Monday, November 26, 2012

Sex and Heaven! The Perfect Christmas Gift!

The Perfect Christmas Gift!

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


Here's a perfect gift for that special someone who wants to know more about both! (Available from Amazon). I have become impatient with the church's skittishness over sex particularly around issues of gender and orientation. So I wrote this book to encourage the idea that Jesus came into the world to encourage us to "Love one Another." 

Actually that was a commandment in John's Gospel.

There is good humor, some "pop" theology and a few tears to be shed as well as we make our way through these pages. 

But it is time for the church and the culture around it to grow up and face facts. Men and women; gay and straight have been around a very long time.

How about we embrace them all as God does!

My church, (The Episcopal Church) is one tiny corner of Christianity that finds this just the right thing to do. Lets hope the rest follow suit in due course.

In the meantime here's a good chuckle or two to move us all along toward heaven...by loving one another!

Peace,
Fr. Paul

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christ the King


Christ The King, 2012



The imagery in all of today’s readings is of the Kingship of God. The First Lesson from the Book of Daniel envisions One like the Ancient of Days as he takes his place upon his throne room in heaven. The Psalmist likewise describes the splendid apparel of God and his mighty work in quelling the raging chaos of the seas. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus exalts us to be a Kingdom of Priests, and Pilate wonders if Jesus is the King of the Jews in today’s Gospel reading. And to top it all off, at the end of today’s service crowned children from the Atrium will lead us into the world where we may continue our work learning and doing the work of Jesus.

It is the will of God that all things shall be restored to unity in God in our Lord Jesus Christ, by our Lord Jesus Christ and for our Lord Jesus Christ. In this manner we are called to exalt him as King and enthrone him within our hearts as the sovereign Lord of life.

And yet we are in a world divided and enslaved to sin. Palestine and Israel are poised toward one another as divided and enslaved by sin. The body politic in these United States of America finds itself divided and enslaved by sin. And too, within our families, friends and even within our own inner lives we often find ourselves too often divided and enslaved by sin.



The scripture calls us to unity in God as does the Collect of the Day.

Are Palestinians and Israelis likely to do so? Are Democratic Liberals and Republican Conservatives likely to do so? Can feuding families and inner battles within ourselves likely to be reconciled?

Isn’t it interesting that even at our Thanksgiving Tables we often set aside our gratitude for differentiation, conflict and disagreement. 

At least that was the way it was growing up in our home. The large New England kitchen table was the gathering place; the setting for the great debates of our family. Oh and what fun that was. My grandmother pleaded with us; “Please, no talk of religion or politics today, I beg of you!” 

To which my uncle replied; “What else is there to talk about?” How I loved those debates as the uncles flushed with red faces debated their points of view. It was as if freedom of speech was enshrined in our home as the highest treasure of all.

The union men agreed with the working men and women and the few management folk we had in our midst argued that point of view. We had Protestants, Catholics and atheists in our home. And there was more vigorous debate.

But still we were one family. And as we gathered at the door to say our good byes, there were tears of love and fond embraces as we lingered long and then went on our separate ways. I believe it was because of the love we bore for one another that common decency and respect were crowned like Christ our King in the midst of our family.



And yet something seems to have changed. The love we once felt seems now to be less than loving. This is particularly so in our national discourse. What was once the fireplace and the Eucharistic Table in our Dining Rooms and kitchens is now the Big Screen TV. The nature of our gathering seems to have changed.  We seem to have forgotten the art of conversation. Social media, Facebook and texting is posing a challenge to our methodology for interaction.

There is a well recognized method for debate;
Thesis- You express your point of view
Antithesis- I express my point of view.
We then debate the points until we develop a Synthesis of the two and more points of view. 

This is at least the idea behind a Parliamentary form of government. You can see how well that works in Britain, the US Congress and the United Nations. It was Winston Churchill who once quipped; “Democracy is the worst form of government in the world except for all the others.”



There is something intractable in the air, something unwilling and unable to come to terms with compromise. The pragmatic has given way to the ideological.

By doing so we insist on being divided and enslaved to sin. This is profound disobedient to God. Being this way leads to hatred, violence, and death. We Irish know how to do that very effectively. The Palestinians and the Israelis sure have mastered that approach to their history. And we are all in danger of falling into the same snare of evil and sin. 

Allow me to suggest two strategies for mitigating the situation. The one I learned years ago as I worked on my own listening skills. It is called the LAPS strategy. LAPS is an acronym for; Listen, Allow, Probe and Support.

If we make a commitment to listen actively to what we are saying using this methodology we may indeed discover a pathway toward accommodation to our differing points of view. The first thing to remember is not to react but to listen.
Listen by checking with the speaker that you in fact are hearing what he or she is saying correctly. Listen by repeating in your own words what you think has been said.
Then allow it; simply let it sit out there on its own merit. Listen as it reverberates between the speaker and the listener and within you.
Then probe what the speaker is saying. Demonstrate more than a passing interest but a genuine curiosity into the nature, background and basis upon which the speaker builds his or her conviction.
Then show support even if you disagree. Find something you can support in what the speaker says.

Then and only then, can you respond. By modeling a method for listening you and I can build bridges between ourselves and those who hold vastly differing points of view. Such a method can lead into respectful and artful conversation. And if ever there were a time when respectful and artful conversation were needed this is it.



The other image I have is that of the soaring Eagle. I think I have mentioned this image before in this place, but I will mention it again.

For an Eagle to soar, it needs both wings. So, if I’m a left winger and you’re a right winger you and I both need each other, not just to get off the ground and fly, but by working together we can soar.

Now to tell you the truth, while the eyesight on an eagle is keen, its brain is still the size of a bird.

To me this is why the scripture urges us to put on the Mind of Christ. Notice the imagery in the day’s first lesson. One like the Ancient of Days takes his seat in the throne room. His clothing is pure white and the hair of his head is like pure wool. Fire issues forth from his throne. And ten thousand times ten thousand served him. Then one like the Son of Man appeared and into his hands is given all the peoples and all the nations on earth that they might serve him.

This is wisdom, obedience, and the love of God; namely, that we shall serve Jesus. We are called to learn and do the work of Jesus. Only by doing so is there hope for you and me, the Arab and the Jew, the  President and Congress, and our own inner struggles to come to the Peace and Joy of Jesus. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation.



“So are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate asks Jesus in the Gospel.
“For this I came into the world; to testify to the truth. And all who belong to the truth listen to my voice.”

Listen to Jesus.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Fr Paul

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Boycott!!!

This is but the beginning!



This is just the beginning. According to a Washington Post article, hundreds of protesters have rallied against Walmart's unfair labor practices. I have been supportive of this effort for years. As it became clearer and clearer to me that the largest employer in America is now Walmart, it also becomes clearer that unfair labor practices take center stage in America.

Small numbers are beginning to step out and protest. I believe that over time the momentum will increase. As Bain Capital and other corporate greed machines ship our jobs overseas, we are left with only an increase in low paying, minimum wage jobs, with few if any benefits. We must speak up.

What we have on our side is numbers. Eventually as corporations continue their warfare against the poor and the working people of this country, our efforts will gain momentum.

If we can stop work.
I we can stop buying.
And do so on the big shopping days of the year.

If we can be one, they will have to listen.

Our demands are simple. 

Good jobs paying a fair wage for all Americans.
Good benefits.
Decent working conditions.

Several generations ago, all we had to do was to make it through high school, head on down to the local factory and have a decent job for the rest of our lives.

Those days are now over.

I am proud to say, my wife and I have not been out to shop on Black Friday for as long as I can remember. We have few needs now and are giving away most of what we have accumulated over the years.

In every church I have served, we have given to the poor and so again this year, we give to "Angel Tree". 


Cheer the hearts of the children.
Cheer the hearts of your fellow Americans.
Boycott Black Friday.
Give to the children!

Peace to you all,
Fr. Paul

The Church Steps into the Abyss of Irrelevancy! Again!

Thank you Fr. Roy


So then, the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church take yet another giant step into the abyss of irrelevancy! The former denies women access to the Episcopacy and the latter denies the priesthood to an activist priest who speaks out for gender equality, peace and justice. This is NOT Catholicism. This is not the church. 

Jesus loves all without regard to gender, race, orientation, class and ethnicity. For this obedience to Christ's mandate, nuns and priests are being treated very shabbily especially Fr. Roy.

Here is Fr. Roy's statement.

November 20, 2012

STATEMENT BY FATHER ROY BOURGEOIS ABOUT HIS DISMISSAL FROM MARYKNOLL
I have been a Catholic priest in the Maryknoll community for 40 years. As a young man I joined Maryknoll because of its work for justice and equality in the world. To be expelled from Maryknoll and the priesthood for believing that women are also called to be priests is very difficult and painful.

The Vatican and Maryknoll can dismiss me, but they cannot dismiss the issue of gender equality in the Catholic Church. The demand for gender equality is rooted in justice and dignity and will not go away.

As Catholics, we profess that God created men and women of equal worth and dignity. As priests, we profess that the call to the priesthood comes from God, only God. Who are we, as men, to say that our call from God is authentic, but God's call to women is not? The exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, our Church and our loving God who calls both men and women to be priests. 

When there is an injustice, silence is the voice of complicity. My conscience compelled me to break my silence and address the sin of sexism in my Church. My only regret is that it took me so long to confront the issue of male power and domination in the Catholic Church.

I have explained my position on the ordination of women, and how I came to it, in my booklet, My Journey from Silence to Solidarity. Please go to: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=2fqyZ/3UGxlnRPIIMmz0/2V2zuXxjltO

In Solidarity,
 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Gospel at a time of Death Part II


Today I preached this sermon in response to the news that Fr. Cal Adams had died just Friday morning. His funeral is Saturday December 1 at Christ Church, Reading at 11am. It is an irony of sorts that at the time he died, I was preparing to commend my Aunt Peggy to God's keeping. God rest their souls.

My Heart Therefore is Glad
My Spirit Rejoices
My Body Also Shall Rest in Hope
~Psalm 16:9



By now most of you have heard the news but in case you have not, I must tell you this. After a long and difficult illness, Fr Cal succumbed and now lies in death. There is a deep and profound sadness that nows falls upon us like a pall falls over a casket.

“But my heart is Glad!”

How can I be glad at a time like this? Just last Sunday was Membership Sunday, and Jim Eliot stood at the podium of a parish luncheon and he told us the story of how he, Jim Hollenbach and Cal Adams partnered and together the three of them build the Keystone Villa.



“My Spirit Rejoices!” 

How can my spirit rejoice at a time like this? Well it can because of a man like Cal Adams because he went on from there and built the Learning Center



“And my Body also shall rest in hope?” 

How can my body rest when there is so much life in the church? The Parish Life Center arose from the ground. For 20 years Cal baptized your children, he married your sons and daughters, he visited your sick, he buried your dead. And he laughed and cried with you. He led your vestry, loved your youth, and when necessary, he fought for the right and the good things for the church he loved.

Oh yes, his Body shall rest in hope. When Jesus' disciples admired the Temple in Jerusalem as you and I admire the great cathedrals in Britain or Europe or The National Cathedral or even our own cathedral in Bethlehem PA, Jesus said of them all, not one stone will be left on another until all shall be thrown down. In John’s Gospel, he goes on to say; “Destroy this Temple and I will rebuild it again in three days” John 2:19. 



The Temple he was referring to, of course was his own body. He was referring to Cal’s body. He was referring to all those who commit themselves to Jesus as Cal did to build a place where human needs of every age and condition can be tended to within the community of the church.

“I know that my Redeemer lives and I know too that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And even though this body be destroyed yet shall I see God whom I shall see for myself and not as a stranger."

Job suffered terribly in his life and yet these words came from him in the 25th Chapter of the Book that tells the story of his life. So too for Cal. So too for me. So too for you!

What an irony that as Cal lay near death, I would be gathering with my family on the North Shore of Massachusetts. We would gather to celebrate the life of my Aunt Peggy, 94 years of age. But not everyone is granted long life, so sadly. 

I called to mind my dad who died at the age of 37, and even more cruelly, he died two days after Christmas when I was just a boy eight years of age.

I know I've told this story before, but I'm going to tell it again. My poor wife has heard this story and others more times than we can care to count.

I remember clearly the tears that filled my eyes as a child. It was a Sunday, and when I came home from church, my mother told me the news. I went out to play ball with my friends. It was an unusually warm day as I recall. I just didn’t understand that the word death meant I would never see him again. In fact, I can remember running to the window to see if he would drive up in his pride and joy; his wonderful white 1951 Chevrolet. O what a time we had, dad and me. Sometimes we went to the race track, or to Howard Johnson’s for an ice cream or drive all the way to Beverly from Somerville to see his family. 

But he never came again to see me. At church I would say that prayer; “Our father, who art in heaven.” And when I said those words I would look up to the clerestory of that beautiful church and I could not see either father, and I wondered long and hard where they were. Many’s the night I’d cry myself to sleep and listen to squeal of trolly cars on iron rails and the bells from St. John’s church as they called out into the night.



Otherwise there was only silence in answer to my prayer. 

Then one summer Sunday on the way home from church, I pulled a leaf from an old hedge along a rusty old chain link fence. As I pressed my thumb into the life blood of that leaf, I heard something speak in my heart...no voice...just a sense...but I gave it a voice. Because, whatever it was that spoke in my heart, it spoke clearly; “Don’t you know there’s a special place in my heart for your dad?” I stopped dead in my tracks. I said it again, and then I said it right out loud; “Don’t you know there’s a special place in my heart for your dad?

There were those who said my dad couldn’t go to heaven because he didn’t go to church. And in fact the only time I ever heard him use our Lord’s Name was when he lost a bet at Suffolk Downs.

But now this something spoke in my heart and I ran home as fast as I could and Ma was standing at the stove presiding over her favorite cast iron skillet, and she was peppering some delectable to taste.

I tugged at her apron string and asked her if there really is a God.
“Yes” she said, “of course there is!”

So then, I said, 
“Is there a heaven?”
“Yes” she said, “of course there is”...somewhat irritably now. After all this was not a good time to do theology. There were mouths to be fed.

But I had to know. And I pressed the issue;
“Is my daddy there?”
She did hesitate I must tell you in all candor. After all, more than once she said that it was the Irish that ruined Boston. That will tell you what she thought of my dad, the separation and divorce from my mother. She did hesitate. After all, the prospect of a Yankee from Maine spending and eternity with an Irishman from Boston must have given her pause.

But what she did then, I will never forget. She got down on her knee, held me close, and it is as if I can still smell her hair as she held me close in the nape of her neck.

“Of course he is”

That night my heart was filled with joy and it was as if that Silence now became a Presence and it wiped away my tears with the Love that only God can give.

My dear friends; for me heaven is a wonderful banquet. Just as the Scripture says it is. And on that day God will remove that shroud that covers all nations, and God will wipe the tears from all our eyes”. 

Is there a God? 
Of course there is.

Is there a heaven?
Of course there is.

Is Cal there? Is my Dad there?
This I can tell you without hesitation; of course they are!

It is because of this that I became a priest. So that I could spend a lifetime bringing this news to the bereaved, the poor and to all who are in any need whatsoever, just like Cal did!

In a curious kind of way, it was because of my dad’s death that I became a priest. It was all that fun and all that love that led me to Jesus. And it is a vision of heaven that I have for my family, your family and Cal’s family and all the uncles and aunts; that crazy quilt of characters;  that countless number, all of us gathered at the mountain of God, around God’s banquet table.

Is it so?
Of course it is!

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

And may Peace be upon him,
Fr. Paul

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Gospel at a time of death


The following is what I shared with my family at the time of my Aunt Peggy's death.

Aunt Peggy
January 4, 1918--November 10, 2012



Family and friends gather at times like this and we gain strength from one another as we commend our beloved to God’s keeping. This year mark’s my 40th anniversary as a priest of the church. I have read the burial office about 1000 times for a thousand loved ones. It is never easy to do so and especially when it comes to my own family. 

Mums asked me to bury her when the time came. I was much younger and a strict trinitarian. Mums was a Unitarian Universalist, and I felt obligated to tell Mums that if I read the burial office for her I would have to use the Trinitarian formula. Mums looked severely at me and yet with eyes filled with laughter; “You go ahead and bury me by any formula that makes you happy!” 

I buried my mother and uncle, uncle Jim and also officiated at the wedding of Jon and Jen Moulton, participated at the wedding of Jay & Julie Kersting.

Sad times and happy times. This is what it is to be family.





My happiest memories though were the many Thanksgiving dinners at the old homestead at Uncle Jim & Aunt Martha’s home and also with Alan and Joanna. We have had some wonderful times. More than once I brought a tag along friend with me to feast with the family and they were dazzled by what was set before them, as I was.

Whatever the situation, there was always a warm welcome here and the embrace of human warmth that made our hearts fill with love. I do love you all very much.

And I remember Karl and Aunt Peggy and Carolyn. Each of you, each of us very special in our own way. A crazy quilt of charachters we are, God love us all. Peggy’s love for my uncle and her fierce care for his diabetes, as well as her love fierce care and love for you to Carolyn are to be treasured. It is a kind of love that was and continues to be ever close.

But the spread on those many Thanksgiving days. What a spread! Especially the pies! I really liked those pies. No one could make a pie taste better except maybe my maternal grandmother, Ma....

So then there is this; a vision of heaven if you will. Much like the Messianic Banquet that I read about a few minutes ago from the Prophet Isaiah. He saw a vision of heaven much like a gathering of a throng no one could number from all the tribes of earth gathered at God’s Banquet Table.  There God removes the shroud that covers all humanity and even more mercifully and lovingly he wipes the tears from every eye.

I remember clearly the tears that filled my eyes as a child when my father died on December 27th 1953. It was a Sunday, and when I came home from church, my mother told me the news. I went out to play ball with my friends. It was an unusually warm day as I recall. I just didn’t understand that the word death meant I would never see him again. In fact, I can remember running to the window to see if he would drive up in his wonderful white 1951 Chevrolet. O what a time we had, dad and me. Sometimes we went to the race track, or to Howard Johnson’s for an ice cream or drive all the way to Beverly from Somerville to see Mums and Daddy Bill and all the aunts and uncles and cousins up in this neck of the woods. I loved it.

But he never came again to see me. At church I would say that prayer; “Our father who art in heaven.” And when I said those words I would look up to the clerestory of that beautiful church and I could not see either father, and I wondered long and hard where they were. Many’s the night I’d cry myself to sleep and listen to squeal of trolly cars on iron rails and the bells from St. John’s church call out to the night.

Otherwise there was only silence in answer to my prayer. 



Then one summer Sunday on the way home from church, I pulled a leaf from an old hedge along a rusty old chain link fence. As I pressed my thumb into the life blood of that leaf, I heard something speak in my heart...no voice...just a sense...and I gave it a voice. Because whatever it was that spoke in my heart, spoke clearly. It said; “Don’t you know there’s a special place in my heart for your dad?” I stopped dead in my tracks. I said it again and then I said it right out loud; “Don’t you know there’s a special place in my heart for your dad?

There were those who said my dad couldn’t go to heaven because he didn’t go to church. And in fact the only time I heard him use our Lord’s Name was when he lost a bet at Suffolk Downs.

But now this something spoke in my heart and I ran home as fast as I could and Ma was standing at the stove presiding over her favorite cast iron skillet, and she was peppering some delectable to taste.

I tugged at her apron string and asked her if there really is a God.
“Yes” she said, “of course there is!”

So then, I said, 
“Is there a heaven?”
“Yes” she said, “of course there is”...somewhat irritably now. After all this was not a good time to do theology. There were mouths to be fed.

But I had to know. And I pressed the issue;
“Is my daddy there?”
She did hesitate I must tell you in all candor. After all, more than once she said that it was the Irish that ruined Boston. That will tell you what she thought of my dad, the separation and divorce from my mother. She did hesitate. After all, the prospect of a Yankee from Maine spending an eternity with an Irishman must have given her some pause.

But what she did then, I will never forget. She got down on her knee, held me close and it is as if I can still smell her hair as she held me close in the nape of her neck.

“Of course he is”

That night my heart was filled with joy and it was as if that Silence now became a Presence and it wiped my tears away with the Love that only God can give.

Carolyn, family and friends; for me heaven is a wonderful banquet. Just as the Scripture says it is. And on that day God will remove that shroud that covers all nations, and God will wipe the tears from all our eyes”. 

Is there a God? 
Of course there is.

Is there a heaven?
Of course there is.

Is Aunt Peg there?
This I can tell you without hesitation; of course she is!

It is because of this that I became a priest. So that I could spend a lifetime bringing this news to the bereaved, the poor and to all who are in any need whatsoever.

In a curious kind of way, it was because of my dad’s death that I became a priest. It was all that fun and all that love that led me to Jesus. And it is a vision of heaven that I have in my heart: Mums and Ma and Daddy Bill, Martha & Jim, Karl and Peg, Dad...and then there will be my mom, feisty as ever, and all the rest, cousins, uncles and aunts countless in number all of us gathered at the mountain of God, around God’s banquet table.

Is it so?
Of course it is!

By the way, I was ordained on June 24th, the feast day of John the Baptist...come to find out; that was my dad’s birthday! 
OMG! Maybe, just maybe, it really is all true!

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Blessings on us one and all,
Fr. Paul

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Normal???"

"Normal???"


A nugget of household wisdom.

When discussing the much misunderstood word "normal", my wife is wont to observe that the only "normal" she has ever seen is;

"A cycle on a washing machine."

My wife is a brilliant philosopher!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Beware of Church People


On Membership Sunday
Beware of Church People!



Yes indeed! Those of us who walk around in long robes and sit in the good seats had better watch out according to today's Gospel. The One we worship and adore is watching us like a hawk.

Yes indeed, there are widows and there are those who are easy prey for various predators. It was worse in ancient times. There was no income for widows in those days; no Social Security, no Medicare. Even now, there isn’t that much for many.

I’ve seen it all too often.  Door to door salesmen who promise to fix the roof, take the first third of the contract in check form and then are never heard from again. There are predators in every walk of life who devour the houses of the vulnerable and worse. We’re learning all too painfully how important it is to be vigilant for the safety of young people in the church and at places like State College. Let this be a warning; you and I are being held to a high standard!

Having said that, and that needs to be said, we come now to Membership Sunday, and curiously enough we come to the Sunday of the Widow’s mite, almost as if it were planned that way. I wish I could claim such foresight and intelligence. I can assure you, I didn’t check the Gospel reading when we picked this date. Sally Heist can attest to that. So, if there were any planning to the Gospel for the day, it came from a Higher Power than mine.



If we are going to build a church where we might worship God and satisfy the human need for prayer and spiritual encouragement; or a senior center to respond to the needs of the elderly, or a day care center to respond to the needs of children, or a parish life center where we may mobilize a congregation around the needs of youth, children, or the poor; if we are going to build and tend to such a holy place as this, we will then need to make every effort to build on our membership and strengthen it where possible. It is to clerical veterans such as Cal Adams, that we can offer our gratitude for their indefatigable service. Please continue to keep Fr. Cal and Pam in your prayers especially now as Cal enters upon these latter days in his life.



The Villa and the Learning Center are now essentially self sustaining. But the church’s life depends on our annual membership drive, our pledges and on freewill offerings from all of us. At least that’s the current business model of the church. For the foreseeable future that will continue to be our business model. 

In today’s Gospel, the rich were able to give generous amounts. But what caught Jesus' attention was that while they gave out of their abundance, there came a widow, who had a mere tuppence left to her name and out of her poverty she put everything she had into the treasury.  It reminds me of that ancient Maori saying; “Its not so much the amount of the gift, it is the amount of the love that goes into that gift that counts.” The Maori, by the way, are native peoples of New Zealand, who have taught us much wisdom for the sake of our faith. 

Jesus was impressed with the widow’s generosity. “Look, out of her poverty, she has put in everything she had”. Like the widow of Zerephath in our First Lesson, she put her own life and the life of her son on the line in order to provide for the Prophet Elijah and the purposes of God. In return God provided for her until the draught was over. In fact God always provides for all. So too most of us are of modest means. Some have been cut off from greater income by retirement, unemployment, divorce or other economic reverses. Still others live by meager means at a minimum wage job and part-time hours in the service sector.

All of which puts us in our present predicament. Lets face it; we all love the church. Most of us come to this place every single week because the words we hear, the songs we sing, and the people we know and love. All of this sustains us week in and week out because all these things bring us closer to God. And it is the Practice of the Presence of God that is at the heart of the Church’s work. This is what inspires the building of ministry whether it is to the elderly, the young, the poor, and so on.

Being a member here is more than being a member of some kind of organization. We are more than an “organized religion”. At our best we are Members of Christ. We are Members of One another. The church is the Body of Christ and we are Members of that Body.

By the way, how well we respond to this membership drive will determine how well we can meet our budget. As much as I love being here, and as much as you embrace and love Cindy and me, and I do sense that being the case; eventually you will need to bring a new priest into your midst who will then become your Rector. I pray that this Membership Drive will make this and much more possible. It is now up to you to make these important decisions. As a wise old priest once quipped; “I have good news and bad news; the good news is that we have the money to balance the budget. The bad news is that the money is in your pockets!”

We and those who have come before us have built this holy place. I was baptized in one of them, confirmed in another, ordained in yet a third, and throughout 40 years of ordained ministry have served ten congregations in all. In God’s good time and mercy, I will be ministered to when I weaken and fall sick, and ultimately you and I will all be commended to God’s keeping at what I hope will be the greatest celebration of all. We Irish do love a wake!



In the meantime, there are the widows to be tended to. We’re here to organize our lives around the needs of real human beings. Those needs obviously go beyond widows. There are many, many poor folks. As Jesus noted you will always have the  poor with you. ~Matthew 26:11

So then, it fell to me to make my specialty in ministry on behalf of the homeless. Interestingly enough, when I came to tend to the homeless, I discovered that many of them were veterans. Yes, when they marched off to war in their youth and their brand new uniforms, they cut quite the figure of radiance. But they were torn away from their families, and found themselves face to face with other young people from other nations where they were required to fight “the enemy”. There are terrible traumatic moments that many face and when they come home, they often find the adjustment difficult. Having listened to many of their stories, I can understand why some of them do not adjust well. There are those who fall through the cracks and became homeless.

Thus on Veteran’s Day, I want to thank every veteran who has given of themselves to serve this county. I ask you to keep them in your prayers and more than that, I ask you to welcome them home and give them every possible encouragement as they face a new life back at home.



I do hope we will pass a robust jobs bill for returning veterans. Nothing would honor them more than to give them the dignity and honor of work. Frankly, I hope we can pass a robust jobs bill for the rest of the unemployed as well. 

But whether it is the widows in their distress, veterans, the unemployed, the elderly, the young, the poor, the outcast and marginalized, and those many who have a host of other needs, we are the church. We really are the hope of the world.

I invite you therefore in the name of the Church to respond to the invitation of our Lord who seeks us knocking at the door of every human heart. Become a member of Him who died for you. Become a member of one another. Become a member of Christ’s Church here at St. Gabriel’s. 

Say “Yes” to him who first said “Yes” to you. As the Epistle puts it; “Christ has entered into a sanctuary not made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself”. There he stands to be our advocate and judge.

And as for those of us who walk around in these long robes; watch out Jesus is watching us like a hawk!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Peace be to you all,
Fr. Paul


Friday, November 09, 2012

Kristallnacht - In Memoriam

We Shall Never Forget


I ask your prayers for all who suffer from hatred, persecution, and violence.

I ask your prayers for all those millions who have been taken from us through extermination, genocide and so many other human cruelties.

We must never forget.

From the Writer's Almanac:

Today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night in 1938 when German Nazis coordinated a nationwide attack on Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues. More than 1,000 synagogues were burned or destroyed. Rioters looted about 7,500 Jewish businesses and vandalized Jewish hospitals, homes, schools, and cemeteries. Before that night, the Nazis had killed people secretly and individually. After Kristallnacht, the Nazis felt free to persecute the Jews openly, because they knew no one would stop them. –The Writer's Almanac

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

One Body Politic

The Greatest Challenge



The election is over.
Now the work begins.
The work of becoming one with each other.
I know it is possible.
But when I read the posts and the bloggers, and the talking heads, I'm not so sure.
But I love this country.
I happen to be liberal.
Others are conservative.
I happen to be Democrat.
Others happen to be Republican.

Gay/straight, male/female, black/white, rich/poor, we are all one body.
The scripture says so.
Yes, I am a progressive Christian.
Others are evangelical.
I am left wing.
Others right wing.

But it is the Mind of Christ that makes us one.
Unless the Gospel transcends ideology, it is no Gospel at all.
Thus let the Eagle soar.
With both wings, let it soar.
With the Mind of Christ Let it soar.

Let the American Eagle soar.


And so there is this prayer to the God of my heart and mind and soul and strength.

Jesu, Jesu,
Fill us with your love. 
In the midst of all the strong feelings within our hearts. 
The anger, disappointment, triumphalism or joy
Let me know your love.
Most of all let me know your love.
We insist on much that is less than that. 
But we can hope and pray and work for a love filled life. 
What is it about us that can be so hateful of those with whom we disagree? 
Oh, yes, because we don't get our own way! 
We become unruly children. 
We learned it at home, at school and at work.
Above all, for those of us at church, we learned it at prayer. 
We are one body 
"The eye cannot say to the hand, I don't need you". ~I Cor. 12. 
We are all one body. 
The body politic. 
This is a very difficult lesson. 
But you do require obedience and love.
Jesus, help us hear your voice tonight. 
Jesus help us hear your voice, always! Amen.

Peace to our hearts,
Fr. Paul

From A Marine

In the Election's Aftermath



My thanks to Sally, our parish administrator, for this inspiring post. Somewhere way back in my distant memory I remember a time when we were all loyal patriots, Republicans and Democrats/Liberals and Conservatives. We disagreed, but we respected one another. Somewhere along the way, we lost that sense of mutual respect and began an unfortunate downward spiral of insult and bitterness.
Sally saw this post and shared it with me.
Allow me to share it with you, in hopes; since hope is sometimes all we have, that we may begin again.
Peace be with you,
Fr Paul

"My Dad is 87 years old and still kicking. He's a Marine, because once a Marine, always a Marine and fought in the Korean conflict. Now, me, being a hippie in my youth, you can imagine we didn't always see eye-to-eye, (or I should say, pretty much never did we agree) especially about our politics. So, it is to that I would like to share with all of you, and the nation if I could, something my father asked me a month or so prior to the election.

"What's all this stuff about?, all the name calling and placing blame? Where do people think that's gonna' getem'?" (this in reference to the campaigning)
Well, I said, people are really opinionated, you know. . thinking we were about to have an intimate epiphany about our past together.
"No, (he said), I mean, when I was young the people had their opinions, and when a man was elected, to any office, whether it was a local elections or the
President, everyone put down their opinions and stood behind the person who was in office, even the other party". "We respected the person elected and stood behind those decisions because we are 'Americans', and that's what made our country strong, the fact that we could band together and make things work". He finished by asking "what's wrong with people today?"
In light of this I would ask you all to consider a wise old Marine's thoughts, show him that it's still true, we 'can bond together' we can honor the leader of our nation, and stand together to 'get it done'.
Forget the mess that was created in the Nixon era, when we all lost our heros, and let's get on with it. Whata' you say?
Thanks for giving my Dad a voice!
Gracie"

Monday, November 05, 2012

When it comes to a death

The Holiest Moment



There is a dear friend who asked me for a prayer at a time when a loved one is fading fast. In my line of work, I spend a significant amount of time with those who must keep that vigil. I must say, it is an awesome moment, in the very purest sense of that word. And to keep that vigil with a loved one, as excruciatingly painful as it must, by its nature be, is also a moment of exquisite grace.

So here are several suggestions

I have not one prayer but many.
Beginning with the 23rd Psalm
The 42nd and 43rd Psalm
The 121st Psalm
The 46th Psalm
And many, many others. Please comment your suggestions below.

Note, sometimes just sitting very quietly and collectedly as if God were sitting down with you in the Presence of the Most Holy Moment there is in life (which of course is the case at all times and at all places)

I like to sing, favorite hymns, but curiously childhood hymns seem so appropriate, like "Jesus Loves Me".

"Love Divine", "Come thou Fount of Every Blessing"...singing very quietly with a broken voice, off tune or in tune, it doesn't matter at all, just that the audible sound of your voice is there to comfort you and your loved one, and perhaps with the your hand in the hand of your loved one. 

Lots of silence with reassurance of how much in the I-Thou relationship of two persons is itself an image of the relationship of each to God.  And that between every single relationship, God lives in the mystery of that I-Thou. There is in this a great teaching; one that helps us treasure more, the loves and lives God gives us.



I love this prayer;

"Come Lord Jesus, and be my companion along the way, kindly our hearts and awaken hope, that I may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and in the Breaking of Bread."
Nice to have a priest bring communion at some point.



The material in the Book of Common Prayer at the time of sickness is also very helpful. BCP 453 and following.

There is this prayer...it has come to me in various forms over the years.
But its general structure is this.

A Prayer
By Fr Paul

Jesus son of God, have Mercy upon me. 3X

Jesus, (pause long enough to collect yourself and KNOW the Presence of Jesus. And if there are tears, at any time in all of this, let them flow freely) 
Look upon us in your love and compassion. 
This is a time of sadness and sorrow.
We lie here in weakness 
Wondering...
Wondering where we are
Where we are going

This is why we come to You
And throw our cares upon you.
There is weakness and there is fear
There is agitation of spirit

But this I know
In you there is strength for those who suffer.
With you there is courage for those whose tears 
Are tears as of the Blessed Mother keeping her watch with You.
With you there is that Peace that Passes all understanding.

And there is this,
I am doing the best I can do,
And sometimes it doesn't seem quite enough or quite right
But because I am so weak now
I must cast my care on you
And listen for the sacred word

Here Jesus speaks with your voice
And particularly where there is an especially difficult moment of agitation

"You are doing fine"
"There, there, that is exactly the right thing to do"
"I am here, I love you"
"All is forgiven"
"All is love"
"All is reconciled"
"Come to me"

(Stop here, and rest a while)

"Come to me"

In whatever state of agitation or weakness
You calmly wipe my brow and cool my tongue with your 
Sweet words of calm assurance and love.
Come, Lord Jesus, and walk with me along the Way that leads to You.

Thank you, Jesus.
Thank you.
Amen.

Wait and watch.
Repeat as necessary.

The Litany at the time of Death is especially appropriate as the end nears and is upon us.
The family gathers. 
Say the ancient prayers.
Read the ancient words.

A Prayer for a Person near Death
 
Almighty God, look on this your servant, lying in great
weakness, and comfort him with the promise of life
everlasting, given in the resurrection of your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.


Litany at the Time of Death from the Book of Common Prayer, p. 462
When possible, it is desirable that members of the family and friends
come together to join in the Litany.
 
God the Father,
Have mercy on your servant.
God the Son,
Have mercy on your servant.
God the Holy Spirit,
Have mercy on your servant.

Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on your servant.
From all evil, from all sin, from all tribulation,
Good Lord, deliver him.
By your holy Incarnation, by your Cross and Passion, by
your precious Death and Burial,
Good Lord, deliver him.
By your glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and by the
Coming of the Holy Spirit,
Good Lord, deliver him.
We sinners beseech you to hear us, Lord Christ: That it may
please you to deliver the soul of your servant from the power
of evil, and from eternal death,
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please you mercifully to pardon all his sins,
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please you to grant him a place of refreshment
and everlasting blessedness,
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please you to give him joy and gladness in your
kingdom, with your saints in light,
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
Jesus, Lamb of God:
Have mercy on him.
Jesus, bearer of our sins:
Have mercy on him.

Jesus, redeemer of the world:
Give him your peace.
 

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.Lord, have mercy.
 
Officiant and People 
 
Our Father, who art in heaven,
    hallowed be thy Name,
    thy kingdom come,
    thy will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our tresspasses,
    as we forgive those
        who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your Name,
    your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
        on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
    as we forgive those
        who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
    and deliver us from evil.

The Officiant says this Collect
 
Let us pray.

Deliver your servant, N., O Sovereign Lord Christ, from all
evil, and set him free from every bond; that he may rest with
all your saints in the eternal habitations; where with the
Father and the Holy Spirit your live and reign, one God, for
ever and ever. Amen.


A Commendation at the Time of Death
Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world;
In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created you;
In the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you;
In the Name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you.
May your rest be this day in peace,
    and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God.


A Commendatory Prayer
Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your
servant N. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of
your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your
own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy,
into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the
glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the
mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.