Tuesday, February 19, 2013

First Sunday in Lent Sermon

Take away, O Lord, the veil of my heart while I hear the scriptures and partake of your sacraments that I may hear your voice and feel your guidance. Amen.

It was a first step for Lance. That is how one of his former teammates put it after hearing that Lance Armstrong had finally admitted to the doping that so many said he had done.

Seeing him with Oprah, it was sad to see such a star athlete fall, one who had done so much for others through Livestrong, his advocacy work to fight cancer, admit that he cheated by using performance enhancing drugs. And after the cheating began to surface, how he tried to control everything and not let the deception get out.

“Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes) We can see that in what Lance has done, but we know its also true for us, that those temptations do not look evil or wrong at first glance but they are in fact lies. “Everyone is doing it” is a lie and a bad excuse.
“The worst part about sin is not that we give into temptations, but we gradually adjust to the temptations and begin to see them as normal.” (Prof. Max Stackhouse)
We see that in how Lance doped, how it got others to do it, tried to cover it all up and continually tried to keep the deception up for so many years by silencing them. The temptation became the normal because it helped fill a void.

As Simone Weil said, “All sins are attempts to fill voids.” And Lance will have to work to figure out the voids that he tried to fill. For that is what the devil does to all of humanity, for the devil’s temptations are to there to help fill a void we feel and he tempts you and me in so many ways with lies and deceit.

As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to the wilderness, to the desert, a place without people or much of anything. For 40 days he fasted there and the devil came, trying to fill a void…if you are the son of God…

The devil knows who Jesus is, and Jesus knows he is the beloved, but it is a test, with Jesus at his weakest. Fix your hunger, Jesus. Use your power. Turn these stones into bread.
“One does not live by bread alone.” Says Jesus.
He could have it done that on day one, use the power, but it is about faith and Jesus refuses to give in. Then the devil led him to place where he could view all the nations of the world. Worship me, all this is yours to rule. You would be king. Think of the power, prestige, you’d have it all!
“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” Says Jesus.
He is not interested in the power to rule, Jesus would tell us that he did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Then the devil led him to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem…

Look it here, right here, go ahead and jump, it says in the bible, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" It’s all in there. Just do it!
“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Jesus answered him.
Even with the devil using scripture, Jesus doesn’t fall into the trap, he does not need to show he is the beloved, he knows it. When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. Even Jesus knew the devil would be back to tempt him again…

As we begin our Lenten journey, we know that to get to the joyous Easter we have to go through the cross & Calvary, we travel through the wilderness, where temptations spring up, trying to fill the voids in our lives.

For we have all found ourselves wandering lost and directionless in the wilderness. We have all had to make our way through a lonely, dangerous desert.

It may have looked like a hospital waiting room or the sheets of a cheap motel bed after you got kicked out of your house, or maybe it looked like the parking lot where you couldn’t find your car on the day you lost your job. You found yourself lost in a wilderness place you could not find your way out of.

Or the desert may have been a time: the life-altering decision you felt unprepared and incapable of making, the endless calls and interviews for the job that eluded you, the nights of waiting up for the son or daughter who was not coming home.

Wildernesses are the places where we feel lost and helpless; deserts are situations we don’t know how to handle. Temptations abound for us, in these helpless times to fill the voids of fear, to try and control it all in very unhealthy ways.

The wilderness changes us; the desert frees us to trust, to hope, to move. The journey begins with allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us in those moments. . .  And then, we somehow find a way through that unfamiliar terrain; we manage to cross that emptiness and barrenness. We discover something inside of us that enables us to make our way safely; we see routes open to us that we had not seen before.

[Adapted from a sermon by the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor.]
…because in those desert and wilderness experiences we can discover the Spirit of God in our lives. The same Spirit that led Jesus into the desert accompanies us in our wilderness experiences of fear, despair, confusion and grief. This Lent, the Spirit calls our souls into the deserts of our hearts to discern what God calls us to make of the time we have been given, to re-center our lives with new hope and renewed vision as we continue our journey to the Easter promise. (Jay Cormier)

On our Lenten journey, may we recognize the sin in our lives, repent from it and pray that God continues to lead us away from such temptations in our lives as we hear Jesus’ call to follow him. Amen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Thoughts on Last Epiphany

Thoughts from the Sermon I would have given...

You can find the Lectionary Readings here:


My thoughts:

Exodus tells us that “Moses came down from Mount Sinai, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” When I hear this, my picture of Moses is… George Hamilton…the glow…(and if you don’t know who he is, never mind…)

The real truth of course is that encounters with God change people. Jacob wrestled with God, got a hip injury and was renamed… Moses received the 10 commandments from God, and he glowed from the encounter, and he constantly veiled his face with the Israelites because he glowed so much from those encounters & they were afraid.

Peter, James & John on the Holy Mountain had a most extraordinary experience with Jesus. Before them Jesus was transfigured… he glowed like pure white (better than Clorox!) and with him was Moses and the prophet Elijah… and Peter was so into the moment he wants to capture it, remain there, but this experience would lead them onward, down the mountain, back into life, on the way to Jerusalem.

This experience we have with God changes us…

The epic film & musical Les Miserables, based on the Victor Hugo novel, is a story of grace and redemption and transformation.

After spending 20 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, Jean Valjean is paroled but he is a bitter man. He is desperate for work but no one will hire a parolee. Cold and hungry, he is taken in by a kindly bishop. During the night, he steals the bishop’s silver plate and flees, but he is quickly caught by the authorities. Valjean is brought back to the bishop’s residence but the bishop explains that he gave Valjean the silver, and that he had forgotten the silver candlesticks, as well….
Valjean is stunned by the bishop’s extraordinary kindness and forgiveness. The bishop only asks Valjean to use the silver to re-create his life and return God’s goodness to others. “God has raised you out of darkness,” the bishop blesses Valjean. “I have bought your soul for God.”
It is a moment of transformation for Valjean, who rediscovers within himself the love and mercy that led him to steal that original bread for his hungry niece. As he turns the cache of silver into a fortune that will benefit many, Valjean comes to realize that “to love another person is to see the face of God.”

The kindness of the bishop is a moment of transformation for Valjean: for as the three disciples behold the divinity that radiates from the vision of Jesus on the mountaintop, and Moses encounter leaves him glowing, so Valjean realizes that inside him an ember of God’s goodness has continued to burn despite his two decades in prison. Through the Bishop, God touches Valjean’s heart & his life is transformed.

That same touch of divinity exists within each one of us, as well: God is present within us, moving us by the Spirit to do good and holy things; guiding our steps as we try to walk justly and humbly in the ways of Jesus and our God.

The challenge of our discipleship is to allow the love of God within us to “transfigure” despair into hope, sadness into joy, anguish into healing, estrangement into community. So that the light of the world can change us and shine through us, even in dark or snowy/icy days. Amen.

Friday, February 8, 2013

A quick video

On Ash Wednesday & Lent:


- Posted using BlogPress from my mystical iPad!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Episcopalians vs. Gun Violence

Episcopalians Against Gun Violence is "an ad-hoc group of bishops, clergy and lay people disseminating information about Episcopalians who are working, collectively and individually, to curb gun violence," and you can like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Recent Statements:

The United States has witnessed far too many public shootings in recent months and years. Far too many lives have been cut short or maimed by both random and targeted acts of gun violence. The school shooting in Newtown was horrific, yet since that day several times as many young people have died by gunshot.

It is abundantly clear that Americans are ready to grapple with the complexities of gun violence. The Spirit is moving across this land to mobilize people of faith to act. I urge the United States members of this Church to call your federal legislators on Monday 4 February to express your concern and your expectation that gun violence be addressed. The outlines of the necessary policy decisions are clear and widely supported: limits on sales of military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, effective background checks for all gun purchases, better access to mental health services, and attention to gun trafficking.

We believe all God's people should be able to live in peace, as Zechariah dreams, "old men and women shall again sit in the streets...And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing." The prophet reminds his hearers that even if this seems impossible, with God it is not. [Zech 8:4-6] I urge you to add your voice to those clamoring for peace. Call your legislators and sue for peace.

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

Testimony of The Right Reverend James E. Curry Before
The Gun Violence Prevention Working Group
January 28, 2013

Senator Looney, Representative Miner, members of the Gun Violence Prevention Working Group, thank you for this opportunity to speak before you.

My name is James Curry and I am one of the three bishops of The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. We have two parishes in Newtown: St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sandy Hook and Trinity Episcopal Church in the center of town. I am very proud of the clergy and people of these parishes as they minister to a community harmed so deeply by senseless slaughter and forever changed by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I grieve for the living as well as the dead. No parent, no priest, no community should ever have to bury children who were victims of such violence. I never want to have to stand again at the grave of a six year old like Ben Wheeler, a child of energy and joy and a special love for lighthouses.

At the root of these killings is access to guns with rapid-fire ability and high capacity magazines. That is a reality that we as a society must face. The massacre in Newtown is only the latest example of wholesale murder made possible because of the availability of assault weapons – a technology that has no place in our communities and no need among our citizenry.
I am here today to urge you to support legislation to ban assault weapons, limit the capacity of gun magazines, and institute universal background checks for any purchase of firearms. In the face of the slaughter in Sandy Hook we need to find a commonsense response that puts the lives of our children ahead of an un-restricted right to gun ownership. Charles Ramsey, Police Commissioner of Philadelphia, is absolutely right when he says: If the slaughter of 20 babies doesn’t wake you up, then I give up, because I don’t know what will. We need reasonable gun control in this country, or guess what, it will happen again.”

The Episcopal Church supports the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms, but we also stand, by resolutions of our General Convention and Executive Council, for public policies to ban assault weapons.

The massacre in Sandy Hook is a wake up call for us as a society to challenge the violence of our culture and discern comprehensive responses to cycles of violence. We, the Episcopal Church, commit to building educational, formational, and spiritual resources toward this end.
In the past we, as a society, have been very slow to recognize and change the cycles of violence that infect our communities. Groups like Mothers Against Violence here in Hartford have been raising their cries for action and justice for years and we have not listened well. Now is the time to listen and to act. You have the opportunity now in the wake of the shootings in Sandy Hook to make significant legislation that can protect all our children and make our communities safer.

- Posted using BlogPress from my mystical iPad!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Children & MDG Sermon for Souper Bowl Sunday

Children's Sermon
"If you believe and I believe and we together pray, the Holy Spirit must come down and set God's people free." A song from Zimbabwe (A song of hope, freedom, of God helping us)
Next door to Zimbabwe is Mozambique. In a tiny, isolated village, Megumeto, three moms wanted their kids to have a nursery school for children from birth to 5 years old. There are now 167 students attending that school. The local Anglican parish has decided to build a permanent school building. Once built, the roof of the school will become a water collection system to fill huge plastic water tanks. Currently people in the village must walk 3 ½ miles for water. This project will bless the children of Megumeto. And it will take resources from beyond this village to bring it to conclusion. The needs are well beyond the scope of the local community… and we can help!

(I can hear them singing this song…)

MDG Sermon
Why get involved with a building a school some 8,000 miles from us?
As Bishop Jim Curry has said, “One woman told me: "We want our children to be good...to be clean...how can they do it without water (or school)? If I were Mozambican, I might begin to think that God let the sand collapse under my feet as I watched them pour the concrete for the cornerstone of the school because I needed to pay attention to what God was up to right in front of me. Perhaps they are right.”
Bishop Curry told that story in a sermon here last summer and some said we need to take this on! As a community, we would help them build a nursery school, just like so many of our kids have enjoyed here in Monroe (Peter Pan or Little Ivy)! This would allow us to take on some of those MDGs, helping provide education and clean water for a village looking to provide for their children.

I think of the words from some U2 songs: that “we are called to carry each other.” & “Where you are born shouldn’t dictate whether you live or die.” Just last fall, Bono said "I think we're all called to serve each other in that way, by God; by a sense of common decency."

We have heard about the need, and we see how we can help with buying bricks for them to build a school and a water collection system. We will be engaged in mission…
As our own Bishop Ian Douglas has said, “Being faithful to the call to God’s mission, participating with God in effecting God’s peace & reconciliation (shalom), is what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus. The MDG’s thus serve as an invitation to get on with what God wants us to be about; to join with sisters in brothers in Christ, with people of other faiths, with wider global civil society to be about the repair of the world.”
So why do we do it?

Because we want to help repair the world, to make sure that that village, another community can share in the bounty that we have so readily here. Jesus offered Good News and healing took place and people began to live new lives. What we can offer is our love, our prayers and our support to help heal this world, provide supplies that will help those families build a permanent school.

Again in Bono’s words…
“The poor are where God lives. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is where the opportunity is lost and lives are shattered. God, my friends, is with the poor. And God is with us, if we are with them. This is not a burden. This is an adventure. Don’t let anyone tell you it cannot be done. We can be the generation that ends extreme poverty.”
Join us on Wednesday night for a potluck and to hear more about the plans for this Nursery School in Megumeto, Mozambique. This is not just some quick program that is done today and forgotten tomorrow. “No it’s about building a movement, a movement of God’s people in response to the mission of God.” (Bp. Douglas) It all began with our response to the orphanage in Russia and will continue with our mission to the Nursery School in Megumeto, Mozambique. As we do it in God’s name. Amen.

Souper Bowl of Caring

Today, 140 million Americans will tune in to the Super Bowl football game. There will be parties with abundant food, friendship and fellowship. At the same time, there will be people worrying about staying warm, finding shelter and a warm meal. Places of worship around our country are demonstrating God’s love by loving their neighbors through the Souper Bowl of Caring. It’s a simple, yet significant act of caring for others. Drop $1 or more in the soup pot as you leave worship today or in the offertory plate and we will give it away to Episcopal Relief & Development in their work of elevating poverty around the world. The ECW will match whatever we collect today. All canned food will go to the Monroe Food Pantry.

U2Charist VII

Today was our seventh annual U2Charist, our Episcopal Eucharist will use music by the rock band U2 in place of traditional hymns, which reminds us that God moves in mysterious ways, even in some popular music. Real worship of course is not just about singing songs and having a nice time. Real worship is about service and transformation. U2charists call us to love our neighbor, near and far. Love is an action, not just a feeling. U2charists call participants to concrete action in support of The United Nations Millennium Development Goals. U2’s lead singer, Bono, is a passionate advocate of the MDGs, and has been proclaimed a global MDG ambassador. The U2charist seeks to raise awareness of the MDGs and call people worldwide to a deeper faith and engagement with God's mission. May we hear God’s call to prayerful action in our world today.

The Music Lineup:

Prelude: Miracle Drug (2004)
Opening Song: Where the Streets Have No Name (1987)
Song of Praise: Jesus Christ (written by Woodie Guthrie, 1961)
Psalm: 40 (1983)
Offertory: Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of (2000)
Communion Song I: One Step Closer (2004)
Communion Song II: Yahweh (2004)
Closing Song: Beautiful Day (2000)
Postlude: Magnificent (2009)