Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Poem for All Hallows Eve: Hallow-e'en 1915

The Cemetery at Wash Woods in the False Cape State Park, Virginia

Hallow-e’en 1915
Winifred M. Letts (1916)
clr gif

Will you come back to us, men of our hearts, to-night
In the misty close of the brief October day?
Will you leave the alien graves where you sleep and steal away
To see the gables and eaves of home grow dark in the evening light?

O men of the manor and moated hall and farm,
Come back to-night, treading softly over the grass;
The dew of the autumn dusk will not betray where you pass;
The watchful dog may stir in his sleep but he’ll raise no hoarse alarm.

Then you will stand, not strangers, but wishful to look
At the kindly lamplight shed from the open door,
And the fire-lit casement where one, having wept you sore,
Sits dreaming alone with her sorrow, not heeding her open book.

Forgotten awhile the weary trenches, the dome
Of pitiless Eastern sky, in this quiet hour
When no sound breaks the hush but the chimes from the old church tower,
And the river’s song at the weir,—ah! then we will welcome you home.

You will come back to us just as the robin sings
Nunc Dimittis from the larch to a sun late set
In purple woodlands; when caught like silver fish in a net
The stars gleam out through the orchard boughs and the church owl flaps his wings.

We have no fear of you, silent shadows, who tread
The leaf-bestrewn paths, the dew-wet lawns. Draw near
To the glowing fire, the empty chair,—we shall not fear,
Being but ghosts for the lack of you, ghosts of our well-beloved dead.

Morning Prayer for All Hallow's Eve

Lord, open our lips.

And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: On a cool fall day.....

..... you need a fire.

Collect for the Sick

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and
relieve your sick servants, and give your power of healing to
those who minister to their needs, that those (or N., or NN.)
for whom our prayers are offered may be strengthened in
their weakness and have confidence in your loving care;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 260)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday Afternoon Dragonfly (and its shadow) Photo

A dragonfly sees its shadow (on the left).

Collect for Stewardship of Creation

O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the
needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for
your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the
account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards
of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with
you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.

(BCP 259)

Monday, October 28, 2013


Door between the narthex and nave at St Paul's Episcopal Church
Newport News, VA
I recently spent three days at a family systems workshop, the second one this year. Many clergy and other leaders take a family systems approach to parish leadership. (Read more about that here.) We look at things like emotional triangles, generational transmission, emotional process. It's really very interesting pastoral and professional work and/but it is really intense personal work as well.

As is my initial response to most things that are not my idea, I was resistant to much of this process at the beginning. I liked reading about it in books (various books by Edwin Friedman are on the bedside table or desk of many a clergy person) but liked it less when I was my own guinea pig. Sometimes I'd rather just let things from the past just lie there rather than stirring them up (my small group leader suggested I contact a family member to talk and I thought, "why would I want to do that?"), but then I can't help but remember William Faulkner's famous quote: The past is not dead; it's not even past.

Things don't just lie there forever.

Of course, when one embarks on this kind of self-scrutiny, things start popping up out of nowhere. Unbidden? Or just unleashed? Old memories long forgotten collide with new revelations. People from your high school friend you on Facebook. People from your home town turn out to be at the conference. Your mom calls. Lou Reed (or somebody from the soundtrack of a particular relationship or life event) dies. You see an obituary and the flood gates open.

Do these things just happen or is it that you are just now noticing them?

Collect for Commerce and Industry

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ in his earthly life shared our toil and hallowed our labor: Be present with your people where they work; make those who carry on the industries and commerce of this land responsive to your will; and give to us all a pride in what we do, and a just return for our labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 259)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lord, Have Mercy

A sermon on Proper 25C (Luke 18:9-14)

For a long time, I didn’t get the stories of Flannery O’Connor. I was a surprised when I found out that her stories reflected her religious views. I just thought they were about grotesque and weird people who did grotesque and weird things.

At some point, though, I read her story called Revelation. And I began to see what she was showing through these grotesque and weird people. The main character in Revelation, Mrs. Turpin, pretty much sounds like our Pharisee today.

Mrs. Turpin took her husband Claud to the doctor’s office and while she was there sized up all the people around her. She noticed their shoes, their looks, their status or lack thereof. She was contemptuous of them. She wondered what she would do if Jesus made her choose between being black or white-trash or ugly. She had a lot to say, both out loud and in her own mind, about what was wrong with people who were black or white-trash or ugly. Then she thought about how grateful she was that she was herself, a good woman with a good husband and a farm and some hogs and cattle, a woman who took cold water to the field hands even though she considered them lying idiots. She thanked Jesus for not making her ugly. She thanked Jesus for not making her black. She thanked Jesus for not making her white trash. She got all worked up and burst out with this:

"If it's one thing I am,” … ”It’s grateful. When I think who all I could have been besides myself and what all I got, a little of everything, and a good disposition besides, I just feel like shouting, 'Thank you, Jesus, for making everything the way it is!' It could have been different!"

And then a girl named Mary Grace (one of the ones Mrs. Turpin thought was ugly) threw a book at her and called her a warthog from hell.

Later, Mrs. Turpin, who was disturbed by the incident with Mary Grace, had a vision. And in that vision she saw a crowd of people rising up to heaven. She saw black people and white trash and lunatics and freaks (her terminology) all clean and happy as they processed and then at the end of the line she saw people like herself and Claud, who were singing on key, but shocked as they realized that their virtues were being burned away. Their virtues hadn’t put them at the head of the line. Yes, they were among the throng. But they were behind all the people Mrs. Turpin held in contempt. The first were last and the last were first. And she went back into her house with the joyful noises of the throng ringing in her ears.

O’Connor often made her characters nearly unbearable to show just how powerful God’s grace really is. Which I’ve come to appreciate. Because if even awful disdainful mean-spirited hypocrites can be transformed, then there’s hope for me, too.

It would be easy to see this parable from Luke as a simple contrast. Don’t be like the Pharisee, who is self-righteous, but be like the tax collector, who is humble.

But wouldn’t that just make us like the Pharisee? Should we thank God we are not like the Pharisee? Pharisees get roughed up in the New Testament, but they loved God and had considerable concern for the practices of their faith. Fasting was a religious practice, as was tithing. And I assure you there’s nothing wrong with prayer or fasting or tithing.

And what about tax collectors? They were the lowest of the low in Jewish society because they colluded with the Romans to collect taxes from Jews. They were notorious for taking more than the amount owed and keeping the extra for themselves. Our tax collector knows what he does is wrong. He hasn’t promised to do better in the future, either. 

And yet the tax collector simply and honestly begged for God’s mercy and received it. Not because he was deserving. He wasn’t deserving. He received mercy because God is merciful. That’s what God does. That’s who God is. God chooses to set aside sin because God loves us and wants us and knows we are bound to fail.

And let us consider the Pharisee and perhaps extend him our compassion, too. It sometimes seems to me - in fact, it has been my experience - that one has to hit the bottom before being able to recognize that God saves us out of love rather than merit; that truth is otherwise obscured by our good fortune. It’s hard to remember that we need saving, to really comprehend that we are going to fail often in our attempts to be loving and generous and faithful when we are surrounded by plenty and success in our busy, happy lives. 

Not only that, but we are often cut off from those who struggle and know little about their lives. From the comfort of our homes and offices and cars with rolled up windows, we can’t appreciate the choices they have to make. We can’t appreciate either their trials or their virtues and so are tempted to see them simply as categories and types with nothing in common with us: The poor. Dropouts. Homeless. Crackheads. Welfare mothers. Irresponsible. Illegal. Lazy. Sponges.

And so this isn’t a simple “be like this but not like that” story. It’s more like Flannery O’Connor. Nobody comes out looking all that good, except for God. Nobody gets life exactly right, although at least the tax collector knows that his only hope is to throw himself on God’s mercy. He trusts that even though he can’t make himself right, God will somehow make him right, even though he is a miserable offender.

That mercy may confuse and even offend us - it certainly did offend people in Jesus' day - but it is the Gospel.

The Pharisee and the tax collector were connected - both children of a merciful God in a world that is filled with strife and often polarized - but from his place of success and comfort, the Pharisee wasn’t able to see that connection between himself and the wretched man in the back of the synagogue. 

He thought he was supposed to be different.

Which showed that he didn’t really know God any better than he knew the tax collector. And why not? Some of us hardly even know ourselves.

We are all in this together, friends. We are all sinners and we are all connected. The world is complicated and sometimes bewildering, at least it is to me. Sometimes I just don’t know what to think or what to do. But this I do know: our God is merciful to all who fail, who are broken, who don’t measure up. When we are busy, happy, and comfortable, that may not make much of an impression, but when the time comes and we are shocked by the revelation how wrong we’ve gotten things, it will be music to our ears.

Collect for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Afternoon Fall Color Break

All the colors.

Collect for Fruitful Seasons

Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: We humbly pray that your gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper all who labor to gather them, that we, who are constantly receiving good things from your hand, may always give you
thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP 258)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday Afternoon Pond Photo

I spent the last few days in the mountains of West Virginia at a workshop. The weather was beautiful and the scenery was, too. Fall is in full swing and the colors were lovely all along the drive.

I also got a new camera and had a little time to play with it on the trip. There was a little pond at the retreat center and I enjoyed taking photos of the ripples made by the koi as they surfaced periodically on the otherwise very still water. Here's one I particularly liked.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Gone Fishin'

I'm off to a conference for a few days. Back soon!

Meanwhile, enjoy this beach scene. I love these big gatherings of terns.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Collect for the Twenty-second Sunday After Pentecost

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Saturday Morning Movie: An Pup and His Dinner

A little diversion from Birdbox Studio about a pup and his dinner. Simon's cat has a doggie rival!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Afternoon Fall Color Break

Now for some orange.

Collect for the Nation

Outside Grant's Tomb, Manhattan

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the
earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace:
Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the
strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in
accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP 258)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Shameless Plug: Naked, And You Clothed Me is now available!

 Last year I became involved in a project championed by Roman Catholic Deacon Jim Knipper of New Jersey who had a great idea to publish a series of books of homilies and reflections by an ecumenical group of clergy and laypeople. The three-volume series started with Hungry, And You Fed Me, which featured sermons and reflections to correspond with Sundays and feast days in the Roman Catholic lectionary for Year C. (The Revised Common Lectionary corresponds pretty closely.) The people whose sermons are contained in these volumes are called the Homilists for the Homeless. I am very proud to be the Episcopal representative in this group, having contributed four sermons to that volume.

Now we are approaching the beginning of Advent and with it another liturgical year - this time Year A. And so the second volume of this series, Naked, And You Clothed Me, is now available and it includes three of my sermons plus reflections from Rob Bell, James Martin, Richard Rohr, Carol Howard Merritt, and others.

The proceeds from these books benefits homeless ministries in New Jersey. The first volume was  awarded second place in the category of best book by a small publisher and garnered third place in liturgy from the Catholic Press Awards. 

I have given a number of these books as gifts to friends and relatives and would like to suggest that you consider doing so, too. Remember, the proceeds benefit several homeless ministries in New Jersey. 
You can purchase both volumes from the publisher by clicking here. (And note that the Year C volume is on sale!)

Check out our Facebook page to see all of the authors and each of the charities we are supporting through this effort.

Another Collect for the Mission of the Church

Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, Manhattan

O God of all the nations of the earth: Remember the
multitudes who have been created in your image but have not
known the redeeming work of our Savior Jesus Christ; and
grant that, by the prayers and labors of your holy Church,
they may be brought to know and worship you as you have
been revealed in your Son; who lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP 257)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Bird Drama

I think you can see what's going on here. The large herring gull on the right has been hogging a fish carcass that has washed up. The others are giving it what-for, except for the young laughing gull on the left who decides to just walk away.

Collect for the Mission of the Church

Cathedral of St John the Divine, NYC

O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the
earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those
who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people
everywhere may seek after you and find you, bring the nations
into your fold, pour out your Spirit upon all flesh, and hasten
the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 257)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday Afternoon Bird Photos

The other evening, during a break in the constant rain we've been having, I stopped for dinner at a seafood place that's right on an inlet that leads to Chesapeake Bay. I'd been there before and knew it would be a fun place to watch the birds while I ate my shrimp. Many of the large herring gulls were congregating on the roof, so several times I got a great view of a gull heading right toward me before veering up to the roof.

People who've visited this blog regularly know I'm really into birds and love to see, over and over again, the mechanics of flight, including takeoffs and landings. And so, even though the light was terrible (late afternoon on a very overcast day), I still had a great view of the way the feathers work as these large gulls come in for a landing.

Here's the gull just as it is about to start the hovering that will lead to landing. See how the shoulders have small feathers lifting out from the wings? And how the tail feathers are now spread into a rounded shape? Cool, huh?

Collect for the Ministry III

III. For all Chistians in their vocation

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 256)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Night Prayer

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

(BCP 134)

Collect for the Ministry II

Eastern Shore Chapel, Virginia Beach VA

II. For the choice of fit persons for the ministry
O God, you led your holy apostles to ordain ministers in every
place: Grant that your Church, under the guidance of the Holy
Spirit, may choose suitable persons for the ministry of Word
and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the
extension of your kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd
and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and
ever. Amen.

(BCP 256)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Collect for the Twenty-first Sunday After Pentecost

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Saturday Morning Music Two-fer: Linda Ronstadt

This is Linda Rondstadt singing the Karla Bonoff song Someone to Lay Down Beside Me. This is from a performance at The Fox Theater in Atlanta GA in 1977.

The wonderful piano player is the late Don Grolnick. The other band members are Waddy Wachtel on lead guitar, Kenny Edwards on bass, and Ricky Marotta on drums.

Linda Ronstadt was one of my very favorite singers when I was in college. She didn't write her songs but she sang so beautifully and the choices she made for what she put on her albums were so great to sing along to. Some of them were rowdy and fun while others were poignant and yearning, the soundtrack of heartbreak. Ronstadt doesn't sing any more - she has Parkinson's and is no longer able to sing. The world has lost one of its most lovely voices.

Here's another of my favorite songs - Heart Like a Wheel, written by sisters Kate and Anna McGarrigle. None of the live performances I found came close to the studio version, so it's not much fun to watch. Just close your eyes and listen.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Afternoon Fall Color Break

Here's a little red for your Friday afternoon. Enjoy!

Collect for the Ministry (for those to be ordained)

(for Ember Days)

Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, in your divine providence you have appointed various orders in your Church: Give your grace, we humbly pray, to all who are [now] called to any office and ministry for your people; and so fill them with the truth of your doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before you, to the glory of your great Name and for the benefit of your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 256)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

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.

(BCP 255)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Light

Collect for a Church Convention

Almighty and everlasting Father, you have given the Holy Spirit to abide with us for ever: Bless, we pray, with his grace and presence, the bishops and other clergy and the laity here (or now, or soon to be) assembled in your Name, that your Church, being preserved in true faith and godly
discipline, may fulfill all the mind of him who loved it and gave himself for it, your Son Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 255)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tuesday afternoon "dogs in church" photo

On Sunday, we held our annual "blessing of the animals" in the church. Many churches do this on the first weekend in October, around the Feast of St Francis (October 4). This was the second year we've done this inside the church as opposed to holding it outside. Given that our church sports high boxed pews, some of the usual distractions (squirrels, birds, being able to see the other dogs) were minimized. The animals in attendance were very well behaved and it was a joyous occasion. It was great fun to see the (sometimes surprising!) combinations of pets and owners. A few of them were wearing some sort of finery to mark the occasion.

What was the most fun for me was being able to be the roving photographer at the service. As I stood in the back of the church, I enjoyed some great views of cute dogs enjoying the morning.  Enjoy!

Collect at the Dedication of a Church

Almighty God, to whose glory we celebrate the dedication of
this house of prayer: We give you thanks for the fellowship

of those who have worshiped in this place, and we pray that
all who seek you here may find you, and be filled with your
joy and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now
and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 254)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Night Prayer

St Stephen's Episcopal Church, Richmond VA

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other's toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 134)

Collect at Confirmation

Resurrection lily

Grant, Almighty God, that we, who have been redeemed
from the old life of sin by our baptism into the death and
resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ, may be renewed in
your Holy Spirit, and live in righteousness and true holiness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 254)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Collect for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Saturday Morning Jazz

My son went to a concert/master class with this group, Kneebody, last week. He was incredibly enthusiastic about them, so I checked out a few of their videos. Here's a song called Lowell, filmed live at The Blue Whale jazz club in Los Angeles a couple of years ago.

You can read about Kneebody here.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Afternoon Fall Color Break

It's October! Enjoy the fall colors wherever you are! In person or by photograph!

Collect at Baptism

Baptismal Font at Christ Church, Lancaster Co, VA

Almighty God, by our baptism into the death and resurrection
of your Son Jesus Christ, you turn us from the old life of sin:
Grant that we, being reborn to new life in him, may live in
righteousness and holiness all our days; through Jesus Christ
our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 254)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Faith and Witness of Francis

This week we celebrate the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, who gave away all that he had - including his clothes - and became the founder of the Franciscan Order of traveling, teaching monks in the thirteenth century.  

St Francis is commonly known to be the patron saint of animals because of his canticle on creation (which we may remember by the phrase “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”) and the stories of his sermon to the birds, his taming of the wolf, and his love for all creation. So we often bring our animals to church to be blessed on the Feast of St Francis. 

The Franciscans, the little or lesser brothers, traveled around the countryside telling the story of Jesus to the people.  At that time, the language of the church was Latin and many people could not read or understand it.  And so Francis was thought to have set up the first creche, a living nativity scene, to help people understand the story of Christmas.  Hundreds of years later, the practice of putting stained glass windows in churches to visually portray the Christian story continues this tradition.  Just as Francis spoke to the animals to tell God’s story to them so he and his followers wanted to communicate with their fellow humans in ways that spoke to them, through pictures and stories they could understand.

Many of us know the story of Francis, how he started out as a party-boy, footing the bill for all sorts of revelries among the young smart set, how he was sent off to war and received an injury, how he began to see that his former life was shallow, how he was affected by meeting a leper, how he heard the voice of God imploring him to help rebuild the church, how he threw off all his possessions (to the consternation of his wealthy father) and embraced Lady Poverty, how he eventually gathered a group of monks around him which developed into the Franciscan Order as well as a group of women called the Poor Clares led by his friend and neighbor Clare of Assisi.

Francis was certainly a colorful figure, despite his rough brown robes and his bare feet. He was joyful and was said to urge the birds and the beasts to praise God in gratitude for their beauty and for God’s care for them. And yet he was incessantly seeking to deprive himself of comfort, often refusing food and shelter and finally dying naked as the day he was born while listening to someone read the 142nd Psalm. He was determined to live a life free of possessions which would keep him from following Jesus, but also he refused to live in a cloister, removed from the world, praying all the time, preferring to be out in the world, telling the story of Jesus to the people in their own language, even if it meant begging for his food. Willing to be ridiculed by the world, called by some the Clown of God, this joyful and yet deadly serious man embraced poverty and kissed lepers and figured if God told him to rebuild his church, which sounded like a tremendous job beyond one man’s capabilities, it wouldn’t hurt to begin by actually putting the stones back together on a falling down church building in his town.

Not everyone is called to be like Francis, but we are all called to consider his witness to the world. He isn’t just about blessing our pets, as good a thing as that is. Indeed, he took upon himself a yoke, but showed it to be light. He considered the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and bade them rejoice in their God-given beauty and to praise God for providing for them so richly. Would that we might do the same. Despite his embrace of deprivation, he did not consider himself worthy even to be a distant follower of our suffering God, as GK Chesterton put it in his biography of Francis, yet he was shown to be worthy because bore on his own body the wounds of Christ, receiving the gift of the stigmata near the end of his life. 

And so when you look in a garden and see a statue of St Francis in his robe with birds perched all over him, look beyond the legends and the quaint friend of cute pets and see a man utterly, fiercely, joyfully dedicated to God, who was willing to give up everything in order to follow Jesus, and marvel at his faith and witness.

Collect for the Reign of Christ

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 254)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Fishing

Rough surf and ominous clouds don't deter determined fisherfolk!

(Another) Prayer for the Departed

Almighty God, we remember before you today your faithful
servant N.; and we pray that, having opened to him the gates
of larger life, you will receive him more and more into your
joyful service, that, with all who have faithfully served you in
the past, he may share in the eternal victory of Jesus Christ
our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(BCP 253)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tuesday Afternoon Bird Photo: Government Shutdown Edition

This is a flock of American oystercatchers (click the photo to enlarge - it's not a great picture but you'll get the idea) flying in the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Oystercatchers are easily identified by their large, straight, red bills which they use to ferret their food out of the sand and tidal muck: oysters, of course, and other mollusks plus crabs and marine worms.

The Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is, of course, now closed because of the government shutdown that began last night at midnight. Only emergency (mostly law enforcement) personnel are working in the refuge. The purpose of the refuge is to provide habitat for migratory birds along the Atlantic Flyway. Back Bay is the winter home for tundra swans, snow geese, loons, and gannets among other species. Although there are contingency plans out there on the web 
( those plans suggest that the only work that will be done is stuff like protecting property and equipment or putting out a fire. Nothing is said about managing the property for the benefit of the animals living in the refuge. Back Bay is normally flooded in the fall in order to provide resting ponds for the overwintering birds. It appears that that water management work will not happen until the shutdown is over. 

And of course, the employees are furloughed, which is a fancy way of saying that they are laid off until the shutdown is over.

And don't even get me started about the shut down of the WIC program (full name: Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children). This program provides nutritional support and vouchers for about 9 million poor women and their children). Here's the story: 

All of this makes me angry and sad. Lord have mercy upon us.

Collect for the Departed

Eternal Lord God, you hold all souls in life: Give to your whole Church in paradise and on earth your light and your peace; and grant that we, following the good examples of those who have served you here and are now at rest, may at the last enter with them into your unending joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(BCP 253)


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