Monday, September 17, 2012

Climate Change Video: Can We Really Do It?

I didn't wake up grumpy this morning.  The air is clear and cool.  Perfect for a Fall day.  I didn't watch more than 5 minutes of Morning Joe: I just cannot deal with politics today.  However, this video made me both happy and grumpy.  I love the Symphony of Science stuff.  This new one is on climate change threw me into a bit of despair, though.  It isn't science that can "do it," it is political will and there isn't much of that around these days.  See what you think.

If we as Christians are to care for creation, then people of faith and people of science need to find common cause to make the "we can do it" possible.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
While in seminary I did an intern year at Christ Church, the Anglican Church in Vienna, Austria. Fourth of July was on a Sunday that year and I got to plan the music for the service, which was from the BCP. One of the hymns was this one, sung to the tune Finlandia. I first heard it at an ANZAC day service where the ambassadors from Australia, New Zealand and Turkey placed wreaths at the foot of the altar. It was appropriate for an international community and an important reminder for all of us here in the United States on this very special holiday.

This is my song, Oh God of all the nations, 
A song of peace for lands afar and mine. 
This is my home, the country where my heart is; 
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine. 
But other hearts in other lands are beating, 
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine. 

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean, 
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine. 
But other lands have sunlight too and clover, 
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine. 
Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations, 
A song of peace for their land and for mine. 

May truth and freedom come to every nation; 
May peace abound where strife has raged so long;
That each may seek to love and build together, 
A world united, righting every wrong; 
A world united in its love for freedom, 
Proclaiming peace together in one song. 

This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth's kingdoms: 
Thy kingdom come; on earth thy will be done. 
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him, 
And hearts united learn to live as one. 
O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations; 
Myself I give thee, let thy will be done.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Abiding Love

Yesterday I drove the 75 miles to Skowhegan, Maine to celebrate the Eucharist with a small but lively congregation.  In honor of Mother's Day, I used Robert Munch's "Love You Forever" as part of my sermon.  Sheila McGraw's illustrations are quite wonderful with the cover showing a two-year-old with a very satisfied smile on his face, sitting next to a toilet strewing toilet paper everywhere. For those who do not know the book, it's about a mother who sings as she rocks her son back and forth:
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always;
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.
We hear how the boy grows and grows and still the mother manages to rock him and sing the song to him (she always makes sure he is asleep by peeking up over the side of his bed).  It is not all sweetness and light—the boy drives her "CRAZY;" she wants "to sell him to the zoo;" and feels like she "is in a zoo."  But she continues to find ways to rock him and sing to him until at the end of her life he does the same for her and then to his new born daughter.

I used the story to talk about God's abiding love for us and how God is a Mothering-Father.  It is important to acknowledge all those in our lives who have mothered us: some of whom were men and others women; some were related to us by blood and others by love. God's abiding love is always there, even when we are not aware of it.  We, who are nurtured by such love, are to pass it on. I ended by saying it is this abiding love that we, as Christians, have to offer to the world.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Beautiful Bar Harbor

I had the privilege yesterday of presiding at St. Saviour's in Bar Harbor.  They are a gracious group and it is wonderful to drive up US 1 through Camden and Searsport and across the Penobscot Narrows through Ellsworth and on to Mount Desert Island.  The skies were a pale blue and the ocean deep blue.

Reading the Jewish Study Bible last week gave me new perspectives on the Ten Commandments in Exodus.  Putting some of those together with Godly Play's "The Ten Best Things" and a mild rant on the incivility and greed running rampant in our country these days were the gist of my sermon.  One of the things that struck me was that the attribute for God translated in the NRSV as "jealous" is translated as "impassioned" in the Jewish Study Bible.  Much more understandable to my post-modern mind.

It really was hard to get up to do the early service since I was so concerned I wouldn't wake up and Miss Isabelle was restless until midnight, but we both did just fine.  Coming back I stopped at the Whale's Tooth Pub on Linconville Beach for lunch.  The parking lot was pretty empty when I was finished and Izzie was sound asleep in the car.  It was a much needed break as I was beginning to get sleepy. We got home safe and sound.  I took a nap only to be awakened by the sun in my eyes in the late afternoon.  Izzie  slept quietly through the night.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sermon-All Saint's San Francisco

There is some recycled material here, but it was wonderful to be able to preach at the church that sponsored me for the diaconate and then the priesthood and to see familiar and new faces.  I also got to accomplish one of the aims of the Society of Ordained Scientists, that is, "To offer to God in our ordained role the work of science and technology in the exploration and stewardship of creation."  The quotations are from Swimme and Tucker's book.
 "Wherever the interstellar clouds of the two galaxies collide, they do not freely move past each other without interruption but, rather, suffer a damaging collision. High relative velocities cause ram pressures at the surface of contact between the interacting interstellar clouds. This pressure, in turn, produces material densities sufficiently extreme as to trigger star formation through gravitational collapse. The hot blue stars in this image are evidence of this star formation."
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Photo ID: GL-2002-001105



Sermon:

There are three reasons I am in California:  first to inter my friend David's ashes in the columbarium, which we did yesterday; second to see my children and some friends; and thirdly to go to Tucson on my home to Maine for a retreat/meeting of the North American Chapter of the Society of Ordained Scientists.  I've watched a lot of news programs and commentators in motels on my stops across the country with Izzie.  The voices get pretty strident and I find myself driving long distances with no radio or iPod music, so I can enjoy the silence and listen to the memories in my head.

Today’s readings made me pay attention to the use of the word “voice” and the presence of the Holy Spirit:  God’s voice as power and God’s Holy Spirit as life giver or the one who spurs us to action. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth” is such a simple statement for some very complex processes. Scientists sometimes refer to this beginning of space-time as the “Big Bang.” In the book "Journey of the Universe" by Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker, the authors instead the start of our universe as “the great exhalation.” That’s another way to describe the forces of expansion (from the big bang) and attraction (gravity), to remind us that the universe is "shaped by these two opposing and creative dynamics" and that we who are alive are also shaped by processes of expansion and contraction such as breathing and the beating of our hearts.

Just like in our Psalm, the voice of God is powerful and majestic, controlling all of nature but I can't help but  wonder what the "great exhalation" sounded like.  Big Bang doesn't really have the elegance or the awe or the wonder that the term "great exhalation" does.  Could it really be a great shout of joy and love and unimaginable power that started all that we know and began time and space? And if the Holy Spirit is inspiration, then we have the breathing in and out of the universe in both exhalation and inspiration.

Thinking about God breathing out the universe is reflected in the prolog to John’s Gospel "In the beginning was the Word." as well as the beginning of Genesis that we heard today “God said let there be....”  And God didn't just separate the light from darkness there was much more creating going on. After the initial "bang" particles began to collide and interact; sometimes bonding, sometimes separating.  The formation of increasingly complex communities, started with elementary particles and seems to be the way of the universe. In order for bonding to occur, the particles have to give up part of their mass and release it as energy.  "Even from the first moments, our universe moved toward creating relationships.....This bonding is at the heart of matter."

Forming a complex community is what churches are all about. Becoming part of a complex community is what baptism is all about. It’s not just this one place, All Saints’, but it is about becoming a part of the whole Body of Christ. In Maine, I’ve spent time trying to help some small parishes figure out new ways of being church. Part of that is helping them think about what it would mean when churches are willing to give up something, and what kind of energy could be released that will benefit both the churches and the communities in which they exist.  What kind of new relationships can be formed?

Because there is the relationship part of bonding too. It seems as though God created the whole universe, not just us, in God's image.  If bonding is at the heart of matter, then bonding or relationship has a lot to do with how we related to God and how God relates to us. I would like to think that relationships or bonding are as critical to the nature of God as to the nature of the universe God created and giving up a bit of mass to create energy is part of this.

So far I’ve used images to describe the universe and ourselves as breathing lung, an expanding heart, and a system that becomes increasingly complex. There is another image that can apply and that is of a developing seed. The process is complex, but orderly: first roots, then leaves. The universe started out focusing on building nuclei, then it stopped and other processes began. “The astonishing fact is that if the universe had continued building nuclei all the way up to iron, for example, iron nuclei would have predominated for all time.” But what happened instead was when all the light nuclei were formed the conditions for building the nuclei changed. And this stopping and changing happened again and again over the fourteen billion years it took to get to us. As with seeds developing one process stopped so something new could take over. Something that would eventually become living, breathing creatures to could contemplate the awesome complexity that the mind of God is holding in existence.

God’s power is manifest in the Holy Spirit received after Paul laid his hands on some disciples in Ephesus. And we see God’s power in our gospel when we again hear the voice and see the action of the Holy Spirit. “And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

How many times have we said of a baby “he or she is the spitting image of .....” Well we are the spitting image of the voice that said “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” God is not just well pleased with his Son with a capital S, he is well pleased with all his sons and daughters. Just as God proclaimed the first day good, he proclaimed the creating of humankind good as well.

As think about the renewal of our baptismal covenant this morning, I challenge you to remember that it is our voices bonding with voices of Christians around the globe, that allows for the creative work of the Holy Spirit to start something new. The Holy Spirit, the Creator and the Son are all bound together in a relationship dance and because of their relationship, we are bound in our baptism to God and to each other.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hallelujah Corporations: Or I Can't Resist a Hallelujah Chorus

With all the anger about corporate excess and the brave actions of the OCW people across the US I recommend this YouTube video for those who love Handel as well as the Capital Steps.

Wade sent the link this morning.


Hallelujah was conceived, rehearsed and filmed in Tamworth, NH, a small town with a population of 2556 that has as its backdrop Mt Chocorua, the most photographed mountain in America. Tamworth is part of Occupy The Mt Washington Valley. Tamworth was the summer home of President Grover Cleveland
Nicely done. Clever writing too.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Moses and the Northwoods Park

Mt. Katahdin, Maine
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Next Sunday will be my last one at  two lovely churches, one in the shadow of Mt. Katahdin and the other near the lovely Lincoln Lakes. I have decided that with everything else going on in my life, I do not, physically or emotionally, have the strength to do this for a year. The bishop supports me in this.

Last Thursday I attended a somewhat contentious meeting at the local high school. Proponents and opponents of a feasibility study for a Northern Woods National Park met with Secretary of the interior Salazar. He was a generous listener and I hope opened up some hearts to listen to the possibility and to decide on information rather than fear and emotion.


Sermon

What a difficult time it was for the descendants of Joseph and his family when there was a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph. They had really grown in numbers and were probably viewed as a threat to the Egyptians. What if, they became so numerous they would took over the place? Not something any self-respecting dictator would put up with. So they were put to work as slaves making bricks for Pharaoh's projects.

That didn't stop the Israelites from finding ways around this oppressive system. When Moses was born, his mother had him hidden in the reeds of the Nile near where Pharaoh's daughter bathed and had his sister watch the whole scene so she could recommend a wet-nurse, who was really Mose's mother. Moses was fortunate enough to be raised in Pharaoh's household. God was watching over his people, silently providing for a leader.

Watching the evening news about the struggle the Libyans and Syrians are having trying to overthrow their dictators can't help but make me think of Moses and the Israelites. And then this past spring we watched as Egyptians freed themselves from their dictator. It is no longer a group of strangers kept captive in a foreign land struggling to be free, but people native to a country oppressed by their own brutal leaders. There is something in the human spirit that yearns to be free. My home state tells it well: "Live Free or Die." Now I know some wags say that slogan is a threat, but there is something about not being free that can kill bits of your soul.

I wonder what it is like to overcome the fear of being beaten or killed or having your family members put at risk to fight for freedom. Fear is a powerful emotion--one of our most basic and primitive ones. It gets the adrenalin going so we can fight or flee. I think I am the type who would flee, but I don't really know. When we are fearful, or have any other powerful negative emotion all we seem to be able to do is act instinctively: creative solutions go out the window.

I remember telling a fractious Vestry some years ago, that I was going to show episodes of The Vicar of Dibley (a British comedy) to them for the first half hour of our meetings so they could do problem solving instead of bickering.

God must have given the Israelites a sense of humor so they could come up with creative solutions to Pharaoh's edicts. Like the midwives saying the women were so healthy they gave birth before the midwives arrived.

I was thinking of the need for a sense of humor at the meeting on the Northwoods Park last Thursday. I know there is a lot of fear in the town over the mill closing and the lack of good paying jobs, or jobs of any kind. An unemployment rate of over 20% is frightening. I wonder if that fear is keeping some people from being able to look at possibilities other than a mill. In situations like this, it is hard to view any change as having the potential to be positive. And I know there is a lot of history that complicates matters.

If we look a bit forward into Moses' story after he gets Pharaoh to "let my people go"--what happens--they complain bitterly that things were better in Egypt. God had a plan for these stiff-necked people, but it was in the future and neither Moses, nor that first generation would get to see the promised land. That is a bit like doing interim ministry, you can lead people for a bit, but the future is in their hands. Someone else will lead them into the future with God's help. We never do any of this alone.

Our Epistle this morning tells us "For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness." What a great image of a church or any community of people!

Each one of you has a special gift that this church and this community needs to form a strong body. Each one of you is different and special in the eyes of God, and, I hope, in the eyes of each other. Imagine the power of a smile to a stranger. Imagine the power of a hand of friendship to someone who has no family or whose family is far away. Imagine the power of a gentle sense of humor when there is a tense situation. Imagine the strength of shared experiences to build bonds between people. Imagine the satisfaction of guiding someone else's child find the security that comes in learning that God is love. Imagine the gratefulness of finding other people who share your love of this church and this area and joining with them to serve.

In Matthew, this morning, we hear Jesus say to his disciples, "But who do you say that I am?" And "Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven."

If we believe that Jesus is the anointed one of God -- the one sent to show us the way, then like the Israelites of old, we may grumble and complain, but as long as we keep struggling to break free from whatever bonds keep us as slaves to our Pharaohs, God will be there. As the psalmist tells us: "Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

It's No Fun Without David

I love doing interim or transition work, at least I used to.  I did not realize, though, that my ability to speak with David nearly every day, helped make this exhausting work fun.  I know it may become fun again, but I'm concerned that right now I cannot do the work these two congregations need for me to do.

Yesterday I was in a real blue funk.  I kept wanting to reach for the phone to speak with him.  It's not that we often spoke of what was on my plate, but after patiently listening to his latest ideas on medicine or (his latest) how he could contribute to the issue of overpopulation in the world, he usually had some uplifting things to say about me or us or nothing in particular.