Sunday, December 30, 2007

Back to Basics

A reflection on John 1:1-18 for Christmas I.

I recently decided to take up Yoga, again. I studied yoga for nine years, even taught it for awhile. During that time Yoga was the mainstay of my Spiritual life and physical health, the grounding of my well being.

But I haven’t really practiced Yoga in about 15 years. So, despite how well I knew it at one time in my life, in order for me to practice it again, I have to go back to the beginning, back to basics.

The basic elements of yoga include stretching, gently holding postures, and breathing, in a rhythmic pattern. The purpose of yoga is to balance the body and bring harmony inside and out. Another purpose of yoga is move the body in order to prepare it to be still for meditation. And the purpose of meditation, or in Christian language, contemplative, silent, prayer, is to listen to God, to know God more fully. Therefor the reason I want to practice yoga again is to open myself up to God in a very intentional way.

Following the hustle and bustle of Christmas we are invited, today, to go back to the beginning, back the basic tenets of our faith. The Gospel reminds us:

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and lived among us…

From the beginning God’s word has been present in the world and in all creation. God’s word expresses God’s self into the world and in so doing all things come into being. God’s word is everywhere and part of everything.

As Christians we know God’s Word in particular as the person of Jesus the Christ. In this human being God expresses the fullness of God’s self. In Jesus we know the Word become flesh.

The Christian faith has debated this for centuries. What does it really mean? We’ve argued and debated the Virgin birth, the divine nature and the human nature.

But today we are asked to set the debates aside and get back to basics. The
Basic tenet of our Christian spirituality is that God is with us.

Joan Chittister describes this well with a story:
God decided to become visible to a king and a peasant and sent an angel to inform them of the blessed even. “O king,” the angel announced, “God as deigned to be revealed to you in whatever manner you wish. In what form do you want God to appear?”

Seated pompously on his throne and surrounded by awestruck subjects, the king royally proclaimed: “How else would I wish to see God, save in majesty and power? Show God to us in the full glory of power.”

God granted his wish and appeared as a bolt of lightening that instantly pulverized the king and his court. Nothing, not even a cinder, remained.

The angel then manifested herself to a peasant saying: “God deigns you to be revealed in whatever manner you desire. How do you wish to see God?”

Scratching his head and puzzling a long while, the peasant finally said: “I am a poor man and not worthy to see God face to face. But if it is God’s will to be revealed to me, let it be in those things with which I am familiar. Let me see God in the earth I plough, the water I drink, and the food I eat. Let me see the presence of God in the faces of my family, neighbors, and – if God deems it as good for myself and others – even in my own reflection as well.”

God granted the peasant his wish, and he lived a long and happy life. (Peacemaking Day by Day).

God is with us, not in grandiose ways, but the ordinary everyday things of life. Kathleen Norris speaks of this as well in her reflection called, “The Quotidian Mysteries.” In this reflection she ponders the way God can be found in everyday activities like preparing food and doing dishes. Her inspiration for this is found in the Eucharist itself, in the priest preparing the meal of bread and wine and then cleaning up the dishes after the meal has been served. God in the ordinary.

Not only is God found in the ordinary events, but because of Jesus we also believe that God is found in human beings and in our relationships with one another. We believe that we are made in the image of God. Our Gospel reminds us of this: “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was made flesh and lived among us…”

A little girl was standing with her grandfather by an old-fashioner open well. They had just lowered the bucket to draw some water to drink. “Grandfather,” she asked, “where does God live?”

The old man picked up the little girl and held her over the open well. “Look down into the water,” he said, “and tell me what you see.” “I see myself,” said the little girl. “That’s where God lives,” said the grandfather, “God lives in you.” (Mark Link, Challenge)

God expresses God’s self in and through our lives, in the things we do and in the way we treat one another. Through the life of Jesus we come to know God’s love poured out for us. Jesus shows us how to love as God loves….”and from his fullness we have received grace upon grace.”

Basically, when we strive to love others, the ordinary people in our lives, intentionally love them in a radical generous way, we are loving God in the process. Doing so takes us back to the beginning, to Christianity at its most basic.

Seems to me that’s a good place to start as we enter a New Year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Labor of Love

A Christmas Reflection preached by The Very Rev. Terri C. Pilarski December 24, 2007

Outside a snow storm was raging. Thousands of snowflakes twirled through the air, tossed by the wind, some slamming in to the ground, others landing as if with a sigh of relief, eventually covering roof tops, sidewalks, and streets.

Inside a woman lay in a warm hospital bed while her two companions sat beside her. The woman was in labor, preparing to give birth to twins. All through the night and into the early morning the three sat quietly talking.Every five minutes or so the laboring woman would begin to breath deeply. Then another woman would take her hand and coach her through the contraction.

Breath deeply, let your mouth open, relax.

The contraction would pass. Gradually the conversation would begin again. Round and round from story to story the other two women remembered their own birthings; how they labored through the night to bring their babies into the world.

Christmas music played in the background, adagios, slow and peaceful. It was a holy night made all the more serene by the warmth of the indoors and the beauty of the snow outdoors and the gradually progressing birth.

The mother labored for 30 hours. The babies were born naturally with little medical intervention. The women, her coaches, labored with her, Their bodies remembered the sensation, the urge, the urgency to push. It was as if their muscle memory could be transferred to her helping the process along.

The first baby took about 30 minutes to birth. The second baby became distressed, her heart rate dropped from 140 to 66. Birthing her quickly was now a matter of the baby’s health. But the mother did, three pushes, and the second baby was born.

The images of that night and the process of birthing these babies into the world will remain with me a long time. It was an amazing experience of self-less giving – the mother who gave so much of herself to maintain a pregnancy through two episodes of pre-term labor, months of bed-rest and medication…and now, the ultimate giving, the birth of these healthy babies.

A labor of love.

The timing of this birth makes it poignantly clear to me what another mother was going through to birth her baby into the world, a mother who lived 2000 years ago. A mother who did not have the convenience of a hospital and trained medical staff. A mother and a father, who according to the story, were not at home, and would not have had the security of family and familiar birthing coaches. The father had to be her coach and doctor and husband all at the same time.

And she, labored through the pain and fear and the hope – all on her own energy. No one reminded her to breath. No one taught her how to push. No one to assured her that she could do it; just as they had. It’s a miracle the woman in the stable was able to birth the baby at all…

A miracle, the gift of life…a labor of love…

In recent weeks on Sunday morning we have heard the story of this baby, this mother, and this father. Of a woman willing to take a huge risk, saying yes to God. A woman who was strong and brave and sure of herself. The Greeks call her Theotikos, the God-bearer, Mary, the mother of God.

And we heard the story of Joseph, a compassionate man also willing to take the risk, to follow God’s vision of life and love. And now, tonight we hear the story of the birth, of God being born into the world as the infant Jesus, the Incarnate one.

As Episcopalians we are particularly grounded in the Incarnation. For us the salvation story begins here, in the idea that God came to live as one of us. Without that act of being born the rest of the story would be meaningless – here would be no life lived, no model of loving others, no death, and no resurrection, no ultimate act of love.

The birth had to happen first.

The story begins with the experiences of the parents - their love for one another, for the baby, and for God, and then continues into the life lived by child of God.

Tonight we focus most particularly on the birth, on the laboring mother, the supportive father, and the baby.

We can find some very rich imagery within this story to help us understand our lives and God’s love for us. In many ways God is like the mother, laboring to birth us.

We believe that God has created us and therefore has hopes and dreams for us. God yearns for us like a mother waiting for the birth of the baby. And God labors with us, pushing us, gently until we are born into the life God desires for us.

How many of you have ever had the feeling that God was guiding you?

And God nurtures us in life, like a father who offers love and support. But God will not do this on God’s own. In the Incarnation we learn that God desires our active participation. God wants us to embrace the life given to us. Embracing our lives means that we live fully in the image of God, loving as God loves.

God loves with a broad sweeping generous love – in pouring out God’s self in the person of Christ God offered God’s love to all humanity,

to you,

to me,

to the people down the street,

and to the strangers across the way.

God’s love for all.

Like a mother who labors equally hard to birth all her children. Like a father who provides for all his family, God loves each of us for being who are.

And then asks that we do the same.

Some people think of this in a kind of warm and fuzzy love – but if you have ever really tried to love as God asks, to love all people with compassion and respect, you quickly find out just how difficult this is. Difficult to love that crabby person who butts in front of you. Difficult to love that person who cuts you off on the highway. Difficult to love that person who lives a life style different than yours, one that might be questionable…

and we can’t always do it.

But we are asked to try.

At one point Jesus sums up all 613 commandments found in the Bible with these words: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength, and with all your soul. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Because God has lived as one of us, God knows this is not easy. God knows we will labor hard in trying.

But God knows it will be a labor of love.

And in that labor is the miracle of life itself.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 18

In the beginning,
God allowed for chaos,
for troubled dreams,
and uncertain sounds,
and fear in the darkness.

Then, when the chaos was most threatening
and hope was bleakest,
God said, "Let there be light"

So, remember the chaos,
the uncertainty,
the confusion in which you once floundered,
and give thanks for the light.

In the course of time,
God allowed for a journey
from ourselves to other people,
from restriction to freedom,
from a forgotten place to a promised land.

And when the journey was hardest,
and the way ahead unclear,
and the temptation to turn back most alluring,
God said, "Let there be light"

So, remember your journey
and how far you have travelled,
and give thanks for the light.

Later yet,
God allowed for the special:
for friendships to grow,
for truth to be discovered,
for faith to become real.
On the mountain top
and in quiet places
God blessed us, saying, "Let there be light"

So remember not why,
but how and when and where you've been blessed,
and give thanks for the light.

(Cloth for the Cradle:Worship resources and readings for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany; Iona Community, Wild Goose Worship Group GIA, Chicago, 2000)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 17

We are approaching the final days of Advent, a time when we reflect on Mary, the mother of Jesus. In her book, Meditations on Mary, Kathleen Norris reflects on the story. Mary, pregnant with the Messiah, has gone to visit her cousin Elizabeth who is about to give birth to John the Baptist. Elizabeth recognizes that Mary bears the Messiah, and greets her as so. Mary responds to Elizabeth with this

The Magnificat, The Song of Mary: Luke 1:46-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
he has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
he has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

Norris' reflection reminds us that Mary offers up this song of praise to God who has blessed two insignificant women in an insignificant region of ancient Judea and in so doing has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly, has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. She says, "I later learned that these words echo the song of Hannah in First Samuel, as well as the anguish of the prophets. They are a poetic rendering of a theme that pervades the entire biblical narrative - when God comes into our midst, it is to upset the status quo."

"The Magnificat's message is so subversive that for a period of time during the 1980's the government of Guatemala banned its public recitation...But when I came to its words knowing so little about them, I found that all too often they were words I could sing with ease at evening prayer, with a facile (and sometimes sleepy) acceptance. On other nights, however, they were a mother's words, probing uncomfortably into my life. How rich had I been that day, how full of myself? Too full to recognize need and hunger, my own or anyone else's? So powerfully providing for myself that I couldn't admit my need for the help of others? Too busy to know a blessing with it came to me?"

Today let us take some time to recognize the blessing of our lives. To see the places we are too full, places we can empty ourselves a little and make room for others - for God, for family, for friends, for strangers in need. Let us give thanks to the God who loves us deeply just for being who we are.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 16

"Coming Home" A Poem by Mary Oliver

When we're driving, in the dark,
on the long road
to Provincetown, which lies empty
for miles, when we're weary,
when the buildings
and the scrub pines lose
their familiar look,
I imagine us rising
from the speeding car,
I imagine us seeing
everything from another place - the top
of one of the pale dunes
or the deep and nameless
fields of the sea -
and what we see is the world
that cannot cherish us
but which we cherish,
and what we see is our life
moving like that,
along the dark edges
of everything - the headlights
like lanterns
sweeping the blackness -
believing in a thousand
fragile and unprovable things,
looking out for sorrow,
slowing down for happiness,
making all the right turns
right down to the thumping
barriers to the sea,
the swirling waves,
the narrow streets, the houses,
the past, the future,
the doorway that belongs
to you and to me.

Winter is here in full swing - cold and snowy! Give thanks today for a warm home, the convenience of a car, and good food, things which stablize us in an unpredictable world.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 11

The other day, as I was pulling out Christmas decorations I came across a box of books. The box was open and inside I found an old book of poetry that I had as a child called, "One Thousand Poems for Children." I thumbed through the book and was flooded with memories of sitting in my room in our house in Wisconsin and reading these poems. The book is loosely organized into sections like, "Holiday Poems" or "Seasonal Poems" or "Poems for Younger Children, Riddles and Finger Plays." Here is one of the riddles:

The Wonderful Weaver

There's a wonderful weaver
High up in the air,
And he weaves a white mantle
For cold earth to wear,
With the wind for his shuttle
The cloud for his loom,
How he weaves! how he weaves!
In the light, in the gloom.

Oh, with the finest of laces
He decks bush and tree,
On the bare flinty meadows
A cover lays he.
Then a quaint cap he places
On a pillar and post,
And he changes the pump
To a grim, silent ghost.

But this wonderful weaver
Grows weary at last,
And the shuttle lies idle
That once flew so fast;
Then the sun peeps abroad
On the work that is done;
And he smiles: "I'll unravel
It all just for fun!"

(What is it?)....(I'll tell you at the end of the reflection). Poetry is a gift in this world. I have spent many years of my life not really understanding poetry, but liking it nonetheless. The art of poetry is playfulness: a playing with words until they carry forth the tone and tenor desired, the image and idea one has. Playing with phrasing and structure and rhythm and rhyme.

In many ways it's the same thing with life - life is a gift. Looked at a certain way and one can see that life can hold a playful quality to it as we strive to bring forth the tone and tenor we desire. Life requires a certain amount of rhythm and rhyme...True, we don't always understand life - sometimes it seems more like a riddle as we try to figure out the purpose of our lives. But our lives do have a purpose. At the very least this purpose asks that we feel a sense of gratitude for our lives and that we share that gratitude with others. Scripture describes this as loving God, loving self, and loving our neighbor. Today give thanks for life.

oh, and the riddle is describing snow....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gratitude Reflection - Back on line edition

After several days of being unable to access the internet and update the blog, we are finally back on line. Who knows what the issue was? Updates to the system combined with ice storms? Sigh.

Today, a simple offering of gratitude, that the storms in our area were not as bad as predicted. It has been a rough winter thus far. I am grateful that we have been spared the worst, but I pray for those who have been affected by power outtages and car accidents and maybe even loss of life. It's been tragic for some.

On this day I offer up this prayer of Thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer, pg. 837:

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth, and sky, and sea,
We thank you, Lord.

For all this is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and familirs, and our friends,
We thank you, Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.

For the brave and couragous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.

For all valient seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Fther, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Gratidude Reflection Day 5

For many of us this time of year is difficult. Our culture portrays this as a season of parties and family and fun. But that is not always true. Some of us are alone and lonely. Loneliness challenges us and we seek to fill that void in all kinds of ways. Loneliness is real. This is the feeling we have when someone we love has died. When our children are grown and we find ourselves with an empty house. When a good friend has moved away. But being alone is not always about loneliness. We can feel lonely in a crowd. Some of us are afraid of being alone, fearful that it will feel the same as being lonely. There can be a spiritual dimension to being alone, which may be helpful for this season.

Harry James Cargas says this about being alone: "Lonely is not a synonym for alone. The word lonely connotes isolation and dejection, a missed absence of companions when it is applied to persons. The root of alone, however, is in two words: all one. This means the opposite of isolation and dejection. The emphasis is not on the one but on the wholly one. It means complete by oneself. How many of us can actually feel that way? It is not easy to be fully in oneself, to respect oneself, and to self-develop to such a degree that a person looks forward to long periods of being alone. For some who enjoy this oneness, they realize that because of their relationship with Christ they are never lonely. They cultivate the chances to be alone so that they can actually savour the moments with God alone, the moments when their unity with the creator can be both enjoyed and developed. This implies quite a special human being. Too often we are frantic for companionship - for the team or the club or the class or the party or the movie or the TV. Immersion in such activities will free us from having to face the basic issues of existence. Such trivial busyness will keep us from intimate contact with ourselves. The kingdom of heaven is within each of us, yet how seriously do we try to make contact with it? Not only is there no need to 'go out there' in most instances, but rather it is spiritually harmful to look outside ourselves while ignoring what is by nature within us. The woman or man who can be alone - can be together in the self - is the kind of person we can admire, can hold as a model. The quest for wholeness for individual unity is one of the great journeys a life can make, indeed should make. There is no easy route to being properly alone. But making the trip is learning to find what the meaning of life is." (Encountering Myself, pg. 108)

Loneliness is a real emotion. But sometimes our feelings of loneliness mask our fear of being at one with ourselves. Being able to be alone, to be with oneself, can be a spiritual journey of finding where God is with us. Being alone can be the journey through which we become all one. There is grace in this journey, grace when we discover that God is with us, and in that regard, we are never really alone. That is something to be grateful for.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 4

A quote from theologian Jurgen Moltmann, "Theology of Hope," pg. 25:

"Hope alone is to be called 'realistic', because it alone takes seriously the possibilities with which all reality is fraught. It does not take things as they happen to stand or lie, but as progressing, moving things with possibilities of change. Only as long as the world and the people in it are in a fragmented and experimental state which is not yet resolved, is there any sense in earthly hopes. The latter anticipate what is possible to reality, historic and moving as it is, and use their influence to decide the processes of history. Thus hopes and anticipations of the future are not a transfiguring glow superimposed on a darkened existence, but are realistic ways of perceiving the scope of our real possibilities, and as such they set everything in motion and keep it in a state of change."

Life is, fragmented and experimental, unresolved, and full of hope for all things possible.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 3

"In the Storm"...A Poem by Mary Oliver

Some black ducks
were shrugged up
on the shore.
It was snowing

hard, from the east,
and the sea
was in disorder.
Then some sanderlings,

five inches long
with beaks like wire,
flew in,
snowflakes on their backs,

and settled
in a row
behind the ducks -
whose backs were also

covered with snow -
so close
they were all but touching,
thy were all but under

the roof of the ducks' tails,
so the wind, pretty much,
blew over them.
They stayed that way, motionless,

for maybe an hour,
then the sanderlings,
each a handful of feathers,
shifted, and were blown away

out over the water
which was still raging.
But, somehow,
they came back

and again the ducks,
like a feathered hedge,
let them
crouch there, and live.

If someone you didn't know
told you this,
as I am telling you this,
would you believe it?

Belief isn't always easy.
But this much I have learned -
if not enough else -
to live with my eyes open.

I know what everyone wants
is a miracle.
This wasn't a miracle.
Unless, of course, kindness -

as now and again
some rare person has suggested -
is a miracle.
As surely it is.

A Sanderling...

Today, be grateful for the "little" acts of kindness in this world.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 2

Move over the face of
my deep,
my darkness,
my endless restless chaos,
and create,
O God;
trouble me,
comfort me,
stir me up,
and calm me,
but do not cease
to breath
your Spirit into
my awakening soul.

(Jan Richardson's "Night Visions: Searching the shadows of Advent and Christmas)

In this season of Advent, in the quiet darkness, we are given the opportunity to reflect on our lives. It is a time for us to count our blessings and be grateful. A time to awaken ourselves to the presence of God in our lives. Perhaps the face of God for you is a child, or a parent, or a friend, or a co-worker. Or maybe a stranger... Generally speaking I think gratitude is probably not something we do well, but it is a spiritual exercise we are called to do. Spending time thinking about that which we are grateful for is particularly relevant this time of year. In the hustle and bustle of the season, where do we find moments of gratitude? What are you grateful for this day?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Reflections on Gratitude

We are officially in the Season of Advent. Traditionally a time to be prayeful and reflective. A time to examine our lives and consider how we are participating in God's desire for us, and for the world. A time when we can wonder about the new things God is sirring up in us. Spiritual disciplines are a wonderful way we strive to be connected to God's desire. Spiritual disciplines include many things, prayer is one, and reflection is a form of prayer. For the season of Advent I will offer a daily reflection on gratitude. In this season of shopping and busyness I hope to offer a contrast, a brief opportunity to stop and remember all that have, the blessings of this life.

So on this second day of Advent I am grateful for the willingness of this parish to try new things. We do this in so many ways. But, today, in particular, I am grateful for the choir members who led us through a beautiful chanting of the psalm on Sunday. We pray the Psalm. Singing is also a form of prayer. So, when we sing the Psalm it's as if we have prayed twice. And the handbells added a rich mystical quality to our prayer. I am grateful for the creativity we bring forth in our worship.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Darkness, Even in the Light of Day...


One of my fondest memories from childhood is of lying in my yard watching the stars. The sky, in rural Idaho, offered a breath-taking array of stars that glittered in the night. My brothers and I would lie on our backs, staying awake long after our bedtime to watch the sky. Looking up at this vast, dense display of stars made me dizzy. I had to view them lying down or risk losing my balance.

I often wondered what was out there in the universe; what world existed for me to see as a light glowing in the night, but never visit?

The Season of Advent begins today; traditionally a dark and mysterious time. Advent - a season that hints at things unknown. A time of waiting for a child to be born. A time when we are invited to ponder the ways we know God in our lives and in our world. Advent is a season of darkness; literally and spiritually. Literally because it is winter in the Midwest of the Northern Hemisphere and the sun has moved to the far south end of the sky. The spiritual darkness of Advent calls us to slow down and pay attention.

This call is completely at odds with the reality of our lives, busy, hectic, And - with way too much going on. Many people around us are already living in the Christmas season, but we Christians are asked to wait.

The day, the hour, of God’s arrival in the world is not yet here….

In these days of long nights many of us yearn to hunker down – to hibernate inside our warm homes. But often we end up in shopping malls, busy with our preparations for Christmas. Or perhaps we spend hours shopping on-line. We have our lists and our budget and limited time.

In these short days of dim gray light, many of us head off to school or work in the dark, and return home in the dark. And the daylight in between has a shadowy cast to it. It is not the bright light of summer. Winter has its own dull monochromatic hue. The dim daylight and long nights stir in me a primal impulse to go to sleep early and sleep a long time.

The darkness of these days is an invitation to ponder the dark places of our lives. For some this means a time to be more prayerful. To explore the caverns of our being What needs to be brought into the light? To wonder about hidden hopes and desires…

how is God calling us?

What might God want of me at this time in my life?

What do I need to pay attention too?

Stay awake!

For some the darkness is filled with anxiety. Our instincts tell us to be afraid of the dark, of the places and times where our vision is limited and we cannot see.

We know not the hour.

We fill the darkness with artificial light and push the darkness out.

As we enter the season of Advent we also enter into a new liturgical cycle, a year in which we will reflect on the Gospel of Matthew. Loosely, Matthew is an “historical narrative,” which means it focuses on cause and effect. The events in Matthew deal with the transcendent God, - God with us, God, the creator of all things. All creation, because God created it, is good. However, human beings, while created good, often stray from God. Humans tend to be self-centered, Living with a sense of personal entitlement, And - violent, ultimately rebelling against God’s purposes. The influences of this world are toward power and wealth which are often gained and retained through violence and oppression.

We rarely see the global effects that radiate out from the lives we live…

Violence and oppression were true in the days of Matthew’s gospel, and still true today. We need to ponder the ways we blindly participate in the various factors that cause the problems of this world.

In this season of Advent we will be praying about and reflecting on the Millennium Development Goals. These goals, created by the United Nations urge all people around the world to work together to eradicate poverty and disease. They point us to ponder how we can fix the social imbalances of who gets an education and who does not, of who can earn a living wage and who cannot. We will pray for these goals in our Prayers of the People. Plus, I have created stations around the church and in the hallway outside my office, and in the chapel. Each station focuses on one of the eight goals, offering some statistics, a verse of scripture, and a prayer. I urge you to pray these stations, not once, but often. There is a booklet of evening prayers for lighting the candles of the Advent wreath. These prayers also focus our attention on the MDG’s.

My hope is, that in this season of gift buying, in a time of abundance and sometimes overindulgence, we will remember that we are members of a global world.

A world in which there are many people who live with nothing.

A world in which we can choose to participate as members working to make a difference.

One way we can do this is by purchasing gifts for our families and friends through Heifer International. We will have available, all December, a catalogue and gift cards from which to make a purchase. An entire community can be changed by the gift of one animal.

We can also do this by purchasing Bishops Blend coffee. A great gift basket can be created using coffee and a gift card for Heifer.

Of course we can always close our eyes and pretend that what we don’t see does not exist. Then, we will be like the two who are in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Or like two women grinding meal together; one will be take and will be left.

We are called to do ordinary work in this world, but in so doing, we are to pay attention to the hidden dimensions, the areas we cannot easily see, especially in our comfortable suburban life. Pay attention to the world around us, to the imbalances of justice, wealth, and food;choose to be informed and involved.

Don’t be left in the dark.

In this season of darkness the Gospel of Matthew points us to see God as the light, the one who has come to live among us, a God who is the cause of all existence, a God who inspires all goodness, restores wholeness, and gives life to the dead. God chooses to work in and through us; we are living examples of the incarnation. Matthew tells the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection within this context of cause and effect, good and evil. This Gospel actively strives to prove that the promises made in scripture are fulfilled in Jesus.

Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, for all people, Jews and Gentiles,

rich and poor, black and white, male and female.

God, as the human Jesus, shows us that God intends to work in and through the lives of human beings. God is not going to do abstract cosmic magical things. Rather, God creates new life in the events of ordinary every day life,

two were in the field, two were grinding meal…

stay awake.

Pay attention.

God is with us.

This reminds me of the story about an absent-minded professor who became so absorbed in his work that he forgot the simplest details. One morning his wife said, "Now Henry, remember, we are moving today. Here, I'm putting this note in your pocket. Don't forget."

The day passed by and the man came home to his house. He entered the front door, and found the place empty. Distraught, he walked out to the curb and sat down. A young boy walked up to him, and he asked him, "Little boy, do you know the people who used to live here?"

The boy replied, "Sure, Dad, mom told me you'd forget."

Stay awake! Pay attention…

Today’s reading reminds us that although we do not know when, we do know something about how Christ will come again into the world. It will be like in the days of Noah with everyone caught up in the affairs of everyday life –

- nothing wrong with that -

except that everyday life can be all consuming. And the busyness of life has a tendency to prevent people from knowing something deeper – about ourselves, about our world, about our God…

So, it is not about quitting the tasks of everyday. It is about how we live in our interior lives as we go about our everyday lives.

In Matthew the text uses “falling asleep” as the metaphor for becoming lost in the everyday and forgetting that we are called to a deeper level of living. It’s the question so many ask: “How can I be so busy, and yet so empty?” It’s about our awareness of who we are and whose we are and what our lives are meant to be about.

Paying attention can be as simple as developing spiritual exercises into the activities of everyday. For example, a Jewish doctor says a Hebrew prayer of purification every time she washes her hands. Not to purify her, but to remind her that the person she is treating is more than a disease. In other words she says the prayer in order to stay awake to the spiritual dimensions of the whole person even as she attends to their illness.

Spiritual exercises help to ground our lives and keep us awake.

This season of Advent, we are invited to pray through the Prayers of the People,
the Stations, and the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath. These prayers are an invitation to stay awake.

It is a vast world out there, our earthly home, filled with places many of us will never visit.

In the busyness of life,

pay attention, be informed,

understand what is happening around us…


Darkness can exist even in broad day light.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Kingdom of God Is....

A reflection on Luke 23:33-43

I have one long-standing tradition for the day after Thanksgiving, I go see a movie. It began almost 18 years ago when my daughter and I went with my sisters in law and their daughters to see “The Little Mermaid.” And since then, nearly every year, I have gone to a movie on the day after Thanksgiving.

This year our kids had other plans so my husband and I went to see, “Dan in real life” starring Steve Carell. It’s the story of a single father named Dan, played by Carell.

He is widowed and has three young daughters. He is also a journalist who answers people’s questions and helps them with their real life issues. The title of his column is “Dan in real life.”

He and his daughters go off to spend a weekend at the family home with his parents, his siblings, and their spouses and children. It is a full house and because one of the brothers is bringing a girlfriend Dan is assigned the “special room” the laundry room with a blow up mattress.

That night we see him trying to fall asleep to the banging of the dryer.

One of the early scenes has Dan heading into town from the parents home. He’s going to get a cup of coffee and a newspaper. He wanders into a bookstore where he meets a woman. They spend a long time, over coffee, talking. Dan ends up telling her his life story. Suddenly she gets a phone call, she’s lost track of time and needs to leave quickly.

Later, back at the house Dan tells his brothers about meeting this amazing woman. Everyone is excited for him. Then, in walks the brother’s new girlfriend…and, yup, she’s the woman Dan just met at the bookstore… Dan does not reveal this to the family; nor does the woman. They pretend they’ve never met.

But, in the end it all comes out. It’s a movie about forgiveness, remembering, and gratitude.

Our Gospel reading today points us to these same elements of forgiveness, remembering, and gratitude. We have come full cycle in the Christian liturgical year. A year spent reflecting on the Gospel of Luke. Today is like the liturgical new years eve - a time to remember where we have been this last year, a time to forgive and make amends, and a time to be grateful for all our blessings.

The liturgical year offers a way to move through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and remember who we are as a people of faith. Our worship, emphasizing the seasons of the liturgy, grounds our lives and gives us a glimpse of the kingdom of God.

In each of the Gospels Jesus is struggling to bring the kingdom of God into reality.

In Mark it's all about humanities failure to recognize Jesus as the messiah, and it plays out in the obtuseness of the disciples.

Matthew, the Gospel we begin next week for year A, is all about how Jesus is the fulfillment of the law.

In John it’s about Jesus being the incarnate Word, the very presence of God from the beginning of all time.

And in Luke, Jesus’ struggle to bring in the kingdom, focuses on humanities obsession with three things: possessions, power, and prestige.

In the 4th chapter of Luke Jesus is tempted by these very things: power, prestige, and possessions.

The first temptation is about possession - the core of what all humans desire.

“If you are the Son of God turn these stones into bread.”

We all want possessions. And it’s not that this is bad. We just need to be careful that the desire for possessions is not what motivates us.

“If you are the Son of God jump from the top of the temple and the angels will save you.” Such an act of glory will surely impress everyone, you will have prestige. Prestige can be a good thing when our ability to influence others is used to bring about a better world. To bring attention to the war of genocide in Darfur or the plight of refugees seeking a safe place to live.

And, lastly, the devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness with this:

“Bow down before me and you will have power!”

Jesus does not succumb to these temptations and when his time in the wilderness is over he goes to the synagogue and says, “I have come to bring good news to the poor.”

In Luke, morality and human sexuality, are not the issues that Jesus worries about. He is concerned with how humans treat other human beings. He is concerned with how we view ourselves and our role as God’s disciples. “I have come to bring good news to the poor –

the poor in possessions, the poor in power, the poor in prestige, the poor in spirit, the poor in faith, the poor in hope, the poor in life.”

Today as we celebrate the feast day known as “Christ the King,” we come back to Holy Week. We stand at the foot of the cross and remember.

We are asked to remember who we are, a people of God. And as a people of God we are asked to participate in bringing forth the kingdom of God.

We do this by caring for one another.

We do this by being a people focused on forgiveness and reconciliation, remembering the profound way we are loved and forgiven by God through the life of Christ.

Corrie ten Boom tells this story of forgiveness in her book, “The Hiding Place.”

“It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former SS man who stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of the jailers I had actually seen since that time.

And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. ‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,’ he said. ‘To think that, as you say, he has washed my sins away.’His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people…the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them….I struggled to raise my hand, but could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity.

And so I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that …When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, he gives along with the command - the love itself.”

Jesus tells us to love God, love neighbor, love self, but we are not left on our own to figure out how to do this. Jesus gives us the ability, the love, to do so. God, having lived as one of us, knows the struggles of our heart…

A rabbi was once asked, “What is a blessing?” He answered with a riddle:

“The Book of Genesis tells us that after finishing work on each of the first five days “God saw that it was good.” But God did not say this on the sixth day after humans had been created.

What conclusion can you draw from that?” asked the rabbi. Someone said, “We can conclude that the human person is not good.”

“Possibly,” the rabbi answered, “ but that’s not a likely explanation”

He then went on to explain that the Hebrew word translated as ‘good’ in Genesis is ‘tov,’ which is better translated as ‘complete.’ That is why, the rabbi contented, God did not declare the human person to be ‘tov.’Human beings are created incomplete.

It is our life’s vocation to collaborate with our creator in fulfilling our potential. For Christians this means fulfilling the Christ in us, that we may be the face of Christ to the world.

We do this by offering an alternative to the cultural pull toward prestige, power, and possessions. We do this by being a people who remember who we are, a people of God. We do this by remembering that just as God forgives us so we are to forgive others, and ourselves, of all things known and unknown.

And we do this by lifting up our hearts in gratitude to the God who loves us deeply and gives us the ability to love in return.

Each one of us, making even the smallest of efforts to do this can have a big influence on the world.

Hellen Keller once said,

"The world is moved along not only by the mighty shove of its heroes,but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker."

Jesus, remember me…

Surely you will be with me in paradise…

With each one of us,

Remembering whose we are

And who are,

doing our small part,

but working together,

loving, caring, forgiving,

the kingdom of God will be a reality in our lives and our world.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Future is Largely Unknown


A reflection on Luke 21:5-19

A few weeks ago I had a dream about someone I knew years ago. In my dream she had died and I was reading about her in the obituary column. When I woke that morning I knew this person had not died, the dream was clearly about something else.

I know my dreams are never prophetic. I don’t dream about things that are going to happen. True, in my conscious life I sometimes have a pretty good idea how things might turn out. But then there is always the possibility that something else could happen.

Have you ever tried to make a prediction? Were you right? Here are some predictions made a long time ago by respectable people who were experts in their field:

In 1943, Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, said, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

In 1962 The Decca Recording Co. said: "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." They were talking about the Beatles.

Of course we all like the idea of predictions. On some level we all want to know what is going to happen tomorrow or next week or next year. We want to be prepared, or if possible, avoid the problem altogether. All around us people are predicting the cost of gasoline or heating fuel, the state of our economy, the housing market, the next major epidemic, which version of the flu will make us sick this winter, global warming, world poverty, what will give us cancer, what will prevent cancer, and on and on…

Often these predictions are wrong; although surely natural disasters, the economy, fuel, and global warming are key concerns in our world today. But, often these predictions are wrong because there are too many variables at play. In some ways the world is made new every day. Even as we are prone to do the same thing over and over again, one small shift and everything could change.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus is calling the people to take a good long look at their lives. “Beware,” he says, “that you are not led astray.” He wants them to examine their lives; to understand who they are and why they do what they do.
Looking carefully at our lives is a spiritual discipline. St. Ignatius created a method for this called the “examine of conscience.” This method leads us through a systematic review of the events in our daily lives. Intentionally reviewing our lives enables us to recognize when we need to forgive others or seek forgiveness, to look at what causes us concern, and what has brought us joy.

Jesus is preparing the disciples, and in essence us, for the challenges that lie ahead. Sometimes, as a people of faith we think we are protected from life’s difficulties. God will protect us. Or conversely that God never gives us more than we can handle…well there have been plenty of times in my life when I’ve said, “Ah, God, don’t over estimate me…”

In one of the Hagar the Horrible comic strips Hagar is preparing his troops for battle:
"This is the moment we've been waiting for men! The moment we do battle with the enemy! Is everyone here?"
They shout: "YES!"
Hagar continues: "Okay men -- repeat after me. 'I am a Viking Warrior!'"
"I AM A VIKING WARRIOR!" they shout.
"And I will fight to the death for what I believe!"
(the next frame: silence)
And, again, in the next frame: silence…)

In the third frame Hagar asks: "Okay, why aren't you repeating after me?!"
One meek Viking speaks for them all: "Hagar, the men would like to change that to 'and I will fight hard until it's time for dinner.'"

Yes, God, don’t over estimate what I can handle… I want to be home in time for dinner. I want my life to be anchored in things that are comfortable, safe, and familiar. I don’t want to suffer.

Ultimately I do not think God micro-manages the events of our lives. God does not give us trials and tribulations to teach us something, nor does God dole out rewards for good behavior. Life happens, the good and the bad. To a small degree we are able to influence what happens to us. Our actions have consequences. But we are not able to completely control things one way or another.

This Gospel reading falls in the genre of apocalyptic scripture. Apocalypse means “Revelation” and in the Bible apocolyptic texts describe horrible events leading up to a great transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God. In other words, the Kingdom of God is revealed in the process of living through tragedy. We often hear these readings “as if” God is imposing these horrible things in order to prepare us for the Kingdom of God.

In essence, though, the apocalyptic texts describe the human condition, what it is really like to live a full life. At some point in our lives we will hurt someone or be hurt. We will lose something or someone or become lost ourselves. Life includes suffering. It’s not what God does; it is just a part of life.

Our goal is not to avoid suffering, but to learn how to move through suffering. Because it is the moving through suffering and coming to the other side that brings us one step closer to the Kingdom of God. It is in suffering that we as humans grow in compassion and love and concern for others.

True, we could also become bitter. Suffering leaves us with choices. We can move through it, trusting that God is there with us. Or we rail against it and refuse to see any grace or hope. Suffering can make us bitter. We can come to resent God. And, suffering can leave us wondering if there is a God at all. Don’t you wonder that sometimes when you hear about all the suffering in the world? How can there be a God when things like this happen?

Several years ago, Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks did a comedy skit called the "2013 Year Old Man". In the skit, Reiner interviews Brooks, who is the old gentleman. At one point, Reiner asks the old man, "Did you always believe in the Lord?"

Brooks replied: "No. We had a guy in our village named Phil, and for a time we worshiped him."

Reiner: You worshiped a guy named Phil? Why?

Brooks: Because he was big, and mean, and he could break you in two with his bare hands!

Reiner: Did you have prayers?

Brooks: Yes, would you like to hear one? O Phil, please don't be mean, and hurt us, or break us in two with your bare hands.

Reiner: So when did you start worshiping the Lord?

Brooks: Well, one day a big thunderstorm came up, and a lightning bolt hit Phil. We gathered around and saw that he was dead. Then we said to one another, "There's somthin' bigger than Phil!"
Tim Carpenter,

I am always grateful when I can see, within my own suffering, signs that there is something bigger than myself, bigger than my problem, bigger than the suffering. I am always grateful when I see God’s grace at work in and through the suffering. Jesus says, “For I will give you words and a wisdom…” Signs, of God working through my life, and the lives of other people who, with care and compassion, strive to alleviate the suffering of others.

Having care and compassion for the suffering in this world can feel overwhelming. There is so much. Where do we begin? Sometimes we can become stuck, feeling immobilized by the intensity of it all.

There’s a story from one of the ancient church writers that looks at this very thing. A student asked the teacher about suffering, and the teacher told him a story. It goes like this:

A man had a plot of land that had become a wilderness of thistles and thorns. He decided to cultivate it and said to his son: "Go and clear that ground." But when the son went to clear it, he saw that the thistles and thorns had multiplied. He thought, "How much time shall I need to clear and weed all this?" and lay on the ground instead, and went to sleep. He did this day after day.

When his father found him doing nothing, the son explained his discouragement. The father replied, "Son, if you had cleared each day the area on which you lay down, your work would have advanced slowly and you would not have lost heart." The son did what his father said, and in a short time the plot was cultivated.

One Plot at a Time by Roberta C. Biondi

Moving through suffering means taking things one step at a time. Perhaps it is our own suffering we face. Then, all we can do is wake up each morning and take that first step out of bed. Or, perhaps we are working to alleviate suffering in the world by helping one refugee family at a time. We can’t fix all the problems or alleviate all the suffering. But we can help; one thing at a time.

Jesus calls us into the suffering. We are not to avoid it. We are to enter into to it. To be present with it. To suffer with the families who have lost their homes to fire, flood, war, or cyclones. To suffer with people who have been injured by the many battles being raged across our planet. To suffer with the hungry, the poor, the forgotten. Jesus tells us to not pick sides, do not justify the suffering. Rather, testify on behalf of the suffering. Examine our lives. And. Give witness to God’s desire for us to love our neighbor as ourselves, for “by your endurance you will gain your souls.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Living the Questions....

A Reflection on Luke 20:27-38, Proper 27C

One New Year's Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit.

It was out of gas.

The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas.
(C. Neil Strait, Minister’s Manuel, 1994, 315).

The irony is, the float was sponsored by and represented an oil company. A primary symbol of American Society, the status quo, fails…

Which is both funny and thought provoking….

Our vestry meets 10 months out of the year on the second Thursday of the month. We begin every meeting with a Bible study, usually pondering the Gospel reading for the upcoming Sunday. In this Bible study we ponder the reading from the perspective of three questions. The first time we read it through we listen for what word or phrase stands out for us. Our response, usually after a few minutes of bewildered contemplation, is the sharing of a few words.

So for instance, at the vestry meeting on Thursday we contemplated today’s Gospel, and we heard things like:

“all of them are alive;” or

“Some of the Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked him a question…”

We don’t explain why the word or phrase stands out. We just say it, the sign of the Spirit speaking to us. Then we read the lesson a second time, using another interpretation of scripture…

This time we are listening to what the passage is saying to the people of "Small Church." Then we read it a third time listening to what the Spirit is saying to us, the vestry, the leaders of "Small Church."

Each time we read it we use a different interpretation. Usually we use the New International Version, The Message, and the one we use on Sunday morning, The New Revised Standard Version. Each version offers us a slightly, or radically, different understanding of the lesson.

So, each read through is from a different interpretation pondering different questions.

These help us to enter into the reading in ever deeper ways.

We begin our vestry meeting with scripture so that we can shape and form the work we do in scripture and prayer.

Now, it’s true that some nights the reading “speaks” to us in fairly clear terms. But other nights, like last Thursday’s vestry meeting, the reading seems obtuse – we are getting nothing out of it.

And I don’t help. I don’t jump in and unpack the reading. I don’t add commentary on what the “Scholars” say about the reading. I let us wallow in it and muddle through the confusion. Because often that is when and where the Spirit will speak to us.

We went through the first question and then second with very little ability to engage in the reading and gain any insight.

Gosh, we thought, this is a tough reading. What we “hear” Jesus saying about the resurrection is just not what we want to think.

We want the resurrection to be about being with our family and loved ones.

We want the resurrection to be about living again, about new life.

We want the resurrection to be about hope.

Then, suddenly, we had some insight. One of the vestry members suggested that the reading was not really what it seemed to be about. It isn’t about marriage and it isn’t about what happens in the resurrection. Sure, marriage is used as the example, but with the intent of pointing us elsewhere.

The message is pointing us to stop thinking about things in the same old way. The point of the reading is that we should not be satisfied with the status quo. We need to be careful about choosing things that allow us to remain in our comfort zones.

The kingdom of God is about a new thing…

So, marriage is a prime example of what is “normal” in our society. This is true even as 50% of all marriages end in divorce. And it’s true even as many people refuse to get married.

The common mind of our society is slightly suspicious of anyone in power or authority who has not been married.

Think about, for instance, what it might be like to consider for President a person who was not married, never had been. Or was divorced? The Sunday night soap, Brothers and Sisters is looking at this very issue.

It goes against our standards of what is “normal,” what is “trustworthy.”

So the vestry member was on to something.

The reading was not about marriage, but about the status quo…

In this reading marriage is a metaphor for what we know, what we are familiar with, what feels “normal”. We need to stop worrying about how able we are to maintain the normal way of life. The kingdom of God is not about maintaining the status quo.

Jesus has come to do a new thing.

We need to stop sweating the small stuff that locks us into, and limits us to what we think is normal.

Jesus is telling us we need to learn to think outside the box.

In Jesus’ day the Sadducees were just beginning to think about resurrection, about what happens after we die.

Then and now many people think life just ends when we die.

But this Gospel conversation about the resurrection explodes this idea. Blows it wide open. But again, just like this reading is not about marriage, it is also not about resurrection.

It is about God and how we understand our lives as a people of faith.

When Jesus speaks to the Sadducees he is saying that their rendition of reality is stifled; he offers an alternate view of the after life as a way of pointing us to understand our lives today.

Jesus offers them a way of thinking outside the box.

As he always does Jesus takes their question and turns it upside down.

Have you read Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet?

In it an aspiring poet from America writes the famous poet Rilke in Germany with questions about his art. In one of his replies, Rilke writes,

“Love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.

Live the questions now.

Perhaps then someday far in the future, you will your way into the answer.”

So, what Jesus does is offer them a revelation of “uncertainty.” By Jesus telling them this version he shakes loose the version of known reality and offers up a radically different one…

True, the one Jesus offers may be more filled with questions than certitude.

But, that would be the point.

What does life look like if we think out side the box?

What does life look like if we stop seeing the differences in the color of our skin?How many times do we use skin color as a way to describe someone?

“there was this African-American….”

“She is an Hispanic…”

“He is Asian…”

Rarely do we feel inclined to say, “That white guy?” Because white is normative…

I hope we see the irony in the events of our Diocesan Convention.

We spent Friday afternoon debating the merits of supporting people of color.

We considered the need to make anti-racism training up front and center in our diocesan budget and in the lives of our parishes. The resolution on this issue passed with very little dissension.

We spent a good amount of time debating the merits of asking General Convention in 2009 to rescind resolution B033. This resolution, passed in the final moments of General Convention 2006, makes a statement about who we will confirm as Bishop in the Episcopal Church.

We argued thoughtfully about why we need to rethink this. Why we need to find ways to fully embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and welcome them into the church.

It was an amazing afternoon. The Episcopal Church at its best, struggling to think outside the box. Struggling to embrace a wide berth of what can be possible and normative.

And then the very next day we elect the white guy as our Bishop.

Now. Don’t misunderstand me.

He will be a fine Bishop.

But hear what I am saying in the context of our debates at convention on Friday. We say one thing, but when it comes to action, we move right back to the status quo. To what feels safe and good and right.

Someone at convention asked me, "Do I think our new Bishop will be an agent of change?"

"Sure." I said. "Just like Persell has been able to be an agent of change in this Diocese. But to the world around us, the people who do not really know the day to day stuff of our church, we present once again, a "normal" face. This is who we see as Bishop. In essence the same person who has been elected Bishop the last eleven times."

Living the Gospel is hard work.

And it’s not about the small stuff.

It’s about changing our paradigm of what we think is normal.

It’s about thinking outside the box and following Christ into a new thing.

It’s a cry for us to look carefully at all the ways we get stuck in racism and sexism.

As human beings we slide so comfortably into what feels normal. I do it all the time!In biology we learn that living systems always seek homeostasis. We actively seek to find what we know as “normal.” It’s in our DNA to do this.

But, Jesus seeks to point us in a new direction.

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked him a question...

How is it that, in our world today, "we" are the Sadducees?

Naturally, we want the things that feel safe and comfortable. We live in time of radical change and upheaval. It's only natural that we want to be comfortable and "normal."

But, Jesus tells us we need to push back against this. We need to look carefully at what we think is safe and normal.Because eventually the very things we hold up as the status quo run out of gas.

We need to live with the questions.

What is safe?

What is normal?

What does Jesus call us to do?

We need to let the questions sit in our beings and wrestle with our souls and give us sleepless nights like the one I had last night.

“Love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.

Live the questions now.

Perhaps then someday, far in the future, you will your way into a new answer.”

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Come to this table...

One of my earliest memories takes place when I was two years old.

It is evening and my parents have just left. I am in a hospital room and in those days parents were not allowed to stay in the room over night. I was being prepped for a tonsillectomy and for some reason I had to spend the night; the surgery would be first thing in the morning.

I remember standing in the crib shaking it back and forth. I was offended that I had to sleep in a crib like a baby. I was not a baby. I had a baby brother; I knew the difference between my big girl bed and his crib.

I remember the nurse trying to get me to drink the twinkle time juice. I would not. (Who knew what was in that beverage!).

I remember climbing out of the crib and taking a walk down the hall.

[Oh, I’m sure the nurses were fit to be tied with me.]

I remember my uncle coming into the room with a group of elders from our church. My uncle laid his hands on my head and prayed. I don’t remember the words he said. I remember the calming effect of his hands and the soothing sound of his voice. I remember the presence of God’s love pouring through my uncle and into me.

In my memory I went to sleep after that prayer. --------

Memory is interesting….

Why do we remember some things and not others? Why is it that something happens and a memory pops up out of nowhere? That happens to me often when I am driving. I have lived all over the Chicago-land area. Certain neighborhoods are filled with memories…from college, to my first real job, the various apartments I lived in in Roger’s Park, the first house I bought and the second…memories of family and children, and friends.

But day in and day out I do not remember most of my life.

Some days I’m lucky if I can pull up in my memory bank the word I’m looking for…or remember why I walked into a particular room…


Most days I live in the future, the place I am trying to get to, not in the present and not in the past.

Memory is important though. It is our memories that help guide us and keep us from making the same mistakes over and over. Memory is why Isaiah is pleading with the people – remember who you are and whose you are.

“Hear the word of the Lord…”

and then Isaiah reminds the people of what God desires of them.

The people have forgotten what the love and grace of God is really all about. They have started to think that what God wants of them is sacrifices and burnt offerings. They have started to think that God requires this of them before God can forgive them their sins.

We Christians have gone the same direction. We hang on to the idea that God needed Jesus to die on the cross before God could forgive us our sins.

The Letter to the Hebrews develops this idea, so does St. Augustine, so have many church writers through out history. Through out the ages, and even still today, we Christians have been struggling with a crucified and resurrected savoir, a God who came to live as a human… We call this “Atonement Theology;” what God was doing in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and how that pertains to our salvation. And, while there is one prominent way we remember the story, there are seven or eight or nine atonement theologies.

It’s helpful to remember that Christians have not completely figured this out.

[Yeah, the mystery of God must have something to do with it…]

What God is telling the people through Isaiah is that their religious rituals and acts have become meaningless to God. They are meaningless because the people are doing them for all the wrong reasons.

Sometimes our memory plays tricks on us,

we start doing something for one reason and then end up doing it for another…

But the truth is God has forgiven their scarlet sins and turned them to snow.

God forgives our sins too!

The sacrifice, Isaiah tells us, is supposed to be an act of gratitude.

A thank offering.

Thank you God for forgiving me my sins and loving me just as I am.

We hear a similar thing in Luke.

In our reading it sounds like Jesus’ willingness to forgive Zacchaeus depends upon Zacchaeus’ willingness to be repentant.

But here is where the interpretation of scripture misleads us. Our scripture speaks of Zacchaeus’ actions as if they are something he will do in the future, but the original Greek words, the verb tense, tell us it is something he is doing now. Present tense….

He is giving things away now.

He is tending to the issues of injustice now.

His heart is in the right place, even if his job would say other wise.

He is already doing what God asks.

It’s the people around Zacchaeus who presume, because of what he does for a living, a tax collector, that he cheats and steals. (

How often do we do this –

judge someone else based on superficial evidence?

How often do we limit our understanding of “who” they are, based on “what” we think they are?

Oh, you’re a lawyer…oh, you’re a priest,...oh, you’re a….

This reading tells us that when WE do this We become the sinner. We sin when our actions are “On behalf” of God, or “for” God, or to “appease” God rather than being “Of” God.

Maybe this sounds like I’m splitting hairs.

But what I’m trying to nuance is the significance of our actions when they are grounded in the love and graciousness of God instead of what we think will please God and grant us salvation while forgetting that we are already saved.

The heart of both these readings is to remind us that God has already forgiven us and loves us as we are.

God’s mercy is profound and stretches beyond our comprehension.

Thankfully God’s mercy is not dependent upon anything anyone of us does.

Thankfully we have a history of God acting in and through people upon which to ground our trust. --------

Today we celebrate the collective memory of the Saints, those blessed ones who have gone before us, those who gave their lives to God. (think, St. Paul, St. Theresa, St. Hildegard, St. Augustine)…

Individually their lives help us remember God in a particular time in history

and collectively they help us know God’s grace and love through the eons of time.

Most of us are less like the saints…we are more like the Israelites that Isaiah is speaking with, we get caught up in details that distract us from what is really going on.

We forget what God really wants of us. We get carried away with issues about human sexuality and forget about the dying, the hungry, the poor…

I am really drawn to the line in Isaiah where God says,

“Come now, let us argue this out.”

I love that God is portrayed as one willing to argue with us and still love us.

“Let us argue this out…though your sins are like scarlet they shall become like snow…”

God invites us into a passionate caring. God wants us to be deeply invested. This passage from Isaiah tells me that God cares about what is in our hearts. God cares about why we do something. God seems to care less about the exact details of what we do.

It’s not about the burnt offering;

it’s about your heart.

It’s like God is saying

I don’t want you to do “the right thing” in order to make me love you.

I want to know what is in your heart.

And, so, it’s about trusting that God does love us just as we are. Trusting this because God has lived as one of us. And if God in Christ has lived as one of us, then God understands the distractions and conflicts of the human heart.

But, at some point, trusting that God loves us, really trusting that, will fill our hearts with joy and gratitude.

We will worry less about doing the right thing for fear of reprisal or to sway God’s heart.

God’s heart is already with us, that’s the message.

That’s why we are called to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving.

This is the language of our Eucharistic prayers. These prayers are known as “The Great Thanksgiving.”

We come to the table, just as we are, broken and lost.

We come to the table with our opinions about:
We come to the table with our opinions about who can lead this country, could it be a woman?
We come to the table with our opinions aboutwho can be Bishop..
We come to the table with our opinions about Homeless
We come to the table with our opinions about immigration…
We come to the table with our opinions about the economy…
We come to the table with our opinions about the environment.
We come to the table with our opinions about mental illness.
We come to the table with our opinions about global warming.
We come to the table with our opinions about the meaning of scripture.
We come to the table with our opinions about about homosexuality.
We come to the table with our opinions about the war.
We come to the table with our opinions about Right to life or Right to Choose….
We come to the table with our opinions about real bread and real body.
Is it?
We come to this table with many different opinions.

We come because God calls us to this table.

But God does not call us to come in order that we all have the same opinion.

It’s about unity not uniformity….

There is a line in an Indigo Girls song that goes,

“There is more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line…”

Christians through out the ages have held different understandings of who God is and what God desires of us.

It is a crooked line.

Thankfully there resides, I think a kind of collective memory in our history. It is this collective memory that we are trying to pray in the Eucharist. But even in that collective memory is much diversity.

Can we pray about God as mother?

Some early church fathers did just that...they used images of God as mother.

Some of us today think that’s blasphemy…..

Come, God says, let’s argue this out.

Because to argue it out says something about our investment in it.

I’m not suggesting vitriol nor am I suggesting mean spirited behavior.

I think the passage is a cry for passion.

Passion for Christ’s sake….!

Passion for the love of God!

Come God says, because you care.

Come God says because no matter what,

so long as your heart is here,

I will turn your sins from scarlet to white as snow.

Come God says.

This bread and this wine is a fragrant offering of love

given equally to all.



Let the meal at this table

be for you the real presence of God’s love,

that you may remember

and then,

go and do likewise

Sunday, October 14, 2007

October Sermon Series "Why I Come To St. Hilary's"

A reflection from Sue on Luke 17:11-19

Back in August, when Pastor Terri asked me to speak today, I said sure without even thinking about it. I have never minded talking publicly, so this would be easy. All I had to do was share why I come to St. Hilary’s. That was easy enough. I come because I started here when I was 9 and I was too lazy when I was done with college to go anywhere else. Done.

But, as I reflected further, it became very clear to me that this was not the entire truth. Yes, I have been here since I was 9. Yes, there are some times in my life when I decide to just stay where I am so that I don’t have to put in the effort of changing. However, there is far more to my life at St. Hilary’s than that. Something has kept me here despite great difficulties within myself and this community.

I realized quite clearly when I was in high school that faith could be very difficult. I was part of the youth group here. There were approximately 20 high school students in the group back then. I had a few friends there. I enjoyed most of the activities we did. But, when I was a junior and brought a friend to church, I discovered that this group was not very welcoming to new people that were a little different from them and I began to look at my own relationships within the group. I decided that I didn’t want to be talking about things that meant nothing to me. I was a good kid. I didn’t drink, wasn’t out late partying and didn’t disagree with my parents on everything they said. So, I decided to attend church rather than youth group. Not one person ever asked why I left the group, but the rumor got back to my parents that I felt I was too good for the group. No one ever found out that I quit because I didn’t feel I belonged. I wasn’t going to come to youth group every Sunday to feel rejected and alone.

I thought of this whole story because I was reflecting on Paul’s letter to Timothy that was read today. The section that was read today talks of enduring hardship so others may know Christ. When 20 kids all turned their backs on me, it was a hardship. But, I was not ashamed that my faith in God and the spirituality I felt in church were more important to me than the friendship of others my age. It was a lonely time, but my faith grew by being in church and doing what I wanted to do rather than following the crowd. This experience began to teach me that the church is filled with human beings and we are all imperfect and sometimes hurt others. If we continue to work together and find common ground, we can be made well, both as individuals and as a congregation.

This very building has many good memories within it. Way back when the addition was build, I helped paint many Saturdays. Joe and I were married here. Both our children were baptized here. But, it’s not just the building. Even more importantly, it’s the people.

When we were married we were surrounded by great family and friends. Both of our boys were baptized here by women I love and respect in a community that has stood behind us in thick and thin. Johnny’s baptism even began the process of my family’s reconciliation with my brother.

Today, I continue to come to St. Hilary’s for many reasons. One of my favorite things about our church here is that we are small and I can feel that I have an impact on the life of this congregation. I am able to read lessons, work with the music, help out in the education programs, lead Vacation Bible school and recently have been given the opportunity to fight for the children in our church and world.

My faith and people here have helped me through many very hard times in my life, from the caring for my dying grandmother to having my brother move into our apartment when we were married just months: from being diagnosed with major depression to being told my son had bipolar disorder; from not finding a teaching job right away to being ready to move to the next part of my life by going back to school next year; from my parents moving to Colorado to my parents moving back. But, where does my faith come from?

It comes from my time here in this place with God and my friends. So, here is the answer for Pastor Terri’s question. St. Hilary’s is a place where I really belong. I have friends that have supported me through several bouts of major depression. When I had a difficult time and began to withdraw, my friends here didn’t let me. They lovingly helped my family guide me back to health. They pray for me. Like the 10 lepers in the gospel today, I have begged God to heal me. People here remind me that God loves me and that healing takes many forms. Jesus healed the lepers because they asked to be made well and they believed in him. I have struggled for many years with this particular story. Why does he not heal me from this disease called depression? Why doesn’t he just make it go away once and for all?

Like the Lepers, I have continued to ask for help. This spring I journeyed through lent feeling very abandoned by God. I was in the desert searching for him. I finally got to the point where I realized that I had to search within myself in order to find him. I took this dark, Lenten time to reflect and wait until I found some answers. I did withdraw from my friends, or at least tried to. The friends here at St. Hilary’s didn’t let me. They made me interact in a safe caring environment. When I wanted to just hide in bed, they checked on me and prayed with me. I know that just being on the prayer list here helped me to feel that I would find God again and me again.

This was a really difficult and scary time in my life. All the time, I kept coming here hoping to find God and myself again. I asked God to heal me and also my family. I consulted Drs that helped me to get the chemicals in my body more balanced and the thoughts in my head more clear. I fought the feelings of desertion. But, most of all, I searched inside me. After all, others around me seemed to see valuable things in me, just as Jesus did in the lepers. I spent time examining old memories. I began to reframe the way I looked at who I was.

It was a long journey, but somewhere around Easter, I let go of some of the guilt and pain that I had taken on as a child. What a freeing experience! I became clean inside! I see life differently now. I’m sure I will continue to deal with depression the rest of my life, but I have now forgiven myself for things that happened when I was a child and young adult that weren’t my fault in the first place.

\Like the 9 lepers in today’s gospel that didn’t come back, it took me a while to see God again in my life. I didn’t thank him right away. I figured I had worked hard and fought on my own. However, it became obvious that it was not all my doing. God had been there all the way. He had held my hand and listened while I cried. He had protected and helped me to continue to care for my family. He had guided the Drs in their decisions for my treatment. He does want me to be well. He wants me to be healthy and productive.

So, like the lepers I was healed and now I have finally come back to Jesus to say thank you. I am not a leper anymore. I do not reject myself anymore. And I can honestly say that without God and all of you, I would be in a very different place in my life than I am today. So, I not only need to continue to thank God, but also all of you. I look forward to the future, not with fear, but with excitement. I don’t know what will happen here in the future. But, I know that along with all of us taking care of our church, God will continue to be present here and we can continue together to do God’s work.

Jesus healing my reflection on the lessons read today allow me to hear him say, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Sunday, October 7, 2007

October Sermon Series "Why I Come To St. Hilary's"

Today's sermon, the first of our series, is a reflection by Dan. The readings refered to are Psalm 37:1-10 and Luke 17:5-10

A few weeks back, Pastor Terri asked if I would share some thoughts on why I attend St. Hilary’s. My initial answer was --- we come to St. Hilary’s because it is close to our house. I then realized Pastor Terri was looking for a bit deeper meaning. She wanted to know in what way is St. Hilary’s important to me and how the ministries we participate in impact my life.

As I sat down to think about why I really like attending St. Hilary’s, I thought back to the first time Sharon and I visited here. It was approximately 20 years ago and it was infact because St. Hilary’s was close to our house. We were originally married at St. Martin’s in Des Plaines. We lived relatively close to St. Martins but then moved to this area. We quickly found it challenging to get the kids ready and out the door for the drive to church. One day after driving by St. Hilary’s for many years, we decided to give it a try.

It is also important to note that I grew up in a Roman Catholic Church with a large congregation. At the time we started coming to St. Hilary’s, it was about the same size congregation as St. Martin. The two churches combined were hardly 25% of the size of the church I grew up in. Growing up, I guess I was like many kids my age; I went to church on a weekly basis (mostly because my parents required it). I would go to church, spend my required weekly hour -- and then head out, not to think about church again until that hour came around the following Sunday.

St. Hilary’s was a different experience. One of the things I pride myself in is learning from others. I have done that all my life whether it was in school, my personal life, business life, or here at church. Initially when we joined St. Hilary’s, I continued to put in my weekly hour. And then I noticed this congregation was different than others. The key difference was it appeared that the people of St. Hilary’s really care – care about one another, the church, the local community, and the world community at large.

About ten years ago, St. Hilary’s had a extensive Lenten Program. For the first few years, I attended the group dinners, Stations of the Cross, and then listened to inspiring stories from fellow parishioners. These were remarkable stories about every day people who either over came difficult life challenges or were currently enduring challenges. They spoke of addictions, family crisis, death of loved ones, and faith moving experiences. Then Father Crist asked me to participate and present my story – at first I was hesitant to say yes because I did not know what I could share with this group that was relevant and inspiring. While I was pondering my decision, my schedule at work changed and I had to go out of town on the day he asked me to speak. So it turned out to be a convenient excuse to not have to get up and share my life with others. Well Father Crist, like another priest I know, was persistent. He asked me to speak on another day and I was hard pressed to say no. At that time, the only station I wanted to talk on was the fifth station – Simon helps Jesus. I felt I could easily relate to that as I always enjoyed helping others.

I did not spend a lot of time praying back then about my assignment, but I was hoping it would be the fifth station of the cross. I at least remember asking God if he would be so kind to make it an easy station so I could talk intelligently to the group. As you might expect, when the envelope showed up in the mail, my station to talk on was the fifth station. Recognizing my luck has never been that good, to hit the jackpot on 1 out of 14 certainly was much more than luck. In fact, I almost did not open the envelope as I was confident it was the fifth station. That experience had a big impact on me and since then I have learned that I could depend on God to answer my call. I put my trust in God, and like our psalm today reminds us:
“put your trust in the Lord and do good…take delight in the Lord and he shall give you your heart’s desire. Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him…”
About this same time, I decided I needed to get more involved. I started as a lay reader. Then I began to usher, and then a chalice bearer. I started to participate in other activities around the church including vestry warden, and enjoyed activities that involved helping others. A little over six years ago, a partner and I started a new business after 24 years with the same company. One of our core values was ensuring we give back to the community. We established our Convergint Social Responsibility Day. On that day, we go into the community and give back to those less fortunate than we are. To date we have donated over $1 Million in our time and materials to help our local communities. We have successfully created a culture whereby all of our colleagues give back and help, when and where they can. Another area that I have recently become involved in - is becoming a mentor for a minority high school student in an inner city school. While this is new, I expect it to be a rewarding experience as I help mentor a motivated minority high school student who needs to beat the odds to make it to College. I attribute a lot of what I have done relative to helping others to the lessons I have learned from the many excellent examples in this church.

In our Gospel reading today, the disciples ask Jesus for more faith and he tells them they have faith enough. What they need is not more faith, but rather the ability to do and continue doing what God calls from all of us. Faith results from people who are open to and are doing what God has initiated in us. We live in a world that usually chooses to ignore or worse, trample the weak. However, God calls us to respond to and lift up the weak. (Remember Jesus is speaking to the disciples, but as I talk about us, we are the disciples of today)…by referring to slaves Jesus is asking the disciples to reflect on their own experience – slaves in Jesus’ day had much work to do and they could not rest until their work was done. God expects the same of the disciples, there is much work to do to bring forth God’s kingdom and justice (i.e. all people should be healthy, fed, cared for; God asks us to love God, love self, love others)…as odd as this example seems to us it is really about reminding the disciples that what they desire, --- faith, ---- is within their reach. They are to respond to the challenges of life and faith from their own experiences (of God, faith, life) and they must strive to do God’s work. We should not just settle for things and accept them as they are (poverty, disadvantaged groups) rather we are to do something to change that.

As we all know, St. Hilary’s is a small church – but I have learned it is not a matter of how large a congregation is, rather, how committed it is to doing that which God expects of us. Because of the excellent example all of you set each day along with many of your predecessors, I am a much better person in faith being part of this congregation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Where There Is Despair, Hope

A reflection on Luke 16:19-31

Francis of Assisi is best remembered as the saint of animals. It is in his memory that we hold our annual pet blessing. Normally this blessing would take place on a Sunday morning in October during the 10:00 service. But this year we have guest preachers each Sunday in Oct. to celebrate our life and ministry together. And I thought having a pet blessing would be just too much. So, we had it last night. It was a wonderful occasion for us to gather with our beloved pets and celebrate the joy they bring us.

St. Francis lived in the 12th century. He was born to a wealthy family and had all the luxuries of a good education. But a series of war related injuries and illnesses caused him to reconsider his life. Over a couple of years he changed from being a carefree playful young man to a man serious about helping the poor and caring for the world around him. To do this he began a religious order, now known as the Franciscans.

There are many legends about the amazing power Francis had with animals. One of them tells us that in the city of Gubbio, where Francis lived for some time, there was a wolf “terrifying and ferocious, who devoured men as well as animals.” Francis had compassion upon the townsfolk, and went up into the hills to find the wolf. Soon fear of the animal had caused all his companions to flee, but the saint pressed on and when he found the wolf he made the sign of the cross and commanded the wolf to come to him and hurt no one. Miraculously the wolf closed his jaws and lay down at the feet of St. Francis. “Brother Wolf, you do much harm in these parts and you have done great evil…” said Francis. “All these people accuse you and curse you…But brother wolf, I would like to make peace between you and the people.” (Here I picture Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, come to rehabilitate the wolf and the town into a pack that can get along). So, Francis led the wolf into the town, and surrounded by startled citizens he made a pact between them and the wolf. Because the wolf had “done evil out of hunger” the townsfolk were to feed the wolf regularly, and in return, the wolf would no longer prey upon them or their flocks.

Not only was Francis the Dog Whisperer of the 12th century, but he also cared deeply for the poor and the hungry. The life and stories of Francis of Assisi connect us to our scripture readings today, giving us an example of how we are to be mindful of how we live. We are to remember that all that we have and all that we are is a gift from God. We are to share, intentionally, generously, with others. The rich man in our Gospel is not mindful; he is blind to what is going on around him. He does not ignore Lazarus, he doesn’t even see him. The rich man's blindness is not physical, his eyesight is fine. Rather its blindness caused by self absorption. Stories like this one from Luke are intended to help us see that our actions in this life have consequences.

One of the reasons the Episcopal Church has adopted the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is to give us concrete ways to live with our eyes and hearts open. These goals show us we can really see the world we live in and make a difference. The eight goals are: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; Achieve universal primary education; Promote gender equality and empower women; Reduce child mortality; Improve maternal health; Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; Ensure environmental sustainability; Develop a global partnership for development. These goals define real needs in the world and ask us to develop real responses to them. As a congregation we are doing this in three ways: we use and sell Bishop’s Blend coffee; we work to resettle refugees; and today we had our first conversation on keeping people safe in our church.

Bishops Blend is Fair Trade, which means the purchase of this coffee pays the coffee growers a living wage. By earning a living wage the coffee grower is less inclined to supplement the family income by growing and selling illegal drugs. By earning a living wage the coffee grower is less inclined to sneak into this country as an undocumented alien. Paying people a living wage allows families to remain intact, gain an education, and live productive lives. Every time we drink a cup of coffee in this church we are helping families. Every time we buy a bag of coffee to use at home we are helping. And, St. Hilary’s retains a small profit when you buy your coffee here which we donate to our companion Diocese of SE Mexico. Buying, using, and selling Bishops Blend coffee enables us to work on all eight goals.

A second way we are participating in the Millennium Development Goals, or MDG’s, is through our work with resettling refugees. This summer alone we have helped by providing kitchen items: dishes, pots and pans, eating and cooking utensils, for over 20 families. Working with refugees enables us to participate in seven of the goals. Each family we help is one less family facing poverty and hunger, one more family to receive and education, one more family that empowers its women, reduces child mortality, improves maternal health care, combats disease, and develops a global partnership through IRIM. And perhaps in some way I do not know resettling refugees also works to ensure environmental sustainability.

The third way we are participating in the MDG’s is by focusing on Keeping God’s People Safe. This ministry is new for us, at least in the concerted effort we made this morning to look at the reality of abuse in our world and how we, as a church community, can actively work to keep all people safe.

Each of these three intentional efforts requires very little individual effort on our part. But collectively they are making a huge difference in the world. Most of all by engaging in them and keeping them in the forefront of our ministry we have a constant reminder of the needs of the world and how, from our very blessed lives, we are able to address those needs.

St. Francis is attributed with a prayer. Most of you will know it. It is found in our red Book of Common Prayer on page 833, #62. Please open your prayer books and let’s pray it together:

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 pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.