Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A CHRISTMAS PRAYER WITH SEVEN WORDS


A CHRISTMAS PRAYER WITH SEVEN WORDS
We remember the Magi,
Observers of stars,
Evidence-based seekers
Who found their way to kneel before a baby.
May we, too, kneel before life’s intricate mysteries
Following the path of science-based searchers for truth
We remember Mary,
Birth-mother of a revolutionary prophet
The fetus in her womb a surprise,
Her choice a decision to magnify her hope,
The birth difficult,
Attended by a beautiful diversity of animals,
And a rag-tag gathering of vulnerable people.
May we too, kneel at the cradle of earth’s dreams for peace
And dedicate ourselves to revolutionary love.
We remember Joseph,
Unexpectant father,
Who embraced the baby as his own
Believing that every child has a God-given entitlement to love and care.
May we too, stand by the women and children of this world
When patriarchal privilege and power threaten their freedom
And put their well-being at risk.
We remember the Angels
Singing in a cold night to the over-taxed poor,
Promising peace and goodwill to all.
May we echo their song in acts of solidarity and justice
For all souls—refugee souls, green souls, disabled souls,
Black souls, young souls, transgender souls.
May we join the bold, holy movement
To bring heaven to earth.
May the Morning Star brighten our hope for a new day,
And may laughter strengthen all our prayers. AMEN
-- Prayer offered on December 17, 2017 by Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, Theologian in Residence, All Souls Church Unitarian, Washington, DC

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!




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.

Merry Christmas!




May Almighty God, who sent his Son to take our nature upon him, bless you in this holy season, scatter the darkness of sin, and brighten your heart with the light of his holiness. Amen.

May God, who sent his angels to proclaim the glad news of the Savior’s birth, fill you with joy, and make you heralds of the Gospel. Amen.

May God, who in the Word made flesh joined heaven to earth and earth to heaven, give you his peace and favor. Amen.


And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you for ever. Amen.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey Christmas Eve Sermon 25 December 2017



The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Christmas Eve Sermon
24 December 2017

May Almighty God, who sent his Son to take our nature upon him, bless you in this holy season, scatter the darkness of sin, and brighten your heart with the light of his holiness. Amen.

May God, who sent his angels to proclaim the glad news of the Savior’s birth, fill you with joy, and make you heralds of the Gospel. Amen.

May God, who in the Word made flesh joined heaven to earth and earth to heaven, give you his peace and favor. Amen.

The scene painted in our minds eye depicted by St. Luke is a powerful one.  The scene we have imagined many times on this blessed evening as we recount the story of Jesus birth.  In the midst of an occupied land, with the threat of Imperial power, a mother and a father bring a baby into the world, a vulnerable trio in the midst of this place.  Not in an Inn, but rather out in the manger, the shed, the barn, instead of nurses or doctors or midwives or doulas, they are surrounded by animals.  Of course the visitors who arrive are equally unlikely, shepherds from the fields with their sheep, and a retinue of the heavenly host of angels, and finally, most improbably they receive visitors from the East.  An incredible and shocking scene.  The hope for the world swaddled in bands of cloth in a barn, in the midst of the troubles and challenges of the world - in the midst of this place - JOY -  in the midst of this time - HOPE - in the midst of these visitors - LOVE.  

The first creche was created by St. Francis of Assisi, who thought that this would be a wonderful way to retell the story of the Birth of Jesus, and also help people to see and experience the story in a real and tangible way.  The goal was not to highlight mere sentimentality, but rather to make clear the reality of the Incarnation, the real way that God became human, and that this incarnation was not a one-time moment, but because of the nativity of Jesus, and his presence among us, the incarnation is a present reality for all time.  

We sing, “Love came down at Christmas”, and this love was not merely for those who witnessed the birth of Jesus those two thousand years ago, but also for us here today, and everyday.  God’s love was so full, so powerful, so overflowing that the love poured out here among us.  While Francis is often solely remembered for his love of animals, he was deeply orthodox and grounded in his understanding of the incarnation, of Emmanuel, “God with us.”

As we consider the Incarnation on this rich and holy night, we might also adopt the mind of Mary, who “pondered these things in her heart.”  These profound and wonderful words give us a model of response to the events surrounding Jesus birth.  Ponder them, consider them, pray on them, hold them gently, allow your heart to enter into the overflowing love of God, sit with this moment, and ponder it.  

The first creche must have been an amazing thing to experience, can you imagine the good folks of Assisi happening upon this birth scene of Jesus, and not merely as a painting on a church wall, but in tangible, three-dimensional form.  Happening upon the nativity scene in the crowded streets of Assisi must have been shocking and surprising, not unlike the birth of Jesus itself.  

If you have ever visited a life-size nativity scene, or if you have ever played a role in a Christmas Pageant, you might have experienced the powerful sense of this story.  I, myself, have played several roles in Christmas Pageants over the years.  Beginning as a donkey with a smelly papier-mache mask over my head, I was terrified that I would make a mistake - and, I believe it was my first time being up in front of people in church.  Through the years, I was a shepherd, a magi, Joseph, and finally a narrator, the voice of Luke, telling the story from the lectern as it came to life in that church nave.  How about you, where do you imagine yourself in the scene?

Not merely seeing the scene on a screen or on the wall of a church, but experiencing the scene in such a way that there might be a place for you in the manger.  Where might you be standing?  Perhaps a lowly animal, though humble, still very nearby the baby.  There is room for you there.  

Perhaps a visiting shepherd, straight from work, dirty, hungry, smelly, and yet, there is room for you as well.  

Perhaps a guest at the inn, leaving the inn for a walk, and hearing noises, you walk around back where you see a most amazing sight, animals, shepherds, a man, a woman, a baby in a manger.  What is this?  There is room for you, too.  

Perhaps you are from far away, and you are a person of science, of facts, not faith, of observation, not imagination.  But here you are, incredibly.   There is room for you.  There is room for all of us, and, amazingly, even though there is room for us, there is room for us to welcome more.  We each have a front seat in the theater, a courtside seat to see the event, there is a prime seat for you, and there are seats for us all.  We sit, we experience the Joy, the Hope, the Love, which has come alive.  There is room for all to sit and ponder.  There are no turf wars while pondering.  There is no resentment over who sits where.  There is no jealousy but only welcome and hospitality.  We may pray, “Where two or three are gathered in his name, he will be in the midst of us,” but in the midst of the Lord, there is room for all.   As we ponder, as we worship, we are one with one another.  In the light of the Love of God we are enlivened by one another, we are made whole through one another while Christ is among us, and within us.  

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Rev. Peter M. Carey 4th Advent - Sermon 24 December 2017




The Rev. Peter M. Carey
4th Advent - Sermon
24 December 2017

St. Augustine begins his “Confessions” with the important notion that we are restless until we find rest in God.  
'Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.'
~Augustine of Hippo

To be at home, to be at rest is a theme that echoes throughout the Hebrew scriptures.  On the seventh day of the creation of the universe, even God rested, and in so doing, God blessed the Sabbath, and blessed us with the real gift of being at home, at rest.  Later, when God speaks to David about establishing a house and a home, the Lord hints at three meanings, at least.  

  • The meaning is about a literal “place” where God may abide,
  • but also the establishment of a home for his chosen people,
  • and also an establishment of the “house and lineage” of David.

Of course, even the casual reader may note the juxtaposition of the house of the Lord, the Temple, which was built by David and Solomon but then God’s own son, Jesus being born into a place that was no house at all.

The house of the Lord built by David and Solomon was heavily stratified, there were many many doors, many thresholds to cross.  Many many requirements for followers of Yahweh.

Then we have the story of Jesus from the first chapter of John.  Followers of John the Baptist ask Jesus: “Where are you staying, where to you abide?”  Jesus responds with a deeper answer than merely where he was staying the night, instead, he answers with the verb which signifies a deeper sense of abide - that is, where will they find Jesus, where will they experience the depth of his being, where will the encounter the living God.  He answers, “Come and See”. Jesus is the master inviter who tells these followers to, “come and see” where I abide.  Come and see!

“The Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

The place where Jesus abides is a place open to us.  Of course, the word abide is very similar to the word abode – home, household, a place of rest, refreshment, welcome, safety, hospitality, gratitude, thanksgiving, and repentance and conversion.

To abide is to be present, to really “be” in a place, not to just pass through, but to really stay there.   To abide in a place means that we also need to abide with the folks around us.  To abide with someone is to really be with them.  When we are given the present of another’s presence we feel the blessing of that person, but also, through them, we can feel Christ’s presence in our lives.

Of course, to be fully present with another when they are in pain, suffering, or heartache can be quite a challenge.   So, the word abide signals a timeless quality of place – where Jesus abides is that timeless and eternal place where we might “come and see” the blessing that God has given us. Abiding in a place can point to the abode where God lives – the place that is open to us, if we cultivate the awareness of God’s presence.  The word points to a sense of timeless presence, the gift of abiding alongside someone; the gift of presence to those in need, those in heartache, those in suffering.

As we eat follow Jesus’ command to “eat my flesh and drink my blood” we do “abide in him, and he in us.”  Christ has given us the gift of the real presence of him in our lives.  We partake of the “bread that came down from heaven” and “the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

We pray today, “Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself.”

We abide in Christ and Christ abides in us.  We are given “rest for our souls.”  Through the gift of the Eucharist we are offered the gift of God’s presence in our lives.  We are made one with God, and he is one with us.  We are made one with God, we are also made one with one another.  We also offer each other the gift of invitation, the gift of hospitality to others.  And, so we offer others the gift of presence, of healing, of caregiving, for we are one in the Spirit with God, and one in the Spirit with one another.

'Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.'
~Augustine of Hippo

Monday, December 18, 2017

Do not be quick to anger, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.


Ecclesiastes 7
A good name is better than precious ointment,
    and the day of death, than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting;
for this is the end of everyone,
    and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
    for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning;
    but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise
    than to hear the song of fools.
For like the crackling of thorns under a pot,
    so is the laughter of fools;
    this also is vanity.
Surely oppression makes the wise foolish,
    and a bribe corrupts the heart.
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning;
    the patient in spirit are better than the proud in spirit.
Do not be quick to anger,
    for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.
10 Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
11 Wisdom is as good as an inheritance,
    an advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
    and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to the one who possesses it.
13 Consider the work of God;
    who can make straight what he has made crooked?
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider; God has made the one as well as the other, so that mortals may not find out anything that will come after them.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gaudete



Gaudete, by Brad Reynolds
Because Christmas is almost here
Because dancing fits so well with music
Because inside baby clothes are miracles.
Gaudete
Because some people love you
Because of chocolate
Because pain does not last forever
Because Santa Claus is coming.
Gaudete
Because of laughter
Because there really are angels
Because your fingers fit your hands
Because forgiveness is yours for the asking
Because of children
Because of parents.
Gaudete
Because the blind see.
And the lame walk.
Gaudete
Because lepers are clean
And the deaf hear.
Gaudete
Because the dead will live again
And there is good news for the poor.
Gaudete
Because of Christmas
Because of Jesus
You rejoice.


"Gaudete," which is the Latin word for "rejoice," is the Third Sunday in Advent.


Saturday, December 09, 2017

Friday, December 08, 2017

On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry



On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry

On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh;
Come, then, and hearken, for he brings
Glad tidings from the King of kings!
Then cleansed be every breast from sin;
Make straight the way for God within;
Prepare we in our hearts a home,
Where such a mighty Guest may come.
For Thou art our Salvation, Lord,
Our Refuge, and our great Reward.
Without Thy grace our souls must fade
And wither like a flower decayed.
Stretch forth Thine hand, to heal our sore,
And make us rise and fall no more;
Once more upon Thy people shine,
And fill the world with love divine.
To Him Who left the throne of Heaven
To save mankind, all praise be given;
Like praise be to the Father done,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One.



 Tune: Winchester New (1690) | Words: Charles Coffin

Glorify the LORD!




Canticle 12 A Song of Creation Song of the Three Young Men, 35-65

Benedicite, omnia opera Domini

Invocation

Glorify the Lord, all you works of the Lord,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

I The Cosmic Order

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord,*
O heavens and all waters above the heavens.
Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew,*
all winds and fire and heat.
Winter and Summer, glorify the Lord,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold,*
drops of dew and flakes of snow.
Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O nights and days,*
O shining light and enfolding dark.
Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

II The Earth and its Creatures

Let the earth glorify the Lord,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O mountains and hills,
and all that grows upon the earth,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O springs of water, seas, and streams,*
O whales and all that move in the waters.

All birds of the air, glorify the Lord,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O beasts of the wild,*
and all you flocks and herds.

O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

III The People of God

Let the people of God glorify the Lord,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O priests and servants of the Lord,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O spirits and souls of the righteous,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
You that are holy and humble of heart, glorify the Lord,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Doxology

Let us glorify the Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord,*
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Monday, December 04, 2017