Sunday, October 22, 2017

October 22 Sermon (Proper 24)

O Loving God, help us receive the Gospel not just in words or phrases, but rather in power, in the Holy Spirit, so that our lives may bear witness to your call. In confidence, we want to labor in love and breathe your faith, hope and charity. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen. (Anne Osdieck)

To what do you give your allegiance?

We all have “devotions or loyalty to persons, groups, or causes.”

· Some here love the Yankees. Others the Red Sox. (and the chosen few the Tigers or Mets!)
· Some are Republicans. Others Democrats. Some are independent.
· Some here love meat. Others are vegetarians or even Vegans. (& sometimes illness or allergies force us to have a certain devotion.)

Often what we are devoted to has a very personal or familial connection to us.

· Some walk against cancer. Others against diabetes or muscular dystrophy or domestic violence.

What gets us in trouble is when we decide that this allegiance means more than anything else, when we lose faith, hope & charity for strife, division and animosity.

For Christians, our ultimate allegiance is to God. That is where we place our faith and our hope.

And yet all these other things we devote our time and talent and treasure too sometimes challenge this connection we have with our creator. They vie for our ultimate allegiance, and sometimes we raise them above our relationship with God. In the Gospel, those who were opposed to Jesus, wanted to test where his allegiances lie…

“Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

Answer one way and lose those opposed to the Roman occupation in the Holy Land, answer another way and Rome would come down on Jesus. So Jesus asks for a denarius, a Roman coin from the accusers, and famously says to them (KJV):

“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Jesus moves the conversation of paying taxes to the emperor from what the Herodians and Pharisees wanted to hear, a trap that Jesus couldn’t escape, to a deeper level of truth. Yes, give to the emperor that which is the emperor's, it’s his picture on the coin, give it back to the emperor. And give to God that which is God's.

In his response, Jesus is not saying, "give to the Emperor those things that are the Emperor's, and the rest to God." Nor is Jesus saying, "give to the Emperor the worldly things and give to God the spiritual things."

These statements would put Caesar equal to God, and Jesus would never make the Emperor or another thing to be worshipped or obeyed or equal to God. That is the wrong perspective. We may give our money back to the government, to the Emperor in the form of taxes, we pay bills with it, we spend it, we save it. But the almighty dollar isn’t almighty, and it belongs to God just as assuredly as we do.

“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

“For God created everything that is & by God’s will they were created and have their being.” Everything is part of God’s creation. We are made in the image of God. So the answer that Jesus gives, remind us that we owe God everything, & we owe God our lives: how we live them, how we give them away, it’s all important. Our ultimate allegiance is to God, the creator of all.

Twenty-seven years ago, NASA's Voyager 1 was about to leave our solar system. For 13 years it traveled to the edge of our galaxy taking pictures and collecting data. On February 14, 1990, as the tiny spacecraft moved on to infinity, astronomer Carl Sagan, then a member of the Voyager imaging team, convinced NASA to turn Voyager's cameras around to take one last look at Earth. The photograph of Earth, from 3.7 billion miles away, was hardly beautiful - but this grainy, low-resolution photograph showed the immeasurable vastness of space, and our undeniably small place within it. Sagan later wrote of the image in his book Pale Blue Dot:

"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

"The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

"Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark . . . The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand . . .

"There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal kindlier with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

The perspective of that remarkable photograph is the ultimate answer to the question the Pharisees pose to Jesus: What is NOT of God? All good things - from a stream of clear, cool water to a parent's love for a small child - begin with God, the Author of all that is right and good and compassionate.

In his confrontation with the Pharisees over taxes & Caesar's coin, Jesus challenges us to behold our "pale blue dot" from a perspective of gratitude for its goodness, resolving to respect and protect it for the good of all our fellow space travelers to eternity, and to remember that our allegiance is to God, who created us & our pale blue dot and this whole beautiful universe.

May we with our lives, truly render unto God the things that are God’s! Amen.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

#PrayFastAct for all Who Face Homelessness

From EPPN:

As the seasons transition and the days become colder, we answer the call to pray, fast, and act this month by supporting action for people facing homelessness, unaffordable heating utility bills, and extreme housing insecurity.


PRAY for our nation’s elected leaders to stand with those who struggle to secure safe and affordable shelter.

“God of compassion, your love for humanity was revealed in Jesus, whose earthly life began in the poverty of a stable and ended in the pain and isolation of the cross: we hold before you those who are homeless and cold especially in this bitter weather. Draw near and comfort them in spirit and bless those who work to provide them with shelter, food and friendship. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.” –For the Cold and Homeless, The Church of England

FAST to call attention in our own minds and actions human plight that eviction, poverty, and homelessness create.

Share on social media using #PrayFastAct and @TheEPPN. On the 21st, post a picture of a dinner place setting with the reason you are fasting this month. We fast on this day in solidarity with people who must choose between paying their utility and housing bills and buying food for their family. Consider participating in an electricity or heating fast by turning it off in your home for the day.

ACT by urging our elected leaders to support strong policy solutions that address affordable housing needs and homelessness.

Urge Congress to support strong policy solutions that address homelessness!
Learn more here.

Pale Blue Dot

As mentioned in my sermon:

Why kneel? or stand? What are we saying?

In light of the current dust up around kneeling during the National Anthem, I was thinking about the diversity of Christianity and how some in our ranks (who are Christians) do not swear on a bible, do not stand for the flag (or pledge allegiance), and some refuse compulsory military service.

Here are some articles that may help us to reflect on it:  (written in May!)

and some background:

The Power to Live & Forgive

from a Holocaust survivor...

I found the video to be a powerful testimony to what forgiveness can do to set us free.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Did you read this story?

The song Lift Every Voice and Sing is in one of our supplemental hymnals.  It is an excellent hymn and poem.  Read the words below and listen to the music:

Lift Every Voice and Sing (1900)
by James Weldon Johnson, 1871 - 1938

Lift every voice and sing   
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.   
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;   
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,   
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,   
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might   
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,   
May we forever stand.   
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Read about it here.

Play the video to hear the hymn:

Saturday, October 14, 2017

October 15 Sermon

Gracious God, help us to be glad in you always! Focus our thoughts on all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Guide us in the practice of these things, and may your peace go with us always. Amen.

Life & Death

The images from the wildfires in California are stark. I was watching some drone footage of one neighborhood where the fires ran wild; it left a path of destruction. Homes burnt to the ground. Cars melted. Vegetation destroyed. Harrowing accounts of people who fled from the fire storm & some who tried but couldn’t.

In one video, on one side of the block, there was very little left from the fire. On the other side of the street, the homes looked untouched. Beautiful green yards. Trees with leaves. Cars parked in driveways.

Life & death

For the ancient Israelites, learning to live with neighbors close by who terrorized them, enemies who wanted the land they lived on, the line between life and death always seemed very close.

But in this 25th chapter of Isaiah, our first reading today, they are reminded that the Lord will change the circumstances. God will be their shelter, a refuge from the storm. God will subdue the heat of those against them, still the songs of the ruthless.

But God doesn’t stop there. On the Holy Mountain, on Mt Zion – there will be a feast! A party! With rich food! Wine!

Not only that – but everyone will be invited. All people. God will reconcile everyone.

And death? God will swallow it up for ever.

Death can seem to have such power over our lives – not only by ending life (our mortality), but crippling it too (when we lose a love one or fear it).

But it is God who will act so that everyone will have life. God affirms life over death in Isaiah’s feast.

Likewise, Jesus tells another parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, a parable of life and death.

A King is throwing a Wedding banquet for his son. It is a great big party and he sends slaves out to gather the invited guests, who have already RSVP’d. But they do not come. Again slaves are sent, but these invited guests made light of it, ignored them, beat them, killed some. The King is enraged and destroys the city that houses the unworthy guests.

And then he sends his slaves to invite everyone they meet, the good and the bad! And the banquet hall is filled. Jesus ends by saying, for many are called, few are chosen. Another grand party, and again the Kingdom of Heaven is like, those both good and bad who accept the invitation and come to the feast.

But there is more to the parable, accepting the invitation and coming is good but the King notices someone without the proper wedding attire. How did you get in here? The man was speechless. So the King had him thrown out. Why is he cast out? Why is he speechless?

The good and the bad were invited after the invited guests failed to fulfill their invitation. But this lone wolf, got in and didn’t know why or refused to answer. There still is an expectation with the invitation!

Everyone, especially those on the margins, are invited but you do it in faith, even with doubts, you show up in faith, not speechless about why you are there. It’s grace. In the end, the importance of these celebrated feasts is God overcoming death with life, invitations to the banquet for everyone. But not everyone always feels such welcome. I recently read a story and it hit home for me…

Five years ago, going out to dinner for the Zohn family was a nightmare. Six-year-old Adin is autistic. At restaurants, the little boy would quickly grow tired of waiting for the food to arrive and would bolt from the table and grab pizza off of other diners' plates before his father could catch him, which would send Adin into a tantrum. So the family stopped going out to dinner.

But Adin's parents, Lenard and Delphine, knew they weren't the only parents of children with autism who missed dining out. So, three years ago, they started Autism Eats, a kind of supper club for families with children on the autism spectrum. Every three months or so the Zohns book a restaurant with a private room, able to accommodate a large group. They consult with the restaurant's management to make sure that the setup is autism-friendly. Food is served buffet or family style so there is no waiting. Music and lighting are adjusted to accommodate those with sensory sensitivity. Since every family who attends has a loved one on the spectrum, there is no need to apologize, explain or feel uncomfortable for a child's behavior.

More than a hundred diners attend, with some families driving two hours or more to participate. These nights out are an opportunity for families who feel isolated by a child's autism to enjoy a night out and socialize with others who have many of the same joys and challenges in common.

Since the Zohns began Autism Eats in their hometown near Boston in 2014, chapters have been established in 13 states, with more to come. One parent said that these dinners are a blessing for her family: "There's no stigma; we can relax and have fun. It sounds like a simple thing, but it's so out of reach for us," she said. "The crowds, the long waits, any surprises, are hard . . . [Our little boy] can be himself and we don't have to worry that we're bothering anyone else's dinner." [The Boston Globe, December 21, 2015.]

The "Autism Eats" club is a living sign of today's Gospel: that everyone has a place at God's feast - even though some of us may need a little more help than others to fully participate in the banquet. If we are to be truly faithful to God's vision for all people, then we must embrace a faith-centered vision that sees beyond race, physical abilities and mental acumen, ethnic stereotypes and economic distinctions to see all men, women and children as made in the same image and likeness of God in which we are all created.

"The king's wedding banquet" & the feast on the holy mountain are celebrated in many different times and places, when everyone has a place at God's table - a table that extends from this altar & our own family/banquet tables in this time and place to God's great banquet table, that holy feast in the next. For when we bring the party to everyone, like Autism Eats, we help bring life from death. Amen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Changing Columbus Day?

As our nation celebrates Columbus Day, this holiday may bring conflicted experiences and emotions for different Americans. For many in the Native American community, it serves as a painful reminder of the brutal European settlement and conquest of the Americas. Many in those communities and beyond want us to change Columbus Day into one that recognizes the Native (indigenous) Americans in our midst.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori offers the following statement: "I urge you to learn more about the Doctrine of Discovery* and the search for healing in our native communities. But this is also a matter for healing in communities and persons of European immigrant descent. Colonists, settlers, and homesteaders benefited enormously from the availability of 'free' land, and their descendants continue to benefit to this day. That land was taken by force or subterfuge from peoples who had dwelt on it from time immemorial - it was their 'promised land.'"

Learn more here: Doctrine of Discovery repudiation found here.

"It can also be a time of learning and understanding," said Sarah Eagle Heart, the Episcopal Church's officer for Native American and Indigenous Ministries. "Columbus Day could instead be a time to turn away from those things done 'on behalf' of Native Americans so that we all might come to live in justice and peace with all people."

A Prayer for Healing and Hope
O Great Spirit, God of all people and every tribe,
through whom all people are related;
Call us to the kinship of all your people.
Grant us vision to see through the lens of our
Baptismal Covenant,
the brokenness of the past;
Help us to listen to one another,
in order to heal the wounds of the present;
And give us courage, patience, and wisdom to work together
for healing and hope with all of your people,
now and in the future.
Mend the hoop of our hearts and let us live in
justice and peace
through Jesus Christ,
the One who comes to all people
that we might live in dignity. Amen.
The above includes an adaptation of materials, Copyright 2011, the Episcopal Church Center

*An occasion of unprecedented significance in the history of the Episcopal Church (2011)

This “Lament over the Doctrine of Discovery” is the first time in the history of the church that we have attempted to come together as followers of Jesus Christ, Native and other people, to openly acknowledge, honor and lament before God and each other, the grievous circumstances of the settlement of this nation. As General Convention 2009 had the courage to repudiate the Doctrine of
Discovery and to call us to transformed understandings, practices and relationships, tonight we gather here in Indianapolis and throughout the Episcopal Church to share this event with those who participate in Local Laments over the Doctrine of Discovery.

What is the Doctrine of Discovery and what does it have to do with me?

The “Doctrine of Discovery” is a term referring to several documents and policies of church and state that legalized the violent and unjust settlement of North and South America, giving these actions, and their long-lingering tragic consequences, the full sanction and blessing of church and state. Without some awareness of the reasons why and ways in which these policies and actions grievously violate the values of our Christian faith – to continue in the prayers and fellowship, preserve in resisting evil, proclaim Good News, seek and serve Christ in all persons, strive for justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being – we cannot live out that faith with honesty and integrity.

Monday, October 9, 2017

October 8 Sermon (post Las Vegas)

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of America,
and the people of this land are his pleasant planting;
God expected justice, but saw bloodshed;
righteousness, but heard a cry!

Forgive my changing a few words from scripture but it does feel like those words from Isaiah this morning are being addressed to us.

God expected justice, but saw bloodshed;
righteousness, but heard a cry

And once again our land is thrown into anxiety with such carnage and senseless death.

276 mass shootings this year. Over 11,000 dead; 24,000 injured. We hear & see shootings in our cities, in the countryside and now this horrific scene in Las Vegas.

On top of that we have fires, earthquakes, hurricanes (a new one that has just come ashore), flooding. I feel overwhelmed by it all. So much death and destruction.

Our land indeed is crying out for justice, for righteousness, for peace. We caught glimpses of it at that terrible event.

From our first reading, we hear about God planting a vineyard…

My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.

This is not the Jones Farm Winery, but God talking about us, planting his choice vines, but instead of yielding grapes, it yielded wild grapes. For we have not done justice, loved kindness or walked humbly with our God. Instead what followed was violence, bloodshed, a cry.

Isaiah goes on (in a verse not printed in the bulletin) to make it clear that the violence mentioned is about those “who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!” (Is. 5: 8)

A vineyard given to many becomes a land where through greed, it has become a land for only one.

It is with this background that Jesus is telling his parable of the evil tenants, for they do not understand Jesus as the cornerstone of the faith but many understood his parable that he is the son and they are the wicked tenants and they want to arrest him but fear the crowds…

And yet if we think about the parable, we are now the generations who are the tenants in God’s vineyard called the Church. How do we give of the harvest today? What is our fruit?

The warning of the last line, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.” is a reminder that God has expectations that we produce fruit. Not unblemished, perfect fruit, but fruit of who we are, our time, our talent, our treasure, those God given gifts. God is not waiting for us to fail. No, God is waiting for us to follow Jesus, to live in faith so we can truly have joyous, generous & authentic lives, to be the fruit that is born from a vision of abundance, and share that with the world. For God expects among that fruit to be justice.

“Thinking of the vineyard of Isaiah with Jesus’ parable prods us to understand this parable, too, as referring not only to collective violence such as that threatened against Jesus but the ongoing social violence of the religious and political leaders. Properly tending the vineyard of the Lord is about properly caring for all people in society, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. Jesus was seeing quite the opposite in his time and the Risen Christ continues to see this systemic injustice continuing unabated in our time.” (Abbott Andrew of St Gregory’s Abbey)

We must tend God’s vineyard in our land, to help justice take root for everyone, not anger or fear… Think about it this way.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, a dragon wreaked havoc throughout the land. One day, while the king was away, the dragon attacked the castle. The dragon was so ugly and smelled so disgusting that the guards froze in terror as the dragon demolished the palace. As the destruction continued, the guards finally came to their senses and began to shout and curse at the dragon and threatened the beast with their weapons. But the angrier and more threatening the guards were, the bigger the dragon got, the worse the dragon's smell became, the more violent destruction the dragon wreaked.

In the midst of the turmoil, the king returned. He had never seen a creature as ugly or experienced a stench as foul as this dragon, now twice the size it had been. But the wise king knew exactly what to do. He smiled at the dragon and welcomed it. He softly patted the dragon's scaly tail.

"Welcome to our palace," the king said. "Has anyone offered you anything to eat or drink?"

And with each kind word and gesture, the dragon became a little smaller, less smelly, and less threatening. The king's court began to catch on. One steward offered the dragon tea; another brought bread and jam; the court physician treated an old wound in the dragon's hide. At every kind word, deed or thought, the dragon grew smaller and less threatening. The king and his court continued to be kind. Soon the dragon became so small he could hardly be seen. Then, after a maid offered a blanket for the night, the dragon vanished completely.

In its place there appeared a small dove, that flew away into the morning light. [Adapted from "The anger-eating demon" from Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? by Ajahn Brahm.]

In Jesus, God transforms the ugly dragons of our vineyards by his Spirit of compassion, mercy and forgiveness. We, too, can re-create God’s vineyards by embracing Christ's Gospel of selfless and humble servanthood. Jesus comes with a new, transforming vision for the vineyard given to us: a vision of love rather than greed, of peace rather than hostility, of forgiveness rather than vengeance, a vision that enables us to reconcile even the ugliest and smelliest dragon among us.

In the end, it is you and I that will help tend this beautiful land we have been given from our beloved creator. One plant at a time. One kind gesture at a time. Into the lush Kingdom of God meant for everyone, no exceptions. May we dirty our hands working to produce that fruitful kind land. Amen.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

More Prayers to be Used after a Mass Shooting

Almighty God, who knows death, violence, and loss so intimately, bless all who weep and mourn the gun violence in Las Vegas, send your people to heal, encourage, and uplift; and stir in our hearts the will and resolve to say enough is enough, to work for sane gun reform, discovering new ways to work together for the peaceful nation we all desire; we ask this in the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen. (Rev. Chris Yaw)

A couple of services you can use at home or anywhere:

A Video Reflection & Prayer from the Presiding Bishop (on Las Vegas)

Presiding Bishop, Anglican Primates respond to Las Vegas shooting | Episcopal Church

and a second video from the Evensong service:

Monday, October 2, 2017

Poems for Las Vegas

To Those Born Later by Bertolt Brecht


Truly, I live in dark times!
The guileless word is folly. A smooth forehead
Suggests insensitivity. The man who laughs
Has simply not yet had
The terrible news.

What kind of times are they, when
A talk about trees is almost a crime
Because it implies silence about so many horrors?
That man there calmly crossing the street
Is already perhaps beyond the reach of his friends
Who are in need?

It is true I still earn my keep
But, believe me, that is only an accident. Nothing
I do gives me the right to eat my fill.
By chance I've been spared. (If my luck breaks, I am lost.)

They say to me: Eat and drink! Be glad you have it!
But how can I eat and drink if I snatch what I eat
From the starving, and
My glass of water belongs to one dying of thirst?
And yet I eat and drink.

I would also like to be wise.
In the old books it says what wisdom is:
To shun the strife of the world and to live out
Your brief time without fear
Also to get along without violence
To return good for evil
Not to fulfill your desires but to forget them
Is accounted wise.
All this I cannot do:
Truly, I live in dark times.


I came to the cities in a time of disorder
When hunger reigned there.
I came among men in a time of revolt
And I rebelled with them.
So passed my time
Which had been given to me on earth.

My food I ate between battles
To sleep I lay down among murderers
Love I practised carelessly
And nature I looked at without patience.
So passed my time
Which had been given to me on earth.

All roads led into the mire in my time.
My tongue betrayed me to the butchers.
There was little I could do. But those in power
Sat safer without me: that was my hope.
So passed my time
Which had been given to me on earth.

Our forces were slight. Our goal
Lay far in the distance
It was clearly visible, though I myself
Was unlikely to reach it.
So passed my time
Which had been given to me on earth.


You who will emerge from the flood
In which we have gone under
When you speak of our failings
The dark time too
Which you have escaped.

(1940) German; trans. John Willett, Ralph Manheim & Erich Fried

Somehow We Survive by Dennis Brutus

Somehow we survive
and tenderness, frustrated, does not wither.
Investigating searchlights rake
our naked, unprotected contours;
over our heads the monolithic decalogue
of fascist prohibition glowers
and teeters for a catastrophic fall;
boots club the peeling door.
But somehow we survive
severance, deprivation, loss.
Patrols uncoil along the asphalt dark
hissing their menace to our lives,
most cruel, all our land is scarred with terror,
rendered unlovely and unlovable;
sundered are we and all our passionate surrender
but somehow tenderness survives.

(1963) South Africa

Pax  by D. H. Lawrence:

All that matters is to be at one with You, the living God;
to be a creature in Your house, O God of Life!
Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace
at home, at home in the house of the living,
sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire.
Sleeping on the hearth of the living world,
yawning at home before the fire of life
feeling the presence of You, the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart
a presence
as of a master, a mistress sitting on the board
in their own and greater being,
in the house of life.

(1928) England

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

(1968) USA

Statement from the ECCT Bishops

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Once again our country is ravaged by the scourge of gun violence in yet another mass shooting.  At this point in time, Sunday's shooting in Las Vegas has resulted in 58 victims and over 500 injured in what is being described as the largest mass shooting in modern United States history.  Such an act of violence is contrary to God's will for humanity and all that we stand for as followers of Jesus.
As your bishops in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, we participate actively in the network, Bishops United Against Gun Violence (BUAGV) -- BUAGV website here, and Facebook page for Episcopalians Against Gun Violence here. In fact, we both helped to found BUAGV in the wake of our own Sandy Hook tragedy, and Ian continues to serve as Co-Convener of BUAGV.    
This morning BUAGV bishops met via conference call to address the situation in Las Vegas.  We were joined by the Rt. Rev. Dan Edwards, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada.  Together we drafted the following statement and call to prayer and action.  As bishops of Connecticut we stand behind this statement of the Bishops United Against Gun Violence and commend it to you.
As described in the closing of the BUAGV statement, we ask that our ECCT Cathedral and all parishes in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut open their doors for prayer tomorrow, October 3, 2017, and join at noon in the ringing of our church bells for all those who have died in Las Vegas.  Let us come together in prayer and solidarity with the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada and all who are committed to overcoming gun violence in our nation and in the world.
God bless us in these difficult times.  And may the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Bishop Diocesan
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, Bishop Suffragan

Statement from Bishops United Against Gun Violence

We share in the grief and horror of people across our country and, indeed, around the world in the wake of last night's mass shooting in Las Vegas. We have spoken with our Bishops United Against Gun Violence colleague and brother in Christ, Bishop Dan Edwards of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, and we have offered him and the people of Nevada our prayers and promises of assistance. We stand in solidarity with the diocese and the people of Nevada as they cope with this massacre.
It has become clich├ęd at moments such as these to offer thoughts and prayers. But as Christians, we must reflect upon the mass killings that unfold with such regularity in our country. And we must pray: for the victims, for their loved ones, for all who attended to the victims in the immediacy of the shooting, for the first responders who do so much to mitigate the awful effects of these shootings, and for the medical personnel who will labor for many days to save the wounded. We must also enter into the sorrow of those who are most deeply affected by our country's cripplingly frequent outbursts of lethal gun violence. We must look into our own hearts and examine the ways in which we are culpable or complicit in the gun violence that surrounds us every day.
And then, having looked, we must act. As Christians, we are called to engage in the debates that shape how Americans live and die, especially when they die due to violence or neglect. Yet a probing conversation on issues of gun violence continues to elude us as a nation, and this failure is cause for repentance and for shame. It is entirely reasonable in the wake of mass killings perpetrated by murderers with assault weapons to ask lawmakers to remove such weapons from civilian hands. It is imperative to ask why, as early as this very week, Congress is likely to pass a bill making it easier to buy silencers, a piece of equipment that make it more difficult for law enforcement officials to detect gunfire as shootings are unfolding
Even as we hold our lawmakers accountable, though, we must acknowledge that a comprehensive solution to gun violence, whether it comes in the form of mass shootings, street violence, domestic violence or suicide, will not simply be a matter of changing laws, but of changing lives. Our country is feasting on anger that fuels rage, alienation and loneliness. From the White House to the halls of Congress to our own towns and perhaps at our own tables, we nurse grudges and resentments rather than cultivating the respect, concern and affection that each of us owes to the other. The leaders who should be speaking to us of reconciliation and the justice that must precede it too often instead stoke flames of division and mistrust. We must, as a nation, embrace prayerful resistance before our worse impulses consume us.
We join with the people of God in fervent prayer that our country will honor those murdered and wounded in Las Vegas by joining in acts of repentance, healing, and public conversation about the gun violence that has ripped us apart, yet again.
On Tuesday, October 3 at 9 a.m. Pacific time, churches across the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada will toll their bells in mourning for the victims of the shooting in Las Vegas. Bishops United Against Gun Violence invites congregations across the country to toll their own bells in solidarity at the same time: 9 a.m. Pacific; 10 a.m. Mountain; 11 a.m. Central; Noon Eastern (St. Pete's will ring its bell at Noon). The number of times the bells are rung will be based on the number of dead as reported at that time including the perpetrator of the violence. Watch for updates on the
Episcopalians Against Gun Violence Facebook page.

Praying for #LasVegas

The Supplication

O Lord, arise, help us;
And deliver us for your Name's sake.

O God, we have heard with our ears, and our fathers and mothers have declared unto us, the noble works that you have done in their days, and in the time before them.

O Lord, arise, help us;
and deliver us for your Name's sake.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

O Lord, arise, help us;
and deliver us for your Name's sake.

From our enemies defend us, O Christ;
Graciously behold our afflictions.
With compassion behold the sorrows of our hearts;
Mercifully forgive the sins of your people.
Favorably with mercy hear our prayers;
O Son of David, have mercy upon us.
Both now and evermore we humbly pray you to hear us, O Christ;
Graciously hear us, O Christ; graciously hear us, O Lord  Christ.

The Officiant concludes

Let us pray.

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. (For the Human Family, BCP. p. 815)

Loving God, Jesus gathered your little ones in his arms and blessed them. Have pity on those who mourn for the victims in Las Vegas slaughtered by the violence of our fallen world. Be with us as we struggle with the mysteries of life and death; in our pain, bring your comfort, and in our sorrow, bring your hope and your promise of new life, in the name of Jesus our Savior.
Amen. (Enriching Our Worship 2, p. 143)

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 833)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Looking at Christianity & Faith through Different Lenses


When Tim Tebow knelt on the sidelines of a football game in a defiant and public act of faith during his years as an N.F.L. quarterback, he was adored as a darling of the American church. When Colin Kaepernick knelt before games in protest of police brutality, he received death threats, was called a “traitor” and eventually, left unsigned by the NFL. Kaepernick is a devout Christian whose faith has turned him into an activist...
But as more than 200 NFL players joined the protest by refusing to stand for the national anthem this weekend, some Christians expressed their dismay, claiming that kneeling during the anthem is an unpatriotic and ungrateful gesture. This fissure in response to the NFL protests highlights key differences between white Christians and Christians of color. These groups tend to think differently about racial justice ― and what Christianity should look like when it’s called to action....
The Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, senior minister of New York City’s Middle Collegiate Church, told HuffPost that she believes that flag is a symbol of the freedoms that the country claims to uphold ― freedom to “drive, work, and live while Black. Vote while Black. Raise children while Black. Safely.”  But America isn’t there yet.
“I think the deeper issue is that for African Americans in this nation, that flag and that national anthem are only as sacred as the willingness of those who sing and salute to stand up for the lives of all Americans, to stand against white supremacy ― the white supremacy that built this land on the backs of enslaved Africans, after stealing it from first nation peoples,” Lewis said. 

It is a worthwhile read!

Love Thy Neighbor

Read this story.  This is how you love your neighbor.  Bravo sir!

Wedding photographer captures moment groom jumps into pond to save drowning boy

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Word to the Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church House of Bishops, meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska (Diocese of Alaska) approved and presented the following Word to the Church...
A Word to the Church from The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops
Gathered in Fairbanks, Alaska, September 21-26, 2017

The bishops of The Episcopal Church came to Alaska to listen to the earth and its peoples as an act of prayer, solidarity and witness. We came because:
• “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2). God is the Lord of all the earth and of all people; we are one family, the family of God.

• “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are … members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). The residents of interior Alaska whom we met are not strangers; they are members of the same household of faith.

• People have “become hard of hearing, and shut their eyes so that they won’t see with their eyes or hear with their ears or understand with their minds, and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15). We are blind and deaf to the groaning of the earth and its peoples; we are learning the art of prayerful listening.

What does listening to the earth and its people mean? For us bishops, it meant:

• Getting out and walking the land, standing beside the rivers, sitting beside people whose livelihood depends on that land. We had to slow down and live at the pace of the stories we heard. We had to trust that listening is prayer.

• Recognizing that struggles for justice are connected. Racism, the economy, violence of every kind, and the environment are interrelated. We have seen this reality not only in the Arctic, but also at Standing Rock in the Dakotas, in the recent hurricanes, in Flint, Michigan, Charlottesville, Virginia, and in the violence perpetuated against people of color and vulnerable populations anywhere.

• Understanding that listening is deeply connected to healing. In many healing stories in the gospels, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” That is, he listened first and then acted.

What did we hear?

• “The weather is really different today,” one leader told us. “Now spring comes earlier, and fall lasts longer. This is threatening our lives because the permafrost is melting and destabilizing the rivers. We depend on the rivers.”

• The land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where the caribou birth their calves is called the “sacred place where life begins,” so sacred the Gwich’in People do not set foot there. “Drilling here,” people said, “is like digging beneath the National Cathedral.”

• After shopping together, a native Episcopalian told one of us how hard it is to even secure food. “We can’t get good food here. We have to drive to Fairbanks. It is a two-hour trip each way.”

What we bishops saw and heard in Alaska is dramatic, but it is not unique. Stories like these can be heard in each of the nations where The Episcopal Church is present. They can be heard in our own communities. We invite you to join us, your bishops, and those people already engaged in this work, in taking time to listen to people in your dioceses and neighborhoods. Look for the connections among race, violence of every kind, economic disparity, and the environment. Then, after reflecting in prayer and engaging with scripture, partner with people in common commitment to the healing of God’s world.

God calls us to listen to each other with increased attention. It is only with unstopped ears and open eyes that our hearts and lives will be changed. It is through the reconciling love of God in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that we and the earth itself will be healed.

A Prayer for Our Time and for the Earth

Dear God, Creator of the earth, this sacred home we share;
Give us new eyes to see the beauty all around and to protect the wonders of creation.
Give us new arms to embrace the strangers among us and to know them as family.
Give us new ears to hear and understand those who live off the land
and to hear and understand those who extract its resources.
Give us new hearts to recognize the brokenness in our communities
and to heal the wounds we have inflicted.
Give us new hands to serve the earth and its people
and to shape beloved community.
For you are the One who seeks the lost,
binds our wounds and sets us free,
and it is in the name of Jesus the Christ we pray.

Race, Enivornment, & Poverty

The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church met in Alaska.  Here is a news report:

Bishops close meeting in Alaska with letter urging ‘prayerful listening’ on race, environment, poverty

Learn more about "The Caribou People" and the ANWR here.  Many of whom are Episcopalian.

A Prayer for Our Time and for the Earth
Dear God, Creator of the earth, this sacred home we share;
Give us new eyes to see the beauty all around and to protect the wonders of creation.
Give us new arms to embrace the strangers among us and to know them as family.
Give us new ears to hear and understand those who live off the land
and to hear and understand those who extract its resources.
Give us new hearts to recognize the brokenness in our communities
and to heal the wounds we have inflicted.
Give us new hands to serve the earth and its people
and to shape beloved community.
For you are the One who seeks the lost,
binds our wounds and sets us free,
and it is in the name of Jesus the Christ we pray.

More resources here.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sermon: September 24 (Proper 20)

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

A long time parishioner and a newcomer were discussing the new priest at coffee hour just after his first sermon. "Oh, thank God the last one is gone!" the older parishioner went on. "He always preached that if we didn't mend our ways and reform our lives we would all go straight to hell."

"But isn't that just what the new reverend said today?" the newcomer observed. "Yes but our old pastor seemed happy about it."

Jonah would have been happy if the Ninevites were going to hell. He hated them.

The Ninevites, a neighbour to the north, were an enemy of Israel. God was looking for a prophet to send to them to have them repent of their evil ways. God called Jonah. Twice! When God first sent him to the Ninevites, Jonah ran the other way as fast as he could go, getting on a ship to sail away.

Eventually a big fish brought Jonah back and God called Jonah a second time and sent him to the Ninevites. He proclaimed what God asked of him and as we heard this morning the people of Nineveh listened. God did not destroy them because they repented of their evil ways. Jonah, though, was angry. He knew God might forgive. And now the hated Ninevites were saved.

God said to Jonah the reluctant prophet, "can’t I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred twenty thousand people who can’t tell their right hand from their left, and also many animals?" (Jonah 4:11 CEB)

Jonah could only see the hated enemy, but God saw his creation, a people who have erred and strayed like lost sheep. And yet God called Jonah anyway to proclaim to them and reconciliation happened. It is God’s abundant love that sets people free, it is grace.

Likewise, in the parable Jesus tells in the Gospel for today, it is about God feeding his people grace. The parable tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner…

Its time to harvest the grapes, so the landowner hires workers early in the morning, but he doesn’t stop there he goes out again and again and again. Each time hiring those who are standing idle, who haven’t been hired, and he tells them they will get paid whatever is right. When evening comes, all those hired get paid, those hired last were paid first, and given the daily wage. Those who worked all day must have expected more, but when it came there turn, they also received the daily wage. So no matter if they worked all day or if they worked 1 hour, they all got the same pay.

Outrageous! Many of the laborers cried out! We worked harder than anyone else, why should those who didn’t work as long earn the same as us? That’s no way to run a vineyard!

And the landowner replies, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

This is a parable about the kingdom of heaven; and there God’s generosity and abundance knows no bounds. The parable speaks to the open invitation to God’s kingdom, an invitation to all, first or last, we all receive the same pay, the same salvation, we are free.

Such generosity is not earned because of working all day, it is a gift from God, it is grace. Such generosity saved the Ninevites from destruction when they repented. We can reject it or accept it and live, no matter the first or last hour. So what does that mean for us today? Let me tell you an Arabian folk tale:

A man walking through the forest saw a fox that had lost its legs. He wondered how the poor animal could survive. Then he saw a tiger come into the clearing with game in its mouth. The tiger ate its fill and then left the rest of the meat for the fox. The next day God fed the fox by means of the same tiger. The man began to wonder at God's great goodness and said to himself, "I too shall just rest here in full trust in the Lord that he will provide me with what I need."

The man remained in the forest for several days. But nothing happened. The poor man was almost at death's door with hunger when he heard a voice: "Oh, you poor fool. Open your eyes to the truth. Stop imitating the disabled fox and, instead, follow the example of the tiger."[From The Song of the Bird by Anthony deMello, S.J.]

The voice of God keeps coming back to us, like the voice that spoke to Jonah, a voice that speaks of God's generous and abundant love and grace for us. Much like the generosity of the landowner, and the care of that tiger for the fox, the call to discipleship demands that, like the tiger & landowner, we seek to embody such abundant love in our lives.

It is grace. It is about a God who so abundantly loves us, that he sent his only Son to help us be free. A God who continues to feed us here at this altar and invites us, begs us, pushes us by the Holy Spirit to bring that love and grace that we feel here out into a world that needs it.

It is that same Holy Spirit that today will mark Brody Maxwell Meady as Christ’s own forever & part of the Body of Christ.

There are many crying out in need of love. Some may be Ninevites. Hated enemies. But God calls us to them too. May we open our hearts to the wisdom that God offers us today, so that without concern for the cost of discipleship or the reward of our labors, we may grasp the honor of working in God’s vineyard at whatever time we arrive, and offer that love and hope and grace to all. Amen.