Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Oso Mudslide Disaster Relief

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the community of Oso, Washington in the wake of the disaster that has befallen them last Saturday.

There is an Online Donation Page for those who would like to assist with this relief effort through financial support. Donations through this link will go to ERD earmarked for the Oso Mudslide Disaster Relief efforts. This fund will help not only with immediate efforts, but also in the longer term response to needs created by this mudslide.

Finally, here is a prayer written by Canon Ousley of Spokane:

O merciful Father, comfort all who are in distress in the wake of the mudslides affecting those along the north fork of the Stillaguamish River. Give courage to those who search for family, friends and neighbors, so they will not be lost in danger or despair. Show your compassion to those who have lost loved ones, that they may feel your presence and live in hope of the resurrection. Strengthen those who have lost homes and possessions but have their lives, that they may embrace the precious gift of one another. Receive into your arms your children whose lives have been swept away, that they rest in your everlasting peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Prayers on the Gun Violence Prevention Weekend

Sustaining and redeeming God, in sadness and in the tragedy of awful loss, we offer before you those young lives lost as a consequence of human violence. We raise in the distress of this time the families of whose children are no longer to share life and joy with them. We mourn those other families also fractured by the needless killings. As Jesus first came to his people and lives of the young and innocent were lost in the cruelty of one individual upon others, so now 2000 years on we stand alongside those whose similar grief is beyond our imagining. Holy and loving God bring all consolation that can be brought to those most in need of your presence today, and never cease to make your presence real in this their hour of need. To you we voice this prayer, Amen.
Written by The Rt. Rev. Robert Gilies, Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney in the Scottish Episcopal Church for their companion Diocese of Connecticut.
Blessed God, who revealed the mysterious power of your love to us in the vulnerability of Jesus in the face of violence: uphold those whose lives have been broken open by violence; calm the storm of their fear; rage and distress; comfort those who are in need of healing; and give us all a will and determination to repair your world with your tools of compassion and peace, by the power of your Spirit. Amen.
Prayer after Violence by the Rev. Jennifer Phillips
The fountain of all peace
(Peace with you, with ourselves, with our neighbours and nature)
We give you thanks for sending Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace
And for sending the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.
Forgive us for trusting on guns which destroy.
To put our trust in the saving and reconciling blood of Jesus poured on the cross and to turn our instruments of death and domination into means of saving lives and of promoting human dignity
Protect and free the prisoner, those abducted and refugees; and lead us to see and follow the ways of peace. All this we ask to the honour and glory of your name, through Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace and our Saviour, AMEN
Prayer for Peace written by Bishop Dinis Sengulane of Mozambique

Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through Him who loves us.
Help us to remember these words, O Lord, in hope. Amen.
 A Prayer by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa

March 16 Sermon - Stations III & IV

We adore you O Christ and we bless You. Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. Amen.

In our discussion on Wednesday night, as well as the online class, I have found David Lose’s words on “making sense of the cross” refreshing. I agree with him that the Gospels and the cross itself are not meant to be just history, a record of what happened for us to know, but the stories are there “to help shape an experience,” to bring the cross into our very lives.

Indeed, our gospel reading for today from the Gospel of John tells us, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

It is through our experience of Jesus that we will be saved.

This understanding permeates the way of the cross, for God so loved the world that he gave his only son, but instead of listening to him, following his way of care and love toward others, we turned his offering of abundant life into a death sentence, crucifying love on the cross.

But the story does not end there for God turns his unjust death into the means of our salvation and life. So today, we continue our walk on the way of the cross this morning as we move through stations 3 & 4.

Jesus Falls for the First Time – Station III. Jesus was like you and me. All the abuse, the torture, the brutality of the Romans has drained his strength and he falls. The cross he bears was too much, and onto his knees he goes down. He falls down for the first time.

One movie that depicted the Stations of the Cross, was Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ; I really liked how he naturally used the stations and brought them to life on the screen, we walked with him in that film through those stations. However, I still don’t like the superhero Jesus he had created, who in the midst of such brutality looked more like a cartoon superhero who would magically raise himself up and show his tormentors he could still best them, instead of the broken savior he was.

God was with us in Jesus, who just as we are, suffer and struggle, to raise ourselves up in the worst of circumstances. Jesus goes down because he is human like us. And just as he stood alone before Pilate, he is alone in his falling. Reaching up for someone to help…

And in the midst of such pain and agony, there was one watching for him against the hooting mob…

Jesus meets his mother, Station IV. We are reminded of the human cost to families. The loss families feel when one of their own goes through something horrible.

Mary, like so many mothers, look helplessly on as their child undergoes a terrible event. Mary sees the terrible wounds, the pain on his face. Jesus is in agony and so is Mary, watching her son suffer. Mary’s pain is echoed in others…

The mothers who watch their children battle cancer.

The mothers whose child has a mental illness and the struggle to find the right meds.

The mothers of the eight children a day who die in this country because of gun violence.

The mothers of the Plaza de Mayo whose children disappeared during the Dirty War of Argentina.

For in the midst of it, God is there with Mary and Jesus. God is there in our tears, wherever pain is had, or injustice rules, where the darkness of grief exists, God is there.

As we sit and reflect on this image, let us hear the words of the great poet, William Blake:
Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow's share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill'd?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

And can he who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird's grief & care,
Hear the woes that infants bear,

And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity in their breast;
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant's tear;

And not sit both night & day,
Wiping all our tears away?
O, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give his joy to all;
He becomes an infant small;
He becomes a man of woe;
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh
And thy maker is not by;
Think not thou canst weep a tear
And thy maker is not near.
O! he gives to us his joy
That our grief he may destroy;
Till our grief is fled & gone
He doth sit by us and moan.

(On Another’s Sorrow)
Even in the most painful of our experiences, even on the way to the Cross, God is with us…

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sermon: March 9

We adore you O Christ and we bless You. Because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world. Amen.

It is great to be back from our mission trip to Mozambique, so much to think about it and reflect on from that visit. One thing I did notice, in the many churches we visited, they had the 14 stations of the cross on their walls. On the pilgrimage, they took time to walk the stations of the cross, in the outdoors, at Bernard Mizeki’s birthplace.

The ritual of walking the stations is part of the Anglican Mozambican culture. And people have been walking the way of the cross either in Jerusalem or in their local church for many centuries.

Over the Sundays in Lent, we too will explore the stations of the cross and what it might mean to us as we stand before them. We are grateful to Fred Velardi for loaning us the set he painted. Our journey together in Lent began on Ash Wednesday with remembering our mortality and our need for repentance. It is also our journey to the cross, and as we are faithful to it, we will find Jesus and life.

So let’s first, think about the Gospel for today on this first Sunday in Lent, Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. We are told of the 40 days where Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, the temptation to be relevant, spectacular and powerful, as Henri Nouwen put it.

Satan’s offer for Christ to turn stones to bread was a trap, you have the power Jesus to perform it, to be the relevant leader we all want you to be. The temptation to throw one’s self from the pinnacle of the temple was presented as the desire to do something spectacular. Show the world, who you are Jesus, let those angels catch you! And then the temptations are concluded with the temptation to be powerful, look Jesus I will give you the world to control, just follow me… in all of these Jesus resists temptation, Satan leaves and we are left with the angels ministering to him alone. But then, much later…

Jesus is condemned to death. Station I. I wonder if he was tempted to flee. To leave. To not only ask God to take away the cup, but to not take it himself. To get himself out of the situation he knew was before him. But he did take the cup. He was arrested.

He stood alone. They were cursing him. Accusing him. He stood alone, just like he had in the wilderness. Pilate didn’t really care, he was a Jewish insurgent, and pain in the butt, to put it quite mildly. It was easy for him to give the order.

And Jesus was condemned to death. As you gaze at the picture, consider the emptiness that Jesus must have felt. His life was to be ended. He saw it coming but it didn’t make it any easier. There was no one there to comfort him. Condemned to die.

Jesus takes the cross onto his shoulder. Station II. It must have been surreal. It happened so fast. The last supper, the betrayal, the arrest, the two trials, and now the instrument of his death is upon his shoulder.

Alone and isolated from those he loved, he stood judged & condemned. No one left to speak on his behalf. No one to look his way. Death hung around him like the heaviness of a humid day.

Soon he was to make his journey. To the place of death, the Skull. They continued to mock him. Spit upon him. He was nothing. Dirt. Less than human. One of many they would have seen condemned to die. Son of God. A crown of thorns he must wear! Just another Jew on the way to crucifixion. Jesus was holding on to what life he had left. He needed all his strength to carry the cross. A cross that he carried for all of us, for on his shoulders was our cross, our lives, our sins, our death. Even as we turn away from him.

As the Isiah prophet said, “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with sorrow; and as one from whom others hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him of no account.”

But we know there is much more to the story, for we remember the words of St. Paul from the Romans reading we heard today: “Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.”

See the life Jesus offers us today. See the grace that is freely given from the cross. Life is offered for all, by his righteous act. In the words of one of our morning prayers: “Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace…”

As we think about today’s stations, let me end with a poem…

by Langston Hughes 
I met You on Your way to death,
Though quite by accident
I chose the path I did,
not knowing there You went.

When I heard the hooting mob
I started to turn back
But, curious, I stood my ground
Directly in its track
And sickened suddenly
At its sound,
Yet did not
Turn back.

So loud the mob cried,
Yet so weak,
Like a sick and muffled sea.
On Your head
You had sharp thorns.
You did not look at me—
But on Your back
You carried
My own Misery.