SERMON 4/22/12 Easter 3B

Acts 3:12-19, Psalm 4 Page 587, BCP, 1 John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36-48

       In today’s gospel reading , the disciples were gathered together, telling each other how they had seen Jesus risen from the dead.  Then all of a sudden, The Lord appeared in their midst not as a Spirit, not as an apparition, but as resurrected flesh and bone.  This was a pivotal moment and Jesus used it to challenge the community, and this challenge was life-changing for the early disciples, and it is equally life changing for us today, and it will be life changing for the church yet to come.  Jesus declared, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are the witnesses of these things.”  

If you listen closesly to Jesus’ words, you can hear the missional commission of the church being declared.  Listen closely and you can hear Jesus’ passionate plea for all disciples to go and proclaim the Good News.   If we open our ears and listen, we may hear Our Lord telling us that God’s love is to be shouted from the rooftops, and you may hear him tell us we are witnesses in the world.  Jesus is asking us, “Can I get a witness?”
           The other day, I was surfing various church podcasts on ITunes, when I came across this pastor who was preaching with great passion to his congregation.  At one point, he made a specific point about the topic he was addressing, and then out of the blue he shouted, “Can I get a witness?”  Without hesitation, someone from the congregation shouted back, “AMEN brother!”  The congregation cheered and clapped.  I was intrigued by this back and forth dialogue from the pulpit and later, I discovered that in some traditions, this is a practice by which, a preacher will seek an affirmation from his or her congregation, and they will respond in a way that he or she knows that the people are getting it. 

I imagine when our Lord set the church on her missionary journey to share the Good News, he might have wanted to ask the disciples, “Can I get a witness?”   Did you know that you are a missionary?  We  Christians, and believe it or not, we Episcopalians most assuredly are missionaries!  Some folks may not know this, but did you know that the proper name of the corporate entity of the Episcopal Church is The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.  It was in seminary in my Episcopal Church History class that received that little tidbit of information.  Imagine, the very heart of our identity as a part of the Body of Christ, is firmly grounded in a core value of commitment to missions, both domestic and foreign. 

Missionaries are not always folks sent to far off places to spread the Good News.  We are all missionaries, because we are all witnesses of the transformed life we have experienced in the living Christ.  You see, our call as missionaries is to go out into the world and in so doing, show, and communicate the love of God in Christ to all peoples.  The love of God is the message of repentance, forgiveness, grace, and peace, which the resurrection makes a reality.  A French theologian Francis Xavier Durrwell once wrote, “Everything begins with the resurrection of Jesus. ‘He has risen!’ was the cry of the church at its birth.  Faith woke on Easter day, in its encounter with the risen Christ.  In our day, that encounter is where the same faith continues to be enlightened”.  F.-X. DURRWELL, Cristo, nuestra Paàcua, Madrid 2003, p,12 [English translation of the original French: Christ, Our Passover, 2002].  Our mission, the Church’s mission is to go out, to be sent out, and to make possible for all to have an encounter with the risen Christ.  Can I get a witness?

“Wait a minute Eric,” you may say, “I didn’t sign up for this missionary thing you speak about.”  I am more than happy to support sending missionaries overseas, for is that not where the mission field is ripe?  Maybe it was 50, 100, 200 years ago but today, in a culture where “somewhere between 25-30% of adults under 30 claim no religious affiliation,” (Christianity after Religion, Diana Butler Bass) the mission field is right here in our own backyards.  When we are becoming more and more every day, a post-Christian people, we cannot wait much longer to answer our missionary call.   

The news I am sharing may sound a little bleak, a little hard to believe, but I can tell you that we must become a missional community and honestly, it is easier than we might think.  Remember, Jesus gave us the mandate of missionary service when he said, “you are witnesses to these things.”  We have to tell the story, and we can with confidence, let the Spirit do the rest!  

You may ask, “What can I do, what difference can I make?”  Do you remember the little candle you received at your baptism, that symbolic representation of the Paschal Candle; the light of Christ.  Where is that candle today?  Do you symbolically carry it wherever you go, or is it possibly in storage at home, tucked away in a drawer or lovingly wrapped up in cloth and stored in a treasure chest?  “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (NRSV Matthew 5:16)     

Shining our light means we must be willing to bring that “Christ encounter” to those who may have never experienced it before.  We must build relationships of trust beyond the walls of the church.  By the way, that definitely necessitates doing more than just opening the doors and sliding folks a handshake and a friendly hello and welcome.  We must expand our reach into the community, by living faithfully in the community.  We must seek new ways to reach those who are not willing to come to us.  We must follow Jesus, and go to them.  We will have to immerse ourselves in the lives of those around us and honestly, that may put us all in a zone of discomfort.  The message the gospel is in our hands.  Jesus entrusted us to be witnesses to the world of the Good News of reconciliation, love, mercy, and grace.  The question is, what will we do?

The other day, I heard again with fresh ears, the lyrics of a song written by a popular pop artist, Natasha Beddingfield.  This little tune seems to capture the missionary opportunity of the Church, in a society defined by some scholars, as post-Christian.  The landscape of evangelism has changed and the mission field is very different than it was 25 or 30 years ago.  The chorus of the song is:

I am unwritten . . . I am just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned.  Staring at the blank page before you  . . .  let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find.  Can you speak the words on your lips, Drench yourself in words unspoken, Live your life with arms wide open, Today is where your book begins, The rest is still unwritten.

On that momentous day, when Our Lord appeared to his disciples and challenged them, to take all that he had taught them, embrace all that they had experienced, and remember all that they had seen, and then go and share it with a world that had not yet experienced the Risen Lord.  Over two thousand years later, we stand in the midst of a mission field that is not unlike the one, those earlier followers faced so long ago.  The mission is clear, the field is ripe for harvest, and the workers are few.  The Gospel is in our hands.  “Will we speak the words on our lips, drench ourselves in words unspoken, live our lives with arms wide open?  Today is where OUR book begins, and the rest is still unwritten.” 
Can I get a witness?

Newsletter Jan 2012: “Baptism – Entry into the Community”

There are several days throughout the Christian year that are appropriate for Christian baptism, one of which is the Easter Vigil.  This year, we will have the opportunity as a community to welcome a new member to the Body of Christ on this wonderful night through the Rite of Baptism.  Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the Church.  Baptism is not a private affair, but a communal event in which we welcome candidates into the community.  It was through the waters of the Red Sea that the whole people of Israel were set free, and it is through the waters of Baptism that the Body of Christ is set free our bondage of sin.  It is through baptism that we follow the example of Christ and by it we participate in the Paschal Mystery of his death and resurrection: “In it we are buried with Christ in his death,” and “by it we share in his resurrection.” (Book of Common Prayer p. 306)  In the Thanksgiving over the Water, our theology of Baptism is clearly stated in the phrase, “We bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 305) 

It is in our common belief in God the Holy Spirit acting in the world and through the church, the communion of all God’s people, the forgiveness of sins, our hope of the resurrection and the life everlasting that forms our understanding of the community of God.   In the baptismal covenant we recognize the community’s call corporately and as individuals to be witnesses to the Good News of God in Christ through our lives.  We also promise to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself,” and “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” (Book of Common Prayer p. 305) 

The baptismal service this year at the Easter Vigil may be a little different from those held in the past.  The baptismal font will be located at and remain at the door of the church and the Paschal Candle will remain near the front of the church.  This is not a new way of doing the liturgy, but a recapturing of the ancient practices of Baptism.  In the first few centuries of the church, baptisms always took place at the door of the church to remind the candidates and the congregation that baptism was the “door to entering the community.”  With the Liturgical Movement of the mid 20th century and the advent of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the Rite of Baptism has been transformed to once again, recapture the early symbolism of the rite.  Thus, the baptism for the candidate at the Easter Vigil will take place at the present location of the font (near the church doors).  The rite will begin with “The Presentation and Examination of the Candidates,” and the participants will sit in the front row until the phrase, “The Candidate(s) for Holy Baptism will now be presented,” at which time they will stand.  The entire congregation however, will remain seated until the reciting of the Baptismal Covenant at which time, the participants and the congregation will stand together.  This will reflect the nature of the community expressing their solidarity with the candidates in their Trinitarian faith.  The congregation and participants will remain standing through the prayers for the candidates. 

After the prayers, an acolyte will carry the Paschal candle and process to the font followed by the celebrant and the candidate/sponsors/godparents.   The congregation will turn and face the candidate and those who would like to gather with them at the font are welcome.  It is with the community gathered with the candidate at baptism that heightens the symbolism of baptism as the act of initiation into the Body of Christ, the church.   After the baptism and while at the font, the celebrant will say, “Let us welcome the newly baptized,” after which the people and celebrant together say, “We receive you into the household of God.  Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection,

and share with us in his eternal priesthood.”   After this statement and prior to the peace, the newly baptized will process behind the Paschal candle and celebrant to the front of the nave and both the participants and congregation will remain standing.  It is at this point that the congregation gathered, which now includes the newly baptized, will greet each other and after that the celebrant will announce the exchange of the peace.   It is after that the newly baptize will receive communion for the first time. 

It is through the waters of baptism that we all enter into the Body of Christ, the Church.  I pray you will join us for the Easter Vigil on April 7th and welcome the newest Christian to our flock. 

Peace,

Fr. Eric+

December Newsletter: “The Incarnation: “God with Us”

In a feed trough in a small stable over 2000 years ago, salvation appeared as God the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer was revealed in a small infant in swaddling clothes.  It is a hard thing to fathom isn’t it?  Theologians have wrestled for years with this core doctrine of our faith.  We call this blessed mystery the Incarnation.  “This foundational Christian position holds that the divine nature of the Son of God was perfectly united with human nature in one divine Person, Jesus, making him both truly God and truly man. The theological term for this is hypostatic union. [1]” Stated simply, God’s love for creation was so beyond our imagine, that he walked among us.  God accepted us and by this work of salvation, we are healed; our relationship with God is restored in the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  This blessed mystery of our faith is something we claim each week in the words of the Creed and in the prayers of the Eucharist.

In Eucharistic Prayer “D” the incarnation is proclaimed in these words, “Father, you loved the world so much that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior. Incarnate by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, he lived as one of us, yet without sin. To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation; to prisoners, freedom; to the sorrowful, joy. To fulfill your purpose he gave himself up to death; and, rising from the grave, destroyed death, and made the whole creation new.” [2]  The Incarnation (God with us) is the proclamation so clearly expressed in this prayer, and in all the prayers of the Eucharist.  The mystery that is central to our faith is “the God who created us, saves us, and sustains us.”  What good news is this for all of creation!

During this Advent and Christmas season, my prayer is that we all come to know fully the peace of God, in the good news of the mystery, “God is with us.”  Terri, Erica and I wish you all a very blessed Christmas and a joyous New Year.

Peace,

Fr. Eric+

[2] 1979 Book of Common Prayer

November Newsletter: “Risk Taking: A Christian Journey"

For some folks, taking a risk comes with feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and eventually, maybe a strong refusal to budge from the safety of status quo. However, taking risks are key to growth in our Christian journey, both as individuals and as a community. In a recent article on the “Faith and Leadership” website of Duke Divinity School, Tom Arthur wrote, “Failure is a key to growth. Joshua Foer in his book, ‘Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything,’ introduced me to the ‘OK plateau,’ a place where we are no longer risking failure. We don’t take risks anymore, because we’re ‘OK’ as we are.”1 Arthur asserts that a willingness to accept failure in our endeavors especially when it comes to our spiritual journey, is key to maturing in Christ. In other words, it is essential to accept some risk so that we may grow in a deeper love and commitment to Jesus Christ.

Risk taking is nothing new in the biblical narrative. Great biblical risk takers include people like Moses, Ruth, Noah, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Paul, and yes, even Our Lord Jesus Christ. Each of these folks recognized that answering God’s call, following their particular ministry call, came with inherent risk. Moses risked safety and heritage to sojourn with a people in the desert to lead them to the land of promise. After the death of the family patriarchs, Ruth risked her own safety to stay with her mother-in-law rather than go to her own people. Noah faced ridicule and rejection in order to build the ark that sustained humanity through the flood. Mary Magdalene, Peter and Paul risked everything to follow the Messiah. The Almighty risked ultimate rejection so that through the Incarnation, God in Christ, through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Our Lord, we might come to know grace, mercy, reconciliation, and love.

When we are willing to step out of our comfort zones, when we try something we have never done before, when we attempt to venture into the unknown, we are taking steps of faith recognizing that God is not finished with us yet. From first breath to last, God is actively working in us to draw us unto Godself, to fashion a people of love, mercy, grace, and reconciliation. Whatever stage of life we are in; we are clay that is constantly being formed into a beautiful vessel that holds unimaginable love and grace. In order for sanctification to take place, we must embrace a pliability that is inherent in clay. Clay is a beautiful medium that moves and responds to the pressures and the nuances of nudges that the potter applies. If clay remains on the wheel without moving, it becomes no longer malleable and becomes rigid, and it cannot become the potter’s vision. By its very nature, clay risks its present form trusting that artisan will bring it into a new state of being.

Finding comfort in the possibility of “failure” is not a simple thing for any of us. We truly are a people who want to do it right and minimize risk. My father always told me, “If you are not going to do something right then, don’t do it at all.” I admire my Dad’s persistence and desire to be the best in everything. His drive was a great model because he was able with very little education himself, to put three children through not only undergraduate educations, but each of us were encouraged and driven to pursue and attain post-graduate degrees. By wanting to do it right, my Dad may have been seen as a perfectionist, but he was a risk taker. In the 1950’s he took a huge risk. He left the comfort of a supervisory position with a local electronics manufacturer to open his own small business. In this instance, doing it right did not mean doing it perfectly, it meant taking a risk with the knowledge that he might fail.

We as a community have in the past, and will in the time to come, layer on to our common life, creative new ministries, inventive programs, alternative processes, and “out of the box” education opportunities. May we be willing to accept the risks associated with stepping out of our comfort zones. May we be willing to risk failure to answer God’s call into the unknown. May we be like clay, willing to have the Spirit lead us and guide us, nudge us and forge us into the people of God, to whom we are called. Blessings, Fr. Eric+

1 “Tom Arthur – Plan to Fail”: Faith and Leadership: an offering of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity http://www.faithandleadership.com/blog/10-16-2011/tom-arthur-plan-fail

October 2011 Newsletter "Being a Steward: A responsibility of all disciples".

When you think of the word Stewardship you may think, “uh oh, it’s time to talk money again at church,” and you would be partly correct, but Stewardship includes so much more.  Stewardship (as defined in Webster’s Dictionary) refers to “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”  When we explore the nature of stewardship there are several questions that need to be considered  (1) of what are we stewards; what has been entrusted to our care? (2) To who does that over which we are stewards, belong?  (3) Are we all called to be stewards? If we can answer these questions, then we as God’s people will have a sound, theological understanding of one of the most important responsibilities we have as disciples of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Something entrusted to one’s care.

 Take a moment and breathe in, hold it for a second, now breathe out.  Consider for a moment that every aspect of our lives is transitory.  Each breath we take, each moment we spend in our lives, all the work we have been given to do, everything we have, and every relationship we share, is really not ours to control.  We are stewards for a fleeting time.  All this, which we have been entrusted to care is for the span of our lives alone.  The time we have been given, the talents with which we have been graced, and the treasure with which we oversee are all gifts that we have been entrusted to us for a brief time. 

To who does that over which we are stewards, belong?

The fact that God is the Creator and the source of everything, is at the core of our confessional faith.  When we recite the Nicene Creed, we proclaim, “We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven Earth.”  When we make that statement, we are acknowledging that God is the source of everything we survey, everything with which we come in contact, and everything with which we are entrusted to care.  We often struggle to grasp that God is the ultimate source of our Time, Talent and Treasure, because each one of us considers our own work and efforts as the catalyst for all that we have been given.   Yet, if we acknowledge that God is the source of everything, then we acknowledge too that all that we have, all that we are, and all that we do ultimately is for God’s purposes.  Our Time, Talent, and Treasure all belong to someone else; they belong to God and as such, their use and ultimate intention is for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. 

We all are called to be stewards. 

The charge that “We all are called to be stewards,” is not something of which, we can “opt-out.”  Whether we respond to the fact that we are stewards or not, whether we manage all that we are, all that we have been given, and all that we do in such a way that fulfills God’s purpose for our lives, the fact remains that we are stewards.  Our Time, Talent, and Treasure have been given to us with the responsibility for conducting, supervising, or managing them so that they ultimately fulfill their intended purpose.  Stewardship is our responsibility, not our choice.

On page 855 of the Book of Common Prayer, God’s purpose for creation and the Church’s mission in fulfilling that purpose is outlined in the “Mission of the Church.”  The catechism states that the mission of the church is “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”  The Church is planted in the midst of a community so that it may serve as a lighthouse, where others may discover God’s love, grace, mercy, and reconciliation.  We gather as a community of love so that we might serve as the example of God’s purpose for creation.  Jesus taught us that the two great commandments is to love God and love each other and thus, we the Church are commissioned to be guides, examples, and mentors so that others may come to know God, be in unity with God and each other in Christ. 

In the month of October, we will be exploring more a disciple’s responsibility of stewardship.  As we come toward the end of the month of October, we will be asked to offer a pledge to God from our gifts, in response to the abundant grace that we have been given to supervise and manage.  Prayerfully consider not only your pledge of treasure that supports St. David’s mission of love and reconciliation in this community in which we have been planted, but also consider your pledge of Time and Talents as well.    With each breath, we have been given the gift of life but only for a time, yet we are charged with overseeing that gift so that God’s purposes might be fulfilled.  In grateful thanksgiving to God, may we offer back for God’s purposes, a portion of our Time, Talent, and Treasure so that others may come to know God’s abundant, overflowing, never-ending love.

Blessings,

Fr. Eric+

September Newsletter Article (“Evangelism: The vocation of all disciples of Our Lord.”)

                Mention the words “Evangelist” or “Evangelism” to some folks and fear or better yet nausea begins to surface, because “Evangelism” for Americans has taken on such a negative connotation.  The mere mention of the word evangelist conjures up images of TV preachers or street preachers.   For some folks, “Evangelism” implies that if you are going to do it right, you must become a sales representative for God, and if you use the right pitch such as, “I’d like to tell you about Jesus,” you too can be an evangelist.     Evangelism is not selling the Christian life, it is not selling your parish, it not selling at all. Evangelism is merely sharing the Good News of God in Christ in whatever forms that might take.  The word “Evangelism” itself comes from the Greek word  euaggelous with means mean, “Messenger,” “envoy,” or “one who is sent.”  
                There are many examples in scripture of people whom God chose to evangelize.  The Apostles were certainly messengers, envoys, ones sent to spread the Good News.  Early church narratives of evangelists include examples like Peter who after Our Lord’s Resurrection and the Day of Pentecost, he preached to a crowd and 3,000 came to conversion.   This is an incredible feat of evangelism, but there are other forms of evangelism, and most are not as extreme as Peter’s.   In fact, some common forms of evangelism exist even today.  
                Evangelism in the 21st century is not going to be very effective if we think we must grab a bullhorn and gospel tracks and preach at the local street corner.  That form of evangelism may not work today.   Our faith is a very intimate, deeply held, precious part of our lives and that is something that may not be easy to shout from the rooftops.  Evangelism today, can easily happen by being conveyed through trusting, loving relationships.    How many of us sit down with complete strangers and share our deepest desires?   Only when we have developed trusting, long-term relationships with others do we feel we can share what means the most to us.  It is through friendships that trust develops and it is through trust, that we can open up and share our inner life with others.  Evangelism’s place is not on the street corner, it is properly placed in those intimate relationships with friends and loved ones.  
                By merely following Jesus every day, our friends will notice the Spirit’s presence in our lives.  Their draw to your life filled with grace, mercy, forgiveness, and joy will naturally become a magnet to curiosity.  From your closest friend, you may find yourself one day being asked, “Why are you so filled with joy?”  If you are open to it, this simple question is the perfect opportunity to evangelize.  Will you be ready?  Evangelism is not when you say the right things so that you can win someone over to the Lord, evangelism is the simple response, “My faith is my strength.”   That answer alone may be all that you are called to do to be a messenger, an envoy, and one who is sent, to share the Good News of God in Christ.  Evangelism is not a dirty word.  It is our vocation as disciples, because we are called to share how God works in and through our lives.   You do not need a bullhorn and gospel tracks, a TV show, or even the most elegant, appropriate words to do that.   Let your joy, peace, and the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ fill you, overflow through you, so that others may come to know the peace and joy you have found in Christ.
Peace, Fr. Eric+

August Newsletter Article – "Worship: Why we Do What we Do"

My earliest memory of church is sitting beside my mother on Sunday morning at the age of five, in small Methodist parish which was situated in a rural part of East Tennessee.  In this little chapel, there was no incense, no bells, and no pipe organ, but there was liturgy.  We lit beautiful candles, the clergy wore neat vestments, we used a common worship book, we said common prayers, and it all seemed so holy to me. I was being formed for a worship expression that would be with me my entire life, but I did not realize it at the time.   Later in my teen years, my family decided to move to another church (a much larger church) and a faith community within another Protestant tradition, which was very different from what I had known before.  

                We left our small liturgical church and for the next six years, we were immersed in a preaching-centered tradition that left me wanting for the holy and sacred.  It was not until my first visit to an Episcopal Church at the age of twenty-five that I once again connected with the beauty of common worship, the beauty of liturgy, and the historical connection to the ancient faith.  We as Episcopalians share an ancient connectedness with centuries of Christians who have expressed their devotion to and love for God in a particular way.  A part of the beauty and richness of our  Sunday worship is that we do share a common pattern with the early faith tradition, which was passed on to us from as far back as the third and fourth centuries.  Take for instance the Sursum Corda (The Lord be with you, and also with you.  Lift up your hearts; we lift them up to the Lord).  This simple phrase has connections to the earliest of historical liturgies in the Christian tradition.  It is this and so many other ancient connections in our worship, which reminds us that we are a part of a much larger Church, a communion of saints that stretch back for many millennia. 

                In the Episcopal Church, we share a common liturgy that is mutually expressed in every other Episcopal parish in our Province of the United States.  Our liturgy follows a common pattern and source (The 1979 Book of Common Prayer); our music also follows common patterns and has prescribed sources (The 1982 Hymnal, “Wonder, Love and Praise” Hymnal, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” Hymnal).  Unlike many other faith traditions, our worship follows a common pattern because it is a living source of our common identity.  The Book of Common Prayer is more than a formula for “how to do worship,” it expresses our theology, it reveals who we are as Episcopalians, and it instructs us in what we believe.   The Latin phrase, “Lex Orandi/Lex Credendi” (the law of prayer is the law of belief) can loosely be translated, “prayer shapes believing.”  In other words, what we pray shapes how we believe, and what we believe shapes how we pray.  During our last Christian Education Series, I discussed the theological shifts between the 1928 and 1979 Prayer Books regarding the Rite of Baptism.  Although subtle, the Rite itself was changed in the 1979 BCP to reflect the theological evolution that emerged because of the influence of the Liturgical Movement of the 1960’s.  What we do in worship is more than mere empty gestures, liturgy is significant and all that we do is important.  Liturgy is also organic, because with each generation it evolves, it emerges anew, but it retains its connection to the ancient traditions that came before.  Liturgy is flexible, but it also has form. 

                In our Prayer Book, we have space for flexibility to add variety and freshness to our devotion to God.  We have several Eucharistic Prayer options, which for Rite I (8:00 am service) include Form I and Form II.  For Rite II (10:00 a.m. service) we have Eucharist Prayer forms A, B, C, and D.  At St. David’s, we mix it up a bit at the 10:00 a.m. service and use one of the four Eucharistic Prayers on a rotational basis each week.  In addition, we have six forms of the Prayers of the People, which we also rotate every week.  There are many other opportunities for us to use variety and innovation and still remain within the rubrics (rules) as stated in the Prayer Book.  For Episcopalians, the rubrics are a signpost, a liturgical rule of sorts that maintains our corporate liturgical expression, and keeps us from straying too far into innovations that take away from our common liturgical identity.  In our tradition, we say certain things at certain times; we sing certain hymns, we wear colored vestments during particular seasons because this form and common expression, serves to reinforce our common identity as Episcopalians.  Even so, we do have flexibility in some instances, through which we can express the unique nature of our particular community.  In the coming months and years, as we explore those areas of worship where we can dabble in the variety and richness of our liturgy, I invite you to embrace the ancient connectedness we share with centuries of Christians, and to be open to the new, fresh expressions of our liturgy that are emerging before us.                                                                                                              Peace,    Fr. Eric+

“Grace” – Newsletter Article July 2011

In the Church, we speak of grace quite a bit, but do we really understand it? The catechism defines grace as “God’s favor towards us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.” (Book of Common Prayer, 858) Through God’s grace our failures, our “missing the mark” is forgiven, and through God’s grace we are given the wisdom to learn from our failures, we are given the desire in our heart to change, and we are endued with the strength to make change. Grace is experienced in tangible ways through the sacraments. “The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.” (Book of Common Prayer, 857) Through Baptism, the Eucharist, and through other rites of the church, we experience God’s grace, God’s love toward us and we share in that mutual experience; we share in the relationship with God. Theologian Edward Campbell adds, “Grace names the undeserved gift that creates relationships and the sustaining, responding, forbearing attitude-plus-action that nurtures relationships.” (The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Oxford University Press, New York, 1993, Edward F. Campbell, 259) Grace is all about relationships.

As Christians, relationships for us involve primarily our love for God and our love for each other. Our Lord commands us to love God with all that we are, and commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Therefore, the grace that is extended to us from God is the grace that we are to extend to each other. Despite our failures, despite our “missing the mark,” God freely offers grace to us, and we are called to offer the same to each other. As the Body of Christ, we are a “Community of Grace” that is called to embrace those moments when we miss the mark, as a learning moment, a teaching moment, a growth moment, and most importantly, a moment for us to show grace to one another. Campbell asserts, “One senses God’s graciousness by observing the best of human action, but divine and human paradigms of grace inform one another: human grace imitates and depicts God’s grace; God’s grace calls forth human imitation.” (Campbell, 260.) We get glimpses of God’s grace through the best of human action, and that human and divine action was fully revealed in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Grace is all about restoration, reconciliation, and healing.

A few years ago, the UK band U2 recorded their fabulous alternative hit “Grace.” Today, the words of this song ring true about the nature of grace:

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

(YOUTUBE video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrRfoEEDENo&feature=related  )
As a “Community of Grace” called together to be vessels of grace for each other and the world, may we see each moment of our common life together as an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to teach, an opportunity to grow, and an opportunity to be the sacramental presence of grace in a hurting and broken world.

Peace, Fr. Eric+