Sunday, November 30, 2008

On the First Week of Advent, My Rector Gave to Me...

The Great Litany.

Admittedly cool, but not that one! Something more like this one (although it looks like a Lenten one),

We were also treated to a brief sermon which attempted to explain why we would start Advent with the Great Litany. Never mind the meander into the current economic downturn. After all, the Litany was done with much meandering around the church, so we can allow a little meandering about in the sermon this week.

Was the question, "What are we doing here on a rainy, cold, Sunday, and why are we praying for God to have mercy on us for all of those sins" answered to your satisfaction? I hope so. I think we did it in order to be prepared for the coming of the Master. As we heard today in Mark 13:35-37
"Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."

Those short sermons help with that last command.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Go to Church, Women's Lives May Depend on It.

Please note, this study does not prove a cause and effect relationship.

By Serena Gordon HealthDay Reporter – Reuters – WEDNESDAY, Nov. 26 (HealthDay News)
-- Attending a weekly religious service, regardless of your faith, may lower your risk of death by 20 percent compared to people who don't attend services, researchers are reporting.

"Religion is always a hot topic, but particularly now, when people are perhaps in fear because of the recession and the threat of terrorism, people are looking for stability, and religion is something we find people reach out to for that stability. And, we see some health benefits here," said the study's lead author, Eliezer Schnall, a clinical assistant professor of psychology at Yeshiva College at Yeshiva University in New York City.

"Maybe it's the sense of community, or the support, or maybe people are less depressed when they join in religious services," he said, adding that the researchers tried to control the data to account for many of these factors, but "we have not completely explained it all."

Results of the study were published in the current issue of the journal Psychology and Health.

The study participants came from the large Women's Health Initiative observational study, and included nearly 95,000 women from all over the United States. The women were all between 50 and 79 years old at the start of the study.

When the study began, each woman filled out extensive questionnaires regarding health history, health behaviors, psychosocial factors, demographics and religion. Medical information was obtained yearly for each study volunteer, and the average follow-up time was 7.7 years.

Before adjusting the data, there was no significant difference in the risk of death between regular religious service attendees and those who chose not to attend. Schnall noted that there were many reasons why this could be so. But the main reason, he said, could be that people who go to religious services every week may be in better physical shape. "Maybe they're just healthy enough to go to services," he said.

When the researchers adjusted the data to account for physical health, age, ethnicity, income, education, social support, important life events and life satisfaction, they found that weekly religious service attendance was responsible for a 20 reduction in the risk of death. Attending less than once a week was responsible for a 15 percent drop in the risk of death.

But, attending religious services didn't improve the risk of death from cardiovascular disease or improve heart outcomes, the study found.

Although the study noted a decreased risk of death, Schnall wouldn't say that the prescription for good health is to attend religious services regularly.

"I'm not saying our study yields such a prescription, but our findings are intriguing and we do at least have some ideas of why there is a benefit, but we have not completely explained it all," he said.

Dr. Harold G. Koenig, founder and co-director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center, called the new research "a very well-done study that provides good, well-controlled evidence that religious attendance is related to lower mortality."

"And, they [the researchers] show it's not just the social factor, it's not just the behavioral factors, and it's not just that some people might be too sick to be able to go to church. The researchers controlled well for these, though they still don't explain it all at the end," said Koenig.

"But," he added, "that doesn't mean there are supernatural effects, just that we don't fully understand the mechanism by which religion does this yet."

The study focused on women, and there is no way to extrapolate the results to men. If there is a causal relationship, one can speculate all day as to why the Lord wants church going women alive longer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is Thanksgiving Catholic or Protestant?

Taylor Marshall at "Credo" asks the question "Is Thanksgiving Catholic?" (h/t Cato)

as evidence in support of a Catholic origin read,
...the truly “First Thanksgiving” celebration occurred on American soil on April 30, 1598 in Texas when Don Juan de Oñate declared a day of Thanksgiving to be commemorated by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

But consider closely the last paragraph,

"And let everyone remember that 'Thanksgiving' in Greek is Eucharistia. Thus, the Body and Blood of Christ is the true 'Thanksgiving Meal'."

Knowing how much everyone enjoys Greek, I went to Strong's online Greek dictionary for more info,

Eucharistia, "From eucharistos; gratitude; actively, grateful language (to God, as an act of worship) -- thankfulness, (giving of) thanks(-giving)."

Clicking on the link to the 5 references to eucharistia we find,

Strong's Number 2169 (εὐχαριστία: thankfulness, thanksgiving)

1 Corinthians 14:16 ἐπεὶ ἐὰν εὐλογῇς ἐν πνεύματι, ὁ ἀναπληρῶν τὸν τόπον τοῦ ἰδιώτου πῶς ἐρεῖ τὸ ἀμήν ἐπὶ τῇ σῇ εὐχαριστίᾳ; ἐπειδὴ τί λέγεις οὐκ οἶδεν·
Otherwise if you bless with the spirit, how will he who fills the place of the unlearned say the "Amen" at your giving of thanks, seeing he doesn't know what you say?

Ephesians 5:4 καὶ αἰσχρότης καὶ μωρολογία ἢ εὐτραπελία, ἃ οὐκ ἀνῆκεν ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον εὐχαριστία.
nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not appropriate; but rather giving of thanks.

Colossians 2:7 ἐρριζωμένοι καὶ ἐποικοδομούμενοι ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ βεβαιούμενοι τῇ πίστει καθὼς ἐδιδάχθητε, περισσεύοντες (ἐν) (αὐτῇ) ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ.
rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, even as you were taught, abounding in it in thanksgiving.

Colossians 4:2 Τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτερεῖτε, γρηγοροῦντες ἐν αὐτῇ ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ,
Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving;

Revelation 7:12 λέγοντες, ἀμήν, ἡ εὐλογία καὶ ἡ δόξα καὶ ἡ σοφία καὶ ἡ εὐχαριστία καὶ ἡ τιμὴ καὶ ἡ δύναμις καὶ ἡ ἰσχὺς τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων· ἀμήν.
saying, "Amen! Blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might, be to our God forever and ever! Amen."

Giving thanks goes way back to the earliest books of the Bible. It is how we give thanks that has changed, Christians use the "eucharistia," and that is full and sufficient for the day we call "Thanksgiving." I think the answer to Taylor Marshall's question has to be a resounding "No Thank You." Perhaps the ultimate meaning and identity of Thanksgiving is Jesus at the Last Supper..."he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat." (Acts 27:35) "Thanksgiving" is thanks given to God, from all of us, from the beginning, and forever more.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What is This Kingdom Thing?

Fr. Dunbar gave us today's sermon. He did a good job, focusing on "the Kingdom." To me this was something the followers of Jesus just couldn't really understand during the time He was with them, in spite of all the questions presented to Him, and in spite of the parables He gave them. The Kingdom of the Lord was so unlike anything they expected, that I suspect It is still something that we also cannot put into words.

Today's readings of the separation of the sheep into those which will be saved and those that will be given over to Satan's fires were not directly addressed in the sermon. No one wants to hear about that aspect, the "other kingdom."

After the sermon, was anyone else more acutely aware (with their Sunday ears) of how many times the word "Kingdom" came up in the liturgy? And did anyone else pause and reflect upon the crowns in the lower left and lower right sides of the Epiphany window?
(I need a better picture, this one was from the ECOOS photo gallery)

The juxtaposition of the crown of thorns and the regal crown are a fitting way to think about the Kingdom, if you ask me, which you didn't.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Now You Know that You Are Free

To the Dioceses of Fort Worth, Quincy, San Joaquin, and Pittsburg,

To counter Wallace Hartley's lame Pete Seeger imitation, I drug this song out of the memory banks, and I put it out for the most recent Diocese to leave the Episcopal Church, Fort Worth. Have you heard?
"Now you know that you are real,
Show your friends that you and me
Belong to the same world,
Turned on to the same word,
Have you heard?

Now you know that you are free,
Living all your life at ease.
Each day has its always,
A look down life's hallways, doorways,
To lead you there."

The Moody Blues

or perhaps their "Dawning is the Day" might be appropriate,
"Rise, let us see you,
Dawning is the day,
Miss, misty meadow,
You will find your way,
Wake up in the morning to
yourself and leave this crazy
life behind you.
Listen, we're trying to find you.

Flow to the sea,
You know where to go,
Still we are free,
No one tells the wind which way to blow.

Wake up in the morning to yourself,
Open your eyes and start to be you.
Listen, we think we can see you.
Baby there's no price upon your head,
Sing it, shout it.
Now the angry words have all been said.
Do it, don't doubt it.

So rise, let us see you,
Dawning is the day,
Miss, misty meadow,
You will find your way,
Wake up in the morning to
yourself, open your head and
look around you.
Listen, we think we have found you."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Rich Get Richer or The Awful Gospels

The Awful Gospels.

Did anyone else have a sense of deja vu at today's service at ECOOS? I sure did. In fact, the reading from 1 Thessalonians presented was the same as last week's reading. It should have been this,
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters,* you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved,* are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Continuing in this theme, Charlie in his sermon brought up the bridesmaids and the lamp oil parable from last week and presented his opinion that this and today's parable were "awful." Today's parable from Matthew 25 was of the slaves and the talents. I had a hard time with today's sermon from the get go. Was it something about the lack of virgins in America or was it trying to make the parable more difficult to understand? Perhaps it was trying to paint the master as a greedy cheating person (for how else does one get rich), or maybe it was portraying the good and trustworthy slaves as also being cheats and bad, or maybe it was an unspoken "God can't be that way" at the conclusion where the worthless slave is thrown into the darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Of all the sermons I have heard on this parable, this was the most bizzare. Because he could not explain his problems clearly, I am left speculating as to why it gives Charlie such difficulty. Why is liberal theology unable to come to grips with the closed door of the parable of the unwise bridesmaids, or the casting out of the worthless slave? I think that liberal theology has certain assumptions about God that lead to this difficulty. Is it the assumption that God = Love? Has this led us to think that God's love is the same as the human experience? Human ideal love would not be compatible with the closed door or the weeping and gnashing of teeth. Surely a loving God would not keep the unwise or lazy out of the kingdom of heaven.

I think the parables are trying to tell us that this is a dangerous assumption, and that we had better be prepared for the bridegroom, and we should be spreading the Gospel message, multiplying the gift of the spirit that our Lord has given us. God has given each of us the gift of Christ, wouldn't it be wise to increase his gift and not keep it to ourselves?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Veteran's Day Tradition Resumes

A breaking e-mail from the rector.

Friends of Our Saviour,

Now that we have the Restoration Bell in place, we can begin to observe some of the important remembrances of our history. Since Nov. 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m., when the Treaty of Versailles was signed to end World War I, it has been the custom in many countries to ring eleven bells at 11:00 a.m. on that day each year. It is a way to remember those who have died in the service of their countries and to pray for peace. I'll be doing the honors of ringing the bell at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. I would ask you to stop wherever you are and to honor Veterans Day. If you can, observe a minute of silence at 11:00 a.m. and then pray with me the following collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in whom all souls live now and evermore, the God not of the dead but of the living: We bless you for all those who have faithfully lived and died in the service of their country. As we ever hold them in grateful remem-brance, let your love and mercy in light perpetual shine upon them, and bring us all at last into your eternal kingdom of peace; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen. Charlie

Wish I could be there to hear it ring, but since I cannot, here is a YouTube clip,

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Knocking on Heaven's Door

Mary Cat delivered today's sermon and had the task of elucidating Amos, Thessalonians, and the parable of the bridesmaids.
Amos' day of the Lord is darkness, and Paul's is being caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. These contain enough to chew on, but Jesus' parable with the unwise bridesmaids coming up against the closed door, and hearing the tough reply, "Truly I tell you, I do not know you," is scary stuff. I think Mary Cat soft pedaled through this a little. What if she had said what one of my professors said when he announced to our large incoming freshman class,
"Look at the person to your left and then look at the person to your right. I tell you, in four years time one of those students will not be around"?
And how did I get through those four years? Through my own hard work, my own perseverance, and my own commitment? I did not make it on my own then, and I am certain that the way of Jesus is another task that I cannot accomplish without Him. As I alluded to in the comment section last Wednesday,
The words may be harsh, but I am reminded that Jesus tells me the Good News of salvation, but I learned the bad news is that the way is through the Via Dolorosa...

God, grant us the courage, and strength to follow in Your way, help me along the way, please open the door for me, and when I knock, hear my cry.

Don't leave me "Knocking at Heaven's Door."

Eric Clapton's version is one of my favorites,

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can't use it anymore.
It's gettin' dark, too dark for me to see
I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door.

Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can't shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin' down
I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door.

Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
-Bob Dylan

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Role of Preaching

Fr. Matt Kennedy presented his thoughts on the role of preaching HERE. Fr. Kennedy is a former (guess the denomination) priest at a former (guess the denomination) church. After reading his blog, do you have any idea why he might not fit in as a (guess the denomination) priest? Read for example,

"Biblically speaking, a sermon is not a speech, lecture or motivational talk.

Rather it is an exposition and application of scripture. Read Paul's charge to Timothy:"
'But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.'(2 Tim 3:14-17)

..."It is a dereliction of duty not to preach from the scriptures in such a way that the necessity of repentance and reconciliation is made clear. When God's call to all men and women to repent and surrender to Christ is hidden behind comforting words that provide false salves to the conscience and superficially alleviate the tension between biblical truth and cultural norms, souls are endangered. What a terrible thing to send a congregation home hyped up on motivational platitudes without a hint that there is a judgment to come and that apart from Christ none can stand in it.

..."At the same time, we should not depart regularly feeling condemned. While the sermon opens the Word of God and that necessarily leads to conviction from time to time, it also brings comfort and encouragement and assurance. Not only are we forgiven sinners, but in Christ, we are beloved children of God. We are heirs to the world. We have no reason to hang our heads in shame because our Lord has taken away all shame and guilt.

...There should then be a sense of eager anticipation as the bible is opened and the sermon begins...what treasures will God reveal? What comfort will he bring? What guidance or assurance will he give me this day? For every rebuke, there is also a promise of mercy and grace to all who seek it in Jesus Christ.

...The sermon is not a speech, lecture or motivational talk, done properly it is the means by which God communicates the desire of the bridegroom to the bride, Christ's will to his Church."

Whatcha think?

I think I need come back with a piece on "The Role of Listening in the Congo" (and not another one on Appreciative Inquiry)

Okay, was he formerly,

1. Roman Catholic
2. Greek Orthodox
3. Southern Baptist
4. Lutheran
5. Presbyterian
6. Episcopalian
7. Hindu

Fr. Kennedy is at the Church of the Good Shepherd Binghamton, NY.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Death, Taxes, and the End of Time

In the Episcopal Church there are few certainties. One of these has to be the annual "Every Member Canvass," or "Stewardship Campaign," or "Pledge Drive."
There are probably many other names for this time of the Church Year, and some of these cannot be shared in polite society. Most of these alternative descriptors are prefaced with words such as, "Not again," "They always want more," "They spend too much," "This year we are staying the same," or "We give enough already." These are not the words of the cheerful giver, but admit it, you probably have made or have heard similar comments.

Today was an unusual Sunday. Fr. Foss had to take on in his sermon the Stewardship business, All Saints Day, a double Baptism, the memory of the dearly departed, Revelation, and the Beatitudes. But that is not enough of a challenge, lets throw in the "church militant," Desert Storm, and the guilt of growing up with "Southern" prejudices.
All this presents a problem. The problem of time.

And I am not talking about the fact that by setting our clocks back this morning we had an extra hour of sleep. No, I have to bring up the fact that today's sermon ate away 23 of the 60 minutes we gained.
It is at times like this that I have to sit back and remember that time may not exist, at least below the Planck scale according to this article. If you don't read it, here is one choice quote,
“The meaning of time has become terribly problematic in contemporary physics,” says Simon Saunders, a philosopher of physics at the University of Oxford. “The situation is so uncomfortable that by far the best thing to do is declare oneself an agnostic.”

While squirming in your pew, please try to consider another solution to the problem of time. Just think of yourself as playing a role in this old John Prine song, (I give you the option of the lyrics, or a YouTube of someone singing John's song pretty well).
While out sailing on the ocean
While out sailing on the sea
I bumped into the Saviour
And He said pardon me
I said "Jesus you look tired"
He said "Jesus so do you,
Sit down son
'Cause I got some fat to chew"

Everybody needs somebody
that they can talk to
Someone to open up their ears
And let that trouble through
Now you don't have to sympathize
Or care what they may do
But everybody needs somebody
that they can talk to

Well he spoke to me of morality
Starvation, pain and sin
Matter of fact the whole dang time
I only got a few words in
But I won't squawck
Let 'em talk
Hell it's been a long long time
And any friend that's been turned down
Is bound to be a friend of mine

(Repeat chorus)

Now we sat there for an hour or two
Just eatin' that Gospel pie
When around the bend come a terrible wind
And lightning lit the sky
He said so long son I gotta run
Appreciate you listening to me
And I believe I heard him sing these words
As he skipped out across the sea

Everybody needs somebody
that they can talk to
Someone to open up their ears
And let that trouble through
Now you don't have to sympathize
Or care what they may do
But everybody needs somebody
that they can talk to

John Prine "Everybody" from "Diamonds in the Rough" 1972

Here's a version from Ohtis,

Oops, there goes more of that time we gained last night.

And don't forget to send in those pledge cards.