The Rector's Blog
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October 13, 2016, 3:13 PM

Oh no, she’s going to ask us for money!


  I do seem to ask you for funds practically every month , in addition to the RDF donations – last month it was the floods in Louisiana (you’ll be glad to know that the last Red Cross shelter in Baton Rouge closed October 5).  This month it’s Hurricane Matthew.

  And now there’s the annual funding campaign for our operating budget.

  Yes, I’m asking you to help fund the day-to-day operations of Christ Church.  Our annual budget seems like a lot of money (this year we budgeted $178,000.)  So we need to think about why we fund the church, why we fund THIS church.

  As a small church, our fundraising pool is also small.  But did you know that being a small church is also a great opportunity for the development of lay ministry?

  I can’t do it all.  I don’t know what you need if you don’t tell me; I don’t know what fulfills you if you don’t tell me; and I don’t know what to offer if you don’t tell me.  And I don’t know what you would like to offer if you don’t tell me. 

  Do you want to become a lector and read lessons in worship?  Do you want to lead a book group?  Would you like to help design art installations for the worship space?  I’m not going to think of everything, and it is hard to plan for the future of our church community without your feedback, and without your ideas or involvement.

  There is a passage in Numbers 18 requiring that 10% of one’s produce (sheep and vegetables, probably) be given to support the priests/temple.   From this passage, we have arrived at the term “tithe” (related to the word “tenth”) – the standard for financial giving to the church.  And since we aren’t producing sheep and vegetables nowadays, it has evolved into “give 10% of your income.”

  I don’t want 10% of your income.  (Well, it probably would come in handy, but that’s not the point I’m making here!)

  No.  What I do want is YOU

  In saying this, I also want you to know that I know that a lot of other people want you, too – grandchildren, parents, friends, employers, local charitable groups, activity groups…

  So the issue for you is: what does church mean to you? What does your involvement in church mean to you?

And that, my friends, is a deeply spiritual question, one that will take time for you to sort out, with prayer and thought and discernment with other Christian friends or even … me!

  I can’t answer that question for you.  But I can tell you what church – church in general and Christ Church in particular – means to me.

  Like many of you, perhaps, my personal church journey has been a bit of a mixed bag.  I spent many years as a happy atheist (or a depressed atheist, or a teen-aged atheist, which is a unique and difficult kind of atheist), until one day when I was 19, I visited a college chapel with some Episcopal friends and got bowled over by a vision of heaven.    

  Completely unexpected.  Totally mind-blowing.  Frightening and compelling.

  But that’s not why I’m in church now.  If I held onto just the one experience of that one day, I would not be the person I am now; I would not be a priest; I would not be sitting here writing this.

  No, the reason I’m in church now is because God has never let go of me, even when I left the church for years after being hurt by church people,  to such an extent that I questioned the very existence of God.

  It was really only after I came back from Moscow that I felt pushed and compelled by God – not called, not offered, not invited, but nagged – to go back to church.  I used to go past one particular Episcopal church (red door and all) while getting settled in my new house, so I decided okay, I’ll try that one. 

 The first week I was there, someone greeted me with a smile, a word of welcome, a handshake, and an invitation to coffee.  The second week, someone invited me to join the choir.  I still wasn’t any too sure about God (and rather resented being pushed by someone I wasn’t sure existed to do something I didn’t want to do), but as you know, I love to sing, so…

  I had to learn everything again.  Who is God, who is Jesus, who is Holy Spirit, what is the church for, what is the Episcopal Church for, what does it mean to be involved in a church community?

  For me, it meant, and still means, I am walking with others on a journey that each one feels to be their own, yet shares commonality and connection with everyone else’s.  God’s – and our – acceptance of our individuality, God’s – and our – appreciation for our diversity, and God’s – and our – desire for our participation in community is what keeps me going and gives me hope and fills my heart and spirit with joy.

  So yes, I’m asking for your money, but mostly I’m just asking you to be you, with us, with God, growing in the spirit, telling our stories and sharing the journey.  Can you do that?

  Thank you!
 




September 29, 2016, 12:00 AM

In the beginning everything was "tov."


O God, who created all peoples in your image, we thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in this world. Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellowship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

BCP 840

In the Old Testament reading for last week, Jeremiah describes how he purchased land in the town of Anathoth from his cousin Hanamel.

This takes place as Babylon’s army is at the gates of Jerusalem and Jeremiah is confined in jail by King Zedekiah.  Jeremiah sees this action as desired by God, and as a sign of hope for the future, when property will once again be bought and sold in the land of the children of God.

The transfer of land from one to another is here a sacred act.  It is made in the sure knowledge God has not abandoned God’s people.

To many indigenous peoples, it is not just the transfer of land that is sacred; the land itself is sacred, and so is the water, so is the air, so is the grass, so are the trees, and everything that has breath. 

That idea is in harmony with Biblical thought.  In Genesis we hear God declare all creation “tov.”  Blogger Nathan Albert says “tov” means: Good, beautiful, working the way it is created to work.  He also writes: 

“In the beginning, everything was tov. Creation was tov.  People were tov. Humanity’s relationship with God was completely tov.  Everything in creation was working the way God intended.  It was good and beautiful.

“Yet, as we know, something happened. The tov people stopped believing God was tov.  They thought they could become like God themselves.  Eventually, they stopped living a tov life.  They no longer treated all of creation as if it was tov.  Quickly, creation started to unravel. Everything tov became very un-tov.”

(http://naytinalbert.blogspot.com/2013/01/tov-good-beautiful-working-way-its.html)

Out in North Dakota, native peoples from across the country, with support from around the world, are protesting the building of a pipeline to carry crude from the Bakken Oil Fields to Iowa and the Gulf Coast.  The pipeline route would cross the Missouri River just upstream of the Standing Rock Reservation, which could break and destroy their water supply.

They see themselves as Water Protectors – as standing up for that which cannot speak for itself, for the sacred water of life, which all life needs to survive, thrive, and grow.

++Michael Curry agrees with them.  He visited the Sacred Stone camp of the Water Protectors this week, and delivered a powerful message of support, saying, as in the extract of Ms Cordova’s poem quoted at left, “We are children of the same Mother. We are children of the same Father.”

You can watch his statement here:

https://youtu.be/tygYLLhFVDw

More information is posted here:
http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/09/27/presiding-bishop-tells-standing-rock-protectors-the-way-of-jesus-honors-the-water/




September 15, 2016, 10:00 AM

Building Community with Justice and Peace



O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

BCP 824

As you know by now, the KKK is planning a recruiting rally here in Madison on September 24, during Chautauqua weekend. Their event will be held at Fireman’s Park at the foot of Jefferson Street.  The Greater Madison Ministerial Association, of which Christ Church is a member, is planning a prayer vigil that day, at Noon at the Broadway Fountain.  We wish to celebrate the good things about our community and its dedication to inclusivity, justice, peace, and love, and thank all who work for these goals. 

Are there problems here? You know there are. The GMMA hopes that in offering this occasion, residents may be encouraged to come together in a concerted and intentional effort to build on our common strengths, share our stories in respect, and address our problems together.

There will be other responses to the Klan presence; chief among them a counter-demonstration across near the Klan rally, which is designed to be a peaceful event – again, one of celebration that stresses the good things about Jefferson County.  The group sponsoring this event, Jefferson County United, will be receiving training on non-violence and peacekeeping from civil rights activists in Louisville.

The group provides this statement of purpose:  “We commit ourselves to peacefully, productively, and visibly support and uphold the human dignity of all members of our community, and we commit to challenge our community to acknowledge its growing edges and work honestly toward reconciliation. We also commit to challenging ourselves as individuals, recognizing that each of us has our own embedded prejudices and worldviews that inhibit progress toward becoming the Beloved Community of Dr. King’s dream.”

Whether you choose to participate in either event, or none, we ask your prayers.  Neither group wants to engage the Klan directly; but rejects any message of hate, shame, or blame - vocal, written, or demonstrative - that the Klan is so well known for.  May the Light of God fill their hearts with love for all and the desire for repentance and peace.  Amen.




August 18, 2016, 12:38 PM

"I will never let you go."


Hear my voice, O God, when I complain;
    protect my life from fear of the
    enemy.”
 

Psalm 64:1

A thought crossed my mind as I pondered this psalm:  Is it that the psalmist is afraid of the enemy – or that the enemy is afraid of the psalmist?  And if it is the enemy’s fear that threatens the psalmist, what might be the danger posed to the enemy by a faithful believer in God?

We can start by asking what sorts of things we ourselves fear.  I am not afraid of spiders or snakes, but I refuse to go on a roller coaster.  I am afraid I will be thrown out of the car from a great height and fall to great injury or death.  So I fear pain and death.  I also fear having no control in a dangerous situation.

I would probably be afraid if someone held me up at gunpoint.  Again, death or injury and the lack of control are the threats I perceive.

Sometimes I am afraid of change – primarily change over which I have little or no control, and which could cause me to lose position, reputation, influence, power, or cause death or injury.

Do you see a pattern here? 

In most of these scenarios, there is a common thread – and it’s not the death/injury paradigm – it’s the issue of control.  We are taught from our youth to think we have the ability to control what happens to us.  Maybe we ascribe to the power of positive thinking or the magic of prayer.

Or we’ve learned we actually do have a lot of agency in our own lives: we choose what jobs to seek or accept; we choose whether or whom we want to marry; we choose what kind of house to live in or what kind of car to drive, and so on.

But when it comes to injury or death issues, we don’t always have a choice.  We might get cancer or fall down stairs or develop heart disease – and it could be because we chose to smoke or not watch where we were going, or it could be just because.  Sometimes stuff just happens.

Maybe the tax policies of the federal government have encouraged our employer to close a plant here and open one overseas.  Maybe the demand for coal drops through the floor and there are no retraining programs available.  Maybe we see others “making it” and ourselves “losing it.”

Fear is the whisper that we can’t fix everything, and sometimes that we can’t seem to fix anything at all.  We have no power, no influence, no impact and all around us is ruin.

Maybe this is where the faithful believer has an edge – s/he has absorbed the angelic message, the Gospel: “Fear not, for I am with you always.  I hold you in the palm of my hand.  Let nothing dismay you, nothing affright you, I will never let you go.”




August 4, 2016, 12:53 PM

Love your enemies


“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?”

Matthew 5:43-46a

How easy do we find that to do, in actual practice?  With the amazing amount of political vitriol flying around and the concerns so many have about the quality or values of this or that candidate for this or that office…how do we keep our heads and remember that, however much we distrust or fear “the other” candidate, they are still beloved of God, and we are still challenged to honor them as such? 

Not only does Jesus encourage this in this passage in Matthew, but in our own baptismal vows – vows that we renew at least annually at Easter and sometimes more frequently – we pledge to “respect the dignity of every human being.  All while simultaneously making a commit-ment to “persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever [we] fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord” and to “strive for justice and peace among all people,” and to “Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving [our] neighbor as [ourselves.]” (BCP 3-4-305.)

I don’t mind admitting I find this difficult. I do mind admitting the corollary that it can actually be rather fun to pile on someone I don’t like, particularly when I am with people I do (and who happen to agree with me). 

I also do not forget that as the Rector, I have a responsibility to be dispassionate and fair to all.  

This remains a work in progress, I am afraid.

What I would recommend is to make a commitment to pray every day be-tween now November 8, for our nation.

The following prayers may be found in the BCP:

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

(BCP 258)

   Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

(BCP 822)

Will you, with me, make a commitment to pray these prayers each day?

God hears when the people cry out.

(Ps. 34:6)

God hears when the earth cries out.

 (Genesis 4:10)


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