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:

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

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?


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.


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


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,

· 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: -,

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:

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…

(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.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

#pledge2pray #thykingdomcome

Join the global wave of prayer: May 25 - June 4

The Prayer for Thy Kingdom Come

Read the prayer which thousands of people across the world will be praying during Thy Kingdom Come, and which will be at the heart of every event.

Almighty God,
your ascended Son has sent us into the world
to preach the good news of your kingdom:
inspire us with your Spirit
and fill our hearts with the fire of your love,
that all who hear your Word
may be drawn to you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.

Go here to learn more:

Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement, which invites Christians around the world to pray between Ascension and Pentecost for more people to come to know Jesus Christ. What started out as an invitation from the Archbishops’ of Canterbury and York in 2016 to the Church of England has grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer. The hope is that:
  • people will commit to pray with God’s world-wide family - as a church, individually or as a family;

  • churches will hold prayer events, such as 24-7 prayer, prayer stations and prayer walks, across the UK and in other parts of the world;

  • people will be empowered through prayer by the Holy Spirit, finding new confidence to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.
“In praying 'Thy Kingdom Come' we all commit to playing our part in the renewal of the nations and the transformation of communities." ~ Archbishop Justin Welby

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sermon: Easter 5 (Handout)

Will you be a stone thrower or stone catcher?
“There is no such thing as being a Christian and not being a stone catcher.”
~ Byron Stevenson

Acts 7: 51-60
[(Deacon) Stephen proclaimed,] “You stubborn people! In your thoughts and hearing, you are like those who have had no part in God’s covenant! You continuously set yourself against the Holy Spirit, just like your ancestors did. 52 Was there a single prophet your ancestors didn’t harass? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the righteous one, and you’ve betrayed and murdered him! 53 You received the Law given by angels, but you haven’t kept it.”

54 Once the council members heard these words, they were enraged and began to grind their teeth at Stephen. 55 But Stephen, enabled by the Holy Spirit, stared into heaven and saw God’s majesty and Jesus standing at God’s right side. 56 He exclaimed, “Look! I can see heaven on display and the Human One standing at God’s right side!” 57 At this, they shrieked and covered their ears. Together, they charged at him, 58 threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses placed their coats in the care of a young man named Saul. 59 As they battered him with stones, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, accept my life!” 60 Falling to his knees, he shouted, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them!” Then he died.

John 8: 1-11
And Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he returned to the temple. All the people gathered around him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The legal experts and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery. Placing her in the center of the group, 4 they said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. 5 In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone women like this. What do you say?” 6 They said this to test him, because they wanted a reason to bring an accusation against him. Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger.

7 They continued to question him, so he stood up and replied, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” 8 Bending down again, he wrote on the ground. 9 Those who heard him went away, one by one, beginning with the elders. Finally, only Jesus and the woman were left in the middle of the crowd.

10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Is there no one to condemn you?”

11 She said, “No one, sir.” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore.”

“Churches must choose. We can be stone throwers or stone catchers. Or, after the manner of Saul of Tarsus, we can hold the coats for those who throw the stones in the mistaken belief that this absolves us of responsibility...”- Byron Stevenson
For more:

Sermon: Easter 5

Almighty God, through your son Jesus you have taught us to love one another, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and even to love our enemies. In times of violence and fear, let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, so that we may not be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good. Help us to see each person you created, in the light of the love and grace you have shown us in Jesus Christ. Put away the nightmares of terror and awaken us to the dawning of your new creation. We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (adapted)

Easter is joy. It fills our hearts and souls. The resurrection sustains our living. In the words of Desmond Tutu, “We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautiful sunsets, to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew...”

But sadly, we live in a world that is filled with violence and fear. We watch the news on TV or in our news feed, we hear the voices of hate and trepidation all around us. We see the victims of violence and we know of hate tearing apart families. We are often filled with dread or sadness or both.

And sometimes we act out of that fear, not as want to do, and we fail to love others as God loves us. Much like the council against Stephen we heard about in our first reading.

Now Stephen had been called to serve when a need arose among some of the newest Christians. In Acts 6 we are told that his ministry was “full of grace and power, he did great wonders and signs among the people.” That put him in conflict with others who did not see his work as a call from God. There were some who looked upon him with evil in their hearts.

They said to the Jewish council – “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” Stephen then speaks in his defense, for he had not blasphemed at all and he speaks in defense of his faith in Acts 7. Our reading this morning is the conclusion of that chapter and the story of Stephen. They were enraged by what he said, for he challenged their reading of Scripture and their ignoring the prophets of old and of not recognizing Jesus for who he was; they dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death.

They laid their coats at the feet of one who gave his approval of this death sentence, the Benjamite and Pharisee, Saul, whom we know today after his conversion as St. Paul.

And yet, the story of the stoning of Stephen continues today in the lives of those around this world. We know of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, in Egypt & Pakistan, and of course there are other religions who are also persecuted: I think of the Rohynga in Myanmar, for instance, whom I have preached about before.

There are those in our own country who have felt the sting of hate & evil as hate crimes have grown and incivility toward our neighbors seems rampant.

So what are we called to do as Christians?

A few years ago I was watching a TED talk, “TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less)” – the speaker was Byron Stevenson. His topic: “We need to talk about an injustice.”

I was struck by his words around the issue of the death penalty and mass incarceration. And much of his work is grounded in his Christian faith.

Bryan Stevenson dedicated himself to defending death row inmates after what he learned of faith & justice at Eastern University in Philadelphia collided with what he was taught at Harvard Law School. His ministry combines his work as lawyer with his faith for Stevenson turns frequently to the Bible.

He quotes from the Gospel of John, where Jesus says of the woman who committed adultery: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” An elderly African American woman once called him a “stone catcher.”

“There is no such thing as being a Christian and not being a stone catcher,” he says. “We have to be willing to stand in the place of those wrongly condemned, those disfavored communities in our country and across the world… we have to bear their burdens and stand up and catch the stones cast at them, then we make a statement about our faith that is transformative.”

“But that is exhausting. You’re not going to catch them all. And it hurts. If it doesn’t make you sad to have to do that, then you don’t understand what it means to be engaged in an act of faith....But if you have the right relationship to it, it is less of a burden, finally, than a blessing. It makes you feel stronger.

We know something about grace and mercy. We know that we are broken but our brokenness doesn’t define us, it just opens us up to what grace and mercy can do.” [from &]

Our compassion flows from our brokenness and the suffering we have experienced in our lives. By placing ourselves as stone catchers, we place ourselves in the midst of conflict, being the peace makers & reconcilers that God calls us to be. To offer compassion, forgiveness, and love to those in need. And yet, through the experience as stone catchers, we open ourselves to the grace and mercy that come from God.

As one author put it after hearing Stevenson speak - “Commit this year to mentoring a struggling teenager and taking him out to lunch, or to sending a note of encouragement to and regularly praying for someone who is rumored to have gotten upset about something at church, or, most importantly, to practicing mercy like Jesus did. Give up your stone casting and take up stone catching.” (

We have to decide how we want to live in this world – What kind of Christians we want to be – What will be our way - Peace or violence? Love or hate?

Will we be the ones who take the Stephens out to be stoned & drop our coats at the feet of the Sauls to bless our stone throwing?

Will we offer hope or condemnation to one another?

Will we open our hands in love to our neighbors or will we shake a clenched fist.

Will we be stone catchers or stone throwers…

“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” (Dr. Seuss, Lorax) Who will catch the stones being thrown, if not you? Amen.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Mother's Day Prayer & Proclamation

The chair of the Pensacola Area Episcopal Peace Fellowship Chapter - Bill Sloan - offers this insert he created for churches to use in their Mother's Day bulletins (2015):
A Mother's Day Proclamation

Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic and mother of five, was a strident activist against slavery and for the rights of women, battling alongside Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for the right to vote. Her Appeal to womanhood throughout the world, 1870, later called her Mother's Day Proclamation, was her reaction to the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. If we take Howe's vision into account, we are more likely to read the Battle Hymn as a manifesto to reject violence than to crush the South - to see that God is trampling out the grapes of anger and vengeance before they can ferment into something intoxicating. If you have been aroused by the Battle Hymn - who hasn't? -- you have to take her Appeal to Womanhood seriously indeed.

Appeal to womanhood throughout the world

"In the sight of the Christian world, great nations have exhausted themselves in mutual murder. Again have the sacred questions of international justice been committed to the fatal mediation of military weapons. Arise then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

On Mother's Day 2017 let us give thanks and praise God for the life of Julia Ward Howe and let us pray for all mothers:
Loving God, on this day
we thank you for the love of our mothers and those who have given us motherly care,
all who have nurtured our souls and blessed our lives.
We pray for those mothers in our world today where war or famine,
violence or illness have hindered their care for children.
We ask you to bless them with your own special love.
May we see your loving Spirit within all mothers and help us to live our lives in peace.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, who was loved by his mother Mary. Amen.

Called to be Stone Catchers

Catching Stones for Jesus - Bryan Stevenson


his TED Talk:

his work & book:

(Easter) Joy - Pillar #5

from The 8 Pillars of Joy (from the Dali Lama & Archbishop Tutu)

For one week, the Dali Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu conversed on the subject of attaining joy in a sorrowful world. “Joy is a byproduct of a life well lived. It’s much bigger than happiness.”

Once we attain acceptance of the present, we can release our desire to change the past, as well—through forgiveness. Holding on to grievances is our way of wishing the past could be different. When he hang on to those negative emotions, that anger and grief and the desire for vengeance, we only hurt ourselves. And if we use those emotions to strike back and cause harm, we only invite a cycle of retribution.

Forgiveness does not mean that we forget. “Not reacting with negativity, or giving in to the negative emotions, does not mean that you do not respond to the acts or that you allow yourself to be harmed again,” says the Dali Lama. Justice should still be sought, and the perpetrator, punished. Justice can be served without anger, without hatred, and once it is served, we must let go. Until we forgive a person that has wronged us, we allow that person to hold power over us—they effectively control our emotions. Forgiveness allows past hurts to recede into the distance, where they stop becoming an impediment to a joyful life.

Taken from

“Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering--remembering and not using your right to hit back. Its a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don't want to repeat what happened.” ― Desmond Tutu 

Jesus as the Way (Violence & Girard)

I found this helpful as we consider the message of Jesus in light of the violence around us and the work of Rene Girard...

from the Abbot of St. Gregory's Abbey:
Jesus’ famous words in John: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn. 14: 6) have inspired many Christians, including me, but they tend to cause some consternation in an age where many seek to be inclusive and affirming of diversity. Now that René Girard has greatly increased our awareness of mimetic rivalry, the worry grows that we might understand a verse such as this as meaning “my god is better than your god.” Such a reading projects our own rivalry onto Jesus so as to make Jesus a rival against other “gods.” Which is to turn Jesus into an idol of our own making.
Read his whole article here:

read more on Violence & Girard here: 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

#HatehasnoHomeHere (HHNHH)

The Hate Has No Home Here Project promotes just and inclusive communities by encouraging neighbors to declare their homes, schools, businesses, and places of worship to be safe places where everyone is welcome and valued.
Creating Communities of Hope One Sign At A Time.

The “Hate Has No Home Here” sign project began with a group of neighbors from North Park, a Chicago neighborhood characterized by its diversity of age, race, nationality and ethnicity. Many ties bind the residents of North Park to one another; the most notable is the neighborhood school, Peterson Elementary School, where the student body mimics the demographics of the neighborhood and where educators and families are committed to celebrating diversity. The phrase used in this poster was imagined by a third grader and kindergartner at Peterson Elementary School... (from their website)

St. Peter's Church is now part of this project.  Signs have been placed at the church and rectory and the Vestry discussed this at our last meeting.

But whoever hates another is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness. - 1 John 2:11

We love because God first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. - 1 John 4:19-21
For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” - Galatians 5:14
Jesus said, "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” - Mark 12:30-32

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Easter) Joy - Pillar #4

For one week, the Dali Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu conversed on the subject of attaining joy in a sorrowful world. “Joy is a byproduct of a life well lived. It’s much bigger than happiness.”

As the Dali Lama says, “Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied?”

Acceptance is “the ability to accept our life in all its pain, imperfection, and beauty, according to Abrams.” It is not resignation. It is not defeat. It is accepting that we must necessarily pass through the storm. It is facing suffering and asking the question, “How can we use this as something positive?” Acceptance allows us to engage life on its own terms rather than wishing, in vain, that things were different. It enables us to change and adapt, rather than becoming mired in denial, despair, and anxiety. One of the central practices of Buddhism—one that we can all learn from—is aimed at seeing life accurately, at cutting through our webs of presuppositions, expectations, and distortions. When we accept reality, we are better able to see it accurately, and to respond to it in appropriate ways. And if things don’t go well for us? We can accept that, too, and move on with our lives. This is essential for joy.