Sermons

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday Music Video: Tower of Power






In the small world department:  this is the fabulous funk band Tower of Power, which was very popular when I was in high school and college.  Great dance stuff.  I certainly danced to many of their tunes in my dancing days. (Whatever happened to funk, anyway?)

So. My seventeen-year-old son is in New York doing a three-week jazz improv workshop at New York University and his first master class was with Lenny Pickett, the blue-jacketed tenor sax player who has the great solo on this clip from The David Letterman Show.  Pickett is now the music director for Saturday Night Live and is on staff at NYU.

So my son called me and asked, do you know the band Tower of Power?

This song is from the middle - well after my time and before my son was born. It's from the album Monster on a Leash, released in 1991. Glad to see that the guys are still having fun.

Enjoy!







Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Afternoon Baby Duck Break


Whispering

 

Collect for Sts Peter and Paul

St Bernard's (Roman Catholic), 14th Street, NYC


Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that your Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.





Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cooling it: a swallow takes a swallow

Flying over the pond

Zeroing in on the spot

About to take a sip

Thirst quenched. See the circle that shows the point of contact?

Fly away in a blur


The swallows at the duck pond are busy in the late afternoon. Sometimes they're harassing the crows, but mostly they are swooping in to take sips of water on the fly. It's all fast and furious and I doubt I could ever catch good photos of them, but here is a sequence of shots to give you an idea.  Sometimes they'll double dip and get two sips, but mostly they put on quite an aerial display that results in a single sip of water.  Beautiful creatures.



Collect for St Irenaeus

St Luke-in-the-Fields, New York, NY


 Almighty God, you upheld your servant Irenaeus with strength to maintain the truth against every blast of vain doctrine: Keep us, we pray, steadfast in your true religion, that in constancy and peace we may walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

After the storm



We had a very quick but strong storm blow through late yesterday afternoon.  I stayed in the office until it was over and then drove home.  As I backed out of my parking space, I ran over a branch (not big enough to hurt anything, thank goodness).  Driving home, I noticed a lot of debris in the road - leaves and small branches.  By the time I got to my street, I saw that a huge tree that had come down, having fallen into the parking lot of the restaurant on the corner.  (Fortunately, there didn't seem to be any cars under it.)  Some guys were already out there looking at it.

Then I went out for a walk around the duck pond, and everything was sparkling with raindrops. Gentle droplets hanging on every branch.

What a difference from the smashed branches and downed tree.  The droplets shone in the waning sunlight, innocently.

Life is like that sometimes. I have a strong experience, and then when I come out of it, everybody else is acting normal and unaffected, even happy.  Life is going on, if changed a little. 

I'll notice where the tree used to be for a while, and then the landscape will take on a new appearance, without the tree or even the memory of it.  And all will be well.

Collect for the Unity of the Church



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.



Monday, June 25, 2012

People come and people go



People are coming and going these days.

School is out and most of the students have left for the summer.  The graduates have left to start their new lives.  The people who have homes in Maine or Cape Cod or Vermont or other Northeastern spots are headed out to spend the two hottest months in Virginia away from Virginia.

Meanwhile, many tourists are visiting town.

What that means at church on Sunday is that many familiar faces are missing, but the church is more full than ever. People from all over the world worship with us on Sunday mornings when they are visiting Colonial Williamsburg.  This morning I met a couple who come three times a year from a nearby state.  And I met a family from quite far away who are here for the first time.  Some of our guests are Episcopalians, but many are not. 

It's important, when you are a church that enjoys so many visitors, to be aware of all sorts of details:  the ones that truly say "welcome," and the ones that are not so helpful.  For instance, we do the welcome and announcements at the beginning of each service, rather than in the middle as so many churches do, because we know that there are many people sitting in the pews who are not familiar with our worship. They may not know what BCP stands for or which book is the hymnal. These things are spelled out in the bulletin as best we can, but it's also important to say something about the service before it begins.

We also print as much in the bulletin as we can (the readings, many of the prayers, the words to the choir anthems) and point people to the hymnal or Book of Common Prayer for the things that are not printed.  This makes for a lot of paper being printed, and sometimes we feel bad about that.  We've discussed a few ideas about how to cut back on paper, as many churches do - by not printing so much, or perhaps just using the Prayer Book without a bulletin at all, by putting a QR code outside the doors so people can download a bulletin to their iPads and smart phones.

But in the end, for now, we realize that we need to print the readings (our Colonial church doesn't have a sound system) and that it is more hospitable to continue to do what we are doing. For now.

Every church has its own set of blessings and liabilities. And so blanket ideas and statements are not that helpful, but I'm curious about how your church handles the question of bulletins and printed materials.  Do you print one bulletin for all services (if you have multiple services)? Do you print the readings and prayers? Or do you rely on the BCP for the order of service and announce the hymns and page numbers?  Do you use electronic media at all for the service (i.e., scanning a QR code to access a bulletin or projecting hymns onto a screen, etc.)?

I'd enjoy hearing from you!




Collect for St John the Baptist

The (Roman) Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Savannah GA
Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Jesus, Jesus, don't you care?




Twenty-something years ago, Delia Ephron wrote a children’s book about manners called “Do I have to say Hello? Aunt Delia’s Manners Quiz for Kids and their Grownups.” Frankly, it was hilarious. And quite effective.  Each “manners lesson” was presented like one of those quizzes in a magazine with multiple choice answers.  One answer showing good manners and two illustrating terrible manners.  Here’s an example: 

You want another helping of corn.  Do you say, “Please pass the corn, Uncle Jerry?”  Do you say, “Yo, corn!”?  Do you bang the table with your knife until Aunt Delia and Uncle Jerry ask what you want?
Our daughter loved this book. She wanted to read it out loud over and over again and just couldn’t stop laughing as we paged through the lessons.
There is also a book of manners for talking to Jesus.  It’s the Psalms.  For example, when you are afraid you are about to die, do you say, “O God, save me, for the water is rising up to my neck?” Or “Deliver me, O Lord, in your mercy”  Etc.  Or do you say, “Jesus, Jesus, don’t you care that I am dying over here?  Look at you over there sleeping! Wake up so you can at least watch us go down with the ship!”
Is that how we talk to Jesus, children?
Well.  We see what fear can do.  The disciples are miserably afraid. And with good reason! The are going across a large body of water in the dark - going across to Gentile territory, too, where more scary things, like a stark raving mad man living among the tombs, await.  They are in a storm and the boat is swamping. They’re about to sink.  Why would they not be afraid?  Who would not be afraid? And when we’re afraid we regress, and accuse people of not caring about us instead of nicely asking for help. Who hasn’t done that?
And what’s this about faith? Have you still no faith? Jesus asks.
Well. There’s the rub. At its heart, this passage is about who Jesus is and what discipleship means, and discipleship is not actually based on good manners but on trust.
Jesus says, fear not. Just like the angels do.  And he shows through his actions that he will be with them, even if they are perishing. He shows that he is stronger than anything, even the wild wind and waves.
People do perish. People do succumb to dangers of all sorts. Jesus doesn’t promise that we won’t perish. And we know what the disciples then couldn’t know, that it was through death that salvation would come - through death, not instead of death.  Jesus would die, but God would raise him to new life.  The disciples didn’t know that.

But we do.  
This story is like a Moses and the burning bush story - where God tells Moses not to be afraid of what God is asking him to do because God will be with him and because God is the ruler of even the forces of nature.  This is a familiar story that occurs many times in the Bible.  Fear not. God will be with us, even though we are afraid and even terrified.  Even if we die, God will be with us.
That’s the faith Jesus is looking for. The faith that believes that even if we die, we are saved because we are God’s own forever. 
Jesus calms the storm to show the disciples his divine power, to show them that they are in the presence the very Holy One of God. Which terrifies them even more, as it should.  After all, God is not a tame lion, as C.S. Lewis wrote. 
It is hard to be trusting in the face of death and destruction.  We are much more likely to regress to name-calling and accusations. Don’t you care about me, God? we may well rail when things are falling apart around us. 
It’s hard to have faith sometimes.  Jesus never said it would be easy. Look where his faith took him.  But that’s the point here. Jesus had faith that God would make good on God’s promise of salvation, and he asks us to trust in those promises, too, and therefore to not be afraid to go where God calls us to go, not even to be afraid of perishing.
And if we are not afraid, then we can live life fully.  We can imagine possibilities. We can be bold and forward looking.  We can hear and answer God’s call to us to push across boundaries and live out the Gospel in places we might not have thought possible.
We can let go of the stuff that fear makes us close our fists so tightly around, stuff that keeps us from growing, stuff that makes our world smaller and supposedly safer, stuff that stunts us and bends us out of our natural shape and into the pretzel of worry and anxiety and small-mindedness. Operating out of fear, both as individuals and corporately, keeps us from being free to be who and what God made us to be.
So we all might take a page out of young David’s book. Let us be bold and imaginative, using the gifts that God has given each of us to go where God calls us to go, knowing that the Lord will fight for us and will accompany us through any storm. We all belong to God, and so we don’t need to be afraid. Not even afraid of perishing.

Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost











O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving­kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fishing


Two terns using their tails to hover.

Going in.

Coming out
About to take off

Still taking off
Liftoff


Headed out


Nearly out

The tail's a little wet!


Success! See the fish?


These are terns, fishing in the ocean. I wasn't able to get the entire sequence of their fishing technique on film, but basically, they fly over the waves, peering down to look for fish. Then they dive in head first.  They go completely under and emerge, wings first, then head, flying upward. Often with a fish in the beak.  And as they fly away, they wiggle all over (like a dog) and shake the water off.  It was great fun watching them and it's amazing how they are able to fly out of the water after being completely submerged.  Terns don't swim the way gulls do, so it's all about flying.





Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Afternoon Baby Duck Break



What's Mama looking at?








Collect for St Alban



Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Alban triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death: Grant us, who now remember him in thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

The eyes have it

Here is the red-tailed hawk viewed from the front. She certainly kept her hawk-eyes on me while I wandered around under her tree!

(See her back here.)

Establishing eye contact is very powerful.  Much can be communicated through the eyes.  Think of those shared glances between parents, lovers, friends, fellow workers, neighbors, anybody. We talk to one another with our eyes.  We share a laugh, we express alarm, we smile, we seethe, we welcome, we show delight, we dismiss.

That's a little more difficult with animals. Their eyes are not as expressive, and we don't know their language anyway.  Nor they ours.

And yet, sometimes one does make a connection of some kind.

And it can be powerful, too.  Two beings, so different from one another, make contact.  They acknowledge one another. They watch one another - maybe out of fear or wariness or just curiosity. Maybe even with amusement or affection.  I remember reading about a diver who made such a connection with a whale, which swam up to him and calmly looked at him with its huge eye.

Is this why we anthropomorphize God? So that we can imagine God as a person we can communicate with, whose eyes we can look into and decipher some meaning there?  So that God will have something we can connect with ourselves?

Perhaps that's why we love Jesus.....








Morning Psalm



Look upon him and be radiant,
and let not your faces be ashamed.

(Ps 34:5)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tails from Vacation



After several hours of bike riding - even riding coaster bikes on relatively flat island roads - one needs a good leg-stretch.  So we hopped off the bikes and walked a short trail through the trees that led out to the salt marsh.  We stopped along the way to obey the signs ("Stop here and look around for signs of wildlife!" etc.) and look at the marsh and into the trees.  Tom likes to look at the little crabs that scuttle across the mud flats while I like to look and listen for birds and mammals.

On the return loop, I heard a bird cry that sounded interesting.  Peering into the trees, I saw a falcon, which/who flew out and across the sky above us.  Very cool.

We were just about back to the bikes when I looked up and saw this beauty sitting very quietly on a pine bough. A female red tailed hawk, about 24" tall, facing into the woods.  (You can see the whole "red tailed" part from the rear view.  The females are larger than the males.) She just sat there while I walked under her with my camera.  She looked straight at me for several minutes as I tried to get a good shot from the front.  The lighting was poor, as were most of the angles available to me in the woods.  I still took a number of photos, just in case one might turn out.  I imagined she was chuckling to herself - silly human, standing there doing the same thing over and over again as if the next time might be different.

As I walked back toward the bikes, she turned to watch me over her shoulder.  So I took a couple more photos while she continued to just sit there on her branch.  This one turned out.


Morning Psalm



He rained down manna upon them to eat and gave them grain from heaven.

So mortals ate the bread of angels; he provided for them food enough.

(Ps 78:24-25)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Morning Psalm



You have brought a vine out of Egypt; you cast out the nations and planted it.

You prepared the ground for it; it took root and filled the land.

(Ps 80: 8-9)


Collect for Bernard Mizeki



Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your love in the heart of your holy martyr Bernard Mizeki: Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ordinary Stuff



From today's Old Testament reading (1 Samuel 16:7): When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, "Surely the Lord's anointed is now before the Lord." But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."

And from the Gospel (Mark 4:26-34): the parable of the mustard seed.

The mustard plant was an ordinary, fast-growing, even invasive weedy shrub. It was one of those nuisance plants.

Like Samuel, we think we know what God treasures and how God ought to work. But we don't. All through the Old and New Testaments, God uses the ordinary, the flawed, the one/the stuff no one would look at, to do the work of the kingdom. Look at that ordinary plant - it's all around, not distinguished except for its vigorous growth that provides for the outdoor creatures. 

And that's what the kingdom is like.  It's everywhere, mysteriously growing, providing sustenance and shelter.  And one remembers the Song of Mary: God has lifted up the lowly.  God subverts our expectations and assumptions.  The ordinary stuff all around us is kingdom stuff, too.






Collect for the Third Sunday after Pentecost (B)



Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Goodbye to all that..,.

Our time at Bald Head Island is over. We are sitting in the porch, wafting for the team to take us to the ferry. The ferry will take us to the mainland and the car. I will drop hubby off at the airport to fly back to Atlanta and I'll continue on to Virginia. It's been a wonderful week!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Afternoon Baby Duck Break



Swimming


Collect for Evelyn Underhill



O God, Origin, Sustainer, and End of all your creatures; Grant that your Church, taught by your servant Evelyn Underhill, guarded evermore by your power, and guided by your Spirit into the light of truth, may continually offer to you all glory and thanksgiving and attain with your saints to the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have promised by our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Collect for St Basil



Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace that, like your bishop Basil of Caesarea, we may continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Collect for Enmegahbowh





Almighty God, you led your pilgrim people of old with fire and cloud: Grant that the ministers of your Church, following the example of blessed Enmegahbowh, may stand before your holy people, leading them with fiery zeal and gentle humility. This we ask through Jesus, the Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Enjoying the View from Here

So, hubby and I are spending a week on Bald Head Island, on the coast of North Carolina. Our boys decided they didn't want to make this trip, so it's just the two of us. We realized today that this is the first time since our honeymoon that we've been on a whole week's vacation on our own. That honeymoon was twenty-three years ago next week.

Perhaps this is why we found ourselves remarkably relaxed almost as soon as we arrived. This is, no doubt, a relaxing place. One leaves the car on the mainland and takes the ferry to the island. One walks, or bikes, or takes an electric golf cart to the beach or harbor or market. Our house is in the woods and all we hear are birds and bugs. It is a very relaxing place.

But also, we are very happy to be alone together for an extended period. (For us, living in two cities, a week is an extended period!) We are enjoying being relaxed together--perhaps because we don't get to be together all that much these days.

So, the view from here is very fine. We climbed the lighthouse, Old Baldy, pictured below, today and got a bird's eye view of the island. And at home in the screened porch we are getting a view of our life together. We are content, and we are grateful for what we have.


Collect for St Barnabas



Grant, O God, that we may follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the well­being of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Collect for the Second Sunday after Pentecost (B)





O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saturday Video: Let Me In!



Having just spent a week with Miss Kitty, who simply had to be outside except for when she had to be inside, this episode of Simon's Cat certainly resonated with me!

Enjoy! Hubby and I are driving to an island today for a whole week of downtime.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kindness

I have in the past written about the fast food places in Atlanta where homeless people sometimes show up hoping for a meal.  In an urban environment, that could be just about anywhere in town (and I mean in town, not in the suburbs).  I've seen all sorts of stories played out over lunch - some sad, some funny, some heartwarming, some just plain odd.

Yesterday, I stopped in the local Wendy's, which was pretty full.  After placing my order, while I was still waiting for my food, a young man who looked to be 18 or so walked up and stood beside me.  The woman at the cash register asked how she could help him - perhaps he needed a refill?

"I just want to buy this man's lunch," he explained, waving toward the next person in line, a small and very scruffy and weathered man who I hadn't even noticed until that moment.  The man looked surprised, but he approached the counter as the cashier asked him for his order.  He hesitated, then asked for a cheeseburger, and then glanced sideways at the young man.

The young man said, "Please order whatever you would like for lunch today."  And he handed his debit card to the cashier.   "A cheeseburger," the man repeated.  "Deluxe."  The cashier nodded and asked if he would like fries or perhaps a Frosty?  Yes, fries and a Frosty would be good.

The young man introduced himself to the older man.  The older man gave out his name, which the younger man repeated as they shook hands.  The young man said that he was very glad to meet him.  The older man looked at the floor and then looked at the young man.

"Thank you," he said.  "I am very glad to meet you, too."

Then the young man went back to his table, where his younger brother and his mother (I guess) were finishing their lunch, and rejoined the conversation.  The cashier handed the older man his food, and he went to his own table to eat, but not without nodding to the family before he sat down.

What impressed me the most about the encounter was the ease with which the young man practiced kindness.  He simply saw something that needed attention and he simply attended, without show or embarrassment. He was incredibly gentle and kind and self-assured.

I don't know what his story is. Nor do I know what the scruffy man's story is, other than the fact that he looked pretty down and out. But I know I witnessed someone practicing kindness to a stranger. I think Jesus had something to say about that.






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