Friday, November 30, 2018

Prayer 2133


Holy One
You abide with us always,
placing your protecting hand over us when at rest,
guiding us toward wisdom all our days.
May we ever seek your face, Blessed Jesus,
marveling at your imprint in all creation,
our hearts overflowing with gratitude
for your love to guide our steps today.
Led by your Spirit, O God,
may we join hands with all in need,
welcome all who wander,
stand with all who are oppressed,
and proclaim your mercy to all who search.
Secure within your keeping,
we open our hearts to your mercy and grace:
gather within your embrace, O God,
all whom we remember before you as we pray.

Amen.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Prayer 2132


Loving God,
who is creating the heavens and the earth, 
end your Spirit to move over our hearts
as she moved over the waters at the dawn of time
that we may be renewed in a spirit of hope and empowerment
to do your holy work in the world.
Give us a thirst for wisdom
and a heart of compassion and charity toward all,
that we may live into your call as disciples, Lord Christ,
and proclaim your gospel
by the light that shines forth from our lives.
Place your hand of blessing over us, O Almighty One,
and, by your mercy,
grant your comfort and protection to those for whom we pray.

Amen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Prayer 2131

Merciful God,
you encompass us in a mother's love
and guide and protect us each moment.
We laud and magnify your Name,
and thank you for the blessings You shower upon us.
Create in us the will to love,
to encourage, to persevere, to act
to bring about your kingdom.
Open our eyes and our hearts
to our brothers and sisters who need our help.
Help us to see Jesus in the soul in pain,
the homeless wanderer,
the person right next to us.
Help us to manifest your love in the world.
And we ask your blessing upon those
whom we raise up in our prayers.

Amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Prayer, day 2130


The sun gilds the clouds in the eastern sky,
and praises for the Creator ring from our hearts!
Holy One, we are blessed to be able to come before You,
and to proclaim the wonders of your love.
Heal us of our pride and our enmity;
call us into remembrance that You, O Christ, are in the midst of us.
Clothe us in your grace and mercy,
that we may be renewed and energized,
charged by your blessing.
Hold our loved ones in the hollow of your hand,
and shield them from every foe.

Amen.
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Monday, November 26, 2018

Prayer 2129


O God, You are our Help and our Hope,
and we lift our spirits to You in wonder and praise:
accept our prayers and thanksgivings
which we offer before You.
Merciful One, we confess before You
our hardness of heart,
the leanness of our souls,
that numbs us to the pain of others
so long as we maintain our comforts.
Renew in us a spirit of empathy
and a willingness to place ourselves in the service of others,
giving aid to the weary and hope to the forsaken.
Let us guide our actions by your commandment of love,
O Lord Christ, our Savior and Teacher.
that we may live with virtue and integrity,
and join in your work of renewal and reconciliation.
Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Almighty God,
consecrate us and bless us to your use today,
and grant your benediction and comfort
to all those whose cares we lay before You.

Amen.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Truth Before Us-- Sermon for Christ the King Sunday, Year B (Last After Pentecost)


In 1925, the fires of World War 1 still smoldered in the memory of those who had lived through it. And yet, even with the memory of the suffering and destruction still vivid in the minds of millions on three continents, nationalism and fascism began to arise in Europe, political movements who sought to gain power by dividing people into victors and vanquished, that sought to claim the right to empire and oppression as the natural order for humanity.
Movements that sought to enslave or eliminate entire races of people based on hatred and fear. Movements that sought to co-opt the church, as in Italy and Germany, and blaspheme God by aligning God with national interests, serving human purposes. It was the continuation of the struggle between good and evil, fueled by technologies of death and worship of might over right unimaginable in human history up to that point.

It was in this context that the Feast of Christ the King was first proclaimed. It is a feast that calls us to remember whose, exactly, we are, and the real power to which we owe our allegiance. In our gospel today, Jesus is handed over to the power of empire, and resists its claim of dominance. Jesus literally speaks truth to power in our gospel today. Governments rise and fall, because they are the works of human invention, but the reign of Christ is eternal.

Our gospel today consists of three questions from Pilate as he examines Jesus. Let’s look at the actual statements of Jesus in our gospel. First of all, Jesus does not answer a single one of Pilate’s three questions:

Pilate:
Are you the King of the Jews?
Jesus:
Do you ask this on your own,
or did others tell you about me? 

I am not a Jew, am I?...
What have you done?
My kingdom is not from this world…. 

So you are a king?
You say that I am….
I am a witness to truth.

Unfortunately, our gospel left out Pilate’s final question, what I think to be the most important question of all from this exchange. When Jesus claims to be witness to the truth, Pilate turns away. What is truth? Pilate cynically scoffs.


Thinking about Jesus’s claim to be a testifier to the truth brought back one of my favorite memories from the travels I have taken in my life. A few years ago, my middle daughter and I went to Barcelona with my good friends who are her godparents. One of the biggest highlights of that trip was our visit to the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia—Holy Family Basilica, the work of the great architect Antony Gaudi.
This huge church has been under construction for well over a century, and is still not finished. Its main entrance focuses on the Holy Family and the birth of Jesus. Inside represents Jesus's life and ministry all lit by glorious windows the color of gemstones. The roof is held up by huge columns designed as stylized tree trunks. It's spectacular and palpably holy.

But on the other side of the Basilica, the story of Jesus’s Passion is told. And one of the most striking details that caught my eye, among the myriad of details present, was a copper panel with this phrase written in gold: “Que es la veritat?” “What is truth?” Pilate’s question hangs right there on the side of the outer wall, and if you raise your eyes from there, you see the crucifixion scene. There you see the God who loves us enough to become one of us to redeem us and reconcile us to the dream God has for us.


What is truth?



That very question hangs over our society today as powerfully as it did 2000 years ago. We live in what some people are calling a post-religious era. We live in a post-modern world that denies the authority of anything outside of our own personal experiences. We live in a time when lies and gaslighting are the coin of the realm, the foundation of an empire of individualism that tears at the very fabric of communities. The empire in which we live is an empire built on exploitation of weakness, hatred of the other, and the denial of the sacredness of life and creation. What IS truth, indeed?

As a servant of the Roman empire posted to one of the most dusty corners of it, I imagine Pilate has seen enough of the world to know that history is often written by the victors, by the powerful. And Jesus’s kingdom is based on anything BUT that kind of oppression.

Jesus admits that he has followers—and in other places he calls them friends, and even family. Kings don’t have followers—they have subjects. Kings hold their power by force of arms and by fighting, as Jesus notes—and Jesus rejects that kind of kingship. Further, as we are reminded by our first reading being about David’s assessment of his reign, kings often claim that God is like them, rather than them being like God: notice that David calls God “the Strong One of Israel.”

We are all prone to do this, to be honest: make God in our own image as a way of resisting the obligations being made in the image of God places upon us.

In Israel’s history, the demand of the people to have a king is actually a rejection of God’s reign over them. The Hebrew scriptures make it clear that a king’s priorities are supposed to be God’s priorities, since a king rules over the people in place of God. And yet the three kings we hear of in 1 and 2 Samuel all fail to do that, and instead fulfill the prophecy Samuel had warned them about: they take the things of others, and tax the people for their building projects and their wars, and grab their daughters for their harems, and conscript the sons of Israel into their armies  so that they may at the least defend and usually so that they can wage war to expand their territories.



Pilate represents a great empire—one of many who had swallowed up Israel at one time or another. Asking Jesus if he is a king is Pilate’s way of determining if Jesus is setting himself up as a political challenger to the power of Rome. Jesus has been handed over by the religious authorities because they KNOW that he is a threat to their power, yet they do not have the power to put Jesus to death. Jesus avoids the trap they have laid for him that would have made him a rebel against Rome.

Jesus makes it clear, however. Jesus’s kingdom is not geographically limited to a certain place, or even a certain people, which may be why he refuses to call himself the “King of the Jews.” As Jesus repeatedly reminds us, especially in John’s gospel, the commandments or laws of Jesus’s kingdom are not based on keeping order or expanding power, but instead on love. Love of God, and love of each other. 

In our world today, we are adrift, bereft, cynical, and weary. Just like Pilate, we often try to preserve our own empires, our own edifices and walls that we tell ourselves are there for our protection and security. But really, those empires and walls just block out the light, hope, and peace that Jesus, in offering himself to us, offers to the entire world. No exceptions.

What is truth? We, like Pilate, ask this, often from either cynicism or its cousin, heartbreak. Often we try to find substitutes that will take the place of truth in our lives-- possessions, distractions, or experiences. We believe that we can set ourselves up as the final arbiter of truth, when we don’t even know what truth is. But just like with Pilate, truth is right before us. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” And beyond any earthly maneuvers for power, for exploitation, or for domination, this truth will set you free, and give you life and joy and community.

That’s the truth of Jesus’s life. He calls us to be the very best versions of ourselves because he knows that is how we were made to be all along. He has faith in us, and calls us to have faith in ourselves that a better way is possible, through the loving, healing, restoring touch of Christ within our inmost being. This is the truth to which Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection testify: God is love, and those who follow the Way of Jesus walk and live and move in and through and out of love for God but also, and this is the harder part, being animated to live and breathe and speak love for each other. Especially those we may think are outside our comfort zone.

The Way of Jesus was a threat to the power and empires of the world. Yet, periodically, Jesus’s followers have been tempted to claim that Jesus’s kingdom IS of this world, to claim that Jesus loves the same few people we love and hates the same people we fear or despise. But Jesus is not about power, but about service. As Paul insisted over and over again, Jesus emptied himself of all the privilege and power he had had since the beginning of time in order to enter the world as the weakest thing of all: a tiny baby born to a poor teenaged mother in a backwater not many people could find on a map, even today. Jesus represents the power of love, the power of trust. And I’m not sure that’s any less rebellious today than it was 2000 years ago.



Do we dare allow Jesus to reign in our hearts in such a radical, incredible way? Do we dare transform ourselves into disciples who celebrate Christ’s kingdom of love and compassion and healing? Jesus makes it clear that he is not a king of a kingdom on Earth. Jesus is king in the kingdom of God. Jesus calls to us—“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner, come home…..” as the old hymn my grandmother loved goes.

Come home to true love, to a life whose only rule is to love each other as we love ourselves.

Come home to compassion for those whose terror drives them from all that they have known to seek refuge and shelter.

Come home to our own humanity, shrouded for far too long in fear, in anxiety, in a restless suspicion that our hope lies beyond the scramble we too often get sucked into.

The geography of this kingdom lies upon and within our hearts. Jesus’ throne is not built from compulsion, or force, or power as earthly kings wield, but through the power of love and calling us to take very seriously his call to follow in his example so that we may together live our very best life, one of peace and plenty for all, one that rejects the fears and divisions of this world. Jesus’ power as king over our lives is not the power of demand, but the power of love.

We follow Christ and obey Christ through the choice of love. Making Christ our king means letting love and caritas rule our hearts. Once we accept Jesus as our Lord and king, we are not done. Making a choice to save ourselves is easy. That is why true salvation lies in what we do for others rather than what we do for ourselves by clinging to Jesus like a lifeline. Merely proclaiming Jesus’ name will not bring about the kingdom of heaven—living out Jesus’ love among our fellow beings will bring about the kingdom of heaven and show that Jesus is our king. We acknowledge our king not by words but through deeds—through giving him the throne of our hearts and being his healing, reconciling hand in the world.

Amen.

Preached at the 505 on November 24, and the 8:00 and 10:15 Eucharists on November 25, 2018, at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Ellisville, MO.

Readings:
2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-19
Revelation 1 :4b-8
John 18:33-37

Images:
1) Christ the King icon, unknown.
2) Hitler Youth saluting.
3) The light in La Sagrada Familia, photo mine, May, 2015.
4) Detail from a copper panel on the Passion side of La Sagrada Familia, photo mine, May, 2015.
5) Jesus before Pilate, detail from the Passion side of La Sagrada Familia, photo mine, May 2015.
6) Christus Rex, unknown.

Prayer 2128: Last Sunday After Pentecost (Christ the King)


God of Mercy, Grace, and Love,
Creator of All,
we gather before your altars to praise You,
and open our hearts to be filled with your compassion.

Renew within us a Spirit of Healing,
and a thirst for justice and true peace,
we humbly pray,
that we may remember our charge
to be intruments of hope and change for good.
May we invite You, Lord Christ,
to rule our wills and minds
that we may be transformed by your gospel,
gentled and restored by your loving embrace,
renewed in love and purity of heart.
May we walk in love and companionship with all creation,
and care for each other as You care for us, O Savior.

Consecrate us with the oil of gladness and fellowship,
O Holy Trinity, O Sacred One,
and grant your peace and benediction to all,
especially those for whom we pray.

Amen.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Prayer, day 2127


Early in the morning
we lift our hearts to You,
O Wondrous Light:
come, let us add our song
to the wakening Earth's.
Before your radiant goodness
we bow, O Holy One:
may our voices ever sing your praise!
You have laid our your paths before us:
may we ever keep our feet within your way,
that we may worship You in all things.
Lord Jesus,
You lead us with gentleness and truth:
teach us to ever serve You
and one another
with joy.
Make us
a compassionate, faithful people,
living into your gospel of love and faithful action,
we humbly pray, O Lord.
Help us to renounce
the fears and failings that lead into darkness,
and claim our place
within the Beloved Community.
Gather our prayers into your keeping,
O God,
and and bless and keep those whose hope is in You.

Amen.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Prayer, day 2126


O God, look with favor upon your servants today. 
Let us turn our hearts toward those who,
in the midst of plenty,
are in want in body or soul.
Let us hunger for justice and redemption
as much as we hunger for food.
Let us remember how love has blessed us in our lives,
and let go of discontent and rancor.
Help us to stop building a mountain of our resentments,
and dwell instead within the mansion of our blessings.
Give your protection
to those who are in danger from the cold this day
and set us to work to shelter them.
Comfort those whose needs we bring before You.

Amen.
311

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Prayer 2125: On Thanksgiving Day


God of Abundant Grace,
your love preserves us
and calls us to wakefulness and compassion:
we raise our hearts in thankfulness and praise.

You, O God, call all the stars by their names,
and set them dancing overhead to our wonder and delight.
You teach the birds their songs
that lighten our hearts and call us to joy.

May we tend to the earth,
and to each other,
with steadfastness and gratitude,
always seeing your imprint, Lord Christ,
wherever we look.
May we treasure friends and loved ones,
companions and fellow travelers on this earth,
and reach out to those around us in love and kindness.
May we seek to mend the wounds we have created,
and forgive those who have hurt us.

Holy One, send your angels to tend to those
who call upon You and depend upon your care,
especially those away from home,
and those whose needs we place before You.

Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Prayer 2124


God of Mercy, God of Love,
we turn our faces to the rising sun
and tune our ears to the sound of creation
praising You with the stars and the birds.

Help us to choose to walk in the Way of Jesus,
that compassion may spring up in our wake
and kindness make the winter hearts we encounter
bloom like a spring meadow.
Let our lives sing out God's lovingkindness
and all we do proclaim the gospel of love and abundant grace.

Spirit of the Living God,
sustain us by your blessing of peace,
and grant your comfort and healing to those we now name.

Amen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Prayer, day 2123


Precious Savior,
we turn our eyes, our hearts, and our minds to You,
opening ourselves to your call in our lives.

We kneel before You in love and humility,
and ask that You send us to serve You and each other.

Help us emerge from the valley of bitterness and doubt
to trust in You as we seek to truly love each other.

Tune our hearts to the song of the Spirit,
and may our prayers ascend as joyful song.

You, O Holy One, are the center of our being;
may all we are be drawn into the orbit of your grace and mercy.

Reach out to the searching hearts of your children, O Loving One,
and spread the balm of your love upon those we now name.

Amen.
663

Monday, November 19, 2018

Prayer 2122


Abiding One,
You are our ever-present strength and help,
and we lift our hearts to You in praise and prayer,
worshipping You in gladness.

We give You thanks, O God,
for the blessing of each other,
whether friend or new acquaintaince,
for your surrounding us with companions to help us along our way
and for us to help along their way.
Let us welcome those we meet,
and care for the refugee and stranger in our midst,
just as You, Lord Christ,
show us how to do.
May we extend the hand of fellowship, kinship, and healing,
greeting You in the greeting we afford to each other.

Spirit of God, fill us with wisdom and goodwill,
with charity, faith, and love,
that we may embody the gospel into the world.
Grant your peace and comfort, O Holy One,
to all whose hearts are in your care,
especially those for whom we pray.

Amen.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Claiming the Blessing: Sermon for Proper 28B


Every autumn after the harvest was over, Elkanah’s family made its way to Shiloh to thank God for God’s bounty. And every year, it seemed to Hannah that her situation got worse, not better--- this terrible sense of dread and longing after another year is gone without any children, after her sister-wife has presented their shared husband with yet another child. Elkanah and his two wives go to Shiloh each year to celebrate the harvest—a time of thankfulness for fertile fields and abundant harvests. All that talk about abundance reminds Hannah of all that she lacks.

Poor Hannah. The first two people she interacts with absolutely fail to understand her. One of them should know better—her husband, Elkanah. Knowing full well the kind of society in which they live—one where a woman was valued first and foremost by her ability to do the one thing a man absolutely could not do, which is conceive and bear children—Elkanah dismisses Hannah’s very real pain, distress, and grief. Even if he meant well, his response to Hannah’s grief over her failure to have children is ham-handed at best, and arrogant and unfeeling at worst. He has spectacularly misread the scales of redemption and disaster that fill Hannah’s field of perception night and day.

When he asks, “Am I not more to you than ten sons?” he is spectacularly short-sighted. I am sure he is very dear to her. But if anything ever happens to Elkanah, his love for her during his life will do nothing to save her from being absolutely destitute, and we can already see that the other wife will waste no time tossing Hannah out into the streets, since through the children she has with Elkanah, Peninnah will inherit everything.

In her despair, Hannah goes alone into the shrine at Shiloh to pray, Shiloh, the ancient worship place where the Ark of the Covenant resided. The walls of her endurance are crumbling. She’s frustrated. She’s angry. She’s scared. And yet, she dares to dream of fulfillment. She dreams of an other trajectory for her life. And so she prays.

And there she encounters old Eli—who has led Israel as a political and religious leader, but whose sons’ corruption is taken as a sign that God’s favor is being withdrawn from the old man. He sits in a darkened corner, brooding. What will become of Israel? Their enemies, the Philistines, live right on top of them, and God’s voice has been withdrawn from Eli’s hearing. Eli then looks up, and sees the woman swaying, her lips moving. He’s seen this before after a family sacrifices and feasts—some people have too much wine, and then they make a spectacle of themselves. He feels his anger and frustration spill over into his reaction to this drunk woman shamelessly making a fool of herself.

Hannah was so intent on her prayer she was startled as the old man loomed up next to her and took her by the arm while berating her. The injustice of his charge of drunkenness on top of the bitter treatment she has received from her sister-wife as well as her husband’s insensitive comments nearly causes her to break down completely. Here’s another person who has failed to understand Hannah this day, and now it’s a stranger with stooped shoulders and an air of failure about him. Hannah knows failure when she sees it.

Maybe it was the catch in her throat that stopped the old man’s hurtful insults on her character. She defends herself with a quiet dignity, because, in her situation, dignity is all she has left. Dignity, and probably a foolish hope that somehow she will be granted a heart’s desire. Hannah’s candor stops old Eli short, and instead of continuing to berate her, he realizes his failure to care for this woman , and feels his own heartbeat hammering against his chest, in a rhythm that sounds like it is tapping out “ A fraud! You’re a fraud! You’ve exposed yourself as a fraud.”

So Eli adopts a posture of conciliation. Now that he is closer, there’s no smell of alcohol on the woman. And so he blesses her, with whatever blessing he has in him. And then, thank God, she leaves. And he promptly forgets about her.

But Hannah doesn’t forget. Hannah hears that old prophet’s promise, and she has faith and strength and hope enough to claim that blessing. Eli forgets about her. Until… until nearly four years later, a woman appears with her toddler son and, to Eli’s astonishment, places the boy into the old prophet’s care.

And yet, as Hannah leaves her young son behind, she doesn’t weep. Instead she sings out a prayer of victory and thanksgiving at God’s gift of a son to her, ending her shame. She gives the boy back to God because she knows he was God’s all along. And her song anticipates the role the boy Samuel will play in redeeming Israel from being a people on the margins of destruction. Hannah has gone from despair to certainty and gratitude, and that is enough. Hannah has been shown that God has heard her, and the sheer miracle of that moves her from poverty of spirit to exaltation and praise. 

Even more—her song shows that she has been given a glimpse of redemption and true shalom for all. Her son will become a great prophet himself, and he will be sent by God to anoint the first kings over Israel. Just like her, Israel will go from being a barren, despairing people to a priestly people, a people from whom a savior will rise—all through the power of a God who forms mountains and the foundations of the world but does not scorn a despairing woman’s cry

Hannah’s story reminds us that God has the power to transform lives in ways beyond our knowing, for God is utterly free to act as God wills—and God often acts through those who would otherwise be the least likely suspects—not the mighty, or the powerful, or the comfortable, but the humble, the defenseless, those who have experienced heartbreak and even loss, those who seemingly had nothing but hope and faith to power them through.

Yet hope and faith are blessings enough, and they form a song, harmony and melody combined, that never dies. Hannah’s song certainly endures. Generations later, Hannah’s song would be adapted and echoed in the mouth of a young woman who finds herself suddenly with her own impossible pregnancy. Hannah could have given up. But instead, she maintained a faith in God not just as someone to whom she could appeal, but someone who would never turn an unfeeling eye toward God’s beloved chosen people.

Hannah’s song declares a new set of values, where those who are humble are lifted up, and the exalted are humbled. Yet Hannah’s song, and the story of so many people like her throughout scriptures and throughout history, is one where we find ordinary people willing to open themselves to helping bring about God’s blessings in the world. The story of Hannah itself echoes with the stories of Sarah and Rachel before her. All these stories will themselves resound in our memory in a few weeks, when we hear the story of Elizabeth, and the story of Mary. Hannah eventually sings a great song of victory after the birth of her son, which will be very similar to another song of victory sung by a young woman named Mary in a few weeks’ time, who also will be brought to shouting out a song of victory, inspired by her own impending motherhood.

In a few weeks, Mary will also sing about the greatness of God and all God’s works in overturning the hierarchies of power, to bring restoration of God’s design for peace and justice. Hannah’s song is a joyful outburst of gratitude and thankfulness. She knows her life could have been otherwise. 

Hannah is not just given a son. She is given a vision of a new triumph of peace; structures of injustice and weapons of war have been shattered; the hungry are satisfied and at peace; the oppressed are lifted up and exalted, while the oppressors are humbled and crumbled.

In times of struggle, hopefulness itself is an act of rebellion and resistance. Those who have been empty, without hope, have been, and will be, filled. And that’s an important reminder for us all. Even in the midst of everyday struggles, there are blessings, too. How often do we assign bad motives to people we encounter, failing to listen to the story of their lives rather than filling in their narrative based on our assumptions, like Eli did? How often do we get impressed by the wrong things, instead of treasuring simple pleasures that together remind us of beauty or wonder?

Poet Jane Kenyon expressed that kind of mindfulness in her poem, “Otherwise:”
I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Even in such small things as a ripe peach there is a blessing to be claimed.

We live in a time when many people believe that, like in our gospel passage, all the edifices of faith have been pulled down, until not one stone rests upon the other. But perhaps sometimes the walls have to come down to remind us that faith and hope should not and ultimately must not be contained, that they don’t reside in buildings or monuments.

What if, instead, we placed ourselves in the power of the untamed Spirit of God, and dared to claim the blessing of real love and fellowship that Jesus calls us to again and again when he modeled the life of discipleship, the life of living for God and for each other? What if we realized that, when our own walls come down, the light of Christ that burns within us becomes that much more visible in the darkness of these times?

In all we do and all we say, we can bear the image of redemption, forgiveness, and compassion into the world. Each day we are experience a scattering of gifts that may escape our notice if we are not mindful of them. May we open our hearts to claim the blessings of our lives, and help multiply those blessings in the world. And sing a mighty song of redemption and hope that might get overlooked, otherwise.

Amen.

Preached at the 8:00 and 10:15 am services at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Ellisville.

Readings:
1 Samuel 1:4-20
1 Samuel 2: 1-10
Hebrews 10:11-25
Mark 13:1-8


Notes/ attributions:
1) Image: Wilhelm Wachtel, Hannah in Prayer.
2) Hannah, Eli, and Samuel.
3) Jane Kenyon (1947-1995), "Otherwise," from Otherwise: New and Selected Poems, 1996


Prayer, day 2121


You are our song, O God;
You make our hearts glad as we enter your courts.
Make us a holy people,
consecrated, dedicated,
and determined to glorify your Name.
Breathe on us, O Breath of God:
fill us with your Spirit,
and propel us into those places
which most need the light of Christ.
In your great mercy,
forgive us all our offenses,
against both You and our brothers and sisters.
Remembering the great blessings You have given us,
let us open our hearts to those
who have no place to rest.
May we open our hearts
so that Christ may reign in them always.
Rest your hand, we pray,
O Loving One, O Beloved One,
upon all those whom we now name.

Amen.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Prayer, day 2120: For Diocesan Convention


We raise our voices in praise and song to You,
O God, our Creator and Light.
For our manifold blessings--
community, hope, faith, and love--
we give thanks to You, O Lord.
For all who are gathered as disciples,
seeking to discern your will in our lives,
we give thanks to You, O Lord.
For the Light of Christ,
which uplifts our hearts and minds,
bringing us into communion with You,
we give thanks to You, O Lord.
For all who seek You,
or a deeper knowledge of You,
that your kingdom may be glorified
on Earth as in heaven,
we pray to You, O Lord.
For all who travel this day,
for traveling mercies,
that they be returned to their homes safely,
we pray to You, O Lord.
For wisdom and justice
to be strengthened and restored in our land,
we pray to You, O Lord.
For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble,
that the awning of your mercy shield and shade them,
we pray to You, O Lord.
For those struggling against illness or pain,
that your healing hand may uplift them,
we pray to You O Lord.
Holy One, we pray especially for these,
your servants we now name.

Amen.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Prayer, day 2119


My heart is firmly fixed, O God,
for You have lifted me and restored me,
and I will sing your praise forever! 
You have placed me in the cleft of the rock
as the tumult tore against me.
You have gathered me under your wing;
You are my shelter against the wind of midday
and the chill of the night watches.
When I stumble in weariness or blindness,
your hand is upon my shoulder to steady me. 
May my feet commit themselves to following your way,
that I may stand upon the foundation of your mercy and love.

May I reach out my hand to my brothers and sisters,
remembering that in your grace,
ou tend me in my hour of need.
May the cares and concerns of those who call upon You
ascend to You like soaring birds.

Amen.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Prayer 2118


Merciful One,
we turn to You in gratitude
and sing your praise with our whole heart!
You, O God, are our Rock,
and your mighty arms encircle us against all foes.
Strengthen us, O Lord, in the day of trial,
and shelter us from the fires that rage about us.
Sustain us and nourish us by your love, O Living God,
for we put our trust in You.
Be our companion, Blessed Redeemer,
and guide us in the path of holiness
as we seek to follow in your Way of Compassion.
Spirit of Healing,
bless and sanctify our work today,
and grant your peace and hope to those for whom we pray.


Amen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Prayer 2117


God of Unchanging Truth,
we rise in hope,
glad for your watch over us
through the shades of night.
Tune our ears to hear the song of praise
raised by all creation,
the mountains, hills, and streams singing, "Alleluia!"
Direct us and guide us in all that we do, O Spirit,
that we may work with healing hands and hearts in the world.
Lead us out in joy that we may return in peace, O Lord
living our lives to your honor and glory.
Gather us into your keeping at day's end,
Loving Savior,
that we may be eased into your peace and comfort.
With a mother's care, Lord Christ,
watch over all whose cry is to you.

Amen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Prayer 2116


Before your altars, O Lord,
we place our offerings and prayers:
all that we are, and all that we can do
we offer to you, O Holy One,
as your children and beloveds.
May we know and look on high and praise
your wondrous works among us, O Creator.
The stars in their glory, singing your praise
in concert with the celestial spheres
and all the host of heaven,
call us to praise and worship.
God Almighty is renewing the face of the earth
calling all creation to reconciliation and harmony.
Let our hearts trace the pilgrim path
and embrace the Way of Jesus:
walking in unity and compassion,
standing for justice for and lovingkindness,
rejecting the powers of fear and darkness.
Holy Trinity, Eternal One,
strengthen us in bonds of empathy
that we may live in communion with each other.
Anoint all who seek You, O Spirit of Healing,
with the oil of mercy and gladness,
especially those whose concerns we bring before You.

Amen.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Prayer 2115: Gratitude for Ongoing Creation


Most Merciful One,
we give you praise:

praise for this song of a new day that stretches before us
as mysterious and beautiful as the sea;

praise for the chatter of a meadow
filled with sparrows hopping among the golden grasses
and young robins puffed up in self-importance
against the impending snow;

praise for the sentinel deer
walking in tandem among fallen leaves
which spiral down to earth with elegant grace;

praise for being witness to such beauty,
testament to the wonders of this world
You have entrusted to us.

Carry this prayer aloft, O wind,
to the One who is creating the heavens and the earth
within each mending heart,
within each new life that bursts forth,
within each life that releases into your eternity,
within each meeting of friends, old or new,
within each breath shared in the company of trees.

Gather within your peace, O God,
all those who struggle against pain or loss,
all those who are troubled with worry or fear,
all who seek You with wordless longing,
especially those for whom we pray.

Amen.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sermon for St. Martin's Day and Armistice Day



Today is a day for remembrance: it is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours—our patronal feast day, known as Martinmas. And just a few minutes, we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the so-called Great War, which we now know as World War I. So it’s fascinating.

Our patron saint, Martin of Tours, was born to pagan parents from Yugoslavia in the 4th century of the common era, with his father being a senior military officer in the Roman imperial guard. As a child, he grew up in Italy, where his father was stationed, and at age ten it is believed he attended a Christian worship service against his parents’ wishes, and he became a catechumen, or someone undergoing religious instruction to join the Church. Back then, the minimum time for the catechumenate was three years but was often longer.

Then, at 15, Martin was required to join the army as well, and he became a cavalry soldier. It is said that while he was stationed in Gaul, near Amiens, a beggar approached him in the cold and asked for some alms. In response, Martin cut his military cloak in half with his sword. Later that night, Christ appeared to him in a dream, clothed in the half of the cloak he had given the beggar. Martin then determined to be baptized, and he was.

He eventually realized that he felt he could not be a Christian and be a soldier of Rome, and so he requested to be released from his 25-year commitment to the army. This was right before an impending battle, so he was charged with cowardice and thrown into jail. He offered to stand unarmed before the enemy army, holding nothing but a cross, and army officials were ready to take him up on his offer—but the enemy sued to surrender, and so Martins was discharged. He eventually made his vows as a monastic, but gained a reputation for piety and holiness.

The people of Tours decided to make him their bishop, but he wanted nothing of it. So the story goes that he was tricked into the church to be elected bishop on the excuse that someone needed healing. One story claims that he was so reluctant to be elected that he hid in a barn full of geese, and they dragged him out, covered in feathers and probably goose-poop, and finally persuaded him to accept election as bishop. Nonetheless, even though bishop, he still lived in a monastery outside town that he had founded called Marmoutier, where his holiness had attracted several hermits who lived in small cells around him. He was known for travelling to every parish in his diocese once a year, often on foot.

Martin is the patron saint of, among other things, beggars, soldiers and conscientious objectors, winemakers AND recovering alcoholics. He is the patron saint of geese, whose migration is usually simultaneous with his feast day, and although he is that patron saint of France, in England his emblem is a goose, and it is said that traditionally, the geese begin their migration south of St. Martin's Day. 

Martinmas is also connected to the end of World War I. Martin remained somewhat popular in France even during the French Republic, but for a while his popularity flagged in France as violent anti-religious sentiment swept across it in the Enlightenment. Until World War I. World War I was a new kind of World War, fully industrialized, and the loss to human life was staggering for that time. Entire villages in England and France lost nearly all of their young men in the fighting.

The horrors of mechanized trench warfare, machine guns, and poison gas left a lasting impression on the survivors, and the experiences of fighting in World War I helped influence an entire generation of writers, including JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, as well as the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.
Canadian physician and officer John MacCrae wrote his famous poem “In Flanders Fields” after he presided at the funeral for a friend killed at the second battle of Ypres.

As the war dragged to a terrible end, the cease fire eventually was declared at 11:11 am on November 11, 1918—St. Martin’s Day. The French people had a resurgence of piety regarding the saint, with some believing that his intervention had helped spare France from any more of the horrors of the conflict, which was fought largely on French and Belgian soil in the European theatre.

Thus, St. Martin’s feast, and Armistice Day, the original name for this Veteran’s Day we now remember, is dedicated to honoring peace and the sacrifices of those who fought in World War I. St. Martin’s feast and the celebration of peace and those who sacrifice to defend peace are forever linked. The feast day of the soldier and conscientious objector is also the day that this horrific war came to an end.

This is why, every time we celebrate St. Martin’s Day, we honor also those who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice upon the fields of battle, even while we fervently give thanks for peace—real peace that is grounded in abundance for all because we realize the interconnectedness of all.

We celebrate not the war, but the peace that brought World War I to an end, while acknowledging that it, tragically, was NOT the “War to End All Wars.”

Here in America, we have modified Armistice Day to a day to honor all veterans, to acknowledge that we still pray for an end to the necessity to send our young people into terrible conflicts. Yet every time I look at the American flag, which represents the ideals for which my grandfather fought in the trenches in World War I, my father and father-in-law and uncle fought for in World War II, for which my other uncle fought for in the Korean conflict, my cousin and my father-of-the-heart fought for in Vietnam, I remember that it has seldom been carried into battle alone.

Every time I look at that flag on this day, especially, I remember the other flags who have stood and continue to stand alongside it in war and in peace, but especially in pursuing true peace and security for all, both here and abroad.

This is the dream of God for our lives: true abundance. True peace. True commitment to fellowship, kinship, the recognition that we are all conjoined, made in the image of God, called to work for the peace and care of everyone.

Our readings from Isaiah today though remind us that our observances must honor the dream of God for our lives. The dream of God for humanity is to study war no more. This is why the reading from Isaiah for today is particularly appropriate. God never desires the sacrifice of life—wars come about due to human decisions. Each one of those poppies, dancing among the crosses in Flanders' fields like drops of blood, remind us that we worship a God of peace and love, not of war.

Our God is the God of all, and calls us to use our resources for the good of others:
Setting the oppressed free,
Feeding the hungry,
Clothing those who are naked,
Housing the homeless.

All of these things require the will to prioritize the dream of God for us as the feast we truly celebrate. But Isaiah goes further: the practices that please God include
Not trying to oppress or disdain others,
Not blaming others, or talking about them behind their backs,
Repairing breaches where we find them in relationship
And working for peace.

The fast that truly pleases God is the sacrifice that makes all people whole. The feast that pleases God is one that is founded on care and empathy for all people, whatever their situation. The fast that pleases God is a fast that leads to a feast. A feast that celebrates the reverence for all life, and seeks to care for the lowliest person among as if that person were the most auspicious person on earth.

May we celebrate, on this St. Martin’s Day, our common commitment to each other, our willingness to care for each other, truly love each other, and to give to each other the compassion and peace that is rooted in our gratitude to God, the Father of Peace, the Son, the Prince of Peace, and the Holy Spirit who sets our hearts ablaze with the wisdom to seek peace and compassion in all we do. May we be today rededicated to the mission of this parish to be a beacon of Christ’s love and true peace in the world, together.

Amen.


Preached at St. Martin's Episcopal Church- Ellisville, at the 505 on November 10, and the 8:00 and 10:15 services on November 11, 2018, which is both the Feast Day of St. Martin of Tours and the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.


Readings:
Isaiah 58:6-12
Psalm 15
Galatians 6:1-2
Luke 18:18-30