28 January 2012

It is not the critic who counts...

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

06 January 2012

T.S. Eliot reads Journey of the Magi

T.S. Eliot reads Journey of the Magi

T.S. Eliot's Journey of the Magi

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, 
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the 
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and 
And running away, and wanting their
     liquor and women, 
And the night-fires going out, and the 
     lack of shelters, 
And the cities hostile and the towns 
And the villages dirty and charging high
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all 
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, 
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a 
     temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of 
With a running stream and a water-mill
     beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped in 
     away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with 
     vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for 
     pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no imformation, and so
     we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment
     too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say)

All this was a long time ago, I 
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This:  were we led all that way for
Birth or Death?  There was a Birth, 
We had evidence and no doubt.  I had 
     seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; 
     this Birth was 
Hard and bitter agony for us, like 
     Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these
But no longer at ease here, in the old 
With an alien people clutching their 
I should be glad of another death.


O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the Peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

05 January 2012

A people in darkness

A people in darkness: today I see before me the millions of the imprisoned, the exiled, the deported, the tortured and the silenced everywhere in the world where people are pushed into this darkness. The important point is not the nations, which can be accused of these things. What is important is the worldwide brotherhood of men and women who are living in darkness. For it is on them that this divine light now shines.

Jurgen Moltmann: The Power of the Powerless

02 January 2012

Christmas Day Sermon - "Good tidings of great joy!"

Christmas Day Sermon
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
25 December 2011
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Greenwood, VA

Advent reminds us that much of our life is lived in expectation and preparation.  We learn in school, we practice our musical instruments, we don our running gear and hit the roads, we read parenting books, we go to the gym, we make home improvements.  Advent reminds us that much of our life is lived in expectation and preparation.  But, Advent reminds us that we are awaiting Jesus bursting forth in our lives.  We await Jesus, and hope for the “peace which passes all understanding,” in our own lives, and in the life of the world. 

Our life is lived in expectation and preparation.   As a child, my brother and I would wait with great expectation for my grandparents to arrive on Christmas Eve.  Usually looking out the large window in our family room, seeing when their red car would come around the corner, carrying 20 varieties of cookies, wrapped presents, and all the makings for a Swedish Smorgasbord Christmas … Swedish meatballs, rice pudding (not my favorite).  We would wait, until finally, they would arrive, and this would kick off the celebration of Christmas, with all its joy and magic. 

Today, we recognize the arrival of God in our midst!  God has become incarnate in the baby Jesus! We rejoice!  We celebrate the glory that is God’s presence with us.  Today, and always! We recognize that the gift has been given.  We have received what we hoped for, and so much more.  The gift of God’s presence is the great present for us.  Jesus was born, but is born anew in us always. 

The familiar words of Luke’s gospel ring true for us this year and this day, and so it came to passall went to their own towns to be registered…He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child….she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn… “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy which shall be to all people, for to you is born in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

The story is familiar, but we still need to hear it, year after year.  On this day, we celebrate Jesus ‘s birth; the Gift of God’s presence in our lives. 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace, good will to all!”

Much of our lives is lived in expectation and preparation.  Much of our lives is lived in a half-awake existence, perhaps not even fully recognizing the gifts that are all around us.  Much like Ebenezer Scrooge, we don’t always recognize the gift of God’s presence in our very lives, in our very ordinary lives.  On this day, we celebrate the coming of God into our lives, we celebrate the unpacking of the presents from the overstuffed grandparents’ car, we celebrate the coming of dawn after the three ghosts of Christmas have visited.  On this day, we celebrate the wondrous gift that has been given, once, and always.  So, go to the tree and open the gift of Christmas present.  It is for you, and for me, and for the world.

“I am bringing you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people!”


Christmas Eve Sermon ~ "Let your light shine"

Christmas Eve Sermon
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Greenwood, VA
24 December 2011 – Isaiah 9:2-7

The darkness is gone, 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 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 ~ "This strange story" ~ Lessons & Carols

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Christmas Eve Sermon
Lessons and Carols Service
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Greenwood, VA

We have heard the glorious 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 heard an overview of this great story of God. 

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 orient and situate our lives. 

Like 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 of these stories, and song.

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, 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, this strange story of Jesus.  It is a story that stands in sharp contrast to the other stories 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 stands up against the stories of alienation and separation and fear and hatred, which dominate the daily airwaves.  This story of the long journey of God’s people, culminating in the birth of 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 depth and gift.  When we dive into the story and have ears to hear, we may 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.

“All things came into being through him, and without him not one things came into being.  What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”

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!