Archives for May 2016

Bulletin Insert: Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

World Refugee Day

June 19, 2016

Episcopal Migration Ministries welcomes nearly 5,000 refugees to the United States every year.

In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly established June 20 as World Refugee Day to recognize and applaud the contribution of refugees throughout the world and to raise awareness about the growing refugee crisis.

  • There are currently more than 60 million refugees, internally displaced people and asylum seekers worldwide – the largest number since World War II.
  • In just the past five years, nearly 5 million Syrians have fled the violence in their country, finding shelter in neighboring countries including Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt.

The Episcopal Church, through Episcopal Migration Ministries and its network of 30 local affiliate offices, works every day to help refugees find safety, security, and hope in the United States.

  • A total of 69, 933 refugees and 7,226 Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients were resettled in the US in 2015.
  • 4,874 refugees from 32 countries were resettled through Episcopal Migration Ministries

This World Refugee Day, you are invited to join Episcopalians across the country in prayer and celebration of the strength, resilience, and contributions of refugees in our communities.

  • Join Episcopal Migration Ministries and the Episcopal Public Policy Network in a World Refugee Day webinar on Monday, June 20 at 7 pm Eastern. Register using this link: http://bit.ly/WRDJune2016.
  • Witness refugee stories of survival and hope through the Episcopal Migration Ministries video series available here: episcopalchurch.org/emm.
  • Advocate for refugee and immigration issues with your local elected leaders. Information available through the Episcopal Public Policy Network: http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/immigrationandrefugee.
  • Live out your Christian call to care for your neighbors by engaging in the public square. Download the Episcopal election engagement toolkit and take the pledge to vote this November: http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/EpiscopaliansVote.
  • Get to know your new American neighbors by hosting a #RefugeesWelcome event. Learn more: www.RefugeesAreWelcome.org.
  • Volunteer with this life-saving ministry through an Episcopal Migration Ministries local partner. The network map is available here: http://bit.ly/EMMpartners.

Refugee definition resizeFor more information, visit episcopalchurch.org/emm or contact Allison Duvall, Manager for Church Relations and Engagement, aduvall@episcopalchurch.org or 212-716-6027.

Prayer for World Refugee Day

Written by #ShareTheJourney pilgrim Alyssa Stebbing, Outreach Ministry Director and Contemporary Music Director at Trinity Episcopal Church, The Woodlands, Texas

Gracious God, we pray for our newest neighbors, that those families who have sought refuge from the ravages of war and violence may find not only shelter and sustenance, but also a loving and supportive community in which to create a new beginning with dignity. Amen.

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Spanish bulletin inserts are available on the Sermones que Iluminan website.

Bulletin Insert: Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

Thursdays at 2

June 12, 2016

Mark your calendars for a weekly preview of new, innovative ministries in The Episcopal Church, brought to you through Thursdays at 2. Every Thursday at 2 pm Eastern, a new video illustrating the work of congregations and individuals will be posted on the Episcopal Church’s Facebook page and YouTube Channel.

“The Episcopal Church is a living and breathing thing, bursting with great examples of individuals and congregations serving their communities or creating innovative ministries,” noted Mike Collins, Manager of Multimedia. “We have great stories of personal transformation and reconciliation to tell and we want to share them regularly – hence Thursdays at 2.”

Produced by the Episcopal Church Office of Communications, videos featured on Thursdays at 2 include:

  • Double Down on Love, an original song from the Thad’s Band in Santa Monica, CA, Diocese of Los Angeles
  • The Slate Project, an Episcopal, Lutheran and Presbyterian congregation that exists online and in person.
  • The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, Presiding Bishop’s Canon for Reconciliation and Evangelism, providing an update on recent church planting meetings.
  • The Rev. Scott Claasan of St. Michael’s University Church reflecting on how music and surfing led him back to church.
  • Mobile Loaves & Fishes, a food truck ministry helping to feed the hungry in Rhode Island
  • Church on the Square, an Episcopal and Lutheran church plant successfully celebrating its first year in Baltimore, MD.
  • The Abundant Table whose mission is to connect the land with spirituality and community in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

The Episcopal Church YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/EpiscopalChurchYT

The Episcopal Church on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/episcopalian

For more information contact Mike Collins at mcollins@episcopalchurch.org

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Spanish bulletin inserts are available on the Sermones que Iluminan website.

Bible Study Proper 6 (C) June 12, 2016

[RCL] Psalm 5:1-8; 1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a; Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:36-8:3  

1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14)

The story of Naboth’s Vineyard is one of the more memorable stories we find in First and Second Kings. It is a troubling story of the lust for power, jealousy, and deceit. The story is also complex, full of characters, unfamiliar cities, and unexpected plot twists. We have four main characters: Ahab the king of Israel, Jezebel his wife, Naboth a vineyard owner, and Elijah. Ahab travels from his palace in Samaria to the town of Jezreel. He sees Naboth’s fertile vineyard and he wants it for his own. Consider this: This is Naboth’s family inheritance. He has waited for years to “till and keep” this plot of land, and now the King of Israel shows us and says, “I want this for a vegetable garden!” (1 Kgs. 21:2). It is a flagrant misuse of power and misunderstanding of family, place, and inheritance by Ahab.

The complex plot unfolds with Ahab returning home, nursing his wounded pride. He refused to eat and became resentful. Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife, could not tolerate this attitude. She taunts him by asking, “Do you now govern Israel?” (v. 7) Jezebel, in a series of deceitful acts in which she pretends to be Ahab, arranges for Naboth the vineyard owner to be stoned to death since he will not hand over his power. The story ends with the entrance of a fourth major character onto the scene: Elijah the prophet. Elijah hears of Naboth’s death, the greed of Ahab, and the deceit of Jezebel, and he comes to pronounce a judgment from God onto Ahab and Jezebel.

The story is known as one of prophetic social justice where, even though Jezebel and Ahab attempt to do their work in secret, God knows of the oppression done, and will bring eventually bring justice through God’s prophets.

  • There are many characters and many details in this story. It may be fruitful to write down each character and his/her stated or assumed motivation for taking action in this story.
  • It can be easy to judge and think we know the details, how might a closer look reveal more depth?
  • Think of a time in history or in your own life when you witnessed injustice like that done to Naboth. Did you pray to God for justice or were you afraid to do so?
  • What does the prophetic justice tradition of the Scriptures offer our contemporary conversations about justice?
Psalm 5:1-8

Psalm 5 is an individual’s prayer. The first eight verses begin by asking God to hear the words that are about to be spoken. There is trust that God has heard the psalmist’s voice before, in the morning, and so the psalmist watches and listens for God again in the morning. The next three verses explain how God is a God of justice and goodness, a God who will not tolerate evil. The selection of the Psalter ends with a confident recommitment of faith, similar to the familiar verse in Joshua 24:15: “But as for me, through the greatness of mercy I will go into your house; I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you”. Our portion of the Psalm ends with a plea for direction and guidance and an assurance that the Psalmist will go wherever they are called.

  • Consider your own individual prayers to God. Are they similar to this Psalm: Beginning with pleas to be heard, moving to assurances of God’s good qualities, and ending with a stronger faith that asks for clear direction from God? If not, how do your prayers differ?
  • The Psalmist talks of praying in the morning. Is there a time of day where you “watch” and “listen” for God more? 
Galatians 2:15-21

Centuries of argument and controversy can be heard reverberating through these verses. The central question of the passage is “How will we be saved? Through what we do or what we believe?” It is the question not only of these verses but also of so many theological arguments, especially around Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Paul provides the building blocks of this argument when he adamantly states that we are justified to God through our faith in Jesus Christ and not our “works.” It is important to note the problematic aspects of Paul’s argument. His statement in 2:19 that he has died to the law so that he can live to God is radically different from the Jewish perspective on the law (the law here were things like circumcision, dietary mandates, and Sabbath observances). To the Jewish people, those acts of the law actually brought one closer in faith to God. Paul is suggesting the opposite. As Christians interpret this passage we need to be mindful of the importance of this message of grace and faith in Jesus Christ, but also of the possible damage down to our Jewish brothers and sisters through various interpretations.

  • How do you think the argument over faith and works continues to play out today? Is it still relevant?
  • Do you follow religious “laws” or “principles” in your lifestyle? If so, do they inhibit or help your faith?
Luke 7:36-8:3

The Gospel for today is a dramatic, sensual story of relationship with Christ. There are multiple sections to the story: The invitation to dinner, the bathing of Jesus’ feet, the parable, and then a few short verses at the end, marking a transition in Jesus’ ministry and naming the women who went with him. Each of these sections could merit time in study. What is perhaps most striking (and also most famous) is the action of the “sinful” woman when she comes to anoint Christ’s feet. The reader is not told how she learned that Jesus would be eating with the Pharisees, or what her thought process was for entering this occasion where she was surely not welcome. But she is there and does many ordinary acts of hospitality with an unexpected extraordinariness. Scholars have learned that bathing guests’ feet was a typical act of hospitality, but it was certainly not ordinary to anoint them, bathe them with tears, and dry them with hair. One can easily imagine the discomfort of the Pharisees as they watched this unfold. Then Jesus tells a parable of the two creditors to explain the situation to Simon. The parable demonstrates the importance themes of hospitality, forgiveness, and relationship. The selection for today ends with a significant transition statement naming the different women who Jesus did his ministry alongside. It can be easy to gloss over those women’s names, but consider how radical it was to have them named in Biblical times!

  • Jesus highlights the extravagance of the sinful woman’s actions towards him. Have you ever acted so extravagantly and lovingly towards Christ? What would this look like today?
  • In what ways is hospitality a part of your ministry or your community’s ministry?
  • How might this reading change and inform your attitude toward hospitality?

Download the Bible Study for Proper 6

Written by The Reverend Jessie Gutgsell

The Rev. Jessie Gutgsell is a recent graduate of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and soon to be Assistant Rector of St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor, MI. In her free time, Jessie enjoys playing the harp, biking and being with her husband Joe and their dog Sloan.

Bible Study – Proper 5(C) June 5, 2016

[RCL] 1 Kings 17:17-24; Psalm 30; Galatians 1:11-24; Luke 7:11-17

1 Kings 17:17-24

Fleeing from the wrath of the wicked Ahab and Jezebel, the Prophet Elijah finds himself driven by the Lord to the home of a poor widow and her son. Elijah has already proven to the widow that God can provide food enough for her and her son, even though they only have a tiny amount of meal and oil. By God’s own power, the Lord makes the meager provisions last far longer than they should and proves God’s word spoken by the prophet. When the poor woman’s son later dies, she expresses her grief and frustration by blaming her misfortune on Elijah’s presence. Elijah offers no defense for himself or for God. Instead, he takes the child to the upper room and expresses his own frustration with the God who brought this upon them all. God proves faithful and answers Elijah’s prayer. In doing so, God shows, in ways that seem impossible, that God does indeed care for the “widow and orphan,” and confirms the faith the widow of Zarephath. Therefore, she responds, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

  • Can we dare to be honest with God about how we feel?
  • Might we be surprised at the way God responds?
  • How will we respond in turn?
Psalm 30

The psalmist expresses joy in and gratitude to the Lord in response to some restoration that the Lord has wrought in the psalmist’s life. The writer proclaims, Lord has “turned my morning into dancing” and “put off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” Interestingly, the Psalmist seems to say that their sense of desolation was brought about by their own complacency: “While I felt secure, I said, ‘I shall never be disturbed. You, Lord, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.’ Then you hid your face, and I was filled with fear.” In calling out to the Lord and appealing to God’s mercy to restore them to spiritual life, the Psalmist is heard, and in relief is able to say, “His wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, his favor for a lifetime.”

  • Does God “hide his face,” or do we sometimes shut our eyes?
  • What does this psalm say about God’s presence even when God seems most absent?
Galatians 1:11-24

Whenever Paul gives his testimony, it is quite beautiful. But he never tells his story for its own sake; it always serves a purpose. Here, Paul uses the narrative of his spiritual journey to make two points. First, he is at pains to show the Galatians that adopting Jewish ways is not only unnecessary to follow Jesus, but also detrimental. Paul is urging the Galatians not to “regress” (so to speak, since this is a primarily Gentile audience). If Paul, who was as Jewish as they came, put away Jewish identity markers after his conversion, how much more should Gentiles not seek to become artificially Jewish? As Paul will later declare, there is no longer Jew or Gentile, but both are now one in Christ (3:28). The distinction is no longer relevant. The terms and conditions have been updated, and now Gentiles are eligible to receive the promise of Abraham. Second, Paul is defending his apostolicity and the validity of his preaching against the charges of those who are misleading the Galatians. This is not about protecting his reputation; this is about the very nature of the Gospel itself. Ultimately, Paul, like a good pastor, is looking out for the well being of his flock, his spiritual children whom he loves.

  • How did your walk with Jesus begin?
  • What unnecessary burdens are we placing on ourselves in our walk with Jesus? On others?
Luke 7:11-17

It is evident that Luke sees, in this resuscitation by Jesus of a widow’s son, an echo of Elijah’s raising of a widow’s son. Like the widow in 1 Kings, the people in the Gospel, when they see the wonder worked, affirm the legitimacy of Jesus’ office: “A great prophet has risen among us!” Interestingly, Jesus does not pray to God to raise the boy, but instead merely commands the young man, “Rise!” In a way, Elijah himself is almost incidental to his miracle; it is really only the power of God doing the work. But Jesus speaks as if he himself has the power and authority to reverse death. Jesus is not incidental. He is not the instrument. He is no mere prophet. He is himself, to use his later words, “the God the living” (20:38).

  • What else might this miracle say about who Jesus is what his Kingdom is like?
  • Are there any areas of your life that you wish Jesus would revive?

Download the Bible Study for Proper 5

Written by The Rev. Donald J. Griffin

The Rev. Donald J. Griffin grew up a cradle Episcopalian in the Dallas area; he first discerned a call to the priesthood when he was fourteen. Since then, Donald has sought to answer that call and follow the path he believes God has set for him. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Religious Studies, minoring in Philosophy and History. It was there that he fell in love with his wife. Having entered the discernment process his senior year of college, Donald was granted postulancy shortly after graduation and entered Nashotah House for his seminary formation. Donald have worked as a counselor at our diocesan camp, a chaplain at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas (while completing CPE), and a seminary intern at Trinity Episcopal Church in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Donald has become very interested in theology, the practice of pastoral ministry, and how the two intersect, particularly in the liturgy. Donald is looking forward to seeing where the Lord will lead him next.

 

Bulletin Insert: Third Sunday of Pentecost

Election Engagement

June 5, 2016

On November 8, 2016, our nation will head to the polls to decide a number of critical elections. The Episcopal Church has created an Election Engagement Toolkit designed for use by individuals and congregations wishing to participate in the electoral process. The toolkit outlines nonpartisan engagement activities such as hosting a voter registration campaign, holding a candidate forum, advocating for the protection of voting rights, and modeling civil discourse.

Speaking on the importance of participating in the public square, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said, “If we who are Christians participate in the political process and in the public discourse as we are called to do — the New Testament tells us that we are to participate in the life of the polis, in the life of our society — the principle on which Christians must vote is the principle, does this look like love of neighbor?”

Episcopal policy recognizes voting and political participation as acts of Christian stewardship, calling upon congregations to engage in conversation on public policy issues, to develop voter registration and issue education campaigns, and to advocate for protection of voting rights. These acts of engagement are one way Episcopalians can live out our baptismal covenant to strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.

In addition to the Election Engagement Toolkit, the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) is hosting an Episcopal Pledge to Vote campaign, calling on Episcopalians to pledge that they will vote in the general election. The EPPN also has a state-by-state election map on its website for you to find a list of candidates, voter registration deadlines, and other important information on voting in your state.

Download the toolkit and find other election engagement opportunities here: http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/episcopal/EpiscopaliansVote

#EpiscopaliansVote

Please contact Lacy Broemel, Manager for Communications and Operations in the Office of Government Relations, at lbroemel@episcopalchurch.org for more information.

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Spanish bulletin inserts are available on the Sermones que Iluminan website.

Bulletin Insert: Second Sunday of Pentecost

Memorial Day

May 29, 2016

Of all the civic holidays on our U.S. calendar, Memorial Day may come closest to a deep embrace of spiritual values.  Originally called “Decoration Day,” this remembrance began following one of the most poignant eras in our country’s history.  Between 1864 and 1866, just after the end of the American Civil War, community leaders established a date upon which we could honor both Union and Confederate war dead.  To remember those who had died in the service of their country, these leaders established observances that enabled Americans to engage in activities of unity and spiritual healing.

Memorial Day is a sacred commemoration. The persons we honor on this day are a silent witness to a virtuous honor that is particularly dear to people of spiritual values. This is the time each year when we remember men and women who have been, as is written about a leader of Roman soldiers in the New Testament, “…set under authority (Luke 7:8) …” On this day we remember that some of those under authority have, as a consequence of their service, sacrificed their lives.

Is there a cause for which dying is honorable? Laudable? Since the beginning of my military service 50 years ago, I have been trying to answer that question. For those who embrace Godly values, the question about dying in the service of your country has some important implications. Military training almost always contains the underlying lesson that being involved in the fulfillment of a mission could end up in death. Obviously, military service is not a commitment to be considered lightly by those who take the oath of office to “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States…” (10 U.S. Code, Section 502). At the same time, few of us ever thought we would die during a military mission. Unfortunately, some have died.

I believe that people of faith can find spiritual values from the stories of men and women who have made the “ultimate sacrifice” of their lives. A few years ago I had the honor to conduct the Arlington National Cemetery burial service for Medal of Honor awardee Lieutenant Colonel Don C. Faith, U.S. Army.  Don Faith, who had been killed during the Korean War, had the reputation of being a “Soldier’s Soldier,” who gave his life doing everything he could to simultaneously keep his soldiers alive and achieve the mission.  His dedication to his men and to his mission has become a timeless inspiration to service members and citizens alike.

Though personally we cannot thank service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country, surely we can honor them.  We can pray that the memory of their sacrificial service will endure.  We will remember them.

Bishop James B. “Jay” Magness

Episcopal Church Bishop Suffragan for Armed Services and Federal Ministries

 

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Spanish bulletin inserts are available on the Sermones que Iluminan website.

Green and Growing, Proper 5 (C) – 2016

[RCL] 1 Kings 17:17-24; Psalm 30; Galatians 1:11-24; Luke 7:11-17

Today, we continue our journey in “ordinary time.” Sounds rather boring when you say it like that, but the term “ordinary” does not mean common or plain or boring, but rather it comes from the term ordinal which means “numbered.” These are the numbered weeks of the church year outside of the major feasts and the seasons that surround them – like Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter. Ordinary time, or the Sundays after Pentecost, are the Sundays in which we focus on various aspects of faith and life in the world as a people of God.

Sometimes when we refer to this time in the liturgical calendar, it is spoken of as the long, boring season in which nothing happens. In a way that is true because we don’t have a major feast like Christmas or Easter, but if you look at what happens during this ordinary time, you will see that the Scripture and scheme of the lessons want it to be something much more than ordinary and boring.

The color for Ordinary time is green – a color associated with new life and growth. This is sometimes referred to as the “green growing season”. It is the green, growing season not only because of the liturgical color or because it begins in the summer months when things are growing and thriving. It is the green, growing season because this is the season that gives us the room to breathe, to explore, to learn more about Jesus and his teachings and to find where they intersects with our own lives. This season after Pentecost focuses on the mission of the church in the world and its responsibility in carrying on the work that Jesus gave us to do.

Sojourner’s Magazine tells us:

“There’s nothing ordinary about what’s known in the lectionary as ‘ordinary time.’ Not Christmas, not Easter, not Pentecost, but the everyday miracles of God with us, of life on earth. Ordinary time is the time when we try to understand and live the teachings of Jesus. Nothing ordinary about that – a lifetime worth of challenges instead.”[i]

We have a great set of lessons to start off this time of growth, new life, new perspectives and change. The readings for today only come around every so often because of how the liturgical calendar works and I believe that they have a lot to offer us as we begin this journey into ordinary time; into the green, growing time.

In our Gospel lesson today from Luke and in our Old Testament lesson from 1 Kings, we hear of people being healed. These are miraculous stories that are wonderful to hear, and they leave us in amazement. We too often hear stories like these and think that they are great stories, but that they have nothing to do with us. I mean, we can’t raise people from the dead, can we? We cannot simply say that these are inspirational stories and leave it at that. Jesus did not come to earth and become one of us so that we could be inspired, but came to earth as one of us so that we could learn from him and change the world around us into the Kingdom of God. Jesus is constantly reminding the people around him that they are called to live as he lived. It is not only Jesus who is reminding them to live as he lived, but also the Torah called them to follow and live in this way. Thus, we too are called to live as Jesus did.

Our Baptismal Covenant reminds us time and again that we are to live as Jesus did, that we are to be a people of God to everyone around us. It doesn’t matter if we can’t raise people from the dead like he and Elijah did, because we can do other things in this world that are just as important. We are called to be vehicles of God’s grace, love, and peace in the world around us. As we are reminded in our Baptismal Covenant we are to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers, we are to persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord, we are to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, we are to seek and serve all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself, we are to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.

Our life mission is described in the words of the Baptismal Covenant and we see them being enacted today in the Gospel lesson. Jesus comes upon a woman who is in deep grief over her son’s death, her husband’s death, and the fact that she is alone in the world. He does not pass her by thinking that there is nothing that he can do for her, but rather he stops – he stops the funeral procession – and acts out of compassion. He tells her not to weep, not in the way that someone would tell us to stop weeping if they were uncomfortable with it, but in a way that tells her that he will take care of her and show her great care and compassion. In raising her dead son to life, he completely changes the outlook for this woman. She once again has social standing in the community, she once again has a family, she has what she had lost.

Jesus’ great love for this woman is just a glimpse of the love Jesus has for each of us. After Jesus gives this mother her son, the people say, “God has looked favorably on his people.” Those words are also heard in Mary’s song, the Magnificat and Simeon’s song, the Nunc dimittis. God looks with favor on God’s people. It is all throughout scriptures and it is all throughout our lives. No, our lives are not one happy, hunky-dory moment; but our lives are enriched with those around us and they are brought to fullness and grace through God. Yes, there will be difficulties in our lives, yes we will suffer hardships, there will be war and violence and oppression around us AND it is our duty as people of God to serve in a way, to live in a way as to help stop these horrible things from happening and continuing to happen. God looks with favor on us, God looks with love on us, God looks with grace and unconditional caring upon all of us. It is then our job as people of God to turn and do the same.

There are times in all of our lives when we wonder where God is. How could God be letting this happen? Why didn’t God come and save the day and perform a miracle like it happens in the Bible? Where is God in those moments? God is with us. In our moments of pain and suffering and aloneness, God is there in the people who are around us, God is there in that compassionate card or phone call. God is there in the offerings of help, the hugs, and the people who will sit with us as we journey into the depths of our lives. God does not promise that life will be easy. God does promise to be there and to look with favor on us. God is a God of compassion and caring, of peace and justice, of love and grace. We, by our Baptismal Covenant and through scriptures are called to be conduits of God in the world through are actions, through our words, and through our very being.

The Practice of Prensence, is a book about Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk who lived in the 17th century. People are fascinated, mystified and intrigued by this man because he simply lived every moment with God and lived every moment acting out of God’s presence in his life. He was assigned to work in the kitchen of the monastery, not anything that he was particularly good at, but did it with faithfulness and with a mind toward God. There was not anything that was beneath him because there was no task that was too mundane or routine as each thing was a medium for God’s love. For him, it was not about how sacred or important the task, but more about the motivation behind the task.

As people of God, we are all called to see our tasks as part of our life with God. Mowing the lawn, taking care of our children, driving people to and fro, cleaning, helping, being with others… I could go on and on. Our everyday lives are full of moments with God, it is up to us to remind ourselves and those around us that God is in those moments, just as much as God is in other moments. Who we are, how we act, how we treat others… this is how we are God in the world.

So, in this ordinary time, as we continue to explore where God is calling us to grow, where God is calling us to serve in the world, know that it may be in the everyday, it may simply be in our actions and in our words that we will best serve God. Keep the words of the Baptismal Covenant in mind as a directive and know that God is with you in all that you do.

Download the sermon for Proper 5C.

Written by The Rev. Shannon Ferguson Kelly
The Rev. Shannon Kelly serves as the Missioner for Young Adult and Campus Ministries for The Episcopal Church. She wrote and edited God of My Heart a book of prayers written by youth, for youth. She lives in on Cape Cod with her husband, The Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, their son, and dog. 


[i] Jim and Shelley Douglass, Sojourners, July 1996.

 

God is Much Bigger, Proper 4 (C) – 2016

[RCL] 1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43; Psalm 96:1-9; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke 7:1-10

The Great Fifty Days of Easter have come and gone. We prepared ourselves in Lent for the passion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. During the Great Fifty Days of Easter we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday where I am sure you learned about the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So, here we are, in the season after Pentecost. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling among us. What does that mean to us then?

Today’s scriptures give us some good pointers: Solomon intercedes for the “foreigners”, Jesus is amazed by a centurion’s faith, and Paul is astonished by how fast the early Christians forgot what they were taught.

In today’s Hebrew scripture, we read part of I Kings Chapter 8. In the beginning of chapter eight, which is not included in today’s reading, King Solomon has just finished building the grand temple for God. He “assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites” (I Kings 8: 1a) and prayed to God. The part we read is about Solomon praising God and God’s faithfulness. The reading then jumps from verse 23 to 41. Solomon pledges to God to hear the foreigner who is not God’s people of Israel, to hear this foreigner’s prayers so “that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you.” (1Kings 8:43). The missing verses are general prayers for the Israelites. Doesn’t that tell us our care for foreigners is important?

In the Gospel, we have two persons of power. One holds military power, the other spiritual power. The one with military power is desperate because his valued slave is ill. He could have sent his soldiers to take Jesus to go to his place to heal his slave. Nevertheless, he asks Jewish elders instead to invite Jesus to heal his slave. Not only does he choose not to use violence, but he also uses his humility to show forth his trust and faith in Jesus. He has faith in Jesus and lets him know that there is no need for him to go to his humble dwelling, but asks Jesus heal his slave from a distance. Jesus, the spiritual leader is amazed at his faith. Jesus says, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” The cultural and class boundaries between these two leaders are brought down. A person is healed.

The scriptures today reminds me of an inspiring, and amazing story I want to share with you about the beginning of a Christian organization in a place where Christianity is not the dominant culture.

In Hong Kong, there is a place called St. James’ Settlement. This settlement is a triad consisting of an Anglican Church, an Anglican school, and community service center. The story of how this place was founded is very inspiring. In 1949, the late Bishop Ronald Hall who oversaw the Anglican Church in Hong Kong saw the need to minister to a group of youth in a small town named Wanchai. The youth were hanging out in this town and had gotten into trouble. There were very limited resources then. He had no place available to gather them. The need was really great. A Taoist Temple in the neighborhood had some rooms that were available for use. He worked with the minister in charge and was able to use a room to gather the youngsters and started the Boys’ and Girls’ Club. By gathering the youth, offering them the love and guidance that was lacking from the families, these youth escaped a downward path into juvenile delinquency. Because of their love of God’s children, two different religious leaders were willing to work together to help the young people. This humble beginning of youth ministry in a Taoist Temple eventually became the triad it is today: a church, a school, and a community service center.

By not confining ministry to one’s religious establishment, and focusing instead on the love of God’s children, a Christian institution was formed with the help of Taoists. Great things have been done. Services have been extended beyond serving youth spiritually and academically to serving the wider needs of the community, the mentally and physically handicapped, and the elderly. The people of Hong Kong certainly know God’s name through this Christian organization.

This is the message of today’s Gospel. Because of the centurion’s love for his slave, who had much lower social status, he is willing to seek help from another leader. Jesus shows us he is not confined to healing only Jewish people, but has compassion for the centurion’s slave.

Due to instability and violence in the Middle East, the United States is experiencing an influx of refugees. However, the fear of terrorists infiltrating our country is so great that people, even Christians, oppose to the humanitarian act of accepting these people.

Saint Paul admonishes the Galatians and says that he is “astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel…” Jesus has commanded the disciples “to love your neighbors.” What has happened to his teaching? Isn’t this St. Paul’s admonition? We are so quickly deserting the Gospel of Jesus, rejecting the neighbors who are foreigners and in dire situation. Can we learn something from the Centurion and the Taoist minister in Hong Kong?

In this season after Pentecost, we are learning how to apply Jesus’ teaching in our ministries. Fresh into this season, we are shown Solomon’s intercession for foreigners. This is what is expected from us, to love our neighbors even when they are not the same as us. Although they are foreigners, they are faithful like the centurion.

The Guthrie Center in Massachusetts was transformed from a church to a holy space that honors the traditions of many faiths. On the door entering the church, it is written:

One God – Many Forms
One River – Many Streams
One People – Many Faces
One Mother – Many Children

King Solomon has built the house for God, but he asks, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!” (1King 8:27) Let us not confine God to our liking, our church, or our belief. God is much bigger than that. Let us follow Jesus’ teaching to “love your neighbors.” Amen.

Download the sermon for Proper 4C.

Written by The Rev. Dr. Ada Wong Nagata
The Rev. Dr. Ada Wong Nagata is Associate Rector at Church of Our Saviour (COS), San Gabriel, Diocese of Los Angeles. COS is the oldest Protestant church in San Gabriel Valley. It has become a multicultural congregation in the last few years with English, Cantonese, and English services. Ada is very involved in multicultural ministries, especially Asian Ministry. She served seven years as Convener of Chinese Convocation of Episcopal Asiamerican Ministries (EAM) and just finished her term. She is the Chair of Chinese Ministry Advisory Committee in Diocese of Los Angeles. She is a member of Multicultural Ministry, Commission on Ministry, Disciplinary Board, and EAM in the diocese. She is also a board member of Li Tim-Oi Center, a Chinese Ministry Center of The Episcopal Church; and Bloy House, Episcopal Theological School at Claremont. She recently had visits to Asian Anglican Dioceses accompanying the Rt. Rev. Diane Bruce, Bishop Suffragan of Diocese of Los Angeles. Ada earned her Doctor of Ministry from Episcopal Divinity School in 2015. Ada loves hiking and often does her meditative walk.

Bible Study, Proper 4 (C) – May 29, 2016

[RCL] 1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39, Psalm 96, Galatians 1:1-12, Luke 7:1-10

1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39

“When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.” 1 Kings 18:39

Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel is one of the most vivid and memorable stories in the Hebrew Scriptures. Two weeks after Pentecost, this story reminds us of the associations of fire with God throughout the Bible. Like the tongues of flame that descended on the disciples in Jerusalem, this miracle takes place in front of a gathering of all the people.

After the prophets of Baal are unable to get a response, Elijah calls the people close to him and repairs the altar. He reminds the people who they are by using twelve stones to represent the tribes of Israel. Next, he prepares the bonfire and asks for it to be doused with water three times, an ostentatious act during a major draught. Then Elijah calls on the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Fire descends from the Lord and burns the offering, the people witness this mighty act, believe, and proclaim: “the Lord indeed is God”!

  • When has God roused you from a spiritual stupor through a wild prophet or colorful character?
  • Have you ever been part of a large gathering where God’s love burned in your collective hearts?
  • In this story, the Israelites are called back to their God, whom we believe is one God. How do you read this story, living today in an interconnected world where our neighbors belong to many faiths and religions?
Psalm 96

This psalm of celebration calls us to “sing a new song” and “tell it out among the nations.” All the peoples rejoice with “all the whole earth,” including the sea, field, trees, and heavens. Verse eight is a familiar Offertory Sentence from the Book of Common Prayer, “Ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name; bring offerings and come into his courts.” We bless God in thanksgiving for being part of this beautiful, holy, and new creation!

  • How has your life been blessed by God so that you want to “proclaim the good news of his salvation” and declare his wonders?
  • How is coming into God’s courts and worshiping in the beauty of holiness related to the joy of the natural, created world?
  • How do you understand God’s providence that “sets in order all things both in heaven and earth,” in the words of today’s Collect? 
Galatians 1:1-12

Some letters attributed to Paul are contested, but the letter to Galatians is undisputedly written by the real Paul. In the opening of this letter, he is angry that others have come to this community and told them that Christians must still follow the Mosaic laws, calling anyone who perverts the gospel of Christ accursed (or anathema). Paul is ultimately concerned with spreading the Gospel of our “Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age.” The revelation that Paul received and his beautiful and brilliant letter to the Galatians proclaim a radical vision of Christian freedom and a Gospel of grace and peace for all people.

  • Is there a time you have spoken out with righteous indignation for a greater good?
  • Paul the apostle received the Gospel through a revelation of Jesus Christ and we in turn have received it from him. How do you understand the Bible, written by human authors, as the inspired Word of God that still speaks to us today?
Luke 7:1-10

Is he worthy? The first part of this story goes back and forth on this question. The centurion who has heard about Jesus’s ability to heal is a gentile, but the Jewish elders earnestly appeal on his behalf, praising his generosity. The centurion himself sends friends to tell Jesus that he is not worthy to have Jesus enter his home, but requests that Jesus “only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.” Jesus is not concerned with whether he is worthy but praises his faith in God’s power over illness and death. Even without being physically present, the crowd witnesses Jesus’ authority and power to heal.

  • When have you experienced healing through prayer and Jesus’ love?
  • This story is about the slave of a centurion, “whom he valued highly.” Share your thoughts about the differences and similarities between slavery in the ancient world, in America, and the modern-day slavery.

Download the Proper 4C Bible Study.

Written by Bowie Snodgrass
Bowie Snodgrass is completing a Wisdom Year Residency at Calvary-St. George’s in New York City as part of a Master of Sacred Theology from General Theological Seminary. Bowie has been active in young adult ministries, including at St. James’ Episcopal Church and through emerging church projects, and has been involved with the ecumenical movement as Executive Director of Faith House Manhattan and an intern in the Episcopal Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. A writer and editor, she oversaw a redesign of EpiscopalChurch.org and helped craft the Episcopal Same-Sex Blessing. Bowie is excited to begin a Curacy at Christ Church in Short Hills, NJ, where she will move this summer with her husband, George Mathew, and their son. 

 

Bible Study, Trinity Sunday (C) – May 22, 2016

[RCL] Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15; Psalm 8

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

In this section of proverbs we hear an account of wisdom. In the opening lines it is made clear that the message of this proverb is one of great import, something that needs to be heard. Wisdom raises her voice to remind us all of her presence with the works of God. Wisdom has been with God from the beginning of creation. Wisdom was present before the existence of the many works of God and wisdom was witness to the creation of all things. Wisdom is intertwined with the delight of God. Wisdom delights in the inhabited world and therefor delights in us.

  • For what purpose do you take a stand, letting wisdom speak through you?
  • How might we delight in wisdom?
  • What makes known to you the delight that wisdom takes in your being?
Psalm 8

In the Psalm this week God is referred to as “Lord our Governor.” This title calls to mind certain characteristics, inviting us to consider God in a particular way. This God, the governor, is one who reigns over creation. This God holds authority. The psalmist reminds us that God, from this place of authority, has given to human kind responsibility over all creation. For this we are to offer exaltations. God has set humans apart from the rest of creation and of this we must be mindful. Being made in the image of God we reflect the nature of God. God governs us, we govern creation.

  • In what ways have you experience God as governor?
  • What is your role in taking care of God’s creation?
  • How do you offer exaltation for the responsibility that God has bestowed upon you?
Romans 5:1-5

This letter to the Romans provides for us an account of human experience. It lends consideration to faith, hope, suffering, endurance, and character. These parts of life are all interconnected and dependent on one another. By these experiences, we are transformed. In our relationship with Jesus and by the grace of God, we can live fully into both our suffering and our glory. When we are open to experience we can be filled with the love of God.

  • How have times of suffering led you to experiencing the love of God?
  • What gives you strength to endure through difficulty?
  • Where do you see the grace of God working in your life?
John 16:12-15

God is not finished with us. Jesus was not able to say all that needed to be said during his time on earth. Our Gospel text this week reminds us that the truth is continually being revealed to us. The spirit is ever alongside us, leading us into the way of truth and calling us to claim that which is of God. Jesus states “you cannot bear them now.” He knows that sometimes we are not ready for the next challenge. Often we need to catch up with ourselves. We can rest assured that God will be along side us through it all and will reveal all things to us in due time.

  • What do you think that Jesus still has to say to you?
  • How has the spirit guided you in truth throughout your life?
  • How might you be open to what the spirit has to declare to you?

Download the Trinity C Bible Study.

Written by Samantha Haycock
Samantha Haycock is the Director of Children and Youth Ministry at Christ Episcopal Church in Alameda. Her passion in ministry is spreading Jesus’ call for social justice and in helping people to make connections between their daily and spiritual lives so that they can bring their whole and authentic selves to the world. Samantha is a banana slug, holding a BA in Psychology from UC Santa Cruz and has a Certificate in Youth and Family Ministry from Bexley Seabury and Forma Faith Formation Academy. She is a participant in the Collaborative for Church Vitality, serves on the Forma Advocacy Working Group, and assists The Episcopal Church DFMS with the youth, young adult, and Sermons that Work online presences. When she is not working Samantha enjoys concocting strange things in her kitchen and hiking all over the place.