Friday, April 26, 2013

Judging Others

From Matthew 7:
Jesus said, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
In light of the quick judgment that people continually have of others' religion when terrible things happen, I think the statement from Jesus should give us pause before we say anything.

I also think the cartoon below says it all:


You can find the Archbishop of Canterbury's post on Syria here:

A prayer for the people of Syria

Merciful Father, the strength of all who suffer, defender of all who trust in you, whose compassion never fails; look with mercy upon the stricken people of Syria, touch the hearts of all who oppress, that they may be open to the ways of justice and of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord who suffered and died for all and who lives with you and the Holy Spirit now and forever.  Amen

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Prayer for Earth Day

O heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP p. 814)

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Prayer for China

After the major earthquake in China, keep them in your prayers:

Loving Father, you comfort us in times of misfortune: Our brothers and sisters have suffered a great tragedy and they need your healing. Send your Holy Spirit to soothe the anger, fear, and sorrow of their broken hearts. In the darkness of this moment, shine the light of your radiant love. Be their companion in their grief. In their pain, make them strong in courage, dry their tears, mend their hearts, and gently call them to newness of life. We thank you for the assurance of your love, shown in your Son Jesus, who suffered for us, died, and rose again to prepare our place in your eternal home. Amen.

Good Shepherd Sunday Sermon

This week began with beauty, & I’m not talking about tax day, but the beautiful Monday, Spring was in the air & the running of the Boston Marathon, a tradition 117 years old. It was a lovely day. By the end of the day, we were stunned and grieved for Boston as two brothers chose evil over good, planted bombs intended to injure, main and kill.

And it didn’t get any better…

· A Mississippi man was suspected of sending ricin-laden letters to President Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, letters intended to poison and kill.

· A terrible explosion happened at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, destroying 75 buildings and killing 14 and injuring nearly 200.

· The Senate failed to pass even the simple idea of universal background checks for all gun purchases.

· On Thursday morning, I looked on Facebook and saw a post that a friend of mine had died from cancer.

· On Friday, we were glued to the manhunt for the bombing suspects.

· On Saturday, a major earthquake hit China.

It has been a terrible week. Death has seemed very close. Darkness and Evil abound. It was an exhausting, anxiety filled week. And yet even in the darkness, the words of scripture have comforted me:
"Who are these robed in white & where have they come from? These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes & made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
This passage from the Revelation to John, is a common passage at funerals. It speaks of hope, it speaks of a time when “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, & Sean Collier have come through the great ordeal in Boston and they like my friend Maureen Haas, and those first responders in Texas (and earthquake victims in China) now rest in that place where every tear from their eye is wiped away & they have come home to God’s sheepfold.

This Good Shepherd Sunday reminds us that even at the worst of times, it is Jesus who calls to us, a voice of comfort in affliction, a voice of strength in sorrow, a voice that stays with us even when we can’t hear it in our own pain.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” Nothing can take us out of Jesus’ hands, no terrorist bomb, no accident, no cancer. Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Jesus… as a friend has put it (adapted from Romans 8):

And from that love is the gift of life. None of us knows how long that gift will last, Sandy Hook, Boston, and the town of West, all are reminders of the preciousness of life.

So what we do with this one wild & precious life as Mary Oliver put it, is important and it is up to us as we follow the voice of the Great Shepherd Jesus…

And as we follow him, Easter is a reminder of the grace given to us, where the victory over death is final, where God has burst forth and calls to us live in the power of the resurrection. So our voice should echo his, and be a voice of comfort and help, of joy and promise.

How will we give our voice? This story is from The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life…
Every evening she could hear the newborn in the apartment next door cry and cry. The parents put the child to sleep alone in the dark. The baby cries for a long time; the exhausted parents clearly are oblivious to their child's anguish or are at a loss as to what to do.

What can and should she do? She's not sure. Speaking to the parents might make what is just an annoying situation into something much worse. So she decides to sing.

Just as she can hear the baby, the baby can hear her. So every evening when her mom and dad put the child to sleep, she sings lullabies and cradlesongs, talks softly and reassuringly to the baby through the walls, consoles and comforts the child. The baby hears her invisible friendly voice and falls asleep peacefully, without a tear or whimper. [From The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferrucci, 2007.]
Christ speaks in many voices - including our own. We can be the "voice" of Christ's compassion, his comfort & forgiveness even through our smallest and simplest "songs" of kindness and selflessness in our weary world.

And as we confront the horror of what humans can do, the Good Shepherd calls us to emerge from the isolation of our own fears and disappointments, our resentments and expectations, and hear Christ speaking in the plight of the poor, the needs of the helpless, the cry of the persecuted and injured and bereaved. In our own acts of generosity & kindness, love and forgiveness, we echo and give voice to the Risen Christ and the good news of hope and grace that is the resurrection at Easter.

(I think of the videos of the carnage on Monday - so many people helping - compassionate, healing)

May we leave here today, listening for the voice of the Risen One, who asks us to do his work of compassion, love and forgiveness through what we offer in his Spirit of Easter. Amen.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pray for West, Texas

This is copied from the Episcopal Cafe...

We pray this morning for the town of West, Texas, which has been devastated by a deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant. West is a small Central Texas town of 2,800 people. Casualties have been rushed to a hospital in Waco, about 20 miles south.  This prayer from A New Zealand Prayer Book:

Jesus, you knew pain, you knew the loneliness, the weakness and the degradation it brings; you knew the agony.  Jesus, your suffering is the only hope, the only reconciliation for those who suffer. Be with those in West, Texas as they grapple with the pain they suffer now. Be a promise to them, and to us, that this present suffering will cease; be the hand that they can hold; be present, Saviour, for we need you now.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More Prayers for Boston

God our Deliverer, gather up our horror and pity for the death of your children in Boston into the compass of your wisdom and strength, that through the night we may seek and do what is right,
and when morning comes, trust ourselves to your cleansing justice and new life through Christ our Savior. Amen.

God of compassion and strength, keep in safety the soul of your children of Boston whose moment of pain and fear is past, and those who suffer still in shock and fear. Send now your healing to all who mourn, that their distress may find rest and resolution within your love, whose Spirit brings life eternal, through Christ our Savior. Amen. 

Prayers by the Rev. Jennifer Phillips

A Litany for Boston

A Litany in Response to the Terror Attack in Boston

Lord Jesus, you are the Prince of Peace and the Great Physician, and it is to you that we pray.

We pray, O Lord, for those who were so tragically killed in Boston. We pray for all who love them, and all who grieve. We pray that they might find strength in you, and not be overwhelmed by their loss.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray, for those who were injured. Those who lost limbs. Those who are in great pain. Those who lives will forever be changed.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray, for those who witnessed horrible sights, for innocent bystanders, for the first responders, police, nurses, doctors, and all who are shaken to the core.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are caring for the injured at this hour, that through them you would offer healing and life.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the men and women of law enforcement who have long and difficult days ahead of them.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the clergy and lay ministers who will tend to the needs of people in fear and grief.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all the people of Boston, and everyone across the world who live under the threat of terror.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

In the spirit of you, O Christ, who commanded us to love, and pray for, our enemies; we pray for those who seek to do others harm. We pray that their hearts be turned, and their minds and souls find healing.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are called to keep us safe. We pray that they might have wisdom and strength to do the task that is set before them.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

And, we pray for the day when evil takes its last gasp. When the light finally, and thoroughly, snuffs out the darkness in this world, and the darkness which infects the hearts of people who do unspeakable wrong. Amen.

Written by
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
140 South Finley Avenue
Basking Ridge, New Jersey 07920

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Prayer for Boston

"The American people will say a prayer for Boston tonight." —President Obama

We pray tonight for the 2 dead (including an 8 year old child), At least 132 injuries reported, 17 are critical; 8 are children.

Gracious God, Welcome into your arms the victims of the violence and terrorism in Boston. Comfort their families and all who grieve for them.
Heal the injured and maimed. Sustain all the helpers. Help us in our fear and uncertainty, And bless us with the knowledge that we are secure in your love.
Strengthen all those who work for peace, And may the peace the world cannot give reign in our hearts. Amen.

For those with children...

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." ― Mr. Rogers

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Prayer on Yom Hashoah

The internationally recognized date comes from the Hebrew calendar and corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on that calendar. It marks the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom Hashoah. (from

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.

2nd Sunday of Easter Sermon

In his first inaugural address in 1933, some 80 years ago, FDR uttered these famous words in the midst of the great depression: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Our nation was fearful in the midst of the depression on what it could do to fix things, and FDR tried to name that fear as one of the things holding the country back from moving forward. 8 years later in January of 1941, FDR spoke to congress about four essential human freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of every person to worship God in their own way, freedom from want and to quote FDR “The fourth is freedom from fear -- which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor-- anywhere in the world.”

Sadly 72 years later, we still live in a world where nations will commit physical aggression against its neighbors and even its own citizens. But his thoughts that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself and that we need to live in freedom from fear is what happened on that Easter so long ago…

The tomb was empty, Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene, the disciples knew something had happened, BUT evening on that day, the first day of the week, the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews… Being Jews themselves what they feared was those Jewish Authorities who had arrested Jesus and the Roman authorities who killed Jesus.

They were living in Fear, of what might happen to them. The Good News of Easter morning, the new light of the resurrection had dawned, but that evening, the darkness crept in and they were still living with the old fears.

And Jesus breaks that tension and anxiety. He comes into that locked room, Peace be with you, he tells them…

They are shocked, startled, fearful, but Jesus doesn’t stop. Peace be with you, shows them his wounds and breathes on them the Holy Spirit. And then they get it. Their sorrow is turned to joy. Peace overcomes their fear.

Of course, Thomas wasn’t there, and he wouldn’t believe until he experienced the Risen Jesus who again says Peace be with you.

Such is our hope and our joy. Our God is not held back by stones or locked doors or even closed hearts, Our Risen Christ comes into our lives with the message of peace & hope & love, seeking out hearts to live in joy and to spread that joy to our hurting world. It is the peace of our Risen Christ that breaks through all of our fears.

Now, the important thing wasn’t that the disciples had this great experience for themselves. No, they had the experience because God was calling them to leave that closed, fearful room and go out into the world to share the Good News of the Resurrection.

In our fearful and anxiety filled world, God calls us to change it!
Its Lunchtime and every table is occupied with hungry patrons. The waiters race through the dining room, weaving around one another balancing trays trying to serve their customers as quickly as possible.

The manager looks around the room and shakes his head. Something is not right. He picks up an empty coffee cup and throws it on the floor. The cooks begin to whistle and cheer. The waiters clap their hands and laugh. After a few moments, cooks and servers return to their frantic pace.

Still not satisfied, the manager picks up a plate and smashes it to the floor. The staff, once again, stops and applauds. But this time, they return to their work much more relaxed and casual. The manager smiles. He's satisfied.

"Is it my imagination, or is your boss into breaking dishes?" a patron asks his server.

"Oh, he's just sending us a message," the waiter explains. "Waiting tables especially during the lunch rush can be stressful. But if we're not enjoying ourselves, then the people we serve won't enjoy themselves. Whenever things start getting too tense, someone breaks something to remind everyone to loosen up."

Just then a busser rushed past carrying a tub of dirty dishes. When he neared the kitchen door, he stumbles and drops the tub. The loud crash of dishes is met with thunderous applause throughout the restaurant. The waiter claps and says, "Some people have to learn from experience."

[Adapted from Stressed Is Desserts Spelled Backwards by Brian Luke Seward.]
On Easter night, Jesus gives the gift of his "peace" - but Christ's "peace" is much more than the absence of fear. Christ's "peace" is a state of being that encompasses all: peace that breaks into our hearts when anxiety or fear threatens to take over our lives. Whether it be illness or debt or fear of the future, whatever our worries are, the Peace that is beyond our understanding is God’s gift to us at Easter.

As the manager of the busy restaurant understands, peace is hard work; creating and maintaining peace requires focused action on our parts. This Easter, may we understand the nature of Christ's gift of peace and the hard work that gift entails in our fearful world. Amen.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Remembering the Children...

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month

We use this month as a call to action for all of us to change the way we think about the prevention of child abuse and neglect and focus on actions that protect children right from the start, so child abuse and neglect never occur. We want all our faith-based partners to join each other and us in offering a special prayer during your services from April 5 - April 7, 2013. Imagine the power of all Connecticut’s faith communities offering a single prayer or intention to end child abuse!

For more information, visit:

~ Covenant to Care for Children ~

A Prayer:

God of all creation, you do not distance yourself from the pain of your people, but in Jesus bear that pain with us and bless all who suffer at others’ hands. Look with compassion upon all who suffer from child abuse and with your cleansing love bring healing and strength to them. Open our hearts and awaken our minds to act on behalf of these children, that by your justice, our world might become a haven of peace and safety for all. We ask this in the name of the one who transforms our lives, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (by the Rev. Ann Fontaine, SCLM & the Rev. Kurt Huber)


A Prayer in the wake of the Sandy Hook Tragedy
“Grieving our Lost Children”

O Lord, another brutality, another school killing, another grief beyond telling . . . and loss . . . in Colorado, in Wisconsin, among the Amish, in Virginia, California and Connecticut. Where next?

We are reduced to weeping silence, even as we breed a violent culture, even as we kill the sons and daughters of our so-called ‘enemies,’ even as we fail to cherish and protect the forgotten of our common life.

There is no joy among us as we empty our schoolhouses; there is no health among us as we move in fear and bottomless anxiety; there is little hope among us as we fall helpless before the gunshot and the shriek and the blood and the panic; we pray to you only because we do not know what else to do.

Loving God, we beseech you to move powerfully in our body politic. Move us toward peaceableness that does not want to hurt or kill; move us toward justice so that the troubled and the forgotten may know mercy; move us toward forgiveness, so that we may escape the trap of revenge.

Empower us to turn our weapons into acts of mercy, to turn our missiles into gestures of friendship, to turn our bombs into policies of reconciliation; and in this deep work of transformation, hear our sadness, our loss, our bitterness.

We dare to pray our needfulness to you because you were there on that gray Friday, and watched your own Son murdered for ‘reasons of state.’ Good God, do Easter! Here and among these families, here and in all places of brutality. Turn our Good Friday grief into your Easter joy. We pray in the Name of the one crucified and risen, who is our Lord and Savior. Amen.

(adapted from Walter Brueggemann, Prayers for a Privileged People. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2008), 61-62.)

Easter Blessing

Make us an Easter people, O Christ, whose name is Alleluia. May we, like Mary, rise in joy when you call our name. May we, like Thomas, see and believe. May we, like Peter, become bold and brave. May we, like Cleopas, meet you in every road. May we, like them, be utterly changed, in the victory of the love by which you left your tomb, and saved us forever from death. and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen. (Susan Bock)

Easter Sermon

How blessed is this day, when earth and heaven are joined and humankind is reconciled to God! May the light of Jesus shine continually to drive away all darkness. May the Risen Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, find his light ever burning in our hearts—he who gives his light to all creation, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
One Easter Sunday morning as the pastor was preaching a children's sermon, he reached into his bag of props and pulled out an egg. He pointed at the egg and asked the children, "What's in here?" "I know, I know!" a little boy exclaimed, "pantyhose!"
I think telling that joke makes me old; symbols change, a plastic egg no longer means pantyhose as it once did, but the symbol of an empty tomb endures. All that was lost, all that seemed hopeless and dead, buried with Jesus in the tomb has been reborn, for the tomb is empty & Christ is risen! Alleluia!

But how we got here, to this joyful moment is through the terrible cross. As the poet Wendell Berry put it:
I read of Christ crucified,
the only begotten Son
sacrificed to flesh and time
and all our woe. He died
and rose, but who does not tremble
for his pain, his loneliness,
and the darkness of the sixth hour?
Unless we grieve like Mary
at His grace, giving Him up
as lost, no Easter morning comes.
As we read the passion this past week, we entered into the story, we grieved like Mary, we thought of the cruelty of our world, and our place in the darkness. This morning we wake up to a new reality, the glorious resurrection. Our tears & our loss, like that of Mary have turned to joy!

Easter is the great celebration of the Christian Church when our sorrow at the death of Jesus on the Cross, turns to delight as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Savior. If Teilhard de Chardin is correct, and “joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God,” then we Christians ought to be the most joyful people around, living in the light & hope of Easter!

That new life that is Easter reminds us that in the midst of our own sorrows, our own pain, that God is still at work in our world and in our lives today. Even as we watch with horror the random senseless acts of violence, the wars and unrest around the world, and the problems of debt and finances within our own communities and homes, Easter reminds us that death does not have the final word, despair is not our answer, violence and debt are not our rulers. God is in charge and God intends that we have a new life in resurrected joy.

We are joy filled because we live in hope. So many of our Easter hymns and poems speak of the dying brought to new life, winter turning to spring, of God bursting forth from the tomb and the whole world turning upside down. As the old saying goes, “hope springs eternal.” Our God is not held back by stones or locked doors or even closed hearts, God in Risen Christ comes into our lives with the message of hope, love, joy and peace, seeking out hearts to live in joy and to spread that joy to our hurting world.

Every year we come to hear the Easter story and it strikes us a little bit differently. For we each are on own journeys through the cross of Calvary to the empty tomb of Jerusalem and it affects what we hear and how we hear it.
If you are celebrating the safe return of a lost son or daughter, the empty tomb is the assurance of God's protection during the darkest nights and along the most dangerous roads.

If you are mourning the loss of a spouse or child or dear friend, the angel's question about "seeking the living among the dead" may be the first light of hope to illuminate your broken heart: the promise that the Risen Christ has lovingly taken your loved one to the dwelling place prepared for them by our loving God.

If you've lost your job or if you and your family are struggling financially, the moving of the immovable rock is a sign of God's grace enabling you to realize what is truly dear and important to you. In the sight of the stone rolled away, God extends his hand to lift you out of your despair and to help you realize the abilities and gifts you have that enable you to live your life with meaning and purpose.

The compassionate women who come to anoint the body of their beloved messiah, having no idea how they will move that stone, who first hear the good news and then become the first messengers of the resurrection, are God's exaltation of loving humility and selfless generosity over the certitude of wealth and power.

And in the midst of all of us is the Risen One himself, who takes up our crosses with us, who opens up the tombs that entrap us, who walks among us in every expression of compassion, in every act of generosity, in every experience of reconciliation and peace.
Every Easter the story of the Resurrection speaks to our hearts and spirits, our fears and anxieties, depending on the situations of our lives. God speaks to us in the words of the angel, in the open grave, in the simple kindness of the myrrh bearers. Whatever road you are traveling this Easter morning, whatever burial clothes you are struggling to free yourself from, whatever cross you are struggling to carry, may you find reason to hope - and may that hope free you to re-create your life in Easter joy, peace and amazement. And when you are free, go out and spread the Good News, give out that joy, love and hope, as bearers of such joyful news in the midst of our darkened world. Amen.