Wednesday, June 06, 2018

It's as Simple as a Shamrock!

It's as Simple as a Shamrock!

Today is Trinity Sunday
What is the name of our Church?
Yes, Trinity Church 
Today is our Name Day Festival!

The Trinity is one way of saying that God is One in Three
And God is Three in One
Holy Spirit

Three distinct persons
One God!

How can this be?

It is as simple as a shamrock 
Patrick of Ireland put it this way.
Take a look at a simple Shamrock. It is One in Three and Three in One. 
One plant. 
Three leaves.

Take a look at who I am
I am a father,
I am a son
I am a husband
I am three distinct persons
And yet I am only one!
Do you understand that?

Take a look at Michelle.
Is she a mother?
Does she have a mother?
That makes her a daughter.
Michelle, do you have brothers or sisters.
Aha! That makes you a sister.
So then, you too are one in three
And three in one.

Think about yourselves.
How many of you are children?
How many of you are brothers or sisters?
How many of you have friends?
That makes you children, brothers/sisters and friends
So then, you are three in one and one in three.

And God is much much more besides.
Just like we are also much more besides.
After all Jesus is also our Friend!

God is One in Three
God is Three in One.

God is our maker and creator.
God is our savior
God is the Spirit who guides us.

Do any of you like to sing, make or listen to music?
Do you like to paint or draw?
Anyone like to tell or listen to a story?
Then you also like to Create, like God also creates.
Remember God made you!

Have any of you ever done anything wrong?
Have any of you ever needed to ask for forgiveness.
Have you ever been loved by someone you care about?
Jesus is the Love of God made human like us.
He always forgives and loves each and every one of us.

Do you ever need someone to teach you?
Guide you?
Has anyone given you something you needed?

This is how God is with all of us
God Creates.
God Loves, Saves. Forgives
God Guides, Teaches and Leads into all Wisdom.

God is Father 
God is Son
God is Holy Spirit

Here are some images of God the Holy Trinity

Saturday, June 02, 2018

You called me!

Samuel and Eli

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. 
The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. 

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 

the lamp of God had not yet gone out, 

and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 

Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” 

But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” 

So he went and lay down. 

The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 

The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” 

Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” 

So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

I was once a little boy

And one night my grandmother told me the story of Samuel and Eli

I asked her; "Ma, does that mean that God can still call little boys and little girls to serve God in the church?" 
And she said to me; "Buddy, (that's what they called me then), "Of course it does!"

And so now it is my turn to be God’s storyteller.


A Lorica

A Lorica

I arise this day to greet You.

A pot of coffee. Ahh...
An aromatic invitation to dwell within.
A simple breakfast feast
Graces the morning goodness.
Oh my God! The newspaper awakens
Me to pray the Office.

Singing Psalms from David to Jesus to me
Heal the sin sick soul, I pray.
Remember now the forgotten poor,
The outcast, persecuted, and foreign born
Unwanted refugees of war
The Empire strikes cold, cruel and “christian”.

Brighten now the day with Hope
Perhaps I too can shine 
With radiance born of the Holy Child
Hush now, and hold high converse
I press the pen across the page
Taking hold my hand
The Silence somehow speaks
A mystery in the moment.

Wander, walk and wonder by the seaside
Breathe the Spirit in the salt sea air 
The call of gulls; dogs and their friends 
Chasing the waves as the crystal sea sparkles

And I arise this day to greet You.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Fullness of God and Documentation

The Fullness of God and Documentation

Good morning, Al. Ive been thinking about you lately. Many years ago a parishioner called me when I was serving at the Church of the Epiphany, in Euclid, Ohio. He told me that his best friend, Al, had just received news that he was facing a terminal illness and he was struck with terror. Al was not a parishioner and in fact, he was, what we call in the trade; “a pleasant pagan”. My parishioner wondered if I would mind going to the hospital to visit him. I did that.

When I got to the hospital, Al greeted me warmly and said somewhat sheepishly, that he was not a believer but would very much like to be. He wondered how he could become a Christian. I suggested Baptism. I briefly explained the matter to him. After all, there was that Baptism we read about last week of the Ethiopian Eunuch. And this week we read from the Acts of the Apostles; “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Clearly Al had received the Holy Spirit and was searching to be filled with all the fullness of God. I asked the nurse for a basin of water and we stood together along with Al’s wife as his Godparents, and I baptized him “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” 

Al’s life changed that day. He worshipped the Daily Office with us. We were few in number on weekdays but we usually had a cup of coffee and chatted afterward. One day Al said to us; “All I ask for is to be present for my daughter’s wedding” which was scheduled for about the following Spring. I told Al to see if he could “cut a deal with God”. That sounded Biblical enough for me. He did cut a deal and then, the following Spring, in a moment from heaven that I’ll never forget, he danced with to “daddy’s little girl”. Of course I was the officiant. What a day! Talk about all the fullness of God!

A little later on, Al said; “I wonder if I could make it to my son’s graduation?” The young man was working on his doctorate. Now we were talking a couple of years. I said to Al; “You’re beginning to stretch things, but go ahead; see if you can cut a deal.” He did. And he made it.

Al kept cutting deals but finally, the last deal he could cut with God was this; “Jesus, bring me safely home.” And of course, God did that. Jesus brought Al safely home. 

The key to life is to love God in all things and above all things just like today’s Collect says. That’s what it means to bring joy to your heart and to the heart of others. Walking along by the sea morning by morning I see the waves crashing onshore and today’s psalm comes to mind. 
1 Sing to the Lord a new song, *
for he has done marvelous things.
8 Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, *
9 Let the rivers clap their hands, *
and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord,
I see dogs chasing the waves, children playing in the sand, elderly women wearing their canes walking steadily along, hale young men standing with pretty young girls, I hear foreign and domestic languages, and in it all, I feel filled with all the fullness of God. Jesus said it in the Gospel today; “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”

Many of you feel filled with all the fullness of God, don’t you? Just the simplest of things you see along life’s comings and goings, inspire such joy. Yesterday, I happened to come across Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong’s song; “What a Wonderful World.” The nickname “Satchmo” was assigned to him by his friends who said his mouth looked like a “satchel”. His smile as broad and bright as as a rainbow, always fills me yet again with the wonder of it all. “I say to myself; what a wonderful world!” It doesn’t take much, going for a walk on a beautiful sunny springtime day like yesterday was, for instance.

Where do we get all this, you may wonder? I wonder about that too. How was it that I became so filled with the fullness of God? Was it my grandmother? The traumatic loss of my dad as a child? Perhaps the beauty of my childhood church? Perhaps the long lonely nights when I tried to reason it out during those times I could not sleep? I still do that. Perhaps all the above.

Where did you become filled with all the fullness of God? I’m not at all sure. But this I can tell you, you fill me with the fullness of God. It is somewhere in your music, the way you read the sacred text, at the altar rail when shoulder to shoulder, you make close to each other and the sacred spaces allotted to us in life. And then you go out to do the work God has given you to do. You care about the kids in the neighborhood, those struggling with anxiety about where they stand with this country’s skittishness over sexual orientation and transgender rights, immigration, documentation and so many other matters of controversy regarding our status with one another.

Funny thing, I’ve been doing some genealogical work and discovered that my ninth great grandfather was Captain John Gallop. He was the first Boston Harbor Pilot in the mid 1600’s. He lived on what is now known as Gallop’s Island way out there in the harbor. Later generations of Irish and Italian immigrants were quarantined on that island when they first came to these shores. It was the first bit of land they saw when they came here by the tens of thousands in their day. 

On further examination, I discovered that the “documentation” my Puritan ancestors, Irish ancestors, Cindy’s Italian ancestors, was, shall we say, questionable or scant. Captain Gallop came on a land grant. History tells us that native Americans found that documentation of  questionable validity. Native Americans didn’t grant Captain Gallop that island. He took it! As for my Irish ancestors, Cindy’s Italian ancestors, all they had to do to get here was pay passage, and get through quarantine on grandpa’s island. And as for African American immigration and the documentation for that? It took far too long for us to realize that slavery was cruel, unjust, and plain morally wrong! But here we are today, all of us together somehow, filled with all the fullness of God. 

Now what about the "Dreamers", DACA? The folks from Honduras? On what moral ground do we stand when we decide to deport them?

I like to describe myself as just a “simple parish priest”. That’s all I ever wanted to be. But someone I know and care about very much recently said; “A simple parish priest? Naw, I think of you as a feisty parish priest!”

Come to think of it, there’s probably some truth to that. When I see the poor, the homeless, the elderly, the young, the marginalized, and the foreign born…anybody who I think of as vulnerable in the social order, being bullied about by those in power, I find myself eager to “insinuate” myself into situations like that. To be filled with the fullness of God, means more than personal piety. For as Jesus points out in today’s Gospel; “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

I read about the families that are being broken up by ICE, the so-called Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency of The United States of America. I find myself wondering what I can do?  I don’t know right off hand. But, I’ll think of something. 

All through our history we’ve built churches to help organize our efforts to protect the vulnerable in our midst. The key to our future, if indeed God wants us to have a future, is for us to organize our mission and ministry among those in need and where there is any suffering or sorrow, oppression, or injustice.
How did these people build all those churches? How did they build upon the ruins of their history? I asked that question when I visited Holy Island in Britain way back in 1973. The church here at the time, was in decline. All my life, the church has been in decline. How did those Celts do it? Build churches? 

One on one they went out to discover the needs of the people? St Aidan of Lindisfarne (aka Holy Island) is my teacher. After all, if he could convert the Brits, who am I to second guess him. He built the church stone on stone, person on person. He walked everywhere. And wherever he went his first question was; “Are you Baptised?” What is the reason and purpose of your life?  What do you care most about? What do you need? How can I help? What can we do together which neither of us can do alone? Do you really know who Jesus was? Is? 
I picture Aidan sitting at the hearth with friends he made, and a sheep dog sitting between them. They talk into the wee hours of the night sharing their hearts. They discovered together who God is between them. Learning together to love, forgive, reconcile and make sense of the short time we have on the planet. And then they built a place where they could make manifest the love they shared for God and each other. 
They made the church visible. They greeted visitors skillfully. They got to know people, they baptized them in the name of the Holy Trinity, then they sent them out to do the work God gave them to do. 
But where they began was with learning where the people hurt, what they needed. By the way, these Celts were also a cheerful bunch. They had wonderful fun gatherings. They made very good beer. They knew life was short. They knew how difficult and sad life could be. They never let a Sunday go by without a celebration. In fact this is why, to this day, we call what we do; “A Celebration of the Holy Eucharist.” 

Jesus said this of being filled with all the fullness of God in today’s Gospel. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Well, Al, thank you for listening. I have a heart that is full of love for God and for these people, just like you. Captain Gallop...good morning grandpa, thanks for listening. I hope to get out to the Island this summer like I do every summer. This really is a beautiful place. There are still many more we hope will to come to these shores like we did to find a place in the sun. I pray we can find a way to welcome them. This life we live is simply an amazing gift. 

In the Name of God, the Most Holy, Undivided, and Everlasting Trinity. Amen

Fr Paul

Monday, April 30, 2018

Bullies and Name Calling

Of Bullies and Name Calling

When I was in grade five at the old Charlton School in Somerville, a schoolyard bully used to call me names. I tried to avoid him. His name was Brian. He followed me home from school at lunchtime, and picked on me. He walked behind me, pushing me around, and stepping on my shoe heels forcing me to stop and put my shoes back on.

I complained to my grandmother about all this and she tried to comfort me and encouraged me to avoid Brian. No use, the bullying continued. I came home crying one day not knowing what to do. My grandmother, brandishing her wooden spoon, finally said; “Buddy Bresnahan!” When your elders use your last name you know you’d better listen up. “The next time Brian picks on you, I want you to tell him to stop and if he doesn’t, I want you to haul off and hit him as hard as you can.” Geez, that didn’t sound like Ma. But then she said; “If you don’t stand up for yourself, you’re not getting lunch.” 

That got my attention! Sure enough next day, Brian pushed me around and stepped on my shoes and called me names one last time. I warned him. He laughed at me and kept it up. I wheeled around and unleashed a left hook that caught him square on his right chin and sent him flying. I don’t think he was expecting that and I surprised myself at my pugilistic skill. Brian never picked on me again. More importantly, I had lunch that day.

We live in a time of bullying and name calling. We call each other conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, black and white, foreigners and much, much more. We do so as if we were enemies to one another; a divided nation.

Speaking of names, In today’s lesson from Acts we have someone called an “Ethiopian Eunuch”. Imagine! Here the church in Jerusalem is trying to settle the question of whether you had to be a practicing Jew before you could be a Christian, and Philip comes back to HQ with the news. I can imagine Peter and Paul saying; “You baptized a what?” Here’s a man who is neither Jew nor Greek. Not only is he very black, he is also from Africa, and his gender identity? That certainly must have raised a few eyebrows. We don’t know his name, but we do know we was “An Ethiopian Eunuch”. That fact challenged the church to think about the inclusion/exclusion question right then and there. Thank God the church settled on the idea that no matter who you are; Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female or eunuch or whatever…we are all one in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~para. Galatians 3:28

There is name calling in the church too. Think of it; the Episcopal Church. We use terms like the following to describe each other’s theological predispositions, we are; 
Anglo Catholics
Social Activists
These terms can divide us as individuals or as congregations. But what if we look behind our labels? Perhaps we can see something that unites rather than divides. Perhaps if we look at Jesus; the way, the truth and the life…

Alow me to point to the reality that lives behind these names we call each other. I believe that each label represents an integral component of the personhood of Jesus. If we believe that Jesus is the “way, the truth, and the life” as our collect says he is, and further if we believe that Jesus is the way to eternal life, it behooves us to look behind our labels and see if Jesus is there with us. And if Jesus is there, so too is God.

For instance, Jesus was a traditionalist. He was a practicing Jew. He lived the Law and said so in the Sermon on the Mount; “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill the law.” ~Matthew 5:17. He recited the Psalms every day of his life. He often found himself in the synagogue and loved to debate matters of the law and the prophets with the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees. Often those debates also generated controversy. That’s just the way things are among rabbis and clergy. Having just returned from our annual Clergy Conference, I can attest to this!

Jesus was an intellectual. He thought critically about the Law and the Prophets. He was the Teacher, a Rabbi. His sermon on the Mount in Matthew or the Sermon on the Plain in Luke, are creative, brilliant, and tersely stated principles of enduring theological principle. His parables compel us to search our souls with questions that plumb the depths of who we are with each other and with God. He makes us think!

Jesus was an Evangelical. He called us to repent and to be born anew to a living hope. He expected us to live into a metamorphosis from an old way of living in sin and self will, to a new life loving God, neighbor and self.

Jesus was an Anglo Catholic.. On the hillsides of Galilee he fed them with the Bread of heaven. At supper with his friends he took bread, said the blessing, he broke the bread and gave it to them saying; Take, eat, this is my Body. Likewise after supper, he took the cup. The mystery of the Presence of Jesus continues to this very day as we replicate and rehearse this sacred sacrament!

Jesus was a Charismatic. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and filled others likewise. At his Baptism in the River Jordan, in his Temptation in the Wilderness, at his Transfiguration, at his trial, Death and Resurrection the Holy Spirit moved within him and we beheld his Glory. And finally on Pentecost, he breathed upon us and filled us with the Spirit that enables us to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth and in all languages.

And finally Jesus was a Social Activist. He healed the sick, fed the poor, ate with prostitutes, and reached out to the rejected; lepers and outcasts alike. He expects us to do likewise. He said: “Peter do you love me? When Jesus asked the question the third time, Peter was hurt. Then Jesus said; Peter, feed my lambs! ~para John 21. 

Take a comprehensive look at Jesus. If we look behind the labels we use; if we look behind the names we call each other, we will see one another as created in the image of God. This is because we see God through Jesus. If we are Traditionalists we honor what has been handed down to us from the ancients. If we are Intellectuals we dare to Reason and think critically. If we are Evangelicals we will realize that we need to change fundamentally from the old self of willful disobedience to a whole new self of renewal. If we are Anglo Catholics we recognize that life is a Mystery and we honor Jesus and one another in our sacramental life. If we are Charismatics the Holy Spirit is alive and well within us, and brings us peace, equips us with gifts for ministry in the world, and grants us the Wisdom from on High to use those gifts skillfully. And finally if we are Social Activists we search diligently for Justice. We are relentless when we see suffering or injustice. We organize our lives and our congregations around suffering and injustice until we see the social order comply with God’s will; namely to “Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God”. ~Micah 6:8

This is what it means to abide in Christ as Jesus abides in us. This is what it means for us to bear much fruit as today’s Gospel requires. He is the Vine, we are the branches. 

Therefore my friends, my dear friends when we call out the name “Jesus” we are not playing a game of theological triumphalism or exclusive bullying as if Jesus is the only way to God and everyone else is doomed. Not at all! We proclaim that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life because we believe in justice, spirituality, the mystery of life, the need to change our violent ways, the need to think and recognize that truth is truth, and finally we honor all human traditions that  point to God.

As Christians we love one another because God is love. We are not bullies or name callers. Unfortunately history is marred with dreadful religious and racial violence. Someday I hope to go to Montgomery, Alabama to see the recently opened National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Our history is marred not only by slavery and oppression, but by lynchings. God help us! Whether we are Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or Christian, Atheists, Agnostics, Black or White, we are all capable of excusing violence in the Name of what we believe in. This only leads to violence and violence begets violence. 

Years after my famous punch, my friend Brian said that we needed to finish our “fight”. I told him there was no fight. He had put me in a position where I had to defend myself. I did that. Whatever conflict there had been was now over. He grudgingly admitted that. Ultimately Brian and I became very good friends for a very long time. That’s how things should be among us, my dear friends, since “God is Love.”

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The way to God. We believe that Jesus is the example, par excellence, of the Love of God made flesh and blood. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” ~lesson from 1 John.

In the Name of God; the Most Holy, Undivided and Everlasting Trinity. Amen.

Fr Paul