Sunday, September 30, 2007

Episcopal Response to AIDS

Yesterday I was elected to and attended my first meeting of the board of directors of Episcopal Response to AIDS. We're dedicated to assisting and building up HIV/AIDS ministries of Episcopal parishes and associated organizations in the Greater NY area. For us that means the Episcopal dioceses of New York, Newark, and Long Island. I'm treasurer now, and we're beginning to think about next year's AIDS Walk in New York, which is May 21. We're also planning the 2007 World AIDS Day worship service, which will be Saturday, December 1 at St. Paul's Chapel in Manhattan at 6 PM. So there's a lot going on.

Also, our RFP for the 2008 funding cycle was released earlier this month, and proposals for funding are due back to us by October 12. We anticipate grants totalling $30,000 in this cycle, so if you are or know of an Episcopal organization or parish that has some sort of HIV/AIDS ministry, please check us out.


The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XVIII

We continue the Sundays after Pentecost with No. 18. Once we get close to the 20s I start thinking that the season is getting old, but it's about this time that autumn starts up in full swing. The days are getting cooler and football season (Go Bucks!) is in full swing. The sequence from Jeremiah has been instructive (more on that anon) and the Gospel readings, from Luke, seem to be focusing on the relationship between believers and those things, especially money, that can get in the way of one's relationship to God. Apropos, I suppose, since many parishes, at thebeginning of the program year, focus on stewardship and giving.

Today our sister parish, Grace Lutheran Church in Bayonne, celebrates it's 100th year of service. We attended their worship this morning as they instituted their new pastor, and there will be a nice dinner this evening as well. Congratulations to Grace on 100 years of ministry!

Almighty God, to whose glory we celebrate the dedication of Grace Lutheran Church; We give you thanks for the fellowship of those who have worshiped there, and we pray that all who seek you may find you, and be filled with your joy and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP p. 254)


Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Proper of the Day: St. Michael and All Angels

On this day the Church recalls with joy the ministry of angels, those special messengers of God who, Scripture records, sometimes visit humans with messages from God. Perhaps the most important messenger was that of the Archangel Gabriel, who announced to the Virgin Mary the news that she would bear a Son. Given that, I don't know why this feast isn't "St. Gabriel and All Angels," but there it is.

Another name for this day is Michaelmas, and it's the name for the fall term at General Theological Seminary and at Oxford and Cambridge, among others, as well. Incoming students matriculate at General on Michaelmas. At Evensong on this day, each new student signs the Matriculation Book, which, in a single volume, contains the signatures of every student who has ever attended GTS since its founding in 1819. Let me tell you, it was with both joy and awe that I myself signed The Book on this day in 2003.

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Culture Low and....Low

On Sunday evening a good friend and I went to go see Spamalot on Broadway, the live version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It was great! I laughed until my side hurt. My friend liked it too, and he had didn't know anything about Monty Python. There's a whole bit about Sir Lancelot actually being gay, which I don't remember from the movie at all, but funny nonetheless. And they did the bit about the Holy Hand Grenade perfectly! "Neither shall it be two, nor shall it be four, but only first stopping at three..."

Tonight, for the first time in probably five years, I watched ER on NBC. I used to be a big fan, but I thought it hard one too many jump-the-shark moments and stopped watching about the time West Wing came on, if I recall correctly. I was intrigued to see Stanley Tucci as the new director of the ER, and a few other names I recognized. But I found the drama a bit, well, ungripping. Maybe it's because I didn't know the characters, and it's moved to a pretty-character-intensive plot, but for whatever reason I wasn't terribly impressed. I don't think ER has aged that well after 14 seasons.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Should our Bishops go to Lambeth?

If you follow such things, you may know that a respected conservative in The Episcopal Church has suggested that, as a sign of humility and sacrifice, all TEC bishops, including the dissenting ones and those who have been ordained by foreign provinces, stay away from the once-every-ten-years Lambeth conference of all Anglican bishops next year. I've been ambivalent about this idea, but I have been pursuaded by The Anglican Scotist that it is not in reality a good one. His summary and analysis are here, in the article "WWJD?"


Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XVII

The Sundays of Pentecost are starting to look like Super Bowl announcements. They always begin to do that around this time in the Christian year, at least if you use roman numerals, as is the custom at Trinity Parish. I suppose it's appropriate given that now we're right in the middle of football season.

On this Sunday we welcomed Nadia Ava A. into the body of Christ as she was baptized during our parish worship. Lots of her relatives were with us, and it was a truly joyful celebration. I was scheduled to preach, and so at the right time I pulled up a chair in front of little Nadia and she and I had a brief conversation about what was going on. Of course, the others in the congregation overheard it too, and that was OK. But I told Nadia who I was, and then explained that we were all there because of the Good News that we had heard sometime in our lives and had come to trust. And I told her that same Good News: that she was beloved by God, that God would always love her, and that nothing she could ever do could take away God's love from her. I explained that we knew this because of Jesus, who was God and was also a little seven-month-old baby just like Nadia. I told her that we're going to welcome he as our new sister in the community of all Christians in the world, and that everyone there was going to be her brothers and sisters. I even told her how Jesus himself was baptized, just like she was going to be. I then said that we give thanks for Jesus every Sunday with a meal "like any other meal, and like no other meal." I invited her to come to the Table whenever she and her parents felt ready for her to receive the Bread and the Wine, and I hoped that she would let us grow with her as she grows up. I observed that none of what was going on today was going to make any sense to her, but that that was OK, and that as she came back Sunday by Sunday it would begin to, and I hoped she and her parents would do that. I finished by saying that I'd see her back at the Font in just a few minutes.

The Baptism and Communion itself was a wonderful experience. I hope and pray Nadia will remember it every year on this date, and that she will grow in the full stature of Christ as well.

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Farewell to a Fair Reporter

Stephen Bates was until today the religion correspondent for The Guardian, a British national newspaper. He wrote his last column today, and it's well worth a read. I'm sad for him, and sad for the state of the Anglican Communion. He has a definite point of view, which I share, but I also share his painful dismay at how things are.

Godspeed, Mr. Bates!


The Proper of the Day: St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Today the Church celebrates the writing of the Gospel According to St. Matthew, and the Apostle and Evangelist who wrote it. It's thought now that it wasn't really the one named in the lists of the Twelve, but even so, the Gospel of St. Matthew is of course central in its place in the life of the Church. In fact, in the BCPs before 1979 (in TEC, at least) you will find that most of the Gospel readings in the Eucharist come from Matthew, except during Easter, when they usually come from John. (In part, this is because prior versions of the BCP used a 1-year lectionary cycle, rather than the 3-year cycle we use today. Nowadays, we get pretty much all of Matthew, Mark, and Luke once every three years, with lots of John during Easter and and at other times, esp. Holy Week.)

Matthew's agenda of showing Christ as the New Moses permeates his Gospel, especially in places like the Sermon on the Mount and the Teaching on the Kingdom, Chapter 13 (amoung others.) It's thought by some that Matthew is the "Jewish Gospel," in that its primary audience was Jewish converts to Christianity, with the idea of showing Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Hence Matt. 5:18, "For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished." Jesus goes on to tell us what that means; he is the definitive New Lawgiver who can say (six times!) "You have heard it said, but I say to you...." It's been suggested by some that Paul's idea of grace is a "new dispensation" and that Jesus, per Matt 5:18, had no intention of setting aside the Torah. The structure and content and really the entirety of the "Jewish Gospel" seem to point to a different conclusion.

We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

The House of Bishops is Meeting

This week, the House of Bishops is meeting in New Orleans. Present today and tomorrow with them are the Archbishop of Canterbury and various other officials of the Anglican Communion. Of your charity, pray that the meeting will be Spirit-filled and helpful.

Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel in New Orleans for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP. p. 818)


I saw a neat ad this evening

While coming home from Hunter College on the PATH train from the WTC station, I happened to be standing where I could look outside onto the tunnel walls. I saw a cool ad that animated itself as the train passed. It was a a pink carnation (I think, I'm a guy, I don't know flowers that well) blossoming open. At the end it says "Morning Stretch - Westin, the way it should be." I doubt I will have much cause to stay in a Westin anymore, although I did stay in them a lot when I was with Gartner, and the Westin/W chain is my favorite. But the ad itself was a delight.

You can see it here - scroll down to the pink flower item for the ad. There are some other cool things being done in NYC right now too - check out the Shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central - those are the "shuttle wrap" pix ont he same page. I'm gonna have to go ride one!


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Arrgghhh, Maties!

Today is th' International Talk Like A Pirate Day, an' altho' I'm not very good t'it, I thought I'd at least mention it. I wonder if Babel has a translator from English into Pirate? It'd be fun t' see what th' Bible looks like, arrr!


Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XVI

Lost sheep and lost coins are the centerpiece of the Gospel for The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost. Jesus reminds his hearers and us that there is much rejoicing in heaven at even one person who, being lost, has been found. I think there's a lot to be said for repentance and conversion, no matter how old one is or even how much bad stuff one has already done. Next week we are going to celebrate a Baptism and welcome into the Body of Christ one who was lost and now is found. What a great way to prefigure the glorious sacrament we will participate in next week!

We also continue reading from Jeremiah this week. I can't help but get a bit depressed - I have to wonder what we're supposed to get out of all these dire passages. No one at Trinity has preached on Jeremiah yet. Maybe I will just to be contrary, but I confess it's some hard stuff. Jeremiah's context was living in around Jerusalem way after the fall of the Northern Kingdom (in 721 BC) and while the Southern Kingdom was increasingly isolated and ripe for takeover. Jerusalem itself was taken in 586 BC, and so Jeremiah is trying to warn the people that life is going to get worse before it gets better. Unfortunately, the theological language of God haranguing Judah and essentially telling them they deserve whatever they're going to get is, at first blush, not very, well, loving. So it's worth a further look.

We also began a series of readings from I and II Timothy, (called, with the Letter to Titus, the Pastoral Epistles) which ostensibly were written by St. Paul to his protege Timothy. Scholars think they are probably are actually written by one or more members of a "Pauline school" who tried to use the Apostle's style and diction when writings the letters, although they seem to have been written much later, perhaps as late as 70-100 AD. These "Pastoral" letters seem to be more interested in acting than being, so we'll see over the next weeks, through October.

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen


Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Exaltation of the Holy Cross

On this day (and its eve) the Church takes time to contemplate the mystery of the Cross and what happened on It that contributed to our salvation. This Major Feast is the joyful counterpart to Good Friday, a day that ordinarily isn't very appropriate for joy. Here's a sermon of mine from 2005 on this feast day:

May these words be in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

About 15 billion years ago or so, give or take a billion years, before there was space or time, cosmologists conclude that the universe as we know it burst into existence, beginning in an almost-infinitely small, almost-infinitely dense, almost infinitely-hot union of matter and energy. This singularity, as it’s called, immediately began to spread out in all directions, except that direction doesn’t have any meaning when there is no space outside space, at least cosmologically. Over billions of years, the universe spread out into what we now see as the seemingly infinite vast space and time that we know, with the galaxies, stars, black holes, nebulas, and all the rest of the wonderful and strange interstellar objects that Carl Sagan used to go on so blissfully about. And eventually, maybe ten billion years ago, some of the hot matter that was clumping together got hot enough to initiate a fusion reaction and form Sol, our own sun, located in a rather quiet little backwater of a rather ordinary galaxy we now call the Milky Way. Five billion years ago, more or less, the dust and gunk swirling around Sol banded together and formed planets. One of them, the third one out from Sol, was not too hot and not too cold, and was blessed with a steady bombardment of rocks and asteroids and lots of oxygen and nitrogen and water. There, less than a billion years ago, the first spontaneous photochemical reactions took place and began to repeat. Over the next billion years, riotously diverse kinds of life evolved. Some forms flourished, like algae and plants and mammals. Others didn’t, like the great reptiles of the Age of Dinosaurs. Then, perhaps more or less simultaneously in both what we now call Asia and Africa, the first mammals began to walk upright, and to look around at their surroundings, to make tools, to see the heavens at night, and to use language. And so humankind came on the scene, born of water and time.

And eventually humanity became aware that there was something other than themselves all around them. They began to express their beliefs in that which we now call God. They also saw that they were separated from God and they knew of no way to undo that separation. And they looked at themselves and their world and saw they were separated from each other, too, and from the world around them, and even from themselves. Invasions, natural disasters, poverty, famine, disease, revenge, cruelty – all of these became part of what they began to call evil, and represented all the separations they saw and mourned and could seem to do nothing about.

And they began to tell stories to one another about God, and about how they had come into being, and how that separation came about. About three and half thousand years ago, one little group in a little land at the crossroads of Asia and Africa had a unique insight that they wanted to share about God – that there was only one God, and that God somehow created all of humanity and indeed the entire world and everything in it, and that all of creation started out Good and without separation. And they started their story with “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”

And they wrote down that story, and other stories, too, about how people came to be, and how their own ancestors came to be, and how some of them felt God’s presence even through the separation, and began to understand God had a message for them. One of those ancestors was Abraham, and in several stories God told him that he would be the ancestor of many peoples. And so he was. And eventually there were other great ones, like Abraham’s wife Sarah, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Ruth, and David, and Moses, and Isaiah, and many other prophets, all who carried the message about God and from God. Most of the time, the people didn’t believe those who carried the messages, but sometimes they did. Much of the struggle of this people to bear God’s word is recorded in what we call the Hebrew Scriptures today.

And in due course, about two thousand years ago, another human was born in that same little land, a very special man, descended, it was said, from both David and Abraham, who also bore God’s message and lived it out. The times were not right, so it seemed, for this message, because this man was killed as a common criminal, lifted high on a cross, just about the most humiliating death one could have gone through at that time. But this man was special because he was not just human, even though he was born with a human mother like all of us. He was also God’s Son, actually God himself in a way that no other human being had ever been or has been to this day. He, too, brought God’s message, but more than that. Because he was both God’s Son and a human son, when he died, his death was not permanent. Three days after he died, God raised him from death. It’s totally against what they knew about nature, but those who knew him, trusted in what they saw, and they trusted and believed in him. And they began to spread God’s message far and wide in a way that no one had yet seemed able to do, but those who knew this Holy One became infused with a Spirit that enabled, practically drove them, to tell what they had seen and trusted.

Not so long after that, maybe thirty years or so, some of those who knew him directly, and those who knew them, began to write down stories about this Holy One who was both human and divine, and to pass them around to each other, so that the message they bore would not perish. And of all the stories they wrote down, the one which was the longest, the most compelling, with the most detail – even if those details didn’t exactly match – was the story of how that One was crucified, lifted high on a cross. The messengers continued to tell what they believed and trusted, and more and more people believed, but not everyone did. We know those messengers as the Apostles and Evangelists, and those writings as our own New Testament.

Some years after that, those who believed in the Holy One began to use a Cross as a sacred symbol, and to trace a sign of the Cross on themselves and over holy things, and to think of the Cross itself as a sign of the Holy One and his message. It gradually began to be seen as the central symbol of the faith system that was being compiled. On this very day in the year we now know as 335 AD, the mother of the first Christian emperor founded a great church over the site in Jerusalem where the Holy One was lifted high on the cross. Over the following centuries, the Cross inspired believers to great good in the world, and sometimes great ill as well. The Cross has led both war and peace, it has flown over cities and over nations, and it has pride of place in practically every Christian place of worship and many homes as well.

Fast forward now to 2005. Here we are, at a little school in a great city on the banks of a river in North America. We at General Theological Seminary are dedicated to training those will help lead the next generation of those who will spread that same message. We believe and trust all those earlier messengers. We trust that same Holy One who lived as one of us, and died, lifted high on the cross, and who rose from death again. We trust that same Holy One who is real and present in Water poured and Bread eaten and Wine sipped, and who continually renews in us that same message, first uttered those thousands of years ago.

The cosmologists tell us that eventually, the universe will well continue to expand and cool off until there is just one infinitely-uniform infinitely-cold emptiness, with no stars or planets or anything. And doesn’t it seem like the universe is running down, right before our eyes? That separation? It still exists, and it seems as strong as ever. We see war, natural disasters, poverty, famine, disease, revenge, cruelty, right now, in our lifetimes. We still see separation from God, from each other, from our own selves, and from nature. It would be very easy to become cynical about it all. Everything seems so bleak. That can’t be all there is. Can it?

That’s where the Cross comes in. Literally! The Cross, towering over the entire universe, demonstrates God’s very presence in and with all creation. The universe isn’t simply some huge Rolex watch that God wound up and then forgot about. And the Cross is more than just shiny bling! In the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, the God who is outside space and time decisively interrupts the ongoing life of the universe and the lives of each and every one of us. The Cross is a sign and symbol of the sacred reality of God in and with us and the entire cosmos. In the Cross, we hear “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” In the Cross, God says, “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth.” In the Cross, we are reminded, “I am with you always, even until the end of the ages.”

My sisters and brothers, that is the message. That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who as a human was lifted high above the earth on the Cross, and as God destroyed death and separation from God and from each other and from the world and from ourselves forever. Our separation from God and each other and all the rest is over. God loves us and wants us to be with him. And God is with us, right now. All we have to do is believe that – trust it – accept it – and we are reconciled to God, and therefore to each other, and to the world, and to ourselves. And it’s not just for us. It’s for all people. He died to draw all the world to himself. Everyone! And not only the world, but the entire cosmos! Everything! That is the Good News that we have. That’s why we celebrate the mystery of the Cross, where Death itself died when Holy Life died on the Tree. That’s why we marvel that an instrument of shameful death is now for the whole universe the means of life. That’s why we are so drawn to Christ Jesus, with those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and why we bend our knee in gratitude and thanksgiving.

On this Feast of the Holy Cross, on Holy-rood Day, we honor our own Rood and its Cross towering high above our heads. We honor it not only with our ceremony, but with our service. As we are joined to Christ in his whole life – ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension, so we are joined to his work as well. His work is the redemption of the world, and in the fullness of time, the redemption of the entire universe as well. As Our Lord took up his Cross to cry, “The Cosmos shall be fair, and all her people one,” so do we. Our work may not be universal in scope, but nonetheless, it is ours, right here on the Close. Students, faculty, administrators, staff, and boardmembers – we all have some service to contribute to the spread of our age-old message. Whenever we pass under that Cross here at Chelsea Square, may each of us, with God’s grace, take up our own crosses daily, and may it be our endeavor and joy to continue to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, in all we do, to the glory of God the Father.



Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pray For Those Who Persecute You

On this day after after 9-11, it seems appropriate to follow that other commandment of our Lord: "but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matt 5:44, from the Sermon on the Mount.) I don't know that I personally am ready to love my enemies the terrorists, but I can and do pray for them:

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love
our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth;
deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in
your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

That's hard to do, especially after the day after we observe the modern-day Slaughter of the Innocents. And yet, why not now? If not today, when?


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

May They Rest in Peace

On this the 6th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, we remember all those who died or were injured that day.

O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our brothers and sisters who died on September 11, 2001. We thank you for giving them to us, their family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


PS - The picture is the Bayonne 9-11 memorial, which we are re-dedicating this evening.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sunday, September 9, 2007

This made me laugh out loud.... I have a weird sense of humor.


The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XV

Today the Church celebrates the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost. All Sundays are Feasts of Our Lord, and on this day we continue to hear from the prophet Jeremiah, as he compares Israel to clay in a potter's wheel, that the potter worked and reworked "as seemed good to him." "Can I not do with you, O House of Israel, just as this potter has done?" asks the Lord. "Turn now, all of you, from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings." Turning to the writings of the New Testament, we read today almost the entirety of this short letter from Paul, probably in prison in Rome, to his brother in Christ, Philemon, concerning a runaway slave called Onesimus. It's been odd to me why this letter is in the canon, but I so love its familiar tone crossed with a bit of guilt. At one point Paul writes at vv 18-19, "If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self." If Paul is in prison, how is he going to pay Onesimus' freedom price if he's asked to? I never could figure that out.

Today's Gospel has some hard words about commitment to the Good News. Luke has talked a lot about commitment recently; of course, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem where he will make the ultimate commitment. So it's on Luke's mind, and should be on ours as well. Is each of us willing to count the true cost of accepting the Good News in our lives and turning away from those things thaty distract us from it? There is so much in this world that is distracting, after all. That's one reason we meet every week; we give God an hour or so to overcome 167 hours the world gets the rest of the week. We celebrate and make real the presence of God in Christ in us. It's powerful and efficacious. But those other 167 hours can be awfully loud....

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Communion, in the best sense

Thinking Anglicans noted a new blog earlier this week, called Covenant. It's been put together by a well-known (at least in the Anglican blogosphere) group of correspondents, both lay and ordained. I have read many of theri own blogs, and was pleased to see the list. They are some of the most thoughtful commentors on the theologically conservative side of things, but always in a sense of Christian charity and Anglican humility. They describe themselves as evangelic and catholic, and their mission is:

cov·e·nant (kuv’en ent) from the Latin convenire: agree, assemble, summon, combine, be convenient or suitable, unite. [1250–1300; ME {}covenir {}convenire to come together, agree; see CONVENE]

We are evangelical and catholic Anglicans, and fellow travelers from the wider household of God, assembled and summoned to a common labor in the ecumenical Church of Christ, not least through the present struggles and gifts of our communities.

We recognize that the Anglican Communion—the first instance of ecclesiality with which we, in this particular online assembly, wrestle for a blessing—is incomplete by itself, because we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands the wounds of our Lord’s body: the countless factions and disputes that do not bring Him glory, leaving us all together far short of our call to “share,” as sisters and brothers visibly united, in the “partnership” of His offering (I Cor 10.14ff.).

I commend Covenant to your regular reading!


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Football Season Has Begun!

Well, the 2007 NCAA football season has begun, and the NFL season is about to. I am participating in a Pick-em league for NCAA and a Fantasy League based on the NFL. You can see my picks for each week of the NCAA season here. Last week, I was 11 for 19. I thought that was pretty respectable - I got more than half of my picks right. But it was only enough to be something like 16,000th overall. Oh well. I confess to not spending a lot of time on this. I mostly just pick the higher ranked team to win. Except of course, I will always pick the Ohio State Buckeyes to win. Always. And it didn't bother me at all that Michigan lost week....

The Fantasy League I'm playing in is organized a bit differently than the baseball leagues. The overall approach is the same: each owner drafts a team of NFL players and then accumulates stats over the course of the season. However, there is a featured matchup each week, where my stats are compared to those of just one other owner. I'm not quite certain how that works, but I will know in a few days. In the meantime, RFSJunior Football is here.


Monday, September 3, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Labor Day

I'm always somewhat amazed - and pleased - that The Episcopal Church has established a Eucharistic Proper for Labor Day. Especially since we 'Piskies have been known as more of an upper-class denomination historically, it's good for us to remember those that do the hard work that keeps our homes and cities running. I especially like the reading from the Book of Sirach (also called Ecclesiasticus, from the Apocrypha) appointed for today. The author extols the value that the ordinary craftspeople of the day have for their societies: "Without them no city can be inhabited, and wherever they they live, they will never go hungry."

Would that be the case today, when 48 million Americans have no health insurance and 35 million are food insecure!

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XIV

This Sunday is the Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost. It's also Labor Day Sunday, and probably every parish has programmed "Come, Labor On" as the final hymn today. In addition to that particular hoary tradition, we read today from the prophet Jeremiah, who wants to know why God's people would change to gods "who are no gods," and have "changed their glory, for something that does not profit." I was intrigued by the image of forsaking God, the "fountain of living water, and d[igging] out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that hold no water." I had a vision of cracked baptismal fonts that would not hold the water poured into them.

We continued today with a portion from the Letter to the Hebrews as well. Today we hear some practical advice for living, including the admonition to show hospitality, and to "not neglect to do good, and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." Although I do not believe that works can earn salvation, I do think it's good to be reminded, as does the Letter of James, that faith without works as an outgrowth of the faith (and never in place of that faith) is something to strive for and examine oneself about.

The Gospel continues Jesus' travel to Jerusalem. He's having dinner at a Pharisee's house, and has all sorts of observations and advice about Christian gatherings and not making oneself bigger than one is. The preacher where I attended today (Trinity Parish, Saugerties, NY) made the point that every time there's a meal in the Gospels, it's a code for the Eucharist. I'm not sure that's always the case, but it did make me pause, and wonder how today's Gospel does affect our understanding (nor not) of Eucharistic hospitality and practice.

I have no conclusions yet, just wonderings. I mean, in most parishes we either have an Altar rail or do stations, so the actual distribution of Communion itself is egalitarian. But what about where we sit, and where visitors sit, and all that? There's an old story about St. Swithun's of a particular Sunday at the beginning of September. The rector was in the pulpit, expounding on the Scriptures. It was today's Gospel, as a matter of fact, which falls around the Sunday before school begins for most schools. A died-black-haired, black-tee-shirt and jeans, scruffy sneakers, much bejeweled and inked student came in the back of the church, and looking around, sees no seats. It's Homecoming Sunday and the church is full to the brim. So the student, in good student fashion, isn't fazed in the least. He walks down the center aisle and sits down right in front of the first row, on the floor, in front of the pulpit. He's a student, after all, and this is what students do. Well, this causes a stir, but the preachers keeps on. Who doesn't want an anttentive audience? A bit later the congregation stirs a bit. From the back, very slowly, because he is quite aged, comes Mr. Malcolm. Mr, Malcolm has been the chief usher of the parish for as long as anyone can remember. Longer than at least the last four or five rectors, even! He is very dignified in his freshly-pressed suit and carnation. Mr. Malcolm makes his way slowly down the side aisle. The congregation begins to mutter. What will he do? It's inconceivable for that goth kid to do what he did. Mr. Malcolm is perfectly in his rights to ask him to leave. And he's the chief usher, after all. Whatever happens, we'll all see!

So Mr. Malcolm continue up the side aisle. People aren't paying much attention to the sermon at this point; they're all consumed about what Mr. Malcolm will do. Finally he gets to the aisle in front of the pulpit and moves toward the student. He touches him on the shoulder, and you could hear the collective gasp of breath from the congregation. He says something to the student, inaudible to most of the congregation. Very slowly, with great dignity, Mr, Malcolm leans on the student's shoulder, and and very carefully eases himself down onto the carpeted floor next to the student. He crosses his legs, oh so slowly, and looks up at the pulpit so he can see the Rector.

The Rector choked back a sob and said, "You will never see the Gospel enacted in such a way again, and I can never add anything to what you have just seen." And he left the pulpit, wnet to his chair, and sat.

Hear what the Spirit is saying to God's people!