Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Pentecost Experience

The Pentecost Experience

A Collect for Saturdays
We give thanks, O God, for revealing your Son Jesus
Christ to us by the light of his resurrection: Grant that as we
sing your glory at the close of this day, our joy may abound
in the morning as we celebrate the Paschal mystery; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

                 Book of Common Prayer, page 134

Come Holy Spirit to ALL, ALL, ALL

A Meditation on Pentecost
A Chant

Take Ten minutes to listen. 

We could describe it as flames of fire, or divided tongues or a mighty wind. But it happened to us ALL. suddenly we understood that everyone in every language wanted to hear of the love of God. We understood that every sort and condition of humanity wanted to hear of the outpouring of the Spirit of God into every human heart. The Holy Spirit brings a profound Peace, Eternal Life, The Comfort of Courage, and Forgiveness.

Some Christians are beginning to embrace that Spirit within and among ALL.

The Collect of the Day for all Catholicism invites us to remember that God "opened the way of Eternal Life to EVERY race and nation. 

Some parts of Catholicism now recognize that ALL MEANS ALL. Regardless now of orientation, gender, race, class, or ethnicity we are now all one in Christ. (Galatians 3:28). We in the Episcopal Church have paid a terrible price for proclaiming the Gospel for ALL. But we are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful. 

What we need to do now is to Proclaim the Gospel Unapologetically, and with resolve, clarity, imagination and courage. ALL MEANS ALL!

Here Thomas Keating tells the story. A voice of such resonant beauty. A teacher who encourages us to pray from and into the Center of our being. From the Center we discover the Spirit connects us to God and to ALL, where ALL MEANS ALL.

I just stumbled across this artistic rendering of the Taize chant "Veni Sancte Spiritus" (Come Holy Spirit). It is another lovely and gracious multi-media experience; harp, art, instrumental accompaniment, time-lapse photography, candles, incense, iconography etc.

And lest we forget Taize was a place of refuge for the persecuted of the Nazi Regime...Jews, Intellectuals, Gypsies, and Homosexuals. So...all of you who have felt the sting of persecution and exclusion both within and outside the church...Pentecost is for you.

Dear Brother Roger saw a world gone mad as the Nazis began their persecutions. There was in that little town of Franc; Taize, a tiny place where God's Peace and God's Spirit and God's Kingdom would reign.

Do not be discouraged by what you see passing for Christianity these days. 

You and I have felt this Mighty Wind Come to us and Among Us. 

Rejoice and be glad, Come Holy Spirit, Come to ALL, where ALL MEANS ALL!!!

May Peace be upon you,

Fr Paul

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sanity for a World Gone Mad!

Thank God For Taize!

The world had gone absolutely out of its mind. It was in the midst of World War II. Jews, Intellectuals, Gypsies, and Homosexuals were all being persecuted by the Nazis. Somebody needed the raw courage to stand up to the violence and fear embedded inside the human personality.

Thus Brother Roger came to the scene in a little town in France by the name of Taize. He and his patrons provided a place of refuge for the persecuted. Over time they developed a worship style too that had a certain staying power. The practice of silence, contemporary and simple chant, a semi-darkened room with a great deal of candlelight, some incense, icons, and some light instrumentation provided a multi-media experience that help to quell and still the anxiety, dread, suspicion and fear that pervaded the time.

Peace was restored within the human heart, even while the rest of the world had gone mad.

It seems a timely thing too for us to practice the Presence of God in this and other ways. The world still likes to persecute people. In fact, much of the so called "Christian World" likes to persecute people. Truth be told much of the "Religious" world likes to persecute people.

But Jesus will not go away.

Simple, peaceful and hopeful love remains among those who gather at Taize now by the tens of thousands each year. And now churches around the world gather the faithful few often in mid-week services to continue the effort in restoring sanity in a world still gone mad. This article in the Washington Post tells the story well.

Come Lord Jesus.


Fr. Paul

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Romney & Bain Capital: How they get richer and we get poorer

Go ahead and vote for him if you wish, but be advised you are voting against your own self interest. Unless you happen to be VERY Rich.
You can help make this go viral if you wish.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why Worship God?

Why Worship God?
“They worshipped him and were continually in the temple blessing God” ~Luke 24:53
The Feast Day of the Ascension is a favorite of mine if for no other reason than the exquisite music often heard for the occasion in Evensong. And the lessons for the Feast Day are especially beautiful literature.The Author of the Gospel of Luke is also the author of the Book of Acts, and in today’s lesson he addresses his remarks to “Theophilus”; to the “Lover of God” literally.
It is in the nature of the “God Lover” to worship the creator.
And with the Great Feast Day of the Ascension of Jesus to the Right Hand of God we discover that God is now with us all the time. The “Collect” (theme prayer) for the day expresses it this way 
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ
ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things:
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his
promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end
of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory
everlasting. Amen. Book of Common Prayer, page 226
You will notice then, that the first witnesses to this event found themselves in the Temple All the Time worshipping God
The root meaning of the word worship has the sense of “worthiness” to it. One wonders why does God needs us to tell him that he’s worthy?
Evelyn Underhill defines worship as the “absolute acknowledgment of all that lies beyond us-the glory that fills heaven and earth. It is the response that conscious beings make to their Creator”. (from “Education and The Spirit of Worship” in  Collected Papers, page 193, London 1946)
At first blush this is a persuasive definition, but then in some senses I believe Evelyn Underhill has it precisely upside down. She thinks of worship as the acknowledgment of something that is beyond us.
I think of it as something that lies within. The “Otherness” of God lies within, I would argue, especially as we see the sense of “within” in the Biblical Tradition.
You will remember that Moses encountered God at the burning bush, he had several interesting questions to ask concerning God’s identity. In essence those questions went like this; “Who are you? What is your Name? Other gods of other nations have names and shapes that we can readily see and recognize and replicate into idol form for all to see. What then is your name?
But God replies in a way that cannot be seen “I AM”, God says.
The Hebrew meaning of the copula verb “to be” goes beyond a simple declarative. In the aorist mood/tense, of which there is no equivalent in English, the statement “I AM” has the sense of indefinite time to it. It is as if God were saying “I am Being itself” 
Thus when God says “I AM”, you and I meet God as we discover that “we are Being” too! Thus God’s Being and our own meet in the heart of things, and most particularly within the human heart.
God’s Kingdom therefore is within. Jesus said so too. The Kingdom of God is at hand, it is within. It is between us. (Luke 17:21) It is among us in forgiveness, repentance, love and reconciliation. 
This is our work; to build the Kingdom of God on the strength of the very things Jesus taught us to do; to love one another, to declare God’s forgiveness, repentance, and by God to work at the reconciliation of all to God and to one another.
Worship therefore, recognizes not so much a God that is beyond, but a God that is within.  To discover God, we begin with discovering our own hearts. As we become more honest about ourselves, we become more “Honest to God.”
Interestingly enough then, it is when we ascribe honor and glory and worship and worthiness to God, that we increase the likelihood that we will discover at the same time the honor the glory and the worthiness of humankind and particularly of ourselves in each particular instance. 
This is what we call worship; the discovery of our own worth in the ascription of God’s. It is the intention of God that repentance and forgiveness become two sides of the very same coin. Remember Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. (Romans 5:8) We were still involved in sin. 
Our catechism defines Sin as the seeking of our own will instead of God’s. (Book of Common Prayer, page 845) We were sinking deeply into one mess after another, our lives were being destroyed by violence done to ourselves and to one another.
God couldn’t help but notice our tendency to sink into the stormy seas on Galilee. That is why God sent Jesus to us. Sure Jesus walks on water. but don’t trivialize the story. The sea he walks on is Forgiveness, Joy, Repentance, and Eternal Life. We somehow figure out how to make a mess out of out of our lives both before we got to know Jesus and since! Even after we’ve heard how to rise up and walk with God, we can figure out how to mess things up rather quickly. Then we start sinking again.
You will notice that we frighten easily. We frighten precisely because we think we’re going to fail. But this is impossible! Jesus has already given us all the Forgiveness we’ll ever need.  It is enough to last a lifetime. That is why Jesus ascribes worship (worthiness) to us in his Death, Resurrection, and Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father. This is the essence of the Love of God!
It is enough to last unto Eternal Life.

We needn't fear now. "Fear Not!" The angel said it. Jesus said it...again and again.

Fear not!
God’s will working together with our obedience can bring us to an awareness of both the worthiness of God and ourselves! Note for instance, that it is in the ancient practice of worship that we sing our songs, tell God’s stories, and then rehearse the Passover Meal  Jesus rehearsed the night before he died for us. That ritual ascribes to us our worth because it was God’s decision to declare that we are worth giving his own life for.
That gift declares our forgiveness and makes possible repentance; a radical makeover, if you will, of the whole of human nature to make peace, justice, healing, and reconciliation possible.

In Islamic practice the idea of “Salat” the ritual of setting aside five times a day for prayer is a recognition that, in order to bring our own will into conformity with God’s will, we need to dwell with the sacred words as a community to learn what God’s will is for us. Thus worship is not something God needs since God is perfection and entirely self sufficient. But the ritual instructs the worshipper in God’s ways. and develops the inner being of each and all of us as we make our way toward God. By the way, the word “Allah” is Arabic for the word “God”.
I mention this because in Christian Thought, God becomes one of us in Jesus, in flesh and blood in order to declare that we are indeed worthy in our own flesh and blood to worship Him. The idea of God becoming Flesh and Blood is problematic for other religions including Islam and Judaism, but for us it is the critical ingredient for the exaltation of humanity toward forgiveness and eternal life.
Thus the Atonement is a becoming One with God and worship makes that “One-ness” or “At-One-Ment” not only possible but a weekly reality. This bread and this wine is the Banquet of God, gathering God’s family around the Table for a wonderful celebration not just of God, but of each and every one of us. God listens to our stories and asks after our well being as would any father or mother at a great family feast.
What we celebrate today is the Ascension of Jesus to the Right hand of God. He becomes our Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and he is the perfect offering for our sins and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1,2)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Job Creation and Equality

Here a wealthy capitalist argues for fair taxation.
He argues that job creation will come more from the spending of the consumer than from the rich.
Bad economic policy for more than thirty years has led to a concentration of wealth that threatens the vitality of the Republic.
Take six minutes and listen to this man.
Share this video.
It was so "dangerous" when first aired that TED rejected it from circulation.
Talk about enlightened self interest.
Reframing our way of thinking about jobs and taxation will benefit the poor, the working people of the country, the middle class AND THE RICH.
It is worth 6 minutes of your time.
Republican and Democrats: Listen up!

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Life is a Mess: How Can God Love Me?

My Life is a Mess

I have done 
some terrible things.
I feel like a total failure.
I cannot seem to finish anything.
Even school.
Drugs, alcohol, and sex have been my companions along the way and I thought they gave me pleasure.
Instead they gave me illness.
I lost my license.
My partner abuses me and doesn't work.
I ended a pregnancy and this troubles me most. I feel like there is a dark finger of judgment pointed at me.
I still do lots of things I am ashamed of.
I work in a sleazy joint.
My mother and father have stood by me and I know I am a disappointment.
I have considered ending it all.
Anything I know of God and Church is Clear about where I'm headed.

This is the picture I have in mind when I think of the Church

This fellow accuses you
I don't

I Love You
I am not that Picture
Look at Me
This is my Picture
I am Compassion

I know how you feel. When I lived here on earth, I liked to eat with Tax Collectors and Sinners. The Holy People pointed the dark finger of judgment against me too.
Here's a quick story

The Calling of Matthew Matthew 9:11ff

 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’

Let me be clear about this
I love you!
I mean I really do

Here's another example of what I mean. There was a day when they hauled up this woman in front of me who had been caught in the "very act of adultery". They wanted to stone her to death just the way the Law of Moses required. I had three problems with that. 
     First. Where was the guy? If she had been caught in the "very act", then he must have been there too. I know a set up when I see one. 
     Second they were trying to catch ME teaching something contrary to the LAW...and they were using you to justify the judgment.
     Third, the one who is without sin, let him/her cast the first stone.
By the way, do you know what I wrote in the sand? The names of those folks in the town who had paid her for her services, beginning with the elders. (the nice respectable religious folks...see the first picture above)

Here read the story for yourself.

John 8

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’

Listen to me carefully.
I love you very much.
You are of infinite value to me.
Even this fellow.
A tax collector.
Poor Matthew, he thought it was money that mattered.
I showed him a better way.
The way of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

I love you very much
I love you so much I would give my life for you.
Did you ever see a picture like this before?
It is a picture of my love for you.

One last thing.
I did all this so that you may have life.
That my joy may be in you.
That your joy may be complete.
I have come to bring you new life.
Life that will never end.
Say this to yourself every day 
Say it often
"I am the one Jesus loves"
It may sound funny at first.
But you will get used to it.
Salvation and Forgiveness came first
Then came Repentance and a Whole New Life.

I hope you feel better.
And don't forget.
I love you very much.

"I am the one Jesus loves"

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Mother's Song for Mother's Day

A Mother's Song for Mother's Day

She fashions her song after the ancient pattern of God's hope for the poor and the powerless. Hannah had sung much the same song when her son Samuel was born. God exults within her spirit to proclaim a reversal of the fortunes of the rich and the powerful.

Then when Mary submits to God's declaration that she will be the Mother of Jesus, again God's spirit exults in Mary with the ancient pattern of God's hope as declared throughout all scripture. God's hope is that the Rich will reach out to the poor with Generosity.

How do you suppose Mary looks upon our world, our politics, and the fact of poverty?

In Mary's own Words:

The Song of Mary    Magnificat 
Luke 1:46-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; * 
    for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
    the Almighty has done great things for me, 
    and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
    in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
    he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
    and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
    for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
    to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
    as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. 

You will notice here that God's Economics finds its heart in Mary on behalf of Jesus. Jesus will live for the sick, the poor, and the outcast. He will live that way, preach that way, die that way, and rise again to new life for the same reason.

The Primary concern for Mary the Mother of God spells out the Primary Concern of God and Jesus too.

Need I spell it out: 
     God scatters the proud in their conceit.
     God casts down the Mighty form their thrones.
     God fills the hungry with Good Things.
     God sends the rich away empty.

When we come to Mother's Day, let's remember the Mother of God. She sings and exults in God's reversal of the weak, the hungry, and the poor, over the powerful, the privileged and the rich.

Read the Scriptures of any faith tradition; Christianity, Judaism, Islam and you will find a bias there for the poor.

In view of the fact that we must one day give account of how we've spent our days here, we must of course factor in our concern for the poor. How well are we doing in that department?

Just a question.

In the meantime, sing on Mary and my your soul always exult in God.

Happy Mother's Day,
Fr. Paul

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Prayer for Conscience

A Prayer for Conscience

Citizen of the Choctaw Nation
Bishop of the Episcopal Church
Retired Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA

A prayerful man.
A wonderful man with a heart full of the love of God, the Compassion of Jesus and the excitement of the Holy Spirit.
He speaks often.
He speaks wisdom.

Here is a recent prayer for us.

Here is a prayer for every person who stood outside in the cold for the sake of conscience. For the lone voice speaking for those who have no voice, for the one who risks a place at the table so that others may join the feast. We are not called to be comfortable, but rather to challenge the comfort that hides injustice. If our discipleship has no cost, it has no value. Do not fear to speak up for what you believe is right. Fear the silence if you do not speak for in that silence we all will be lost.
~From Steven Charleston.

For the Love of God!

The purity of faith is simplicity itself

There are three great words that come from the Three Great Monotheistic Religions




Moses brought the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt to Freedom in the Promised Land. Through the wilderness experience they also learned Obedience to the Law of God as Moses understood it and Codified it both in Levitical and Deuteronomic Traditions.

Thus the Children Israel found Justice. But one cannot ignore what happened as they took possession of the land and how many people had to die to make that possible. Current history raises questions of Justice for Palestinian folks as well as Israel takes possession of occupied land in the West Bank and elsewhere. How many towns were destroyed, how many millions driven into refugee camps, how many men disappeared into the night? The sad chronicle of this grave injustice is told well by Nobel Prize nominee Elias Chacour in two fine books; "Blood Brothers" and "We Belong to the Land".

Where is the Justice?

Christians are told that God is Love. Yet the chronicle of Christian experience records much that is not loving at all. A solid work by Diarmaid MacColloch "Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years" will be a sober reminder that the most loving religion on the face of the planet has also been the most violent and hateful. The above picture is a more recent reminder of The American Experience. Add to that Racism and Slavery, Gender Inequalities and more recently and currently marginalization and exclusion of Gay folks and the LGBTQ community from the embrace of Christ.

Where is the Love?

Every Chapter of the Koran begins with the words "God the All Merciful". For the devout Muslim, this mercy is a guide into a direct experience of the nature of God. Yet there are those who see violence as a valid option against the infidel There are too many who see this as an act of submission to the Will of God. There are many examples of this in history but the most unforgettable one for Americans would be 9/11.

Where is the Mercy?

Clearly these three Great Words; Justice, Love and Mercy have the capacity to bring us all together under the reign of God and it begs the following question.

Suppose God, assuming for the moment that there is one, were to look at the world as created by God. Do you suppose that God might consider sending special people to us to bring a message of Peace?

To one people God might send Moses to bring Justice.
To another the same God might send Jesus to bring Love.
To another this very same God might send Mohammed, may Peace be upon him, to bring Mercy.
Ancients might be guided by Confucius to Wisdom.
Others might hear of a pathway to Enlightenment through the teachings of the Buddha.
And still more may search a multitude of pathways to ritual and belief to understand human experience, and Yoga practice to search the human heart. Hinduism is an ancient pathway to God and many Gods.
Can the same God not use all of these magnificent Faith Traditions to guide and redeem human culture and human experience?

One wonders if these and other urgings may have been a response deep within the human heart that led us all in one way or another into the depths of the heart of God.

One cannot help but wonder, that if there were a God, all human culture would be the object of God's redeeming work, and that any number of Holy People might be sent to help us communicate this very holiness.

Why then do we take these very Holy Words and use them as excuses to marginalize, exclude, hate or even spill the blood of so many?

To use the Name of God as an excuse to kill anyone is profoundly as odds with the will of God in ALL Faith Traditions.

It is no wonder so many want to be done with God and religion altogether. Unfortunately God and religion are not going away. And when we see religion take on such horrible, grotesque and violent expressions, I cannot help but think of the opposite of God. And it behooves us whether we want to or not, to face up to our responsibilities and create a faith in the Image of God as God required in the first place according to our Biblical Tradition.

The Teacher I know and love was understood by the first among us to be the Love of God made Flesh and Blood. I shudder to think what will happen to us each in our turn as we get to report what we have done with the precious teachings we have received.

To sum it up as clearly and as simply as possible, Jesus said it well.

Love one another.

What is not clear about that?

Fr. Paul

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hail to the Chief

Health Care for all...far from a perfect law but a huge step forward

Finance Reform to protect us from Greed Gone Rampant...again far from a perfect law but a major step forward.

And now...

Equal Rights for ALL American Citizens! Still a long way to go...but a major step in the right direction.

A blessing on the President of These Unites States of America!
We know he's a bright we know he's got backbone and courage.
Mind you it took that just to run for elected office. How many "foreign born, Muslim, Socialists" have ever held office in this country...funny how they call him every name in the book except for the one they really the depth of the soul of this country there is still the inescapable fact that we're dealing not just with gender and orientation, there is that race thing too.

But here we are looking at him face to face every day as our President. He is in the incarnation of what is possible in this country now. Equality of race, gender, orientation, ethnicity etc. There he is proclaiming what we treasure.

Remember those days...does anyone remember when we showed respect to the President of the United States. I remember!
When we were children in Boston years ago every single day, we gave a "toast" to the President with Big Brother Bob Emery. Especially after "Ike" had his heart attack. "We like Ike". I still do.

Maybe it began with Kennedy. My family said awful things about him. The whole "Catholicism" thing was difficult for WASPS then.

Mind you I was Irish-Catholic on my father's side...and that presented its own set of problems.

Then there was Martin Luther King, Viet Nam, Bobby Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon...and somewhere in there we began to loose our way out of respect.

It is so bad now Fox News spends a lion's share of it daily news reportage on calling the President every name in the book.

No respect there.

Thankfully we have the nightly news hour on "The Comedy Channel" with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I don't know where we would get out news were it not for these folks. There is NPR and PBS thank God, but the Tea Party et al want that gone too.

But for now...we have a President deeply committed to the Constitution of These United States of America. He will stand up for ALL of our Citizens.

God bless the President!
Hail to the Chief!

Monday, May 07, 2012

A Eunuch's Baptism

A Eunuch's Baptism
The Rev Pam Shier
Friend and Colleague in the Diocese of West Virginia

All across the Anglican communion, not to mention all the churches using the RCL, preachers this Sunday are trying to figure out what to do with a story about a eunuch. A WHAT? A eunuch. Try explaining that one to the Sunday schoolers in your congregation. 

But it’s a great story! You see, there is this eunuch from Ethiopia who walks into a temple in Jerusalem. No, this is NOT a joke. The problem is, he had to walk right back out. If you were missing those “parts” you could not be a part of the temple worship, you couldn’t convert to Judaism which requires you get your other “parts” snipped off. Sort of the same parts but different. (What do you call an uncircumcised Jew? A woman! Thank God we don’t have to deal with this stuff.) Right from the start, Christianity is talking about all this icky sex stuff! Too graphic for me!

The Ethiopian is on his way home by way of the Gaza and then into Egypt and down to Ethiopia where he works for the Queen’s government. He’s a high ranking, high finance guy. Rich, literate, even in Hebrew. We can only imagine how disappointed he was to be excluded because he was transgendered. And that’s what he was. Not by his own volition, probably, but he had been surgically reassigned. According to Judaism he was no longer a man. And he could not be a part of the Jewish community. Could not take part in Temple worship or even fellowship with other observant Jews. Not only gut-wrenchingly disappointing but humiliating. 

So on his way home he’s reading Isaiah aloud as scripture was and is meant to be read. The part where the Messiah is humiliated and separated from the community. Robbed of a voice in society. And Philip hears the eunuch - I wish we knew his name, it’s so awkward calling him “the eunuch” - and enters into dialogue with him. The eunuch is a humble man - maybe from all those years of being sexually ambiguous in a culture that prizes masculinity - and he asks Philip for guidance with the scriptures. He and Philip search the scriptures and study together and they come to a brilliant conclusion - why can’t the Ethiopian eunuch be baptized? 

This really is one of those pivotal moments in the Early Church. Philip probably should have said, “Wait a minute, I’m gonna have to go back to Jerusalem and talk with the guys about this. Maybe call a church convention and hash this idea out. Should we baptize eunuchs? Do we admit transgendered people into the Body of Christ?” But he didn’t. Together they found a pool of water and Philip baptized the eunuch. 

He brought him into the full stature of Christ. Even if he wasn’t perfect. Even if he was missing some parts. Even if Judaism, of which Christianity at that time was still very much a part, wouldn’t accept him as part of the community. Philip went ahead and baptized him into full inclusion. Maybe because Philip is an ethnically Greek Jew and knew discrimination. Gives ME goosebumps.

There were other battles to come. Peter and Paul fought over circumcision of the new converts and the Jewish dietary laws. But the Early Church repeatedly decided on radical inclusion into the Body of Christ. There were to be no outsiders, even if they were Gentiles - read immoral and automatically sinful - or even if they were sexually “abnormal” like the eunuch. It’s not like these people could promise never to “sin” again - they could now eat whatever they liked and nobody was going to sexually reassign the eunuch - they were included as they were and as they always would be. Can we get a sense of how absolutely revolutionary this is? 

This week the United Methodist Church met in convention with delegates from all over the world. Forty percent of the delegates were from countries other than the US. They made two disappointing - to me - decisions. They decided not to divest in certain companies that actively engage in war against Palestinians. And they decided that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity. But that’s wasn’t the disappointing part. The disappointing part is that they made the pronouncement that any other Christian who disagrees with them is wrong. No dialogue, no common ground. They are right and everybody who doesn’t agree with them is wrong. And that disappoints me. And it breaks the hearts of most of my United Methodist friends. Not to mention their gay clergy, quietly serving and hoping for inclusion and acceptance, who heard themselves described as “animals” by one delegate from an African nation. We are not at our best when we are not radically inclusive, like the early church. We are not at our best when we are right and the whole world, even the whole Christian world, can be dismissed with a wave of the hand if they don’t agree with us. 

We are at our best when we minister to those whom society has rejected. And sometimes this comes at a terrible price. This past Thursday evening, Mother Marguerite-Mary Kohn, an Episcopal priest, and her administrative assistant, Brenda Brewington, were killed in the church offices of St. Peter’s, Ellicott, MD, by a man who later committed suicide. The police say that his man was homeless, mentally unstable and had been frequenting the church’s food pantry. The social media - Episcopal websites! - has had any number of people saying that that’s what you get when you deal with the homeless, the mentally ill, and have something so dangerous as a food pantry in your church. Many others have suggested that these women should have been armed. The Bishop, dear Eugene Sutton, wonders how a homeless man could have obtained a hand gun. Evidently it was all too easy and all too tragic. But something the co-rector said about Marguerite-Mary stayed with me. He had been the rector until about three years ago and she the associate when it became financially clear that the church couldn’t afford two priests. So he - and she - went half-time each. They shared one salary and found part-time jobs elsewhere. They became co-rectors. He valued her ministry so much he sacrificed his position as rector so that she could be included. That says a lot about both of them. Tonight we pray for Marguerite-Mary and her companion in ministry and in death, Brenda.

The Gospel of John talks about us abiding in Christ. "Abide with Me" is a hymn by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte,  who wrote the poem in 1847 and set it to music while he lay dying from tuberculosis; he survived only a further three weeks after its completion. The hymn is a favorite in the Church of England. Here are the words as we listen to Libera sing Abide with Me.    

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; 
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell'st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.
Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.
Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

We pay taxes. Why don't they?

Of course you know these folks pay no taxes. Neither do many Multi-Natonals. Barak and Mitt pay less in taxes than their secretaries. Republicans, of course, want to keep it that way and opposes even a modest increase on the rich, the super rich and the same Multi-Nationals that pay little of no taxes now.

They oppose fair taxation. 

What that means is that you and I pay our taxes and they don't.

We, the 99% pay more in proportion to our income than do the 1% by a significant margin.

Republicans even oppose the Buffet Rule which levies a modest increase on millionaires.

Then they have the nerve to rail against the deficit and the national debt.

Explain that to me. 

How can you take in less income and expect to make a dent on the deficit?

How can we balance the budget if the rich folks won't pay their fair share of taxes. 

Oh and don't give me that line that they already are paying the lion's share of the tax burden in this country...don't insult my intelligence.

They are paying LESS NOW IN PROPORTION TO INCOME than ever.

What they want to do make even further budget cuts, cut more jobs, more police, more firefighters, more EMT's, more teachers.

AND they want to continue to send our manufacturing jobs overseas.

They want to eliminate the Department of Education.

They want to dumb down this country until we're all automatons; brainless bumpkins.

Look how they've hoodwinked many in the working class.

Wake up you people.

These folks want more and more and more and more...this is called GREED. Pure and simple!



Saturday, May 05, 2012

You Baptized a What?

“You Baptized a What?”
by Fr. Paul Bresnahan
Jesus tells us to love one another. Today’s Gospel describes the expectation that we will “abide in Jesus as he abides in us”. Besides that, any branch in this vine that does not bear fruit for the Love of God will be pruned back until it does. It be be necessary to cut off any of those branches if, in fact, they do not bear fruit for the love of God.
This is pure simplicity. John’s first letter makes it so clear that we can hardly escape the conclusion that “God is Love”. Thus as we abide in God we cannot help but abide in love. The two are synonymous.
So when Jesus described himself as the vine, he describes a marvelous image to use as we seek to abide with him, in a series of interwoven relationships with God, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and with one another.
You would think we could get that straight.
But right away we got into our first major controversy. The party of the circumcision you will remember argued that you had to be Jewish first before you could be Christian. Until that time all of the Disciples of Jesus and Jesus himself were observant Jews.
It was in the context of this conflict that the first Church Council was held to settle the matter. There were heated arguments over the ritual of circumcision, dietary law and other Jewish customs which the first Christians rightfully treasured. It seems change was difficult in those days for church people.
But for Peter and Paul there was an idea that they could not escape. This Jesus, as they understood Jesus, died for the sins of the whole world...for all the people of the whole world...for everyone and especially for the “Gentiles” the “Goyim”...or in plain English: “The Outsiders”. Here in the First Council of the Christian Church in Jerusalem was the fundamental question; “Do we exist for ourselves only or do we exist for the sake of those who do not yet belong to this fellowship of faith?”
William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, during World War II once said that “The Church is the only society on the planet that exists for the sake of those who do not belong to it”. And lest we forget the Great Commission; “Go into all the World and Make Disciples of ALL Nations”

Let’s be clear that as we reach out to those beyond the pale of our faith, that it is the Love of God we bring to others, NOT our way of looking of things. After all, faith is not a series of beliefs as much as it is a way of life.
We believe that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. No One comes to God except through that way. Too many have taken that to mean that we’ve got to get others to say the two syllables “JE-SUS” in order to be saved. This is a profound and often violent misunderstanding of those sacred words.
Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life precisely because he is the Love of God made Flesh and Blood. So what we bring to others as we share our faith, is the Love that God seeks to be made Flesh and Blood in ourselves. By presenting Jesus, we present the Love of God. If we do not present the Love of God we are certainly not presenting Jesus. Thus we seek to abide in him by abiding in the Love of God.
In ever widening circles of inclusion, the embrace of Christ reaches out to nation after nation, kindred after kindred until all come within the circle of Love of God. This is the Primary Mystery of the Cross; that the Love of Christ reaches out on the hard wood of the cross so that EVERYONE might come within the reach of his saving embrace. This is all that is missing in all of our history. It is all that is needed at this moment. It is all that is ever missing.
So as the Disciples fought it out at the First Council of the Church described in the book of Acts, eventually there had to be a grudging acceptance of those who were not Jews as well as those who were. Some rejoiced in that decision. Others did not.
It must have come as something of a surprise to the folks at HQ in Jerusalem then when Phillip sashayed one day into the meeting hall where deliberations were still underway, he had some wonderful news. He must have excitedly described the Baptism he had performed for the a court official of the Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians.
I can just imagine the awkward silence that must have followed. 
“You baptized a what?”
Somebody must have asked or wondered aloud about the implications of  such a Baptism.
Are we saying here that God’s love extends beyond the Jewish and Greek divide? If so, then it follows as day follows night that God’s love extends to all racial and ethnic identities.
This is the very moment when the Church’s influence exploded into global dimensions.

But it went another step further and not one that everyone could really come to terms with. 
The love of God extends beyond the barriers we erect to distinguish sexual identity as well. As blessed Paul put it; “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus,” in that now famous passage in Galatians 3:28. 
Phillip thought that the Love of God would even cover the Eunuch, the one whose sexual identity was not even covered by those options.
But remember Jesus did say that some were “born that way (ie “Eunuchs”) some were made so by men and some made themselves so for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven”.
We cannot be exactly clear what this means precisely. But we do know that Jesus said “not everyone can accept this saying”. All this he said as he was teaching the Disciples about the nature of Christian Marriage in the 19th Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.
Jesus didn’t expect everyone to agree with him on this or any of his many other teachings.
What is clear to me is that everyone comes within the reach of Christ’s saving embrace. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.
And what is clearer still is that we are intertwined with Jesus and one another in God’s abundant and unconditional love. This to me is The Very Good News of Jesus Christ!
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Paul

Happy Cinco de Mayo All Illegal Immigrants

When Did Immigration Become Illegal Anyway?

By what right did the Pilgrims become Legal Immigrants? All you had to do was stick a flag in the sand and claim the place in the name of some queen or king. It was all yours then...all that was left was to displace the native population.

Anglicans in Jamestown and later in New England and South Carolina followed suit.

We then imported slaves by the millions? Was that legal immigration under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? It was for far too long.

Along came the Dutch, the Swedes, and the Germans. They had a legal charter from the King, I guess...that makes that legal under the rubric of The Divine Right of Kings. mmmm...

Hordes of Irish, Italian and other Europeans by the boatload came here so long as you could pay your way and got your name recorded on Ellis Island. I guess that was considered legal.

Now all of a sudden all of the above are raising all kinds of questions about Illegal Immigration. HA! You're on shaky ground Mr & Ms America!

Papers please! 

Happy Cinco de Mayo to all Illegal Immigrants. Welcome to America!

What a place! 
Fr. Paul

Friday, May 04, 2012


You May Have Noticed That There is Something Wrong

All across America inner cities, rural areas and many suburban areas are increasingly troubled by decay and blight. Many resort to crime. Drug use is rampant.

Caught in the midst of the current depression millions of our citizens are without work and especially our youth.

For heaven's sake, if we can rescue Banks, Financial Institutions and GM, why can't we rescue the American Worker and especially our young people?

The concentration of wealth in the hands of the few is accelerating, and current tax policies are redistributing that wealth to the rich, the super rich and the multi-national.

This is a national disaster and an urgent matter for our national attention.

Solution: Rescue the American Worker with jobs!

Give every single American who wants to work a job!

Look at our inner cities...these kids need work. Why look the other way while they turn to drugs and crime.

I've lived in rural America long enough to know that all these kids have to look forward to is a job flipping hamburgers, or shuffling shopping carts at Wall Mart. Too many of them resort to drugs and crime.

Is this the future of America? 

If it is, we are on the fact track to the end of our this civilization. 

Paul Krugman argues that we can "End This Depression Now!" I agree with him He argues that it is time for a large stimulus package that would hire back teachers, police, EMT's etc who have lost their jobs due to recent cutbacks.

He's right...but not quite right enough. We have to get these kids to work in decent paying jobs with health care coverage and decent benefits. The social cost to this nation in drug addiction and crime is such that we really cannot afford NOT to get jobs to these kids sooner rather than later.

Stimulus package? Yes! But there needs to be more than that.

JOBS for every single American that wants to work! 


This needs to be the focus of both Political Parties, Business, and Unions and the OCCUPY AMERICA MOVEMENT!

Tax cuts for the rich won't bring jobs. I know that the Republicans are trying to tell us that...but that's just not true. We tried that and all they did was send our jobs overseas. And the Democrats just won't go far enough. They'll rescue the Banks etc...but what of JQ Citizen? What of you and me? What of our Young People?

Frankly I think we should all pay a fair tax and use that money to hire every single American who wants to work beginning with our young people!

Look! Time is running short.




Wednesday, May 02, 2012

May Day Jobs Taxes and Railroads

The first political party to embrace our hopes is the winner! The following is one American's vision.

I. Jobs for everybody who wants to work! From the inner city to the rural America, from the youth who are so beset with worry about their future to the worker who has recently lost his/her job. From the middle class to the middle management supervisor who have been looking for work now for so long and that they are now discouraged and depressed. Teachers, police, fire, EMT's...all those who have sustained the brunt of the "cut backs" that have been leveled at the American Worker; give us jobs.

We want our jobs back
We want to work
We want a recue plan for the working people

Give us jobs now.

Rename the Unemployment Bureau, the Employment Bureau. 
Rename Unemployment Insurance and call it Employment Insurance.
And use all the resources at our disposal to hire every single American and put us all to work.
Until business starts hiring again rather than holding onto record amounts of cash...let our government put us to work.
Don't tell me that tax cuts for the rich will encourage more jobs and hiring. That's a lie. They have more cash now than they've ever had...and they refuse to hire us. 
Don't insult my intelligence!

If we could spend trillions upon trillions to save the Banks who then in turn refused to invest in American business or hire folks, or pay taxes and then to add insult to injury paid outrageous bonuses to the rich and the super rich at the top....
If we can do that...we can certainly hire every single American who wants to work, pay a decent wage and provide health care.
Paul Krugman suggests, in his recently published book "End This Depression Now!", that we should have a stimulus to hire back teachers and police/fire EMT's to replace at least those lost to recent cutbacks. That would drive unemployment below 7% and prime the pump to recovery.
I'd go a step further.
This is the very least we can do for our fellow citizens.
AND then we could pay our rents, mortgages, and perhaps buy food for our families and even get a car to drive around in. That's the key to economic recovery right there.

2. Tax everybody fairly. How is it that both Obama and Romney pay less in proportion to income than their secretaries? How can anybody seriously object to the rich and the super rich paying a fair share of taxation at a rate that is at least commensurate with what the working people of this country pay? What is wrong with the Buffet Rule for taxation? Reform the tax code and tax everyone fairly.

3. Build a National Network of High Speed Railways. Europe has already done it. China is doing it. It is time we launch a major national interstate high speed network of railroads. Build the locomotives in this country. Put American young people to work. Give our inner city and rural youth something to do besides despairing in hopelessness, drugs and crime.
If, like me, you worry about our young people, lets give them some hope.
A huge national project on the scale of the Inter-State highway system that Eisenhower launched in the 50's is needed RIGHT NOW!

PS. Pay women the same as men. 
Make sure women are sovereign on the question of freedom of choice and family planning.
Quit marginalizing gay folks and give every American equal access to the right to love one another faithfully and within the marriage bond.

The first political party to embrace our hopes is the winner!

Fr. Paul,
Just a simple parish priest.