Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Blessed are the Peacemakers

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

Learn more here:

As EYE17 closes, ‘peacemakers’ make a path home

Watch the Opening and Closing Sermons:

Flat Jesus Comes to St. Peter's

Rowan received a Flat Jesus at EYE in Oklahoma.

Learn about it here:

Folks flat-out having fun with traveling laminated Jesus cutout

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sermon July 16 (Proper 10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

"Me. The seed."

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

"Really?" asked the seed.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Eucharistic Bread (Gluten-Free too!)

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

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

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

God and Gluten: Wheat, Tradition, and Eucharist

Bread: Becoming Who We Are

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

Sermon July 9 (Proper 9)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wisdom is vindicated by our deeds.

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Episcopal Youth Event

Episcopal Youth Event EYE

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

Episcopal Youth Event, July 10-14

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

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

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

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

(info by by Wendy Johnson)

Independence Day Prayer

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

This is an op-ed by a fellow Episcopalian:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Prayer of Welcome (to Open Our Hearts)

A prayer as we enter:

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

a second version:

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

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

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

Welcome Prayer & Song (from the sermon)

Welcome Prayer by Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Traditional Spiritual arranged by Dan Zanes)

July 2 Sermon (Proper 8)

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

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

How might we welcome Jesus into our lives and hearts…

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

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

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

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

“The method has three steps:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The reward of such welcoming is a life well lived…

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

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

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

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

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

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