Saturday, June 14, 2014

"Fed UP" the Movie

The Strong Name of the Trinity

It has always made good sense to me; The Strong Name of the Trinity. It makes abundant good sense to call upon God, my Creator, and, of course, the creator of all that is seen and unseen. It makes sense to call upon Jesus who is my Savior, and the One who stretched out his loving arms on the hard wood of the cross so that everyone might come within the reach of His saving embrace. It makes sense, perfect sense to me, to call up the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier, the HolyWisdom from on high, the Gift Giver in all of life. One might wonder about the holiness part in my case. 

The dynamic reality of God as a Trinitarian reality is often reflected in human endeavor. After all, we too are creative in so many ways, we do what we can to salvage whatever is possible of our lives as well as the lives of others. And the process of sanctification is an ongoing one given the fact that human beings are not always interested in such an upward call. 

The Holy Spirit is “The Sancta Sophia” the Holy Wisdom from on high. God knows it takes all the Wisdom of Solomon to figure out how to make our way through life with a discerning heart. At St. Paul’s you are engaged in a discernment process right now as you seek your next full time parish priest.

It is in this Spirit that Jesus turns us toward Baptism in today’s Gospel lesson. He tells us to go forward into the world and Baptize all Nations, all peoples in the “name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. The more increasingly we become a “House of Prayer for all People” in the Episcopal Church the more faithfully we fulfill Jesus’ intention for us that when we say “All” we mean “All”. 

I love Baptisms and have officiated at hundreds of them throughout my almost 42 years of ordained ministry. But the most important Baptism that I know about is my own, just as the most important Baptism you know about is your own. In what way has God invited you into new birth, new hope, new life? This is the daily question our Baptism asks of us with each new dawning. The more creatively we answer that question, the more vigorously we engage in salvation work for the sake of those in need in our midst; the more we heed, the urgings of the Holy Spirit in our own lives, the more convincingly we will commend Baptism as the pathway to Christ for others. 

This is why I bind unto myself this day the Strong Name of the Holy Spirit. Let me give you an example of what I mean. I ask your prayers. Tomorrow morning bright and early. Perhaps even so early as to be before it gets very bright, my darlin’ bride and I will be off to Mass General for an operation. I will undergo gastric bypass surgery to deal with a condition I have suffered with most of my life. 

Apparently I was understandably a bit morose after day dad’s death when I was a boy and I didn’t eat very much. I was, in fact, as some of my way back photographs will show, a skinny and scrawny kid. My grandmother was alarmed. She tried feeding me various kinds of foods but finally struck upon Franco American Spaghetti. Later that was supplemented by Chef Boyardee products. Then she plied me with Coca Cola. We often had sugary and salty snack foods in the house. I was hooked. The sugar content in carbonated beverages is not good for anyone seeking to manage his or her weight. And the processed food! Not just the sugar but the salt content in processed foods and beverages works against any effort to loose weight. All this became part of my diet like so many in America. I grew up, but as I grew up, I also grew out. My obesity, as the obesity of much of America has gotten out of hand. Now it is time for an intervention at least in my case.

Cindy’s doctor asked us to go and see the movie; “Fed Up” which we did several weeks ago at the Kendal Square Cinema. It is a documentary narrated by Katie Couric. The theme of the movie is that the pervasive use of sugar additives in processed foods and carbonated beverages has made of us a nation where obesity is a growing problem, if not epidemic. School lunch rooms are now increasingly the outlets for the fast food empire. Simple exercise, while desirable, will not in and of itself rectify the situation. The next generation of youth in our country is headed to become the first generation in our history to live a shorter lifespan than the one before it. We need to get at the added sugars, the carbs and the salts. 

Labeling on foods now at least gives us a listing of each ingredient as a percentage value for the recommended daily allowance…except sugar. Merely the amount of sugar in grams is listed. Very powerful lobbying interests persuaded Congress not to assign that value when the food labeling law first passed. Again we find ourselves wittingly or unwittingly at the mercy of corporate power. Our government is merely a pawn in the hands of very powerful interests.

If I had my way, I’d levy a 20% Health Care surcharge tax on all those things that are potentially deleterious to our health and use the proceeds to pay for a portion of our health care premiums. I would call the tax Bresnahan’s Affordable Care Act Premium Payment Plan. 
And I’d levy the tax on 
Processed Foods
Sugar additives
Carbonated Beverages.
Not much of a chance I’ll get to first base on that one. But given the fact that I care about my life, the lives of others and especially about the lives of our children, I speak with all my heart. At least in a free country we can speak our minds and our hearts. Still those dollars and those corporations speak with a louder voice than you and I can muster.

My doctors have been encouraging me to take this step for quite some time. I have chosen not to put it off any longer. Not only do we hope to extend my life span, we hope to enhance the quality of life I am living while I have it. Naturally there are risks involved. There is the possibility of complication. But everything looks good going into this procedure and that is why I am asking your prayers. I know of several folks who have undergone the procedure and it has proven very helpful. The studies show encouraging results including the fact that the procedure often eliminates diabetes, and reduces high blood pressure and cholesterol. 

The price to pay is significant. I am embarking on a whole new life. But I did say that my Baptism is important to me. After the surgery I will be a new man, with a new life, born again if you will to a new hope. The renewal of life is what I seek. Perhaps this is a drastic solution, but it has been said; “drastic measures call for drastic actions.” 

This is why I ask your prayers. I will take the next two Sundays off for recovery. Hopefully I will be back on the first Sunday in July depending on how I am doing with my recovery at that time.

I have spent a good deal of my life praying for others, but I have learned in later life that we really need to begin our prayer life within ourselves, asking in the words of Paul for “the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” may always dwell within us. 

There is no question in my mind that the Holy Trinity has found a happy home here at St. Paul’s Church. I bind the Strong Name of this same Holy Trinity unto myself as I invite you to consider binding the strong Name of the Holy Trinity into your lives.

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

Fr Paul

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Peace be with you!

Peace be with you!

Yes, as the Gospel puts it; “Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit”. It is thus that we are invited to consider that the breath of God breathes within us with every breath we take. It is in the very act of being alive that we participate in the life of God. Holiness fills our lungs, which is why the mystics instruct us to breathe deeply. 

Surely when we exercise we breathe that way, but how about when we sit in silence and concentrate on the Presence of God, and practice that Presence. Peace indeed comes upon us, within us, and indeed among us. Just a moment of silence when we pray can remind us of the breath within our lungs and the beating of our hearts.

Receive the Holy Spirit!
Peace be with you!

It is with this proclamation that we come today to Pentecost, literally 50 days counting from Easter. It was a day when the disciples experienced something new and for the first time; namely that whatever race or nation you come from and whatever language you speak,  God’s Holy Spirit is poured out upon all. All nations, all peoples, all sorts, all conditions. 

As Paul puts it in today’s lesson from his first Letter to the Christians in Corinth; “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-- and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” I am as much a part of you as you are of me. And without you, I am much diminished. This one body we call St. Paul’s Church is inseparably joined to the whole body of Christ.

Pauline theology is quite clear on that point. The Church is the body of Christ. That means you and me; we are, in a sense, God made flesh and blood. That means that we are, as our catechism puts it; members of Christ, Children of God, and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven". Thus when we interact with one another it is our joy and our delight to do so with the profoundest reverence, respect and affirmation. We are to build one another up in the Lord.

It is our custom at this time of year to recognize our graduates. We even have a little bit of scholarship money for you. We recognize the Sunday School, and those who work with our children.

But there is so much more to recognize.
Beginning with our vestry and wardens who meet regularly as any healthy family meets to work out who is doing what, when and how for the building up of the ministry of this church. 
The treasurer and the finance committee take care of tracking out our income and our expenses, our various endowment funds and savings accounts, and managing our bills and our debts, just like any family does.
The property committee and the Junior Warden see to it that our building is in ship shape, or at least on its way to being so to the best of everybody’s ability. 
Just that; managing our finances and our property is an enormous responsibility. 
But that’s not the whole of the spirit of the place.
The ECW naturally takes upon itself an enormous responsibility to provide hospitality for the life of this church and for the spiritual up girding of the church.
The women and men’s book groups dedicate themselves to learning.
The ushers, the acolytes, the altar guild, and the choir week in and week out set forth the praise of God to the very best of their ability.
We even have some outstanding work going on in capturing the history of this church by our parish historian and archivist.
And on and on it goes; the mission and ministry of the church.
Everyone one of you, at least most everyone here, makes an annual financial commitment to the church, that is to say, this portion of Christ’s Body. Everybody keeps it, for the most part. To every one of you; you do realize that upon the measure of your generosity the ministry of this church rises and falls. You decide every week whether this church will have a full time priest, you decide on the extent to which the music program and the education of your children will be supported. You decide the extent to which your church pays its utility bills, insurance premiums, and all other expenses you build into your annual budget. This is your church. Your generosity makes so much possible. Imagine, just imagine what we could do together when each and every one of us is pulling in the same direction and in proportion to what God’s give each of us. Just imagine what we could do if each of us were to invite just one more person each year to this sacred and holy place.

As Paul puts it, again in today’s Epistle; “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.”

You are a magnificent kaleidoscope of giftedness, service, and activity. And you are all one. When I was a child, I loved looking into a kaleidoscope. In turning it round upon round I could see all sorts of shapes, patterns and color appear. This is how it is with the church. And yet we are one. 

There is only one God. There is only one Lord. There is only one Holy Spirit.  Do you really have any idea how wonderful you are? I know the world will take its pot shots at the church. I’ve heard it a million times; “I believe in God, it’s just the institutional church I do not believe in.” And I know that there can be moments when we can get down on one another and perhaps get into that criticism mode. Whenever that happens, we’ve just got to learn to snap out of it.

That’s because we must never loose sight of how important each one of you is to Jesus. Who is going to share that love of God unless you do? Who is going to be at the heart of the forgiveness of Jesus unless you are? Who will reconcile us one to another, unless we do it with all the heart, mind and strength of the Holy Spirit. 

That’s why I’m glad we’re having an ice cream social today! Every service we have in this church is a celebration. After all, what we do week in and week out is called “A celebration of the Holy Eucharist”. Every time we come to that Altar Rail, we literally receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, the reality of the Risen Christ into our lives. 

Remember what Jesus said on that first Pentecost;
“Peace be with you”. Take a deep breath. 
“Peace be with you”. Take a deep breath.
And with that he breathed upon them;
“Receive the Holy Spirit”. 
So celebrate God with us and God within us.
Don’t ever miss the miracle each day brings and especially this the Lord’s Day!!!

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

Fr Paul