Saturday, January 31, 2015

U2charist IX

This is the ninth annual U2charist on the “Souper Bowl of Caring” Sunday. The U2charist is an Episcopal Eucharist service that features the music of the band U2, and a message about God's call to rally around the Millennium Development Goals. The music in this service is replete with images of our connection with God and the importance of caring for your neighbor, particularly the most vulnerable and in need. Led by the Global MDG ambassador, Bono, U2 is calling people worldwide to a deeper faith and engagement with God's mission. The U2charist seeks to be an extension of this ministry in our parish.

Listen for biblical and theological references, for traditional Christian imagery and language, as well as for very nontraditional language, used to paint very traditional images of Christian theology. The traditional understanding of faith as an insatiable desire for God is a common theme, and “you” in U2’s lyrics is often indicative of God addressing the human, as it is the person of faith addressing God. "We've found different ways of expressing it…. Maybe we just have to sort of draw our fish in the sand. It's there for people who are interested." – Bono 

St. Augustine said, “Those who sing, pray twice.” 

The Playlist for 2015:

Ordinary Love from Mandela – Long Walk To Freedom (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Pride (In The Name Of Love) from The Best Of 1980-1990
Jesus Christ from Folkways: A Vision Shared - A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly
"40" from War
Iris (Hold Me Close) from Songs of Innocence
One Step Closer
from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
White As Snow from No Line On The Horizon
Beautiful Day from All That You Can't Leave Behind
Sleep Like a Baby Tonight from Songs of Innocence

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#HolocaustMemorialDay - Remember

   in the garden.
God watched
from above,
and fear walked
in the cool
   of the day.

Smoke Rose by Itamar Yaoz-Kest
(Translated by Glenda Abramson)

1.5 million people died at Auschwitz.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

#HolocaustRemembranceDay - Poetry III

Never Shall I Forget by Elie Wiesel

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith for ever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.

Race by Karen Gershon

When I returned to my home town
believing that no one would care
who I was and what I thought
it was as if the people caught
an echo of me everywhere
they knew my story by my face
and I who am always alone
became a symbol of my race

Like every living Jew I have
in imagination seen
the gas-chamber the mass-grave
the unknown body which was mine
and found in every German face
behind the mask the mark of Cain
I will not make their thoughts my own
by hating people for their race.

Reveille by Primo Levi
Translated by Ruth Feldman And Brian Swann

In the brutal nights we used to dream
Dense violent dreams,
Dreamed with soul and body:
To return; to eat; to tell the story.
Until the dawn command
Sounded brief, low
And the heart cracked in the breast.

Now we have found our homes again,
Our bellies are full,
We're through telling the story.
It's time. Soon we'll hear again
The strange command:

#HolocaustRemembrance Day - Poetry II

Riddle by William Heyen

From Belsen a crate of gold teeth,
from Dachau a mountain of shoes,
from Auschwitz a skin lampshade.
Who killed the Jews?

Not I, cries the typist,
not I, cries the engineer,
not I, cries Adolf Eichmann,
not I, cries Albert Speer.

My friend Fritz Nova lost his father –
a petty official had to choose.
My friend Lou Abrahms lost his brother.
Who killed the Jews?

David Nova swallowed gas,
Hyman Abrahms was beaten and starved.
Some men signed their papers,
and some stood guard,

and some herded them in,
and some dropped the pellets,
and some spread the ashes,
and some hosed the walls,

and some planted the wheat,
and some poured the steel,
and some cleared the rails,
and some raised the cattle.

Some smelled the smoke,
some just heard the news.
Were they Germans? Were they Nazis?
Were they human? Who killed the Jews?

The stars will remember the gold,
the sun will remember the shoes,
the moon will remember the skin.
But who killed the Jews?
Who Am I? by Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As thought it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectations of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!

#HolocaustDayRemembrance - Poetry I

If by Edward Bond

If Auschwitz had been in Hampshire
There would have been Englishmen to guard it
To administer records
Marshall transports
Work the gas ovens
And keep silent
The smoke would have drifted over these green hills

It's not that all men are evil or creatures of instinct
We - even our subjective self - are products of history
Of political change
In history two things join
Our will and things beyond our will
We change what we are as a means of controlling these things
That is: we create a new culture
We remain human only by changing
Each generation must create its own humanity

And the smoke will drift over these green hills
Our culture makes us barbarians
It does not allow us to live humanely
We must create a new culture
Or cease to be human

The Survivor by Tadeusz Ròzewicz
Translated by Adam Czerniawski

International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Auschwitz Liberation Day)

In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated January 27 as an annual international day of commemoration to honor the victims of the Nazi era. This date marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. Every member nation of the U.N. has an obligation to honor the memory of Holocaust victims and develop educational programs as part of the resolve to help prevent future acts of genocide. The U.N. resolution rejects denial of the Holocaust, and condemns discrimination and violence based on religion or ethnicity.

A Prayer of Remembrance:

Almighty God, we remember before you this day those killed during the Holocaust, for the innocents murdered, for those who wrongly used your name to kill, and for those who did not speak up against such injustice. Guide us in our efforts to root out intolerance and prejudice in our world, that we may not make peace with oppression and may stand as witness to those who died. Help us to work towards the day when no one will fall to such a sword. We ask this through him who was executed as a criminal by an oppressive state, Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

You who live secure
In your warm houses

Who return at evening to find
Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider whether this is a man,
Who labours in the mud
Who knows no peace
Who fights for a crust of bread
Who dies at a yes or a no.
Consider whether this is a woman,
Without hair or name
With no more strength to remember
Eyes empty and womb cold
As a frog in winter.

Consider that this has been:
I commend these words to you.
Engrave them on your hearts
When you are in your house, when you walk on your way,
When you go to bed, when you rise.
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your house crumble,
Disease render you powerless,
Your offspring avert their faces from you.

Translated by Ruth Feldman And Brian Swann
Shema by Primo Levi

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Will you come and follow me?

‘Will you come and follow me’ is from the Iona Community in Scotland and is by John Bell and Graham Maule.

The Iona Community was founded in 1938 by the Rev. George Macleod, a Church of Scotland minister in Govan, Glasgow. He had a vision of an ecumenical community centered on the restored medieval abbey buildings on the island of Iona.

‘Will you come and follow me’ is set to a traditional Scottish melody, ‘Kelvingrove’, and is often referred to as ‘The Summons’. It takes its theme from the Gospel. The Gospels tell us that Jesus called others to ‘follow him’, whether it was the Galilean fishermen who left their nets to become ‘fishers of people’, or his disciples who were encouraged to ‘take up their cross’.  Through the centuries, as today, Christ continues to call people to a life of faith, prayer and service.

‘Will you come and follow me’ celebrates how the Lord calls us by name so that his life can be grown in us. It is a way of living that involves taking up the cross and to ‘risk the hostile stare’. It is a call to love in action which liberates the captive and blind and which dares to ‘kiss the leper clean’. It is a summons, too, to self discovery and to the faith that can conquer our inner fears. The hymn ends with a prayer for strength to follow and ‘never be the same’. For in responding to Christ’s call to love in action we move and live and grow in him and he in us. (descriptions borrowed from another webpage)

1 Will you come and follow me

if I but call your name?

Will you go where you don’t know

and never be the same?

Will you let my love be shown?

Will you let my Name be known?

Will you let my life be grown

in you and you in me?

2 Will you leave your self behind

if I but call your name?

Will you care for cruel and kind

and never be the same?

Will you risk the hostile stare

should your life attract or scare?

Will you let me answer prayer

in you and you in me?

3 Will you let the blinded see

if I but call your name?

Will you set the pris’ner free

and never be the same?

Will you kiss the leper clean,

and do such as this unseen?

And admit to what I mean

in you and you in me?

4 Will you love the “You” you hide

if I but call your name?

Will you quell the fear inside

and never be the same?

Will you use the faith you’ve found

to reshape the world around

through my sight and touch and sound

in you and you in me?

5 Christ, your summons echoes true

when you but call my name.

Let me turn and follow you

and never be the same.

In your company I’ll go

where your love and footsteps show,

thus I’ll move and live and grow

in you and you in me?

Rector's Parish Address on Discipleship

O GOD of all the ages, the God of our fathers and mothers, we thank you for the heritage and witness of all who have gone before us in this parish. Keep us, we pray, faithful to their vision, & eager for the promises of your call to service in our time. In the swift and uncertain changes of life today, let us not draw back into contentment with things that have been, for fear of things that may be. Reveal to us in the face of all people the image of our Savior Christ, that by the guidance of your Spirit, we may help them to grow with us into the full measure and maturity of his humanity, in truth, in freedom, and in peace; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Adapted from a prayer by Massey Shepherd (1978))
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same? Will you let my love be shown?
Will you let my Name be known? Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

That hymn from the Iona Community that we just sang, often called the Summons, celebrates how the Lord calls us by name so that his life can be grown in us. Through the centuries, as today, Christ continues to call people to a life of faith, prayer and service. It is the call - Will you be my disciple?

Those first disciples heard his call. And they left their nets, their left the lives they were living. Something they had longed for, were hungry for, they heard in that call from Jesus and they followed him. Their lives would never be the same.

We are here this morning, because we heard that call to discipleship too. And our lives were never the same again. Discipleship is about letting Christ’s love and name be known through us and the Spirit of Christ be grown in us.
“Discipleship means adherence to Christ, and, because Christ is the object of that adherence, it must take the form of discipleship. Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
But it isn’t easy. Today, we endeavor to follow Jesus in a culture that fights against such discipleship, such commitment. I recently read about a meeting a pastor had in his office with a young man feeling conflicted about the decisions confronting him:
"He felt pretty clear about the sort of material success he was after, but uncertain about everything else. So I asked him what he thought he was committed to. What path did he think he was on? Could he describe it? He warned me that he wasn't going after some sappy religious angle. Sappy or not, I countered that everyone has a religion. Everyone functions from a grand operating principle whether or not they admit it. Mostly that principle can be inferred by the wake they leave behind as they pass through their lives. The tangible content of our commitments tells the tale for all of us, notwithstanding what we say. I suggested he check out the wake he was currently leaving behind, or if he was brave enough, ask others what they saw there. Did he want to hear the evidence of what his wake revealed?" (Simple Truths: Our Values, Civility, and Our Common Good by the Rev. Stephen Bauman )
What is our wake? Is it the values of our culture: like wealth, power, prestige. Is it caught up in the rat race or do we feel like we are treading water just to keep up?

For so many people, these days the wakes we leave behind us are often filled with anxiety, sorrow, and exhaustion. I know I have days when the sheer busyness of activities for my kids, school obligations, a visit to the doctor maybe, the work here at church and it feels like I’m on a treadmill from the moment I get up to when the kids finally hit the sack. Then maybe I have an hour or two…

But to frame it this way, lets me off the hook. How I spend the day, my week, how I look at it is really up to me and I do have control over it, even when at times when I feel overwhelmed by it. I have choices to make with what I do and what I give meaning to.

I know there are days that I wish we lived in that by gone era when the culture supported Church and its activities; when people felt volunteerism was a good thing and people felt they had the time to really give of themselves to service and to their church. The culture no longer sees an obligation to church as a necessity or in service to the common good.

But I think in the long run that is a good thing. Because it means we have to be honest with our commitments and it forces us to make a choice with our lives, will we follow Jesus or not? Is the wake I’m leaving behind, the life I’m living, in tune with the values that Jesus challenges us to have when we follow him?
For as one author put it: “Jesus' Gospel is not a collection of pious words we commit to memory; it is a spirit-centered attitude and perspective to which we commit the whole of our lives. We cannot be disciples by being mere spectators of God's presence; authentic discipleship calls us to become involved in the hard work of making the reign of God a reality in our world today.” (Jay Cormier)
To follow Jesus is not a series of thou shall not do this or that, but it is walking with Jesus, following his footsteps.

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Jesus calls each one of us to the work of discipleship: to extend, in whatever our circumstances, the love of God to all; to proclaim, in our own homes and in our communities, the compassion, the forgiveness, that Jesus personified, to the kind and the cruel, even risking the hostile stare.

As God is present to us in the person of Jesus, we are called to be present to one another in our love and care. Christ calls us to discipleship, to fish, to “cast the net” of God’s love that we have experienced upon the waters of our time and place, to reach out and grasp the hand of those who struggle and stumble, to be that answered prayer.

We are called to do that in our individual lives and we are called to do this as a community of love known as St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. I have always enjoyed how active this parish is. Not only in what it gives of itself in service (Mozambique, Chapel on the Green), in what it offers Monroe (tea, fish fry, apples), and in our own activities (knitting, reading, bible studies) but also through the wonderful spirit this is this parish family.

As we know, we are challenged in our financing of this holy church which is part of our discipleship too. In the midst of our ministries, in our work to give to the kingdom, I want us not to forget that deeper call that Christ calls us to do, even as work to be stewards of our time, talent & treasure.

There is a hunger in the lives of all of us to be in deeper relationship with God, the one who created us. To that end, we are beginning a project together to focus on our discipleship and to create a Rhythm of Life for each of us. These disciplines will not only satisfy our desire to serve and please God, but are in fact the very means by which we come to know and love God better. Three ancient practices, commended to all by Holy Scripture and perfected by countless years of human experience will guide us:
Pray twenty minutes a day - Worship one hour a week - Serve others five hours a month.
((20+1+5) This project is laid out in the handout.) If you want to know God better and be a more faithful disciple, please join with me in this project dedicated to nurturing disciples of Jesus. This is an invitation to spiritual depth. But as Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew, our journey as disciples is not always comprehensible for us, is not always clear to us. It is God who by Word and Spirit will guide us in the way we should go. Not the work or the road which we choose, but by the call of God in whichever way God does, in that way you are called to be his disciple.

Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

So in this 213th year of St. Peter’s Church, I hope you will join me in the Discipleship Project, learning to hear God’s call again.

Christ, your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go where your love and footsteps show,
thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

Our discipleship we lead us to deeper love than we have known. It will guide us into our future.
In this we will live and move and grow. “Here, Lord, is my life. I place it on the altar today. Use it as You will.” - Albert Schweitzer

The call of the disciples by Malcom Guite. (which is our call too!)
He calls us all to step aboard his ship,
Take the adventure on this morning’s wing,
Raise sail with him, launch out into the deep,
Whatever storms or floods are threatening.
If faith gives way to doubt, or love to fear,
Then, as on Galilee, we’ll rouse the Lord,
For he is always with us and will hear,
And make our peace with his creative Word,
Who made us, loved us, formed us and has set
All his beloved lovers in an ark;
Borne upwards by his Spirit, we will float
Above the rising waves, the falling dark,
As fellow pilgrims, driven towards that haven,
Where all will be redeemed, fulfilled, forgiven.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Walking with #MLK - Jonathan Myrick Daniels

Jonathan Myrick Daniels was born in New Hampshire in 1939. In the spring of 1962, while attending Easter services at the Church of the Advent in Boston, he had a conversion experience. Soon after, he made a definite decision to study for the priesthood, he enrolled at Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the fall of 1963, expecting to graduate in the spring of 1966.

In March 1965 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, asked students and others to join him in Selma, Alabama for a march to the state capital in Montgomery demonstrating support for his civil rights program. News of the request reached the campus of ETS, and during Evening Prayer at the chapel, Jonathan Daniels decided that he ought to go. Later he wrote:
"My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." I had come to Evening Prayer as usual that evening, and as usual I was singing the Magnificat with the special love and reverence I have always felt for Mary's glad song. "He hath showed strength with his arm." As the lovely hymn of the God-bearer continued, I found myself peculiarly alert, suddenly straining toward the decisive, luminous, Spirit-filled "moment" that would, in retrospect, remind me of others--particularly one at Easter three years ago. Then it came. "He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things." I knew then that I must go to Selma. The Virgin's song was to grow more and more dear in the weeks ahead."
He and others left on Thursday for Selma, intending to stay only that weekend; but he and a friend missed the bus back, and began to reflect on how an in-and-out visit like theirs looked to those living in Selma, and decided that they must stay longer. They went home to request permission to spend the rest of the term in Selma, studying on their own and returning to take their examinations. In Selma, many proposed marches were blocked by rows of policemen. Jon describes one such meeting:
After a week-long, rain-soaked vigil, we still stood face to Face with the Selma police. I stood, for a change, in the front rank, ankle-deep in an enormous puddle. To my immediate right were high school students, for the most part, and further to the right were a swarm of clergymen. My end of the line surged forward at one point, led by a militant Episcopal priest whose temper (as usual) was at combustion-point. Thus I found myself only inches from a young policeman. The air crackled with tension and open hostility. Emma Jean, a sophomore in the Negro high school, called my name from behind. I reached back for her hand to bring her up to the front rank, but she did not see. Again she asked me to come back. My determination had become infectiously savage, and I insisted that she come forward--I would not retreat! Again I reached for her hand and pulled her forward. The young policeman spoke: "You're dragging her through the puddle. You ought to be ashamed for treating a girl like that." Flushing--I had forgotten the puddle--I snarled something at him about whose-fault-it-really-was, that managed to be both defensive and self-righteous. We matched baleful glances and then both looked away. And then came a moment of shattering internal quiet, in which I felt shame, indeed, and a kind of reluctant love for the young policeman. I apologized to Emma Jean. And then it occurred to me to apologize to Him and to thank him. Though he looked away in contempt--I was not altogether sure I blamed him--I had received a blessing I would not forget. Before long the kids were singing, "I love ---." One of my friends asked [the young policeman] for his name. His name was Charlie. When we sang for him, he blushed and then smiled in a truly sacramental mixture of embarrassment and pleasure and shyness. Soon the young policeman looked relaxed, we all lit cigarettes (in a couple of instances, from a common match, and small groups of kids and policemen clustered to joke or talk cautiously about the situation. It was thus a shock later to look across the rank at the clergymen and their opposites, who glared across a still unbroken "Wall" in what appeared to be silent hatred. Had I been freely arranging the order for Evening Prayer that night, I think I might have followed the General Confession directly with the General Thanksgiving--or perhaps the Te Deum.
Jonathan devoted many of his Sundays in Selma to bringing small groups of African Americans, mostly high school students, to church with him in an effort to integrate the local Episcopal church. They were seated but scowled at. Many parishioners openly resented their presence, and put their pastor squarely in the middle.  In May, Jonathan went back to ETS to take examinations and complete other requirements, and in July he returned to Alabama, where he helped to produce a listing of local, state, and federal agencies and other resources legally available to persons in need of assistance.

On Friday, August 13, Jonathan and others went to the town of Fort Deposit to join in picketing three local businesses. On Saturday they were arrested and held in the county jail in Hayneville for six days until they were bailed out. After their sudden release on Friday, August 20, four of them undertook to enter a local shop, and were met at the door by a man with a shotgun who told them to leave or be shot. After a brief confrontation, he aimed the gun at a young girl in the party, and Jon pushed her out of the way and took the blast of the shotgun himself.  He was killed instantly. Not long before his death he wrote:
I lost fear in the black belt when I began to know in my Bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord's death and Resurrection, that in the only sense that really matters I am already dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God. I began to lose self-righteousness when I discovered the extent to which my behavior was motivated by worldly desires and by the self-seeking messianism of Yankee deliverance! The point is simply, of course, that one's motives are usually mixed, and one had better know it.
As Judy and I said the daily offices day by day, we became More and more aware of the living reality of the invisible "communion of saints"--of the beloved community in Cambridge who were saying the offices too, of the ones gathered around a near-distant throne in heaven--who blend with theirs our faltering songs of prayer and praise. With them, with black men and white men, with all of life, in Him Whose Name is above all the names that the races and nations shout, whose Name is Itself the Song Which fulfills and "ends" all songs, we are indelibly, unspeakably One.
(Note: Much of Alabama has brick-red clayey soil. The region where the soil is black loam is called "the black belt." The term has no racial referent, although Yankees often assume that it does.)

Sources:  James E.Kiefer & The Jon Daniels Story, ed. William J Schneider (Seabury Press)

Living into #MLK #Nonviolence

At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
 "The non-violent approach... first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally, it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality."
"Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals."
"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." ~ Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967


The week between the Confession of St Peter (Jan 18) and the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan 25) has been traditionally a time for Churches to remember their unity in Christ and to pray for one another.

Prayers for Christian Unity

Lord Jesus Christ, who prayed for your disciples that they might be one, even as you are one with the Father; draw us to yourself, that in common love and obedience to you we may be united to one another, in the fellowship of the one Spirit, through all of our Churches in Monroe, that the world may believe that you are Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen. (William Temple (1881—1944))

O God who has called men and women in every land to be a holy nation, a royal priesthood, the Church of your dear Son; unite us in mutual love across the barriers of race and culture, and strengthen us here in Monroe in our common task of being Christ and showing Christ to the world he came to save. Amen. (John Kingsnorth (USPG))

O God, be with thy Church everywhere and particularly in the Churches of Monroe. May she walk warily in times of peace and quietness, and boldly in times of trouble. Do thou remove all harshness and bitterness from amongst us, towards those who walk not in all things with us, but who worship our Lord in sincerity and truth. And all this we ask for the sake of thy dear Son. Amen. (Helen Waddell, 1889-1965)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Remembering to Serve on #MLKDay

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels inevitability. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without persistent effort, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social destruction. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Stride Toward Freedom the Montgomery Story - Chapter XI Where Do We Go From Here

Prayers using the Words of #MLK

Prayers of the People using the Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Intercessor:  Let us before all else give thanks for the love of God revealed to the world in the life and death of Jesus Christ:
People:  "The Cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community."
Intercessor:  Let us give thanks for the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and for the enduring power of his dream:
People:  "I have a dream that one day 'every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low... and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.'... With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day."  
Intercessor:       Let us commit ourselves to pray and work for peace:
People: "One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal… How much longer must we play at deadly war games before we heed the plaintive pleas of the unnumbered dead and maimed of past wars?"
Intercessor:  Let us commit ourselves to walk in the way of nonviolence:
People: "The non-violent approach... first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally, it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality."
Intercessor:  Let us commit ourselves to pray and work for a just ordering of our world:
People:  "Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals…This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is the time for vigorous and positive action." 
Intercessor:  Let us commit ourselves to the vision of a world without poverty and disease, as set forth in the eight Millennium Development Goals:
People: "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits." 
Intercessor: Let us commit ourselves to seek the spiritual renewal of our nation:
People: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
Intercessor: Let us commit ourselves to seek the spiritual renewal of the Church:
People: "In spite of being disappointed, in spite of being left out without any initial response, millions of people are still knocking on the door of the Church and turning to it for the answers to the basic problems of life. The great challenge facing the Church today is to keep the bread fresh."
Intercessor:  Let us pray for all those on our hearts this morning.
Rev. Kurt will add names for those we pray for this morning and then all join in the final prayer.
All:  "And now unto God who is able to keep us from falling and lift us from the dark valley of despair to the mountains of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy, to God be power and authority, for ever and ever." Amen.
--------- Quotes are from the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and prayers are organized by Bishop Jeffery W. Rowthorn. --------

Sermon: 2nd Epiphany (Jan 18)

O Lord, we come this morning
Knee-bowed and body-bent
Before Thy throne of grace.
O Lord--this morning--
Bow our hearts beneath our knees,
And our knees in some lonesome valley.

We come this morning--
Like empty pitchers to a full fountain,
With no merits of our own.
O Lord--open up a window of heaven,
And lean out far over the battlements of glory,
And listen this morning.
(James Weldon Johnson) Amen.
We have been exploring the theme: do the right thing
In our Food & Film series. Last night we watched Hotel Rwanda.

It is based on the real life attempt of Paul Rusesabagina, the manager of the Diplomat Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda, to shelter more than 1,000 refugees inside his hotel during the Rwandan Genocide. He gave them water from the pool so they wouldn't die from dehydration, smuggled in food, and held off the militia who came to the hotel by bribing them. Around 1 million Rwandans died in 100 days.

He did the right thing, but now he lives here in the US. He fled Rwanda after the genocide because he said “that after speaking out against those doing evil, I became a target of that evil.” And he never could return.

Doing the right thing often has a cost, a sacrifice. But history tells us that we have to remember; I think of a poem written by Marjory Wentworth that explores this idea of our history and the call of the prophet to remember…
Because our history is a knot
we try to unravel, while others
try to tighten it, we tire easily
and fray the cords that bind us.

The cord is a slow moving river,
spiraling across the land
in a succession of S’s,
splintering near the sea…

Consider the prophet John, calling us
from the edge of the wilderness to name
the harm that has been done, to make it
plain, and enter the river and rise.
To name the harm, make it plain, and then enter the river, that is be baptized & rise anew! John the Baptist calls us to do the right thing in our lives & in our society. And yet the prophet and others are so often seen as the troublemakers for shaking up the status quo or saving the wrong people.

Certainly Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was considered by some an outside agitator, but he knew that he had to name the harm if we were to rise as one. He said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

This weekend we remember his dedication to the cause of civil rights and justice & his call to join him in this hope. As Christians, we are prisoners of hope, as Desmond Tutu put it & MLK personified it.
“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.” (MLK)
MLK had a dream and heard the voice of God call him to proclaim justice in our midst. Hearing the voice of God is not always easy. In our first reading, Samuel would hear the voice of God calling to him. But he did not understand. He thought it was Eli who was calling him. Three times he went to Eli, “Here am I, you called me,” and finally the third time Eli understood that it was the Lord who was calling and he told Samuel what to do. And when the Lord called again, Samuel said, “speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

We live in times where God’s word seems silent, where visions are not widespread. But God still calls to us. It is Samuel and Eli who remind us to listen, really listen for the voice of God in our lives. We might remain skeptical. Like Nathaniel in the Gospel reading. Philip heard Jesus say, “follow me” and that is all he needed. He heard the voice of God and he responded!

He runs to tell Nathaniel. “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” This is good news in the days of Roman occupation. The messiah has come. Philip is ready.

And so what does Nathaniel say… “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel is not impressed. Jesus of Nazareth. But Philip is not deterred by his friends lack of enthusiasm.

“Come and see.” says Philip. And Nathaniel does and his interaction with Jesus changes everything. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! you are the King of Israel!”

And Philip and Nathaniel both follow Jesus. Indeed, we are prisoners of hope, for we are called to believe, just as God called Samuel, Samuel – and his servant was listening. God called Philip to follow and he followed. God called Nathaniel to come and see and it changed his life. God called MLK to proclaim from the mountain top, a dream, of justice and hope. God called Paul in Rwanda to save, to reach out in love to Tutsi and Hutu.

It is God who is still working in this world, God calls to you, calls you by name. It is God who looks to you to share that light in a world so full of darkness. Let me end with a poem by James Weldon Johnson (from Lift Every Voice & Sing):
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land. Amen.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Remembering our Baptism

On this Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, let us join with those who are committing themselves to Christ and renew our own baptismal covenant.

The Baptismal Covenant
Do you believe in God the Father?
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
I will, with God’s help.

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
I will, with God’s help.

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
I will, with God’s help.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
I will, with God’s help.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human
I will, with God’s help.

Prayers for the Candidates
Let us now pray for these persons who are to receive the Sacrament of new birth and for those who
have renewed their commitment to Christ.

Leader Deliver them, O Lord, from the way of sin and death.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader Open their hearts to your grace and truth.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader Fill them with your holy and life-giving Spirit.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader Keep them in the faith and communion of your holy Church.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader Teach them to love others in the power of the Spirit.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader Send them into the world in witness to your love.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader Bring them to the fullness of your peace and glory.
People Lord, hear our prayer.

Grant, O Lord, that all who are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ your Son may live in the power of his resurrection and look for him to come again in glory; who lives and reigns now and forever. Amen.