30 March 2013

An Easter Sermon, by St. John Chrysostom

An Easter Sermon
by St. John Chrysostom (347-407)

  If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
        If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.
            If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.

    If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.
        If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.
            If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.
                If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.
                    If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.

    For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first.

        He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious.
            He both honors the work and praises the intention.

    Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.
        O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy!
            O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day!

    You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today!
        The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you!
            The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!

    Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
        Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
            Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
                Let no one fear death, for the Saviour's death has set us free.

    He that was taken by death has annihilated it!
        He descended into Hades and took Hades captive!
            He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed: "Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions."

    It was embittered, for it was abolished!
        It was embittered, for it was mocked!
            It was embittered, for it was purged!
                It was embittered, for it was despoiled!
                    It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!

    It took a body and came upon God!
        It took earth and encountered heaven!
            It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?
  Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
        Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
            Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
                Christ is risen, and life reigns!
                    Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!

    For Christ, being raised from the dead,
has become the first-fruits of them that slept.
                        To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.

Easter Vigil

Almighty God, who for our redemption gave your only- begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. or this O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord's resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Holy Saturday

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

"he descended to the dead"

"he descended to the dead"

29 March 2013

Good Friday

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Good Friday Reflection by The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Here is my reflection on Good Friday, which is also posted at our church's Lenten Reflection Blog

Good Friday

Psalm 22 • Isaiah 52:13–53:12 • Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 • John 18:1–19:42

Last night Jesus asked his disciples to sit with him and pray. As difficult as that was, the moments of Good Friday are even more difficult, but also offer blessings as well. Can we sit with Jesus on this day? This day is a day to remember, reflect, pray, and yes, even grieve. As we know, grieving is a part of the process of life. Even though much of life is growth and abundance and hope, we also know there are so many necessary losses in life. To allow ourselves to grieve is essential for living abundant lives.

When Jesus said in John 10:10 that “I have come, so that you may have life, and have it abundantly,” he did not promise that it would all be tiptoeing through the tulips. As we find ourselves here, in this holy time of Good Friday, we are offered the opportunity to bring our grief, disappointment, fear, and pain to the cross.

We are offered the opportunity to unload our burdens here, and we are offered the opportunity to grieve our losses and sadness. We are offered the opportunity to grieve for those whom we carry in our hearts and minds.

On this day, this Good Friday, Jesus has taken up our grieving, has carried our pain, and has transformed it. Jesus takes it ALL up with him. The cross is the bridge from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, and Jesus carries the burden of suffering and death. While it may seem impossible, it is not. What is impossible for humankind is possible for God. The story might have ended here, but God had another end in mind. A glorious end. But the road to that end passes through this place, and this time, this cross—even as unbelievable as that may seem to much of the world! “What others meant for evil, God turned into good.”

The Rev. Peter Carey

28 March 2013

Last Supper Images ~ Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

27 March 2013

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, gives his thoughts on Holy Week.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, gives his thoughts on Holy Week.

"Holy Week is 'a week when we discover in a way we don't at any other time just we are and just who God is'."

Wednesday in Holy Week

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

26 March 2013

Peter Abelard’s prayer during Holy Week

Walking alone, Lord, you go to your sacrifice,
victim of death, and our death’s mighty conqueror.
What can we say to you, knowing our poverty,
you, who have freed us from sin and from slavery?
Ours are the sins, Lord, and we are the guilty ones,
you, in your innocence, take on our punishment;
grant that our spirits may share in your suffering,
may our compassion respond to your pardoning.
Three sacred days are the time of our sorrowing,
as we endure now the night of our heaviness,
until the morning restores to us joyfulness;
Christ, newly risen, brings gladness for tearfulness.
Grant us, O Lord, to take part in your suffering,
that we may share in your heavenly victory;
through these sad days living humbly and patiently,
may we at Eastertide see you smile graciously.
Peter Abelard’s prayer during Holy Week

Tuesday in Holy Week

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

25 March 2013

From a poem for the Monday before Easter, by John Keble

From a poem for the Monday before Easter, by John Keble:

“Father to me Thou art, and Mother dear,
And Brother too, kind Husband of my heart!”
So speaks Andromache in boding fear,
Ere from her last embrace her hero part—
So evermore, by Faith’s undying glow,
We own the Crucified in weal or woe.

Strange to our ears the church-bells of our home,
The fragrance of our old paternal fields 
May be forgotten; and the time may come
When the babe’s kiss no sense of pleasure yields
Even to the doting mother: but Thine own
Thou never canst forget, nor leave alone.

There are who sigh that no fond heart is theirs,
None loves them best—O vain and selfish sigh!
Out of the bosom of His love He spares—
The Father spares the Son, for thee to Die:
For thee He died—for thee He lives again:
O’er thee He watches in His boundless reign.

Thou art as much His care, as if beside
Nor man nor angel lived in Heaven or earth:
Thus sunbeams pour alike their glorious tide
To light up worlds, or wake an insect’s mirth:
They shine and shine with unexhausted store—
Thou art thy Saviour’s darling—seek no more.

From a poem for the Monday before Easter, in The Christian Year: Thoughts in Verse for the Sundays and Holydays Throughout the Year by John Keble (London: Suttaby and Co., 1883)

Monday in Holy Week

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

24 March 2013

Palm Sunday at St. Paul's Memorial Church, Charlottesville

Palm Sunday Sermon ~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey ~ 24 March 2013

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Palm Sunday Sermon ~ 24 March 2013
St. Paul’s Memorial Church, Charlottesville, VA

Enter the scene
Write your creed

There is no denying it, today’s gospel is difficult to read, and difficult to hear.  For us, and for Jesus’ disciples, the story reaches a high-pitched dramatic point this week, this week we call Holy, which, for me, on the surface seems anything but Holy.  Just as Good Friday seems, on the surface, to be anything but Good.  Today’s gospel, along with the story of this final week of Jesus’ week seems to be tempting us to deny it all.  Of course, we could rush beyond these 6 days and embrace the glory of the Easter Vigil and the hope of the Resurrection.  Of course we could, but somehow, we have chosen to be here, to hear the story, and in some ways to enter into this strangely Holy Week, culminating in the strangely Good of this Friday. 

Several weeks ago, on Ash Wednesday, we offered an invitation for you to observe a Holy Lent.  Today, I will invite us all to enter the great story of Holy Week. 

Enter into the story.  This week has deep riches to offer us, however, these riches, like most precious gems, are buried deep.  To find them, we must enter into the story, find an entry point so that we can experience this story anew.  The details of the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and these final days are specific and rich.  The gospels themselves slow down to a nearly excruciating pace and we are offered the difficult opportunity to enter the story anew.  This year, in our cycle of readings, we focus our lens upon Luke, however, all four gospels have gems to offer to us. 

Will you enter this story by focusing upon one character in the drama of the week?  What about a member of the crowd who on Jesus’ entry into baptism shouted “Hail,” but by the end of the week was shouting “crucify him”? 

What about entering the story as one of the women followers of Jesus who followed faithfully, who cared for him, who became disciples and apostles, even if the Gospels give them little air time?  What must have the week been like for them, as they prayed with Jesus, as they gathered with him, as they ate with him, and finally, as they witnessed the terrible crucifixion? [and later found the tomb empty]

And what about Peter, the one who seemed at many points to be the leader of this merry band, while at other points seemed to be about as clueless as one could be.  To focus the lens upon him this week, we see his humanity, his fear, and his denial of all of the love and teaching that Jesus had shown him.  Peter, who would be offered up as a central leader of the fledgling church after the Resurrection, is seen here in all of his failings, all of his humanity.  For a church that just last week enthroned a Pope in the Roman Catholic Tradition, and the Archbishop of Canterbury in our own Communion, Peter is seen as the patriarch of our church.  However, the Peter of Holy Week surely reminds us of the ways that the church is made up of faulty, flawed humans, and that God is the true Rock of the Church.
What about the more minor characters of Holy Week, what about the one who owned the donkey on whom Jesus rode, what about the ones who prepared the upper room, what about the Romans who nailed Jesus to the Cross, what about Ciaphas’s underlings who went along with his terrible verdicts.  Perhaps one way into this story is to place ourselves with these more minor characters, who are probably most like us, bit parts in the play, non-speaking roles who merely know when we enter and are somewhat confused about the larger drama.

A few years ago, the former Dean of Duke Chapel, Sam Wells wrote a marvelous book, “Power and Passion,” in which he explored several characters of Holy Week that we rarely explore in our Bible Studies or our Preaching.  These are the characters who enter the stage for a bit, who perhaps have a line or two, but then leave the scene, but who are particularly interesting .  Especially Joseph of Arimathea and Mrs. Pilate.  These characters seem to be followers of Jesus, but don’t quite embrace it fully.  Perhaps like many of us, not dramatically denying Christ or trying to protect Christ with the sword, but merely becoming half-way followers of Christ. 

Pontius Pilate, Barabbas, Joseph of Arimathea, Mrs. Pilate, Peter, Mary Magdalene

Wells explores the ways that some of these characters try to be followers of Jesus, “by night” and “privately,” but when the daylight comes, they are tentative at best, and the reader still wonders if they are followers at all. 

This week, we walk the way of Jesus, and even as we walk through the everyday lives of our week, we can also experience and enter into the drama of Holy Week.

This week, of course, is a week that dominates our Gospels, 8 chapters of Mark are devoted to Jesus’s turning to Jerusalem through the crucifixion, Matthews gospel, Luke’s gospel, John’s gospel.  This is a central story, the central story of the Christian faith.

And, of course we have stories in the church, stories from our Jewish heritage from the Old Testament; this is why we want our members of all ages to know the stories from the Bible.  The stories inform us.

Passover story…questions posed by youngest child…why do we know these stories.  And this story of Passover is one that many many people around the world find to be particularly hopeful.  Oppression is overcome.  … Liberation Theology …

For Jews:
The Shema is an affirmation of Judaism and a declaration of faith in one God. The obligation to recite the Shema is separate from the obligation to pray and a Jew is obligated to say Shema in the morning and at night (Deut. 6:7).
The first line of the Shema, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One" (Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad) (Deuteronomy 6:4) is repeated throughout the prayer services. It is said in the morning blessings, in the musaf Amidah of Shabbat and holidays, when the Torah is taken out of the Ark on Shabbat and holidays, as a bedtime prayer, as part of the deathbed confessional, and at various other times. (Shira Schoenberg, The Shema)
How well do you know the story?  Could you tell the story?  We are called to be disciples, to be apostles..apostolo … being sent into all the world.  What are we proclaiming by word an example?  How will you tell the story of this week.  How will you visualize and embody this story. 

How do you tell the story of your faith.  How do you speak about your faith?  How would you summarize your faith. 

The Maasai Creed is a creed composed in about 1960 by Western Christian missionaries for the Maasai, an indigenous African tribe of semi-nomadic people located primarily in Kenya and northern Tanzania. The creed attempts to express the essentials of the Christian faith within the Maasai culture.
We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created man and wanted man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the earth. We have known this High God in the darkness, and now we know him in the light. God promised in the book of his word, the Bible, that he would save the world and all nations and tribes.
We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing that the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He was buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from that grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.
We believe that all our sins are forgiven through him. All who have faith in him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love, and share the bread together in love, to announce the good news to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.  (From “The Need for Creeds” – “On Faith”)

New Zealand Prayer Book Creed
You, O God, are supreme and holy.
You create our world and give us life.
Your purpose overarches everything we do.
You have always been with us.
You are God.

You, O God, are infinitely generous,
good beyond all measure.
You came to us before we came to you.
You have revealed and proved
Your love for us in Jesus Christ,
Who lived and died and rose again.
You are God.

You, O God, are Holy Spirit.
You empower us to be your gospel in the world.
You reconcile and heal; you overcome death.
You are our God. We worship You.

This week, we are offered the opportunity to enter the story, this difficult but wonderful story.  We are offered and invitation to enter in this strangely Holy Week.  We are offered the gift, strange as it is, to be a follower of Jesus, even as he enters Jerusalem in glory, only to be denied and put on the cross.  Enter the story, and reflect upon your own understanding of this week, and of our faith in general. 

Enter the story, consider the story of this week, and then tell that story. 

“You, O God, are supreme and holy.
You create our world and give us life.
Your purpose overarches everything we do.
You have always been with us.
You are God.”

23 March 2013

Most people, most of the time (the perfect crowd fallacy) - from Seth Godin's blog

How might this reflection relate to church, and the ways that we "empower the saints for ministry in the world"?

Food for thought!

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Most people, most of the time (the perfect crowd fallacy)
Most people, most of the time, aren't creative, generous or willing to stand up and contribute worthwhile work to the community. At least not the contributions you're hoping for.
The myth of wikipedia is that, when given the chance, hordes of people stepped up and built it. In fact, 5,000 people contribute most of the value on the site.
The myth of ebooks is that now that anyone can publish, enormous numbers of people will use this new platform to create countless numbers of new classics. In fact, most self-published ebooks just aren't very good.
And the same is true for just about everything that's open. A few people do an enormous amount (non-profit volunteers, community organizations, online sites), a few people are vandals or merely taking what they can take, and the masses participate, but aren't at the heart of the project.
To dismiss the crowd is a huge mistake, though.
Here's the fascinating part, call it the golden shoulder: We have no idea in advance who the great contributors are going to be. We know that there's a huge cohort of people struggling outside the boundaries of the curated, selected few, but we don't know who they are.
That means that the old systems, the ones where just a few people were anointed to be the chosen authors, chosen contributors, chosen musicians--that system left a lot of people out in the cold. The new open systems embrace waste. They understand that most people won't contribute and most contributions won't be any good. But that's fine, because this openness means that the previously unfound star now gets found.
The curated business, then, will ultimately fail because it keeps missing this shoulder, this untapped group of talented, eager, hard-working people shut out by their deliberately closed ecosystem. Over time, the open systems use their embrace of waste to winnow out the masses and end up with a new elite, a self-selected group who demonstrate their talent and hard work and genius over time, not in an audition.
Go ahead and minimize these open systems at your own peril. Point to their negative outliers, inconsistency and errors, sure, but you can only do that if you willfully ignore the real power: some people, some of the time, are going to do amazing and generous work... If we'll just give them access to tools and get out of their way.
(The curated block isn't reality, it's merely what the curator claims--that his magical powers will find all of the great talent, without error or waste. Of course, a quick look at Hollywood or even an expensive mutual fund shows that this is a fable. The 'open' block includes the low-quality stuff as well, but since that work is created without a lot of expense, pruning it is no tragedy. The secret is embracing the talented and dedicated people who choose themselves.)

22 March 2013

A little break for the Blues: Corey Harris and Taj Mahal "Sittin' on top of the world"

A good day for a little break for the Blues.  My Bates College classmate and blues musician, Corey Harris, and Taj Mahal playing and singing "Sittin' on top of the world."

21 March 2013

Ellen Painter Dollar on remembering Gordon Cosby

My friend Ellen Painter Dollar writes a wonderful blog post remembering Gordon Cosby.  Ellen and I worked together at Samaritan Ministry, and she introduced me to the Potter's House.  I also had the good luck to go to several of Gordon Cosby's lectures and sermons, and also take several classes at Church of the Saviour:

Remembering Gordon Cosby 

Word came to me this morning that Gordon Cosby, who founded the D.C.-based Church of the Saviour in the 194os with his wife Mary, has died at age 95.
The Church of the Saviour was the first Christian community I found that took both Jesus and social justice seriously, emphasizing both the “inward journey” (prayer, fostering a relationship with God, taking Jesus’s identity and ministry as Son of God seriously) and the “outward journey” (sacrificial ministry with the marginalized, particularly in the inner city, asking hard questions about wealth, poverty, and how we are to live).
The Church of the Saviour is not really one church. It started that way, but because intimate community was always an emphasis, eventually the church began breaking into smaller worshiping communities. A congregation of 50 people, in C of S terms, was huge. I worshiped for nine years at the Potter’s House Church, which met on Wednesday evenings at, you guessed it, the Potter’s House—a coffee shop, book store, and gathering place on Columbia Road in D.C.’s vibrant Adams Morgan neighborhood. At the time I was there, Potter’s House was one of the church’s larger communities. We had 20-25 members, and a congregation of 40 or 50 at each service. Membership in C of S communities is a big deal. You take a number of classes, which takes a couple of years, and then agree to a set of disciplines, including a tithe and an hour a day spent in prayer/meditation/study. There are no clergy; everyone who signs on as a member is ordained.
My time at the Potter’s House changed my life and set the course for a faith that incorporates an evangelical emphasis on fostering a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and a more mainline/emergent emphasis on ministry with those who are on the margins and a constant assessing of one’s life (What is my relationship with money? Stuff? Work? Family? Neighbors? The poor? And what needs to change to bring me closer to God’s vision of the kingdom?). I drank in the emphasis on discerning one’s call, or vocation. In a Christian Growth class I took toward membership, I remember saying, “I know I love writing. I know I love New England. I know I am supposed to have children.” Wouldn’t you know? Here I am, living in Connecticut, a mother of three, a writer. The Potter’s House Church set me on that path by helping me recognize those callings. At the Potter’s House, I frequently wrote original liturgies—a passion I have several times attempted to translate to my current life as an Episcopalian, with mixed success. Episcopalians don’t always groove on people messing with their liturgies.
I also met my husband Daniel at the Potter’s House, and a core of lifelong friends. We have all gone on to other places and other faith communities, most of us landing in either the Roman Catholic Church or another mainline denomination. But the bonds are still there. The people I worshiped with at the Potter’s House will always be my people.
Read it all HERE at Patheos

19 March 2013

Here in the time between, by Jack Ridl ~ from The Writer's Almanac

Here in the Time Between

Here in the time between snow
and the bud of the rhododendron,
we watch the robins, look into

the gray, and narrow our view
to the patches of wild grasses
coming green. The pile of ashes

in the fireplace, haphazard sticks
on the paths and gardens, leaves
tangled in the ivy and periwinkle

lie in wait against our will. This
drawing near of renewal, of stems
and blossoms, the hesitant return

of the anarchy of mud and seed
says not yet to the blood's crawl.
When the deer along the stream

look back at us, we know again
we have left them. We pull
a blanket over us when we sleep.

As if living in a prayer, we say
amen to the late arrival of red,
the stun of green, the muted yellow

at the end of every twig. We will
lift up our eyes unto the trees hoping
to discover a gnarled nest within

the branches' negative space. And
we will watch for a fox sparrow
rustling in the dead leaves underneath.
"Here in the Time Between" by Jack Ridl