Friday, October 30, 2015

All Hallows Eve


Halloween is really All Hallows Eve, or the Eve of All Saints' Day:

“All Saints' Day is the centerpiece of an autumn triduum. In the carnival celebrations of All Hallows' Eve our ancestors used the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal, the power of humor and ridicule, to confront the power of death.” – Rev. Sam Portaro from “Brightest and Best”

"Halloween is the time of year when we see that Christ has so triumphed over Evil, that even little children can mock the Devil with impunity." – Fr. Victor

You, O Lord, have made us from the dust of the earth and to dust our bodies shall return; yet you have also breathed your Spirit upon us and called us to new life in you: Have mercy upon us, now and at the hour of our death; through Jesus Christ, our mediator and advocate. Amen.

A Wonderful article on Halloween and its proper place within Christendom can be found here:

YES! HALLOWEEN IS CHRISTIAN––WONDERFULLY SO!

Happy Halloween!

Autumn Triduum (Oct 31 - Nov 2)

“All Saints' Day is the centerpiece of an autumn triduum. In the carnival celebrations of All Hallows' Eve (Oct 31) our ancestors used the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal, the power of humor and ridicule, to confront the power of death. The following day, in the commemoration of All Saints (Nov 1), we gave witness to the victory of incarnate goodness embodied in the remarkable deeds and doers triumphing over the misanthropy of darkness and devils. And in the commemoration of All Souls (Nov 2) we proclaim the hope of common mortality expressed in our aspirations and expectation of a shared eternity.” – The Rev. Sam Portaro from “Brightest and Best”
You, O Lord, have made us from the dust of the earth and to dust our bodies shall return; yet you have also breathed your Spirit upon us and called us to new life in you: Have mercy upon us, now and at the hour of our death; through Jesus Christ, our mediator and advocate. Amen.

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers: Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son; that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sermon: October 25

Given at the 8 AM service...
Take our lips, O Lord, and speak through them; Take our minds and think through them; Take our hearts and set them on fire, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” & Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”

In the Gospel for this morning on the side of the road outside Jericho, a most unlikely fellow believed in the Christ. His name is Bartimaeus, son of Timeaus. He is a blind beggar. He has heard of Jesus & the miracles he has done. And now as this crowd goes in front of him, he hears that Jesus is among them.
"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me."
Many in the crowd (including disciples!) who are following Jesus out of Jericho order him to be quiet, to shut up, to stop bothering Jesus. But he would not give up: "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Call him here says Jesus. When Bartimeaus hears that Jesus is calling to him, he springs up, throws off his cloak, leaves his few meager possessions behind & goes to Jesus. He asks Jesus. “Rabbouni (my teacher) let me see again.” To which Jesus says. “Go your faith has made you well.” Immediately his sight is regained and he follows Jesus to Jerusalem.

We have much to lean from Bartimaeus:
-that Jesus is the Christ and teacher of us all
-to be persistent in one's faith, is valued by Jesus, and to live into such hope and trust in him
-when called by Jesus to follow him, to throw off all that would hold us back & go

Bartimeaus receives what the rich man was looking for a few weeks back, he gets peace in his heart, for Bartimaeus was willing to give up everything, and he follows Jesus after his healing. It is his faith that sets him free. Although he couldn’t see, Bartimeaus wasn’t really blind, for through his faith he could see Jesus.

The crowd that shouts him down, fails to see the faith in another person, wanting their own time with Jesus, they don’t want him to be bothered by a beggar on the side of the road. They were blind to Bartimeaus & to who Jesus is, the Christ for us all.

Sometimes we are blind, like the crowd, to who Jesus is and we fail to see the needs all around us. There is a prayer that begins with "Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us." And it is important for us to be ready to see God at work in the world.
A story is told about a new bishop who began his ministry by driving to all the parishes in his vast diocese to meet his priests and parishioners. He spent the hours driving from parish to parish listening to all kinds of educational tapes and recorded books, believing it was important to be an up-to-date, educated bishop. And when he arrived at the church he was visiting, he would basically disgorge onto parishioners everything he just learned. From the looks on people's faces, however, he got the feeling it wasn't working.

One morning, while he was driving to his next parish, he saw ahead of him a shape on the road. It was a turtle. He braked, pulled over, picked up the turtle from the middle of the road, and placed it safely on the other side. As he continued to visit parishes, he started keeping an eye out for turtles - and there were a lot of them, struggling across busy roads to nearby streams and ponds. It became the bishop's practice to watch for them and to stop and pick them up if they needed help.

After a while, he stopped listening to the tapes because he might miss a turtle, and he started leaving the car windows open so he could smell the air, especially in the early summer. The bishop discovered that he was more relaxed and attentive when he arrived at a parish, and this was what people wanted and needed rather than his take on the latest theology. [From The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher.]
In the busyness of our lives, we can become blind to the people who mean the most to us and to the pursuits that bring joy and meaning to our lives; in the many demands placed on us, we stop seeing the possibilities for doing good and affirming things. We rationalize our own self-absorption, our lack of compassion, our avoiding anyone or anything unpleasant, our refusal to accept responsibility.

In "looking out" for turtles, the bishop rediscovers the compassion and consolation that is the heart of his ministry to the people of his diocese. For it is Christ the healer who comes to restore our "sight," enabling us to realize the presence of God in our lives and to recognize the opportunities to bring such healing and love to others.

On March 18, 1958 the monk Thomas Merton was in Louisville, KY and had a profound encounter with God. Merton recounting his transforming experience wrote this (from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander):
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness…

This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud…I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time.”
Our deepest prayer is the cry of the blind Bartimaeus to have our eyes opened and see God's compassion and forgiveness, his mercy and justice in our midst. It is to have a profound experience of God in the midst of our busy lives like Thomas Merton and to see our common connection to one other. And it is in helping the turtles, and those in need, get to the other side.

May our eyes be opened to God's work around us, recognizing the Spirit of God in every human being and be transformed by God as we follow in faith where Jesus is leading each of us. Amen.

Panama Disease (Bananas) in Mozambique

The bananas in Mozambique were delicious!  That is one of my memories of my travels in Mozambique back in 2014.  They were everywhere as well.  Abundant.

I have recently heard that Panama Disease which affects bananas has been found in two places in Mozambique.  It is a devastating and nearly uncontrollable disease that kills the banana plants at their roots.

You can learn about the disease here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_disease

You can read about it Mozambique here:

http://www.bananalink.org.uk/threat-posed-panama-disease

http://www.clubofmozambique.com/solutions1/sectionnews.php?secao=business&id=2147492250&tipo=one

Prayers for Mozambique and beyond:

Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: We humbly pray that your gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and especially the food security of the households who depend on bananas and that you may prosper all who labor to gather them, that we, who constantly receive good things from your hand, may always give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reign with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (adapted from BCP)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

#BlackLivesMatter - Fear, Priviledge & History

Ta-Nehisi Coates the author of "Between the World and Me" ponders race, religion and the fear of violence.



if player does not load, go here: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2015/10/15/ta-nehisi-coates-fear-black-experience/27488/

White privilege, like all privilege, is hard to see when you possess it and impossible to miss when you don't. In this video, the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, a speaker at TI2016, addresses racial privilege in biblical times and will share more at Trinity Institute's annual theological conference in January 2016.



and finally, the op-ed piece in the NY Times on How Texas Teaches History is an important reminder that words matter and how we understand and express history, can either diminsh or uphold our fellow citizens. (A small excerpt)

In the excerpts published by Jezebel, the Texas textbooks employ all the principles of good, strong, clear writing when talking about the “upside” of slavery. But when writing about the brutality of slavery, the writers use all the tricks of obfuscation.

A Revelation

from Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . .

This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. . . . But this cannot be seen, only believed and ‘understood’ by a peculiar gift.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Having the Same Statement of Faith

"and the Son" - phrase added to the Nicene Creed

“Known as the ‘filioque’ clause from the Latin meaning ‘and the Son’, these words were never added by an Ecumenical council. They were originally introduced in the West in the late sixth century by theologians to strengthen the Creed’s proclamation of the divinity of the Son, and only centuries later was it ordered to be inserted in the Creed by the Emperor Charlemagne, and spread around the Western Church, including medieval England where it passed into the heritage of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.”

The Orthodox Churches do not use the phrase "and the son" in the creed.

Anglicans (Episcopalians) have been encouraged to drop that clause from our creed.  Learn more here:

http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2015/10/anglicans-encouraged-to-drop-filioque-from-nicene-creed.aspx

http://www.anglicannews.org/comment/2015/10/to-quarrel-is-human,-but-god-calls-us-to-reconciliation.aspx

the Episcopal Church is on record that it will remove the clause in the next Book of Common Prayer:

http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_resolution.pl?resolution=1994-A028

And to learn more about the dialogue:

http://www.anglicancommunion.org/relationships/ecumenical-dialogues/oriental-orthodox.aspx

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Taking Holy Communion in the Episcopal Church

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(from Chapel on the Green this summer)

The Episcopal Church welcomes all who are baptized to take communion.  It doesn't matter if you are Roman Catholic or Baptist or any denomination at all.  ALL the baptized are welcome.
 
If you are not baptized, then just ask, and you will be baptized, brought into the fellowship of Christ's body and then take communion with us.

Blessed are all those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb!

At St. Peter's Episcopal Church, the communion bread is baked by a parish family.  We also have (gluten free) wafers for those who cannot eat the bread. (Just let us know!) All are welcome to receive both the bread and the wine.
“It is the life of Christ and our life, blended together into one life. As we drink the cup, we drink the cup that Jesus drank, but we also drink our cup. That is the great mystery of the Eucharist. The cup of Jesus filled with his life, poured out for us and all people, and our cup, filled with our own blood, have become one cup. Together when we drink that cup as Jesus drank it we are transformed into the one body of the living Christ, always dying and always rising for the salvation of the world.” ~ Henri Nouwen
Sadly, sharing in the Eucharist and breaking bread together in Jesus' name has become too ruled by law and not by the Spirit.

As we live into the spirit of Anglicanism here at St. Peter's, I think of words written about Elizabeth I who in so many ways helped shape our understanding of the faith that we have inherited as Episcopalians (Anglicans).

It is according to Sir Francis Bacon that Elizabeth I believed that what people do is what matters, our saying common prayers together and not our assumptions about other's opinions or beliefs. Bacon sets out this view of Elizabeth: "Her Majesty, not liking to make windows into men's hearts and secret thoughts..."

In Elizabeth I own words about taking communion:
'Twas God the Word that spake it,
He took the bread and break it;
And what the word did make it;
That I believe and take it.
A prayer to use before receiving communion:

Be present, be present, O Jesus, our great High Priest, as you were present with your disciples, and be know to us in the breaking of bread; who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

A prayer for after receiving communion

O Lord Jesus Christ, who in a wonderful Sacrament hast left unto us a memorial of thy passion: Grant us, we beseech thee, so to venerate the sacred mysteries of thy Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of thy redemption; who livest and reignest with the Father and
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Final Thoughts:

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]
Behold what you are. May we become what we receive.

Contraception and the Episcopal Church

There has been a lot of talk about contraception and what the Church should say about it...

In the Episcopal Church: "We believe that contraception and birth control are matters of individual conscience." is how I've seen it on the web and I think that is a practical way of putting our beliefs.


[For the record, birth control was condemned by the Lambeth Conference (of which the Episcopal bishops were a part of the meeting) in 1920 but by 1968, the bishops no longer believed in such a hard line. Even as the RC Church continued to condemn it, the Anglican bishops in Lambeth said they could not “agree with the Pope’s conclusion that all methods of conception control other than abstinence...are contrary to the ‘order established by God.’”]


For many people now, birth control is considered essential health care. Other churches, most notable the Roman Catholic Church disagree with birth control.  Even some businesses claim it infringes on their beliefs.

Rachel Held Evans has an important and thought provoking blogpost on this:

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/privilege-and-the-pill

Read it.  I think she is spot on.

Monday, October 12, 2015

#NativeLivesMatter - Do we Listen? Do we care?

For some time now, Native Americans have been talking about racism.  They point to a newly minted saint in the RC Church and a certain NFL team, and the country shrugged...

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a29318/redskin-name-update/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/24/pope-francis-makes-spanish-missionary-junipero-serra-a-saint-amid-protests

As our nation celebrates Columbus Day on Monday October 12. This holiday may bring conflicted experiences and emotions for different Americans. For many in the Native American community, it serves as a painful reminder of the brutal European settlement and conquest of the Americas.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori offers the following statement: "I urge you to learn more about the Doctrine of Discovery* and the search for healing in our native communities. But this is also a matter for healing in communities and persons of European immigrant descent. Colonists, settlers, and homesteaders benefited enormously from the availability of 'free' land, and their descendants continue to benefit to this day. That land was taken by force or subterfuge from peoples who had dwelt on it from time immemorial - it was their 'promised land.'"

Learn more here: Doctrine of Discovery repudiation found here.

"It can also be a time of learning and understanding," said Sarah Eagle Heart, the Episcopal Church's officer for Native American and Indigenous Ministries. "Columbus Day could instead be a time to turn away from those things done 'on behalf' of Native Americans so that we all might come to live in justice and peace with all people."

A Prayer for Healing and Hope
O Great Spirit, God of all people and every tribe,
through whom all people are related;
Call us to the kinship of all your people.
Grant us vision to see through the lens of our
Baptismal Covenant,
the brokenness of the past;
Help us to listen to one another,
in order to heal the wounds of the present;
And give us courage, patience, and wisdom to work together
for healing and hope with all of your people,
now and in the future.
Mend the hoop of our hearts and let us live in
justice and peace
through Jesus Christ,
the One who comes to all people
that we might live in dignity. Amen.

The above includes an adaptation of materials, Copyright 2011, the Episcopal Church Center

*An occasion of unprecedented significance in the history of the Episcopal Church (2011)

This “Lament over the Doctrine of Discovery” is the first time in the history of the church that we have attempted to come together as followers of Jesus Christ, Native and other people, to openly acknowledge, honor and lament before God and each other, the grievous circumstances of the settlement of this nation. As General Convention 2009 had the courage to repudiate the Doctrine of
Discovery and to call us to transformed understandings, practices and relationships, tonight we gather here in Indianapolis and throughout the Episcopal Church to share this event with those who participate in Local Laments over the Doctrine of Discovery.

What is the Doctrine of Discovery and what does it have to do with me?

The “Doctrine of Discovery” is a term referring to several documents and policies of church and state that legalized the violent and unjust settlement of North and South America, giving these actions, and their long-lingering tragic consequences, the full sanction and blessing of church and state. Without some awareness of the reasons why and ways in which these policies and actions grievously violate the values of our Christian faith – to continue in the prayers and fellowship, preserve in resisting evil, proclaim Good News, seek and serve Christ in all persons, strive for justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being – we cannot live out that faith with honesty and integrity.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sermon: October 11

Take our lips, O Lord, and speak through them; Take our minds and think through them; Take our hearts and set them on fire, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

“You are the best dad in the world.”

I know when my kid is saying this, as much as I love them, they are buttering me up. I know they are about to ask me for something…

In today’s Gospel, kneeling before Jesus as Jesus prepares to make one last journey to Jerusalem, is a rich young man. So many have knelt before Jesus asking for healing, but this young man asks "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Jesus does not like being called good teacher. Only God is good. What must he do? Jesus asks the young man about the commandments…

He has obeyed the commandments but Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Whenever I read this passage, I think of an image from the Steve Ross graphic novel about the Gospel of Mark. Ross has brought the Gospel to modern day and from today's reading, he has this young man moving a wheel barrow full of stuff to see Jesus and asks what he must do to get to heaven. All the things in the wheelbarrow includes cars, TV’s, homes, jewelry, radios, tablets and it reaches to the sky.

Jesus sighs when he sees the man coming to him with all this stuff... that image for me, reminds me that the rich young man could be any of us, for we have all that stuff too. In that graphic novel, just like the Gospel, the young man leaves grieving, he could not let go of all of his stuff, his wealth, his riches. They helped define who he was. And what could have been a blessing in fact becomes burdensome.
Then Jesus looks around and says to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples are perplexed at these words.
Are we perplexed? Is Jesus really giving the young man and us a herculean task? Give it all away! Impossible (well except for God!). Or rather is Jesus inviting the young man to let go of the possessions, the wealth, all the stuff he has, to truly find the meaning or healing he searches for in his life?

Jesus loves the young man. He fulfills the commandments and that is good, but for this young man to truly follow him then he must let go of what is holding his life back and that is his wealth. So Jesus asks him to “go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor.” Without judgment, without control, give it to the poor. Go, sell and give away.

So what holds us back? Do we give freely or does our stuff keep us from being free to follow Jesus? And how will our giving help others?

We think of our possessions, our money, our wealth as the most private aspect of our lives. Talking about it makes us very uneasy. But our money and possessions and how we use them are a window into our souls – for they often tell the story of what we believe.

Jacob Needleman observes that "money can buy almost everything. The only thing it cannot buy is meaning. The ultimate source of every human activity, every human function, is something, some force, beyond the ego. Money can't touch that - but it can touch everything else."

Or to say it another way, “Money can’t buy you love.”
Arlene and Willis Hatch lived simple lives on their farm near the tiny town of Alto, Michigan. Until their retirements, Arlene taught seventh grade; Willis raised beef cattle.

They never had children of their own; to them, their neighbors were their family. They invested in friendships and in their little church community. Arlene and Willis loved their town - and the feeling was mutual. During their lives, the Hatches quietly paid for local children to attend summer camp when their parents couldn't afford it, and they made certain no child went without warm clothing when winter came to the farmlands of the Grand River.

So the town was devastated when the couple died within days of each other, the result of a traffic accident. Both in their 90s when they died, the Hatches had been married for 57 years.

A few weeks after the funeral at their small Methodist church, the letters started to arrive. More than 70 neighbors were informed that they had inherited money from the Hatches. The amounts ranged from a few thousand dollars to more than $100,000; the church received $80,000 for its building fund.

Simple, unassuming Arlene and Willis Hatch had amassed a fortune of almost $3 million in CDs, stocks and the assets of the farm. Both children of the Great Depression, Arlene and Willis were known for their frugality - but no one was prepared for this.

The money helped families make it through job losses, pay for college tuitions, and cover medical bills. Many of the recipients who were able have given the money to several local charities, including food banks, the ASPCA and services for seniors.

That was the legacy Arlene and Willis Hatch wanted - a legacy of kindness as much as one of dollars and cents. The Hatches wanted to enrich the lives of not just a handful of family members but the community they loved and who loved them in return. With kindness and caring, one elderly couple taught younger generations about investing in what matters most - each other. [ABC News, October 12, 2008; Reader's Digest, October 2008.]
The question is not whether money or wealth is good or bad; the Gospel challenge is what we do with our wealth, our sense of responsibility for the many blessings God has given us for the benefit of all. The rich young man can't embrace Jesus' call to let go of his stuff & share it. Wealth should enable us to live life to the fullest; but too often what we have can weigh us down, preventing us from moving on with our lives - the prosperity that should enable our journey becomes much more important than the journey itself – our possessions become more important that other people.

While the rich young man is entombed by his possessions, Arlene and Willis Hatch realized that what they have should be the tools for building lives of purpose and meaning. May we have the spirit of compassion not to become possessed by our possessions and the vision of faith to distinguish between the things of our world and the things (and the gifts!) of God. So we too can go, sell and give. Amen.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sermon on St Francis Day (October 4)

O God Our Heavenly Father, You created the world to serve humanity's needs and to lead them to You. By our own fault we have lost the beautiful relationship which we once had with all your creation. Help us to see that by restoring our relationship with You we will also restore it with all Your creation. Give us the grace to see all animals as gifts from You and to treat them with respect for they are Your creation. Amen. (attributed to St. Francis of Assisi)

Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. When I think of St. Francis, I think about his compassion for others and for all of creation, including thieves, lepers, a sultan, a lady & a count, and animals and birds of all kinds, just to name a few.
St. Francis wrote, "If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow men."
St. Francis rightly understood that how we treat God’s creatures, is how we treat each other. If we don’t have compassion and pity for one, we won’t have it at all.

Sadly we saw such lack of compassion and pity (such hate) this past week, as another shooting took place at the Umpqua Community College in Oregon, a horrible case of animal cruelty in Virginia, and the refugees from the conflicts in Syria & Iraq who are looking for a safe and peaceful place to live being blocked and intimidated in some parts of Europe.

And yet, that is what we are called to be in these difficult days, to live a compassionate life toward others. As Br. Curtis Almquist of SSJE recently wrote:
“I would call compassion a “life skill” learnable on our knees: to see ourselves as God sees us, which will inform how we see everyone else. In a time so full of hurt and hate, the grace of compassion can make a world of difference.”
Compassion for others and all of creation, we see it in the life of St. Francis. There are others who have taken up that mantle too, whose love for others and animals have helped us all to be better Christians.

I think of William Wilberforce & Hannah More. They were part of the Anglican Clapham Sect in London as they would come to be known. They were social reformers, whose faith guided their decisions in the 19th Century.

We know of Wilberforce from his tireless work to abolish the slave trade in England. More assisted him through her popular writings and philanthropy and prayers. For 45 years they worked on this issue.

What we forget is their compassion wasn’t just for those enslaved, for they looked to reform all of that society and on the treatment of animals. For 22 years, Wilberforce joined others in Parliament trying to pass bills against the cruel treatment of animals, only to have them rejected again and again.

For Wilberforce, it began in 1800 and his support of a bill to prohibit bull-baiting. Bull baiting was one variant of a host of sporting activities in which animals were set to fight against one another.

Wilberforce thought bull baiting "cruel and inhuman," and “degraded human nature." But for many years they couldn’t pass even a very mild form of protection for any animals.

Finally in 1821, a bill was passed in Parliament - "to prevent cruel and improper treatment of cattle"

And on June 16, 1824, Wilberforce joined others at old Slaughter's Pub, where the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was formed. (The 1st such society in the world. Our Humane Society is only 60 years old!)

More was well known during her lifetime for her widespread efforts at social reforms throughout England. For More, that would include animal welfare. As one author put it, “In the view of reformers like Hannah More, a society that mistreated animals presented a distorted image of God’s relationship to his human creation.” (Karen Swallow Prior) For Wilberforce and More, their life’s work & faith of getting rid of slavery & improving society, was also connected with treating animals in humane ways.

Another person who took up the mantle was the Lutheran Albert Schweitzer of the early 20th century. Medical Missionary, physician, theologian, Dr. Schweitzer came up with an ethic he called “reverence for life” – for he wrote, “The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition or surrounded by a halo...We need a boundless ethic which will include the animal also.”

Like St Francis and Wilberforce and More, Schweitzer knew that our relationship to each other and our connection to animals are both important and both must be valued. Again, in his words:
“I knew that a system of values which concerns itself only with our relationship to other people is incomplete and therefore lacking in power for good. Only by means of reverence for life can we establish a spiritual and humane relationship with both people and all living creatures within our reach.”
Schweitzer was worried that western civilization was losing its reverence for life and no longer had an ethical foundation. His 1936 “The Ethics of a Reverence for Life” was his attempt to help us to live in service to our fellow human beings and to every creature on our planet.

Compassion obliges us to pray and to act. We have seen in Francis, Wilberforce, More and Schweitzer lives dedicated to helping their fellow creatures. May we each find a way to bring such compassion to the lives of all animals and to all of God’s beautiful creation.

Let me end with two prayers. This first one was composed by Dr. Schweitzer and is perfect for children:
O, heavenly Father, protect and bless all things that have breath;
guard them from all evil, and let them sleep in peace.
The second prayer often called The Prayer for Animals, which is attributed to Schweitzer, was probably not written by him since it does not appear in any of his writings, but it shares his spirit (as it does the others I mentioned this morning).

Let us pray.
Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals,
especially for animals who are suffering;
for animals that are overworked, underfed and cruelly treated;
for all wistful creatures in captivity that beat their wings against bars;
for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry;
for all that must be put to death.
We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity,
and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion
and gentle hands and kindly words.
Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals,
and so to share the blessings of the merciful. Amen.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A New Serenity Prayer

I recently read this new serenity prayer and I think it is brilliant and needs to be read by many (including me!) again and again.


May it be helpful for your journey!
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
not you.

Amen.
Prayer by Fr. James Martin, SJ
Published Nov 9, 2012

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Prayer for the Umpqua Community College in Oregon


Almighty God, giver of light and life, in whose hands are both the living and the dead: We offer to you our continued sorrow in the face of the cruel deaths and injuries at the Umpqua Community College in Oregon. As you were present in the midst of the gunfire and chaos, so we trust you are present now with those who have died. May they rest in peace and live in your perpetual love. In your boundless compassion, console all who mourn, especially parents and family members, & all those who still suffer from this tragedy. Give to us who carry on such a lively sense of your righteous will that we will not rest until our country is safe for all your people. All this we pray in sighs too deep for words and in the name of the lover and protector of our souls, Jesus Christ. Amen.  (adapted from a prayer by the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine)