The Rector's Blog
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April 12, 2018, 1:51 PM

So much and then more...

On Sunday, April 15, we will be tying and blessing the first two prayer quilts created by the Prayers and Squares Ministry
Be sure to come! 

This is a new venture for us.  We invite you, as you return from the altar after receiving communion, to tie a knot in each quilt, saying a prayer for each quilt’s recipient.  We will offer a special blessing over the quilts after communion.  As we knot the ties, we remember that “prayer is the knot that holds our fabric of life together.” (Cheryl Louie, San Diego chapter)

These quilts will be given to Carole Sloan and Debbie Taylor. 

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I will be away April 23-30, for two events:  the Spring Clergy Retreat at Waycross, where we will be learning about “fierce conversations”; after which I will be taking some personal time to attend a friend’s wedding in Ontario. Fr. Tim Hallett will be here on Sunday the 29th.

  I am grateful to the Vestry for allowing me to disappear the week after Easter – I have pretty well caught up on my sleep and feel more rested than I have in a long time!  I realize that we all have many demands and desires for our time that simply eat us alive and spit us out a moldy mess.  It’s easy enough to say, “I’m not going to do that myself!” but it’s not so easy to follow through!

I have the same problem with prayer as I do with sleep – I settle in, and after a couple minutes, all the things I’ve shelved till later start hopping off the shelves – the cats are bored or hungry; the laundry is just sitting there; the dishes need to be washed; and on and on.  Everything needs to be done.

This Week offers a case in point –

On Monday, we had Bible Study in the morning, and then I called on four parishioners, which took up the whole afternoon. 

Tuesday was pretty open on my schedule after the monthly sponsors meeting at the Clearinghouse so I took advantage of some free time to put away the Holy Week and Easter materials until next Spring.  We also had several people come in requesting financial assistance.

And I had an event in the evening, so I cut out for a couple hours to avoid having a 12-hour day. 

Wednesday, I had a visitor who needed half an hour, then a couple of our members came in to make sure we would have video for the Hoe-Down Karaoke, the bishop called; the bishop’s secretary called; and I scheduled an afternoon parish visit.

Wednesdays are when we try to finalize all the bulletins, prayers, announcements, and flyers for the coming Sunday worship.  Karen has been updating the information for servers, printing out the lessons, pulling the music for Starla, and selecting the picture for the bulletin cover.  I add a prayer of preparation, and make any necessary adjustments for special liturgical items – such as the prayer quilt blessing this Sunday – and then Karen pulls all the documents together for me to check. 

On top of that, this week is Epistle week, plus the bishop and some of my Episcopal clergy colleagues are coming for lunch Thursday.  So that’s even more information gathering, organizing, and writing to prepare.

It never stops!  And that’s a good thing, in many ways – it says we are a vibrant and active parish, engaged in the world, supporting each other, and worshiping together.  I think that’s what church is supposed to be about, don’t you?

This week’s “Rector’s Blog” is not the most philosophical or theological reading, perhaps, but it does reflect my efforts to live out my faith in this community. 

I just want you to know that I appreciate you all so very much!  I pray for you every day.  I wish you well, and many, many blessings. God’s grace be with you!

                                                 Evelyn+




March 22, 2018, 3:55 PM

From Fear to Forgiveness and More

If you were here on Sunday the 18th, or if you have read or listened to the sermon on our website, you will remember that I asked you to think about the ways in which we can move from feelings of fear, deceit, and hatred to feelings of forgiveness, trust, and love.

I hope you’ve been giving this question some thought!  (If you weren’t here, you can read the sermon on our website at http://cecmadison.org/page/sermons.)

Howard Thurman’s answer, like Jesus’, is I.  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus also told his followers to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  And he never said it would be easy!  We know what happened to him, after all, and how the world, his people, and the Romans responded to his teachings.  He was ridiculed, defamed, persecuted, and killed.

But here’s the kicker – that was not the end of the story.  The end of the story was quite different than anyone expected, much as the life of the actual Messiah was different than anyone really expected. 

When we are told to love our enemies, we might feel incredulous, even offended.  How can you ask me to love [fill in the one(s) you can’t stand here]?  Thurman describes three types of enemies to help us think this hard thing through.  First, are the enemies within our intimate circle – family, close friends.  We might have an argument, or a disagreement, or harsh words, or even an outright betrayal of trust that shatters the relationship. Think of Judas, or of Peter, who denied Jesus three times!  In one case, Judas placed himself beyond the possibility of reconciliation and forgiveness by taking his own life in despair; in the other, we don’t know how it happened, but Peter and Jesus were so reconciled that Peter became the first head of the post-resurrection church.

Second, enemies may be within our larger circle – in a club or church community, in our school or other group – these are people who have betrayed the group norms and aligned themselves to those outside the group at the expense, and to the hurt, of those within it.  For the Judeans, that would describe the tax collectors for Rome, who were of the children of Abraham, but used their knowledge in and of the Jewish community to not only tax the people, but also get rich at their expense.

Third, enemies might be outside our circle altogether; obvious parties to oppression of one sort or another, with no obvious ties to ourselves or our community or group.  Now we’re thinking of Rome, and the Roman rulers and soldiers who had no regard for the Judeans at all, and did not hesitate to quash anyone who objected to their presence and their authority.

I am sure we can all think of enemies in each of these categories – people we would much rather not have to deal with, or see, or even hear about.  People about whom our friends would completely understand our antipathy and bitterness and anger.

But Jesus does not let us off so easily – which certainly does not mean that he doesn’t understand our feelings! 

He is, I think, tackling these feelings on a deeper level – and asking us to let go, let go, let go, let go … let go of the anger and the bitterness and the hate – or, in Thurman’s construct, the fear, the deceit, and the hate that divide us.  Jesus reminds us that all human beings are children of God, and God invites all people to come to the living water and drink our fill and beyond of joy and grace and mercy.  And we all – ourselves, our families, our communities, and our enemies are included in that invitation.

Jesus knows the cost, make no mistake.  But in his view, the cost is irrelevant, because the prize is beyond price, beyond wonder, beyond our hopes and dreams – it is salvation; it is joy; it is love.

God’s grace is all.

                     Evelyn+




February 22, 2018, 3:36 PM

Intensity in Lent

Lent is being pretty intense for me – I signed up for not one, not two, but three daily meditation emails from various sources, and putting them next to each other can make my brain hurt, just a bit. 

One might be focused on the cross, another on justice, and the third on hope.  On top of that, I’m reading Howard Thurman, and this week’s reading is on deception; last week’s was about fear

Both fear and deception are tools that help the oppressed survive.  Fear alerts one to danger; deception can avert an attack.  If that were all they did, that would be, if not desirable, at least understandable. 

At a deeper level, though, both can destroy from within.  If one is treated as “less than,” something very dangerous can occur.  One might begin to feel “less than,” and to believe one actually is “less than.” Unworthy, un-love-able, un-valued.  Our sense of self depends on perceiving ourselves as just the opposite of these things. 

If we believe we are worthy, loved, and valued, we can withstand so much more trial and tribulation than anyone can throw at us.  It’s not that God doesn’t send us more than we can handle, as some say; it’s that God simply isn’t sending that stuff.  Life is filled with hard times, with pain, with loss, and with suffering; this is all true.  But God is the one who walks with us through all of it. 

That doesn’t mean God will “fix it,” either.  Wouldn’t that be great?  But, sadly, no, that’s not how it works.  We have to rely on ourselves to get up, and we should be able to rely on others to lend a hand, and we can always rely on God to love us.  That’s what God does.

When we are filled up with a sense of God’s love and we trust that truth, we find the strength to get up, we find the wherewithal to help others, and we find the faith to know that, no matter how things turn out right here and now, God desires our ultimate good, even if we can’t figure out what that means.

Having that faith gives us courage to face those things and people that frighten us; and having that faith gives us courage to speak the truth when no one seems to want to hear it.  Having that faith means we are never going to be “less than” again.

I hear from people who are struggling – with bad health, with powerful people who dismiss and blame, with economic setbacks – so many times.  I frequently can’t fix their situations; sometimes all I can do is listen, hold a hand, offer a prayer, and, occasionally, suggest a new course of action or ask others to lean in and help out.  Offering moral support (or “thoughts and prayers”) seems so ineffectual – and sometimes it may well be, particularly if that’s all one does.  I find what really matters is the relationship between others and myself.  If people feel like they’ve been heard, and understood, it helps.

And if I can provide more than moral support; even a small monetary contribution to help with a utility bill, for example, it can mean the world.  Or sitting in on a meeting with a doctor, or sending a quick text, or most anything that we can do for another person carries a message beyond the immediate exchange: It says, “You exist, I see you, I love you, and God loves you.”

Oh, and by the way, dear people of and around Christ Church:  You definitely exist; I do see you; I love you to the moon and back, and God loves you even more!

May you have a blessed Lent!




February 8, 2018, 10:33 AM

Almost Lent

Seriously, it’s going to be Lent already??  We barely recovered from Christmas and New Year’s!  But so it would seem.  Ash Wednesday comes on Valentine’s Day and Easter arrives on April Fools’ Day.  This creates challenges for ceremonial and for teaching, I can tell you!  We’ll just have to wait and see how it works out.  Personally, I’m hoping for chocolate chip pancakes with chocolate sauce on Tuesday, and wondering if we can make Easter a “Fools for Christ Day” – which, since it’s the celebration of the Resurrection and one of the major feasts, if not the major feast of the Christian year, presents a unique challenge. 

Meanwhile, Lent is on the horizon.  Don’t forget that at noon on Wednesday the 14th the community Lenten worship and lunch series begins at First Christian Church (West Main at Vine), with Rev. Kelly Rector preaching. 

We will hold our own usual Ash Wednesday service, with imposition of ashes and Holy Eucharist at 6:00 PM.  The Choir will sing.

In Lent, Starla has special musical offerings for all our Evensong services (Wednesdays at 6:00 PM), featuring the choir, soloists, and instrumentalists.  Sunday’s bulletin will contain an insert with all the details.  I hope you can join us!

I’ve been prepping for our Lenten book study of Jesus and the Disinherited, by African-American theologian, pastor, and professor Howard Thurman.  This book, published in 1949, laid the foundations for much of what is now called “liberation theology.”  Thurman draws a line straight from the crucifixion to the horrific practice of lynchings in America (which were terrifyingly frequent between 1877, as Reconstruction wound down, and 1950 – over 4,000 separate acts of this gruesome form of murder have been documented).  He argues that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is particularly relevant to any minority group that is oppressed by a majority population.

One of the main points Thurman stresses is that Jesus focused on our internal reactions to external events – a unique approach in his or our time that limits the power an oppressor can bring to bear on the spirit of the oppressed. 

We know that Jesus submitted to death on the cross, and discouraged his followers from revenging themselves on those who would kill him.  How did he have the strength to do that?  How do oppressed people find the strength to get up in the morning and go on with their lives when their backs are to the wall every day? How do we even begin to understand how people not like us – in color or creed or faith family – see the world?  How do we find the strength to love those with whom we have deep political differences in our own time? 

I know it’s a challenge, and I know some of it may feel uncomfortable, but I think in the end this book study will open our eyes and our hearts and our minds, so that we will see, hear, and appreciate the lives of the oppressed for what they can teach us about our own walk with God.

On the next page, we’ve listed a number of other Lenten study options to deepen our spirits and light our path to a closer relationship with our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.  I encourage you to find the one(s) that speak to your heart, and follow where they lead over the next several weeks, so that, by the end of March, we will all have a better understanding and appreciation of what it means to be a “Fool for Christ.”

Blessings to you all!

Evelyn

 




December 14, 2017, 2:42 PM

Compare and Contrast

I’ve subscribed to three different Advent Meditations series, and I get quite a mix – reading and praying them set over and against one another is a lot like reading the Scriptures set forth for our weekly worship together, although there, we have four voices (including the Psalm). 

I’d like to invite you to consider the three following readings, and reflect on how they seem to speak to each other in your mind and heart…

The first reading comes from Virginia Theological Seminary (an Episcopal seminary in Alexandria, near where I used to live!) as part of a photo-sharing activity on the internet called “AdventWord.”  People post photos that respond to each day’s theme.  Click on the link to see what people are posting!   

WILDERNESS

14 December 2017 – Israel finds her Way in the wilderness.  God is the only gardener in the wilderness.  Israel’s God is our only Way through the wilderness, from the hill country of Bethlehem, past the signpost of the Cross to the rivers that are grooved into the earth.  Go into the wilderness.  It is where we live.  God is there.

Our second entry today is from one of the brothers at the Society of St John the Evangelist, an order of Episcopal monks who run a retreat center in Newbury MA.  They e-mail a daily meditation, with a link to “read more on their website. The link here will take you to a fuller discussion on Praying Slowly.

PRAY SLOWLY

It takes some time truly to comprehend the sacred mysteries of Jesus’ birth, of his passion and death, and of his resurrection. It takes prayer, and faith, and trust in the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.

-Br. David Allen,
Society of Saint John the Evangelist

The final entry comes from an Advent series offered by Plough Publishing, called “The Daily Dig.”  It features a quotation from Jerome, who is best known for the earliest complete translation of the Bible (both Jewish and Christian texts) into Latin, but he was a prolific writer of theology and meditations as well.  He was an advocate for asceticism in personal life.

From ST. JEROME

As often as I look at the place where the Lord is born, my heart enters into a wondrous conversation with the Child Jesus. And I say, “Dear Lord Jesus, how you are shivering; how hard you lie for my sake, for the sake of my redemption. How can I repay you?”

Then I seem to hear the Child’s answer, “Dear Jerome, I desire nothing but that you shall sing ‘Glory to God in the highest’ and be content. I shall be even poorer in the Garden of Olives and on the Holy Cross.”

I speak again, “Dear Jesus, I have to give you something. I will give you all my money.”

The Child answers, “Heaven and earth already belong to me.  I do not need your money; give it to the poor, and I will accept it as if it were given to me.”

Source: Cries from the Heart

So, what do you think?  Do you see connections or contrasts among these various works?  Do you find a message for your heart?

Blessings to you all!  ~ Evelyn+


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