Sunday, May 26, 2013

Parents of Young Children at Church

I saw this wonderful post from a mom and pastor's wife who speaks of the importance of parents bringing kids to worship.

You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring... 
I know you’re wondering, is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing is so important. When you are here, the church is filled with a joyful noise. When you are here, the Body of Christ is more fully present.

Read the whole wonderful article here.

From Deacon's Sermon Today (Trinity Sunday)

Deacon Christopher spoke about four courageous chaplains (Dorchester) during WW II.

The Dorchester Chaplains: Lieutenant George Fox, Lieutenant Alexander D. Goode, Lieutenant Clark V. Poling and Lieutenant John P. Washington

Their story is here and here.

They are remembered on our calendar of Holy Men & Women on February 3.

Holy God, you inspired the Dorchester chaplains to be models of steadfast sacrificial love in a tragic and terrifying time: Help us to follow their example, that their courageous ministry may inspire chaplains and all who serve, to recognize your presence in the midst of peril; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Memorial Day Prayer

Memorial Day150

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give you thanks for all your servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them your mercy and the light of your presence, that the good work which you have begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.  (BCP)

An invocation for Memorial Day Observances
by Rev. Jennifer Phillips

God our Comfort and Strength:

Be with us in your mercy and love as we remember all those who have given faithful service to our country, and especially those who have given their lives on our behalf; we pray you:

hold in your perfect light and love those who laid down their lives generously in military service;
keep vigil with those who bear the outward or inward wounds of war;
give your mercy to those who carry burdens of conscience or troubled memory;
gather into your everlasting arms those who may die on this day;

lift up all those who grieve for loved ones who died in the armed services and for those who are missing in action; lend strength to the families who bravely watch and wait;
guard and protect those in the path of danger and any whose hearts are troubled;
grant wisdom, courage, and restraint to those who bear authority under the pressure of peril;
give us at home compassion toward those who are turned from right action or kindness by the brutality and grief of war;

hear our thankful remembrance of those who labored, and who still labor, in support of our troops overseas and at home;
receive our thanksgiving for medics and nurses, chaplains and counselors, and all those who have tended the souls and bodies of those in service;
and grant that we may never forget the many whose brave, sacrificial, and faithful service built up the heritage of liberty we enjoy.

These we remember! For these we give thanks!We pray in your most Holy Name. Amen.

A Prayer for America

Behold America by Rev. John Wallace Suter, 1964, adapted

Behold, O God, this our beloved country:

The old, the young, the little children; rich and poor, ignorant and learned;
The laborers and mangers of industry; workers in factory and mine, office and home;

A people of many traditions, many colors, divergent hopes and fears.

Behold America:

Its mountains and plains, rivers and forests, its inland seas and shining coasts.

Upon this land, upon these people, pour down thy life-giving Spirit of nobility and truth.

Where there is strife, bring cooperation for the common good;

Where greed and envy abound, control us with that divine perspective which sees in every person the dignity of a growing soul;

Where interests clash, set free in us the higher impulse which seeks first thy righteous kingdom, where we may enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Behold, O Father, this our Nation.
Bless it, make it strong with thy strength, and fill it with the beauty of holiness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Boy Scouts Half Step

The BSA (Boy Scouts of America) have decided to end the policy against openly gay scouts but keep in place the ban on openly gay adults serving in leadership positions.

These feels like a half step trying to keep two sides happy - those who want to end discrimination against gays and those who want no change in the policy.

In 2000, the Episcopal Church at Their 73rd General Convention held in Denver, CO adpoted the Following Resolution in Response to the Boy Scouts of America's Policy of Discrimination

Text of C031:  "The Boy Scouts of America Policy on Homosexuals" as adopted by the General Convention:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 73rd General Convention recommends that all clergy in charge of congregations and vestries:

1) Inform the local Boy Scouts of America Council and other organizations of the Episcopal Church's policy adopted at the 65th General Convention (1976) that "homosexual persons are children of God who have full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the Church;"

2) Encourage the Boy Scouts of America to allow membership to youth and adult leaders irrespective of their sexual orientation; (my emphasis)

3) Strongly encourage individual churches which charter or host scout units to open a dialogue with the unit leaders, scouts and their parents regarding discrimination against youth and leaders on the basis of sexual orientation;

4) Engage in educational programs within their churches to inform members and others about these issues; and be it further


This issue will not go away for the BSA.  I hope and pray they take the next step and end the policy against openly gay adults from serving in leadership positions.  Let the discrimination end.  (As it has for the Girl Scouts, see link below.)

What to send & not to send after a distaster strikes

On how stuff works there is Top 10 List of Worst things to Send after a Disaster:
  • Used Clothes
  • Shoes
  • Blankets
  • Teddy Bears
  • Medicine
  • Pet Supplies
  • Mixed Items in a Care Package
  • Bottled Water & Canned Food
  • Your Unsolicited Help
  • Money to the Wrong People
The point of the article (from the author):  
The most important thing I learned writing this article is the danger of being half-right. We are absolutely right to assume that supplies like extra clothes, blankets and nonperishable food are critical following a natural disaster. But we are wrong to think that the best way to get those goods to the victims of a disaster is by donating them ourselves. In fact, by taking the great initiative to collect, pack and ship donations to a disaster area, we are making life much more difficult for the overwhelmed relief workers and volunteers on the ground.

There is a hopeful note for those who really want to donate physical goods rather than send money. Go to the National Donations Management Network, a searchable online database of nonprofit organizations that have posted a specific and urgent need for disaster supplies. If you own a business, this is a great way to connect with, say, AmeriCorps volunteers in New York and send them a dozen 220-volt commercial heaters or 100 Tyvek suits for mold remediation. Keep up the good work!
Where to help?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Help That’s Helpful: Do’s and Don’ts After Disaster

A wonderful blog post everyone should read:

Help That’s Helpful: Do’s and Don’ts After Disaster
Posted by: revjmk on: May 21, 2013
You can read it here.

And of course, we pray:

God of love, whose compassion never fails; we bring before you the griefs and perils of the peoples of Oklahoma; for the necessities of those left homeless; the helplessness of those torn apart by tornadoes; for the pains of the sick and injured; for the sorrow of the bereaved. Comfort and relieve them, O merciful Father, according to their needs and draw near to each; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Based on a prayer by St Anselm (1033-1109))

Loving Father, you comfort us in times of affliction: Our brothers and sisters in Moore, OK 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. (From an unknown source)

What Jesus didn't say

According to a report, Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council claimed in a fundraising letter, "not only did Jesus tolerate weapons, he instructed His disciples to buy them!"

His reference is Luke 26:38.  I will not go into great detail about how absurd it is to pick one passage out and make it mean something that goes against all the other references Jesus makes to peacemaking, etc.

Look at the whole passage, what is Jesus saying.  Armed rebellion?  Weapons for everyone?

I rather like this prayer instead of Perkins idea:

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen. (from the Book of Common Prayer)

Let the dead bury the dead

The furor over the bombing suspect's burial has subsided as new tragedies have befallen our nation.

The best response that I saw and heard to this furor was by Thomas Lynch (a poet and undertaker) on NPR:
THOMAS LYNCH: ...There is this sense, with evildoers, that we'd like to do some evil to them; and their deaths prevent that. So the people in Worcester who are making much of this, I think, are speaking to an old, sort of tribal frustration that we can't desecrate the corpse. All we can do is observe that the dead don't care...   This is the man who did an evil thing. But his body, his corpse, should be tended to because humans do this. Humans are sort of accountable to the corpses of the dead - not because it matters to the dead but because each of us, as humans, expects to be tended to properly. I mean, this is what separates us from other living things that breed and breathe and die.

The burial of the dead, Audie, is sort of Humanity 101.

Listen and read the transcript from NPR here.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Prayers for OK

For those communities affected by the Tornadoes:

Merciful God, in your hands are the caverns of the earth and the heights of the hills: our times also are in your hands. Hear our prayers for those suffering in the aftermath of the tornado in Moore, OK and throughout the US; soothe those in distress; watch over those trapped and hoping for rescue; comfort the bereaved; strengthen those who labor to help others, lift up those who cannot help themselves; and in every danger be their very present help by the power of your Holy Spirit; we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (The Rev. Jennifer Phillips)

God our refuge and hope:
Hear our prayers for those whose lives have been overturned by disaster.
Direct relief to the desperate,
comfort the injured and bereaved,
calm the fears of those who do not know where to turn,
cheer and protect the downhearted,
strengthen those who lend help,
and in all things increase compassion and care for the commonweal;
through Jesus who knew our sufferings
and opens for us the gate of new life. Amen. (The Rev. Jennifer Phillips)

For our distress:

O God, when all the world looks gray and dirt shows everywhere and nothing is as it should be, you seem very far away. O God, help me to remember the days when you were near and I knew it. Even when you seem far away, help me never to turn my back on you. Set me on the path to you and help me hold fast until I find your light once more. Amen. (Avery Brooke)

O Lord, when I am bewildered and the world is all noise and confusion around me and I don't know which way to go and am frightened, then be with me. Put your hand on my shoulder and let your strength invade my weakness and your light burn the mist from my mind. Help me to move forward with faith in the way I should go. Amen. (Avery Brooke)

- Posted using BlogPress from my mystical iPad!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost Sermon

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in us the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and we shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy Your consolations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Holy Spirit was with each of us from our beginnings.

It all began at the first breath, that first cry, and the Spirit of God came into each of us.

Like the Genesis account that talks about God breathing into the nostrils of the first humans, Desmond Tutu reminds us that, “God is continually breathing into our nostrils.”

The Spirit that gave us life, is the same Spirit that enlivens us for what God calls each of us to do every day of our lives.

But sometimes we forget. Is God with us? How can we do what we feel called to do?

After Jesus had ascended, the disciples had gathered together but they wondered how they were to continue the ministry of Jesus in the world? To proclaim the Good News in their words & deeds?

At that 1st Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles, the Spirit came down upon the disciples, giving them the ability to speak so all could hear the Good News in their own language. Some thought the disciples drunk, but God gave the Spirit to the disciples to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth and on that day in a symphony of voices, they spoke in many languages so that all could hear the Good News of salvation had come to all people.

The Day of Pentecost is a reminder to us that God continues to give each of us the Spirit for the common good, to speak the Good News, of hope & salvation. That Spirit helps us connect to God’s story, that is, the story of our birth and our lives are connected with God’s story as we hear it in scripture. And one way we connect our stories is through the sacraments…

Today we will welcome Mark Salerno into the Body of Christ, as he is baptized at 10:15 AM. In Baptism, each of us was sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. In Baptism, we become part of the body of Christ, for there is one Body and One Spirit, and we enter into that great story of freedom, salvation and love in the Bible.

At Confirmation yesterday, we recognized those baptismal vows and again the Spirit was prayed for and proclaimed as a force in our lives. The Spirit that is upon each of us at our baptism, is called upon again at confirmation, the Spirit of God that fills us with the fruits of the Spirit (gifts). Yesterday Nicole Remillard, Jenna Carpenter and Julia Fitzpatrick were confirmed and we were reminded of the Spirit of God that is alive in their lives, and how through the Spirit their story is connected to other Christians as we walk together.

Our God who created us and sustains us, who we call upon at baptism and confirmation, is like a glassblower making glass…
In a process that has changed little in 3 millennium, a long, narrow metal tube is dipped into a pot of sand, soda, lime and any number of metal and chemicals. Then the artisan blows carefully into the tube to create a bubble - and glass is formed. As the artisan continues to blow into the tube, the glassmaker will shape and form the bubble into the final piece: a vase, a bowl, a pane of glass. During the shaping process, the piece is frequently returned to the furnace in order to keep it soft enough to work with...

By the breath of the glassblower and the fire of the kiln, sand is transformed into glass - glass of beautiful color and transparency, glass that protects and preserves, glass that warms and illuminates.
In the story of Pentecost, the Spirit of God is experienced in images of breath and fire. Pentecost is the "breath" of God blowing through communities of faith, re-creating us and forming us into the Church of the Risen Christ. In the Pentecost story in the Acts of the Apostles we hear of "tongues" of fire resting on each of the Apostles. Such "fire" impels them to articulate what they had seen and heard and experienced in their encounter with Jesus. And so it is with us, that breath of God upon us, the fire of God within us to use those God given gifts..

On this feast of Pentecost, We gather together despite our doubts and questions, our struggles and disappointments. We come together despite the world telling us that there are better things to do today, but we gather as they did that first Pentecost to pray, to listen, to bless and break bread in his memory, to resolve to take on the next chapter of our story, a story that begin at the first Pentecost.

So what is the Spirit calling us, as a Church and as individuals, to do this Pentecost? The miracle of Pentecost is re-created every time the Church gathers; what happened to those disciples happens to us; what began with them continues with us. Once again, the Spirit speaks to us, breathes into us, as individuals and as a community, brining life, as it has & will for Mark, and Jenna, Nicole & Julia, to bring his Word to life through the fire of our lives. Amen.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

What is Pentecost?

 A quick video review here (and remember Episcopalians also have Confirmation!):

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How Austerity Kills

It is well worth the read...


As scholars of public health and political economy, we have watched aghast as politicians endlessly debate debts and deficits with little regard for the human costs of their decisions.

One need not be an economic ideologue — we certainly aren’t — to recognize that the price of austerity can be calculated in human lives. We are not exonerating poor policy decisions of the past or calling for universal debt forgiveness. It’s up to policy makers in America and Europe to figure out the right mix of fiscal and monetary policy. What we have found is that austerity — severe, immediate, indiscriminate cuts to social and health spending — is not only self-defeating, but fatal.

- Posted using BlogPress from my mystical iPad!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Working against Human Trafficking

Visit #NotForSale

Collect on Human Trafficking
Almighty God and heavenly Father, You have created us, Your people, to do Your work in Your world. Be with, protect, and comfort all those who are in situations of fraud, force, and coercion, especially those ensnared in human trafficking and those who minister to or care for them. Through Your Holy Spirit, open the hearts of this country and the world, and enliven all our minds as we remember those who are sold in our midst, and inspire us to proclaim the freedom You offer to all through Your well-beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns. Amen.

Mother's Day Prayer

A Collect for Mother's Day

Loving God, on this day
we thank you for the love of our mothers,
who have nurtured our souls and blessed our lives.
May we see your loving Spirit within them and guiding them.
We pray for those mothers in our world today where war or famine, violence or illness have hindered their care for children; and for those mothers who have lost children.
We ask you to bless them with your own special love.
We ask this in the name of our Savior Jesus, who was loved by his mother Mary.

May 12 Sermon

Her name was Alice. She was one of the founding mothers of the Episcopal Church. I first heard of her at the diocesan ECW Luncheon on May 2. We remember George Washington. We think of Deborah Franklin. But I did not know Alice.

She lived to be a 116 years old! She was still fishing in the Delaware River at the age of 105! She spent her life collecting stories about Philadelphia and its people. Alice became known in her time as an oral historian.

Why didn’t I know her? Because Alice of Dunk’s Ferry was the daughter of slaves from Barbados and would herself be enslaved for all of her life, and for too long her contributions to Christ Church Philadelphia and to the history of the area were dismissed and forgotten because she was a slave. When she was still fishing in the Delaware River at the age of 105, she was fishing for her master. And yet every Sunday, she would ride her horse from the ferry where she collected tolls to her parish, Christ Church in Philadelphia. She did this at least to the age of 95 if not longer!

Christ Church is now remembering this remarkable woman and her contributions to the parish and to the city. She is their oldest known parishioner. It is a wonderful story but it is also a sad tale of life in this country at its beginning, with a people enslaved for profit. That was true for St. Paul in his day.

Consider our readings from the Acts of the Apostles these past few weeks: it was Jesus who confronted Saul on that road to Damascus and the HS becomes his guide for his ministry; setting him free from hatred to love others as Christ loved him and his name became Paul. Last week he & his companions brought the Good News to Macedonia and Lydia accepted it and it changed her life and the life of her family.

In today’s reading, Paul continues his missionary journey in Macedonia and there he meets:

-a slave-girl (she is without name): spirit of divination (fortune telling), profit source!

-she knows Paul and his companions: Slaves of the most high God! (I’ll come back to that) They proclaim a way of salvation! (She is spreading the Good News)

-Paul moved by the Spirit, for her human right to be free, NO, that’s not right! Paul is annoyed at her constant chatter (for days!), so he casts out her spirit…and she is set free…Paul did the right thing but he failed to see her enslavement.

However the owners cannot exploit her anymore, they have lost their profit and they are angry. Paul & Silas are thrown into jail; beaten for their faith and their teaching.

She is free and they have lost their freedom. They never get to that place of prayer that they were headed too.

-so in jail, shackled and away from others they pray and sing songs to God; prisoners were listening of course - it was midnight, how could they sleep? And an earthquake strikes, the doors open, they are free!

-the jailer is ready to do himself in, he would be blamed…but they are still there - What must I do to be saved? The jailer asks. They answered: Believe in the Lord Jesus.

A simple and yet profound statement…Believe in Jesus.

And the Holy Spirit moved that night; Paul & Silas are free; the jailer brings Paul & Silas to his home to take care of their wounds, to give them food and the jailer and his household are baptized and they believe.

In one night a slave-girl is freed from her bondage, a jailer comes to faith and Paul & Silas learn more about this faith that is in them. Salvation belongs to all.

The salve-girl knows that Paul & Silas are disciples – slaves of God!

What are we slaves of? If someone came up to you, as you exited this Church, and said, You are a slave of…

What would the answer be? God? Do you proclaim salvation (hope, love, joy) in your actions?

Have you brought freedom (salvation) to others? Freedom belongs to everyone.

Because the battle for freedom continues today…

According to the organization, Not for Sale, the modern-day slave trade is enslaving more than 30 million individuals today. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “After drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second-largest criminal industry in the world.” Why? It is a $32 billion-dollar-a-year industry.

Like slavery of old, there is profit to be made on human beings.
“Vulnerable people and communities are targeted by recruiters, and traffickers and through deception, fraud and coercion are brought into slavery.” Not For Sale website says. “While sex trafficking is often at the forefront of our awareness, slave labor and debt bondage are more common in our world today.”

At this year’s super bowl, there was a lot of talk about the human trafficking that happens around our biggest sporting event and the attempts to curb it. But it doesn’t just happen overseas and then brought here. Just this past week, three missing teenagers were found a decade later, enslaved (kept in chains & rope) in a house in Ohio, they now have their freedom.

William Wilberforce the great English abolitionist once said, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

We have our work cut out for us...

To work for the freedom of the Alices of our world. To hear their stories and honor who they are.

To look at ourselves and consider what enslaves us, and ask God to free us, so that we can work like Paul & Silas for the good of others (and have the faith of Alice & the slave-girl)…
Again in the words of William Wilberforce, “Let everyone regulate his conduct by the golden rule of doing to others as in similar circumstances we would have them do to us, and the path of duty will be clear before him.”

May we do unto others as we would have them do unto us, being servants of God to bring freedom to our world. Amen.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

CT - A Prayer for School & Colleges

Remembering all who teach here in CT on this National Teacher Day:

O Eternal God, bless all schools, colleges, and universities and especially the teachers on this National Teacher Day, that they may be lively centers for sound learning, new discovery, and the pursuit of wisdom; and grant that those who teach and those who learn may find you to be the source of all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray for Refugees

Learn more here:

A Prayer:

ALMIGHTY and merciful God, whose Son became a refugee and had no place to call his own; look with mercy on those who today are fleeing from danger, homeless and hungry. Bless those who work to bring them relief; inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts; and guide the nations of the world towards that day when all will rejoice in your Kingdom of justice and of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from the Church of England)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Giving Tree

Deacon Christopher gave us two wonderful things last week:

He reminds us of the Bible Challenge, and invited us to read the Acts of the Apostles in its entirety.

Do it Here

And he also used the Giving Tree in his wonderful children's sermon, considering it a parable of Jesus.

I do not have his text but I found this blogpost to be helpful:

- Posted using BlogPress from my mystical iPad!

6th Sunday of Easter Sermon

Who is Christ for us today?

This famous question asked by Deitrich Bonhoeffer in his jail cell, is the question every Christian of every generation must ask who follows Jesus.

Who is Christ for me/you today? For it is Jesus who transforms our lives…

Consider what you heard today: Who was Christ for Lydia in Acts of the Apostles & Who was Christ for the invalid of Bethzatha in today’s Gospel?

Now, Lydia had it all.

She had a business that was thriving, selling expensive cloth, richly dyed to the movers and shakers, the wealthy and elite, not just to her hometown but to Rome too. But this wasn’t enough, and she was looking for more for herself & her household. Where would it come from?

Lydia had it all, but her life still felt shallow, like something was missing.

He had nothing. He isn’t even named in the Gospel.

He sat near a pool, hoping for healing that hadn’t come in 38 years. He couldn’t remember feeling well. If he could get in at the right time, when the pool was stirred, he would be well, or so he thought. But he couldn’t help himself, where would help come from?

For the invalid of Bethzatha, his health was poor, his illness consumed his life. Family and friends were not there.

And then on the Sabbath, the day God has asked for us to rest and make holy, people entered their lives that would change everything.

Paul on his missionary journey through Macedonia, comes to a place of prayer he supposes, the Greek word hints that it is not a proper synagogue but a place where people use to pray. There he finds some women and engages them in conversation, which would have been highly unusual in that day of age.

And there is Lydia, a worshipper of God, and the Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. Her family was baptized and she offered hospitality to Paul and his companions. For Paul brought Christ to her.

The missing piece was found in the words and life of Jesus. Lydia, a woman of stature and wealth, would see in the words spoken by Paul, that all these things she had were not enough in her life. And the God whom she worshipped had brought Jesus to her through Paul, and in her baptism she began her ministry, just as Paul had done after his encounter with Jesus.

Jesus came to the pool by the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem called Bethzatha. There he found many who were blind, lame, and paralyzed lying near the pool. Jesus found the one who had been there for thirty eight years & knew he had been there a long time. What hope does he have left?

“Do you want to be made well?” Jesus asks him…I have no one to help put me in the water… and Jesus healed him… “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” The missing piece was the healing words of Jesus, the one who cared enough to stop and help someone in deep need, his heart was open for help and in that word was life and the invalid’s life was restored.

Jesus comes to all of us, weather we are wealthy or not, sick or not. Jesus offers himself as the bearer of life, who will transform us, if our hearts are open and ready to let God in.

This can happen, even in the worst of circumstances.
In the mid-1990s, the African nation of Uganda was devastated by a bloody civil war. One night, rebel soldiers abducted 139 girls from a Catholic boarding school. The parents of the girls and the headmistress pleaded with the rebels for the children's release; the rebels released most of the students - but continued to hold 29 girls. The parents of the remaining hostages agreed not to conduct their own searches at the urging of school officials, who feared that such efforts would upset the delicate negotiations underway between the sisters and the rebels.

Seeking some solace during their long wait, the parents began meeting each week at a local church to fast and pray for their daughters' safety and release. The first night a priest led them in the Lord's Prayer. They prayed Jesus' words together - until they got to “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” They realized that they could not say the words. The service ended right there. The parents silently left the church. One mother remembers:

"We needed God, so we decided to put things right. That prayer was a revival in our lives . . . praying for those who wronged us became our sacrifice."

When the parents met the next week, the transformation had begun. As they prayed to forgive the rebels, their sorrows began to lift. They became vehicles of forgiveness, organizing meetings in their community and region to share their stories. Their work led to an organization of Ugandan parents to advocate for the release of abducted children everywhere and a peaceful resolution to the conflict in their country. It took seven long years before all the children returned home - but the work of reconciliation for lost and abducted children begun by those parents continues today. [From Divinity, Duke University Divinity School, Winter 2010.]
As we continue our Easter celebrations, it is Jesus who will transform our lives, no matter who we are, rich or poor, healthy or sick, victim or perpetrator, we must open our hearts and believe on this Sabbath day. And then go out from here and be that Christ bearer to the world, so by your life, people will see the answer to the question: Who is Christ for you today? Amen.