Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas collect

Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

I wonder as I wander - St. Martin in the Fields, Philadelphia

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Sermon - The Rev. Peter M. Carey - Candlelight Service



Christmas Eve Sermon
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
24 December 2011 – Isaiah 9:2-7

The dark is extinguished, and the light shines.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.  We remember the light that came into the world, in the person of Jesus Christ.  But we do not merely remember, like some hazy photograph; some grainy 90mm film shown in the living room.  No, this is not a memory hidden in the past.  No, this is not a memory that will fade when our own memory of it fades.  This is remembrance that happened in the past, but this is remembrance that continues today.  The incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ happened those 2000 years ago, but the incarnation of God in our world is a happening that happened even in the beginning of the world and is a happening that happens today, and every day. 


This is a day when we remember the light that came into the dark world, and when we also recognize the light that is enlightening the world always.  If you merely close your eyes, you will see some darkness, but even now, in this place, in this glowing place of light and life, even our eyelids cannot shut out the light of these candles, lovingly arranged here for us.  No, our eyelids cannot shut out the light of these mere wicks and wax.  The light of these candles shines, even in the midst of the darkness of this night.  And so, also, the light of Christ shines, and could not be extinguished by small-minded people of his time, or by the petty darkness of our world; and cannot be covered by the machinations of the things of the world. 


The light of Christ has shined with celestial brightness, filling the world with its light. 


We began Advent praying to God, “give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light” as we prepared, once again, for God’s in-breaking into the world.  We began Advent by asking God to help us prepare for Christ’s coming, and to help us move into that place where we could, with Mary, “ponder these things in her heart.” 

We also prayed that God would give us the wisdom and vision of John the Baptist as he saw that something entirely new would enter the scene.  The people went out there to the wilderness and thought they had reached their destination, but John was not the destination, but a mere signpost along the way.  He pointed to one that was greater than himself, and he pointed to the true light that would come into the world, and who would baptize us with FIRE and the Holy Spirit.


And so, with our companions Mary, who pondered, and John the Baptist, who prepared, we have walked the dark pilgrim road of Advent, pondering and preparing.  We have walked the way of Advent while we also have put on the armor of light. We have looked deep within to find the hope and joy that God has given us, and we have projected our own bit of light into the world so that others could see a bit of the light of Christ. 

“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine let it shine let it shine.”

The light shines, even amidst all those things of the world that aim to blow it out, or cover it, or wash it away.  Our light shines because the light of Christ shines. 

Our own light is much like one of these candles, but it is not a mere candle with a wick that can burn away, and it is not a mere bit of wax that can burn into oblivion.  Our own light our own life, is given to us on this night.  Our own lives are given to us, they are gifts, as the gifts that we might open tonight or tomorrow.  Our own lives are gifts given to us by God, our own lives are energized the light of Christ, that has flowed into the world.  Our own lives are empowered by the ever-flowing energy of God, the every present goodness, love, and mercy of God, ever flowing, ever empowering us, ever present with us.


On this dark night, let your light shine. On this dark night, let the light of Christ warm you, give you life, and light, and hope in the darkness.  Let the light of Christ give you joy and peace and love, so that you can share that light with the world.  Put on the armor of light, for God has cast away the works of darkness, and filled the world with celestial brightness. May we see it, may we be it, this night, and evermore! 


Christmas Eve Sermon - The Rev. Peter M. Carey - Lessons and Carols Service


The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Christmas Eve Sermon
Lessons and Carols Service

We have heard the glorious and challenging story of the reign of God.   The nine lessons we have just heard are signposts along the journey of God’s people as they made their way in the world.  From Genesis 3 and the temptation and Fall, through the promise to Abraham, through the glorious visions of Isaiah and the depictions of the Incarnation in the words written by Luke, and Matthew and John, we have received an overview of this great story of God. 

This narrative is one that needs to be told, and we need to remember it but we need to do more than merely remember it.  Here, in these words, so wonderfully read by members of our Emmanuel family, we hear the story of God.  This story is not merely a bed-time story, and is not merely a story to be analyzed and dissected by scholars and priests.  No, this story is meant to be the map that helps us to organize and situate our lives. 

Like a using a compass and coordinates on a map, these stories are knit together and give us direction so that we might live and move within the reign of God.  If these stories merely charm us, and if these carols merely entertain us with their melodies, we have missed the greater and deeper point in retelling these stories, and singing these sacred carols.  These stories remind us of God’s work in history, but also open a page for us to enter our own contribution to the story.

Allow yourself to hear these words anew this year, this Christmas.  Can we allow these words to strike our ears with the gift of newness?  If we do, we may hear the story of God and God’s people sound wholly other-wordly to us.   And so they should.  Karl Barth described this as, “entering the strange new world of the Bible,” and it can sound quite strange. 

A man and a woman walking in a garden, and being tempted by a serpent, and disobeying their creator.  God promising to a very very old man who has no children that he will be given descendents like the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the earth, a prophet describing a child who will be born and who will redeem the world, visions of a great tree growing from a mere shoot, of wolves lying down with lambs, and a child will play nearby snakes. 

This is strange stuff, no?  And what of the strangest of all, of a child being born, in an occupied land, to an unwed mother among animals and straw, and then being visited by dirty shepherds and wild magicians from the East.  And this child, somehow, in some way, is the child who will redeem the world!  This child, this child will save the world!?

This is a strange story, and it is a story that stands in sharp contrast to the various other stories in our world.  This story is a story of God’s work triumphing over all.  This story is a story of impossible figures and plot turns.  This story is a story of hope overcoming all hopelessness.  This story is a story that stands up against the stories of alienation and separation and fear and hatred, which tend to dominate the daily airwaves.  This story of the long journey of God’s people, culminating in the birth God as a child, Jesus, in the midst of the everyday and ordinary chaos of life, is a story that we desperately need to hear. 

When we overly sanitize the story we miss out on its ultimate strangeness.  When we dive into the story and have ears to hear, we may, in fact, hear that this is a story of God conquering over every human doubt.  This is a story of God coming among us, and within us, and being born, so that we too, might be born anew. 

Jesus said, I have come so that you might have life, and have it abundantly!  Abundance!  Gift!  Jesus has come as the gift of God.  God has given himself as a gift to us.  In Jesus we encounter the most remarkable and fear-some (awe-some) gift.  All we can do, is round up our own petty gifts and lay them down, and hope that they might show God that we are thankful.  We round up our gold, our frankincense, our myrrh, and we hope that these inadequate gifts might show God that we recognize the great gift that God has given us. 

This story recounts the long journey of God’s people, from Genesis, through the Prophets, to the Gospels, and we sing praises to God for all we have received, and we pray that we too, might offer our own chapter to this great narrative.  We hope that our own voices raised in song and praise might show forth our love for God, and our recognition that all God has done for us.  We hope that our voices raised in song will cast out the fear that resides in us so that we might live the lives that God has given us.  We hope that through the retelling of these strange stories and the raising of our voices we might truly live abundant lives knowing that our story is one of life, and love.


May we live in the light of God’s story this day, and forever! 

The Christmas Story - wonderful video

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Disturb us, Lord



Disturb us, Lord, 
when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
when our dreams have come true
because we have dreamed too little,
when we arrived safely
because we sailed too close to the shore.

- Sir Francis Drake

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"May the God of peace sanctify you entirely" - Sermon for Advent 3 - The Rev. Peter M. Carey




The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon preached at Emmanuel Episcopal Church 
Greenwood, VA
Advent 3, December 2011

“May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely.”

Are we ready to have our life stirred up? Are we ready for transformation?  Are we ready to prepare the way of the Lord?

Sometimes we think that we are not really ready for Advent and this is why we rush to Christmas.  However, Advent has great gifts for us. 

We would be missing out if we rushed the ending.  You see, Advent has these wonderfully challenging readings.  Today, we begin with this most excellent Collect of the day, “stir up your power.”  Are we really ready for God to stir things up?  Are we feeling relatively secure with the way that we have things brewing and simmering on our own stovetops?  Are we ready for the great master chef to enter into our world and start stirring up things in new ways, putting spices in our bland soups, heating up our lukewarm entrees, and throwing us into momentary spiritual turmoil?  Probably not.

God enters into this world at points through the voice of the prophets, who definitely stir things up.  Isaiah appears and is anointed by God, to bring “good news to the oppressed,” “release to the captives,” “comforting all who mourn” “repairing ruined cities.”  This would stir things up, good news to the poorest of the poor – which might mean that those of us who are not the poorest of the poor may have to give up some of our material goods, some of our myth of security.  Release to the captives would mean that those we consider to be guilty would need to be not only forgiven, but reenter society. 

How does this stir it up stuff sound to you?  Isaiah also shouts praises to God, and has become fully enmeshed in God’s presence, in God’s glory, in God’s hope.  “My whole being will exult in my God,” and I will be wearing garments of salvation, and a robe of righteousness!  What if the stirring up that God is doing will enable even us, in our somewhat placid and bland and lukewarm lives, to be spicier, to be heated up, and to be thrust into spiritual turmoil, but with the reward that “our whole beings will exult in God!”  I want some of that cooking, how about you?

“Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy!”

“Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.” 

How wonderful is this?  How crazy are these words, written so long ago, and inscribed in millions of Bibles around the world.  Those who sowed with tears, who planted while in mourning, who bent low to prepare the ground and put seeds into the earth, watering the seeds with their salty tears…these same folks will receive the fruits of these seeds and sing with Joy!  How could this be?  How does this God turn salty tears and small mustard seeds into great great trees of life.  How does this God turn our tears into Joy.  How does this God transform our weeping into song?

It is not ours to know the how.  But we do know the who. God does it.  As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always,” and how difficult this is, when we are sowing with tears, when we are going out weeping.  But Paul, no stranger to punishment, jail, and loneliness, claims “rejoice always”…”pray without ceasing” “give thanks”…”hold fast to what is good.”  And then he recognizes what might happen when God stirs things up.  He recognizes what happens to us when God enters into this world; even amidst our tears and weeping, even admidst our disappointment and loneliness. 

Like Isaiah, Paul believes that the entirety of our selves will become filled with God’s love.  Our entire selves, our minds, our souls, our bodies, our brains, our fingernails, our aching backs, our thinning hair, our weakening eyesight, all of it will be filled with God’s Spirit.  Paul prays, “May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely.”  This is the kind of stirring up that I can handle, even if the pots on my stove are going to be disturbed.  Perhaps I need some disturbing.  Perhaps I need some spice in the bland soup.  Perhaps I need my entrees warmed up.  Perhaps I need a whole new diet.  God will do it.  This is what “stir it up” Sunday is all about.  “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.”

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray you, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Remembering Merton ~ December 10, 1968



Thomas Merton's work and life became known to me at an important point in my own journey of faith. I have much to say about him and love so much of his work. I will blog more about him soon, but right now I am remembering this wonderful person who helped me to see some hidden richness in the tradition that is Christianity. Remembering him today with love and fondness.

~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey






Thomas Merton - Dec 10 - "we are not converted only once"






"We are not converted only once in our lives but many times. 
And it is this endless series of upheavals, large and small, 
which leads to our transformation in Christ." - Thomas Merton










































Whatever will be, will be





Caught by our own thoughts, 
we worry about everything.
But once we get drunk on that Love
Whatever will be, will be.
Rumi ♥

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Advent - Day 1 "leaning into Advent"

First Sunday in Advent, and First Day of Advent


Daily Readings
Psalm 146    Isaiah 1: 1-9    2 Peter 3: 1-10    Matthew 25: 1-13

Sunday Readings

Leaning into Advent


When we read the lessons for this first day of Advent in the Daily Office, we see that they each describe a state of leaning.  The image for me is one of leaning forward, leaning into the future, leaning towards something that we might not quite see or know just yet, but leaning nonetheless.  The lesson from Isaiah (1: 1-9) describes the beginning of his vision which describes the destruction of his time - "cities burned with fire; in your very presence aliens devour your land" - but which also names the fact that God has left "a few survivors," there in that desolate place.  Even in the midst of turmoil and destruction, God has left a green shoot which will grow and thrive.  The image also points to our own time, time of trouble, time of turmoil, time of dissention, time of dividing differences.  But we should be reminded that God has provided a green shoot, a bit of hope even in the midst of chaos and change - and a bit of hope is all that is needed.  A bit of faith is all that is needed.

Also in the 2nd letter of Peter we hear words that offer the image of leaning, a leaning forward to a time when Christ will return.  The feet are firmly planted, but the body leans forward in hope and faith to a time of judgment, a time of reckoning, when God will return.  And this time will come "like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire."  All things will change, something new will happen, gloriously new, and we shall be filled with awe.  Our leaning forward in this time of Advent leads us into the deep understanding that God will break in upon this world in a new way, and also, incredibly, that God is always breaking into this world in a new way.

This new way of God breaking into the world should put us into a state of wakefulness, of mindfulness, of deep awareness.  The gospel of Matthew tells the story of the 10 wise bridesmaids who are ready, and are leaning forward into the future, they are ready for the groom who will return at any minute. The sense of waiting in anticipation, with expectation, is charged with the knowledge that God is always becoming known to us in new ways, are we really ready?  "Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

These Advent readings help us to lean forward into a state of eager anticipation and expectation.  Get ready!

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Advent – Putting on the armor of light




With the arrival of December 1st, we are now into the first week of Advent.  It is a time of busy-ness all around us.  Families gathering, shopping to do, decorating, an increase in social obligations, work parties, community parties, school parties – is this true for you as well?  It is also a time of increasing darkness as we move toward the shortest days of the year just before Christmas breaks in with all of its light and life. 

With all this busy-ness, and all of this activity, we may feel bombarded with “to do” lists, and also with the sense that there is a disconnect between the spirituality of Advent and the reality of the “holiday season.”

A helpful balm in the midst of this busy time is our Collect for the first Sunday of Advent.  Some of you might have missed hearing the Collect if you were away for the Sunday just after Thanksgiving, but it is perhaps my favorite Collect of the entire church year:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

We pray that in this time of Advent that we would “cast away the works of darkness,” that, even in this busy time, with all the temptations to be “of the world,” we know that God is giving us grace.  In this time, we know that God is empowering us to find time to reflect, to ponder as Mary did, to seek to go deep, and also to remember God in the midst of the blitz of the holiday shopping season.

We pray that we would put on “the armor of light,” which is a fascinating image, one in which we use our own deep hope and joy to create a physical protection around ourselves.  However, this protection is not merely defensive, rather, like light itself, it fills the world with the light of Christ.  If you have read Harry Potter, this is something like (in my thinking) the notion of a patronus, which is a figure of light and life which emerges from our own positive thoughts of joy and hope.  This patronus or armor of light casts away the works of darkness, and all the things of this world which can steal away our hope and joy and love.

And so, I pray that even in the midst of the increasing darkness of these days, we all might find new ways to “put on an armor of light,” or (if you like) to push out our own patronuses into the world, projecting light, and hope and joy and peace and love into a world that is in such desperate need of them.  As we walk the ways of Advent, we prepare for the coming of the one true light, and we do not walk alone, for our armor is not merely protection for us, but is projected outward, and together we will fill even the darkest places with the light that God has provided.

Peter+

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rekindle the light

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by
a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to
think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted
the flame within us." ~ Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

God entices us through love





God always entices us through love.

"Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change. If the mystics say that one way, they say it a thousand ways. But because most of our common religion has not been at the mystical level, we’ve been given an inferior message—that God loves me when I change (moralism). What that does is put it back on you. You’re back to “navel-gazing,” and you never succeed at that level. You are never holy enough, pure enough, refined enough, or loving enough. Whereas, when you fall into God’s mercy, when you fall into God’s great generosity, you find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change. No one is more surprised than you are. You know it is a gift."

~Richard Rohr

God entices us through love




God always entices us through love.

"Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change. If the mystics say that one way, they say it a thousand ways. But because most of our common religion has not been at the mystical level, we’ve been given an inferior message—that God loves me when I change (moralism). What that does is put it back on you. You’re back to “navel-gazing,” and you never succeed at that level. You are never holy enough, pure enough, refined enough, or loving enough. Whereas, when you fall into God’s mercy, when you fall into God’s great generosity, you find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change. No one is more surprised than you are. You know it is a gift."

~Richard Rohr

Monday, November 14, 2011

Do churches want transformation?

"But recalling that Jesus himself was unable to transform the Temple establishment of his day, and remembering that Paul was run out of a good many more synagogues than he was welcome in, I'm not sure that any amount of training can equip seminarians for transformation in churches that are quite happy with how they are—or were, thank you very
much."


~Brian McLaren

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It's a great gift, to have a sense of the presence and the love of a personal God in your life. ~ Bishop Budde








‎"What I appreciate most about the tradition that is mine is the person of Jesus, the example of his life, the power of his teaching and the mystical presence of the risen Christ that is the spiritual foundation of Christianity. It's a great gift, to have a sense of the presence and the love of a personal God in your life."
~ Bishop Budde of the Diocese of Washington

It's a great gift, to have a sense of the presence and the love of a personal God in your life. ~ Bishop Budde






‎"What I appreciate most about the tradition that is mine is the person of Jesus, the example of his life, the power of his teaching and the mystical presence of the risen Christ that is the spiritual foundation of Christianity. It's a great gift, to have a sense of the presence and the love of a personal God in your life."
~ Bishop Budde of the Diocese of Washington

On mission - Post 2: Elizabeth Drescher

While I am working through thoughts on Mission, I thought Elizabeth Drescher's piece at Episcopal Cafe provided good food for thought, as well as the 20+ comments posted there in response.

Do we struggle with "singing a new song" in the church?  How so?  When I think of Jesus, I don't think of someone who was merely thinking about playing the "old standards"...he seemed to be pushing us beyond the same old same old.  However, we are often seeking the security of nostalgia for its own sake.  Is this what God is calling us to?  Is this what the Holy Spirit is empowering us to be?






The Church's Mission, Let's be honest
by Elizabeth Drescher posted at Episcopal Cafe

You know, I sometimes wonder whether the Israelites heard the call of the psalm we read today as I sometimes do: "Sing to the Lord a new song...? Really?"

I mean, let's be honest, even in the most literal sense, we struggle with this idea, resisting in our churches music that might nudge us even ever so slightly out of the nineteenth century. Oh, I'm not talking here about going all "U2-charist," or bringing in hip hop hymns that'll get the young folks dancing before the Lord. After all, we know that the few thriving emergent communities in our church are more likely to sing songs from the Middle Ages--a little Gregorian Chant, a remix of Hildegard of Bingen, or, to modernize just a smidge, some shape note tunes--than they are to be jamming to the spiritual stylings of Gospel Ganstaz. But they are singing those old songs in a new way--inhabiting them bodily, infusing them with a spirit that is often missing from our churches, truly "lifting every voice" in glorious praise.

Outside of these communities--the Crossing at St. Paul's Cathedral in Boston, Open Cathedral at St. Mark's in Seattle, Thad's in Los Angeles, Transmission in New York--"singing a new song" has, in the least nuanced, least metaphorical way, been something of a challenge for us.

And that makes me worry about how far along God's path we may be able to travel these days as we seek to realize the peaceable kingdom Isaiah prophesied. If we can't get the theme song down, what chance do we have to be so much as bit players in the whole new cosmic drama--the heartwarming story of true love realized across the earth that, as Paul reminds us, Jesus narrated with his life, death, and resurrection?

Of course, Paul points in his letter to the Ephesians to what throws us off tune in our efforts to sing a new, harmonious song, to live as one diverse body: barriers and the hostilities they cause among us. What do these barriers look like in our church in particular? If you've just lept in your mind to things like women's ordination or diverse opinions on human sexuality, I'm going to suggest that you guess again . . . 

Read the rest HERE

On mission - Post 2: Elizabeth Drescher

While I am working through thoughts on Mission, I thought Elizabeth Drescher's piece at Episcopal Cafe provided good food for thought, as well as the 20+ comments posted there in response.

Do we struggle with "singing a new song" in the church?  How so?  When I think of Jesus, I don't think of someone who was merely thinking about playing the "old standards"...he seemed to be pushing us beyond the same old same old.  However, we are often seeking the security of nostalgia for its own sake.  Is this what God is calling us to?  Is this what the Holy Spirit is empowering us to be?






The Church's Mission, Let's be honest
by Elizabeth Drescher posted at Episcopal Cafe

You know, I sometimes wonder whether the Israelites heard the call of the psalm we read today as I sometimes do: "Sing to the Lord a new song...? Really?"

I mean, let's be honest, even in the most literal sense, we struggle with this idea, resisting in our churches music that might nudge us even ever so slightly out of the nineteenth century. Oh, I'm not talking here about going all "U2-charist," or bringing in hip hop hymns that'll get the young folks dancing before the Lord. After all, we know that the few thriving emergent communities in our church are more likely to sing songs from the Middle Ages--a little Gregorian Chant, a remix of Hildegard of Bingen, or, to modernize just a smidge, some shape note tunes--than they are to be jamming to the spiritual stylings of Gospel Ganstaz. But they are singing those old songs in a new way--inhabiting them bodily, infusing them with a spirit that is often missing from our churches, truly "lifting every voice" in glorious praise.

Outside of these communities--the Crossing at St. Paul's Cathedral in Boston, Open Cathedral at St. Mark's in Seattle, Thad's in Los Angeles, Transmission in New York--"singing a new song" has, in the least nuanced, least metaphorical way, been something of a challenge for us.

And that makes me worry about how far along God's path we may be able to travel these days as we seek to realize the peaceable kingdom Isaiah prophesied. If we can't get the theme song down, what chance do we have to be so much as bit players in the whole new cosmic drama--the heartwarming story of true love realized across the earth that, as Paul reminds us, Jesus narrated with his life, death, and resurrection?

Of course, Paul points in his letter to the Ephesians to what throws us off tune in our efforts to sing a new, harmonious song, to live as one diverse body: barriers and the hostilities they cause among us. What do these barriers look like in our church in particular? If you've just lept in your mind to things like women's ordination or diverse opinions on human sexuality, I'm going to suggest that you guess again . . . 

Read the rest HERE

Life




"Life must be understood backwards. But it must be lived forward." -Soren Kierkegaard

Friday, November 11, 2011

My thoughts are not your thoughts


Canticle 10 The Second Song of Isaiah
Quaerite Dominum Isaiah 55:6-11

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; *
call upon him when he draws near.

Let the wicked forsake their ways *
and the evil ones their thoughts;

And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion, *
and to our God, for he will richly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, *
nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, *
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as rain and snow fall from the heavens *
and return not again, but water the earth,

Bringing forth life and giving growth, *
seed for sowing and bread for eating,

So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; *
it will not return to me empty;

But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, *
and prosper in that for which I sent it.

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Do churches want transformation?

"But recalling that Jesus himself was unable to transform the Temple establishment of his day, and remembering that Paul was run out of a good many more synagogues than he was welcome in, I'm not sure that any amount of training can equip seminarians for transformation in churches that are quite happy with how they are—or were, thank you very
much."


~Brian McLaren

What is Mission? - post #1

We hear the word "mission" thrown around a lot. What does it mean? What is its theoretical or theological definition? What is its "working definition"?

This first post is consciously not taken from the Bible. (We'll get there.)   In part, this is because I think that the word "mission" has been used and overused by corporations, schools, organizations and teams so that the notion of having a mission tied to the higher purposes of God is one that is more quaint, and more theoretical / theological and perhaps not the "working definition" these days at all.  What are the working definitions of "mission" or "mission statement"... are we clear about what our mission is as a believer in Jesus Christ, is the church clear about her mission?  What are the competing missions?  How do vision and mission interact?

Good questions to begin to ponder, no?

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey


 Here is what Wikipedia says about mission statements:


"Mission statement


A mission statement is a statement of the purpose of a company or organization. The mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a path, and guide decision-making. It provides "the framework or context within which the company's strategies are formulated."[1] Historically it is associated with Christian religious groups; indeed, for many years, a missionary was assumed to be a person on a specifically religious mission. The word "mission" dates from 1598, originally of Jesuits sending ("missio", Latin for "act of sending") members abroad.[2]


The vision and the mission statements are often confused with one another, and some organizations even use them interchangeably. In simple terms, the mission is the organization's reason for existence, and vision is what it wants to be."



Monday, November 07, 2011

Be the blessed! ~ All Saints Day Sermon ~ 6 November 2011 ~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey


The Rev. Peter M. Carey
6 November 2011
All Saints Day Sermon
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
Greenwood, Virginia

We are one fellowship, we are one body, we are the great multitude, we are blessed, we are the children of God.

The readings today are in the present tense.  They describe what is.  They describe the deep and abiding mystery and mystical vision of God ever breaking into this very world.  God is with us, and God abides with us, and God is present now, in this present time.  Christ has lived, and was made known in the person of Jesus in Nazareth, Galilee, and Capernaum, but Christ is alive, alive now among us, within us, enlivening us and empowering us.

It can be easy to overly intellectualize and criticize the words of scripture, and get some emotional distance from them.  “Well” we say in our authoritarian voice, the writer of the Psalms was talking about a particular moment during David’s reign.  Or, we note that the writer of 1 John was, “speaking metaphorically about the notion of us being the children of God, when surely he was merely offering pastoral care and a fanciful vision of hope to a restless community.”  We can fall into the trap of talking so much about God that we forget that God is alive, that God is amidst us God is within us and we are his holy people, a royal priesthood.  We are the saints in light.

The readings today are in the present tense in the sense that while they may be talking about times past, or times future, they are also talking about the time in the present.  The present moment is here for us, it is the only moment that we truly have.  While we hope for joy in the future, lest not our hope for the future cloud the joy amidst us in this moment – this holy moment. 

If you are anything like me, you probably find yourself spending a good deal of time in the past – past glory, past hurts, past relationships, revisiting the moments of the past and considering their goodness, and the ways that they were lacking.  You may also find yourself thinking about the future, planning, hoping, considering the stresses that may impact us in the future.  Do you do this? Does this strike a chord?  Our Bible also does this, of course.  We look to the past, to the story of creation, to the stories of figures such as David, and Ruth, and Esther, and Abraham, and all the rest.  Also, our Bible gives us visions of a future – perhaps the visions of the Psalms, or perhaps also the letters of John and also Revelation offer up visions of a future that we can barely imagine.





However, the Bible also breaks open the present, and while the past and the future are important – knowing where we have been and where we are going are key – however, if we don’t know where we are, we are lost.  We must remember that we encounter God in the present moment.  Think of Moses, walking through the wilderness, what if he didn’t turn aside in the present moment to see the burning bush, what if he was so wrapped up in the pain of the past?  What if he was so longing for the future that he forgot to be observant about God’s presence in the present?  Well, Moses had to be present for God’s presence to be seen. 

Are you ready to see God in the present?  Are we ready to see that we are truly blessed?  Are we ready to truly encounter God in this tremendous moment?  Are we ready to encounter the mystical and reality of God in our lives? 

The psalmist reminds us, “bless the Lord at all times, glory in the Lord, be radiant!”  BE RADIANT!  BE RADIANT.  Are we radiant, or are we borrowing trouble from the future. 

“Taste and see that the Lord is good, happy are those who trust in him.”  Taste and see!  TASTE AND SEE.  The psalmist does not say, “fast today so that you might lose a few pounds and God may reveal himself to you tomorrow.”  No.  “Taste and see!”  Are you tasting it, are you seeing it?  Perhaps we need to cleanse our spiritual taste buds and clear off our lenses. 

Of course, we have been promised much by God, but we also have been made children of God.  Christ has thrown open the doors.  Where the gates were closed, locked, with a passcode for solely a few, Christ has busted down the doors to the House of God.  We have been made children of God, we are ALREADY children of God.  “We are God’s children now” says the letter of 1 John.  “WE ARE GOD’s CHILDREN NOW.”  You see, we don’t need to wait, we don’t need to postpone joy.  Of course, more has been promised to us, “What we will be has not been revealed, …[but] we will be like him!” 

You see, the blessings have already begun, and are present now. Jesus knew this when he enacted what he commanded.  He became the gift that he spoke abouty.  He became the Good News that he proclaimed.  When Jesus said “Blessed are….” He was not offering a word of hope.  When Jesus said, “Blessed are…” he was not offering mere reassurance.  Nope, he was creating blessing through his words.  Remember when God created all that is, and spoke the words “let there be light” and there was light.  Jesus, too, creates through his words.  And the blessing that Jesus offers is the blessing that creates a holy people, a communion of saints, the children of God, empowered to breathe life and hope and peace into even this present moment.  A people who will not be living merely in the past, and a people that will not be borrowing trouble from the future.  In Christ’s blessing, a holy people is created who are able to live and breathe and offer hope in this present moment – and we are they.


We are the children of God.  We are the blessed.  We are to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  We are the ones who are “happy because we trust in him.” 

And so, we are the saints of God, “patient and brave and true,” we are the ones who can and do make a difference in this world.  We are the ones who are blessed, who no longer need to worry, who no longer need to fear anything, because we fear only God (we are in awe of God), and God has blessed us, and promised us mercy and love.

We have been given “ineffable joys.”  What does this mean?  I have no idea, but it must be grand.  It must be wonderful.  We have been blessed with “ineffable joys” in our lives, do we have eyes to see.  Can we take a moment and see and “ineffable joys” granted to us?

God is with us, and God abides with us, and God is present now, in this present time.  Christ has lived, and was made known in the person of Jesus in Nazareth, Galilee, and Capernaum, but Christ is alive, alive now among us, within us, enlivening us and empowering us.

So, Be Radiant! Be the Blessed!