Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christ in Christmas

This week's reflection came from Linda Pepe, and the whole thing is well worth reading.  But I wanted to post the couple of paragraphs that deal with the topic if keeping Christ in Christmas:

Christ IS Christmas... and regardless of whether we show up at the door in the middle of the night after a divine encounter with a host of angels, or shuffle through the whole experience more concerned about coffee and gastric distress, Christmas will always be about Christ. And we can commercialize it or Santa-ize it, or bake through it or shop through it… but we still can’t TAKE Christ out of Christmas…

And do you know why? Because Christ can’t take YOU out of Christmas… you are the reason there IS a Christmas- you’re the reason that Jesus was sent here the first place- because of God’s great love for you…because of God’s love for US! “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son!” For God so loved each one of us… because God loved, Jesus came to earth- bringing with him the foundations of everything he knows- love, joy, hope…
So Merry Christmas!  May it be exactly as you wished it to be, or exactly as you made it to be.  May you notice and welcome the gift of the Christ child.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Eve for the Homebound

General Seminary was selected to produce the nation-wide Christmas Eve program for CBS-TV this year.  You can tune in to your local affiliate at 11:35 p.m. to bring in Christmas Episcopal style.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


At this time of year, when so many of us are both watching every penny and wanting to share all that's in our hearts, this video is a wonderful reminder to appreciate the little things, and to know that it doesn't take a lot to make a difference in someone's life.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Choice

Reverend PattiAnn Bennett pointed out in her sermon tonight that each individual has a similar choice to Mary.  Not discounting, of course, Mary's contribution to becoming the mother of the Christ child, but rather her choice to accept this as God's will - her statement in Luke, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."

How often are we, as individuals, guided to do something, give something, provide something for someone else?  And how often do we make the choice to say, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."?

PattiAnn went on to describe several instances this past week where people have stepped up, "Here am I," and the Lord has provided people specially suited to their gifts - a family of 6 with frozen pipes, no money for many essentials, and much need received groceries, wood to burn, necessities and a coupon for the makings of Christmas dinner.  Their Wood Bank at St. Michael's and All Angels in Eureka is now a reality as people made the choice to aid those in their community by chopping wood, stacking, loading and unloading trucks to be delivered.

So when we're given an opportunity to be of service to our fellow man, will we follow Mary's example?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

From the Children

This is just priceless.  This Christmas story was made with children actors less than eight years old, has managed to receive hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube in just a few hours. The creators say it reflects the spirit of Christmas by reflecting what took place on 'the first December 25,' as well as showing beautiful landscapes of New Zealand. It has been produced by an Anglican parish of Auckland in New Zealand.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Joy and Laughter

This past Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday in Advent, and we lit the candle for Joy.  This sermon by the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Carter reminds us that joy and laughter are also gifts from God, and can often help us through difficult times.  The quote here that I like the best comes from writer Peter DeVries:  "Do not assume ... that because I write in comic ways, I am being trivial, and I will not assume, that because you write in serious ways, you are being profound!"

Joy can be found in things great and small.  Last night's gift after the rather serious and staid Candlelighting Ceremony (the atmosphere would be as you expect when you're lighting candles for those who have passed on) was that of snow.  The simple joy of seeing all things made new, pristine and beautiful by a layer of snow lifted our hearts immeasurably, as we already knew that our loved ones resided with God and He takes care of them - even as he reminds us that life must find that balance.

So don't forget to find - and recognize - the joy - God gifts us with it regularly.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Catching Up Blog

So, I'm a wee bit behind with updating, and there has been so much happening that this will be a blog of summary and links so you can read (or not) at your leisure.

First, we're in the season of Advent, and this sermon by the Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson, Jr. is absolutely awesome.  We often get the message during Advent that this is a time of preparing ourselves for the birth of the Christ child, a time of waiting.  Rev. Levenson looks at it a bit differently - he calls Advent the "Two Minute Warning" akin to what we see in a football game.  Now is the time to take action, to get your head in the game, to give your very best because the birth of the Light of the World is just around the corner, and you don't want to be anywhere but the top of your game.  I think this reflection was in honor of my very football crazy family.

Next, on the very same Sunday, our own Rev. PattiAnn Bennett prepared a wonderful sermon that she's finalizing (or I'd have the link to it) and I will link to later.  She talked about the meanings and definitions of some of the Episcopal traditions and how they came to be. 

Now, the Prayer Shawl Ministry sponsored by Holy Trinity for Lincoln County participated in the local 4H Craft Fair, and just had an informational booth, where people could find themselves gifted with a pocket prayer (just like what it sounds, a small, knitted or crocheted cross made with prayer that can fit in your pocket), or dishclothes (good for those odds and ends of yarn that can be useful) with prayers attached.  A lot of people stopped when they saw pictures of Hazel Walsh, the oldest member of our congregation (at 105), wearing one of our prayer shawls, and reminisced about being in her classes.  And several people were interested in learning more about the ministry.  Needless to say, anyone interested is welcome to join us on Sundays from 2:00 to 4:00 as we knit and crochet prayers into garments (blankets, shawls, hats, scarves, wrist warmers, or whatever else we might think of). 

And finally, this Sunday, Holy Trinity is hosting the World Wide Candlelighting Ceremony for this part of Lincoln County - this is for anyone who has lost a child to light a candle for them and participate in a 24-hour wave of light around the globe.  The organization who helps organize this event, along with support groups and grief counseling is Compassionate Friends.  For anyone interested in attending the ceremony here, we will begin at 6:45 p.m., and light our candles at 7:00 p.m.  The whole service is about 30 minutes, and everyone is welcome to bring pictures and stories of their loved ones to share, or just come and know that you're not alone in having lost a child, of any age.  Refreshments will be served afterwards.

I will endeavor not to fall behind again, and will post the link to PattiAnn's sermon as soon as it's posted.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Most people probably look at the "talent" referred to in the parable this week as a coin of some sort.  However, a talent was actually a weight or measurement.  It corresponded generally to the mass of water in the volume of an amphora, i.e. a one foot cube. When used as a measure of money, it refers to a talent-weight of gold or of silver.  So, when we hear about the master giving 5 talents to the first slave, 2 to the second and 1 to the third, we're talking about a whole lot of money. 

Let's look at the fact that the talent's original measure was a mass of water that fit within a container.  In other instances, this would be called the capacity of the container, and likely, the master was providing to each servant the greatest (or least) capacity he felt they would be able to handle.  The first slave was obviously a real go-getter, and likely, the 5 talents did not approach the capacity he was capable of handling.  His container would hold a considerably greater amount, a fact the master recognized, and promised to provide him with more responsibilities.  The second slave, would have about half or less the capacity of the first slave, if the master's estimation was correct, and rather than overwhelming him with more than he could handle, the master gave him what he felt his capacity could cope with.  He also did well, doubling the value for his master, and not quite reaching the amount the first slave was originally given, but doing well for himself in his own capacity.  His master rewarded that as well, being willing to provide him with more opportunities to grow, excel and increase his own capacity, or measure.

So then we get to the third slave, and have to wonder - did the master overestimate this slave's capacity?  Was a full talent's measure too much for that slave?  Or is it possible that the slave did not believe in his own capacity, and felt that it was safer to do nothing and return the same amount when the master returned?  Is it possible the slave felt the master was overestimating his capacity?

Not long ago, we had the story of Jesus walking on water to get out to the boat where the disciples were.  And Peter, wanting to believe, finds that when Jesus tells him to walk out to him, he could walk on water, as long as he kept his eyes on Christ.  As soon as Peter's eyes waivered, and he saw the winds and the waves, he faltered, and began to sink.  Jesus knew that Peter's capacity for belief was huge, and showed him that with that belief, all things were possible.  It was only when Peter allowed the outside forces to affect his own belief in his own capacity that he began to sink. 

Switching now to the modern definition of talent, as a gift or skill, do we find ourselves wondering if we're really as gifted or talented as some would describe us?  Or are we possibly just fooling ourselves - God would never find what we have to give worthy of notice, right?  Is it possible that God believes in us a lot more strongly, and has given us the capacity He believes we have, to use, to develop, to grow, so that we in turn can attract others through our own beliefs and capacity?  Is it not the height of our own ego to believe that we know better than God about our talents? 

As I was once advised by a very smart old lady - get out of your own way:  God has use for you, and He believes in you even when you doubt yourself. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Be Prepared

Of course, this was the message from the Gospel this week, and our wonderful interim Priest, PattiAnn Bennett, gave some examples of how being prepared might look.  Our Boy and Girl Scouts practice this motto, but more to be prepared for anything that might happen for which they will be called upon to assist.  Our governmental agencies, particularly FEMA, practice disaster preparedness and what to do, in case...  Individually, we think about where we live, and what might happen, and what we would need to survive what might happen.  Around here that can be anything from canning and preserving to having a sufficient place set up outside should the electricity go out and you need to keep things frozen, having a supply of wood and stuff enough to take care of minor medical problems. 

One of the interesting parts of the Gospel was the fact that individual preparedness was quite important - it wasn't something you could share, nor was it something you could borrow.  You, personally, have to be prepared. 

The Church of Scotland states: 

The parable has over the years been victim to detailed allegorical interpretation, but the main point is surely about being ready and prepared for the coming of the Lord, a day that is unknown in time, and the oil is representative of the good works that show the dedication, preparedness and attentive waiting for the day when the Lord will return and call his own.
Are you awake?  Are you aware that the time of His choosing could occur at any time?  Are you prepared?

Monday, October 24, 2011


This week's reflection was provided by the former Rev. Judith Schenck, and discusses the importance of the little word - all.  "We call it the Great Commandment or the Summary of the Law: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy mind and thy neighbor as thyself."  And that word has huge meaning.  I highly recommend reading the entirety of the sermon at the link provided. 

One of the points in the piece talks about, who is your neighbor. 
“Who is your neighbor?” asks Jesus. Our neighbor is anyone who stands beside us on this small planet, our island home. Distance is no obstacle to neighbors. A neighbor is any other human being with whom we share the image of God, which is to say, all human beings. A neighbor is not based on worth, on quality of life, on intelligence or beauty, on health or sickness, on moral development or religion, on color or sexuality or geography. We are all neighbors to one another.
Our wonderful interim priest, PattiAnn Bennett, proved just what a neighbor is, as she wrote to us recently:  "Upon returning from convention Sunday evening I learned that an elderly parishioner from St Michael had no place to live and was suffering from some kind of mental dysfunction. She has stayed here with us this week and after many phone calls to her family back east & Adult Protective Services involvement and doctor's appointments I will escort her [home on the East Coast] to meet her daughter on Saturday."

Setting aside her own responsibilities (and likely assisted in that by her family and friends, also helping their neighbor as needed), she helped another made in the image of God, and did as she would hope others would do when presented with such an opportunity. 

I appreciate the examples we are provided from the words of Rev. Schenck and the actions of Rev. Bennett.  May we all strive to live up to the definition of "all" the Commandments provide.

Monday, October 17, 2011


The Gospel this week talks about rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and rendering unto God that which is God's.  Interestingly, Christ's response is based on what is stamped on a coin - the image of Caesar.  What He does not say, but which is fascinating to contemplate - were we not each "stamped" in the image of God?

Thinking about His response from this perspective puts a whole new meaning on the Gospel.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Parables - And Capacity

There's a good joke that describes how parables can come across:  "A flat-lander was invited to preach in a mountain Baptist church. He was worried, remembering that they eschewed educated preachers and were known for their fundamentalism and simplistic approach to the gospel. He preached with masterful command of allegory and hard truths veiled in simile. At the close of his message he gave the expected invitation and just one old gentleman in starched overalls responded. He came forward and whispered in the minister's ear, "Young feller, I want you to know that I know that just because the water's muddy, don't mean it's deep!"

Parables ... Symbolism... Something standing for something else, or meant to remind you of something else.  Sometimes it seems quite mysterious - complicated and obscure.  The thing is that the word for "mystery" in Greek contains a technical meaning - something unintelligible to outsiders, but clear to those initiated into the mystery.  When you get it, it truly expands your understanding, and when you don't, you're left with rather more of a feeling that it's another one of those stories that really has no purpose, but shows how great Jesus is, and you move on. 

So to bring another joke here:  Young Assisant Pastor Bill was giving his 427th children's sermon. "Now kids," says Pastor Bill, "What's green, lives in the pond, sits on a lily pad, and hops?" The children looked at each other with vacant eyes as silence ruled that magical time. "Surely, someone has an idea?" Finally, little Susie stood up and said, "Well, it sounds like a frog, but it must be Jesus!" 

How many times have you walked away like Susie thinking, well, I probably just don't get it, but that's okay?

So for a more modern twist, have you seen the movie, "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe"?  Did you find it to be a great kids' story about good and evil?  Did you know the symbolism for Aslan to be Christ; the stone table to be the "Old Laws" written on stone tablets; the White Witch to be Lucifer; Peter to be the Apostle Peter; Susan to be Mary; Edmund to represent Mankind; and Lucy to represent children and the innocence and faith of a child?  Did the understanding of those symbols change the story for you at all?  How many have seen the Matrix Trilogy and found it to be a relatively cool sci-fi series, but kinda confusing?  And if you put the Christian overtones in, does the movie take on a bit more depth?

Christ said of parables in Mark, Chapter 4:13 and 25:
And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? ... For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.
Parables are the subject of much study for Christian scholars and apologists.  Fr. John Hemer wrote an excellent essay on parables in which he said:
The only way the crowd can understand with the heart is to experience a collision, an offence, and then if they can get beyond that they have faith. If they can’t they remain in scandal. But, if they are not in any way put out by what Jesus says (think of the Vineyard labourers) if they simply fit what Jesus says into their world, they will never really come to faith but will imagine that they have. A parable can obstruct truth or reveal it – it depends on the attitude of the hearer.
So Jesus shows both possibilities: This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: `You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.' (13:13-15)
But a little further in the same passage he says: All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world." (13:34-35)
So when we listen to the parables, perhaps we should challenge the easy understanding, put in a little more historic context and what the norm was for the listeners at the time.  Then do the same thing for ourselves - challenge our own "easy" understanding and see if maybe there's more to the message for all of us.

Monday, October 3, 2011

When Necessary

St. Francis of Assisi is said to have said, "Share the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words."  In actuality, there's no evidence within 200 years of his life and death that he ever said such a thing, let alone lived such a life.  Like the great troubadours of his time, Francis of Assisi was a wonderful storyteller.  He taught the message of Jesus five times a day, climbing onto bales of hay to gather a crowd, telling them of the wonders of Christ's birth, his ministry, his death - helping people to be in the stable at the birth, to really see what Christ did.  And at the drop of a hat, he could switch to talking about the evils of sin, and sermons of hellfire and brimstone emerged.  Mark Galli, author of Francis of Assisi and His World, suggested people today would prefer to see the kinder, softer side of St. Francis, rather than focusing on the man as a whole.

The very nature of the Gospel requires that it be talked about.  People can always live a good, moral, just life, performing excellent works of kindness, charity, healing and forgiveness.  These actions are important, and walking your talk is definitely needed to help people understand you're sincere in your beliefs, but you first have to have a talk you're walking.  For people to understand your motivation is to live a Christian life, a "Christ-like" life, words are absolutely necessary. 

Another author, Ray Comfort (written over 70 books/Christian apologist,, wrote:  "Saying preach the gospel, when necessary use words is like saying, feed the poor, when necessary use food.” 

Sharing the stories of the Gospel, the words of Christ - St. Francis did this on a regular, ongoing, life-long basis. And he ensured that his actions matched his words, and expected the same of those who chose to follow in his footsteps.
Adding a quote from our priest, PattiAnn Bennett about St. Francis, taken from The Lessons of St. Francis by John Michael Talbot, p. 192:
"Talk is cheap, but love is costly. When Francis and his friars went out into the world, thy didn't practice a form of hit and run, kamikaze Christianity. They didn't just preach and run. They reached out to people and did what they could do to serve. Thomas of Celano described Francis as "preaching  everywhere the kingdom of God, and rendering his whole body a tongue, in order to edify his hearers by his example as well as by his words."
I think this makes the whole thing make much more sense.

Monday, September 26, 2011

God and Humanity

As you know, our church has lay leaders that lead a morning prayer service on the 2nd, 4th and 5th (if we have them) Sundays of the month.  (Insert shameless plug inviting anyone who would like to attend to join us )  Well, yesterday's reflection (this takes the place of a sermon) comes from Rev. G. Cole Gruberth, and fascinated me with regard to the relationship of God and humanity:
If John’s teaching or the teaching of Jesus or of the priests themselves were solely and unambiguously a matter of channeling God’s will, everyone would recognize its divine origin. The human teacher would be nothing but a mouthpiece for God, but would become less human for being so. On the other hand, if John or Jesus or the priests were acting only from their own human understanding, their teaching about God would lack any special authority.

By leaving his own question unanswered, Jesus suggests that doing God’s will requires a human being in relationship with the divine. If our work is based on an arrogant claim of our own authority, it can’t long remain true to God’s will. But neither does God require that we minimize our own humanity in order to do God’s work in the world. We are fallible creatures trying to teach and heal and love other fallible creatures, and perhaps our humility in teaching, healing, and loving is a more essential ingredient than our authority ever could be.
This would suggest that while, as many non-believers state, religion is a man-made creation, it still receives its authority from the divine, and our acts of faith are what matter.  Thoughts for contemplation...

Thursday, September 15, 2011


This was shared with me, and I thought you might appreciate.  For those with the faith that God exists, they will appreciate the gorgeous reminders in this video, and will both pity and never understand those who can't see the proof in front of their eyes.

Now of course, how the creation came into existence is up to interpretation, with many thinking, despite scientific proof to the contrary, that the Earth is only a few thousand years old.  Others believe that God built the codes for evolution into his initial matrix, still making us all creations of God, and not contradicting "science" in the slightest.  And then there are those who believe we're all a happy circumstance, an accident of molecules and atoms smashing into one another.

Do feel free to leave your thoughts.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Steps of Forgiveness

There was an interesting section in the reflection shared yesterday, the 10th anniversary of an attack on our country.  A quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a retired Anglican bishop of South Africa, and formerly chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission begins with him stating that to forgive goes beyond the unselfish devotion to the cause of others.
To forgive is a process that does not exclude hate and anger.  These emotions are all part of being human.  You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things; the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger... When I talk of forgiveness, I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person.  A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred.
The Gospel and New Testament readings also talk about forgiveness.  Jesus' instruction to forgive someone seventy-seven times, and Paul pointing out that, "We will all stand before the judgment seat of God."  It's not our responsibility to judge others. 

I think the most interesting part of the reflection by Harry Denman said this:
We often think of forgiveness as something that someone who has done us wrong must ask of us!  Let's take the high road, difficult as it may be.  Let us forgive the person who has wronged us before the hatred eats away at our ability to forgive.  It will not be easy, but God is there to help.  We can do this by offering that individual up to God, not sitting in judgment, but by simply saying, "Help so and so and mend our relationship." ... When we withhold forgiveness, we remain the victim.  When we offer forgiveness, we are doing it only for our own well-being.  Forgiveness allows us to move beyond the pain, the resentment, and the anger.  We always have a choice; to forgive or not to forgive.  When we forgive, we make the choice that heals.
The whole sermon the above was taken from can be found here

When we think about the acts committed on 9/11/2001, maybe now, ten years later, we can begin to make the choice that heals.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Importance of Two

Today's theme, in both Gospel and New Testament readings, was the importance of two. 

In Romans 13, Paul reminds us that Christ, when asked which was the most important of the laws, responded:  "’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."

The first of the two new Commandments covers the first three of the Ten Commandments and comes from a Jewish prayer called the Shema:  "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might."  It talks about how we are to love God - "You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve,” “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” and “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

The second of the two new Commandments covers the next seven of the Ten Commandments, and talks about how we are to treat one another:  “Honor your father and your mother,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,” and “You shall not covet your neighbor’s property.”

Then in the Gospel of Matthew, Christ tells us, "Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven."  If we took this as we are meant to do, can you imagine what we could accomplish?  Christ empowers each of us to do our part, find ways to agree and then ask.  Now, how and when God chooses to respond is, of course, not up to us, but if we focus on the promise that all we must do is agree, we have a tool at our fingertips to reform the world into the vision Christ had.

The power of two seems to be both a huge simplification, and a huge responsibility for people at the same time.  The rules are both simple and quite complex - to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  In this age of internet connectivity, where people all over the world contact people across the globe, "our neighbor" has become a lot broader in meaning - but likely exactly what Christ meant when he talked about it.  Our neighbor is everyone with whom we interact - and our responsibility is to treat each one with care and kindness, as we would hope others would treat us. 

Powerful concepts.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Face Lift

For those who may have seen someone outside scraping or painting the church, Holy Trinity is getting a much needed paint job - which would likely go faster if the author of this blog would allow her son to work on a ladder without a spotter, but paranoid mom that she is, it'll just have to go as quickly as it can when she gets breaks from her own work schedule.  Once it's all finished, we'll post pictures. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

East Coast Quake

Many of you probably read about the earthquake on the East Coast.  For some, particularly those in California, there's a lot of laughter that a 5.8 isn't anything to get excited about.  However, the East Coast doesn't have the same building requirements as the West Coast, and some of the damage is fairly significant.  They were pretty lucky that it wasn't worse than it is.

The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. suffered some pretty significant damage.  You can see pictures here.  They are a self-sustaining congregation, but these repairs are going to be costly.  They are asking any who can to help - which you can do here.

Even without being able to offer funds, we can all offer prayers for a speedy recovery of a national treasure.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Who Am I?

This seemed to match pretty well with the lesson we got from Peter a couple weeks ago.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saint Mary

Today is the Feast for the Assumption of St. Mary in the Catholic calendar. Being an Episcopal church, we still acknowledge the importance of Mary, but I thought I'd tell you a story about one of St. Mary's flowers that doesn't have the name "Mary" in it (the way that Marigold or Lily of the Valley do).


When the soldiers of King Herod were out killing little children, Mary and Joseph traveled through the mountains of Judea with the Baby Jesus. Joseph had gone into a nearby town, leaving Mary and the baby to shelter by the road. While he was gone, Mary, sitting at the side of the road, felt the vibrations in the road that told her the soldiers were coming.

She first went up to the Rose bush, and asked if it would open its petals and leaves and hide her and the baby from the soldiers. The Rose was rude, not only saying no, but to get out of its sunlight, as it had beautiful blooms to put out for all to admire. Mary then went to the Clove bush, and asked if it would allow her and the baby to hide among its leaves and flowers. The Clove bush refused, saying it was busy creating beautiful blossoms for all to see.

Finally Mary came to the Sage plant and asked if it would be willing to shelter her and the baby. The Sage plant agreed, blooming and filling out its leaves so abundantly that a whole canopy was created for them to hide under. The soldiers of Herod rode by, not noticing the plants or the woman and child.

In return for its shelter, Mary blessed the Sage plant with a sweet smell, and a useful life, wherein it could help many with the medicinal properties of its leaves and flowers. And since that time, the Rose has had thorns, and the Clove bush bad-smelling flowers.

If you'd like to see more stories about Mary's Flowers, there's a great book with legends, meditations and stories here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Are We Ready to Take God's Hand?

My thanks to Rev. Judith Schenck, for an excellent inspiration in her sermon about today's readings. First is the story of Joseph and his brothers. And the Gospel is the story of Jesus walking on the water in a storm out toward the boat, and Peter believing in Him enough to join him, for a time.

I am reminded of the story that goes around about the flood and the man who is convinced God will save him. He is visited by two sets of people in boats and a helicopter, but sends them away, because God will save him. When he dies, of course, he asks God why He didn't save him and God's puzzled response of - "I sent you two boats and a helicopter - what did you expect?" is priceless. Or the other joke about the atheist college professor who says he'll wait 15 minutes for God to smite him in order to prove He exists - and the Marine that decks him because God's busy right now and sent him.

In the midst of our daily lives, how much do we focus on the coincidences - the opportunities that we allow to pass us by because we don't trust that God might be acting through someone who can provide what we need? And how often do we pay attention to the fact that we, ourselves, may be the instrument through which God is acting?

Even in the face of the evils done to Joseph, is it not possible that God, in His infinite wisdom, wanted Joseph in another place, where he might act as His hand, extended in grace at a time of His choosing? Looking at the rather volatile history of the Christian Church, is it not possible that some of these things that occurred were to aid in spreading the news of the Christian Faith - in a way that could be accepted at the time? Would the Church have grown without the choices made, at the Council of Nicaea, for instance? While men have free will in the choices they make, can God not turn acts of ignorance or evil, into acts that will benefit His faith?

Like Peter, do we trust that God will guide us right? Or, like Peter, do we flounder in the face of our own fear of trusting in God? Are we ready to take the hand God sends us? And are we ready to be the hand God sends us to?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Happenings in Lincoln County Episcopal Churches

Oddly enough, I think we're getting to the point where we might be entering the 21st Century as far as technology goes. The cluster of Lincoln County Episcopal Churches now has its own website at Northwest Montana Episcopal Community.

This will be the website where you can find out what's going on with Holy Trinity here in Troy, St. Michael's/All Angels in Eureka, and St. Luke's in Libby. This will also be where Rev. Pattiann Bennett will be posting her sermons, so from this point, I'll just be linking to them and commenting as needed to keep our blog updated.

As you can see also, we've made quite a few changes to our site, adding pages and organizing things a bit differently.

So, what we'd ask of our readers is to give us some feedback, either through commenting here, or emailing us privately (you can use the Contacts page). Let us know if you'd like to see something extra, if you don't like something, if you think something should be changed, or if you have suggestions that we haven't yet thought of. We would really appreciate it!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Parables of the Little Things

As you know, on weeks when our interim priest is not here, the lay leaders organize the Morning Prayer service, finding sermons that have been made available for that purpose. Rev Pattiann Bennett, our interim priest, wrote the majority of the text below - but as it was my turn to organize the service last week, I had a sermon by Rev. Charles Hoffacker that was also quite good. I noticed that a couple of paragraphs from Rev. Hoffacker's sermon would fit perfectly into Rev. Bennett's sermon, so with their permission, I repost it below. Rev. Hoffacker's portion is in italics.

In the gospel today, Jesus’ genius of parables brings his message of God’s presence, activity and love for the whole world and our living in it right down to here and now, to earth in the very near and real element’s of our most basic and daily of days.

The kingdom is like a mustard seed. The kingdom is like yeast. The kingdom is like treasure hidden in a field. The kingdom is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. It is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind.

When we think of the kingdom of heaven, we might think of a place “up and out there”. A place we will arrive at someday, a place that is tomorrow instead of today. A place that is far away and one we can’t really get our hands on. But doesn’t Jesus teach that the kingdom of heaven is right here after all, within us and in the objects and happenings and people in our lives. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes like a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.

When I was confirmed, I received a necklace which had a mustard seed embedded in a tiny glass magnifying globe hanging from the chain. It was given as a symbol of faith and reminded me that God works in mysterious ways and that the smallest seemingly inconsequential things in life can have great God possibility and promise and value. On my birthday 2 years ago, a dear friend gave to me a whole container of mustard seeds, reminding me again that God works in mysterious ways and that the smallest seemingly inconsequential things in life can have great God possibility and promise and value.

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.

Three measures of flour. Do you know how much that is? About eighty pounds! This woman is not Martha Stewart whipping up a couple delicate, exquisite little biscuits that together weigh less than a canary. No, no. This woman is a baker!

She’s emptying sixteen five-pound bags of flour into the biggest mixing bowl you’ve ever seen. She’s pouring in forty-two cups of water. She’s got a mass of dough on her hands that weighs over a hundred pounds. Kneading this lump of dough, shaping it, pounding it. It looks like some scene at the end of a professional wrestling match. Here we have a no-nonsense operation. Sports fans, this is baking at its best. A woman, with her apron dusted with flour, her ten fingers deep into the dough – she’s a combination of Julia Child and Hulk Hogan.

Whenever I bake bread, I do it the way my mother taught me. I use a heavy blue pottery bowl. I pour in warm water, add sugar and stir til it’s dissolved, then add a spoonful of yeast. Sometimes I stir it in. When my grandchildren are there, we patiently wait together and expectantly watch for the mystery to unfold. In a little while the water begins to bubble as the yeast which has been laying in the bottom of the bowl begins to work; to bubble, expand and begin, it is very exciting to watch this amazing silent explosion of power occur where a moment before there was simply still water and sugar. Then we add oil and flour and more flour and more flour and mix and knead and knead and knead until we have a mass of dough ready to rest abit on the counter as it begins its transformation into something very different from what it began as.

Without yeast, dough just sits there, not growing or changing, only fit to fry flat. Flat bread is what it will be, which is not a bad thing. But yeast changes the character of the whole thing. Yeast brings transformation. ‘Unleavened bread is like a water biscuit, hard, dry, unappetizing and uninteresting; bread baked with leaven is soft and porous and spongy, tasty and good to eat. The introduction of the leaven causes a transformation in the dough; just like the coming of the kingdom causes a transformation in life.’ (William Barclay The Gospel of Matthew [The Westminster Press, 1975] 79)

Jesus uses the stuff of every day living to help us understand how God works in the world. How God in the dough of us changes everything. Instead of thinking of the kingdom of heaven as up up and far away, out of reach, Jesus brings it right here to our hands and heart’s reach. He shows us that if we look we can see the kingdom all round us in the little, the hidden and the unexpected events in our lives, because we can be blind to the presence of the kingdom in our life even when it is obvious.

Three weeks ago I met a woman who is a nurse and has specialized in caring for children with cancer for 32 years. In the midst of our conversation, she mentioned how little she had done in her life, and how sorry she was about it. She’s only been a nurse she said. Hasn’t done anything special. I almost choked when I heard her say it. I thought, what? Here is someone who has devoted her life to taking care of children and after 32 years of it feels she hasn’t made a difference or done much with her life.

She had no idea how the mustard seed of her life had grown into the greatest of shrubs and become like a tree where birds could make their nests. She had no idea that the yeast of herself had leavened the whole batch and the leavened bread which became her life wouldn’t have been possible without what she and God brought to it. She didn’t notice the kingdom of heaven.

Sometimes we think that the only way to make a difference in the world is to do something extraordinary and big. And some people do do extraordinary big things that have made differences in the world. Look at any number of scientists or engineers or technology experts for example. Look at any number of recognized writers, inventors, activists, musicians and artists. Some of us are not ever going to do those kinds of big things in the world. And we don’t need to. We need to bloom where we’re planted, step in faith, trusting that God is taking the seeds that we are and the yeasts that we are and growing us for the kingdom of heaven. We need to notice. We need eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart open to find God in our midst and at work in the world.

The kingdom of heaven is like many things we already know, like someone quietly doing her work for 32 years and not noticing the effect her compassion and love for children has had on the world. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Closer than we know. Under our nose. As we go into the world today may we notice where the kingdom is.

Not up and out there, but close at hand. May we notice. Amen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


There's an interesting story by a man named Bob Perks, about a father and daughter saying their "final" goodbyes at an airport. Each of them said, "I love you, and I wish you enough." The conclusion of the story provides what had been a tradition in their family:

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough "Hello's" to get you through the final "Goodbye.

I thought this was a nice tradition to start in my own family, and figured I'd share it with anyone else who might like it.

I wish you enough. :)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Social Media and the Episcopal Church

With all of the social media out there (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the new Google+), the Church is advised to get out there to reach the 70 to 80% of the online church-going public. A white paper just published by the Office of Communication (copy available here) provides a guideline for churches to follow. In brief, they advise:

1. Know thyself - Make a list of the top five programs that make your congregation unique (e.g., your church’s MOPs group, pre-school, or mission trip team). Create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for each program, and delegate responsibility for each account to a member of your community who is active in that particular area.

2. Make your website the crown jewel of your communications strategy — and keep it fresh with constant updates: Your website should definitely include such things as service schedules, directions to the church, bios of church leaders, and other basic “about us” information. But you should also include transcripts of sermons, articles written by staffers as well as members of the congregation, blogs, news feeds, videos of events, status updates of church fundraising projects, and any other information that might be of interest to future or current parishioners.

3. Make it a two-way conversation - Provide e-mail addresses of church administrators, leaders, and authors of articles posted on the church website or Facebook page. Enable feedback forms so people can type in their reactions to what they’ve just seen or read.

4. Put someone in charge of your online strategy - Treat your online
communications as an essential part of your church’s operations. Write a job description—even if the “job” is a volunteer position—that specifies precisely how often the website will be updated, how many Facebook updates will be posted every week and how many Tweets will be sent out a day.

5. Don't be too controlling - Establish guidelines, but don’t be overly strict. Provide people with the opportunity to express their opinions. Insist on good manners and polite discourse by all means, but don’t censor messages that simply express disagreement with prevailing congregational attitudes.

6. Don't reinvent the wheel - Always research what products and services already exist in the market before attempting to build anything yourself. It is very likely that someone has already created what you need.

As you can see from the above, we've done part of what's recommended. I definitely don't update often enough, but I'm working on changing that. People who know me from social media sites have requested a link to this page at times, but they don't tend to be here in town. In a little tiny town where our average attendance is under ten, in ages that range from 46 to 105, there's not a lot of online chat going on between church members. But for a tiny little church, we've got a huge heart, great community spirit and volunteer our hearts out to try to send love to everyone who comes in contact with us.

But in the meantime, we'll try their suggestions. :) And if *you* have any suggestions, please feel free to share them with us. We would like the opportunity to make you feel welcome.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Daily Office

As a small church with a priest who visits twice a month to provide a Eucharist Service, Holy Trinity relies on portions of the Daily Office (generally morning prayer, but sometimes the noontime) for the rest of our spiritual life. A friend from the East Coast has shared St. Bede's Breviary which allows you to choose the office, the book, the depth/time you want to spend, etc. It's really quite an interesting site and I highly recommend it to anyone who celebrates the Daily Office.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Quote of the Day

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." C. S. Lewis

The feeling one gets from a baby's laugh, the intricacy of the human body, the expanse of the universe - I think all of these things fall into the same category C. S. Lewis talks about. It is all the evidence people of faith need to know without doubt that the Creator exists.