The Rector's Blog
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November 29, 2018, 2:51 PM

Advent Again


The Advent Lectionary is filled with apocalyptic visions this year.  What are we as Episcopalians - who are generally not millennialst - to make of these texts?

We are challenged to place the end-of-the-world warnings in contrast with the promise and hope of renewal and rebirth.  It's enough to make our heads spin a bit! 

"There will be signs."  "Prepare the way of the Lord."  "You brood of vipers!"  "…[He] shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth…."

We'll be asking the question, are the end times coming?  When will the Lord return?  Are these passages designed to scare us?  To warn us?  To inspire us?  To convict us?  To give us hope?  To give us strength?  To give us a job to do?

What does the future hold?  How can we face hard times?  Will God really rescue us from ourselves?

Despite the tough questions, when you come on Sundays this Advent, you will find a peaceful liturgy.  We've tried to minimize bulletin inserts, and to lean on the texts we all know so well from the Book of Common Prayer - so there won't be new Eucharistic Prayers (though knowing me, you should expect that the future may still hold some of those) or new formats for the Prayers of the People.  The hymns we've selected are well-known to most.  There will be no service music beyond the Trisagion (Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, Have mercy on us.)  We do have a short liturgy when lighting the Advent candles each week, which we have used in prior years. 

Despite the heavy lifting in the lectionary, I hope to be able to provide some guidance for dealing with evil days. 

We still will have a couple bulletin inserts (we just can't seem to get away from them!):  We'll have one set asking for contributions to assist those affected by hurricanes and fires, and another set focusing on Journeying the Way of Love - and it's all about saying "yes" to God's call to birth new life into the world.  Each week, we are offered practices to open us to the voice of God: worship, conversing, learning, praying, blessing, reflecting, and resting.  I would encourage you to take these home with you and use them well!  All these offerings are designed to provide you with hope and strength, and a deeper relationship with our God.

We don't often think about it in this way, but we are constantly living on the edge - we all know that life - and our lives - can change in an instant, even if it doesn't!   Building up our spiritual resources is one of the best ways to ensure that when it does, we will find a way.

Now, if you've gotten this far down in this post, I want to encourage you to come to St Cecilia on Friday (November 30, 7:30 p.m.).   We have some amazing music, some wonderful poetry, and some incredible art - this really is a not-to-be-missed occasion.  And it's our FIFTH annual St. Cecilia Festival!  Every year it's better! 

Much love and many blessings to you all!

 




November 9, 2018, 10:22 AM

After the Election


I suspect the election period just passed was hard on most folks, no matter whether or how we voted.  We are, as you know quite well, in a time when political speech has become tainted with acute hostility and disrespect for those of other views.  There are dire warnings by pundits and would-be prophets about the future of our civil society and even our political system. 

I want to urge you to remain faithful, to continue to strive to love God and neighbor (and we all know that Jesus' definition of "neighbor" was not limited to our friends, but also extended to just about everyone, liked or not).  I also want to urge you to practice self-care, to find ways to feed your soul, restore your spirit, tend your body, so that you may find some peace in all the crazy.

And, finally, I would urge you to pray for our country, for its leaders, for the people (those who "have" and those who "have not"), and for God's good grace to fill all our hearts to an overflowing abundance of mercy and grace.

O God, give me strength to live another day; Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove disinclined to its duties; Let me not lose faith in other people; Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery, or meanness; Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them; Help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity; Open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things; Grant me this day some new vision of your truth; Inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness; and make me the cup of salvation to suffering souls; in the name of the strong Deliverer, our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
                   (This prayer is from Forward Movement.)

Faithfully,

Evelyn+




October 11, 2018, 7:56 AM

"Transforming Generosity"



Dear Ones,

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry often describes us as “The Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement.” 

As we begin to talk about stewardship of our parish and wider community, I want to pose these questions:  What does that mean for us? What is God calling us to do as followers of Jesus?

As Episcopalians, we love our worship.  Our liturgies inspire us.  The Eucharist is at the center of our lives.  We believe the Bible is the word of God and we are people of the Word. 

As part of the Jesus movement, we follow the One who loves us so much that he gave his life so that we might understand God’s never-ending love for all of creation.

And here’s the hard part: As followers of Jesus, we are called to give all of ourselves to God’s work in the world.  I know that many if not most of you give generously of your time and talents to our larger community, showing the love of Christ in the world around us. 

In the sixth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus, after teaching us how to pray, talks to us about money, our needs and our hope.  He reminds us that we cannot have two masters.  We cannot love God and money.  But Jesus also says, "…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

He finishes by calling each of us with these words, “But seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

How would our church —how would we — be transformed if each of us remembered these words of Jesus?  We are constantly challenged to examine our priorities and to set new ones.

Establishing new priorities for ourselves and for our church means transforming how we think about generosity. That transformation will call upon us to look for generosity in every aspect of our work and in every aspect of our lives. Remember the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel: “Jesus, looking at the man, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

Jesus calls us to take the long view. Again he challenges us to give all of ourselves to God’s righteousness and trust in God’s care.

What a challenge! What transformation!

I hope you’ll join me as we work together to transform generosity in our church, our community, and our lives!

Faithfully,

Evelyn+




September 20, 2018, 4:03 PM

Creation Season Continues!


Joan Chittister

Try saying this silently to everyone and everything you see for thirty days: “I wish you happiness now and whatever will bring happiness to you in the future.” If we said it to the sky, we would have to stop polluting; if we said it when we see ponds and lakes and streams, we would have to stop using them as garbage dumps and sewers; if we said it to small children, we would have to stop abusing them;…if we said it to people, we would have to stop stoking the fires of enmity around us. Beauty and human warmth would take root in us like a clear, hot June day. We would change.

Source: In a High Spiritual Season

There are two Sundays left in “Creation Season.”  I’d like to know what you think of what we’ve been doing, in the liturgy and in the classes Between the Services, if you’ve been participating in those.  What have you learned?  Where are you being challenged to learn more?  Have your perspectives been widened or changed in any way?  What have you liked? What’s been uncomfortable?

For me, it feels rather strange to expand the preaching as much beyond the texts presented as I have done or am doing; but I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to find that there always seems to be a solid link to at least one of the lessons, that allows the conversation to still be scripturally based.  (I do prefer to preach on scripture!)  It’s rather exciting to see the Word of God speaking to the non-human parts of Creation, when it is so easy to stay human-centered.

Paul Santmire, whom I’ve referenced already twice in sermons, spent quite a bit of time talking about the tendency of the church in our own day to be anthropocentric.  In the extreme version, we might hear someone saying God has a plan for me, or Jesus is my personal savior – not that this is bad, but that if that is all we consider God to be doing, then we might not be able to hear other voices, and not only non-human voices, but human ones as well. 

Therefore we may need to be encouraged to go beyond what God is doing in my life to what God is doing in the life of my parish, to the life of the Episcopal Church, to the life of the “Church Universal,” and even on into the rest of Creation.

In our survey of Christian views of Creation, we have moved from Augustine’s Joyful Partner to Acquinas’ Rational Analyst, and have had hints of a modern day Utilitarian.  This Sunday and next we’ll move on through re-claiming the “value of nature” to reclaiming the one-ness of all created things (ourselves included).

This Sunday Between the Services the topic is “Environmental Stewardship.”  What does it mean for us to have “dominion” or to “rule over” Creation?  Does it mean we can do whatever we want?  Or does it mean we should treat the world the way we would like God to treat us? 

And if it’s the latter, what does that ask of us? 

Blessings to all!                            Evelyn+




September 6, 2018, 12:00 AM

The Doctrine of Discovery


The “Doctrine of Discovery” is the name we give to a papal bull issued by Alexander VI in 1493.  In this decree, the Church determined the boundaries of lands to be divided between Portugal and Spain for exploration, settlement, and resource extraction.  That the lands in question were home to numerous tribal groups and people, was by-the-bye. 

You may remember this from your history classes, that from the 11th to the 15th century, most of the Iberian peninsula, where Spain and Portugal now lie, was occupied by Islamic rulers.  While many Jews and Christians lived there as well, political power was denied them.  Furthermore, Arabs and Berbers also settled there.  Islamic architecture gave us many beautiful buildings, such as the Alhambra, that define Spanish style right up to the present.  Among the cultural gifts to Europe were Arabic translations of ancient Greek and even Christian writers, including Aristotle; these texts eventually helped fuel what is known as the 13th Century Renaissance, and influenced the theologies of Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas. 

Not surprisingly, however, European princes and Christian religious leaders wanted nothing more than to expel the Moslems from Iberia, so a holy war was waged over several centuries, until the last of the Moors were evicted in 1492, the same year Cristoforo Columbo “sailed the ocean blue.”.

With the war won in Iberia, what were the kingdoms (Castile, Leon, Aragon, Sicily, and Granada) to do with all their soldiers?

Given the riches unexpectedly discovered by Columbus, it should come as no surprise that the answer seemed ready-made: to go to the new world and grab all the riches they could, so as to fill the coffers of the new kings.

This is where the “Demarcation Bull” of Pope Alexander came into play.  Obviously, there had to be official sanction, and official protection, for the enterprise across the sea.

“We [the pope], … recognizing that as true Catholic kings and princes, such as we have always known you to be, and as your illustrious deeds already known to almost the whole world declare, you not only eagerly desire but with every effort, zeal and diligence, without regard to hardships, expenses, dangers, with the shedding even of your blood, are laboring to that end…,” “have … learned that you … for a long time had intended to seek out and discover certain islands and mainlands remote and unknown … to the end that you might bring to the worship of our Redeemer and the profession of the Catholic faith their residents and inhabitants….”  In short, they hired Columbus and he reported that those inhabitants “believe in one God, the Creator in heaven, and seem sufficiently disposed to embrace the Catholic faith and be trained in good morals, so now they [only?] wanted to make Christians of them.”

So, the popes said, they should do just that – bring the locals to the Catholic faith, and not be deterred, and that “we, of our own accord, not at  your instance nor the request of anyone else in your regard, but out of our own sole largesse and certain knowledge and out of the fulness of our apostolic power, by the authority of Almighty God … do …give, grant, and assign to you and your heirs and successors, kings of Castile and Leon, forever, together with all their dominions, cities, camps, places, and villages, and all rights, jurisdictions, and appurtenances, all islands and mainlands found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered [west of a certain longitude], no matter whether the said mainlands and islands[are near India] [so long as no other Christian prince has previously claimed them]….”  AND, he decreed that they were to “appoint … worthy, God-fearing, learned, skilled, and experienced men, in order to instruct the … inhabitants … in the Catholic faith and train them in good morals.” 

You should know that the Episcopal Church has repudiated this document in 2009 at General Convention.  To our modern ears it sounds bad enough – that someone, even a pope, might declare by divine right, the power to divide the world – but that was only the beginning of the story.  The Spanish quickly discovered that any reports of a willingness on the part of the local inhabitants to become Catholic was a fiction.  Unfortunately, they took this as license to murder, oppress, torture, enslave, and rob them instead.

We’ll be talking about that this Sunday!

Blessings to all!                            Evelyn+


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