Thursday, December 27, 2012

Meditation for 30 December: “light and life and love”    

John 1: 1 – 14 is the Prologue to the Gospel of John, which is often called the most spiritual Gospel. It is about Light and Life: “I am the Light of the World; whosoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” 8:12)…and “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” (14:6) and “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (10:9.) It is the Gospel which most emphasizes the divinity of Jesus, in his mission of bringing life into the world, in creation and in eternal life, and in enlightening humanity.

Why do we read the Gospel of John and especially the Prologue at Christmas time? Because the Word “dwelt among us,” “full of grace and truth,”stressing the salvation message and the new command of the Incarnation: love of God, of Jesus, and of each other.  “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (13:35). Like the star, the true light “shines in the darkness”…”in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” 

At Christmastime, we celebrate not only the birth of Jesus Christ, but especially his embodiment of light and life and love

Painting is St. John the Evangelist by El Greco. Image, courtesy of Wiki Commons.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sermon: C Christmas Day 25 December 2012

Is 62: 6-12; Ps 97; Ti 3: 4-7; LUKE 2: 1-20

Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place. AMEN.

Merry Christmas and welcome here this happy morning.

Sometimes I wonder about swapping seasonal hymns—wouldn’t “Welcome happy morning, age to age shall say” suit this day as would many other Easter hymns, although there are often stanzas and verses about the crucifixion which would suit less well, because that’s looking too far ahead. This morning, we’re only at “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.” Christmas hymns are allowed sweet sentiments, and even sentimental images, and yet they need not to stop there. The risk is of seeing an image of Mother and Child, and stopping at that ordinary, gentle, and familiar scene, and forgetting the complex reality of that seemingly recognizable family picture.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

C Christmas Eve 24 December 2012 Go Tell it on the Mountain: Jesus Christ is born today

Is 9: 2-7; Ps 96; Ti 2:11-14; LUKE 2: 1-20

“Fear not, for lo, I bring you good tidings of great joy! For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.  AMEN.

Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas to you and yours! On this joyful occasion, welcome to St. John’s, and Merry Christmas.

The angel said to them, (and to us I’d opine,) “Do not be afraid; for see— I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. Think of what there was and is to be afraid of. Make your list briefly—guns; money—macroeconomics/personal finances; health, unmet hopes/expectations/needs; and so much more. The personal list is there too, things done and left undone, whether sins of omission or commission, and an uneasiness of not being/doing/aiming for more—on whatever level, but especially the personal. Why didn’t I… When will I ever get to…Can’t I be better at…

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sermon: C 4 Advent 23 December 2012

Mi 5: 2-5a; Cant 15 (LK 1: 46-55;) He 10: 5-10; LUKE 1:39-55

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Savior, Come and save us, O Lord our God. AMEN.

This antiphon or short sentence preceded and followed the day’s psalm or canticle historically. This is the 7th of the O Antiphons, the one written for the 23rd of Dec. Since we sang The Magnificat instead of the Psalm, and we sang two hymn versions of this canticle, we omitted either a regular chosen antiphon or this ancient one from these O Antiphons, those written for the seven days leading to Christmas Eve. We know them best from “O come, O come Emmanuel.” We ask the Lord, rex et legifer noster, our king and lawgiver, law bearer, to save us. This antiphon names Jesus, calls out to him: “God with us,” to come to save us.

Friday, December 21, 2012


My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.

He hath shewed strength with his arm.
He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat
and hath exalted the humble and meek.

He hath filled the hungry with good things.
And the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel
as he promised to our forefathers Abraham, and his seed forever.

Johann Sebastian Bach: Magnificat BWV 243, directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

Duccio:  The Madonna and Child with Angels, courtesy of Wiki Commons

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In memory

"When we look at Earth from space, we are faced with a sobering contradiction. On the one hand is the beauty of our planet, on the other is the unfortunate reality of life on our planet for many of her inhabitants. Our prayers are with the victims + families in CT #LoveConquersAll" — Ron Garan

Image by NASA

Sermon: C Advent 3 December 16, 2012

Zeph 3: 14-20; Cant 9 (Is 12: 2-6); Phi 4:4-7; LUKE 3: 7-18

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say Rejoice. AMEN.

My preaching guide, the one I so often use, oddly titles this Rose Sunday “A Call for Repentance.” Many of us are far closer to that feeling this morning, despite the Zephaniah and Philippians readings and Isaiah’s Canticle, which we just sang—“Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust and not be afraid.” Even after today’s Gospel begins with John the Baptist’s naming the crowd, “You brood of vipers,” it ends with the observation that, “So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Meditation for the 3rd Sunday in Advent: gaudete!

even now the axe is at the root of the trees:
gaudete! dare we rejoice?
flee! says the prophet:
still we cling to all that cheered us,
moth fretted securities, corroded treasures,
narrow rooms and meaner habits.
gaudete! dare we rejoice:
we vipers who live on usury?
flee! says the prophet:
g-d has shown what is required of you.
do justice, love mercy, walk humbly:
bring fruit worthy of repentance.
gaudete! the apostle answers:
let your gentleness be known to all. the lord is near.
leave the narrow land, divest yourself of extra coats:
and in the wide wilderness the peace of christ will
establish your hearts.
even now the axe is at the root of the trees:
gaudete! dare we rejoice?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sermon: B Last Pentecost Proper 29 King of kings 25 November 2012

2 Sam 23: 1-7; Ps 132: 1-13; Rev 1: 4b-8; JOHN 18: 33-37

Grant, O God, that all may be brought under the most gracious rule of your Belov’d Son, King of Kings AMEN

Chip our seminarian, who defines a providential gift as a Field Ed person, is graciously being our parish musician this morning. He was a good sport about giving me apt travel music, from Messiah, “King of kings and Lord of lords, and he shall reign forever.” Some of the music for Jesus as King and Lord, is some of our most familiar and favorite, even if on careful word-checking, we’re less enthusiastic about some of the ideas that go with such august positions as King of kings. The kingly images in music are ones that have leapt out at me this week, rather than visual ones.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Meditation for November 25: The Feast of Christ the King

Praying with our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers and Anglican sisters and brothers in New Zealand

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.

The collect for today follows the formal pattern of the collect, employing an invocation, a petition, an aspiration, and closing with an ascription. This pattern can inform our private prayer as it enlivens our corporate prayer each week. This Sunday, as a result of accords passed at Vatican II, is one of four in the church year, when we will be praying exactly the same collect as our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers. It will be a prayer across the world for unity and hope.

Down under in New Zealand, Anglican churches will pray similarly and powerfully:

Almighty and eternal God, you have made of one blood all the nations of the earth
and will that they live together
in peace and harmony;
so order the course of this world
that all peoples may be brought together
under Christ’s most gentle rule; through Jesus Christ our Lord
who is alive with you and the Holy Spirit,
 one God now and for ever.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sermon: B Thanksgiving 22 November 2012

Joel 2:21-27; Psalm 126; MATTHEW 6: 25-33

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God. AMEN.

Happy Thanksgiving. Jesus says, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” On this day, of all days, it’s a toss-up whether I find this sentence condescending, sexist, or just plain objectionable—surely infuriating, “Don’t worry about what we’ll eat”—so who’s cooking for you today? Just as Jesus scolded Martha for not just listening after she’d provided, served, and cleaned up for him, and commended Mary for listening, so also I find it hard to take to be scolded for worry over a meal on Thanksgiving. Maybe Tina’s calm, but I’m always up late making pie, pealing apples and potatoes, writing, and up early to stuff the turkey, so that even if I get home from church latish, we’ll still eat at a reasonable time. Who picked this reading anyway—someone with household help, or a subservient, non-working wife? I suppose one doesn’t need to add worry, but there sure is a whole lot of work on this day for many women—now many people: driving, shopping, visiting, flying, chopping, waiting, baking, cooking, eating, cleaning, and celebrating: so how not to worry about it all coming out right?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sermon: B 25 Pentecost 28 Proper 18 November 2012

1 Sm1:4-20; Cnt. Sg Hh; Heb10:11-13[14-18]19-25; MK13:1-8

Grant us so to so hear, read, learn, mark, and inwardly digest all holy Scriptures that we may ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life.

This favorite and most effective of all collects was written for Reformation Sunday celebrating, encouraging, and urging the reading and studying all holy Scriptures, especially in English. However, today’s Markan last two sentences: “For nation will rise against nations, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” are not ones we’d like to do any of those five kinds of analytic work on. Our choice would be to omit them totally, brushing them off as hyperbole, exotic extremism, or just silliness.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Meditation for Sunday, November 18, 2012: “The End of the World This Week?”

The readings from both the Epistle (Hebrews 10:11-25) and the Gospel (Mark 13:1-8) point to the end of the age, the Day of the Lord, with apocalyptic language — blood, war, earthquakes, and famine.  I must admit that the end times have never been of much interest to me, but then again, as a white male middle class economically secure American living in New England, why would it? Life is, for the most part, pretty good, and I’m in no hurry for it to end. Our earliest ancestors in faith lived lives of physical labor, were viewed with suspicion by their neighbors and were often persecuted. The end of time must have had some appeal, since suffering would be ended, the persecutors would have to answer God for their actions, and life would then be lived with Jesus. Who am to not give the topic at least some thought?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sermon: B 24 Pentecost 27 Proper 11 November 2012

Ruth 3: 1-5, 4: 13-17; Ps 127; Heb 9: 24-28; MARK 12: 38-44

On this Remembrance Day, For those who were killed in battle,
For those who gave up their lives to save others
For those who fought because they were forced to,
For those who died standing up for a just cause
For those who said war was wrong,
For those who tried to make the peace
For those who prayed when others had no time to pray
For those creatures who needlessly die
For those trees that needlessly are slaughtered
For all of mankind Let us quietly pray:
May [your] God hold them in peace/ May Love flow over the Earth and cleanse us all/ This day and for always. AMEN.

This is Marianne Griffin’s poem for Remembrance Day. I’ve been in England around this time several times recently, and in buying and wearing a poppy, I’ve mused about Remembrance, Armistice, or Veterans’ Day, our anti-war climate, and our virtual ignoring the 11th, whatever it’s called. This year, its observance gives many people a welcome recovery from politics, however we as individuals, a state, or nation, felt about the results. In having tomorrow off, not as a day off for voting, but to observe this occasion we’d rather omit, we also see the darkening chilling of our days. We also hear about the widow’s mite, her giving two coins, all she had, and know too stewardship is in the wind.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Meditation for Sunday, November 11th

“Unless the LORD builds the hours, their labor is in vain who build it.”

Oh hear now how the proud claim, “I built that!” —

smug in abundance, demanding of praise,

no credit to the carpenter,

anonymous hands bought and bruised to raise

temples of conceit on the habitat

of the wild, the poor, the stranger.

“Unless the LORD builds the house,

their labor is in vain who build it.”

The tests and triumphs of mere mortal rule,

at best, may imitate a discerned

intent of our one Creator,

at worst, displace eternal gifts un-earned

with fleeting fragile robes consumed as fuel

to warm bare greed’s known successor.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: A message to readers who need assistance

If you need help, contact - Home. You can also apply via smartphone at, or call (800) 621-3362 or TTY (800) 462-7585.

People will continue to need assistance for months. If you want to help, you can volunteer or donate cash to the Red Cross. You can also give to Doctors Without Borders, Occupy Sandy, or to The Episcopal Relief and Development's Hurricane Sandy Response Fund

Image by NOAA and the Naval Research Lab.

Prayer for the victims of Hurricane Sandy

Let us pray for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, as well as for those who have died in war, famine, and other disasters.

Let us also do God's work, not only in prayer, but in service by volunteering, as well as by donating to organizations, such as the Red Cross.

Song for Athene

Alleluia. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
Alleluia. Remember me, o Lord, when you come into your kingdom.
Alleluia. Give rest, o Lord, to your handmaid who has fallen asleep.
Alleluia. The Choir of Saints have found the well-spring of life and door of paradise.
Alleluia. Life : a shadow and a dream.
Alleluia. Weeping at the grave creates the song: Alleluia.
Alleluia. Come, enjoy the rewards and crowns I have prepared for you.

Sermon: B The Sunday after All Saints’ 4 November 2012

Wis 3:1-9; Ps 24; Rev 21: 1- 6a; JOHN 11:32-44

I sing a song of the saints of God, I mean, God helping, to be one too. AMEN

We celebrate All Saints’ Day today, even after All Saints’, and so we think about All Souls’ as well. All Hallows Eve was part of the observance of feast days, by starting the feast at sunset the previous Eve, as we do on Christmas Eve and Easter Eve, which we call a Vigil. Calling that lead-in service Eve, it’d be, Christme’en or would it be Christmaseen or Eastereen—nope, yet we do mark these three major church Holy Days the night before. All Saints in our world is far less observed than its Evening beginning, Hallowe’en, as Christmas is less celebrated liturgically than its Eve. All Souls for us is an extended prayer observance for people, unlike the ones remembered on All Saints, who according to Wikipedia “have attained the beatific vision in Heaven.” Since all Christians are understood to be saints of God, it’s odd that we almost divide people on these two days between famous and common. The church’s distinction is between those in Heaven and those not yet in, but since we don’t hold to a concept of Purgatory or other sort of holding cell or pit, that difference doesn’t make much theological sense.

Friday, November 2, 2012

As a Southwestern transplant, I’ve never liked the darkness of Boston winters. I’ve learned, however, that with the fading light comes a wonderful surprise. When it starts getting dark earlier, I look up at the evening sky. Instead of focusing on the encroaching darkness, I lose myself in the beautiful ombré of twilight. Where one week deep turquoise slides into teal then into pale blue, the next may bring navy fading into cobalt into peacock and finally into the yellow-white that marks where the sun slipped below the horizon. The Epistle says ‘I saw a new heaven.’  Raised in big sky country, the autumnal evening sky is a new heaven. Just as God makes all things new, so the evening light returns, first brightening the morning, then the evening again, in an endless cycle of beginnings and endings, of Alpha and Omega.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Meditation for October 28: “Oh Taste and See”- But How?

Google “Blind Bartimeaus, son of Timeaus, a blind beggar…sitting by the roadside” yelling at Jesus and at least 40,000 entries will pop up. Mark’s account of the event and Jesus’s response — “Go; your faith has made you well” heals the sin-sick soul and yet we know not to expect dramatic acts like this.

Or should we? How? The Psalmist has an answer: “Taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are they who trust in him!” (34:8). I remember the first time I heard the hymn “Taste and See” (LEVAS). I heard it sung vigorously, bodies in motion, in a cathedral on the island of St. Thomas, a cathedral built for the Anglican Church by freed slaves. It sets my soul in motion — still.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Meditation for Oct. 21: -- “Who would be a servant leader?”

Who would chose to accept Jesus’ description of a new kind of leader – servant leader and follow that pattern for their life? Can we give up control and practice authority? Are we willing to stop putting “women in binders,” and share authority? God appears to Job in a whirlwind and speaks with authority. The Psalmist uses similar a similar image in Psalm 104:4 declaring: * “You make the winds your messengers and flames of fire your servants.” The collect for Sunday offers a pattern for servant leadership as well, praying that we  …may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name…

Theologian Frederick Buechner offers a 21st century version of today’s calls to servant leadership: “The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” That shifts our thinking and begs this question, can our faith inform not so much what we do, but who we are

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sermon: B 20 Pentecost 23 Proper 14 October 2012

Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Ps 22: 1-15; Heb 4: 12-16; MK 10: 17-31

Loving God, grant that your grace may always precede and follow us. Amen.

The days are getting shorter, the nights longer, and the readings minatory (again.) There is a tone of increasing desperation and self-accusation. “But as for me, I am a worm and no man, scorned by all and despised by the people. All who see me laugh me to scorn; they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying, ‘He trusted in the Lord’ let him deliver him; let him rescue him, if he delights in him.’” Perhaps this seems more comforting, “The Almighty has terrified me; if only I could banish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face.” Maybe, since this is less personal, not in the first person, this sounds less frightening: “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” None of this is comforting, and none sounds particularly hopeful, and there’s the Mark reading to come.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Meditation for Proper 23 - October 14th: “Who can be saved?”

Who among us has not, at least once, like Job, railed to God about the unfairness of life, complained about an apparently undeserved trouble, as if our own good deed ought to exempt us from difficulty or entitle us to an uninterrupted stream of obvious blessings?

Mark’s follower of all the rules, recipient of many of those obvious blessings, was also so seduced by and reliant on possessions that he could not forfeit them even to secure eternal life.
Who can be saved?
All. For with God all things are possible – mercy and grace for all who but ask -- demonstrated through Christ’s presence among us, acquainted with our need, ready to heal even the blindness of the 1% crying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” into the void created by their own abandonment of trust in the Lord.

Sermon: B 19 Pentecost 22 Proper 7 October 2012

Job 1: 1, 2: 1-10; Ps 26; Heb 1: 1-4, 2: 5-12; MK 10: 2-16

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice…   AMEN

Again this Sunday, as we race towards the end of this long teaching season of Pentecost, we hear readings with ominous testing and more testing. Additionally, it’s a bustling season of many things going on. Look around to see much loved creatures with their faithful humans, so it must be St. Francis Day. It’s also Dignity’s 40th Anniversary of Solidarity Sunday; we join their celebration of their work and progress. It would be a fine Sunday like Paradise, if all experienced welcome, here and throughout their lives, work, and worlds.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hildegard von Bingen

A fine Study Guide for Episcopalians about Hildegard of Bingen is available here. This includes both material from Holy Women, Holy Men and additional research. She is recognized on our Calendar of Saints on Sept. 17 and this Sunday will be made a Doctor of  the Church in the Roman Catholic Church, only the 4th woman so honored. 
Our website also lists links to some of her music available on line as well.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Meditation for Sunday October 7th: Seeking & Finding Unconditional Love

Ah, Job, no doubt of his integrity
while certain of his blessings, fresh with vows
of faithfulness and works of charity,
flush with the love of his generous God!
His obedience stood up to the loss
of goods and servants and even offspring,
no sin of the lips, no curse did he toss
into his well of naked suffering.
To love and to be loved with one’s whole self,
a yearning children know and adults hide,
shroud in rules, dusty scrolls on a shelf,
to veil hearts hardened in the to and fro
of risk and error wandering, contracts
masquerading as the holy union
of created partners drawn to compacts
of unconditional love responding,
receiving, rejoicing in its one Source.
Naked as Job, innocent as children,
a trust no mortal sunders in the course
of jealousy or trial -- one true gift:
  for a soul once bound to God, no divorce.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sermon: B 18 Pentecost 21 Proper 30 September 2012

Esth 7:1-6,9-10;9:20-22; Ps 124; Jms 5: 13:13-20; MK 9: 38-50

Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth. AMEN.
Today we include Michaelmas in our observance and thinking. It’s odd though to have the story of Esther on the same day as Michaelmas, the first being the Purim narrative, a Jewish celebration usually observed in March—and its attendant cookies available at the picnic—and September 29, yesterday, was St Michael and all the Angels. It’s jarring to have asparagus-spring-fertility matched together with and pumpkins-autumn-fruition together, and nearly St. Francis (to come next week and here.) Maybe, seasonal constants don’t shape your day, but they do underlie the Church’s wheel of time, nature’s time, and light patterns in which we live and grow. Also, it’s election time, and elections cross both nature’s wheel of time and our church and personal commitments to decency. Today’s lections each have a structuring, almost echoing, commitment to some sense of decency.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Meditation for September 30 & The Feast of St. Michael & All Angels: Pursuing Peace and Radical Thanks-giving

The Gospel for Sunday exhorts us to practice hope and curiosity by recognizing that “whoever gives you a cup of water to drink, because you bear the name of Christ” may be the face of Christ and  teach us to practice and receive mercy and pity. And more radically the Gospel suggests that if we “have salt in [y]ourselves,” we should “be at peace with one another.” Praying the collect for St. Michael and for this Sunday are helpful channels.

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.

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sermon: B 17 Pentecost 20 Proper 23 September 2012

Prv 31: 10-31; Ps 1; Jms 3: 13-4:3, 7-8a; MARK 9: 30-37

May it be Your Will, Eternal Our God, that this be a good and sweet year for us. AMEN.

 “Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.” These lessons again sound more like those from the Wisdom or Jewish tradition, than something from a standard idea of Christianity. The readings remind us that much of Christianity comes from these Jewish roots, and also that we here are in an increasingly fast rush to the end of Pentecost. To make dramatic that annual observance of end-times, the tone of these weeks sounds decisive and minatory.