August 31, 2005
Episcopal Relief for Katrina Disaster
The Hurricane Katrina disaster continues to unfold in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Episcopal Relief and Development makes it possible to donate to disaster relief via an online donation form.
. The images and stories coming out of the area are horrific and the loss of life and property is expected to be huge. You can help by donating either via ERD or directly to the American Red Cross
, which expects the Katrina disaster to be its greatest challenge.
Comments areif you would like to add prayers for the victims of Katrina, and the emergency aid workers and law enforcement personnel who are laboring to assist them.
Episcopal Relief and Development supports children and families who are suffering from disaster, disease and poverty. Our programs save lives today and build hope for the future. Your partnership with us provides emergency assistance and long-term solutions to fight poverty and disease.
Giving online is easy. Just select an ERD fund from the drop-down menu, select your donation amount and method of payment. If you wish to give a donation in honor of a friend or loved-one, fill out the information at the bottom of this page. At your request, we will send an acknowledgement letter to your gift honoree.
Donations can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development, PO Box 12043, Newark, NJ 07101. To donate by phone, please call , ext. 5129
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in Reaching Out
August 27, 2005
Readings For This Sunday
Psalm 26 or 26:1-8
Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
O LORD, you know; remember me and visit me, and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance do not take me away; know that on your account I suffer insult. Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail. Therefore thus says the LORD: If you turn back, I will take you back, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth. It is they who will turn to you, not you who will turn to them. And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the LORD. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.
Psalm 26 or 26:1-8Judica me, Domine
1 Give judgment for me, O LORD, for I have lived with integrity; * I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.
Test me, O LORD, and try me; *
examine my heart and my mind.
For your love is before my eyes; *
I have walked faithfully with you.
I have not sat with the worthless, *
nor do I consort with the deceitful.
I have hated the company of evildoers; *
I will not sit down with the wicked.
I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD, *
that I may go in procession round your altar,
Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving *
and recounting all your wonderful deeds.
LORD, I love the house in which you dwell *
and the place where your glory abides.
Do not sweep me away with sinners, *
nor my life with those who thirst for blood,
Whose hands are full of evil plots, *
and their right hand full of bribes.
As for me, I will live with integrity; *
redeem me, O LORD, and have pity on me.
My foot stands on level ground; *
in the full assembly I will bless the LORD.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-- what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
"For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done."
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Recently Fr. Ted began work with Bonaventure House, part of the Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry:
Spiritual Care Program Takes Flight
Rev. Ted Durst, an Episcopal priest seasoned in the areas of HIV/AIDS and recovery, has become Bonaventure's new Spiritual Care Coordinator. Durst has an extensive background in the areas of pastoral care, worship, and spiritual formation. In addition, he has developed programming and ministry outreach for an array of organizations across the country including AIDS Pastoral Care Network, The Night Ministry, Shelter Care Ministries, Mission Road Development Center , and Cathedral Shelter. Residents of Bonaventure House and The Harbor will be invited to a spiritual retreat, led by Durst and coordinated by Donna Faur (former staff), August 18-21.
August 17, 2005
Affirming Anglican Catholicsm
New addition to the Links page:
Our call is to a mature, living Christianity, where scripture, reason, the Sacraments and Catholic Tradition make sense of our life today. -- Affirming Anglican Catholicism
If you're interested in the Episcopal Church or have been raised in the Roman Catholic Church, you might have noticed that there's a strong resemblance between the two faiths, although they divurge in varying degrees on matters of authority, belief, and the sexuality of the laity and clergy . There are several different traditions within the Episcopal faith. Holy Innocents and St Columba follow an Anglo-Catholic style of worship, but from a progressive and inclusive outlook, much like Affirming Anglican Catholicism. The link will be added to the lists on the blog and links pages.
This group shares an acronym with another, much more socially conservative Anglican organization: see the statement explaining the difference here.
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Prayers for Brother Roger
Brother Roger, founder of the ecumenical Taize' community, was murdered Tuesday during a vespers service.
This is a terrible loss to Christians everywhere, as Brother Roger was working to reconcile divided Christianity and the disenfranchised.
The Taize' community, founded in 1940 by Brother Roger when he was 25, became a safe haven for political refugees and people of all faiths, among them Jews fleeing the Holocaust. Since the late 1950s, thousands of young adults from many countries have come to Taize' to take part in weekly meetings of prayer and reflection. More than 100 Taize' brothers, committed to material and spiritual sharing, celibacy, and simplicity of life, make visits and lead meetings in Africa, North and South America, Asia, and in Europe, as part of what they call "a pilgrimage of trust on earth." Eight years ago, Brother Roger designated Brother Alois to succeed him as the person in charge of the community.
On the morning after his death, the following prayer was read in the church:
"Christ of compassion, you enable us to be in communion with those who have gone before us, and who can remain so close to us. We confide into your hands our Brother Roger. He already contemplates the invisible. In his footsteps, you are preparing us to welcome a radiance of your brightness."
Via AKMA's Random Thoughts
The Book Of Daniel
This could be really exciting news - it's only a mid-season replacement, but still it's intriguing: a progressive Christian point of view might be shown on network television as an alternative to the somewhate more conservative depictions of faith that are typical of TV drama.
Those of us who attended the enjoyable Via Media sessions may recognize the location; I believe it's the same church where they taped.
[Episcopal News Service] A new television drama featuring the struggles of an Episcopal priest with family, church politics and Jesus, his mentor and friend, and even his own nagging reliance on painkillers, is planned for the NBC 2005-2006 mid-season line-up.
"This challenging new series is our first announced drama for mid-season as we continue to seek different, out-of-the-box projects," said Kevin Reilly, President, NBC Entertainment, when announcing the new series.
" 'The Book of Daniel' is bold and surprising storytelling told by a great cast led by Aidan Quinn," Reilly added.
The new series also offers the Episcopal Church a rare product placement opportunity at a time when TIVO devices make it possible to excise paid commercials from home viewing. In 2004, the value of television product placements (a product or brand name inserted for marketing purposes into entertainment fare) increased by 46.4 percent over the year before, to $1.88 billion, according to the research firm PQ Media.
A pilot episode for 'The Book of Daniel' was filmed at All Saints Church in Pasadena, where Quinn portrays Daniel, a young, liberal priest and father who clashes frequently with his conservative bishop, Dr. Beatrice Congreve, played by Ellen Burstyn.
The series, set in upstate New York, would also feature Quinn's frequent conversations with Jesus, played by actor Garrett Dillahunt. Among his parishioners is long-time actress and comedienne Phyllis Diller.
The Rev. Susan Russell, an associate rector at the Pasadena parish, said the plot for the series is hopeful.
"It is one more indicator of how much issues of faith and religion are "in" right now," said Russell, who is also national Integrity president.
"How cool is it that a progressive Episcopal priest has a shot at being a prime-time drama protagonist," she added. "How surprising might it be to many who tune in to find out there actually IS a church where women can be bishops -- clergy can be human -- and there's enough Good News around to extend to everybody?" -- Episcopal News Service
I am just wondering a little about Phyllis Diller, but it could be interesting.
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August 16, 2005
Branches Of The Vine
Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
The image of vines and branches and vine growers
strikes a very familiar chord for me.
In the late 1980's I planted a test vineyard in the Hill Country of Texas. This test site encompassed 21/2 acres and included 750 grape vines.
I researched what types of grapes
would perform best in the soil and weather conditions
of that arid part of the state
and decided to order both merlot and cabernet sauvignon vines.
In early spring with help from family and friends,
I planted all 750 vines, built trellises, and strung out irrigation lines. The first year the vines were allowed to grow wild
so that the roots could become well established.
In the spring of the second year,
the pruning process began
by identifying the strongest shoot and training it up the trellis.
All the other shoots were then cut off.
When each of these vertical shoots
reached a certain height on the trellis that summer,
the top of the shoot was cut off
so that horizontal shoots would then put out.
These new shoots where then trained horizontally along the trellis.
By the end of the second summer the vines had strong center trunks
with healthy horizontal shoots tied along the trellis.
In the spring of the third year, when the vines were dormant,
the growth from the horizontal shoots was cut back, leaving 2 to 3 buds
each of which would bud out and produce grapes that summer.
Leaving too many buds would overwhelm the vine,
and poor grapes would be produced.
Leaving too few buds would result in a small and unprofitable crop. The vines were trimmed to produce an optimum amount of fruit
that the vines could support.
With proper pruning, adequate water and the intense Texas summer heat optimally sweet grapes were produced.
There was nothing more amazing
than picking and tasting perfectly ripened wine grapes
as I walked through the vineyard.
Having been a vine grower,
the image of God as the vine grower is very powerful for me.
The vine grower, year after year, tends the vines --
as they grow from small plants to seasoned vines many years later.
Each year the vines are lovingly pruned and cared for.
Birds, weeds, storms, drought, raccoons, molds and fungi
threaten the vines year after year,
and the vine grower does everything possible to care for the vines
so that they will be protected
and produce abundant, succulent fruit.
At the same time, the image of Jesus as the vine
reminds me of the strength of the central trunk of the grape vine
coming up the trellis from the ground.
This trunk becomes woody and stronger each year,
looking something like a small, twisted tree trunk.
The life of the vine is totally dependent on the trunk
for its ongoing life.
So we as Christian people are branches of the vine, as it were,
growing out from the vine who is Jesus the Christ
and cared for by God who is the vine grower.
In reality we cannot exist apart from the vine or the vine grower.
Can you imagine God's delight
as God walks through the vineyard and tastes the succulent fruit?
John's call to us this morning,
using the image of the branches growing from the vine,
is a call to be a community rooted in and growing in love
whose actions unambiguously express love, care and concern
for one another, our larger community and the larger world.
To be a branch of the vine
is to be called to do the work of Christ
so that the world might know and experience
God’s loving and life-giving presence
in and through each of us.
This is the succulent fruit for which God longs.
Just as grape vines may live for more than a 100 years
and require care and tending over all of their lives,
we, too, have many years
over which to grow into the fullness of what it means
to live our lives intimately entwined with Jesus
and to bear the fruit of love
and as the faith communities of Holy Innocents and St. Columba
Only by living lives of self-giving love
can the message of God's triumph in the resurrection find credibility. Otherwise words about God's universal and unconditional love
will appear to be a wishful thinking or fantasy or, worse yet, a farce.
We all know that our actions always speak louder than our words.
What visible fruit do our lives produce?
Does the vine grower see clusters of succulent grapes on our branches?
What concrete, unambiguous, acts of love, care, and concern
distinguish us as fruitful branches of the vine
and lend credibility to the good news of God in Christ?
Our congregation, our surrounding community, our world
are in great need and are depending on us --
waiting, watching, hoping for us to be fruitful.
Originally preached by Fr. Ted on the 6th Sunday of Easter.
August 15, 2005
Readings for August 21
Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Old Testament
Isaiah 51:1-6 Thus says the Lord: "Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the LORD. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many. For the LORD will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples. I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended."
Psalm 138 Page 793, BCP Confitebor tibi
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart; *
before the gods I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
and praise your Name, *
because of your love and faithfulness;
For you have glorified your Name *
and your word above all things.
When I called, you answered me; *
you increased my strength within me.
All the kings of the earth will praise you, O LORD, *
when they have heard the words of your mouth.
They will sing of the ways of the LORD, *
that great is the glory of the LORD.
Though the LORD be high, he cares for the lowly; *
he perceives the haughty from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe; *
you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;
your right hand shall save me.
The LORD will make good his purpose for me; *
O LORD, your love endures for ever;
do not abandon the works of your hands.
O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
"For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?"
"Or who has given a gift to him,
to receive a gift in return?"
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.
Matthew 16:13-20 When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
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Synergy Quintet at Ravinia
I just got more information on Synergy Quintet's performance at Ravinia this Sunday, August 21st: they will be playing for an hour starting about noon, which means most of us may not be able to attend owing to our 10:30 am Eucharist.
However, the St Columba service is at 9:00 am. so it's still possible for some to go to both.
Synergy's appearance is part of Ravinia's anniversary celebration, and admission is only 25 cents.
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in Main Page
Top Ten Reasons Men Give For Not Going To Church.
The following list is courtesy of the Rev. Steven C. Rice, St. Michael's Episcopal Church, Waynesboro GA. Do you know someone who gives one of these reasons?
The following list comes from a book reviewed in the Augusta Chronicle on June 18. The book is called (not surprisingly) "Why Men Hate Going to Church" by David Murrow. The Top Ten...Letterman style:
10. I don't have time
9. Church just doesn't work for me
8. It's boring
7. It's irrelevant to my life
6. I don't like the pastor
5. I don't want to talk about it
4. It's too long
3. They ask for money too much
2. It's for wimps
1. There are too many hypocrites there
Now, if we were to install a drive-through window along one side of Holy Innocents, with salvation Happy Meals to go (large drink extra), we might be on to something, because that would neutralize answers 10, 8, 4, 3, and 1 for certain and might take care of some of the others, too.
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August 12, 2005
Synergy Quintet August 28th!
Synergy Brass Quintet
returns to Holy Innocents on Sunday, August 28th at 4pm. It'll be a hot time with cool music. Dessert will be served afterwards in the undercroft.
The group performs the week before at Ravinia on Sunday August 21st. More information will be posted when it becomes available - it could be fun to go to both concerts. Fan club members, please refrain from swooning and making spectacles of yourselves (you know who you are).
This picture was taken at last year's concert.
August 09, 2005
Readings for August 14
Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Old Testament
Isaiah 56:1(2-5)6-7 Thus says the LORD: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. [Happy is the mortal who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it, and refrains from doing any evil. Do not let the foreigner joined to the LORD say, "The LORD will surely separate me from his people"; and do not let the eunuch say, "I am just a dry tree." For thus says the LORD: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.] And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant-- these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Psalm 67 Page 675, BCP Deus misereatur
May God be merciful to us and bless us, *
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
Let your ways be known upon earth, *
your saving health among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, *
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide all the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.
The earth has brought forth her increase; *
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.
May God give us his blessing, *
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.
Romans 11:13-15,29-32 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead!
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
Matthew 15:21-28 Jesus left Gennesaret and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon." But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, "Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." He answered, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly.
Today's readings seem to call us to reach out to people "not like us." In the Old Testament lesson, God tells His people that even eunuchs and foreigners who kept His Sabbath and covenants will be in the house of the Lord, which will be a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus people who the ancient Hebrews would have scorned or avoided were welcomed by God in His House, so long as they were faithful.
In the Gospel lesson, even Jesus seems to want to turn away from the Canaanite woman, but is recalled by her strong faith. She believed that He would help her daughter, and so it was.
In our modern lives, we encounter many people who are not like us - they look different, they sound different, they lead different lifestyles, they might not have a home. When they encounter us, do they recognize Jesus in us in spite of ourselves, and recall us to service, or do they merely see... someone not like them, who might turn away from them?
Will you reach out, or turn away?
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August 08, 2005
Readings for Sunday August 7
These are the readings for yesterday. Next week's readings will follow shortly.
Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Old Testament
Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying,
"I called to the LORD out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and you heard my voice.
You cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
Then I said, `I am driven away
from your sight;
how shall I look again
upon your holy temple?'
The waters closed in over me;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped around my head
at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the Pit,
O LORD my God.
As my life was ebbing away,
I remembered the LORD;
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
Those who worship vain idols
forsake their true loyalty.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Deliverance belongs to the LORD!"
Psalm 29 Page 620, BCP
Ascribe to the LORD, you gods, *
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his Name; *
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the LORD is upon the waters;
the God of glory thunders; *
the LORD is upon the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is a powerful voice; *
the voice of the LORD is a voice of splendor.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedar trees; *
the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon;
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, *
and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD splits the flames of fire;
the voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; *
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD makes the oak trees writhe *
and strips the forests bare.
And in the temple of the LORD *
all are crying, "Glory!"
The LORD sits enthroned above the flood; *
the LORD sits enthroned as King for evermore.
The LORD shall give strength to his people; *
the LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace.
I am speaking the truth in Christ-- I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit-- I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."
Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
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Guest Sermon: The Abundance of God's Love
Last Sunday we welcomed The Rev. Irene C. Jones as our "supply" priest for the day, as Father Ted and Mark were on vacation. As Irene's sermon touched on many of the issues we've been wrestling with recently at our two yoked churches, I asked her if we could publish it on the website. Here it is:
I am a second child and I have in common with a lot of second children an innate confidence in my ability to accomplish what I desire. A defining moment for me happened at age two. …..
Defining events are those moments that tell us something about who we are and how we will likely respond in the future to the people in our lives and the challenges we will face. What are your defining stories? I expect we all have them. This country has defining stories. The signing of the declaration of independence insured our freedom and defined Americans as a people who believe that every person should be given a chance at the dream of abundant life. When we placed the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor it signified our willingness to welcome from abroad the poor and oppressed. The civil rights movement identifies us once again in our belief that we are all created equal irregardless of things like skin color and the way we express our faith. The aftermath of the tragedies of 9/11 and the Asian tsunami tell a story of great courage, fortitude and personal sacrifice, of people who were willing to give whatever it took to help those victimized by disaster. Our stories, each one telling of defining moments in our past.
This morning we heard two of the most significant stories that define our faith: who we are as people of God and who is God in whom we put our faith and trust.
The story from the old testament of God’s freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt is the most significant story in the history of God’s people. It is interesting that the defining story of God’s people is not the one about creation – how God created us to be in God’s likeness and image; nor is it the story of how God promised Abraham everlasting covenant and gave him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; nor is it the story of how God made a pact with Noah that the world would never be destroyed again. Important stories yes, but it is the story of how God, in God’s great compassion and love led the children of Israel into freedom from slavery in Egypt and fed and cared for them in the wilderness that is told over and over again to define who we are and who God is to us. First we hear this story in Exodus, when God calls out to Moses from the burning bush. The story goes (and stop me if you have heard it before) that Moses led the people out of slavery, through the red sea and into the desert where they spent 40 years chilling out and forgetting the bad habits they picked up from Egyptians. Every time that life got too difficult for them in the wilderness, they would complain to God and God would answer them. God sent forth water from a rock, rained down manna to eat and even sent birds when manna became too boring. This story is so very essential to the overall story of God’s people, that our early ancestors are instructed in Deuteronomy to tell it over and over again, so that children yet unborn may never forget the saving deeds of God. The story is told in Nehemiah, as we heard this morning, and recounted by prophets and sung in numerous psalms, among which the one we just sang. Every year to this day, at Passover, the story is told anew in households around the world. More than any other story in the Old Testament, this story defines our relationship with God. It is a story of the abundance of God: how the children of Israel were given clothing that did not wear out, food that never failed; and it is a story of God’s abundant willingness to forgive us over and over again, when we doubted, shunned and looked elsewhere for redemption and peace. This story has something that the earlier stories lacked: this is the story of relationship tested over time and proven to be true.
Moving forward to the first century, we have the story of the feeding of the five thousand. So significant is this story to our Christian story that all four Gospel writers include a version of the miraculous feeding of thousands. This story was for the early Christians and the newly forming church a defining story. The feeding of the five thousand identifies a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ in deeply important and meaningful ways; and since it is cast in the same mold as the earlier story, it would have easily resonated with the 1st century Jewish Christians who were this time hearing a story of God in the person of Jesus Christ doing exactly what God had done for their ancestors in the desert. And, importantly, the story is placed in the Gospel of Matthew immediately after Jesus’ long teaching about the Kingdom of God, which we have been hearing in the Gospel for the last few weeks. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which starts out as the tiniest of seeds and becomes a huge bush; the kingdom is like a pearl of such great value that it is worth more than all you have; the kingdom of heaven is a net overflowing with fish. The feeding of the 5000 serves, therefore as the culmination of the Kingdom stories for it is in and of itself a kingdom moment – a moment when the kingdom is not merely proclaimed, but enacted – a moment when it becomes clear, beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt that the kingdom of heaven has, in fact, broken in to the realm of man. And it shows us, in no uncertain terms, that the kingdom of God is abundant, abundant beyond our capability to imagine.
In the Gospel, we heard the disciples say, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food.” The disciples called the place where they had gathered ‘deserted,’ and yet there may have been as many as fifteen thousand people there, if you include the women and children – hardly what anyone could possibly call deserted. The disciples were looking at a world in terms of scarcity and saw only their own inability to care for the vast numbers of people gathered. They saw their resources as limited, failing to count as a resource the multitude of capable people there gathered and in what capacity they might be called upon to help provide for others. Jesus, on the other hand, knew about the abundance of God and was not overwhelmed by the seemingly insurmountable task at hand. Think about it, the disciples were not without provisions – provisions that they had carefully brought to this deserted place for themselves. Even if we were to dismiss the miracle of expanding those meager provisions into an abundant amount that would feed thousands, we have to allow ourselves to imagine that most of the people present would have been just as careful to provide for themselves as were the disciples; so calling upon the abundant nature of generosity, suddenly five loaves and two fish does turn into enough food to feed five thousand, a miracle by any standard. The story is really about the abundance of God’s love and care of those who put their faith and trust in the power of the kingdom of God. The story calls us to look at life from a perspective of abundance instead of scarcity, of enough instead of destitution. This is a defining event in the Christian story, for it tells the story of human ability and resourcefulness to take what we have and find in it God’s abundance. The disciples had no concept of their own true abilities, those inner resources which became the fuel enabling God’s miracle to be realized.
We live in a culture that promotes scarcity as a way of life. Think about it: we are told in countless ways that we never have enough. There is always a newer computer, the latest fashion, the larger house, the faster car. We can never get there, because there is always something more that we cannot have. We max out our credit to afford what we have because we do not have enough money at any given time to cover what we need. Our society thrives on promoting scarcity. And we, by and large, buy into it. And this prevents us from doing things that require risk, that require faith that what we need, though we cannot see it now, will be provided. Let me suggest that if the 15th century explorers had seen life through the scarcity model of today, they might never have had the courage to venture forth into the unknown. All of the great advances in human civilization were taken by people who were able to see abundance instead of scarcity.
But lest I leave you all feeling overwhelmed by the realization that we cannot all be great explorers and risk takers, there is just one more thing that I find especially striking in the gospel. Matthew tells us that when Jesus came ashore and saw the crowds, ‘he had compassion on them and cured their sick.’ Before the miracle, Jesus had compassion. Before the miracle, Jesus performed many little unmentioned miracles in all the sick people he made well. Before the miracle there was miracle. Perhaps that is where we best find ourselves in the story: in our ability to have compassion for one another who are in need and in realizing the abundance of little miracles that happen on a daily basis. Perhaps our story is being written still and we will find ourselves taking part in a miracle. Perhaps our defining story is yet to come, maybe it will be the day when all of us can look into the face of a gay brother or sister and know that we are the same; or when all of our homeless have enough to eat and a place to call home; or when we have really solved the problem of poverty and need on a global scale. Maybe our story intersects the two we heard today simply in our willingness to express abundance of goodness and love for one another when we greet each other in peace; and in our realization that the kingdom of God is in our midst when we gather at the same table to share bread and remember God’s abundant and everlasting love for us.
Many of us at Holy Innocents were out of town last week on vacation, but this sermon highlighted an idea that we continue to struggle with: the abundance model versus the scarcity model. If we are to go out in the world in peace to love and serve the Lord, we have to believe more in the abundance of God's love for us, rather than in the scarcity of our resources.