Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sermon: February 26

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

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

Peter was right and wrong. He was right that it was good for the three disciples to experience the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. What an experience to have a vision of Jesus with Moses and Elijah. The Law & the Prophets. It could not be more symbolic and hope filled.

And yet Peter was wrong to try to capture the moment in three dwellings, as if to keep that moment bottled up, so it wouldn’t change.

It seems to me that we often try, like Peter to capture our understandings, our moments, box them in, build our dwellings and refuse to let them change.

I read an article in the New Yorker this week titled “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds: New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason.” The article looked at several studies on how researchers found that “once formed, impressions are remarkably perseverant.” Even after the evidence “for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs.”

In other words, we stubbornly hold to our facts, our understandings, even when we learn that what we are holding on to is no longer true. There are still those who believe we live on a flat earth.

As Christians, Jesus calls us down the mountain, to be transformed by the truth, not to encase ourselves or others in dwellings, closing our minds but to be open to what God might be doing & calling us to do…

In 1955, Endre and Ilona Marton were journalists in their native Hungary. Their reporting provided the rest of the world with the real story of a country brutalized by the Hungarian Stalinist state. Over time, the Hungarian secret police closed in on the Martons and arrested them. But the couple managed to survive more than a year of harsh imprisonment and a humiliating show trial for espionage, and eventually escaped to a new life in the United States.

Endre and Ilona's daughter Kati Marton is an award-winning journalist in her own right. With access to the thousands of pages of secret files the state police had collected on her parents, Kati Marton reconstructs Endre and Ilona's story in the powerful and absorbing book Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America.

In these secret files, Kati rediscovers her parent's courageous stand against the Communist regime and their uncompromising fight for human rights and justice. Kati writes that neighbors, colleagues, supposed friends - even the girls' nanny - informed on and betrayed her mother and father. She recounts the risks they took to file stories for the Associated Press and how her parents' marriage began to crack under the pressure.

But after their arrests, Endre and Ilona found new strength to support one another and keep their family together. Kati also reads, in her reticent father's own words, his love for his wife, Kati and her sister Juli, and his readiness to sacrifice his life in order to save them from Communist brutality. Kati, who was only a child at the time, realizes how the experience especially transformed her mother. Kati writes:

"Papa's arrest transformed Mama. I had never seen her as determined as she was during the four months between his arrest and her own. Perhaps because she had lost her primary audience, my father, she lost her dramatic personality. She had two small children who were now utterly dependent on her alone - and a very shaky sense of her own future. Vanished was the self-indulgence I associated with her . . . Now [she] focused all her energy on saving him and protecting us. Her entire life until that moment - a life of loss and survival - had prepared her for this."

Ilona ignored her husband's advice to divorce him and leave Hungary; instead, she continued his dangerous work of filing news stories for Associated Press and fighting for his freedom.

Prison "had strengthened my parents' marriage . . . It was something they had shared and survived, as they shared and survived the nightmare of the Nazi occupation. They were welded together by loss, confinement, war, jail, and, finally, love."

Kati Marton's memoir is a story of transfiguration - how forgiveness, justice and love can be the vehicles for transforming one's life in the midst of despair, hatred and vengeance. The figure of Christ on Mount Tabor calls us to the upcoming Lenten work of transfiguration - to transform the crosses laid on our shoulders & others into the compassion and hope of the Easter resurrection.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said that "God places us in the world as God's fellow workers - agents of transfiguration. We work with God so that injustice is transfigured into justice, so that there will be more compassion and caring, so that there will be more laughter and joy, so that there will be more togetherness in God's world."

The weeks ahead call us to descend the mountain with the transfigured Jesus and to take up our crosses – whatever they may be - and realize the sacred goodness and value we possess that enables us to bring the glory of Easter into our lives and the lives of those we love, so there will be more laughter and joy, truth and togetherness.

Again in the words of Desmond Tutu: “God asks us to be agents of transfiguration; the God who could transfigure an instrument of the most excruciatingly painful and shameful death so that it becomes the source of a tingling, effervescent, bubbling eternal life. To proclaim that nothing, no one, no situation could ever be untransfigurable. Nothing, no one, no situation is beyond redemption, is totally devoid of hope. This God who could snuff out all troublemakers, does not dispatch perpetrators of evil, those who rule unjustly and oppress others. No, God waits, waits on us as those who will provide the bread and the fish so that God can perform God's miracles to end injustice and oppression, to end war, disease and ignorance.”

God waits on us to come down the mountain & to be his workers, his agents of transfiguration in our world today. Amen.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Liberals, Fundamentalists, & Moderation

The words "liberal" and "fundamentalist" are used today not so much to identify oneself as to label the enemy. From one side comes the accusation that the mind of the fundamentalist is closed, shuttered against the possibility of doubt and therefore against the recognition of hitherto unrecognized truth. From the other side comes the charge that liberals are so open to new ideas that they have no firm commitments at all, that every affirmation of faith must be held only tentatively, and that every dogma must, as a matter of principle, be challenged. There are terms of moral opprobrium that each side employs to attack the other: the fundamentalist is arrogant, blinkered, and culturally illiterate; the liberal is flabby, timid, and carried along by every new fashion of thought. From the point of view of the fundamentalist, doubt is sin; from the point of view of the liberal, the capacity for doubt is a measure of intellectual integrity and honesty.

 Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship (Eerdmans: 1995), p. 1. by Lesslie Newbigin

But moderation is not necessarily synonymous with lukewarm moral weakness. The word "moderate" and its noun form "moderation" actually convey something admirable when applied to civility in public discourse. The classic meaning of moderation is a position that avoids excesses and extremes; that is, temperate, restrained, prudent, fair, and reasonable. A moderate believes that the truth usually lies in the "golden mean" between extremes. Moderates aim for judicious tolerance, a calm willingness to listen to and consider the conviction of those with whom they disagree. Without surrendering convictions, moderation seeks truth in the center, which is not always marked by a cowardly "yellow stripe." The "radical middle," as Gordon Fee calls it, is not bland neutrality, but it’s the path that avoids the dangerous ditches on either side of the road. It’s a courageous position held by people some have called "flaming moderates."

Higher Ground: A Call for Christian Civility (Smyth & Helwys Publishing: 2007), p. 104.  by Russell H. Dilday

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Loving Your Enemies (II)

My sermon for February 19 was based in large part on the sermon "Loving Your Enemies," 
which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave on several occasions.

Here are several links to his sermon on "Loving Your Enemies":,SermonDeliveredattheDetroitCouncilofChurches'NoonLentenServices.pdf

Loving Our Enemies (I)

I have blogged in the past regarding our enemies and how Jesus commands us to love them. Here are some links for your consideration:


Sermon: February 19

O God, the Creator of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP)

We are living in conflicted times, and I know that may be an understatement. But, we have lived through challenging times before…

“Upheaval after upheaval has reminded us that modern man is traveling along a road called hate, in a journey that will bring us to destruction and damnation. Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world.” (MLK)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words from the early 1960s, remind us that this journey we have been on as Americans, has been a struggle with love and hate, (& if we are honest, since its inception, really.) “Modern psychology recognizes what Jesus taught centuries ago: hate divides the personality and love in an amazing and inexorable way unites it.” (MLK) Love is the key to our survival.

We can go back to the days of Jesus, there was as much hate as we have now, a people under Roman occupation who often saw their own King and religious leadership as enemies of the people. And in the midst of such conflict, Jesus gives to all those listening in the crowd on that mount quite a command - “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies...”

Love them, Jesus said. Love is central to our lives. Sadly too often we settle for a soft “love the sinner, hate the sin” which really ends up with us hating both the sinner and sin by the end.

But Jesus goes much further than we want. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Now love is Agape, the word in Greek, and its meaning is different than how we usually use the word love.

“An overflowing love which seeks nothing in return, agape is the love of God operating in the human heart. At this level, we love others not because we like them, nor because their ways appeal to us, nor even because they possess some type of divine spark; we love others because God loves them… when Jesus bids us to love our enemies; he is speaking of agape, understanding and creative, redemptive goodwill for all. Only by following this way and responding with this type of love are we able to be children of our Father who is in heaven.” (MLK)

And loving others, even our enemy is what we are called to do by Jesus if we want to call ourselves Christian and live out that baptismal faith we have been baptized into. But more than that, we do this because of God’s love. “God’s love for you is not ultimately because of you. God’s love for you is because of God. God loves whom God creates.” (SSJE) And God has created everyone. So we are called to offer such love. Why?

“Because that love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power.” (MLK)

On this President’s Day weekend it is fitting for us to remember the 16th president who put such reconciling love into action. (I am using MLK’s retelling of this story)

Abraham Lincoln tried love and left for all history a magnificent drama of reconciliation.

When he was campaigning for the presidency one of his arch-enemies was a man named Edwin Stanton. For some reason Stanton hated Lincoln. He used every ounce of his energy to degrade him in the eyes of the public. So deep rooted was Stanton’s hate for Lincoln that he uttered unkind words about his physical appearance, and sought to embarrass him at every point with the bitterest diatribes. But in spite of this Lincoln was elected President of the United States. Then came the period when he had to select his cabinet, which would consist of the persons who would be his most intimate associates in implementing his program. He started choosing men here and there for the various secretaryships.

The day finally came for Lincoln to select a man to fill the all-important post of Secretary of War. Can you imagine whom Lincoln chose to fill this post? None other than the man named Stanton. There was an immediate uproar in the inner circle when the news began to spread. Adviser after adviser was heard saying, “Mr. President, you are making a mistake. Do you know this man Stanton? Are you familiar with all of the ugly things he said about you? He is your enemy. He will seek to sabotage your program. Have you thought this through, Mr. President?” Mr. Lincoln’s answer was terse and to the point: “Yes, I know Mr. Stanton. I am aware of all the terrible things he has said about me. But after looking over the nation, I find he is the best man for the job.” So Stanton became Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War and rendered an invaluable service to his nation and his President those 4 years… [After Lincoln’s assassination] Standing near the dead body of the man he once hated, Stanton referred to him as one of the greatest men that ever lived and said “he now belongs to the ages.” If Lincoln had hated Stanton both men would have gone to their graves as bitter enemies. But through the power of love Lincoln transformed an enemy into a friend. It was this same attitude that made it possible for Lincoln to speak a kind word about the South during the Civil War when feeling was most bitter. Asked by a shocked bystander how he could do this, Lincoln said, “Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” This is the power of redemptive love.

We must hasten to say that these are not the ultimate reasons why we should love our enemies. An even more basic reason why we are commanded to love is expressed explicitly in Jesus’ words, “Love your enemies... that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.” We are called to this difficult task in order to realize a unique relationship with God. We are potential sons & daughters of God. Through love that potentiality becomes actuality. We must love our enemies, because only by loving them can we know God and experience the beauty of his holiness.” (MLK)

Jesus ends his Sermon on the Mount with “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." – such instruction is not about perfection as in making no mistakes, but in wholeness – to be perfect is to serve God wholeheartedly, to love God who created us with every fiber of our being, to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love our enemies too. To be wholly human is to stand reconciled before God in love but that doesn’t mean his words aren’t hard. That’s why we pray… “Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you…” Love and pray.

“I am certain that Jesus understood the difficulty inherent in the act of loving one’s enemy. He never joined the ranks of those who talk glibly about the easiness of the moral life. He realized that every genuine expression of love grows out of a consistent and total surrender to God. So when Jesus said “Love your enemy,” he was not unmindful of its stringent qualities. Yet he meant every word of it. Our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives.” (MLK)

Let us discover the meaning of his command to love our enemies and seek passionately to live such love in our daily lives. Amen.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Clergy Letter Project

The Clergy Letter - from American Christian Clergy

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth. 

I signed on to the letter some time ago and believe we should be interacting with science. My sermon on February 12 was an attempt to engage with this topic & climate change.

To learn more, read this article: Evolution Weekend: Now More Than Ever!


February 12 Sermon - Choose Life (Climate Change)

Bountiful Creator, you open your hand to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence, and grant that we, remembering the account we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your abundance, for the benefit of the whole creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom all things were made, and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life! – Moses declared to the Israelites.

Choose life. The Israelites were preparing for their life in the promised land. The days of wandering were nearly behind them. Their slavery in Egypt a distant memory. But before the good days could begin, before they enter the land, Moses offers them some final words.

Not an inauguration speech like we have been hearing from Jesus these past few weeks with the Sermon on the Mount, but a last sermon from their leader, Moses, who wants them to renew their faith and loyalty to God, to choose that path that will lead to life.

Moses said, “I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord… then you shall live and become numerous…But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray… you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.”

Life and prosperity if they follow the faith; death and adversity if they are led astray. Moses is giving them a stark choice, to choose life.

I think we are being called to choose life as we look at our planet and the effects of climate change.

There was a news story this week I saw in the Washington Post that reported that “temperatures are far warmer in the arctic than ever observed in modern records, and sea ice extent keeps setting record lows…” In Antarctica, there is a large ice shelf that has cracked and is expected to break off. These are worrying signs.

Here in the US we have made Climate Change into a partisan fight. In many parts of our world, there is no fight. It is an acknowledgment of what is going on in the environment and they are beginning to think of ways we can change the direction we are headed.

The Bishop of Swaziland (next to SA and Mozambique) is inviting Anglicans to take part in a “carbon fast” during Lent – to examine their daily actions and reflect on how they impact the environment: “We are of the earth, we are dust, if the earth birthed us so let us look after her, and reduce our carbon foot print to ensure continued life” he said. This is similar to what the moderator of the Church of South India said.

“A carbon fast is a challenge to us to look at our daily actions, to reflect on how they impact on the environment. It challenges us to take some small steps – some of which will reduce our carbon dioxide output while others will help the environment – for a more sustainable world. In the process we may come to rediscover a different relationship with God, with His Creation and with one another” he said.

“In India, we are aware of climate change because of our warmer temperatures, swings between floods and droughts, and rising sea levels,” he wrote. “Warmer temperatures and rising sea levels are undesirable because they will have negative impacts on agriculture, fishing, community developments, plants and animals that are important to our ecosystems and the protection of our coastline.”

We all are experiencing climate change. There have been Anglican voices from Pacific islanders sharing their vivid stories of the climate change realities with which their communities are living, some of the most drastic effects of climate change are seen among those communities that live so close to the rising sea level.

That we are not concerned about all of this is shocking to me. We only have one planet. That Christians don’t see care for creation as our responsibility is sinful.

In the words of Pope Francis from his encyclical: “Earth now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters… "We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.""

Likewise the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Greek Orthodox Church puts it this way: "If human beings were to treat one another’s personal property the way they treat the natural environment, we would view that behavior as anti-social and illegal. We would expect legal sanctions and even compensation. When will we learn that to commit a crime against the natural world is also a sin?... The way we respond to the natural environment is directly reflects the way we treat human beings. The willingness to exploit the environment is revealed in the willingness to permit avoidable human suffering. So the survival of the natural environment is also the survival of ourselves. When we will understand that a crime against nature is a crime against ourselves and sin against God?"

We are being called into an ethic of life that goes beyond just how we relate to one another, but how we live with the planet, being faithful stewards of God’s abundance, for the benefit of the whole creation.

We are being called to choose life & not settle for the path of material things, wealth, and power that ultimately will not provide for us. We are being called to be faithful Christians to follow the path that will lead to life for us and all of God’s creation.

"It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an “ecological conversion”, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience." –Pope Francis

Let our voices be heard as protectors of God’s handiwork. Let us choose life. Amen.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Loving Your Enemies

Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, on 17 November 1957 by Rev. Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read it or listen to it here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Episcopal Church Executive Council reaffirms stand with Standing Rock

Photo: John Floberg via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council during the last day of its Feb. 5-8 meeting here reaffirmed its stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.

Council members said the church pledges to “continue to support the action and leadership of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation as the salt and light of the nation in its unwavering support of the sacredness of water, land, and other resources and reminding us all of the sacred calling to faithfulness.”

They praised the Episcopal Church and its ecumenical partners in the water protection actions led by the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. The Rev. John Floberg, council member and priest-in-charge of Episcopal congregations on the North Dakota side of Standing Rock, drew council’s specific praise, as did “the hundreds of Episcopal lay and clergy who responded to his call for support.”

Council also endorsed the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s call for a March 10 march on Washington, D.C. The resolution said the march was “for the purpose of proclaiming the continuing concern for our sacred waters and lands as well as challenging our government to fulfill all relevant treaty obligations of the United States to all federally recognized tribes.” The tribe had previously started organizing the march, which Floberg had called on Episcopalians to join.

The Episcopal Church has advocated with the Sioux Nation about the Dakota Access Pipeline since summer 2016. Local Episcopalians have also provided a ministry of presence in and around Cannon Ball, North Dakota, the focal point for groups of water protectors that gathered near the proposed crossing.

Council’s action came about 24 hours after the U.S. Army said it would cancel the environmental impact study it promised to begin two months ago. Instead, it will allow construction on the final phase of the pipeline. The announcement was the latest is a series of administrative and legal maneuvers over the nearly complete pipeline.

The remaining work on the pipeline would push it under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe just north of the Standing Rock Reservation. The pipeline company set up a drill pad very near the proposed crossing point, which is upstream from the tribe’s reservation boundaries. The tribe has water, treaty fishing and hunting rights in the lake. Workers have drilled entry and exit holes for the crossing, and filled the pipeline with oil leading up to the lake in anticipation of finishing the project, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said last summer that the crossing would not have a significant impact on the environment. That determination prompted months of protest that began with a group of teenagers who live on the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River reservations.

On Dec. 4, then-Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy reversed that determination and said the Corps would conduct a full-blown environmental impact statement. Such a study typically takes up to two years to complete. Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline construction company, accused then-President Barack Obama’s administration of delaying the matter until he left office. The Corps formally launched the study on Jan. 18, two days before Obama left office.

Two weeks ago, in one of the first of an ongoing string of presidential actions, President Donald Trump, called for the rapid approval of the pipeline’s final phase, specifically telling the Corps to quickly reconsider conducting the environmental impact study. The Army’s Feb. 7 announcement fulfilled Trump’s requirement.

Episcopal Public Policy Network issued an advocacy alert just after the Army’s announcement, calling on Episcopalians to contact Secretary of Defense James Mattis and urge him not to grant the final easement without a full impact study “that properly consults the Standing Rock Sioux and upholds treaty obligations.” The tribe contends that the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1888 obligate the federal government to consider a tribe’s welfare when making decisions that affect the tribe.

After the announcement, Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said the Standing Rock Sioux Nation would challenge the Trump Administration’s move in court. “Our fight is no longer at the North Dakota site itself,” he said. “Our fight is with Congress and the Trump administration. Meet us in Washington on March 10.”

Jan Hasselman, lead attorney for the tribe, said the reversal “continues a historic pattern of broken promises to Indian tribes and unlawful violation of treaty rights. They will be held accountable in court.”

Trump said Feb. 7 that he has not gotten a single call protesting his directive to the Corps. That claim, Archambault replied reflected a distorted sense of reality. Archambault flew to Washington D.C., Feb. 7 to meet with Trump administration officials to discuss the tribe’s concerns about the pipeline. He learned of the Army’s announcement to Congress when he landed and canceled his meeting.

The 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline is poised to carry up to 470,000 barrels of oil a day from the Bakken oil field in northwestern North Dakota – through South Dakota and Iowa – to Illinois where it will be shipped to refineries. The pipeline was to pass within one-half mile of the Standing Rock Reservation and Sioux tribal leaders repeatedly expressed concerns over the potential for an oil spill that would damage the reservation’s water supply, and the threat the pipeline posed to sacred sites and treaty rights. The company developing the pipeline, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, says it will be safe.

The Feb. 5-8 meeting took place at the Maritime Institute Conference Center.

Additional ENS coverage of the meeting is here.

Remembering & Welcoming Refugees

Matthew 2: 13-23

13 When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him.” 14 Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod died. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I have called my son out of Egypt.

16 When Herod knew the magi had fooled him, he grew very angry. He sent soldiers to kill all the children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger, according to the time that he had learned from the magi. 17 This fulfilled the word spoken through Jeremiah the prophet:
18 A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and much grieving.
        Rachel weeping for her children,
            and she did not want to be comforted,
                because they were no more.

19 After King Herod died, an angel from the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up,” the angel said, “and take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel. Those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” 21 Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus ruled over Judea in place of his father Herod, Joseph was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he went to the area of Galilee. 23 He settled in a city called Nazareth so that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled: He will be called a Nazarene.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said,

This is a hugely complex and wicked crisis that underlines our human frailty and the fragility of our political systems. My heart is broken by the images and stories of men, women and children who have risked their lives to escape conflict, violence and persecution. There are no easy answers and my prayers are with those who find themselves fleeing persecution, as well as those who are struggling under immense pressure to develop an effective and equitable response. Now, perhaps more than ever in post-war Europe, we need to commit to joint action across Europe, acknowledging our common responsibility and our common humanity.
As Christians we believe we are called to break down barriers, to welcome the stranger and love them as ourselves (Leviticus 19:34), and to seek the peace and justice of our God, in our world, today.
With over 50 million displaced people around the world, it is important for us to remember the plight of the refugees and to work for a proper resettlement.

A prayer for refugees:

O God, we ask your living protection of all refugees yearning for freedom and hope in a new land. May we ever remember that the Holy Family, too, were refugees as they fled persecution. Bless, guide and lead us in faith to open doors and to open our hearts through this ministry of hospitality. Give us strength, vision and compassion as we work together to welcome those in need. We ask this in the name of Christ. AMEN

(The following is suitable for children.)

Dearest Jesus, thank you for making us all brothers and sisters in God's family. Help us to help our brothers and sisters who have no homes. Remind us to pray for them and give our gifts to help them. AMEN.

Collect For a Troubled Nation


God of justice and mercy, who delivered your people from the oppression of Pharaoh, protect us from greed, ignorance, and malevolence in our political leaders, and help us make our nation one of peace, liberty, and justice, in harmony with your creation and exhibiting the love of Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Reasoning (a fellow Episcopalian wrote this prayer):

I wrote a prayer and requested criticism of it from two Episcopalian groups on Facebook. The numerous comments I received in response caused me to make many small changes to the text. The Facebook comments mostly concerned (1) from whom or what was protection being sought and (2) the degree to which the prayer might be acceptable to most Episcopalians, regardless of political sympathies.

Some friends worried that my original text disparaged all politicians or government generally. The revised text attempts to characterize the “bad” political actors without casting aspersions on all politicians.

Admittedly, the tenor of the prayer suggests that all is not well with our government, but the text still admits of some Anglican ambiguity. (Cf. “Protect us from President Donald Trump and his evil minions.”) Even people who approve of the recent sharp turn to the right represented by the advent of the Trump administration do not, I hope, condone greed, ignorance, and malice. Nor, I suspect, do they object to peace, liberty, justice, and protection of the environment. (Well, the environment thing might be controversial. Perhaps people can agree in principle, if not always in specific instances.)

I believe my prayer would cheer many Episcopalians without driving others from the church. The Church must, I think, stand for some things, even if agreement falls short of 100%.

Finally, I note that my prayer is in the form of a collect, which is a form within which I am comfortable writing. Its main virtues are succinctness and a singular focus. (Cf. Prayer #18.) Of course, collects are more appropriate in some contexts than others.

I hope that individuals may find this prayer useful in their private devotions. Perhaps there are churches—brave ones, I suppose—that will find a use for my collect as well. I welcome comments and suggestions on this project. I hope people will not find it mean-spirited, but I leave that to others to evaluate...
 You are welcome to leave comments & learn more here or here.

Addendum: Bishop's Letter – February 3, 2017

Dear Companions in Christ in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut:

We are writing as a follow up to our letter of January 30, 2017, in response to President Trump's Executive Order regarding immigrants and refugees. We hope that this letter will be considered as an addition to our earlier letter (see original letter here).

We have received a substantial amount of communication in response to our letter of January 30. In fact, we have received more reaction to this letter than to any other letter sent by us in the last five years. The responses are almost evenly split with half applauding our letter and half taking serious issue with what we wrote. We believe this reflects the serious political divisions in our country, in our state, and in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, at this time.

Many of the responses, both in favor and against our letter, noted that we neglected to mention the need for our country's borders to be protected from international threats of terrorism. This is correct. We did neglect to mention that a crucial aspect of our government's, and thus our President's, responsibility is to protect the United States from violence and terrorism. Our neglecting to note this fact is a serious oversight for which we apologize. We are indeed sorry if our letter led anyone to believe that, as your bishops, we are not concerned about the safety of our country. That was not our intent. We appreciate and give thanks for our nation's armed forces, government officials, and all who seek to ensure that our country is peaceful, safe, and secure.

In the Episcopal Church in Connecticut we are committed to open dialogue and the creation of safe spaces where people can explore ideas, disagree at times, and find healthy ways to share God's peace with friends and strangers alike. This is a challenging task particularly when we find ourselves in charged and tension-filled times. We recognize that not everyone in The Episcopal Church agrees with our letter of January 30, 2017. We find our hope in Christ Jesus who holds us in our differences and invites us to find paths of reconciliation and peace. Guided by the Holy Spirit, we seek to proclaim the Gospel prophetically, and offer pastoral care for all.

We ask for your prayers that we may come together as Americans, and as Episcopalians in Connecticut, to heal the divisions in our nation and the world. May we be ever more faithful participants in God's mission of restoration and reconciliation.  


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

"Wave Of Sorrow (Birdland)" by U2, original 1987, revised 2007

"My wife Ali and I ended up going to Ethiopia for some time doing relief work. We were so high on the idea that Live Aid raised $100 million-and then you discover years later that that's what Africa pays every couple of weeks on old loans. It's kind of a shock. I thought we'd never forget what we'd been through in Ethiopia, but you go back to your life and then those images fade away." - Bono, Time 2000

Heat haze rising on Hell's own hill
To wake up this morning was an act of will
You walked through the night to get to today
To bring your children to give them away

Oh, oh this cruel sun
Its daylight never done
Cruelty just begun
To make a shadow of everyone

And if the rain came
And if the rain came now

Souls bent over without a breeze
Blankets on burning trees
I'm sick without disease
Nobility on its knees

And if the rain came
And if the rain came now

Would it wash us all away
On a wave of sorrow
A wave of sorrow

Where now the holy cities
Where all the ancient holy scrolls
Where now the Emperor Menelik
And the Queen of Sheba's gold
You, my bride, wear her crown
On your finger a precious stone
Has every good thing now been sold
Oh son of the shepherd boy now king
What wisdom can you bring
What lyric could you sing
Where is the music of the seraphim

And if the rain came
And if the rain came now
Would it wash us all away
On a wave of sorrow
A wave, a wave of sorrow

Blessed are the meek who scratch in the dirt
For they shall inherit what's left of the earth
Blessed are the kings who have left their thrones
They are blessed in this valley of dry bones
Blessed are you with an empty heart
For you have nothing from which you cannot part
Blessed is the ego if it's all we've got this hour
Blessed is the voice that speaks truth to power
Blessed is the sex worker's body sold tonight
She works with what she's got to save her children's life
Blessed are the deaf who cannot hear her scream
Blessed are the stupid who can dream
Blessed are the tin can cardboard slums
And blessed is the spirit that overcomes

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Souper Bowl Sunday Sermon (Feb 5)

O God, as salt poured from its shaker flavors our food, by your Spirit, set us free from our attachments to the safe containers & confinements, of our existence. Send us out to season your world with your love. In our loving, let us be the light that dispels the darkness of injustice. As salted light, may all whose lives we touch know that you create us holy and call us to become whole in your name. Amen.

“They didn’t say it with words but with their actions, that my life doesn’t matter. Everything I worked for all these years doesn’t matter.”

These are the words of Nazanin Zinouri, a data scientist, & a recent graduate of Clemson University with an Industrial Engineering PhD who has lived in the US for 7 years and is a legal resident. She was travelling home to Tehran to visit family and was removed from a plane as she tried to return to the US. Thankfully both her Senators from SC are working to assist her and allow her re-entry into the US.

As I thought about the plight of Zinouri and all those caught up in the President’s EO, I thought about a poem from Langston Hughes

Wave of sorrow,
Do not drown me now:

I see the island
Still ahead somehow.

I see the island
And its sands are fair:

Wave of sorrow,
Take me there.
The wave of sorrow that longs for the shores of the US, visa holders, refugees, immigrants…

Sadly we have seen others turned away from our fair shores… On Holocaust Remembrance Day, the St. Louis Manifest, a Twitter project shared the story of some of the 900 Jews who fled Nazi Germany in 1939 on board the ship St. Louis, they had applied for visas but the United States would not grant them entry. They were stopped before any passenger could disembark in the Port of Miami and they were forced to return to Europe; 254 of them were murdered in the Holocaust.

Sometimes, we need to live into that wave of sorrow, to remember and bear witness to such tragedy & what people are experiencing with their lives.

Bono the lead signer of U2, wrote a song based off of Hughes poem, after he travelled to Ethiopia after the concert Live Aid and realized that the millions of dollars raised by the massive event would barely dent the overwhelming problem.

He said, “My wife Ali and I ended up going to Ethiopia for some time doing relief work. We were so high on the idea that Live Aid raised $100 million-and then you discover years later that that's what Africa pays every couple of weeks on old loans. It's kind of a shock. I thought we'd never forget what we'd been through in Ethiopia, but you go back to your life and then those images fade away.” (Time, 2000)

He wrote the song Wave of Sorrow on that experience…

Heat haze rising on Hell's own hill
To wake up this morning was an act of will
You walked through the night to get to today
To bring your children to give them away

Oh, oh this cruel sun
Its daylight never done
Cruelty just begun
To make a shadow of everyone…

Souls bent over without a breeze
Blankets on burning trees
I'm sick without disease
Nobility on its knees

And if the rain came
And if the rain came now
Would it wash us all away
On a wave of sorrow…

It’s a song with no easy answers. But the song sits in that wave of sorrow to tell it to us, to make us feel how they feel in the heat, in a place without rain, where cruelty is pervasive.

Remarkably the song ends with U2s version of the beatitudes; it says in part:

Blessed are the meek who scratch in the dirt
For they shall inherit what's left of the earth
Blessed are you with an empty heart
For you have nothing from which you cannot part
Blessed is the ego if it's all we've got this hour
Blessed is the voice that speaks truth to power
And blessed is the spirit that overcomes

Sometimes to follow Jesus, to live into the beatitudes, to be that salt and light that Jesus calls us to be, has us doing things that brings us to uncomfortable & unadorned spaces, Ethiopia, a refugee center or even a hospital.

She was training to be a hospital chaplain. She had been a teacher in an inner-city school and saw hospital work as a way getting better at helping kids in trouble. One day she met the mother of a teenager, Leon, who'd been shot in the back of the head and was unconscious. The mother asked the inexperienced chaplain if she had children of her own. No, she said, feeling a little ashamed. She sat with the mother for what seemed like an eternity. She remembers:

"I started to wonder what I could do for the mother. I could've stayed and tried to fix things, telling her that God was working a purpose out. Or something cheesy like, God needs Leon up there. I didn't know Leon.

"I could have left the room, giving the mother time to be alone with her son. That would've been easy. I could have left the image of tubes, breathing machines, and loss behind.

"There was a third option: staying and being. This meant I needed to sit with my own fears of losing a family member, and sit with the fear that as a childless chaplain I was inadequate.

"So I stayed with the mother and said, 'This has to be so hard.' She looked to her son and she cried and I did not leave. I did not leave, and I was uncomfortable.

"There was nothing I could do but be with the uncomfortable feelings and believe God was present in that space. In a space that was very close to the ground, very unadorned." [From Jesus Freak by Sara Miles.]

In an unadorned space the temptation always is, as the chaplain admits, to adorn it with cheerfulness or hope or even some platitude. But healing depends on truth. To be the salt and light for such unadorned spaces that we encounter in our lives means putting aside our unease at being in situations we cannot control and taking on what makes us uncomfortable and facing what is difficult and painful.

It is what Bono does in his song. It is what the St. Louis Manifest, a Twitter project tried to do. Bear witness and to remind us that blessed is the spirit that overcomes…

Being salt and light often means just being there for someone else in those dark times and terrifying places. Despite our fear of saying something wrong or making matters worse, our quiet presence assures them that they are not alone. As this chaplain comes to realize, God is present in our simplest, quietest efforts to be the salt and light of the Gospel, to be a spirit that overcomes our doubts and uncertainties and pain.

May we realize Jesus' challenge to be salt & light on our planet: to make God's presence and grace realities, to season our own time and place; illuminating the dark, hopeless corners of our world with justice and hope. So that all whose lives we touch know that you create us holy and call us to become whole in your name. Amen.