Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Christmas Sermon (Read last Sunday - Dec 28)

This sermon was delivered on Christmas by St. Gregory of Nazianzus (year 380). Christmas is the Feast of the Incarnation (of God coming among us) and the birth of Jesus Christ.
Christ is born, glorify Him. Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him. Christ on earth, be exalted. Sing to the Lord all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him who is of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope.

Again, the darkness is past; again Light is made; again Egypt is punished with darkness; again Israel is enlightened by a pillar. The people who sat in the darkness of ignorance, let them see the great Light full of knowledge. Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new. The letter gives way, the Spirit comes to the front. The shadows flee away, the truth comes in on them. Melchizedek is concluded. He who was without Mother becomes without Father (without mother of His former state, without father of His second). The laws of nature are upset; the world above must be filled. Christ commands it, let us not set ourselves against Him. O clap your hands together all you people, because unto us a Child is born, and a Son given unto us, whose government is upon His shoulder (for with the cross it is raised up), and His name is called The Angel of the Great Counsel of the Father. Let John cry, prepare the way of the Lord; I too will cry the power of this Day. He who is not carnal is Incarnate; the Son of God becomes the Son of Man, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Let the Jews be offended, let the Greeks deride; let heretics talk until their tongues ache. Then shall they believe, when they see Him ascending into heaven; and if not then, yet when they see Him coming out of heaven and sitting as Judge.

This is our present Festival; it is this which we are celebrating today, the Coming of God to Man, that we might go forth, or rather (for this is the more proper expression) that we might go back to God - that putting off of the old man, we might put on the new; and that as we died in Adam, so we might live in Christ, being born with Christ and crucified with Him and buried with Him and rising with Him. For I must undergo the beautiful conversion, and as the painful succeeded the more blissful, so must the more blissful come out of the painful. For where sin abounded grace did much more abound; and if a taste condemned us, how much more does the passion of Christ justify us? Therefore let us keep the Feast, not after the manner of a heathen festival, but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world; not as our own, but as belonging to Him who is ours, or rather as our master's; not as of weakness, but as of healing; not as of creation, but of re-creation.

Prayers for the New Year to Come

Oh Thou, who art ever the same,
Grant us so to pass through
the coming year with faithful hearts,
that we may be able in all things
to please Thy loving eyes. Amen.
Mozarabic, 700 A.D.

Bless us, O Lord,
and bless the time and seasons yet to come.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
And fill this new year with your kindness,
that we may be glad and rejoice
all the days of our life. Amen.
Fr Victor Hoagland, C.P.

Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation:
Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Prayer for the Feast of the Holy Name (January 1)

For a Quiet Moment Before a New Year Begins

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
-- TS Eliot

TO see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.…
-- William Blake

- Posted using BlogPress from my mystical iPad!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

#PrayforAirAsia #QZ8501

Gracious God, look in mercy on all to whom great sorrow has come. Console and protect those who have lost loved ones. Strengthen those who minister to the grieving. Give your light in darkness to all who are near to despair, and assure them that you hold all souls in life. Amen. [ACNS]

Loving God, comfort and sustain the families and friends of those who were aboard flight QZ8501. Help them and us to know and feel that bidden or unbidden you are always with us, and that no life on Earth is apart from your loving presence. Amen.

- Posted using BlogPress from my mystical iPad!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Movie Review: Calvary

Just watched the movie Calvary last night.  Wow.  Where to begin?  Was it a good movie.  Yes!  Heartwarming?  No .  Left me with what?  Wrestling with the questions.

I think everyone of faith should see this because it asks of us:
  • What is faith?
  • How do you live it out?
  • What does forgiveness mean?
Synopsis (from IMDb) - "After he is threatened during a confession, a good-natured [Irish RC] priest must battle the dark forces closing in around him."

There are many fine reviews of the film, I don't need to do that.  Let me just add a few more words... Some of the characters seem over the top.  The scenery was stunningly beautiful.  Brendan Gleeson is an amazing actor and played the part very well.

No one ever said the priesthood would be easy but Wow! 

The only questions I am still puzzled over is (spoiler) who killed his dog?

Rent this film!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmastide Poem: Mary

(used at the 7:30 PM Vigil for Christmas Eve)

You bore for me the One who came to bless
And bear for all and make the broken whole.
You heard His call and in your open ‘yes’
You spoke aloud for every living soul.
Oh gracious Lady, child of your own child,
Whose mother-love still calls the child in me,
Call me again, for I am lost, and  wild
Waves suround me now. On this dark sea
Shine as a star and call me to the shore.
Open the door that all my sins would close
And hold me in your garden. Let me share
The prayer that folds the petals of the Rose.
Enfold me too in Love’s last mystery
And bring me to the One you bore for me.

Christmas Sermons

For the 5 PM Christmas Eve - I used the legend of the Poinsettia (Book can be found here.)
For the 10 AM Christmas Day - I used the Russian fable of Baboushka

The 7:30 pm Christmas Eve sermon follows...
Into this holy place at this happy time, O Lord, we come to worship that little child whose nature revealed thine own and what ours might become. We ask that the lovely things in his nature may grow in us and that all things hostile to his spirit may fade away. For his name's sake. Amen. (Leslie D. Weatherhead)
If you were to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, it would be around 100 miles, it would take 34 hours to travel it on foot, according to Google Maps. Thinking of that journey that Mary & Joseph had to take, at the request of Caesar Augustus, I can only imagine the time it took. Google Maps didn’t take rest in mind thieves along the route or poor roadways, inns with no room, or even a full-term pregnancy.

But to Caesar Augustus, Mary & Joseph were nobody. On the edge of the empire. They were poor. Just two among many for a census. And yet, God chooses them to bring forth the hope we all long for.

We all are on a journey. The shepherds, the wise men, even the angels made the journey. For some it was long, arduous. Others only learned that night of the glorious gift and travel into the city from the surrounding hills.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “The shepherds, like the wise men from the East, stand at the manger, not as 'converted sinners,' but simply because, just as they are, they have been drawn by the manger.” And now it is we who stand drawn to the manger. We have journeyed here. For some it might have been a long journey. For others, it might have been a spur of the moment decision.

As we think about our hopeful journey to Bethlehem, I invite you to sit back and listen to an old Russian Folktale for Christmas (adapted by Amy Friedman) & what it might say to you tonight:
Long ago, an old woman named Baboushka lived in a tiny cottage far from the city. One snowy evening, just as she was preparing her meal, Baboushka heard a knock at the door. She opened it to find three men standing before her. From their rich clothing and fine features, Baboushka guessed that they were men of learning who had traveled from far away in the East. They were shivering in the cold, and little slivers of ice hung from their beards. In their arms they each carried packages, and these were dusted with snow.

"Oh my," Baboushka said, "you must be freezing out there. Please come in and warm yourselves by my fire."

The three wise men bowed in thanks and followed the woman into her cottage. "Forgive us," one of the men said, "but we have been walking for a long, long time. Tonight our journey ends, for we are going to the place where the King of Kings will be born this very night. We are bringing Him gifts, and we wish only to stop for a while to warm ourselves."

"Of course," Baboushka said, "but you must eat something. I have prepared a nice hot soup. Please join me." She set a table for the four of them, filling bowls with steaming soup, placing crusty bread in the center.

They sat down at the table to eat, and the men told Baboushka of the joyous birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, about to occur. "We are waiting for the brightest star to rise," they said, "for we will follow its path. The star will guide us to the place where the King of Kings is to be born this very night."

"How I wish I could join you and bring a gift myself," Baboushka sighed. "Come with us, then," the men said heartily. "The King of Kings will welcome you, but we must be on our way soon. Will you come?"

Baboushka looked around and frowned. "I cannot leave just now," she said. "I must clean the house and prepare myself, but I will come as soon as I am ready." With that she bade the men farewell and watched from the cottage door as they set off, following the starlight's path. She waved until she could no longer see them.

Inside, Baboushka washed the dishes, swept the floor, dusted and tidied the cottage. She bathed and dressed in her finest clothes, and then, looking around, she began to gather gifts to take to the newborn king. Baboushka was a poor, hardworking woman who owned little, but she managed to gather several small toys, some sweets and tiny candles to take with her.

She walked to the door, tightly wrapped her coat and scarf around her to keep out the cold, and set off. Baboushka looked up at the sky, searching for the star that would lead her to the birthplace of the King of Kings. "Oh my," she said, for no matter where she looked, she could not find the star. She had washed and scrubbed and readied herself for a long time, and as she worked, the stars had moved across the sky.

Baboushka tried one road. She walked for a while, but eventually she realized she must have taken the wrong turn. She tried a different road, and then another, and another, always searching the sky for the star the wise men had followed.

People say Baboushka never did find the right road, and that she is wandering still. And every year, at Christmastime, the children run downstairs to search for the gifts Baboushka has left for them as she travels the world, searching for the King of Kings. In every house where a small child lives, the people say, Baboushka leaves a gift in honor of each and every child and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born on Christmas Day.
May we who have been drawn to the manger, not miss our chance, not worry about the journey or what we need to get settled or what gift we have to offer, but come and place our self before the Christ Child tonight. And what should we give? Let that old hymn tell us:
What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give Him: I give my heart. Amen.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Mystery of Holy Night

If you are looking for some good theology, then head over to this page:

It's a webpage (book) that looks at Christmas through the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
"From the Christian point of view, spending Christmas in a prison doesn't pose any special problem. Most likely, a more meaningful and authentic Christmas is celebrated here by many people than in places where only the name of the feast remains. Misery, pain, poverty, loneliness, helplessness, and guilt have an altogether different meaning in God's eyes than in the judgment of men. God turns toward the very places from which humans tend to turn away. Christ was born in a stable because there was no room for him at the inn: A prisoner can understand all this better than other people. It's truly good news for him; in believing it, he knows he has been made a part of the Christian community that breaks down all spatial and temporal frontiers, and the walls of prison lose their meaning."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

December 21 Sermon (Advent 4) #Mary

Father in heaven, by your grace the virgin mother of your incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping your word: Grant us who honor the exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her devotion to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP)

As we near the end of our Advent Season, our time of preparation, this 4th Sunday of advent –we end with Mary, to whom the angel Gabriel came... "Greetings favored one. The Lord is with you." - she was at first perplexed by the visit – but it is Mary's yes to God, that allows God's reality to break into the world that Christmas long ago. Such faithfulness from a young lady, such devotion in one unexpected.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “God is not ashamed of human lowliness. He enters right into it. He chooses a human being to be his instrument and works his wonders where they are least expected.”
She calls herself, servant, handmaiden in an older translation. To many Christians around the world, she is the Theotokos, the God-bearer. In my childhood, I remember her statue prominently in my Grandmother’s house, and always with a votive candle before it.
For Barbara Brown Taylor, author, teacher and Episcopal priest, she keeps a small brass box on her dresser in front of two icons, one of Jesus and one of Mary. When people ask her to pray for them, she writes their name on a slip of paper and puts the paper in the box. Taylor writes in her book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith that she has great confidence in entrusting her prayers to the Mother of Jesus:

"Mary is more like me than her son is, after all. Both of her parents were human. She was born and she died in the usual ways. What was unusual about her was her reliability. No matter what life pitched at her, Mary did not duck. She endured a difficult pregnancy to bear a singular child, whom she loved reliably through all the years of his controversial life. When her son was cut down, she was there. When it came time to prepare his body, she was there. When he was not in his tomb, she was there. As much as I hate to presume on her reliability, I know she will remember the people whose name I have placed in the brass box, even when I forget."
Mary's entire life was filled with moments God constantly calling her to be the reflection of his compassion, to be a source of persevering faith, to mirror in her motherhood of his Christ his loving providence for all his children. God asks that same "reliability" of all of us in the everyday living of our own Baptisms. Mary's experience is like our own.

Discerning God's will demands time and thoughtfulness. In God’s call to us, we have a great deal to process, to sort out, to make sense of. May we seek to possess Mary's "reliable" faith and trust so that we, too, may make God's presence known in our time and place, to be open to the presence of Gabriel "announcing" to us that the Lord is with us, that we have nothing to fear, that we have been called by God to "give birth" to his Son in our own time and place.

Her life becomes a beacon for us, a way to embrace the Spirit that God gives to each of us, and to bear it for the world. As Malcom Guite, priest and poet put it, “she is the prime God-Bearer, bearing for us in time the One who was begotten in eternity, and every Christian after her seeks to become in some small way a God-bearer, one whose ‘yes’ to God means that Christ is made alive and fruitful in the world through our flesh and our daily lives, is born and given to another.”

So as we ponder Mary’s “yes” and consider how we too say yes to God in our lives, hear Malcom’s poem on Mary:
You bore for me the One who came to bless
And bear for all and make the broken whole.
You heard His call and in your open ‘yes’
You spoke aloud for every living soul.
Oh gracious Lady, child of your own child,
Whose mother-love still calls the child in me,
Call me again, for I am lost, and wild
Waves surround me now. On this dark sea
Shine as a star and call me to the shore.
Open the door that all my sins would close
And hold me in your garden. Let me share
The prayer that folds the petals of the Rose.
Enfold me too in Love’s last mystery
And bring me to the One you bore for me.
May we journey with Mary, say yes to God and be enfolded this Christmas in Love’s last mystery that Mary may bring us to the One, she bore for all. Amen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Prayers for Peshawar, Pakistan

Pakistani Taliban Attack on Peshawar School Leaves 145 Dead

Almighty God, giver of light and life, in whose hands are both the living and the dead: We offer to you our sorrow and confusion in the face of the cruel deaths of children and teachers in Peshawar, Pakistan. As you were present in the midst of the gunfire and chaos, so we trust you are present now with those who have died. Receive them into the arms of your mercy and cover them with your love. In your boundless compassion, console all who mourn, especially parents and family members, and give to us who carry on such a lively sense of your righteous will that we will not rest until every country is safe for all your children. All this we pray in sighs too deep for words and in the name of the lover and protector of our souls, Jesus Christ. Amen.

In a moment of silence let us remember the victims and their families.

God our refuge and strength: may we be so assured of your near presence, so confident of your love for all your children, so committed to your promise of life eternal and fullness of joy, that we may stand fast through our distress and continue to serve you and minister to your world, though our foundations be shaken and we be brought to the time of testing; we pray through Christ our Savior. Amen.

Challenging Violence

"Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
The challenge before us today is take these words to heart, from MLK, Jr. It seems here in the US we believe that violence is a positive force.  

Read this!

Torture, the Bible, and America's Faith in Violence by Derek Flood (12-16-2014)

He says (excerpt):
Violence in the world is a reality that we need to face. All too often we are presented with only two options: defend ourselves with violence, or we do nothing. Some Christians therefore advocate for the use of violence as a necessary means for bringing about the good. This is echoed by our politicians, and in our television shows and movies where we continually see violence portrayed as the means of fighting evil.

As a society we trust in violence. We think it keeps us safe — we think it makes us strong. It is therefore not enough to simply note the harm that comes from violence, or our moral repulsion to it. What is needed is for us to articulate how the way of Jesus and enemy-love could be realistically applied to real conflicts today, so as to work towards peace, safety, and restoration. We will need to demonstrate that there are viable nonviolent means of dealing with societal problems — ways that are not only effective, but in fact more effective than violence at resolving conflict and keeping us safe as a society.

From CIA torture to the deaths on the streets to what plays on our TVs/movies, we are awash in violence.  We need to begin to articulate a way of nonviolence and love that can truly deal with our problems.

Blue Christmas Service

From one of the readings...

Into This Silent Night (From Ann Weems, Kneeling in Bethlehem)
Into this silent night
As we make our weary way
We know not where;
Just when the night becomes it’s darkest
And we cannot see our path;
Just then is when the angels rush in,
Their hands full of stars.

Pastoral Prayers
God of Mercy, hear out prayer in this Advent Season for ourselves and our families who live with the painful memories of loss. We ask for strength for today, courage for tomorrow and peace for the past. As we gather here this afternoon to confront our pain in the midst of the world's celebration. Help us to know that you are present with us in all of our moods and feelings and seasons. Grant us a taste of the hope, peace, joy and love that you promise to all of your people through the gift of your son Jesus. We ask all these things in the name of you Christ who shares our life in joy and sorrow, death and new birth, despair and promise. Amen.

Comforting God, wrap us in your presence in this time of remembrance. With these candles, help us find your light, a light that will guide us day-by-day, step-by-step, as we try to live life fully and wholly. We cherish the special ways in which our loved ones have touched us. We thank you for the gift their lives have been to us. Now comfort us. Encourage us. Empower us. Amen.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sermon - Dec. 14 (Advent 3) #SandyHook

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The prayer I read is from our BCP for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which we commemorate on December 28. (On that day we remember the young children slaughtered by King Herod in Matthew’s account of Jesus’s birth when the magi fail to return to him.) It seemed fitting to remember the Holy Innocents on this the 2nd anniversary of the shootings in Sandy Hook. That feast day occurs in the midst of the 12 days of Christmas, it is a pause in the midst of our joy and revelry, to remember that when Jesus was born, it wasn’t just a happy, wonderful time, angels singing. Death, violence, and terror were there too, all around him. And the innocents suffered. I think of the poem "Into the Darkest Hour" by Madeleine L'Engle:
It was a time like this,
war & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss –
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was a time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight –
and yet the Prince of bliss came
into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.
In the darkest times it falls to us to have that stable in our hearts, to remember the light from God that shines. For God did not come to us, our Emmanuel, in the best of times, he came in the worst of times. He came in the darkness for people looking for the light. In this is our hope, that God’s son came into this world, in darkness, in the midst of violence and death, to bring abundant life.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~ Desmond Tutu
This week I had a conversation with a friend on Facebook who lives in Newtown. We were discussing an article on how one woman struggled to tell her young son about the tragedy in Sandy Hook when they came to Monroe for the town’s reading of her book.

My friend said, it was “a luxury we didn't have here- a choice to tell it or not tell it. a choice to try to explain the unexplainable.... that our kids had spent hours in lock down, huddled in a corner, lost people they knew... and that some people said it didn't happen. there's no escape from the dark truth really except through it.”

We have to go through the darkness.

Even there, John the Baptist who is crying out in the wilderness to make straight the way of the Lord, is reminding us of the light. For even there, Christ is with us.

2 years later, the tragedy still seems unexplainable. How one child of God decided to murder his mom and go to an elementary school and kill 26 children and staff. It was such a day of darkness.

28 candles are lit around this Sanctuary, remembering the deaths that occurred two years ago.

Since that terrible December day, 227 have been killed by guns in our State. 63,169 in our nation. (That’s 3 towns of Monroe!)

I think of how many families have mourned the loss of a loved one due to such gun violence. The first reading for Holy Innocents Day from Jeremiah says to us: “Thus says the LORD: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

So what do we do?  Hear the words again from our first reading from Isaiah, "The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn."  Through our baptism we are anointed with the Spirit to accomplish these things!

There is much to weep about. Such violence should not be so readily accepted in our society and yet since Sandy Hook, little has been done to truly address the violence which infects all parts of our society, the 95 shootings at schools, the CIA Report on torture and even a recent news story, I heard, about a convicted felon in West Virginia buying a gun online and using it to kill.

We have much to do to make this a better society.
 In the words of MLK Jr. “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives… Love is creative and redemptive. Love builds up and unites; hate tears down and destroys… The aftermath of the love method is reconciliation and creation of the beloved community. Physical force can repress, restrain, coerce, destroy, but it cannot create and organize anything permanent; only love can do that. Yes, love—which means understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill, even for one’s enemies—love is the solution.” —Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957
I would dare say it is the solution for our violence problem as it is to the race problem that MLK Jr. was bearing witness to in his day (and ours). Such love is expressed in the words of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, “Be nice to each other. It’s all that really matters.”

My brothers and sisters, we are children of the Light. As the old proverb says, It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. It is time for us to remember, to share and to be bold in love, to be that light in the midst of darkness, even if we are but one candle in the dark, for our world needs such hope & such care today.
“Be nice to each other. It’s all that really matters.”  Amen.

Remembering #SandyHook 12/14/12

Sandy Hook 12/14/12

2 injured, 28 killed. 

20 children
6 staff*
a mother, a son.

1. Charlotte Bacon (2/22/06)
2. Daniel Barden (9/25/05)
3. Rachel Davino (7/17/83)*
4. Olivia Engel (7/18/06)
5. Josephine Gay (12/11/05)
6. Ana M. Marquez-Greene (4/4/06)
7. Dylan Hockley (3/8/06)
8. Dawn Hocksprung (6/28/65)*
9. Madeleine F. Hsu (7/10/06)
10. Catherine V. Hubbard (6/8/06)
11. Chase Kowalski (10/31/05)
12. Jesse Lewis (6/30/06)
13. James Mattioli (3/22/06)
14. Grace McDonnell (11/04/05)
15. AnneMarie Murphy (07/25/60)*
16. Emilie Parker (5/12/06)
17. Jack Pinto (5/6/06)
18. Noah Pozner (11/20/06)
19. Caroline Previdi (9/7/06)
20. Jessica Rekos (5/10/06)
21. Avielle Richman (10/17/06)
22. Lauren Russeau (6/1982)*
23. Mary Sherlach (2/11/56)*
24. Victoria Soto (11/4/85)*
25. Benjamin Wheeler (9/12/06)
26. Allison N. Wyatt (7/3/06)
27. Nancy Lanza (52)
28. Adam Lanza (20)

O gracious and loving God, on this anniversary of the tragedy in Sandy Hook, we remember all the victims who lost their lives to hate. We remember the brave and courageous who rushed to the scene to help and those who have given comfort in the months afterward. We remember those who grieve loved ones lost, for the survivors and for all the anxiety and fear we had in those days. We also remember how we came together to support one another in a time of need. Have mercy, Lord, give us strength and peace to practice kindness in the midst of hate; make us courageous in compassion and in justice for all. Help us to know your steadfast love & hope, your presence that is as near as breath; rekindle in our hearts the hope of life that conquers death. This we ask in your son’s name, Jesus our Lord. Amen

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Remembering #SandyHook

It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. - old proverb

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. ~ Desmond Tutu

Useful reading...

The Slaughter of the Innocents of Sandy Hook (12/12/2014) by Nadia Bolz Weber

Why I Can't Tell My Son About Sandy Hook (12/09/2014) by Sarah Smiley

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


227 CT Gun Deaths Later, Newtown Families Continue Their Campaign

Read about it here:

Standing at the Edge of the Rain (Repost)

Written by a parishioner...

As we approach the anniversary of 12/14, many of my friends outside Sandy Hook and Newtown have asked ‘How are you doing? What can we do?’ There truth of the matter is, there is no simple answer. But in an effort to help you understand where we are as a community, I’ve posted the following essay to try to capture the spirit of this week and the mindset of my community. I’m posting it now, because it is not just about 12/14 – but also the days before and the days after and their stark contrast to one another that has us all stirring. I hope you find it worth a couple minutes to read…

Standing at the Edge of the Rain
by: Aimee M Tabor

When I was 21, I moved to Australia. It was my year of adventure and road trips were the norm. Once on the way to a camping trip, I begged my friend to pull over so I could take a picture of a rainbow. It was magnificent – a full arc stretching as far as you could see in either direction with every color perfectly confined to its specific row. I set up my camera (ahh the days of real film and manual settings), but after the picture, I stood for a while and admired the reason for such as an amazing spectacle. There was a storm coming in off the south coast, it was a magnificent clash of a solid black wall of clouds and stunning blue skies. I stood in the road for a while (we were in the middle of no where) and just watched. Then the rain started to roll in, very much in slow motion. It was the oddest feeling ever. I knew in theory, there had to be a line somewhere just beyond a weather system’s reach. But I’d never been exactly on that line before. And there I stood, my arms stretched out in opposing directions. One hand getting pelted by dime-sized drops falling with such force, they actually stung. The other, completely dry, almost chapped from the heat. I found myself literally standing…at the edge of the rain.

I’ve recited that phrase countless times over the many years since as I always thought it’d make a great title for a book – so poignant, yet I had no idea what it’d be about. Until now. So as the world takes their pause to ask, “Where are we a year later?” We the edge of the rain. Sometimes suffocating in that small gap between hope and heartache - gratitude and grief – resilience and reluctance. Sometimes we’re keenly aware that the rain is as vital to life as the sun. It quenches our thirst for perspective and renews our appreciation for life and all it can offer. Other times, we are content to quietly retreat to our respective shelters and just wait out the storm.

I know so many of my neighbors are struggling with the anniversary, but as I’ve explained to my son, the anniversary is ‘for them’ – the media and the rest of the world, because it marks a reason and excuse to pay attention and to remember. We need no such reminders. Every day is an anniversary. Every day we hold our angels in our hearts and everyday we look at our surviving children with a heightened level of gratitude. We know what amazing people we lost. And what amazing things we've done in their honor and in their name. And equally important, we know what amazing people we have around us – still protecting us, still caring for us and our children, still offering to help lend a shoulder, an ear or a hand - - to each other or to a stranger. By any of those measures, this Saturday is no different than last…and will be no different than the next.

But unlike the raw and untamable weather, we make choices. We decide what to do and how to handle each moment. Here, we deliberately termed it “12/14” to try to avoid the tragedy and the town being synonymous as in “When Newtown happened…” but in a way, it may be making the actual date that much harder – its like a cumulative pool of anxiety tossed into a square-inch spot on the calendar and with each passing week, we’ve had to dread facing it again. But our angel families have clearly unanimously expressed their wishes – do something, anything kind and thoughtful in honor of their loved ones so that they may live on through those gestures. Those Acts of Kindness – no matter how large or small – can say thank you, give back and make life better and more palatable for them, for us, for each other. We also owe it to them, to ourselves and most importantly to our surviving children as we teach them not to squander the simplest opportunities we have to cherish life – whether it’s to decorate the tree or light the menorah, go sledding, build a snowman, dunk marshmallows in hot cocoa or linger in bed for a morning snuggle or an evening book read.

So in the spirit of the season, and all that comes with it - wish each other safety, health and happiness - - and the wisdom to appreciate such blessings. And remember the most beautiful and impressive displays of humanity can be found at the edge of the worst storms. You just have seize those moments and choose to look for them -- within yourselves and in others.

Thank you for your thoughts and well-wishes from near and far. What can you do? Simple: “Be nice to each other. It’s all the really matters.” – Dawn Hochsprung (our beloved - - and very missed, Sandy Hook Principal)