have come to believe.”

Those words would become Thomas’s story. He would leave Jerusalem, leave the other disciples and tell others about Jesus and his faith, those who had not seen. Legend has it he made his way to India, where Christians today in the Mar Thomas Church in India claim him as their disciple.

At Dick Young’s funeral, we sang about the journey:
You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.
Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest.
© Bob Dufford, S.J.
That hymn was true for Dick, for Thomas and for all of us. It is the journey we all make…
When you were a child, you probably took part in Sunday School. For eight years, you learned the prayers and rituals of our Church. In high school, you were confirmed. Soon you were off to college - and "church" may have put aside as you earned your degree and, after graduation, establishing your career. Then you married and began a family. And your faith took on a renewed importance as you wanted your children to have the same connection to God you had.

That's the "first half" of a typical spiritual life when you learn the choreography of a religious institution. You developed a language for articulating your faith; you established a spiritual identity in belonging to a church. The choreography and language of faith you learned then became a bridge to instill those same values in your children.

But then came a crisis in your life - an unexpected illness or death throws you, you get divorced, you get fired. After that crisis, you entered the "second half" of the spiritual life, one in which you hear a "deeper voice" of God. It is a voice calling you to compassion, forgiveness, risk, surrender.

You now hear God not just in the rituals and creeds of your church; you hear God in the deepest part of your heart. Your faith is now fully yours. [Adapted from Falling Upward by Richard Rohr.]
The apostle Thomas might be considered the patron saint of this "second half" of our spiritual lives - when we struggle to make sense of our lives that have been turned upside down by crisis or catastrophe. For that is what the story of Thomas is all about. We have all sorts of reasons for staying at death’s door. The death of a loved one. The death of a relationship. The death of an expectation. The death of a way of life. We have no reason to move on. And Thomas says – “I will not believe.” Death is death is death and here I will remain. And then Christ bursts in and the faith inside us comes alive.

In today's Gospel, Thomas feels that the faith he learned from and embraced in Jesus has died in Jesus' crucifixion. But, in his resurrection, Jesus offers Thomas a reason to hope, a base line for belief, a prism for looking at the world with gratitude for what has been and what will be.

Faith, in the "second half" of our lives, is the ability to hope that we can transform and remake, re-create and re-focus our lives in the love of God and life of the Risen Christ. Resurrection tells us that death isn’t the end. There is so much more!

Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest. Amen.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

God in the NY Times

Several articles last Sunday focus on religion and God:

Learning to Respect Religion By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

A FEW years ago, God seemed caught in a devil of a fight.

Divided by God By ROSS DOUTHAT

IN American religious history, Nov. 8, 1960, is generally regarded as the date when the presidency ceased to be the exclusive property of Protestants. But for decades afterward, the election of the Catholic John F. Kennedy looked more like a temporary aberration.

What Would Jesus Do at the Masters? by MAUREEN DOWD

THERE was a boys’ club, of course, a band of ardent, jockeying disciples. But as his fame grew, the messiah was also surrounded by women and talked about women with great respect. With his father far away, the golden boy was most influenced by his strong mother and the women in his inner circle.

A thought on the Resurrection

Resurrection by Br. Curtis Almquist, Society of Saint John the Evangelist

Wherever we bury Jesus, he comes back to life. We can bury him in the Bible or in stained glass windows. We can bury him in creeds and formulas and the heritage of our own tradition. We can bury him in movies and plays and music. We can bury him in our past. We can even bury him in bread and wine. And each time from each place he rises from the dead. He sheds the words and images and walks right on out into the world.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Sunrise Sermon

This was used at the Monroe Clergy Association's Easter Sunrise Service...

An Easter Sermon
by St. John Chrysostom (347-407)
prepared by André Lavergne (2001)

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.
If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.
If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.
If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.
If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.
If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.

For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first.

He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious.
He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.

O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy!
O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day!

You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today!
The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you!
The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!

Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Saviour's death has set us free.

He that was taken by death has annihilated it!
He descended into Hades and took Hades captive!

He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed: "Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions."

It was embittered, for it was abolished!
It was embittered, for it was mocked!
It was embittered, for it was purged!
It was embittered, for it was despoiled!
It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!

It took a body and came upon God!
It took earth and encountered heaven!
It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!

For Christ, being raised from the dead,
has become the first-fruits of them that slept.
To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.

Poems for Easter Week...

Poems by George Herbert...


Rise, heart, thy lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him may'st rise:
That, as his death calcinèd thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and, much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art,
The cross taught all wood to resound his name
Who bore the same.
His stretchèd sinews taught all strings what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort, both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long;
Or, since all music is but three parts vied
And multiplied
Oh let thy blessèd Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

Easter Song

I Got me flowers to straw Thy way,
I got me boughs off many a tree;
But Thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st Thy sweets along with Thee.

The sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’ East perfume,
If they should offer to contest
With Thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

Easter Wings

Lord, Who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poore:
With Thee
O let me rise,
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day Thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne;
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Most thinne.
With Thee
Let me combine,
And feel this day Thy victorie;
For, if I imp my wing on Thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

Easter Week Prayers

Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer for Easter Week...
Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with awe the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and theHoly Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with youand the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give us grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you andthe Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

We thank you, heavenly Father, that you have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death and brought us into the kingdom of your Son; and we pray that, as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joys; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Easter Sermon

Be present, be present, O risen Jesus, as you were present with your disciples, and be known to us in the breaking of bread and in the Scriptures, we pray. Amen.

Easter begins in the dark. Always.

In today’s account of the resurrection, Mary of Magdala with Mary the mother of James, and Salome come to the tomb while it is still dark. Mary Magdalene feels the predawn darkness around her and within her: a void of hopelessness, a crushing sense of loss, grief that cannot be articulated in words. She never thought it would end like this and now she comes to anoint Jesus, he was the messiah!

It began in the darkness of the night on Maundy Thursday, his betrayal and arrest, then came the cross on Good Friday and the tomb of Holy Saturday. It began with fear and violence, doubt and desertion, and the women walk faithfully to the tomb and then it all changed for them that Easter morning…

Easter begins in the dark of night. If you have ever kept vigil, worried to death at the bedside of a loved one, if you have ever been unable to sleep because of what was to come, if you have ever been overwhelmed by doubt or grief, Easter has dawned in your life. God has been with you through those long hours; God has embraced you in your isolation; God has come in the morning.

Easter begins in the dark earth. Easter is a seed planted in the new spring soil that struggles through the winter hardness to blossom. If you've ever struggled to change or worked hard to remake your life in the wake of loss, hurt or devastation, Easter has dawned in your life. Easter is that light that reveals death is not the final ending but the passage way to the God who first breathed life into you.

Easter begins in ashes. If you've ever been swallowed up in hopelessness or fear or if you've ever been paralyzed by hurt or ill-treatment, Easter has dawned in your life. No matter how hard we fall, no matter how broken we are, no matter how deep the chasm into which we've fallen, Easter is the Risen One walking in your midst in the compassion of loved ones, the support of friends, the dedication of saints.

Easter begins in the darkness of night, in the seeming finality of earth, in the hopelessness of ashes. But Easter moves beyond those states, for in the words of the tomb, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Go and tell, he is going ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.” And the women left the tomb in fear and amazement, they left in the light, the light they would share…

Easter is more than dogmas and truths; look for Easter in the small candle that defies the darkness, in the small flower that pierces the cold April earth, in the land that reaches out to you when all seems hopeless. Easter is the eternal morning after our darkest & stormiest night. Easter is the stubborn hope of a God who re-creates us and our world until his dream of a humanity bound in his love is realized. Easter is the Risen Christ in our midst, enabling us to re-create our broken lives in his love and peace.

On this day as we celebrate Jesus victory over death, Jesus’ resurrection, we come this morning to remember how through Jesus we have come to find life, a life that was broken on Good Friday, but out of that darkness, he has brought abundant light and life to the world.

As we walked through his passion & sacrifice this week, I found a beautiful story from Thailand that I think wonderfully illustrates his sacrifice and his bringing life to us. Let me end with the legend about the bamboo.

When the great garden of the earth was first planted, Bamboo was the most resplendent plant of all, the favorite flower of God, the Master of the Garden. In one corner of the earth, there were some dry fields. A spring of water was in the center of the fields, but its water could not reach the dry earth. The majestic Bamboo offered its own stem to the Master.

The Master of the Garden cut down the Bamboo stocks and stripped off its branches and its leaves. The Master gently carried Bamboo to the fresh water spring. Then, putting one end of the broken Bamboo into the water channel in his field, the Master carefully laid down his beloved Bamboo. And the clear waters raced down the hollow channel of Bamboo's torn stem into the waiting fields.

The rice was planted and soon the shoots grew and the harvest came. On that day, the legend says, Bamboo, once so glorious in stately beauty, became even more beautiful in its brokenness and humility, for in its brokenness Bamboo became a channel of abundant life. [From In The Shadow the Nine Dragons by Eric Hague.]
Let us find comfort in the humble giving of the bamboo plant: That in our giving we will receive abundantly, that God will lift up and exalt the humble and generous, that God will restore life in the midst of suffering, pain and death itself. It is the glory of Easter! For Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified has been raised. Go and tell the Good News, for he is going ahead of you; there you will see him and find that abundant life, just as he told you…

Brothers & Sisters, Happy Easter for Christ is risen Alleluia! Amen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday in Holy Week Prayers

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made a instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayers from this morning:

God of Compassion
You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust.
Expand and deepen our hearts
so that we may love as You love,
even those among us
who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.
For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance
as we fill up death row and kill the killers
in the name of justice, in the name of peace.
Jesus, our brother,
you suffered execution at the hands of the state
but you did not let hatred overcome you
Help us to reach out to victims of violence
so that our enduring love may help them heal.
Holy Spirit of God,
You strengthen us in the struggle for justice,
Help us to work tirelessly
for the abolition of state-sanctioned death
and to renew our society in its very heart
so that violence will be no more.
(by Sister Helen Prejan)

A Prayer attributed to St. Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where  there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to  be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is
in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Monday in Holy Week Prayer

Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but  first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way  of the cross, may find it none other that the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives  and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Are you running with me Jesus?

I used a short meditation in my sermon today from Malcom Boyd's book "Are you running with me Jesus?"

An excerpt:
It’s morning, Jesus. It’s morning, and here’s that light and sound all over again.

I’ve got to move fast… get into the bathroom, wash up, grab a bite to eat, and run some more. I just don’t feel like it. What I really want to do is get back into bed, pull up the covers, and sleep.

All I seem to want today is the big sleep, and here I’ve got to run all over again. Where am I running? You know these things I can’t understand. It’s not that I need to have you tell me.

What counts most is just that somebody knows, and it’s you. That helps a lot. So I’ll follow along, OK? But lead, please. Now I’ve got to run. Are you running with me, Jesus? (Malcolm Boyd, Are You Running With Me, Jesus?, p. 19)

Palm Sunday Sermon (April 1)

O Lord, in our weakness, be our strength; in our troubles, be our peace; in our danger, be our shelter; in our fears, be our hope; and be with us evermore. Amen.
“And they laid out their garments and branches of palm along his path and shouted Hosanna!” Days later…“And they shouted all the more, Crucify him! Crucify him!”
The two-fold nature of this Palm Sunday is summed up in the words of the crowds: Hosanna & Crucify.

It’s the second word we struggle with, for the culture we live in no longer really observes Holy Week. Easter is a fuzzy spring bunny and candy and flowers. We love the party, the brunch, the egg hunts, the Hosanna! There is no sense that Good Friday and the cross really leads to the glory of Easter.

To observe Holy Week, to let the passion of Jesus infuse our souls, goes against the grain of today. Most Christians jump from Palm Sunday to Easter, losing the three days from Maundy Thursday to Easter. Who wants to hear about suffering and death, who wants to go to the cross?

And yet the cross of Good Friday beckons us to bear witness to Jesus’ suffering and death and to share in the suffering now by reaching out to those experiencing it in their lives. It is a call to witness and to act. As Brian Doyle writes in his book, Grace Notes:
"My wife is an art teacher for kids who are really, really sick, a job filled with hilarity and pain, a job she loves, a job that makes her shiver and go for long walks in the hills. She spent a lot of time recently doing art projects with a girl who got sicker and sicker and endured oceans of pain and grew more swollen and weary by the day, and one day I came home to find my wife sad to the bottom of her bones. I asked her what was the matter and she said some things that haunt me still . . .

"She's being crucified, said my wife. Everything they do to her hurts. All those needles and nails. All the mothers watching and wincing and weeping in the shower later. All the little crucifixions. She just accepts it. She never complains. She gets crucified every day. All the little children being crucified. Why does this happen? Why does this happen?

"There was nothing to say, of course, so I didn't say anything, and the next day she went back to the hospital and did art projects with kids who are really, really sick."
As we remember the passion of Jesus, may we embrace those who are crucified every day in their own Jerusalems. May we behold the crucified Christ in them and re-commit ourselves to finding ways for the compassion of God to rise amid the tombs of despair and fear in their lives and ours.
As Dorothee Soelle put it, “To meditate on the cross means to say good-bye to the narcissistic hope of being free of sickness, deformity and death. Then all the energies wasted on such hopes could become free to answer the call for the battle against suffering.”
That is, our call is to take up our cross and follow Jesus, to reach out to those who are suffering, to help them feel the abiding presence of God and God’s love through what we do.
Teach us the path, show us the way by Malcolm Boyd
from Are you Running with me, Jesus?

They say that everyone has a cross to bear, Jesus. And you once said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” What do those things mean? I think they mean that every person ultimately has to face up to reality – face one's own calling, destiny, nature and responsibilities.

In your own life, Jesus, you faced reality directly and unequivocally. You incarnated the truth as you believed it. You didn't pander to any easy or obvious popularity. You attacked the hypocrisies of the human power structure head on. You rejected status quo in favor of obedience to the Realm of God. And when it came to taking consequences, you didn't shy away from torture and execution.

The way of the cross was your understanding of your mission and your faithfulness to it. The way of the cross seems to be, for every individual Christian, the reality that dictates styles of life, defines mission, and brings a person into communion with you.

Help me bear my cross on the way of the cross, Jesus. Amen.