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.
One of my neighbors put out a hummingbird feeder last week and this lady has been visiting it regularly. If you look closely, you will see that she is sticking out her tongue, perhaps blowing a raspberry at the nosy photographer.
We've got two new residents at the pond - another Pekin duckling (the original one is the now grown Pekin duck in the first photo, the new one is here in the bottom photo) and an interesting new species to me, a Swedish duck (see below - a dark duck with a white bib).
I don't often post pictures of fish. For one thing, it's hard to get pictures of fish.
These are longnose gar. Their ancestors lived before the dinosaurs. They can grow to be six feet long and have very sharp teeth. We just happened to notice these (the larger of which may have been 3 or 4 feet long) in a pond (not the duck pond!) down at the beach last weekend.
They have armored plates and everything and are a top predator in some systems. Proof that God has a sense of humor?
This is an Eastern kingbird. I'd never seen one before until the day that I saw several of them. They're part of the flycatcher family, and there were certainly plenty of flies out that day, so no wonder. Kingbirds have this tiny red crest on top of their shiny black heads, but they almost never show the crest. I took picture after picture, hoping to catch a glimpse of red, but never got to see it.
Nonetheless, it's a striking bird, and not a tiny one, but look how delicately it perches on this thin, old, decrepit cattail.
Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices: Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 827)
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 251)
Sometimes it helps me to remember that I am but a small person in an infinite universe. That's one of the reasons why I like to go to the beach. I feel as if I am at the very edge of the world where I can look out on a huge expanse of sea and sky and remember my smallness as I listen to the waves and the wind. They sound to me like the heartbeat of God.
Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, "I dwell in the high and holy place and also with the one who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite." Isaiah 57:15
Last Friday I went on a long walk through the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I watched beautiful great egret flying over the marsh and then noticed that it was being followed by a red-winged blackbird. The egret landed, and the blackbird flew around it, alternately bopping it on the head and hovering above it to harass it. Not sure what that was about but it was comical. The egret was very stoic as you can see from this shot.
Here's another in which the egret tried to duck (no pun intended).
Almighty God, whose Son had nowhere to lay his head: Grant that those who live alone may not be lonely in their solitude, but that, following in his steps, they may find fulfillment in loving you and their neighbors; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 829)
Lord it is night. The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God. It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done. Let it be. The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you. The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace. The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities. In your name we pray. Amen.
O God, by the preaching of your blessed servant Columba you caused the light of the Gospel to shine in Scotland: Grant, we pray, that, having his life and labors in remembrance, we may show our thankfulness to you by following the example of his zeal and patience; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, by your patience in suffering you hallowed earthly pain and gave us the example of obedience to your Father's will: Be near me in my time of weakness and pain; sustain me by your grace, that my strength and courage may not fail; heal me according to your will; and help me always to believe that what happens to me here is of little account if you hold me in eternal life, my Lord and my God. Amen.
So, the other day, I wrote about the new ducks that came to live at our pond. Here's how things have shaken out.
The fuzzy yellow duckling has now become a large white duck. The two mallard ducklings (the one surviving baby of the original brood of five that were born a few weeks ago plus the one surviving from a group of babies brought by the man who also brought the white duck and the black one, a Cayuga) are the white duck's constant companions. They follow him/her around all the time and they all sleep together, eat together, swim together. The Cayuga duck often hangs out with the two babies plus the white duck; however, when the parents of the one mallard baby show up, it likes to hang out with them. After all, the white duck and the mallard ducklings are all kids; the Cayuga and the mallard parents are adults.
The mallard parents, however, once they allowed their duckling to hang out with the other ducklings, pretty much went to Las Vegas or something. I see them at the pond every so often (at which time the Cuyaga duck will follow them around) but more often than not they are absent. Some of the neighbors are pretty judgmental about the mallard mama. First of all, she lost almost all her ducklings and then she seemed to abandon the only one that survived. Others figure that she pretty much was traumatized by the loss and never really got over it. Who knows what goes on in the minds of mallards?
And so these four in the picture are, by necessity perhaps, now a family. None of them are related to any of the others. But they are a family nonetheless. I like it.
Some of my friends and family have mentioned that they know I am going to miss the pond and all its residents when I move at the end of this month. That is true. I will really miss the pond. It has been a place of joy, and solitude, and excitement, and sadness. I've walked many, many miles around it hundreds of times in all kinds of weather. I've read books on the bench and talked on the phone while I walked or sat. I've photographed its residents - turtles, snakes, birds, bunnies - and watched them grow and play and, in the case of the big bullfrogs, get eaten by the great blue heron. I have loved living with this pond just a few hundred feet from my house.
But I haven't moved yet. And so I get to enjoy watching this duck family and all their friends and neighbors for a few more weeks before it's time to say goodbye. It's just a little pond.
Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to thee, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be whollythine, utterly dedicated unto thee; and then use us, we praythee, asthou wilt, and always tothyglory and the welfare ofthypeople; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.Amen. (BCP 832)
O God, you prepared your disciples for the coming of the Spirit through the teaching of your Son Jesus Christ: Make the hearts and minds of your servants ready to receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit, that they may be filled with the strength of his presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 819)
I'm interrupting my usual Monday posting schedule to tell you about something that is dear to my heart and to ask for your prayers and your help.
Several years ago, I heard about something new happening in the church world. It was called St. Lydia's Dinner Church that a young woman named Emily Scott had started in New York City. I read about it and was amazed. A group of young adults were meeting in a Lutheran church on Sunday nights (having first started out in someone's apartment) to cook dinner together and sing songs and worship. Eucharist, sharing bread and wine, was part of the dinner as were some Bible readings and conversation about them. There was even a short homily. Then everyone cleaned up from the dinner and some retired to a local pub for more conversation.
Emily came from an Episcopal background but was in the process to be ordained as a Lutheran pastor.
I was intrigued. So I started paying attention. I went to New York and attended a service. I kept in touch with Emily. It was refreshing to see someone doing something new that was attracting young adults (and others!) that wasn't about video screens and guitars but rather was about deep conversation over food, a feeding of body and soul.
Over the last few years, St. Lydia's has moved a couple or three times and also has grown so that dinner church now happens on both Sunday AND Monday nights. Emily engaged the community in conversations beyond worship and food - establishing small groups to develop leadership and foster stewardship, determine whether they wanted to become affiliated with a denomination, establishing Bible study and movie groups, establishing a community garden, leading the members of the community into a deeper spiritual place through retreats and activities and a theology group.
It has come time for the community to have its own home after renting by the night from various churches and community centers. They found a place in Brooklyn. And immediately, Emily was leading the group into a new listening process in which St. Lydians just went to the neighborhood to meet the people who live there and to listen to what the people yearn for so that the community can listen to its own yearnings and discern how to contribute to the neighborhood, not just to meet there.
(Read Emily's wonderful sermon about this adventure in listening here.)
Frankly, you just don't see this kind of spiritual leadership that often. I admire Emily immensely. And I love what she and the other Lydians have done together in these last five years.
So when Emily told me that St. Lydia's was launching a capital campaign to raise $30,000 (to add to the $80,000 they have already raised) to finish out their new space in Brooklyn and asked for my help, I got out my checkbook. (Then I had to put it back because this campaign is being crowd funded online through Indiegogo, and I got out my credit card.)
Now comes the ask. First of all, please keep St. Lydia's in your prayers. This community is doing God's work in their corner of the world. Your prayers will do much to support that work. Visit their website to learn more about St. Lydia's.
Second of all, click here to go to the campaign page and watch the adorable video about St. Lydia's Dinner Church, see photographs (including drawings of the proposed buildout of the new space, both for dinner church and for a daytime co-working space), and, if you can, contribute to this campaign. Even if you can only give $20, you'll be doing a lot to further the kingdom. This is a crowd funding adventure, meaning that people from all over the place are gathering together to give what they can to support something wonderful.
St. Lydia's is something wonderful. Please support them by giving to this campaign. But do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13: 15-16)
Look with mercy, O God our Father, on all whose increasing years bring them weakness, distress, or isolation. Provide for them homes of dignity and peace; give them understanding helpers, and the willingness to accept help; and, as their strength diminishes, increase their faith and their assurance of your love. This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 830)
O God, the creator and preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially we pray for thy holy Church universal; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to thy fatherly goodness all those who are in any ways afflicted or distressed, in mind, body, or estate; [especially those for whom our prayers are desired]; that it may please thee to comfort and relieve them according to their several necessities, giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. (BCP 815)
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.