Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Evening Prayer Service for the People of Haiti

(Updated 01/26/10)
Tuesday, January 26 at 7 p.m. St. Edward's in San Jose
Haiti Prayer Service Raises over $500!
Updated with links and additional information on 1/23/10

A prayer service combining silence, song, prayer, and an opportunity to give via Episcopal Relief and Development was held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 26 at St. Edward's Episcopal Church, 15040 Union Ave., San Jose (corner of Union and Hwy 85). The small group of 20+ people raised over $500 to go toward Haiti relief through ERD.

In response, from Lauren Stanley: "on behalf of the Bishop of Haiti, The Rt. Rev. Jean Zache Duracin, thank you for your love and support."

There is now a video available, taken by the Wall Street Journal of how the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti is helping in the midst of this tragedy. (Broken link to video fixed 1/25/10)

Update (1/23/10): Here is an interview of The Reverend Lauren Stanley, Appointed Missionary to Haiti, on the situation there. There is a 4 minute version that aired on the radio. There is also 16+ minute version.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"The gone..."

The following are the two parts to the sermon of my friend, colleague, fellow Virginia Seminary alum, and appointed missionary of The Episcopal Church to Haiti The Reverend Lauren Stanley. She was in Virginia at the time of the earthquake and so is doing what she can from hundreds of miles away.

Lauren Stanley Sermon, Part I

Lauren Stanley Sermon, Part II

Pray for her, for those she cares about but of whom she has no news, and indeed for all the people of Haiti.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stewards of God's Grace

"When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him." - John 2:10-11
As noted in my earlier post, when calamity strikes, it is often difficult to respond at all, much less respond helpfully. Couple that with the miracle at the wedding at Cana that is the Gospel reading for this past Sunday, and you have celebration colliding with calamity.

Beyond asking the question "Where is God in all of this?" (which is addressed in the video in the previous post) we hopefully move to the question "Where does God want me to be in all of this?" There are a variety of answers to that question. In the short term, the answer is to give money that can both be transmitted quickly and can support the local economy rather than collecting food, water, and other necessities and shipping them there. It may not be as personally satisfying for us to click a "donate" button or write a check, but this isn't really about us anyway.

In the longer term, it is worth thinking about what sort of long-term "partnership with providence" we might direct towards Haiti. In other words, what is God already doing and planning to do there and how might we most effectively partner with God in that effort? The fact is that we are merely stewards of divine wine--beverage of the Heavenly Banquet. We neither purchase nor create the wine of God's blessings, we simply convey it to those who need to "taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8). The wonderful thing is that this tasting and seeing is not limited to those in extreme physical need. We need to taste that Kingdom wine, that celebration in the midst of calamity, as much as anyone else does. It is in being stewards, being purveyors of God's grace and mercy, that we know ourselves to be both blessed and a blessing to others.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Speechless in San Jose

In the wake of the unspeakable tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti on Tuesday, I've been searching for words to speak of the unspeakable. Many others have spoken, some with less than helpful words. In the wake of Pat Robertson's assertion that this is somehow God's retribution for an ancient pact with the devil, my friend The Reverend Frank Logue and his parish, King of Peace in Kingsland, Georgia, have crafted this helpful response. If a picture is worth a thousand words, than the following says it all

Please keep the people of Haiti in your prayers.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Baptism and the Church

In my sermon yesterday morning, I discussed the three aspects of what it means to be baptized in the name of the Trinity: our identity as children of God (Father), our relationship with God and other people (Son), and our service to the world in God's name (Spirit). I also talked about the fact that three things we do as a church mirror and strengthen those aspects of what it means to be a baptized Christian: worship, fellowship, and outreach.

Worship is arguably the only thing that distinguishes the church from a social or service club. Social clubs are created fr and sustained by fellowship. Service clubs are created for and sustained by service. Churches are created for and sustained by worship. When we come together as the Body of Christ and sing, pray, and share the Eucharist, we are most clearly and vividly the church and we are reminded of our identity as children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, and vessels of the Spirit. Worship is the seedbed of spiritual strength and renewal. One of the most important things I do as Priest-in-Charge of St. Edward's is to plan and lead worship. Perhaps it is the most important thing, especially if preaching is included in that category.

Yet worship is closely connected with fellowship. Connecting with God and connecting with one another are two sides of the same relational coin. The Eucharist is fundamentally a communal meal and literally cannot happen alone. Even priests and bishops are not permitted to celebrate the Eucharist alone--we must have at least one other person with whom to "make Eucharist." Those personal connections are what make weekly events like coffe hour and covenant groups so critical--without them the church simply becomes a spiritual "filling station" where people wander through to get their weekly spiritual "fill up." Church is meant to be far more than that--it is a group of covenant people linked together on a spiritual journey.

If a church has both worship and fellowship it is still deficient if it lacks any sort of effort at outreach. There are different definitions for outreach. In much of the Episcopal Church, we limit outreach to social service--meeting people's basic need for food, clothing, etc... Our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Lutheran church see outreach as evangelism--meeting people's need for a saving relationship with Christ by sharing the Gospel with such people. Both are important and are, again, two sides of the same coin.

Worship, fellowship, and outreach thus form the three basic purposes of the church. At St. Edward's, we have adopted Rick Warren's five purposes of the church that closely coincide with these three. In our case, Outreach is split into Ministry and Evangelism, leaving Discipleship. I would suggest that while Christian formation as a classroom or small group activity has its place, discipleship really permeates all that we do. When we worship, we are formed as disciples. When we strengthen our relationships with one another, we are formed as disciples. When we serve others in God's name and speak of the power of God in our lives, we do so as disciples.

Worship. Fellowship. Outreach. Are you involved in all three of these? We're trying to strengthen them all at St. Edward's. Come join us!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Faith and Fear from the Beginning

Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. -- Matthew 2:13
I'm back from a week-long vacation and slowly getting caught up on parish-related items, including this blog. As we begin a new calendar year and as we consider the Gospel passage from Matthew appointed for the Second Sunday after Christmas, I am reminded of the constant tension between faith and fear as well as the context of fear and danger which has always existed, even since the time of Jesus' birth. With the news of the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day as well as the five year anniversary of the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia, no one needs to be reminded that we live in perilous and uncertain times. Had Joseph, Jesus, or any of the disciples succumbed to fear, things would be very different now.

So, if we as Christians are to choose faith over fear, what does that look like, exactly? Since we are now in the season of Epiphany, I would submit that it looks like letting the light of Christ shine in the darkness. It means stepping out in faith, taking risks, and asserting in word and dead that love and light conquer hate and darkness. As the prologue to the Gospel of John (appointed for the First Sunday of Christmas) states: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."

Our response is thus a continuous assertion that faith ultimately wins out over fear. As we enter the new year at St. Edward's, we continue to live out the Benedictine values of stability, obedience, and conversion of life to the best of our ability and with God's help. Happy New Year, and Blessed Epiphany!