Monthly Archives: May 2012

Qualities of Anglican Liturgy

This list was put together by the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy.
  1. It resonates with Scripture and proclaims the gospel.
  2. It is rooted in Anglican theological tradition.
  3. It has high literary value; it is beautiful according to accepted and respected standards.
  4. It uses the recurring structures,linguistic patterns,and metaphors of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
  5. It is formal, not casual, conversational, or colloquial.
  6. It is dense enough to bear the weight of the sacred purpose for which it is intended.
  7. It is metaphoric without being obtuse.
  8. It is performative: that is, it effects what it says.

Anything you would add or subtract? Leave a reply.

Pentecostal Living

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.

People occasionally ask me where I get my ideas for sermons. I like to think that the reason they don’t ask that more often is because it’s so obvious that I get my inspiration from the scripture of the day J. Sometimes, scripture gets a little help. Like I often get my inspiration from church signs. For the past week or two, the sign at the church on 39th between Division and Hawthorne has said: “Faith can’t be taught, it must be caught.” Don’t you love it? Welcome to the season of Pentecost. Our readings over the coming months are going to be all about what happens when people catch faith.

People who are new to the church will often ask me: What is Pentecost? I never heard of Pentecost. Why is it such a big deal? Why do we wear red? Pentecost is an important feast day because of what it means to the church. And it is a rich feast because of the amazing images conjured up by our readings.

It’s a wonderful occasion for churches to add special touches to the service, like today’s wonderful music, the gospel reading in many languages, the sounds of bones and rushing wind….I recently heard about the gospel proclaimed from a flaming bible. A bible, double-A batteries, some lighter fluid…that’s all I know. Here we have to content ourselves with the tongues of fire we heard about in the reading from Acts. Those tongues of fire that are the visible expression of the Holy Spirit, and the reason we wear red—flame colors—on Pentecost.

Pentecost means “fiftieth day,” and comes from the Greek word pente, or five. It was a Jewish Festival, also called the Feast of Weeks. The fiftieth day came after the completion of seven weeks after Passover. On that day, the first fruits of the spring harvest were offered to God, celebrating the tradition that the Ten Commandments were handed to Moses on Mt. Sinai 50 days after the first Passover. The commandments taught the Jewish people what it meant to be a people, a particular people called to follow a particular God.

The first Pentecost after the Resurrection also involves God’s revelation of what it means to be a particular people, called to follow a particular God.

There are two seemingly distinct aspects of Pentecost. The first is “the birthday of the church.” (I have been to church services where they sing “Happy Birthday, dear church” at Pentecost.) The second is “the descent of the Holy Spirit,” with its gifts that infuse us and give us power we didn’t know we had. The Holy Spirit is the glue that holds relationships—including whole communities—together. This glue is invisible, intangible, mysterious, and transformative.

The Holy Spirit is all around us this morning. In Ezekiel, the Spirit infuses dry bones with life. These bones are the whole house of Israel, God says to the prophet. The whole people of God. O my people, I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live.

God’s people from throughout the middle east would have gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks, speaking all languages but united by their common faith in the God of Abraham, the God of the Exodus, the God of the wilderness and the God of the Jerusalem temple. It is into that gathering that the Spirit comes in a rush of wind and in tongues of fire. These tongues are not the tongues of strange speech that are the basis for the Christian tradition of speaking in tongues, or glossalalia. These tongues are not for strange speech but for speech that even foreigners can understand.

In Pentecost, God is once again turning the world upside down, confounding expectations and uniting unlikely companions through the miracle of the outpouring of Spirit into a common language.

Through all of scripture, the Spirit is associated with power. Take a look at the Book of Acts sometime, and see how often “power” occurs in the same context as “the Spirit.” This is not “power” in general, but quite specifically the power of new life in Christ. Look at the disciples before and after Pentecost. Before Pentecost, they were a pretty motley crew, bumbling around asking dumb questions like “when do we get to eat?” and “which one of us gets to be the greatest?” Sure, Peter gets some new eloquence after the Resurrection, but it is only after Pentecost that he and the other apostles go around preaching and healing, proclaiming God’s Kingdom.

Pentecost is how we live on the other side of the Resurrection, filled with the power of the Spirit. So what does this all mean? What does it mean about how we live, you and I, and all of us together?

It means that we are not just Easter People but Pentecost people when, like the first Christians we find common language to tell of God’s mighty works in our lives. What’s your story? How do you see the power of God in your life or in the world around you? I see it in the generosity with which so many of you have responded to the Covenant of Hope. I see it in the spirit of creativity and collaboration going on this week during the Village Building Convergence. I hear the power of God in our music and also in the music of children (and adults) just learning a new instrument.

Pentecost is always a baptismal feast—that’s why we sing “Wade in the Water” even when we’re not actually baptizing anyone. (Of course, if you want to be baptized, come talk to me after the service J) Our baptismal promises commit us to Pentecostal living: living lives infused with the spirit of God that connects us to all creation, to one another, to our enemies, and to people we’ve never met.

Take a look at the photo on the back cover of your bulletins. This remarkable work of art by Piotr Uklanski is titled “Pentecost.” I don’t know if you can tell from the photo, but it is an installation of plates. Plates that you and I would eat off, along with a few cups and saucers. I love it, because it represents a transformation of simple, every day plates—maybe some of them chipped or cracked—together making something beautiful, something much bigger than one plate. This is how I like to think of our common life, as an offering to God of the work of our spirits.

Faith cannot be taught, it must be caught. I pray that your faith may catch fire with the Power of the Spirit, and that it may be so contagious that others will catch it, too, and that together we will proclaim the reign of God in our midst.

Covenant of Hope Perspectives: Linda Goertz

You know that wonderful feeling you get when a way opens up for you to be your best self? Even if it’s in a small way? That’s how I feel about the Covenant of Hope program.

Like many of us, I’ve felt conflicted when I see a person holding a sign that says “Homeless / Please Help,” or when I’m approached on the street by someone asking for money. Should I give out of compassion? Should I withhold out of prudence? These people are in tough situations and sometimes I feel like there’s no way I could make a real difference.

That’s why I’m so grateful that a program like Covenant of Hope exists to actually open a way out of homelessness, and that we have an opportunity to help in such simple, ordinary ways: a small pledge of money, a little time – an opportunity to just be ourselves, without trying to solve “The Whole Enormous Problem.” Give up one treat, donate those few dollars, and spend the time praying for a family I know. Make a phone call. Offer some kitchen tools or a special toy, to help the new apartment seem like home. Drive someone to the doctor, the grocery store, or even to a music lesson. I can do those things!

This week, I read, “he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, and the oppressed who has no helper.” You and I are being asked to be the helpers. Let’s say yes.

Covenant of Hope Perspectives: Jeanne Kaliszewski

I have been volunteering with the New City Initiative for two years and the experience has been truly transformative. I have crafted, discussed books, had coffee, and become friends with those who have experienced homelessness. The relationships I have made and the community I have witnessed through the New City Initiative has been truly amazing.

By breaching the social and economic barriers that so often separate us, the New City Initiative has created an accessible and effective model to help end the cycle of homelessness in our community.

John 15:9-17 and Babette’s Feast: fruit that will last

 And I appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that will last.

Last Saturday night, a week ago, a dozen of us gathered to watch the movie, Babette’s Feast. How many of you have seen that movie? How many have seen it more than once?  It’s one of my favorites, and every time I watch it, I see more and more layers to the story. In the film, a French chef escapes Paris during the bloody period of the Paris Commune in the 1870s. She finds herself in the remote village of Jutland on the coast of Denmark in the midst of a small community that is all about austerity and self-denial. Talk about culture shock! She has suffered terribly and lost much. In this isolated village she finds a new community, of sorts, and a new purpose.

Then something unexpected happens: She wins the French lottery. She celebrates by preparing an amazing meal for the small community in the village. I mean, an amazing meal. This is not a movie to see on an empty stomach. After the last glass of dessert wine has been sipped, after the last fig has been eaten, the last cup of coffee drunk, the community is transformed. Their lives have been touched by an abundance and extravagance they have never known. Old hurts have been healed. Babette, revealed as a generous creator of beauty and sustenance, has given them all she has to give. And she has borne fruit that will last.

The movie is full of opposites: Paris and Denmark, decadence and austerity, Roman Catholicism and seriously reformed protestantism. The faith community of the small village lives in the past. Their worship is as much in memory of their community’s founder as it is in memory of Jesus. They are always looking backward. Babette comes among them as one who has no past; she is only in the present until she prepares the feast that draws on her past, but also feeds the people around her in a way that transforms them for the future.

The community that gathers around Jesus during these Easter chapters of the Gospel of John is trying to understand their future, trying to understand what it means to be a community of faithful followers. (Isn’t this what we’re often about, trying to understand what it means to be faithful followers?) This is one of the tensions in Babette’s Feast: the little community in Jutland felt like they were being faithful by never forgetting the past, in fact truly embracing the past in all they did. Babette expressed her faith by creating delicious, sensual food.

This is my commandment, Jesus says, that you love one another as I have loved you. Not that you sit around talking about how much I have loved you, but that you love one another as I have loved you. Teaching, healing, feeding, companioning. Sacrificing. Washing one another’s feet, sharing food. This is how Jesus loved his disciples and this is how we are invited to love one another.

And I appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that will last.

In 1952, and in the years leading up to that year, the leaders of St. David’s, at that time a brave and generous cadre of vestrymen, decided their job as stewards of the faith community was to purchase a large piece of land on Harrison Hill and build this building. Construction began in 1952. I’m sure there was a period of careful planning and fundraising, but their work was nonetheless a leap of faith to bear fruit that will last. They were not looking back at the history of the parish; they were looking forward at the history of the parish. They were imagining a growing Sunday school, a thriving community center, a church on a hill in a vibrant neighborhood. And here we are, sixty years later.

While church leaders love to worry and complain about the burden of a building like this one, I like to think that it is also a blessing, part of our mission and ministry, not only to everyone who comes to worship here but also to all who come through our doors every day of the week. Many people call this place home.

As we contemplate what it means to have a church home and to give thanks for it, I invite each one of you to participate in the Covenant of Hope. You’ve read about it and heard about it here and there for several weeks. The Covenant of Hope is an opportunity for our community to help another community—a family—transition from homelessness into…home. In this, we covenant not only to provide a very modest form of financial support, but also to offer various expressions of community. To love our Covenant of Hope family as Jesus has loved us.

And I appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that will last.

The fruit that will last is what we do with our love, and how we share our community. Let us honor the brave souls who took the leap to build this building, by looking forward, not backward, by expanding our community and by giving expansively.

So now you might get an inkling of why all the “sixes” and “sixties” on the red pledge card in your bulletin. Sixty years of ministry in our home. Six decades of having a home from which to go forth and proclaim the good news of love.

I have always felt like Babette’s Feast—the meal itself—was about the Eucharist. When I watched it this most recent time, I saw how much it is not only about the Eucharist but also about giving absolutely the best we have to give of ourselves when we celebrate our common life around this table.

When we pray our prayers of thanksgiving from this table—and I always say “we,” because the priest is simply praying on behalf of all of us—we give thanks not only for what God has done for us in creation, but also for what God is going to do for the world as we go forth from this place and proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near. When we share the bread and the cup, we celebrate the promises of new life in Christ, the Kingdom of God that is upon us and within us, at this moment and always.

An Evening at the Blind Cafe

So what was that like?  Unexpected, mostly.

There were so many attendees present that we had to wait in line down the stairs and along the basement hallway, but the event was incredibly well organized with lots of volunteers. We were assigned to a table and then our group was led, one hand on the shoulder of the person in front, into the dark. It was truly dark; not a glimmer, not a clue. We wound through a curtain/corridor entrance that left us disoriented but grateful for the efficiency and kindness of the blind waitstaff who caned their way through a maze of tables.

The meal was exquisite, though I was amazed by my own inability to distinguish what food I was eating without being able to confirm it visually. Same with my impressions of people – are they responding to what I say? Ignoring me?  “Looking” the other way? Great internal discoveries. The music was absolutely lovely; such a peaceful and wonderful way to end an evening of exploration.

By Linda Goertz

The Blind Cafe returns to St. Davids on June 15 & 16.

 

On our way rejoicing

Acts 8:26-40: The eunuch went on his way rejoicing.

I printed out the lessons appointed for this Fifth Sunday of Easter a while ago, and found that today features one of my very favorite stories—the story of the apostle Phillip’s meeting with the Ethiopian Eunuch. Then I remembered that I preached on this story my very first Sunday at St. David’s. It’s hard to believe that it has been three whole years since I first stood here, preaching about this story from the Book of Acts.

How many of you were here on that day, three years ago? I’m sure the rest of you won’t mind if I preach the same sermon, right? That’s only sort of a joke; I do want to use some of what I said that day to reflect on where we are today.

A few days before my first Sunday here, I visited with a long time member of this community. Our conversation was a far-reaching one but eventually the subject turned to St. David’s and I said something about how excited I was to be coming here, and how full of hope I felt. He smiled and I expected him to say something like “we’re so glad you’re coming, too,” or words to that effect. Instead, he chuckled and said “Personally, I think you’re nuts!”

I disagreed then and I disagree now. Unless we’re all nuts. It was, and continues to be, a joy and a privilege to be here with all of you. But today’s celebration is not about me. This Sunday, like every Sunday, is a celebration of resurrection, in all of its forms: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the resurrection of a church that was almost left for dead, and the little and not-so-little resurrections in each of our lives.

Three years ago, we began an adventure. If you look “adventure” up in the dictionary, you’ll find something like “a wild and exciting undertaking of uncertain outcome.” A wild and exciting undertaking of uncertain outcome.

I talked a lot in the beginning about “the St. David’s adventure.” I hope many of us still feel as though coming to church is an adventure. That’s as it should be. We lose something if we think we’re past the adventure stage.

We are on a journey together, all of us, each one of us. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been part of the St. David’s story for 25 years or 2.5 years or 2 months or 25 minutes. You’re part of the story.

It was most fitting, three years ago, that we heard this wonderful reading from Acts.

Just to review: an angel sends Philip to Gaza. He travels on a wilderness road and encounters an Ethiopian eunuch returning from pilgrimage in Jerusalem. At that time, an “Ethiopian” was anyone from the region south of Egypt, which was considered among the farthest corners of the earth. Ethiopians were marginal Jews by virtue of being foreigners; a eunuch was even more marginalized. The fact that the Ethiopian is a eunuch is significant only because it adds to his foreignness, and would probably have excluded him from Jewish temple worship. When Philip encounters him, he is reading the prophet Isaiah. He asks Philip to help him understand the scriptures, and as a result decides to be baptized. They go down into the water together, and Philip baptizes him. The Ethiopian eunuch goes on his way rejoicing and Philip goes on his way evangelizing.

There are a bunch of elements to this story that speak to us about our journey as a parish, or might speak to you about your own individual path:

  1. This story is about a wilderness journey. Luke goes out of his way to say that the road on which Philip and the foreigner encounter each other is a wilderness road. A road through the desert. The wilderness—literally but more often figuratively—is the place where many of us have experiences that open us to new possibilities and a new awareness of God’s presence.
  2. The encounter is a transforming encounter between strangers, people who are foreigners to one another.
  3. The Ethiopian is wondering about something. He has a question. Whom does the scripture speak about? he wants to know. What are you wondering about? Who will you ask?
  4. Philip starts out thinking he’s supposed to be on his way somewhere, to Gaza, but where he is supposed to be is on the journey. That’s where the action is. Remember that part of the definition of adventure?
  5. Philip shares with the Eunuch the faith story that we all share. What happens to the Ethiopian is that he hears the stories from scripture and makes them his own. This process is part of conversion and part of formation. We make the Great Story our own every time we gather around this table for the Eucharist, sharing across time and space with all the others who have gathered to do the same.
  6. And finally, the encounter ends with the sine qua non of baptism: Water. (I love the eunuch’s spontaneous initiative: “Look! Here’s water! What is to stop me from being baptized right now??”) The water of baptism is the water of life. Like God the Holy Spirit, it is within us and all around us. This speaks to me especially in this season of creating new rain gardens and vegetable gardens and all the planting and new growth happening in us and around us.

* * *

This is an exciting adventure that we are on, you and I, this wilderness journey, through territory that is strange in some ways and familiar in other ways. A journey in which each one of us has a part, each one of us—whether you’ve been here for 35 years or three years or three months or 35 minutes—everyone has a job to do and a role to play in the adventure. “A wild and exciting undertaking of uncertain outcome.”

Does this mean that all of you are excited all of the time?

Does it mean that you will be on your way rejoicing with every new day?

And in our heart of hearts do any of us actually like undertakings “of uncertain outcome”? Not necessarily.

The story from Acts leaves out the tedium of discipleship, and the ambivalence that Philip may have had about the journey he found himself on. The author of Acts doesn’t tell us about the deep struggles with faith that the Ethiopian probably encountered when he arrived back at court. The story doesn’t have to tell us what it’s like to question one’s faith or one’s purpose and mission—I expect we’ve all been there at one time or another.

There’s a prayer I pray every morning. I used to think I was praying it about St. David’s, then I realized—duh!—that it is indeed a prayer for the whole universal Church of people seeking to proclaim the gospel and live a resurrected life. Some of you know it: we pray it at ordinations and we also pray it on Good Friday and during the Great Vigil of Easter. You can find it on page 291 of the Book of Common Prayer. Let’s pray it together:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Let us be on our way rejoicing.