Thursday, January 31, 2013

Our Enemies

I found this wonderful though by Richard Beck, on his blog:

Experimental Theology: (The thoughts, articles and essays of Richard Beck)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer begins his little book Life Together in a most provocative way:

The Christian cannot simply take for granted the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. In the end all his disciples abandoned him. On the cross he was all alone, surrounded by criminals and the jeering crowds. He had come for the express purpose of bringing peace to the enemies of God. So Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies. There they find their mission, their work.
This seems to be missional Christianity at its most basic: Renouncing the "privilege of living among other Christians" and rejecting the "seclusion of a cloistered live" to live "in the midst of enemies."

When I ponder this what strikes me is how little Christians talk about "loving our enemies." This was, one could argue, the most distinctive aspect of Jesus's teaching and ethic, the foundational principle of the Christian way of life. We should be pounding this point home Sunday after Sunday. It should be our guiding light, the standard and goal of all our spiritual formation efforts. Love your enemies. Forgive your enemies. Bring peace to your enemies. This is our mission and work.

But you hardly hear a word about this in our churches.
He is right.  We need to make sure that our prayers and our words include our enemies.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Prayer for the Parish

Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for this parish family of St. Peter’s. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP p. 817)

Annual Meeting Address

Infinite Lord, and eternal God, rouse your church in this land, restore your people's sense of mission, and revive your work in holiness and strength. By your Spirit, teach us to give our energy, our time, our money, our service and our prayer, that your kingdom may be advanced here and in all the world; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (a prayer from the Church of Wales)
All of us as vital as the one light we move through…
These beautiful words from the Inaugural Poet, Richard Blanco, are a great reminder that each of us is vital as we move through the one light and our one life.

It reminds me of St. Paul’s words to us this morning…
For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.
In God’s spirit we are baptized into one body, but we are each vital individual members of this body as we live in and move through that one Spirit! St. Paul goes on to tell us what this means:
As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you.” If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
We are all on this journey together, we need each other, we rejoice with one another, we suffer with one another.

As we said good bye to our two oldest members this past year, we sorrowed with their loved ones. As we welcomed new members into our parish, when we baptized a new baby, when we came together at our Apple festival, we rejoiced together.

Such is the life of a parish family. We come together for the best of times and we come together at the worst of times. We enjoy a fish meal together or a casual moment at coffee hour & we get together to pray, to knit scarves & prayer shawls, & donate books to help heal hearts that are broken and sorrowing.

Our parish has reflected the light and love of God some 211 years now in Monroe and we are gathered here this morning because we are proud of our past as we live into the present moment, taking time as we do every year, to renew our commitment to God’s mission as this parish has done at every annual meeting.

God’s mission for us is summed up by the phrase on the side of our church: Come as a Stranger, Leave as a Friend! This vision is grounded in our understanding that what God asks of us, is to welcome the stranger in God's name. To offer the love that we have felt so that others might find it on their journey and become friends with us and their maker.
As Peter Saros, our parish consultant puts it, "the most important factor that a church should be concerned with is how the church can be supportive of people in search of having a relationship with God in their lives. Many times people change [churches] because they have found the church that empowers them in their search and they wish to be part of that community.”
As Jesus said, “I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends…” (John 15:15, CEB) This vision of friendship is important for our journey because it is Jesus who has first invited us on the journey through the Spirit.

Since 2011, we have worked with Peter to help us sustain our Church and consider how we can support one another on the journey and invite others to join us. In this work we were called not to just have more events, but to focus on what we do well, to support this parish community and to share it with the world, whether its our fish fry or apple festival, bible study or knit one pray too, Sunday worship or mid-week potluck, all of them present us with wonderful opportunities to put our mission into practice.

One of my favorite things about this parish, is that it constantly looks beyond itself to see the needs around us. Last year, we heard about a young firefighter battling cancer, and we gave some of our money away from our wine tasting to help him. Church School classes made bedtime bags for kids who were homeless & in need. This year we are talking about helping those in our community who might like a fish fry meal but can’t afford it, and this year’s wine tasting will also be giving some of its money away to the Chase Kowalski Memorial Scholarship Fund.

These are not outreach events but members of this parish have said we need to remember those in need, to remember those who mourn, to give out of our love just as God has given to us! (Amen!)

2,000 years ago or so Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth, astounded the home crowd with his reading from the scroll of Isaiah…
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Today he doesn’t return the scroll & sit down. No, today, Jesus takes that scroll he just read and hands it to you… and you… and you… Jesus gives each of us that scroll. He gives it to us so that we can follow his way, to bring good news to the poor and those in need, to proclaim release to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let those oppressed go free and show the favor of the Lord that we have experienced.

And he gives it to us, so that our lives outside these walls live into the Spirit, in whom we live and move and have our being. It reminds me of the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
“The Christian cannot simply take for granted the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies… So Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies. There they find their mission, their work.”
As we take communion each week, we are fed on a very deep level, connected with the very essence of God. And from this table we are sent forth “a people, forgiven, healed, renewed; that we may proclaim God’s love to the world and continue in the risen life of Christ our Savior.”

We go out from here each week, to live our lives beyond these walls for there is our mission and work. It is there that we live out of that friendship and love, it is there that the scroll handed to us is lived in our lives at home, at work, at play, at the grocery or gas station, in the midst of people who do not know Good News, in a world full of darkness, full of violence and death.

We need not worry about people who might ridicule us, think us foolish, or condemn us or even picket our funerals. We are redeemed in Jesus and our hope lies outside this world and beyond the measure of what our culture considers successful.

Remind yourselves on this journey that you are “as vital as the one light we move through…”

For it is through you that God works today. So what St. Peter’s Church is today and what it will be tomorrow is up to us, to live in our lives. We have our challenges before us as a parish, removing the lead paint on the Rectory, sustaining our finances in a way that will lead to healthy days for the parish, to continue our strong outreach, and to tell our story to this community so they know how alive this parish is and how the Spirit of God continues to move through us. And that is the job for all of us to do.

For in this special place, we are fed, where strangers have become friends, where God lives in the midst of us, bidding us share that love. We do this in our worship, in our fellowship and in our service to the world, for our mission is to welcome with God's love all people on their journey of faith.

This morning, Deacon Christopher & I will be handing out your scrolls, written with the words of Isaiah that Jesus proclaimed and a poem from Mary Oliver that asks you what you plan to do with your lives, and they share the same piece of paper because they are connected.

And as we do this, in the background you will hear the song "Home" by Phillip Phillips. Listen to the words as if it were Jesus talking to you, because Jesus will always make us his home and we need to live into that hope that God entrusts us with...

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

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

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

Know you are not alone, because we are in this together and Jesus is going to make his place, your place and this place his home. Amen.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

The UN General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is an annual day of commemoration. This year’s theme is Rescue during the Holocaust: The Courage to Care. Remembering that one person can make a difference, I remember...

Chiune Sugihara

Raoul Wallenberg

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Monday, January 21, 2013

From the Inauguration

In case you missed it, links from today's inauguration:

The Inaugural Prayers:

Myrlie Evers-Williams gives invocation at President Obama inauguration (transcript, video)

The Rev. Luis Leon, Rector of  St. John's Episcopal Church, gives benediction at President Obama inauguration: (transcript)

The Inaugural Poem:

(One Today by Richard Blanco)

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches 2
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello| shalom,
buon giorno |howdy |namaste |or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound 3
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together

A Prayer for this Inauguration Day

For the President of the United States (From the BCP)

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

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

National Day of Service

A National Day of Service to honor Dr. Martin Luther King and his legacy happened yesterday. These are some of his words to help us in our service to others:

“An individual has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. And this is one of the big problems of life, that so many people never quite get to the point of rising above self. And so they end up the tragic victims of self-centeredness. They end up the victims of distorted and disrupted personality.” He suggested that “one of the best ways to face this problem of self-centeredness is to discover some cause and some purpose, some loyalty outside of yourself and give yourself to that something.”

To read the full text of the sermon, “Conquering Self-Centeredness," google it!

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Give me all of you!

From Deacon Christopher's sermon today:

“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self---in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart." ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

January 13 Sermon

How did the Beatles put it? Oh yes…
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
Love is all we need.

The Beatles song may be a bit simple but there is a truth in that statement.

When the Israelites were fighting for their lives in a distant country, when they longed to hear words of comfort, the prophet Isaiah provides words from God that changed everything…
Thus says the Lord, “I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you…”
To the Israelites who must have felt that God was very distant, these words provided comfort and reminded them that God was with them through all their trials, through fire and rain as James Taylor would put it.

But not only that, God utters three little words, we all long to hear: I love you.

We say it to our children. We say it to our spouse. We say it to loved ones, our family and friends. Here God is saying it to his creation: I love you.

I believe that if more people felt that God loved them, most of the violence and death, the darkness of this world would disappear…

God loves you. Say it to yourself.

In one of the visions that St. Catherine of Sienna had, she listens to what God has to say about our souls:
"The soul cannot live without love. She always wants to love something because love is the stuff she is made of, and through love I created her."
Love is what created us, love is the stuff we are born from, we cannot live without love.

Hear the words of another ancient mystic, St. Julian of Norwich:
“And in this he showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed to me, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: What can this be? I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that because of its littleness it would suddenly have fallen into nothing. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God.”
We live because of God’s love. From our very beginning God has loved us, the one who formed us in the womb, is the one who walks with us every day, who loves us.

And just as Jesus heard the words after his baptism: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” so too when we were baptized, just as Kiernan Alexander will be this morning, it is God who responds to our faithful act of dedication saying “You are my Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

And from that love we respond with our lives, again the visionary words of St. Catherine of Sienna: God says, “"They love their neighbors with the same love with which they love me."

How do we show such love? A story from the Today Show:
When Brenna graduated from high school this past June, her mom and dad gave her a special copy of the Dr. Seuss classic Oh, The Places You Will Go. Brenna loved the book as a child - but this was something much more.

On the first page was a paragraph written by Brenna's kindergarten teacher. And as she turned each page, Brenna read notes and remembrances written by every teacher she had. At the end of every school year for the past 13 years, Brenna's dad asked every one of her teachers, principals and coaches to write something about her in the book. All happily did so. Brenna had no idea what her father was up to.

Yes, the book had the intended effect, Brenna wrote. "I burst out in tears. Sitting there reading though this book, there are encouraging and sweet words from every teacher I love and remember through my years in this small town. It is astounding to receive something this moving, touching, nostalgic and thoughtful. I can't express how much I love my dad for this labor of love."

Brenna's dad turned a simple children's book into the gift of a lifetime. [TODAY (NBC)]
Such an act of love from father to daughter, is a powerful reminder of the gift of love we can give to one another. Whether it is in daily acts of love to our family and friends, or random acts of kindness and love to strangers, each time we act in this we are reminding ourselves of the words that God has said to us from the beginning, I love you, and we respond with love in return.

Remember this love every day because love is all you need: May you be happy, May you be free, May you be loving, May you be loved. (Father William) Amen.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Political theology depicted in Les Misérables.

From Experimental Theology: The thoughts, articles and essays of Richard Beck

Thinking the other day about the musical I had these thoughts about the political theology depicted in Les Misérables.

I'm interested here in the contrast been Jean Valjean, Javert, and Enjolras (along with Marius and the other student-revolutionaries at the barricade).

Javert and Enjolras could be considered as two poles along a continuum in how one aligns political power with God. On the one end is Javert who represents a conservative, even Constantinian, vision where God is completely aligned with the state, particularly the law and order aspects of the state (although Javert also espouses the capitalistic theology where "honest work" is the way we "please the Lord"). Thus, to fail in the state's system--politically or economically--is to fall afoul of God. This view is at the heart of Javert's theological condemnation of Valjean. Valjean isn't just a criminal in the eyes of Javert, he's a sinner "fallen from God, fallen from grace." Thus Javert prays to God to help him find Valjean to restore order and harmony to the moral universe.
At the opposite end of the continuum from Javert we have the idealistic and revolutionary political theology of Enjolras. The student-revolutionaries are scandalized by the plight of the poor and plan to lead a violent popular uprising (Victor Hugo based these events on the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris). Though Enjolras and Javert find themselves in conflict, I place them on the same continuum as each seeks to take or use political power as means to accomplish the ends of God. They are the poles of Constantinianism on the one hand and Revolution on the other. But both agree that we need to "take charge" of the world, violently so, for the Kingdom to come.

And picking his way through these political theologies is Jean Valjean, the hero of the story...
Read the whole blog post here.  It is well worth it!

Friday, January 11, 2013


I know that I have life
only insofar as I have love.

I have no love
except it comes from Thee.

Help me, please, to carry
this candle against the wind.

- “A Sabbath Poem” by Wendell Berry (2005)

"All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” -- St. Francis of Assisi

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sabbath to Stop Gun Violence

Over 430 people have been murdered since the tragic loss of life on December 14 in Sandy Hook. To remember those that have been murdered by guns and to work together to prevent gun violence, Mayors Against Guns joined with gun violence survivors from across the country and invited Faith Communities into a Sabbath to Stop Gun Violence this weekend.

I have joined the Connecticut Clergy United To Prevent Gun Violence (115 strong as of 12/27).

The toll of gun violence in our communities is staggering and over the next few months, I will be discussing with our congregation, ways for us to help stop this culture of violence in our society.  On this day, I invite you into a moment of prayer…

A Prayer for the Sabbath to Prevent Gun Violence

O God of Life, Creator of the universe, Sustainer of all, we come before you in sorrow and anger at the killing on our streets and in our schools, workplaces and houses of worship. We come in repentance at our own participation in the culture of violence in our land. We come in hope borne of past victories over injustice, asking for strength and clarity and fortitude, that we might bring about transformation in our laws, in the ways we resolve conflict and address fear, in our tolerance for violence, in the hearts of our leaders and our fellow Americans. May we become a people who put our trust in You, not in our weapons. By your mighty power, and in your overwhelming love, renew our vision for peace and safety in our land, beginning with us today, we pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Praying for Civility & The Common Good

From the Huffington Post: 18 days of Prayer for the Nation.

Prayers begin Thursday (Jan. 3), the first day of the new Congress, and end on Jan. 21, the day of President Obama's second inauguration.

Faith leaders from left, right and center have signed on, including Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Richard Land of the Southern Baptists' Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

The Faith & Politics Institute, a nonpartisan group that nurtures the spiritual life of members of Congress and their staffs, and presses political foes toward civil debate, organized the days of prayer and an online "commitment to prayer" page to document participation.
You can read more about it:

My prayer:

Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage: Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government; give them courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (adapted from the BCP, p. 820)

Journey of the Magi

T.S. Eliot's poem: Journey of the Magi

"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires gong out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Epiphany Sermon

Merry Christmas, Happy Epiphany!

Most of our country has moved on from the holidays, but we end our 12 days of Christmas with the Epiphany, the arrival of the three magi to the manger, in parts of Latin America, today is El Dia de los Reyes, the day of the Kings.

We know from the 2nd chapter of the Gospel of Matthew that wise men from the east (Gk. Magi) came looking for the baby Jesus following a star. King Herod is frightened that they are looking for a baby born “King of the Jews”… The wise men, leaving Herod, continue to follow the star and find Jesus with Mary and pay him homage and offer their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They are warned in a dream not to return to Herod so they return home by another road.

Later tradition says there were three wise men or three kings (think of the hymn!) because there were three gifts, and the names of Gaspar, Balthasar and Melchior gets attached to them in the Middle Ages. The gifts they offer, recognizing Jesus and in anticipation of his life, are symbolic with gold for a king, frankincense for the son of God and myrrh for his death as a human being. But those were not the only gifts. The birth of Jesus was a gift not only to the Jewish people but to the world.

His manifestation to the wise men (gentiles), symbolically reminds us that this gift was to be shared with the world, for the light of God has come into the world. The journey that took them to Jesus also led them by a different road home. The Journey they took is remembered in TS Eliot’s poem, Journey of the Magi:
'A cold coming we had of it,
just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
But this arduous journey, a long winter’s journey, with a fearful and murderous king, the joy of finding Jesus and the different road they went home by, reminds us, that each of us takes a journey with Jesus. Like their journey, our journey is not always easy, sometimes we have to take different roads then we had planned, some of the people on the way are not whom we would like to meet, and yet it is the journey that brings us close to our creator who came down to us in a little child, a child who is the light that has come into our darkness. We all have a journey to make…
In the Broadway musical Into the Woods, composer Stephen Sondheim and playwright James Lapine recast the familiar stories of Jack in the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and an original tale about a baker and his wife who are childless. In the beginning of the story, all of the characters express their wishes for happiness: a handsome prince, a warm home and enough to eat, a child to love. But in order to realize those dreams, the characters have to travel "into the woods" to confront the wolves and witches and giants and charlatans that thwart their dreams.

In their journeys through the woods, the characters discover that life is not a fairy tale: some characters die; others see their fairy tale lives disintegrate. No one is particularly happy. They discover that the line between dreams and nightmares is a fine one. They also realize that the real monsters we must defeat are selfishness and greed, that the most potent spells we have to break are fear and self-deception.

The woods is a dangerous place, the company learns, but the way of happiness is marked by humility and generosity. As one of the characters sings at the end, wishes come true - not free.
The Epiphany Gospel recounts a similar journey: like the fairy tale characters seeking "happily ever after" in their trek 'Into the Woods,' the magi set out to find the Messiah- the King the world longed for in the land of Judah.

Every human life is a journey: in our journeys through the time God has given us, we seek signs of God in our midst; we seek happiness that is authentic and real. In the end, we come to realize that it is love in all its joy and sorrow, in all its demands and gifts that make us real and whole human beings.

In encountering the Christ, the magi behold the love of God in their midst (a love that the self-absorbed and fearful Herod cannot see); in taking on the monsters and witches within themselves, Cinderella and Jack and company conquer the dangers of the "woods" and begin to live lives of true happiness and meaning.

May our encounter with Christ - in the Sunday gospels of this new year, in our everyday lives of both struggle and grace - be a constant epiphany of re-creating and transforming our lives in the love of God with us (Emmanuel). As we celebrate this day, and leave here in awe and wonder for the gift given to us, that the light that has entered the world, let us in turn share our gifts on the journey and help spread that light in the darkness today.

Let us pray.

Light of the world, we bow before You in awe and adoration. Bless us and our simple faith seeking understanding. Epiphany means manifestation, lifting the veil, revelation. Reveal to us then what we need to know to love You, and serve You, and keep Your word with fidelity and truth, courage and hope, as we travel on our way, this day and always. Amen.  (prayer by Miriam Therese Winter)

Christmas Sermons

4:30 PM - Christmas Eve

The stars that shine at Christmas
Shine on throughout the year,
Jesus, born so long ago,
Still gathers with us here,
We listen to his stories,
We learn to say his prayer,
We follow in his footsteps,
And we learn to love and share. Amen.
(Lois Rock & Alison Jay)

Tonight we think about who? Jesus. It is his stories we tell.
But I know you all are thinking about someone tomorrow… Santa & Presents!

I wonder what Santa’s story would be…

Santa’s Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki & Ivan Gantschev

What we give is important, how we learn to love and share speaks to how that Christ child has entered into our hearts and how we honor the gift of Christmas to us. As one of our beloved carols puts it:
How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him,
still the dear Christ enters in.
Follow that star. Celebrate the birth. Remember that Love was the gift of the first Christmas. Amen.

7:30 PM

On this most Holy Night, as we have listened to the words of Scripture telling us of salvation, as we have sung the carols and listened to the anthems that make our hearts glad, I am reminded that we need to go beyond mere enjoyment but make embrace what Christmas is all about. In the words of Martin Luther:
See to it that you do not find pleasure in the Gospel only as a history, for that is only transient; neither regard it only as an example, for it is of no value without faith; but see to it that you make this birth your own and that Christ be born in you. This will be the case if you believe, then you will repose in the lap of the virgin Mary and be her dear child. But you must exercise this faith and pray while you live, you cannot establish it too firmly. This is our foundation and inheritance, upon which good works must be built.

If Christ has now thus become your own, and you have by such faith been cleansed through him and have received your inheritance without any personal merit, but alone through the love of God who gives to you as your own the treasure and work of his Son; it follows that you will do good works by doing to your neighbor as Christ has done to you.

Therefore it is through faith that Christ becomes our own, and his love is the cause that we are his. He loves, we believe, thus both are united into one. Again, our neighbor believes and expects our love, we are therefore to love him also in return and not let him long for it in vain. One is the same as the other; as Christ helps us so we in return help our neighbor, and all have enough.
On this most Holy Night and for all the days hereafter “make this birth your own that Christ may be born in you” so that this celebration is not just one night but one we continually live by what we do throughout the year so everyone may have enough. Amen.

10 AM (Christmas Day)

I talked about the painting "Adoration of the Shepherds"

You can find info: here and here.

Christmas/Epiphany Blessing

May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the magi,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ child be yours this Christmas.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.