Resources

Monday
Dec122016

Katie Pakos Rimer's Sermon for 3 Advent 12-11-16

Advent 3, Year A

Rev. Katie Pakos Rimer, Ed.D.

December 11, 2016

St. James’ Episcopal Church

 

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us. Amen.

 

A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way

-Isaiah 35, v. 8


In this morning’s gospel I read tension between John the Baptist and Jesus.  John the Baptist is in prison;  lately preparing the way for Jesus has been getting him  into trouble. John the Baptist is having second thoughts about Jesus. He sends Jesus a message, “Are you really the One who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” And in this morning’s reading Jesus is angered by John’s question. He reminds John he’s been busy restoring sight to the blind, making the lame walk again, fulfilling the prophesies set forth in Isaiah. Come on, John the Baptist, Jesus seems to be saying, you know I’m the one.

It wasn’t until this year that I appreciated the STORMINESS of these Advent readings.  Conflict between John the Baptist and Jesus, tension, impending death. John second-guessing Jesus, Jesus getting perturbed.  Not to mention the whole exile in Isaiah. Real lives on the line. Previously I had absorbed the Peaceable kingdom readings of Advent, when the lion lies down with the lamb, and of course we all know where we’re heading this season, to that stable in Bethlehem…(maybe we can see the star already… and the angel dance)…but this year I have noticed the storminess of these readings.

Where is the good news in the storm?

For things are stormy for us in our climate right now, aren’t they?  Politically stormy, socially stormy, economically stormy, ecologically stormy.  Real lives on the line, with more storms on the horizon.  In the storminess of this morning’s gospel, we see our own storm reflected. Our own anxiety and doubts.  I believe the scripture readings remind us, as my kids would say, the struggle is real, and it always has been.  And as Christians we are equipped for the struggle. There is, still and forever, good news.

Our neighbor preacher at Old Cambridge Baptist church, the Rev. Cody Sanders, whom I learned about from our own Olivia Hamilton, spoke last Sunday about how hard it is for progressives when things don’t seem to…progress.  With Martin Luther King we progressives like to think the moral arc of the universe is bending toward justice. But sometimes the moral arc of justice seems to be in a free fall. And then what?

Let’s telescope into the life of John the Baptist for a moment. Recall that John the Baptist, this central figure of the season, was the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah. Elizabeth and Zechariah were faithful people who had prayed for a child but had remained childless. Long before the days of in-vitro fertilization, sperm donation and surrogate wombs, this couple lived with infertility into old age.  Yet there they were, Elizabeth and Zechariah, in advanced age, and the story goes that the angel Gabriel announced Elizabeth would bear a child!  Wrinkly, menopausal Elizabeth – pregnant! Can you imagine? And an oft overlooked detail about this story (at least by me) is that Zechariah, upon hearing this news, was struck dumb! His tongue simply froze in his mouth and he remained mute for nine months until John was actually born – so deep was his shock at the blessing of this child. I believe this story holds an important message for us here and now. John the Baptist – this prominent figure in our Holy Scripture, who prepared the way for Jesus the Messiah – his WHOLE MINISTRY, came out of decades of waiting, of barrenness – physical, and probably spiritual.   Talk about a shoot of life coming out of Jesse’s tree stump!

These archetypal, mythic stories and figures tell us something about the sacred scale of things … perhaps Elizabeth and Zechariah’s decades of waiting are like the blink of an eye when it comes to the birth of Christianity.   We learn: God’s time is not our time.  Faithfulness is rewarded.  Having trouble in middle school? Wait a minute.  Struggling with illness?  Bide your time.  Tough presidential election? Stay alert.

In God’s time we are slow-cooked, not flash frozen.  In God’s time reality has hidden dimensions, our prayers and intentions knit together with God’s movement in ways we can hardly imagine.  Hope gestating in the darkness. With our help and God’s, the moral arc of the universe still bends toward justice, even if we can’t see it. We set our hearts on this truth.  This is faith.  And this faith sets us apart from those who are secular progressives.  Thank God for the gift of faith.

Faith is the bedrock, and then, as Christians, we act.  We watch and wait for invitations from God and like Elizabeth, we say yes. 

In Olivia Hamilton’s Advent reflections on the life of Anne Bredin, a white, Episcopal civil rights activist in the deep south in the 40s, 50s and 60s, I learned about a pivotal moment for Anne, when in her early twenties she decided to dedicate her life to dismantling racism.  She received a letter from William Patterson of the Civil Rights Congress, and He wrote to Anne, as she wondered what in the world she would do when she woke up to the racial injustice that had informed her whole life.  Patterson wrote, “You do have a choice. You don’t have to be a part of the world of the lynchers. You can join the other America. There is another America. And it’s always been here, ever since the first slave ship arrived. The people who have struggled against injustice.” Anne says she realized, “it’s a long chain of struggle, that stretches way back long before I was here, and will stretch into the future long after I’m gone”.  And in that moment, in her twenties, Anne chose to be part of the other America.  She discerned her piece in the larger struggle, felt the call to action, and said yes.

For the call to act is as urgent as the call to trust in God’s goodness. 

How about you?  What choice is God presenting to YOU, in this time of struggle? Perhaps you are mired in the larger cultural storm that we read about in the morning’s headlines (it’s hard not to be). Or perhaps your particular storm right now is more personal, closer to home: the loss of health, the loss of a relationship, struggle in school, or a job. What are YOUR choices?  In what ways do you need to remember and trust in the sacred scale of things – God’s time is not our time – God’s light burns in the deepest darkness? And in what ways do you need to act? Step into the just-right-sized responsibility that is yours, and identify what you can do, like Anne Bredin did, and say yes.  For we always have choices.

This kind of discernment is deeply personal. It is the discernment that reveals to each of us that for which we are honestly and truly responsible for, and that which we need to give to God in hope.  That for which we have to passionately, actively wait, and that which we have to pursue with urgent commitment.    I am convinced our salvation depends on this discernment. 

Advent is a beautiful season that illuminates the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be.  As Christians in 2016, this is our season!  We have the faith to trust that what we are waiting for has already arrived; Emmanuel, God-with-us.  In Advent we set our hearts on the Peaceable kingdom and we wait on God, trusting in things unseen, anticipating the birth of Jesus. In Advent we step courageously into the storms of our lives and bear witness to our own and others’ suffering (we Christians are not in denial).  Jesus never promised we would not have pain or feel loss, in fact He didn’t promise anything concrete except: do not be afraid, for I am with you always.  And in Advent we discern those precious in-breakings of the Spirit here and now, those thin places, when God speaks to us directly, like He did to Anne Bredin through William Patterson’s letter. Like he did to Elizabeth, and to Mary. In Advent we wait for what has already begun.  You have already walked through the church’s door. Your heart has already answered God’s call. The seed has already been planted. Now, say ye. You have what it takes. Amen. 

 

Click here for information about Anne Bredin.

https://soundcloud.com/old-cambridge-baptist  See “The Storm Before the Calm,” December 4, 2016, by Rev. Cody Sanders.

 

Monday
Dec122016

Holly Lyman Antolini's Homily for the Marriage of Philip Burnham, Jr. & Frannie Lindsay

A Marriage Homily for Philip Burnham, Jr. & Frannie Lindsay

December 10th, 2016

 

This is truly an Advent wedding, and not just because Frannie decided it was the appropriate season to marry when Phil asked her, nor even because Philip said so in his poem on the occasion of that engagement.

This is an Advent wedding because, like so much of the symbolism of the season of Advent, it represents light in much darkness: first in this little cocoon of light on a winter’s afternoon in the shelter of this capacious altar and its old encircling apse, the golden affirmations of the immensity of a sheltering God glimmering above us. Then, we find light in darkness more profoundly in this blessing of intimacy and connection dwarfed by the disturbingly awesome distances of the winter’s night sky, whose darkness echoes a disturbingly dark time in world history. In a time of division and weaponization, a time in which cultures and tribes and nations are grinding up against each other with the force of tectonic plates, shattering old diplomacies and courtesies, we shelter here together betimes and against all odds, bless harmony, bless connection, bless union.

This is an Advent wedding too because Advent is the time between the “already” and the “not-yet,” the weird breath-holding season in which we look back into the far-distant beginning and forward into the unseen end of shalom, of peace and wholeness; the time long hoped-for, when swords become plowshares and lions bed peacefully with lambs; the time that is coming yet has never yet come.  Advent is the season when we commemorate a God so loving that God could not withhold that divine love but had to release it into the world in the only human form appropriate to its vulnerability and self-giving: as a human baby, born without even the shelter of a house or a known community around it, born completely at the mercy of the cold political and socio-economic winds of his day, a baby who, human as he was, was nevertheless infused with such divine energy that as he grew into a man, he was able to keep to a course of love against all the pressures to give up such a vulnerable project. And even as we commemorate that Coming into the World – that Advent – of divine love working within the human project, in Advent we simultaneously acknowledge how very, very far we stand from the fulfillment of that love promised in his Coming. Very far indeed. Excruciatingly, sometimes even terrifyingly far. Advent is the season that holds and cherishes so tender a hope even as it dares to name the distance we must yet travel to realize it. What better way to name the peculiar status of a couple marrying one another: this utter vulnerability and humanity; this irrepressible enactment of love, even knowing how far from perfect this (or any) union is, how breathtaking and mysterious the distance between even two people who profoundly love each other. How tender and uncompromising is this hope embodied in a marriage, a hope strong enough to carry us forward in the face of whatever lies ahead; a tensile, resilient hope; a determined and deeply committed reaching for each other, reaching for the wholeness of shalom.

This is an Advent wedding because these two people are most self-evidently poets, and as poets, they know better than most how impossible it is to name exactly what is true, and how instead it is best to glimpse it through a glass darkly, a shimmer of cardinal; a flicker of candles. How despite such inarticulacy, what is most important can still, somehow, be extended by one and be grasped, comprehended – embraced – by the other. How the poignancy of this offering and accepting can swell the heart and fill the longing soul and fuel the courage.

This is an Advent wedding because more than most couples who marry – all those young couples full of optimism for a long life together, for the bearing of children and their nurture – Philip and Frannie know exactly how vulnerable they are. Their long lives have taught them their own foibles and failings. Their aging bodies are no longer vessels of sweet delusion that the symbiosis of bodies can preserve us but rather ever-present reminders of our passing-away yet all the more precious as they still enact the sacrament of connection. Frannie & Philip have, each in their own way, learned solitude, learned it enough to cherish it even as they give it away to each other. So even amidst all that chronos – all that relentless “time passing” and “time long spent,” the inexorable “moving on” – Frannie and Philip are nevertheless seizing the Advent day, opening within the turbulent thrust of time the utterly unutterable present that is the kairos of love, love which is in and of itself a glimpse of the awe & wonder of divine eternity.

This is an Advent wedding because it shies not away from paradox, but rather embraces it for the gifts it bears us human beings, so inevitably alone and yet so deeply in need of connection and community. Philip & Frannie have chosen to have their union acknowledged and blessed in the very old words of the 1928 Prayer Book and the King James Bible, bringing those ancient beauties to this very present moment. Embracing as we do the full span of Advent’s Alpha & Omega into this marriage blessing, I cannot end without the words from the blessing over the rings in the newer Book of Common Prayer, with which each member of the couple binds themselves with a circle of promise on the other’s finger, saying, “With all that I am and all that I have, I honor you.”  “I honor you.” Not “I own you.” Not “I possess you.” No: the words are much closer to a deep bow than an encompassing embrace, leaving just a little distance of respect for the mystery of the Other always resonating between them, the paradoxical freedom of a union that makes each member of the couple ever-more distinctly, more fully and more gloriously themselves even as, God willing and God helping, they become ever more devotedly an “us.”

This Advent evening, Frannie and Philip, my prayer of blessing for the two of you is, may you discover again and again that each of you can, with God’s help, bring all that you are and all that you have – the beautiful and exalting parts of you and the ignominious and failing parts of you, the whole honest gift of you – to the ephemeral and yet eternal honor of one another, this day and always, unto ages of ages. AMEN.

Tuesday
Nov292016

Holly Lyman Antolini's Sermon for 1 Advent 11-27-16

Audio recording of Holly Lyman Antolini's sermon for 1 Advent

 

1 Advent Year C 11-27-16

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Isaiah 2:1-5; Ps. 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

 

The night is far gone; the day is near. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! AMEN.

 

Welcome to the season of Advent, adventus, The Coming. Ironically, given the dynamic of hope suggested by the word “coming” – hope for the arrival of better things, new opportunity, new life; hope for the coming of Jesus the baby who brings divinity into our sphere of human understanding and human acting; hope for the coming of God’s shalom, the fullness of God’s peace and wholeness; hope for God finally to “beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, to lay down the swords and waterboarding and nuclear armament and barrel bombs of all nations so that we shall not learn war any more” – the truth is, Advent is not a season of ARRIVAL, it is a season of WAITING. When Pope Gregory hallowed the celebration of four Sundays of Advent during his reign in the last part of the 6th century of the Common Era, he designated this period before the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of Christ – the Feast of Emmanuel, God coming to dwell among us – as a season distinct from the season Lent, the season of penitence, of baptismal preparation for Easter. Advent was not to be a time of penance but of somber anticipation, a season of WAITING: a season of naming and enduring through the long and all-too-often painful hiatus between Jesus’ coming into our human frame in the vulnerable Palestinian baby in a corner of the Roman Empire 2000 years ago, and the eventual coming that we call “the Second Coming of Christ,” the coming of God’s love into full fruition in a world united and at peace.

This Advent, our waiting feels more fraught, more agonizing than most. In a nation where, even in our own communities, in Newton and Natick and right here in Cambridge, immigrants and people of color are being told to “they aren’t wanted here,” swastikas are being scrawled on walls, LGBTQ people maligned, hijabs pulled of heads, and racial and anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim slurs hollered at school games, the “works of darkness” seem to have been exhumed from the depths of the communal subconscious where all our efforts to embrace our American diversity had suppressed them, bubbling up in ugliness through the rifts of permission blasted by the language and behavior modeled in our Presidential campaign.

In the era of the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century, liturgical processions changed pace as if under the weight of loss experienced as a third of the population of Europe was expunged in a couple of years, so that choirs and clergy no longer entered their churches with three steps forward and one back, but only two steps forward for every one step back. Now in 2016 in the U.S., it feels as if our choir should process with one step forward and three steps back, backing their way up the center aisle to evoke the devastating blow to our long and treasured – if always vexed – tradition of American hospitality to the broad swathe of the world’s humanity. As if base of the Statue of Liberty should now read, “Give back your tired, your poor, your huddles masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send back the homeless, tempest-tossed, away! My lamp extinguished by the golden door!

Maybe instead of the hymn of peace and unity that is Psalm 122, we should be wailing Psalm 13, which my father used to holler down the stairs from his study to my mom in the kitchen when dinner was (as it often was) delayed:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I have perplexity in my mind, and grief in my heart, day after day? How long shall my enemy triumph over me?”

For those of us who have waited and long worked for liberation, for our civil rights to be extended and confirmed for all, this is a very dark season indeed. For those of us who have given up everything we had and journeyed far in search of new opportunity, in search of a life of peace, a place in which to raise children without fear, for our bewildered children themselves, this is a dire and doleful season. For all of us who uphold a dream in which we are not just a city but an entire globe, an entire Creation “that is at unity with itself,” as Psalm 122 says, a Creation that has “peace within its walls and quietness within its towers,” this is a desolate, even a desperate season of waiting indeed.

Where, O Lord, is that “mountain of the Lord” of which Isaiah speaks, where You “may teach us Your ways and that we may walk in Your paths?” How long, O Lord, must we wait? How many mountains must we climb before your peace, your great Dream of Shalom may be realized in its fullness? Have we come again to a time when our allegiance to God’s love may divide us, “one in the field, one taken; one grinding meal, one taken?” Have we come again to a time in which the choice to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves forces us to take sides, and even to put our lives in jeopardy from those who fear extending love beyond the margins of their “tribe,” as if the scarcity of love might deprive them of them of their just deserts?

But didn’t I say, the season of Advent is a season of WAITING? Not a season of paralysis! Not a season of wretched despair! If we are faithful followers of Jesus Christ, no matter what the darkness, we gird ourselves, says our First Advent collect, with the armor of light. In Advent, we press on to finish the last verses of Psalm 13:

But I put my trust in your mercy; my heart is joyful because of your saving help. I will sing to the Lord, for he has dealt with me richly; I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High.”

In Advent, no matter how discouraging the waiting seems to be, we reach for, we grasp this trust, this hope. Advent is a season in which no amount of danger can dissuade us from acts of love. Because as Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel, Advent’s waiting is not a season of passivity. It is not a time for somnolence.  It is a season for alertness. It is a time to detect the thief of injustice before he breaks in and steals the whole household. It is a “wake-up call,” to see what we have been sleeping through, what we have been taking for granted, not just material benefit, but rationality itself. It is a season in which, whatever the terrible and threatening mechanics of the larger world may be, over which we may have little influence, we can tune our attention to the more immediate horizon, to see what in the sleepiness of our quotidian “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage,” we have been missing. Illuminated by the love of Christ, who counted death a small price to pay for love, we can awake to the treatment of our nearest neighbors, those before our very eyes, whose suffering we have missed, and ally ourselves with them. And we can take whatever risks we must take to insure that they do not go unsupported and their plight does not remain unaddressed.

I was blessed to attend the one Boston evening of the “Pop-Up Magazine” sponsored by public radio station WBUR last week, in which my daughter Tina was one of the storytellers, a live “magazine” in which journalists on stage told stories with the help of projected images and recorded interviews. Coming as it did in the wake of the election, the producers of Pop-Up Magazine pondered adjusting their program to respond directly to the outcome of the election, but in the end, they decided that their program should stay just as it was, an unfolding collection of stories inviting us listeners to wake up to those around us whose plight – and whose strength & resourcefulness – we may have overlooked.

The last story was told by journalist Tim Hussin from San Francisco, where homelessness has – as it has in so many of our communities – increased disproportionately as the affluence of the community has steeply climbed. There the young reporter and his girlfriend, on their way to a date, overheard in the BART station an astonishing bass voice singing the African-American spiritual “Deep River.” “I’m no opera fan,” Hussin told us, “but this was clearly an operatic voice.” Pursuing the glorious sound to its source, the reporter found a homeless man, a person of color, leaning on a cane. We saw and heard the man on video behind the speaker, singing movingly in a public stairwell. Soon Hussin learned that the man was Juilliard-trained, someone who had begun a prosperous career in classical singing. But a hip injury had led to the use of opiates, and these quickly took over his life and sent him into a spiral of addiction, loss of relationships, and homelessness, first in New York City, then Los Angeles, and now San Francisco. Though Hussin tried to follow the man’s limping footsteps around the city in order to film a portrait of his predicament for a documentary on homelessness, he quickly lost track of the singer, as the man’s cell phone was stolen and he and his possessions, piled into a shopping cart, migrated to parts of the city unknown in the endless succession of displacements that are the homeless person’s unwanted lot. Then, one day, Hussin stumbled across the man again, dismantling his tent for yet another move.  Though still homeless, his friend had finally managed seven months’ sobriety and found health benefits that would at last replace the damaged hip. He shared with Hussin his newly burnished hope, his longing and his dream that, sober and newly mobile when healed from the surgery, he might at last return to the stage.

At which moment, we in the audience of Pop-Up Magazine were astonished as Tim Hussin’s singer himself, Tim Blevins, walked onto the stage, with the help of his cane, and proceeded to conclude the show by singing for us “The Impossible Dream,” from the musical “Man of La Mancha,” “To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to bear with unbearable sorrow, and to run where the brave dare not go…” Everyone on our feet. Everyone in tears.

This Advent, let us dream the impossible dream. Let us wake up to those whose plight we might be tempted to overlook. Let us gather together for strength and mutual prayer and interior listening – you could begin by coming at 6:30 PM this coming Wednesday (and each Wednesday in Advent), for our Advent Contemplative Compline – and then let us stand up together to the ways in which our fellow human beings are being threatened, maligned, and mistreated. Three steps backward, perhaps. But one firm step forward, in Advent love and hope. AMEN.

 

To see Tim Hussin's mini-documentary on Timothy Blevins, click HERE.

Tuesday
Nov222016

Olivia Hamilton's Sermon for Christ the King Sunday 11-20-16

Audio recording of Olivia Hamilton's sermon for Christ the King Sunday

 

Olivia Hamilton

Sermon: Christ the King 2016

 

Now, O God, take my lips and speak through them; Take our minds and discern through them; Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for You. Amen.

 

Good Morning. I want to begin by saying that I take very seriously the task of preaching, and especially in this particular moment in our history, when many, if not all of us, are in desperate need of Good News. I hope, by the grace of God, that I am able to bring you some today. But first I want to name up front that like many of you, I am still tangled in a thicket of despair, thinking and praying about what it means to follow Christ, in America, in 2016, on the heels of an election cycle that has distilled and unmasked some of the greatest perils to our faith, which has as its ultimate commandment that we love one another as Christ loves us: perils such as white supremacy, sexual and gender-based violence, xenophobia, religious intolerance, economic injustice, and disregard for our earth.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but it seems imperative that even when we don’t quite know what to say, that we don’t remain silent until we think we’ve got it all figured out. So what I offer today are not conclusions or prescriptions, but simple ‘field notes’ – questions, observations, and invitations. And I look forward to hearing about the field notes that you are all recording in this uncertain terrain: what questions are guiding your journey? What prayers and people and possibilities are you holding dear as you move through this time? And as a side note, a friend of mine sent me a message last week asking me “what gives you hope right now?” and to be completely honest, I haven’t written her back yet. But I think what I offer this morning is an attempt at a response.

And speaking of time, it feels important to note that this morning we find ourselves in one of the hinge moments of the liturgical year: Christ the King Sunday is positioned right at the end of the season of Pentecost and right before the beginning of Advent and a new year in the church. The feast of Christ the King is a day when Christians around the world are invited to think and pray about power, and specifically, what it means to worship a person who embodied God’s indiscriminate love in the face of a death-dealing political and social climate -- the powers and principalities of which ultimately led him to the Cross. It is a day when we are called to explore the ways in which the power that Christ embodies confronts suffering rather than conforms to it, expands our sense of what is possible instead of constricting it, forgives and welcomes us all into reconciliation rather than leaving any of us, any of us, in the dust, or to bear our crosses alone. To put it plainly: Jesus’ power is in his humility. His power is made manifest in the love he shares with all of us, and is wholly unlike any political power that attempts to divide, dichotomize, or disassemble us. Like the shepherd whom the prophet Jeremiah spoke of, Jesus gathers us all into his fold, refusing to leave us scattered. I don’t know about you, but to me, this feels like really, really GOOD NEWS right now!

So, that seems to be the WHAT of our faith: the power of Christ to transform our hearts and our world through compassion rather than domination is what compels us to follow Him. But the question for us as Christians, in this moment, seems less a question of WHAT, and more a question of HOW: how do we live our lives in witness to that power? How do we share that good news with others? At a time when many of feel as though things are utterly falling apart, we are told that in Christ all things hold together – how do we live in witness to that truth in the midst of doubt and despair?

Someone whose life and work and faith has been essential to me as I’ve grappled with the question of “how” is a woman named Anne Braden. Maybe some of you are familiar with her story, but I’ll share a small sketch of it now. Anne was born in 1924 to a wealthy white Southern family, and grew up in the rigidly segregated town of Anniston, Alabama. After becoming awakened to the sin of structural inequality while in college, Anne, who until her death in the mid-2000s was a devout Episcopalian, devoted her life to ending racism. She is best known for a single act, though her life was rich with moments of resistance to the death-dealing culture she had grown up in: in 1954 Anne and her husband Carl helped a Black family, the Wades, buy a small house in an all-white neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky by putting their own name on the deed. Within days, wooden crosses were burned in the house’s front yard, bricks were catapulted through the windows, and eventually the house was altogether blown up by dynamite. The Wades were not home when the explosion occurred, but a later investigation showed that the dynamite had gone off in the bedroom of their three-year-old daughter. Following these events, the Bradens were threatened by their white neighbors, put on trial by the State of Kentucky for sedition, accused of being race traitors and Communists, blacklisted for jobs, disavowed and betrayed by many of their white friends and family members.

Christ the King Sunday is one of the only times when we hear part of the passion narrative outside of Holy Week and Easter: this morning, in Luke’s gospel, we listened to the painful story of Jesus being ridiculed by bystanders as he hung on the cross, his clothes snatched and scattered, his identity called into question. It’s a story that plunges us right into the heart of the pain of Good Friday, and forces us to confront the brutality, violence and humiliation that Jesus was subjected to at the crucifixion.

We like to think of ourselves as Easter people living in a Lenten world. But we also understand that we cannot know Resurrection without traveling through the pain and brokenness and despair of Good Friday. In the same way, as much as we wish we could skip out on the fear and uncertainty of the present moment, right to a happy and harmonious Paradise, where reconciliation and healing are verbs that we talk about in the past tense. But in order to move toward those things, it seems to me that we must reckon with our shared history – to look head on, with open hearts and open minds – at the ways we have been divided and, for those of us with great privilege, the ways we have been complicit in maintaining and normalizing that division.

I mentioned earlier that Anne Branden was a devout Episcopalian, and I did so less because I want to claim her as one of us, although I am glad to count her as one of the saints of the church, and instead because I think her life modeled a theology that might give us something to ponder in the distinct moment we find ourselves in. In one interview, Anne said the following, which I think gives shape to the beliefs that undergirded her actions. She said: “Human beings have always been able to envision something better. I don’t know where they get it but that’s what makes human beings half divine I think. All through history there’ve been people who’ve envisioned something better in the most dire situations, and that’s what you want to be a part of. You won’t see the fruits of it but that that’s what you want to be a part of.”

Undoubtedly, we are all grappling with questions of power, and love, and action, as we read and watch news reports of increased violence being carried out, implicitly and explicitly, against some of the most vulnerable people in our society. As our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry reminds us in a recent letter, "during moments of transition, during moments of tension, it is important to affirm our core identity and values as followers of Jesus.” Doing so demands that we strive to be witnesses to reconciliation, and to resurrection, at all times and in all places. Doing so invites us to affirm that our hope in Christ is not a passive one, but one that encourages and inspires us to usher in God's reign here and now, through our thoughts, words, and deeds. And especially for those of us who live with the privileges afforded by race, class, citizenship, ability, gender or religion, doing so demands that we listen to and take our cues from those who have been experiencing and resisting oppression for generations.

Returning briefly to Anne Braden, I’m reminded through her willingness to die to her own security and status that she didn’t follow Christ because it’s convenient or comfortable. Like so many other Christians who lived and loved and risked in the face of injustice, she followed Christ because Christ represents possibility. In the most dire of situations, hanging on a cross, enduring pain and torture, Jesus turns to the criminal at his side and says “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” For Anne Braden, I think there was an implicit understanding that no matter who she was or where she came from, regardless of what class or race she was born into, Jesus was turning to her and welcoming her into the possibility of new life. In the same way, in the midst of this moment of profound suffering, I believe that Jesus longs to gather us all into his fold, so that we might help to build up and enact his vision of radical possibility.

In a political season where so much rhetoric has been aimed at upholding the world as it has been and as it is, Anne Braden’s faithful witness to the Gospel, her risk-taking and her refusal to cooperate, remind us of the beauty of the world that could be if we imagine together with God. That’s Paradise, ya’ll. That’s where Jesus is calling us.

As we enter into this new church year, I can’t wait to see how God will be working through this community, helping us to build up and live into that vision of Paradise, even if we can’t immediately see the fruits of our labor. We are all hungry for meaningful relationships, for communities of belonging, for viable futures; for ourselves and for those we love. As Christians, our hope is in Christ, and especially in the love he shared with us, which was and is so life-giving that it swallowed up suffering completely. If there’s anything that can interrupt our echo-chambers and our upholding of the status quo, and to allow us to really hear one another and hear the deepest longings of our own hearts from a place of love rather than fear, our hope in Christ is it. Let us listen for God’s voice speaking to us, calling us, inviting us, and let us prepare our response.

Amen.

Anne Braden Advent Calendar

Thursday
Nov172016

Approved October Vestry Minutes 10-18-16

Vestry Minutes:  Oct 18, 2016

Approved Nov. 15, 2016

 

Presiding: Rev Holly Lyman Antolini

Members Present:, Lucas Sanders, Jules Bertaut, Andrew Rohm, Tom Tufts, Marian King, Olivia Hamilton, Nancy McArdle, Matthew Abbate, Thomas Wohlers, Sylvia Weston

Absent:  Mardi Moran, Sarah Forrester, Tom Beecher

Guest:   Jeff Zinsmeyer, Jean Clark

 

Gathering

●        Following brief check-in time, Spiritual Practice was led by Matthew who shared the story of Caedmon and his song, including a beautiful singing of the song

Shared Leadership

●        Jules reported that the Shared Leadership leads are working on arranging a large meeting for the fall, with a focus on currency of relationship and what ministry teams need

●        Shared Leadership leads also discerning what is and isn’t working with the current model and if it should be shifted in some ways; looking for feedback

Rainbow Flag

●        Previously had decided that it would be good to have a conversation with the congregation about hanging flag outside

●        Flag is currently inside next to the bell

●        Discussed having an outside person lead that conversation:  possibly the consultant MaeBright of someone from Integrity

●        Jules agreed to help Lucas reach out to a consultant

●        Trans 101 workshop this Sunday

Currency of Money

●        Will launch this Sunday

●        Lucas reported on his budget  presentation after church—he was encouraged by people’s enthusiasm

●        Committee:  Lucas, Jean Clark, Amanda Dausman

●        Theme:  Building blocks

●        Would be great if Vestry could get pledges in by Sunday to create momentum

Nominating Committee

●        Sylvia reports it’s going well

Redevelopment Update and Pastoral Matter

  • Thomas M-W moved that we enter Executive Session. Jules seconded. Approved unanimously.
  • Jules moved to exit Executive Session. Thomas M-W seconded. Approved unanimously.

 

Reports

Minutes of September Meeting

  • Lucas moved that we approve the regular and executive session September minutes. Thomas M-W seconded. Approved unanimously.

 

Financial Report

  • Lucas presented the financial report.  Expenses are tracking the budget but pledges are below what was pledged
  • Passed out Finance Committee Action Plan; priority to convene investment committee
  • Projected $7000 increase in Diocesan assessment which is likely to be the new normal, though it may be a bit less in 2018 because Eric started midyear 2015 and there is a lag in how the assessment is applied
  • Need to think about increasing hospitality budget
  • Given pledge shortfall, discussed looking at individual pledge payment patterns and project to year’s end

 

Warden’s Report

  • Sylvia reported on a number of property issues:
  • Chapel leaks:  Jules moved that we contract with Eddie Mahoney and pay $8000 for roof repairs with money to come from the 15th amendment funds.  Thomas M-W seconded.  Approved unanimously
  • Organ:  Thomas M-W moved to spend $6000 to replace the broken organ motor.  Conversation followed about establishing an organ fund and having Pat research likely needed repairs over the next decade to inform a campaign
  • Thomas withdrew his motion
  • Jules moved to not repair the organ now but plan to start an organ fund in Spring and ask Pat to research likely needed repairs over the next decade, and to inform the congregation for the situation.  Lucas seconded. Approved unanimously.
  • Potholes in Parking Lot:  decided not to pay for professional repair, given hopefully short time til construction. Will ask Hong to do repair
  • Boiler:  Looking into maintenance contract renewal 

 

Rector’s Report

PARISH ACTIVITIES:

  • After the Wardens’, Rector’s and Vestry’s letter to the parish, the all-parish meeting took place with St. James’s customary strong feeling and direct honest sharing. Though it made many of us in the leadership anxious because of the intensity of dismay and confusion expressed about Bill Taylor’s decision to leave the parish, it seems that everyone is doing a good job of staying in conversation with our diverse “shared leadership.” We the Vestry, Wardens and Rector didn’t do all this perfectly but we DID do it with dedicated pastoral prayer and concern and intense effort at fairness.
  • Food Pantry: JT Kittredge has been working to stabilize a rota of Food Pantry Saturday volunteers from St. James’s including the Scouts. But the big news is Karen Coleman’s resignation to take the Boston University Acting Chaplaincy. Working with Anthony Raines of Schochet Co. to determine our future at 364 Rindge, and depending on the prospects of continuing there, JT Kittredge, John Bell and I have determined to ask head volunteer Yvette Fraticelli to become Acting Director for two months while we at St. James’s determine our next steps, and whether to call a new Director or change the configuration of the job.
  • The Currency of Money Team is up and boogieing! Amanda Dausman said “yes” to being the pledge recorder; Jean Clark is Communicator and Lucas is continuing as Treasurer. Excellent package on the verge of publication; roll-out on the 23rd. Ingathering on Nov. 20th.
  • Newcomers are arriving in gratifying and enthusiastic numbers. Kathryn and I have counted 25 who are already settling in and continuing to worship with us, not counting their children.
  • Seth Woody of the Contemplative Action Circles as Oct. 9th preacher and JT Kittredge as Oct. 16th preacher justify our expanded lay preaching program. Worship has been well-attended, full of newcomers, many of whom are “repeating” and signing up to be members, and full of good Spirit.
  • Baptism of Wyatt Berry ahead on All Saints Sunday and a small quiet wedding on December 10th. Thanksgiving worship at 10 AM as always; First Sunday in Advent Nov. 27th. Worship planning team already scheduled to plan Advent/Christmas/Epiphany.
  • VISIONS training will continue with another 1 ½-day event November 19 & 20; we’ll wind up with another one-day event in late February, at which we’ll form teams and begin practicing leading events ourselves in the congregation.
  • A-O Team will be sharing “Trans Welcome 101” w 20’s & 30’s on Oct 22nd.
  • Episcopalians 2.0 has five participants, of whom one, Jenny Grassl, was confirmed on Oct. 15, along with three teens including Madeleine Rimer, from the class Eric Litman and Katie Rimer formed and led.
  • Tai Chi has had a small but enthusiastic participation; Jeff’s leadership has been delightful mixture of informality and skill.
  • Interior restoration stenciling almost done at last.
  • Organ motor replacement needs to be proposed and considered.
  • Staff Evaluation process still “in process.” Ready to complete Pat, Hong & Kathryn.
  • Plans for All Saints Day are underway, including an all-parish gathering with Ric Dumont and his entire architectural team to re-present the updated design for the building and gardens as it will be presented for the building permit.
  • GBIO team hard at work on funding affordable housing in Boston; St. James’s team is engaged in canvassing and Holly, Sylvia and Lauren are sponsoring a diocesan convention resolution about this.

DIOCESAN

  • Fall Clergy Day was Sept. 27; Alewife Deanery Assembly was Oct. 5th.
  • The Resolutions Committee – which I chair – met and vetted all the upcoming resolutions for the November Diocesan Convention. Convention is Nov. 4 & 5.
  • Holly away Oct. 23 PM to Oct. 31st on continuing education at my second CREDO clergy-wellness event in Richmond VA, then my last week of vacation in New Orleans with my daughter Tina till Nov. 4. 

PERSONAL

  • Took a Wednesday afternoon Sept. 28th through Friday Sept. 30th off because of having had no sabbath for three weeks straight.
  • Swimming and drawing and medical appointments for small issues continues. Next stop: addressing lower back arthritis.

 

Assistant Rector’s Report

Eric Litman reported:

  • We confirmed three of our teenagers and one of adults at the Alewife Deanery confirmation this past Saturday 10/15 at Church of Our Redeemer Lexington. 
  • Holly and I met with Laura Berry and Colin Holmes for baptismal preparation for their 10 month old son Wyatt who will be baptized November 6th on the Feast of All Saints.  
  • The Church school classes continue to run nicely.  We have a good and growing cohort in our young church-Godly Play classes.  Our Upper church school class continues to do good work learning from the book of Kings and trying to make sense of faith and life.   Our teachers continue to do a wonderful job.
  • Planning to attend a Godly Play training with some our teachers in early November.
  • Very grateful for Julia Reed-Betts work in the nursery.  She is doing some very good work with our littlest ones.         
  • Youth Communion class October 22nd.  A chance to provide our little ones with some liturgical context surrounding the Eucharist. 
  • This Sunday 10/23 we join with the Christ Church folks for a joint mini-day retreat for 6th to 9th graders up to the Lynn Woods Conservation and for a visit to St. Stephen’s.  Should be fun!
  • We have some other youth events coming up this fall including a game night, a pre-election conversation with youth from other Cambridge Episcopal Churches, a Kids 4 Peace march and a Diocesan Advent event at St. Luke’s Chelsea.
  • Youth Liturgy on November 20th Anne Reid is working with the older youth to plan this worship service!  We had our first planning session this past Sunday and there were some very creative ideas being tossed around.
  • Planning Advent and Christmas activities and doing some planning work on the Christmas pageant.      
  • I am looking to do some shared leadership work around the Outdoor Church sandwich ministry, stay tuned.   
  • The Scouts provided a wonderful coffee hour this past Sunday as part of their service to the parish.   
  • I am scheduled to preach/preside on October 30th and November 20th. 

 

Submitted by Nancy McArdle

Tuesday
Nov152016

Holly Lyman Antolini's Sermon for 26 Pentecost 11-13-16

Proper 28 Year C 1st Option 11-13-16

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Isaiah 65:17-25; Canticle 9 (Isaiah 12:2-6); 2 Thess. 3:6-13; Luke 21: 5-19

 

Before the reading of the Gospel:

This morning, I am taking Judy Gay’s model and trying a slightly different approach to the preaching, an approach that involves all of you more directly. That’s because in many ways, as we move, after All Saints Day, into this apocalyptic season of Advent in which the Scripture readings try to open up the aperture of our concern to take in a truly eternal scope, past, present & future; Alpha & Omega, the beginning and the end, we are in the midst of a political season that, you might say, is already preaching our Gospel for today, with its imagery of dire division and upheaval and dire implications of one’s actions. 

So rather than having me stand in the pulpit and expound the Scripture to you and for you, I would like to invite YOU to bring YOUR EXPERIENCE to bear upon it. And in so doing, I hope that we will weave ourselves more closely together in a time when we will need each other’s discernment, clarity & support; in a time when our commitment to follow Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen One, may be tried and tested in new and more intense ways than it has been in the long interlude of our American affluence and inclusivity over the last half-century.

That said, I think, before I proclaim the Gospel, that a little bible study might be helpful to prepare you to consider this Gospel passage. Then, after I proclaim the Gospel, I will ask you to turn to your neighbors in groups of no more than four or five at the most, and simply share with each other how the Gospel connects with your experience right now. Lean in and listen carefully, because after you’ve talked for a few minutes, I will ask for some open sharing of what you have heard with the rest of the congregation.

To the bible study: I want to you to remember, as you listen to this Gospel, that the readings that have come before – the reading from what we call “Third Isaiah” and the reading from 2 Thessalonians – are both in what we call “apocalyptic” mode. That is, they are imagining an “end-time,” in which our resources may seem inadequate, but God will bring all to fruition. 

2 Thessalonians has already been teaching that those who expect the imminent end of all things are off-base, so when we read our passage for today from Chapter 3, we need to remember that all this advice about continuing to work is in the context of not giving up and simply sitting around waiting for the world to come to an end. And in Third Isaiah, this glorious passage full of hope is speaking to a people returning from an impossibly long exile in what we call “the Babylonian captivity,” which occurred after they had endured the loss of everything they knew about their identity and their faith when the Babylonians destroyed both their Temple and their Holy City of Zion, God’s seat (as they knew it), and had then been hauled away by the conquering forces of the Babylonian army to live in exile in a strange land among a people of strange faith for more than a generation. Now, returned to their city, they have found it a ruin and are deeply disheartened at having to start again from scratch.

What’s really distinguishing about these two very different passages from very different times is that they are both quite this-world-oriented. Whether talking about the new thing in Jerusalem or about Jesus’ “new thing” in the early days of Christianity, both passages are connected to reality as we know it. We must work. We will die, just not prematurely. We WILL labor, just not in vain. And we WILL bear children and raise them, just not for calamity. We must keep our shoulder to the wheel of goodness and love, we must keep the well-being of the community in mind, no matter what the prospects.

So now to Luke’s Gospel, Luke who is telling here a story that Matthew and Mark also tell, but differently. Luke tells it as if he knows – which he does know – that he will be writing about the future of the Church in the follow-up book, the sequel to his Gospel, which is the Book of Acts. So even as he writes of Jesus predicting the destruction of the Temple in our passage for today and even as he knows that what lies ahead for Jesus is crucifixion, utter destruction at the hands of his oppressors, Luke ALSO knows that Jesus WILL rise from the dead, that life WILL go on, that the people of God WILL need to keep praying, keep holding together in community, keeping working for the Realm of God, the shalom of God, the Dream of God to come into being. He’s trying as best he can to prepare them for that long and often cataclysmic faithfulness ahead.

So let us stand and sing our Gospel Acclamation.

Proclamation of the Gospel.

Let us pray:

Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and he will be my Savior. AMEN.

Now, please turn to three or four or at most five of your neighbors and share with each other how this passage connects with the circumstances of your life right now. Please use “I” sentences to speak for yourself, not for others. It’s not your job to sum up the theology you hear, but only to connect what you’re experiencing right now to the Gospel passage you heard and see in your bulletin. We’ll take 10 minutes (which, if you’re in a group of five people, is only 2 minutes per person, so out of respect for others, be brief). I’ll keep track of time and tell you after five minutes are up, so no one of you takes all the speaking time! Afterward, I’ll ask just a few of you from different groups to share something you have heard in your group with the whole congregation, using the mike.

10 minutes of sharing…

In closing, let me share with you a thought from Julian of Norwich, herself no stranger to “times of trial,” having survived the Black Death, the plague that killed a third of Europe’s population. Having been near death herself in mid-life, she experienced a vision of the Crucified Christ and spent the rest of her life reflecting on and praying about it, writing the first ever work of theology in the English language by a woman. Here’s what Julian writes in her book The Showings:

Though we are in such pain, trouble and distress, that it seems to us that we are unable to think of anything except how we are and what we feel, yet as soon as we may, we are to pass lightly over it, and count it as nothing. And why? Because God wills that we should understand that if we know him and love him and reverently fear him, we shall have rest and be at peace. And we shall rejoice in all that he does.

I understood truly that our soul may never find rest in things below, but when it looks through all created things to find its Self, it must never remain gazing on its self, but feast on the sight of God its make who lives within.

He did not say, ‘You shall not be tempest-tossed, you shall not be work-weary, you shall not be discomforted.’ But he said, ‘You shall not be overcome.’ God wants us to heed these words so that we shall always be strong in trust, both in sorrow and in joy.”[Enfolded in Love: Daily Readings with Julian of Norwich, ed. by Robert Llewelyn]

Now, because I don’t think Julian in any way intended to communicate that therefore we should not take action, let’s close with a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, the prayer for times of conflict:

“O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Amen.

Monday
Nov072016

Holly Lyman Antolini's Sermon for All Saints' Day 11-6-16

Audio recording of Holly Lyman Antolini's sermon for All Saints' Day

 

All Saints Day Year C 11-6-16

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Ephesians 1:11-23, Ps. 149; Luke: 6:20-31

 

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. AMEN.

 

What is the hope to which God has called you? What are the riches of his glorious inheritance, as the Letter to the Ephesians calls them? What is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe? We NEED to know this, we who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, or at least who long to do that, and wonder if we might be able to make such a profession and be such followers. We need to know this hope as we need oxygen, need water untainted by oil spills, need nourishment. We need it to go forward with strength and courage in a dark world. We NEED that spirit of wisdom and revelation, coming to know God.

I cannot name YOUR hope for you. But I can name MINE to you! My hope is in the resurrection. And I come before you on this All Saints Day morning to preach resurrection.

Counter-intuitive, perhaps, to be preaching resurrection just as we move inexorably into the dark of winter, in the waning of the year, with the withering of the leaves, in the season of gathering dark. Even without the rapidly-approaching denouement of the most reckless-feeling presidential election in my increasingly long lifetime, this seems more a season of death than of life. For us in the blustery and frigid North, the outer world of bare branches and lowering temperatures and angled and filtered sun mirrors an inner landscape of loss.

That’s precisely why the Feast of All Saints arrives with such power. In the midst of loss, in the midst of the shadows of the shortening days, comes God’s reassurance: I am about LIFE. LIFE in the midst of DEATH. LIFE TRIUMPHANT. Candlelight overwhelming the darkness.

First the symbolism of our All Saints celebration. The Feast of All Saints is a poignant one for those of us who have lost loved ones in the last year or so. That’s why, every year, we take time following the sermon to light candles in memory of those we have loved and lost, rekindling their tiny flames from the great Paschal Candle which is our visual reminder of the power of Christ’s resurrection, light kindled out of the absolute darkness of Good Friday. “Death has no victory!” proclaims the flame atop of the Paschal Candle, and we affirm that proclamation by remembering our precious loved ones with each small candle kindled, and adding candle to candle to candle until we have a virtual bonfire of love kindled across our Crossing.

In that exuberant and festive light, it’s easier to remember that the Feast of All Saints is not merely a poignant one but also a joyous one and particularly so for us at St. James’s today, as we will be baptizing baby Wyatt Berry at the 10:30 service. In the watery symbolism of the rite, Wyatt is “dying into Christ” in his baptism, and at the same time, claiming his new life in Christ. His small wriggling active presence becomes in itself a testimony to resurrection just as his small baptismal candle is lit from the same Paschal Candle that lights the commemorative candles beforehand.

And so as light is added to light to fend off the dark of the season, we remember that in God, life and death are woven together in the tapestry of God’s loving and creative presence and that we are never, ever separated from God’s love, whatever our losses. Nor are we separated absolutely from our loved ones, though the waters of the Great Threshold lie between us. As the Collect for All Saints Day says, “Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord…” Today, Wyatt is being knit together not just with us in this congregation, but with the whole Communion of Saints, all who have gone before us and all who will come after, all mystically present in our communion on this Feast day today.

That Wyatt would be baptized on All Saints Day instead of one of the other Major Feasts of the Church Year – the Baptism of Christ in Epiphany; the Feast of Easter, and the Feast of Pentecost – gives his baptism a special poignancy, a special consciousness that we not only die into new life in our baptism, we die into an indelible connection with a community that extends back to the beginnings of human life and forward into the unknown future. A community that, if we let it, will hold us and support us no matter WHAT we’re up against. Wyatt is being baptized into a whole eternal COMMUNITY OF RESURRECTION.

On this All Saints Day, I want to tell you a story – or remind you of one, if you have already heard it – a story of immense resurrectional power, a story of belonging to and deriving strength from the communion of saints. It’s poet, memoirist and actress Maya Angelou’s story of resurrection, Angelou who herself is now part of that “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us into heaven. Her story begins when she was 7 ½. And a trigger warning, which if the statistics are right (and my experience says they are) will affect more than one person in this congregation today: Angelou’s story includes being sexually assaulted as a child. 

As she testified in “Alchemy of Pain,” “When I was seven and a half, I was raped. I won’t say ‘severely raped;’ all rape is severe. The rapist was a person very well known to my family. I was hospitalized. The rapist was let out of jail and was found dead that night, and the police suggested that the rapist had been kicked to death. I was seven and a half. I thought that I had caused the man’s death because I had spoken his name. That was my seven-and-a-half-year-old logic. So I stopped talking for five years. 

Then Angelou say, “Now, to show you again how out of evil there can come good, in those 5 years I read every book in the black school library, I read all the books I could get from the white school library, I memorized Shakespeare, whole plays, fifty sonnets, I memorized Edgar Alan Poe, all the poetry, never having heard it, I memorized it. I had Longfellow, I had Guy de Maupassant, I had Balzac, Rudyard Kipling. When I decided to speak, I had a lot to say, and many ways in which to say what I had to say. So out of this evil, which was a dire kind of evil, because rape on the body of a young person more often than not introduces cynicism, and there is nothing quite so tragic as a young cynic, because it means the person has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing. In my case I was saved in that muteness. And I was able to draw from human thought, human disappointments and triumphs, enough to triumph myself.” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stAOpg71vK4&feature=youtu.be, underlining mine]

Maya Angelou’s whole life following this atrocity committed against her small person at age 7 ½ is a testament to the power of God, to the power of truth and love, to the power of the voices of those who have gone before us, giving our own voices poignancy and thrust, and in Angelou’s case, not just her voice but her body, her soul, her whole being, expressed through more artistic media than I can name.

On this All Saints Day, as we baptize Wyatt and reaffirm our baptismal vows to participate fully in the community of prayer and fellowship gathered here this morning, to acknowledge our faults and ask to be restored to unity with each other when our words and actions have divided us, to remind each other of the Good News that lies at the very core of our human being, adopted by Christ into Christ’s own divinity, to seek and serve that Christly divinity in everyone, to strive for justice and peace in every human being, let the eyes of our hearts be enlightened. Let us take hold of that promise of victory to which Maya Angelou’s story attests, that invincibility of hope no matter what the grief or despair, the promise of voice wherever we have felt voiceless. Let us declare the hope that is within us, even if we only feel it to be the frailest wisp of hope. Let us found ourselves on the immeasurable greatness of God’s power working in us to do more than we can ask or imagine, even in the moments when we cannot feel that solidity beneath us.

And dear friends, dear faithful followers of Jesus Christ, as our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry abjures us in the name of Jesus, for God’s sake, VOTE on Tuesday!

Let us pray in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, 

Lord God Almighty, who has made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Video of Maya Angelou – From Silence of Rape to Voice of Compassion 

Monday
Oct312016

Approved September Vestry Minutes 9-20-16

Vestry Minutes:  Sept. 20, 2016

Adopted Oct 18, 2016

 

Presiding: Rev Holly Lyman Antolini

Members Present: Lucas Sanders, Jules Bertaut, Andrew Rohm, Tom Tufts, Marian King, Olivia Hamilton, Nancy McArdle, Matthew Abbate, Thomas Wohlers, Tom Beecher, Sylvia Weston, Mardi Moran, Sarah Forrester

 

Gathering

●        Following brief check-in time, Spiritual Practice was led by Thomas M-W, on the theme of love and relationship

Shared Leadership

●        Tom B. reported that the Shared Leadership leads are working on arranging a large meeting for the fall, with a focus on currency of relationship and possibly some training

●        Still planning to follow up on the small group meetings and provide some report-back

●        Shared Leadership leads also discerning what is and isn’t working with the current model and if it should be shifted in some ways

●        The Hospitality committee has asked if the Vestry could host the social hour sometime.  Decided on Oct 9.  Olivia volunteered to coordinate

Redevelopment Update

●        Thomas M-W moved that we enter Executive Session. Jules seconded. Approved unanimously.

●        Thomas M-W moved to exit Executive Session. Jules seconded. Approved unanimously.

Rainbow Flag

●        Marian moved that the parish hang a rainbow flag on the Black Lives Matter sign.  Mardi seconded.

●        Decided to have a discussion with the congregation with whole Vestry present and a couple Vestry as spokespeople.  Likely date Oct 23rd, day after Trans 101 class.  Lucas said he could help.

●        Other ideas raised:  making shells on parish hall into rainbow sculpture; using our outside space to be spontaneously responsive to important events

●        Thomas moved to table the motion under discussion.  Jules seconded.  Approved unanimously.

Currency of Money

●        Oct. 16 is kick-off for currency of money campaign; still need a communications person

Nominating Committee

●        First meeting is Oct. 2nd. Need people to join Mabel and Cynthia

●        Discussed various names and who would contact them.

Property Committee

●        Discussed who can help with property committee

●        Sarah Forrester said she can help, and Matthew A. said he could possibly be on call as well

●        Perhaps Tom Harris can be approached

Redevelopment Update and Pastoral Matter

●        Jules moved that we enter Executive Session. Lucas seconded. Approved unanimously.

●        Thomas M-W moved to exit Executive Session. Tom B. seconded. Approved unanimously.

Reports

Minutes of July Meeting

●        Mardi moved that we approve the regular and executive session July minutes. Thomas M-W seconded. Approved unanimously.

Financial Report

  • Lucas presented the financial report.  Giving is more in line with the few years before this one, running about $20,000 below this past year
  • Not a huge problem but there is a risk of dipping into reserves.  Does raise questions for next year’s budget when we will hypothetically be in construction
  • Some challenges for next year:  expenses have grown a bit haphazardly; also projected $7000 increase in Diocesan assessment which is likely to be the new normal, though it may be a bit less in 2018 because Eric started midyear 2015 and there is a lag in how the assessment is applied
  • Need to raise funds because there are not many places to cut
  • Working on ways to make the financial statements more understandable, in light of Redevelopment
  • Planning to start investment committee this year and also rebuild budget spreadsheet and chart of accounts
  • Jules moved to accept the financial reports.  Sylvia seconded.  Approved unanimously.

 

Rector’s Report

Rector’s Report Parish Activities August-September 2016

PARISH ACTIVITIES

  • Homecoming Sunday was a moving experience with good attendance, lots of newcomers. Excellent “esprit de corps.”
  • VISIONS training is off to a strong start with a Friday/Saturday introductory training Sept. 9/10, including all staff and 8 other parish leaders. Trainers were Rick Pinderhughes & Sarah Stearns of VISIONS. Next training most likely another 1 ½-day event in November; another one-day event in late February, at which we’ll form teams and begin practicing leading events ourselves in the congregation.
  • A-O Team sharing “Trans Welcome 101” w 20’s & 30’s on Oct 22nd. The Team has also been invited to join St. Stephen’s in Lynn in a get-out-the-vote effort on Oct. 30th, in partnership with St. Stephen’s Beloved Community team and other congregations and synagogues in Lynn.
  • Currency of Money has possible Pledge Recorder (Amanda Dausman is considering this) but still lacks a Communications team member. Kick-off Oct. 16th is approaching!
  • Worship Commission had its annual “overview” meeting in late August and formed teams for each season. Arne Nystrom, Marian King and Yvette Verdieu were the “Late Pentecost” team.
  • A roster of good preachers for the year, including some of our gifted laity. Oct. 9 will be Seth Woody of the Contemplative Action Circles, offering a Gathering about CAC as well.
  • Funeral for Jay Haynes & wedding of Olivia Hamilton and Molly McHenry were each blessed, in very different ways. Strong congregational support.
  • A confidential pastoral matter taking considerable time and attention.
  • Food Pantry volunteer training in the works (date TBA); JT Kittredge working to stabilize a rota of Food Pantry Saturday volunteers from St. James’s including the Scouts.
  • Episcopalians 2.0 has five participants, one of whom plans confirmation.
  • Tai Chi has had a growing participation; Jeff’s leadership is delightful mixture of informality and skill.
  • Interior restoration completion: had a wonderful “closing conversation” with Michael Cave of Artech. He plans to come “celebrate” with us on a Sunday this fall. I await his proposal of dates. Stenciling continues and there is a bit of paint touch-up in spots and we’re done. Lights make a huge difference!
  • Yuris Martinez chose to do her internship at St. Mary’s/Edwin Johnson in a tight contest w St. James’s. Sorry not to have her with us… will hope for future opportunities as her “process” progresses.
  • Staff Evaluation process still “in process.”
  • Plans for All Saints Day are underway, including an all-parish gathering with Ric Dumont and his entire architectural team to re-present the updated design for the building and gardens as it will be presented for the building permit.
  • GBIO team hard at work on funding affordable housing in Boston; St. James’s team is engaged and Holly, Sylvia and Lauren are sponsoring a diocesan convention resolution about this.

DIOCESAN

  • The Resolutions Committee – which I chair – met and vetted all the upcoming resolutions for the November Diocesan Convention.
  • Holly away Oct. 23 PM to Oct. 31st on continuing education at my second CREDO clergy-wellness event in Richmond VA, then my last week of vacation in New Orleans with my daughter Tina till Nov. 4.
  • Diocesan Convention is on Nov. 4th & 5th.

PERSONAL

  • Drawing class has begun again on Monday afternoons.
  • Swimming continues (though during the school year, I rarely manage the full mile, 3 times a week).

 

Assistant Rector’s Report

  • The Nursery team is back together and working nicely with Julia Reed-Betts as our nursery coordinator back with us for the school year and our team of parish volunteers present and helpful as always. 
  • The Church school classes are off to a nice start with several new children amongst our group of little ones.  We have two young church classes (early and mid-elementary) and our upper church school class. (Junior High and early High School)  Our teachers are back at it doing a wonderful job.      
  • Youth Communion class October 22nd.  A chance to provide our little ones with some liturgical context surrounding the Eucharist. 
  • St. J youth group is back!  This fall we will have a variety of youth events including: a day retreat with other Cambridge Episcopal Churches up to the Lynn Woods, participation with Kids4Peace, Game Nights, and a Diocesan Advent youth advent at St. Luke’s Chelsea.  Should be fun.
  • Jules and Co. are piloting the UU/UCC “Our Whole Lives” (OWL) curriculum this fall with the 20’s and 30’s group. (With the thought of offering this to our older teens soon.  Exciting!)  
  • Youth Liturgy on November 20th Anne Reid is working with the older you to plan this worship service!
  • I am scheduled to preach/preside on October 30th
  • Confirmation for our spring 2016 youth confirmation class is October 15th, Madeleine Rimer will be one of our confirmands.   
  • Outdoor Church has a new coordinator for Sunday operations, so we are now working with Gail Doktor (978-273-0308) to provide our sandwiches to the outdoor Church.  I am working to get some new synergy around this ministry, stay tuned.     
  • Scout Troop/Crew 56 has a year’s worth of parish service planned and in the books for the 2016-2017 program year including; work in the food pantry, coffee hour, St. Nick’s festival and the parish retreat.
  • Working with the GBIO team on the Community Preservation Act (CPA) ballot initiative in the city of Boston.     
  • Attended Visions training on September 9th and 10th with parish leaders and AO team members.   
  • St. J iCORI account is now setup to run CORI checks electronically.  If you have any CORI check needs please let me know. 
  • Planning and Administration of 2017 Parish Retreat (early planning with St. Mary’s Dorchester)

 

Submitted by Nancy McArdle

Monday
Oct242016

Holly Lyman Antolini's Sermon for 23 Pentecost 10-23-16

Audio recording of Holly Lyman Antolini's sermon for 23 Pentecost

 

Proper 25 Year C, 1st Option 10-23-16

©Holly Lyman Antolini

Lections: Joel 2:23-32; Psalm 65; 2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18; Luke 18:9-14

 

Pour down upon us, O God, abundant rain, the early rain of our vindication, the early and the late rain, as before. Pour out your Spirit upon all flesh so that we may dream dreams and see visions, so that we will know that you are in the midst of us and that you are the Lord our God. AMEN. [adapted from Joel 2:23-29]

 

The parables of Luke’s Jesus are coming at us hard and fast these autumn Sundays in Lectionary Year C, and this one today – the parable of the prayers of the Pharisee & the Tax Collector – is no exception. These parables mess with our heads, our hearts, and our allegiances. Last week it was the unjust judge, the scurrilous fellow who “has no fear of God nor respect for anyone,” but who finally gives in to the persistent widow and grants her justice, “so that she may not wear [him] out by continually coming." The fellow could hardly be said to be setting a standard of spiritual rectitude, yes? Yet he’s Jesus’ model for God. And only a few weeks before that, worse: the dishonest manager, frighteningly cynical and self-serving, squandering his master’s money and then, threatened with dismissal, buying off his debtors so as to win friends quickly? Yet Jesus in Luke’s Gospel sets him up as the spiritual model in his tale, commending the dishonest manager “because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”

Now right in the same line-up, we have the Tax Collector & the Pharisee at prayer. We 21st century Christians filter this story through so many centuries of interpretation, it’s hard for us to appreciate just how shocking it was for Jesus’ hearers. Tax collectors were the irreducible “no-good-niks” of their time and place, serving the oppressive Roman Empire by raising revenues off their friends and neighbors in their local community, and adding whatever they could get on the side, building up wealth by ill-gotten gains ruinous to those they victimized. Tax collectors for Jesus’ hearers are the self-serving marketers of dubious financial products and the subprime mortgage lenders, right? Out for their own buck in the service of the dominating Roman Empire; crushing the little guys? Tax collectors are like some East or South Boston landlords, throwing out the struggling low-rent folks in order to install a few granite countertops and flip the apartments to the higher-paying customers? Yet it is the Tax Collector who goes away from the temple “justified,” says Luke’s Jesus, not the pious Pharisee. What?!?

Now about that Pharisee: I spent all week wrestling the angel of this story and trying to get it to submit to my plea for a blessing! There’s so much that makes me uncomfortable. You see, I am, myself, a Pharisee. I really work hard at getting all my spiritual ducks in a row, giving the “right” amount; praying the “right” way; trying to be generous and understanding when people are being self-centered or annoying; showing up for social justice initiatives; watching all three Presidential debates even when I wanted to throw my remote at the TV set. I “fight the good fight,” as Second Timothy says. I “keep the faith.” And hard as I try not to, I also do a fair amount of patting myself on the back for all that, though of course I make sure to give God the credit. I’m “right” about that, too!

Now mind you, in a lot of ways Jesus is with me on all this. As my New Testament scholar friend Paul van Buren often reminded me, Jesus was probably a Pharisee himself! And to Jesus’ hearers, Pharisees are kind of in the same role as liberal politicians in Cambridge: they’re the guys you can count on to care about “the right things,” right? So try for a minute not to impose a filter on this parable that presumes that Pharisees are “the bad guys.” Pharisees, like Jesus, were the ones who took spiritual practice seriously. That’s where all Jesus’ prayer came from: his Pharisaism – and you know he’s praying every other minute in the Gospel of Luke, or if not, he’s teaching about prayer! As he is right here with this story! That was the Pharisaical thing to do!

So imagine my dismay – and the dismay of his listeners - when Jesus puts this guy down. It makes me queasy about all my own efforts to get the spiritual thing right!

So there you have a couple of layers of discomfort. Here’s another: that Tax Collector’s prayer sounds like total self-put-down, doesn’t it? In the VISIONS anti-oppression training, we’re taught not to “shame, blame or attack self or others.” Isn’t that what this guy is doing? He won’t even approach the Ark of the Covenant. He won’t even look up to heaven, where presumably God is. He just beats his breast – have you ever seen someone distraught enough to beat their breast? – and begs for divine mercy. All my well-cultivated, hard-won commitment to self-esteem is screaming. THIS, Jesus, REALLY? THIS is the model for spirituality? THIS is your model for prayer??? No matter how much this skeazy sub-prime mortgage lender has fed off the vulnerability of the poor, is self-abasement really the essence of spiritual relationship with GOD???

By this time in my meditations on this parable, I simply don’t know which end is up!  So I have to step back a little for some perspective and look at “the frame” for this tale. And what comes into view first from my more distant view is Luke’s own introductory gloss on Jesus’ story. He writes, “Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt…” OH! It’s about contempt! And self-righteousness! And that’s when I notice that these two men are standing at opposite ends of the temple from each other, the Pharisee “standing by himself” and the Tax Collector standing “far off.” DIVISION. SEPARATION. INSISTANCE on ONE’S OWN RECTITUDE. You can almost FEEL the self-sufficiency of the Pharisee can’t you? God can hardly get a thought in edgewise, the Pharisee is so full of his own virtue, which he details for himself with more smugness than gratitude, it seems, even though he gives it a sheen of thanksgiving.

The Tax Collector too is stuck in isolation, but at least you get the strong feeling that he is truly reaching out for God here, yes? That he’s aware that without God’s help, he’s pretty much at his wits’ end? That he knows his own need. Who knew that being needy is a spiritual essential?!?

Then at the other end of Luke’s frame there’s Jesus’ own wrap-up of the story: “for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." Or, as Eugene Peterson puts it in his wonderful translation The Message: “If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” Could we be experiencing THAT moral writ large on our political landscape right now?

And finally, pulling back even further, so that I’ve got Luke’s previous chapter of the Gospel in view, I see that Jesus all along has been teaching the Pharisees themselves about the kingdom of God. In fact, it’s the Pharisees, back in Chapter 17 verses 20-21, that got Jesus started on this teaching by asking him when the kingdom of God would come, and Jesus has already told them, The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” The Kingdom of God is among you. It’s not “coming;” it’s already here. It’s IN YOU.

Yesterday, the kingdom of God was palpably among us as a group of us St. Jamesians gathered to hear from Mason Dunn of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition – Mason a transgender man himself, who uses the pronouns “he, him, his” –  teaching us about the Trans community in our midst, the wide diversity of sexual identity and gender expression that is “normal” (though far from normative) in our society, and helping us to get our welcoming arms open to people who, as Eugene Peterson’s Jesus says, “are content to simply be themselves” in ways that seem novel, disconcertingly unfamiliar and even mind-blowing to those of us who grew up accepting our place in a world divided neatly (but restrictively) into the duality of “male” and “female.” And that like the kingdom of God showing up in the unexpected Tax Collector instead of the reliable pious Pharisee, the “justified” in the world of diversity Mason evoked for us weren’t necessarily the people we usually assign to those roles in a conventional understanding of sex & gender.

But then Jesus’ understanding was NEVER “conventional,” was it? After all, it landed him on the Cross, didn’t it? It was challenging, even wrenching, prying our hearts open to think of each other afresh, FORCING us to connect with each other and with God, whatever our tendency to righteous (or self-deprecating) solipsism.

Whether it takes a profound compunction – a profound realization of wrong-doing – such as the Tax Collector seems to have experienced, slumped in the shadows, face in hands, not daring even to look up, to make us connect, or whether it takes a reality-jarring, assumption-obliterating learning of how very, very many sexual differences – from hormones to genitals to things much harder to pin down – we humans actually experience, the kingdom of God is the capacity to connect, connect with each other, connect with God, connect with God IN each other. And connection DEMANDS humility: it demands the knowledge that we are not “enough” in ourselves, that we NEED God and we NEED each other to become ourselves; that no one escapes accountability, no matter how “virtuous;” and that no one belongs in the realm of contempt outside the circle of our concern. God has no contempt for anyone. Not one! God “don’t make no junk,” as African-American blues singer Ethel Waters, survivor of the Jim Crow era and very gender non-conforming herself, famously said. I am somebody ‘cause God don't make no junk.” God’s eye is on the sparrow, as Ethel sang toward the end of her life, and we know he watches us too, without categories and judgments about who will express God’s goodness and who will not, but instead looks with us with incredible hopefulness, knowing every single one of us has God’s kingdom within us, waiting, waiting, for us to recognize it, claim it, live it and love it, in ourselves and in each other. So how about we get on our feet and sing a chorus of the first verse of “His Eye Is On the Sparrow,” LEVAS 191. AMEN. 

Monday
Oct172016

John Thomas Kittredge's Sermon 10-16-16

Audio recording of John Thomas Kittredge's sermon

 

Proper 24, Year C 

October 16, 2016

 

Genesis 32:22-31

Psalm 122

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Luke 18:1-8

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

 

When you only preach every year or so, as I do, and you belong to a church that follows a fixed schedule of readings, it’s really a potluck what you’re given to preach on. Many times I have looked at the assigned lessons and said to myself, “I have to preach on that? Lord, spare me!” This time, though, I feel like I hit the jackpot. Three of the four readings I have strong, personal connections to. Sorry, 2 Timothy, you’re a great passage, but you’re not on my all-time faves list like the others.

Psalm 121 for instance, we read at my father’s funeral three years ago. “The LORD himself watches over you; [...] The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore.”

The Genesis reading, as it happens, we also read at his funeral, because it was one of his favorite bible passages. And the reading from Luke has long been a touchstone for me on understanding Christian prayer.

To start with the Genesis passage, let me give you some context, in case you’re not familiar with the story of Jacob. As this passage says, the whole nation of Israel takes its name from him; his twelve sons became the progenitors of  the twelve tribes of Israel. But he was not, as you might think, some supremely noble and virtuous human being. Instead, he was a sly and clever trickster.

He began by cheating his older brother Esau, first out of his birthright and then out of their father’s blessing. Jacob fled from Esau’s anger, and settled with his uncle Laban. Laban tried to cheat Jacob over the hands of his daughters and over his wages, but Jacob kept outsmarting Laban, ending up wealthy in wives and concubines, children, and flocks.

By this time, things had gotten dicey with Laban, too, so Jacob decides to leave with all his family and possessions, and go back home, though he is very uncertain of the welcome he will meet with from Esau. When he gets word that his brother is coming towards him with a large force, Jacob prays to God for deliverance and sends his wives and children across the river for safety.

And that night, a stranger comes and wrestles with him. One of the reasons I love this story is that it’s so mysterious. The text says nothing about who the stranger is, or why they wrestle. This passage is usually called Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, but note that the Bible never refers to him as an angel, just a man. Jacob himself says, “I have seen God face to face.” Now what does that mean?

The stranger overpowers Jacob, but still Jacob perseveres and wrests a blessing from the stranger, who gives him the name Israel, which my bible helpfully tells me in a footnote means “either the one who strives with God or God strives.”

What meaning does this strange story have for us? I think that my father liked it so much because he felt that so many good things in life require struggle and persistence. That certainly went for his marriage, which was the parallel I drew when I spoke at his funeral. My parents have very different temperaments, but through a lot of work and perseverance they built what was one of the strongest, most emotionally intimate marriages I have known.

For me, the relevance of the story is to my relationship with my faith. One of the benefits of belonging to a community like St James is knowing people whose faith is absolute and rock solid. I find their example is so helpful, because it’s so not me. I find it often a real struggle to believe, but Jacob inspires me to hold fast and not let go.

This story is also for me a template on how to read scripture. As I mentioned at the outset, there are many Bible passages that I have trouble with. I was raised in a liberal Christian tradition, where the general attitude was that the Bible was written a long time ago by human beings with limited understandings and primitive attitudes, so that one should feel free to ignore parts of it that you disagree with.

That attitude was always dissatisfying to me. To me the Bible was written by human beings struggling under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to express things that are beyond human understanding.

So I try to wrestle with those passages until they yield up their blessing for me. As I read it, the stranger gives Jacob not just any blessing, but the particular blessing for Jacob. So I look for scripture to give up the specific meaning for me, the message that God needs me to hear.

There is clearly a parallel between Jacob’s persistence with the angel and the widow’s with the unjust judge. Jesus’ parables are often outrageous, that’s one reason why they’re so effective in opening our minds to new ways of thinking. Notice how he compares God, not to the most virtuous human being ever, but to a corrupt and hard-hearted judge. If even someone so unjust will answer fervent pleas, will not God?

Here’s the lesson I draw: I think that it’s too easy to censor ourselves in prayer. We have a tendency to talk to God only about high-minded things that are worthy of such an exalted being. But I believe that honesty is as important with God, as it is in any relationship.

What’s important to me is that here, as in other parables on prayer, Jesus does not say to be sure to pray only the right kind of prayers; he says that the important thing is to pray, and to pray tenaciously.

I think it can be hard to pray for things for oneself. Partly that’s because it’s hard to admit to ourselves just how petty and selfish some of our desires are. But God already knows that; it can be beneficial to us admit it before God and ourselves.

But it’s also hard to ask for something that you really want—that you need—because it’s so painful if it is denied. What is the Christian solace for desperate, unanswered prayers?

The answer of these two lessons is to not give up, to not let go. But I also take encouragement from all those figures of the Old Testament who confront God directly. I think of Abraham arguing with God when he threatens to destroy Sodom unless he finds thirty righteous persons in it, bargaining him down to accepting a single one. Or Moses talking God out of wiping out the Israelites for their endless whining by telling him how bad it will make God look. Or Jacob wrestling with God quite literally.

They worshipped God, they obeyed God, they feared God’s wrath, but they weren’t intimidated by God. The lesson I draw is that we shouldn’t feel intimidated from sharing with God even feelings of abandonment and anger when our prayers go unanswered.

Above all, I take solace from the Christian belief in the incarnation, that God lives a human life in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The God in whom we live and move and have our being is not high above us, but closer than our breath, closer than we are to ourselves. Everything that we suffer, God feels just as keenly.

Jesus himself knows what it is to feel desolation, as when he says on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The night before, facing his coming ordeal, he expresses perfect obedience when he says,

“Not my will but yours be done.” But that’s the second half of the sentence, the first is,

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” So Jesus himself feels free to pray for things for himself.

Finally, I take solace in asking myself, is it I who am wrestling with God, and not letting go, or the other way around? In the words of one of my favorite hymns, Number 686 of the Hymnal 1982.


Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold;

I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea;

'twas not so much that I on thee took hold,

as thou, dear Lord, on me.

 

I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole

of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee;

for thou wert long beforehand with my soul,

always thou lovedst me.

 

In the name of Christ. Amen.


 

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