Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sermon: June 28

None other Lamb, none other Name,
None other hope in Heav’n or earth or sea,
None other hiding place from guilt and shame,
None beside Thee!

My faith burns low, my hope burns low;
Only my heart’s desire cries out in me
By the deep thunder of its want and woe,
Cries out to Thee.

Lord, Thou art Life, though I be dead;
Love’s fire Thou art, however cold I be:
Nor Heav’n have I, nor place to lay my head,
Nor home, but Thee. Amen. (poem by Christina Rossetti)
None other Lamb, none other name, than the Lord – for thou art Life! Love’s fire thou art!

Two people saw that life and love in Jesus – Jairus who was wealthy, well-connected and a religious leader came to Jesus to have him heal his daughter. Their journey is interrupted by an unnamed woman who was ill, impoverished, ritually unclean and looking for help.

To that woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years, who endured much under many physicians, spent all that she had; and was no better, but worse, Jesus said to her after she touched his garment:

"Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

To Jairus, one of the leaders of the synagogue, after hearing of his daughter’s death, Jesus said to him:

"Do not fear, only believe."

Illness and death. They were then and still are two of the great scourges of life. So much so that we fear illness & death. Think of all the superstitions built up around each of these, don’t talk about them or they might just happen to you. Hogwash. The more we talk about them, the more we bring them out into the light, the less we have to fear. We need not be slaves to the twin fears of illness and death. Jesus in his ministry tore down their power and lifted up life.

Our First Reading from the Wisdom of Solomon reminds us that “God did not make death and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome…”

We are made to live, created in God’s own image. Death is the aberration. Wholeness is what God desires.

The response from Lamentations: “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. […]Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.”

God is about life. There is no plan for God to afflict or grieve anyone. But God does use us, our situations and God’s life and love are there. God is with us when we mourn for the Charleston 9 and the hope/faith they were living in their lives. There will be darkness and anguish, but it is God who reminds us that death never has the final word, & Jesus reminds us to keep the faith, do not fear, but believe. It is to hold on to see things through believing that indeed God will give us strength, and there will come a time when indeed we will find that peace again. As one poet has put it:
What God Has Promised by Annie Johnson Flint
God has not promised
Skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways
All our lives through;

God has not promised
Sun without rain
Joy without sorrow,
Peace without pain.

But God has promised
Strength for the day,
Rest for the labor,
Light for the way,
Grace for the trials,
Help from above,
Unfailing sympathy,
Undying love.
And sometimes, we learn the most about God’s promises from those who endure such suffering:
A Canadian medical student volunteered to work in a clinic in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake that devastated that small Caribbean country. One night in the infirmary, after a hectic day, she met Emmanuella, who was fourteen years old and still in her gray school uniform. The medical student remembers:

"[Emmanuella] had the sweetest demeanor, but couldn't lift herself from the cot because she was in so much pain. After talking with her for a while, I asked if she would like to pray with me. She volunteered to pray first and shocked me because she started to pray for me. She thanked God for my being there and prayed that God would use me however He wanted. She then prayed that she would be able to draw closer to Him and that He would use her as well. She said only one sentence about the pain she was suffering. I had never heard such strength and selflessness in a prayer. After praying, she said matter-of-factly, 'God sent you here to be with me.'" [From "Prayer in the rubble" by Gabrielle Apollon, Dissent, Summer 2011.]
Emmanuella possesses the trust and faith of the sick woman in today's Gospel. Emmanuella recognized the compassion and healing of God in the dedication of the medical student and volunteers like her, just as the woman suffering from hemorrhages is convinced that Jesus can and will heal her.

The author and Franciscan priest Richard Rohr says: “All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain.” Faith invites us into our pain and to bring the Mystery of that suffering into our relationship with the Spirit of Life & Love – with Jesus. Too often our fears cause us the most pain but faith can open us up to walk through our pain and suffering. Emmanuela did that. Many of the families of the Charleston 9 did.
“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof, everyone’s plea for your soul, is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So hate won’t win. And I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn’t win.” Words from Wanda Simmons, granddaughter of Daniel Simmons who died in Emmanuel AME Church.
It’s hard for me to imagine standing before the killer of a family member and offering words for his soul. Words based on love, forgiveness, grace. Wanda Simmons & the other family members challenge me to live into that hope that Jesus calls us to embody in what I say and do. For in Jesus love, hate won’t win.

"Do not fear, only believe." Jesus tells us, for God is life and love’s fire! May we truly believe this and live such love in our lives. Amen.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The President's Eulogy

I watched a recorded version of his eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.  Wow.  It was very good.

You can watch it here:

A transcript is here:

Marriage Equality - Statements regarding the SCOTUS Ruling

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued this statement following today’s Supreme Court ruling:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. [1Corinthians 13:4-8]
I rejoice that the Supreme Court has opened the way for the love of two people to be recognized by all the states of this Union, and that the Court has recognized that it is this enduring, humble love that extends beyond the grave that is to be treasured by society wherever it exists. Our society will be enriched by the public recognition of such enduring faithful love in families headed by two men or two women as well as by a woman and a man. The children of this land will be stronger when they grow up in families that cannot be unmade by prejudice or discrimination. May love endure and flourish wherever it is to be found.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Statement from the CT Bishops about the Supreme Court decision Friday legalizing same-sex marriage:

"Equal dignity in the eyes of the law." -- Justice Kennedy

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Today's Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage in all States. On this historic occasion, we give thanks for the voice of equality and inclusion that our Supreme Court has spoken. We recognize the countless men and women through the years who have worked tirelessly to bring this day about. We celebrate with those whose relationships are affirmed and respected by this vote. May all our relationships and families be strengthened by this recognition of the power, breadth and inclusivity of love.

The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas & The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens

SCOTUS has acted - Marriage Equality for all!

The Supreme Court has voted.  5-4.  Marriage Equality is now the law of the land. This is Good News!

These two essays help us with a Christian Perspective:
my other thoughts can be found here:
David Brooks (years ago) wrote a piece in favor of marriage equality from a conservative point of view:

Our General Convention will be wrestling with our liturgical response.  Stay tuned.

Summer NT Reflections: Proper 8 (B)

Discussion Leader: Robert Berra, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale
“He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement.” (Mark 5: 38-40)

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Stepping away from the particular circumstances of the letter, we can see Paul developing a theology of giving based on the desire to do good and in imitation of Christ. For Paul, there is no great separation between faith and good works; the two are linked. Paul expects that the Corinthians would be willing to give without Paul coercing them. He is asking them to show that the love they profess for others are not empty words, but are followed with the desire to give to the material benefit of the poor. Paul implies that a maturing faith will show that the desire to give will grow and flourish naturally, without his compulsion, and that the Corinthians who (he says) excel in faith, speech, knowledge, in eagerness and love, will show their mature faith in charity. In doing so, the Corinthians will imitate Christ who became poor the sake of others. Knowing that people get tied down by asking, “How much is enough?” or grumbling about “giving everything away,” Paul writes that we seek not that the poor simply become rich and the rich become poor, but for the alleviation of need and a fair balance of necessities. Instead of a begrudging charity, Paul envisions a church trying to enact the kingdom of God, which is not bound to rules of scarcity or the logic of determining winners and losers.

How does faith play into your providing for the necessities of others?

Mark 5:21-43

The story of the healing of the hemorrhaging woman is nestled in the story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter. The differences in situation in these two healings are stark. Jairus is wealthy, well-connected and a religious leader. He comes to Jesus to request help for his daughter, and Jesus follows. The woman is ill, impoverished, ritually unclean and therefore separated from society. Both Jairus and the woman show faith in Jesus; but the woman shows a well-placed audaciousness that Jairus does not. This may be the difference in the social status of Jairus and the woman. Jairus’ position comes with respect and openness in how he moves in society. The woman seems to act in desperation, a clandestine attempt to be healed before she is found out and removed from the scene.

In these connected stories, we learn something of Jesus and his reordering of societal priorities. Jesus stopped a crowd to establish a relationship to a long-time ritually unclean woman (nowhere near a high social standing) who had touched him. He calls her “daughter” in the presence of established religious authorities of the day. He restores her to health and to community in spite of an interaction that would be considered scandalous. In the case of Jairus’ daughter, he again heals a ritually unclean woman with a touch. In these stories, we are shown that the priorities of Jesus are not the same as the world’s, and that he is willing to transgress worldly boundaries to bring about the good of those who seek him.

Healing may mean something different from being cured of an ailment. How have you experienced healing in your life?

What societal boundaries are you willing to cross when you can aid others in healing?


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Political Cartoons of #CharlestonShooting

What is it about?

What is a symbol?

And we remember and pray...

General Convention has begun - A Litany for General Convention

Let us keep the Church in our prayers as our convention has begun.
A Litany for General Convention (from the ECCT)
Deacon or Presider:
Let us offer our prayers for all those who take council for the renewal of our church and all those gathered at the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, by saying God of grace and God of glory, grant us courage, grant us wisdom.

Watch over all those who travel to and from Salt Lake City over the course of the 78th General Convention. Enfold them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to the end of the journey. God of grace and God of glory, grant us courage, grant us wisdom.
Enliven all the deputies of General Convention, especially the deputies from Connecticut. Guide them to perceive what is right, and grant them both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it. God of grace and God of glory, grant us courage, grant us wisdom.

Send forth your Holy Spirit to all bishops as they discern our next Presiding Bishop. We pray for all the candidates for Presiding Bishop: for Thomas, Michael, Ian, and Dabney; and for all their families and dioceses. We pray our new Presiding Bishop will empower us to live fully into where God is calling us to serve. God of grace and God of glory, grant us courage, grant us wisdom.
Refresh your church for this changing world, for things that have grown old are becoming new. We pray that The Episcopal Church will possess the courage to write new chapters in our unfolding story, and to be transformed by your Spirit as we put our trust in your promised hope. God of grace and God of glory, grant us courage, grant us wisdom.

Forgive the sins and failures of our past, and reveal new possibilities for our future. We pray that we will be able to discern what we must let go of and what we need to hold onto in our common life in order to follow Jesus more clearly. God of grace and God of glory, grant us courage, grant us wisdom.
Direct all those who are involved with the 78th General Convention so that their actions will support the least, the last and the outsiders. We pray the resolutions of the 78th General Convention are full of compassion and love, and allow us to join God’s mission in the world. God of grace and God of glory, grant us courage, grant us wisdom.

Give rest to all your faithful people who have served your church in ages past and who now dwell with you. We pray we may look to their faith to proclaim the Gospel and trust in your promises. God of grace and God of glory, grant us courage, grant us wisdom.

Deacon or Presider: 

Eternal God, in your Son Jesus Christ you redeemed all of human history and called us to proclaim the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection to the ends of the earth and to the end of the age: pour out your Spirit afresh upon The Episcopal Church and our 78th General Convention, help us to rejoice in our past and give us courage to trust your power to shape our future, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What to read? #Charlestonsyllabus

From the syllabus:
Here is a list of readings that educators can use to broach conversations in the classroom about the horrendous events that unfolded in Charleston, South Carolina on the evening of June 17, 2015. These readings provide valuable information about the history of racial violence in this country and contextualize the history of race relations in South Carolina and the United States in general. They also offer insights on race, racial identities, global white supremacy and black resistance.
Visit here: #Charlestonsyllabus

The Problem with Symbols

They can change over time...
Years ago, I remember walking into a museum in Toronto and seeing a huge Buddha.  I forget how old it was but on its forehead was a swastika.  It took me by surprise. Had the Nazi's defaced it?

No, they hadn't.  In fact, the swastika is an old symbol.  Go here.

But for so many of us, it is a symbol now of hate, genocide and cruelty because of its prominent use by Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

The Confederate Battle Flag was designed and used during the Civil War. However, for many of us it is a symbol of hate, cruelty & slavery because of its prominent use by white supremacists and the Confederacy (which believed that African Americas should be enslaved.).  It became popular again in the 20th Century in the fight over the Civil Rights of African Americans.

Go here: Heritage, Hate and and the Juvenilization of Free Speech

We need to understand the meaning of symbols of today.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

For Whom the Bell Tolls

At 10 AM on Sunday June 21, St. Peter's tolled its bell (along with others through the nation) to remember the victims of the #Charlestonshooting at Emmanuel AME Church.  As I tolled the bell, I thought of that verse from John Donne...

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Indeed, it tolls for you and me and all of America.

With Charleston Shooting, a Time to Stop Teaching Children About the ‘History’ of Racial Violence

Looking at the Larger Picture with #Charleston

Is this really so isolated an event as some want to pass it off or is there larger a picture we need to look at?  (I think there is much we need to learn and to take action on. (so #2))

From the NY Times:

From Ferguson to Charleston and Beyond, Anguish About Race Keeps Building 

What is Whiteness?

Love and Terror in the Black Church

From the Daily Beast: 

We Need To Talk About White Culture


Charleston shooter’s manifesto reveals hate group helped to radicalize him

General Convention - Information & Prayers

Main Page:

CT Page:

Media Hub (to stay connected):

Ways to Pray:

Lots of materials:

Keep in your prayers:

Eternal God, in your Son Jesus Christ you redeemed all of human history and called us to proclaim the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection to the ends of the earth and to the end of the age: pour out your Spirit afresh upon The Episcopal Church and our 78th General Convention, help us to rejoice in our past and give us courage to trust your power to shape our future, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who by thy Holy Spirit didst preside in the Council of the blessed Apostles, and hast promised, through thy Son Jesus Christ, to be with thy Church to the end of the world; We beseech thee to be with the Council of thy Church assembled in thy Name and Presence in Utah. Save us from all error, ignorance, pride, and prejudice; and of thy great mercy vouchsafe, we beseech thee, so to direct, sanctify, and govern us in our work, by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, that the comfortable Gospel of Christ may be truly preached, truly received, and truly followed, in all places, to the breaking down the kingdom of sin, Satan, and death; till at length the whole of thy dispersed sheep, being gathered into one fold, shall become partakers of everlasting life; through the merits and death of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen. (1928 Book of Common Prayer)

Praying For #Chaleston

(adapted from a statement from the Episcopal Church)

The death of nine members of historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) in Charleston, South Carolina, including their pastor Rev Clementa Pinckney, at the hands of a terrorist, cries out for our prayers. Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest AME church in the South and has a long legacy of working toward freedom, justice, and peace.

"Loving God is never separate from loving our brothers and sisters," Pastor Pinckney recently said. "It's always the same."

As we grieve this grave loss, let us join together with others throughout the nation in prayer for the repose of the souls of the nine people killed in this hate crime:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr, and Myra Thompson;

for their families, the members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the people of Charleston, South Carolina:

Gracious and loving God,

May we recognize that you bind us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice, truth, and healing to confront the evils of hate, racism, and violence that pervade the United States and the world.

Hold us as we remember lives of the mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and grandchildren of those who were killed. Comfort those whose hearts and souls are broken. For in all times, you remind us of the dignity and humanity of all human beings.

Grant, O God that all hearts may be moved by your life-giving Spirit to remove the barriers that divide us so that hatreds may cease, and divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace.

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Going Deeper #CharlestonShooting

First we must remember the victims of this horrendous hate crime.

We must remember, we must shout out, #BlackLivesMatter

These links are articles that may help us go deeper and begin to tackle some root causes of the violence:
The Confederate Battle Flag may mean many things, but with those things it represents a defiance against abolition and against civil rights. The symbol was used to enslave the little brothers and sisters of Jesus, to bomb little girls in church buildings, to terrorize preachers of the gospel and their families with burning crosses on front lawns by night.

That sort of symbolism is out of step with the justice of Jesus Christ. The cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire. White Christians, let’s listen to our African-American brothers and sisters. Let’s care not just about our own history, but also about our shared history with them. In Christ, we were slaves in Egypt—and as part of the Body of Christ we were all slaves too in Mississippi. Let’s watch our hearts, pray for wisdom, work for justice, love our neighbors. Let’s take down that flag.
All houses of worship are sanctuaries, but the concept of sanctuary ​holds particular resonance in Black Church tradition on account of the church’s role as the one institution white people could not take completely away from the persons whom they never ceased to abuse in the most un-Christian ways imaginable.

It is nevertheless true that the original African Church in Charleston was burned to the ground by whites following a major 1822 slave uprising when it was discovered that long-time church member and class leader (and free person of color) Denmark Vesey had been preaching insurrection there.

And now, in a distinctively American drama that never ends, the historic and brave Emanuel (“God with us”) African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston has been violated yet again, almost 200 years later, ​by murderous anti-black hatred.
What happened in a church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday night is a lot of things, but one thing it's not is "unthinkable." Somebody thought long and hard about it. Somebody thought to load the weapon. Somebody thought to pick the church. Somebody thought to sit, quietly, through some of Wednesday night bible study. Somebody thought to stand up and open fire, killing nine people, including the pastor. Somebody reportedly thought to leave one woman alive so she could tell his story to the world. Somebody thought enough to flee. What happened in that church was a lot of things, but unthinkable is not one of them.
What happened in a Charleston church on Wednesday night is a lot of things, but one thing it's not is "unspeakable." We should speak of it often. We should speak of it loudly. We should speak of it as terrorism, which is what it was. We should speak of it as racial violence, which is what it was. [...]
There is a timidity that the country can no longer afford. This was not an unthinkable act. A man may have had a rat's nest for a mind, but it was well thought out. It was a cool, considered crime, as well planned as any bank robbery or any computer fraud. If people do not want to speak of it, or think about it, it's because they do not want to follow the story where it inevitably leads. It's because they do not want to follow this crime all the way back to the mother of all American crimes, the one that Denmark Vesey gave his life to avenge. What happened on Wednesday night was a lot of things. A massacre was only one of them.
It is hard for me to imagine how you could sit with people engaging such a tender practice together and then shoot them. I wonder what text they were reading. I wonder if it was about love or forgiveness or maybe liberation. It is often about liberation. The Bible tells us stories of the cast out being raised up and the rejected given the place of honor. I wonder what they were reading Wednesday. I wonder if it was the love and tenderness of those black people in conversation with their God that confirmed for Dylann Roof that they were a threat to the world as he wanted it to be. I wonder if the spirit of Denmark Vesey was in that place.

Praying for our Missionary

Lauren Johnson is on her two week missionary journey with Overland Missions.

Let us keep her in our prayers:

We bless you, O God, and we praise your name,
you anointed your own Son with the Holy Spirit
to preach good news to the poor,
to heal the broken-hearted,
and to comfort the sorrowful.
Look kindly on your servant Lauren whom we send forth as
a messenger of salvation and peace.
Guide her steps, and with the power of your grace
Strengthen her in spirit.
Make her words the echo of Christ’s voice,
so those who hear her may be drawn to his Gospel.
Through her may your Holy Spirit touch the hearts of all she meets.
We ask this through Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the same Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel & in particular Lauren & her missionary group; surround
them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey's end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Remembering the Charleston Victims

Sadly another mass shooting has occurred, this time at a AME Church in Charleston, SC

The terrorist attack occurred at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 9 are dead including the pastor. The terrorist has been captured.

From our Bishops in CT:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut,

Once again we have witnessed the horrific results of gun violence in our nation. Last night a yet unidentified gunman entered the historic Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and shot and killed nine innocent people. The fact that the man who did the shooting is white and all the victims were African-American leads us to assume that this is a hate crime motivated by racism. Such death and destruction is utterly sinful and must be decried in the strongest of terms.

We, your bishops, have already been in contact with the Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, Provisional Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, assuring him and the people of Charleston of the thoughts and prayers of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. We ask you and your parishes to keep the victims and their loved ones, the people of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and of Charleston, and our whole nation in your prayers for peace, non-violence, and healing.

Sadly this shooting reminds us that our nation continues to be wracked by senseless gun violence. We in Connecticut know the pain and suffering caused by the killing of innocent victims. This madness has got to stop. We ask you to continue your efforts to end gun violence in our society and to work for harmony, understanding, and justice in the face of racism and hate in our world.

At the request of Bishop vonRosenberg, let us join with sisters in brothers in Christ in South Carolina saying together the words of the prayer attributed to St. Francis:

"Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith, where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loves as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen."

The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas & The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens
Prayers this morning for Charleston, SC in the wake of the mass shooting:
God our savior,
we pray with those in Charleston, SC
who are shocked, grieving or in pain.
In your mercy, look on this wounded world,
and hold us closely to your promise of hope
in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Holy One, you do not distance yourself from the pain of your people, but in Jesus bear that pain with us and bless all who suffer at others' hands. Hallow our flesh and all creation; with your cleansing love bring healing and strength to the victims of this shooting; and by your justice, lift them up, that in the body you have given them, they may again rejoice. Amen

O God our Vindicator, come speedily to our help. Receive the souls of those killed in this act of violence, your children into the arms of your mercy, and deliver their assailant to justice, that your holy Law may be served, and your peace renewed; through Jesus our Savior. Amen

God our strong deliverer; when those charged with the mediation of your healing power feel overwhelmed by the numbers of the suffering, uphold them in their fatigue and banish their despair. Let them see with your eyes, so that they may know all their patients are precious. Give comfort, and renew their energy and compassion, for the sake of Jesus In who in our life and hope. Amen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer NT Reflections: Proper 7 (B)

Discussion Leader: Erin Jean Warde, Seminary of the Southwest

“But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’” (Mark 4: 38-40)

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

In this pericope from 2 Corinthians, Paul offers his defense, and thus urges readers to recognize a world that is a new creation, because of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Paul catalogues the hardships of the time, and offers the virtues that make such hardships dissolve in the light of the cross. Paul places his own pain in the light of the cross, to bring about the day of salvation, and a world newly created and ordered toward God. Paul pleads that readers may recognize that he and his fellow servants of Christ come only to offer compassion and new life, which they have been offered through a life dedicated to worshiping Christ.

Mark 4:35-41

In this gospel reading, Jesus shows the disciples his human and earthly power. Jesus has built relationships with the disciples, such that they accept his invitation to go to the other side. The disciples even took him “just as he was.” Though Jesus literally takes them to the other side of the waters, it would seem that he spiritually takes them into the deep waters of understanding his own identity. They took him just as he was, but only after this experience, do they know the blessings and risks of who he is. The disciples knew Jesus to be a teacher and to be a friend, but in this crossing they know that Jesus can bring order out of chaos, and that he is truly divine.

Perhaps a quote by Edward Teller may capture an element of today’s lessons and the questions posed,

“When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”

How do we direct the Final Scene?

There was a very interesting article in the NY Times a couple of Sundays back entitled:

Directing the Final Scene By Bob Morris on May 30, 2015

In part he wrote...
When they pulled out the pump that was keeping my father’s heart going, his hands shot up in the air, and he shouted “Wonderful!” My brother, Jeff, and I knew why. He had been waiting to die for a year, having tried to take his life with far too few pills to do the job. It left him, at 81, doomed to a life sentence with a failing heart that wouldn’t let him be the fun-loving, bridge-playing, romantic crooner we had known. He was happy to be leaving us and we, in turn, were happy to see him go. We’d been mourning him for a year as he faltered and despaired. [...]

Dad had done the same thing with us for our mother just four years before. She had been ill for 10 years and had no quality of life left. But we had to wonder if she was fighting because she wasn’t ready to go. We lit Sabbath candles, we sang to her, we did everything we could to make her final exit a good one. But it wasn’t, and when the last breath went out of her, her face froze in anguish. A nurse had to come in to close her desperate, open eyes.

Our father seemed so blissful in comparison, content to drift out to the abyss. At some point my brother asked if he wanted us to sing to him, as we had done for our mother, and as we had done as a family all our lives, using songs when we had no words for conversation. He shook his head and whispered, “No, no music.” But Jeff said, “Let’s just do one song.” I harmonized with him to “You Are My Sunshine,” as I had for so many summers with our parents in the car or backyard. I felt resentful but said nothing.
How do we direct our final scene?  By making our wishes known before that time comes.

The document Five Wishes I have in the office allows anyone to set down how they want to be treated at the end of their days, especially when they can no longer speak for themselves.  It is important because it will relieve guilt, anxiety and resentment!

The Problem with "Religious Freedom"

“I would say there is a distinction between private property that is purely private and private property that is privately owned but publicly used, publicly supported, publicly sustained. I think there is a great difference between the two…I don’t think anybody should have the right to just come in my house that I may privately own and not leave if I wanted them to leave. I think that that is a private right that we should certainly protect on the basis of the first amendment of the Constitution.

But now if I turn my house into a store—if I turn it into a department store, if I turn it into a lunch counter, or anything like that—then I have certain obligations to the public beyond my particular whims….If a business is in the public market, then it cannot deny access, if it is in the public market, it cannot deny access to this public market. And I think the same thing applies here. It is one thing to say that an individual owns a private piece of property and another thing to say that this property is now a private enterprise where it is actually dependent on the public for its very survival.

And this is why we feel very strong about this, that a man should not have the right to say that on the basis of color or religion one cannot use a lunch counter that is open to everybody else in other racial groups but not to these particular people. He has an obligation to the public….I don’t think America will ever rise to its full maturity until all over this country we say that anybody who’s in a public business cannot deny anybody on the basis of race or color access to that business. He should not have the freedom to choose his customers on the basis of race or religion.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. (1961)
These words spoken by Dr. King in 1961 were addressing the issue of race in America, but the same religious arguments used against the civil rights movement are the same arguments used to discriminate against same sex couples.

We need to remember that the federal RFRA law of 1993 was bipartisan & has been successfully used to protect a wide range of people – Native Americans, Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others – in the free exercise of their religious convictions.

Too often though, religious freedom = freedom to discriminate.
I met the love of my life more than 40 years ago in Raleigh. Thomas is a lifelong North Carolinian. I was a recent transplant from Vermont. We are both legally blind, and soon after we met, we moved to Winston-Salem to work for the Industries of the Blind. Our friendship blossomed into love, and in 1976, Thomas proposed. I very happily said yes.
Soon after, we went to our local courthouse to receive a civil marriage license from one of the magistrates there, so we could commit our lives to each through a legal union. I was so excited. People always say your wedding day is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life, and I was expecting mine to be exactly that.
But when we walked into that government office together, we were told that the magistrate on duty wouldn’t give us a marriage license. I was flabbergasted. We had planned everything, we had all our paperwork and we were legally eligible to get married.
So why wouldn’t he marry us? The reason, it turned out, was because Thomas is African-American, and I am white. The magistrate told us that marrying an interracial couple went against his religious beliefs. Our happy day quickly turned into a nightmare.
Ah yes, rugged individualism supersedes the common good.  Every time.

Today, North Carolina & Michigan (of many) hold the dubious honor of rehashing our past:

The problem I have with these stories is that by allowing such religious deference, it does away with equal protection of the laws for those who might by LGBT, or of another faith (Jews, Muslims, etc.), divorced, not married...and allows discrimination to occur behind a facade of protecting religion (Christian).

We have lost sight of the common good...
JOHN THE EVANGELIST: Master, what is holiness? Is it just to keep the Commandments and say the right prayers, and do the right things, and pay the proper dues, as the priests tell us? Or is it something quite different? The preaching of John the Baptist has troubled our hearts, and the great prophets have terrified us with their thunderings against sin. We are disheartened, because nothing we do seems to be any good, and the righteous God is so great and terrible and far away. How can we rise so far above ourselves? What sort of heroic thing is holiness?
JESUS: The priests are right, and the prophets are right too. I haven't come to take away the Law, but to show you how to keep it. This is holiness-to love, and be ruled by love; for love can do no wrong.
JOHN THE EVANGELIST: As simple as all that?
JESUS: SO simple that a child can understand it. So simple that only children really can understand it.
ANDREW: But what has all this to do with the coming of the Kingdom?
JESUS: It is the Kingdom. Wherever there is love, there is the Kingdom of God.
~ Dorothy Sayers (1943 from The Man to be Born King)
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tony Esposito gets his Dipolma!

Watch this video! A member of the class of 2015!

It happens at the beginning of the video.

Congrats to Tony! Thank you for serving our country!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Summer NT Reflections: Proper 6 (B)

from the Episcopal Church website (Sermons that Work)

Discussion Leader: Shane Patrick Gormley, Nashotah House Theological Seminary (WI)

2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13) 14-17
In what are we confident? We are confident that God has prepared something better for us. Previous to this, Paul has said, “We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (5:1). No matter what happens to us in this life, God is preparing something greater for us. This we may not always see; only our faith beholds the beauty that awaits us and will be revealed to us in the proper time. The confidence that Paul teaches us to have is to be enacted in the here and now. We live by faith – faith in what is being prepared for us, guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”

The work required by God has already been accomplished. “We are convinced that one has died for all” (14). Jesus Christ offered himself to be the propitiation for our sins, and so we enter into this work by joining in his death. We die to ourselves and live to God. “He died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (15). We are remade into a new creation. “Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (17). And we can never forget that it is God who works this in us (18).

· What struggles do you encounter that you know are not a part of what is to come?
· Do you accept the grace to overcome those things now?
· How can you live as a new creation? How can your life continually be made new?
Mark 4:26-34
These two parables look at the kingdom of God, the reality that has broken upon the kingdom of this world declaring God as the true and righteous king of creation, and compare it to seeds. In the first, the kingdom is compared to the growth of a seed. Going to sleep, whether you’re a farmer or not, allows you to rest and let the world worry about itself for a little while. A seed doesn’t need us to stay awake for it to grow. We plant it and we water it, giving it what it needs for sustenance. But making it grow is up to God. Whether we think of the seed that we plant or the seed that is planted in us, we must remember that it is God who gives the growth.

When the harvest has come, we can also be assured that God will be there to reap it. God tends his garden and keeps it alive. God sustains his own kingdom and gives it the growth it needs at the proper time. He can work with anything we give him. Even the “smallest of all the seeds on earth” will become “the greatest of all shrubs.” Its large branches are the branches of the kingdom of God, which will stretch to the corners of the earth. God placed humans on earth to tend to it, and provide for its growth (Gen 1:26-28; 2:15). We are to take part in furthering the kingdom on earth, being its very branches and stretching farther and farther.

· What is the soil of your life like?
· Do you prepare yourself to allow the kingdom of God to grow in your life?
· How do you tend to the garden of your neighbor’s life?
· Do you make it easier for him or her to let the kingdom grow in his or her own life? How do you spread the kingdom around yourself?
All the Sunday readings can be found here. (Track 2)

Sermon - June 14 (10:15 AM - Baptism)

Lead me Lord,
 In the paths of peacefulness
 In the roads of righteousness
 in the ways of willingness.
Lead me Lord,
 Down the tracks of thoughtfulness
 In the streets of sensitiveness 
 By the journey of joyfulness.
Lead me Lord, today. Amen. (David Adam)

Today we begin a summer journey together, a journey through the parables of Jesus.

Parables are rooted in the images of everyday life and yet a parable is “where the ordinary has gone askew and thereby shocks us into realizing that the parable leads us into another way of thinking about life.” (John R. Donahue)

For Jesus is trying to expand our mind, to get us to consider things more deeply - What is the Kingdom of God like?

· A sower sewing seed - the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how; but then comes the harvest!

· A mustard seed – the smallest of seeds – after its sown, it grows & becomes the greatest of all shrubs

What is the Kingdom of God like?
It begins as a seed in the field. The earth nurtures it, the rain nourishes it. The farmer works to bring the grain to harvest; he collects it and separates it from the chaff. A baker then grinds it and kneads it; the dough is baked until what was once seed becomes bread.

In the vineyard, the grapes on the vine are cared for as if they were precious gems. Blessed by the sun and rain, the grapes are collected by the gentle hand of the vintner and then pressed and stored. In God's good time, at the perfect moment, the precious liquid becomes wine.

Bread and wine, gifts of the earth, the work of human hands.
Bread and wine, now placed on our altar.
Bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, lovingly given to us in the Eucharist.

But the bread and wine is more than holy gifts for God’s holy people; they are parables of what it means to become God's people, to help bring about the Kingdom of God.

Like seed, we are transformed from grain to flour through the creative love of God. The seed first planted in baptism - farmers and vintners - in the form of parents, spouses, teachers, pastors, friends - have nurtured us and formed us. We struggle to finally grow up; we stumble along the way. Like grain that is baked into bread, like grapes that ferment into wine, we change and become complete not in spite of what we suffer but because of what we suffer and receive. We are kneaded in the water of baptism; we are re-created in the fire of the Spirit.

And like the many grapes that are pressed together into the unity of the sweet liquid that fills the chalice, our prayers and sacrifices, our acts of generosity, our work of reconciliation and forgiveness, our sacrifices for one another in imitation of Jesus (who is both the vine and winemaker), makes us "church" - the wine of the sacrament of unity with God and one another.

What we see on this table is ourselves. We are bread; we are wine. We are called to be the sacraments we receive. [Adapted from a sermon by St. Augustine of Hippo.]
In the parables of the Kingdom of God, it is the seed, tiny, almost insignificant and then it is planted & it grows, it brings life. Today that story begins for William Henry & Ariana Elise – the seed of faith planted with them at their baptism. That seed will be nurtured in them, like it is with us, in the Eucharist, and with the people around them.

In the Eucharist, bread and wine are transformed by the Spirit of God into the body and blood of Christ; the sacrament we receive should transform us into sacraments, as well - sacraments of God's love for one another, signs of God's presence to our families and communities.

As the Eucharist makes us Christ's church of reconciliation to the world, the Eucharist makes each one of us a minister of reconciliation; as the Eucharist animates the Church with the life of Christ, the Eucharist animates our lives in the love and compassion of God.

"If you have received worthily," St. Augustine preached, "you are what you have received."

Today the parables have begun. The seeds are planted. What are the parables saying to you?


Sermon - June 14 (8 AM)

Lead me Lord,
In the paths of peacefulness
In the roads of righteousness
in the ways of willingness.
Lead me Lord,
Down the tracks of thoughtfulness
In the streets of sensitiveness
By the journey of joyfulness.
Lead me Lord, today. Amen. (David Adam)

Today we begin a summer journey together, a journey through the parables of Jesus.

Parables are rooted in the images of everyday life but as the author and priest John R. Donahue puts it, a parable is “where the ordinary has gone askew and thereby shocks us into realizing that the parable leads us into another way of thinking about life.”

Thus parables are open ended, with layers to their meaning, they are not so simple. That is why the disciples often asked Jesus to explain his parables. If Jesus had wanted to, he could have given a simple story or command like “love one another” as he did elsewhere. But to the crowd and his disciples he often spoke in parables, to leads us into another way of thinking about…

What is the Kingdom of God like?

· A sower sewing seed - the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how; but harvest!

· A mustard seed – the smallest of seeds – after its sown, it grows & becomes the greatest of all shrubs

The kingdom of God is tiny, almost insignificant and then like a seed it is planted and it grows…
In the competitive world of big-time college basketball, she is a perfect 77-0. No, she's not a sharpshooting guard or ball-hawking forward or a creative, inspiring coach.

She's a five-foot-four, white-haired, 77-year-old nun. And since she became academic advisor to the Xavier University men's basketball team in 1985, every senior who has played basketball for Xavier has left the Cincinnati school with his diploma.

What Sister Rose Ann Fleming has accomplished is remarkable, given that the average graduate rate among men's college basketball players hovers around 60 percent. She oversees two other full-time advisers and two volunteers who help her track Xavier's 271 athletes in 17 sports.

Sister Rose Ann makes her presence known. She is one of the first people all Xavier athletes meet when they come to campus for the first time. She has the ear of faculty members and the cellphone numbers of every athlete. She is not afraid to rap on dormitory doors or call players before dawn to ask about missed classes or late assignments. She deals one-on-one with every Xavier student athlete and coach. She has even stood up to the coach to pull a player who is struggling academically out of practice.

"In getting to know athletes, I realized that many of them had no structure in their lives beyond the sport. They had knowledge of when to go to practices, workouts, and all the things that make athletes strong, but I knew I needed to help them understand the importance of academics and the opportunity they have here . . . They have extraordinary talent and they are also students. They have academic talent as well as athletic talent. My job is to make sure they don't waste their opportunities to get their degree."

Her belief is that if students are focused enough to harness their talent into becoming Division I athletes, they certainly have the capacity to learn. But people learn differently, Sister Rose Ann says. “There are different channels to learning. And I see my job as finding the best possible one.”

Her greatest reward comes when Sister Rose Ann sees "our student-athletes walk across the stage to receive their degree . . . I know how hard they've worked and struggled to get to that point. I've also seen the daily victories of them sitting down and writing a paper that's been hard for them. That's always very rewarding, too." [The New York Times, March 15, 2015; ABC News, March 20, 2010; The Catholic Telegraph, August 5, 2014.]
Sister Rose Ann models the two parables in today's Gospel: Her work is like that of the farmer, who plants and nurtures the "seeds" of wisdom and encouragement that enable the students entrusted to her to complete their degrees; and Sister Rose Ann possesses the faith of the mustard seed: the conviction that, in the smallest acts of compassion and generosity, the most barren stretches of our lives can be transformed into surprising bounties of hope and fulfillment.

We may have no idea or expectation of a harvest; nurturing what we have planted may be a frustrating and seemingly futile undertaking, but in doing for others, in seeking what is good and just, we realize the Kingdom of God is in our midst.

Our journey with the parables begin today.

What are the parables saying to you about your life? Amen.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Commissioning for Service in Mission

After the time of the Prayers of the People the presiding minister says these similar words.
Dear friends,
in the mission of Jesus Christ
we are constantly brought together and sent out.
We are gathered by God’s word and sacraments,
and we are sent out to do God’s work of healing, justice, and peace.
Today that rhythm unfolds in our midst:
Lauren Johnson has been called to work in Brazil with Overland Missions later this June.
We are one body with one mission, united in both call and prayer.
Let us now offer prayers for Lauren and all those whose who will share in that mission.

We thank you, gracious God,
for enriching us with the gifts of your Spirit.
Grant that as we send forth
Lauren in your name,
so she may return to us
with a new sense of your presence
in the lives of others;
through Christ our Lord.

May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen you, that in this, and in all things, you may do God's will in the service of the kingdom of his Christ. Amen.

In the name of this congregation I commend you to this work, and pledge you our prayers, encouragement, and support. Accept this “Service Cross” designed for missionaries and those serving in our armed forces to know that Christ is with you in all that you do to the ends of the earth.

Let us pray.

We bless you, O God, and we praise your name,
you anointed your own Son with the Holy Spirit
to preach good news to the poor,
to heal the broken-hearted,
and to comfort the sorrowful.
Look kindly on your servant Lauren whom we send forth as
a messenger of salvation and peace.
Guide her steps, and with the power of your grace
Strengthen her in spirit.
Make her words the echo of Christ’s voice,
so those who hear her may be drawn to his Gospel.
Through her may your Holy Spirit touch the hearts of all she meets.
We ask this through Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the same Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

(service adapted from the Episcopal Church & Anglican Church of Canada)

Hymn mentioned in the Sermon

from LEVAS 188 - "It Is Well with My Soul" is written by hymnist Horatio Spafford in 1876.
(Learn more about it here:

1   When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
          When sorrows like seabillows roll;
     Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
          It is well, it is well with my soul.

               It is well with my soul,
               It is well, it is well with my soul.

2   Though satan should buffet, though trials should come,
          Let this blest assurance control,
     That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
          And has shed His own blood for my soul.


3   My sin oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
          My sin not in part, but the whole
     Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
          Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


4   And, Lord, hast the day when the faith shall be sight,
          The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
     The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
          “Even so” it is well with my soul.