Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sermon: November 29 (Advent)

Come, O Holy One, as the morning light after a wakeful night!
Keep us mindful that at any moment you may ask of us an accounting of our lives;
help us to love you and love one another in all that we do,
and so clothe us with your light that we may bring hope to the places of dread,
through Jesus our Savior. Amen. (adapted from Rev. Jennifer Phillips)

Do not feed the fears.

A picture has been making the rounds on the different social media I use. And I agree with it. Don’t feed the fears. It seems like there are too many people who like to try to make us fearful. I believe one way we counteract this, is by our interactions with others.
A friend told about his experience on his Facebook page on Thanksgiving (with his permission) he wrote this: “I was sitting by myself in Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul around a beautiful fountain. A man came up to me trying to goad me into conversation about buying a rug. I politely rejected the sales pitch but started asking him about himself. It turned out he was a native Kurd who had fled the fighting in his home town near the Syrian border. As we talked, I noticed his face. Half of it had been blown off in an explosion, and in addition to the disfigurement, he had a plastic ear taped to the side of his head. It was hard to look at him - because there was so much pain in what was left.

After he left I sat there thinking about our conversation. And how I had grown up in a middle-class neighborhood, in a safe city, with no war, no forced conscription, no bombs, no drones overhead, no food shortages, no rubble to pick through, no crazy death cults rounding up my neighbors. I grew up with plenty to eat, friends to play with, teachers who cared about me, and doctors to heal.

The world's not the same place. But the thing I see that has changed the most is our attitudes toward those who have less. And how our own fears have made us less than the people that we were. What kind of people do we want to be?” {Eric W. – Facebook 11/26/15}
What kind of people do we want to be? My friend’s question sat with me even as it brought me hope that our interactions might help us with our fears. The readings for today try to address the fear.

The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that a righteous branch will spring forth, what God has promised will come to pass, justice will be done. The Letter to the Thessalonians reminds us to love one another and that God will strengthen our hearts. Our first two readings tell us that even during our toughest days, to hold on and see things through! What kind of people do we want to be? Living with such hope in our lives.

Sadly, everyday news seems to intrude upon our lives. The shooting at a Planned Parenthood Clinic, wounding 9, killing 3 including a police officer, helps to feed our fears. A bombing overseas, news of terrorism both domestic and foreign seems to be part of our daily bread.
Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
Jesus knows about the times we are living, because they are not unlike his own experience living under Roman occupation. But Jesus tells us not to fear. “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Our time is not to cower and fear, but to stand up, for our salvation is close by. Even still, we need to be ready says Jesus.

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.”

We all will face our fears. We can try to dull it by indulging in actions that allow the worries of life to control us. We can try to ignore it but fear is powerful and it so often casts out the love we want to share. Be on guard, says Jesus. What kind of people do we want to be?

Julian of Norwich lived in the fourteenth century in England and she lived in a fearful time: war with France, unsafe travel by land or sea, outbreaks of disease that decimated their livestock, recurring crop failures resulting in famines, both of which they relied on to feed themselves and the Great Plague that killed its victims, without warning, often within days.

In the midst of this, Julian advised those who visited her and in her writings, to avoid the fears of life that whirls around us all the time, but instead, have “Reverent Dread” or the term I like is “holy awe.” In Julian’s own words:
“And thus we shall in love be homely and near to God, and we shall in holy awe [reverent dread] be gentle and courteous towards God... We should desire then of our lord God to fear him reverently and to love him humbly and to trust in him mightily... For the more that we trust and the mightier, the more we please and worship our lord in whom we trust…And therefore we need greatly to pray to our lord of grace, that we may have this holy awe [reverent fear] and humble love by his gift, in heart and in work, for without this no man may please God.” (from Chapter 24 of Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich)
In the words of Veronica Mary Rolf, “Julian is advising us not to go about in fear of what might happen but rather to concentrate all our energies on loving and trusting God "mightily" in all that we think and do and say. In God's love for us is our truest security and most reliable protection. And in our reverent fear of God -- and only God -- is our courage to live in freedom.”

What kind of people do we want to be? In this Advent, may we be a people of hope, a people of holy awe, who “hold our heads high amid the swirl of fear and violence around us” as we share the love and grace of God to cast away the works of darkness. Amen.

Follow-Up with these Blogs:

What We Should Fear

Dealing with Fear

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Wise Words from Wendell Berry

I just came across two online posts on Wendell Berry:

Last Word with Farmer-Author Wendell Berry

The Gift of Good Land

Read them!  My favorite excerpt:
Is the spiritual connection between farmer and farm being lost?
WB: I think that’s an immediate danger. This is dangerous territory now. I’ve been reading the Pope’s encyclical. It’s very impressive. As the issues arise, he faces them. He makes the connection between the biblical imperative and the local obligation of the farmer or land user.
The Amish, like the Pope, take the gospels pretty seriously. They’re pacifists, for one thing. Remember when the madmen killed children in their school? The Amish went straight and forgave the killer. The black people in Charleston did it too. The Amish have that capacity to take the moral imperative literally. I think they take stewardship with the same, and consequent, seriousness. They’ve asked the essential question about technological innovation: What would this do to our community, if we do it? That governs their discussion. They have done very well. They’re not perfect people. But that Holmes County example is right there to be seen, and mostly our agriculture experts don’t look at it, or can’t see it, or can’t recognize the goodness of it if they do see it.

We have a role to play in the gift of good land.  What will we say as Christians?

Wise Words from an Alcoholic

These words are from author Anne Lamott:
On July 7, 1986, 29 years ago, I woke up sick, shamed, hungover, and in deep animal confusion. I woke up this way most mornings. Why couldn't I stop after 6 or 7 drinks? Why didn't I have an "off" switch when I had that first drink every day?

Then I blinked, and today is my 29th recovery birthday. I hope someday it will be yours, too, or at least your 1st. Don't give up on yourself. In recovery, we never EVER give up on anyone, no matter what it looks like, no matter how long it takes. 

Read her whole post here.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sermon: November 22

Almighty ever-living God, it is your will to gather up all things in your beloved one, reigning in the universe in the power that is love, mercifully grant that the whole of creation, freed from slavery to death and fear, may serve and praise you through Jesus Christ who is alive with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (adapted from Rev. Bosco Peters)

"It's good to be the king."

Those words from Mel Brooks in his film (History of the World Part I) is what we often think of Kings. Full of power, able to do whatever they want. It’s good to be the king.

But Jesus gives us such a different perspective – grilled by Pilate – he doesn’t talk about power – he talks about truth. “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” The truth for us in our king is how we listen to Jesus and live out his ways by what we do. How do we do that? Let me tell you a story…

Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy (1903) - (translated & slightly abbreviated)
It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid, and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.

And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to anyone who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do.

And learned men came to the King from all over the kingdom, but they all answered differently.

Since all the answers differed, the King agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom.

The hermit lived in a wooded area which he never left, and he received none but common folk. So the King put on simple clothes, and before reaching the hermit’s cell dismounted from his horse, and, leaving his bodyguard behind, went on alone.

When the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. Seeing the King, he greeted him and went on digging. The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily.

The King went up to him and said: “I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need & to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what affairs are the most important & need my first attention?”

The hermit listened to the King, but answered nothing. He just spat on his hand and recommenced digging. “You are tired,” said the King, “let me take the spade and work awhile for you.”

“Thanks!” said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the King, he sat down on the ground.

When he had dug two beds, the King stopped and repeated his questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out his hand for the spade, and said: “Now rest awhile – and let me work a bit.”

But the King did not give him the spade, and continued to dig. One hour passed, and another. The sun began to sink behind the trees, and the King at last stuck the spade into the ground, and said: “I came to you, wise man, for an answer to my questions. If you can give me none, tell me so, and I will return home.”

“Here comes someone running,” said the hermit, “let us see who it is.”

The King turned round, and saw a bearded man come running out of the wood. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood was flowing from under them. When he reached the King, he fell fainting on the ground moaning feebly. The King and the hermit unfastened the man’s clothing. There was a large wound in his stomach. The King washed it as best he could, and bandaged it with his handkerchief and with a towel the hermit had. But the blood would not stop flowing, and the King again and again removed the bandage soaked with warm blood, and washed and re-bandaged the wound.

When at last the blood ceased flowing, the man revived and asked for something to drink. The King brought fresh water and gave it to him. Meanwhile the sun had set, and it had become cool. So the King, with the hermit’s help, carried the wounded man into the hut and laid him on the bed. Lying on the bed the man closed his eyes and was quiet; but the King was so tired with his walk and with the work he had done, that he crouched down on the threshold, and also fell asleep –so soundly that he slept all through the short summer night. When he awoke in the morning, it was long before he could remember where he was, or who was the strange bearded man lying on the bed and gazing intently at him with shining eyes. “Forgive me!” said the bearded man in a weak voice, when he saw that the King was awake and was looking at him.

“I do not know you, and have nothing to forgive you for,” said the King.

“You do not know me, but I know you. I am your enemy who swore revenge because you executed my brother and seized our property. I knew you had gone alone to see the hermit, and I resolved to kill you on your way back. But the day passed and you did not return. So I came out from my ambush to find you, and I came upon your bodyguard, and they recognized me, and wounded me. I escaped from them, but should have bled to death had you not dressed my wound. I wished to kill you, and you have saved my life. Now, if I live, and if you wish it, I will serve you as your most faithful slave, and will bid my sons do the same. Forgive me!”

The King was very glad to have made peace with his enemy so easily, and to have gained him for a friend, and he not only forgave him, but said he would send his servants and his own physician to attend him, and promised to restore his property.

Having taken leave of the wounded man, the King went out into the porch and looked around for the hermit. Before going away he wished once more to beg an answer to the questions he had put. The hermit was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been dug the day before. The King approached him, and said: “For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man.” “You have already been answered!” said the hermit still crouching on his thin legs, and looking up at the King, who stood before him. “How? What do you mean?” asked the King.

“Do you not see?” replied the hermit. “If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug these beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards, when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business.

Remember then: there is only one time that is important – Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary person is the one with whom you are with, for no one knows whether he will ever have dealings with anyone else: and the most important affair is, to do good to others, because for that purpose alone we were sent into this life!”
And I would dare say that is how Jesus lived his life: in the now, with those whom he was with and he always did good unto others. What kind of King is this? As that old hymn puts it, “the King of Love My Shepherd is whose goodness faileth never...”

Similarly, as Napoléon Bonaparte once said: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I founded empires; but what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions [of men] would die for Him.”

As our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry recently said, “"if it isn't about love it isn't about God.”

If we follow Jesus, our Lord & King, then: we focus on the now, with the persons around us, and we do them good; for it is the Kingdom of Love that we belong too! Amen.

Sermon for Chapel on the Green (Nov. 22)

On this day when we think of Jesus as king – he doesn’t talk about power – he talks about truth in the Gospel. “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” The truth for us in our king is how we listen to Jesus and live out his ways by what we do. How do we do that? I think it starts with gratitude.
Tenzing Norgay was the Sherpa guide on Sir Edmund Hillary's historic climb of Mount Everest in May 1953. In his memoirs of that journey, Norgay writes that the team reached the summit at 11:30 on the morning of May 29, 1953. Norgay reports that Hillary reached for his camera and began taking dozens of pictures of different views from the summit, including a memorable photograph of Norgay standing atop the summit of the mountain the Nepalis call Sagarmatha, "goddess of the skies."

Then Norgay records his response - an incident which is never mentioned in any documentary or history of the historic journey. Norgay writes that, upon reaching the summit of Everest, he knelt in the snow and hollowed out a small hole. He reached into his pack, took out a small bar of candy, a blue and white pencil from his daughter Nimi, and a scarf given to Hillary by a fellow climber, and buried them as an offering. As he knelt in the snow, he whispered a prayer in his native tongue: "Thuji chey, chomilugma" – which means "I am grateful." ("The lure of the mountain: Death and divinity in the Himalayas" by Jon Magnuson. The Christian Century, February 19, 1998.)
Thanksgiving invites us to rediscover the many ways in which the love of God is revealed in our lives: in the life God breathes into our souls, in every wondrous work of creation formed by the hand of God, in the love of God dwelling among us in the love of family and friends and even strangers.

For no other reason than love so deep we cannot begin to fathom it, God has breathed his life into each of us. The only fitting response we can make to such inexplicable and unmerited love is to stand humbly before God like Tenzing Norgay and quietly, humbly say, “I am grateful.”

Such a spirit of thankfulness can transform cynicism and despair into optimism and hope and make whatever good we do an experience of grace. But too often we let our worries and fears over what we might lose and our disappointment and hurt over what we don't have overwhelm that spirit of gratitude.

In realizing such wonder, may our disappointments in life and our failure to see God's presence around us be transformed into an awareness of God's love and a spirit of gratitude for the precious gift of life we have received through no doing on our part and then share that gratitude by the love we give to one another. Amen.

Praying #Thanksgiving

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the
fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those
who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of
your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and
the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(from the Book of Common Prayer, p. 246)

Traditional Table Graces and Thanksgiving Prayers

 Bless, O Lord, this food to our use,
and us to thy service,
and make us ever mindful
of the needs of others.

Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts
which we are about to receive from thy bounty,
through Christ our Lord.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest,
Let these thy gifts to us be blessed.

Be present at our table, Lord;
be here and everywhere adored.
Bless these thy gifts and grant that we
may feast in fellowship with thee.

Thanksgiving Prayer from “We Thank Thee” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

For this new morning with its light,
Father, we thank thee.
For rest and shelter of the night,
Father, we thank thee
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything thy goodness sends,
Father in heaven, we thank thee.

Thanksgiving Prayer for Harvest Time
Loving God, all that we have
comes from your goodness
and the work of those who love us.
Bless us and the food we share.
Watch over those who care for us.
Open our eyes to the needs of the poor
during this time of harvest and thanksgiving.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
(From Blessings and Prayers through the Year, Elizabeth McMahon Jeep, Liturgy Training Publications 2004)
A Word of Thanks
For health and strength and daily food;
for all the joys that make life worth living;
for the opportunity to help those
who need us so very much,
we give you thanks, O God. In Jesus’ name.
(From Pilgrim Prayers for Mealtime, Alexander Campbell, Pilgrim Press 2013)
Thanksgiving Prayer “That We May be Renewed”
Loving God,
bless our food and drink
our friendship and our laughter
that we may be renewed
in body, mind, and spirit
to work together
for the coming of your kingdom
of justice, love, and peace.
(By Maureen Edwards, printed in Blessed be our Table, Neil Paynter, Wild Goose 2003)
The Hand that Made the Hands
For the hands that tilled,
for the hands that harvested,
for the hands that processed,
for the hands that transported,
for the hands that stocked,
for the hands that sold,
for the hands that bought,
for the hands that prepared,
for the hands that will hold,
for the hand that made the hands,
our hearts are forever grateful.
(By Ewan Aitken, printed in Blessed be our Table, Neil Paynter, Wild Goose 2003)
A Scottish Grace

 Praise to God who giveth meat.
Convenient unto all who eat.
Praise for tea and buttered toast,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
(From Saying Grace, Sarah McElwain, Chronicle Books 2003)

Thank you to


from the Church of England...

Friday, November 20, 2015

#RefugeesWelcome #LetThemIn

We too often build walls to keep refugees (and others) out.

Heavenly Father,
you are the source of all goodness, generosity and love.
We thank you for opening the hearts of many
to those who are fleeing for their lives.
Help us now to open our arms in welcome,
and reach out our hands in support.
That the desperate may find new hope,
and lives torn apart be restored.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ Your Son, Our Lord,
who fled persecution at His birth
and at His last triumphed over death.
(from Church of England)

 We need to let them in...

Thankfully Connecticut is open and welcoming.

Learn more here:



Prayer for Refugees

Dear Lord, You know what it means to be a refugee. You also lost all and perhaps remembered how you came to be hungry and naked, thirsty and cold, prisoners in a camp or prisoners in our own minds. They even took your cloak and you had nothing left, except some people who came by to quench your thirst, to give you a blanket and to help carry your burden. Lord Jesus, for God's sake, let us be those people who bring comfort, food and water, and an encouraging word. And may we then hear the words softly spoken: "insofar as you did it unto these people who are the least of my brothers, you did it unto me.  Go in peace!" Amen. (By Brother Andrew L. de Carpentier,  Jordan)
O God, our great strength, help us to fix our eyes on you, trusting in your mercy. Help us to look into the world and discover that you are there, our Immanuel. Strengthen us as we hold out open hearts and hands to the stranger, to the homeless, to the lonely, to the broken in mind and spirit. Stir us with your presence, your strength, to the homeless, to the lonely, to the broken in mind and spirit. Stir us with your presence, your strength, and your love. All this we ask in the name of your Son, our Lord, AMEN.

Heavenly Father, thank you for making us members of your family--"children of God" and "heir of heaven." Help us to extend the boundaries of our parish family to those who are without family, home and country. Stir us to make and live out our commitment to welcoming the stranger into our midst. Help us to love those welcomed, to share our lives and to witness to them of your love for all of us in the person of your Son, Jesus Christ, our risen Savior and Lord. In his name we ask this, AMEN.

(The following may be especially suitable for children.)

Dearest Jesus, thank you for making us all brothers and sisters in God's family. Help us to help our brothers and sisters who have no homes. Remind us to pray for them and give our gifts to help them. AMEN.

O God, we ask your living protection of all refugees yearning for freedom and hope in a new land. May we ever remember that the Holy Family, too, were refugees as they fled persecution. Bless, guide and lead us in faith to open doors and to open our hearts through this ministry of hospitality. Give us strength, vision and compassion as we work together to welcome those in need. We ask this in the name of Christ. AMEN.

Prayers for #Mali

God of Hope, we come to you in shock and grief and confusion of heart. Help us to find peace in the knowledge of your loving mercy to all your children, and give us light to guide us out of our darkness
into the assurance of your love, In Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from the Church of England)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Canon Andrew White & Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The former 'Vicar of Baghdad', Canon Andrew White, is returning to “his people” in the Middle East today as he continues his epic fight for peace and reconciliation in the region.

The former Vicar of Baghdad was forced to leave Iraq a year ago as Daesh – the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIL – marched towards the capital. But he has never abandoned the people.

His Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) continues to provide support for Christians in Iraq – and also for the last remaining Jews in the country; now numbering just six.

And the number of Christians in the country is also dwindling.

Canon White returns to Iraq occasionally to oversee the work; but the bulk of his time now is spent looking after Iraqi Christian refugees who have made a new, temporary, home in Jordan.

He has spent the past two weeks in the UK promoting his new book, My Journey So Far. His impressive track record in reconciliation work is hinted at through the public endorsements the book has received.

The Chief Rabbi of Norway describes White as “a messenger of divine peace in the world”. The Grand Ayatollah of Khadameer says he is “the spiritual leader of all of us [and] has stood with us our been our supporter and defender for nearly two decades.” And Canon J John says that White’s “Rollercoaster of a journey . . . will infuse faith, hope and love.”

In the past week, Andrew White has given over 80 interviews to television, radio, newspaper and magazine journalists. ACNS caught up with him at Guildford Cathedral after he preached at a service for Remembrance Sunday – the day Britain and other Commonwealth countries pay tribute to members of the armed forces who were killed in war.

For the past 13 years, White had spent Remembrance Sunday in war zones, he told the congregation, so it was a strange experience to mark the occasion in a peaceful Guildford.

Soldiers from Two Troop of the 579 Squadron 101 Engineer Regiment – the Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Search team (bomb squad) – took part in the service by firing a volley of shots to mark the beginning and end of a two-minute silence.

White paid tribute to them, and their comrades. “They are not about war,” he said in his sermon, “they are about fighting for peace. . . I am also involved in that passionate fight to find peace and wholeness and security; to bring healing to a broken world. And that is what our military are also trying to do.”

Speaking of the Iraqi refugees in Jordan, he said “They do not know what will happen to them tomorrow. They do not know what their future holds. What we do is assure them that we will not stop fighting for them to know peace.”

Before the service, the Archdeacon of Guildford, the Ven Stuart Beake, reminded Canon White of their time together at Coventry Cathedral’s international centre for reconciliation. They had been discussing prayer requests and Canon White said: “I need some more Kalashnikovs!”

To laughter from the cathedral congregation, Canon White said: “It shows the place that I come from.”

He is a passionate believer in bringing together people who profoundly disagree with each other. And this aspect of his work dominated many of the media interviews of the past week. He had invited some of the leaders of Daesh to have dinner with him. “It seemed the right thing to do, you meet, you eat,” he said.

But the leaders told him that they would come for dinner but that they would chop his head off afterwards. “So I didn’t push it any further,” he said. “My head might not be perfect, but at least it works!”

That experience, and the total depravity of violence committed by Daesh against Christians and others they oppose has persuaded him that the advance of Daesh can’t be resolved through dialogue.

“They are quite a long term threat and there is no imminent disappearance of them,” he said in an interview in the Cathedral’s refectory, “The only way that they can be overcome on the ground is by military presence on the ground.

“I also know that there is nothing the Iraqis can do themselves. And I have very little faith in anything the Arab world can do as well.”

Canon White said that it was hard for him, as a peacebuilder, to make this argument, but he called on Western governments to increase their military intervention on the ground – something for which he recognized there was no political will for.

“People are so concerned about how things are seen in their own country; and the fact is you could never get support for an on-the-ground presence in America or in the UK.”

Following the Iraq war, many Iraqis resented the ongoing presence of Allied troops in the country, but, Canon White said, “they were also against the fact that the troops all pulled out and left them. That was the one thing that gave them some stability; because even though the troops were not on the ground and obvious; they were in the background and if anything went wrong they would go out into the fore.

“But now there is nobody there. The Iraqis have said there is no way they can do this on their own. They need help.” It is an issue that White raises with governments and politicians “all the time,” he said – the only time he sounded weary during the interview – “all the time. Several times this last week. Not today or yesterday, but most of the time.”

Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East project worker Dr Sarah Ahmed in Erbil, Kurdistan. Photo: FRMME

Despite the serious and desperate nature of his work, Canon White has kept a very cheeky humour.

As he signed copies of his book in the Cathedral bookshop, one lady tells him that she has read all of his other books. “You haven’t read my first book. It was about the use of trichloroethane in caesarean sections,” Canon White, a former anaesthetist, said.

And when another lady tells him “I’m sure you’re a living saint,” he replies: “Look, I’ll be honest with you,” and then pauses before saying: “Yes. Yes, I am!”, adding: “we all are.”

One of the biggest motivators is his love and concern for children and young people. As he signs copies of his book he hands out small olive wood crosses to young people who are there with their parents. “This was made by my friend in Bethlehem,” he tells an eager young girl. “He is a carpenter called Joseph.” And he encourages the girl to take it to her school and show it to all her friends.

“I have always tried to be joyful with whoever and in whatever,” Canon White says. “I always try and make sure that I keep happy, even in the midst of the most terrible times I have always been able to laugh.

“I have always been able to talk with little…” and as we speak, right on cue, we are interrupted by a young girl and her mother who want to say goodbye before they leave, “…little girls like Esther” – They had only met briefly while he signed her mother’s book and as he gave her a cross; but he remembered her name as she came over with a beaming smile on her face. “Don’t forget to take your cross to school,” he said as she gave him a goodbye hug.

“That’s the joy of life,” he said. “You have got to, in the midst of war and terror, you have to look for joy. People often say to me, ‘how do you keep going?’ and I honestly say ‘I keep going for my children.’ When I say ‘my children’ I don’t mean my boys, I mean the children that I am working with, the children who part of our community, and even little children like Esther.”

Iraqi refugee school children. Photo: FRMME

Through his foundation, Canon Andrew White is currently providing support for up to 500 Christian families in Jordan, providing food, medicine, accommodation and education. And on the education side, he is negotiating with the Iraqi Ministry of Education so that education provided to Iraqi refugees outside the country can receive accreditation. This will enable the education to go on people’s official education record so that it can count when they are eventually able to return to Iraq.

When asked what drives him, Canon White says he “hopes it has something to do with God!”

He continues: “I am very passionate, and very radical and very ruthless; and my motto is don’t take care – take risks. And that is what I do.”

Canon White continues to work on interfaith dialogue and peace building between Christians, Jews and Muslims in Israel and Palestine; but the biggest call on his time now is as pastor to the refugee community in Jordan. He spends around two weeks a month in Jordan, one in Israel and Palestine, and another in the UK or USA.

And he isn’t put off by major catastrophes such as the rise of Daesh.

I last interviewed Andrew White exactly three years ago, to the day. Justin Welby was just about to be named as the next Archbishop of Canterbury and I wanted White’s take on it. He was delighted, of course, and was looking forward to inviting the new Archbishop to visit St George’s Cathedral in Baghdad – a move which, just three years on, currently seems impossible.

I put to Canon White that it must be hard to remain motivated when so much of his ministry has crumbled away.

“The fact is, that is the truth,” he said. “So much of what I have worked for has disappeared; but so much has remained. The people are still there doing the work. The numbers have come down from 6,500 in Baghdad. There were only 40 in church last week in Baghdad; but my community in Jordan . . . we are still providing for the needs of the people even in places of war.”

The refugee community “isn’t Episcopal or Anglican,” he says. “My community has given up saying we are Chaldean, Orthodox, Episcopal, Catholic. They are Christian. It is a Christian community.

“That is very important. It is terrible thing to say the only real serious ecumenical relationships I have ever seen are as a result of this terrible persecution. Denominations come tumbling down.”

And while Canon Andrew White has a team on the ground doing the work; and a larger team of international supporters through his Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, he needs the wider church to help: “We need the church to do just two things: to pray for peace and pay for peace.

“We need prayer and we need practical help. We can’t do this work with nothing. We need more than just a cup of tea from a church after the service.

“We need prayer for protection; we need prayer for perseverance, so we can keep going; we need prayer for provision, so we can provide for the needs of the people; and we need prayer for peace: Four Ps for peace: Protection, Perseverance, Provision and Peace.”

What did Vedran Smajlović play in Sarajevo?

Vedran Smajlović played for 22 days ­- one day for each of those killed - Smajlović played at the same spot. Every evening after that, at 4 P.M., the time of the fatal explosion, the 37-year-old cellist, dressed formally as if for a concert performance, took his cello to the site of the crater created by the bomb. And there he would play one of his favorite pieces, Albinoni's "Adagio in G minor."(from Sunday's Sermon)

A Prayer Service in Response to Violence in France

Presider: In the Name of our God Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier;
People: Blessed are you, God of love and peace.

A Litany for Peace:

V. God, the Father,
R. Have mercy upon us.
V. Christ, the Prince of Peace
R. Have mercy upon us.
V. Holy Spirit who enlightens the nations,
R. Have mercy upon us.
V. Eternal God of Love,
R. Receive our prayer.

V. Remember, O Lord, the peoples of the world divided into many nations and tongues; deliver us from every evil which obstructs your saving purpose; and fulfill your promises to establish your kingdom of peace.
From the curse of war and hatred, and all that cause them,
R. O Lord, deliver us.
V. From believing and speaking lies about other peoples and nations,
R. O Lord, deliver us.
V. From narrow loyalties and selfish isolation,
R. O Lord, deliver us.
V. From fear and distrust of other people and nations, from all false
pride, vainglory, and self-conceit.,
R. O Lord, deliver us.
V. From the lust for wealth and domination which can drive peaceful nations to violence,
R. O Lord, deliver us.
V. From putting our trust in the weapons of war, and from want of faith in the power of justice and goodwill.
R. O Lord, deliver us.
V. From every thought, word, and deed which divides the human family and separates us from the perfect realization of your love.
R. O Lord, deliver us.

V. That nations and peoples may vie with each other in the service of humanity and not in seeking dominion.
R. We pray to you, O God.
V. That followers of every religion may practice love, forbearance and peace toward one another.
R. We pray to you, O God.
V. That science may the servant of life and never the servant of death,
R. We pray to you, O God.
V. That the treasure now spent on the engines of war and destruction may be used for the arts of peace.
R. We pray to you, O God.
V. That those who practice violence may find their hearts turned toward mercy and loving kindness.
R. We pray to you, O God.
V. That we may love not only our own country but also the whole family of
R. We pray to you, O God.
V. For the people of Paris and the nation of France in this time of crisis (and the people of Beruit).
R. We pray to you, O God.

Eternal Father, you show your people the way in which they should: turn our feet from the city of destruction toward the city of God, and redirect our desires and labors in accordance with your will, that we may achieve the new world for which your Son was content to die, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew (14:22-33)
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
   Hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
   Thanks be to God.

O Christ, at your word the wind and waves were stilled: rebuke, we pray, all forms of violence and usher in the day of love and peace among all of God's children, that we may truly serve you who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and works for us unceasingly, now and for ever.  Amen.

"Sois notre lumière dans les ténèbres, Seigneur, et dans ta miséricorde infinie, protège-nous des dangers de la nuit qui vient. Par Jésus le Christ, notre Seigneur. Amen." "Dieu le Père, créateur du ciel et de la terre, Aie pitié de nous. Dieu le Fils, rédempteur du monde, Aie pitié de nous. Dieu le Saint-Esprit, sanctificateur des croyants, Aie pitié de nous. Sainte et bienheureuse Trinité, un seul Dieu, Aie pitié de nous. Seigneur Jésus, ne retiens pas nos péchés, ni ceux de nos pères, ne nous rends pas selon nos offenses. Epargne-nous, Seigneur, Epargne le peuple racheté par ton sang précieux, dans ton amour, protège-nous à jamais. Amen."

" Be our light in the darkness, Lord, and in your infinite mercy, protect us from the dangers of the night that comes. By Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen."
" God the father, Creator of heaven and the earth, have mercy on us. God the son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us. God the Holy Spirit, sanctifier believers, have mercy on us. Holy and blessed Trinity, one God, have mercy on us. Lord Jesus, don't hold up our sins, nor those of our fathers, do not make us according to our trespasses. Save us, Lord, spare the people redeemed by your precious blood, in your love, protect us forever. Amen."

Let us pray as our Savior Christ has taught us:
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come; your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
For ever and ever. Amen.

A time of  silence (begun and ended with a chime)

A Prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:
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 loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth; that in tranquility your dominion may increase, until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Creator who brought order from chaos give peace to you;
the Savior who stilled the raging storm give peace to you;
the Spirit who brooded upon the deep give peace to you,
now and for ever. Amen.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

written by the Rev. Jennifer Phillips

In Paris, do we have to love our enemies?

In Paris, do we have to love our enemies? By Bishop Pierre Whalon

How can we pray this prayer of all prayers, here in Paris, the day after?
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 818.)
Yes, Jesus did command us: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.” (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27). Really? Yesterday several terrorists killed at least 128 people in 6 separate but coordinated attacks here in Paris. According to the Islamic State group, Da’ech, this was planned in advance and ordered from their base in Syria, in retaliation for the French involvement there.

The French president, François Hollande, has promised to reply in kind: “We will be merciless.” Meanwhile, hundreds of families are mourning their dead and wounded, attacked simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher attacks in January were targeted specifically; these six attacks were against “targets of opportunity,” as the military says.

“Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.” Doesn’t that just “enable” them?

Here is where our baptismal promise to “follow and obey Jesus as Lord” cuts into our lives. We should do good to those who hate us, because Jesus has told us to. So how can we?

First, I think we need to see that loving the enemy who can do such things to us is not just vapid idealism. The whole point of the Christian story is summed up thus: “While we were yet his enemies, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: 6-10) In other words, God shows love for us precisely by putting off the divine power that we crave. The day after this heinous attack, we may wish for God to come down and wipe out our enemies. Instead, Christ on the cross, completely powerless at the last, shows us that it is only love that can overcome hatred, evil and even death.

Jesus asks us to follow his way, as love is the only power in this world that can literally and figuratively save us. He certainly did not “enable” his enemies. In the short term, we need the police and the military, and we should be grateful that Parisians have such courageous and professional forces. They and the firefighters and emergency medical teams need our prayers and deserve our support. Not to mention the wounded and dead, and their families and friends.

But the question of their assassins concerns not only us here and now, but the whole human race. What word do we have for these people? Our first instincts are to demonize them. . . to label them as “Islamic fundamentalists” or some such, and cheer as the Rafale bombers carry out a massive campaign in retaliation. But this is too simple. It is not what Jesus would have us do. What he wants is harder.

When we baptize or confirm people, Episcopalians always repeat the promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people”… We need therefore to chart a way to make peace. Peace, not appeasement or total war. In order to be able to do that, we first need to turn back to Jesus and ask for help.

Like this:
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Take from the Episcopal News Service. Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe has issued the following statement in the aftermath of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.


On Nov. 17, the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon will host a meeting of the L’Union mondiale des experts de l’Islam pour la paix et contre la violence (World Union of Experts of Islam for Peace and against Violence). The meeting is part of the project Islam et Vivre ensemble, a schedule of meetings and events tied to the International Day of Tolerance (Nov. 16). From Nov. 10-20, a delegation of Imams from the Union Mondiale are making their voices heard in Paris and in Brussels. In addition to the Imams’ presentations to be made at the Nov. 17 meeting, to be held at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Paris, scheduled events include participation in various conferences and high-level meetings at the European Parliament, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (France), the Assemblée Nationale and the Senate (France) and UNESCO.

Statement by the Bishops of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut on the Paris Attacks

On November 13, 2015, our world was yet again brought to a place of sadness, confusion, fear, and anger as we heard of the violence unfolding in Paris. Our hearts were broken by the terror and uncertainty that surrounded sisters and brothers of our global community. The 231st Convention of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, meeting when the news broke, paused to pray for all in Paris even as we recalled the violence we have known here in our own lives. As Bishops of Connecticut we immediately reached out to the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Churches in Europe who is located in Paris. We have since connected with Bishop Pierre and have assured him of the love, concern and prayers of the people of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.

Our prayers continue for the people of Paris and all affected by this violence. We pray for those who have been killed, and those harmed with wounds seen and unseen. We pray for their families and friends in their uncertainty and their concern, even as we pray for the perpetrators of the violence. And we also offer prayers of thanksgiving for all who attended to the injured and dying - those in official capacities: police and firefighters, emergency medical professionals, doctors, nurses and chaplains, - and those in unofficial capacities: friends and strangers who provided comfort, safety and care. They are icons of God's incarnate love in Jesus.

And now we ponder prayerfully what to do. In addition to prayer, what is our response to this violence? How do move from our places of fear, confusion, anger and loss? Thinking on St. Benedict, we need to listen. Listen to God calling us to be peacemakers and ones who hunger and thirst for righteousness. We must work for peace seeking to repair broken relationships locally and globally, creating space for listening and dialogue. We must speak out against violence, joining in solidarity with our Muslim neighbors here in Connecticut and around the world who also are outraged by extremists' actions. We can build beloved communities of hope, possibility and new life. Now is truly a time to be grounded in the work we have pledged to do in our Baptismal Covenant - the work of resisting evil, seeking and serving Christ in all persons loving our neighbors as ourselves, and striving for justice and peace among all people.

"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"
(Book of Common Prayer, page 815)

The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas & The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens
Bishop Diocesan & Bishop Suffragan

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sermon: November 15

Awaken me this morning, Lord to your light, Open my eyes to your presence.
Awaken me, Lord to your love, Open my heart to your indwelling.
Awaken me, Lord to your life, Open my mind to your abiding.
Awaken me always, Lord to your purpose, Open my will to your guiding. Amen. (David Adam)

I came home from Convention on Friday night with a heavy heart.  I had learned of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut. The number of dead and injured was staggering.  A couple of my kids were upset by the news, after we comforted them, I walked the dogs; and in the cool fall air and the smell of a nearby fire, my heart relaxed for a moment from the news.

It is so easy to get caught up in the fear, anxiety, the sadness.  I think of the children in those places. Guns & Bombs. Violence & Death. At a concert hall, at a restaurant and café, at a stadium, at a mosque.   

In the midst of such evil, we need to be careful that we don’t let fear rule us. For when we act out of fear, we do not act out of the best of who we are.  And what is the refrain, Jesus says to his disciples and to us.  “Be not afraid.”

As Christians, we don't need a bunker mentality, we need not buy into the fear and anxiety of our age, we need to live into that hope that God entrusts us with; it is what the saints did with their lives...

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

The reformer Martin Luther put it.  Such hope in the face of it all is what we can give to our world that can’t see such hope that only witnesses violence and bloodshed.

When the Jewish people were torn away from their homeland by the sword.  When they didn’t know how to have faith in a foreign land.  When they wondered if they had a future. It is Daniel who brings them such hope.  For Daniel tells of his vision:

“At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, but at that time your people shall be delivered."

The vision from God that Daniel shares is a reminder to the Israelites that even though they have been violently taken from their homeland, God is with them and they will be delivered.  It is a message of hope in a bleak time.

In the gospel of Mark, the disciples are enthralled with the beauty of Jerusalem. The stones and structures.  But Jesus knows such things do not last.

“Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."

This unsettled the disciples but Jesus went on…

"Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed.”

There will be wars, famines, earthquakes… these are but the birthpangs.

It is hard not to be alarmed at what Jesus says but I don’t think he is doing that to upset us, but to make us aware of the struggles we will have to follow him.  People who would lead us astray by their words, terrible things will happen in our world like wars, famines, earthquakes and even terror attacks.  But it is just the beginning.  The kingdom of God is almost be here.  Don’t be alarmed.

But how do we remain in hope?

I think it comes down to how we cultivate our lives and how we want to change the world by living out of our faith and hope and love.

In 1992, the beautiful city of Sarajevo was being torn apart in the ethnic strife of the Bosnian civil war. On the afternoon of May 27, a bomb was dropped on one of the last functioning bakeries in the city - 22 people who were waiting patiently to buy bread were killed. Vedran Smajlović witnessed the bombing from his apartment window. He was horrified and enraged at the massacre. But what could he do? He was not a politician or soldier. He was a musician, an accomplished cellist. All he knew was music.

So that is what he did for 22 days ­- one day for each of those killed - Smajlović played at the same spot. Every evening after that, at 4 P.M., the time of the fatal explosion, the 37-year-old cellist, dressed formally as if for a concert performance, took his cello to the site of the crater created by the bomb. And there he would play one of his favorite pieces, Albinoni's "Adagio in G minor." All around him mortar shells and bullets would fly, but he would continue to play. He played for the sake of human dignity that is the first casualty of war. He played for life, for peace, for hope. He was also known for playing for free at different funerals during the siege, even though such funerals would often be targeted by enemy fire.

Today, Vedran Smajlović is revered as a hero by the people of Sarajevo. A statue of a musician, sitting on a chair and playing a cello, was erected on the spot where Smajlović first played. But Smajlović says in all humility, "I am nothing special. I am a musician, I am part of the town. Like everyone else, I do what I can."

He could have been swallowed by hate & fear, instead, seeds of life and hope were planted by Smajlovic, using his God given talent, to a weary and war torn city.  The tragedy in Paris & Beirut gives me pause to think about the seeds we plant in our children, and those seeds of faith & hope & love that we have in our lives in anticipating the Kingdom of God.

Let me end with the words of Martin Luther King Jr., spoken at the funeral for the four little girls killed in a bombing in 1963 at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

“Life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with you [him], and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope & transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace."