Sunday, January 31, 2016

Our Discipleship Project - 2016

Our part in the Jesus movement is our Call to Discipleship:

· Discipleship means learning to lead the lives we should as God’s people.
· Growing in discipleship involves prayer, study, worship and service.
· This is the path towards human flourishing and care for God’s creation.

In 2015, St. Peter’s Church began a journey together. A journey we are calling The Discipleship Project (based on The Restoration Project of the Rev. Christopher Martin). There is a hunger in the lives of all of us to be in deeper relationship with God. This is precisely what is promised by Jesus. Jesus is the way to come to know God personally, intimately and reliably, like a loving parent…like a father or mother.

To that end, we began a project to focus on “Pray & Worship & Serve,” which represents three practices that are part of the foundation for disciples of Jesus. These disciplines will not only satisfy one’s desire to serve and please God, but are in fact the very means by which we come to know and love God better.

20+1+5 = three ancient practices, commended to all by Holy Scripture and perfected by countless years of human experience:

20 – Pray twenty minutes a day.
1 – Worship one hour a week.
5 – Serve five times a month.

We are restoring ourselves and our community through 7 Core Christian Practices:

• Pray
• Worship
• Serve
• Give
• Learn/Study
• Listen
• Join

If you want to know God better and be a more faithful disciple, please join us in this project dedicated to nurturing disciples of Jesus. This is an invitation to spiritual depth, as we give, learn, listen and join in this discipleship. Our Discipleship Project joins a movement of churches that have developed reliable and well-tested structures for spiritual growth. We are a learning community of Christians. You are invited to explore and join this movement in 2016. Not simply a program but an entire way of being that affects everything you do.

“So much in our lives has obscured our God-given beauty. The integrity of the likeness of God has broken apart; the foundation has not been firm. We have tried to fix things and often made it even worse, and the environment in which we live can be toxic, violent, and aggressive.” This project helps restore the beauty and clarity of our relationship with God. ~ Rev. Christopher H. Martin.

Sermon: January 31

O Almighty God, who pours out on all who desire it the spirit of grace and of supplication: Deliver us, when we draw near to you, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with steadfast thoughts and kindled affections we may worship and serve you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

“When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.” (Luke)

No, this is not a news item from this parish wanting to throw me off a cliff. It’s hard to believe the hometown crowd was angry enough to throw Jesus off a cliff. But the Gospel of Luke tells us so. They began by loving him – he spoke so well, he was so gracious.

But Jesus wasn’t home to be praised; he came to offer Good News even when the people might not be receptive to it.

Jesus said, “But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

Jesus used these examples of the prophets of Israel ministering to gentiles, a widow in Sidon along the coast and the cleansing of Naaman, Commander of the Syrian army. These stories were not the gracious stories that they expected but challenging stories of God working outside their boundaries. Jesus praised foreigners, for they received God’s prophets. Jesus message was not going to be limited to Israel or to the Jewish people. He challenged the narrative, he challenged their understandings, he challenged them. And they were upset, to say the least.

I think of the story of Chris Borland. Chris Borland was on his way to a dream career in the NFL. With 107 tackles in his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2014, Chris was going to be star in the league. But his first season playing pro football would be his last.

Chris retired at the age of 24. Chris saw how repeated concussions had left thousands of former players racked with debilitating headaches, anger and confusion, and the early onset of dementia. Despite the success of his rookie year, Chris was unwilling to play another season because he was concerned that he would continue risking injury in pursuit of a paycheck. He didn't want to risk not being able to play with his own kids someday.

Chris' decision to walk away from football has won the admiration from some, but he has his critics - especially the NFL. The league points to the new protocols it has put in place for player safety with those who suffer concussions during games. Others deride Chris as "soft" and accuse him of trying to ruin the national game.

Chris willingly returned most of his signing bonus to the 49ers. "That was the biggest surprise for me. People can't get over the money," Chris said. "That's all they think about. But your health is a little more important."

Chris is adamant: the game cannot be made safer as it is now being played and coached and marketed. He's reluctant to even watch the game because he is concerned for his friends and teammates still playing. Chris turned down a role in the new movie Concussion and several endorsement opportunities. "I don't want to monetize head injury in football. I think that attacks your legitimacy." Chris has offered himself as a subject for concussion research.

Because of his courageous decision to walk away from fame and fortune in the NFL, ESPN calls Chris Borland the "most dangerous man in football." [From "Why former 49ers Chris Borland is the most dangerous man in football" by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, ESPN The Magazine, August 31, 2015.]

Chris rejected the narrative that the NFL was espousing. He in his own way was an unexpected "prophet," those who, in their integrity and courage, speak the truths we don't want to hear. And many were upset by it, to say the least. Such "prophecy" demands the courage and conviction to confront who we are, to recognize the gulf that often exists between the values we profess and the values we live.

Throughout the Gospels and Scripture, many who encounter Jesus and the prophets are unable to hear, accept and act on God's call to change the evil systems that dehumanize them and our need for transformation in God. This is what discipleship is all about. It isn’t about accepting a set of ideas or an institution, its about a way of life, one shaped by our walking with Jesus.

In the words of a great lay leader in our church, Verna Dozier: "The call to discipleship [ministry] is the call to be a citizen of the kingdom of God, in a new way, the daring, free, accepting, compassionate way Jesus modeled. It means being bound by no yesterday, fearing no tomorrow, drawing no lines between friend and foe, the acceptable ones and the outcasts. Ministry is the commitment that all of God’s creation will live together in peace and harmony and fulfillment, and God has called us to have a role in its restoration."

The call to discipleship is a call to transformation. I believe we as the members of St. Peter’s Church are being called to such change in our lives. Discipleship means learning to lead the lives we should as God’s people. We grow into this through prayer, worship and acts of service, and when we learn to give of ourselves and our abundance, when we learn & study, when we listen and join together in love. This is the path towards human flourishing, transformation, and care for God’s creation.

“I go to church to be with the people of God, people transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.” ~ Rachel Held Evans

But this journey we are called on will not always be easy; there will be times when we are tested; there may be times when others are upset by such discipleship. Sometimes, those difficulties are our own hearts. Filled with our misperceptions, or own prejudices that blind us to the word of God, to where God may be calling us here and now. Like Jeremiah we don’t think we are worthy. But Jesus comes to break down our hard hearts, to give us a heart of flesh, a heart that loves and feeds on God’s word.

I see the faces of people here who have come faithfully to be in the presence of God in this place, who have found a safe space to worship, to ask questions, to doubt and struggle, to celebrate and to live out our lives in a community of faithful people who are striving to seek understanding and the truth of what God has called us to be.

That is the gift of Anglicanism, of the Episcopal Church. With the Bible in one hand, with the tradition of the Church in the other, and are God given reason in between (that is our head and our heart), we move forward to find God present all around us, to find in the face of each other, our savior Jesus Christ.

I hope this place is your spiritual home, where you not only find sustenance, but also challenge, where you find truth and you’ll find the questions to wrestle with in your life that will lead you home to God.

Today (and everyday), by the grace of God we go into uncharted territory looking to find the divine: in our prayers, in our bible study, at our Apple Festival, at our meals together, in our acts of service & love to Chapel on the Green or Mozambique, on a Sunday morning or whenever the faithful gather together here, God will be in the midst of us. So in all that we say and all that we do, may God bless us in our undertaking.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Thoughts on #Primates2016

As I have sat with the words of the Primates from their meeting, I am not worried about our place in the communion or with Jesus.  We are being faithful to Christ's calling, as we understand it. To make this stand with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, then we must also accept the consequences for our stand even as we continue to reach out to all. (and to speak up where lives of LGBTQ are threatened and unsafe.)

Besides the wonderful video above by our PB Curry, these two responses below merit your reading:

As far as Communion itself goes, the main message TEC members should take from Canterbury this week is that Communion is what we ourselves will make it. While the Primates may be judged by many to have stumbled in their difficult work of fostering communion,  at least in their declaration about TEC, they are an instrument of Communion and not the thing itself. We should redouble our own efforts to have strong relationships with other national Churches and their members, and be thankful for the opportunities we have to engage with Anglicans of other cultures and traditions. The curious and powerful gift of Communion is God's, not the Primates, to give.

While discussions and debates in inter-Anglican bodies are important, we must never lose sight of our baptismal vocation to participate in God's mission of restoration and reconciliation. The Episcopal Church is deeply committed to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of our church and we affirm the dignity of every human being created in the image of God. In Connecticut, we are fully supportive and stand behind the positions taken by The Episcopal Church with respect to LGBT sisters and brothers. We are grounded in the love of God who invites all people, and all creation, to the fullness of life in Jesus. Our passion for sharing the vastness of God's love for all people is at the heart of our participation in God's mission.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

#HolocaustRemembranceDay #memory2action


For the dead and the living we must bear witness...

The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, the UN urges every member state to honor the victims of the Nazi era and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides. We invite you to share your reflections throughout the day on social media using #irememberby and #memory2action.

Remembering that one person can make a difference, I remember...

Chiune Sugihara

Raoul Wallenberg


Almighty God, our Refuge and our Rock, your loving care knows no bounds and embraces all the peoples of the earth: Defend and protect those who fall victim to the forces of evil, and as we remember this day those who endured depredation and death because of who they were, not because of what they had done or failed to do, give us the courage to stand against hatred and oppression, and
to seek the dignity and well-being of all for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, in whom you have reconciled the world to yourself; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

How to help #FlintWaterCrisis

Collect money for disaster response. We are continuing to provide safe drinking and cooking water through our two local parishes, St. Andrew’s and St. Paul’s, as well as through Episcopal-affiliated service organizations Christ Enrichment Center, Crossover Downtown Outreach Ministries, and the St. Andrew’s Soup Kitchen.

But there is an emerging gap in resources that we need to address. Access to healthy, iron-rich foods that aid in lead removal is extremely limited in Flint, much of which is characterized as a food desert.

By giving financially to the disaster response, you help us broaden the impact of your gift as we continue to provide safe water by the pallet as well as the components of a fresh, nutritious diet that will combat the effects of lead poisoning in our city’s children.

To donate, send checks marked “Water Relief” to:
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
711 S Saginaw Street
Flint, MI 48502

Read the whole article to learn more about others way you can help.

Sermon: Snowy January 24

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  (BCP)

Expectations. Sometimes, the expectations we have of one another are not realistic. That can also be true for ourselves. (Like an expectation that this winter storm would dump less than 6 inches!)

Sometimes expectations come with the territory. As Christians who follow Jesus, his commandments to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbors as ourselves, are expectations of Jesus that we live these commandments in our lives, in our connections to one another.

I think retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said it beautifully:

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human… It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World… Ubuntu speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion.

God has created us all and we have a responsibility and an expectation to be concerned about our neighbors nearby and far away. During this age where we so easily know about the happenings around the world, we understand that whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

It was also true at the time St. Paul was writing his letters. His letter to the Corinthians shows that the community of Christians there were having a hard time living together, whether it was issues of those who had money and status and those who did not in that community or those whose prideful faith got in the way of helping others.

To all those Christians living in Corinth, Paul addresses his letter. And today we hear his words about our unity in Christ. Not uniformity, but a unity because we are all part of that body, even as we each are different parts.

I have too often seen Christians expecting that we should all look and believe the same exact things. Beyond knowing in our hearts that Jesus is Lord, beyond the essentials of our faith, that leaves a lot of areas where uniformity just makes no sense.

Too use Paul’s words, we cannot all be hands or feet or eyes, or function in that way, but it does not mean that we don’t have a place within the body, for all of the parts are important.

As St. Paul said, “God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the Body of Christ and individually members of it.”

There are no greater or lesser members of the body of Christ, for we are to care for one another, we are in it together. Ubuntu.

And have we not experienced that here…when one member of our parish suffers, we all suffer with them, when one member is honored or rejoices, all rejoice together.

No matter who we are in our lives, Jew or Greek, free or slave, male or female, we are baptized into one body, the body of Christ, and together we live out our faith filled lives.

The eminent anthropologist Margaret Mead was once asked what she regarded as the earliest sign of civilization. Was it an axe-blade, an arrowhead, a fishhook, or something more sophisticated, such as a musical instrument or a ceramic bowl? Her answered surprised her questioner: "A healed human femur."

Not something made by a human, but something human; not an artifact, but a part of someone who once lived and walked this earth, who was hurt but healed.

Doctor Mead explained that where the law of the survival of the fittest reigns, a broken leg means certain death - when you cannot make it on your own, you're doomed. But a healed leg-bone is physical evidence that someone cared. Someone gathered food for that injured person until their leg was healed; someone cared for them until they could once again care for themselves & others. The first sign of civilization was compassion.

Whoever first set that bone and cared for that injured woman or man so the bone could heal was the first great prophet of love, who showed compassion for one injured. Jesus begins his own public ministry of compassion by invoking the vision of the prophet Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me, to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the Lord's favor."

In Jesus, Isaiah's vision of a world transformed and reconciled in God's peace and justice is fulfilled; for God re-creates us and our world in the light of his grace and the spirit of compassion & love. Through our baptism, we take on the work of Isaiah's vision of healing, justice and compassion in our own "civilizations."

We need to learn from St. Paul, that we are all members, all have our part to play, no matter how big or small, lesser or not, we are all equal in God’s eyes for God has put us together on this planet.

And God has put us together to follow Jesus, to hear his words and to live out our faith as the Body of Christ, which means we have work to do with those in need.

As one song writer put it, “I can hear Jesus’ quiet voice in the words he said, words that set the captive free, words that lift the dead into the living. In his dying now he asks us in his stead to be the one, be the one. Be the one to speak the words of truth, be the one to quell the lies. Be the one to see that justice will be done. Be the one to learn from children, be the one to teach the wise, be the one, be the one, be the one.” (Ray Makeever)

My brothers and sisters, we are the Body of Christ and we are to be the one to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the Lord's favor. We are to be the one to share love, to live into Ubuntu – for all of humanity. For that is God’s expectation for us, to love one another as God has loved us. Amen.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Remembering #MLK

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we are moving against wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love. He who hates does not know God, but he who has love has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality."
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967

Collect for Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration

Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'”

Sermon: January 18

O God, fountain of love pour thy love into our souls, that we may love those whom thou loves with the love thou givest us, and think and speak of them tenderly, meekly, lovingly; and so loving our brothers and sisters for thy sake, may grow in thy love, and dwelling in love may dwell in thee; for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen. (E.B. Pusey (1800-1882))

In the clearing stands a boxer,
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame,
"I am leaving, I am leaving."
But the fighter still remains… (The Boxer, Simon & Garfield)

(That may be a song you remember!) - In his anger and his shame

Shame is such a powerful thing. It can be a helpful guide for us when we ourselves use it to make ourselves better. It can also be a debilitating curse imposed by others that tear us down instead of building up.

Shame. That’s the word I heard this week in a couple of stories and it is also present in our Gospel story for this morning.

The Archbishop of Canterbury invited 37 Primates (the leaders of the different Anglican churches throughout the world, including our PB Curry) to Canterbury, England to reflect and pray together concerning the future of our Anglican Communion.

Archbishop Justin Welby invited the founder of the L’Arche movement, Jean Vanier, to visit Canterbury to speak to the Anglican Primates on one of those days. Vanier, 86, is a Roman Catholic philosopher and lay person who founded the L’Arche Communities - where people with and without learning disabilities share life together, living and working in community.

The movement began with Vanier's own commitment to living in community with people who have learning disabilities in Trosly-Breuil, France in 1964, where he still lives today. There are now 150 L’Arche communities in at least 35 countries around the world.

I saw a video about Vanier after he received an award for his work. In the video he talks about about how we used to view people with disabilities, that we put them away in institutions away from us, we saw them “as a shame”, as punishment from God, instead of a way to God, as people of God. Vanier believed we need to be in relationship with such people.

"To discover that to be a human being and therefore to be a Christian is to learn how to listen to people and to reveal to people, not to seek to convert them, but to reveal to them that they are precious." It is about love not shame that we need to share. That is what Jean Vanier was talking about & lived his life.

In Michigan, where I grew up, there has been a water crisis in the city of Flint, near where my sister lives. A city of 100,000 for over a year and a half, have had water contaminated by lead leached from the pipes by corrosive and untreated water. There are many good stories out there that talk about the man made crisis, but what grabbed my attention was this:

Soon after the switch from Detroit water to the Flint River, complaints began and the people in charge responded to concerns about Flint’s water with “aggressive dismissal, belittlement and attempts to discredit these efforts and the individuals involved. Researchers at Virginia Tech who looked into the lead poisoning found that officials not only ignored complaints about the smell, taste and color of the water, but also lied about lead levels and tried to conceal evidence.”

In other words, them shamed people for their concerns and covered up the problem. Those affected were mostly poor and black. They were not treated equally and the consequences of this will last years, for it affects not only the neighborhoods, but businesses, hospitals, churches. And the children will bear the brunt of it. Instead of listening to their concerns, it was all about shaming the vulnerable into silence.

At the wedding in Cana of Galilee, when the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." Why is this Mary’s concern?

The celebration of a wedding in those days was not only with family, but all the villagers are there too (lots of extended family) and it would last for days. Lots of preparation would go into it but for the family hosting the celebration – disgrace would be attached for not having enough.

Because it will bring shame on the family; there must have been some connection between the bride and groom in Cana and Mary of Nazareth, two nearby villages. She is concerned and wants Jesus to do something about it. When he demurs, she tells the servants to do whatever Jesus asks.

What Jesus does is listen to his mother, he has six stone water jars filled with water and then some of the water is given to the chief steward who tastes wine. The steward praises the bridegroom for keeping the good wine until last and misses the miracle.

And although the focus so often is on the water into wine, what Jesus also does is not give into shaming the family; good wine (!) is produced and all are happy. Throughout the Gospels, I see Jesus healing and interacting with the least in society, trying to relieve any shame that is upon them.

Such is our calling too as disciples of Jesus. In the baptismal covenant from last week – we promise to “respect the dignity of every human being” and the advent preface reminds us that “we may without shame or fear, rejoice to behold Jesus’ appearing.”

In a landscape of fear and shame, we need to be the light of Jesus that brings others to the glory of God.

As Jean Vanier put it this past week, “We are in a world where people are not encouraged to listen to the inner voice, which is a compass to make us more human, and more in tune with things of God – what do you think, what do you believe? – we are in a world where people are not encouraged to believe in themselves. You are more precious than you dare believe."

May we carry that message in our hearts today and share that Good News with the world:

“You are more precious than you dare believe.” Thanks be to God! Amen.

Monday, January 11, 2016

#Primates2016 - The Coventry Litany of Reconciliation

After the bombing of Coventry Cathedral in 1940, Provost Richard Howard put the words “FATHER FORGIVE” on the wall behind the charred cross in the ruins of the destroyed cathedral in 1948. Not “Father forgive Them” – because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). These words moved generations of people and are prayed in the Litany of Reconciliation every Friday at noon outside in the ruins, and in many other places around the world. The Litany of Reconciliation, based on the seven cardinal sins, was written in 1958 by Canon Joseph Poole, the first Precentor of the new Cathedral. It is a universal and timeless confession of humanity’s failings, but it evokes us to approach these sins and weaknesses in the forgiveness of God’s love.

The litany will be prayed during the gathering of Primates in Canterbury next week. You are invited to join in praying it too.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
Father, forgive.
The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
Father, forgive.
The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Father, forgive.
Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Father, forgive.
Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
Father, forgive.
The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
Father, forgive.
The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Father, forgive.
Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Praying for #Primates2016

A daily prayer for the unity of Christians

Lord Jesus,
who prayed that we might all be one,
we pray to you for the unity of Christians,
according to your will,
according to your means.
May your Spirit enable us
to experience the suffering caused by division,
to see our sin,
and to hope beyond all hope.

Composed by members of the Chemin Neuf community from the prayer of the abbot Paul Couturier.

Collect for Primates 2016

Gracious Father,
who in your prophet Isaiah promised us
a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and inward strength, knowledge and true godliness:
breathe that same Spirit on the leaders of your church today, (gathered in England)
that they may meet you in one another,
find perfect freedom in your service,
and bring forth your Spirit’s fruits of love, joy and peace;
that your church may be renewed in the form of your Son, born, crucified and risen
that we might be one with you and in you,
ever one God, merciful and mighty.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sermon: January 10

Lord, open unto me - light for my darkness - courage for my fear - hope for my despair - peace for my turmoil - joy for my sorrow - strength for my weakness - wisdom for my confession - forgiveness for my sins - love for my hates - thy Self for my self. Lord, Lord, open unto me! Amen. (Howard Thurman)

Who are the ministers of the Church? (BCP p. 855 – Outline of the Faith)
The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.

For too long, we have thought of the ministers solely as the clergy. But the BCP gets it right, for lay persons, the baptized, the people of God are much more numerous than us clergy types and our calling to ministry happens at baptism for everyone! (That is why they are first in the list.)

The sacrament of baptism is the unifying action of God that makes us all ministers.

As William Stringfellow wrote, “Baptism is the sacrament of the extraordinary unity among humanity wrought by God in overcoming the power and reign of death; in overcoming all that alienates, segregates, divides and destroys men in their relationships to each other, within their own persons, and in their relationship with the rest of creation.”

Baptism is about life and our relationship with God, each other and all of creation. Through Baptism it is God who restores us and calls to each of us.

Consider what all of us say at the end of the baptism service as the congregation welcomes the newly baptized – young or old, the words are the same – “we receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.”

“Confess, Proclaim, Share” – We, the people of God, are all called to do that through our lives.

Now we might feel that we are not a Billy Graham or Mother Theresa, but each in our own way, we are to confess and proclaim our faith through our words and actions. Jesus' eternal priesthood, is something we share because of our baptism. It is from his priesthood that we are called to follow where Jesus had led us and to minister to others in his name.

For the story of Jesus baptism, is the story of our baptism, the story of God calling and connecting with each one of us in God’s beautiful and grand creation.

We remember that Jesus was baptized like we were…

As we imagine the scene with John the Baptist standing near the river, wearing camel’s hair, people are flocking to him, to confess their sins and yet John knows that what he does, his proclamations, his baptisms, are just a beginning, they anticipate the one who is to come, the messiah. His baptism by water for repentance will become the baptism by the Spirit.

John prepares the way of the Lord much like his ancestors did from Abraham and Sarah to Moses and Miriam to David and Jeremiah to now, John the Baptist.

It all comes to fruition when his cousin, Jesus of Nazareth comes and all that John had anticipated happens; Jesus is baptized and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

“The most important thing about Jesus' baptism is that by it his mission is set.” (Verna Dozier)

His baptism, like our own, sets our mission. For his story is our story, and it is God’s Spirit who descends on the day of baptism, anoints all for the mission and ministry that God has set before us, and it is the spirit of God that will be with us in every step that we make. It was true for Jesus. It is true for us. – Beloved of God.

Years ago at a small country hospital, a baby was born - a rare event in the little thirty-bed facility. The extended family had gathered to welcome little Elizabeth into the world.

The chaplain on duty came to congratulate the father, a young man of few words. "Beautiful baby, "the chaplain remarked, as they looked through the nursery window. Little Elizabeth was squirming - you couldn't hear it through the glass - but she was squirming, and red-faced, and screaming. The chaplain thought the young father might be concerned.

"Now, she's not sick," the chaplain explained. "It's good for babies to scream and do all that. It clears out the lungs and gets their voices going. It's all right."

"Oh, I know, that she's not sick," the father responded. “But she's mad as hell." Then he caught himself, "Pardon me, Reverend."

"That's all right," the chaplain said. "Tell me, why's she mad?"

"Well, wouldn't you be mad? One minute you're with God in heaven and the next minute you're in Georgia."

The chaplain thought, Wow, what has this guy been reading? The chaplain asked, "You believe she was with God before she came here?" "Oh, yeah." - "You think she'll remember?" asked the chaplain.

The young father replied, "Well, that's up to her mother and me. It's up to the church. We've got to see that she remembers, 'cause if she forgets, she's a goner." [From Craddock Stories by Fred Craddock.]

This young father understands that her little Elizabeth is part of the story of God and that it is her mom and dad's job (and the church’s too!) to make sure she understands that story and her place in it. In baptism, we become part of the household of God that has come together to re-tell that story: the story of a God who created us and our world out of love and who re-creates that world again in the gift of his Son.

In his own baptism, Jesus begins the second part of that story: into the mission for which he was created & called. In our own baptisms, we take our place in that story and are entrusted by God with the task of re-telling the story of God's love "so we don't forget." Because if we fail to remember, we're all "goners."

That calling into the baptized ministry, reminds me of the words of a great lay leader in our church, Verna Dozier:

"The call to ministry is the call to be a citizen of the kingdom of God, in a new way, the daring, free, accepting, compassionate way Jesus modeled. It means being bound by no yesterday, fearing no tomorrow, drawing no lines between friend and foe, the acceptable ones and the outcasts. Ministry is the commitment that all of God’s creation will live together in peace and harmony and fulfillment, and God has called us to have a role in its restoration." Amen.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Prayer for Today

O God:

Give me strength to live another day;
Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties;
Let me not lose faith in other people;
Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery, or meanness;
Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them;
Help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity;
Open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things;
Grant me this day some new vision of thy truth;
Inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness;
and make me the cup of strength to suffering souls;
in the name of the strong Deliverer, our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

This prayer was written by the Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks and he is remembered on January 23.
A Morning Resolve  from Forward Movement

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking; cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence; exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God.

In particular I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating, and sleep which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right.

And as I cannot in my own strength do this, nor even with a hope of success attempt it, I look to thee, O Lord God my Father, in Jesus my Savior, and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

You can find these resources and many more here:

Prayers for 2016 Gathering and Meeting of Primates (Jan 11 - 16)

This comes from the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, the Most Revd Josiah Idowu-Fearon, who is inviting everyone to pray daily for the Bishops and Archbishops who will be getting together in Canterbury, England, January 11-16.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3-5
As a Communion, God gives us His daily grace and opportunities to put it into action. We have much to praise and thank our Lord as we look forward to the gathering and Meeting of Primates in January.

It is our earnest request that brothers and sisters across the world who love and wish us well, will join us in praying this Litany day by day, in addition to this prayer.

A special prayer for the Invitation to the Primates’ Meeting in January 2016
Gracious and loving Father, We thank You for the hope and faith of the Archbishop of Canterbury in inviting his colleagues to the meeting of this instrument. We confess our individual and corporate roles in bringing the Communion to where she is today and ask for your forgiveness. As the individual Primate prays and thinks over this invitation, we pray for them that Your Spirit will speak to each of them and that each Primate will respond as guided by the Holy Spirit. May they receive wise counsel from the bishops in their Provinces, and may the bishops themselves receive wise counsels from the lay and ordained members of their respective dioceses. We pray that Primates will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit clearly and submit to Him as they respond to this letter. We pray that there will be a response with a high expectancy level from each Primate and that there will be an outcome that will bring glory and honor to our Lord, a restoration of Godly unity to the Communion and a new energy for the restoration of a renewed commitment to faithful witness in a continuously secular world that is in contest with Kingdom values. We pray all this through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Most Revd Josiah Idowu
Secretary General of the Anglican Communion
The Litany
  1. General thanksgiving and praiseFor the privilege to tell the world the good news of Your love for everyone, irrespective of race, colour, gender, religion and status,

    We praise you, O Lord.For opportunities to share the love of Christ in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and providing shelter for victims of war,

    We praise you, O Lord.For the opportunity to live out our faith in a hostile environment, to test the strength of our love for You and others by relating to those from whom we differ theologically and ecclesiologically,

    We praise you, O Lord.For the continuing efforts at working at our relationship as a Communion and finding better ways of living as Your reconciled family,

    We praise you, O Lord.For the positive responses from Primates and Archbishops to the Gathering and Primates’ Meeting in January,

    We praise you, O Lord.
  2. Concern for truthFrom media manipulation, misinformation and the abuse of privilege,

    Good Lord deliver us.From the distortion of facts and the desire to muzzle other voices with whom we disagree,

    Good Lord, deliver us.From the twisting of truths in order to present others’ opinions as wrong,

    Good Lord, deliver us.
  3. The Participants at the Gathering and MeetingFrom arrogance and the spirit of self-righteousness,

    Good Lord, deliver us.From anger, ego and the desire to impose our opinions at all costs,
    from a divisive spirit and craving for power more than unity,

    Good Lord, deliver us.from denigrating others before listening to them,

    Good Lord, deliver us.From the spirit that looks down on others, despises their convictions and is unwilling to let go for the sake of Christ,

    Good Lord, deliver us.That each of us may encounter Christ and be be positively transformed,

    Hear us, Good Lord.That this gathering and the Primates' Meeting may open a new and positive chapter in the unfolding history of our Communion,

    Hear us, Good Lord.That each Primate / Archbishop will catch a vision from Your holy perspective,

    Hear us, Good Lord.That this gathering and meeting may bring glory and honour to Your name, a new and better and stronger fellowship among all participants,

    Hear us, Good Lord.That this Communion may tell her own stories free from slanted and cynical reporting,

    Hear us, Good Lord.
Lord, this is a part of Your Church Militant.
You called us after redeeming us through Your Son's
sacrificial death, triumphant resurrection and glorious Ascension.
Help us as a Communion to hear clearly
what You are saying to us in this age,
grant this gathering and meeting Your Spirit
that it may lead in such a way as to bring
honour and glory to Your name,
peace and better understanding to Your church,
growth and development to every part of the Communion.
We ask in Christ's name.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Light the Candles

I will light candles this Christmas (Epiphany!)
Candles of joy, despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch.
Candles of courage where fear is ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens.
Candles of love to inspire all my living.
Candles that will burn all the year long.
– Howard Thurman

The Work of Christmas

"Christmas Is Waiting to be Born"
by Rev. Howard Thurman

Where refugees seek deliverance that never comes
And the heart consumes itself as if it would live,
Where children age before their time
And life wears down the edges of the mind,
Where the old man sits with mind grown cold,
While bones and sinew, blood and cell, go slowly down to death,
Where fear companions each day's life,
And Perfect Love seems long delayed.
In you, in me, in all mankind.

"The Work of Christmas"
by Rev. Howard Thurman

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 flock,
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 people,
To make music in the heart.

both from The Mood of Christmas & Other Celebrations (1985)

A Faithful Heart

"Through the Coming Year"
by the Rev. Howard Thurman

Grant that I may pass through
the coming year with a faithful heart.
There will be much to test me and
make weak my strength before the year ends.
In my confusion I shall often say the word that is not true and do the thing of which I am ashamed.
There will be errors in the mind
and great inaccuracies of judgment...
In seeking the light,
I shall again and again find myself
walking in the darkness.
I shall mistake my light for Your light
and I shall drink from the responsibility of the choice I make.
Nevertheless, grant that I may pass through the coming year with a faithful heart.
May I never give the approval of my heart to error, to falseness, to vanity, to sin.
Though my days be marked
with failures, stumblings, fallings,
let my spirit be free
so that You may take it
and redeem my moments
in all the ways my needs reveal.
Give me the quiet assurance
of Your Love and Presence.
Grant that I may pass through
the coming year with a faithful heart. (Amen.)