Monthly Archives: August 2012

eNotes: August 23-29, 2012

The Word

from Sara

This has truly been a glorious summer and it is so so so great to be back in Portland and back in the office with only a tiny bit of travel next week to the Wild Goose Festival, from which I’ll joyfully return in time for church on Sunday.

This is the season for one of my favorite activities: scheming and dreaming. This week’s ideas? A three- or four-week “Bible 101” for brand new Christians and for all you cradle Episcopalians who don’t know your beatitudes from your begats. (I know, that refers to another class of people, but you can relate, right?) And a similar short course on the Episcopal Church: Henry and Elizabeth, smells and bells, sanctuary candles and Advent wreaths, Prayer Book and Hymnal.

 

This Week
Breakfast with Neysa! This Sunday, August 26, 8:45
Bring the whole family over for a simple continental breakfast in the Parish Hall and a chance to chat with Rev. Neysa Ellgren, the diocesan Canon for Congregational Development.

The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 16: This Sunday, August 26, 10am
The bulletin is back! Always know what’s happening on Sunday by reading them in advance here.

Looking Ahead
Book Group: Next Thursday, August 30. 11 – 12
The book group with good coffee and a mission.. one of our many exciting collaborations with the New City Initiative!

Wild Goose West is coming! Next weekend, August 31-September 2
Day passes now available if you want to bring the family for a taste of this exciting project!

Sacred Garden Dedication: Next Sunday, September 2
Have you seen our SE corner garden lately? We owe a big thank you to CityRepair’s Village Building Convergence team and Eagle Scout Christopher Luchini, his family, and his troop for transforming this area into a sacred garden this summer. We’ll celebrate with prayer and outdoor coffee hour.

History Room Brunch: Sunday, September 16, 11:15
Come have a tasty brunch and explore ways you might help the ongoing project to preserve, share, and celebrate our parish history and present. All are welcome, but do sign-up in advance starting this Sunday.

 

Parish News
Parishioner Jim Pecore is staying at his sister Carol’s home while receiving treatment for melanoma. Consider sending a card to 4676 Oakridge Road, Lake Oswego OR 97035. Jim is also happy to have visitors but has limited energy. If you’d like to call or visit, please contact Sara for more information.

Got a name tag? If you do, start wearing it! We have had loads of guests this summer and expect more leading into the fall. Can’t find yours or never had one? Let the office know.

Covenant of Hope update: Annika and her children are settled in at their apartment and doing well; they went to the zoo last week and are looking forward to the start of a new school term.
The family is still in need of:

  • a dresser or chest of drawers
  • cards to let them know we’re thinking of them (please check with the church office or Linda Goertz for the address)
  • prayers

Word Made Flesh, Made Bread

Rev. Julia Fritts McWilliams has been such a gift to us this summer! Did you miss any of her beautiful sermons? Her words from this past Sunday are below, but don’t miss What Sign Will You Give Us? and God is in the Midst of Even This.

Come Lord Christ: our Word, made Flesh, made Bread; abide in us this day. Amen.+

Good morning, sweet friends here at St. David of Wales! Or, as my little neighbor says, “St. David of the Whales.” “I want to go there!,” she says – “I love whales too!” There’s so much love here, my new-old friends, and it has been a privilege to serve with you a bit this summer. You may know this already, or you may not: what you all are doing here at St. David’s is very important. You’re helping people to discover that church is alive; that church is a relevant and beautiful thing. That being in relationship with God matters. That offering beautiful worship fills our souls. That being nourished by the Word and the Bread of Christ strengthens us, readies us, to be Godbearers out into a wary world. Serving the diocese of Western Oregon as I do, I see how urgently needed this is. I commend you, and I thank God for you.
Jesus says today, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

We’ve thought a lot about Bread this summer, haven’t we? Sometimes it happens this way, that our lectionary text gives us this long run of teachings all in a row, all about Bread. This summer we’ve pondered: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…” I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” Then this and next Sunday’s text: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”

Jesus was so corporeal, wasn’t he? Fully incarnate, fully flesh. What more earthy gift could there be than to give his body and blood as our food and our drink. Jesus was certainly never one to go small, was he – giving himself so fully like this, for the sake of the whole world: Bread of heaven, to earth come down. And as mysterious and hard as it may be to think of our Lord as body and blood, bread and wine; even with the cosmically wide scope of his Presence with us, and in us, in the Eucharistic Feast, Jesus reminds us that he is also the basic stuff of life, our simple bread, our everyday sustenance.
Bread has an important place throughout Jesus’ ministry, doesn’t it. I’m reminded of its place in the Lord’s Prayer. Teaching his disciples how to pray, he said, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Not “give us enough for the season, or  for the year, or for a lifetime.” Not “give us this day a feast of riches”…Jesus said, “give us the nourishment we need to get through this day.” Just enough, for this day.

In the Aramaic text from the Peshitta text of the second century (1), we find real beauty in the words of his prayer. “Hawvlan  lachma  d’sunquanan  yaomana:” Give us bread for our needs this day. Give us lachma, which means both bread, and understanding. Lachma, the root of the word Hachma that we heard today in Proverbs, meaning Holy Wisdom, and later translated as Sophia in the Greek. Give us bread, give us understanding, give us wisdom – enough to suffice for this day: enough wisdom for just today’s step: d’sunquanan yaomana.

Isn’t that the hardest part, really  – the next step? We pray, “God of the cosmos, with-me on earth, help me: give me the wisdom to know how to take just the next step in front of me.”  This seems like a particularly relevant prayer for all of us heading into – I hesitate to say it – Autumn. Yes, we’re full on in the heat of this long-awaited late summer, but we all see the signs of the coming season. Even as I write this sermon I hear the University marching band practicing for the first time. Autumn is coming – a time for new beginnings, next steps – and with it comes a return of a certain pace, greater unknown, paths ahead that may require big steps.

But there I go again, as we all tend to do – running off into the future, thinking about the next step and the next step after that, and which way to go…when Jesus teaches us to come back to the present. Give us the nourishment and the wisdom to be in the present; to take the step in front of us on this day.  As every great spiritual tradition teaches, the practice of being in the present is always the goal. Come back to the present: release the past; trust God with the future. Give us what we need for this day…for this day is all we really have. Jesus, our teacher, has said this before.

Do you remember in his sermon on the Mount when Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in ____?” Spirit. The poor in spirit…a phrase that confused me for a long time. But again, the ancient languages give us the key. The word he used for “spirit” is best translated as “breath”: Pneuma in Greek, Ruach in Hebrew, Shekina in Aramaic…the breath. The one thing, the only thing, that we really have in the present moment: this breath. Blessed are they who know that the only thing they really have is this present breath. Blessed are those who live in the present, who cherish this day. Give us, this day, our daily breath.

Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

We as Christians are so blessed to know him. Not everyone does. We as Christians have this beautiful gift of the Eucharist to receive him: to feel his presence abiding in us. But with it comes the responsibility to be his Body in the world: as Mother Theresa said, we are the only hands and feet he has now. And so we are to feed each other. Whether it’s here at the altar or out in the classroom, the studio, the office, the neighborhood – we are to feed one another, and bear his Holy Presence out into the world.

Jesus gave himself as living bread for the life of the world. Soon the table will be set, and we will gather to receive his nourishment and his wisdom, to become what we receive: the Body of Christ, given for the world. As each of us is drawn forward, just as we are, into the mystery of the Word made Flesh made Bread, let us breathe in deeply the blessing of this present moment, and be strengthened for the step ahead. Amen.+
(1) Syriac Aramaic manuscript of the Gospels known as the Peshitta version, thought to have been written in the2nd century  AD.  Prepared by Rev. G.H.Gwilliam, published in 1901 by Clarendon Press.

eNotes: August 16-22, 2012

The Word
Have you been missing your Sunday routine this summer? We’ve been missing you, too! Did you know that we post the test of the sermon on our blog? Want to play catch-up? Here are some recent sermons we heard:

This Week
The Living School Yard Sale: This Saturday, August 18, 8-3
Come over to pickup something special for a school-aged child in your life and support our newest building partner at the same time.

The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 15: This Sunday, August 19, 10am
Holy Eucharist and Godly Play

The paper bulletin returns! Click the link to check it out. What do you think? Have a suggestion, comment, or thought? Feel free to send a message to the office (Office@SaintDavidPDX.org or 503.232.8461) or just scribble an idea down on the bulletin itself this Sunday and leave it under the door as we tweak its look and layout for a few weeks.

Kitchen Share SE Grand Opening: This Tuesday, August 21, 5-8pm
Welcome our new building partner at their official opening celebration on the front lawn. I heard there is a fresh ice cream making demo.. yum!

Looking Ahead
Canon Neysa Ellgren Visits: Next Sunday, August 26
Don’t miss this opportunity to visit with the diocesan Canon for Congregational
Development! All are invited to a continental breakfast with Neysa in the Grace
Room at 8:45.

Wild Goose West: August 31-September 2
Day passes now available if you want to bring the family for a taste of this exciting project!

Sacred Garden Dedication: Sunday, September 2
Have you seen our SE corner garden lately? We owe a big thank you to CityRepair’s Village Building Convergence team and Eagle Scout Christopher Luchini, his family, and his troop for transforming this area into a sacred garden this summer. We’ll celebrate with prayer and outdoor coffee hour.

History Room Brunch: Sunday, September 16, 11:15
Come have a tasty brunch and explore ways you might help the ongoing project to preserve, share, and celebrate our parish history and present. All are welcome, but do sign-up in advance starting this Sunday.

Parish News
The results are in! Checkout the full results if you haven’t already.

Got a name tag? If you do, start wearing it! We have had loads of guests this summer and expect more leading into the fall. Can’t find yours or never had one? Let the office know.

What sign will you give us?

Thank you to Rev. Julia A. Fritts McWilliams for preaching these words with us on August 5, 2012.

John 6:24-35

Come, Lord Jesus; Great I Am, come: and be known to us in the breaking open of Word and Bread. Amen.+

Good morning, my friends, and happy summer! It’s full on summer now, isn’t it – finally! A time for refreshment, for refilling our depleted reserves. Mother Sara is away doing just that, and gave me this honor of serving and worshiping with you again today. We come together to find rest, and renewal; solace, and strengthening; courage, and reassurance. We come together to refill those empty places that the world would drain away: We come to be filled, and fed.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus Christ: the Great I Am: Word made flesh, Bread of life – self-given in love, to feed the whole world, and deliver it from brokenness. We know who he is, what he is, two thousand years after he said this to the thronging crowds that day. But they weren’t so sure. Even after witnessing that long string of miracles – exorcisms, healings, raising the dead, feeding the five thousand, walking on water! – even still, after all that, the people asked him this: “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?”

Oh my. “Show us a sign!” with the signs all around. “Help us believe you!” with proof right at hand. We shake our heads and marvel at their blindness; we commiserate with Jesus at all the hard-headedness he faced. But, my friends, isn’t it just that same way for us? When confusion exhausts us, and hope falls away, when we’ve lost all sense of direction – isn’t that us, calling out the same thing? “Show us a sign!” “Help us to believe that you are who you say; help me to believe that you are at work in my life.” Even now, after two thousand years of understanding and cultural hindsight, after a lifetime of learning all that he is and all that he does, I shake my head and marvel at my own blindness, because sometimes it’s that way for me. “Show me a sign, Lord – show me a sign: am I out here all alone, or can I believe that you at work in this?”

Maybe this is the question that lies deep in the heart of things: can we believe? Jesus tells us today that our work is to believe: he says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” We are to believe in God, and believe in Jesus. But sometimes that’s very hard: we are creatures of intellect, and reason, and doubt; and life on earth is a devastating business sometimes. It can be very hard to believe that a loving God is at work in the world when suffering is all around. It brings us face to face with our old friend, “The Big Question.” Remember that? We explored it a few weeks ago: if God is real, then why is there so much suffering that we cry out for signs at all?

Some would say that suffering is a sign of God’s unreality, of God’s absence. Some would say that suffering simply integral to finite mortal life. I am persuaded that all of our troubles – sadness, worry, grief, fear, anger, doubt, pain – all these things are part of mortal life, not a sign that something is broken. Suffering is inherent in being human. And isn’t that why Jesus came? To be with us in the midst of the suffering. To be the bread of life to sustain us, the cup of grace to remind us of his presence. To be the sign for us of larger life, proof of his love, all around us – no matter how many times we fall into unbelief.

So look again. Find the signs and wonders that have marked the path of your life, and grow in belief that God is well at work in it. Come again into believing, no matter how many times you’ve lost your way in unbelief – as the Sufi mystic Jalal ad-Din Rumi said, “Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again; come.”

Jesus understands us in all our brokenness – in our unbelief, in our hard-headedness – and beckons us to grow in belief that, although we may not see exactly the sign we’ve set our hearts on, God’s signs are there, all around. So come, believe; find the signs of his presence in you, and among you. He is the Bread of life; he is the Cup of grace. Come; be filled and replenished: become what you receive*: the Body of Christ, given for the world.

Amen.

*”Become what you receive…” St. Augustine of Hippo, 4th century

A fragrant offering

Many thanks, James Joiner, for this fine sermon! 

“Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

The final line from our Ephesians reading this morning was a favorite Offertory sentence of my priest in Greensboro, North Carolina, and he recited it every Sunday morning after the Peace had been exchanged and the announcements had been made before we prepared to break bread together at the altar. It did what an Offertory sentence is supposed to do in the liturgy, it refocused our attention towards the Lord’s table after all the hustle and bustle of our prayers and glad exchanges and comments on the life of our community were through. He also habitually followed this sentence by asking our pianist for the number of the Offertory hymn, so in my mind this line of scripture is not only always spoken in his voice but always with the added dialogue between priest and musician, “Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. What’s the hymn, Joan?” After hearing it enough times, this line burned itself onto my heart. This was in the early days of my return to church from a very long time away from it, and this verse haunted me on long, ambling Sunday afternoon strolls around the city after mass, my mind full of urgent questions about how, exactly, I was supposed to go about loving all the unlovable people around me. “Walk in love,” I heard, passing by the man who slept beneath the bridge, “walk in love” past the garbage bins behind the grocery store full of perfectly edible produce with slight imperfections, “walk in love” alone, keeping all my thoughts close to my chest, unsure of how to even begin broaching the subject of my newfound savior in Christ Jesus within the mostly secular world where I worked and played.

“Walk in love as Christ loved us, and gave himself for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Not a perfect sacrifice, as it is described elsewhere in the Epistles, though its perfection is presumed, but a fragrant one. I found this phrasing captivating and evocative. “What, exactly, is supposed to smell good about the cross of Christ?” I wondered. Is it the smell of lilies at the altar freshly opened on an Easter morning, or perhaps the lamb roasting in the oven? Well, actually, yes, in part, it is. In the most primitive, Biblical- even pre-Biblical sense of the term, sacrifices were supposed to smell good. Sacrifice simply meant the animal you killed for God. It was usually the fattest, choicest piece of an animal roasting on the open coals, the smoke of its fat rising to an invisible God somewhere past the sky. I was reminded of this one Autumn morning as I walked outside the doors of St. Mary the Virgin in New York City after Mass and passed onto West 46th St because I moved from one kind of smoke to another as I went. If you’re any kind of ecclesiastical tourist, you might know the parish I’m talking about by its nickname, “Smoky Mary’s”, so called for its profuse employment of incense during services, which, I’ve been told, is stored in the back by the barrel-full. Outside on 46th St, however, the smoke was of a different kind. One of Manhattan’s many street fairs was well underway, and the usual assortment of food carts were out en masse, their flat, black griddles sizzling hot with beef shanks and whole chickens whose flesh erupted into white, aromatic smoke upon contact. Our worship used to smell something like this, I thought. The alluring smell of something tasty rising up to heaven, drawing anyone with a nose to follow in, curious to see what’s cooking.

In the Torah, animal sacrifices were prescribed to cover a multitude of offenses, and for general thanksgiving as well. If you were truly sorry about something and didn’t want to get kicked out of the clan for it, you took a perfect, valuable specimen of livestock from your herd, that is- you took it out from the midst of your very own livelihood, and you gave it to the priests of the Holy Tent to carve and burn for God appropriately. If you didn’t have an animal you took a bird and if you didn’t have a bird you took some grain. It was symbolic. It was something that stood in for your very own self. It had to be symbolic. God didn’t need to eat a bull or a goat or even a handful of grain for that matter. God did not desire those things, he desired the people themselves. He desired a people who made his name known to all the world by walking in the ways of his justice and truth. And when, as it would inevitably happen time after time after time that the people fell short of that ultimate goal of total surrender to God’s way of justice, they would make sacrifice upon the altar of hot coals before his tent in reparation. They would make sacrifice regularly, in fact, to cover for any misgivings they had missed. They would make sacrifice because of how grateful they were for the blessings of their households, and for the harvest. They would make sacrifice to remember that everything they had belonged to God and came from God and was going back to God in the end. In one of the great anthropomorphisms of the Torah, God is revealed as delighting in the very smell of these sacrifices offered before him as the smoke rose heavenward. But the prophets tell us that what he loved even more than this was when his people acted with God’s justice and God’s loving kindness in the world around them. Hosea says that God delights in mercy and knowledge of God even more. “I desire mercy more than sacrifice,” God says to Hosea, “and the knowledge of my ways more than burnt offerings.” Similarly, Psalm 51 calls out that, “The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

“Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” When the authors of these Christian letters speak of Christ as sacrifice, they are pointing to this altar by a tent in the wilderness, they are pointing to a life of mercy for all who desire turning from their selfish ways to God, they are pointing to a heart that was broken by the cruelty of this world. They are pointing to the way that Jesus gave himself over to the life of God, not in a symbolic way only, but utterly, entirely. What is more, they are pointing to the way he was given over entirely to God for our sake, that all with eyes to see and ears to hear might know what God is like, that we might experience and taste and touch the very goodness of God’s way in the flesh, by the physical realities of our fingers and our mouths and our beating hearts. When a human soul is given up entirely to God, it does not take an alluring fragrance to signal its desirability to those about it. It is, in its own regard, effusive. More than a flower calling bees in Spring, more than the perfume of a lover long-since gone, the soul given up to God fills a room and calls down to our deepest yearning for what is good in this world. It is apparent , as the letter to the Ephesians says, every time that we are able to tell the truth to one another in loving-kindness, every time anger rises within us and we are brave enough to let it pass without adding to its rage, every time we forgive the one who has made mistakes in our direction and failed to live up to the radiant justice that God has given us up to making. It is, in other words, our own sacrifice to make, as well as Christ’s. Not always on a cross of wood, but often in the crucible of true friendship, honest speech, and the always ever difficult forgiveness offered up to those who hurt us.

“Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” It isn’t easy, being members of one another, being open and honest enough with one another to act as a single body does, its nerves intimately connected, immediately communicating the next move that needs to happen. But it is good, and it is what God desires. It is what makes our Church a living sacrifice to God, a witness to the life of truth and reconciliation that is possible among us. And it is ours to claim as soon as we pass from the doors of this place on this day into a world that desperately needs to taste and touch that goodness, too. Walk around in it, move about in the effusive goodness God has given us this day, a banquet of unending love springing new from every step you make in God’s creation, and share it with the people you pass by. Your sacrifice of love will be Christ’s own, reaching out to those around you, and it will fill the air of any room you both shall enter. Amen.

eNotes: August 9-15, 2012

The Word
Building Partners join our community in a variety of ways. We don’t advertise vacancies, but, instead, rely on word of mouth of and a good dose of Spirit to bring our building to life throughout the week. Recently, we met with some members from The Living School, a small Reggio and Spanish K-6 one-room style school, who had lost their space and much of their enrollment in the Spring. Read what happens next…

This Week
Portland Fiddle Camp Final Concert: This Friday, August 10, 2:30pm
It has been a blast hosting this 3rd annual summer camp for young fiddlers from as far away as Idaho! Come hear their final presentation in the Parish Hall.

The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 14: This Sunday, August 12, 10am
Holy Eucharist and Godly Play

What Work Is: This Wednesday, August 15, 7 pm
What do you do? What do you love? How is God calling you? This year’s “summer experiment” is a conversation about our life’s work, whatever that may be.

Looking Ahead
The Living School Yard Sale: Saturday, August 18
Yes, that storage unit in the parking lot belongs to our new building partner, but it’s full of things they don’t need and are going to sell! Have some stuff in your garage that you would like to donate to their sale? Let them know! They would love to make this yard sale a fun shared event.

Kitchen Share SE Grand Opening: Tuesday, August 21, 5-8pm
Welcome our new building partner at their official opening celebration on the front lawn. I heard there is a fresh ice cream making demo.. yum!

Parish News
The results are in! Thanks very much for all of your input on our Summer Questionnaire. It was  a huge success: we received 45 responses! Of course, our door is always open for comments and suggestions from the community, this information is extremely helpful as we prepare for the fall. Check out the full results!

Got a name tag? If you do, start wearing it! We have had loads of guests this summer and expect more leading into the fall. Can’t find yours or never had one? Let the office know.