Sunday, June 7, 2009

Trinity Concepts

Today being Trinity Sunday, we, of course, focus on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Rev. James Liggett gave an some interesting concepts in a sermon from June 11, 2006.

He talks about God existing before anything was created, and in speaking His name, the Son was created as an expression of the Father through the Father's Word. The action of speaking is descriptive of the Holy Spirit. Later, he describes it as the Lover (or person who loves), creating the Beloved (the object of affection) through the Love He is expressing.

Extrapolating that, Rev. Liggett goes on to explain that we are created in God's image, and our duty as Christians is to express the Love of God through the Holy Spirit, continuing the cycle begun before time began.

I feel a bit like I'm studying the Tao when it comes to the Trinity, because just as I start to get a grip on the concept, it becomes bigger than I've contemplated, and contemplation continues. :) The interconnectedness, however, described in this sermon is truly fascinating for some future meditation work. :)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Wearing of the Red

I've found it rather interesting that after Easter, all of our readings are coming from the New Testament, rather than having an Old Testament reading along with a New Testament reading. And today, celebrating Pentacost, we are very strongly reminded of how God comes among us - as fire and wind.

We saw this in the burning bush with Moses, with the pillar of flame that guided the Jews through the desert, and once again we see what Christ refers to as "The Spirit of Truth" which will always be with those who follow Christ's word: "John 14:15: “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."

That last verse could be considered a reflection of the very creation of Mankind when God breathed the Spirit of Life into man, making it a part of our very nature, as natural to us as taking a breath. All we must do is be willing to listen - and at Pentacost, that breath may become the very fire of creativity that we see occurring throughout history.

So perhaps wearing red is a good reminder to us to allow the Spirit of Truth to fire us up, remind us of the creative breath of life we each have, that we may better serve God.

Substitute for Judas Iscariot

I'm a bit behind, so this is about last week's lesson - the replacement for Judas. The disciples got together and decided that 12 were needed to fulfill all of the ministry the Christ had left for them, and two names were put forward to replace Judas: Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. We know from the accounts that after drawing lots, Matthias was selected and became the 12 apostle.

Now, from here, we learn: "bar-sab-'as (Ioudas Barsabbas): Judas was, with Silas, a delegate from the church in Jerusalem to the GentileChristians of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. They were appointed to convey the letter containing the decision of "the apostles and the elders, with the whole church" regarding the attitude to be taken by GentileChristians toward the Mosaic law, and also to explain "the same things by word of mouth." They accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Antioch, and, "being themselves also prophets," i.e. preachers, they not only handed over the epistle but stayed some time in the city preaching and teaching. They seem to have gone no farther than Antioch, for "they were dismissed in peace from the brethren unto those that had sent them forth," and it was Paul and Silas who some time afterward strengthened the churches in Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:40,41).
According to Acts 15:34 the King James Version, Judas returned to Jerusalem without Silas, who remained at Antioch and afterward became Paul's companion (Acts 15:40). The oldest manuscripts, however, omit Acts 15:34, and it is therefore omitted from the Revised Version (British and American). It was probably a marginal note to explain Acts 15:40, and in time it crept into the text. Judas and Silas are called "chief men among the brethren" (15:22), probably elders, and "prophets" (15:32).
Barsabbas being a patronymic, Judas was probably the brother of Joseph Barsabbas. He cannot be identified with any other Judas, e.g. "Judas not Iscariot" (Jn 14:22). We hear no more of Judas after his return to Jerusalem (Acts 15:22 ff).
S. F. Hunter"

So, even while not chosen to be among the 12 apostles, Judas continued on to serve the church, assisting Paul. We can look on this as an example for ourselves, in that, while we may not be chosen to lead, we are still followers of Christ, able to contribute, each in our own way, to spread the word. I thought Barsabbas to be the most interesting person of the lesson.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The answer is The Cross

The Bishop came to visit our little church for his annual visit, and to talk with us about our search for a new parish priest. He gave us a bit of direction and we'll work on finding some answers.

In the meantime, he gave a very interesting sermon, starting with the time of the Second Great Awakening in the 1830s, and how that had a very significant impact on how religion in the United States in particular was shaped. It was at that time that the experiential, emotional aspects of connecting to God were espoused and lauded, without so much emphasis being put on the actions that make us Christians. Rather than love being a feeling you can wrap around yourself, as a Christian, it should also be an action that assists people to improve themselves and go on to express their love in actions as well.

Today, we experience the rise and fall in church attendance -- not just as Episcopalians, but most all Christian churches are experiencing -- as people "shop" around for the best "show." How's the choir? Is the priest any good? Is the music modern or classical? How does the congregation dress? What, pray tell, does any of that have to do with being a good Christian?

So, the Bishop pointed out some of the questions that many non-Christians, or seeking Christians have:

How much does God care about our day to day lives?
Does He care about our deeds, that we sin or do good, that we fear hell and strive for heaven?
Is God truly a loving God?
Does He understand the sacrifices we make in our efforts to be good Christians?

The answer is the Cross.

In this time of focusing on the resurrection and rebirth of Christ, we also need to know, without doubt that God is there, caring for us, daily, because He truly understands what we're striving for. He's there to help, to listen, to inspire, and to hold us accountable for the choices we make. So let one of your questions, as you shop around for a good "show", be something along the lines of, what can *I* do to show God I understand all this?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Happenings at the Little Church in Troy

This week, we thought we'd simply update everyone on the various programs that our little church is participating in, planning or in the process of. :)

First, one of our most successful outreach programs is the prayer shawl ministry, affectionately known as The Knit Wits. :) We typically have anywhere from 5 to 7 people knitting and crocheting for prayer shawls, and the other program we've already begun, now named Caring Covers, which provides blankets for kids in foster care (giving them something of their own to have, cuddle into and take care of). When we were initially approached about the Linus Program, we loved the concept, but truly don't have the money required to participate in a program that we feel, shouldn't cost money. :) So, the blankets will still get used, but everybody's work is volunteer and there's no overhead. Additionally, there's a program with the military for donating hats and scarves for military members serving in rather colder places - we're checking into that program. :)

Another of our members is very active and aware in the senior community, and is arranging for someone who volunteers to provide foot care on a monthly basis for the seniors. Troy's senior center didn't have an interest in the program, so we figure that our meeting hall will provide enough room to operate the program out of Holy Trinity. The foot care is done on a donation only basis, and the local transportation can be arranged ahead of time. We think this will be a wonderful addition to our community.

In the works are two seminars or workshops - one on financial planning most likely using Dave Ramsey's program, and one on alternative healing. Once we have more information on them, we'll post it here.

That's it for now, but I think great things come from our church. Come check it out. :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Message of Thomas

Today's blog is inspired from the sermon of Rev. Dr. Susanna Metz (whole sermon can be found here). What struck me was this section: "In the final verses of today's gospel passage, Jesus tells the disciples that many would come after them who would not have the same experience of him that they did. No one would again walk and talk with him as the disciples had; and yet, these others would also come to believe."

We are those others. And like the apostles and disciples who followed, we meet each week to continue learning about Christ, support one another and are (hopefully) effective witnesses to the life of faith Jesus offers to us. We are today's disciples. And also like the apostles, there are probably many of us who still get a catch in our voice as we realize each year at Easter, the true miracle of Christ's life and resurrection. There is a lightness in our hearts when we are once again able to say, Alleluia! And those things help to lay to rest some of the fears and doubts that we sometimes bring with us, like Thomas, like most people. We know at this time of celebration that when Christ said, "For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them." (Matthew 18:20) - He meant it. So, if Christ were to appear in our midst, would we need to touch his hands and his side? Or would we, like Thomas, be able to simply offer our own profession of faith, in the simple acknowledgment of Christ as our Lord and God?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


This week's sermon focused on a soldier, far from home, in a land where he wasn't wanted nor liked, writing a letter home. Complaints of food, too much sand and the heat began the letter. Sound familiar? Despite the rather anachronistic telling, the letter was from Romulus, a guard sent by Pilate to watch over the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth so that none of the zealots could come and take his body away. This was his account of watching Jesus die, and seeing the same man on the morning of the third day merely walk out of the tomb. Needless to say, he became a believer, and had to let his folks know that he was going to follow where Christ led.

The other part of this week that was truly wonderful for me, personally, was that I got to meet Hazel, one of the older members of our congregation. She brought brownies with M&Ms for the feast we seemed to have after the service. She's in a wheelchair, but from what I can see, seems to wheel herself about - which gives her a very firm-gripped handshake! We offered our condolences as Hazel lost the last of her 12 brothers and sisters last week. She's the only one left at 102. I'm hoping we get to see more of her in the future!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Framing Christ's Life

The Man leaned down to whisper encouragement in my ear. The crowds around us were loud, everyone cheering and waving palm branches. The roads were lined with the palms, the way all returning heroes and conquerors were honored. I may have been a little skittish, but I was proud to be carrying the Man on my back. His voice, though, reminded me of where His journey had begun, and when we had first met. Don't ever let anyone tell you that a donkey doesn't remember - my job in this story is one that no one will ever forget.

It was quieter when I carried His mother. His father walked in front, leading the way, and we traveled a very long way, many, many days' journey. The woman was large with child, but at that point, I was only a few years old, and being young and strong, felt I could go on forever. What I didn't realize was that it truly felt that we were going on forever. Sometimes, we'd travel with groups for a way. I'd talk with the other donkeys to see where they'd traveled, but mostly, knowing the precious cargo I'd been given to transport, I stayed with the man and the woman. They truly cared for one another, watching out in little ways as the endless journey continued. When it came time for her to deliver the baby, we stopped at house after house for a place for her, only to hear each time, there's no room. The man, Joseph, was finally told he could use the stable. I started walking toward it before Joseph got back to me. The woman, Mary, was in pain, and kept squeezing on me. I do wish your mama could have been there - she would at least have known what to do. We got to the stable and I knelt down so she could get off my back easier, and soon, the Baby was born.

Lights shone down from the sky, and it seemed that everyone heard about it, because they didn't get a moment alone after that. Shepherds, animals, Angels - even Kings came to visit - they brought camels! I guess when God has a Child, it is rather something to brag about. He sure did let everyone know. That was an exciting time, and by the time we went home, I was carrying more than the Baby's mother!

And now, look at Him. Hailed as the King He is, greeted with joy and laughter. I walked as tall as I could, so everyone could see Him. And even still, He takes the time to make sure I'm okay, whispering encouragement to me that it'll soon be over. He sounds sad, and I wonder about that. It has been my blessing to watch over Him throughout his life. I'm getting to the end of mine now. Perhaps you'll be able to carry Him where he goes next?

The above was inspired by Karen G. King, our wonderful seminary student who knows that as we are presently without a priest, we greatly appreciate the sermons she sends to us to share in our congregation!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Two Sets of Brothers

This week's gospel focused on Jesus gathering his followers and He began by telling two sets of brothers to leave off their fishing, leave their families, friends, business, and follow Him. Again, the words of last week, "Follow me" are focusing Christians on what that means, exactly.

There's a great sermon called Strength to Love that talks about what that means, and how we, as Christians, follow Christ. In reading that, and thinking about the concept -- how much are you willing to give up, in order to follow the path of Christ -- got me thinking about how Christians, or people of any religion must ask the same question of themselves.

With the background I had, the first story that came to mind was one of a young girl named Mona, whose story of her faith is told here. There is a play based on her life which asks the question, "When the Moment Comes" -- what will you do. If everything is laid on the line, do you deny your faith for a moment in order to live for whatever your reasons are, or do you remain steadfast in your beliefs, knowing that it may ultimately lead to your death?

And then a friend of mine recommended looking at the website Who Will Save Iraq's Christians which tells stories of Iraqi Christians fighting for their lives, livelihoods, homes and children, and often simply fleeing before the persecution they experience there.

And from there my thoughts ran to what Christians have done in the past when persecuted and forced underground, and how they recognized one another -- the symbol of the fish in the first centuries of the common era, the forget-me-not flowers used by some Christians (Masons) during WWII because of their aid for Jews, and of course, the symbol of the Cross today.

So in that chaos of thoughts, it still comes down to the questions: How will you follow Christ? How will your life change because of your beliefs? How will your actions change because you are a Christian? How do you follow him?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Follow Me

This week, our blog is the sermon provided by a sometimes parishioner of ours, Karen G. King, seminarian, who has graciously consented for us to publish it here. It was lovely to meet this lady I've heard so much about, and we'll miss her as she continues her schooling.

"Follow me."

Two words. For children they are easy words. Follow the Leader, for instance, is a game in which a child leads and others follow, aping the leaders' movement. Simon Says is another game that children play, and in this game if someone says, "Simon says, 'Follow me,'" all the children do exactly that -- they follow whoever is the leader at that moment.

Adults have a hard time with "Follow me." They have to think and weigh the consequences of the action of following someone else. Questions like "Do I like this person?" "Do I believe what this person believes?" "Will this person want my money?" "Will I have to sacrifice my job?" And so it goes. We adults no longer have the innocent faith of children, who hear the words follow me and accept blindly that it is okay to do so. (As an aside as I wrote this about children, I suddenly realized that children of the late 20th century and the early 21st century have had to be taught that blind faith in strangers is dangerous. What a terrible comment about our world!)

The innocent faith of children prior to the mid-20th century is a metaphor for how the apostles accepted Jesus' call. When Jesus said, "Follow me," that is what they did. It was a little different when an apostle said to a potential disciple, "Follow Jesus." That person -- Nathaniel, for instance -- had to ask, "Why would I want to do that?" Phillip simply says, "Check him out and see what you think." And, we know the rest of the story, or do we?

You and I are parts of the rest of the story, aren't we? A story that has not yet ended. As such, many of us are Nathaniels. We have to check it out first. If we like what we hear and see and if we have faith in what we hear but cannot see, we follow. Then, and only then, do we become people who have made ourselves apprentices to Jesus Christ so that we can become capable of doing what he did.

I can only tell you what this apprenticeship looks like for me. I said, "Yes, I will follow you" only after many years of thinking and reasoning and searching. As a result, I am in New York City, studying to be a priest. I am a long way from home, from friends, from people I love. It was my choice -- God does not coerce people into following Jesus, which, as far as I am concerned, is one of the great things about God. I have a choice! You have a choice! Martin Luther King, Jr., had a choice, as did a man that he admired -- Mahatma Gandhi.

Each of us as Christians decided at some point in our lives that we wanted to be apprentices of Jesus. This does not mean that we are able to be Jesus. This means that what Jesus taught becomes the pattern of our lives. Within the Gospels, we find the teachings of Jesus that show us how to live our lives in relationship to time, place, family, neighbors, talents, and opportunities.

For instance, as a hospital chaplain, I had a real opportunity to serve God and that opportunity caused a real problem. I would walk into a room of a seriously or critically ill person as a representative of Jesus Christ so I was supposed to talk about God. Wrong! I was there to be present to their suffering as Jesus was present to the suffering of his times, friends, family, neighbors. This call to hospital chaplaincy was not about religion or Christian service. It was very secular -- I was there to listen to the suffering around me; and if I could actively help, I was to do so by bringing them myself as an active listener with whom they could share their joy and sorrow and suffering. My opportunity for discipleship led me to a whole new place and gave to me as much as I gave to it. I learned that while discipleship can be a religious affair, it also belongs to the world.

Jesus' mission, doing the will of God by bringing a new view of God and a new way to reach God, was religious, but it was so much more. It changed the way mankind not only views God, but also how people view each other. It brought a new secular pattern of living to the world.

So it was with King and Gandhi. They were called to ministry in the religious sense, but that ministry led to a much greater role than just leading prayers, teaching others about God and living a good life. They both became the hope of their friends, neighbors, families for a new world order that would free them from the oppression of others. Their roles were secularized: Gandhi brought about the independence of his country from Great Britain, and King brought about the end of segregation in the United States.

Martin Luther King, Jr., said:
Well, I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop ... Like anybody, I would like to live a long life -- longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know ... that we, as a people will get to the promised land.
Gandhi said:

You have to stand against the whole world although you may have to stand alone. You have to stare the world in the face, although the world may look at you with blood-shot eyes. Do not fear. Trust that little thing in you which resides in the heart and says: 'Forsake friend, wife, all; but testify to that for which you have lived and for which you have to do' ....
Jesus could see God and brought a vision of a new way of living to the world, and he was killed as were the apostles and many of the disciples that came after them. Martin Luther King, as an apprentice of Jesus, was assassinated on the balcony of his motel room for wanting a new way of life for Blacks. Gandhi brought down an empire and brought a new way of life to his people. While all of these men were not Christians, they had tremendous faith in God and as such followed Him wherever it took them. They followed God's call.

How are we to live into our individual calls and follow Christ? It is as simple as it is difficult. As apprentices of Jesus, we are to act as he did -- help the poor, the sick, widows, orphans, and the oppressed. We are to treat each person as we would wish to be treated by them, and we are to love and to serve God. How we go about doing this is as individual as we are. We have to ask God and listen to God's response. By doing so, our individual roles will be revealed to us. Even if they are not earth shattering as were the roles of Gandhi and King, they are equally important to achieving God's kingdom on earth.

Gandhi made a statement about himself and his relationship to God that I think applies or should apply to all of us. He said, "I am a man of faith. My reliance is solely on God. One step is enough for me. The next step He will make clear to me when the time for it comes." As I see it, we are to trust God and follow Jesus, knowing that God will make clear to us exactly what form each of our discipleships is to take, how it is to take place, and when it is to take place.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


As with most people, I generally look at the concept of an "epiphany" as those moments of life-altering change, where something has occurred that literally challenges and changes the way I think or feel about something. It is that sort of epiphany that makes up many of the stories of the Bible, whenever Christ performed a miracle -- it made the news! I'm fairly certain that John's epiphany of who Christ was when God's light and voice appeared at the time of His baptism changed him in ways that he never even considered before. John knew that he was the forerunner, that his job was to tell people that Christ was coming, and to prepare, and yet, having absolute, physical confirmation of Christ's existence and seeing Him before him in the flesh, had to have given him a renewed sense of purpose, a certainty that before was merely belief.

And yet it is belief that we all, as every day Christians, must rely on in our day to day functioning. And it is my belief that it is the other type of "epiphany" that provides us with the certainty we seek. Imagine, if you will, the sound of a baby's laugh... the stillness and beauty of a snow covered landscape before being broken by any footprint ... the shaft of sunlight that breaks through the dark clouds of rain ... the look on a pregnant mother's face the first time she feels her child move ... the perfection of the human body. And think about the sense of peace that flows through your entire body when confronted by the *epiphany* that we are blessed, constantly, by the God who loves us enough to provide evidence of our belief, to provide us with the certainty we desire in order to continue on our path.

I grew up in a house where those epiphanies were pointed out, until I was old enough to recognize them for myself, and help in pointing them out to others. I'm one of those fortunate few who learned that certainty is acquired merely by being aware, and knowing the perfection in God's plan is much greater than I can see around me, but taking comfort in the knowledge that it is there, and appreciating the signs provided.

May this season of Epiphany allow you to be aware and turn your own belief to certainty.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Travels of the Magi

Today, not yet being Epiphany, we celebrated the second Sunday after Christmas with the story of the wise men. And one of the questions asked in a story borrowed from an Episcopal minister in Michigan was, who are today's wise men, traveling to meet Christ? What gifts do they bring, and what do those gifts say about Christ today?

We know that the wise men in Christ's time brought gold -- a symbol of Christ's kingship, frankincense -- an incense used in worship, and myrrh -- both a substance used in embalming royalty, and a powerful method of fighting infection. These were gifts of the wise men in acknowledgment of who they were visiting, as well as statements about the baby Jesus and His life as it would be, both on Earth and in Heaven.

Fortunately, God blessed us with a traveler today, after the service was done. A man named Teddy is traveling from Wyoming to Washington, by bicycle, to return home after quite some time. Now while bicycles aren't camels, it appeared that Teddy's gifts in his travels included providing us an opportunity to give him a bit of hot chocolate, fellowship, a left-handed glove turned wrong-side out to make a right-handed glove to replace one he lost, a scarf to help cover his face in his travels, and a lift up the hill out of town. He gifted us also with his knowledge of the Bible, current affairs and stories, along with the absolute faith that no matter what happens, we win in the end, because we get to meet God.

Gifts of this nature say a whole lot about the gifts and the giver. May God grant you the gift of meeting a magi this week.