Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Holy Week Prayers

from the Book of Common Prayer:
Monday in Holy Week
Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but
first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he
was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way
of the cross, may find it none other that the way of life and
peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.

Tuesday in Holy Week
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an
instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life:
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly
suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior
Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday in Holy Week
Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be
whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept
joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the
glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Maundy Thursday
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he
suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood:
Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in
remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy
mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.

Good Friday
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your
family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be
betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer
death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Holy Saturday
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the
crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and
rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the
coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life;
who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday Sermon

O Lord, in our weakness, be our strength; in our troubles, be our peace; in our danger, be our shelter; in our fears, be our hope; and help us in our hearts to remember you walk with us always. Amen.

Jesus lived on borrowed time.
Think about the story of his life: Jesus was born in a borrowed place and laid in a borrowed manger. As he traveled, he had no place of his own so he spent his nights in a "borrowed" space somewhere.

In the account of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, the Gospel of Mark makes a point of the fact that the donkey was borrowed. He sends two disciples to a nearby village where they find a colt. If anyone questions you, Jesus directs, tell them that "The Master needs it" and assure them it will be returned.

And so Jesus enters Jerusalem, seated on a borrowed donkey, acclaimed by the crowds as the "one who comes in the name of the Lord." He ate his final meal in a borrowed upper room. And when he died, his body was placed in a borrowed tomb.

What kind of Messiah, what kind of king, makes his grand entrance on a borrowed donkey? Buried in a borrowed tomb?

Think about what St. Paul says to us today, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus… who, emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”

Jesus owns nothing. He possesses nothing. He takes nothing for himself but shares whatever is given him. His only possession is compassion: love freely given, without limit or condition or expectation. That is what he asks of those who would follow him. For it is the Kingdom of God - a Kingdom built of justice, of mercy, of reconciliation, of peace.

It is that Kingdom of God that Jesus preaches and models and ultimately dies for - on a cross that was borrowed, as well. [Adapted from sermons by William Carter and Rob Elder, Day One.]
Be of the same mind, says St. Paul, think of how Jesus lived, who emptied himself of his very divinity to take on the cross for the sake of all of God's creation.

As we walk with Jesus this Holy Week, may we learn to empty ourselves of our egos, our wants and expectations, our possessions, in order to make room in our lives for the simple, liberating love of God, to take up our cross and follow him on the path he walked.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “We need to immerse ourselves over and over again for periods of time and very quietly into the living, speaking, acting, suffering and dying of Jesus, so that we may recognize what God promises and what God fulfills.”
May we borrow from the humble of spirit of Jesus, as we carry our cross, enabling us to build the Kingdom of God in this time and place of ours. For it is in taking the time to live into his experience, from the last supper through the cross and beyond that will help our lives understand God’s promise to be with us always and will guide us in helping this hurting world.

Teach us the path, show us the way by Malcolm Boyd
from Are you Running with me, Jesus? (1965)
(Rev. Malcolm Boyd died this year at age 91.)

They say that everyone has a cross to bear, Jesus. And you once said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” What do those things mean? I think they mean that every person ultimately has to face up to reality – face one's own calling, destiny, nature and responsibilities.

In your own life, Jesus, you faced reality directly and unequivocally. You incarnated the truth as you believed it. You didn't pander to any easy or obvious popularity. You attacked the hypocrisies of the human power structure head on. You rejected status quo in favor of obedience to the Realm of God. And when it came to taking consequences, you didn't shy away from torture and execution.

The way of the cross was your understanding of your mission and your faithfulness to it. The way of the cross seems to be, for every individual Christian, the reality that dictates styles of life, defines mission, and brings a person into communion with you. Help me bear my cross on the way of the cross, Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Holy Week Prayers

Prayers from Are You Running With Me, Jesus? (1965) By Malcolm Boyd

 Why is reality about you so shocking to us, Jesus?
     I know the real cross wasn't pretty at all. But I guess I understand why they want to make copies of it out of fine woods and even semiprecious stones because you hung on it.
     Yet doesn't this romanticize your death and give it a kind of gloss it didn't have? Your death was bloody and dirty and very real. Can't we face it that way, Jesus?  And can't we face the fact that you were a real man, living a human life, as well as God?

- - - - - - - - - -

We're praying for repentance
      Take fire and burn away our guilt and our lying hypocrisies/
      Take water and wash away our brothers' and sisters' blood which we have caused to be shed.
      Take hot sunlight and dry the tears of those we have hurt, and heal their wounded souls, minds and bodies.
      Take love and root it in our hearts, so that community may grow, transforming the dry desert of our prejudices and hatreds.
      Take our imperfect prayers and purify them, so that we mean what we pray and are prepared to give ourselves to you along with our words.

- - - - - - - - - -
Thanks for what you did about success and failure

       Jesus, you ruined all the phony success stories forever when you didn't come down from the cross, turn your crown of thorns into  solid gold, transform the crowd at Golgotha into a mighty army, march on Rome, and become the king.
       Now every success symbol looks so shoddy and short-lived when it is placed against your cross. You accepted and overcame death.  You showed us the dimension of life in God's  eternal dispensation that makes the careers we plan and the standards we accept look absurd.
       When you refused to play the role of a Great Man, or the ultimate Big Shot, you really made us level with you as yourself, Jesus.

- - - - - - - - - -

What is love, Jesus?

     It seems so important, Jesus, that you called on God to forgive your torturers because, as you put it, they didn't know what they were doing.
     You kept on loving, even then.
     Help us to learn from you, Jesus, how to keep on loving when we feel like hating. It's hard. Some of us have turned your cross into a symbol of hate. When the Ku Klux Klan burns a cross, the blasphemy of it startles me.  Doesn't this mean, in a very real sense, joining the ranks of your own executioners?
     Nevertheless you were actively, creatively, responsibly loving, even on the cross, Jesus. Help us to see that love for what it is -- in all its fierce passion and sweep of forgiveness.

- - - - - - - - - -

     The kids are smiling, Jesus, on the tenement stoop

     The little girl is the oldest, and she's apparently in charge of the younger two, her brothers. Suddenly she's crying and her two brothers are trying to comfort her. Now everything seems to be peaceful and she's smiling again.
     But what's ahead for them, Christ? Home is this broken-down dump on a heartless,tough street. What kind of school will they go to? Will it be a hopelessly overcrowded? Will it be a place that breeds despair? Will it change these kids' happy smiles into angry, sullen masks they'll have to wear for the rest of their lives?  
      I look at their faces and realize how they are our victims, especially when we like to say they are beautiful children, but we don't change conditions that will make their faces hard and their hearts cynical .
     Have these kids got a chance, Jesus? Will they know anything about dignity or love or health? Jesus, looking at these kids, I'm afraid for them and for all of us.

- - - - - - - - - -

      Teach us the path, show us the way

      They say that everyone has a cross to bear, Jesus. And you once said, "Take up your cross and follow me." What do these things mean? I think they mean that every person ultimately has to face up to reality -- face one's own calling, destiny, nature and responsibilities.
     In your own life, Jesus, you faced reality directly and unequivocally. You incarnated the truth as you believed it. You didn't pander to any easy or obvious popularity. You attacked the hypocrisies of he human power structure head on. You rejected the status quo in favor of obedience to the Realm of God. And when it came to taking the consequences, you didn't shy away from torture and execution.
     The way of the cross was your understanding of your mission and your faithfulness to it.
      The way of the cross seems to be, for every individual Christian, the reality that dictates style of life, defines mission, and brings a person into communion with you.
     Help me to bear my cross on the way of the cross, Jesus.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Welcome to the Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church welcomes all who worship Jesus Christ, in 109 dioceses and three regional areas in 17 nations. The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The mission of the church, as stated in the Book of Common Prayer’s catechism (p. 855), is "to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ."

The 2012 General Convention established the Anglican Communion Five Marks of Mission as a mission priority framework:

·         To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
·         To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
·         To respond to human need by loving service
·         To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
·         To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

from our national website: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/

To get a glimpse of those who are traveling with us, newly joined, check out:

On “Going Episcopal”
March 25, 2015 by Rachel Held Evans
As Searching for Sunday makes clear, I am profoundly grateful to evangelicalism and the first people to introduce me to Jesus. They taught me to love and learn Scripture, to share my personal testimony, and to deliver a flawless lip synch performance to Newsboys’ “Shine” which I am certain will come in handy one day. And I haven’t exactly “converted” to the Anglican tradition. (I’ve not even been confirmed yet!) I just happen to worship with a community of Jesus-followers at an Episcopal church, where I’ve reconnected with the power of communion and the sacraments, and where I’ve been loved mightily for just showing up, even with my doubts in tow.
She also includes links to others who have written on this topic of coming to the Episcopal Church.

Welcome to the journey with us Episcopalians!

March 22 Sermon

Living God, you break into our mortal loneliness by your coming among us.
You clothe the dry bones of our lives with the flesh of your new creation,
and from the fearful tombs you call us to come out and live unbound,
through the power of Christ’s resurrection, in whose strong name we give thanks. Amen. (Rev. JP)

Yesterday, at the Spring training & gathering for the EC in CT, we talked a lot about our stories, our personal stories and our connection to our faith. It got me thinking about lyrics to a song by David Haas: “We come to share our story. We come to break the bread. We come to know our rising from the dead.”

We gather each week, to share our story, to break bread together and to hear the redeeming words of Scripture for us today.

In our first reading, God says to Jeremiah, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the LORD," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”

Know the Lord. It is true for our journey today as it was in the day of Jeremiah the Prophet.

But people forgot. They walked away, generations later, the question and the hope resurfaces, a longing for connection to the Divine. A yearning we all have. In the Gospel we are told, Greeks at the festival in Jerusalem came up to Philip saying, “We want to see Jesus.”

To see Jesus is to Know the Lord. It is to see with our eyes and hearts. God is always speaking, always present. But we need to listen.
The late Henri Nouwen put it this way, “The church is a spiritual director. It tries to connect your story with God’s story. Just to be a true part of this community means you are being directed and you are being guided. The Bible is a spiritual director. People must read Scripture as a word for themselves personally, and ask where God speaks to them.”
Holy Scripture is not only a story of long ago, but it is our story today, connecting with each of us here and now. Speaking to you and me and our lives.

The children of our Godly Play class move towards the celebration of Easter by taking 7 classes to listen to the stories of Jesus’ journey to the cross and resurrection. It is called the Mystery of Easter. Using 7 pictures of Christ (from Godly Play), it helps them wonder and consider their place in the story. It begins with...

Jesus’ Birth & Grown (I)

In the beginning a baby was born. God chose Mary to be his mother. And the Mother Mary & Father Joseph kept the baby close and gave that baby everything he needed to grow. Love!

Jesus is Lost & Found (II)

The baby grew and became a boy. When Jesus was around 12, he accompanied Mary & Joseph and many others from Nazareth to Jerusalem for one of the high holy days. After the celebration, the Nazareans went home through the great high gate, but Jesus was not there. Mary & Joseph searched for him & finally found him in the temple with the rabbis/priests. "Didn't you know I would be in my father's house?" And Mary treasured these words in her heart.

Jesus’ Baptism & Blessing by God (III)

Jesus grew and became a man, and around the age of 30 was baptized in the river Jordan by his cousin, John. He didn’t want to, but Jesus persuaded him and as he came out of the waters, they saw a dove and heard a voice, "this is the beloved." Jesus then went into the desert, where he stayed 40 days & nights to learn more about who he was and what his work was going to be.

Jesus’ Desert & Discovery Experience (IV)

In the desert there was little to eat or drink and there he was tempted: stones to bread, jump to test God, King over all kingdoms. Jesus said, No to all the temptations. After this, he went back across the Jordan to do his work.

Jesus as Healer & Parable-Maker (V)

His work was to come close to people, especially those no one else wanted to come close to, like Healing the blind man. When Jesus came close to people, they changed, they became well. He also told parables to the people. To help open their minds and their hearts to the Kingdom of God.

Jesus offers the Bread & Wine (VI)

Jesus went to Jerusalem one last time. As he rode a humble donkey, he was greeted by people waving palm branches, laying down branches and their garments on the road. In an upper room, the disciples and Jesus shared a last meal. Jesus took some bread and wine and gave it to them, each time telling them whenever they gather, to break bread and drink wine, to do it in remembrance of him.

The One who was Easter & Still Is (VII)

After supper, Jesus went with his disciples to Gethsemane, there he was betrayed, arrested and taken to Jerusalem for his trial. That next day outside the city walls, Jesus was crucified. Afterwards, he was laid in a tomb. On Sunday, they went to the tomb, found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Jesus who died on the cross, had risen, and was still with them, as they gathered as they shared in the bread and wine.

One side of the picture is Easter, the other crucifixion. You cannot take them apart, you cannot have one without the other and that is the mystery of Easter, a mystery where we find God.

In that mystery is a journey, a memory of what has happened. Verna Dozier remind us that our parish family is “a Scripture community which is a community with a memory. Deep in that memory is some event in which we shared either by actual participation in it or by being brought into the story. The memory has to be kept right. A Scripture community is a community with a ritual life that keeps the memory fresh.”

We keep Lent to remind us of the journey to Easter, to the event that changed the world and changed our lives that brought life out of death. For each Sunday we come to live into that event ritually reminding us that indeed Jesus is always with us and we find him in our gathering as we hear our sacred story, offer our prayers, and break bread together. Amen.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Holy Week Schedule

Remember our Church is open 24/7/365.
You are welcome to come in anytime and pray this Holy Week.

Here is our Holy Week Schedule:

Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday, March 29
Services at 8 & 10:15 AM (Church School at 10:15 AM)

Chapel on the Green (New Haven) - 2 PM

Holy Wednesday, April 1
Tenebrae (Service of Darkness) - 7 PM

Maundy Thursday, April 2
Holy Eucharist & Washing of Feet - 6 PM*

Good Friday, April 3
Children's Stations of the Cross - 12 noon*
Good Friday Evening Service - 7 PM

Holy Saturday, April 4
Easter Vigil at St. Peter's - 7 PM

Easter Sunday, April 5
Easter Sunrise at Wolfe Park - 6:30 AM (Led by the Monroe Clergy Assoc.)
Our Easter Morning Festal Services at 8 & 10:15 AM

*especially appropriate for children

All are welcome to all of our services.

The Good Friday Offering will go to the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Monroe Volunteer Intiative

Looking for a way to help your town?

Looking for a way to help your neighbors?

Check this out:
Volunteerism is one of the core attributes of a vibrant and successful town, and the Town of Monroe is extremely fortunate to have an incredible number of residents who are willing to pitch in and make our community a wonderful place to live, work, and play.

The Monroe Volunteer Initiative is an effort to recruit, organize, promote and honor the many residents who are willing to volunteer for the benefit of the Town. The Town has created an online tool for residents to submit their contact information and indicate their preferred types of volunteer opportunities. This new system will enable the Town to more effectively recruit, recognize and manage our volunteers in the most efficient way possible.

Please fill out your contact information and select as many volunteer options that you may be interested in participating. The volunteer options will likely be expanding in the near future, so please check back often! Questions regarding the Monroe Volunteer Initiative can be directed to the Office of the First Selectman (203) 452-2821.
Homepage for the MVI: http://www.monroect.org/content/343/2468/4164.aspx

Faith Formation is a Parental Role (Part II)

Our discipleship as parents, includes how we raise our kids. Studies show how important it is for parents to practice what they preach. To live out our faith with our kids! And when we do, the Church becomes a helpful partner.

Five Principles for Living And Passing on Faith
(from Vibrant Faith Ministries)

1. Faith is formed by the power of the Holy Spirit through personal, trusted relationships – often in our own homes.

2. The church is a living partnership between the ministry of the congregation and ministry of the home.

3. Where Christ is present in faith, the home is church too.

4. Faith is caught more than it is taught.

5. If we want Christian children and youth, we need Christian adults.

With these 5 principles in mind, read again that study, and see how influential parents are!
Parents are top influence in teens remaining active in religion as young adults


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Our Missionary

I am writing to tell you about an exciting and God ordained opportunity – I am going to be a part of an Overland Missions expedition this summer in Brazil! Overland Missions is a ministry founded by Philip and Sharon Smethurst that is committed to reaching the most neglected and remote people of the world with the Gospel and empowering the third world church by raising up strong indigenous leaders. Overland Missions believes that no location is too remote and no distance too far to travel for the sake of the Gospel.

The expedition I will be a part of will start in the bustling city of Manaus, which is located in the central region of the great Amazon River. The Amazon River is the second longest river in the world, second only to the Nile River. I will be spending two weeks on a riverboat which will provide sleeping quarters, bathrooms, and a kitchen. My team and I will travel by riverboat 14 hours from Manaus to the city of Maues and the villages of the Satare Maue and the Riberirhino’s. Daily activities will consist of evangelism and ministry in these villages and churches, sport outreaches, meeting with local pastors and believers and more.

You can help by partnering with me in prayer and finances for this expedition. The total cost of this expedition is $3,200. This includes all travel costs to and from Brazil, as well as the 14 day expedition.

I will happily call to follow up with you and to see if you have any questions! Thank you for taking the time to read this. This has been something I have wanted to do for years and I am so excited the time has finally come where I am putting it into action!

With love,
Lauren Johnson

How can you help support Lauren?

You can go online and give an offering (missionary fund):


All missionary funds raised (before April 19) will go towards Lauren’s expedition.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Spacious Firmamaent

Joseph Addison Poem & Words from The Spec­ta­tor (Lon­don, Eng­land: Au­gust 23, 1712). The poem (now hymn) fol­lowed an es­say with this in­tro­duc­tion:
The Su­preme Be­ing has made the best ar­gu­ments for his own ex­ist­ence in the for­ma­tion of the heav­ens and the earth, and these are ar­gu­ments which a man of sense ca­nnot for­bear at­tend­ing to who is out of the noise and hur­ry of human af­fairs…The Psalm­ist has ve­ry beau­ti­ful strokes of po­e­try to this pur­pose in that ex­alt­ed strain (Psalm xix). As such a bold and sub­lime man­ner of Think­ing furn­ished out ve­ry no­ble Mat­ter for an Ode, the Read­er may see it wrought in­to the fol­low­ing one.

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame
Their great Original proclaim.
Th’unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator’s powers display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty Hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth;
While all the stars that round her burn
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice nor sound
Amid the radiant orbs be found?
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
Forever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine.”

The tune CREATION is taken from the chorus “The Heavens Are Telling” from the oratorio The Creation (1798) by Franz Joseph Haydn.

Monks & Snow

Monks are just like the rest of us!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Remembering the Martyrs of Selma & Those Who Marched

Remembering The Four People Of Faith Who Died On The Road From Selma:

· Episcopal seminarian: Jonathan Myrick Daniels (August 20, 1965)
· Unitarian laywoman: Viola Liuzzo (March 25, 1965)
· Baptist deacon: Jimmie Lee Jackson (February 26, 1965)
· Unitarian minister: the Rev. James Reeb (March 11, 1965)

We remember the four martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the rights of others.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Those Who Marched

Gracious God, our hearts are filled with gratitude for the 600 strong, the men and women, from different faiths and races who, as one in your Spirit, marched for freedom on Bloody Sunday in Selma some 50 years ago. Their way of courage and non-violence remains alive and inspires us to follow them. In our mind’s eye, as we remember their witness, guide us in their footsteps as we march on to a future where all your children will flourish together in your love. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sermon: March 8

O God whose name is Life: when your people were a barren tree you fed and watered us; when we wandered in fear you led us by fire and promise and your law; when we gave ourselves up to corruption, you drove evil out of us and raised us up through your Anointed One, Jesus, our Rock and Salvation, through whom we give you thanks and praise! Amen. (from Rev. Jennifer Phillips)
Whenever we read the story of Jesus cleansing the temple, I think of Howard Beale from the movie Network and his telling the viewers:
I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad... All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'
That scene from that satirical film in 1976, reminds me of Jesus, not because the film is depicting Jesus in any way, but it is how I imagine the reaction of Jesus as he and his followers come to the temple to pray. What do they find but Roman guards everywhere nearby, the moneychangers, animals at the temple; all is not as how God intended it to be. So Jesus gets mad, he makes a whip of chords to begin to cleanse the temple.

Jesus didn’t just let things be. Jesus drives out the merchants and their cattle, overturns the tables of the money changers, all of whom have seemingly taken over the temple. He does all this because they have distorted the purpose of the temple, which in Jesus eyes had become a marketplace, not a house of prayer.

Lives have value; they were God’s creation and here in God’s holy temple, they had become just one more commodity and he refused to take it anymore. There is something there for us to think about, how things can get distorted over time.

In our first reading, the Israelites have been rescued from their captivity, they have been set free from their slavery in Egypt. It’s now the third month, and God has called forth Moses to Mount Sinai, to a holy place and there the Ten Commandments are given to help them live lives that are not distorted. To help the people understand what God has called them forth from and what is God calling them into, a new life with the commandments to guide them into that God created life.

In the second reading, Paul writing to the Corinthians for the first time, reminds them “For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.”

Our faith can get distorted when we lose sight of the one whom we follow, the crucified and risen Jesus. Such distortions, such merchants and money changers in our lives, even our own selves can sometimes get in the way of seeing the value of our lives…
A rabbi had a busy week, so busy that he never got around to visiting the sick members of his congregation in the hospital. As a result, he had to cancel an outing on Sunday afternoon to make his calls. But after an hour, it was clear he had wasted his time: two of the people he had come to see had been discharged the previous afternoon (and were now probably angry that he had not come to see them); two others were sleeping and he hesitated to wake them; another had a roomful of visitors and saw the rabbi’s presence as an intrusion; and the last patient he visited spent twenty minutes complaining about her aches and pains and previous afflictions and cited them as the reasons she could no longer believe in God or value prayer. The rabbi could not help thinking of all the ways he would rather have spent the hour.

Walking back to the parking lot resenting the time he had wasted, he passed an office building where a security guard was on duty in the front. “Good afternoon,” the guard said to the rabbi, which prompted the rabbi to stop and say, “It’s Sunday. The building is closed and empty. Why are you standing here?”

“I’m hired to make sure nobody breaks in to steal or vandalize anything. But what are you doing here in a suit and tie on a Sunday afternoon? Who do you work for?”

The rabbi was about to tell the guard the name of his congregation when he paused, reached into his pocket for his card, and said, “Here’s my name and phone number. I’ll pay you ten dollars a week to call me every Monday morning and ask me that question: Remind me to ask myself, Who do I work for?” [From Overcoming Life’s Disappointments by Harold S. Kushner.]
The question that confronts the rabbi is what compels Jesus to cast out the money changers and vendors from the temple: we have allowed so many “merchants” into our lives that we have no “sacred space” left to celebrate God’s presence in our midst; we have so over-scheduled our time to meet all the demands and expectations made of us that the things of God are shut out of our days.

Lent challenges us to cast out the money changers who shortchange our time and attention from the important things of life; these holy days call us to drive out the useless, the meaningless, and the destructive that desecrate the sacred place within us where God should dwell, the God “whom we [ultimately] work for.” In whom we live and move and have our being.

For our God who led the Israelites out of the house of slavery, is the same God who will help lead us out of our houses of bondage & foolishness, out of our houses of control & strength, to seek out God’s wisdom and salvation even in the darkness. We need God to help us cleanse ourselves, over turn the tables in our way, and help us recover the value and dignity of our lives. Amen.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

On this 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday (Selma)

Prayer of Thanksgiving for Those Who Marched
(To Commemorate Selma to Montgomery Bridge Crossing)

Gracious God, our hearts are filled with gratitude for the six hundred strong, the
men and women who, as one in your Spirit, marched for freedom on Bloody
Sunday. Their way of courage and non-violence remains alive and inspires us to
follow them. In our mind’s eye, as we remember their witness, guide us in their
footsteps as we march on to a future where all your children will flourish together
in your love. Amen.

A Litany for Racial Reconciliation
Leader: The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because the Lord has anointed us
People: to join in the determination of those who marched for freedom on
Bloody Sunday to be prophets of change.

Leader: The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because the Lord has anointed us
People: to break down walls that separate races and unite us in a single

Leader: The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because the Lord has anointed us
People: to persist in undermining unjust structures that divide and wound us.

Leader: The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because the Lord has anointed us
People: to search for common ground and understanding.

Leader: The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because the Lord has anointed us
People: to live in community as sisters and brothers of the family of God.

Leader and People: The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because the Lord has
anointed us to be reconciled to and love one another. Amen.

Offered by the Faith in Community Workgroup of Greater Birmingham Ministries. Adapted from 1979 Year of Repentance, Anti-Racism Study Packet, United Church of Canada, Saskatchewan Conference. From Seeing the Face of God in Each Other: A Manual for Antiracism Training and Action, Antiracism Committee of the Executive Council, 2003. Episcopal Church USA.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

#Ferguson - Post-DOJ Report

The population in Ferguson, MO is over 21,000 people (slightly larger than the town of Monroe, CT I reside in) with a population break down of 67% African American, 29% white...

And yet as the report from the DOJ says, African Americans in that community suffered from bias that was routine and thorough, affecting “nearly every aspect of Ferguson police and court operations.”

You can learn more here:


The Justice Department on Wednesday called on Ferguson, Mo., to overhaul its criminal justice system, declaring that the city had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could be corrected only by abandoning its entire approach to policing, retraining its employees and establishing new oversight. In one example after another, the report described a city that used its police and courts as moneymaking ventures, a place where officers stopped and handcuffed people without probable cause, hurled racial slurs, used stun guns without provocation, and treated anyone as suspicious merely for questioning police tactics.
Helpful commentary:

The people of Ferguson knew for years what the Justice Department report finally concluded—that the Ferguson Police Department routinely violated the constitutional rights of its black residents. These findings reflect national trends in which African American men are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. And even though five times as many white people use drugs in this country as African Americans, the latter are ten times more likely to be arrested for drug offenses.

It is about race.The justice system is broken, skewed in favor of the wealthy and the white. And if the stories of our black friends, family, and neighbors aren’t enough to convince the doubters, then maybe the numbers will.


As I spent time today reading the report of the Department of Justice on the Ferguson Police Department, it was clear to me that it is not just an indictment of one city, but of a nation broken by deep divisions of race, class and privilege. It is the story of one city but reflects the voices that are heard in cities throughout our nation.

It is, in fact, a record of the lament of people of color in this country who have been crying out for decades and even generations.

It is, in fact, a Great Litany of sin. A Great Litany of lament.
The Litany Dean Kinman wrote can be found here: http://freepdfhosting.com/c2a8d97e25.pdf
("A Litany of Lament for the American Police and Court Systems ... Based on the U.S. Department of Justice Report on the Ferguson Police Department.")

Children Today - Faith Formation is a Parental Role!

Years ago, I came across a curriculum from the UU Church that was entitled Parents as Resident Theologians.  I liked the idea of reminding parents that when it comes to faith formation of their children, it is not the church but the parents who are at the forefront.  The church is there to support.
“The church and the family must partner together for the effective nurture and Christian formation of their children. Neither will be successful alone.” (from Listening to Children on the Spiritual Journey)
Two recent articles reinforced this idea.

Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts (NY Times)
Our schools do amazing things with our children. And they are, in a way, teaching moral standards when they ask students to treat one another humanely and to do their schoolwork with academic integrity. But at the same time, the curriculum sets our children up for doublethink. They are told that there are no moral facts in one breath even as the next tells them how they ought to behave.

We can do better. Our children deserve a consistent intellectual foundation. Facts are things that are true. Opinions are things we believe. Some of our beliefs are true. Others are not. Some of our beliefs are backed by evidence. Others are not. Value claims are like any other claims: either true or false, evidenced or not. The hard work lies not in recognizing that at least some moral claims are true but in carefully thinking through our evidence for which of the many competing moral claims is correct. That’s a hard thing to do. But we can’t sidestep the responsibilities that come with being human just because it’s hard. That would be wrong.
The No. 1 Reason Teens Keeps the Faith as Young Adults (Huffington Post)
The holy grail for helping youth remain religiously active as young adults has been at home all along: parents. Mothers and fathers who practice what they preach and preach what they practice are far and away the major influence related to adolescents keeping the faith into their 20s, according to new findings from a landmark study of youth and religion.

Just 1 percent of teens ages 15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid-to-late 20s.

In contrast, 82 percent of children raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations were themselves religiously active as young adults, according to data from the latest wave of the National Study of Youth and Religion...
For their part, parents need to realize a hands-off approach to religion has consequences. "Parents, for better or worse, are actually the most influential pastors ... of their children," Smith said. "Parents set a kind of glass ceiling of religious commitment, above which their children rarely rise."
Read those two articles.  Parents have a vital role in bringing up faithful children & youth.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


"As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder." ~ Coretta Scott King

I have never been in favor of the death penalty from both a faith perspective and a societal perspective.  From what I have seen it too disproportionally affects the poor and minorities.  It costs too much.  It doesn't deter crime.  And as our Episcopal Bishops in CT put it in 2012:

In the time of Jesus, crucifixion was the government's way to inflict the death penalty through extreme physical suffering and humiliation. Crucifixion was all about retribution, revenge, and public spectacle. The cross was an instrument of shameful death.  As we look at our Crucified Lord hanging on the cross, we believe that the true shame is on the crowd, and the leaders of the temple, and the Roman authorities.

Today, lethal injection has taken the place of the cross. At stake [today] is how we choose to respond to heinous crimes with consistent appropriate punishment and how we respond to the families of victims with compassionate support. The question we must face is fundamentally about us, and what we want the values of our society to be...

An excerpt from a Letter that I signed to abolish the Death Penalty in CT (which thankfully has done so) that speaks to what needs to happen nationally:

We, the undersigned faith leaders, reflecting the rich diversity of faith traditions in Connecticut, call upon our elected leaders to repeal the state’s death penalty. The public often seeks our guidance on tough issues, and we have concluded that the death penalty fails us. In Connecticut, the law already provides a severe alternative punishment for capital murders – life in prison without the possibility of release.

As people of faith, we reaffirm our opposition to the death penalty and belief in the sacredness of human life. We urge our elected officials, to examine the reality of Connecticut’s death penalty and seek ways to achieve true healing for those who suffer because of violent crime. Please support repeal of the death penalty. It is time for Connecticut to move beyond this broken and harmful system.
A Prayer for Prisoners & Correctional Institutions (from the BCP):

Lord Jesus, for our sake you were condemned as a criminal: Visit our jails and prisons with your pity and judgment. Remember all prisoners, and bring the guilty to repentance and amendment of life according to your will, and give them hope for their future. When any are held unjustly, bring them release; forgive us, and teach us to improve our justice. Remember those who work in these institutions; keep them humane and compassionate; and save them from becoming brutal or callous. And since what we do for those in prison, O Lord, we do for you, constrain us to improve their lot. All this we ask for your mercy's sake. Amen.

A Prayer for Murder Victims’ Families by Maria Hines

God of merciful love,
Help these families who are victims of murder
To accept the reality of such senseless acts of violence
Without, at the same time,
Succumbing to the despair of so great a loss.

May this violence become for them, instead,
A steppingstone toward greater union with you.
Teach them the forgiveness that was exemplified
By Jesus as he said,
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

And through his redemptive love,
Show your mercy to the perpetrators of these crimes.
Fill the emptiness of their victim hearts
With the fire of your divine love
So as to transform their losses
Into a healing power
For themselves and for our world.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Addressing Christian Anti-Judaism

As we hear again the Passion stories from the four Gospels in Holy Week, we need to recall also how the very construction of these stories in their times and places have come out of conflict between Christians and Jews, and have directly caused terrible violence over the centuries by Christians against Jews. This hatred has been institutionalized into the Church from its first days. It does dishonor to Jesus the Jew, and to our Jewish neighbors, and to our own Jewish religious roots to behave as though this is not the case – as though our sacred texts describe history with faciticity rather than through the lens of ancient conflict. Whether by footnotes, or by preaching and teaching, we must change our thinking about our relationship with Jews present and past if we are not to repeat the pogroms, genocides, and holocausts of history in the future.

The Greek word judaios (Ioudaios) might refer to Jews or to Judeans – residents of Judea whatever their religion. This substitute may work in some places. But changing the English word doesn’t address the issue adequately. Roman Catholics and members of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith consulted together to make changes in the famous Passion Plays of Oberammergau who noted that the high priests in Jesus’ time exercised their power at the behest of the Roman government and were not well-liked by their own people. Also, that Jesus had supporters in Jerusalem who caused some hesitation by those in power in acting against him (Mt. 26:5; 23:27); and that the Gospels were written when Rome was at the height of its power and Judaism was at a state of almost constant civil war with it. There were uprisings 60-70CE, 112-115, and 132-135 CE that met with fierce retaliation by Rome. Romans did not always differentiate between Jews and the followers of Jesus’ Way (hodos) who later came to be called Christians. They were easily lumped with Jewish followers of the Way (halacha in Hebrew) of Yochanan ben Zakkai, a leader who opposed the Sadducees, survived the emperorship of Vespasian and helped protect the town Jamnia (Javne) where a new school of Jewish sages arose after the destruction of the Temple to rebuild a Phariseeic Judaism centered on Torah not Temple. Jews and Christians who originally worshiped together in the early first century drifted apart and finally fell into enmity and polemic from both sides. As Christianity eventually became a majority religion, this polarization led to official policies of violence against Jews.

It does disrespect to our Gospel texts to simply expurgate parts that distress us. When Pilate had the notice nailed to the cross that satirically proclaimed (in 3 languages) Jesus as “King of the Jews”, it was the Jewish people indeed to which that Roman would have referred. The Sadducees and Levites– so connected with the cult of the Temple – were largely wiped out when the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. Sages of the law (Pharisees and scribes) survived in larger numbers though many fled into the diaspora of the empire and beyond. There is little doubt that there were Jewish collaborators with Roman authority among them: people appointed to collect taxes from their own communities, people appointed to religious leadership offices to keep order, and those who may have sought to line their pockets or protect their interests by siding with power. If the imperial representatives opposed Jesus, so would they. And some quite likely opposed what they may have seen as a fringe rabbi questioning some of the practices and commitment of their own leadership. Other Jews either followed Jesus, or didn’t consider him of any importance one way or another. There may well have been some Jewish leaders who conspired to stop Jesus and who may have called for his arrest and execution, but only Rome had power and authority to condemn to death and crucify someone.

Jesus was a Jew by birth and upbringing and remained so through his death. As a young adult, he read Torah in the synagogue as should any young Jewish male, and interpreted and preached about the texts. In all four Gospel accounts, Jesus is constantly worshiping and learning and teaching and healing in the assemblies of his Jewish people. As Mark says: 1:39 And Jesus went throughout Galilee proclaiming the message in their synagogues”, and Matthew says 4:23 “Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues…” and in 26:55 Jesus says to his arresters: “Day after day I sat in the Temple teaching and you did not arrest me.” He went up to Jerusalem for festivals, and blessed the bread and cup at meals at home with friends, just as would any Jew at table. It is pretty certain he quoted the Psalms and prophets from memory as he taught, and was natural that the Gospel writers (the likely-Jewish Mark and Matthew, and even Luke who seems to have written for a Roman Gentile audience) would also quote the Psalms and Prophets as they reconstructed the story of his life and death. Jesus is inseparable from his Judaism.

One reasonable approach – particularly when we adapt the Gospel texts for dramatic reading in Holy Week – to help us hear the texts differently would be to substitute religious officials and elders of the community for the Gospels’ punching-bag generalization the scribes and the Pharisees, the chief priests. When we get to Matthew 27:25 where the Jewish crowd shouts “His blood be upon us and upon our children”, there is no easy remedy. Matthew’s particular spleen is that of an insider Jewish author who was evidently angry that, from his view, his own people rejected the one he believed to be the Messiah when they should have known better. Because of his vindictiveness, the whole Jewish people ever after have been saddled with the entire blame for rejecting and crucifying Christ. Not until very recently has the Vatican publically acknowledged the role of Roman empire and the harm done by blaming the Jews for Jesus’ death – and this despite a theological understanding that the suffering and death of Jesus became the occasion for the exceptional and salvific outpouring of grace, mercy and forgiveness for the “whole world” (kosmos) by God.

So as you hear the Hebrew Scripture lessons that we call “the Old Testament” each week, and especially when you hear the stories of Jesus, including the Passion stories, pray for our Jewish neighbors who live beside us. Remember that – as Paul taught and has always been the case – faithful Jews keep the irrevocable covenant God made with them through Abraham and Moses, and God still keeps with them. We Gentiles have the privilege, through Christ, to be grafted onto the vine rootstock of Judaism by adoption. We are not the only people God loves and saves.

Written by the Rev. Jennifer Phillips, Lent 2013