Saturday, August 30, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
In some ways, St. Bart is Patron of the anonymous. We don't know much about him except (possibly) one encounter with Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. So perhaps the best way to honor St. Bartholomew is to do something anonymously for someone else. What can you do for someone tomorrw without letting him or her know it was you?
In honor of Bartholomew here's something from Anonymous 4:
Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
In this passage, Jesus is doing something which most people find dangerous. It is quite easy to believe that the image which we have of ourselves is the image which others see. We have this façade which we have created and which we wish people will believe is who we really are. Often, much to our chagrin, we find that no façade so constructed can perfectly hide our defects, our imperfections. We cannot truly deceive the rest of the world.
In today’s Gospel, however, we have a different take. First Jesus asks the disciples what the crowds are saying about him. (On the human level this is very dangerous. Would we really like to know what others think of us?) He has previously used the image of the Son of Man, the Messiah, as a veiled reference to himself. He never says, “I am the Son of Man” but it is reasonably clear that he is referring to himself when he does use the expression. He hopes that the people will catch on and complete the sequence: Jesus of Nazareth-Son of Man-Son of God. So he asks them: “Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?” The response he gets is that he is of those of the noble profession of the prophets; men who declare God’s righteousness and remind God’s people of their obligation to follow God’s law.
Then, Jesus does that which at the human level is even more dangerous. He asks his disciples who they themselves think he is. He wants to know (or perhaps wants to make sure that they know that THEY are getting it?) This time he is not veiling the question in the title “Son of Man” but he says “Who do you say that I am?”.
Then up steps Simon to the plate. Simon Bar-Jonah has quite a reputation in the New Testament. For most of the Gospels he apparently opens his mouth without fully engaging his brain, thereby firmly sticking his foot into that open mouth. But here, he gets it right the first time out of the chute; and in his impetuosity he blurts out “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. In the synoptic Gospels, this is the first time that any of the disciples affirms to Jesus that they recognize him as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, and in doing so Simon shows that the Father has given him the key to understanding the mystery of Christ.
As a result, he receives from the Lord his vocation to be the Rock for the others. (It is interesting to note that there is apparently no record of using the Greek Petros or the Aramaic Kephas as a name before this time. Consequently, some scholars indicate that the best translation therefore would be “You are the Rock” rather than “You are Peter”. ) We will see in the rest of the Gospels that Peter has a great deal of trouble saying the right thing at the right time. He will even, at the time of Our Lord’s interrogation by the Sanhedrin save his own skin by denying any knowledge of Jesus. But, after Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit, everything changes and he will fulfill the vocation given him in this passage by the Lord to be the Rock of faith for the others. For the Church, he becomes the touch-stone of faith. And his faltering starts before Pentecost become merely steps of humility as he prepares for the awesome ministry which he will have to strengthen the faith of the others; and like Shebna and Eliachim in today’s first reading he is given keys for admitting and restricting access and for locking up and distributing the treasure of the Kingdom.
God knows whether we believe of not. We do not need to prove our faith to him. But, sometimes we do need to prove our faith to ourselves. We need to be able to say with Simon-Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God; so that when those times come when we will have to stand beside ourselves and ask “Do I believe or not and if so, how am I supposed to act now?” we can act according to that Faith. If we have found the same Key which the Peter found in his confession we will also find, if we listen to the Lord, our vocation. Perhaps it will be what we are called to do in a specific instance in our lives. Perhaps it will be the question of what course our lives will take. We may not be called, like Simon, to be the touch-stone of faith for the entire Church but we are each called to something. And we cannot do that ‘something’ without also knowing in the very depth of our being that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Later I'll complain about the flights today, but for right now I'm off to bed.
Monday, August 18, 2008
More importantly, though, Matthew is reminding us that the mission of the Good News is not ultimately limited to anyone. As St. T's wants to proclaim and live out the Good News of Jesus in Vernon, we, too, may need to stretch our own boundaries of comfort as we welcome those into our community who may well be different from us.
Although none of us are worthy to even gather the crumbs under the table (if we has been doing Rite I you know we would have used the prayer of humble access today!), in Christ Jesus we not only get the crumbs, we get to sit at the table with the Master! Our job is to invite all people to come to the Table, for it's His Table, not ours.
Here are some pix of the picnic. I want to thank the Clouses and the Dickersons for putting all this together - it was a great success!
Shucking the corn to be roasted over the grill - thanks to Pochuck Farms for the discount:
A few folks sitting down to eat, including one happy vicar!
Some of the kids in the pool. Thanks go to Nancy Hansen, parishioner and director of The Children's School, where we had the picnic.
The picnic in full swing. We had so much food, it's a wonder I can eat anything today!
Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Today is the Major Feast of St. Mary the Virgin, Mother of our Lord. In the Roman Rite it's the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven. The Scriptures for both the Eucharist and the Offices (scroll down a bit) are rather eclectic in their emphasis, but notably the Song of Hannah is appointed for Morning Prayer, which is clearly a precursor to the Magnificat, Mary's great song of praise to God that she sings in response to Elizabeth's greeting to her at the Visitation.
I've commented before on relationships between the Marian Feasts and theology. Today I was simply struck by a headline in the local newspaper: "Many families are hurt by rising fuel prices." It turns out that the number of families with problems paying their electric bills is up this summer, and that analysts see this as proleptic for the winter, as fuel oil (which lots of people use in these parts, although St. T's and the Vicarage are on natural gas) is nearly $1 per gallon higher than it was last year. And my heart goes out to them. No parent want his or her children to be cold; we all want the best for our loved ones. In a very maternal way, I thought it was an interesting commentary on our society that on Mary's ancient feast day, when we honor the Mother of Our Lord, there are mothers and fathers who, through no fault of their own, cannot provide for their children and families.
Today, in honor of St. Mary, can you find it in yourself to give $10 or even more to a charity that helps with utilities? I promise to do so too. Let us know in the comments whom you decided to give to.
Here's the Magnificat from Mozart's Solemn Vespers K339:
O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; 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.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Getting through Customs.....
A distinguished young woman on a flight from Ireland asked the priest beside her, 'Father, may I ask a favor?'
'Of course child. What may I do for you?''Well, I bought an expensive woman's electronic hair dryer for my Mother's birthday that is unopened and well over the Customs limits, and I'm afraid they'll confiscate it. Is there any way you could carry it through customs for me? Under your robes perhaps?'
'I would love to help you, dear, but I must warn you: I will not lie.''With your honest face, Father, no one will question you.'
When they got to Customs, she let the priest go ahead of her.The official asked, 'Father, do you have anything to declare?'
'From the top of my head down to my waist, I have nothing to declare.'
The official thought this answer strange, so asked, 'And what do you have to declare from your waist to the floor?''I have a marvelous instrument designed to be used on a woman, but which is, to date, unused.'
Roaring with laughter, the official said, 'Pass, Father. Next!'
After Quasimodo's death, the bishop of the Cathedral of Notre Dame sent word through the streets of Parish that a new bell ringer was needed. The bishop decided that he would conduct the interviews personally and went up into the belfry to begin the screening process. After observing several applicants demonstrate their skills, he decided to call it a day when a lone, armless man approched him and announced that he was there to apply for the bell ringer's job. The Bishop was incredulous. "You have no arms!" "No matter," said the man "observe!" He then began striking the bells with his face, producing a beautiful melody on the carillon. The bishop listened in astonishment, convinced that he had finally found a suitable replacement for Quasimodo. Suddenly, rushing forward to strike a bell, the armless man tripped and plunged headlong out of the belfry window to his death in the street below. The stunned bishop rushed to his side. When he reached the street, a crowd had gathered around the fallen figure drawn by the beautiful music they had heard only moments before. As they silently parted to let the bishop through, one of them asked, "Bishop, who was this man?" "I don't know his name," the bishop sadly replied, "but his face rings a bell."
The following day, despite the sadness that weighed heavily on his heart due to the unfortunate death of the armless campanologist, the bishop continued his interviews for a bell ringer of Nothre Dame. The first man to approach him said "Your Excellency, I am the brother of the poor armles wretch that fell to his death from this very belfry yesterday. I pray that you honor his life by allowing me to replace him in this duty." The bishop agreed to give the man an audition and as the armless man's brother stooped to pick up a mallet to strike the first bell, he groaned, clutched his chest and died on the spot. Two monks, hearing the bishop's cries of grief at this second tragedy, rushed up the stairs to his side. "What has happened?" the first breathlessly asked. "Who is this man?" I don't know his name," sighed the distraught bishop, "but he's a dead ringer for his brother."
Sunday, August 10, 2008
On this Sunday, a Feast of Our Lord, the community of St. Thomas's gathered as we always do to expereince God's saving grace in Word and Sacrament. From Genesis we heard how Jospeh's brothers sold him into slavery, and St. Paul reminds us that the Good News just doesn't appear in people's hearts, it must actually be preached. And in today's Gospel, the Good News is not only that Jesus walks on water, we can too. Here's my sermon for today:
St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Vernon
Proper 14A RCL 2008
Gen 37:1-4,12-28; Ps 105:1-6,16-22,45b; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33
The Rev. R. F. Solon, Jr., Vicar
May these words be in the Name of Him who immediately reaches out and catches us. Amen!
We’ve had some rainy weather the past several days. Last weekend in particular we had some pretty heavy rain squalls in the early evening. They were mostly just inconvenient, but you might ask the members of the worship guilds who were at the vicarage for a thank-you supper just how wet a certain vicar actually got. We came in and out not once but twice, actually. Fortunately, we managed to save all the food. And, like the feeding of the five thousand we heard about in last week’s Gospel, there were plenty of leftovers.
What was particularly cool about those rain squalls though was how they ended. On both Saturday evening and on Sunday, the rain came around 5:30 or 6 or so and was over pretty quickly. The storm fronts moved pretty quickly eastward, and it wasn’t too long before the western sky was clear and you could see the sun setting. And because of the rain and the sun, on both Saturday and Sunday there was an incredible rainbow that you could apparently see for miles around. I saw it on Saturday evening when a hiker pointed it out to me. It was actually a double rainbow, extending horizon to horizon as you faced east from the vicarage porch. We got several great shots of it because Thomas happened to have his camera with him. I sent one of the best versions to the members of the Executive Committee, and you can see it posted on the bulletin board in the lobby after church.
Not only, though, did we get the gift of a rainbow on Saturday, but on Sunday as well. Those of you who were visiting with me at the vicarage got to see it live. And it was a sight to see, too. Once again, horizon to horizon, and thick – you could see the individual colors. At one point it looked like one end of the rainbow was right on the stump of the old tree next to the Chapel. It was amazing to see – I personally have never seen one like it.
I wonder of the disciples in the boat saw a rainbow as they were finally heading for shore. I’d like to think they did. They had just suffered through a pretty intense storm, too, heavy enough that they had been rowing hard against an adverse wind all night, but hadn’t yet gotten to the far side. Right after the feeding of the 5000 – “immediately – is what the Gospel account says - Jesus had ordered them to go to the other side while he dismissed the crowds and stayed behind to pray for a while. So off they went, and early in the morning – the older translations use the phrase “in the fourth watch of the night” – Jesus came to them, walking miraculously on the top of the sea. They thought they were seeing a ghost though, and were very very afraid. Possibly they thought a demon from the sea was appearing and would annihilate them. But Jesus immediately – there’s that word again – calmed them down by assuring them that it’s really himself. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. I don’t know about you, but I think I’d still be pretty scared if all of that happened to me. But good old impetuous Peter says, “Lord, if it’s really you, command me to come to you on the water.” Perhaps he had to shout to make himself heard over the wind. But Jesus yells back, “OK, come on then.” And then miraculously, Peter gets out of the storm-battered skiff and begins to walk on the water toward Jesus! Only after he gets a certain distance does it dawn on him what he’s actually doing. He loses heart, begins to sink, and screams “Lord, save me!” And Jesus immediately catches hold of him and saves him from drowning, asking him why he doubted. After that, they all get into the boat and the wind stops. And soon after that, I’d like to believe, they see a rainbow, maybe like the rainbow we saw last weekend.
I find myself intrigued by two elements of this passage at this time in the life of our parish. The first is the little story of Peter climbing out of the boat. Now this particular detail is not included in the same story from Mark and a similar one in John. You might know that it’s ancient tradition – from the 3rd century after Christ onward – that the boat in this story is considered a symbol of the church itself, the community of believers who are trying to follow Jesus. And so the boat – the church – is on its way, following Jesus’ command to go out into the sea to get to the other side, when it faces a horrible storm. And the people on the boat pray to Jesus for help, naturally – what other prayer could there be? And he immediately assures them that it is he who is with them even in the middle of the tempest. And then Jesus, who is Lord of both earth as well as heaven, calms the storm and the boat gets ashore safely. In other words, the church, even in moments of crisis, can depend on the saving presence of Jesus among them even when things look really bad, even while in the midst of doing exactly what Jesus wants us to do in the first place.
And then there’s this bit about Peter. Notice one detail that we often skip over. After Jesus invites him to, Peter gets out of the boat and actually walks on the water for a time, just as Jesus does. He too, is doing as Jesus commands. And for a time, it’s a true miracle. Peter is walking on the water. It’s only after his faith stumbles that he falters and begins to sink. And Peter too prays the most natural prayer he could: Lord, save me! And then more Good News: Jesus immediately catches him and saves him from the waters of the sea.
That’s the first point: when Peter did was commanded of him, he was miraculously successful! And the very instant he became fearful, because he was, after all, doing something that no one else had done before, Jesus didn’t hesitate for a millisecond but immediately reached out and caught him. The word “immediately” occurs three times in this one passage. The first is right after the feeding of the five thousand: Jesus immediately made them get into the boat. The second is when the disciples were mistaken about who they were seeing in the boat. Jesus immediately corrected them and assured them that they weren’t seeing a ghost but himself. And this third time, when Jesus immediately grabbed hold of Peter and saved him. Peter might not even have gotten his sandals wet! Jesus never hesitates to save. When he is called upon, he’s right there. And not only that, when the church is mistaken, thinking that Jesus really isn’t there but that it’s something else, Jesus doesn’t wait around to correct the mistake, but assures those poor boaters – and us – that it’s really Jesus who’s with us and not simply a figment of our imaginations.
My friends, our community of St. Thomas’s here in Vernon is vibrant and dynamic and we’re doing God’s will for us, to “welcome one another, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” We’re having a successful hiking season with our hostel, we’re moving ahead with our fall education and program plans, and we’re going to launch a Hospitality Ministry to help newcomers to the area get acclimated to Vernon. So we’re in the boat and on our way, doing what Our Lord has commanded us to do. But as you know, our financial situation needs our sustained attention. In the next twelve months we all need to understand the state of our financial health as a community and make potentially difficult decisions about what to do about it. Now the wind is picking up and we’re starting to have to row harder. It’s becoming more and more difficult to see to the other side. How are we going to get there? What are we going to do? Those are all important questions that we have to ask, as we feel that wind get stronger and the boat that is St. Thomas’s start to rock and get blown off course. Immediately after this Eucharist we will have an information meeting so we can all take the first step of understanding where we are as a parish. We’re going to keep rowing but we need to make sure we’re on the right course, and today’s session is an important part of that.
Remember that in Matthew’s gospel whenever something is repeated it means we should pay close attention to it? I invite you to consider the word “immediately.” Three times in today’s Gospel Jesus immediately takes some action for the good of the disciples. Immediately Jesus got them out of a possible mod situation. Immediately he reassured them that he was indeed with them. Immediately he rescued Peter from falling into the stormy waves. We’re invited to take note. Jesus immediately intervenes. He is dynamic and present. We know he’s present because he promised us he would be, and we make that presence real in the Eucharist we are celebrating right here and now. So although the waves are picking up and the wind is rising and in reality have been for some time, we know our prayers to Jesus are effective. Jesus is with us and will get us through this storm and to the other side. We have to row of course, we just can’t site back, but it will happen.
And you know how I know? I know because of another repetition. Remember that rainbow that occurred last weekend, the one I imagine the disciples also saw? How many times did our rainbow occur? Not once. Twice. Things that are repeated are especially important for us to take note. As I stood on the porch of the Vicarage not once, but twice, and marveled at the incredible gift of the rainbow God gave us last weekend, it came to me that not only is the rainbow a wonderful manifestation of the glory of God in nature. It’s also a promise. The promise of the rainbow that another biblical figure in another storm survived – Noah, of course – is that God will not abandon humanity ever again. It’s the first of the covenants of God for us imperfect and sinful people. The rainbow reminds us of God’s all-encompassing love for us, the love that wants nothing but the best for us. And so as I stood on the porch watching that 180-degree beam of light arch over the Chapel in splendor and majesty, I realized that rainbow is for us. Not once, but twice – listen up, you who are my beloved people of St. Thomas’s, Jesus is saying: I am with you always!
My brothers and sisters, we’re far from shore in our little boat, tossed on a stormy sea. Even though we’re doing what God has asked us to, to be the Body of Christ here in Vernon, we can’t see the shore on the other side. Things could get rough before they get better. When we’re in the middle of the tempest, it’s hard to see the way forward. When the disciples got to the other shore, all safe and sound, it’s not written that they saw a rainbow. But I’ll bet they did. And we too have seen the rainbow, the promise that God is with us right here in our boat. And what’s astounding is that we don’t have to wait out our storm to feel that promise. It’s already been given to us. What a tremendous blessing that we get to know the promise of God’s protection and presence not once but twice – listen up, God say to us – right from the middle of our boat!
In the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity.
Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Here's Jill and her husband Peter with me at their box. They rent it for the entire ten day fair run, and since they're their every day, it makes a convenient place to rest out of the sun.
The Sand Sculpture is pretty neat - you should see all three sides of it. Very whimsical!
Well, OK, maybe a little closer is OK....
Friday, August 8, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
There are times, I think, when we need to see Jesus in his splendor, and not only in his humility; in his glory, and not only in his pain. I think the Transfiguration gives as that assurance, that no matter what our spiritual or mental of physical conditions are, Jesus is Jesus and is with us. God's command is all, ultimately, that we need: "This is my beloved Son; listen to him!" Listening to Jesus in his life and teaching as well as his death and resurrection is what leads us to the Light of the World. This phyiscal world is awful at times, perhaps for some of us a lot of the time. (I am mindful of the other event that so much of the world commemorates on this day.) Getting a foretaste of what awaits us is not a bad thing at all.
The proper Introit for today is a portion of Psalm 27: "You speak in my heart and see 'Seek my face.' You face, Lord, will I seek." Here's a setting of Psalm 27 by John Rutter:
O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
We're busy in the throes of planning for the fall and so there is a lot to do. In the meantime, here are a few funnies I've accumulated (click any image to enlarge):
It's nice to see anyone cite Scripture actually in a reasonable context (look it up to double-check) :
Well, I already know the answer to this one: