Monday, October 29, 2012

Prayer before the Storm

O God of heaven and earth, as the storm, a force of creation, approaches, we ask that you grant us safety as it blows through our homes and our lives. Protect us and shield us from all harm. Guard us through the upcoming days and grant peace of mind to those living in fear. Grant food and clothing, warmth and shelter to those in need. Bless emergency and rescue workers with the tools and skills they need as they risk their lives for the sake of our families, communities and friends. Grant healing to those who are sick or injured. Bless us with common sense throughout the storm and with kinship and cooperation when the storm passes so that we may serve you in love. We ask this in the name of the one who stills the storm, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From the Rev. Jennifer Phillips

God our refuge and our strong defense:
Be with those tossed by tempest at sea,
those fearing the floodwaters coming over them,
those enduring the bitter and isolating blizzard snows.
In the name of your child Jesus, who slept unafraid in the storm
and calmed the raging of the wind and sea,
and who walked across the waters as his friends rowed in anxiety,
strengthen, protect and sustain those in need this hour
and uphold them with your Spirit and your hope. Amen.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sermon October 7

Take my lips, O Lord, and speak through them; Take our minds and think through them; Take our hearts and set them on fire, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A couple of weeks back we celebrated the 30th wedding anniversary of Brenda & Dennis Cyr, right here where they got married. The scripture reading was from the book of Tobit. You know that small book of the bible of 14 chapters found in the Apocrypha. I know you all have read it, and know it well.
Tobias and Sarah were praying together and Tobias said, "Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors, and blessed is your name in all generations forever. Let the heavens and the whole creation bless you forever.

You made Adam, and for him you made his wife Eve as a helper and support. From the two of them the human race has sprung. You said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; let us make a helper for him like himself.'

I now am taking this kinswoman of mine, not because of lust, but with sincerity. Grant that she and I may find mercy and that we may grow old together." And they both said, "Amen, Amen."
What is so striking to me about this (hidden) forgotten book of the bible, is what it has to say to us about marriage. Tobias & Sarah were just married and what I read to you is their prayer following the wedding feast. This prayer of thanksgiving is remarkable for several things...

First it sees their union, their marriage, in light of the union of Adam and Eve. That they like those who have come before are united in a relationship that is both helper and support, in whose likeness one is made. It is a very complimentary way of looking at the bond of husband and wife.

Second, Tobias signals the depth of his love, because he is marrying Sarah not out of lust but with sincerity. And third is their plea to find mercy and that they may grow old together.

I believe this is the type of marriage that Jesus is arguing about with the Pharisees in today’s Gospel.

I could imagine that debate, just like we have seen: The moderator is Mark the evangelist and at the podiums are the Pharisees, the highly respected authorities of Jewish Law and Jesus of Nazareth, carpenter by trade and claimed as the messiah by some.

We began with the Pharisees first question: "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

Jesus responds, "What did Moses command you?"

The Pharisees answer "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her."

Jesus interrupts them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

And Jesus wins the debate, or at least that is what Mark records for us. But Notice Jesus did not answer the question about the lawfulness of divorce. It is in scripture quoted by the Pharisees (Deuteronomy 24).

Now we know that Jesus lived in a different time, in a very different culture where men could divorce & women couldn’t – once divorced, a woman was in between families, removed from her husbands and she couldn’t go back to her own. There was no social safety net for her and remarriage was unlikely.

Instead like Tobias and Sarah, Jesus looks back to Genesis, and sees in the union of Adam and Eve, the purpose of marriage, bringing two people together, to become one flesh is how God created us. It is that union that has been joined with sincerity, with the hope of finding mercy and that they may grow old together.

If we hear in these words, Jesus saying no divorces, then I am afraid we have fallen into the trap of the Pharisees and have tried to make a legalism out of what Jesus said. That is not his intention.

Of course, divorces do happen. They happened in the time of Jesus and they happen now. Jesus is indifferent to the Pharisees' question about divorce because Jesus is much more concerned about going back to the beginning and talking about the complimentary and equal way God intended for us to become one flesh.

Jesus brings us back to the beginning of creation to help us see that the hope and dream of God is that we do indeed find the one to whom we wish to grow old with, with whom we want to become one flesh. Jesus ends by welcoming children into his midst. Children who then and now are not always welcomed, who like the divorcee can fall through the cracks but “it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”

Jesus reminds us that such faith, in a child, in a marriage, it is what God asks of us.

It is as St. John of Chrysostom of the 4th century put it: "a marriage should begin with God's blessing, proceed in harmony and virtuous living, and finally lead the whole family to the kingdom of God." May it be so for all of us. Amen.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

St. Franics Day

Remembering St. Francis on his feast day...

Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A Prayer attributed to St. Francis
O 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.

In the final words of St. Francis, "I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

books on St. Francis

I have two books I recommend on St. Francis...

Sr. Franics (a short biography) by Kathleen M. Carroll

and for children

Francis the Poor Man of Assisi by Tomie De Paola

These books will help you understand the man behind the saintly name.

Sept. 30 Sermon - St. Francis

St. Francis – The Garden Statue

That’s how we know him. His monks knew him differently, they witnessed a man who heard God’s call and he followed that call, in what he said and did. He would tell his monks:
"The deeds you do today may be the only sermon some people will hear today."
Francis was born into a wealthy family – he lived a life of luxury and frivolity. As many young men did, he went off to find glory in war but came back disillusioned. After a time of sickness, he began wondering about the purpose of his life. One day, in the dilapidated church of San Damiano, he heard Christ saying to him, "Francis, fix my Church."

And he did just that. He gave up everything he had, to live a life of poverty. His father who expected Francis to take over his business was incensed and disowned him, Francis in turn gave up his fancy clothes and walked away free, to follow where he God’s voice

Francis fixed up the Church of San Damian and began his life of taking care of the poor, preaching the Gospel in word and deed, wherever he walked.
St. Francis said, “I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.”
Today, we remember St. Francis and how by his deeds he preached sermons that even animals would listen too…

There is a story told, that once when he was staying in the town of Greccio, a hare was caught in a trap and brought live to Francis by a brother. Seeing the hare, Francis was moved to pity and said, "Brother hare, come here. Why did you let yourself be fooled in this way?" As soon as the hare was released by the brother, he dashed over to Francis and, without being forced to do so, jumped into his lap as the safest place available. When he had rested there a while, Francis, stroking him with affection, let him go so that he could return to the wild. Each time he was placed on the ground, the hare ran back to Francis' lap. Finally Francis asked that the brothers carry him to a nearby forest. That worked. This type of thing happened repeatedly to Francis—which he saw as an opportunity to praise the glory of God.

On this day, when we remember this great saint of the Church and his words and works, it behooves us to remember the creatures we care for, our pets, and all living creatures.
"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."
It is St. Francis that reminds us that everything is connected. How we treat animals is the way we also deal with each other. I admit I’m a fan of Cesar Milan from TV, his show the Dog Whisperer.

But his show and his ministry go beyond dog training. I think he has real understanding of the dogs and a real love form them, even pit bulls who he thinks are much maligned. His understanding is that animals are not trash that we have to come to a better solution than euthanizing all those unwanted pets and feral animals, He works to” achieve the right balance between people and their dogs.”

When he heard about someone who had watched his show and how he was being bullied, Cesar told his own story of being bullied and helped reach out to that young man. Whether it’s the throwaway dogs in Puerto Rico, the Satos (I have a rescue!) or a young man in America, Cesar Milan personifies what St. Francis was talking about:
"The deeds you do today may be the only sermon some people will hear today."
“If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow men.”
We are not called to be St. Francis or a garden statue but we can sure learn from his witness and have the same care for animals as St. Francis did in his time. May we fight against animal cruelty and reach out our hand to all creatures in need. Let us through our deeds today proclaim compassion for each other and our animals. And just as St. Francis did as was his to do; may Christ teach all of us what we are to do today. Amen.