Thursday, July 30, 2015

I'm on Vacation but...

It doesn't mean I'm not listening (and reading) to what is going on around us!

A prayer for our vacations this summer:

O God, in the course of this busy life, give us times of refreshment and peace; and grant that we may so use our leisure to rebuild our bodies and renew our minds, that our spirits may be opened to the goodness of your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And if you are looking for some good (blog) reading, follow these links:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sermon: July 12

“There's no such thing as a free lunch.”

A phrase that dates back at least 80 years but hints to a practice when free lunches were offered to entice the consumer to come into the saloon in the 19th century. Those free lunches would be very salty and the consumer would then purchase the drinks. We’ve come to understand that you can’t get something for nothing, there is always a cost, and there is no free lunch.

There's also no such thing as a free lunch for our faith either.
As (pastor, author, martyr) Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in a letter in 1942, explaining his participation in the Resistance in Germany: “Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. Christians are called to compassion and action.”
The author, Eric Metaxes, summarizing the philosophy of Bonhoeffer, puts it this way, “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God's will.” Our faith life is meant to be lived out! Our baptismal faith is not a safe talisman but a call to live as God would have us live.

John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness, baptizing many, proclaiming a message of repentance. He was certainly noticed by the authorities. He did his ministry by the Jordan until he proclaimed the King’s marriage was not right. The King had him arrested.

As he sat in prison, after he had spoken against the King and his new wife, did he know his fate? Did he think he would he be released?

I suspect he knew he would not get out. That his truthful words had so unnerved the royal couple, that he would pay the price… and Heordias, Herod’s wife got her wish, and John the Baptizer was killed.

John stuck to his belief and his message… repent, even as he must of known that it might end his life. His story is a foreshadowing in the Gospel of what would happen to Jesus. It is also a story that we see in the lives of others, there is a price for faithfulness…

In the spring of 1939, 47-year-old Paul Gruninger was a police officer in St. Gallen, a picturesque Swiss town near the Austrian border. Gruninger was quiet, church-going, non-confrontational, conservative. He had served with the Swiss Army in World War I, obtained his teaching degree and settled into a position at an elementary school where he met Alice Federer, a fellow teacher. They married and began a family.

At the urging of his wife and his mother, Gruninger applied for a better-paying position with the police department. The job was largely administrative, involving completing reports and arranging security for visiting officials. Or so it seemed.

But one morning in April 1939, Gruninger went to his office to find his entry blocked by a uniformed officer. "Sir, you no longer have the right to enter these premises," he was told. His credentials were taken from him; he was ordered to return his uniform. An investigation had discovered that Gruninger was secretly altering the documents of Jews fleeing Austria for safety in Switzerland. When the Nazis came to power in neighboring Austria, Austrian Jews headed to the Swiss border. To avoid confrontation with the Nazis, Swiss police were directed to deny any Jew entry into Switzerland - but Officer Gruninger would make minor alterations in their passports to allow them to enter safely. A few strokes of Gruninger's pen saved hundreds of lives. It was a small action but one of great personal risk.

And Paul Gruninger paid the price. He was dismissed from his position. Charges were filed against him. False rumors circulated that Gruninger had demanded money and favors from those he helped. Shunned by his neighbors, Gruninger peddled raincoats, greeting cards and even animal feed until he died, broke and disgraced, in 1972.

Gruninger was an unassuming man whose faith and family were formed in a world in which anyone who saw what he saw, "the heart-breaking scenes . . . the screaming and the crying of mothers and children . . . could not bear it anymore . . . [and] I could do nothing else [but help!]."

Paul and Alice were buried together near St. Gallen. A plaque was placed on the grave. It read: Paul Gruninger saved hundreds of refugees in 1938-1939. At his funeral, a rabbi read from the Talmud: "He who saves a single life, saves the entire world.” From Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times by Eyal Press.
To which I say Amen.

Paul Gruninger, a righteous gentile, put aside the safe convention of his life for the sake of others, and like John the Baptist, knew it would cost him dearly but he lived as faithfully as he could. Living out our faith has a cost.
Again in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words - “I'm still discovering, right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing, we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God.” That is faith.
Today, Jacob Mason Holz will be baptized into that faith. A faith that he will see lived out in his family and friends. A faith that calls each of us to confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with all in his eternal priesthood.

As Jacob grows, may he see in all of us, a faith lived out with the courage and righteousness to follow Jesus and share the light of Christ when darkness threatens to snuff that light out in our own time and place.

May we follow in the faith we each were baptized into, knowing we too must live and serve like John the Baptist & Paul Gruninger, not knowing what it may cost us, but have the grace and power to faithfully accomplish what we ought to do. Amen.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Remembering St. Benedict

From the Lectionary (and bio):


A Sonnet: 

You sought to start a simple school of prayer,
A modest, gentle, moderate attempt,
With nothing made too harsh or hard to bear,
No treating or retreating with contempt,
A little rule, a small obedience
That sets aside, and tills the chosen ground,
Fruitful humility, chosen innocence,
A binding by which freedom might be found

You call us all to live, and see good days,
Centre in Christ and enter in his peace,
To seek his Way amidst our many ways,
Find blessedness in blessing, peace in praise,
To clear and keep for Love a sacred space
That we might be beginners in God’s grace.
(Malcolm Guite)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July! Prayers & Readings

A post by Byron Rushing: Let me take this opportunity to remind Episcopalians in the United States that many of us do not consider the words -- "the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us" -- in the Independence Day collect to be accurate. Look around your congregations and reflect if all the ancestors of the "us" got their liberty then.

Listen to the words of Collect (BCP, p.242) for Independence Day July 4th:

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This phrase is only possible because slavery was forgotten or the us was not meant to include me.
A better and approved BCP collect for the 4th is "For the Nation" (p. 258 or 207):

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Also the Canadian Canada Day collect (July 1) also works for us in the USA and all the other countries in which TEC is.

Almighty God, whose wisdom and whose love are over all, accept the prayers we offer for our nation. Give integrity to its citizens and wisdom to those in authority, that harmony and justice may be secured in obedience to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us remember to include everyone in our celebration...

Read the Declaration of Independence
Read Fredrick Douglas: The Meaning of the 4th of July
(for context:

Friday, July 3, 2015

Looking at #Charleston - through the poems of Langston Hughes

I often look to the poets when things come up in society (like 9/11, the events in Ferguson & around the country, Sandy Hook) that make me pause and think about life.

In light of #Charleston and what the African American community has been saying for a long time now (about racism, brutality, #BlackLivesMatter), I turned to one of the great African American poets to hear his words and what they might be saying to us today...

A sampling from Langston Hughes

Who But the Lord? (1947)

I looked and I saw
That man they call the Law.
He was coming
Down the street at me!
I had visions in my head
Of being laid out cold and dead,
Or else murdered
By the third degree.

I said, O, Lord, if you can,

Save me from that man!

Don’t let him make a pulp out of me!

But the Lord he was not quick.
The Law raised up his stick
And beat the living hell
Out of me!

Now, I do not understand
Why God don’t protect a man
From police brutality.
Being poor and black,
I’ve no weapon to strike back
So who but the Lord
Can protect me?

I, Too (1945)

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong. Tomorrow, I'll be at the table When company comes. Nobody'll dare Say to me, "Eat in the kitchen," Then. Besides, They'll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed— I, too, am America.

Harlem (1951)
What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

Democracy (1949)

Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.


Gather up
In the arms of your pity
The sick, the depraved,
The desperate, the tired,
All the scum
Of our weary city

Gather up
In the arms of your pity.
Gather up
In the arms of your love—
Those who expect
No love from above.


I ask you this:
Which way to go?
I ask you this:
Which sin to bear?
Which crown to put
Upon my hair?
I do not know,
Lord God,
I do not know. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

"Rebuild the Churches Fund" from Christ Church Cathedral StL

"Rebuild the Churches Fund"
Unites Faith Communities to Rebuild Burned Black Churches

In late June, at least four predominantly black churches were burned by arsonists in a clear attempt to strike a blow at the heart of the American black community. Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) in St. Louis is coordinating the Rebuild the Churches Fund to unite people of all faiths in standing with their sisters and brothers to help rebuild these buildings -- which are not just houses of worship but centers of ministry for their communities.

After setting an initial goal of $25,000, the fund doubled that to $50,000 after receiving nearly $19,000 in the first 72 hours after the online giving portal went live. All money received will be divided equally among these congregations:

· Glover Grove Baptist Church, Warrenville, SC
· College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church, Knoxville, TN
· Briar Creek Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC
· God's Power Church of Christ, Macon, GA

The funds will be designated to cover rebuilding costs not covered by insurance. If money is raised beyond that, it will be permitted to be used to expand or improve the physical plant so that it may better serve the wider community. If other black churches are burned or previous fires are deemed to be arson, those churches will be added to the distribution list. The fund is being managed and funds will be disbursed by Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) in St. Louis.
Over 50 Faith communities -- Christian, Jewish and Muslim -- in 21 states had committed to have at least one special offering for the churches during July as a sign of interfaith solidarity against racism and with their sisters and brothers of faith. (St. Peter’s will be July 12.)

"These acts of terrorism are not only an attack on the human dignity of our black sisters and brothers, they are an attack specifically leveled on their most sacred spaces," said Christ Church Cathedral Dean Mike Kinman. "The only way to meet this hatred is with love. That's what the Rebuild the Churches effort does -- give people of all faiths a chance to respond in with a love that will always be greater than any hate."

"Our young activists remind us to 'love and support each other!,' said Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis. "We will continue to rebuild every church with our love and support and the good in us, in all of us, will win."

"All people deserve a sanctuary--a sacred haven of peace. To desecrate and destroy a sanctuary is a heinous act." said The Rev. Dr. Heather Arcovitch, Senior Minister of First Congregational Church of St. Louis. "We are praying that God will spread a shelter of protection and comfort over our Black sister congregations, and we invite faithful people of all faiths to join in being Gods hands and heart in doing it."

Anyone can contribute to the fund online here -

Those wishing to give can also make a check out to Christ Church Cathedral with "Rebuild the Churches Fund" in the memo line and send it to:

Rebuild the Churches
c/o Christ Church Cathedral
1210 Locust Street
St. Louis, MO 63103

For more information on this story or anything about the life of Christ Church Cathedral, contact the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at or 314.348.6453.

Why Forgiveness Matters: Charleston, Sandy Hook

How do we forgive such horrendous acts in Charleston and Sandy Hook?

For some it seems impossible:

My lack of forgiveness serves as a reminder that there are some acts that are so terrible that we should recognize them as such. We should recognize them as beyond forgiving.

But for others, they have found that "forgiveness is not for Dylann Roof and it’s not to ease society or any white guilt for the racism so prevalent. The forgiveness is for you." 

Sophfronia Scott who lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut has given us a great gift in talking about forgiveness.  This is a must read!

An excerpt:
Forgiveness is not about having the Charleston shooting make sense. It’s about refusing to allow it to damage our lives more than it already has. When Nadine Collier made her statement about the loss of her mother, I heard a strong woman recognizing the path she must now walk. She released Dylann Roof to walk his own path so he would not continue to tread on hers.
I also don’t agree with Ms. Gay’s statement, “Black people forgive because we need to survive.” Forgiveness is too difficult. Why would we cross that bridge, tax our hearts, for the constricted, miniscule, poor result of “survival”? It is too little recompense for such arduous work.

Besides, as Andy Andrews observes in his book, The Traveler’s Gift, we aren’t meant to scratch at the ground like chickens trying to survive. We are meant to soar like eagles. We are meant to have life and to have it abundantly.
The shootings in Sandy Hook and now Charleston are grim reminders that we are far from it, but not forgiving will take us even further away. We would remain stuck. We would remain traumatized, whether we realize it or not. Unless we choose to be the light in the world, as Ms. Collier and others like her have done, we succumb to the darkness. When we don’t forgive, the victim count grows, and can grow exponentially. Adam Lanza took twenty-seven. Dylann Roof took nine. They don’t get to take any more. That’s why forgiveness matters.
 Read her whole article.

Remembering James Weldon Johnson

an icon by Tobias Haller

Bio & Readings for the Day: