Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I Owe it All to My Dad

(The following sermon was delivered on Christmas Eve in 2006 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Saint Albans, West Virinia. I was my last Christmas Eve service there as Rector. I now enter semi-retirement, collect my full pension and take a smaller congregation back home in Massachusetts. The following was an articulation of my gratitude to the people of St. Mark's and to God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of us all.)

I Owe it All to My Dad

I owe it all to my Dad. In Aramaic, the word Abba means “dad”. Jesus speaks of his abba. And when Jesus taught us to pray, he taught us to say; “Our Abba, who art in heaven.” When Christmas comes I cannot help but think of my Abba as well as “Our Abba”. My abba gave his life for me too in a way at Christmas years ago when I was a child. Neither he nor I knew at the time that his loss would be the gain of my soul.

But in the fullness of time I came to know of God’s goodness and the generosity of God.
I came to know of Abba’s extravagant salvation plan.

Our Abba who art in heaven; I owe it all to my dad, “Our abba”.

Think of it, Jesus is referring quite literally to the family when he thinks of God. He talks not of a theological construct, but of someone as familiar as dad. The one who loves, teaches, corrects, scolds and plays with you. The one who give you security, and somehow makes you feel better when things look so bleak, who knows just the right things to say, whose soothing voice, whose twinkling eye, and whose no nonsense honesty is the very core of growing up in this unsteady world. Abba.

And so it is when I say “Our Abba” I cannot help but stop short and call to mind of all those special people.

When I think of my dad, I think too of my mom, that feisty and difficult woman. Oh how we fought, but she did the best that she knew how.

I think too of my maternal grandmother who introduced me to the story of scripture. I loved those stories then. I love them now. Like the one of the call of Samuel and of course the one we tell this holy night of the sleeping child and the young girl Mary who was his mother, and Joseph her betrothed. And the animals were there, I always thought that was a nice touch by God for the story. I love the animals. And then the Angels sang and the shepherds hurried to see this thing that had come to pass, and eventually Kings and those with wisdom from near and far away came to do him homage.

Our Abba who art in heaven; I owe it all to you, my abba.

My uncle and his partner Jimmy who took me to see the Red Sox. All the moms and dads along the way, the teachers, the priests, the families of my friends who took me in; I owe so much to all these people. When I say that prayer, I find myself stopping short and thinking of so many people.

My professors in College and in Seminary, my Bishops, and my parishioners all my companions along the way; those I baptized, those whose marriages I have blessed, the sick that I visited, those I’ve buried, and all their families. I think of the bible study classes, and the children who were the source of so much hope and joy. And there were those struggles in the community where we sought the healing touch of Jesus.

When I think of my abba, I think of all of these people who Jesus told us to love. I cannot help but remember his command that we love one another and then I think again not just of my abba, I think of Our Abba who art in heaven. I say Our Father and then I stop and remember and the prayer is hardly begun.

The Glory of God is here tonight. It shines as brightly as the first star of Christmas that shone the night that the savior was born. Those who are wise enough to follow the light of that star will find their way to heaven…heaven: a place in the human heart and in the heart of God where the light of God shines.

Jesus loved his abba as I love mine. He was obedient to his abba, we’re told, even unto death on a cross. And there on the cross he called out again, Abba, Father…dad…daddy…and then he died.

He owed everything to his dad. And we all owe everything to Our Abba. For in our goodness as well as in our darkness, the love of God shines through every corner of our lives. I owe everything to him and so do you. We all owe everything to Our Abba who art in Heaven. The little one that is born tonight is born so that we might have life and have it in all of its wonderful abundance.

Just as a for instance, the wonderful years of my ministry, the blessing of my life with Cindy, my children David, Joshua, and Michael, the dogs and cats too…don’t forget the animals…God didn’t not tonight on this holy night…most certainly not. For all the creatures of God owe their lives to him.

You see we have the good sense to know that all that we have and all that we have is from God. And so now my Abba says come on home. And to you your Abba says I too will bless you in the fullness of time with another priest who will love you, tend you, care for you and celebrate the sacraments with you. And thus the church of God in her faithful witness to Jesus processes on toward heaven.

Our Abba who art in heaven; it is an ageless prayer that the savior taught us in order that we might see the inexorable march of life’s many blessings. And so now he calls me home to the salt sea. But I shall never forget the mountains of West Virginia, the country roads, the accents the beaming faces of a genuine and remarkable people. You let me into your lives and together we have done some pretty remarkable things together. And we owe it all to Our Abba.

And so Merry Christmas to you. Goodbye is not a bad word. It means in the old English, literally, God be with you. And so God is. Born in a manger, a sweet little baby born “Emmanuel” or God with us. And so if I say Good bye…all I’m saying is God be with you.

God be with you all this Christmas. And thus let the Glory of God shine on this holy night. AMEN.

Joy to the World

Joy to the World

When Mary greeted Elizabeth, the child in her womb leaped for joy.

And so when I heard the story of the birth of that baby I too greeted the news with joy.

Ever since the first Christmas that I can remember, the happiness of our home was filled with people, decoration, generosity of spirit and great joy.

The birth of any baby and the sight of a mother carrying her little one all wrapped in blankets or swaddling bands, is a sight that brings joy to the human heart.

Nowadays we show one another pictures of the mother and her baby.

In ancient times, the church too, showed the holy mother with her sacred child in beautiful iconography.

And out of joy and hope the faithful have lit candles and said prayers for millennia.

The devotion of the ages rings out like church bells across the land.

And so the news with which the Church greets the world then as it does to day is the same forever; “Joy to the World”!

Mary sang of the joy she had in her heart.

It was she who was to become the chosen instrument of God to bring Peace and Justice into this world.

Through her child, the proud, the powerful the rich and those who exploit the poor would be put on notice.

In her Child, the poor would be filled with good things while the rich would be sent away empty.

At the very least, it was the hope of the church throughout the ages that the disparity between those who have and those who don’t would be somehow closed. It is a perversity of the Gospel when the hope of Mary and the mandate of Jesus is ignored.

We cannot read the Gospel without at least noticing that this is what the book says!

“Joy to the World!”

The message is one of Justice. It is a justice that brings Peace.

It is one of joyous music with Angels bending near to earth…to bring the message of God; “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to ALL”.

The message is one so replete with joy that Mary sings it and the church joins her in her song throughout the ages. Her song is a song of Justice and compassion and is set within an indelible image of tenderness-a mother holding her child.

Mind you it is the same mother who holds her child too some years later.

Michelangelo’s image of the Mother holding her child in the “Pieta” is an unforgettable image of a mother’s exquisite agony at the loss of her baby.

A child that was executed by the state for blasphemy and other trumped up and unjust charges lay dead in the tomb for three days.

Joy to the world!

The greatest surprise of faith that is!

There is room in God’s heart for the love of everyone now!

The risen Christ is alive in us now.

Our sins are forgiven us. Therefore we can repent and live anew!

The silent child asleep in a manger is alive forever and Mary’s song rings out across the world with renewed joy.

Whatever the newspapers, CNN or Fox News says, the Good News of Jesus is the last Word.

Jesus is the Word made flesh to dwell among us forever.

There are armies and insurgents, multinational corporations, and schemers and dreamers of allsorts and all may have their day, but then God has the last Word and the Word became Flesh and the Word dwelt among us, and we beheld the Glory of God…the Glory as of the only begotten of God.

The Word made flesh is now and forever the Word of God.

And the Word of God says; “Joy to the World”!

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Advent is a grand and glious season. Here's a few ways to enjoy thinking of the nearness of heaven; a frequent theme of the season from John the Baptist and Jesus.

Advent examples


Robert Lewis Stevenson, grew up in Scotland around the turn of the century and his family’s house was on a hillside outside of town. Each evening, he would sit in the kitchen and look down on the town, watching the lamp lighter ignite each of the town’s street lamps. He remembered one evening saying to his mother, "Look, there is a man down there who is punching holes in the darkness."

And so this Advent we proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom of God. The Book of Common Prayer calls on God to "give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and to put on the armor of light”. Thus may we too have grace to “punch holes in the darkness”.


A woman in my congregation recently returned from a retreat at Gethsemane, the monastery in Kentucky where Thomas Merton journeyed so diligently in his pilgrimage toward God. When she returned I asked her how her time there was. She beamed and said it was “Heavenly”.

So it is with those of the spirit. We journey on with all the saints here on earth and those who have gone before. Hardly do we realize with such busy and anxious lives how close heaven lies. The kingdom of heaven is indeed “at hand”. Only when we stop and listen to the heart of God beating in ours do we realize that Heaven is close. Indeed it is “at hand” as both the Baptist and as Jesus said.


Tolstoy, in latching on to Luke 17:21 proclaims that the Kindom is Heaven is “within” us. That is why it is so very close at hand and why it is so near. He goes on to say that the connection between God and humanity is within the grasp of love.

“God is the infinite ALL. Man is only a finite manifestation of Him.
Or better yet:
God is that infinite All of which man knows himself to be a finite part.
God alone exists truly. Man manifests Him in time, space and matter. The more God's manifestation in man (life) unites with the manifestations (lives) of other beings, the more man exists. This union with the lives of other beings is accomplished through love.
God is not love, but the more there is of love, the more man manifests God, and the more he truly exists”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Fond Farewell

Dear friends,

This is a difficult letter for me to write because my time with you here in Saint Albans has been the some of the happiest time in my personal and professional life. It has also been the most fruitful in terms of the kinds of things that we have been able to achieve together. There is no doubt that we hold one another in very deep affection.

More than a year ago, as I approached my 60th birthday and my 10th year with you I began to ask in my prayers what it was that might be next for me in my life personally and professionally. Subsequently, several congregations approached me to consider a position as rector. I had not sought out a change; they just seemed to come to me. None of the possible positions made much sense to me or to Cindy. In the meantime the Church Pension Fund sweetened up the retirement alternative very nicely and we began to consider that possibility. Still we needed to have some kind of a part-time position for us to meet financial obligations incurred when our children attended college.

Then this summer, when Cindy and I went home for a visit to Maine, we both got a sense that it was time to consider being closer to family. Cindy’s mom and dad are getting on a bit in years, and we are getting to the point where we just plain miss our native home. As much as we love this our adopted one, we began to miss our family. I did explore some possibilities in Maine but nothing there turned out to be a practical alternative. We returned to Saint Albans and decided to hunker down to the fall schedule as always.

Then on the eve of our Diocesan Convention, a dear friend of mine called from the North Shore of metropolitan Boston. It seems that the rector of St. Peter’s in Salem, Massachusetts had just resigned. They needed a Priest-in-charge to go in there for about a 3 year period and steady out things until they get the wind back in their sails. They are a good parish with a group of outstanding people like yourselves.

I called the senior warden and began a series of conversations that led in turn to a visit in Salem on Thursday and Friday October 19 & 20. I spoke with the Bishop of Massachusetts, and with the Assisting Bishop for urban congregations of which St. Peter’s is one. Both Bishops gave their blessing to the possibility of this new ministry.
Cindy and I spent all kinds of time calculating what our retirement check would be as well as what this part-time position offered. It turned out to be a very attractive offer that will give us a very significant increase in income and our ticket home. It will also give me more time to write and time for Cindy and me to travel to be with our children more.

Last Wednesday, November 1, 2006, All Saints Day, on the 11th Anniversary to the very day of my beginning my ministry here, the vestry of St. Peter’s formally offered me the position as Priest-in-charge of that parish. I have prayerfully considered that offer. It seemed like an answer to a prayer. It gives us a chance to move back home. If we take retirement and accept this position, we will establish a very significant increase in income. It gives me a chance to work part-time in a delightful small and very historic congregation on Boston’s North Shore. Therefore, after much soul searching, I have decided to accept the offer.

I have spoken at some length with Bishop Mike Klusmeyer about my possible retirement and about accepting this position. He is not looking forward to my leaving this diocese. Neither am I. I have spoken to the members of the vestry of St. Mark’s. We also will find it difficult to go our separate ways. But there is never a good time for a change like this. That being said, I believe that it is time for Cindy and me to go home. I believe that we have been led to this moment faithfully. It appears to be an abundant answer to an honest prayer.

Therefore on Monday evening, November 13, 2006 I will submit my resignation to the vestry of St. Mark's Episcopal Church to take effect at the end of this year. My last services will be on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. That will allow me to be here with you at a very important time and also to bid my fondest farewell to the folks at Christ’s Kitchen.

My dear friends, these have been among the very best years of my life. Cindy, David, Joshua, and Michael want to join with me in thanking you for this time together. And we want you to know of our prayers, and our deepest affection as together met we now prepare to go our separate ways. May God Bless our coming in and our going out both this time forth and for evermore.

Faithfully yours,

Fr. Paul Bresnahan

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Whose soldiers are we anyway!!!

This past Sunday, St. Paul asked the church to "put on the whole armor of God".
Not a bad idea all in all, especially considering the times in which we live. They are not unlike the times in which the early Christians lived as a matter of fact. So here's a few ways to look at the matter just for something to think about.


Illustration #1 Compare and Contrast

Think about the idealists and the realists in life. Here’s your chance to size them up and pick a side you feel comfortable with.

On the side of the idealists let’s look at these two folks;

  • Gandhi, for instance, said that there are many causes on earth for which he would give his life, but not one for which he would take a life.
  • Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. He also said love your enemies, and that he would give his life as a ransom for many.

These are hard sayings in the scripture. We are told many left Jesus because of what he said and probably what he did as well. However, because of these very things Peter called him “The Holy One of God.”

Now think about these realities

There is a UN Security Council Resolution establishing the means for achieving a cessation of hostilities and perhaps peace in southern Lebanon and northern Israel.

Israel said it achieved its military objectives.

Hizbollah claimed victory.

Almost 1200 men, women, and children, the vast majority of which were civilians, on both sides of the border lie dead in the desert sands of the border between Israel and Lebanon.

Now then, are you an idealist or a realist in heaven as it is in earth?

Illustration #2 The Armor of God

Picture if you will an American soldier or an Israeli Soldier. Now picture those who fight for Hizbollah, and other military and para-military organizations.

They are all equipped with an impressive array of weapons.

Now picture the Armor of God as Paul describes it in his letter to the church in Ephesus. (Ephesians 6:13-17). Shall we review?

Buckle around your waist the belt of truth.
Place over your heart the breastplate of righteousness
On your feet you may wear shoes called the Gospel of Peace.
For a shield you will have Faith with which you can ward off the flaming darts of the evil one.
The helmet of salvation will save your head.
And finally the sword you wield is the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Which weapons will people of faith choose to protect the ones they love? Without being overly simplistic, how shall we weigh these weapons in the scales of Justice and Peace, tempered with the Mercy and Love of God?

Illustration #3 Is Jesus Still Lord?

The name for Caesar in the time of Jesus was “Kyrie” or literally; “Lord”.

The Early Church made it clear that Jesus was "Lord" to that fellowship. And when they sang Kyrie Eleison: “Lord, have mercy” there was a special sense of shared irony. They all distanced themselves from the Empire. To them Jesus was the flesh and blood of heaven on earth to them. He was their bread, and their flesh and blood and the foundation stone of their belief.

There have been many Caesars, Emperors, Kings, Potentates, Sultans, Kaisers, Tsars, Prime Ministers and Presidents.
In a time when we increasingly fuzzy up the line between church and state, who then is our Lord, King or President?

Is it still Jesus? Or is there another?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Moments with God

During a three week period, near the end of August and the beginning of September, 2006, St. Mark's will be running 54 radio spots. The exact language of those radio spots is what follows next.

Moments with God

1. Behold the Lilies of the Field

This is Fr. Paul bringing you a moment with God.

There is much to worry about in life, but listen the words of Jesus;
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.” Matthew 6: 26

This moment with God was brought to you by St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Saint Albans We are a church with a worship ritual rooted in Biblical and Apostolic times. Weekly we gather as his disciples did to break bread together in remembrance of Him. Daily with others who care, we feed his sheep as He told us to do at Christ’s Kitchen. Come worship with us anytime. We are a “House of Prayer for ALL People.”

We’ll leave a candle burning for you.

2. Waiting for God in Silence

This is Fr. Paul bringing you a moment with God.

When you pray try not to ask for too much. Sometimes its better just to be still and listen to the voice of God beating in the human heart. List to what the Psalmist says;
For God alone my soul in silence waits; *
From God comes my salvation. Psalm 62
"Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10
He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalm 107:29

This moment with God was brought to you by St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Saint Albans We are a church with a worship ritual rooted in Biblical and Apostolic times. Weekly we gather as his disciples did to break bread together in remembrance of Him. Daily with others who care, we feed his sheep as He told us to do at Christ’s Kitchen. Come worship with us anytime. We are a “House of Prayer for ALL People.”

We’ll leave a candle burning for you.

The Wisdom of Solomon

The Love of Wisdom

Solomon’s love of Wisdom has become a universal prayer for all people of faith. The practice of Wisdom is the Practice of the Presence of God. Let me suggest several ways for us to put the notion of Wisdom to work for our own lives.

Abide in Me

The Hymn “Abide in me” is a nice old chestnut. The tune is easy to sing or hum, and the sentiment is simplicity itself. The turn of phrase comes to us from today’s Gospel (John 6:56). The wisdom of the prayer is obvious. Still who can actually put into practice the ancient instruction from scripture that Paul gives us to live by today; “Give thanks to God the Father at all times for everything”? (Ephesians 5:20) Can we really pray at ALL times?

When I think about it, the idea of being “present” to God may not be as difficult as one might first suspect. It is as easy as singing a favorite Hymn. In and out; breathing, Abide in Me! It makes the Journey somewhat less burdensome; somewhat more joyous and certainly makes way for Wisdom as we “abide” in Him.

The Practice of the Presence of God

It is an absolutely delightful little book written by Brother Lawrence. It is the simplicity and the sincerity with which it is written that is so persuasive. Many of us have read it. I hope you have a chance to if you haven’t yet. There are so many ways to practice the presence of God. Some of us like to carry rosaries, prayer ropes, or wear a cross; tokens that we do indeed “Abide in Him”. I like to light a candle when I journal. There seems to be a “spirit” with me in my room in moments of silence as I write.

In Judaism there are prayer shawls, in Islam, there are prayer beads. There are many who have managed to put it into practice, the actual Practice of the Presence of God. It is as though we put on Christ as a “garment”, as we live out our lives “in” him.

The notion is that we are to Pray at all times. Paul says so again in Ephesians, “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication”. Ephesians 6:18. There’s a challenge for you. If you cannot be quite perfect, then accept what time you do spend with God. Both you and God will be pleased that you do, and Wisdom will find a home in your life.

The Jesus Prayer

From ancient times the notion of a “breath prayer” has been central to our shared traditions. The Jesus Prayer is one such “breath prayer”. Many of us know it by heart; “Come Lord Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It is said that if we put into practice the repetition of such a prayer, it eventually becomes part of our being. Thus with every breath we take, the “in and out” of the words comes and goes and so too the reality that goes with it. Thus with our breathing we pray at all time and in all things, and Wisdom is born in the human heart.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Bread of Life

Love is the bread of life: you have to make it everyday if you want it fresh.


His Name is Christopher

His Name is Christopher

His name is Christopher. He is named after that now demoted saint, who is said to have “carried” Christ on his shoulders over perilous streams in Germany centuries ago, before bridges made such travel somewhat safer. For a fee, weary travelers could engage the services of a stalwart sort to carry them and their belongings across rivers and streams especially in stormy times. On one especially stormy night, it is said that the heroics and humanitarian work of an especially conscientious practitioner of this kind of service discovered, he was carrying none other than our Lord as he carried the poorest to safety; someone unable to pay. The story is dismissed by historians in the church, but the name and the myths have stuck. Hence the name Christopher means literally “Christ carrier”.

But the Christopher I speak of is a young man who had been around the block a couple of times. I’m afraid he fell victim to drug abuse. He developed quite a reputation around town. He came to a priest one time as he struggled to move away from the old ways of sin that were leading him toward death. There were conversations that led into the small hours of the night because the priest thought he was worth saving. Eventually he began to read several books the priest thought would be helpful. And they were.

But ultimately Christopher began to read the Bible. He was led somehow to read the Sermon on the Mount and the Gospel of Mark. Imagine the young man’s surprise when he discovered in those few pages how much God loves him, forgives him, and seeks eagerly to reconcile him to the entire community of faith.

So now he wants to be baptized. He wants to put to death the old way of life that leads to sin and death. Indeed he wants to embrace and hold fast the New Life that he can have in Jesus. He can share that life as a peer counselor with others who are struggling to overcome their addictions to drugs and alcohol.

The priest asked him what it was that finally did the trick of conversion. “Reading the Bible”, he said without a moment’s hesitation. “There is so much love and forgiveness in that Book and it sounds so different from those who seem to use it as a weapon for judgment. It was Good News to the likes of me to discover how much God loves even ME!”

Christopher is a Christ carrier indeed. And for Chris, Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Empty Dish

Alcibiades is prospering as you can tell from the photo here as compared to the one below. He has a remarkable way of communicating with us. By cleverly manovering his dish to a strategic place any by looking up at us with those eyes it is as though he is saying "Do you want me to draw you a picture?"
Supper was forthcoming shortly after this photo was taken.

Love and Generosity

Feed My Sheep

Jesus said; “Feed my sheep”.

When I was at General Convention several weeks ago, I heard a woman from New Zealand speak on the matter of generosity. She is a native of the Mauri people, folks known and respected for their traditions of spirituality. She now teaches theology at an Anglican seminary in New Zealand. And what she said struck me deeply. I quote; “It is not the amount of the gift that counts, it is the amount of love that goes into the gift that counts.” In that context, let me ask you to listen to this exchange between Jesus and Peter in John’s Gospel

(John 21:15-17) “15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16 A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.” ”

Please notice in this exchange that the key question that Jesus posed to Peter was the question of his love; "Peter, do you love me?". It follows then as day follows the night that if we love Jesus we will then feed his sheep and tend his flock.

Clearly Jesus was concerned about the feeding of the multitudes, not only with the food that nourishes the body, but also with the food that nourishes the deeper longings of the human soul.

Consider today’s Gospel. (Mark 6:30-44) Jesus and his followers had been having a hard go of it. There were many to be taught, many to be healed, and many to be loved, especially the outcast, the maimed, and those with so many diseases. And so it was that, after a long hard day that Jesus encouraged his followers to go away to a quiet place where they could be still and collect themselves. On a lovely hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee under the shade of trees and on a grassy knoll, there would be a chance to rest.

But it just wasn’t to be. The crowd saw where they were going and rushed on ahead. And Jesus, we’re told “had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. Those folks lived in a violent and hateful time. In those days there was a brutal occupation force there. The Romans were known for their no nonsense violent approach to resistance. And these folk were looking for something. Something in what Jesus had to offer was so different from whatever anyone else spoke about. There was this heaven on earth, and this business of Love between us and God and among one another that had such a magnetic appeal to it. The hatred and enmity that folks harbored at the time wasn’t working out so well, and this Jesus had a new approach to the fractured and broken reality of the human condition. And so it was that he had compassion on them.

The day wore on I suppose as he continued to teach and heal and listen in to the heartache of the folks. He loved them with such a depth that nothing else on earth could compare with. Eventually the followers noticed that they really needed to send them away to the villages and countryside so that they could fend for themselves and get themselves something to eat. And they told Jesus to send them away. But Jesus said; “You give them something to eat”. They protested; “Where are we to get the money to buy enough for all these folks?”

So Jesus asked them how much they had, and there were those five loaves and two fish. Not much when you do the division among 5000. “Have them sit down in groups of a hundred and fifty or so.” And then in a clear presage to the Eucharistic pattern, Jesus took the bread, broke it, gave thanks to God for it, and distributed it among the people. It did the same for the fish. It was thus that the people were satisfied. And it was thus that a dozen baskets of scraps were left over. Something deep inside was satisfied in the folks that gathered. They weren’t a crowd any more they were a people gathered by the love of God to love one another, like we are each Sunday when we gather likewise for a similar meal with Jesus as our High Priest.

At Christ’s Kitchen, our own hot lunch program, we’ve been feeding folks in record numbers recently. Every day in recent weeks, we’ve been feeding around 70 folks a day and on Thursday we fed a record 79! The folds who come to Christ’s Kitchen find more than a meal here, they find love and acceptance, dignity and respect. And so they come back for more.

In recognition of this ministry, we’ve received some wonderful gifts that help to sustain that ministry. Last year, we received a very substantial gift from the Powell Estate from a man who didn’t belong to this church and who didn’t even believe in God, necessarily. He did believe in what we were doing in feeding the poor and caring for those of modest means. And so he left us the major portion of his estate. And this week I received word of yet another gift from a woman that nobody seems to even know very well, at least I am relatively confident she was never a member of this church. But somehow, whatever we do has brought us to the point that she wishes to join us even now in her estate in “Feeding My Sheep.”

These are both wonderful gifts.

But I do wonder about the church from time to time. I know how important the outreach ministry of the church is. I’ve dedicated my life to holding back the scourge of racism, homelessness, poverty and more recently toward inclusivity for various forms of outcasts from the church. This outreach ministry is of critical importance. And it costs us to do that ministry. Not many congregations really want to step up to the challenge of doing the kind of work we do as a matter of course. St. Mark’s deserves the recognition we have received as one of the Jubilee Centers of the Episcopal Church, since it is here that so many of our community poor find refuge and help.

But the church could use some help too from time to time. I hope we all realize that were it not for the fact that the church is here, ministries like Christ’s Kitchen and the Food Pantry would not be here. Had it not been for the church, there may not have been somebody who would spend a very significant amount of energy to rally folks around the building of a homeless shelter.

To be sure a church needs to have its own sense of purpose and mission, but the church also needs someone who cares that the church itself will prosper. For without the church none of these other ministries would even exist. Can you imagine the cost if the government ran the kitchen, the food pantry and the homeless shelter? Good lord not only would it cost a fortune, but there would be sticky fingers all over the place causing shall we say a misappropriation of funds.

It is thus that I must speak to you as your priest today and ask you to make provision for the church so that we will always be able to “Feed My Sheep”. In the Book of Common Prayer in the small print on Page 445 of the Service of Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child, the following statement is written;

“The minister of the congregation is directed to instruct the people, from time to time, about the duty of Christian parents to make prudent provision for the well-being of their families, and of all persons to make wills, while they are in health, arranging for the disposal of their temporal goods, not neglecting, if they are able, to leave bequests for religious and charitable uses.” Book of Common Prayer page 445.

And so it was that I found myself wishing that maybe someday someone would make a generous gift to the Church, to strengthen the work of the church. I found myself wishing that someone would love God enough to make such a gift that would do for the church what has been done so generously for Christ’s Kitchen. I wished that perhaps there would be many such gifts “Grace upon Grace”. It was thus that I prayed to God and it came to me “Tell the people what you’re telling me”. All I’m asking for is that we all have the kind of love in our hearts that Jesus asked Peter to have. I pray that this love will include the church.

And so as Jesus said; "Peter, do you love me?"

If so then, “Feed My Sheep.”

Helpful Links

Here are some helpful links that will be useful to many as we seek to sort through fact and fiction in these days of contention and controversy in the church.
Click on the following to connect to these helpful websites
The Episcopal Church is the official website of a wonderful church with a big heart, full of compassion and a "House of Prayer for ALL People"
The Anglican Communion Office is where you will find all kinds of information from the Archbishop of Canterbury and member churches around the world.
Anglicans Online is another website which give a good comprehensive moderate view of all sorts of interesting things about this church.
And finally by way of advocacy, I like Integrity USA which for years has been calling for full inclusion of all sorts and conditions of people. Eventually, there will be no outcasts in the church.
That will do it for now.
Plenty of reading material on any of the above websites. Enjoy
Fr. Paul

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It's a girl!

And Now for Something Completely Different

When the Episcopal Church elected a Katharine Jefferts Schori as our next presiding bishop on Father's day, the effect on the House of Deputies and the gallery...several thousand folks altogether, was electifying when the news came down from the house of Bishops.
The chair of the house asked us not to react to the announcement, but to receive the news respectfully and prayerfully; sensitive to those who might take the news badly.
In spite of that request an audible collective gasp, hoops of delight, and even several cheers belied the absolute delight with which the church at large received the news. The chair reminded us to restrain ourselves and again a polite Anglican composure returned to the house.
The cell circuits however were immediately all taken as the news spread like wildfire. News reporters flew out of the house to report the flash around the world.
And thus it was that the church made history. God had done a new thing. As the Bishop of Liberia reported; "God is a God of surprises!".
Typical of the American church, we threw caution to the wind. A small minority of conservatives had planned to walk out of convention as a protest to our "progressive and revisionist" doctrines. Perhaps we beat them to the punch!
The rest of us, remembering Christ's reaching out at the margins to the outcasts, the halt, the maimed, the blind and the poor...yes and to the woman at the well...and the women who were the only ones to stay even to the end with him...yes Jesus was the one who reached out his arms in ever widening circles of inclusion.
It was thus that the Church gasped. Imagine, in spite of all the dire predictions of the church's self-destruction, instead we found ourselves saying yes to the Bishop from Nevada. She who taught theology at Corvalis, she who allowed her clergy to bless same sex relationships along with boats, and pets...she let her clergy bless persons who love one another. She who was a pilot and diligently visited her congregations like a missionary bush pilot would in any desert outpost. She who had most impressed the House of Bishops in her earlier presentations along with the other candidates with her wit and wisdom and intelligence. A common comment from many mainstream bishops was "If only she weren't a woman, she'd be the next Presiding Bishop"...
Apparently the Holy Spirit must have heard that. It appears that even the Bishops heard that somewhere at the center of their hearts, because lo and behold they elected her!!!
Later there was a party of well wishers and supporters. And to everyone's delight, as she entered the hall, it was then said in one voice of utter delight: "Its a girl!"
Fr. Paul Bresnahan

Friday, June 09, 2006

New Book About God's Inclusive Love

Everything You Need to Know About Sex
In Order to Get to Heaven
Paul B. Bresnahan

Here is a light hearted, whimsical, satire that is dead serious and downright poignant too. This is a book whose eye catching title suggests that it is time for the church and the culture around it to grow up a bit and recognize the facts for what they are. Gay folks are here to stay and they are right smack dab in the middle of our families, workplaces, and yes, even in our churches. Using his own family and his own church as a microcosm, “Fr. Paul”, as he likes to be called, argues that human sexuality is a sacrament that gives all of us an exquisite way to express our love for one another. It is in the nature of things that our sexuality becomes a God given grace for human love to be expressed. For most of us, we’ll do that in a male/female configuration. But not always! From the beginning, there have been LGBT folk in our midst. They have often faced persecution, violence, vilification and marginalization yet they are still very much with us. One of them is now a Bishop in the Episcopal Church. His life has been threatened too (by Christians, of course). Come on folks, let’s get over this one. Let’s embrace yet another minority with the milk of human kindness and in a “kinder gentler” way. Open the book and discover with a Priest of the Church, how we are becoming “A House of Prayer for ALL People”.

Fr. Paul Bresnahan has been a Priest of the Episcopal Church for 33 years. He serves now at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Saint Albans, West Virginia, a remarkable congregation that cares very much for the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the marginalized. He has served churches in Massachusetts, Ohio, and South Carolina. His lifetime struggle against racism, economic disparity, homelessness now culminates in taking up the cudgels for yet another great group of outcasts. He was raised by a gay uncle, and now has two gay sons. He has a lot to say about this controversy. After all there’s a lot at stake. Best of all, he’s still smiling, because he’s convinced that there’s room in God’s heart for the love of EVERYONE!

available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com and autographed from the author at paulbresnahan@yahoo.com

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Hound of Heaven

The Feast of the Ascension
The Hound of Heaven

I found myself thinking about my childhood dog "Pal"; a collie who on the night my dad was buried, lay at his side by his grave to howl the night away in a paroxysm of grief.
Whether this actually happened I don't know but it is a grand story and my Irish grandfather turned the phrases of his story telling craft with great skill and occasionally some embellishment.
My dad's death at Christmas when I was the age of 7 was a "signature" moment in my life and it has led to many a poignant Christmas ever since. It also led me to the priesthood. The discovery that God's goodness made a place for my dad in God's heart made me aware of the utter dependence we have on God's goodness for all those we care about including ourselves. I thought I'd better tell as many people as I could about God's goodness.
I find it amazing that when Jesus was taken up to heaven right in front of their eyes...they went all about the world with JOY...to proclaim the good news, whatever that was. Whether this really happened or not, I don't know, but it is a grand story and the folks of the ANE Hellenistic world had a wonderful capacity for crafting good stories for whatever purpose they found fruitful. But it was the JOY they experienced that caught my eye. It was like the joy I experienced as a child when I discovered God's goodness.
And so they said Jesus rose from the dead. Even if that were true, resurrection stories had found their way into Egyptian, Greek and Roman philosophies before. It even crept into some wonderful Old Testament passages particulaly in Job and in the Psalms.
But the message that caught even deeper into the heart involved the whole matter of forgiveness.
When Jesus walked among us, he had a particular affinity for a message of pardon and forgiveness. He began with that.
He spoke of forgiveness even before we knew we'd done the unforgivable. The blind man, the leper, the tax collector, the lame, the prostitute, the poor, and all the host of sick and mentally ill had all been locked out of heaven by the righteous Temple infrastructure. Scribes, Pharisees, Saducees all had a good handle on the Holiness code. But the ones Jesus sought out like all the above had long ago lost any shot at Holiness or inclusivity in God's goodness.
Then along came Jesus. He the Holiest of the Holy and utterly blameless One by any and all measures, found in the untouchable masses something beautiful for God. And one by one he touched them, forgave them, did the loving thing and healed them, fed them, and gave them food and drink that satisfied their deepest cravings. He ascribed to them a sense of value that was utterly unattainable in this world or so it seemed.
Listen to the Power of God in today's letter to the Ephesians "I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power."
That power was not just the power over death but of sin as well. The wretched of the earth had found a champion. The outcast has found the sharp sword of inclusivity cut for them against those powers that sought to destroy God's creatures. And most of all, God power was shown in Jesus because these ordinary, ordinary folk, long since driven away from God, were now most decisively "of God" and it was the Son of the GOD/MAN who said so.
He even went so far as to tell us to go out into all the world and bring that good news to ALL.
Listen to the words from Acts, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Now I submit to you that to bring that news to Jerusalem, though dangerous in the wrong hands was potentially all right. Even in Judea, holiness to the select few would be acceptable. But Samaria is anathema. The Samaritans were at the bottom...the scuzzy bottom of the hierarchy of holiness...well below the most immoral imaginable perversion you can possibly conjure.
And yet this Jesus told us to get out there in the uttermost furthest corners of the world and preach forgiveness, and Christ's power over sin and death.
It must have been life changing to discover that this Jesus, who had touched so many lives in so short a time; three years we're told, was dead and then buried. When he rose from the dead, that really did it. The forgiveness and goodness that he told us about became not a "good feeling" or a philosophical insight. It was a FACT!
That's the amazing thing about Jesus ascent to heaven for me. It filled us with JOY! God's goodness overflowed like my cup overflows. He died for my dad who didn't even have a clue he was going to die. He hadn't gotten around to repentence; hadn't turned to Jesus or any of that. He just up and died all of a sudden. And I missed him sorely as I still do. But Jesus found a special place for him in his heart. What a JOY that is to know.
So let the Hound of Heaven Howl...Jesus has ascended to the Right hand of God. He will come again to be our Judge. And as far as I'm concerned God is so very good indeed.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Bishop Charleston's Witness

The following fine comments were written by Steven Charleston recently and are reprinted here with permission.

What Witness Will We Make?

By The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston

President and Dean, Episcopal Divinity School

<>As the Episcopal Church, the most important question before us is not about schism or sexuality. It is about witness. What witness will we make?
Christian witness is the public affirmation of faith. It is how we let the world see that we practice what we preach. Today those of us in the Episcopal Church are being called on to make our witness. We have the opportunity to be what we say we are. The world is watching. What will we do?
The answer is a matter of faith. We witness to what we believe.
In the Episcopal Church, we believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in the Bible. We believe in the Good News. In fact, we believe so strongly in all of these essential parts of our shared faith that we are not afraid to disagree with one another about what they mean to us. <>
We welcome difference as the active presence of God’s Holy Spirit moving amongst us. Our witness is not to conformity but to community. As the Episcopal Church we are not concerned that everyone in the pews believes exactly the same thing, in the same way, at the same time. Instead, we are concerned that no one is left out of those pews because of what they believe, who they are, or where they come from.
Our witness is to the unconditional love of God through the grace of Christ Jesus. Therefore, we accept the risk of grace by not setting limits to love with our own judgment of others. There are no border guards at the doors of the Episcopal Church. We respect the dignity of every human being and are never ashamed of who sits next to us in worship. We are all the children of God just as we are all sinners in need of mercy.
There are no walls around the Episcopal Church. We believe that God is at work in the world. We are not concerned that this world sees us as perfect, pure, or powerful. Instead, we are concerned that people see us practicing justice, doing mercy, and walking humbly with the God we believe loves us all equally.
Our witness is to hope, not fear. We believe that men and women, no matter how separated they may think they are by religious conviction, cultural value, or social location are never truly apart unless they choose to be. We have nothing to fear from one another unless we allow fear to be our witness. While the distance between us may seem great and the path to reconciliation impossibly long, we have the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we never despair of one another or deny one another for to do so would be to despair and deny the power of that Spirit.
Our witness is to mission. While the Spirit leads us to truth, we carry on with the task God has given us. We do not place pride before discipleship. While we may have many disagreements between us, we have only one mission before us. We never question the faith of the person who seeks to do the work of God. We believe that it is not important to know if that person is “right” or politically correct. It is only important to know if she or he feels welcomed into the servant ministry of Christ. There are no loyalty oaths in the Episcopal Church, but there are many jobs for those who want to help heal a broken world.
Our witness is to the reconciliation of God in a time of fear. In the Episcopal Church, we stand together not even if we disagree, but precisely because we disagree. We practice the radical hope of God. We embody a faith that says there are many rooms in the house of God, but one home for us all if we choose to live together.
It is time to make our witness. In a century already marked by the terror of war, with zealots of all traditions inciting us into the patriotism of fear, what witness will we make? What alternative will we offer? What fresh vision will we share? Will we retreat into yet smaller factions of “true believers,” whether from the Right or the Left, smug in our self righteous assurance that we have the truth? Will we struggle over property and power as though these things had lasting importance for us? Will we vilify one another and become agents of suspicion among the very people we love? Will we worry more about what people think of us than what God expects of us?
It is time to make our witness. It is time to take off our halos, our mitres, and our martyr’s crown to stand up and be counted. What witness will each of us choose to make?
I can not answer for anyone in this Church but myself. I do not ask that you agree with my theology. I do not demand that you read your Bible exactly as I read mine. I know that you and I may disagree on many subjects and find it hard to live together. But I also know that you are as much in need of God’s forgiveness as I am.
You and I need one another now more than ever because there are so many others who need us both in this hurting world. That world, the poor and the hungry, the captives and the prisoners, are depending on us to do more than argue with one another. For them, our witness is not a matter of church politics. It is a matter of life and death. I am counting on the fact that you know that.

<>Now is the time for us to extend our hands to one another. We will not walk away from the Body of Christ.
ow is the time for us to use our hands. We will not place pride over mission.\Now is the time for us to raise our hands. We will not forget that to God alone goes the glory.

Are you a witness? Will you join me in this affirmation of faith?
In my life I have known many seasons in the Episcopal Church. This is the season for our witness. This is the time for us to do something totally unexpected and wonderful, to confound those who say we have lost our vision. This is our moment to show the world that we can practice what we preach and be who we say we are. Our finest hour will not be when we think we have won something from one another, but when we know we have nothing to lose by loving one another.
I am a witness. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in God’s gospel of justice, compassion, and reconciliation. I believe in the community of God and I will work faithfully with every person to bring peace and healing to the world. I open my hands. I open my heart. I want the world to see that I am not afraid. I step gratefully into the unconditional love of God. I stand up to be counted not for what I think is right, but for what I believe to be possible. How about you? Will you stand with me?
Are you a witness?
The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston is president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bishop Charleston is a member of the Choctaw Nation, has served as the Episcopal Bishop of Alaska, and as the executive director of the National Committee on Indian Work at the Episcopal Church Center. Over his career, Bishop Charleston has been deeply involved in exploring different models of theological training to meet the needs of a changing church. He is an advocate for theological education that is culturally sensitive and meets the needs and concerns of local faith communities.

"Reprinted, by permission, Episcopal Divinity School, (c) May 2006.")

©Episcopal Divinity School, May 2006

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Introducing Alcibiades,
Our brand new puppy. What a face!
His mom is a Yellow Lab and dad is of unknown origin.
He's making a fine adjustment to our home.
Alcibiades, by the way, was a General, Philosopher, and Stateman in the rivalry days between Sparta and Athens during the Peloponesian Wars.
He does have a noble face, doesn't he?
Fr. Paul.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Inclulsion and Exclusion Games

We play lots of inclusion and exclusion games on a regular basis in Church. The Episcopal Church is paying a high price for inclusion of all sorts and conditions of folks these days. There are those who would specifically exclude gay folks from leadership roles in the faith community. I stumbled across this passage the other day and thought perhaps it might be worth reading again. Note please verse 13. It is a dangerour thing, I'd say to "lock out" folks from the kingdom of heaven. What do you think?

Matthew, Chapter 23

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, F164 and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. F165 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. F166 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

13 "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. F167 14 F225 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell F168 as yourselves. 16 "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, "Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.' 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, "Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.' 19 How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21 and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; 22 and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it. 23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! 25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, F169 so that the outside also may become clean. 27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. 28 So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 29 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, 30 and you say, "If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31 Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. 33 You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? F170

34 Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, 35 so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation. 37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you, desolate. F171 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.

Good Shepherd Sunday

Last Sunday's sermon received lots of comment. Here it is for your review.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd


“Fr. Paul” B. Bresnahan

May 7,2006

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd.”

There are two images that come to mind when I think of “The Good Shepherd”. Both are helpful when we think of our relationship with Jesus but for different reasons. One image is of the relationship between a mother, a father and a child. Typically, when we bring forth newborn children, we love them, nurture them and bring them through their childhood to adulthood when we watch them leave the nest and fly off on their own. During that time, we stand by them, we love them, and there is often much to be forgiven. When we correct them we do so usually with a firmness that is tempered with compassion. Throughout it all there is an abiding love that is the very ground of our being in relationship which has been brought forth from our love.

This is not always the case. We do know of instances when a father would abandon a child. To me that seems unthinkable, but we know it happens. Even worse is the case of abuse, when children and women are victims of violent outbursts. We know too that there are even mothers who will abandon their children and even abuse or neglect them in some cases.

But Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He loves us, forgives us and embraces us with the compassion of a mother and a father that absolutely delights in a child. A child is the flesh and blood image of his or her parentage. So too are we, in a certain sense, the flesh and blood image of God. Insofar as Jesus is the incarnate love of God, so too by his Grace, we become the incarnate children of God. Since we are incarnate into the Body of Jesus by adoption and Grace, so then we become incarnate in the Grace of God. John says as much in today’s second lesson; “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.” If we believe that Jesus is the incarnate love of God, then it stands to reason that we are God’s flesh and blood now by virtue of his Grace and his Love.

Imagine the Love he bears toward us that he would adopt us as his very own. Each one of us now bears the image of God on our faces in a sense as we reflect the Glory of God. That means that as we look into one another’s eyes we are looking into the soul of God. As I think about it, the kingdom of heaven is within, deep within the human heart. That is the throne room of God. The human heart is the touchstone of our humanity to the Heart of God. Thus it is in the human heart where we meet our own humanity in the very same place as we meet God’s divinity. It is in the human heart where we become truly known for who we are without any possibility of cloaking or concealing anything from our God.

We say as much every week in that exquisite prayer at the beginning of the Eucharist;

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The heart is where we treasure God, and where God treasures us as well.

There is another image I have to speak of the Good Shepherd. Yesterday we brought home a new puppy. His name is Alcibiades. He is named after a Greek general, statesman and philosopher. He is a delightful animal. And of course we love him very much. I sent his photo out on our parish mailing list yesterday. Even looking at the photo of a puppy we cannot help but be melted with affection as we look into the face of a little dog. Isn’t it interesting that even by looking into the innocent little face of a young pup, we cannot help but see something of glory…as we look into the glory of God’s creation, are we not moved to profound depths of love and compassion. And that’s just for a puppy.

And so there we were, moving about through two shelters, reviewing the many abandoned animals looking for a home. Al was in cage A-27. He had no name. He was sick. Like all the others he was abandoned. There was a lot of barking. There was disease and there were many fleas. You could say it was a condition before Grace.

Think of it. What it was like for each of us before we were adopted by God, and given Grace upon Grace. It was like we were in cages or cubicles; nameless numbers. Our puppy was A-27. He is now “AL”. But he is so much more. He has his medicine. He is fed generously. He has boundless energy and affection. He has a relationship with someone who will shower him with an abundant love.

So too are we with Jesus. We are not just a number anymore in an economic system that grinds on toward its mindless motive for greed and profit. In its initial enthusiasm for the Gospel of Jesus the first Christians held everything in common and saw to it that no one went without. “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them,” The new band of Christians was so taken with the obvious implications of the Gospel that they lived it out in community. It is a shame that didn’t make it very far into history before succeeding economic systems deemed it impractical.

So now the puppy has a home and not a cage. He lives in a whole new palace. He can run and bound up on the furniture and leap into the papa’s lap and lick his face, or fall asleep as a reassuring hand pats a glowing coat of radiant fur.

Don’t you see how different life is now? Now that you have been adopted by God as one of his children, do you not see the difference? Or do we take it all too much for granted. Now we can bask in God’s boundless love for us. His forgiveness is such that he would even give his son for us as payment for our sins. Now our sins are not counted against us. Instead we are now transformed from Glory to Glory through his abundant Grace.

So now sin and disobedience are not our calling, but Grace and Joy are the condition we are called into. John again today puts it this way; “Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” So lets put all that aside, as we live now into the joy of our Father’s home.

We have found a home in him because he is our Good Shepherd. And there are still more sheep that must be drawn into to his house and his great mansion. In ever widening circles of inclusion we see the savior’s embrace reaching out from the hard wood of the Cross so that everyone may come within the reach of His embrace. If we believe that Jesus really is the Good Shepherd, then we will live out the implications of that in our Gospel life. I hope that as impractical as that may sometimes seem, we will at least make the attempt to live the Gospel life.

The reason for living out our lives that way is very simple; Jesus is the Good Shepherd.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

New Orleans

It is a scandal to see with our own eyes how little we have done as a government in New Orleans. Our initial response was bungled tragically at all levels of government. The inability and it would seem the unwillingness of those in authority to act decisively is now even more tragically obvious than before. After a recent visit, while driving into the city, my son could not help but note that, if this is how we treat the soul of our country, then it stands to reason that we are looking into our future. This while we drove past mile after mile of abandoned businesses and destroyed homes. He spoke, I think prophetically. And so I penned these words to tell out my soul this lament for a city that I love.


We came to New Orleans and
We saw the impotence of our government
Its inability and its unwillingness
To save the least of her own.
We saw the devastation and
We saw our future.

We the government saw our
Impotence our
Incompetence and our
Rapacious greed;
We saw our slavery;

To the Domination System we created of
Corporate Power and Greed.
Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay
Are on trial and
They are blind to what they have done,
And You are expecting me to forgive them?

Heal me of my blindness I pray Thee
To turn the tables of these money changers
And dealers in pigeons
And take up my cross to follow wherever you may lead.

Paul Bresnahan, April 2006