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FUNNY AND SAD

Depressed, isolated, worried about winter and the looming election – many of us are struggling with these things and could use a little good news as well as some laughs!  We’ve already got sad – during this pandemic many people report feeling depressed, isolated and hopeless.  

But how about funny? Let me help you with that.

Idolatry is a theme in Sunday’s reading from the Hebrew Scriptures. The Israelites are impatient and bored, waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain where he has been for forty days, chatting with God. So they pool their resources and make a golden calf and carry it around on a little float while a major party takes place. It’s funny and sad and not bad cinematography for the 1950’s. If you want to watch the clip, it’s readily available on google. Frankly, the spectacle reminds me a little of some Super Bowl half-time shows. (Feel free to disagree here.)

While working on the sermon for Sunday, I ran across these two clips from one of my favorite tv series, The Newsroom with Jeff Daniels which to me at least is the epitome of funny and sad. The first clip shows how hard it is to get people to listen to important ideas.  In the Daniels, playing a news anchor, interviews an expert on climate change.  You ‘ll find it funny or sad or maybe both. On Sunday, I’ll talk more about why our faith is actually rooted in funny and sad, in gratitude and lament. 

You’ll see me in church.

Barbara

Dr. Judy Stack

Dr. Judith Stack holds a PhD in New Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary. She taught at the undergraduate and masters levels for over a decade and has worked as a faith formation and outreach specialist in Episcopal and Lutheran congregations. Here, Judy shares a personal story of money and meaning.


“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’”

Standing in the sanctuary, the words from the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12 hit me hard. It was August and the upcoming school year was approaching. The obligations of my own teaching, kids going back to school, and the resumption of all the usual activities had me feeling overwhelmed. Despite the fact that I had more time and energy than I’d had for many years, I had decided I needed to conserve my resources. Say “no” more often. Scale back my expenditures of time and attention. I was going to build bigger barns to store up what I had.

God’s words came to me through this parable. To paraphrase, God said: “What are you saving yourself up for!?! If you died three months from now, what would have been the point of withholding yourself? Spend yourself now. Now is all you have.”

I thought of all the wisdom I had heard over the years: how God cannot pour more into a vessel that is already full but only into one that pours its contents out. That lakes that only take in and have no outflow become stagnant. The Dead Sea is dead because, unlike the Sea of Galilee, water only flows in and not through.

I also thought about my own lack of faith. My impulse to hoard my resources was really an expression of my lack of trust that God could provide more of what I needed if I used what he had already given. Did I really think God was so stingy? Or did I believe in God’s abundant generosity? What kind of God did I believe in? Was I going to trust in myself to provide what I needed (by storing up what I had) or trust God to fill and refill?

I determined to be a riverbed rather than a pond. For the next few months, I said yes to everything! And because of this, over the next year, while there were definitely times when I couldn’t keep all the plates spinning, I was immensely happy! I discovered that participating in all the things that I loved—particularly at St John’s, which at one point meant I was in 11 ministries, groups, and committees simultaneously!—gave me energy. The more I gave, the more I had. But that is just like God’s love, isn’t it?

While I don’t recommend this for everyone (the command to pour myself out like this was for me at that moment), I learned an important lesson and one which has continued to guide me: hoarding your resources—whether they are personal (time, energy, attention) or material (money and things)—is the way of a “fool,” as the parable says. It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how God has ordered the world. We were built to be pipes, not pitchers. Everything God gives us is sent to us to be poured out for someone else. When we close off the pipe, we lose the flow. The wider we make the pipe, the more God can pour through us.

While this may not seem a completely apropos story for a series titled “Finance First,” one of the things that we have been seeing in our series “It’s a Wonder-full Life” over the last month and through reading the book Integrating Money and Meaning is how money and how we relate to it has everything to do with our wider perspective on our life resources more generally. Money is one tangible way we express our beliefs and priorities, and how we manage it speaks volumes about what we believe about God, ourselves, and others. Do we have a perspective of scarcity (which would lead us to store up) or one of abundance (that allows us to be generous)? Going forward, I plan, with God’s help, to make my next set of choices based on love, joy, and trust rather than fear about the future.

Finance First Fridays is a pastoral initiative here at St. John’s. Discussing finances can be difficult and bring up feelings of worry and shame. However, money is a real factor in all of our lives and an important topic to address. A look through the Gospels shows us that Jesus had a lot to say on the subject of finances. If you have a personal story you’d like to tell or a financial resource or article you’d like to share in a future Finance First Fridays post, please contact Executive Administrator, Sarah Dull.

Fall colors hit our neighborhood this weekend.

It is hard not to think about or notice beauty this time of year, as the world blushes its way toward winter’s oblivion. We were walking a trail near the river this weekend, the boys and the dog and me, and my youngest, Simon Henri, breathing deep in a fit of earnestness exclaimed, “I just love the smell of fall. The air smells like leaves.” And, we all stopped for a moment, and breathed deep with him, savoring the sweetness of the moment and the scent of autumn on the breeze. He was right, it was beautiful. But the beauty of fall is bittersweet and tinged with melancholy. I couldn’t help thinking in that moment about loss, about the summer past, the hardships of this year, the things we’ve sacrificed and the things, and places, and people we’ve been forced to let go. 

In her exquisitely written novel Gilead, Marilynne Robinson’s main character John Ames shares his memories and wisdom from his and his forebears’ lives in ministry. He writes this cumulative remembrance to his own son. In it, Ames wrestles with notions of faithfulness and goodness, how to live his piety in a complex world. It is an account too of both beauty and grace. Ames says, 

“I wish I could leave you certain of the images in my mind, because they are so beautiful that I hate to think they will be extinguished when I am. Well, but again, this life has its own mortal loveliness… It is a strange thing, after all, to be able to return to a moment…even in its passing. A moment is such a slight thing. I mean, that its abiding is a most gracious reprieve.” 

Yesterday the golden ash leaves fell in the back yard in a continuous and steady flurry as autumn’s winds shook the neighbor’s tree. The tomatoes in the garden were laying ripe and warm on the vine thanks to this stretch of sunny September days, and I picked enough to fill a colander. As they stewed on the stove I recalled planting the starts in the ground with hopes for moments just such as this playing in my mind. Ames is right, memory, the ability to return to a moment, is a kind of grace. And, we all need grace right now. 

As we round this corner from summer into fall, as the pandemic stretches out into a winter full of Zoom meetings and virtual community, as the nation braces itself for a contentious election, we are all in need of a little grace. For me grace is found in these small moments of ordinary beauty. So too, grace for me is found in the memories of a good meal, a sunny day, of funny accidents and chance meetings. I found myself this weekend browsing back over an album of photos from the past 5 or 6 years at Saint John’s of events and celebrations and ordinary days in between, and found myself first wistful and then grateful. To glance backward over the gift that this community is to me and to so many, to bring into the present the joy of those past moments, to see how God has enriched our lives and, more importantly, blessed the world through our life as a faith community, was a real grace. It made me wonder, what are you grateful for in this moment? What memories have returned to you of late that prompted joy and gratitude? Where do you see beauty today?

by The Rev’d Craig Lemming

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Today is the Autumnal Equinox. A time to listen to Jessye Norman’s legendary recording of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs – particularly September. Only Jessye Norman’s voice is adequately burnished, generous, and subtle for Richard Strauss’s souring phrases and her exquisite diction consecrates every stanza of Hermann Hesse’s tender poetry. That French horn solo echoing the unmatched glory of Norman’s closing sentence – “Langsam tut er die großen müdgewordnen Augen zu” – is God’s music.

September by Hermann Hesse

The garden is mourning,
the rain sinks coolly into the flowers.
Summer shudders
as it meets its end.

Leaf upon leaf drops golden
down from the lofty acacia.
Summer smiles, astonished and weak,
in the dying garden dream.

For a while still by the roses
it remains standing, yearning for peace.
Slowly it closes its large
eyes grown weary.

It’s a time to study John Keats’ poem To Autumn.

To Autumn by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, —
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

And finally, it’s a time to pray with:

the lesson of the falling leaves by Lucille Clifton

the leaves believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is god.
i agree with the leaves.

May God’s beauty overwhelm each of us with abundant blessings this Autumn.

Faithfully,
Craig+

By the Reverend Jered Weber-Johnson

Today is the feast of Holy Cross Day, a day when the church pauses to recognize the centrality of the cross to our lives and salvation. On this day we pray with the whole church, 

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

That’s a pretty tall order, that we might take up our cross and follow him. What does that even mean? Well, I believe it means that the church takes the witness and example of Jesus, the way of Love that he lived and for which he died, as our definitive call to action. The Cross marks the place where God said in no uncertain terms, “I am with you. Full Stop. No matter what. No matter how. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” What’s more, that statement comes in the midst and as a result of a world full of anger, hatred, and violence toward what Jesus called “the least of these.” Jesus’ death on the Cross transforms this instrument of torture and terror into a symbol of solidarity with those the powerful would seek to oppress. Our own bishop, The Right Reverend Craig Loya talks a lot about how this moment of Pandemic, when so much about inequality, racism, poverty, and need are being made clearer than ever to the church and the world, is a moment to recommit to Jesus’ Way of Love. I have heard him time and again call us to focus on the work of discipleship, to commit to being formed and shaped by the Way of Jesus, the Way of Love, a way that is none other than the way of the Cross. This morning he wrote on social media: 

The only way our witness to the way of love will have even a shred of credibility is the extent to which our lives look like the God who is most revealed on the cross, the extent to which we stand with and for those rejected, unwanted, mocked, and tortured by the empires of the world. The cross reminds us that if you want to meet that God, you will find God in the children caged in detention centers, in the protesters in the streets, in the woman who has been trafficked, in the tent camp by the highway, in all the small forgotten places.

The great prophet to American Christianity Dr. James Cone pointed out this reality in his essential read The Cross and the Lynching Tree, naming with crystal clarity the connections between these two instruments of terror, naming the crucifixion as a “first-century lynching”. He writes “the cross placed alongside the lynching tree can help us to see Jesus in America in a new light, and thereby empower people who claim to follow him to take a stand against white supremacy and every kind of injustice.”

In a small way, we at Saint John’s are beginning to do that. This week two banners created by your vestry were placed, one on Summit Avenue, and one on the fence in front of Saint John’s on Portland, that affirm our support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. These are both a reminder to us and to the world, that our work as followers of Jesus, is to stand with those on the margins, those whose lives are demeaned and devalued by the structures and systems of empire. These banners are also just an outward way of saying that we are beginning the difficult and lifelong work of addressing and dismantling systemic racism in the church and at Saint John’s. It is but one way we are taking up our cross and following Jesus. If you would like to engage with me or another member of our vestry around how you can participate in the work of dismantling racism and becoming anti-racist, as a part of your own personal faith journey, know that Saint John’s has a long list of resources for you, from books to read, leaders to follow on social media, projects to do with all ages, organizations we recommend supporting, and ways to help Saint John’s do this essential work within our own faith community.

 

After completing the Anti-Racism training in June and July I wanted to learn more about financial and administrative injustice. As well as increasing my personal awareness of racist policies and practices that have oppressed our black and brown neighbors, I am curious about how I can bring that awareness to my work at St. John’s. So, it felt like divine providence when I received an email from parishioner, Christopher Matter, offering to write a post regarding his work towards financial equity.

When not enjoying his beautiful family, Chris works as a federal bank regulator responsible for consumer compliance laws and regulations for several financial institutions in the upper Midwest. Below, Chris gives us some historical background and tools for increasing our awareness around redlining and housing injustice.

And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: – Matthew, 12:25 (King James Version)

I love historical neighborhoods and homes. Most days I can be found before dawn running and weaving between historical streets here in Saint Paul or on the weekends out amongst the lakes in Minneapolis. The closely situated homes and old growth trees are reminiscent of my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and provide a bucolic background.

What these three cities, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and Milwaukee all have in common, as do most large American cities, is despite beautiful architecture and narrow streets is an invisible line of established racism and segregation.

In my daily life, I work in a team that oversees several laws that were passed to reverse centuries of inequality and decades of poor access to housing for minority populations. There are numerous laws, but the most expedient to discuss is the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (sometimes called the Fair Housing Act), and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977. My goal by outlining some examples here is to give members of our community a shared resource of information to better navigate discussions related specifically to housing inequality as people of faith.

During another economic downturn, the Great Depression, the Roosevelt Administration passed several policies aimed at jump starting the economy. The National Housing Act of 1934 created the newly minted Federal Housing Administration. The goal of this agency was simple: slow foreclosures and make home ownership available to (some) of the population. Working together with a government sponsored lending arm, the Home Ownership Loan Corporation, agents assessed the desirability of homes through a system of mapping. Before Google had cameras strapped to the top of trucks taking pictures of streets, mappers made meticulous details on neighborhoods down to the block level.  An example from my hometown of Milwaukee in 1938 is below:

Image Source: (https://www.wiscontext.org/how-redlining-continues-shape-racial-segregation-milwaukee)

If you are interested in finding more maps for your area, interested in the ways that your neighborhood may have been shaped by these racist maps, please visit the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (https://ncrc.org/holc/)

These maps used a color-grading system to delineate ‘desirability’ in an overt racist way. Areas colored in green were considered ‘safe’ for lending and a highly desirable area. Sliding down the scale to the end where a ‘red’ grade meant builders and lenders should avoid these areas. It is from these maps that the modern term ‘redlining’ gets its name. These areas in red were vibrant communities with families and places of worship whose only difference from the green areas was that it was more than likely to have populations with high minority populations.

These maps had an incredibly damaging impact on access to housing. The maps created by staff at the Homeownership Loan Corporation were used by lenders across the country in making determinations about where to originate home loans for consumers. These decisions and maps effectively installed housing segregation for decades in cities across the United States. An additional layer was installed by the builders of communities, who installed covenant’s that would bar persons of color from purchasing a home in their development even if a person could obtain the necessary financing. The US Supreme Court struck down racial covenants in 1948 (https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/334/1/) but it would be decades before another concerted effort to unwind the destructive efforts of redlining would come to fruition.

Civil rights leaders in the 1960’s identified that the goal of creating long-term sustainable racial justice was inexorably tied to access to quality housing freedom. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 includes Title VIII which is focused on rectifying decades of housing abuses. This first step prevented lenders from making loans on explicitly racist or sexist terms.

Despite these gains, civil leaders and those elected in congress identified that increased oversight is needed to verify that lending practices had changed and reverse redlining’s damage in its communities. In that vein, Congress passed two laws, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975 (HMDA) (Link: https://www.ffiec.gov/hmda/), and the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977 (Link: https://www.federalreservehistory.org/essays/community_reinvestment_act). HMDA’s original goal was to address concern that financial institution’s may not be originating home loans to otherwise qualified applicants in urban areas. As a result, financial institutions located near cities or metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are required to report a short form of their data annually for regulators to review for any evidence of redlining. The passage of the CRA also evaluates whether banks are lending to low- and moderate-income communities in several different types of loan products (example: automobile or personal loans).

The advantage of these laws for community groups and citizens is that it makes a bank’s lending patterns available for public review. In our internet age, a person can look up their financial institution’s current public file and rating.

If you’re interested in reviewing HMDA data for your area, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a great tool to analyze data: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/hmda/.

A helpful link to start reviewing CRA information is here: https://www.ffiec.gov/craadweb/DisRptMain.aspx. A bank’s CRA rating and evaluation is a free, public document that can be requested to review by any person.

As our communities continue the work towards creating a more just and equitable city, state, and nation, there are a number of tools available for concerned people of faith to use to evaluate how well our local financial institutions are performing in important issues like housing.

Thank you Chris, this gives us all a lot to reflect on!

Discussing finances can be difficult but, as we have learnt here, money can have real impact in all our lives. Jesus talked about money and possessions more than prayer and faith, so we invite you to share your financial experiences and tools. To submit a post, share resources, or do an interview please contact Executive Administrator, Sarah Dull – you never know who needs to hear your story.

by the Rev’d Craig Lemming

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” – Matthew 8:20

Beatrice and I woke up to the raucous banter of inebriated men keying into the apartment we thought we had subleased that summer. Our sighs of relief that these interlopers were our classmates from New England Conservatory soon turned into sighs of panic when we discovered they were moving in! The apartment’s two tenants that we and they had respectively subleased from clearly hadn’t communicated with each other; both of whom by then were overseas and unreachable. This would be the second instance of unfortunate miscommunications that resulted in homelessness for Beatrice and me in the summer of 2002. A month earlier we’d lost our deposits on a bogus sublease, and then the jazz guys’ sublease had been signed and dated before ours, so we had no case, no money, and nowhere to live.

We spent that month on friends’ couches and floors, scoured notice boards and Craigslist for sublets (all of which were taken by then), and most mornings we’d go to work not knowing when we’d eat or where we’d end up staying at night. We survived thanks to the trust we had in each other, in friends, in strangers, in creativity, and most of all trust in the providence and generosity of Spirit. We eventually rented a single room from an exceedingly handsome Parisian who had to return urgently to France following his father’s death. Our roommate for the rest of the summer was a sweet and slightly eccentric Czech composer who enjoyed copious amounts of coffee and marijuana, while Beatrice and I subsisted on ramen noodles, popcorn, and frozen vegetables.

This September St. John’s Faith Formation Commission has curated a vibrant discipleship series that helps us to care for our financial health in this time of economic uncertainty and anxiety during a global pandemic. The spiritual practice of Narrative Theology helps us discern Holy Wisdom at the intersections of Scripture, the classic film It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), the book Integrating Money and Meaning: Practices for a Heart-Centered Life, and our own money-and-faith autobiographies. Register for this series today!

In the book Integrating Money and Meaning author Maggie Kulyk introduces readers to eight “Money Energies” which are personified by characters in the film It’s a Wonderful Life. Beatrice and I are both practitioners of sacred arts now and we’ve remained committed to living with resilience, creativity, and an interdependent trust in relationships that are mutually life-giving. We’re still spinning gold out of straw, so I see both of us in the Money Energy Kulyk calls “The Creator/Artist” which is exemplified by Mary Hatch Bailey in the film. In the following scene, after she sacrifices their honeymoon money to save her husband’s family business, we witness Mary’s resourceful spirit and creativity as she transforms their drafty, leaky, old house into a romantic honeymoon hotel.

I’ll look forward to journeying with you into our Money Energies and spiritual autobiographies this September as we integrate the meaning of money and our Christian faith. May God bless all of us as we faithfully trust in the abundant life promised to us in Christ.

Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Faithfully,
Craig+

 

By the Rev. Barbara Mraz

At the RNC convention last week, a female speaker proclaimed that only Trump is keeping the nation away from becoming “Pottersville,” a lawless, heartless town, instead of the bucolic Bedford Falls –which evidently endures under his administration.

The movie got only one Academy Award when it was released in 1946: for Technological Achievement. The producers figured out a new way to make fake snow, replacing the old method of painting cornflakes white. Walking on cornflakes proved to be so loud that many scenes had to be redubbed afterwards.

Love it or hate it, this movie provides a lot to talk about, especially around the theme of gratitude. Join us to discuss all of these things on Wednesday night, September 2, zooming from St. Johns at 6 pm. Sign up on our website.

To get in the mood for the discussion, here is a song first released in 1967 by Louis Armstrong, a black man who rarely publicly politicized his race, to the dismay of fellow African-Americans, but took a well-publicized stand for desegregation in the Little Rock crisis. (Wikipedia).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfuw3CZQuwk

 
 
 
 

 

by the Rev’d Craig Lemming

“The unlike is joined together, and from differences results the most beautiful harmony.”
― Heraclitus (c. 535–c. 475 BCE)

It was the late 1990s, zebra print was in (apparently), and yes, that’s me on the far left among some of my dearest high school friends at St. George’s College in Harare, Zimbabwe. Our chamber choir was named Tabatana, a Shona word meaning “we are united” and we specialized in singing Southern African music replete with dancing and drumming. We sang chapel services (God bless the Jesuits!), concerts, weddings, embassy events, dinner parties (including one hosted by former president Robert Mugabe), two international concert tours of the UK in 1997 and the US in 2000, and we recorded two CD albums, ‘The Source’ and ‘Kurota’.

When this photograph popped up on my Facebook feed during my morning walk today, I was listening to this episode of In Our Time on the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus. Looking back into these hopeful adolescent faces, I realize now, twenty years later, that Tabatana truly embodied Heraclitus’ wisdom in our music and in our companionship.   

Fr. Frederick Copleston, S.J.[1] observes that Heraclitus’ original contribution to philosophy is the conception of unity in diversity, difference in unity. Copleston theologizes Heraclitus’ belief that in God all tensions of opposites are reconciled, all differences harmonized, because “God is the universal Logos, the universal law immanent in all things, binding all things into a unity and determining the constant change in the universe according to universal law.” Copleston’s Christological application of Heraclitus’ philosophy teaches us that “Every material thing is a unity in diversity (consisting of molecules, atoms, electrons, etc.), every living organism also – even God Himself, as we know by Revelation, is Unity in Distinction of Persons. In Christ there is unity in diversity – unity of Person in diversity of Natures.”

When Tabatana sang together all of our differences were unified in the rhythms, melodies, harmonies, drumming, and dancing we co-created. The young men in this photograph are now husbands, fathers, life partners, medical doctors, journalists, safari guides, managers of restaurants, hotels, and real estate, opera singers, lawyers, priests, and even an international conductor of symphony orchestras. In all of our diversity, the music we created together decades ago still binds us together in unity across time and space, and yes “we are (still) united.”

“All things are in flux; the flux is subject to a unifying measure or rational principle. This principle (Logos, the hidden harmony behind all change) binds opposites together in a unified tension, which is like that of a lyre, where a stable harmonious sound emerges from the tension of the opposing forces that arise from the bow bound together by the string.”
― Heraclitus

As the cacophony of this dystopian nightmare blares on, we must all incarnate Heraclitus’ “attunement of opposite tensions, like that of the bow and lyre.” We must remember our truest, shared identity – the Imago Dei: the Sacred Image of the Triune God in whom every human being, in all of our kaleidoscopic diversity, is made – and pray the prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Faithfully,
Craig+


[1] Frederick C. Copleston, S.J., A History of Philosophy: Volume I, Greece & Rome, Part I (New York: Image Books, 1962), 54-63.

by The Rev. Barbara Mraz

Two of the things I love are preaching and the “old” television series “The West Wing.”

Yes, this is kind of a self-indulgent piece.

I come from a background in public address. I have been a political speechwriter (which after this week’s Convention is a label I am proud to claim!) and am a firm believer that most sermons should be planned very, very carefully and preferably be scripted. Some do great with an informal presentation; I am not one of them.

Not everyone agrees with my view. One priest (no one you know) told me that he doesn’t like to plan “too much” because he likes to leave room for the Holy Spirit to inspire him in the pulpit. A bishop once responded to this idea: “The Holy Spirit can inspire you just as readily in your office. And if She doesn’t show up as planned in the pulpit it can be pretty embarrassing — and deadly for the poor congregation…..”

President Bartlett and Mrs. Bartlett are returning from church, discussing the sermon, as he states his understanding of preaching – which is also mine. More importantly, his interpretation of Ephesians is spot on. He would have made a good preacher (true believers in the West Wing know the irony here…okay I’ll just tell you; originally Josiah Bartlett wanted to be a priest.)

And just when we’re really happy, reality can break in, as it does at the end of the scene.

(I tried to get make the ad at the beginning go away – but you know what to do….)

Sunday’s sermon has some amazing lessons to draw on, and you can actually understand WHY the lectionary planners put them all together – which often completely eludes me! Enslaved in Egypt, the Israelites cry out to God, “How long, O Lord, how long?” words familiar to each of this during Covid.

See you in virtual church.

Barbara.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVtCcacNUxQ