Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Hallows Eve!

Halloween is really All Hallows Eve, or the Eve of All Saints' Day:

“All Saints' Day is the centerpiece of an autumn triduum. In the carnival celebrations of All Hallows' Eve our ancestors used the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal, the power of humor and ridicule, to confront the power of death.” – Rev. Sam Portaro from “Brightest and Best”

"Halloween is the time of year when we see that Christ has so triumphed over Evil, that even little children can mock the Devil with impunity." – Fr. Victor

You, O Lord, have made us from the dust of the earth and to dust our bodies shall return; yet you have also breathed your Spirit upon us and called us to new life in you: Have mercy upon us, now and at the hour of our death; through Jesus Christ, our mediator and advocate. Amen.

- Posted using BlogPress from my mystical iPad!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 27 Sermon

Have you ever known someone who thought they were much better than everyone else and deserved special treatment? Dr. Seuss wrote a story about a turtle who was like that. The title of the story is "Yertle the Turtle."
Yertle was ruler of a little pond on the island of Sala-ma-Sond. All of the turtles at the pond had everything they needed and were quite happy. They were happy, that is, until Yertle decided that his kingdom was too small. "I am ruler of all that I see, but I don't see enough. My throne is too low down" complained Yertle.

So Yertle lifted his hand and gave a command. He ordered nine turtles in the pond to stand on each other's backs so that they could become his new and higher throne. He climbed up onto the backs of the turtles and he had a wonderful view. But Yertle still wasn't satisfied. "Turtles! More turtles!" he called from his lofty throne, Yertle swelled with pride and feelings of importance as turtles from all over the pond came to climb on the stack of turtles which made up Yertle's throne.

At the very bottom of the stack was a plain and ordinary turtle named Mack. He struggled under the weight of all the turtles until finally, he decided that he had taken enough. That plain little turtle named Mack did a very plain little thing. He burped! His burp shook the throne and Yertle fell right into the mud! And now the great Yertle is King of the MUD.
When you think too highly of yourself, you often wind up taking a big fall, don't you?

In the Gospel today, Jesus tells a story about two men who went to the temple to pray. One of the men stood and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.'

The other stood at a distance and would not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he bowed his head in sorrow, saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Now, which of these two prayers do you think was pleasing to God? You are right. The prayer of mercy. Jesus said, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Jesus short little parable this week is his commentary on humility, on how we put down others even in our prayers to make ourselves look good, but God looks on the humble heart. (and once again turns the tables as a tax collector is honored and a Pharisee is not)

I want to take it one step further… and tell the parable using a story from the NY Times.
A correspondent reported observing this scene on enight:

While waiting for the neighborhood parking garage to open one evening, the writer saw five young men hanging out. On the trunk of their car were two large pizza boxes and five Snapple bottles. The guys were having a great time - but their horsing around was getting out of hand. The extra pizza slices were being thrown around and the empty Snapple bottles were smashed on the pavement. The observer wrote that he was getting angry at the mess and noise, but did not want take on five rather large young men alone, so he remained in his car.

That's when the clown appeared. A real clown - greasepaint, a big rubber nose, baggy clothes, big floppy shoes - the whole clown bit. He looked as if he had just stepped out of the Ringling Brothers circus tent. Apparently he was on his way to entertain at a child's birthday party.

When the clown came upon the scene, he said nothing. He walked to the trunk, picked up one of the boxes and stooped down to pick up the broken glass and pizza globs on the street. The clown then walked to the corner and deposited the mess in a trash container. The young men were dumbfounded. When he had finished, the clown walked up to the five and passed his hat. The five sheepishly dug into their pockets and gave him their change. The clown bowed and went on his way. (from The New York Times’ "Metropolitan Diary." (June 21, 2010))

As one author put it after reflecting on that story: “We are not the center of the world, that realization that we are part of a much larger "circus" than our own little "sideshow." That is the Gospel value of humility: to realize that all the blessings we have received are the result of the depth of God's love & grace and not because of anything we have done to deserve it.” (Jay Cromier)
[As Halloween approaches I love wearing my jesters hat, for it reminds me that I play the fool if I take myself too seriously and am too prideful.]

May God help us to remain humble so that we don’t think more highly of ourselves than we ought too and may God be merciul. Amen.

Diocesan Conventon

Report on Annual Convention 2013

St. John's Episcopal Church in Stamford hosts Taize Evening Prayer
About 300 people donned their glow sticks following the end of business on Friday and processed along the sidewalks from the Marriott to St. John's Church for a contemplative service with music from the Taize community. The church was filled with candles and during a time of silence, people visited four different "stations" in the church to offer prayers.

We now have a Diocesan Hymn!

"Called from Their Labors to Learn Jesus' Way" was the text written by the Rev. Carl P. Daw, Jr. in response to the hymn competition held here this past summer, organized by the Diocesan Liturgy & Music Commission. The hymn tune is Slane. The Annual Convention members opened their annual business session by singing this hymn (30-second video here) and recognizing Carl Daw. Download a copy of the hymn, review the copyright guidelines, learn more about Carl Daw on this page.

All resolutions passed; some amended

1 - Clergy salaries. Sets minimum standards for clergy cash salary, other compensation, and paid time off with directives for paying travel expenses and encouragement for merit pay. Passed as amended to set minimum paid time off for PT clergy the same as for FT clergy.
2 - Budget of Convention. Sets 2014 budget. Passed.
3 - Church structure and collaboration. Sets up a task force to develop a process of parish collaboration, to report back to the 230th Annual Convention. Passed as amended to include the Canon for Mission Leadership among those to work with the task force.
4 - Diocesan Canons. Adopts amended and restated canons. Passed as amended.
5 - Diocesan Constitution. First reading of amended and restated constitution. Passed as amended. Requires 2/3 approval at two successive Conventions to take effect.
6 - Constitution for the Missionary Society. Begins process of establishing a renewed identity for the Missionary Society, now an integrated component of the Executive Council. Passed as amended.
7 - Develop Baptismal Covenant Language that reflects unity with Creation. Creates a working group to draft liturgical language for study and use, per a described timetable, and to report to the 230th Annual Convention. Passed as amended to study only and not use, and to eliminate the timetable.

Election results announced

Provincial Synod

Lay : Sylvia Ho
Clerical: Sandra Stayner

Standing Committee
Lay: Edward Seibert
Clerical: Sandra Cosman

General Convention 2015 Deputation
Lay Deputies:
Lynn Brooks, Rachel Downs, Marie Alford-Harkey, Ted Mollegen
Lay Alternates:
Thom Peters, Liza Anderson, Donald Burr, Shirley Wick
Clerical Deputies:
Molly James, Linda Spiers, Matthew Calkins, Ellen Tillotson
Clerical Alternates:
Paul Carling, Alex Dyer, Kris Lewis, Peter Walsh

Bishop: The way of Jesus is the way of change

Bishop Douglas' Annual Convention address put the recent, continuing, and upcoming changes in the Diocese in the context of the Way of Jesus.
Full text PDF Video link

Bishop Douglas' Convention Address 2013

Pastor Kathie Adams-Shepherd addresses Convention

The Rev. Kathie Adams-Shepherd, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown, offered brief remarks of thanks for the prayers and gifts her parish and community has received. She offered encouragement for the journey ahead, challenging violence. "God's mission alive in us is what will change our culture of violence to the culture of peace so longed for," she said. Link here to full text (PDF).

Convention hears a spirited sermon
Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, above, gave a spirited, powerful sermon that captured the attention and imagination of his listeners. You may find yourself wanting to hear more of his sermons! Link here to another one (on YouTube) from last summer, given during the 2012 General Convention. (Bonus in that one: We get to see CT's Deputy Liza Anderson in the background, seated off to the side of Bishop Curry)

Bishop Michael Curry's Convention Sermon

CRUX is here! 2013 issue of diocesan magazine available in print and online
The 2013 issue of the diocesan magazine was delivered to the Marriott on Friday, Oct. 25. Copies were set out for delegates and visitors. Each church was asked to pick up a carton (or more, depending on size) to bring back home. The distribution method was needed to help the magazine stay within its budget.

Online newsletter editors are encouraged to promote CRUX, as well. You can include the cover image, above, with a link to the online version.

Plans announced for new diocesan offices

As announced in Bishop Douglas' Convention Address, the gracious mansion at 1335 Asylum Ave, used as diocesan offices since the 1950s, has been sold. (A relocation resolution was passed two years ago.) Lawyers are assisting with details to allow the diocese to lease a portion of the third floor of a former ball-bearing factory on Pratt Street in Meriden. Plenty of free parking, close to highways, accessible, and at the geographic center of CT's population. Two lay Episcopalians are helping with relocation efforts, Peter Holland and Duo Dickinson. There's no specific date set for the move yet other than a plan to be sure it's accomplished before the end of the first quarter of 2014.

Community gathers on social media

Clergy (including our diocesan bishop) and laity kept the online community updated on convention people, actions, reports, workshops and breakout sessions, addresses and sermons - and some great stuff in the Vendor Hall - with live tweets (#CT229) and updates on Facebook (among them the diocesan Facebook page, check out the photos there, too).

 Follow this link to learn more.

Children's Sabbath Prayers

Used at our 10:15 AM service on October 20 from the CDF:

Opening Collect (adapted)

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ who came as a child you have revealed your glory among the nations. Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer on the Children’s Sabbath (follows Litany)

Loving God, through your prophets you call us to turn swords into plowshares. Embolden your Church to replace weapons and want with peace and plenty, for the sake of all children; through Jesus Christ your Child who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Proper Preface for Children’s Sabbath

On this Children’s Sabbath day, we give you thanks, O God, especially for children, for the blessing they are and the blessing we may be to them, as we seek to heed your prophets and beat swords into plowshares and do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you.

Charge & Blessing

Go out into the world in peace;
Have courage;
Hold on to what is good;
Return no one evil for evil;
Strengthen the fainthearted;
Support the weak, help the suffering & cherish the children;
Honor all people;
Love and serve the Lord,
Rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now may the God of peace
make you complete in everything good
so that you may do God’s will, and the blessing…

The Dismissal

Deacon: Remembering especially all our children, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Violence is always an act of despair

An important Pastoral Letter has been posted by Bishop Dan of Nevada in light of the school shooting in Sparks, NV. (And the tragic killing of a High School math teacher in MA...)

You can find it here:

An excerpt:
Tragic school violence has happened again. Only this time it has happened here. We are naturally shocked and grieved. Such things should not happen. But they do. Last week in Austin, Texas a high school student shot himself to death at school. Two months ago, a high school student shot a classmate in Winston Salem, North Carolina. In January, there was a high school shooting in California and a middle school shooting in Atlanta. One advocacy group reports that there have been 16 school shootings in the United States so far this year. It seems they are happening more and more often. When a school shooting happens at our doorstep, we ask, “What does God think of this? What is God saying to us in this moment?”

Back when I was teaching religion to law students, I read something theologically profound in a law review article by a great legal scholar, Robert Cover. He said, “Violence is always an act of despair.” That statement has stuck in my mind for nearly 20 years. “Violence is always an act of despair.” All of the things we really want we get from loving relationships. We want respect, kindness, understanding. We want to be heard and held. Everything we truly desire is a fruit of communion. It happens in mutual, caring, appreciative relationships. It is only when we despair of ever having what we truly long for that we resort to violence to get something less, something that will never satisfy. So yes, “violence is always an act of despair.” Nothing could be more explicitly despairing than a murder-suicide.

Despair is giving up on ourselves, giving up on each other, and giving up on God. Violence is despair in action. I don’t know the details of what happened at Sparks Middle School. But I know this much: it was a single act of despair by a boy, who some say had been bullied. Whatever his pain was, it overflowed his capacity to hold it, so he poured it out on others. Such acts are committed in the context of a society of people who are giving up on themselves, each other, and God. It is a hard, hard thing for a teenager to live in hope while growing up in a hopeless society.

That is where the Church comes in. We are here to share good news with those who most need to hear it. That’s our first Mark of Mission. It is our responsibility to insure that every young person, like that tragic boy with the gun in Sparks, has heard the word of God...

- Posted using BlogPress from my mystical iPad!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Baptismal Prayers for the Royal Family

Prayers for the Royal Christening
(From the Church of England)

Prayer for HRH Prince George
We thank almighty God for the gift of new life.
May God the Father, who has received you by baptism into his Church,
pour upon you the riches of his grace,
that within the company of Christ's pilgrim people
you may daily be renewed by his anointing Spirit,
and come to the inheritance of the saints in glory.

Prayer for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
Faithful and loving God,
bless those who care for these children
and grant them your gifts of love, wisdom and faith.
Pour upon them your healing and reconciling love,
and protect their home from all evil.
Fill them with the light of your presence
and establish them in the joy of your kingdom,
through Jesus Christ our Lord

These nice prayers would work for any baptismal family!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Beer Tasting Prayer

I used this at the beginning of our beer tasting...

Attributed to St. Brigit of Kildare, an Irish saint of the 6th Century.
I'd like to give a lake of beer to God.
I'd love everyone in Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
White cups of love I'd give them,
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I'd offer
To every one.
I'd make Heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I'd make everyone contented for their own sake
I'd like Jesus to love me too.
I'd sit with the men, the women of God
There by the lake of beer
We'd be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Gaelic Rune of Hospitality

I saw a stranger yestreen (yesterday):
I put food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place,
Music in the listening place:

And in the sacred name of the Triune [God]
He blessed myself and my house,
My cattle and my dear ones.
And the lark said in her song
Often, often, often
Goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise,
Often, often, often
Goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.

A traditional Gaelic Rune of Hospitality...

Often, often, often
Goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Price of Civilization: Human Rights


Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity, calls for a "mindful society" in eight areas:
1) personal moderation to escape mass consumerism; 2) the balance of work and leisure; 3) the cultivation of education; 4) exercising compassion and cooperation; 5) the conservation of the world's ecosystems; 6) a sense of responsibility to save for the future; 7) the cultivation of public deliberation and shared values for collective action through political institutions; and 8) the acceptance of diversity as a path to peace. (p. 165)
Many of these are human rights, most especially #7 and #8.
“We need, in short, a return to civic virtue. in which Americans recommit to contributing to the common benefit and to cooperating for mutual gain.” (p. 236)
If we are to say anything about human rights, I think we need to talk about the "common benefit" and "cooperating for mutual gain."  
What are you doing today for the common benefit?
Almighty God, who created us in your own image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Human Rights & the Four Freedoms


When I think of Human Rights.  I think of the four freedoms that FDR spoke of in 1941.
excerpt from Franklin Delano Roosevelt's speech to Congress, 6 January 1941

In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms:

1. The first is freedom of speech and expression - everywhere in the world.

2. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way - everywhere in the world.

3. The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

4. 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.
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Worship
Freedom from Want
Freedom from Fear

When we consider human rights, let us consider these essential freedoms, everywhere in the world.

Human Rights Prayer


O Holy God, you love righteousness and hate iniquity: Strengthen, we pray, the hands of all who strive for justice throughout the world, and, seeing that all human beings are your offspring, give aid to those who promote the dignity and freedom of every person; through Jesus Christ the Liberator, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Review: Zealot (the Book)

Parishioners have talked about this book.  I read it to see what the hub bub was all about.

First off, I disliked how Reza Aslan's chapters jumped all over the place in their time frames.  It was disorienting and I don't believe it helped to tell his theories on Jesus.

I am not outraged as others that a Muslim has written this book.  He does it respectfully but he makes Jesus in his own image in what studies he has done.

I've read his book. His scholarship is very good. His conclusions, however, don't flow well from the scholarship. He picks and chooses which sources are authentic in very unauthentic ways.  Why is Josephus and Roman authors more authoritative than others? Do they not have their own biases?

In the end, his book makes Jesus an angry young zealot and that others have made into the Christ where the true Jesus would not have.

His version of Jesus reminds me of a song written by Billy Joel (1976):
"There's a place in the world for the angry young man
With his working class ties and his radical plans
He refuses to bend, he refuses to crawl,
He's always at home with his back to the wall.
And he's proud of his scars and the battles he's lost,
He struggles and bleeds as he hangs on the cross-
And he likes to be known as the angry young man." 
This review in the Christian Century also represents well my take on his book:

An excerpt from that review:

Readers may derive many benefits from Zealot. The book does bring Jesus’ world “before the eyes,” as the ancients put it. Albeit with many errors, Zealot vividly lays out the material and social conditions of Jesus’ world, along with the long tradition of Jewish resistance. Aslan artfully ex­plains some of the historical problems presented by the Gospels and Acts, even if his judgment is uneven. Surely the churches need to take more seriously the political dimensions of Jesus’ activity—a point most scholars would support, even when not accepting his specific conclusion. But this book includes so much misleading information and relies on so many outworn misconceptions that I fear it will create more problems than it will solve.

October 13 Sermon - Where are the nine?

“Love is unselfishly choosing for another's highest good.” ~ C.S. Lewis
I wish those in congress could think about those words. I wonder if we use that quote when we talk about immigration in this country, what changes we would make in policy and what changes we would make in welcoming the strangers into our midst. (I think of the documentary we watched…)

I was thinking about that CS Lewis quote as I read today’s Gospel reading. As Jesus entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" They kept a distance because they had to, no one was to touch them, they lived apart. Many saw them as cursed by God rather than infected with a particular disease.

But Jesus looked upon them with the eyes of mercy and their highest good. When Jesus saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." To be declared clean or healthy, a leper was to show him or herself to a priest who would then make the judgment. So by sending them, Jesus healed them.

And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. Who was it? A foreigner. An immigrant. A stranger.

The thankful one who returns to Jesus to praise God, is a Samaritan, someone outside the Jewish faith, someone whom the disciples of Jesus & those who heard this Gospel in the 1st century would have been shocked to hear praised by Jesus. It is an important point that the one who stopped to give thanks was the unexpected Samaritan & that Jesus healing knows no bounds. But the other nine, where are they? Jesus knew they were healed, but what happened to them? It makes you wonder…

The author Martin Bell, in one of my favorite books, wrote about the others in a story entitled, Where are the Nine?... (excerpt from "Where Are the Nine?")

One of them was frightened – that's all. He didn't understand what had happened, and it frightened him. So he looked for some place to hide. Jesus scared him.

A second was offended because he had not been required to do something difficult before he could be healed. It was all too easy. He had expected months, maybe even years, of prayer and fasting and washing and righteous living before he could be healed. But he had done none of this. His motto was "you get what you pay for." Jesus made it too easy.

The third had realized too late that he had not really wanted to be cleansed. He did not know what to do or how to live without his leprosy. He did not even know who he was as a person without his leprosy. Jesus had taken away his identity.

The fourth leper did not return to give thanks because in his great joy he simply forgot. He forgot. That's all. He was so happy that he forgot.

The fifth leper was unable to say thank you any more to anyone. His life of leprosy and begging had turned his heart hard and callous. He just doesn't didn't say thank you to anyone any more.

The sixth leper was a woman – a mother who had been separated from her family for eleven years because of the leprosy. She was hurrying to the priests so she could to rejoin her husband and children. She did not return to give thanks because she was on her way home.

The seventh had doubts that Jesus had anything to do with the cleansing. He knew that healing had taken place, but why and how were his questions. Certainly he did not believe in hocus-pocus, magic, miracles – any of that. There was a perfectly reasonable and rational explanation of what had happened, and he wondered if it had anything to do with Jesus.

The eight leper did not return precisely because he did believe that Jesus had healed him – that the Kingdom of God was here and the Messiah had arrived. He didn't return because he was spreading the exciting, wonderful news about the Kingdom.

As for the ninth leper, we don't know, we just don't know, why he didn't return to say thank you.

Ten were cleansed and only one returned ... What shall I say now, that the real point is not that one returned but that ten were cleansed? You already know that. That condemnation is easier than investigation, that if we take time to investigate the reasons why people act as they do, we would find that they have to act the way they do and that such action in the light of the circumstances is quite understandable and totally forgivable and even completely reasonable and just as it should be? You already know that. What then shall I say? That it is good to give thanks? Yes. That it is understandable not to give thanks? Yes. That God does not heal people and then stand around just waiting for us to say thank you and then get angry and have his feelings hurt if we don’t? Yes, that’s true. Which is the same as saying: no, he certainly doesn’t.

But what of the nine? They are on the way home, hiding in fear, refusing to believe, offended at what they call cheap grace, so happy they forgot, lost without their leprosy, unable to say thank you ever again, publishing the news of the Kingdom. Who knows where they are! The point is this: Jesus does. He knows where they are. [from The Way of the Wolf: The Gospel in New Images, by Martin Bell, published in 1970, you can find the book here:]
Martin Bell has it right. God knows our hearts, our desires, our secrets and will seek to do us good even when we don’t or can’t ask for it. God loves us and wants us to be well and to be whole. We do have a choice in how we live though…
“Love is unselfishly choosing for another's highest good.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Because that is what God does. So consider,

Where are you in this Gospel story? Who among the 10 are you most like?

And hear the words of Jesus to the Samaritan, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well." Those words are said to us too. To go on our way, to give thanks to God, and to live out our faith in seeking the highest good for others: To bind up the wounds of victims, to care and visit the sick, to help those who have no insurance get it, to advocate for the children and the poor who do not have a voice for healing and wholeness. Just as we are in need of healing, we are also the Body of Christ to bring healing to those in need in our world. To put it in the words of St. Teresa of Avila whose feast day is Tuesday:
“Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world.” 

May our lives choose the highest good. Amen.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Pray for India

As massive cyclone #Phailin comes ashore in India, we need to pray for those affected by the strongest cyclone they have seen in 14 years.

Lord, you who calmed the storm at sea, quiet the fears, ease the pain, tend the grief, and light the darkness of your children affected by Phailin. In stunned silence, be their voice. In rages against the night, be their balm. In bewilderment, be their hope. Lead rescuers to the lost, shelter the waiting. Sustain those who work to make life's necessities spring forth in this desert of gloom. Blanket the weary with your tender touch. Shake us from our comforts to share out sisters and brothers' sorrow and burden and assist and pray them into new life. We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus, who suffered and was raised to new life. Amen.

- Posted using BlogPress from my mystical iPad!

Friday, October 11, 2013

12 Reasons Why a Pastor Quit Attending Sports Events

(from an email I received - funny!)

1. The coach never came to visit me.
2. Every time I went, they asked me for money.
3. The people sitting in my row didn’t seem very friendly.
4. The seats were very hard.
5. The referees made a decision I didn’t agree with.
6. I was sitting with hypocrites—they only came to see what others were wearing!
7. Some games went into overtime and I was late getting home.
8. The band played some songs I had never heard before.
9. The games are scheduled on my only day to sleep in and run errands.
10. My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up.
11. Since I read a book on sports, I feel that I know more than the coaches, anyway.
12. I don’t want to take my children because I want them to choose for themselves what sport they like best.

-- From Josh Hosler

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Remembering Francis and His Spirit

a Franciscan Benediction…
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
A Prayer attributed to St. Francis
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where
there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we  are born to eternal life. Amen.
 Words of St. Francis
"I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours."
"The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today"

St Francis Sermon

“Faith is to believe what you do not yet see;
the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.” – St. Augustine
These words from 1600 years ago from St. Augustine, one of the pillars of Western Christian faith, reminds us that faith is forward looking, hoping, ready to see before us what we believe in our hearts. This was true of the disciples too, who eagerly asked Jesus to increase their faith in today’s Gospel.

But Jesus, as Jesus so often does, makes them see faith in a different light for if we had faith as tiny as this mustard seed, we could move mountains said Jesus. This tiny seed, as a symbol of our faith, if we had it, we could move a mighty mountain.

We are called to live out such faith in our lives, that we can with that faith do things that seem impossible, things we do not yet see.

It reminds me of the words from a Franciscan Benediction which fits well with our St. Francis celebration:
“May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts…

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.”
These words written well after the life of St. Francis of Assisi capture I think his spirit and his life. For one who was raised in wealth and privilege, who gave it up as he searched for meaning in his life, found God asking him to do impossible things and yet by his prayers and witness lived deep within his heart for the people and creation he encountered. His faith like a mustard seed, guided him in all things.

A story is told of Francis’ visit to the Holy Land in 1219, a time of war, a time of the fifth crusade. Francis proposed an armistice between the two warring sides but was unable to get the Christians at the time to agree. On his way to the Muslim leader, Francis was captured and beaten. But when he got to the Sultan, Francis proclaimed his faith, proclaimed the Gospel to the Sultan, the Sultan who was deeply impressed, remained unconverted, but allowed Francis free passage throughout the lands, even giving him gifts.

Francis was an instrument of peace.

But of all the images that stick with us about St. Francis, is his connection to God’s creation, and especially the animals. I think of those garden statues with Francis standing and animals swirling about him. Thomas of Celano, a member of Francis' religious order who knew the saint personally, wrote about him and his interactions. He reveals in his book how Francis' love for animals and his conviction that his faith and care for God's creatures go hand-in-hand.
“One time as Francis was passing through the Spoleto valley, he came upon a place near Bevagna, in which a great multitude of birds of various kinds had assembled. When the holy one of God saw them, because of the outstanding love of the Creator with which he loved all creatures, he ran swiftly to the place. He greeted them in his usual way, as if they shared in reason. As the birds did not take flight, he went to them, going to and fro among them, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic.”
On this day, when we remember this great saint of the Church and his words and works, it behooves us to remember the creatures we care for, our pets, and all living creatures.
"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men." (St. Francis) 
It is St. Francis that reminds us that everything is connected. How we treat animals is the way we also deal with each other. Whether it was birds he met or a Sultan he was going to visit, Francis revealed in God’s creation and lived out of that mustard seed faith he had.

“Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.” It was true for St. Augustine and St Francis. It is true for us too & that is mustard seed faith. And its in you and in its me. So we need not worry about increasing our faith, or if we have enough, we just need to live the faith that is inside us, live it in the midst of God’s beautiful creation with one another.
In the words of St. Francis, “The deeds you do [out of your faith] may be the only sermon some persons will hear today.” Amen.