Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Fourth Day of Christmas: Gaudete

GAUDETE, CHRISTUS EST NATUS - arr. Jim Cooke, The Chamber Choir KameLeon of The Leon Kozminski University and The College of Europe Choir conducted by Katarzyna M. Boniecka during the concert entitled „The Christmas time is back" in The Jesuit Church of St.Stephan in Warsaw in 2011

Friday, December 26, 2014

Music for the Second Day of Christmas: Now May We Singen

I'm reposting this from last Christmas. As a bonus, I can now say that I have met Cecilia McDowall, who is a wonderful composer from England. I like her "sound."

The Virginia Chorale sings Cecilia McDowall's setting of this 15th Century traditional Christmas carol.

Chorus: Now may we singen as it is

Quod puer natus est nobis.
1. This Babe to us that now is born,
Wonderful works He hath (y)wrought
He would not loss what was forlorn,
But boldly again it bought;

        And thus it is

        For sooth ywis,

  He asketh nought but that is His.

2. This bargain lov√ęd He right well,
The price was high and bought full dear.
Who would suffer and for us feel
As did that Prince withouten peer?

        And thus it is

        For sooth ywis,

  He asketh nought but that is His.

3. His ransom for us hath ypaid;
Good reason have we to be His.
Be mercy asked and He be prayed,
Who may deserve the heavenly bliss.

        And thus it is

        For sooth ywis,

  He asketh nought but that is His.

4. To some purpose God made man;
I trust well to salvation.
What was His blood that from Him ran
But fence against damnation?

        And thus it is

        For sooth ywis,

  He asketh nought but that is His.

5. Almighty God in Trinity,
Thy mercy we pray with whole heart,
Thy mercy may all woe make fell
And dangerous deread from us to start.

        And thus it is

        For sooth ywis,

  He asketh nought but that is His.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve!

Christmas Eve has dawned!

Before I was ordained, and when my children were small, Christmas Eve was the day I made Moravian sugar cake, which we would eat for breakfast on Christmas Day. I'd prepare it in the morning while listening to the King's College Christmas Lessons and Carols on the public radio station.

I haven't made sugar bread in years, ever since Christmas Eve became a very busy work day for me and for the children (one of whom is now a volunteer church musician).  But this year, thanks to the magic of internet radio, I am listening to the service from King's College at my desk. And thanks to wonderful friends bearing gifts, I had sugar cake mailed from Old Salem for breakfast.

Meanwhile, people are scurrying around at the church, getting things ready. There's so much to do behind the scenes. The altar guild has changed the frontal and hangings to Christmas white and put out an altar in the fellowship hall for our overflow crowd. Stacks of bins full of bulletins for our three services are sorted and ready. Extra chairs are being pulled out of the cupboards, and luminaries line the breezeway between the parish house and church.

Choir members will soon begin warming up their voices and instrumentalists flexing their fingers. Because it's a rainy, messy day, our sextons will wheel in coat racks for the drippy raincoats people will shed as they arrive this afternoon.

My dad always did his Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve.  That was interesting. I had to run a few errands this morning and amazingly the stores were fairly empty and the cashiers smiling and friendly.

So, it's a busy day for many people. The waiting is over and the preparations are now in high gear.  It takes a lot to "put on Christmas." Thanks for all you do to make it happen at your church and in your community and your home.

But.  I hope you'll have a chance to take a few deep breaths, put up your feet for a few minutes today with a nice cup of tea (or something), listen to some music, light some candles, and settle in to the thought that our savior and our salvation has indeed now drawn very near, and by doing so has drawn us very near to the heart of God.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Music for Advent: Wondrous Love

This is the Meadows Chorale from the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University (SMU) conducted by Alfred Calabrese singing the traditional hymn Wondrous Love as arranged by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw.

While this is not technically an "Advent hymn," Wondrous Love is a good hymn for every season. Certainly as we consider and prepare for the coming of our Lord, it is good to hear these words. And this is a wonderful arrangement.

Alice Parker is an American composer/conductor/arranger from Boston, educated at Smith College and then The Juilliard School. She studied with Robert Shaw and arranged a number of songs with him in her early career. She particularly likes to work with folk/traditional tunes sung a cappella and her arrangements often feature a drone, partial canons (rounds), and other ways of weaving the sections and musical parts so that they interact with each other.

During my first semester of seminary, Alice Parker was the musician in residence, and she often came to chapel and taught us to sing her arrangements of traditional hymns as part of our worship. It was fantastic and fun - and amazing that she could take a group of people just sitting in a room and have them sing beautifully.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Annuciation (a poem)

Mary, did you marvel  at the sight of an angel in your room?

Did the hair on the nape of your neck
stand on end -
in fear, in fascination,
in dread,
in tender curiosity?

Did you consider
saying no? 
Did you blush or panic or wish
that you could rush out the door
into the cool spring breeze
and forget
it ever happened?

Hail, Mary,
full of grace,
the Lord is with thee,
he said in his angel voice
that must have sounded like heaven
to your maiden ear.

Why else would you have listened?
How else could you have listened?
Unless it was the sound of heaven that kept you still.

And while he waited for your answer, were you thinking that your life was over?

Or was it just the beginning?

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Sally is about to pounce ..... 

while Bella ponders the mysteries of Advent.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Psalm for Thursday in the Third Week of Advent

Psalm 30

1     I will exalt you, O LORD,
         because you have lifted me up*
            and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

2     O LORD my God, I cried out to you,*
          and you restored me to health.

3      You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead;*
           you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

4       Sing to the LORD, you servants of his;*
           give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

5      For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,*
           his favor for a lifetime.

6      Weeping may spend the night,*
           but joy comes in the morning.

7      While I felt secure, I said, "I shall never be disturbed.*
           You, LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains."

8      Then you hid your face,*
           and I was filled with fear.

9       I cried to you, O LORD;*
            I pleaded with the Lord, saying,

10     "What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?*
             will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

11      Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me;*
             O LORD, be my helper."

12     You have turned my wailing into dancing;*
             you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

13     Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;*
            O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Psalm for Tuesday in the Third Week of Advent

Psalm 34:1-8

1     I will bless the LORD at all times;*
          his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

2     I will glory in the LORD;*
          let the humble hear and rejoice.

3     Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;*
          let us exalt his Name together.

4     I sought the LORD, and he answered me*
           and delivered me out of all my terror.

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

6     I called in my affliction and the LORD hear me*
          and saved me from all my troubles.

7     The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him,*
          and he will deliver them.

8     Taste and see that the LORD is good;*
          happy are they who trust in him!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Psalm for Monday in the Third Week of Advent

Psalm 25:3-8

3      Show me your ways, O LORD,*
          and teach me your paths.

4      Lead me in your truth and teach me,*
           for you are the God of my salvation;
           in you have I trusted all the day long.

5     Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,*
           for they are from everlasting.

6     Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;*
           remember me accordion to your love
           and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

7     Gracious and upright is the LORD;*
          therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8      He guides the humble in doing right*
           and teaches his way to the lowly.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Music for Advent: Wait for the Lord

I posted this last year and thought this evening would be a good time to listen to it again.

The traditional Taize hymn for Advent: Wait for the Lord, whose day is near. Wait for the Lord, be strong, take heart.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Slowing Down

The pressure is mounting to do more and more as Christmas approaches. All of a sudden, I am feeling a pull that is as strong as a tractor beam toward the mall..... I. Must. Shop!

I'm not part of the Advent Police who want to go about telling everyone they are wrong for skipping over Advent and going straight to Christmas. I happen to want to observe Advent because I believe I need it, but I don't think engaging in the Advent Wars is a worthy use of my already limited time. What's the point of setting aside time for reflection if it is about reflecting on either a) how wrong everyone is (or at least some people are) or b) how great I am. It's the Pharisee and the tax collector all over again.

Still. I need to keep on my path of trying to be still and quiet for at least a few minutes a day, to carve out the time, if necessary by giving up some other busy-ness/business, to slow down and breathe deeply and let my spirit seek connection with the One who is to come among us again very soon.  I still need to look around me and see those who are grieving, who are struggling, who are suffering and remember that it is for those that Jesus came - to bind up their wounds and to release them from the captivity under which they are bent over. I still need to name, and hopefully then let go of, the things that keep me from welcoming Christ into my life and that keep me from being Christ's hands and feet in the world.

And so, this is a reminder to me, and maybe to you, too, that even as things are getting busier and we are being pulled in many directions, to slow down, if just for a few minutes today, and contemplate the majesty and grace of the one who is coming to make things right and bring forth a new heaven and a new earth and to prepare our hearts to make him room.

This installation is in the Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, NYC

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Collect for our Nation

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)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Photo and Prayer for the Night Office

Keep wach, 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)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Midnight Cry

Today's daily Advent reading is from Matthew 25:

‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids*took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.* 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.6But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” 7Then all those bridesmaids* got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” 9But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” 10And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11Later the other bridesmaids* came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” 12But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.”13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

We begin Advent by talking about light. At this time of year when the dark gathers earlier and earlier, light catches our eye and warms our hearts. And we talk about preparation. Christ is coming; will we be ready with our small lamps to greet the holy one we call Light from Light and join our light to his? 

How can I prepare for such a thing that seems beyond my comprehension and perhaps my ability? Truth be told, I sometimes am tempted during this season to strive for excellence rather than to live into the mystery of salvation, to work for worthiness rather than simply to bring my brokenness into the light, trusting that I can be made whole by Love. 

I count among my favorite music for Advent “The Midnight Cry,” one of the shape note hymns from early American hymnody, which is about the story of the wise and foolish virgins. The last two verses remind me that using my light to draw near to Christ is all I really need to do:

“Virgins wise, I pray draw near, and listen to your Savior; he is your friend, you need not fear, oh, why not seek his favor? He speaks to you in whispers sweet, in words of consolation: by grace in him you stand complete, he is your great salvation. Dying sinners, will you come, the Savior now invites you; his bleeding wounds proclaim there’s room. Let nothing then affright you - room for you and room for me and room for coming sinners: Salvation pours a living stream for you and all believers.”

There’s room for you and room for me. Let’s go out to meet him with our lamps, however faltering our flame.

Collect for the First Sunday of Advent

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Family Caturday!

Post Thanksgiving nap selfie by Bella.

(Not really. But the kitties were amazingly calm during all the food prep and didn't try to eat anything off the counters or the table. This was a little shocking but certainly welcome!)

And happy Thanksgiving weekend from our family!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Living Thanks

(This is the sermon I delivered at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church this morning. The Thanksgiving Day service at St. Stephen's has a long history and includes singing the traditional Come Ye Thankful People Come at the beginning and our national anthem at the end of it.)

We have come together in the presence of Almighty God to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at God’s hands and to tell the people what things the Almighty has done.

Now perhaps for you, this is a “well, duh” kind of way to speak on Thanksgiving Day. Of course we are here to give thanks. It would be hard to miss the “giving thanks” part of today. It’s in the name, first of all. And second, we are in church, and everybody knows that we do a lot of thanking our God in church. We are the thankful people who have come to God’s temple to glory in the harvest, as we sang a few minutes ago.

When we leave here with our hearts stirred after singing our national anthem, many of us will head into our kitchens to make a thanksgiving feast. We will roast turkeys and whip cream and stir gravy and either mash potatoes or put marshmallows on top of them. We will concoct some kind of dressing. 

(There are many ways, of course, to make dressing or stuffing, although I will tell you now that my mom’s cornbread dressing is the best.) 

We will put on a spread like no other day of the year.

And then we will bow our heads over our plates and we will give thanks for the abundance on our tables, and perhaps we will be inspired by the heaping platters of food and the number of people crowded around the table and the warm feelings we are experiencing to take some time to reflect more generally on God’s abundance in our lives. 

Because when Jesus said, I am the bread of life, he took the whole food thing to another level. Jesus didn’t just prepare a feast of loaves and fishes on the mountain to feed the five thousand, which is the event that sparked the conversation Jesus is having with the crowd in today’s Gospel, but he gave himself, his very life, he gave everything so that we might know just how much God loves us. 

Jesus knew that love is stronger than death and he was willing to lay down his life so that we might see God’s power when he was raised.

And so the feeding on the mountain, the food, was not the whole story. There is more to God’s abundance, God’s generosity, to God’s power than bread and meat, no matter how delicious it is. Jesus wanted everyone to understand that God was about abundant life and to be assured that this abundant life was available to everyone everywhere, to all who wanted it. 

That’s why he turned the water into wine at Cana; that’s why he gave away thousands of loaves of bread on the mountain; that’s why he raised Lazarus from the dead - to show that there is no limit to God’s generosity.

And if we can accept that love and understand the unlimited and unconditional quality of it, then we will become free to respond to God’s abundance with generosity of our own. We won’t be grasping and worrying that we won’t have enough. 

We will know that we do have enough and can move on to opening our own hands wide even as God’s hands are open wide. Our Thanksgiving meal is meant to be to us a symbol of God’s abundance. 

And when we have eaten our fill of the feast, we will be strengthened to serve others in God’s name.

So, today we have come together in the presence of Almighty God to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at God’s hands and to tell the people what things the Almighty has done.

I remember a time, when I was a little girl in Sunday school, a second grader or so, when we were all standing in a circle to say our prayers. Each of us was to say something specific that we were thankful for. Someone started out by saying “my family.” Another said, “my dog.” One boy, the usual suspect, announced that what he was thankful for was the ketchup and mustard he could put on his hot dogs. He was about to go into pickle relish and steamed buns when, amid the snickers he undoubtedly meant to elicit, the teacher moved things along to the next child, which was me. 

Determined to pray with more appropriate piety and drawing upon lessons I’d learned 
through Vacation Bible School songs, I gave thanks for the whole world and everything in it. How’s that for telling the people what things the Almighty has done?I was pleased with myself, sure that nobody else would be able to top my all-encompassing prayer. I didn’t have to bother with thinking up anything in particular for which to be thankful - I had said it all in one fell swoop.

I don’t remember what anybody else mentioned in their prayers. I was too caught up in my own sense of superiority to notice.

Looking back, I see that my young friend’s specificity, even though it was meant to be funny, in truth made for a pretty good prayer. Where I had made a sweeping generalization so bland as to be almost forgettable, he had named something that delights him. He had, indeed, done what the teacher had asked, to say something specific for which he was thankful.

Now, I stand by my Sunday school prayer, if not my attitude about it - it is our Creator who has done all these things, who has made the very Earth that brings forth such delightful bounty, from ketchup to my mother’s Thanksgiving dressing. We are called to give thanks for the specific even while we recognize that everything we have comes from God. The two of us managed to put together a decent prayer for a couple of second graders. We gave thanks for what we enjoy having AND we told what things the Almighty has done.

For us Christians, Thanksgiving isn’t just about the food. It’s also about the one who gave us the food, who made the fertile Earth and the people who tilled it and produced the food, the one who has promised us the kind of abundance that makes our tables laden with turkey and gravy and pumpkin pie pale in comparison. 

And it is about the telling, too. 

And so today when we sit around the table with our family and our friends, let’s tell each other what God has done for us, for the community, for the world. Let’s tell each other about the great benefits  we have received at God’s hands, and let’s be specific. Tell about what delights you, about what moves you, about what blows you away about God’s abundance. And let’s listen to each other  marvel at our many blessings.

And after we have marveled, let’s do one more thing. Let's live thanks. Let’s decide to respond to God’s generosity with generosity of our own. Let’s decide to be a blessing to others in some specific way. Because not only have we been given food to eat and families to love and a wonderful country to live in, but we have been given eternal life. Jesus said, I have come that all may have abundant life! I am the bread of life!

So let’s make today about more than the food. Let’s even make it more than about our own blessings. Let’s use all this bounty strengthen us and free us to open our hands and reach toward others in the name of the one who indeed made this beautiful, bountiful, verdant, excellent world and every delightful, true, honorable, just, and pleasing thing in it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Collect for Social Justice

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(BCP 823)

Monday, November 24, 2014


Jubilate    Psalm 100

Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; * 
    serve the Lord with gladness 
    and come before his presence with a song. 

Know this: The Lord himself is God; * 
    he himself has made us, and we are his; 
    we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; 
go into his courts with praise; * 
    give thanks to him and call upon his Name. 

For the Lord is good; 
his mercy is everlasting; * 
    and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

(BCP 82)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Collect for Christ the King Sunday

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.


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