Saturday, July 09, 2022

Isn't this fun!

 Isn’t this fun!

He Qi "The Good Samaritan"

Two weeks ago I “retired” and celebrated 50 years of ordination. I did not put myself on the supply list and all I wanted was to take a few months off before deciding what else to do with my life. 

But then Edwin emailed me, and this is St. Mary’s, and my son David does go to church here, and I do know many of you, so how could I say; “No?”

Which brings me back to my priesthood and us to the question of the day; Eternal Life? I was confronted with that question early on in life because my dad died when I was eight years old. The whole question of life and death and what happens when a loved one dies was front and center even before I knew how to fully comprehend or process the enormity of that kind of loss or those kinds of questions.

Eventually, after more than a year of sadness and bewilderment I came to understand that the Silence I poured out my heart to in the night season was actually God, and Jesus and that that most beautiful Hagia Sophia; or the Holy Spirit as we call her liturgically. 

Then I read the Gospel and I discovered that Eternal Life has more to do with the here and now than the bye and bye. To be sure it involves both but Jesus consistently redirects us to the more immediate concerns of life and the living. 

When the lawyer in today’s Gospel questions Jesus about “eternal life” it is easy to think that he is talking about what he needs to do to make his way toward heaven. 

Jesus’ answer is the first and great commandment; The Shema: 

Hear O Israel “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.” In traditional Judaica that’s the sum and total of it.

But Jesus doesn’t leave it there. He adds “and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He lifts those words from Leviticus 19:18b. One half of one verse of all the hundreds of rules in the Levitical law code, but Jesus homes in on only one. 

Jesus puts our social responsibility on a par with our responsibility to God. We are not required to love one or the other. Jesus says we are required to love both. 

At the end of his life we face another shift in teaching. So important is our social responsibility that when he faced the final conflict, he make this law the New Commandment. 

Remember? At the Last Supper, after the foot washing, Jesus leaves them these words; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~John 13:34,35.

Eternal Life then is; first and foremost about the here and now. Don’t wait until you’re dead to live the Way of Jesus. It won’t do you much good then. No, let’s get on with it and live it now! 

Sacramentally, eternal life begins in our Baptism and we feed on it in the Eucharist. You may have heard a priest or two say; “The Body of Christ keep you in Eternal Life.” Or “The Body of Christ; the Bread of Heaven”. Biblically in the Gospel and Sacramentally in the Eucharist Jesus teaches us Eternal Life begins now.

Secondly, Eternal Life is relational. The lawyer wanted to justify himself, which is to say that he wanted to establish his righteousness, and so pressed the question with Jesus; “And who is my neighbor?” In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus holds up a mirror to the soul of the lawyer to demonstrate how far from righteousness he was. On that treacherous road from Jerusalem down to Jericho a certain man fell into the hands of robbers, leaving him half dead. The story strikes close to home. The ones we’d expect to be righteous, the priest and the levite, passed by on the other side. But it was the theologically, politically, and socially marginalized Samaritan who stopped and ministered to the victim of violence. 

Jesus seems to be saying that this is Eternal Life; when you see someone suffering, in sorrow, in pain or in any other kind of need; stop what you were doing and tend to that first. If you claim to love God then show it by loving your neighbor. God does not measure righteousness by the labels we wear, God measures us by how we treat one another. 

Eternal Life is about our relationships to God and to one another. 

Thirdly, Eternal Life is prophetic. It is about Justice. What did Amos see in today’s first lesson? He saw God “setting a plumb line in the midst of the people.” In this particular historic context, God was measuring the household of Jeroboam, and found it wanting. In those days, the power brokers were eager to get past the Holy Day observances so that the fraudsters could get back to business. Corporate greed is nothing new. I love reading Amos. It has such a contemporary sound to it. 

From ancient times our faith tradition requires us to look out for the poor and the vulnerable. This fragment from the Psalmist today is a case in point. 

It sings; 

“Save the weak and the orphan; *
        defend the humble and needy;
Rescue the weak and the poor; *
        deliver them from the power of the wicked.”

This is how we are to organize our lives; around the the needs of the poor and the marginalized. Jesus goes even further than biblical norms to be inclusive of tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers and sinners of all sorts. 

Where do we draw the line? You know the answer to that question. We draw it over our hearts and souls (making the sign of the cross)

Which brings me back to my initial point; isn’t this fun! To live in Eternal Life is to live inside the Joy of Jesus. It is here and now. It is about our living relationships with God and each other and becoming be agents of God’s Justice. 

Jesus said; “I have come to bring you life in all of its abundance.” ~John 10:10. And “I have told you these things that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” ~John 15:11. “Go and do likewise”.

Thank you for embracing me on such short notice today. I pray the church in Baltimore and Fr Edwin and all the rest are having a grand time of it living inside Eternal Life. Knowing Edwin and the Episcopal Church as I do, I have every confidence they’e having a wonderful time sharing all that life has to offer! Let us do likewise this day in Eternal Life!

In the Name of God; the Most Holy, Undivided and Everlasting Trinity. Amen.

Below, the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost and highlights of those words and phrases that speak to my hearts and soul. 

The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

First Lesson: Amos 7:7-17

This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’” And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ “Now therefore hear the word of the Lord. You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.” Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be parceled out by line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’”

Psalm 82

God takes his stand in the council of heaven; *
        he gives judgment in the midst of the gods:
“How long will you judge unjustly, *
        and show favor to the wicked?
Save the weak and the orphan; *
        defend the humble and needy;
Rescue the weak and the poor; *
        deliver them from the power of the wicked
They do not know, neither do they understand;
   they go about in darkness; *
        all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
Now I say to you, ‘You are gods, *
        and all of you children of the Most High;
Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, *
        and fall like any prince.’”
Arise, O God, and rule the earth, *
        for you shall take all nations for your own.

Gospel: Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

A Simple Parish Priest

Fr Paul Bresnahan preached the following sermon in observance of the 50th anniversary of his ordination. 

A Simple Parish Priest

That’s all I ever wanted to be. 

We called her “Ma”. After supper before bedtime, Bob and I would sit in her bedroom which was right off the kitchen. We’d listen to old time radio with her; Jack Benny, Fibber McGhee and Molly, George Burns and Gracie Allen and the like. She’d laugh from her toenails. She was so much fun to be with. She loved us. 

As her stories wound down, she’s take out her old, dog eared, binding busted Bible and read one of her favorite stories like the Call of Samuel which I read just a few moments ago. 

The story caught my attention. “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” That sure sounded like current events to me. Nobody ever said thing one about God in Somerville except Ma. Every night she told us about God from that sacred and holy book. These were the stories I loved. She told them by heart. 

She closed over the book, looked at me, her eyes sparkling with the twinkle of heaven; “Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ and he said, ‘Here I am!’ and ran to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; go lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. 

The Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for did you call me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; go lie down again.’ 

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

To me this was like the Silence I cried myself asleep to every night after my father died. I wondered about my dad and whether I’d ever see him again. And this story seemed to suggest that God could call to my heart in the night season. It was as though the Silence I poured my heart out to night after night was not Empty Space. The Silence I spoke to at night was nothing less than God.

So I asked my grandmother;

“Ma, does this mean that God can call children to serve the church even now?”

My grandmother’s eyes danced with the joy of heaven and she said; “I wonder!” 

And that’s how it happened. The long journey to priesthood began. I was nine years old at the time. There was high school, college, and seminary. Then ordination and now all of a sudden, here I am 50 years later. 

This is all I ever wanted out of life: to love God and to love God’s people. And that’s what I did. That’s what I do.

Along the way, God kept insisting. “Oh, by the way. No there will be no exceptions.”

Outside every one of our churches there is a sign that says “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.”

Does that really mean Everyone?

It so happened that while I was in Seminary there was a Civil Rights movement. God said; no exceptions. Black or white you are all one. At seminary there were also women and gay folks. And there were controversies about where all that fit into God’s salvation plan. Again the bottom line was; no exceptions. 

During every one of my fifty years I have worked for Civil Rights. Human Rights. No exceptions.

I remember my uncle speaking to me in that blue collar Boston way of his, dripping with sarcasm. He was not fond of the church’s tendency to play exclusion games against gays, Muslims, or Hindus and the like. He’d often say to me; 

“What makes you people think you’re right and the rest of the world is going to hell?” History showed that the church often played exclusion games. My uncle was gay and at that time gay folks were not welcome to ordination or anywhere else for that matter. Neither were women. All this irritated Al. This was all 50 years ago.

 All I had was an amorphous hope that God’s love extended to all without regard to all human categories of race, ethnicity, economic status or gender. 

One day my uncle said to me; “I don’t give a good blankety blank what your church thinks, I want to know what you think of me.”

“Geez All, you’re fine in my book.”

“If that’s the case kid, I want you to stand up for me in that blankety-blank church of yours someday.” 

I did that. 

Al, I hope you see that now. I did. I stood up for you.

I also stood up for the poor and the homeless. 

Jesus said “feed my sheep”.

I’ve always taken part literally. Whether it was a soup kitchen or a food pantry or both. I’ve always seen to it that we fed the poor.

And because we did that, we always saw the homeless. Particularly during my time in West Virginia, I became involved in an effort to build a homeless shelter. 

One of the two times during my ministry that I received death threats was because of my obedience to Jesus to tend to the poor. During the struggle to build a homeless shelter in West Virginia Cindy received a phone call one time from someone who said; “We’re going to kill your husband.”

In her best Boston accent she said; “Oh yeah, take a numbah. I want to kill him too sometimes.”

Is it any wonder that the harvest remains great and the laborers are few?

Discipleship can cost you. 

Nevertheless, I love it. Every minute of it. This is God’s work we do my friends. And God’s work deserves to be done well.

50 years ago I was given a number of tokens representing this ministry we share. Now I seek to present them to some special people in my life. 

When you come up to Communion please leave these gifts for ministry before God on this table from which I present them to you. 

Bob & Jim — this is Ma’s Bible — Let’s continue to tell our stories and God’s Story so that many may be drawn to the knowledge and love of God.

Cindy & David — this Celtic Cross comes from our Pilgrimage to Ireland. Thank you for helping to carry this cross throughout our family life.

Lynette & Daryl  Stole — This stole is a sign of our priesthood. Jesus said “my yoke is easy, my burden light”. May he sustain us in every joy and every sorrow of our life especially when our burdens become too much for us to bear alone. 

Patty & Bruce — Book of Common Prayer — you know me to be a man of prayer. May we continue faithful in prayer in season and out of season. How precious our times of prayer with this book. 

Bruce & Betty — Bread & Wine — Jesus said; “Feed my sheep”. You have done that all your life for the church and her people. May this Bread and Wine sustain us unto our life’s end.

Deb & Diane — Water  — We are all Baptized one in Christ Jesus our Lord; Behold the Rainbow. I remember that day when you came to the Bean Supper at the church. It was the eve of Palm Sunday and nobody wanted to be the criminal for the reading of the Passion Narrative. I looked at you and said; “Will you be my criminal?” You weren’t even a member of the church but you said yes. When you walked into that church you knew you were home again. There is room in God’s heart for you. No exceptions. 

Angela Soto & Children — Oil of Unction — This holy oil represents Christ’s healing touch. In whatever language we say it may we always be one in Jesus. Este aceite sagrado representa el toque sanador de Cristo. En cualquier idioma que decimos que siempre seamos uno en Jesús

Drs. Janet & David — Hymnal — “Singing is praying twice” as St. Augustine said. Thank you for your sacrifice and generosity and and the gift of music today and  all through these many years. It is a blessing to serve along side you.

Kaylen & Luca — Incense — Thank you for your service at the altar of God. May this incense represent our prayers rising to God’s praise and and devotion in serving God’s people. It rejoices my heart to serve with you at the altar of God.

Bill & Phil — Flowers — Their flower shop was called “Beautiful Things”. It was their ministry to comfort the bereaved and shield the joyous. They provided flowers for our wedding day in 1979. They are dear, dear friends. They are going through a rough patch right now. I ask your prayers for Phil and Bill who cannot be here today. 

Which bring me to my mother. I have no desire to engage in controversy on this of all days. But I can hear her voice of sorrow and outrage rise from the grave today. It was during the war and he promised to respect her in the morning but when the rabbit died, he left her holding the bag. What happened then was illegal and dangerous. She could have died. I haven’t said this in a very long time, but “Mom, I love you and these flowers are for you this morning.” I’ll bring them over to Phil and Bill a little later on. But right now, they are for you. 

Cathy — Keys — It is time to hand back to you what you entrusted to me. Keep these doors open so that the inclusive arms of Jesus may extend to all. May God raise up another faithful servant who will continue God’s work with you in Word and Deed in this portion of God’s vineyard. 

John Parnell — Constitution & Canons — Fifty years ago the Diocese of Massachusetts and Bishop John Melville Burgess entrusted this ministry to me. Thank you for that trust. Cindy and I are ready for a break now, but God only knows what lies ahead. I have tried to retire 9 times. 

Whatever else God has in mind this I know. 

All I ever wanted was to be a simple parish priest. 

By the grace of God, this is who I am. 

In the Name of God; the Most Holy, Undivided, and Everlasting Trinity. Amen.

Fr Paul

The following readings are appointed for use on occasions of ministry. 

Collect of the Day

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-10: The Call of Samuel

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ and he said, ‘Here I am!’ and ran to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” ’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’

The Epistle: Ephesians 4:11-16

The gifts are that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

The Gospel: Matthew 9:35-38: The Harvest Is Great, the Labourers Few

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Juneteenth; Our Freedom Song

 Juneteenth; Our Freedom Song

Juneteenth is a Freedom Song for every American. If ever there were a way to mark our obedience to God, it would be in abolishing slavery. It is as much a celebration for white folks as it is for black folks. On August 1,1858 Abe Lincoln said; “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is not democracy.” It took until this day, June 19,1865 for General Gordon Granger of the Union Army to announce General Order Number 3 proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas.  Thus Emancipation became complete in America! 

Today is a cause of celebration for all Americans. Much more work to be done to assure the continuation of freedom and democracy for all. So much of our democracy remains under growing threat if we do not remain vigilant.

Our struggles for Justice are always accompanied with music. Whether it is in the Reformation, slavery in this country, or the Great Hunger in Ireland, music has accompanied every struggle for freedom. Anglican chant, the great hymns of the church, , Negro Spirituals, jazz and the blues, or Irish folk; all our music is sacred music. 

The formation of faith itself begins with a song. The Psalter is the Hymn Book of Jesus. 

Today, the Psalmist sings; 

“As the deer longs for the water-brooks, *
        so longs my soul for you, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God”

My ministry began with a song. When I was first ordained, before marriage and family, I knew I needed three things to engage all the struggles of ministry; a roof over my head, a serviceable means of transportation, and a good hi-fi system. A few months ago we traded out our old TV for a new Roku TV and matching Roku speakers. We love old TV reruns and when that has run its course, we listen to good music on any station we choose on iHeart Radio. This allows us to settle down a bit and rest our souls after a long day of appointments and errands. Thus we can maintain something akin to sanity.

Without sanity there is madness. Jesus’ encounter with the demoniac in today’s Gospel is illustrative of the inclination in the human spirit toward legions of madness. From war in the Ukraine to shootings in Uvalde and now St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Vestavia Hills, Alabama there is an inclination toward violence within the human breast. Hatred has infected the human heart and we are loath to allow Jesus to cure our wanton madness. There is too much divisiveness, too much anger, too much hate and way too many guns. White supremacists would take away our freedom in a heartbeat unless we hold them in check. 

I for one want to live in a country where we love one another more than we love our guns. 

Like my Celtic ancestors before me, I go through life unarmed. The only weapon I have is the Gospel. That Gospel is stirringly articulated by Paul in today’s letter to the Galatians. My soul rejoices with the inclusive love of Christ for all in obedience to the God. Paul’s reading of that Gospel is compelling to our spirits. He writes; “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 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.” 

Jew or Greek; that means any race, ethnicity or language.

Slave or free; that means all folks no matter how rich or poor.

Male or female; that means you are all one in Christ without regard to gender, orientation or sexual identity. 

All my life I have worked along side you seeking to become a more inclusive church. Bishop Shaw once imagined God embracing humankind in ever widening circles of inclusive love. 

This makes the rise in hate crimes all the more disquieting. There will always be an Ahab and a Jezebel seething with murderous threats against the prophets of God. Just like there are gun toting madmen ready to slaughter innocent children or the elderly at a church pot luck supper. Who wouldn’t recoil in terror?

Elijah fled in fear. After all, Jezebel said; “You’re next!” 

But God pursued the prophet. “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

God said “Go stand on the mountain and I will pass by.”

And God did pass by but God was not in the earthquake the fire or the flood. God was in the sheer silence or the “still small voice” as other translations put it. 

What are we to make of our encounter with God? How can we ever fully understand it. The best we can do is embrace the will of God and do what God would have us do and sing our freedom songs. Without that song we’re lost.

Basil the Great once wrote; “When the Holy Spirit saw that humankind was ill-inclined toward virtue and that we were heedless of the righteous life because of our inclination to madness, what did she do? She blended the delight of melody with Scripture in order that, through the pleasantness and softness of sound, we might come to righteousness unaware that wise physicians might heal the soul as we drink from Christ’s cup rimmed with honey. For this purpose, these harmonious melodies have been designed for us, that we, may in reality be educating their souls. ~freely adapted from Basil the Great.

Today we come to a day of great significance in the lives of Janet and David King, the choir and congregation of Trinity Church. It is time to commend them for their service to this church and providing us with “harmonious melodies” for all these years. As you prepare to retire we wast to say to you; “Thank you”. 

Thank you Janet. Thank you David. “Music is praying twice.”

No mediation on music would be complete it without remembering what Johann Sebastian Bach wrote of all his prodigious efforts;

“Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.” “I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.” “The final aim and reason of all music is nothing other than the glorification of God and the refreshment of the human spirit.” ~J.S. Bach

We are deeply grateful to you for honoring God the way you have done with your music. May it always be part of our Freedom Song. Glory be to God.

In the Name of God the Most Holy, Undivided and Everlasting Trinity. Amen

Fr Paul

Below are the reading for the Second Sunday after Pentecost with thoughts and words highlighted that speak to my soul.

Second Sunday after Pentecost

The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-­kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Lesson: 1 Kings 19:1-4, 8-15a

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”  He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus.”

Psalm 42 and 43

As the deer longs for the water-brooks, *
        so longs my soul for you, O God
2 My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; *
        when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night, *
        while all day long they say to me,
        “Where now is your God?
I pour out my soul when I think on these things: *
        how I went with the multitude and led them into the
                              house of God,
5 With the voice of praise and thanksgiving, *
        among those who keep holy-day.
6 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? *
        and why are you so disquieted within me?
7 Put your trust in God; *
        for I will yet give thanks to him,
        who is the help of my countenance, and my God.
8 My soul is heavy within me; *
        therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan,
        and from the peak of Mizar among the heights of Hermon.
9 One deep calls to another in the noise of your cataracts; *
        all your rapids and floods have gone over me.
10 The Lord grants his loving-kindness in the daytime; *
        in the night season his song is with me,
        a prayer to the God of my life.
11 I will say to the God of my strength,
   “Why have you forgotten me? *
        and why do I go so heavily while the enemy
                              oppresses me?”
12 While my bones are being broken, *
        my enemies mock me to my face;
13 All day long they mock me *
        and say to me, “Where now is your God?”
14 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? *
        and why are you so disquieted within me?
15 Put your trust in God; *
        for I will yet give thanks to him,
        who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

1 Give judgment for me, O God,
   and defend my cause against an ungodly people; *
        deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.
2 For you are the God of my strength;
  why have you put me from you? *
        and why do I go so heavily while the enemy
                               oppresses me?
3 Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, *
        and bring me to your holy hill
        and to your dwelling;
4 That I may go to the altar of God,
   to the God of my joy and gladness; *
        and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? *
        and why are you so disquieted within me?
6 Put your trust in God; *
        for I will yet give thanks to him,
        who is the help of my countenance, and my God

Epistle: Galatians 3:23-29

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 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. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Gospel: Luke 8:26-39

Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Pure Simplicity of God

The Pure Simplicity of God

It it’s all so simple; this whole business about God. Here is how I found out. 

I ran home as fast as I could to confirm what Something had spoken in my heart of hearts. I ran into the kitchen where my grandmother was presiding over her stove as a priest might preside over an altar. 

I asked; “Ma, is there a God?”

I needed to know. Everything depended on the answer. 

“Of course there is!” That was simple.

“Ma, is there a heaven?” She glanced sidewards at me with just a hint of irritation. After all, she was cooking and this was not a good time for theology.

“Yes, of course there is!” Still, pretty straight forward.

“Ma, is my daddy there?” Ah, now we come to a complication. There had been a messy divorce. He was at fault apparently. When he died, there were hasty words about his “deserving” what he got. Someone even said he couldn’t go to heaven because he didn’t go to church. All these things got said so I could hear them. I was eight years old at the time. 

Mind you my mom was a feisty lady and I wondered more than once if she had a part to play in the divorce when I heard them arguing with each other. And even my grandmother said more than once that the Irish ruined Boston. It all left me bewildered. My question hung there for what seemed an eternity. 

“Is my daddy there?”

That’s when she knelt down right there in the kitchen. She held me close and folded my head into the nape of her neck and she said;

“Of course he is!” 

And that’s why I’m a priest today. 

It is pure simplicity.

Yes there is a God.

Yes there is a Heaven.

And Yes my daddy’s there as are all our loved ones. All have been gathered up one by one into God’s nearer Presence.

It is all so simple.

First, God is “Our Father who art in Heaven”. God is the Creator of Heaven and Earth and everyone in it. When we said our prayers at night we blessed everybody by name in the family, all my friends, those at school and finally everybody in the “whole wide word”. God made every single one of us. See. Simple!

Secondly, God is Jesus Christ our Savior. It took a while to figure out how he saved us. The world didn’t look particularly saved to me. At the time we had air raid drills in an old school built before the Civil War. I’m not at all sure the building could have survived a nuclear attack. Nowadays kids do mass shooter drills, and there have been well over 230 school shootings just this year alone. I wondered; “How can you call this world ‘saved’”.

But then I figured it out. Jesus brought the world Forgiveness and Eternal Life. The one is related to the other. When we Forgive, we are in Eternal Life. And when we do come to our life’s end there is forgiveness. There is room in God’s heart for each and every one of us, even if we miss church once in a while or even if the only time you mention our Lord’s Name is when you loose a bet at the race track as my daddy often did way back in those days. 

How do I know? The Bible tells me so; “Yes, Jesus loves me.” And my daddy too. And each and every one of you too.

And third God is the Holy Spirit. She is everywhere present. She permeates all of existence. “Does not wisdom call,” the Scripture says; “and does not understanding raise her voice?”
We know her first by prayer. 

We also know her through the the Holy Wisdom from on High. My grandmother knew her well. As did all my elders. How I looked up to them. Not to mention my priest and teachers. How I loved them all. Such Wisdom!

The Spirit imparts gifts for ministry. As a child I wanted to be Ted Williams or a parish priest. This also was pure simplicity. I loved baseball and I loved God. Who wouldn’t, growing up a short subway ride to Fenway Park. We spent our summers in the bleachers chasing home run balls hit by Teddy Ballgame and all the others. Or going to St. James’s Church, North Cambridge. That priest, that choir, that pipe organ, those stained glass windows; that breathtaking building.

As it turned out my batting average was not so hot, so that left the priesthood. I learned so much in school, in college, at seminary and of course in life itself. Life, Wisdom’s own teacher. 

God is the gift giver of every good gift from above. As Jesus says; “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth”.

All of which tells me that there is nothing complicated or difficult about faith. 

We are born into it. 

Today we at Trinity Church come to our Name Day. 

We know Who the Holy Trinity is:

God is Creator.

God is Savior.

God is Holy Spirit.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Pure simplicity.

As is our duty to God and our neighbor. 

Love God.

Love your neighbor.

It just can’t get much simpler than that. 

So straighten up your act. I’ve already spoken to Jesus about each and every one of you throughout these very nearly fifty years.

I will not go to heaven until each and every one of you gets in there first. There, I said it. Black and White. Did you hear that Jesus? So don’t go holding things up. Get things right between you and God and each other. Love God. Love one another.

Yes there is a God.

Yes there is a Heaven 

And yes, not only is my daddy there, each and every one of us is Heaven bound.

In the Name of God. The simple Name of God; 

The Most Holy, Undivided and Everlasting Trinity. Amen.

Fr Paul

Below, the readings for Trinity Sunday with highlights indicating thoughts and phrases that stand out to me and resonate in my soul. 

Trinity Sunday

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Lesson: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
“To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 

then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.

Psalm: Psalm 8

1 O Lord our Governor, *
        how exalted is your Name in all the world!
2 Out of the mouths of infants and children *
        your majesty is praised above the heavens.
3 You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, *
        to quell the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, *
        the moon and the stars you have set in their courses
What is man that you should be mindful of him? *
        the son of man that you should seek him out?
You have made him but little lower than the angels; *
        you adorn him with glory and honor;
7 You give him mastery over the works of your hands; *
        you put all things under his feet:
8 All sheep and oxen, *
        even the wild beasts of the field,
9 The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, *
        and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.
10 O Lord our Governor, *
        how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Epistle: Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Gospel: John 16:12-15

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.