April 24

Today (4/24/2013), in a gathering called the “Spiritual Day Hike” at St. Margaret’s we listened to a man of Armenian heritage talk about the Armenian Genocide (1915-1918). It is estimated that 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children died in those years because, ‘official’ denials aside, they were Armenian. This man’s mother, father, and uncle were all directly impacted by this event prior to arriving safely in America.

The Episcopal Church has provisionally designated April 24 as a commemoration called Genocide Remembrance. It acknowledges that on April 24, 1915 over 200 Armenian men and boys were arrested and killed by authorities signaling the start of the genocide. Our prayer gives you an idea of why we remember, why we call out to God, and how we hope God will bless us in our day:

Almighty God, our Refuge and our Rock, your loving care knows no bounds and embraces all the peoples of the earth: Defend and protect those who fall victim to the forces of evil, and as we remember this day those who endured depredation and death because of who they were, not because of what they had done or failed to do, give us the courage to stand against hatred and oppression, and to seek the dignity and well-being of all for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, in whom you have reconciled the world to yourself; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Collect for the Day (April 24) in Holy Women, Holy Men emphasis added

On a pilgrimage to Armenia in 2001 Pope John Paul II also prayed in remembrance and in hope:

O Judge of the living and the dead, have mercy on us!

Listen, O Lord, to the lament that rises from this place, to the call of the dead from the depths of the Metz Yeghérn, the cry of innocent blood that pleads like the blood of Abel, like Rachel weeping for her children because they are no more. Listen, Lord, to the voice of the Bishop of Rome, echoing the plea of his Predecessor Pope Benedict XV, when in 1915 he raised his voice in defence of “the sorely afflicted Armenian people brought to the brink of annihilation”.

Look upon the people of this land who put their trust in you so long ago, who have passed through the great tribulation and never failed in their faithfulness to you. Wipe away every tear from their eyes and grant that their agony in the twentieth century will yield a harvest of life that endures for ever. We are appalled by the terrible violence done to the Armenian people, and dismayed that the world still knows such inhumanity.

But renewing our hope in your promise, we implore, O Lord, rest for the dead in the peace which knows no end, and the healing of still open wounds through the power of your love. Our soul is longing for you, Lord, more than the watchman for daybreak, as we wait for the fullness of redemption won on the Cross, for the light of Easter which is the dawn of invincible life, for the glory of the new Jerusalem where death shall be no more.

O Judge of the living and the dead, have mercy on us all!

PRAYER OF JOHN PAUL II at the Memorial of Tzitzernagaberd Yerevan
26 September 2001

The conversation around the table (our ‘day hike’ is more of a spiritual wandering than an actual hike) centered upon our responsibilities as followers of Christ to work in the ways we can, according to our abilities and with God’s grace, so that such horrors cease. We have a long way to go, but we have started.

For further information

Armenian Genocide on Wikipedia

Armenian National Institute (ANI) “Dedicated to the study, research, and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide”

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This day (April 9) the Episcopal Church remembers Lutheran Pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Much has been written and more will still be written. His own words continue to inspire me and so many others:

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.

A search will reveal just how much of his writing is on the internet. May the words you hear change the things you do: for the common good and the glory of God.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses – 10 Apr 2011

The Columbarium at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church

Every Sunday is a pilgrimage. One goes to the Columbarium niche and renews the flowers for another week. One goes to a different Columbarium niche and pauses and prays and then touches that cold metal cover so tenderly, so tenderly. Each man remembering the woman who shared his life for so many years. Each man remembering a covenant “from this day forward … until death do us part.” Each man discovering, and teaching me, that even in death the touch and presence of the woman, the spouse, continues in grace and truth and power in the heart and in the communion of saints. They are quiet witnesses to me of the truth of scripture about the power of love: unquenchable (Song of Solomon 8:6-7), the greatest gift of all (1 Cor 12:31), that which never ends (1 Cor 13:8). These two open me to the joy and wonder of the truth that “God is love” and that the one who knows love, knows God. Knowing is not just for a moment, but for a lifetime. And, I give thanks for their witness.

Invitation

  • be still
  • let the cloud of witnesses envelop you
  • find your witness or witnesses who lived/are living this truth
  • give thanks for their presence in your life
  • when ready, go with encouragement and renewed energy
  • go and witness this truth in your own life

Explanation and purpose

Introduction to my occasional series A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Just the way you are

I commend to you a daily meditation, “Morning Whispers,” from Brother John at Perfect Peace and Joy. I subscribe to this daily meditation and enjoy it. Each meditation begins with a verse from scripture. Today’s verse:

” And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. ” Luke 2:8

This is followed by a brief reflection to move you deeper into God’s story (recorded in scripture and) now being told in your life (with your help, of course). Today’s reflection is filled with grace and wisdom. My Christmas prayer for you, dear reader, is that you will believe what Brother John shares. I believe it. It is an amazing grace, Today’s reflection:

The first to greet the child were the shepherds-poor, filthy and smelling like their sheep. They were welcomed by Mary and Joseph for they understood who this child was and who he was to be.

Christ is waiting for you…just the way you are.

May this truth bless you today, tomorrow, and always.

Our ministry

Thinking about ministry today. Thinking about the Great Commandment and the current perception of Christians and their purpose in life.

Disclaimer: I accept the truth of a seemingly widespread perception about Christians and Christianity, and I am doing my best and encouraging others to do their best to not only understand the words and works of Jesus, but to live them out in 21st Century America in order to change the misperception so widely shared among our neighbors.

I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church. As a child I was quickly and firmly introduced to the Baltimore Catechism and its Question and Answer format about faith and practice as a Roman Catholic. Not so pleased at the time to have to memorize questions and their answers the process has served me well by providing a starting point for conversation, for exploration, for meaning-making in my life. So it is that I am predisposed to return again and again as an Episcopalian to An Outline of the Faith contained in the Book of Common Prayer (pages 845-862).

This Outline of the Faith–using the familiar question and answer format–remains an excellent starting point for conversation, exploration, and meaning making.

All members of the church begin their journey in Baptism, becoming a “lay person” in the mission and ministry of the church. Later some of us respond to God’s call and with the assent of the people around us and the laying on of hands by a Bishop become deacons and priests, “clergy” in the scheme of things. Some priests as they grow in experience and knowledge are elected and ordained Bishop and become leaders in the manner of the first Apostles. The work begun by Jesus and continued in his Apostles has depended on the faithful work of generations of men and women and will continue to do so into our future.

This introduction is provided because the Outline of the Faith speaks of a fundamental obligation taken on by all who are baptized. Whether or not the lay person goes on to become a deacon, priest, or bishop, the foundational ministry of our being in the world is set. The question is posed this way: What is the ministry of the laity? Here is the answer:

The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church. Book of Common Prayer, p. 855

Whether a person goes on to become a deacon, or priest, or even a bishop, we all begin with the privilege and obligation “to represent Christ and his Church…to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world.” In order to do this well we need to look often at the example of Christ and listen deeply to his words while exploring what, according to the gifts we have been given, we are to do in this time in which we live and in the place in which we find ourselves–that is, decide what we are to do always and everywhere, then go and do it.

Our fundamental ministry is a privilege and a responsibility that requires God’s amazing grace and our profound “Yes.” Our ministry–in all its dimensions–will grow and mature as we grow and mature. We need each other, in the community we call “church,” to encourage us to continue to respond “Yes” to our God and work toward reconciliation and peace in a world that is fragmented and fearful. The better we can live as one who reconciles, we will certainly be Good News as we bring healing and wholeness to our families, our communities, our nation, and our world.

May God help us all.

For further reading and reflection:

  • What Non-Christians Want Christians To Hear – a blog entry by John Shore who “posted a notice on Craigslist sites all over the country asking non-Christians to send me any short, personal statement they would like Christians to read.” He shares some random but representative responses in this entry. Read more
  • Back to Basics: Love one another – an essay by Daniel Clendenin. In the essay he cites research reported in 2007 about the perception those “outside” the church have about those “inside” the church. Read more.
  • “I hate religion” – a Journal entry dated September. 25, 2010 of Diane Noble, author, responding to a comment made to her CNN blog post entitled “Faith, Polygamy, and Fears” (Note: Diane is in the midst of an historical fiction work about polygamy in the formative years of Mormonism). Be sure to read the comments to her Journal entry and engage the questions that Diane asks at the end of her entry.
  • In The Service of Life – an essay by Rachel Naomi Remen, MD distinguishing between helping, fixing, and serving. A follower of Christ would do well to read this in the light of Jesus’ words (and actions) – “I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27)

Chapel Service at St. Margaret’s Church

What a joy! I am on my way to be the homilist at the first Morning Prayer Service for the students, faculty and families of St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in the 2010-2011 school year. Only a year ago I was lying in a hospital bed needing assistance to sit up, to use the slide board to get into the wheel chair, and exercise in the gym until I got tired. I needed help to open packaged food items including milk and juice. I needed lots of help. Today I am ready and eager to join the students who have prayed for me every day since I was hospitalized (October 6, 2008 — yes, 2008). I feel well and truly blessed.

Simplicity

Simplicity as a quality of life has often eluded me. It is a quality I would like to improve within myself and around me–in my home and work and play. In this quest I came upon this description of simplicity.

I have learned that living a life of simplicity means holding everything and anything lightly—being ready for whatever is “held” by us to be transmuted by God into something else at a moment’s notice. Those who live a life of simplicity attempt to live continuously acknowledging the power of God to move and control the universe—To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed. Moreover, the best way to learn to “hold” all of God’s creation outside ourselves lightly is to learn to hold our own perceptions, our own stuck places, our own addictions, our own missing of the mark  . . . lightly within ourselves and to be prepared to have it too be transmuted by God.

“Simplicity, Reconciliation and Franciscanism” by John Brockmann in The Franciscan Times, Pentecost 2001.

May we all aspire to hold things lightly that God may create new and marvelous wonders with our help.