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.