Thursday, March 31, 2011

Continuing the conversation

Thanks for the many comments I've received the last few days about our presentations on the issues of marriage and same-sex marriage. Many of the comments have come from around the country, including requests to use our presentations in other churches (yes!). All of the presentations are posted on a special blog,, which you can also reach by clicking HERE. You will need to click "Older Posts" at the bottom of the page to reach Part I, and then scroll to the bottom.

I want to keep the conversation going, both online and in person in our parish. We will have an open discussion at our adult forum on April 10 at about 11:30 am. The presentations will be given again in May on Wednesday evenings and at an all-day Saturday workshop.

To keep this conversation going, I will add articles to episcopalmarriage from time-to-time on topics related to marriage and the inclusion of gay people in the life of the Church. We will try to keep some balance without edging into extremes by presenting multiple viewpoints (and feel free to send me your suggestions). To get that started, I've added an article by a former Presbyterian pastor that appeared a few days ago in It is reposted on episcopalmarriage, and worth your time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why pray?

This Lent, quite a number of churches are offering daily reflections written by members of their congregations (and I hope you've seen the daily reflections written by members of St. Paul's; you can reach it by clicking the purple cross to the left).

Among those that have touched me the most is by my dear friend Carolyn Foland, at Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento. Her reflection is based on my favorite psalm.

Here is her reflection:
Psalm 139 
O LORD, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

Then why pray? God knows everything anyway.

I don’t pray for God to understand what I need. I pray to understand what I need. Okay, what’s the problem I need help with? Well, it’s this . . . . no, wait, the more I think about it, it’s more this. What did I do to get here? Why did this happen again? What help do I need to get out of here? What action do I need to take?

This inner dialog, I believe, is the process of being in relationship with God. It’s rather like guided meditation. I’m trusting the process to lead me to understand what I need from God and to be open to receiving it. It is a process of learning what to let go of and what I should be doing for myself. I can learn, if I am honest, what there is in the situation in which I find myself that I can affect and what is beyond my control.

There are times, of course, when there is no time for inner dialog. Times for instant surrender. These prayers are spontaneous utterances, usually in the form of four letter expletives. They are also likely to be the most heartfelt requests for deliverance from what’s happening that I am capable of articulating. The one I remember most is when I rolled my MG after encountering black ice in Wyoming. God and I knew exactly what I meant.

Intercessory prayer is a reminder that I need to think of others. I need to remember that there are others with problems. I ask God to help those of my friends in trouble, to heal those who are ill. I could say “this is Your will, God, not mine,” but because I believe that God knows what I want – those I love to be well and free from hardships or danger – it’s less than honest to pretend that I’m cool with whatever happens. I care. I may later pray to understand why something happened or to accept the final outcome, but as long as the future is uncertain, God and I are both clear with what I want. Because whether I say it or not, he knows.

Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart.

Carolyn Foland

Monday, March 28, 2011

Update on our marriage issues forums

I am very grateful for the large turnout we've had the last four Sundays for our adult forums on the issues of traditional marriage and same-sex marriage.

Yesterday, The Rev. Dr. Heather Warren and I gave summaries of the arguments for and against same-sex marriage, and we looked at it from six angles from within our Christian tradition: (1) the Genesis stories of creation, (2) Old Testament holiness laws, (3) the teachings of Jesus on marriage and divorce, (4) the teachings of St. Paul and his followers, (5) sacramental theology, (6) the Anglican Communion and its "bonds of affection."

We've given summaries within each of those categories for "Traditional marriage only" and "Inclusion of same-sex marriage." We've been as fair as we know how but recognizing there is a great deal more to say within each of the categories.

I've posted our presentations from yesterday on a special blog,,  and you can read it by clicking HERE. Please read the presentations from the previous three Sundays because this latest presentation will make more sense if you do.

This was our final presentation on this topic, but we will have one more Sunday adult forum on the issue on April 10 at 11:30 am. We will devote the time for conversation and dialogue. Heather and will repeat these presentations as a Wednesday Community Night adult education series beginning April 27 (Easter Week). We are also looking at the calendar to hold a Saturday workshop to give all of the presentations in one setting, with time for small group discussion on each presentation. Please lend us your thoughts.

The Monday Funnies

The church functions on many things, but everything would collide were not for the rotas. What is a rota, you may ask? The schedule. We have rotas for the Altar Guild, ushers, coffee makers, Eucharist Ministers, readers and intercessors. And more rotas for acolytes, Eucharistic Visitors, Flower Guild and probably more that I've forgotten or about which I am completely oblivious.

The one rota I am directly responsible for is the one that shows which clergy does what and when, and the most confounded complicated of those is the rota for Holy Week. Every time I think it is done, another moving part moves. Cartoonist Dave Walker has captured the issue perfectly. And here are some jokes from Pat Hill to start your work week. Welcome to the Monday funnies...

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The Very Reverend Smith, a respected church leader, arrived in a large city to deliver a series of speeches. At a banquet the first evening, he noticed some reporters in the audience. Because he wanted to use some of the stories he told that night in his speeches the next day, he asked the reporters to omit them from their articles.

Subsequently, when one article written by a cub reporter, came out the next day, it ended with this line: "The Very Reverend Smith also told a number of stories that cannot be printed." 
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On the first day of creation, God created the cat.

On the second day, God created man to serve the cat.

On the third, God created all the animals of the earth to serve as potential food for the cat.

On the fourth day, God created honest toil so that man could labor for the good of the cat.

On the fifth day, God created the sparkle ball so that the cat might or might not play with it.

On the sixth day, God created veterinary science to keep the cat healthy and the man broke.

On the seventh day, God tried to rest, but he had to scoop the litter box.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Where is your well? Where do you go to find living water?

Today's lessons are Exodus 17:1-7Romans 5:1-11, and John 4:5-42. Here is my sermon for today:

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“Here I find my greatest treasure; hither by thy help I’ve come.”

Where is your well? Where do you go to find living water?

I want to tell you about a place that is special for me, where I find living water.

Forgive me if you’ve heard this story before – I have written about it [including on this blog], and talked about it in other settings. But for some, you haven’t heard this about me.

Many years ago, probably around 1980 or so, I was introduced to a stream that flows from beneath a slumbering volcano, Mount Lassen, in the northeastern corner of California.

The stream, Hat Creek, runs cold and deep, and a three-mile section is maintained as a wild trout sanctuary. I learned to catch fish with a dry fly on Hat Creek, and I learned how to read the water and the wily ways of truly wild fish.

I also learned something about patience and solitude, though not nearly enough.

I have returned to Hat Creek many times over the years, often with a buddy or two, and many times alone.

There was a time in the mid-1980s when things were not going so well for me. That was before I met Lori. Things have gone quite a bit better since then.

I got up early one morning, and I was there at dawn for the mayfly hatch.

I wanted to catch fish, but really I wanted to be on the stream to be alone, to sort things out.

I went to the widest deepest section below the riffle at Powerhouse #2. I took my time, gazed at the water for a while. I set up my rod, put on my waders.

I watched the water awhile longer. I got into the water, walked out into the stream until I was waist deep. I found firm footing on the sandy bottom, then took my first cast.

Instantly I caught the largest trout I have ever caught on Hat Creek. The rules say that you can keep two large trout a day, but I thanked this one and let her go (the big ones are usually female).

At that moment, I had this wonderful feeling that all would be well, that God was with me standing in the stream, holding me up.

And like the water flowing by me, I just knew that my life would have many twists and turns before reaching the sea hundreds of miles and many years away, but that all would be well.

I could sense God telling me that my difficulties were temporary. I needed to be patient to see where this river, my life, would flow.

I would not exactly call this a "conversion experience," nor would I have made any connection at the time with church things or John’s gospel about “living water,” or baptism, or any of that. I'm not sure I would have known the words.

But it was for me a holy experience, and I knew in that moment that my life was going to change in ways I would not and could not know, and I didn't mind that unknowing.

You can chalk it up to cold water or a big trout or high altitude, and maybe that would be so. But the moment has stuck with me for 30 years.

As life has unfolded for me, not everything has turned out as I would have liked or planned, but that is what I heard would happen standing in the stream a long time ago.
And that is all right. That is well.

I return to Hat Creek often, although I have not been there physically in many years. Hat Creek is the place of my imagining, the place where I can bring the deepest longings of my heart. It is where I find the well of living water for me, and yes, it is the place where I meet the living Jesus of my prayers.

I don’t have to be there physically to return to that place and that moment long ago. That is my well of living water.

Where is that well of living water for you? It might not be a creek at all; it might be on a hillside or a city street, or beside the road or inside this church. That well of living water can be anywhere you meet the living Christ.

This morning we meet the Samaritan woman at the well where Jesus finds her and offers her living water. She is the exact opposite in almost every way from Nicodemus, who we met last week.

Nicodemus is powerful, elite, a member of the religious upper crust. He comes to Jesus in the dead of night, perhaps too embarrassed that anyone might notice.

The Samaritan woman doesn’t even have a name. She is an outcast, a member of the wrong tribe, the wrong religion, female, dirt poor. Jesus comes to her, at high noon, in broad daylight.

Sometimes modern preachers portray the Samaritan woman as a terrible sinner because she’s been married five times, but that’s not it at all. In her society, she has no right to divorce men even if they abuse her. She is treated as property. She is used-goods; she’s been traded-in five times.

And Jesus finds her and they talk.

Jesus’ disciples are outraged at this behavior. Why would Jesus deign to talk to her? How dare she talk to him? She is a Samaritan, after all, and they see Jesus as belonging only to them (alas, this theme will play out time and again, down through the ages).

But for Jesus, these social boundaries are not his boundaries. Economic class, religious caste, social cliques, gender, politics, credentials – all of that means nothing at all in these encounters Jesus, not then, and not now.

Both Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman have something in common besides meeting Jesus, perhaps something in common with us. They ask questions, lots of questions, and they push the edges of their beliefs until their old beliefs grow into something new.
What counts is that these two people have an experience of the divine when they meet this mysterious rabbi from Nazareth.

Neither can quite put their finger on it well enough to explain it, but something is now different for each. They find a well of living water that never runs out.

We can read books about Jesus, we can argue about theology and history, we can develop intricate doctrines and obtuse creeds, and we can delve deeply into the literary power of metaphors, and that will carry us a certain way.

But at some point to get it – to really get it – we need experience this for ourselves. Maybe we will do this like Nicodemus, and go looking. Or maybe like the Samaritan woman, this living water will find us.

Either way requires opening our eyes and ears, seeing and listening, and being vulnerable to the deepest longings of our hearts, and paying attention to what is around us, especially when we least expect it. That is the central purpose of Lent, to slow down, take stock, look around, and get into the water.

This living water will bring life in ways we can’t yet imagine, and will ultimately wash away pain and all that harms us. Even our tears will disappear into the river and will become droplets bringing new life once again.

Where is your well? Where will you find this living water? It is there, flowing freely, and it is never too late for any of us to have a new beginning; it is never too late to stand in the stream and drink of the living water.

Or maybe catch a big fish.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Seven questions for people ages 19 to 35

My friend Greg Rickel, the bishop of the Diocese of Olympia (Seattle), put these questions on his Facebook page. So I am doing the same thing here. If you are between 19 and 35, please answer in the comments section or send me a private email at I will compile some of the answers (leaving out names) and report back to you here. Ok, here are the questions:

1. What are some of your interests? 
2. What do you do with your free time? 
3. To what extent do you consider yourself a spiritual person? 
4. Did you grow up in a religiously observant family? 
a. If so, what if any spiritual practices do you maintain? 
5. What makes you angry? 
6. Where do you find hope? 
7. What advice would you give the Church today?

Friday, March 25, 2011

A poem for Spring

Spring is officially here, and it is beginning to show where we live. The first blossoms are on the trees, our redbud is just beginning to show its crimson. The weather in Virginia is a bit dicey; warm one day, thunderstorms last night, then a cold front blowing in. Seems like a good day for a poem, a gift from Karen from Tennessee.

The Enkindled Spring 
By D. H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, ashadow that's gone astray, and is lost.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Letter from the U.S.S. Mustin off Northern Japan

U.S.S. Mustin
This letter from a Navy officer on the U.S.S. Mustin was passed along by a member of St. Paul's, and is worth reading. The name of the author has been removed to protect privacy. Please keep the people of Japan in your prayers, and all those who are working around the clock to relieve suffering, and those in our Navy who are part of this humanitarian effort.

Dear friends and family,

We are now operating off the coast of Northern Japan amidst a tremendous amount of floating debris and derelict fishing vessels. The feeling I get is one of both tragedy and hope. The place is like a floating graveyard. Pieces of people’s lives just wash by our ship. Meanwhile, those still alive ashore are fighting lack of supplies and cold weather. This morning it was snowing. Through our efforts, we are able to help many people that would otherwise be trapped and isolated from ordinary rescue efforts due to the lack of accessible roads and railways. Our helos are operating constantly to provide food, water, clothing, and blankets to people ashore. We are patrolling to identify the abandoned boats, cargo, and various other bits of debris. It’s amazing to see how MUSTIN has come together to do whatever we can to help. We are running clothing drives and asking people to donate money and the results are phenomenal. Every helo that takes off is loaded with more supplies. If only we had known before we left homeport, we could have brought more. I just went through my closet and gave away all my sweatshirts and sweatpants, extra towels, socks, t-shirts, and even my Severn blanket from high school. The ship is giving away as much supplies as we can afford.

The radiation hazard is not as much of a concern as the media has stated, however we are taking the necessary precautions to avoid any exposure. They are being extremely careful about the location of our ships and where we transit. If the plants melt down, the risk obviously increases, but for now, we are in no danger.

This has definitely been a growing experience for me. When the quake happened, I was just leaving the ship on my way home. I sat in a few hours of traffic and came home to a city with no electricity, no running trains, and no communication because cell phones were down too. People were crowded in the streets and a Japanese woman was shouting something over a loudspeaker and I had no idea what was going on. It was a little scary at first, but I lit some candles and ate the food I had left in the fridge. I was later contacted and told I needed to get back to the ship, given time to get what I needed, and here I am. Our schedule is constantly changing, but for now we will continue to do what we can with the supplies we have.

Thank you to every one of you that has sent a note and told me that we are in your thoughts and prayers. As the days continue, I realize more and more how much your support means to me and to our mission. As the days continue and the count of the numbers of lives affected increases, it becomes more and more apparent how severe a event like this is and how much effort it’s going to take to recover.

I am in complete amazement. The number of recipients of this e-mail has grown exponentially, and I quite literally have received replies from people all over the world. I have shared your thoughts and prayers with my sailors and they appreciate the support as much as I do. I am writing to give a second update on the events off the coast of Sendai.

I stood watch this morning from 2-7 am, carefully maneuvering through the darkness so as not to hit half submerged cargo boxes and overturned boats. To add to the challenge, our visibility decreased from about 8 miles to less than one in a matter of minutes as we entered into a blizzard. And if that wasn’t enough, we still are remaining cautious of the radiation hazard a couple hundred miles away and feeling various aftershocks. In my Captain’s words, “You couldn’t write this stuff.” Every day has been an adventure.

Today our helo was vectored off to an isolated hospital with SOS showing on the rooftop. This hospital contained over 200 patients still alive and in desperate need of supplies. We delivered food, water, clothing, and blankets. The pilots are about to make a final run for the day right now and are calling for any last things we can bare to give up. I managed to grab another jacket from my closet and my old UGG boots. I figure I don’t need much more than coveralls and a pair of black boots to live on a ship.

A major concern for us out here on the water is the people we left behind. The Navy has around 25,000 people living in the Yokosuka area. As a preemptive measure, they have just begun voluntary evacuation of families from Japan due to the uncertainty of the nuclear plants and the potential for the winds to shift and spread radiation to the south. They also are feeling the many aftershocks from the initial earthquake, including a six that occurred just across Tokyo Bay from the base. For me, I only have to worry about the state of my household goods, for most of my sailors, they have a lot more on the line.

Please keep all of these people affected in your prayers, from those suffering from injury and loss, to those isolated, yet struggling to survive, and finally for the Sailors and their families who want to help, but must care for their own at the same time.

Many of you have asked how you can help and for now, I don’t have much information as we are only doing what we can from the ship. However, people from our ship are donating money to the American Red Cross who has been working with the Japanese Red Cross to tailor to their specific needs. I will try to find a point of contact in Japan that can provide more information on donations.

Again, thank you for your support, your prayers, your pictures, and the notes you have sent. I am very thankful to have such an awesome group of people to lift me up.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A word about our continuing adult forums on marriage and the issues of same-sex marriage

In case you missed it, I want to draw your attention to our continuing Sunday adult forums on traditional marriage and the issues of same-sex marriage.  I am teaming up with The Rev. Dr. Heather Warren, who is a professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, to bring you this series.

We've set up a special blog to post our presentation notes. You can get to that by clicking HERE.

On Sunday, we focused on traditional marriage as it has come down to us in our Christian tradition. We looked at how marriage customs and theology developed through biblical story, beginning with Adam and Eve, and we explored the Hebrew concept of covenant. We looked at Christian marriage vows since the Middle Ages, and how those vows have changed through successive versions of the Book of Common Prayer since 1549.

Christian marriage rites were once primarily property transactions (with brides as property) to where we now see marriage as an exchange of vows representing equal pledges of fidelity between husband and wife. Until recently, our prayer book proclaimed that marriage is primarily for the purpose of having children. With the changes in the prayer book in 1979, the Episcopal Church now views marriage as primarily for the "mutual joy" of a married couple.

That is a big shift, and has brought with it questions about why "mutual joy" should be restricted only to opposite sex couples.

My presentation notes are posted in full on our special blog, Marriage & Blessings. Presentations from previous weeks are also posted there. Please join us in person or here on the Internet for this important exploration of these issues.

Next week we will look at the arguments for and against same-sex blessings.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Monday Funnies

Here is a great combo: Church-dog jokes. Thanks to Pat Hill on the Fiat Lux production staff for sending these along. Where he gets them, I have no idea. Enjoy your Monday funnies . . .

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This Baptist couple felt it important to own an equally Baptist pet, so they went shopping.

At a kennel specializing in a particular breed, they found a dog they liked quite a lot. When they asked the dog to fetch the Bible, he did it in a flash. When they instructed him to look up Psalm 23, he complied equally fast, using his paws with dexterity. They were impressed, purchased the animal, and went home.

That night they had friends over. They were so proud of their new Baptist dog and his major skills, they called the dog and showed off a little. The friends were impressed, and asked whether the dog was able to do any of the usual dog tricks as well.

This stopped the couple cold, as they hadn't thought about "normal" tricks. Well, they said, "Let's try it out." Once more they called the dog, and they clearly pronounced the command, "Heel!" Quick as a wink, the dog jumped up, put his paw on the man's forehead, closed his eyes in concentration, and bowed his head.....

They had been deceived. He was a Pentecostal. 
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Here are 7 examples of what our dogs have been saying to God:

1. Dear God, When we get to Heaven, can we sit on your couch? Or is it the same old story?

2. Dear God, If a dog barks his head off in the forest and no human hears him, is he still a bad dog?

3. Dear God, When my foster Mum's friend comes over to our house, he smells like musk! What's he been rolling around in?

4. Dear God, How come people love to smell flowers, but seldom, if ever, smell one another? Where are their priorities?

5. Dear God, Are there dogs on other planets, or are we alone? I have been howling at the moon and stars for a long time, but all I ever hear back is the beagle across the street.

6. Dear God, Are there posties in Heaven? If there are, will I have to apologize?

7. Dear God, When my family eats dinner they always bless their food. But they never bless mine. So, I've been wagging my tail extra fast when they fill my bowl. Have you noticed my own blessing?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Part III of our series on marriage: Covenant, Vow and Blessing

Adam and Eve, by Marc Chagall
This morning in our adult education series on marriage, and the issue of same-sex blessings, we focused on traditional marriage as it has developed in our Christian tradition. We looked at how marriage developed through biblical story, beginning with Adam and Eve, and we explored the Hebrew concept of covenant. We looked at Christian marriage vows since the Middle Ages, and how those vows have developed through successive versions of the Book of Common Prayer since 1549.

Christian marriage rites have gone from being primarily property transactions (with brides as property) to vows representing equal pledges of fidelity between husband and wife. Our tradition, as it has come to us through the prayer book, once viewed marriage as primarily for the purpose of having children, to now seeing it primarily for the "mutual joy" of a married couple. And that has brought us to questions about why that "mutual joy" should be restricted only to opposite sex couples.

My presentation notes are posted in full on our special blog, Marriage & Blessings, which you can reach by clicking HERE. Presentations from previous weeks are also posted there.

Next week we will look at the arguments for and against same-sex blessings.

Lenten Rose

I am not in the pulpit today, but you can read today's lessons: Genesis 12:1-4aRomans 4:1-5, 13-17, and John 3:1-17.

In case you've missed it, we've prepared a booklet if reflections written by members of St. Paul's for each day of Lent. You can read the reflections online by clicking on the Lenten Cross to the left.

This came across the other day from Barbara Crafton, who will be with us in December, and I commend this to your Sunday reflections:

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Lenten Rose
By Barbara Crafton 
Most graciously, our last spring with this garden has dawned early -- daffodils ready to pop in mid-March, the little reblooming irises deep purple against all the brown. And the dusky Hellebore has been in bloom for at least a week.

The Hellebore is a favorite of mine. So early, as early as the snowdrops, but with such a sophisticated palette: its flowers are mottled purples and greens. The assertive brightness of the later spring flowers is one thing, but the Hellebore is subtle, almost sly in its sudden appearance --one day just the promise of shiny new leaves and the next day the blooms are there, as if there had been no budding in between.

One of Hellebore's folk names is "Lenten Rose," although the plant is completely unrelated to roses of any kind. Some of their blooms look a little bit like a wild rose, I guess, which would be enough to prompt such a name among long-ago people who had pined another weary winter away longing for spring. But the Lenten Rose is as close as we're going to get to a rose for a while. No actual rose will bloom around here for a good two months.

The forsythia, swelling, ready to burst. The daffodils and then the tulips.
The irises and lilacs, and then the peonies, sturdy and dependable as clocks, already poking their red heads up from underground in their 80-year-old bed. The dogwood, lovely in every season, preparing to layer its drifts of white blossoms that seem to drift in mid-air like clouds. All these beloved -- can I really leave them behind? Strike out somewhere new?

Whether I think I can or not, I will. Life on earth only goes forward. It is
only in heaven, or in dreams, that we can go back.

And will people who come after us love the garden as we have? Will they be patient and let her unfold, showing them her successive treasures as week follows week in the growing season. You can't dictate to a garden new to you, no matter how old a garden it may be or how old a gardener you are. No. You first must let her show you who she is.
 The Almost-Daily eMo from the Geranium Farm Copyright © 2001-2011 Barbara Crafton - all rights reserved

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wearing a hijab this Lent

One of our former parishioners has decided she would wear a hijab -- a head scarf -- as a response to the Congressional hearing into Muslim influence in our country, and is writing about her experience. She's had some interesting responses, to say the least, and so she is writing a blog about it, which you can read by clicking HERE.

That may sound odd to wear a Muslim scarf as a Lenten devotion, but by doing so she is walking the path of a marginalized group of people and experiencing the prejudice they experience. I find that Christ-like. And perhaps all of us might learn something about ourselves from her experience this Lent.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A place to find prayer online, and an Irish blessing to you

The other evening at our Vestry meeting, Pastor Ann Willms brought this website to our attention: it is an online daily prayer meditation written by Jesuit Irish brothers (how appropriate for St. Patrick's Day!), called You can reach it by clicking HERE.

The website has prayers, a short scripture reading, and as you progress it even has an icon called "Need Inspiration?" with a brief reflection on the day's scriptural passage. Please enjoy. Here is part of today's blessing from sacredspace:

I remind myself that I am in your presence O Lord.
I will take refuge in your loving heart.
You are my strength in times of weakness.
You are my comforter in times of sorrow.
God is not foreign to my freedom.
Instead the Spirit breathes life into my most intimate desires,
gently nudging me towards all that is good.
I ask for the grace to let myself be enfolded by the Spirit.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Update from Episcopal Relief and Development on response to Japanese calamity

Faith groups mobilize in wake of Japan's worst-ever earthquake

[Episcopal News Service] In the aftermath of Japan's worst earthquake on record and the deepening threat of radiation leaking from the Fukushima nuclear power plants in the north, faith groups and relief agencies around the world are exploring ways to assist through donations, emergency supplies and prayer.
Episcopal Relief & Development said on March 15 that it is sending financial support to the Nippon Sei Ko Kei (NSKK) to help with its initial emergency relief efforts as the Anglican Communion province continues to gather vital information about its impacted dioceses in the north and begins to assess the immediate needs of the church and the wider Japanese community. To read more, click HERE.

Our series on marriage and same-sex blessings continues

A quick update on our adult education series on blessings, marriage, and same-sex blessings. The Rev. Dr. Heather Warren, who is a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, gave a talk Sunday on the biblical origins and understandings of blessings (and curses), and her presentation is now posted on a special blog we've set up for this course. You can read her remarks by clicking HERE. She packed quite a lot into her presentation, so take your time.

This Sunday I will continue with a presentation on covenants and vows, and a quick history of marriage in Christianity. We will look at some of the vows of marriage and see how vows have changed as understandings of marriage has changed. We will leave plenty of time for discussion.

I've been asked what the purpose of this series is and whether we are going to "debate" same-sex marriage. My intention is that we not just pool our preconceived notions and opinions in a debate, but gain some common understanding of the historical and theological underpinnings of marriage and blessings so that we aren't lobbing sound-bites at each other. The institution of marriage comes with tremendous emotional and historical baggage, and that makes any debate about same-sex blessings so difficult. This is not the same as blessing your house or your car. It is about people and their relationships.

If you haven't read my presentation about the crisis in marriage from two Sundays ago, I would ask that you do so, especially if you are coming to the presentation this Sunday. You can read my presentation by clicking HERE. I hope to see you Sunday, or please follow along at our special blog:

Artwork above: Detail from a decorative block print of a Hebrew blessing; late 14th century C.E. The Hebrew text from Deuteronomy 28:6 reads: "May you be blessed as you arrive and as you depart." From the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, University of Cambridge.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Prayer for Japan

Toshiyuki Tsunenari/Asahi Shimbun, via Associated Press

This prayer was shared last night in our Education for Ministry group, and it comes from the Church of England:

+ + +

O loving Creator, bring healing and hope to those who, at this time, grieve, suffer pain, or who have been affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. 
We remember those who have died and we pray for those who mourn for them. We pray for those who may be affected as the tsunami spread across the Pacific.
We pray for all those who seek to govern and lead in these times of trial; give them courage, wisdom and foresight to address the needs of their people. 
May we all be aware of your compassion, O God, which calms our troubled hearts and shelters our anxious souls. May we pray with humility with our troubled and struggling brothers and sisters on earth. 
May we dare to hope that through the generosity of the privileged, the destitute might glimpse hope, warmth and life again. Through our Savior Christ who lives with us, comforts us, and soothes us. Amen.
This prayer came from the Office of the Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia this afternoon:
Most merciful and compassionate God,
Giver of life and love,
hear our prayers
and let our cries come unto you.

Dear Father of all,
We weep with your people in Japan.
We hear the cries of orphaned children and laments of bereaved parents.
We feel the desperation of those searching for loved ones.
We behold the silence of vanished villages.

We see the devastation.
We are overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.
Our hearts are hushed, our minds are numb.
Let not our hands be stopped, our voices dumb.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Open our hearts to feel your compassion
Galvanize in us the act of continued giving.
Bond us to our sisters and brothers in need.
O Holy Spirit,
Comfort and heal the injured, the bereaved, the lost.
Strengthen the aid workers and medical personnel.
Bolster the resolve of governments and those with power to help.
Open through this tragedy pathways to partnerships and peace.
In Your holy name and eternal life of love and mercy, we pray;

Monday, March 14, 2011

Update from Japanese Anglican Church

Japan archbishop urges ongoing prayers, commits to providing relief and restoration

Young Adult Service Corps volunteers are safe

[Episcopal News Service] As Japanese officials estimate that the death toll could far exceed 10,000 after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated parts of the country's northeast coast on March 11, Anglican Archbishop Nathaniel Uematsu underscored the importance of prayer and said that he is working to establish a structure to respond to the disaster.
Meanwhile, two Episcopalians serving asYoung Adult Service Corps volunteers in Japan are safe and currently assessing ways that their ministries can be most helpful to the local community.

To read more click HERE.

The Monday Funnies

It is Lent again, that time for confession and a renewed commitment to our spiritual life. It is also tax time. Why is it the two go together? Here's some seriously bad seasonal jokes to start your week and a Pearls Before Swine cartoon to usher in Lent. Enjoy the Monday Funnies . . .

* * * 
I was having this argument with my tax lawyer. He said, that no matter how heavily I contribute to the church I can't deduct the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as dependents. 
* * * 
The story is told of the preacher who responded to a panhandler by telling him to go to the Bible, close his eyes, open it, put his finger on the page, look at the text under his finger, and do exactly what it says.

About a year later the preacher saw the same panhandler emerging from a limousine, wearing a 3-piece suit, and smoking a cigar.

The preacher said, "look what has happened to you -- how did it come about?"

The panhandler said, "preacher, I did what you told me to do. I took a Bible and with my eyes closed put my finger on a page and then did exactly what the Good Book told me to do."

Preacher: "And what did it say?"

Panhandler: "It said, Chapter 11"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What if prayer is the most important thing you do?

This is the First Sunday of Lent, and my sermon is based on the readings for today: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7Romans 5:12-19 and Matthew 4:1-11. May you have a blessed Lent.

+ + +

Lord, in your mercy, come show us the way. Amen.

I’d like us to take a few moments of silence and prayer to remember those who have died, or who are injured, or homeless from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and those who are struggling today to contain this calamity as it still unfolds. I also know many of you have friends in Japan, and so let us hold them also in our prayers.

Lord, in your mercy, come show us the way.

This morning, on this, the first Sunday of Lent, we get a dense series of biblical readings that are the basis of the Christian doctrine of “original sin.” The authors of the lectionary had in mind that you and I should be taught once a year about this knotty doctrine, and today would be the day. 
Well, maybe. 
I must confess, and this is the time of confession, that at the outset that in the face of the horror of our world – wars in Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere – and the horror that is still unfolding in Japan, I find that the doctrines of the church sometimes seem, well, too small, too puny, too inadequate. 
So I’d rather start somewhere else. I’d like us to stand on high ground for a time this morning, and I’d like to start with a question: 
What would it look like if the most important thing we do as a congregation is to pray?
Now, I know that sounds like a silly question. I mean, we are a church, that’s what we are supposed to do, right? 
I know the most important thing you and I are doing this morning is praying; it is why we are here. And even if you are having trouble finding the prayers, someone else is praying those prayers for you. 
As Pastor Ann mentioned in her Ash Wednesday homily, these walls are awash in the prayers of the many who have come before us. Like them, we gather together to pray in many ways: with words and music, in silence, and with symbols for the eyes, and the bread and wine of our Holy Communion. 
We have a feast of prayer this morning for all of our senses. We bring the fullness of ourselves into prayer, and God made that good. 
So let me ask this in a more personal way: 
What would it look like if the most important thing you do is pray? What would that look like for you? 
What if your prayer didn’t stop when you left here this morning? What if prayer was the more important thing you do for the rest of the week? What would your week look like?
I am talking about praying when you take a walk, or wash the dishes, or fold the laundry, or in the quiet of the morning, or late at night before you sleep. 
If you truly made prayer the most important thing you do, what would look different in your life? 
Yes, there are many other important things you and I do in our lives. It is important to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head and to wash the dishes. 
It is important to pay your bills, and to rear children and take care of your health. 
It is important to go to school and learn. 
It is important to have fun and share a meal with friends and family. 
All of that is important. But what would those things look like if prayer came first? 
And what might fall away as not so important? 
Or, let me put this another way: How would you make decisions in your life if you truly brought your decisions into a conversation with God on a regular basis? 
Prayer can be tricky business. It is tempting to pray for things – for stuff – for bread after a forty-day fast, or to be saved from falling off a rooftop, or amassing political power, or at least a promotion at work.
It is tempting to give advice to God – most of us are actually pretty good at that.
The kind of prayer I speak of is simpler, yet scarier. 
This kind of prayer is to be found in the Lord’s Prayer: “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” 
What if we meant it when we said “thy will be done”? 
It might require setting aside selfish agendas and opening ourselves to hearing “thy will be done.” 
This is not a prayer of despair, or a plea for power and wealth. 
“Thy will be done” is a prayer for healing, hope, and seeing the presence of God right here among us, and hearing what God would have us do on this earth. 
That kind of prayer requires us to see our connection to each other, and to the people of Japan and Libya and Afghanistan, and the people across the street and next door. 
How do we do we pray like that? It may not be as hard as you think. 
Start by with noticing the Holy that is right in front of you. Author and preacher Barbara Brown Taylor calls it “The practice of waking up to God.” 
“Reverence,” she writes, “stands in awe of something – something that dwarfs the self, that allows human beings to sense the full extent of our limits – so that we can begin to see one another more reverently as well.” [An Altar in the World, p. 21] 
This Lent, I am suggesting that we as a congregation look for the Holy all around us, starting in the simple moments. Let’s see where it takes us; I don’t know where that will be, that’s the beauty of it. We won’t know until we try. 
Start by setting aside time each day for prayer, for reflecting on the holiness you see in your life. Hear God in the laugh of a child; look for God in the early spring buds on the trees; feel God in the gentle touch of someone close to you; hear God in the music or in the silence.
Listen for the small still voice of God in all you experience. Trust that something will happen when you stop to notice and to pray. 
Find the time to pray and reflect about what you see and experience. Get up 15 minutes earlier in the day if you have to, or carve out 15 minutes on your lunch hour, or 15 minutes for a walk before dinner. Maybe get off the Internet 15 minutes earlier than you usually do, or turn off the TV. 
Want to give up something for Lent? Give up distractions, 15 minutes at a time. Give up the gods of endless busy-ness, over-scheduling, control. 
Slow it down, and notice the true God one prayer at a time. 
Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book, An Altar in the World, puts it this way [p. 24]: 
“We pay attention to the speedometer, the wristwatch, the cell phone, the list of things to do, all of which feed our illusion that life is manageable…If anything, these devices sustain the illusion that we might yet be gods—if only we could find some way to do more faster.”
The illusion of being God is the “original sin” and humans have been tricking themselves into thinking that since there were humans. The doctrine of original sin is no more complicated than that. 
Look at your illusions, bring those to your daily prayer. 
Look at what hurts you. What holes have you fallen into by your own making, or through no fault of your own? God is in there too – especially there in those lonely places. 
Listen for the voice leading you out. Turn around and look for the ladder up. 
Lord, in your mercy, come show us the way. 
Do you have a heavy stone on your heart needing to be lifted? Come make a private confession with a priest, with one of us – yes, we do that. Come claim the forgiveness that is yours. 
Lord, in your mercy, come show us the way. 
Prayer is not always sweetness and light. It can be hard work like life itself. Prayer may not take us on the safe route. Prayer will test us and mold us as it did Jesus in the wilderness. 
So make this your Holiest of Lents, and don’t do this alone. Make it your practice to gather here every Sunday, not out of obligation, but because it is important for you to be here. Our prayers are richer when you are here, and our prayers are much the poorer when you are not.
Come experience the prayers here as rich food for your body, mind and soul.Make prayer the most important thing you do, this Holy Lent, and for the rest of your life. 
Lord, in your mercy, come show us the way. Come. AMEN.
Art by Chiura Obata (1885-1975).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What we can do to assist Japan

Our Episcopal Church has had a long presence in Japan through the Church of the Nippon Se Ko Kei. Our arm of assistance in natural disasters is through Episcopal Relief and Development. This was on the ERD website this morning.

Effects of Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Widespread

March 11, 2011
Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck Japan at 2:46pm local time (12:46am EST). The effects of the disaster are widespread, affecting churches and partners around the Pacific region, including Hawai’i and the west coast of the US. Episcopal Relief & Development staff have reached out to local partners and are standing by, ready to offer assistance.

To read more, click HERE.

Friday, March 11, 2011

You are a warm front

Here is a bright short poem for your Friday, a gift from our wonderful friend, Karen, in Tennessee. Enjoy:
You and I
by Jonathan Potter

You are a warm front
that moved in from the north,
a blind spot bearing beautiful gifts,
a garden in the air, a golden filament
inscribed with the name of God's hunting dog,
a magic heirloom mistaken for a feather duster,
a fountain in a cow pasture, an anachronistic anagram
annoyed by anonymity, a dollar in the pocket
of a winter coat in summer.

And I am the discoverer of you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Invited to a Holy Lent

Our Ash Wednesday services yesterday were smaller than the previous year, probably because it is Spring Break at the University of Virginia, and the academic calendar trumps all else in Charlottesville.

Yet, I found it all four services to be a cathartic experience, more so foe me in the past. Perhaps it was because I am more aware of the pain a number of people are feeling both in our congregation and elsewhere. Perhaps it is because of my own need to slow down, take stock, turn back to basics, and experience the Holy right in front of me.

I would like to mention once again the gift from members of St. Paul's in the writing of reflections for each day of Lent. You can read a new reflection for each day by clicking the purple cross on the left of this page, or by clicking HERE.

May you have a good and holy Lent.


How to get more young people into the church; advice from Alaska worth hearing

Greg Rickel, who is the bishop of the Diocese of Olympia (Seattle), posted this on his Facebook the other day. It comes from a blog from an Episcopalian in Alaska, the owls & the angels, and this is so gently delightful. I wish I had come across this sooner. Anyway, below, in full, is a posting on what it takes to grow the church. Hold on, it is not about rock bands and happy-clappy spirituality. It is much more radical, and much more ancient. Please read:

ah, the church

Tonight Jon and I went to a meeting at the local Episcopal church; it was a dinner and get-together with the new Bishop of Alaska. Apparently, Alaska hasn't had an Episcopal bishop for a while, so this is exciting news that there is now a bishop. The dear little Episcopal church here, which is called St. James the Fisherman (how cool is that name?!), is tiny and doesn't have a priest and is run by well-intentioned older women. Which is the story of so many rural Episcopal churches.

I left thinking, "ah, the church." Not "ah" like a sigh of relief, but more just a sigh. I feel like buried in the center of the church (and I mean the church as a whole--all the Christians worldwide) is this amazing, redemptive, beautiful thing. But it's in a deep cavern somewhere, and meanwhile people have stacked old broken chairs in front of that cavern, and shoved all the old Halloween decorations up around the doors of the cavern, and there are cobwebs, and way up above the cavern, in the church building, people are arguing over whose pew is whose and how to correctly iron the cloths used during Eucharist. And, of course, they're arguing about whether gay people are really fully human.

When I was an Episcopal chaplain--for four years--all the time people in the church would ask me, "Why don't young people come to church?" or "How do we get young people to come to church?" I have some suggestions now, so listen up.

Here is a step-by-step plan for how to get more young people into the church:

1. Be genuine. Do not under any circumstances try to be trendy or hip, if you are not already intrinsically trendy or hip. If you are a 90-year-old woman who enjoys crocheting and listens to Beethoven, by God be proud of it.

2. Stop pretending you have a rock band.

3. Stop arguing about whether gay people are okay, fully human, or whatever else. Seriously. Stop it.

4. Stop arguing about whether women are okay, fully human, or are capable of being in a position of leadership.

5. Stop looking for the "objective truth" in Scripture.

6. Start looking for the beautiful truth in Scripture.

7. Actually read the Scriptures. If you are Episcopalian, go buy a Bible and read it. Start in Genesis, it's pretty cool. You can skip some of the other boring parts in the Bible. Remember though that almost every book of the Bible has some really funky stuff in it. Remember to keep #5 and #6 in mind though. If you are evangelical, you may need to stop reading the Bible for about 10 years. Don't worry: during those ten years you can work on putting these other steps into practice.

8. Start worrying about extreme poverty, violence against women, racism, consumerism, and the rate at which children are dying worldwide of preventable, treatable diseases. Put all the energy you formerly spent worrying about the legit-ness of gay people into figuring out ways to do some good in these areas.

9. Do not shy away from lighting candles, silence, incense, laughter, reallygood food, and extraordinary music. By "extraordinary music" I mean genuine music. Soulful music. Well-written, well-composed music. Original music. Four-part harmony music. Funky retro organ music. Hymns. Taize chants. Bluegrass. Steel guitar. Humming. Gospel. We are the church; we have a uber-rich history of amazing music. Remember this.

10. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

11. Learn how to sit with people who are dying.

12. Feast as much as possible. Cardboard communion wafers are a feast in symbol only. Humans can not live on symbols alone. Remember this.

13. Notice visitors, smile genuinely at them, include them in conversations, but do not overwhelm them.

14. Be vulnerable.

15. Stop worrying about getting young people into the church. Stop worrying about marketing strategies. Take a deep breath. If there is a God, that God isn't going to die even if there are no more Christians at all.

16. Figure out who is suffering in your community. Go be with them.

17. Remind yourself that you don't have to take God to anyone. God is already with everyone. So, rather than taking the approach that you need to take the truth out to people who need it, adopt the approach that you need to go find the truth that others have and you are missing. Go be evangelized.

18. Put some time and care and energy into creating a beautiful space for worship and being-together. But shy away from building campaigns, parking lot expansions, and what-have-you.

19. Make some part of the church building accessible for people to pray in 24/7. Put some blankets there too, in case someone has nowhere else to go for the night.

20. Listen to God (to Wisdom, to Love) more than you speak your opinions.

This is a fool-proof plan. If you do it, I guarantee that you will attract young people to your church. And lots of other kinds of people too. The end.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Burning palms, ashes of pain

Today begins Lent, and we begin again in the ashes. As we did last year, members of St. Paul's wrote reflections for each day of Lent, and the reflection for today was written by Doug Vest, who is retired priest from the Diocese of Los Angeles who now lives in Charlottesville.

We've posted all of the reflections on a special blog, and the daily reflection will appear at midnight each day. You can find the blog by clicking HERE. You can also get to it by clicking on the purple Lenten cross on the left.

The readings for Ash Wednesday are Joel 2:1-2,12-17Isaiah 58:1-122 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10Matthew 6:1-6,16-21 and Psalm 103 or 103:8-14.

May you have a blessed Lent. My homily for today is below:

+ + +

Ash Wednesday 2011

The ashes are oily and grimy and they smell. 
The ashes came from palm fronds – the palms that we blessed and carried on Palm Sunday a year ago. We carried those palm fronds around this church and sang hymns and carried them into Holy Week. 
Then, many of you saved your palms, maybe in a dresser drawer, or on a mirror, or pinned to a bulletin board. 
The palms dried out, cracked, and turned pale. 
Then many of you brought your palms back here, and on Monday, they were burned.
When palm burns it makes a thick gray smoke that smells like a brush fire, no surprise because palms are a type of grass. 
Many years ago, when I was news reporter, I covered a few huge wild fires in Southern California of the sort that destroy entire neighborhoods, 300 homes at a time, and trap people, sometimes to their deaths. 

The fires spread because palm fronds catch fire and fly through the air like flaming arrows, carried by the intense Santa Ana winds.

In one such fire, in 1980, in San Bernardino, I was nearly trapped, unable to get anywhere, and my eyes froze shut from the smoke. I was rescued by a news photographer and taken to a hospital. Of course, not before he got a few more pictures. 
The smoke of burning palm smells like death to me, and it still brings a pit in my stomach.

The pain and tragedy of the world are in these ashes, and they are a reminder of how quickly life can burn away. 
As we descend into Lent on this Ash Wednesday, we are reminded again that life can be tenuous, that many people live on the edge of living, and that the pain of the world is not far from our doorstep – and for some of you, has crossed your doorstep. 
The ashes remind us again to put first things first. 

First things first are not power and prestige, or titles and prizes, or degrees and social status. 
First things first aren’t houses, cars, and toys. 
All of those things are fleeting, all of that disappears eventually in the ashes. 
First things first: the people we love, the people who love us, the relationships we hold dear.

First things first: our loving God who holds us, pick us up, and is with us even when we don’t see or notice – no matter what, no string attached. 
In a few minutes, we will have ashes smeared on our foreheads to remind us of our own death. We tell ourselves that “it is to dust that we shall return.”
What an odd thing to do. 

Why do we do this? To remind ourselves that we cannot get to the promise of new life without passing through the emptiness of the grave first, whether at the end of our mortal life on earth, or in all of the graves big and small we fall into in this life by our own doing, or through no fault of our own. 

We don’t get to Easter without being lifted from the ashes. 
Think of these ashes as a gift to the heart. 

If we can catch a glimpse of our mortality in the ashes today, maybe we will see more clearly those things that really matter. Maybe we will see that our own death does not separate us from each other. 

Maybe we will see first things first. 
Instead of only seeing only ashes today, maybe we will catch a glimpse of how we are ultimately bound together by the Christ who promises we will get out of whatever hole we are in. 

Traditionally Lent is a time of austerity, and we “give up” something for Lent. Often, we give up something trivial, like chocolate. 

But maybe we should give up something more important. Maybe we should give up that which gets in our way of seeing God and seeing each other. 
The crucial sentence in the words of Jesus is the last: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

See Lent as a gift to the heart. Look at Lent as a break, a forty-day Sabbath – a time of slowing down and being extra intentional about taking care of yourself. 

See Lent as a time for rest, and prayer, and being with the ones you love. 

See Lent as a time to take care of yourself: the health of your body, mind and spirit.
And see Lent as a time for shedding away that which gets in your way of seeing and touching God. 
Lent should not be an ordeal, but a true gift to the heart. And we can do this one-day at a time, starting here, together, now. 
Take time every day this Lent to look inside yourself. See again truly who you are, and whose you are, and who loves you unconditionally. Repent, a word that means “turn around,” and see what’s right in front of you. 
And then look outside yourself: Look for the Christ in everyone you meet and in everything you do – and look for the Christ in even in the ashes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ash Wednesday and our journey through the valley of Lent

Tomorrow we descend again into the valley of Lent, into the darkness before the dawn, into the time of introspection and repentance -- the time of confession and turning back to the saving grace of God. It is also a time to simplify, slow down, and fast. It is a time to be more intentional in prayer, and a time not just to "give up" something, but to give to those who are neediest.

And Lent is more than that.

The liturgy of Ash Wednesday is a reminder of our mortality and the finite nature of life on earth. Easter and new life will come, but first comes this humbling reminder of our limits. I hope you will join us for one of our Ash Wednesday services and the imposition of ashes.

Our Ash Wednesday services at St. Paul's are at 7:30 am, 12:15 pm, 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm. We also have a booklet of Lenten meditations; you can receive a copy at the office, and we will be posting each meditation on a special blog which you can reach by clicking HERE. I will say more about that tomorrow.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has recorded her Lenten message for this year, and I commend it to you:

Presiding Bishop Lent Message 2011 from The Episcopal Church on Vimeo.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Monday Funnies

The week is off and running once again. What better way than to start with a few jokes, at the expense of organized -- and disorganized -- religions.

Thanks to Pat Hill for the jokes and Dave Walker for the cartoon. Enjoy the Monday Funnies . . .

* * *
Three kids are sitting around the lunch table at school.

One says, "My dad's a lawyer. People pay him $200 for letter with his opinion on it."

Another says, "My dad's a doctor. He writes prescriptions on a little sheet of paper and people pay him $300 for it."

The third says, "My dad's a preacher. He writes a few notes a napkin, tells everyone and it takes 8 people to collect all the money."

* * *

I was having this argument with my tax lawyer. He said, that no matter how heavily I contribute to the church I can't deduct the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as dependents.

* * *

One Sunday a pastor told the congregation that the church needed some extra money and asked the people to prayerfully consider giving a little extra in the offering plate. He said that whoever gave the most would be able to pick out three hymns.

After the offering plates were passed, the pastor glanced down and noticed that someone had placed a $1,000 bill in offering. He was so excited that he immediately shared his joy with his congregation and said he'd like to personally thank the person who placed the money in the plate.

A very quiet, elderly and saintly lady all the way in the back shyly raised her hand. The pastor asked her to come to the front. Slowly she made her way to the pastor. He told her how wonderful it was that she gave so much and in thanksgiving asked her to pick out three hymns.

Her eyes brightened as she looked over the congregation, pointed to the three handsomest men in the building and said, "I'll take him and him and him."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Adult forum on marriage and blessings: New blog with notes from presentation

Several people asked me today for copies of my presentation notes on my talk on marriage, same-sex marriage and blessings. Rather than put a lengthy post on Fiat Lux, I have created a separate blog for this series of adult forums. The blog is called Marriage & Blessings, and you can read today's notes by clicking HERE.

My apologies; I have not had a chance to add footnotes or clean up the writing. These are notes, not a polished paper. For those of you who came today, thanks, and for those who couldn't make it, I hope these notes will suffice. We will try to keep up with posting our notes as we go along.