Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Presiding Bishop Christmas Message


Becoming the Beloved Community - A Reading List

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.
– Prayer for the Human Family (Book of Common Prayer, p. 815)

Q: What is the mission of the Church?
A: The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

Q: How does the Church pursue its mission?
A: The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.

Q: Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?
A: The Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members.
– An Outline of the Faith (Book of Common Prayer, p. 855)

Some reading that would be helpful (in Becoming the Beloved Community):
  • Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
  • Kelly Brown Douglas, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God
  • Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
  • Howard J. Ross, Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives 
  • “Under Our Skin,” Seattle Times project on race and racism 
  • Jim Wallis, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America
  • Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? 
  • James Cone, The Cross & The Lynching Tree 
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World & Me
(I am reading this right now: The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race is a 2016 essay and poetry collection edited by Jesmyn Ward)

The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. ... It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men. – The Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.

The Lord's Prayer - Make a Change?






There has been much talk of Pope Francis and his suggestion that we use a better translation of some of the words of the Lord's Prayer:

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/11/569983706/pope-francis-suggests-translation-change-to-the-lords-prayer

In a new television interview, Pope Francis said the common rendering of one line in the prayer — “lead us not into temptation” — was “not a good translation” from ancient texts. “Do not let us fall into temptation,” he suggested, might be better because God does not lead people into temptation; Satan does. (from a NY Times article)


An Episcopal Priest, Scott Gunn had this to say (and I agree):

Why Pope Francis' Lord's Prayer suggestion is so tempting

if you look at our Book of Common Prayer, often in Rite II, you will find two versions, see page 97 for example. (https://bcponline.org/)

Jerusalem - Our Happy Home?



I had the opportunity to be on pilgrimage in Jerusalem, in Israel and the Palestinian Territory in 1999. It was an amazing trip and I was treated very well by all the people I met. After President Trump on his own recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, I began to think of the people there and what our response should be. I can only imagine the anguish of the Palestinian Christians who live there.

But what do they say? Here are some responses:

Archbishop calls for tolerance, harmony and mutual respect in the Holy City of Jerusalem

The voice that cries in the wilderness (sermon) By Archbishop Suheil Dawani

Church leaders criticise President Trump over recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Jerusalem's Christian Leaders Implore Trump: Do Not Change Status of our Ancient City

Christian groups raise alarm over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

and from the Episcopal Church's Office for Government Relations:

Statement Regarding the U.S. Embassy in Israel

Today, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced that he intends to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a move that would reverse more than 50 years of U.S. foreign policy. This decision could have profound ramifications on the peace process and the future of a two-state solution, and it could have a negative impact throughout the region and with key U.S. allies. The Episcopal Church Office is joining with Churches for Middle East Peace and many other organizations in opposing any effort to move the Embassy.

Since 1985, the Episcopal Church has had policy opposing the movement of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Our policy states that the status of Jerusalem must be “determined by negotiation and not by unilateral action by any one community, religion, race or nation.”

+Archbishop Suheil Dawani, Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, has joined with patriarchs and heads of local churches in Jerusalem in opposing this move. We support Archbishop Suheil and value his perspective and expertise. As Episcopalians and Anglicans, we reiterate our view that the final status of Jerusalem, a city important to Jews, Muslims, and Christians, needs to be negotiated by Israelis and Palestinians with the support of our nation and the international community.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Advent 2 Sermon

Shepherding God, guide us through this season of anticipation and hope. Comfort our troubled minds, and strengthen our tired bodies. Restore the hope this season offers, that we might lift our voices with strength and joy! Straighten the crooked paths that we might walk in your ways. Level the rocky ground that we might prepare for your arrival in our world. In Christ's name, we pray. Amen. (Ministry Matters)

Our Advent season of hopeful anticipation continues with our reading from Isaiah, from which, the Gospel of Mark uses a few lines to describe John the Baptist this morning.

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…”

Prepare the way of the Lord. That is what the season of Advent is for us. To prepare ourselves for God who is coming. John the Baptist is here to shake things up. To remind us that things are not the way God wants them. To repent. To fix. To make things straight.

But Isaiah, starts us not with repentance but comfort: “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…” So we begin with comfort...

(On Twitter) “After 20-year-old Chris Betancourt's cancer came back and was given a year to live, his best friend dropped out of college to help him fulfill his bucket list. This day, they crossed off feeding the homeless.” (ABCNews)

The little clip was a piece of an amazing story filled with comfort even with death staring at that young man, who isn’t ready to stop yet. And Isaiah doesn’t stop with comfort, the announcement of God with God’s people. Think of what Isaiah is saying to us:

Look, this is how our God arrives…
1: Mountains: leveled
2: Highways: smoothed
3: Valleys: filled
4: Roadways: straightened
5: Ruts: plugged
6: Rocks: rolled

Look, this is how our God arrives…
With a shout, a cry
With a revolution, a reshaping
With a promise, a new world

This is your God!
Road-maker, Journey-taker, Path-builder
Way-maker, Trail-blazer

God’s glory will then be complete
And the world will see it
Just as God has said
— from the archives of the Church of Scotland (This is your God, slightly adapted)

But for God to do this, to bring comfort, to bring salvation, to bring hope in the midst of darkness, we must take our part in God’s plan. How will we make the crooked road straight? (and in Monroe!)

Let me tell you about Daryl Davis. He is a southern blues musician. He is African American who has an interesting hobby. He collects Ku Klux Klan robes. He's got about 200 of them. How he gets them is the story…

Davis got his first robe 30 years ago while playing in a bar in Frederick, Maryland. After his set, a white gentleman approached him. "I really enjoy your all's music," he said. "You know this is the first time I ever heard a black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis." Davis thanked him and then asked, "Where do you think Jerry Lee Lewis learned how to play that kind of style?" And then the musician explained the roots of rock 'n roll in the black blues tradition, that the rockabilly style he liked was not invented by Jerry Lee Lewis but developed by black artists like Fats Domino and Little Richard.

The two talked for some time. As the conversation went on, the man said, "You know, this is the first time I ever sat down and had a drink with a black man.'" He then said he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Davis laughed at first, not believing him - but he man pulled out pictures and produced his Klan card. Davis immediately stopped laughing. But the man was very friendly and asked Davis to call him the next time he played at the bar.

"The fact that a Klansman and black person could sit down at the same table and enjoy the same music, that was a seed planted," Davis recalls. "So what do you do when you plant a seed? You nourish it."

Davis decided to go around the country and meet and talk to as many Klan members as he could - music always being the entrée. First he learned all he could about the Klan to understand what they really think - that enabled Davis to sit down and talk with people who instinctively hated him. Davis deflated the racial stereotypes that fueled their anger and hatred. "How can you hate me when you don't know me?" he asks.

"If you spend five minutes with your worst enemy - it doesn't have to be about race, it could be about anything . . . you will find that you both have something in common. As you build upon those commonalities, you're forming a relationship and as you build upon that relationship, you're forming a friendship. That's what would happen. I didn't convert anybody. They saw the light and converted themselves."

Once the friendship and trust blossom, the Klansmen realize that their hate may be misguided. When they renounce their membership, Davis collects the robes and keeps them in his home as a reminder of the dent he has made in racism by simply sitting down and having dinner with people & sharing a love for music.

Daryl Davis has been having those conversations for three decades now. And he has their robes as testimonies. [NPR, August 20, 2017.]

A blues musician reduces the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan by his message of music and kindness; he straightens a very crooked path by his courage to sit down and talk with those who see him as beneath them, whose reaction from them is to see him destroyed. Daryl Davis is a prophet in the spirit of John the Baptist. In baptism, each one of us has been called by God to the work of prophet: using whatever talents and skills we possess to transform the wastelands around us into harvests of justice and forgiveness, to create highways for our God to enter and re-create our world in his compassion and peace.

May we hear Isaiah’s call in the lives of the prophets and in our lives too, to change all that is crooked, broken, uneven, so God can bring comfort, hope, and love in our world. Amen.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Advent 2 - Becoming the Beloved Community

Reflect on this Story

Daryl Davis is a southern blues musician. He is African American who has an interesting hobby. He collects Ku Klux Klan robes. He's got about 200 of them. How he gets them is the story…

Davis got his first robe 30 years ago while playing in a bar in Frederick, Maryland. After his set, a white gentleman approached him. "I really enjoy your all's music," he said. "You know this is the first time I ever heard a black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis." Davis thanked him and then asked, "Where do you think Jerry Lee Lewis learned how to play that kind of style?" And then the musician explained the roots of rock 'n roll in the black blues tradition, that the rockabilly style he liked was not invented by Jerry Lee Lewis but developed by black artists like Fats Domino and Little Richard.

The two talked for some time. As the conversation went on, the man said, "You know, this is the first time I ever sat down and had a drink with a black man.'" He then said he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Davis laughed at first, not believing him - but he man pulled out pictures and produced his Klan card. Davis immediately stopped laughing. But the man was very friendly and asked Davis to call him the next time he played at the bar.

"The fact that a Klansman and black person could sit down at the same table and enjoy the same music, that was a seed planted," Davis recalls. "So what do you do when you plant a seed? You nourish it."

Davis decided to go around the country and meet and talk to as many Klan members as he could - music always being the entrée. First he learned all he could about the Klan to understand what they really think - that enabled Davis to sit down and talk with people who instinctively hated him. Davis deflated the racial stereotypes that fueled their anger and hatred. "How can you hate me when you don't know me?" he asks.

"If you spend five minutes with your worst enemy - it doesn't have to be about race, it could be about anything . . . you will find that you both have something in common. As you build upon those commonalities, you're forming a relationship and as you build upon that relationship, you're forming a friendship. That's what would happen. I didn't convert anybody They saw the light and converted themselves."

Once the friendship and trust blossom, the Klansmen realize that their hate may be misguided. When they renounce their membership, Davis collects the robes and keeps them in his home as a reminder of the dent he has made in racism by simply sitting down and having dinner with people. Daryl Davis has been having those conversations for three decades now. And he has their robes as testimonies. [NPR, August 20, 2017.]

Reflection: Proclaim Good News

God sent John the Baptist to proclaim the good news that we could repent, be forgiven, and return to God’s dream of restoration and salvation. John didn’t just cry out in the wilderness; he prepared people to enter the waters of baptism, to share their deepest truths, and to rise up ready for healed and reconciled relationship with God and with their neighbors.

Proclaiming the Dream of Beloved Community

Healing, reconciliation, and justice are big ideas, but they all begin with exploring our stories, shared history, and deepest longings. If you listened closely to your church and your neighbors and civic partners, what might you hear? What experiences have people had around race, ethnicity and culture? Is there a shared vision of Beloved Community? What collective commitments and behaviors could you all make that would begin to foster the Beloved Community?

The Common Cup (during Flu/Cold Season)

The 1979 prayer book restores the most ancient name for this tradition on making Eucharist: the Great Thanksgiving. there are four primary actions within the Great Thanksgiving, and these are based on the actions of Jesus in the Last Supper as well as on the Jewish pattern of thanksgiving suppers: we offer bread and wine, we bless them, we break the bread, and we give the bread and wine to all who have gathered. In the church's vocabulary, these four actions of offering, blessing, breaking, and giving are called the offertory, consecration, fraction, and communion.

In the Episcopal Church today we receive communion in a variety of ways. In some congregations you will go forward to the altar and kneel at an altar rail. In others, you may stand and receive in front of the altar or at various communion stations located throughout the church.

Some people receive by eating bread first and then drinking directly from the cup; others prefer to did the wafer or morsel of bread into the wine and then consume the bread and wine together-a process known as intinction, or to receive just the bread. (Gluten Free wafers are often available.)
Source: Vicki K. Black, Welcome to the Book of Common Prayer. Morehouse Publishing: Harrisburg, PA, 2005, pp.53, 56, 57.
From time to time, people have asked me about our use of the common cup and if it transmits colds, etc. Here are articles on this...

Holy Communion and Infection Risks: an Age-Old Concern (1999)

Eucharistic practice and the risk of infection (2001)







Does Communion Cup Runneth Over With Germs? (2005)

Can You Catch a Cold at Communion? (2013)

The Common Cold and the Common Cup: Does Communion spread germs? (2014)

******

To summarize:

"It must be stressed that the present use of the common cup is normal for Anglican churches, follows the practice of the universal church from its beginnings until well into the middle ages, and poses no real hazard to health in normal circumstances."


"No episode of disease attributable to the common cup has ever been reported. Thus for the average communicant it would seem that the risk of drinking from the common cup is probably less than the risk of air-borne infection in using a common building."

"A microbiologist shows, through scientific studies, that receiving Holy Communion does not increase one's illness rate when compared to the general population which does not take communion."
My suggestion:
If you have the flu, a cold, or a cold sore, then don’t drink from the cup. I would suggest washing your hands before communion (or using the hand sanitizer) and just receiving the wafer alone.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Advent 1 Sermon

O God of salvation, you sent your Son Jesus to be among us, but we have been little aware of his presence. Wake us up to see him all around us, that he may be the light of our lives and that we may be part of his kingdom of peace and love where we serve you in one another, as we move forward in hope to your home of endless joy and rest. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

By the time we got to the last pile of leaves here on Friday, the sunset had long vanished, we were working by the light of the parking lot lights. Such is the darkness that we experience as our days continue to grow shorter and shorter.

But for many of us, the darkness of our lives is experienced every day, whether it is the darkness that comes with depression and the feeling of hopelessness, or with addiction & a feeling of powerlessness. Whether it is the darkness of feeling that we don’t have enough as we live pay check to pay check… We can feel that we are far too often running on one of those hamster wheels that we can never get off.

Jesus said that in our lives, there will be darkness, but he calls us to stay alert, keep awake for the sign of God, our master, in our midst… and maybe we need a little help.

There is a 30-second ad for Home Goods, a little boy is going through the "monsters under the bed" anxiety stage. Each night at bedtime, his understanding parents patiently check for monsters behind the closet door, under his bed, in the dresser. And to further assure him that he has nothing to be afraid of, they place a special lamp, with a friendly whale at the base, to keep him company at night as he falls asleep. The whale lamp works like a charm.

Well, the little boy soon becomes a big brother. And the first night his new baby sister comes home, he gives his little sister his first big-brother gift: his friendly blue whale lamp to keep her company as she falls asleep, and then he goes through all the doors of the nursery and searches under the baby's crib himself to make sure there are no monsters lurking.

This charming little commercial is about the patience to help one another through life's scary passages, selflessness to walk together in hard times; I think of those who have gone through the long, dark road of addiction, and who on the other side become sponsors to help those navigating the darkness now.

Jesus said, “Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.”

Such words from Jesus are not about the scary darkness, but about the life we live now in the midst of it, to keep watch for the presence of hope, life and goodness that is all around us, and to help one another.

An honor student, frustrated with his life and with school, worried about what tomorrow may bring, approached his teacher asking for some guidance.

“The story goes,” says the teacher in response to his students request for help, “That a Buddhist Monk was walking through the mountains one day. Then, out of nowhere, a tiger appears, chasing the monk towards the edge of a cliff. The monk, in his quest to escape the tiger, runs to the edge of the cliff and climbs over the side, where he sees five other tigers 15 feet below him, waiting to eat him.

So the monk is just hanging there, holding on to a vine on the side of the cliff, waiting there for the little chance he has to escape or for his imminent demise. Then, as the monk hangs there, exploring his options, he turns to the left and sees a strawberry. He smiles, “Wow what a magnificent strawberry!” he says to himself. So, he picks it and he eats it.

The student waited for his teacher to continue but it was clear that the teacher was done with the story. “That’s it? That’s the story? The monk is about to be eaten by tigers so he reaches out to pick and eat a strawberry?” the student exclaimed. “What’s the point?” he added.

The teacher replied, “The lesson is to know and embrace the experience of being alive. You must be alive every second you are alive.”

The student responded, “But teacher, everyone is alive when they are alive.”

“No,” said the teacher. “It’s the experience of being alive in each moment, in each experience, good and bad. We must be alive every second we are alive and not simply exist and live out our days.”

The student, confused, questioned his teacher, asking, “But everyone alive is alive, aren’t they?” he insisted.

“No. Look at you now,” explained the teacher. “You are running around being chased by tigers, consumed with your thoughts of how it could be better, how you could be better if only things were different. You can’t be alive if you are living in fear and if you’re living in fear you can’t see and experience life; the magnificence of your life that is right in front of you in each moment.”

The teacher asked, “Are you running around, grinning over the feeling of being the luckiest, most fortunate and appreciative person in the world because of what IS present in your life today, or are you consumed with fear, what you DON’T have in your life or what may possibly happen sometime in the future?” The student thought for a moment, looked up at his teacher, smiled, and continued on with his day…” (adapted from a Zen story retold by D.T. Suzuki)

Jesus said, “And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Jesus calls us to the same challenge: to pay attention, to watch for the signs of God's presence in our midst, to be awake to the most important and lasting things of life. Our lives are an Advent in which we come to realize that our time is precious and limited, that our lives constantly change and turn and are transformed - whether we are ready or not, whether we comprehend what is happening or are overwhelmed by it. Advent calls us to "watch," to pay attention to the signs of God's unmistakable presence in our lives, to live life expectantly and gratefully as a gift from God, like the monk finding that strawberry.

Pastor & author Richard Rohr writes that faith and spirituality begin with "seeing. It's not about earning or achieving but about "paying attention": paying attention to the presence of God in every joy and sorrow, in every pain and trauma, in every victory and setback before us.” Advent calls us to "watch," to be "alert", to be mindful of the presence of God all around us, in the love of family and friends & even strangers, in the best and worst of times, and to find the true meaning and purpose of our lives in moments of compassion, forgiveness and generosity that we extend to ourselves and each other. Amen.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Advent 1 - Becoming the Beloved Community

Welcome


In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God ... Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together. - Isaiah 40:3,5

Advent is a season of preparation: shopping for gifts, decorating our homes and sanctuaries. Advent is also a time to prepare our hearts and communities for the coming of Christ, the Almighty God who came among us poor and homeless, a stranger and a child. There may be no better time to reflect on how we as the Episcopal Church embrace the Holy One who continues to draw near in the neighbor, the stranger, the refugee, or the one who seems most “other” to you. It is the ideal season to commit to becoming Beloved Community and growing loving, liberating, life-giving relationships across the human family of God.

“During Advent, Christians focus on how much we need Jesus to bear light, healing and hope in a broken world,” noted the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, the Presiding Bishop’s Canon for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Creation Care. “This is a mysterious, vulnerable time. We’re opening to Christ. We’re opening to different neighbors and strangers who are Christ among us.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry regularly welcomes us to live not just as the church but as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement: the ongoing community that follows Jesus into loving, liberating, life-giving relationship with God, each other, and creation. May God bless and grow us into vibrant embodiments of the Christ we welcome and follow, this Advent and always.

As we enter Advent together, consider these prayers and what they might ask of each of us…

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the 1st Sunday in Advent)

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

We cannot become what God created us to be unless we also examine who we have been and
who we are today. Who are you, as a church community? What groups are included and excluded? What things have you, as a church, done and left undone?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Follow-Up on My Sermon


More thoughts on Matthew 25:

On Serving the Goats (Abbott Andrew)

On Sheep and Goats: Division and Judgment in Ferguson and Beyond 




More on St. Thérèse of Lisieux:

The Little Way of Hospitality
her little way

Christ the King Sermon (Nov 26)

Given at the 8 AM service.
Open my eyes that they may see the deepest needs of people;
Move my hands that they may feed the hungry;
Touch my heart that it may bring warmth to the despairing;
Teach me the generosity that welcomes strangers;
Let me share my possessions to clothe the naked;
Give me the care that strengthens the sick;
Make me share in the quest to set the prisoner free.
In sharing our anxieties and our love,
our poverty and our prosperity,
we partake of your divine presence, O Lord. Amen.
(Canaan Banana, Zimbabwe)

That prayer came from Zimbabwe, and it is good for us to remember in prayer those throughout our world who are enduing great suffering like in the Egyptian bombing at a sufi mosque there, and those who are waking up to a new dawn full of hope and freedom like in Zimbabwe.

One of Norah’s books we read to her at night says something like this: “The geese and the donkey, the sheep and the goats, were making funny noises down in their throats.” On the farm, they are all together.

But in today’s Gospel parable – Jesus tells us about a King who separates people, as if he were separating sheep from goats, it is a stunning parable if we sit with it…

This concluding parable of Matthew 25, the final teaching of Jesus in the Gospel, shows Christ as a king separating the people of the nations but neither the sheep or goats thought they were either serving or rejecting their heavenly king. What both the sheep and the goats failed to see were the vulnerable people who were starving or naked or in prison. “This teaching has inspired a spirituality of “seeing” Jesus in vulnerable people, the rejects of society, & what is at stake is seeing the people, seeing their need, and showing one has seen them by serving them.” (Abbott Andrew)

But as we sit with this parable, we also have sit with the ending; the separation, the judgement…

“Edifying as this teaching of serving Christ through serving vulnerable people is, the grim sending away of the “goats” at the end of the parable, those who failed to serve the vulnerable is disturbing. One way to understand this grim ending is to suggest that if our hearts shrink to the vanishing point so that we become permanently blind to the plight of vulnerable people, we end up in our own darkness. This is a salutary warning. But perhaps these “goats,” need to be served too...” (Abbott Andrew)

Indeed, we are not Jesus. We are his disciples and he calls us to love and care for those in need, the sheep and the goats, the vulnerable, the lost, even the hard hearted…But what does this look like?

Protestant author, professor & therapist Richard Beck searched for an answer until he came across the teaching of the “Little Way” in the writings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. “Beck says that this “little way” seems simple until one tries it. The “little way” begins with noticing. Thérèse says that she noticed that some sisters in her Carmelite convent were saintly and popular and other sisters were difficult and ignored as much as possible: a separation of sheep and goats. Thérèse then had to move beyond her comfort zone and seek out the neglected, difficult sisters.” (Abbott Andrew)

I have noticed (and this is very natural) that the most saintly Sisters are the most loved. We seek their company; we render them services without their asking; finally, these souls so capable of bearing the lack of respect and consideration of others see themselves surrounded with everyone's affection... 
On the other hand, imperfect souls are not sought out. No doubt we remain within the limits of religious politeness in their regard, but we generally avoid them, fearing lest we say something which isn't too amiable. When I speak of imperfect souls, I don't want to speak of spiritual imperfections since most holy souls will be perfect in heaven; but I want to speak of a lack of judgment, good manners, touchiness in certain characters; all these things which don't make life agreeable. I know very well that these moral infirmities are chronic, that there is no hope of a cure, but I also know that my Mother would not cease to take care of me, to try to console me, if I remained sick all my life. This is the conclusion I draw from this: I must seek out in recreation, on free days, the company of Sisters who are the least agreeable to me in order to carry out with regard to these wounded souls the office of the Good Samaritan. A word, an amiable smile, often suffice to make a sad soul bloom...I want to be friendly with everybody (and especially with the least amiable Sisters) to give joy to Jesus. (St, Therese of Liseuix)
Beck ends by saying “I must seek out. That's the practice of the “Little Way.” Seeking out, approaching and moving toward people you might not have normally approached, for whatever reason. All with the goal of extending a small act of welcome and hospitality, a kind word or a smile.”

Such kindness, hospitality, love is what we can offer to everyone, but how far do we go?

You're scrolling through the news or thumbing through the paper and you come across a story about a kid who overdosed or was bullied to the point of such despair that the kid took his or her own life. You might shrug for a second, shake your head, sigh that this is just another case of [name your reason]." Or, you might not even notice the story at all as you move on to the business section or the sports page.


But if that kid lived in your state or city or town, you'd notice. Hey, this kind of thing just doesn't happen here! You'd demand accountability; you'd want to know what's being done to help kids like this.


Now if the kid went to the same school as your son or daughter, you'd immediately join other parents in asking some hard questions of school and law enforcement officials. If the kid lived next door to you, you'd be right there for that family. It would be as if your child had died. And if it was your own son or daughter . . . That fact is: It is our own kid. Every kid is our kid.

Harvard Professor of Public Policy Dr. Robert Putnam, author of Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, writes: "Our sense of 'we' has shriveled. Now when people talk about 'our kids,' they talk about their own biological kids; they don't talk about all kids. This leads to a situation that's bad for the economy & bad for democracy. But it's just not right. We have an obligation to care for other people's kids too."

Which is Jesus' point in today's Gospel parable: Every kid is our kid. We are our brother’s keeper, sheep or goat. Every person in trouble is our responsibility. Every injustice endured by another is our responsibility. Because every kid, every person in trouble, every innocent is Jesus to us. To be a disciple of Christ is to possess the vision & heart of God that enables us to see the goodness and image of God in every human being, we are all on this beautiful planet together. Our care for the poor, our work to alleviate despair and injustice in our communities, our holding ourselves accountable for creating more opportunities for the under-educated and under-employed is our first and most meaningful response to our baptismal call to proclaim the coming of God's Kingdom in Jesus Christ.

May we practice the Little Way with all, the agreeable and not so agreeable, with every kid, with every sheep and goat before us, so Jesus may say to us, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Amen.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!



Thanksgiving Prayer (Grace) for Harvest Time

Loving God, all that we have
comes from your goodness
and the work of those who love us.
Bless us and the food we share.
Watch over those who care for us.
Open our eyes to the needs of the poor
during this time of harvest and thanksgiving.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(From Blessings and Prayers through the Year, Elizabeth McMahon Jeep, Liturgy Training Publications 2004)

A Thanksgiving Prayer

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

(A Thanksgiving Prayer by Rev. Samuel F. Pugh)

 Thanksgiving Day Prayer

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

Pray for Myanmar


The State Department has just declared that the leadership in Myanmar is ethnic cleansing the Rohingya people that live in that country.

Just a few years ago, I help support the Karen people, a tribe of Christians who lived in that country and were persecuted.

Now the new government is scapegoating & killing the Rohingya.

Pray for Myanmar:

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of Myanmar, that barriers which divide them may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that their divisions being healed, that all may live in justice, freedom, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray for Zimbabwe


While I was in Mozambique on pilgrimage, I met a few Anglicans from Zimbabwe.  Their faith was strong but they lived in a a harsh country with a brutal dictator.

Now that dictator is gone.  Their is much celebration but also lots of work to do to help them become the prosperous country they once were.

Pray for Zimbabwe as they journey into a new season:

Lord God Almighty, who hast made all the peoples of the earth for thy glory, to serve thee in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of Zimbabwe a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that they may use their new found liberty in accordance with thy gracious will & for the common good; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sermon - November 19 (Proper 28)

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation; thank you, Lord, for all the talents you have entrusted to us. Help us to remember that all we have comes from you and is to be used to serve others in your name. Make us faithful and trustworthy servants, always ready for your return. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

We are living through some dark days…

· Gun violence at First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, Texas – followed by another mass shooting in Rancho Tehama, California. Both began with domestic violence. (Las Vegas!)

· Each day new revelations of women and girls who have been sexually harassed or abused or trafficked at the hands of those in Hollywood, journalists, politicians, in gymnastics, comedians, and even the church.

· Far right groups marching around the world spreading their hate of Jews, immigrants, anyone who does not fit their preferred racial category.

It is hard to feel safe and secure. We have become suspicious. Fearful. We want to huddle close with our families, lock our doors, get ready to fight (or take flight!)…

But as Christians, Episcopalians, we are called to live a different life. As the Episcopal Bishops of Maryland put it: “we talk about living by a different set of rules: our message of love, compassion, hope and forgiveness in the face of evil.”

Our second reading this morning from 1st Thessalonians says we are to “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” Fear is not to be our motivating factor, but faith & love & the hope of salvation. 1st Thessalonians gives us some instructions on what our mission is: “For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build up each other...”

The words from the MD bishops and our 2nd reading remind us that our church is a sanctuary, identified as a refuge and safety zone from physical or spiritual dangers. The red doors we enter by speak to the world of holy ground that exists inside those doors, space that has been purged and made clean by the Holy Spirit.

But even as we find such relief, we are called to go out from here in Jesus name to serve others, to witness to his love. And in the darkness, sin is ever before us…

(I recently saw it defined this way) “Sin is for one [man] to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind” (Shūsaku Endō, Silence)

Such sin is the failure of us to really love thy neighbor, to encourage one another and build up each other, as 1st Thessalonians puts it. We see it in the shootings, the harassment/abuse, those spewing hate… But…

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” (The Gulag Archipelago (1973) by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)

He reminds us that darkness is inside each of us, cuts through every heart. And yet, there are opportunities abound for us in the midst of darkness to bring light to these days…

A story from Reader’s Digest:

Years ago, there was a poor farmer who was an alcoholic. When he drank too much (which happened fairly often), he'd become abusive, forcing his family to escape into their cornfield, with him frequently shooting after them with his .22 rifle.

One day, their neighbor, an elderly Amish farmer, came by. He explained that rats had been in his corncrib and asked if the farmer knew anyone who could sell him a .22. A bargain was struck and the old Amish farmer took the rifle and ammunition and set off for home.

One of the poor farmer's children followed the Amish farmer from a distance and watched him cross the river bridge. The old man stopped midstream and the boy watched him drop the rifle and ammunition into the swift water and then continue home. [James Didlow, writing in Reader's Digest.]

It is the Spirit of God that moved the Amish farmer, for his generosity of heart and humility of spirit to buy and get rid of the rifle that caused suffering to his neighbors. It may not have solved everything but it was a step in bringing light and life to darkness and suffering.

But we don’t even have to go that far. It could be offering a listening ear at a Dunkin Donuts.

A true story, recounted in the weekly "Metropolitan Diary" column of The New York Times [March 2, 2009]:

In Dunkin' Donuts this morning an old lady wearing a tattered watch cap started speaking to no one in particular.

"I can't sleep at night. I have pains in my chest all the time. My leg hurts and my children do not love me."

People waiting in line hid in their cell phones, looked away or stared straight ahead.

"I don't know what to do. I don't know where to turn. My husband died two years ago on the 27th."

Everyone pretended she wasn't there. The girls behind the counter took the next customers. The line inched forward. At a side table, a beautiful young woman with matching purple scarf and hat looked at the old woman and said, simply,

"Honey, please sit down with me and tell me your story."

It's possible, you see, for one person to save the world.

Life can be so much easier and peaceful when we have nothing to do with others - Don't get involved, walk away, mind your own business, these are much safer approaches to life.

But Jesus is not afraid to wade into the messiness of our lives in order to transform, heal and restore, and he calls us to do the same as his disciples.

To respond compassionately to the plight of these families, those in need, becomes more important, more sacred, than the safety & security we sometimes long to have. May we imitate that same compassion of the healing Christ, use the talents we each have, risk our own sense of safety and satisfaction, in order to bring that love into the lives of others. Amen.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

ECCT Bishops' Statement on Texas Church Shooting

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut

Once again we awaken on a Monday morning to learn of yet another mass shooting in our country. This time the victims were Christians at prayer. Will this gun violence never stop?

We have reached out to our colleague bishops in the Diocese of West Texas, the Rt. Rev. David Reed and the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson. We have assured them of our prayers and have offered our assistance in any way possible.

As founding bishops of the network of Episcopal bishops known as Bishops United Against Gun Violence, we join with over 70 other bishops in decrying the actions in Sutherland Springs and calling on our elected officials to take action to help prevent gun violence. Our statement is below.

Please pray for all who have died, have been injured, and have lost loved ones in this tragedy.

Faithfully,

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

Bishops United Against Gun Violence calls church to pray, elected leaders to act

"One does not offer prayers in lieu of demonstrating political courage, but rather in preparation."
In the wake of the heartbreaking shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, we find ourselves both calling people to prayer, and wishing that the word did not come so readily to the lips of elected leaders who are quick to speak, but take no action on behalf of public safety.

In prayer, Christians commend the souls of the faithful departed to the mercy and love of God. We beseech our Creator to comfort the grieving and shield the vulnerable. Prayer is not an offering of vague good wishes. It is not a spiritual exercise that successfully completed exempts one from focusing on urgent issues of common concern. Prayer is not a dodge. In prayer we examine our own hearts and our own deeds to determine whether we are complicit in the evils we deplore. And if we are, we resolve to take action; we resolve to amend our lives.

As a nation, we must acknowledge that we idolize violence, and we must make amends. Violence of all kinds denigrates humankind; it stands against the will of God and the way of Jesus the Christ. The shooting in Sutherland Springs brings the issue of domestic violence, a common thread in many mass killings, into sharp relief. It is not only essential that we keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, but that we, as a society, reject ideologies of male dominance that permeate our culture and the history of our churches.

Each of us has a role to play in our repentance. Elected representatives bear the responsibility of passing legislation that protects our citizenry. If our representatives are not up to this responsibility, we must replace them.

In the meantime, however, we ask that in honor of our many murdered dead, elected leaders who behave as though successive episode of mass slaughter are simply the price our nation pays for freedom stop the reflexive and corrosive repetition of the phrase "thoughts and prayers."

One does not offer prayers in lieu of demonstrating political courage, but rather in preparation.

Bishops United Against Gun Violence is a group of more than 70 Episcopal bishops working to curtail the epidemic of gun violence in the United States.

Put on the Armor of God

from the Episcopal Bishops of Maryland - November 16, 2017

At the beginning of the month we were stunned at the mass shooting inside First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, Texas. Since then much of the discussion has focused on how to make churches safer. Similar conversations happened after the Las Vegas massacre: How can we make open crowd venues safer?

Talk of armed guards, using metal detectors or locking church doors during services has been
showing up in the media and on the internet. Reporters are surprised when we talk about living by
a different set of rules. Some of them can’t understand our message of love, compassion, hope and
forgiveness in the face of evil.

This week’s Sunday epistle from 1st Thessalonians (5:1-11) says we are to “…put on the breastplate
of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” The gospels say nothing to Christians
about arming ourselves. And the reading gives instructions on what our mission is: “For God has
destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us,
so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore, encourage one another
and build up each other…”

Fear is a powerful motivator. It’s often associated with ignorance. Fear of someone different than
ourselves can be overcome when we find common ground. Fear can provoke the basic human
response of fight or flight. But we are called to a different way of being as Christians.

That’s why some version of “be not afraid” shows up in the bible more than 300 times. Instead of
“fight or flight,” the response for Christians is to have faith. Or, as we are told in the Letter to the
Ephesians (6:11-12), “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the
wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual
forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Our churches are sacred spaces. Senseless violence has visited houses of God for as long as there
have been churches. In recent years, African American churches have been burned, bombed and
scenes of shootings. Archbishop Oscar Romero was gunned downed in a church in El Salvador while
celebrating the Eucharist. And, of course, we know the heartbreak here in Maryland when evil
visited St. Peter’s, Ellicott City, and gun violence took the lives of the Rev. Mary Marguerite Kohn,
Brenda Brewington and Douglas Jones.

Our response should be to encourage one another to put on “the breastplate of faith and love” and
wear the helmet of hope. Let’s not be paralyzed by fear. Let’s be freed by Jesus’ promises of eternal
life, and live into the Kingdom of God on earth here and now. It’s not the will of God that we turn
our church buildings into armed fortresses. Yes, we should be attentive and put emergency
precautions into place. But the gospel calls us to engage the risk of radical welcome and inclusive
hospitality.

Paul encouraged the Ephesians (6:14-17) with these words: “Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of
truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on
whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of
faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet
of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Faithfully,

The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Bishop of Maryland

The Right Rev. Chilton R. Knudsen
Assistant Bishop of Maryland

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Matthew 25: 1-13 (As laid out by Rev. David R. Henson)

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise.

— “But if you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”--
The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

— In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus came to his disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?” –
At midnight the cry rang out: “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.”

— A smoldering wick he will not snuff out —
“No,” they replied, “there may not be enough for both us and you.”

— Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you —
“Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.”

– Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” –
But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived.

– In the city of God, they will not need the light of a lamp, for the Lord God will give them light. –
The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet.

– But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. –
And the door was shut.

– “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. –
Later the others also came. “Sir! Sir!” they said. “Open the door for us!” But he replied, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.”

– If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. —

Sunday, November 12, 2017

November 12 Sermon (Offering Sunday)

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. (BCP)

Today is Offering Sunday. A day in the life of the parish where we offer our financial resources for the coming year. It is a way to honor our relationship with God, and our connection to this community of faith.

Such faithful giving allows the church to be wise in the decisions it makes to sustain all of our members as they live out their ministry in the world and what we do through St. Peter’s Church. The challenge before us for 2018 is to continue to stay on top of our finances & mission and not go further in debt. Using the image of the Gospel we heard this morning, it is to be wise with our oil and to make sure we do not run out.

In the Gospel, the parable of the ten maidens that Jesus gives us today, is a story about living into hope & the encouragement to stick with it even when we have to wait, be patient, and be prepared which is what we are trying to do as a parish.

As Jesus tells it, 10 bridesmaids were given the honor to meet the bridegroom. 5 were wise and prepared (extra oil), 5 were foolish and had only oil in their lamp. The Bridegroom was delayed and all 10 fell asleep. When he finally arrived the foolish ran to get more oil because their lamps grew dim & no one would give them their extra and they were not welcomed back when they returned.

Now Jesus tells us that this parable is how the Kingdom of Heaven will be like, so Keep awake says Jesus, be prepared, for you know neither the day nor the hour when the kingdom will come, for the bridegroom in the story is Jesus. And he is looking at our lives, and seeing how unprepared we are to live, how we don’t have that hope oozing through us, we don’t have that extra oil to be ready for what delays may come, we are not fully living out the faith in us.

“Readiness in the Gospel of Matthew is all about living the quality of life described in the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes. Many can do this for a short while; but when the kingdom is delayed, the problems arise. Being a peacemaker for a day is not as demanding as being a peacemaker year after year when the hostility breaks out again and again, and the bridegroom is delayed…” (New Interpreters Bible)

I think of the stories Bishop Sengulane shared with us about trying to keep peace before the eyes of the warring parties in Mozambique, year after year after year, until it finally came to fruition.

It is the challenge of living out our faith not just on Sundays, or when its convenient, or when we want to, but at every moment of our lives, to live out those Beatitudes as I talked about last week, climbing the ladder of the Beatitudes, living out of our faith every day of every year.

Recently, I read the words from a hospice nurse, about the valuable lessons she has learned from her care of the dying. In her words:

"Although I struggle, like every other human being, with the daily challenges of overwork, impatience, fear, anger, and disappointment, I know that it is always my choice instead to choose happiness, forgiveness, compassion, and joy, to live each day as if it were my last, and to be grateful for every day that I have.

"Working with the dying has brought light into my own life, illuminating the shadowy corners of negativity that I alone have the choice to relinquish or to transform into something more positive. Even though the work I do is with the dying, it has also been work within myself, and I thank God every day for both of those opportunities.

"So, in the end, what is it that the dying teach others around them? They teach how to love and how to allow ourselves to be loved; how to forgive and how to ask for forgiveness; how to find our joy and how to spread that joy around to others. They also teach us how to spend valuable time connecting our earthly self with our spiritual self so that these two separate but vital aspects of our being aren't strangers when they meet as the time of our own death draws near.

"And so it is perhaps meant to be that, with every person's dying, another person is learning to live well. Although I can't know for certain, I suspect from what I have witnessed that, possibly, the very best part of living might actually be the dying." [From Peaceful Passages: A Hospice Nurse's Stories of Dying Well by Janet Wehr.]

The parable of the ten bridesmaids reflects what this dedicated hospice nurse has learned from those entrusted to her care: that we have only so many opportunities to become part of Jesus' work of mercy and reconciliation in our world; that we have only so much oil in our lamps to illuminate the love of God in our lives, and we must be ready for what may come.

There is so much we want to accomplish in our lives - but the many demands on our time to make a living can derail us from making a life, a life that is centered in the love of family and friends, in an awareness of God's loving presence in our midst, in a yearning to contribute to the greater good of all, through what we do and what our church can do.

Christ warns us not to fall into the trap of the five foolish bridesmaids who squander their time before the Bridegroom's arrival & are not ready, but to embrace the wisdom of the five wise bridesmaids, trimming our lamps with the oil of faith: that is compassion, generosity and forgiveness in the precious time we have until Christ's coming.

On this offering Sunday, may we offer our support to this parish in a very tangible and meaningful way through our offering cards. May they inspire us in our work in this world, living those lives God would have us live: to be ready each day and live those good works so all may come to see Jesus in our midst. Amen.

Friday, November 10, 2017

On Veterans Day


I posted this in 2014 and it is just as relevant today.

Bishop Jay Magness, who is Bishop Suffragan for Federal Ministries of The Episcopal Church, who is responsible for the pastoral care and oversight for our armed forces chaplains, military personnel and families (as well as oversight of federal hospitals, prisons, and correctional facilities chaplains), put remembering Veterans this way:
“While remembrance is important, the act of remembering is insufficient. We have among us a significant number of combat veterans, many of whom have invisible though enduring wounds, which must be recognized and healed. It is not enough to thank a veteran for her or his service as though we were wishing them a 'good day.' It is incumbent upon each of us to engage in ongoing care for veterans and to ensure that we provide meaningful assistance in rebuilding their lives and their futures. Providing shelter for the homeless, medical care for the ailing, spiritual care for those who have lost hope, and jobs for those who are unemployed are the responsibilities of a grateful nation to those who have stood the lonely watches, born the heavy burdens and carry the wounds of war for each of us.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bishop-james-magness/while-remembrance-is-impo_b_6106690.html)
So let us pray and remember the prayer calls us to act too:
O gracious God, we pray for those who have served our nation, who laid down their lives to protect and defend our freedom. We pray for all those who have fought & for those who suffered, our wounded warriors, whose spirits and bodies are scarred by war and whose nights are haunted by memories too painful for the light of day. We pray for those who serve us now, especially for those in harm's way: shield them from danger and bring them home, soon. Turn the hearts and minds of our leaders and our enemies to the work of justice and a harvest of peace. May the peace you left us, the peace you gave us, be the peace that sustains us, the peace that saves us. O Lord Jesus, hear our prayer for our Veterans & their families, for those who heard the call in yesteryear and for those who serve today, that we may reach forth our hands in love and gratefully serve their needs even as we pray for a lasting peace throughout the world. Amen. (adapted from the Concord Pastor)
COLLECT FOR HEROIC SERVICE

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 people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept it disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

From the Bishop of West Texas - On Sutherland Springs

My dear brothers and sisters, Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. Lord have mercy upon us.

I was in church at 11:30 yesterday, celebrating the Holy Eucharist, as were many of you, when a young man walked into First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, and murdered 26 people, and wounded 20 more, with an assault rifle. Young children and the elderly were among the victims. This evil violence felt all the more obscene because of the place that it occurred: in a little church in a little town, in a setting of familiarity, trust and safety.

Our world seems to be awash in bloodshed, with spasm following spasm of violence against the innocent. Certainly, the media magnify our sense of the pervasiveness of violence (while at the same time possibly numbing our ability to respond). But the awful fact is that the Sutherland Springs massacre is the worst mass killing in the history of Texas, and it follows by mere weeks the Las Vegas shootings—the worst mass killing in U. S. history. This one hits close to home, in part because Sutherland Springs is just 30 miles southeast of San Antonio, but maybe more so, because it happened in church during worship, in a place we rightly regard as holy ground and a sanctuary.

As I drove home from church, listening to the chaotic early reports of the shooting on the radio, I thought of Jesus weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. And I thought of Jesus, shortly before what we remember as Palm Sunday, looking out over the city of Jerusalem and weeping. Jesus wept—grief, mourning and lament overtook him, for love of the individual and for love of the community.

There are things we can do—things we, the Church, should do—in response to violence such as this. Bishop Brooke-Davidson and I will reach out, on behalf of the Diocese of West Texas, to the people of First Baptist and of Sutherland Springs, and assure them of our (and your) prayers and of our willingness to support them in their sorrow. If you have family or friends in the area, please let them know the diocese is ready to serve as needed, and then let us know. Please pray for the repose of the souls of those who died, for the healing of those wounded, and for their loved ones and their town.

We need to, perhaps, turn to prayers and psalms of lamentation—expressions of grief, sorrow and remorse—to pray as faithful persons who cry out to God in the face of ungodly and unjust horror. Such lamentation expresses an anguished sense of the absence of God, and also calls upon him to be true to himself and to his promises. It speaks out of the fear and darkness of present circumstances, and also trusts that God is greater. As an example, hear this portion of Psalm 88: “O Lord, my God, my Savior,/by day and night I cry to you./Let my prayer enter into your presence;/incline your ear to my lamentation./For I am full of trouble;/my life is at the brink of the grave.” (See also Psalms 3, 6, 13, 28 and 56)

While the desecration of God’s house adds to the awfulness of the murders, we should remember that assuring our own security and safety while at worship is not the goal. The kingdom of the Prince of Peace is intended for the whole world. The holy desire for the peace of the Lord, and our habit of exchanging it in worship, is meant to form us for how we live in the world, with our neighbors and co-workers, in our schools and towns. We are called to take “church life” out away from church and bless others with the same mercy, forgiveness, grace and love which we have received. Though theories will abound, we will likely never know why the murderer did what he did. (And what could we possibly learn that would make it “sensible” or “understandable”?) But we do know what we have been given in Christ, and we do know “the only Name given under heaven for health and salvation is the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (BCP, p. 457, based on Acts 4:12) We can’t solve violence in a fallen world, but we can act in so many ways, large and small, to stand against the myriad factors that contribute to the anger, despair and violence of our times. Spend time in prayer and in conversation about how your own congregation can be a means of healing and peace. By our words and in our actions, individually and in our churches, may we hold fast to our baptismal identity, renouncing evil and turning again to Jesus and following him.

The Psalms of Lament speak with blunt honesty about pain and suffering, both individual and communal. But out of that hurt, they lead back to a renewed and deepened trust in, and reliance upon, the living God: “But I put my trust in your mercy; my heart is joyful because of your saving help.” Last night, the people of Sutherland Springs gathered in groups large and small, and deep in their grief, lamented together and sought to turn again and trust in the Lord who desires for us not death, but life. They are, for us in this sad time, a grace-filled reminder.

Please be assured of Bishop Jennifer’s and my continued prayers, and our gratitude for the many ways your church brings light and hope in dark times. Know that we are available for conversation with you about ways your church might be a haven of healing and peace.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

+ David M. Reed

Saturday, November 4, 2017

A Builder Or a Wrecker (Poem)

As I watched them tear a building down
A gang of men in a busy town
With a ho-heave-ho, and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and the side wall fell

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled,
And the men you’d hire if you wanted to build?”
He gave a laugh and said, “No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.”

“I can easily wreck in a day or two,
What builders have taken years to do.”
And I thought to myself, as I went my way
Which of these roles have I tried to play'

Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by rule and square?
Am I shaping my work to a well-made plan
Patiently doing the best I can'

Or am I a wrecker who walks to town
Content with the labor of tearing down?
“O Lord let my life and my labors be
That which will build for eternity!”

A Builder Or a Wrecker by Charles Franklin Benvegar
originally published in 1967 in “The Songs of the Free State Bards” compiled by Vincent Godfrey Burns.

The Beatitudes for Discipleship


To learn more, read these blog posts:

The Ladder of the Beatitudes – Blessed are the poor in spirit

Climbing the Ladder of the Beatitudes
and read his book:

https://www.amazon.com/Ladder-Beatitudes-Jim-Forest/dp/1570752451

or

https://www.christianbook.com/the-ladder-of-the-beatitudes/jim-forest/9781570752452/pd/0752451

All Saints' Sermon

God of holiness, your glory is proclaimed in every age: as we rejoice in the faith of your saints, inspire us to follow their example with boldness and joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I was reading a story about John Boehner, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, about his life after Washington:

“After leaving office, Boehner says a longtime family friend approached him. “You’ve always had a purpose—your business, your family, politics,” the friend said. “What’s your purpose now?” Boehner says the question gnaws at him every day.” - What’s your purpose now? -

Maybe when you retire that question stares at you waiting to be answered as a new chapter unfolds in your life. Or maybe all of us ask that question in our lives, trying to find meaning and hope in what we do.

For a grandmother, Catherine Corless, at the age of 63, in TUAM, Ireland, she found her purpose, in pain, in trying to help a country reckon with its past and remember the lost Children of Tuam.

In the mother and baby home of Tuam, run by an order of nuns at the behest of the Irish government, “kept watch over unmarried mothers and their children. Sinners and their illegitimate spawn, it was said. The fallen.” Mothers who had children out of wedlock.

And of course, the sad thing is, when we delegitimize human beings treating them as “the other,” terrible things happen. Through her work, Catherine helped people in Ireland come out from the shadows, to tell their stories about their time in the home. The Survivors of a place & culture that didn’t want them, the children who were raised their in the home, the mothers who had children their but lost custody.

Over the course of the homes 36 years of existence: the “illegitimate” children who had died in the home numbered 796. But there was no burial ground. No memorial. Only a small grotto for the Virgin Mary.

And that grandmother wanted to know why. Many discounted her work. She’s just a mother, an amateur historian. But her questions, her search for truth would help lead them to discover the terrible secret: in a decommissioned septic tank - investigators had found the missing human remains. (NY Times)

To help heal the past, you can’t bury it. Catherine helped many in Ireland to begin to heal, to face its troubling past, and to begin to properly remember those who died.

What’s your purpose now?

On this All Saints’ Sunday, I want us to think about our purpose as Christians through the Beatitudes, the Gospel reading for today. (The saints found their purpose!) Jesus begins his sermon on the Mount, the beginning of his ministry among the people. A sermon for all who would come follow him. I have been reading a book called the Ladder of Beatitudes by Jim Forest & he put this reading into context:

“We are supposed not just to memorize the Beatitudes — that’s only a first step — but to let them burn in our thoughts like candles. Quite literally, they are meant to illumine us.

The Beatitudes connect with each other and depend on each other. Each Beatitude builds on the ones below. For example if you want to be a peacemaker but have an impure heart, what you will do in the name of peace will only drive people further apart and increase violence in the world. If you hunger and thirst for righteousness but have no mercy, your righteousness is likely to damage rather than heal.

We can describe the Beatitudes as a ladder, 8 rungs, reaching from the hard earth on which we live to a paradise more perfect than the Eden of Adam and Eve, what Christ calls the kingdom of God.”

Let’s take a moment and remember the first rung, the foundation for our discipleship, Blessed are the poor in Spirit.

“None of the Beatitudes that follow are possible without being poor in spirit. “But what does poverty of spirit mean? It’s my awareness that I cannot save myself, that I am basically defenseless, that neither money nor power will spare me from suffering and death, and that no matter what I achieve and acquire in this life, it will be far less than what I wanted. Poverty of spirit is my awareness that I need God’s help and mercy more than I need anything else. Poverty of spirit is getting free of the rule of fear, fear being the great force that restrains us from acts of love. Poverty of spirit is a letting go of all that keeps me locked in myself, imprisoned in myself. In the words of Dostoevsky, “Blessed are they who have nothing to lock up.”

Poverty of spirit — the condition of being a spiritual beggar — is seeking to live God’s will rather than one’s own… What is crucial is the way we possess what we possess, the care we take not to let our possessions take ownership of our souls, and how we use what we have to express God’s mercy in the world. It is an outlook summed up in a French proverb: “When you die, you carry in your clutched hand only what you gave away.”

What is our purpose now? How do we live following Christ?

"One of the saints of the Egyptian desert, Abba Dorotheos, told a story which reveals poverty of spirit in such a way that an Alexandrian of great importance was able to grasp it:

I remember once we had a conversation about humility. One of the notable citizens of the city was amazed on hearing our words that the nearer one draws to God, the more he sees himself to be a sinner. Not understanding, he asked, “How can this be?” I said to him: “Notable citizen, tell me how do you rank yourself in your own city?” He answered: “I regard myself as first in the city.” I say to him, “If you should go to Caesarea, how would you regard yourself there? He answered, “As the least of the civic leaders there.” Then I asked, “And if you should travel to Antioch, how would you regard yourself there?” “There,” he answered, “I would consider myself as one of the common people.” “And if,” I asked, “you should go to Constantinople and approach the Emperor, how would you see yourself there?” And he answered: “Almost as nothing.” Then I answered him, “So it is also with the saints. The nearer they draw to God, the more they see themselves to be sinners.”

How do we see ourselves? The saints today beckon us forward to find our purpose with Jesus, in a spirit of humility and hope.

At the end of the story the reporter asked John Boehner: “Have you found your purpose?” Boehner shakes his head. “It will become clear. But you can’t force the big guy to give you an answer,” he says. “Just do the right things for the right reasons, and good things will happen.” Boehner shakes my hand and smiles softly. “Be nice to me,” he says. (Politico Magazine)

On our journey, may we be poor in spirit, following our God like the saints of old, in humility and love, doing the right things for the right reasons. May we live into our purpose now. Amen.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Another Day, Another Tragedy


At Black River
by Mary Oliver ©

All day
its dark, slick bronze soaks
in a mossy place,
its teeth, a multitude
set
for the comedy
that never comes--

its tail
knobbed and shiny,
and with a heavyweight's punch
packed around the bone.

In beautuiful Florida
he is king
of his own part
of the black river,

and from his nap
he will wake
into the warm darkness
to boom, and thrust forward,

paralyzing
the swift, thin-waisted fish,
or the bird
in its frilled, white gown,

that has dipped down
from the heaven of leaves
one last time,
to drink.

Don't think
I'm not afraid.
There is such an unleashing
of horror.

Then I remember:
death comes before
the rolling away
of the stone.

Prayers after NYC
(Prayers from the Church of England)
Compassionate God and Father of all,
we are horrified at violence
in so many parts of the world (in NYC).
It seems that none are safe, and some are terrified.
Hold back the hands that kill and maim;
turn around the hearts that hate.
Grant instead your strong Spirit of Peace -
peace that passes our understanding
but changes lives,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen
God of Hope,
we come to you in shock and grief and confusion of heart.
Help us to find peace in the knowledge
of your loving mercy to all your children,
and give us light to guide us out of our darkness
into the assurance of your love,
In Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.
Merciful God,
hear the cries of our grief,
for you know the anguish of our hearts.
It is beyond our understanding
and more than we can bear.
We pray that justice may be done
and that we may treasure the memory of their lives
more than the manner of their death.
For Christ's sake. Amen.
© Archbishops' Council 2015


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

All Souls' Day

“All Saints' Day is the centerpiece of an autumn triduum. In the carnival celebrations of All Hallows' Eve our ancestors used the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal, the power of humor and ridicule, to confront the power of death. The following day, in the commemoration of All Saints, we gave witness to the victory of incarnate goodness embodied in the remarkable deeds and doers triumphing over the misanthropy of darkness and devils. And in the commemoration of All Souls we proclaim the hope of common mortality expressed in our aspirations and expectation of a shared eternity.” – The Rev. Sam Portaro from “Brightest and Best”

The Commemoration of All Faithful Departed:

O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers: Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son; that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A Poem for All Souls (by Wendell Berry):

I tremble with gratitude
for my children and their children
who take pleasure in one another.

At our dinners together, the dead
enter and pass among us
in living love and in memory.

And so the young are taught.

All Saints' Day

“All Saints' Day is the centerpiece of an autumn triduum. In the carnival celebrations of All Hallows' Eve our ancestors used the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal, the power of humor and ridicule, to confront the power of death. The following day, in the commemoration of All Saints, we gave witness to the victory of incarnate goodness embodied in the remarkable deeds and doers triumphing over the misanthropy of darkness and devils.” – The Rev. Sam Portaro from “Brightest and Best”
Prayer:

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

A Hymn for All Saints'

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the apostles' glorious company,
who bearing forth the cross o'er land and sea,
shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
is fair and fruitful, be thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
and seeing, grasped it, thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
and win, with them the victor's crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
we feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
the King of glory passes on his way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
and singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!