Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Taking a Stand


There has been much in the news lately regarding those who are Transgender (the T in LGBTQ) and the government both state and federal response to such individuals.

Our presiding bishop and leadership have been taking a stand for such individuals, news reports:

National Episcopal Church urges defeat of Texas "bathroom bill"

Episcopal Church leaders oppose Trump’s ban on transgender people in military

If you want to go deeper than these news reports:

Presiding Bishop responds to Trump’s transgender military ban

Presiding Bishop Curry Offers Theological Reflection on Transgender Rights

and even deeper:

The Divine Call to Be Myself: Anglican Transgender Women and Prayer



Remembering the Victims of Human Trafficking in our World

This prayer is by Fr. Mike Marsh:

Almighty and gracious God, you heard the cries of your people enslaved in Egypt, you empowered Moses and Aaron to speak boldly to Pharaoh on their behalf, and you delivered them from their bondage.

We hold before you the lives and cries of all enslaved and trafficked people. Open our eyes to see each victim as a human being created in your image and according to your likeness. Emboldened us to speak to the Pharaohs of the world your words of justice, human dignity, and freedom, not only with our lips but in our lives. Fill us with your holy anger at the many ways men, women, and children have become commodities for another’s profit. Give us the will and courage to work for justice, freedom, and dignity for all people. Enlarge our hearts to love one another as you have loved us.

Bestow upon all victims of human trafficking your healing, peace, and hope that their lives may be made whole. Soften and turn the hearts of traffickers that there may be repentance and conversion in their lives. Strengthen the resolve of our nation, political leaders, and all who work for the well being of others that we may establish equal protection of the law and equal opportunities for all people.

All this we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.

In 90 Days - Read the Whole New Testament


Are you looking for a reading challenge with the Bible?

This is from Richard Beck's blogpost:

I recently discovered a Bible reading plan from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. This plan has you reading through the entire New Testament in 89 days.

The idea is simple. Each day read one chapter from the gospels, starting in Matthew 1 all the way through John 21. It'll take you 89 days to do this.

For the epistles, read two chapters each day, starting with Acts 1 all the way through Revelation 22. Two chapters from the epistles each day gets you through them all in 86 days.

So that's the plan. Each day, one chapter from the gospels and two from the epistles for 89 days.

I added a day because there will always be at least one day when things don't go according to plan.

Good luck!

July 30 Sermon (12 A)

O Lord, we pray that you would lead us to discover your hidden treasure in the field and awaken our hearts that we may have the eyes to see you, and be surprised by joy. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

I had a great time at Camp Washington. The theme for the week was Hospitality & Communion. We explored the Gospels and Jesus interactions with others in places of hospitality and meals. We also explored the communion of saints and their presence in our lives and at camp.

Today’s Gospel explores the idea of the Kingdom of God. Jesus used parables to talk about the kingdom of God…

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Finding the treasure, which is the Kingdom of God, is what our discipleship as Christians is about. When you are a parent, you often think about the seeds we plant in our kids. If you are absent because of work or service, how will they know what is important? Will they find the true treasure?

She is the mother of two boys and serves in the U.S. Army. When on deployment she does her best to stay in touch with her family through e-mail, Skype and cards. Still, she realized that she was missing out on the little day-to-day moments parents have with their kids: the funny things you find out about them, the way they think about stuff, the small discoveries that lead to profound wisdom.

Then she read about the "key jar." A teacher created a jar of questions. Every day the class would spend time drawing a question and sharing their answers. The questions were designed to "jump start" their thinking and "unlock" the values of their hearts - hence the name, "key jar."

So this Army mom created such a "key jar" for her family. The questions and answers made for interesting and revealing conversations around their dinner table:

If you were an inventor, what would you invent, and why? What do you want to accomplish by your next birthday? Who in your class makes you smile? What's something that is hard for you? How were you a helper today? If somebody from another planet came to Earth, what would he or she think of our world?

Many of the boys' answers were funny, but as many were thoughtful and sweet. This mom had a glimpse inside her sons' hearts and was proud and moved by what she saw and heard. [From "Key Jar" by Ashley Allen, Guideposts, May 2016, and Erin Waters, writing in momastery.com.]

Their "key jar" enables this mom and her boys to discover the pearls of great value they seek, the treasures within themselves and one another, the many discoveries and lessons they collect in the seeds planted each day. Sometimes we're surprised at the treasure we take for granted, the pearl in our midst that we overlook - and at other times, we realize that the hidden treasure we gave our all to obtain left us impoverished, the fine pearl we moved heaven and earth to possess cost us dearly.

As this family comes to understand in their taking on the questions in their "key jar," the hidden treasures and pearls of good value are the things of God’s kingdom: the love of family and friends, the support found in being part of a community, the sense of joy and fulfillment found in serving and giving for the sake of one other.

What happened at Camp Washington this past week was finding such treasure...

And I am not just talking about my role. As chaplain I did lead the worship, both the morning formation period and the compline that ended each night. And we looked for the pearl of great value, the Kingdom of God in our midst.

But the staff, through the love and compassion they shared with each camper, the fun times and the free play they engaged in. To the activities that each child signed up for, led by a staff member whose gifts helped them enjoy their activity. All that went on, even the space of Camp Washington helped them enjoy themselves in the beauty of God’s creation. What a joy it was to see such ministry going on!

Many seeds of life were planted this week, seeds of God’s love and understanding one’s self in God’s creation. We found the treasure, we found God in our midst, and we offered it to one another with hospitality.

It is about the Kingdom of God right now breaking forth…

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
~ The Bright Field by R. S. Thomas ~ 


(Amen.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Blessed are the Peacemakers

More than 1,300 teenagers gathered as the sun was setting at the Oklahoma City National Memorial on July 12 for a candlelight vigil. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Learn more here:

As EYE17 closes, ‘peacemakers’ make a path home

https://www.episcopalchurch.org/blog/eye

Watch the Opening and Closing Sermons:


Flat Jesus Comes to St. Peter's

Rowan received a Flat Jesus at EYE in Oklahoma.

Learn about it here:

Folks flat-out having fun with traveling laminated Jesus cutout

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sermon July 16 (Proper 10)

Jesus, you sow yourself
The Word of Truth, generously
The Word of Life, graciously

Defend us from the Evil One
Who seeks to snatch us away

Fortify us for hard times and the costly discipleship
That we may endure

Deliver us from distraction
From worldly desires and
All that would lure us and choke us with false promises

Till us
Turn us
Enrich us with every blessing of your Spirit
That we may become the good soil
Forever faithful and fruitful for you
Amen. (© 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia)

“Listen carefully my child to the master's instruction and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”

These words were written by St. Benedict 1500 years ago to guide the monks of his monastery. Since then, his rule has been adopted and used by countless monks and nuns and other Christians to help guide their Christian lives. His feast day, the day we remember him, was this past week.

I have always been struck by the opening sentence of his prologue: “Listen carefully … attend to them with the ear of your heart.” In the rush of our days, even in summer, we need to stop and listen, really listen, to the words that will guide our lives, attend to them with ear of our hearts. Listen to the masters instructions.

And what does Jesus say to the crowd that comes to hear him speak, “Listen.” And he tells them a parable. Now remember that a parable is not like an Aesop Fable with a moral at the end, it is not like the stories we so often hear.

“In the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) Jesus teaches predominately in parables. Teaching in parables was characteristic of Jesus’ style, especially his proclamations concerning the Kingdom of God. Though Jesus’ teaching style used storytelling conventions that were common in that time period, what he taught was novel. Jesus taught with newness and purpose, offering people a fresh perspective about God and the Kingdom of God. The novel twists in what Jesus taught in his parables made his audiences take notice, then and today; they captivate the imagination. A given parable’s significance appears when the realism or surface meaning of the story begins to break down, allowing the deeper meaning to penetrate the interior life of the hearer or reader.” (Arthur David Canales)

A parable is “where the ordinary has gone askew and thereby shocks us into realizing that the parable leads us into another way of thinking about life.” (John R. Donahue) So Jesus tells a parable to the crowd (and us) about a sower sowing seed on the ground. Notice the sower throws seed everywhere!

· Some falls on the path, birds eat
· Some on rocky ground, no root & withered away
· Some fall on ground that is chocked by thorns
· But some fall on good soil and produce grain, 100 fold, 60 and 30.

“Let anyone who has ears listen,” says Jesus. That’s the 9th verse, what we don’t have in today’s reading is the disciples flummoxed by what Jesus said, in the missing verses. When asked, he gives them an interpretation. The seed is the word of the Kingdom of God that is given freely to us:

· Some falls on the path & they don’t understand and Satan snatches it away
· Some on rocky ground, hear the word joyfully, but when trouble comes, they fall away
· Some fall on ground that is chocked by cares of the world and wealth, & it yields nothing
· But some fall on good soil and produce much fruit

The challenge for us is to make sure the Kingdom of God has good soil in us to take root. Clear out the rocks, the weeds & thorns… There is so much we can do in our busy, hectic world to make sure our hearts are receptive to what God is giving freely to us. And the first thing we do is…

Listen.

Once upon a time there was a little seed. Because it was only a seed, nobody seemed to notice or care. The seed didn't consider himself very important, either.

One day, the wind picked up the seed and threw the seed mercilessly into an open field. The sweltering sun beat down on the little seed; rain pounded the helpless seed into the ground; snow and ice trapped the shivering seed for long periods of time. The little seed was broken, confused and lonely.

Time went by. Then, one day, a traveler came up and sat beside the seed. "Thank you, O God, for this place," the seed heard the traveler say. "Excuse me." The seed spoke up. "What are you talking about?" People had stopped by his little plot of earth before, but no one had ever spoken like this. The seed thought the traveler was making fun of him.

The traveler was startled. "Who's speaking to me?"

"Me. The seed."

"The seed? You're no seed. You're a tree - a goliath of an oak!"

"Really?" asked the seed.

"Yes! Why else do you think people come here?"

"Why?"

"To rest under your shade. Don't you realize how you have grown?"

It took a moment for the seed to realize what the traveler was saying.

The seed smiled for the first time in his life. The years of restlessness and struggle, of brokenness and loneliness, finally made sense to him. "I am worth something," rejoiced the one-time little seed, now a great oak. [Adapted from a story by Novoneel Chakaborty.]

In this charming Indian parable, a simple seed learns the meaning of struggle and discovery, as the seed has taken root. In the first part of Jesus' parable of the sower, the seed sown is the Word of God - but in the interpretation, Jesus tells us the seed is the individual in whom the Word of God takes root.

We become the seed that was planted within our hearts. Listen says Benedict. Listen says Jesus. And the Spirit of God inside of us will help us find meaning in the parable because the Word of God is planted within our hearts to live out in our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Eucharistic Bread (Gluten-Free too!)

You may have heard that the Roman Catholic Church has outlawed gluten-free wafers/bread. You can read about it here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/08/vatican-outlaws-use-gluten-free-bread-holy-communion/

Here at St. Peter's we have bread baked by families (we use 2 recipes) for our Eucharistic Bread.  We also have wheat wafers and gluten-free wafers for those who need/prefer them.

What should we make of all this? Read these articles:

God and Gluten: Wheat, Tradition, and Eucharist

Bread: Becoming Who We Are

Protestant churches embrace gluten-free bread for Communion as Vatican reaffirms ban

Sermon July 9 (Proper 9)

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up from the shadows for the righteous: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants…”

When Christ calls his disciples to embrace the simple faith of little ones, he is not saying that we should be children. Christ is calling us, instead, to embrace a faith that is centered on the simple and profound love, compassion and hope that comes from God. What has been revealed to infants and children is love, which we as adults often forget and kids do not.

What I saw at the French Open this year reminded me of this…

Nicolas Almagro of Spain and Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina were facing off in a second-round match at the tournament in Paris. An hour-and-a-half into their deadlocked match, Almagro slid on the clay and pulled up with an injury to his knee. A recurring knee injury had worsened as the match went on. He dropped his racket in resignation and covered his face with both hands; he fell back on the red clay, his chest heaving as he cried. The match was over - and maybe Almagro's career.

Seeing his opponent in pain, del Potro swung one leg over the net and headed toward Almagro. The two have known each other since they were teenagers competing in the junior ranks. As medical personnel ran onto the court, del Potro crouched beside Almagro to comfort him. He got a bottle of water, opened it for Almagro, and helped him to his feet. Del Potro embraced the disconsolate Almagro; he then helped him over to their chairs, plopped down next to him, tousled his hair as he tried to console him.

Del Potro understood immediately what Almagro was going through: the winner of 2009 U.S. Open has struggled with his own injuries throughout his career, as well. He said he tried to lift Almagro's spirit by mentioning positive things in his life, to put his continued injury frustrations in tennis in perspective. The two players departed the court to a standing ovation.

"I tried to - I don't know - tried to find good words for that moment," Del Potro said after the match. "I told him to try to be calm. And I told him to think about his family, his baby. And sometimes the heart is first than the tennis match or the tennis life." [The New York Times, Associated Press, June 2, 2017.]

The yoke of Christ's love and humility transforms an intense tennis match into a moment of compassion. Jesus calls us to embrace a faith that enables us to see one another with the eyes of God: with love that is not compromised by self-interest and rationalization; with compassion that is not measured but offered totally and unreservedly; with hope that is centered in gratitude for the many ways God's presence is revealed in our midst.

Such faithful love is embraced and practiced with child-like directness and hope. It is what Del Potro gave to Almagro on the court that day.

In the Gospel, Jesus takes this love & invites us to participate in that easy yoke he has, to turn over our burdens and to trust him and take that light burden on. Our challenge is to live out of such love in our lives that the wisdom we have from Jesus is vindicated by the deeds that we do.

One of the masters of Zen Buddhism is a priest named Tetsugen Doko, who was the first to translate the holy books of his faith, the Sutras, into Japanese.

In the 17th Century, the priest sought to print several thousand copies of the books in order to make the texts of his religion available to everyone. He traveled the length and breadth of Japan to raise the money for the printing. Rich and poor alike donated to the project. The priest expressed equal gratitude to each donor, whether their gift amounted to hundreds of pieces of gold or a few pennies.

After ten long years, Tetsugen had enough money for the printing. But just as the making of the holy books was about to begin, the river Uji overflowed its banks, leaving thousands of people without food and shelter. The priest halted the project immediately and used all of the money he worked so hard to raise to help the hungry and homeless.

Then Tetsugen began the work of raising the funds all over again. It took another ten years of travel and begging before he collected the money he needed to publish the holy book. But an epidemic spread across the country. Again the priest gave away all he had collected to care the sick, the suffering and dying.

A third time Tetsugen set out on his travels and, twenty years later, his dream of having the holy books printed in Japanese was finally realized. The printing blocks that produced the first edition are on display at the Obaku Monastery in Kyoto. Many of the Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen actually published three editions of the holy book -- the first two are invisible but far superior to the third.

Wisdom is vindicated by our deeds.

Jesus invites us to embrace the joyful sense of fulfillment that can only be realized by learning from his example of humility and gratitude, to take on his humble, joyful yoke of service to one another as we journey together to the dwelling place of God.

Like Tetsugen, we proclaim the Gospel most effectively and meaningfully not in words but in the deeds of generosity and compassion we extend to others, like Del Potro did on the tennis court.

May our work, the deeds we do for justice, for love, for hope, our dedication to reconciliation & forgiveness, our welcome to all who approach our tables, make the love of God, a living reality in our own time and place for the youngest among us to the oldest. Amen.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Episcopal Youth Event

Episcopal Youth Event EYE

Rowan will be representing St. Peter's and the Episcopal Church in CT at this year's Episcopal Youth Event in Oklahoma.

Episcopal Youth Event, July 10-14

Every three years, in accordance with General Convention Resolution #1982-D079, the Episcopal Church convenes an international youth event so “that the energy of the youth of the Episcopal Church can continue to be utilized in active ministry as members of the Body of Christ.”

This year, the 2017 Episcopal Youth Event (EYE17) is set to welcome more than 1,300 participants, workshop leaders, speakers, and volunteers to the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond from July 10-14.

The Theme for EYE17, Path to Peace, is a call for participants to focus on peacemaking and the ways each member of the Jesus Movement can pursue a path to peace.

The schedule for EYE17 is here: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/eye/eye17-packing-list-draft-schedule and includes three full days of Worship, Plenary Sessions, Praxis (workshops), and hospitality. On Wednesday of EYE17, the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma is sponsoring ‘Oklahoma City Day’ as a pilgrimage of sorts to various locations in the area, including a visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum and a candlelight vigil at the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial.
Even if you’re not in Edmond, you can follow along with everything happening at EYE17:
You can also follow EYE17 via the EYE17 mobile app:
The 2017 Episcopal Youth Event was developed and planned by a team of youth, adult mentors, and Presiding Bishop’s staff: http://bit.ly/EYE17MPT.

(info by by Wendy Johnson)

Independence Day Prayer

On July 4th, The Episcopal Church joins the United States in celebrating Independence Day, marking the day the country declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1776.

This is an op-ed by a fellow Episcopalian:

Let me take this opportunity to remind Episcopalians in the United States that many of us do not consider the words -- "the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us" -- in the Independence Day collect to be accurate. Look around your congregations and reflect if all the ancestors of the "us" got their liberty then. Listen to the words of Collect (BCP, p. 242) for Independence Day July 4th:

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

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

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

Also the Canadians’ Canada Day collect (July 1) also works for us in the USA and all the other countries in which The Episcopal Church is.

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

--Byron Rushing, Vice-President of the House of Deputies

A prayer I like for “Our Country” is #18 on page 820 of our BCP:


Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly pray that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in you to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer of Welcome (to Open Our Hearts)


A prayer as we enter:

O God, make the doors of this church wide enough to receive all who seek peace, love and  fellowship, yet narrow enough to squeeze out envy, pride and strife. Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children, or a barrier to people with disabilities. Let its doors be open and inviting to all who enter, and may its walls resound with praise and the challenge to live the way of Christ.May we leave as brothers and sisters, to live the way of Christ, declare the love of God, and strive after God’s kingdom of peace, justice and love in the world. Amen.

a second version:

Lord, our God, source of all life, you reveal yourself in the depths of our being drawing us to share in your life and love. Bless each of us as we respond to your Spirit’s invitation to open wide the doors to Christ. Make the doors of our hearts, our homes and communities wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, narrow enough to shut out all envy, prejudice and pride. Let us hasten to welcome the stranger, and so welcome your Son. We make this prayer in his name, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
 
original version: 

O God, make the door of this house wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife. Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling-block to children, nor to straying feet, but rugged and strong enough to turn back the tempter’s power. God make the door of this house the gateway to Thine eternal kingdom. Amen.

(a prayer by Bishop Thomas Ken, 1637–1711, to be found at St Stephen’s Walbrook, London)

Welcome Prayer & Song (from the sermon)


Welcome Prayer by Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk

Welcome, welcome, welcome. I welcome everything that comes to me today because I know it’s for my healing. I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations and conditions. I let go of my desire for power and control. I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure. I let go of my desire for survival and security. I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself. I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within. Amen.

Welcome Table by Dan Zanes & Friends with the Blind Boys of Alabama

I'm gonna sit at the welcome table
I'm gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days, hallelujah
I'm gonna sit at the welcome table
Sit at the welcome table one of these days, one of these days

I'm gonna feast on milk and honey (Oh yes)
I'm gonna feast on milk and honey one of these days, hallelujah
I'm gonna feast on milk and honey
Feast on milk and honey one of these days, one of these days

I'm gonna tell God how you treat me (yes!)
I'm gonna to tell God how you treat me one of these days, hallelujah
I'm gonna tell God how you treat me
Tell God how you treat me one of these days, one of these days

(Yes, hallelujah - Welcome table, one of these days)

All God's children gonna sit together (yes!)
All God's children gonna sit together one of these days, hallelujah
All God's children gonna sit together
All God's children gonna sit together, one of these days, one of these days

I'm gonna sit at the welcome table (yes!)
I'm gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days, hallelujah
I'm gonna sit at the welcome table
Sit at the welcome table one of these days, one of these days
Sit at the welcome table one of these days, one of these days (yes!)
Gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days, one of these days

(Traditional Spiritual arranged by Dan Zanes)

July 2 Sermon (Proper 8)

O Lord, our God, source of all life, you reveal yourself in the depths of our being drawing us to share in your life and love. Bless each of us as we respond to your Spirit’s invitation to open wide the doors to Christ. Make the doors of our hearts & our homes, our church & our communities wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, narrow enough to shut out all envy, prejudice and pride. Let us hasten to welcome the stranger, and so welcome your Son. We make this prayer in his name, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

How might we welcome Jesus into our lives and hearts…

There is a prayer called the Welcoming Prayer. “It’s not an ancient practice, though it’s an ancient idea.” Mary Mrozowski of Brooklyn, New York — one of the first leaders of a method called centering prayer — developed this prayer, inspired by an early 18th century spiritual work. Father Thomas Keating brought it to fruition.

The Welcoming Prayer is a method of consenting to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional reactions to events and situations in daily life. It is a "letting go" in the present moment, in the midst of the activity of our ordinary life, and giving it to God.

Practicing the Welcoming Prayer offers us the opportunity to make choices that respond instead of reacting to the present moment. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, the practice empowers us to take appropriate action as freely and lovingly as possible in any situation that presents itself.

"To welcome and to let go is one of the most radically loving, faith-filled gestures we can make in each moment of each day. It is an open-hearted embrace of all that is in ourselves and in the world." — Mary Mrozowski

“The method has three steps:

1. Focus, feel and sink in — Feel the feeling. Don’t run away from it or fight it.

Stay with this until you really experience a connection to the feeling or emotion on not just an emotional but also a physical level.

2. Welcome — Affirm the rightness of where you are and acknowledge God’s presence in the moment by saying: “Welcome, [fear/anger/etc.].”

Don’t just say this and move on. Repeat it and sit with the feeling until you experience a genuine sense that you welcome it, that you are not fighting against it and that God is present with you right now.

3. Let go — Say “God, I give you my [fear/anger/etc.],” or another phrasing if you find it more helpful.

At this point, you can turn the feeling or emotion over to God and let it go. If you haven’t truly felt it and welcomed it in, you may still experience resistance here. Stay in the letting go, or turn back to the focus or welcome stages as appropriate.” (information taken from here)

So get comfy. Relax. Slow your breath. Think about what’s most on your mind at the moment. Hold on to it. Let us say the welcome prayer (you can find it in the next blog post). Welcome & let go.

Leanna Tankersley in a book that includes a chapter on the welcoming prayer says this, “I love these lines, this concept, this practice. The Welcoming Prayer takes us out of our heads and into a space where we stop, even for a very few minutes, our analyzing and figuring. We relinquish our strategies and allow God to work within us, in the place where we are far more malleable than our mind. We are opening ourselves up to a divine encounter which is never a bad idea.” (Leanna Tankersley, Brazen, 2016. pg 200).

This prayer opens us up to welcome Jesus into our very hearts and lives. Why do this? Because by stopping for a moment and welcoming God in, we can deal with our thoughts/feelings/emotions/situations. There is an episode of NCIS…

Palmer: How do you do it — block out fear?
the older agent Gibbs: You don’t. It’s what you do with it.

The welcoming prayer is a way to deal with fear or anything else of our lives, to turn it over to God and welcome God into our very moment, to welcome God who is already in our midst into that fear, emotion or whatever we are dealing with. Mary Mrozowski, “I am where I need to be. Everything around me includes and hides the sacred.”

But welcoming Jesus into our midst, finding the sacred is more than this…

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple-- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

The reward of such welcoming is a life well lived…

For more than fifty of his more than eighty years, Nurney Mason was a barber in the United States House of Representatives. Mason cut hair out of a tiny booth in the basement of the Rayburn Office Building - his little stall saw nearly as much history as the floor of the Capitol itself. And every day, he brought to his job not only his barbering skills, but kindness, optimism and encouragement. He would greet everyone - whether powerful member of Congress or lowest-level staffer - with a solid handshake and a knowing smile. Mason stayed upbeat, day after day, the vibrations of his clippers surely jarring his wrists over the half century he worked.

He was asked by one of his Congressional customers how he stayed so upbeat and happy all the time.

Nurney Mason replied simply, "I just make it right here. I create joy where I stand" [From The President's Devotional by Joshua DuBois.]

Nurney Mason possesses the heart and soul of hospitality that Jesus exalts in today's Gospel. Mason responds to God's call to create joy where he stood, to reveal God's compassion and peace in his tiny booth to anyone who came by for a haircut. Such is our call, wherever you live and work and play, to welcome everyone into your midst, and to share such joy, even if it’s just a cup of cool water.

Such hospitality & welcome seeks out every opportunity to use every gift God has given us, to devote every resource at our disposal to make the love of God a living reality in every life we can touch.

We began with a welcoming prayer, letting go and giving it to God, we turned to see how such welcome towards others is how we are called to live, and now let me end with an old Spiritual - Welcome Table – for the song will remind us that God invites us all, and I mean all, to share at this table - I’m gonna sit at the welcome table with all God’s children… (you can find the words in the next blog post) Amen.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Sonnet for St. Peter

"The 29th of June is St. Peter’s day, when we remember the disciple who, for all his many mistakes, knew how to recover and hold on, who, for all his waverings was called by Jesus ‘the rock’, who learned the threefold lesson that every betrayal can ultimately be restored by love. It is fitting therefore that it is at Petertide that new priests and deacons are ordained, on the day they remember a man whose recovery from mistakes and openness to love can give them courage. So I post this poem not only for St. Peter but for all those being ordained this weekend and in memory of my own ordination as a priest on this day 26 years ago." (Malcolm Guite)

This poem comes from the collection Sounding the Seasons published by Canterbury Press. You can also buy it in the US.

St. Peter

Impulsive master of misunderstanding
You comfort me with all your big mistakes;
Jumping the ship before you make the landing,
Placing the bet before you know the stakes.
I love the way you step out without knowing,
The way you sometimes speak before you think,
The way your broken faith is always growing,
The way he holds you even when you sink.
Born to a world that always tried to shame you,
Your shaky ego vulnerable to shame,
I love the way that Jesus chose to name you,
Before you knew how to deserve that name.
And in the end your Saviour let you prove
That each denial is undone by love.

-- By Malcolm Guite 

Icon info. can be found here.

Remembering St. Peter






On June 29th, the Church will remember the martyrdoms of Sts. Peter and Paul, apostles and martyrs.

While there are no explicit testaments to the deaths of St. Peter or St. Paul in Scripture, and though they were not martyred at the same time, tradition has placed the commemoration of their deaths together, as a result of the Neronian persecution of Christians in 64 A.D. Placing the commemoration on June 29th was likely a reference to an event in 258 A.D. when the remains of the martyrs were moved from their resting places to avoid desecration during persecutions ordered by Valerian.

According to Holy Women, Holy Men, the martyrdoms of these apostles were markedly different. The book records, “As a Roman citizen, Paul would probably have been beheaded with a sword” (HWHM, 446). His death would have been faster and less painful than that of Peter, who, tradition holds, was crucified upside-down at his own request, considering himself unworthy of dying the same way as Jesus.

Images of Sts. Peter and Paul often include the instruments of their martyrdoms. Paul may be depicted holding a sword and holding open a book that reads “Spiritus Gladius,” or “sword of the Spirit.” This references both Paul’s beheading with a sword and his letter to the Ephesians, in which he asks the Church to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). Peter, along with his traditional symbols of keys to the kingdom of heaven, is regularly depicted with an inverted cross.

The relationship between the two can be instructive to us as modern-day Christians. From Holy Women, Holy Men, “Paul, the well-educated and cosmopolitan Jew of the Dispersion, and Peter, the uneducated fisherman from Galilee, had differences of opinion in the early years of the Church concerning the mission to the Gentiles. More than once, Paul speaks of rebuking Peter for his continued insistence on Jewish exclusiveness; yet their common commitment to Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel proved stronger than their differences; and both eventually carried that mission to Rome” (HWHM, 446). Where might we within the Church learn to appreciate each other’s differing viewpoints? How can our common commitment to Jesus Christ and the Gospel carry us to the testing ground and beyond?

Collect for St. Peter and St. Paul

Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that your Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Christopher Sikkema

June 25 Sermon (Proper 7)

God of grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit you have given us new life in the waters of baptism; strengthen us to live in righteousness and true holiness, that we may grow into the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

There was a picture on Facebook making the rounds recently, the photo was from Syria, and it showed Muslims in one of the destroyed towns sitting down for an evening meal, breaking their fast for Ramadan. I was struck by their faithfulness in the midst of such death and tragedy, crumbled ruins all around them. [The pic is from the Syrian town of Douma, where hundreds were spotted sitting at a table, sharing a meal. This outdoor feast was organized by Adeleh Foundation, a rebel-affiliated charity group mostly run from Turkey.]

It reminded me of a picture I saw from WW II, of a shell of a church or cathedral destroyed in one of the many bombings, and yet the parishioners were there in the aftermath, continuing to have their worship in that space.

Such is faith in the midst of death & destruction. Our faith as Christians to live lie in the midst of death is proclaimed through our baptism.

As St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

In Paul’s letter, he reminds us of the truth of our baptism: we were baptized into his death and his new life. We have made a journey with him, and continue to make it in our lives from his life, into his death and resurrection.

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

Such union is what we all have with Jesus through baptism, which Rowan Rose will experience this morning in her baptism. It is a baptism of trust, of hope, of intimate connection with our God who loves each of us and has made us in God’s image. For by the grace of God through baptism “we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.”

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” In baptism, we are alive in Jesus through which we are also alive to the world & we are called to live without fear.

Jesus said in the Gospel this morning, “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known...Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

God is still loving us & walking with us, the one who created us, even in the worst of our circumstances.

It was just a few weeks after her surgery; the chemotherapy treatments had begun. Every morning, she would comb her hair — and every morning she would pull out anther clump of her beautiful hair from the brush. This side effect was hitting her harder and harder.

One morning, she felt the top of her head and, for the first time, she could count the strands. But she felt strangely at peace. She held each strand — just as God, in his providence, could count them from the moment God breathed his life into her. She became aware of God present in the love of her family and friends who were supporting and suffering with her. She remembers:

“I felt comfort knowing that God knew how many strands were in my brush, on my pillow, in my hat, and in my hand. God had counted them all. With or without my hair, God knew me and what my future held. I was still afraid — of the cancer, of the chemo, the upcoming brain scan, and its results — but I knew that God would be with me through it all.” [Adapted from “I lost my hair but not my faith” by Kathryn Lay, Catholic Digest, May 2008.]

In the Gospels, Jesus reveals a God who loves us and cares for us and every strand of creation from the sparrows that fly to every hair on our heads. Jesus calls us beyond our fears and insecurities; he invites us to embrace a spirit of joy and possibility beyond our comfort zones. 3 times in today’s Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid, that we have nothing to fear in this world, for God has proven his love and acceptance of us unreservedly.

Jesus calls us to embrace his vision of hope that is the opposite of fear — hope that matches our uncertainty of the unknown with the certainty of the love of God; hope that can only be found and embraced once we reach beyond our own fears to confront the fears and heal the hurts of others; hope that the Good Fridays of our lives will be ultimately be transformed by God’s grace into Easter.

"Weeping may endure for a night," says the Psalmist, "but joy comes in the morning."

Sometimes we are called to be the vehicles of God’s love for those desperate to realize that Godly presence in their lives now; sometimes we are the recipients of such blessings of forgiveness and compassion through others. But it is up to us, the baptized, to live into that hope. We deny the truth of Jesus by our silence in the face of injustice, our protecting our own interests at the expense of the common good, our failure to respond to Christ calling us in the cries of the poor & the abused, the sick and the war weary.

May we find peace and reason to hope in the wisdom of God who has “counted . . . all the hairs of your head,” a providence that manifests itself in the love of family, the comfort of friends, the support of church and community. And let us share that peace and hope with our weary world. Amen.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

For Such A Time As This: A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Advocacy


We will continue by fasting for one day a month—the 21st of each month—through the close of the 115th Congress at the end of 2018. We fast on the 21st of the month because that is the day when 90% of SNAP benefits run out for families. We hope you will keep the focus on protecting programs to help hungry people struggling with poverty and that you will encourage a monthly fast on the 21st.

We are calling for prayer, fasting, and advocacy. Fasting is an effort to clear our bodies, Fasting from food is one option that many will choose. But we invite people to take on the discipline of self-denial, which will help them rely more fully on God. Some may fast from technology, social media, or television. These days of fasting should also be days of advocacy to oppose cuts to public programs that help hungry people who are living in poverty.

The fast is inspired by Esther in the Hebrew Scriptures, who bravely risked her life to ask the Persian king to save the Jewish people — her people — from genocide. In the days leading up to her meeting with the king, she called for a time of national prayer and fasting among her people.

Learn more: http://bread.org/blog/call-such-time
& http://www.episcopalchurch.org/events/such-time-call-prayer-fasting-and-advocacy

A prayer: Loving God, whose hand is open to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Break down the barriers of ignorance, indifference, and greed, we pray, that the multitudes who hunger and long for sustenance may share your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

World Refugee Day




World Refugee Day: Tuesday, June 20

According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, there are now more than 60 million refugees and displaced people worldwide. This is the largest number of refugees the world has known anytime since World War II.

There are three durable solutions for refugees: repatriation, integration, and resettlement. Thankfully, in many cases, refugees are able to repatriate or return to their home countries once the conflicts there have ceased and civil society has stabilized. Other refugees, who may not be able to return home, are able instead to integrate into the country of first asylum – the country to which they fled for safety. The remaining group of refugees – less than 1 in 100 refugees – is resettled to another nation.

Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) is the refugee resettlement service of The Episcopal Church – a living example of the Church’s commitment to be a presence of hope, comfort, and welcome to refugees. Each year, Episcopal Migration Ministries provides a wide spectrum of services, including resettlement, employment, and intensive medical and mental health services, to more than 5,000 refugees, asylees, special immigrant visa holders, and Cuban/Haitian entrants. These new Americans receive assistance as they rebuild their lives in security and peace in 30 communities across the United States. In addition to Episcopal Migration Ministries’ collaboration with local affiliate partners to welcome and serve arriving refugees, EMM staff members equip, support, and empower dioceses, congregations, and individuals to learn about and find their own place in the welcoming ministry of refugee resettlement. Additional information, videos, and resources about Episcopal Migration Ministries may be found at www.episcopalchurch.org/emm

A prayer: Almighty and Loving God, you who have crossed the boundaries of Heaven and Earth to be with your people, visit those who must flee their homes because of violence and oppression and lead them to a land of safety. We give thanks to you that you hear our intercessions on behalf of our refugee brothers and sisters. We thank you that love swallows fear, that in your compassion we learn to walk with those who suffer, that when we give of ourselves we receive far more, and that when we receive those who stand knocking at our doors, we receive Christ the Beloved One. May all praise, glory and honor be to our God, the Most High. Amen.


June 18 Sermon (6A)

Blessed Lord, be near to defend us, within to refresh us, around to preserve us, before to guide us, behind to correct us, above to bless us, who lives and reign with the Father & the Holy Spirit, ever one God. Amen.

God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. – Paul’s bold statement in his letter to the Romans is a helpful reminder that God continues to be with us, pouring love into our hearts, guiding each of us through the Holy Spirit.

Through such faith, Jesus calls his disciples to go out from him to proclaim the Good News in the world. And how do they tell about this Good News?

Jesus says to them, “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is near – the signs of which: the sick are cured, dead raised, lepers cleansed and demons cast out. The sick, the dead & dying, the lepers, and those with demons are the outcasts of society. The poor and neglected, the forgotten. They are not the powerful movers and shakers. Jesus wanted everyone to taste the goodness of God and Jesus sends his disciples to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

And in this ministry that they were sent out to do, they are not to take advantage of it, no payment is part of it. They are following Jesus. Proclaiming the Good News for The Kingdom of Heaven has come near to the lost and suffering. But it is not always easy living out this calling.

A young priest had recently begun his first call. One day he visited an older priest, a retired pastor who had served as his mentor. The senior cleric welcomed him warmly and asked how things are going.

As they talked, the new pastor lamented the many demands made on the church's charity.

"I know we're supposed to help the poor, but these people are asking for help with a bus ticket or a utility bill or gas money or food. Is that really their story? The last thing they're likely to spend that money on is a bus ticket or a utility bill or gas or food. I'm not naïve. They'll probably spend it on something we shouldn't be supporting, something that I certainly don't support."

Finally, the young priest sighed, "It gets exhausting justifying who I'm going to help and why."

The older priest said nothing, letting his young colleague's words hang in the air. Then the older priest replied, "What business is it of yours to determine who gets help and who doesn't? Why exhaust yourself with that burden? You are a follower of Jesus Christ. Your task, therefore, is to share out of the wealth of God's abundance. Your work is to love others as God loves you. Your job is simply to give. Judgement is God's domain - and he's much better at it than you and I are."

Compassionate charity is at the heart of discipleship. But Jesus calls us to give and serve not according to some divinely-sanctioned measuring device or formula to determine what is "fair" and "justifiable" charity;

Dorothy Day put it this way – “The Gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the undeserving and deserving poor.”

For the purpose of our giving to others is not to make us feel good about ourselves or superior to the poor and broken. Jesus calls us to give in a spirit of gratitude for the blessings we have received in our lives, to realize that whatever blessings we have received by God are meant to be shared. The good we do - healing, restoring, lifting up, forgiving - should not be statements of dogmatic conviction but prayers of humble gratitude to God who has loved us and blessed us abundantly and who has called us to give it away to others.

And sometimes, what we are to give from our abundance, may simply be the space and love for someone longing for acceptance and a place to be.

Once there was a struggling young Christian who felt she couldn’t share the truth about who she was and avoided intimacy with anyone she met in the church because she assumed straightaway that she would meet with rejection and exclusion. Eventually she found the courage to open her heart to a gentle companion, who simply said, ‘What you have told me is that you are a human being. I see that as cause for compassion, not for condemnation.’ Those words changed her life. From that moment on the young Christian found a freedom she’d never known, and resolved to spend her life having the liberating effect on others that her companion’s wisdom had had on her. She realized that there was something deeper than that others had rejected her. What was really going on was that she’d rejected herself – or at least a part of her that was a source of life and growth and hope. She’d been the builder that had rejected the stone. In devoting her life to liberating others who had known similar rejection, she turned the stone that she had rejected into the cornerstone. (Sam Wells)

Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith, the stone rejected by builders, came down to us to heal the broken, bring life to the dead, cast out demons of darkness, and bring back into the fold those who are lost or marginalized.

We likewise as followers of Jesus are called to do the same in our lives to reach out in love and “kindness, for everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden…” (Rev. John Watson)

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.

What will you do today to proclaim the Good News?

Amen.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trinity Sunday Sermon

O Lord our God, accept our fervent prayers and in the multitude of your mercies, look with compassion upon us and all who turn to you for help; for you are gracious, O lover of souls, and to you we give glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

On this Trinity Sunday, as we consider our relationship with God & understanding of God, I think of the words of St. Julian of Norwich, a saint from the 14th century in England. This is from her book, Revelations of Divine Love:

"So when he made us, God almighty was our kindly Father, and God all-wise our kindly Mother, and the Holy Spirit their love and goodness; all one God, one Lord… I saw the blessed Trinity working. I saw that there were these three attributes- fatherhood, motherhood and lordship- all in one God… In this uniting together he is our real, true husband, and we his beloved wife and sweetheart. He is never displeased with his wife, as God says: 'I love you and you love me and our love will never be broken.'"

Julian saw our triune God in aspects of both fatherhood and motherhood, but most importantly, in a loving relationship with us, God’s creation. The lover of souls as that opening prayer put it. To which, our connection with Jesus who we follow is important, Again in Julian’s words:

“And Christ rejoices that He is our Brother, and Jesus rejoices that He is our Savior.” Again it is relational for he is our brother, but Julian also reminds of his saving work, for he is our savior too.

So what does our brother and savior Jesus ask of us today? I think of his last words in Matthew that we heard in the Gospel of Matthew this morning.

To the 11 disciples, he calls them to go and make disciples, baptize and teach the way of following Jesus, and to remember that Jesus is with us always...

That call is also to us – to go and make disciples, baptize (which we will do today! welcoming little Arlan into the household of God) and then we are called to teach the commandments that Jesus has given us.

As one author puts it: “If we are going to make disciples, we need to teach commandments. If we ourselves are to follow Jesus, we are to obey commandments. But what are the commandments of Jesus? You can find various lists online. They certainly include the commandment to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbors. There are many more. We are to forgive others. We are to repeat Jesus' last meal by celebrating Holy Eucharist. We are not to store up treasures on earth. We are to love our enemies. These are not easy--impossible even--to obey all the time. As we say in our baptismal covenant, we do these things with God's help. And as Sunday's Gospel reminds us, God abides with us always, "I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).” [Rev. Scott Gunn]

In other words, Jesus is asking us to follow him and live out those commandments of love and forgiveness, of celebration and fasting in what we say and do. It is not the easy road, and we will often fall short of following Jesus, but the importance remains on us journeying with Jesus, with this God we understand in three ways (F + S + HS), who loves us always and is always with us.

A woman in need of help saw a row of cars parked at a church at noontime. Hoping that someone there might be able to help, she went inside and found a group gathered in a small meeting room. She asked if the church might be handing out food, but she was told that she had come on the wrong day. This was the weekly midday Scripture study group. The food pantry would be open next week.

The woman was embarrassed for interrupting the Bible study, but said her family needed food that day, not next week. The parishioners apologized and said that she would simply have to wait until the twice-monthly food giveaway came around again. With a look of disappointment, the woman backed out of the church door and walked away empty-handed.

That's when the group was interrupted a second time - but this time, the interruption was transformative rather than intrusive. Several participants got up from their chairs and followed the woman out the door. They did their best to meet her needs from their own resources. A couple of the women even offered to give her a ride to the grocery store and then back to her home with the food they had helped her to purchase for her family.

In that interrupted Scripture study, the group was able to hear in the distressed woman's voice more than a plea for food. They heard God's invitation to partner in the work of making whole again the world that God loves so much. [From "Living by the Word" by Cleophus J. LaRue, The Christian Century, June 24, 2015.]

That perfect love that binds God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to us - manifests itself in our lives in ways so ordinary that we often barely notice. God "interrupts" our lives in different voices and people and circumstances - all guiding us to the meaning and purpose of our lives – which is realized in embracing others and being embraced in the creative, sustaining love of God.

In the words of Julian of Norwich – “Our life too is threefold- being, growth, and perfection.” Each of us is made in the image of our triune God, for we have our being from God (our creation), we are continually growing in our life and finally we will find that perfection is found in love.

On this Trinity Sunday, may we know ourselves to be loved by God so deeply, that we are his beloved, his sweetheart, that what we say and do in our lives today, this week and always, is a response out of that love towards others & our God.

Amen.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Climate Change Sermon


If you had forgotten (and who hasn't?) that I preached on climate change and what we should be doing, you can look back to February 12 when I preached on the subject in connection with Moses and his last words to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 30).

You can find it here:

Choose Life (Climate Change)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Paris Climate Agreement

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry has issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s action and the Paris Climate Accord.

With the announcement by President Donald Trump of his decision to withdraw the commitment made by the United States to the Paris Climate Accord, I am reminded of the words of the old spiritual which speaks of God and God's creation in these words, "He's got the whole world in his hands." The whole world belongs to God, as Psalm 24 teaches us. God's eye is ever on even the tiny sparrow, as Jesus taught and the song says (Luke 12:6). And we human beings have been charged with being trustees, caretakers, stewards of God's creation (Genesis 1:26-31).

The United States has been a global leader in caring for God's creation through efforts over the years on climate change. President Trump’s announcement changes the U.S.’s leadership role in the international sphere. Despite this announcement, many U.S. businesses, states, cities, regions, nongovernmental organizations and faith bodies like the Episcopal Church can continue to take bold action to address the climate crisis. The phrase, “We’re still in,” became a statement of commitment for many of us who regardless of this decision by our President are still committed to the principles of the Paris Agreement.

Faith bodies like the Episcopal Church occupy a unique space in the worldwide climate movement. In the context of the United Nations, the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, we are an international body representing 17 countries in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia and the Pacific. We also are an admitted observer organization to the UNFCCC process, empowered to bring accredited observers to the UN climate change meetings. Furthermore, the Episcopal Church is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the third-largest Christian tradition, and we remain committed to ensuring that Anglicans everywhere are empowered to undertake bold action on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

We know that caring for God's creation by engaging climate change is not only good for the environment, but also good for the health and welfare of our people. The U.S. is currently creating more clean jobs faster than job creation in nearly every other sector of the economy, and unprecedented acceleration in the clean energy sector is also evident in many other major economies.

My prayer is that we in the Episcopal Church will, in this and all things, follow the way, the teachings and the Spirit of Jesus by cultivating a loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God, all others in the human family, and with all of God's good creation.

In spite of hardships and setbacks, the work goes on. This is God's world. And we are all his children. And, "He's got the whole world in his hands."

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate - The Episcopal Church

Prayer:

Almighty God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honor thee with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of thy bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

D-Day Prayer


Franklin Roosevelt's D-Day Prayer
June 6, 1944

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far. And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas -- whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them--help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sermon: Easter 7 (Memorial Day)

O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

With the Ascension of Jesus, Jesus ascends to heaven, he no longer is with the disciples on earth. No longer with them to instruct and guide them, his ministry (his Good News!) has become their ministry, their news to tell, for the Spirit of God rested upon the Disciples to help them for they are now called to be God’s little helpers in creation, to do what God has called them to do.

The late Fred Rogers - Mister Rogers to five generations of young TV viewers - told this story of his own childhood in his 2002 book The Mister Rogers Parenting Book:

'When I was a boy I would see scary things in the news, and my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's comforting words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."

Bless Mrs. Rogers for such inspired advice! Sure enough, in any bad news, little Fred was always able to find someone - a firefighter, an ambulance driver, a doctor or nurse, someone just passing by - trying to help. In the many tragedies of our own day - humankind has stood in awe of the extraordinary bravery and the inspiring generosity of men and women who put their own lives on the line to bring healing and to begin the long process of rebuilding lives devastated by war, famine and disaster. They are full of the Spirit, the Advocate in our midst; their work is the work God entrusted to his Son and that his Son now entrusts to us.

Who are the helpers on this Memorial Day weekend, those who proudly served, I think of…

Private First Class Desmond T. Doss (wife Dorothy) - sources: wikipedia, people.com

· awarded the Medal of Honor – Oct 12, 1945 (President Truman)
· only conscientious objector to receive the award in WW II
· raised in Lynchburg, Virginia & his mother raised him in the Seventh-day Adventist Church – his faith elements: Sabbath-keeping, nonviolence, and vegetarian.
· After Pearl Harbor, enlisted, but refused to carry a weapon, wanted to help in other ways
· Suffered much for his conscientious objection (physical/psychological abuse, threats)
· Assigned as a medic to 2nd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division
· At the Battle of Okinawa (his 3rd major battle) – saved at least 75 soldiers at the Maeda Escapement (Hacksaw Ridge)
· Facing heavy machine gun and artillery fire, Doss repeatedly ran alone into the kill zone, carrying wounded soldiers to the edge of the cliff and singlehandedly lowering them down to safety below. Each time he saved a man’s life, Doss prayed out loud, “Lord, please help me get one more.”
· Doss was wounded himself 4 times in Okinawa before finally being evacuated. His wounds prevented him from being a carpenter stateside, as he had hoped.
· He died in 2006. He has one son - Desmond Jr. says he does recall asking his father a personal question about that night. “What on Earth were you thinking?” he says with a laugh. “And I never really got the answer I was looking for.” Desmond Jr remembers wanting to ask, “Did he not understand that it’s not right to stand up in the middle of a hail fire of bullets?”
· From the medal of honor citation “Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions, Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.”
· He lived his faith – he was God’s helper on Okinawa – saving one soldier’s life at a time.

Lady of the Lamp – Nurse Florence Nightingale sources: - pbs.org, lentmadness.org

Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy, in 1820 to a wealthy British family. Despite this background, Nightingale heard a call from God in 1837 to serve and care for others. She was expected to marry well, have children, and carry on the family legacy. Instead, she answered the call she heard from God and would became the founder of modern nursing practice.

In 1855, she organized and trained a group of nurses to help the soldiers injured during the Crimean War. Appalled by the primitive hospital facilities, the lack of beds, bandages, and bathing facilities, all wrapped into a decidedly filthy, vermin-ridden environment, Nightingale wrote, “the British high command had succeeded in creating the nearest thing to hell on earth.” Initially, her nurses were not allowed to see the suffering soldiers and, instead, ordered to clean the hospital floors. As the casualties mounted and the physicians became overwhelmed, Nightingale’s nurses were finally enlisted to help. (link)

Nightingale is said to have reduced the mortality rate during the war from 42 percent to 2 percent by addressing hand washing, water contamination, and sterilization of surgical materials by using the newly developed mathematical methods of statistics to prove that such interventions made a difference. She used data to back up her methods!

“How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.” – She once said. And her life is that of one who would not live under such fear. Her love and care for others is what mattered.

She became known as the Lady of the Lamp (poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) because of her late evening rounds visiting the wounded soldiers. When the war ended and she returned home to London, she was lauded as a national hero and showered with awards and medals including a jewel from Queen Victoria. (link)

May the Spirit of God inspire us and animate us to take on the humble, compassionate role of God’s helpers in our world, like PFC Doss & Nurse Nightingale, to those whose lives have been torn and broken and without hope, that the love of God might shine down on all through what we say and do, that in the words of Mr Rogers – people may be “comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.”

May we be counted among God’s helpers. Amen.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

An American Triduum - 3 American Feasts with Prayer

I love the idea of three days of prayer centered around 3 American Feast Days (this is often called a triduum). I think about the three Feast Days of America that are centered on summer & our lives as Americans: Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. These are appropriate prayers for each of these occasions (from the BCP):

Memorial Day

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give you thanks for all your servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them your mercy and the light of your presence, that the good work which you have begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Independence Day

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

Labor Day

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Memorial Day Prayers



O God of love and mercy, receive our thanks this day for the men and women who have given their lives in service to our country. Help us to honor them in our work for peace & justice, that people in our country and across the globe may live abundant lives freed from the threat of fear, violence, & war. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen. (Rev. Susan Russell)

Almighty and everlasting God, in whom all souls live now and evermore, the God not of the dead but of the living: We bless thee for all those who have faithfully lived and died in the service of their country. As we ever hold them in grateful remembrance, do thou in thy love and mercy let light perpetual shine upon them, and bring us all at last into thine eternal kingdom of peace; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

As we pause to lift our hearts and minds in prayer, let us be mindful of those who have laid down their lives in the service of their country. 0 God, we ask your strength, that we might dedicate ourselves to perfecting your kingdom of peace and justice among nations. Let us give thanks for the many blessings of freedom which we possess, purchased at the cost of many lives and sacrifices. Fill us with courage to fulfill our tasks and in no way break faith with the fallen. We commend these fallen to your mercy and ask that you give them eternal rest. This we ask and pray in your name. Amen. (From Refuge and Strength- Prayers for the Military and their Families, Theodore W, Edwards, Jr. Church Publishing, 2008)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Fast, Pray, Advocate (Love)


From the Episcopal Church:

When does the fast begin? We will begin a three-day fast on Sunday, May 21. We will continue by fasting for one day a month—the 21st of each month—through the close of the 115th Congress at the end of 2018. We fast on the 21st of the month because that is the day when 90% of SNAP benefits run out for families.

Whose fast is this? Make it your own. We hope that many faith communities and other organizations will promote the fast. Different organizations are welcome to promote it among their communities in their own ways. Bread for the World will serve as a facilitation hub for creating resources and sharing ideas and happenings. We hope you will keep the focus on protecting programs to help hungry people struggling with poverty and that you will encourage a monthly fast on the 21st.

Who will be the public face of the fast? You are the face of the fast! Several leaders have already committed themselves to the fast, including David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Jim Wallis, convener of Sojourners; Lawrence Reddick, presiding bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; and Tony Hall, executive director emeritus of the Alliance to End Hunger. We expect many other leaders at the national and community levels to step forward to be the face of the fast as well.

How do we fast? We are calling for prayer, fasting, and advocacy. Fasting is an effort to clear our bodies, our hearts, and our minds from the distractions around us so that we may draw closer to God. Fasting from food is one option that many will choose. But we invite people to take on the discipline of self-denial, which will help them rely more fully on God. Some may fast from technology, social media, or television.

These days of fasting should also be days of advocacy to oppose cuts to public programs that help hungry people living in poverty. Individuals or congregations who participate in the fast could also write letters to Congress or make financial offerings to support advocacy on days of fasting. Support for a candidate for public office can also be a form of advocacy.

Are there symbols for the fast? We invite people to wear burlap to represent the sackcloth worn by the Jewish people in their time of lamentation. It might be a strip around the wrist. Pastors might wear a stole made of burlap on Sunday morning.

Learn more here:

http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2017/05/18/episcopal-elca-presiding-bishops-issue-joint-statement-calling-for-prayer-fasting-for-hunger-awareness/

http://bread.org/call-to-prayer-fasting-advocacy

http://bread.org/blog/call-such-time

Sermon: Easter 6

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.

It was the custom in an African tribe that, when a boy reached a certain age, his elders would send him out into the world beyond the village to bring back something of value to share with the tribe. In this rite of passage, boys would return with all kinds of treasures and wonders: brilliant kente textiles, luminous gem stones and rare ivory carvings, beautiful tanned leather and pelts.

One year, as the returning young travelers showed off their treasures to the elders, one boy stood off to the side. He had brought back no trinket or object. When it was his turn, the elders asked the boy, "What is the most valuable thing you have found on your journey?"

The boy replied, "The thing of value I have discovered cannot be held in the hand."

"Why not? Is it too big or too delicate to hold?"

"It can be big or small, delicate or strong."

"Well, then, where is it?" asked the elders.

"It is here," the boy said, touching a finger to the side of his head. "In our brains. You see, I found on my journey that the most valuable thing in the world is an idea because you must believe in it and work very hard to bring it to life." [Original source unknown. Adapted from Bits & Pieces.]

In the Gospel, Jesus calls his disciples to bring to life the "idea" of his Good News: what they had experienced on the journey with him, what they had seen and heard. To that end, Jesus promises the coming of another "Advocate," the Spirit of God that inspires us and animates us to make for the perfect union of Jesus' words and our works - to bring to life the idea of God in our midst.

Bringing the Gospel, the idea of God in Jesus to life is what St. Paul does, in our 1st reading today, for he speaks to the inhabitants of Athens from the Areopagus. Using their own place of worship, he connects them with the faith that he has been called to tell them about.

“As I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you…`In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, `For we too are his offspring.' Since we are God's offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

Paul connects their worship with Jesus, for the one they worship is not to be found living in shrines made by human hands, they are to find the one who was raised by God from the dead. Not in gold, silver or stone, but God who became one of us in Jesus. That is our heritage today, a faith passed on to us to keep the story, the idea of God come down to us in Jesus, to continue the story by our words and actions today. And the power of the Spirit, as promised, is with us in such ministry.

There is a French film called Of God and Men, which recounts the true story of a small monastery of Trappist monks in a mountain village of Algeria in the 1990s. In the gruesome violence of the Algerian civil war, the community of nine monks was an oasis of peace and compassion in the midst of the horror around them. The monks lived humbly, simply and happily among their Muslim neighbors, keeping their garden and bees, offering hospitality in their guest house and medical care to all who came to their small clinic.

They did not try to convert any of their Muslim neighbors to their faith; the simple generosity of their lives was a bridge between Christianity and Islam. As the violence escalated, the government urged the monks to abandon the abbey. The monks anguished over what to do.

A Muslim villager asked one of the monks if they were going to leave. A brother shrugged, "We're like birds on a branch. We don't know if we'll leave." But a woman of the village pleaded: "No, we are the birds. You are the branch. If you go, we'll lose our footing."

They never left. Sadly, seven of the nine monks were kidnapped by an armed militia group. They died either at the hands of the militia group or accidently by an Algerian army attack against the rebels.

But their lives were filled with the Spirit of God, giving life to their faith, of God in Jesus Christ.

In the peace and blessing engendered in their simple lives, the Trappist monks of Tibhirine became the branch of God's love for both their Muslim and Christian neighbors. They were a sign of the Spirit of God speaking in all that is just and right, in every word of compassion, in the simplest and most unheralded acts of reconciliation and peace.

The Spirit promised by Jesus to his followers "advocates" for what is good, right and just, despite our skepticism, rejection and blindness to the things of God in our world. May the Advocate guide us in whatever opportunities we all have to be branches of hope and healing for those desperately seeking a place of peace, in shelters of sustenance, hospitality and care.

And I invite you to do 2 specific things, like last week’s invitation to be stone catchers and not stone throwers, we have two opportunities to be led by the Spirit this week:

(1) This week I invite you to pray “Thy Kingdom Come” – from Ascension Day (Thursday) to Pentecost (June 4) These 11 days, Thy Kingdom Come, is a campaign initiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, seeks to refocus Christians worldwide around the world on the early disciples’ example, like St. Paul in Athens. Archbishop Welby wants people to know “what it means to follow Christ and what an amazing journey that takes you on.” Let us pray the prayer…

https://www.thykingdomcome.global/

(2) Today I also invite you to consider the Presiding Bishops of EC & ELCA call to join with Christians around the USA to pray, fast, and advocate for programs that help the least among us, those struggling with poverty and hunger. “At the invitation of Bread for the World, we join with ecumenical partners and pledge to lead our congregations and ministries in fasting, prayer and advocacy, recognizing the need to engage our hearts, bodies, and communities together to combat poverty. As the call to prayer articulates,

‘We fast to fortify our advocacy in solidarity with families who are struggling with hunger. We fast to be in solidarity with neighbors who suffer famine, who have been displaced, and who are vulnerable to conflict and climate change. We fast with immigrants who are trying to make a better future for their families and now face the risk of deportation. We fast in solidarity with families on SNAP, who often run out of food & benefits by the 21st of each month.’”

The call is for each of us to fast on the 21st of each month through December 2018 – and to pray & advocate for those who have no voice. Join with me and let us pray on BCP p. 826.

http://bread.org/call-to-prayer-fasting-advocacy

Amen.