29 June 2017

Let America Be America Again Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967

Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Casey Powell: The Art of Air Gait

If you know me at all, you know that one of the passions of my life, beyond my faith and my family and friends, is lacrosse.  This article I found on "LaxAllStars" is by one of the greatest lacrosse players of all time, Casey Powell, who writes about one of the other greatest lacrosse players of all time, Gary Gait.  It's a great article, and to me, shows the way two of the greats honor the game!


Casey Powell: The Art of Air Gait

I went to my first Syracuse lacrosse game in 1988 when I was 12-years old. That’s when I saw my first ‘Air Gait.’
The Orange were playing in the NCAA semi-finals at the Carrier Dome against the University of Pennsylvania in front of 20,148 people. Syracuse was down 2-1 in the second quarter and looking for a big play to rally behind.
Gary Gait caught a pass behind the cage, revved his engine, and took off like Superman from point behind to dunk the ball over the crossbar like 4th year NBA superstar Michael “Air” Jordan, would dunk a basketball. Gary Gait had tied the game at 2 and woke the spirit of the Orange . . . 
Read it all HERE at LaxAllStars or on Casey Powell's own blog, TwosLetter at http://caseypowell.com

Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul

On the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, I thought it was altogether appropriate to post a few photos from the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, otherwise known as Washington Cathedral, and also otherwise known as the National Cathedral.

Having spent some wonderful time at the cathedral and the Cathedral Close, it is near and dear to my heart.



Collect of the Day: Peter and Paul
Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that your Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Augustine on St. Peter and St. Paul

Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles' blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith.

St. Augustine (Sermon 295)

25 June 2017

25 June 2017 ~ Sermon by the Rev. Peter M. Carey ~ St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Philadelphia

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Rector, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
Cathedral Road, Philadelphia
Sermon 25 June 2017

“Write down everything he says.” was the advice given to me by students older than me who had spent time with the intimidating Dr. George Motolanez, as I prepared to enter 10th grade World History Class.  Ok, I thought, I will just take notes like crazy, and then read and memorize them and spit them back to him on tests.  However, you can probably guess that this was terrible advice.  George, as I later was allowed to call him, spoke in metaphorical and poetical language, and his thinking and speaking is what today we would call “non-linear” in an extreme way.  George taught us much about history, and still more about being an upstanding and compassionate person.  However, you had to sort through the language to find the wisdom among the many stories, tangents, and (sometimes) tirades!

[Jesus continues to prepare his disciples for their work and mission in the world, and in today’s reading, he picks up right where he left off last week ad he continues to paint the picture that there will surely be challenges along this pathway.]

Today’s Gospel is full of both advice and caution, and Jesus uses poetical and metaphorical language to illustrate his points.

To my ears, this reading gets me distracted because of Jesus’ own colorful language about how to deal with those who will challenge and ridicule the disciples.  Secondly, I become distracted by Jesus’ even more striking language about “bringing a sword” that will cause argument and conflict within beloved members of families.

In considering Jesus’ advice and admonitions to his disciples in the first part of this reading, we would do well to try to enter into the world of Jesus, and the world of his disciples.  Living within the occupied land of Palestine, these Jews were under pressure and abuse by the Romans just for living out their faith.  Honoring the Jewish traditions would be a challenge, and contending with the militaristic Romans would be disheartening.  Jesus arrives on the scene and gives them a new hope and a new understanding of God’s outpouring of love for them.  

“Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows”, and also that ““Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”  

Like any good mentor, Jesus paints a picture with both dark and light, he shows them both sides of the coin, and prepares them for both the ease of the downhills, as well as the struggles of the uphills.  

The love of God knows no bounds, and is radically rooted in ultimate hospitality and welcome.  Welcoming all can be a challenge to our expectations and experiences.  Jesus’ notion of love is at the heart of his message.  In John’s gospel he proclaims “God is love.”  And the love of God brings liberation, hope, radical welcome, and amazing grace.  However, in abiding and living in the love of God, we enter into a new kind of association.  No longer are we merely associated with our most obvious identity.  

Jesus is empowering us to move into an entire new identity, based in a radical love for all.  Just think: “love thy enemies,” “pray for those who persecute you,” “turning the other cheek,” and “taking up your cross.”  These are not the mottos of one who wants to keep things “they way they have always been.”  These are not the sayings of one who wants us to cling to our comfortable notions of our world, our communities, and our world.  For these disciples, following Jesus would cause tension in even their family relations.  
“For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”

I have to say that this message of Jesus has long distracted me from the deeper truth.  The reality is that Jesus is laying out a new reality, a reality in which God’s love is primary, and the Family of God is our most important association.  The old patriarchy and matriarchy of First Century Palestine are thrown on their head by this Gospel of Love.
“Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” A divine hope, a divine paradox, divine love outpouring for us through sacrificial love for one another.  As we share the love, we receive it tenfold.  As we turn over all we are to God’s blessing and care, we receive even more.  We are welcomed into a new community, a new family of love and welcome.  This is good news indeed!

Almighty God.  You have opened the doors to your household.  Allow us to feel the love and amazing grace that is given to us, so that we might also welcome others into this divine blessing.  Amen.

18 June 2017

18 June 2017 ~ Sermon by The Rev. Peter M. Carey at St. Mary's Episcopal Church

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Rector, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
18 June 2017

Almighty God, you sent out your apostles to heal, to teach, to bring life, and to spread the good news.  Give us an awareness of your ever-present grace and love so that we too may share this good news near and far.  Amen.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus sends out his disciples to spread the good news of God’s kingdom breaking into their world.  In his charge to them, he lays out some rather timeless and helpful advice.  Living in the first century Palestine, the disciples were without the blessings of dozens of self-help books which can be found at Barnes and Noble or online at Amazon, so it makes good sense that the Master would need to not only inspire them, but also give them some tangible advice.  I am amazed at the timeless quality of Jesus’ advice, recorded by Matthew in today’s Gospel.  

As I have just now completed my first week or so at St. Mary’s, I am in the midst of being “sent out” in a new and amazing way to serve God’s people in this remarkable place, among you lovely people.  You may even remember that the title “apostle” means “one who is sent out” - “apostolo,” and I must confess that I feel extremely blessed that the Spirit has moved me to be sent out among you, and also alongside you as we spread the good news of God’s kingdom breaking into our world.

Three aspects of Jesus’ advice

What should we do - what are we required and empowered to do (with the reminder that God is with us- Emmanuel).  

“Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, let’s work on getting healthy, getting ourselves into correct relationship with God. We have work to do here.  Go to the lost sheep of Israel.  As you go, proclaim the good news, the “Gospel,” “the kingdom of heaven has come near,” or, if you like “ the kin-dom, the family of God has come near, and includes even the likes of you!” “Cure the sick - help people to embrace health.  Raise the dead, proclaim the fact of life after death, and life even in the midst of hopelessness, and darkness! Cleanse the lepers, and all those who have been neglected.  Cast out demons, love the people, pour out love on the negative and life-denying attitudes of so many!”  This is GOOD NEWS, people! Don’t be so sullen.  Don’t concentrate on the fear, the anger, the disappointment.  Embrace the day.  Get out and preach it, go out and live it!  God is with you, always.  

“Always be willing to give an account of the hope that is within you!” ~1 Peter

Where is the hope that is within you?
What is the Bible text that you “carry around with you”?  If you don’t have one, or more, I would suggest that you have one!  And, let me know what yours is!

Secondly, Jesus lays out a list of what to bring.  This list reminds me of the list I would receive in the mail as a child from the summer camp of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, Rock Point.  Flashlight, sleeping bag, raincoat, extra shoes, hat, books, a Bible, no electronic equipment, no radios, no tape players, a little money for “candy store” in the afternoon.  I loved receiving that list.  And, I still have my “denim Bible” that I brought to Rock Point four decades ago.  Jesus says what his disciples should bring on this mission.  Essentially, not much, bare bones living.  

“Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff, for laborers deserve their food.”

Just enough for the journey, and no more.  I have an image of these disciples, these apostles - who were sent out, walking the roads of Palestine.  Not carrying much but the love of God in their hearts, and a ready willingness to share what they have heard, what they have witnessed, what they have experienced.  The ever present love of God, the throwing open of the doors of God’s household.

So, what are you carrying around that you need to set down?  Literally, perhaps (decluttering!), but also figuratively.  What past fears, angers, resentments can you lay down (at the cross), and move on feeling lighter and more willing to share the good news!? (this is what confession-> absolution should give us…)

Jesus also sends out his disciples with instructions for where they should go, and how they should comport themselves.  I love the instructions that Jesus gives, because they show his own savviness and awareness that not all will be easy.  These instructions show that he knows that this calling is a blessed one, but is not all going to be tip-toeing through the tulips.  

“Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.  As you enter the house, greet it.  If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town . . .  I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and  innocent as doves.”

There is no need for banging your head against a wall.  Jesus recognizes that there may be times when the Spirit may not be moving that place to be receptive to the message.  

What is the “Take-Away”  What is our job, what is our work as disciples? How do we understand this? God has made us a royal priesthood? A priesthood of all believers?  We are the apostles that are sent out! We have experienced God’s love, and we are called, and also empowered to share this message! “Always be willing to give an account of the hope that is within you!” God knows us, down to our very bones, and loves us anyway! This is the love we are called to share, this is the good news that we should share with the world.  

Life is short, and we do not have much time
To gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So be swift to love, make haste to be kind,
And as we go, may the blessing, the love, the joy, and the peace
Of the Holy One Who is in the midst of us
Be among us and remain with us  Always. Amen

(adapted from the French Poet Henri Amiel)

God our Father, you have blessed us with so many gifts, help us to be aware of our blessings, and find the strength to share the love that we have been given unconditionally.  Help us to spread the great news of your kingdom, and allow us the courage to always be willing to give an account of the hope that is within us.  Amen.

12 June 2017

St. Barnabas

Collect for St. Barnabas

Grant, O God, that we may follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the well­being of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

11 June 2017

11 June 2017 ~ Trinity Sunday Sermon ~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
St. Mary’s, Cathedral Road, Philadelphia
Trinity Sunday
11 June 2017

Almighty and Loving God, you live and move and have your being with us and among us and within us always.  Shower your grace upon us, and let us feel your healing presence in our lives always.  You gave us a vision of perfect love and community in the Trinity, allow us to find an entry into the way of Jesus so that we might too live in such a way that your love is communicated through us to the suffering and hurting world.  Be with us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today we embrace the sense that God is Trinity, three persons, and yet One God.  God as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit.  God as Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.  Today we embrace the reality that God not only was present to his people in the past, but is present to us today, and will be ever present with us in the future.

The mystery of the Trinity is one that may confound us.  How can something be One, and yet Three.  How can we claim to believe in one God, when it seems we are leaning towards polytheism?  The theological questions are deep, centuries old, and have confounded even the greatest theological minds of the church.  

However, even these confounded qualities of the Trinity are a gift.  While we rely on our logical and rational brains in our day to day world, there are deeper truths  beyond our own thinking.  In our day to day world, we live and move in a dualistic world.  We look at things as either, or, as up and down, as good and evil, as life or death.  However, much of life is not merely either/or, but is both/and.  Our faith moves us deeper.  Jesus leads us into this strange and wonderful existence where we are called to “Love our enemies,” to “pray for those who persecute us” and where even the “poor are blessed” and where “our burdens are light.”  In a few moments at the altar, we will again affirm that even death will not have the final word.  We will affirm that there is even resurrection and life after death.  And so, today, on Trinity Sunday, God confounds us once again by showing us that One is Three and Three is One.

In the earliest centuries of the church, the “movement” of the Trinity was described in Greek by the word: perichoresis.  Peri, meaning “around” - where we get the word perimeter for the distance around a geometrical object.  And then”choresis” - where we get the word choreography, dance, movement.  And so, this movement of the church is an interconnected three-person dance.  As Richard Rohr names his book on the Trinity, “The Divine Dance.”  A loving dance of three persons of the Trinity - three “persons” and yet One God.

And so, what can we glean from this image, how might this mystical and theological image have any relevance to the likes of us?  How might this Trinity Sunday give us something to reflect upon, how might it challenge us, how might is get us to see God, and our lives in a new way, how might it inspire us to get to work in building God’s kingdom?

A model of movement.  Love overflowing.  Other images of the trinity.  Shamrock.  Pouring buckets.   Just as the Trinity has three persons who are interconnected in a holy and loving dance, so to, are we empowered to build loving and interdependent relationships.  God calls us and empowers us to go beyond a static pattern of our lives to a dynamic and robust one.  The interconnected and interdependent Trinity offers us a model of relationship that is also essentially interrelated with others.

One of the clearest and most passionate descriptions of this kind of relationship was described to me by Archbishop Desmond Tutu through his writing and speaking.  I was blessed to have a few occasions where I was able to spend time with him and learn about Ubuntu.

Ubuntu - a relational life - not merely us alone
A person is a person through other persons.
I am, because of you.
Tutu:  “One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”

When we reflect deeply, we know that our life is fundamentally relational.  Our life is fundamentally dependent upon others.  We are shaped by our family and friends, by our schools, and our workplaces, and by our worshipping communities.  We are each  dependent on others, but also others depend on us.  We need others, and others need us.  

Interdependent.  “I am because of you.”  “A person is a person through other persons.”  This is the joy of God, the grace of God that confounds us, but is a deep truth and a deep gift for us.

Nelson Mandela: “A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food and attend him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?”

This  image of the Trinity can inspire us to also live and move with the deep knowledge that we are deeply connected to one another.   This Trinity Sunday gives us an image of three persons, but one God, of perichoresis or the “divine dance” of God, which may help us to also reach out and deepen our own connections one to another.  The love of God flows between and among the three persons of the Trinity.  This love is poured out for us, and we are empowered to pass it along, to pay it forward to others. God offers us a confounding and wonderful love.  Healing in the midst of pain, Life in the midst of death, Joy in the midst of sorrow, relationship in the midst of loneliness.  

Holy Trinity, One God, you live and move and have your being with us always.  Shower your love upon us, and let us feel your healing presence so that we may be known by our love for others.  Help us to remember your love always, and the ways that we are connected deeply with one another.  Amen.

Prayer prayed by the New Rector

O Lord my God, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; yet you have called your servant to stand in your house, and to serve at your altar.  To you and to your service I devote myself, body, soul, and spirit.  Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do.  Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and grant that I may faithfully administer your holy Sacraments, and by my life and teaching set forth your true and living Word.  Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my ministry.  In prayer, quicken my devotion; in praises, heighten my love and gratitude; in preaching, give me readiness of thought and expression; and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of your holy Word, all the world may be drawn into your blessed kingdom.  All this I ask for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Book of Common Prayer pages 562-63

New rector's prayer

O Lord my God, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; yet you have called your servant to stand in your house, and to serve at your altar.  To you and to your service I devote myself, body, soul, and spirit.  Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do.  Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and grant that I may faithfully administer your holy Sacraments, and by my life and teaching set forth your true and living Word.  Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my ministry.  In prayer, quicken my devotion; in praises, heighten my love and gratitude; in preaching, give me readiness of thought and expression; and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of your holy Word, all the world may be drawn into your blessed kingdom.  All this I ask for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Book of Common Prayer pages 562-63

02 June 2017

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