Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Keep watch, dear Lord

 Apropos my posting yesterday about the wonders of the service of Compline, here is one of my favorite prayers from Compline:

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or 
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who 
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless 
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the 
joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen. 

Praying Compline with Kids

At the end of every Youth Group session when I was young, our rector, Addison Hall, would lead us in Compline. We grumbled at times, but it became a beloved service for me.  "Located" on page 127 of the Book of Common Prayer, I became very attached to Compline while attending, and later working at, the Diocesan Camp of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, Rock Point, in Burlington, Vermont.  I was glad to see that one of my Episcopal priest colleagues, The Rev. Jeff Jackson in Hamilton, Georgia has written a nice piece on why we should do Compline with young people.  Check it out!


 Reasons to Pray Compline with Kids

For many years, we have said nighttime prayers with our kids before bed. For much of that time, we would go around and simply give thanks to God for the day’s blessings. Like any prayer method, this form became stale after a few years. The kids would try to outdo each other in thanking God for silly things, and our two youngest, both boys, had a hard time sitting still. A few months ago, Molly and I decided we needed a change. Now that two of our kids are reading, with a third in the next year or so, it felt like the perfect time to introduce them to the ancient rite of Compline.
Compline (pronounced COM-plin) is a form of prayers to be said right before bedtime. You can find Compline on page 127 in the Book of Common Prayer. The word comes from the Latincompletorium, signifying the end of a complete day. There is a longstanding monastic tradition of praying a various points of the day, and Compline was the last hour one prayed before going to sleep. These prayers have been called “compline” since the 6th century, although the tradition existed well before that. I was taught Compline at summer camp, as it was the form of prayer we prayed together at the close of a busy day. Besides the rite of Holy Eucharist, I would say Compline is the most influential liturgy of my spiritual life.
I found very quickly that my kids loved Compline. It’s a brief prayer service, and easy for them to lead themselves. Now, we all take turns leading it. Here are 6 good reasons to introduce this into your own prayer life or the prayer life of your family, especially if you have kids.
1. Compline helps children become leaders and readers. When we started, our oldest was 8 and the next oldest 6, who had finished her first year of reading in school. The first time we did it, I lead it and I asked them to follow along so they could take a turn the next night. This gave them the confidence to know that Compline can be led by anyone. The more they led, the more they loved it. Especially with the 6-year-old, it built her confidence in reading out loud for others. Plus, it was fun for me as a priest, to show them the rhythms of the liturgy, when we pause, when to leave silence, and how to choose options in the liturgy. They also learn to sit still when they hold a book in their laps.
2. Compline teaches us new words. When you read prayers and Scriptures first written and prayed thousands of years ago, you’re bound to come across a word that you don’t recognize. My kids now know words like “countenance,” “crag,” “pestilence,” “heavy-laden,” “adversary,” “celestial brightness,” and “changelessness.”
3. Compline makes you sleepy. This might be true of many liturgies, but we quickly noticed that the two younger boys stopped flopping around during prayers like dead fish. Instead, they would snuggle up closer so they could listen. By the end of Compline, they were both half-asleep and needed to be carried to bed. Compline in tone is akin to a lullaby.
4. Compline reinforces prayers we already know. Even during our “Thank you, God” prayers, we closed with the Lord’s Prayer. Compline includes this, so even when we started, the kids were not completely in the dark. If only we could remember to stop at “…and deliver us from evil.”
5. Compline teaches multiple types of prayer. We had been stuck in “Dear God, thank you for…” for so long, we forgot there were other types of prayer. Compline includes a short confession, which is a great way to remind children that they are forgiven no matter what mistakes they have made. There are prayers of praise, thanksgiving, intercession, and petition in Compline, which makes our prayers much more well-rounded, so that we are not only asking God for personal stuff and thanking God for Scooby-Doo and cupcakes for dessert.
6. Compline bathes us in Scripture. As with most of the Book of Common Prayer, many of the prayers come directly from Scripture. But Compline also includes 4 Psalms of various lengths (strangely enough, my kids choose the longest one, 91, more than any of them), 4 brief readings from other parts of the Bible, and even the Song of Simeon, which we find in Luke chapter 2. These kids are hearing and reading the Bible without us having to say, “Find Deuteronomy 5:17…hurry!” It’s simply washing over them, they are soaking up the words, and when they have a question, we talk about it.
These are just a few benefits to praying Compline. Try it yourself, and I’m sure you’ll find many more!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sermon - 28 July 2013 ~ How is your prayer life? How do you pray?

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon – 28 July 2013
Luke 11:1-13
How is your prayer life?  How do you pray?

How is your prayer life?  The question was direct and incisive, and while I had been at Seminary for a few months, I had not been asked such a question in quite some time.  Oh, I had delved into Koine Greek and explored the amazing array of courses, and I had even been attending services daily, and striving to make the transition from the work life “back” (again) to the life of a student. 

How is your prayer life?  I fumbled around for some kind of an answer, using adjectives that may or may not have been at all connected to fact nor truth.  Kathy allowed me to stew in my ineloquence and fuzziness

Another question followed:

How do you pray?

This first conversation with my spiritual director was going nowhere quickly, and I realized that I had really been neglecting my relationship with God. Perhaps ironically, since I was in Seminary after all, but she cut to the chase, and perhaps saw that my academic focus and my enthusiasm for finally entering Seminary had caused me to forget the ultimate reason for all of this effort – loving God, loving neighbor.

What kind of time had I been giving to God?  What kind of time had I been giving to my neighbor?

How is your prayer life?  How do you pray?

I take some comfort in the fact that the disciples themselves seemed just about as clueless as me, and they were actually hanging around with Jesus, after all!  They had seen him pray.  They had prayed with him.  They had watched him hike up countless mountains to “go apart and pray,”  They had seen him call up on God, his Abba, time and time again.  Perhaps they, too, were somehow focused on other things, the administrivia of what would become the church, getting done the stuff that needed to be done daily.  They had, ironically, neglected their relationship with God – and they had forgotten how to pray.  Of course, they might argue that they were actually with the Lord, since they were with Jesus, so perhaps they didn’t really need to pray, but I am getting side-tracked.

How is your prayer life?  How do you pray?

I had the good fortune to spend time with Michael Battle, who was a mentor of mine in seminary, and early after he became an Episcopal priest, he ended up being the “chaplain” to Desmond Tutu toward the end of Tutu’s work as Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa.  Michael’s job was mostly to drive Tutu to various appointments and events.  Often, where they went were sights of terrible violence, torture, and extreme poverty.  At one point, I asked Michael about Tutu and  prayer, and Michael said that Tutu was nearly always praying.  He would be praying in the back seat of the car silently, or reciting prayers, he would lead morning prayer on a long drive through the dirt roads of SOWETO, and especially would offer vocalized prayers before and after every appointment that he had.  He was praying constantly, said Michael.  In Thessalonians, Paul encourages his readers to “pray without ceasing,” and it seems that Tutu embodies this kind of prayer.  Even in the midst of administrivia, of appointments, of scenes of bloodshed and tragedy, even in the boredom and monotony of long drives, Tutu prayed.  I remember reading Tutu’s account of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and hearing just how much he cried, just how much he mourned, just how much he had to deal with his anger, and just how much he prayed through all of it.

How is your prayer life?  How do you pray?

When the disciples ask Jesus how to pray, he offers to them two different responses in Luke’s gospel.  He outlines the beginning of what we use in every service, and which we call “The Lord’s Prayer.”  In this brief prayer are several aspects of prayer:  1) Calling on God as “Abba” – an intimate word for “father” or really “daddy” or “mommy” – God loves us, and we are to love God.  Not a mere creator, but a loving parent.  2) Hallowed be thy name  and your kingdom come call upon God to take charge of our lives, and to bring justice, peace, and salvation and health tour world, which only God can do.  3) Then there are three petitions – food – give us our daily bread (bread that we eat, but also spiritual sustenance.  4) Forgiveness, for us, but also that we might forgive others.  And, 5) Fidelity – “faith” of God – “bring us not to time of trial. 

The second response to the disciples is this brief story about the importance to “Ask, Seek, and Knock.”  The jist of this story seems to be that we may have to be persistent in prayer, we may need to ask in specific ways for God to energize our lives, and bring us health and peace.  Also that we may have to do some work to seek God, to strive to find God, and while God is always with us and around us, we may need to do some work to really feel God’s presence, we may need to step up to the plate.  Also, that we may need to be persistent, and keep “knocking” on that door.  Prayer will give us gifts but it may take some effort on our behalf.

How is your prayer life?  How do you pray?


I am old enough to realize that I can't always remember who said things to me, and I remember the wisdom, without, perhaps, the wise person who said them.  I remember vividly when a good friend or mentor said to me that many people have found that their purpose in life is to celebrate beauty, and to increase beauty in the world.  I think of all the things to devote one's life to, this is probably quite a wonderful one.  Today, while preaching and celebrating at our 8am service, and then celebrating at our 10am service, I found that the beauty of our service, our wonderful people, and our church was all around me.  In particular, the Flower Guild at St. Paul's have been doing an incredible job to help us worship God, and to celebrate the beauty all around us.  Sometime, if you attend one of our services, I encourage you to go up after the service and enjoy the incredible flower arrangements both in our chapel and in our Nave.  Just wonderful!

Thank you to all, may you all celebrate the beauty all around us, and also help to create beauty in the world!


Let the beauty we love be what we do ~ Rumi

Let the beauty we love be what we do ~ Rumi

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Yvon Chouinard and Kris & Doug Tomkins

I find extreme joy in learning about people who have lived amazing and abundant lives.  Just recently when I was looking around on Netflix streaming, I found a very cool movie called 180 Degrees South, in which I became introduced to Yvon Chouinard and Douglas Tomkins.  They are both climbers who have done climbing for many years, and they are both environmentalists who have used their considerable wealth to work to preserve millions of acres in Patagonia in Chile.   Kris Tomkins, Douglas's wife has been instrumental in the work to preserve this amazing land.

They are both involved with ConservacionPatogonica

Oh, also Chouinard began the Patagonia clothing company and Tomkins began the North Face clothing company, but in many ways, those facts are but small aspects of their amazing lives.

Do check out 180 Degrees South.  I plan to read more of what they've written and learn more about them.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rublev's Holy Trinity Icon

On Sunday, I preached about Mary and Martha, but also referenced the icon by Rublev which is often referred to as the "Holy Trinity" icon (even though it actually depicts the three visitors to Abram and Sarai in Genesis 21.  Here are a few copies of the icon.



Monday, July 22, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sermon – 21 July 2013 ~ Present Moment; Wonderful Moment

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon – 21 July 2013 ~ Present Moment; Wonderful Moment
St. Paul’s Memorial Church, Charlottesville, VA

While reading today’s gospel, it may be tempting to take from it the lesson that Jesus is prioritizing the contemplative life over the active life.  After all, he states that Mary has chosen the better way, the better part, rather than Martha, who was working to provide food and hospitality. 

However, this passage is best read while considering the passage that appears just before it in Luke’s gospel.  Just before Jesus stops off at the home of Mary and Martha, he tells the story of the Good Samaritan.  In that passage, Jesus responds to a lawyer’s question by describing just how to love our neighbors, by being kind, by offering compassionate service, by ministering to them. 

So, Jesus has just offered this moving story of hospitality and radical generosity, and within it, has also stated quite clearly that the way we are to love our neighbors is through action.  We leave the story of the Good Samaritan with a clear mission of service, of action, and the importance of offering hospitality to our neighbors, who could be anyone.

So then, what is going on here in the story of Mary and Martha.  Isn’t Martha offering hospitality to her neighbor, Jesus?  Aren’t Martha’s actions work of compassion and service?

When read carefully, we can hear Jesus’ words as words of affection and concern, rather than reprimand or scolding.  “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.”  Jesus is not prioritizing the contemplative over the active, rather, he sees the ways that she (and we) are prone to worry and distraction.  Rather than worry and distraction, Jesus is calling us to compassion and caring. 

He sees that Mary has chosen the better part, because she is residing in the present moment, and finding joy in the presence of Jesus.  She is en-joying the time and the place where she is. 

And, how difficult it can be to reside in the present moment, the worries and distractions of our lives are paramount.  Our phones buzz in our pockets, the radio blares, our to do lists are overwhealming, we chase material goods and all kinds of busy-ness to distract us from the present. 

The problem with distraction is that we can become used to distractions, so much so that we seek them out.  Also, our worries, we give them space in our hearts and minds and then they take up camp there, and we cannot imagine being free from their psychic power over us. 

Jesus knows that hospitality is at the heart of Jewish spirituality, going back to Abraham and Sarah welcoming the three messengers from God, who inform these old codgers that they will actually have babies.  Sarah  laughs at this message from beyond, but Abraham and Sarah are open to God’s presence in their midst.  Sarah is not off in the tent worried and distracted, she is living in the present moment.  So too, Mary, while she sits at Jesus’ feet, she has somehow turned off her own worries and distractions, and has welcomed the stranger – the Christ – in her home and in her heart.

So too, we would do well to realize that our own worries and distractions can get in the way of our own experience of God in our midst.  God is with us, Jesus is with us, Emmanuel – God with us, but do we slow down long enough to realize this essential fact.  Do we slow down to realize the gift in our midst?

Present moment; wonderful moment.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration

Here in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, our Cathedral is the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration, which is an outdoor cathedral in Orkney Springs at the Shrine Mont Conference Center.

It is always a privilege to preside at the Eucharist at the Cathedral Shrine, and I am humbled by the opportunity to serve in that wonderful place.  Last weekend, I had the good fortune to be able to preside and preach (with the help of 30 or 40 young people) at the Cathedral Shrine at our parish's retreat at Shrine Mont.  We had a wonderful time on the "Mont" and were blessed in so many ways.

~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Joy in Joyful Noise at St. Paul's Memorial Church

One of the great things that we have done at St. Paul's Memorial Church in the last year is to pilot the Joyful Noise service during the 10am service.  At 10, young people, their parents, and anyone else, are welcomed to join us in the Lounge where we have a service that is oriented toward those who want lively music, a brief homily, and prayers focussed on the the young and the young in heart.  This service was piloted at the end of the summer of 2012 and I was so glad to plan and implement this with our previous director of youth and family ministries, the Rev. Stacy Williams Duncan.  Since then, our Associate Rector, the Rev. Dr. Heather Warren has taken over the Sunday-to-Sunday leadership of our Joyful Noise service and I am so grateful for both Stacy's good work to get this started and also Heather's good work to continue to develop this wonderful service.

When I came to St. Paul's in the summer of 2012, I was so hopeful that we could create a youth and family-oriented service, and I had led something similar back at Emmanuel Church, Greenwood, which is a thriving service that we called "Children's Worship."  The St. Paul's iteration of this service has taken its own form, consistent with the way that St. Paul's does church.  It is a true joy to me that this service has developed this year and is a wonderful development that will continue to grow and evolve in its own way.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Einstein on "luminous figure of the Nazarene" ~ quite profound!

"As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrase-mongers, however artful." (from "What Life Means to Einstein," The Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929)

Tour de Shrine Mont!!

On our parish retreat at Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs, VA, we had a wonderful ride with some of our younger members, as well as a longer ride for some of our young adults and middle-age members.  This was but one of the wonderful activities at our parish retreat.

A wonderful and terrific weekend!

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Monday, July 15, 2013

Joy when sudden disappointment comes

Someone once asked a great sheikh
what sufism was.
“The feeling of joy
when sudden disappointment comes.”
The eagle carries off Muhammed’s boot
and saves him from snakebite.
Don’t grieve for what doesn’t come.
Some things that don’t happen
keep disasters from happening.

Dave Matthews gets picked up by fan after having a flat tire on his bike

Dave Matthews gets picked up by fan after having a flat tire on his the video beginning at :55

Just very very cool.

Friday, July 12, 2013

While love is unfashionable

While love is unfashionable
let us live
Seeing the world
a complex ball
in small hands;
love our blackest garment.
Let us be poor
in all but truth, and courage
handed down
by the old
Let us be intimate with
ancestral ghosts
and music
of the undead.
While love is dangerous
let us walk bareheaded
beside the Great River.
Let us gather blossoms
under fire.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

7 July 2013 Sermon - The Rev. Peter M. Carey

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
7 July 2013 Sermon
St. Paul’s Memorial Church, Charlottesville, VA

This Christian journey is one that on some levels is very basic, very simple, and yet, simplicity demands work. 

In our Collect today, we pray that we are aware that God has taught us that to keep all the commandments, we can do this by loving God and our neighbor, and we pray that God would “Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection.”  Simple enough, Love God, love your neighbor.  Why do we make it so hard?  Well, perhaps we do, and perhaps we don’t.  The reality, is that this is really easier said than done, isn’t it?  For whatever reason, we have trouble loving God, perhaps this is because life can be hard, and it seems that God could have prepared some softer landings for us when we fall.  It seems, perhaps, that God has not really prepared us for the suffering and pain of life.  In our happy moments, in our quiet moments, we enter into the space of gratefulness, we enter into spaces of reconciliation and peace, however, in the midst of the battles of life, it can be hard to embody gratefulness, reconciliation and peace.

For whatever reason, here on earth, we have trouble loving our neighbors, our neighbors on this earth far away of course, those who don’t look, talk, act, and believe as we do.  But, we also have trouble loving our neighbors right down the street as we might. 

But, of course, in times that are tough, we recognize the fact that “love is a verb,” that love is action, love is caring for one another, love is recognizing oneself in the other, recognizing the needs that we have are the needs that others have.  Love also may, in fact, mean that we are called to love those who are nearby, and yet who don’t really see things the way we do. 

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul offers some hard rhetoric to those in Galatia who have been taken astray by “false gospels,” and

In Galatians, Paul admonishes his hearers to “bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  This means, of course, that we are asked to carry our own burdens, but also that from time to time we have to carry each others’ burdens.  Of course, the most tangible and obvious way think of this admonition is to think of a hiking trip or a bike trip when you are loaded down with supplies, loaded down with stuff.  And, of course each person on the hike/bike has to carry their own stuff – but also there is communal food, gear, and tools that need to be carried by all.  [the “groover”]  At times in the journey, we also may have to take up the loads of others, we may need to transfer some of their stuff to our bags.  And, even may need to load themselves their own bodies, right on our backs – much like Samwise Gamgee had to do with Frodo at one point in their journey with the Ring.  Sam loaded Frodo right on his back – taking up not only the burden of the Ring, but also the entire load of Frodo! 

The more metaphorical or symbolic aspect of this saying, “bear one another’s burdens” has to do with all of the other kinds of “baggage” that we carry.  Our personal struggles, our family history, our work challenges, our addictions, our obsessions…whatever it might be, we have burdens that we are carrying.  And, from time to time, we have to not only carry our own, but also carry one anothers’ burdens.  The amazing thing about carrying one another’s burdens is that when many folks are carrying a burden together, it does really become lighter.  It doesn’t seem to make sense from a mathematical or physics sense, that matter would weigh less if more hands are carrying it.  But, I have known it to be true – if we strive to carry our own burdens, but also turn to one another in love, we may lend a hand to one another – and then the burden, even our own, becomes lessened.  Like carrying a 50 lb pack, and then someone comes along and just lifts the bottom of it for a few moments, lightening the pressure on one’s shoulders and back.  Afterwards, the burden is lessened.

This is, perhaps, why Jesus sent his apostles out two by two, and why he said to carry little with them.  There is enough to carry while bringing God’s hope and love to people that extra stuff will just complicate.  It is easier to live simply, to go out two by two, bearing each others’ burdens, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

“you reap whatever you sow.  If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, …”