Sunday, August 31, 2014

Prayer 587- in preparation for worship

Reflection of the East Altar windows on the floor of the sanctuary at Holy Communion.

O God, we come with joy into your sanctuary, rejoicing and praising your wondrous Name! Let us walk in humility and love with our neighbor, and seek pardon from any we have harmed. We sing out the abundant love You give us; bless us and keep us as the apple of your eye, we pray. 

Turn our minds to hear your statutes: turn our feet to your path of wisdom and truth. Shelter us under your wings, O God, and strengthen us when trials draw near: for You are with us always. Rejoicing in the fellowship of saints and apostles, let us go from your altar to labor in your kingdom. 

Hear the prayers of your people, O Holy One, and grant your benediction upon those we remember to You.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Prayer 586- Confidence in God

Creator God, You enclose us in a cloud of blessing: may we sing out your mercy throughout the world. You hold us within the hollow of your hand: our days are marked by your unfailing love. 

Nurture within us a spirit of charity and compassion: may we joyfully serve you all the days of our lives. May we trust in your providence even when storm clouds gather, and remember that we never walk alone. Soothe our turbulent fears and gentle our worried hearts: cradle us against your loving breast. For You are ever our Redeemer: we will not forget your steadfast love even in the face of our willfulness and pride. 

Almighty One, watch over those for whom we pray and give them rest and peace.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Prayer 585- for community

The altar and reredos at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis in afternoon light.

O Light Eternal, illumine my way: let me take counsel in your courts; let me seek wisdom at your feet. Let me walk in the company of saints and holy ones, that I may be instructed in right pathways for living. 

Turn my heart to be a fertile field to receive the seeds of your instruction, O Holy One. Make me a disciple in deed as well as word, O God: help me grow in grace and compassion. Tune my ear to hear the melody of your Word sung out in holy fellowship, that my life sing out your praise. 

Draw us to your altar in brotherhood and peace: make us a holy and priestly people for your glory, Almighty God. From the depths of our hearts we offer you our prayers: extend your blessing over all creation.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prayer 584

On the grounds of Eden Seminary

Rejoicing in the morning sun, we rise from our beds to praise your Holy Name, O God Eternal. Give us the courage to set the yoke of your love upon our shoulders, that we may proclaim your unfailing Love throughout the world. You have claimed us and named us as Christ's very own: let us rejoice in your manifold blessings! Your Love is a canopy to shelter us from the heat of the midday sun: You are the rock of our salvation. Let us love each other with tenderness and compassion: knit our hearts together in love and faithfulness. Send your angels to guard us and guide us: open our hearts to hear your Word.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Prayer 583: for wisdom

Detail from a window in the McCarthy Room at Eden Seminary.

We raise our hearts and minds to You, O God, Our Teacher and Guide: hear our prayers. 

O God, help us seek wisdom, for we a foolish and prone to wander. Preserve us from the enemies without and enemies within: fear, jealousy, envy, rejection, malice, ignorance, hatred. Ground us in love, O Holy One, for wisdom grounded in love leads us to compassion and peace. 

Open our hearts to see how much You have cherished us since our birth: let us reflect upon your manifold mercies. Help us to find the way when troubles beset us: give us the wisdom to discern and the heart to never lose hope. 

Merciful One, still our minds, and cool our fevered anxieties. Spread the shelter of your serenity over those who are in trouble or doubt, O Eternal One.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Prayer 582

Orientation at Eden Seminary.

O God, You have known and treasured us through all of our days: we praise you for your steadfast love! Guide us to walk in your ways, that the works of our hands may find favor in your sight. Inscribe your precepts upon our hearts, for we are prone to wander from the paths of wisdom. Kindle within us the flame of lovingkindness, that we may be humble and righteous in all we do for the glory of your Name. Look with favor upon your children whom we now name, especially those we now name.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Prayer 581

At the prayer service and march for peace and justice and Ferguson on August 21, 2014, hosted by Holy Communion Episcopal Church. Mike Brown was laid to rest today, August 25.

Let us praise the Lord our God, who has set the seal of salvation upon us and blessed us this day. We thank You for the glory of the rising sun, and for the gift of your unfailing love. Almighty One, have mercy upon us, and lead us into paths of righteousness and compassion for all beings. Stretch out your hand over the bowed heads of the faithful, and guide us to wisdom and peace. Give us compassionate hearts and willing hands to do your work in the world. Comfort those who cry out to You, O Jehovah, and draw us to your breast like little children. We lift up the prayers of those whose hope is in You, O Loving One, for we know that You are always near


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Prayer 580

O Merciful God, we come before your sanctuary to give thanks and to worship You, our Creator and Shepherd. We bless You, O Mighty One, for You place us upon a rock when the waters rise and the foundations of our lives are shaken. Our hearts and minds are firmly fixed in hope, O God, for You are with us always. Give us joy in being together on this sabbath, and may we hallow our fellowship with true love and charity. Give us the grace to ask forgiveness of those we have wronged as we prepare to come before your altar. Forgive us for our obstinacy and our pettiness, for our failure to love You and each other. Bless those who mourn this day especially, and strengthen those who struggle to recover from illness. We lift up these beloved children who cast their cares and concerns upon the altar of your Love.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Prayer 579

A gorgeous sunset after attending a prayer service for peace and justice in Ferguson.

O God Almighty, open our eyes to your wonders, and open our mouths to speak your praise. O Christ, you opened your arms to embrace the world from the heights of the cross: may we be drawn into your embrace. Open our minds to your wisdom, that we may walk on paths of righteousness and justice. Open our hearts to receive your words, and allow them to take root in our hearts. Open the clenched fists we nurture that we may let go of fear and hatred and join hands with our brothers and sisters to seek peace. 

O God, your Mercy is as vast as the night sky, yet your love shines as the noonday Sun: hear our prayers we offer before You.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Prayer 578 (inspired by Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

(Inspired by Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
O Lord, You remind us that there is a time for everything: let today be a time to love and a time for peace. 

Let today be a time to heal hurts of the body and hurts of the heart, to mend what has been broken. 
Let today be a time to embrace our fellowship with You and with each other, to build up Your Beloved Community. 
Let today be a time to speak out for justice, to scatter the stones of ill-will and plant compassion in their place. 
Let today be a time to keep watch with those who work or wait or mourn, with those whose times are in Your hand.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Prayer 577

My parish church of Holy Communion in University City will have a prayer service tonight for Ferguson, Missouri and the pain and unrest that still trouble so many there and around the world.

We lift our prayers to You, O God, in thanksgiving for your marvelous works in our lives. Teach us to open our hearts, that we may love You and each other with a perfect love. Consecrate the works of our hands, that they may build bridges of peace across the issues that divide us. Make us humble enough to listen more than we speak, and wise enough to speak with integrity and compassion. Help us to not turn away from the pain and sorrows of those around us, O Holy One. Hear, O God, the prayers and the cares that have lodged in our hearts, for in your mercy we pray.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Praying with Our Feet: A reflection on the witness of Ferguson on Jonathan Daniels' feast day (Speaking to the Soul)

On the feast day of Jonathan Myrick Daniels-Seminarian, Martyr, and Witness for Civil Rights- we marched for peace and justice in Ferguson, Missouri.

Forty-nine years after Jonathan Daniels was shot in place of Ruby Sales after they were released from jail in Alabama for registering African Americans to vote, we went to protest the shooting death of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, on the streets of an American suburb by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer. We went into an area that had seen tear-gas and armored personnel carriers on the streets of America aimed at American citizens by American citizens. We went- lay, ordained, Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists- to lay claim to peace. We went onto streets that had seen rioting, burning, looting, and terrible bloodshed, but also kindness, cooperation, aid, and ministry.  We went into a community where compassion and hope keep breaking out despite all portrayals of chaos and despair, and to witness to that.

We prayed with our feet for peace and justice, and the right to protest peacefully in the name of righteousness, compassion, and unity. We went not because we shouldn’t be outraged in the face of prejudice and pre-judgment, but because justice needs to be heard over the popping of tear gas canisters and the shattering of shop-windows. We went because we must pluck out the violence, prejudice, hostility, inequality, and mistrust in all our hearts. We went because our silences can oppress as forcefully as our actions.

We came to join with the hundreds of peaceful protesters and residents who are already there. We went because we were asked to be there. We went because we ache for those in mourning, for those in fear, and for those in anger. We went, and we who are Christians were asked to bring our Bibles (and our prayer books) to demonstrate our peaceful intentions. We went to witness, to overcome the pull to look the other way, to move along, to believe that we are not all diminished by injustice to anyone. We went, because when God is in the street, that is where we should be. We went because God is not just in the street, but in the homes and the businesses and the schools and the churches that line those streets.

On what would have been the 75th birthday of Jonathan Daniels, we were still being confronted with the idea that one wrong makes another wrong justified. We went to confront a society that is entertained by scenes of destruction while discounting the very real pain that destruction represents. We went to confront a legacy of segregation and mistrust that is prevalent within our neighborhoods and within our hearts.

We were still being confronted with the fact that in our hearts and our society, bright, tight circles are drawn around “us” versus “them,” and that we simultaneously celebrate that and then decry the fraying of the social fabric that should bind us together in humility, in empathy, and in love.

We went because we know that we all live in the shadowy border between truth and secrecy, between right and wrong, between error and malice, between consequences and justification, between retribution and reconciliation. We went because we are Michael Brown, and we went because we are Darren Wilson. We are the mother crying out for her child, and we are the family hoping their loved one comes home safe each night after attempting to place his or her life on the line for our safety. We went to listen, we went to protest, and we went to pray. We went with the hope that the soft, still voice of peace and justice could be heard over the sounds of destruction and vengeance.

We went to counter the idea that justice should be denied anyone, whether that someone is a teenager walking the street or a policeman whose actions resulted in the death of a person he stopped. We went because justice will break free. We went so that, in the words of the prophet Amos, justice might roll down like waters. Justice, with her companion, Truth, that not only cannot be denied, but that no one should be shielded from. Justice, which can never be confused with retribution. Justice, which must always be tempered by mercy and reconciliation.

On the feast day of Jonathan Daniels, we marched for peace and justice in Ferguson, because we ARE Ferguson, no matter where our houses are. And we must continue to march and pray; we must educate and listen; we must examine our silences as well as our words and actions, until the streets of Ferguson, and every pathway within our hearts, roll down with justice.

 (This post was published on Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on August 20, 2014. The link is here:

Prayer 576: in thanksgiving

We praise You and bless You, O God, Ruler of our hearts, who has brought us safely to this new day. May our prayers ascend like incense and our hopes rise to heaven as birds on the wing. Make us more prone to wonder than to wander, for your way, O God, is the Way of Truth. May we remember your mercy and loving-kindness even in troubled times. You have been with us through the night, and brought joy in the morning. You pour out the balm of your love upon the troubled water: You bid the winds of destruction to cease. You call us to new light and life in our Savior, and give us comfort and peace. Almighty One, Father of All Mercies, Mother of All Compassion: hear our prayers as we lift them to You.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Prayer 575- Inspired by Psalm 121

We continue to pray for Peace and Justice in Ferguson.

(Inspired by Psalm 121)
Let me sit in silence and abide with You, my Savior.
O God, I lift my eyes to You, for You are my heart and my help.
I lay upon my bed at night knowing You watch over me and keep me safe, and I am at peace.
You hear my cries, and know my fears: your hand rests upon my head to bless and protect me.
Evil cannot enfold me, for I rest in the embrace of the Almighty, whose love never sleeps or turns away.
The maker of heaven and earth loves me and tenderly cares for me: who can do me harm?
God watches over me in all my journeys: God sets my feet firmly upon the way of love and compassion.
The God of Peace calls me to the path of righteousness, whose foundation is justice and equality.
The heat of anger and fear may beat down upon me, but my God shades me and shields me, and I am at peace.
Let me raise up the needs of your children, my kindred souls, who put their trust in You.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Prayer 574

Loving God, You are with us always: let us seek always to be with You. 

You bless us and forgive us without limit: may we be heartily sorry for our wrongs, and forgive those who have wronged us. You answer our sins with mercy and welcome us through grace: let us always have mercy and walk in justice with each other. You teach us your truths by the power of your Word and deeds: may our words and actions always give light to your Truth. You love us and comfort us in our despair and our pain: help us to comfort those who mourn and remember their needs. 

Almighty One, lift us above the rising tide of trouble that threatens to overwhelm us, we pray you. Help us to respect the dignity of every creature, man or woman, young or old, rich or poor: set our hearts upon love over hate. Spread the wings of your solace over all who cry out to You, especially those we now name.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Prayer 573

Yours is the night and yours is the day, O God Most High, and we raise our thanksgivings to You with the rising sun. 

Happy are those who act with justice, and always do what is right! We rejoice to do You homage, Lord, for You are the source of all our blessings. Let us preach peace to those far off and near, and live out peace in our own lives. Let us hasten the coming of your kingdom by being used to your glory and honor, loving each other as ourselves. Let us aid the weak, work for the common good, soothe the afflicted, and care for the vulnerable among us. Let us extend the hand of brotherhood to all, and love and live without fear. 

Grant your mercy and blessing to those we now lift up in our prayers.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Prayer 572- for mutual understanding and unity

Bishop Wayne Smith at the march for peace in Ferguson, August 14, 2014.

Prayer for mutual understanding and unity

O God, you led your people out of slavery in Egypt: lead us out of slavery to hatred and suspicion of our brothers and sisters. You guarded your people through plagues and trials: guard us against the plagues of fear, worry, anger, and doubt. You watched over your people as the Angel of Death passed over them: help us to pass over our divisions, to unity in worshiping and serving You, Almighty One. Dry the bitter tears and grant that peace that passes all understanding to these beloved children of God for whom we pray.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Prayer 571- For witness

Marching for justice and peace in Ferguson, MO, August 14, 2014.

Loving one, we rejoice in thy manifold blessings upon us, and give You praise and homage. 

Lead us, O Mighty God, in the paths You would have us go. Give us eyes to see the way even when light is dimmed or brambles catch at our heels. Keep our feet upon the paths of righteousness, illuminated always by your loving-kindness and mercy. Carry us upon your shoulders, O Shepherd, when our strength flags, and let your love encourage us to set out anew. 

Unite us in our common bond as your children, bearing each other's sorrows and celebrating each other's joys. By the miracle of your grace, we lift up those whose needs we cradle within our hearts.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Prayer 570

Reflections on chapel altar, Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion

O God, you tenderly hold our souls in your hand: hear our prayer. Teach us, O God, to act so that we are a blessing to others. Bring forth in us perfect love, in which we see all life as connected and mutually dependent. Make us more prone to wonder than to wander, grounding us in your Wisdom and uplifted by grace. Cradle us to you in our pain, despair, or fear, and brush away the tears of those who mourn, O Loving One. Open our eyes to the blessings we have even in the midst of trouble. Help us hold fast to your hand as little children, trusting always that You are with us. Hear the sighs of your beloveds, and send your Spirit to comfort and bear up those we now name.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Prayer 569

Tea, incense, candle, morning prayer. Ah, retirement!

The insects and the birds tell out the wonder of the Lord: may our prayer ascend on the morning breeze. Anchor us within your mercy, O Holy One, for we are foolish and prone to wander. Give us humble hearts and generous spirits, that we may serve our neighbors and build your kingdom of justice and peace. Let us always remember your compassion when we consider those who have wronged us. Give us a thirst for your Word, O Creator, and a zeal for sharing your love. Send us forth from our prayers to honor and glorify your Holy Name, more beautiful than a thousand sunrises. Extend the shelter of your solace and blessing upon those who seek your face.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Prayer 568

O God, we know You abide with us always: still the clamor of our minds so that we may know your will today. When we turn from You we are lost, but even when we have gone astray You call to us. Help us to turn from our hardness of heart to embrace compassion and justice for all we know. Shower your blessing upon those in pain, grief, anxiety, or anguish. Knit us together in a common bond of love and enduring faithfulness. Be our strong rock, for we know that our hope and trust is in You. Extend your hand of healing and power over those who cry to You

Monday, August 11, 2014

Prayer 567: For the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri

A candle is lit at the place where Michael Brown was shot by a Ferguson police officer on August 9, 2014. Protests and looting continue to plague the city in north St. Louis County.

We pray for the crisis in Ferguson. Lord, have mercy upon us.

Send your blessing upon us, O God of all Mercy.
Call us to peace: peace in our hearts, and peace in our communities.
Call us to peace: peace that is based upon justice and mercy.
Call us to peace: peace that is based on commitment to mutual respect and our interdependence upon each other.
Call us to peace: peace that is based on repentance for all of our wrongs, and a determination to do right.
Call us to peace: peace that is based on forgiveness for those who have wronged us.
Call us to peace: peace that is based upon comfort for the mourning and the frightened.
O God, Ground and Source of our being, give the peace of your blessing upon these who cry out to you.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sermon for Proper 14, Year A- Believe, then Do: Models of Leadership

August 10, 2014
Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion

Just over 20 years ago, during Holy Week, Bill and I took a trip to Ireland, England, and Wales—it was kind of our last hurrah before Lauren was born—in fact, I was four months’ pregnant when we went. Our plan was to fly to England, rent a car in London, drive through Wales to the western coast, take a ferry across the Irish Sea, and then arrive in Cork in southeastern Ireland. We would stay in B and Bs, and drive around southern Ireland, visiting the homeland of some of our ancestors.

But it was the ferry ride that provided the most excitement. In the middle of the night, a powerful gale came up on the Irish Sea. The wind howled. Rain slashed sideways and pelted the windows. Even though this ferry was several stories tall, it was tossed around like a toy at times.

Being on a boat in such a terrible storm affects the people on that boat differently. Some tried to find a place to lay down, thinking that they wouldn’t be tossed around so much on the bucking deck. Some people, whom our Irish friends referred to as “eejits,” actually opened the doors to the outside deck for a few seconds to get a better look. Others found God—as in “worshipping the porcelain god,” since the boat was rolling around pretty hard. It was really quite exciting. I was lucky in that I was four months’ pregnant, because nothing, and I mean NOTHING, my friends, stands in the way of a woman in her second trimester and sleep. So, after making sure I knew where the life jackets were, just to be safe, there I was, stretched out on a set of seats, snoozing away for most of the night as only a woman with a voracious creature inside her can. 

At times I would be shaken awake, by either solicitous crew members, or by my husband checking on me, but after looking around to make sure we were still moving forward, I’d drop back to sleep. I awoke just at dawn to see that the storm had broken, and that the coast of Ireland was in view.

But one thing I noticed when I wasn’t being lulled to sleep by the motion of the boat. The crew was calm. The officers were calm. So I stayed calm. And luckily found out I’m pretty immune to motion sickness. A well-designed boat performed as it was supposed to, and we arrived safely at our destination just a little late, with a good story to tell.

Now it would be easy to focus on the story of the boat in the gospel today and take it at face-value. It would be easy to talk about how some scholars discuss the symbolism in the story: The boat is the church. The disciples are church-members. Peter is the leader of the church. The sea is the world that the church is cast adrift on and buffeted about by. But I think there’s another thing going on in the lectionary today. When I was asked several months ago by Rebecca to preach today, she asked me to talk about the topic of leadership if I could. And I think there are some important insights about leadership here for us, both in the church and in the world.

In our lectionary readings, we see three very different depictions of leaders, and of the role faith and power plays in their leadership.

Joseph's Well
In the story from our Old Testament, everyone usually focuses on Joseph being sold into slavery, and maybe we wonder why in the world that story is paired with our gospel account. But I think one of the common threads in our lectionary is about how leadership is exercised. I want to ask you to look at the dynamic within that family of brothers for a second, especially when it comes to the character of Reuben. These are Jacob’s sons, and Jacob, we have been shown over and over again, was a man of conflict, and one who certainly was willing to resort to deceit to get what he wanted. Plots and counterplots and wrestling-matches with strangers—these are the stories we have heard about Jacob the last few weeks. So those are some of the values with which these boys had been raised.  Reuben’s story shows us how past conflicts can affect our ability to lead, even if we are not aware of it.

Reuben, the eldest of Jacob’s sons, by right should be the leader of his brothers, yet is nonetheless an easily overlooked character in this story. He should lead, but he doesn’t have the strength to openly oppose his brothers’ plans. He allows himself to be overcome by his own resentment at the lack of love shown his mother and himself by Jacob. He initially agrees in principle to an act of betrayal and violence, even though in his heart he knows it is wrong.  Of all the brothers, he is the one who is depicted of having doubts about murdering his little snitch of a brother.

So Reuben comes up with a plan to prevent Joseph’s actual death, by playing to the natural squeamishness of doing the deed directly. Instead he proposes casting their little brother into a pit to be left to die slowly. In the back of his head, he hatches a plot to go back later and get Joseph out. But then, in the story, Reuben disappears! And while he’s gone, another brother, Judah, perhaps having misgivings himself, but also with an eye to profit, persuades the others to sell Joseph into slavery instead, which sets up the rest of the Book of Genesis, and lays the groundwork for the story of the exodus that will mark a huge turning point in the history of Israel.

But Reuben definitely led poorly here. Reuben’s biggest failure as a leader is linked to one of the things that does him the most credit: his knowledge that no matter what an arrogant little squint Joseph has been, murdering him is wrong. Yet in failing to speak his misgivings aloud, he allows his brothers to move from mouthing their resentments to actually plotting fratricide in their hearts. Even after they accept Reuben’s alternative to simply stabbing or strangling the boy, the brothers believe that they have set Joseph’s death in motion, and then calmly sit down and eat lunch afterward.  In law, that is called “conspiracy to commit murder in cold blood.” And that in itself will get you put into prison.

Reuben’s leadership is marinated in a culture of deceit and secrecy, as seems natural in a son of Jacob, that master trickster. It is also based on a refusal to openly challenge wrong-doing. Reuben’s leadership is also marked by a lack of resolution: he doesn’t follow through, and he disappears right when he needs to keep alert. Worse, by operating in secrecy, he not only betrays his own doubts about the acceptability of his plan, but he doesn’t give his brothers the chance to rethink what they are about to do. Reuben’s lack of faith in himself and in his brothers makes him a poor leader. He’s not a horrible person, in the end, but good leaders operate in the open, and have faith in themselves and in their followers, which allows them to do the right thing rather than the easy thing or the convenient thing.

Now let’s see how this connects to the gospel.

Peter and the other disciples represent another example of leadership in our lectionary today. They are in the boat by themselves having been sent off into the sea by Jesus, and the boat gets away from them since high waves beset them, and they have drifted far from shore. After a long night of being tossed by the waves, they suddenly look up and see Jesus approaching them by foot on the very waves that have pushed them around all night. Of course, once again, their first reaction shows that they still don’t know who Jesus is, even when Jesus reassures them but also uses the divine name: “I am.”

Peter, ever the enthusiast, asks to be able to walk on the water too.  Peter, who is named by Jesus himself as the rock upon which the Church will be founded, impulsively asks for miracles, but loses faith in them even as he is in the midst of them. Yet Peter at least has the imagination to want to get out of the boat and walk with Jesus on that water. Peter’s problem is that he is of “little-faith.”  Peter has just seen his rabbi walk on water, and yet his mind still is clinging to the knowledge that that kind of thing just isn’t possible. Like Reuben, Peter lacks follow-through.

Good leaders shake off the limits of what has always been done before to allow themselves to consider new possibilities and new situations.

Both Peter and the other disciples lack the imagination to see that they can walk on the water too.
They need more faith in order to become better disciples, and better leaders.

Jesus, the son of an unmarried mother brought up in the household of a simple craftsman in an out-of-the-way corner of an empire, nonetheless exercises true, selfless love and leadership. Jesus leads by calling out and developing unknown depths in his followers. All of his miracles are not simply done at his command. Jesus’s miracles, just like many of the miracles in the Old Testament, tend to require participation from those around him. Jesus, as the Son of God, could act alone, and simply dictate that this or that will be done. But that’s not how Jesus operates. All along, he makes it clear that faith is required before miracles occur, but that when faith is in place, we see miracles all around.

We see this in the feeding of the multitude a few weeks ago, when he says to the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” We see this when he tells people over and over again that their faith has made them well. Great leaders inspire faith—faith that can do anything.

Jesus’s leadership turns notions of power and privilege on its head. Jesus doesn’t deny Peter his request. I think Jesus loves the fact that Peter asks. He generously encourages Peter to participate in this miracle too.  This represents an incredible sharing of power and abandonment of prerogative that would ring out to those familiar with the Jewish scripture, because it is very clearly stated in the Psalms, in the Book of Job, and in Isaiah that only God can walk on water. Jesus shared power with his disciples during his earthly ministry, and after his resurrection and ascension, we followers of Christ were given the power of the Holy Spirit, which remains with us today. When we are baptized, we are empowered to act as Jesus’s body IN THE WORLD, as well as in the boat.

Jesus leads from love and trustworthiness, patient even in the face of our limited understanding and fragile faith. Great leaders inspire faith and trust in their followers—faith and trust in the mutual mission of the group, and faith and trust in ourselves to lead even in the face of obstacles. Jesus also inspires trust in his followers: trust to step out onto the water, and trust that Jesus will patiently shore up our faith when we falter. 
Like Reuben, Peter lacks faith in himself. Peter cries out to Jesus, using similar words to the first two verses of Psalm 69, which states: “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink into deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.”  Haven’t we all felt that way at various times? Haven’t we all been in deep water and feared going under? Peter cries out to Jesus as he begins to lose faith in himself and sink, and Jesus reaches out with the same hand he used to heal the blind and the lame, and raises Peter back up above the surface. Even as Peter sinks down in the waves, undergoing a kind of baptism, he calls out to Jesus, for with the little faith he has, he knows where his trust should always lie—in Christ our Savior.

Now, some of us have literally been on a boat being tossed about by the waves. Sometimes our boat is becalmed on the sea and adrift. But we ALL have experienced crisis in our lives, and even in our church life. A few years ago, the Episcopal Church got spanked by much of the rest of the Anglican Communion for ordaining gay people. Some people left the Episcopal Church and created breakaway groups over this, as well as over the ordination of women. We have seen changes and challenges here at Holy Communion. We have seen changes and challenges in an American Christianity that is at war with itself even while it is seen as being less and less relevant in people’s lives.

But one thing we have to realize is that, through our baptismal covenant, we are all called to be not just followers of Jesus but leaders as well. That is one of the main gifts of the teachings of the Episcopal Church—the belief that all of us, lay or ordained, are called through baptism to have the power to lead through our faith.

Jesus places us in the boat, but we should not just be sitting passively in the boat on Sunday or throughout the week. Jesus also calls to us to have faith in ourselves—all of us! Not just the vestry or the search committee or the diocese or the Episcopal Church or Christians in general-- and step out of the boat onto the waves. The boat is where it is safe, but without Jesus, it’s going nowhere. We are the best version of the capital-C Church when we understand that our faith means nothing if it doesn’t empower us to then DO, and do ALL THINGS in love.

Jesus calls us to step out onto the water, and place our feet on the path on the waves, the path that leads to true discipleship, true faith, and true leadership. Through our baptism, all of us are called as leaders to act, rather than sit passively in the boat and complain about the times it seems adrift. We are called to believe, but then we are called to DO.

We all have the responsibility to lead, and inspire the best in each other—even to demand the best from each other. We are called to lead from love. As leaders, it is up to us to not just have faith in each other but to inspire each other to have faith in ourselves. That’s true discipleship, and that’s true leadership.  Let’s have faith, all of us together, and inspire each other to step out onto those waves.


(The audio file for this sermon can be found at click on "Launch Sermon Player.")

Prayer 566

Lovely gifts from my friend and her sister as I prepare to go to seminary.

Blessed Redeemer, we come before your altar with thanksgiving today. We cast all of our cares upon You, and rejoice in all the blessings You have given us! 

Sanctify us by your Word and sacraments that we may be led by Your Spirit to serve You with each breath. Calm the storms that rage within and without, and give us peace this day. Give us the grace to clasp hands of love and friendship around your table, that we may embrace each other fully. 

May our hearts rise to You in gratitude and joy for your lovingkindness and mercy, and may we go and do likewise. Precious Lord, remember the prayers of those who seek your aid, and give them comfort and peace.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Prayer 565

Praise the God of the earth and sky, who reigns in all majesty and compassion forever! May your blessing pour down like summer rain, and may we absorb your teaching like parched ground. May we drink deep of your Wisdom, O Spirit of Truth, and be guided to right pathways. May our songs of praise, telling out your goodness, echo throughout the land like the murmur of trees in the wind. Reach out your hand of healing, O God, and raise us up when fears cause us to sink. Consecrate our souls to your service, O Compassionate One, and bless those whose needs we now remember.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Prayer 564

O Creator, draw us deeper into fellowship with You through your grace and mercy.
May the Breath of God kindle and revive the fire of discipleship in our hearts.
May the Light of Christ illuminate our inmost thoughts and direct them to You, O God.
May the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit send us forth as joyful witnesses of God's glory.
May the Love of our Savior transform us into the Beloved Community, united as one, as You are One, O Holy Trinity.

Rejoicing in our manifold blessings and mindful of our reliance upon You, We lift up these loved ones to You.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Prayer 563- for trust in God

Almighty One, we bless and thank You for this new morning. You are our light in the darkness and our hope in times of trial: hear our prayer, we pray. 

May we sit with You in silence, worshiping You and thanking You for your abundant grace. Enter the doorway of our souls and purify us of our sins, precious Lord, that we may be a fit habitation for your Spirit. 

Sanctify us and bless us, especially those facing fearful circumstances on this day. Guard all who watch and wait for good news, and spread the awning of your mercy over those who are in anxiety or need. May we remember that your Love is everlasting, O Creator, and that You are always near. 

Recalling and trusting in your unfailing care, let us pray for our own needs and the needs of others.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Prayer 562

Antelope Canyon, Arizona.

O God, we bless You and thank You for your manifold works. Loving One, we raise our grateful hearts before You, rejoicing for all our blessings. 

Reconcile us to You and to each other, that we may truly love as Christ loves us. Guide us in the way of peace, and give us tender, discerning hearts to serve You and glorify your Name. Help us to never cast aside love when we have the chance to give it, but bear us up on the wings of hope and trust. 

Precious Lord, hear our prayers and petitions as we lay them before You, and consecrate and bless these, your beloved children.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Prayer 561

Almighty God, we give You thanks and praise, for your mercy endures forever. We ask your forgiveness for all our wrongdoing, and for all the hurts we have caused. May we never confuse our will with Yours, O Holy One, but discern your call in our lives. Set our feet once more upon the path of holiness and compassion, that we may serve You in love. Open our spirits and our hearts that we may take hold of the hands of those around us in love. Accept the prayers of your people, O Creator, and place your hand of blessing upon those we now name.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Prayer 560

From St. Chappelle, Paris.

Let us arise from our beds, determined to bring praise to our God today! Loving One, we kneel before You and ask your blessing upon the work of our hands today. Give us a right and loving spirit, that we may center ourselves in silence upon Your Truth. Help us to carry into the week what we learned before your altar. Help us to see the beauty of Christ in each face we meet. Help us to learn and be transformed as we meditate upon your Word. Give us generous, patient hearts, that we may be a blessing to those who are in need. Hear the prayers of your people, O Merciful One, and send your blessing upon those whose hope is in your unfailing care.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Prayer 559

Sunset at Camp Phoenix.

Merciful One, we give thanks to worship before your altar and sing praises to your Name! 

May our lives testify to your goodness and power, and may all we do uplift the spirits of those around us. Let us join hands in perfect love with all who seek to do good and walk in justice and peace. May we seek to bear each other's burdens and lighten each other's loads, loving those we meet as ourselves. May we seek to act in love, charity, and compassion for all living things. Guide, guard and keep us as we journey through life, that we may bring honor and glory to You. 

Let us rest like children upon your breast, O God, when we falter or are troubled, for your love is a balm to our souls. Eternal Spirit, embrace those whose needs we lift to you now, especially those we now name.


Sermon at Camp Phoenix, 2014- "What's your story?"

Sermon, Camp Phoenix 2014
What’s Your Story?
Leslie Scoopmire, preacher


Stories are powerful things. Some stories are made up, and some are based on real events. But even the stories that a story-teller creates in his or her head tell us something about the truth, and about us, or they are not very good stories. Stories tell us about how we see the world around us, or sometimes they tell us about worlds or times we have never seen. They get inside us and change us.

This week we have been talking about stories. We heard special stories called parables told by Jesus: the Good Samaritan, Lazarus and the Rich Man, the Prodigal Son, and our gospel today, the Parable of the Sower. We learned about what makes up a good story: plot, character, setting, point-of-view, and theme.

The readings we just heard from scripture all contain stories. The first one is part of one of the creation stories from Genesis. How many of you have heard that story before? This story starts out the entire Bible, and I want you to notice who the first characters are. Let’s go over that first verse again: “In the beginning when GOD created the Heavens and the Earth….”

So, the first character is God. But notice also in that story that creation is a character. Creation participated with God in making everything we know. God tells the waters and the earth to bring forth creatures, and they do, and then God makes humans: male and female, young and old, of all races and beliefs —and did you notice that, after they are made, God declares them all to be GOOD.

Creation is not outside of us. We are part of creation, and we are given the gift to continue to create. That’s part of what it means when it says that humans are made in the image of God. We are creative.

And we tell stories, like this one in Genesis, to explain who God is, and who we are, and how we are to live. We tell that story so that it becomes part of us.

Then our second reading was about the Apostle Paul taking the story of Jesus to the Greeks in Athens. Now the setting in Athens is very important—Athens was the center of learning in the ancient world. All the big ideas came from there.

But the idea of God as we saw in our first story had not reached there, nor had the story of Jesus. Paul sees that there are altars to different gods, like Athena and Zeus, all over Athens—and just to be careful and not leave anyone out, they even set up an altar to a god whose name they didn’t know. So Paul starts telling them the story of the God Paul serves, who is unknown to them, the same God who created the earth and sky and all of us.

And he blows their minds by telling them that this God can’t be contained in any altar or statue that can be made by people, but instead lives inside us, and we live inside God and God’s love. And this week at Camp Phoenix we can see that Paul was right- God can’t be contained in any one setting, because God is the source and creator of all. God IS our setting, even when we are playing or hiking or riding horses or swimming.

Then our gospel reading is one of the stories we talked about this week. It’s a special kind of story called a parable. Parables were stories that used symbols and images to make a point. So the character and the setting are often symbols. So let’s look at this parable: Who is the person sowing or scattering the seeds?
What does the seed stand for?
And there’s different kinds of soil, right?

The different soil stands for the different ways people respond to the teachings of Jesus. And from this parable, we learn that being able to see the truth of a story depends on your setting, but it also depends upon your point-of-view.

Some people have hard hearts, like the dirt on a path packed down by trampling feet—maybe they’re angry or afraid of being disappointed. Maybe they’ve been hurt. They can’t hear the story until they let go of their fear or anger.

Some people get really enthusiastic for a new way of life at first, but when they realize how much work it is, or that some people will dislike them for their new beliefs, they give up and go back to their old story.

Some people like what they hear about what God can do for THEM, but they don’t want to change. They may not like Jesus’s call to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself when that neighbor ends up being someone completely different from them. So eventually they, too, dismiss the story of God.

But in some people, those who have the ability to have an open heart and open mind, those who are willing to believe that love can bring us through anything, even troubles or sadness, and is the greatest treasure of all—they’re willing to write a different kind of story with their lives.

It is only those who open their ears, and their hearts, to be receptive to the story revealed by Jesus who will bear good fruit, but they will bear it abundantly. Those of us who hear the story of God and see our own story within it now have the name for that love that maybe before we didn’t have a name for.

Each of you is writing your own story right now. Eventually, you will choose your own plot, your own setting, the characters you will spend time with. You decide what your point-of-view is.

I hope the story you write for yourself is a good one. I hope it is full of love and laughter. I hope it is a story that inspires others and makes your world and community a more beautiful place. That love that surrounds us, and supports us, and makes the story of our lives have meaning in being for others—that’s God, and we are shown the way through the stories that Jesus tells that become a part of us.

You can decide to let that story be grounded in God’s love. And then—YOU can help write the story of God in the world by what you do and who you are.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Prayer 558

Horseback riding at Camp Phoenix.

O Shepherd, guide and guard us as we travel through this day. Keep us as the apple of your eye this day. Let us go forth rejoicing in good friends that we have and the love we receive. Help us to walk in the way of beauty and holiness for the glory of your Name. Watch over those who travel, bringing them safely to their destination. We thank You for all the blessings we have, and pray for those who are in need, especially those we now name.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Prayer 557- In the story of God

Spiritual directors Captain Sass and Ginger Snap with the theme for Spiritual Program

(based on the theme of camp)
O God, you are the Author of creation and the source of all that is: bless us and keep us, we pray. Help us to center ourselves in You, for you surround us and preserve us. Help us to place You at the center of our life story, that we may be guided and grow deep within your love. Help us to have hearts to receive the story of your love, especially through the life and teachings of your Son, Jesus Christ. Guard and comfort all those in need of your special favor today, especially those we now name.