Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Day Sermon Story

I used this in place of the Elijah story for my Christmas Day Sermon...

It was time for the annual Nativity pageant put on by the children of the church. The manger was located in front of the altar steps. Mary was there in a blue mantel and Joseph in a cotton beard. The wise men were there with a handful of shepherds, and of course, in the midst of them all was the Christ Child, lying on the straw. The nativity story was read by the pastor with carols sung at the appropriate places, and all went like clockwork until it came time for the arrival of the angels - a "heavenly host" of the children of the congregation dressed in white and scattered throughout the pews with their parents.

At the right moment the angels were supposed to come forward and gather around the manger to sing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men," and that is just what they did - except there were so many angels that there was a fair amount of crowding and jockeying for position. One angel, about nine years old who was smaller than most of the other angels, ended up so far out on the fringes of things that not even by craning her neck and standing on tiptoe could she see what was going on. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men," they all sang on cue, and then in the momentary pause that followed, the small girl electrified the entire church by crying out in a voice shrill with irritation and frustration and enormous sadness at having her view blocked, "Let Jesus show!"

The wise pastor decided to end the pageant right there. "Let Jesus show!" the child-angel had cried out, and while the congregation sat in stunned silence, the good father offered a quick final prayer and blessing, and everybody filed out of church with those unforgettable words ringing in their ears. [From Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons by Frederick Buechner.]

May the little angel's cry be our prayer in the year ahead: "Let Jesus show!" in our homes and work places and schools; "Let Jesus show!" in our compassion, forgiveness, joy & hope in our lives.

May we not "lose" Jesus in the many demands on our time; may we not "hide" Jesus when the difficult decisions have to be made; may we not "pack" Jesus away until next Christmas, but may the "Word made flesh" make his dwelling place among us here, now and always, illuminating every one of our days with his wisdom and grace.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Day Sermon

Jesus, the Light of the World, as we celebrate your birth . . . . may we begin to see the world in the light of the understanding you give us. As you chose the lowly, the outcasts, and the poor to receive the greatest news the world had ever known, so may we worship you in meekness of heart. May we also remember our brothers and sisters less fortunate than ourselves in this season of giving. Amen.

Let us think about the Christmas spirit, about taking the birth of the messiah to our hearts…

It was Christmas Eve at New York’s famed Riverside Church. The Christmas pageant was on and had come to the point where the innkeeper was to say that there was no room at the inn for Joseph and Mary pregnant with Jesus.

The part seemed perfect for Tim, an earnest and faithful member of the congregation who had Down Syndrome. Only one line to memorize, and he had practiced it again and again with his parents and with the pageant director. He seemed to have mastered it.

So there was Tim standing at the altar, a bathrobe over his clothes, as Mary and Joseph made their way down the center aisle. They approached him, said their lines, and waited for his reply.

“There’s no room at the inn,” Tim boomed out, just as rehearsed. But then, as Mary and Joseph turned to travel further, Tim suddenly yelled, “Wait!” Mary and Joseph turned back, startled. “You can stay at my house,” Tim called.

Thinking quickly, the minister went to the pulpit and said, “Amen!”

The congregation repeated the Amen – and both the pageant and the planned sermon came to an unexpected but perfect completion with the singing of Joy to the World. [From Short Sermons on the Run by Walter J. Burghardt.]

Tim’s “twist” to the Christmas pageant underscored the true miracle of Christmas: in the Child of Bethlehem, God makes his dwelling here and now, in our homes and in our hearts.

In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth, Joseph is challenged by God to accept the child under the most difficult of circumstances and, responding out of his sense of compassion and faith, says yes.

God challenges our hearts “to prepare him room,” to make a place for the Child of Bethlehem to transform our hearts and homes in his peace and hope.

God with us…

Now this is not a Christmas story per say but I think it is full of the Christmas spirit…

A North Carolina judge sentenced a Green Beret veteran to spend a night in jail. Judge Lou Olivera, a Gulf War veteran, is a district court judge over the Veterans Treatment Court in Cumberland County, North Carolina. He had to sentence Green Beret Joe Serna to one night in jail for a probation violation.

Serna, a recipient of three Purple Hearts, is retired from the military and is having a hard time adjusting back to life after experiencing the battle of war in Afghanistan. Through his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, he turned to alcohol to help him deal with the issues he was having mentally.

But as Serna entered the jail cell, the painful memories of losing companions began to flood his mind and he felt this would be the longest night of his life. Anxiety gripped him and flashbacks began to play in his mind as the door closed behind him.

His scariest moment was when he was riding with three other soldiers along a creek when the road gave way, and the vehicle plunged into the water. The truck started filling with water and “all hope was lost.”

Serna was trapped and unable to move, the water rose all the way up to his chin where it finally stopped. He was the only one saved that day. “I was the sole survivor,” he recalled with tears in his eyes.

Without telling Serna what he planned to do, Judge Olivera drove him to the jail and asked the jail administrator if he could spend the night with Serna. The administrator had never heard of such a thing. But when he remembered his own story and all he had gone through, he couldn’t just let him spend the night alone.

As Serna’s mind began to go to the dark place of being trapped in the vehicle and losing his buddies, the jail cell door opened and he saw the judge’s smiling face. “When he came in, I knew everything was going to be okay,” recalled Serna.

They spent the night talking about their families, lives, and service. The judge knew Serna needed to face the consequence for his actions, but he also knew he didn’t want him to go it alone. [Liftable]

Go it alone. No. God is with us.

Indeed God is with us when we embody his love… for as Howard Thurman, an African-American theologian, educator, and civil rights leader, put in “Now the Work of Christmas Begins”

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

Merry Christmas! Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve Sermons

Everyone has a place at Christmas…

5 pm children's sermon is based on the story of the Crippled Lamb, by Max Lucado.

10 PM is below...

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born. Amen. (Wexford Carol)

“Crowds of Americans rioting in the streets. Two opposing groups shout loudly, vying to have their messages heard and heeded. The groups meet. Confrontation ensues. Fistfights break out. Church windows are smashed. What are these rioters fighting about? Christmas. One group favors celebrating Christmas, the other opposes all Christmas observances. This isn't an imaginary event, it is history. It happened in Boston on Christmas day in 1706.” (from Paul Flesher)

The anti-Christmas group consisted largely of Congregationalists, Baptists, and Presbyterians, while the pro-Christmas group comprised mostly of Episcopalians. This didn’t happen just once in Boston. This would happen elsewhere as that new tradition began in the new USA.

“On Christmas Eve 1806, two decades after St. Peter’s RC church was built in Lower Manhattan of NYC, the building was surrounded by Protestants incensed at a celebration going on inside — a religious observance then viewed by some in the United States as an exercise in “popish superstition,” more commonly referred to as Christmas. Protesters tried to disrupt the service. In the melee that ensued, dozens were injured, and a policeman was killed.” (from NY Times)

The War on Christmas started long ago, and is still being fought by some today.

And yet, it seems to me, we spend too much worrying about it, rather than taking the message of this most Holy Night to heart. Whether others are celebrating as we wish they would, its really upon us, to heed the message and live it from our hearts into our daily lives. God challenges our hearts “to prepare him room,” to make a place for the Child of Bethlehem to transform our hearts and homes.

A rabbi prayed to the great prophet Elijah.
"Where," the rabbi asked, "shall I find the Messiah?"
"At the gate of the city," the prophet replied.
"But how shall I recognize him?"
"He sits among the lepers."
"Among the lepers!" the rabbi cried. "What is he doing there?"
"He changes their bandages," Elijah replied. "He changes their bandages, one by one."
[Rabbi Laurence Kushner.]

That is the true mystery of Christmas: that God became one of us, lived among us and came to birth through our moments of joy, grief, despair, anger and fear. Here, in the Christ Child, the sacred is not some abstract concept of theological theory: the love of God takes on a human face, the Word of God becomes human, takes on our flesh in the child Jesus, enabling us to transform our hearts in that love and re-create our world in that Word of love, compassion & hope.

The challenge of Christmas is to continue to make that love incarnate in our own lives and in the lives of those we love, to know the messiah is at work healing in our world, and wants us to join him. And he did not wait until we were ready…

First Coming by Madeleine L’Engle

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.

He did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
he came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!
(from The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle.)


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Sermon - December 18 (Advent 4)

O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

When it comes to Christmas, we think of Mary & Jesus, the animals in the stable, the angels singing overhead, the shepherds who will come leaving their sheep, the magi bringing gifts and then there is Joseph. Joseph is always there but he does seem at times to be a side character, not as important as the others. I think of a Nativity Icon, that captures all the different stories of Christmas and there Joseph sits in the corner of the icon, with his head resting in his hands wondering what has happened…

And yet as father, his love and his presence directly influenced Jesus as he grew up.

He taught his young son how to follow the grain of a piece of olive wood, how to plane it, how to square it and join it firmly to another piece of wood to build a table or chair or, later, a house; he also taught him patience, kindness and justice, and the value of earning a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work in order to put bread on the table.

Joseph, to paraphrase Gerard Manley Hopkins, “lives in 10,000 places”: the man who rises at 2 A.M. to plow deserted snow-clogged roads; the nurse who works the night shift and then a day shift; the cop who walks the lonely beat; the mother with the autistic daughter or paralyzed son; the office worker biting his lip at some slight or racial insensitivity subtly directed at him because he, too, has to put bread on his family’s table.

Joseph lives in the sales rep with photos of his wife and kids hanging on the wall inside his cubicle, telling a customer that, as much as he’d like to sell him another car, the customer can still get another couple of years out of the one he’s got. Joseph lives in the teacher who gives hours of her time to help the struggling student. Joseph lives in the clerk, the cop, the secretary, the contractor who approaches the people they encounter with kindness and respect because they, too, share the God-like work of putting bread on their family’s table.

The invisible, almost anonymous Joseph: chosen by God to provide for his Son, to watch over him, to teach him, to shape him, to protect and love him and the boy’s mother. [Adapted from Awake My Soul: Contemporary Catholics on Traditional Devotions by Paul Mariani.]

In today’s Gospel — Matthew’s version of Jesus’ birth — Christmas depends on Joseph, whose life has been turned upside by the angel’s news, who had to say yes to the news. Joseph accepts the angel’s words and made the boy his own, not as a matter of biology, but as a matter of love and compassion, of trust and faith in God. God’s birth in our midst depends on human partners — Mary & Joseph, you & me — willing to put aside our fears and dare to hope that God is with us, guiding us forward.

The Gospel of Matthew reminds us of the importance of Joseph, for Jesus is named by the angel to Joseph in a dream. Dreams play important roles in the lives of so many characters in the bible.

For Joseph, when he heard the angel speak to him in that dream, he had a decision to make. Joseph was engaged to be married to Mary. He found out she was pregnant. He knew it wasn’t his. What was he to do?

He could throw her out, and make a huge stink and let everyone know about the child conceived out of wedlock. He could get the people to ostracize her, maybe even stone her to death. But Joseph was a righteous man, and he decided to dismiss her quietly, a generous and merciful act. But in that dream an angel of the Lord appears to him and everything changes

It is a startling dream and it must have shook his soul, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, and you will name him Jesus and he will save his people from their sins.”

Joseph had set his mind on leaving her. He could have said no to the angel. But Joseph does not, he listens, he takes Mary as his wife. And Jesus is born. And all will change because of this child. The words of Isaiah ring in our ears: “The young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” and “he will refuse the evil and choose the good.”

Joseph sets an example for us: The willingness to change one’s mind when confronted by God’s word and God’s spirit. The courage in the midst of fear to follow God’s way even if one does not know where it may lead. In the words of W. H. Auden:

To choose what is difficult all one’s days
As if it were easy, that is faith.
Joseph, praise.

In the Christmas story of Matthew - we see the Spirit of God at work, transforming heartache and misery into birth and blessing.

That same Spirit calls us to be about the work of bringing God to birth in our own houses and stables, to our own Bethlehems and Nazareths, even if the way is difficult. Christmas calls from us "something wonderful": the grace of God that enables us to experience the same transformation that Joseph underwent in the Gospel of Matthew’s story. He is not part of the story we should forget. And we need to honor & praise his role.

In this season and in every season, may we imitate the compassion and faith of Joseph: to seek understanding and acceptance within our families even at the cost of our own expectations and hopes, to be sources of affirmation and support for our friends, spouses and children. To say yes when God calls to us through our dreams. Amen.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

December 14 #SandyHook

On December 14, we stop & remember the terrible tragedy that took place in Sandy Hook...

It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. - old proverb

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. ~ Desmond Tutu

Read these thoughtful reflections:

For Roxane Gay: Notes from a Forgiving Heart

Standing at the Edge of the Rain (A Sandy Hook reflection)

The President’s Devotional: What Obama ‘Did In Secret’ In Newtown (EXCERPT)

The Slaughter of the Innocents of Sandy Hook

Why I Can't Tell My Son About Sandy Hook

After Newtown shooting, mourning parents enter into the lonely quiet

And pray:

O gracious and loving God, on this anniversary of the tragedy in Sandy Hook, we remember all the victims who lost their lives to hate. We remember the brave and courageous who rushed to the scene to help and those who have given comfort in the months and years afterward. We remember those who continue to grieve loved ones lost, for the survivors and for all the anxiety and fear we had in those days. We also remember how we came together to support one another in a time of need. Have mercy, Lord, give us strength and peace to practice kindness in the midst of hate; make us courageous in compassion and in justice for all. Help us to know your steadfast love & hope, your presence that is as near as breath; rekindle in our hearts the hope of life that conquers death. This we ask in your son’s name, Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Christmas Message 2016

From Isaiah Chapter 9:

For unto us a child is born,
unto us a Son is given;
and the government shall be upon His shoulder;
and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

These words of Isaiah are often seen as words that foretell and foreshadow the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary. The truth is, these words befit Him because this child changed the world. This child changes lives. This child changes us.

I remember when our oldest daughter was a baby. My wife and I were young. We were footloose and fancy-free. It was just the two of us newlyweds, so if we wanted to go out to eat dinner, we went out to eat dinner. If we decided to go to a movie at the last minute, we just went. We actually felt like we had money back then. And we did have a little bit of discretionary income. We could pretty much do what we wanted to do, within reason, and we didn't have to think too much about the consequences or impact of a spontaneous decision and what we had to do to make that happen.

And then, all of a sudden, this little, innocent human being, a little child, came into our lives, and literally gained control over our entire world. Before we could do anything else we had to think about, “Who’s going to keep the baby?” or “Is this a good time for us to go without the baby?” We soon learned that we were not in control of our lives anymore. Even our sleeping patterns became very different. We would stay awake when the baby was awake and we went to sleep when the baby went to sleep. Literally this child began to control our lives and the child didn’t even know she was doing it. And then we had a second one she did the exact same thing. And I’ve since learned that that’s what babies do. When they arrive they take over! And their parents begin to develop their lives around this child. To mold their entire lives around this precious needy baby.

Isaiah wrote, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given . . . and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This child who was born of Mary changes everything. This child born in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes changes how we live. This child born to the sound of angels singing Gloria in excelcis Deo -- this child to whom the wise ones came from afar bearing gifts --- this child, changed the way the entire world works.

And this Jesus, born into a world torn by strife and hatred and division and pain and poverty, this child is born anew wherever men and women say, “I’ll follow Him. I’ll follow Him as my Savior. I’ll follow Him as my Lord.”

When this child grew up, He said His reason for coming, again quoting Isaiah, from the 61st chapter, he said,

The spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach Good News to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, the recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty all those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

This child, when He grew up, came to show us the way to live lives of love, lives of compassion, lives of goodness, lives of kindness, lives of justice. This child came to show us how to change the world. So this Christmas, make room for him to change us. This Christmas help us change the world. And make a new commitment, to go out from this day, to let this Christmas Day, be the first day of a new world.

God bless you. God keep you. Have a blessed Christmas. A Happy New Year. And go on out and change the world!

The Presiding Bishop’s video message is here

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sermon December 11 - Advent 3

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he”

John the Baptist had his ministry & Jesus praised his ministry of baptism for the forgiveness of sins in the river Jordan. He had disciples too, and they must have taken part in his ministry, helping with those baptisms. He did his work, because he felt God had led him to do it and he must have known that his opposition to the powerful elite, King Herod & the Romans, and to religious leaders too, Pharisees & Sadducees, would bring trouble. And it did. He was thrown into prison to quiet his work, and he knew he would be executed. And yet, he continues to look to see how God is acting in the world and sends his disciples out. Because maybe, just maybe his cousin Jesus is also following God’s call…

John’s disciples asked Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

Fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, Jesus lays out the signs of the Messiah, a ministry to the least, the forgotten in the society. As one author in 2007 put it:

“Whom did you expect? A King who is easily observed and readily identified by his royal garb and his flock of attendants? One whose image is plastered on political posters and carried by the mass media? Those with eyes to see have missed him. But the blind receive their sight.

Whom did you expect? A Messiah borne on the shoulders of excited crowds? One whose very presence would command respect? Those with able bodies and minds go about their business. But the lame walk.

Whom did you expect? A leader who would deploy legions of angels to carry out the work of the Lord? One who would deal with the anxieties of the elite? But he reaches out to untouchables. And lepers are cleansed.

Whom did you expect? A Christ whose teachings would be so sublime and obvious that all could easily understand? Those with perfect ears do not catch the message. But the deaf hear.

Whom did you expect? A prince who would bring instant happiness? One who would not dirty his hands with the mortuary business? But the dead are raised.

Whom did you expect? A politician who would realize that the world’s power is in the hands of the wealthy? One whose attractiveness would get him invitations to all the right places? But the poor have the Good News preached to them.

Whom did you expect? A baptizer of the status quo? One whose life and message would avoid scandals? But blessed are those who take no offense at Jesus.” (from Synthesis)

Whom did John expect? Whom do we expect?

Literally, Jesus says, Blessed are those who are not scandalized by me… How do we fulfill this?

If we follow him, his scandal is our scandal, but so too are the expectations of ministry and our connection to those in need for we can’t run away from Jesus work, for his ministry has become our own.

As one pastor put it:

Someone you may not have noticed is waiting,
longing for healing, for justice, for hope.
You only mean to be passing by,
but they see you.
And even if they don't know they are asking,
they are asking.

“Are you the one?”

Not necessarily the Messiah,
but perhaps one to bring hope,
to be a light in the darkness.
There may be someone in some kind of prison
looking for some kind of encouragement,
someone longing for healing or appreciation or forgiveness.
Will you be the one, or should they wait for another?
There may be people of color who see a white person
and assume racism, until they see otherwise.
There may be a non-conforming person
who assumes you will judge them
unless you clearly don't.
Will you be the one to shine light in their darkness,
or are they to wait for another?

Sit still in the grace of God.
Let the light that is dawning for the world
dawn in you.
Let that light grow and radiate.
Bear it with you through the day.
You will meet someone who seeks grace,
who longs for a sign of hope.
And for them
you will be the one.
(Steve Garnaas-Holmes)

John while in prison, has sent disciples to ask Jesus if he is the one. Jesus tells them to go & tell John what you see and hear: “the broken people who have been made whole; the crosses that have become the means to new hope and resurrection; the stories of those who refuse to yield to darkness and find forgiveness and peace in the light of God. And those who find no offense in it all.” May we be the one whose lives tell John - and everyone that we encounter - that God is in our midst in every act of love, in every healing of a heart or spirit broken, on every bridge built over the chasm of hatred and violence.” (Jay Cormier)

Today, for those looking, may we be the one. Amen.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


from the Book of Common Prayer:

35. For the Poor and the Neglected

Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you
all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us
to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick,
and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those
who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow
into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for
our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

36. For the Oppressed

Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this
land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as
their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to
eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those
who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law
and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of
us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

How do we love after the election?

This election has sometimes brought out the worst in our collective humanity but I don't think it needs to be so.  There have been some articles to get us to think about this:

Thinking about love, let me offer this:

"It is not enough for love to be shared: it must be shared freely. That is to say it must be given, not merely taken. Unselfish love that is poured out upon a selfish object does not bring perfect happiness: not because love requires a return or a reward for loving, but because it rests in the happiness of the beloved. And if the one loved receives love selfishly, the lover is not satisfied. He sees that his love has failed to make the beloved happy. It has not awakened his capacity for unselfish love.”

“Hence the paradox that unselfish love cannot rest perfectly except in a love that is perfectly reciprocated: because it knows that the only true peace is found in selfless love. Selfless love consents to be loved selflessly for the sake of the beloved. In so doing, it perfects itself.”

“The gift of love is the gift of the power and the capacity to love, and, therefore, to give love with full effect is also to receive it. So, love can only be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received.”

“Clean, unselfish love does not live on what it gets but on what it gives. It increases by pouring itself out for others, grows by self-sacrifice and becomes mighty by throwing itself away.

“We are obliged to love one another. We are not strictly bound to 'like' one another. Love governs the will: 'liking' is a matter of sense and sensibility. Nevertheless, if we really love others it will not be too hard to like them also.

If we wait for some people to become agreeable or attractive before we begin to love them, we will never begin. If we are content to give them a cold impersonal 'charity' that is merely a matter of obligation, we will not trouble to understand them or to sympathize with them at all. And in that case we will not really love them, because love implies an efficacious will not only to do good to others exteriorly but also to find some good in them to which we can respond.”
― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island (excerpt)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Sermon at Convention

The second day of the Annual Convention of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT) was a Sunday morning celebration of the Holy Eucharist with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry delivering the sermon. It was held Nov. 20 at the Hartford Convention Center with more than 1600 attending.

Isaiah 51:1 - Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord.
Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.

Standing with Standing Rock

Even as the owners of the pipeline appeal the decision to hold up construction of the pipeline, our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry offered these words:

This morning, the sun ascended over the Great Plains of our nation, and hope truly dawned anew.

After months of courageously and peacefully working to prevent the laying of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which posed potential danger to the water supply of the people of the Sioux Nation and transgressed their sacred burial grounds, the water protectors on Standing Rock have won a notable victory. Yesterday afternoon, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced their decision to deny an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline’s construction across the sacred land and water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and this long-awaited announcement is cause for joyful celebration and thanks.

On behalf of the Episcopal Church, I offer my gratitude to President Barack Obama and his Administration for championing the rights of the indigenous peoples of the United States. We applaud the decision by the US Army Corps of Engineers to deny the pipeline permit under Lake Oahe. I personally offer thanks to all those who have worked to amplify the voices of the people at Standing Rock, calling our attention to historic wrongs and injustices, and urging us all to consider a new vision for how we might love God, love each other, and love the earth.

I am grateful and humbled by the water protectors of Standing Rock, whose faithful witness serves as an example of moral courage, spiritual integrity, and genuine concern for the entire human family and God's creation. I am equally appreciative of the sacrifice and example of the military veterans, interfaith clergy, and trauma chaplains who accompanied the water protectors during critical moments of the struggle, many of whom have pledged to remain as long as the water protectors are present.

Our whole Church should offer special thanksgiving to Father John Flosberg of the Diocese of North Dakota, who so effectively organized Episcopalians and other people of faith in this effort, and to clergy and lay people who committed themselves to standing with the water protectors – both physically and in spirit.

Even as many of us celebrate this historic announcement, we must look to the mighty tasks that lay ahead. In the next eighteen months, the US Army Corps of Engineers will conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment and explore alternative routes for the Dakota Access Pipeline. We ask that the assessment involve extensive consultation with affected populations, and that any plan going forward honor treaty obligations with the Standing Rock Sioux. We will also urge the current and incoming presidential administration to launch a thorough Department of Justice investigation into the use of brutal force by law enforcement on Standing Rock.

Our work is not over, and the Episcopal Church has a critical role to play in ensuring a just and humane outcome is fully realized.

We recognize that this struggle for the protection of water and of the basic human rights of indigenous people is one moment in a wider movement for social and environmental justice. May we in this way bear true witness to the words of the holy prophet Micah, who said:

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

Sermon December 4 (Advent 2)

Almighty God, as your blessed Son Jesus Christ first came to seek and to save the lost; so may he come again to find in us the completion of his redeeming work; for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

It is great having you all sit so close; it works to hear John the Baptist’s words:

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham…”

John is not mincing words. On the fringe of society, at a river at the edge of the wilderness, John is baptizing & preaching. The religious authorities and maybe Rome too are watching him closely. I suspect that they feared his message and his popularity. And he knows this.

He challenges them and us to consider our lives and to show the real meaning of our lives by how we live them out, bear good fruit, fruit of repentance & hope. Certainly as John the Baptist preached on the edge of a river, calling people to repent from sin, he did this so people’s lives could be changed, that they would mark a new direction, out of the water would come a new life.

Advent is such a time for us, a call to change direction in our lives, to maintain balance when the holiday season can be too much hustle and bustle, too much buying, too much of well, everything. What Advent calls us to do as we await with patience the coming of God into our midst, is to remember that what is most important is the good fruit of our lives. How we live even in the midst of tragedy and violence.

For the past six years, Syria has been torn apart by a lethal combination of civil war and tribal hostilities. To outsiders, there seems to be only villains and refugees.

But there are heroes. Enter the White Helmets: ordinary Syrians - teachers, tailors, builders, doctors - who didn't flee the country and didn't take up arms; instead, they return day after day to the scene of some of the worst carnage on the planet. Known by the distinctive headgear they wear, the White Helmets sift through the rubble of Aleppo looking for survivors. They treat the wounded, work tirelessly to repair and maintain water and electricity, seek to re-unite families separated by the bombings and occupations, and bury the dead.

The White Helmets grew out of a disparate set of local groups scattered throughout Syria. They number more than 3,000 volunteers in rebel-held areas across the country. They are all civilians - the White Helmets' code of conduct forbids their taking up arms. Members are trained in how to search collapsed buildings, how to put out fires, how to handle unexploded bombs, what to do in a chemical attack. Even militants who had fought in the armed rebellion have laid aside their weapons to join the White Helmets.

Since the White Helmets organized in early 2013, White Helmet units have saved and rescued 60,000 of their fellow Syrians. One hundred forty-one White Helmets have been killed while serving.

A war defined by impossible choices and implacable hatreds has also produced a model of heroism that reflects the best of humanity: ordinary people who rush in to help after every attack and bombing that devastates their neighbors and homeland. Their credo is a single verse from the Quran: "Whoever saves one life, saves humanity." [TIME Magazine, October 17, 2016.]

A prophet is "one who proclaims" - and those who don the White Helmets are "prophets" in the truest sense of the word. In their selfless, dangerous work, the ordinary Syrians who wear the White Helmets "proclaim" the justice and mercy of God in the devastation of their homeland, offering hope in the midst of violence and death.

In our own commitment to the moral and ethical principles that are of God, we can be no less prophets of God's love and mercy in the Jordan banks of our homes, businesses and schools. John the Baptist is no one’s idea of Christmas joy: subsisting on locusts and wild honey, clad in camel hair, haunting a wild river bank. We happily take on the role of Santa or Kris Kringle, but no way do we see ourselves as John the Baptist. To hear, John the Baptist calling us to repent, to not gorge ourselves in a Christmas that began weeks ago, but instead bear that good fruit, to become like John in our lives right now.

But that is exactly who Advent calls us to be. In our own baptisms we promised to become Baptizers along our own Jordan Rivers. So let’s take on the work of the “Baptizer” this Christmas; let’s become heralds like John of the Good News as we go about our holiday preparations:

May we give the gifts of “comfort” and joy to a people weary and worn. . . may every kindness and generosity we extend this Christmas mirror Christ’s presence in our midst, who brings us such love into our lives . . . may we joyfully take on the hard work of creating a highway through the rugged lands of estrangement and alienation, to be ministers of reconciliation, as we too strive to bear fruits worthof repentance in our time . . . and may the gifts and greetings and hospitality we extend proclaim the good news that God’s compassion has dawned, that love has come down for us.

Every Advent, John the Baptizer calls us to embrace the meaning of our own baptisms: compassion, repentance, forgiveness, justice, selflessness. This Christmas, let us take up John’s Advent work: to straighten the crooked roads of our lives, to transform ‘deserts’ barren of love into places of welcome and reconciliation, to gather up the lost and forgotten, to proclaim the coming of God’s Christ in our midst. Amen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sending Us Out

Send us now into the world in peace,
and grant us strength and courage
to love and serve you
with gladness and singleness of heart.

Father, send us out
to do the work you have given us to do,
to love and serve you
as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.

We humbly
beseech thee, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy
grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do
all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in

Each of these post communion prayers reminds us what we are called to do after communion, after we leave our church...

"Let us go forth in the name of Christ to bring peace into broken relationships, healing to alienated persons, and justice into oppressive structures." Amen!

November 27 Sermon (Advent I)

Most gracious Lord, by whose direction this time is appointed for renewing the memory of your infinite mercy to us in the incarnation of your Son Jesus; grant that we may live, this holy time, in the spirit of thanksgiving, and every day raise up our hearts to you in the grateful acknowledgment of what you have done for us. Besides this, we ask your grace, O God, that we may make a due use of this holy time, for preparing our souls to receive Christ our Lord coming into the world at the approaching solemnity of Christmas. Amen. - From John Goter, 17th Century (adapted)

Moose… Stay alert.

That was our welcome to Vermont.

A bright yellow sign, warning of what may lay ahead, Moose… Stay alert. I think it’s perfect sign for Advent.

Advent is our season that calls our spiritual lives to be awakened, to “cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light” as our collect calls us to do. There is something about Advent that makes us suddenly alert. Perhaps it is the clear night skies with the gaze of the moon and stars on us. Perhaps it is the windswept clarity of early winter, when the trees are swept bare, and there is no sign of the lushness of summer to hide our works of darkness from ourselves and from one another.

St. Paul wants us to wake up, as we heard “Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.” In Advent, salvation is nearer to us. Nearer to us because we are preparing for the coming of the Christ child. We are preparing for the return of Christ. We are waking up. So that is why.

But how do we wake up when our bodies are telling us to hibernate with the best of them. The darkness beckons to us, lulls us into slumber, and for some of us, even depression. How do we do we fight all of that? How do we put on that armor of Light?

Jesus said, “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into...

She was miserable: stuck in a job she hated, no one special in her life. While her friends were busy celebrating weddings and having adorable children and prospering in careers they loved, she was alone, mired in self-pity. But her perspective changed in an instant.

She just had lunch with her mother. Her poor mom listened to her daughter's litany of unhappiness and tried to offer what support she could. Then she returned to her small apartment. While in the kitchen, she heard a noise in the hall - and suddenly remembered that she had forgotten to lock the door behind her. She got up and looked down the hall. At the top of the stairs a masked man was pointing a handgun at her. She had never experienced such fear in her life.

He demanded her cash. But she explained that she didn't have any, that she relied on her debit card. Again he demanded money, and again she said she had none. She offered to go with him to an ATM. "You can take my computer," she pleaded. All she could do now was wait for the stranger to determine how this would play out.

And in that moment of waiting, she felt her whole life - the beauty, the love, the darkest moments. She remembers: "The one regret, the unfinished business I had with this life of mine. My mother would always think of our conversation and believe that her only child had died a miserable person, unfulfilled and greatly at odds with life. That is what brought tears to my eyes. I realized what a beautiful life I had actually lived; I just hadn't always appreciated it . . . I'm sorry, Mom, I thought."

A second later, the intruder turned and ran.

"A meaningless act of violence" her family and friends said when they heard about what happened. But she disagrees: "Every day, I have the option to decide: Is my story going to be about anger, fear and unhappiness? Or can my story be about peace, forgiveness and walking a new path of gratitude and compassion? . . . It is only by God's grace that I am able to locate those virtues at all but they are there, bubbling along like an underground stream beneath the stony ground of my heart." [From "Under the gun: New life after a home invasion" by Brittany Conkle, America, December 7-14, 2015.]

Her confrontation with the intruder is an Advent awakening for this young woman. In the midst of her fear, she realizes the preciousness of her life, that life is a gift that God gives her - and all of us - in order that she might discover God in the love of others and come to realize the goodness of this world in anticipation of the next. Advent calls us to "watch," to pay attention to such signs of God's unmistakable presence in all that is loving, in all that is beautiful, in all that is life-giving and nurturing.

Jesus said, "Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Jesus told us that he would come again, but he didn't give us a time, lay out a plan. He only told us to stay alert, be ready, he will come at an unexpected time. Like the expectation of a birth of a child, it is that waiting with anticipation not knowing the exact time. As well as being a theologian, Paula Gooder is also a mom. She weaves those two perspectives together in her book The Meaning Is in the Waiting:

"As I waited for the birth of my baby, I discovered that waiting can be a nurturing time, valuable in its own right. Until then, I had assumed that waiting could only be passive, that it involved sitting around, drumming my fingers, completely powerless to do anything until the moment of waiting passed and I could be active again. How wrong I was. The waiting of pregnancy is about as active an occupation as one can hope to engage in . . .

"One of the other things I learned during pregnancy was that learning to savor the time of waiting allows us also to appreciate the event when it comes. The loss of an ability to wait often brings with it the inability to be fully and joyfully present now. Instead, we are constantly looking backward to better times we used to know and forward to better times that may be coming. The more we do this, the more we miss the present . . .

"It [also] becomes hard to appreciate the future moment even when it does come . . . We live forever in the future, so that, when the future becomes the present, we are ill-equipped to deal with it and have lost the ability to be fully present, right now.

"One of the many reasons we wait in Advent is to hone our skills of being joyfully and fully present now. After a month of doing this, Christmas Day can gain a depth and meaning that would otherwise fly past in a whirl of presents and mince pies."

The season of Advent calls us to such "pregnant waiting": to appreciate, value and cherish; to be present and attentive to family and friends; waiting opens up our vision and spirits to realize the love of God in our midst. This Advent season calls us to embrace the wisdom to be realized in "pregnant" waiting: to slow down, stay alert and see the goodness of God around us that we rush by too quickly to see, to behold Christ in every moment of compassion, forgiveness and joy we experience in the everyday Advent of our lives. Amen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Invitation to Communion

As we approach the altar on Sunday remember...

This is the table, not of the Church but of Jesus Christ.
It is made ready for those who love God
and who want to love God more.

So come, you who have much faith and you who have little,
You who have been here often
and you who have not been for a long time or ever before,
You who have tried to follow and all of us who have failed.

These are the gifts of God for the People of God.

Come, not because the Church invites you;
It is Christ who invites you to be known and fed here.

Adapted from The Iona Community, Iona Abbey Worship Book, (Glasgow, UK: Wild Goose Publications, 2001), 53.

Behold what you are, may we become what we receive.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving #prayers

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

Sunday, November 13, 2016

November 13 Sermon

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land after our elections, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP)

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

We might think of these words from Abraham Lincoln from his famous speech in 1858 when he accepted the Illinois Republican Party endorsement for the US Senate. A prophetic speech that understood that slavery was dividing the country and the country had to go one way or the other…

Eight years before Abraham Lincoln said it, Sam Houston in the Senate debate on the Compromise of 1850 around slavery proclaimed: "A nation divided against itself cannot stand."

Of course the origin of these phrases rests with Jesus… when confronted by the Pharisees, Jesus said, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:25)

We seem to be in a time of such division. President elect Trump won the electoral college but lost the popular vote and if the figures I saw are correct, nearly half the eligible population didn’t vote. Those who voted were divided by race, gender, religion, ethnic origin…

We are indeed divided… and the news tells us this… people being attacked for their votes, minorities fearing for what their lives might be in our nation, nazi symbols appearing and other hate crimes, KKK and other like minded groups feeling energized and spreading their hate.

So where do we begin to heal the division?

It begins right here. In Church.

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

The church, the body of Christ is called to be one in Jesus. That is our unity. It should be above everything else in our lives.

Too often though, we allow partisan divides: race, gender, sexuality, conservative/liberal divide us from one another. And yet, we are still one of the few places left in our country where opposite minded folks can and do come together. We have Trump voters, Clinton Voters, independent voters and non-voters as part of our congregation. As it should be.

We are not a country club. We are not one political party. We are not a museum.

The Church is the community of the New Covenant – followers of Jesus – and our mission is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” For part of the common good, the common bond that holds us together here in the US both in church and outside of it, is that we value each person or group’s rights. And it’s up to us to do it. In the words we speak, in what we do on social media, in all of our interactions – how do we value others.

So I want you to stop and think about this:
  • How did the results of the election impact my life?
  • As part of the winning party of this election, what are my responsibilities?
  • As part of the losing party of this election, what are my concerns and needs?

Too often now we live in our own bubbles. We have self selected news, friends, etc. that connect with our worldview and we have often neglected to hear what the other side is saying (out of sight/mind).

No matter how this election went for us, I think one of the goals we need to have is “to achieve understanding of the other. Achieving understanding does not mean one has to agree with everything that the other shares. The discipline of listening helps us understand others. Take the time to discern, given what has happened, what are your needs and concerns that are significant and important to you and your group and what are our responsibilities to each other.” (Eric Law)

Why do we need to this? I think the Mexican author Carlos Fuentes put it best:

"People and their cultures perish in isolation, but they are born or reborn in contact with other men and women, with men and women of another culture, another creed, another race. If we do not recognize our humanity in others, we shall not recognize it in ourselves."

I think Fuentes is on to something, because I think he is connecting with what Jesus would expect of us, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We grow with those connections, without them we suffer. Our own Desmond Tutu gives us such an understanding through the African word Ubuntu.

“Ubuntu [...] speaks of the very essence of being human […] you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, "My humanity is caught up, & is inextricably bound up, in your humanity." We belong in a bundle of life. We say, "A person is a person through other persons [...] A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.” ― Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness

So this brings me to our life together here at St. Peter’s.

In the midst of these anxious times, we have a real opportunity to bring change and hope to our world and it begins with you and me. I hope that St. Peter’s is a place for you that not only sustains you in your life in Christ but it also empowers you to do the work that Jesus gives to all of us…

To love everyone we encounter - to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people, to make music in the heart…

And I hope when you are asked, you are able to give your offerings to help us to continue our important work in the world and to open our doors so that all can come in – all parties, races, genders, sexual identities and orientations, any and everyone may enter in and find their place at this altar and among our community. Where strangers become friends. May we listen to understand one another & may we love the other (whoever that is for us) and begin to heal the divisions in our house. Amen.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Thanksgiving Prayer

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted. Amen.

A Thanksgiving Prayer by Rev. Samuel F. Pugh

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Veterans Day

O God of peace,
we pray for those who have served our nation,
who laid down their lives
to protect and defend our freedom...

We pray for those who have fought,
whose spirits and bodies are scarred by war
and whose nights are haunted by memories
too painful for the light of day...

We pray for those who serve us now,
especially for those in harm's way:
shield them from danger
and bring them home,

Turn the hearts and minds
of our leaders and our enemies
to the work of justice and a harvest of peace...

May the peace you left us,
the peace you gave us,
be the peace that sustains,
the peace that saves us.

O Lord Jesus, hear our prayer
for our Veterans & their families,
for all those who heard the call and served
and for a lasting peace in our country & world!

(slightly adapted from the Concord Pastor)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Who is Enmegahbowh?

One of the saints of the Episcopal Church...

Called the “Providential Man” by church historian Theodore Holcombe, Enmegahbowh, or John Johnson as he was known at his baptism, was the first Native American to be ordained a deacon and priest in the Episcopal Church. Born about a day’s journey north of Toronto in c. 1820 Enmegahbowh, the son of a chief, was set apart as a healer from childhood. Indeed, his name means “the man who stands by his people.” - Heidi Scott

You can learn more about him here:

All Saints' Sermon

Almighty God, you led your pilgrim people of old with fire and cloud; grant that your church, following the example of your saints, like blessed Enmegahbowh, may stand before your holy people, leading them with fiery zeal and gentle humility. This we ask through Jesus, the Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

This week as I watched friends travel to ND to be with the Standing Rock tribe as a prayerful witness for peace, I thought about one of the saints of our church who we remember as a prayerful witness to those he ministered too. In 1845, he attempted to abandon his missionary work in the US and return home with his wife to Canada. While sailing Lake Superior, he twice experienced a terrible storm on Lake Superior (think Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald!) and had a vision of Jonah calling him back to his work. His new journey began on water, in his words in a letter written to Bishop Whipple:

“The heavens were of ink blackness; there was a great roaring and booming, and the lightning seemed to rend the heavens. The wind increased, and the vessel could not make headway. The Captain ran here and there talking to his sailors . . . . I was sure that he would summon his mariners and say to them: “Come, let us cast lots that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us.” If they had cast lots, it would have fallen upon guilty Enmegahbowh . . . They would have asked me who had caused the storm, and would have discovered who I was, my occupation and my country. Would I have been bold enough to tell all this? If my faith in God was real, certainly I would have said, ‘My friends, I have been a missionary, I believe that there is a God in Heaven; that I am the sole cause of this great wind, or I have sinned against God. I have taken the inclination of my heart, and have run away from my work.’

The letter was written by The Rev. John Johnson Enmegahbowh, the first Native American to be ordained an Episcopal priest in the United States, and who served as deacon and priest for over 40 years. He was a missionary of the Methodist Church beginning in 1833, having grown up in a tribal village in Canada. In his missionary work in the US he met Biwabikogeshig-equay or Iron Sky Woman (baptized Charlotte when they were married in 1841).

After the storm in 1845, he & his wife would return to the US and later the same year, he would meet an Episcopal priest Ezekiel Gear at Fort Snelling. After receiving a copy of the Book of Common Prayer, he and his wife decide to join the Episcopal Church.

He would help at the local missions and in 1859 was ordained as a deacon. He maintained a peaceful and courageous presence in the midst of the turmoil and violence among the white settlers and local Chippewa people with whom he ministered. In 1862, when members of the Ojibwa tribe decided to go to war against the white settlers, Enmegahbowh, spoke at the council:

“You may kill a few in the beginning, but in the end you will all be swept away from the face of the earth, and annihilated forever. I love you all. I see and know just exactly how the war will terminate. As a friend who loves you, I would ask you all as wise men to think and well consider whether your present plan is to your salvation or death. Think ye well.”

Years later after peace was finally achieved between the Ojibwa and the Sioux, Enmegahbowh wrote:

The great white-faced people say, “The White Earth Indians are turning to their foolish war dances and they will become foolish and regardless of their Christian professions... This dancing between the two parties was caused by a heart full of thankfulness. They rejoiced greatly that a lasting friendship had been established between them, and they had now become as one nation, as it were like one family....That is the prevailing spirit of my people and the Sioux nation today.”

In 1867 he was ordained a priest. He was given special dispensation by the Bishop having never learned Greek or Hebrew (as priests of the day were so trained) for he had long refused to learn Greek and Hebrew, stating that he was being sent to work among the living, not among the dead!

Enmegahbowh’s name means “The one who stands before his people” and that is what he did. He stood for peace, when in 1862 there was a tribal uprising, he warned the white settlers at a nearby fort for which he became unpopular in his tribe for a time. Enmegahbowh also stood up for his people through his constant reminders to Bishop Whipple as well as politicians of the conditions that the tribes were living in.

“It was his truth-telling, always gentle but always steadfast, that I most notice about Enmegahbowh. He told the truth as he understood it to his fellow Indians. He told the truth as he understood it to his bishop and to other whites and to people in Washington and even to several U.S. Presidents. He was at times unpopular because of this, but he managed throughout his life to spread the Good News. Enmegahbowh spoke the truth about earthly things, and that enabled his people to believe what he said about heavenly things. Pure and simple.” (The Rev. M. Lucie Thomas)

Enmegahbowh died on June 12, 1902. He was still standing by his people doing the work he was called to do until the day he died. I wonder if we can be agents of peace like he was in his day. Be it in the Sioux nation or in our home towns. On this All Saints Sunday, I think about the joy and hope the saints found in doing what God called them to do. That is certainly true of Enmegahbowh. And we too are called to share in such joy and hope in the work we are called to do in our world today.

In the words of William Stringfellow, “In truth, all human beings are called to be saints, but that just means called to be fully human, to be perfect—that is, whole, mature, fulfilled. The saints are simply those men and women who relish the event of life as a gift and who realize that the only way to honor such a gift is to give it away.”

Life is a gift and the saints found it by listening to God, they would find fulfillment and happiness in what they did. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Jesus said. Life as gift and joy begins ritually in our rite of baptism, remembering the past, connecting with our life now and hoping for the future.

Today, Kate Elizabeth will join the household of God (at 10:15 AM). And through the witness of parents, Godparents, family and friends, and this parish, she will be baptized and will grow up and learn about the gift of life, a gift to be lived and enjoyed and given away.

This joy and hope is grounded in our lives. How we follow Christ, living our lives as witnesses to this faith and how we live in faith is the Gospel message for today, the Lucan Beatitudes were given to the disciples, where Jesus taught…

Blessed are the poor, the hungry, those who weep, those hated for Jesus sake, for God will reward you. But woe to us that fail to live into this, for we will have received our reward. Instead, we are to love, to do good, to bless and to give. These are the marks of one who lives the Beatitudes and one who is baptized and lives into following Jesus on the way, just as the saints have done.

In a society that lives on wealth and prestige, on aggressiveness and displays of power, the Beatitudes are a very different way of living our lives. They challenge us to see that the saints were committed to their faith, their community and their God. They lived these Beatitudes in their lives. We account them faithful and numbered in heaven.

Let us commit ourselves to the faith of Christ like the saints, like Enmegahbowh once did, and let us in hope, remember the saints, knowing that one day we will join them. For God calls each one of us, to do unto others, by giving of ourselves and find that indeed our life is a gift, it is joy, and it is meant to be given away. Amen.

Prayer for our Nation & the Upcoming Election

 “Go and vote. Vote your conscience … informed by what it means to love your neighbor. To participate in the process of seeking the common good. To participate in the process of making this a better world. However you vote, go and vote. And do that as a follower of Jesus.” — Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
Intercessor: Loving God, creator of this world who is the source of our wisdom and understanding, watch over this nation during this time of election. Help us to see how our faith informs our principles and actions. God, our creator,
People: Guide us in truth and love.

Intercessor: We give thanks for the right to vote. Help us to hold this privilege and responsibility with the care and awareness it merits, realizing that our vote matters and that it is an act of faith.
God, our creator,
People: Guide us in truth and love.

Intercessor: Guide us through this election as a nation, state, and community as we vote for people to do work on our behalf and on the behalf of our communities. Help us to vote for people and ballot initiatives that will better our community and our world so it may reflect the values Christ taught us. God, our creator,
People: Guide us in truth and love.

Intercessor: Help us create communities that will build your kingdom here on earth — communities that will protect the poor, stand up for the vulnerable, advocate for those who are not seen and heard, and listen to everyone’s voice. God, our creator,
People: Guide us in truth and love.

Intercessor: We pray for this nation that is deeply divided. May we come together for the common good and do as you have called us to do — to act with justice, to love all with kindness, and to walk humbly with you through your creation. God, our creator,
People: Guide us in truth and love.

Intercessor: Help us act out of love, mercy and honesty rather than out of arrogance or fear. God, our creator,
People: Guide us in truth and love.

Intercessor: Lord, continue to guide us as we work for the welfare of this world. We pray for places that are torn by violence, that they may know peace. God, our creator,
People: Guide us in truth and love.

Intercessor: We pray for communities who are struggling with inequality, unrest, and fear. May we all work toward reconciliation with one another and with God. God, our creator,
People: Guide us in truth and love.

Intercessor: Help us to listen in love, work together in peace, and collaborate with one another as we seek the betterment of our community and world. God, our creator,
People: Guide us in truth and love.

Priest: O gracious God, in your Word you have given us a vision of that holy City to which the nations of the world bring their glory: Behold and visit us, we pray, as we hold our election on Tuesday. Renew the ties of mutual regard which form our civic life. Send us honest and able leaders. Enable us to eliminate poverty, prejudice, and oppression, that peace may prevail with righteousness, and justice with order, and that men and women from different cultures and with differing talents may find with one another the fulfillment of their humanity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(intercessions by the Rev. Shannon Kelly; Closing Collect adapted from the BCP)