Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Grace at dusk inside our walls

Yesterday was intense and busy. Our staff underwent a training exercise on how to interact with mentally ill people, and it was exhausting. In the afternoon I had an assortment of meetings, and I began wrestling with the upcoming Sunday sermon. The readings are not so easy and I got quickly lost. By 6pm I felt quite weary, and the evening schedule held the promise of a Vestry meeting.

Around dusk, I went upstairs into the nave of the church. It was dark, but not so dark that I couldn't see.

I stood at the Altar and looked out at the empty pews. I imagined the people who fill those pews week after week and gave thanks for them and the life they bring into these walls.

Then I sat in one of the pews  where one of our families, who are away on a year-long sabbatical, usually sit. I gave thanks for them and sent them a little prayer. And I enjoyed the cool calm for a good long while.

After I time I got up and read the plaques that are in the north facing windows. I'd never really read them. One plaque is dedicated to Col. James Skinner of the Confederate Army. He left his fortune to the University of Virginia to underwrite scholarships for Episcopal students. Our students at St. Paul's still benefit from his bequest. Another plaque was to a Mr. Bryan who had been president of Mary Washington University, and was on the Board of Visitors of UVA in the 1940s.

Many people have graced these walls, saints and sinners alike. They are truly the people of God. And for a time I get to be among them, and I give thanks.

By James Richardson, Fiat Lux

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The road leads us home

Roman road north of Jerusalem
near ruins of "Emmaus"
Photo by James Richardson 2011
From Bishop Steven Charleston this morning . . .

I walk on, no matter how easy or difficult the path before me. I walk on in good weather and bad, under a beautiful sky, beneath a dark moon, I walk on when the road seems to pull me forward to discover what is around the next corner, or even when I need to stop for rest before I can take another step. I walk on without knowing when my journey will end, embracing the journey itself as gift, it is my life and calling. I walk on in peace, in wonder, in endless thanks that you walk with me, and that together we walk in faith, the road that leads us home.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Making sense of the atonement: Getting out of the hole

Today's sermon is based on the lectionary readings: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18Psalm 2Philippians 3:17-4:1 and Luke 13:31-35 . Here is the sermon:

Benvento di Giovanni, 1491, depicting
Jesus opening the gates of Hell
and crusing the devil under foot
National Gallery of Art
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I want to tell you a story, a parable, really.*

I like to tell this story now and then, and so some of you may have heard it. Please bear with me as I tell it again:

Once there was a man, and he was walking down a street. He fell into a hole, and he could not get out. It was deep and dark in the hole, and he waited and waited for help.

Eventually, he looked up and he saw a cop. “Officer, officer, help me get out the hole!”

The cop said, sorry, I am on my way to an emergency,” and he wrote something on a piece of paper and threw it in the hole

“Call 911, they’ll get you out of the hole.

But the guy in the hole had no phone.

A few minutes later, he looked up and saw a priest: “Pastor, pastor, please, help me get out of the hole!”

But the priest said, “Sorry, I have a pastoral emergency at the hospital.”

So the priest wrote something on a piece of paper and threw it in the hole.

“Here’s a prayer; you can pray to get out of the hole.”

But the man couldn’t read what was on the paper, and he was now really down.

Then he looked up and saw someone else standing at the top. The man was a friend he’d known for a long time.

“Hey, friend, help me get out the hole.”

The friend looked down, and thought for a moment. And then the friend jumped into the hole.

The first man was stunned. “Great, now we’re both stuck in the hole.”

“Yes,” the friend replied, “but I’ve been in the hole before and I know the way out.”

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In the gospel lesson today, Jesus begins his final journey to Jerusalem, the city where the only rule is the rule of violence and power, the city that kills the prophets, that kills dreams of mercy and justice. Jesus knows full well that he will be killed.

Why did Jesus go?

Today we approach a difficult, unpopular topic: the concept of the “atonement” – the idea that somehow Jesus dying on the Cross saves us from our sin.

Candidly, most explanations of atonement I’ve ever heard get lost in a deep hole. What is supposed to be a theology of hope gets smothered in the morbid concept of Jesus dying to pay ransom to a bloodthirsty God.

This idea of sacrificial atonement by Jesus comes primarily from one letter in the New Testament, the Letter to the Hebrews, whose author is unknown (and most certainly is not the apostle Paul).

The letter writer makes the argument that Jesus is the final substitute for all the animals that are sacrificed in the Jerusalem Temple. You get a hint of this today in Genesis with the description of cutting animals in two as a way to thank God in worship.

The argument goes that the animal sacrifices can now stop because Jesus has done the job of appeasing God. That may have made sense to people accustomed to killing animals as part of their worship, but I don’t think it makes much sense to us.

So is there another way of looking at this, another way of making sense of why Jesus goes to go to Jerusalem and the Cross?

The Apostle Paul comes to an answer that might surprise you if you cut away all of the religiosity and institutional varnish of the centuries.

For Paul, the Cross is about Jesus being divine enough to suffer the pain and humiliation of being human. It is about Jesus jumping in the hole and showing us the way out.

Jesus goes to the Cross to show the rule of power and violence won’t ultimately win. He goes to the very depths of Hell to free people from death, and show the way out to healing and new life – to Easter.

No one is beyond hope, no night is too dark, no hole too deep, for the light of Christ.

Heaven intends to include everyone.

But there is a challenge in this for each of us. We proclaim that we are the body of Christ, and that the Risen Christ dwells in us.

That ultimately means we, too, are called to go into the forgotten holes of this earth, and be as Christ to each other.

We, too, are the face of Christ to people who are poor, wounded and feeling abandoned.

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

I’ve seen this happen only a few feet away from this pulpit, and not so very long ago.

A couple of years ago, we were hosting PACEM, an organization whereby churches take turns giving shelter to homeless people during the winter months.

That particular year, our church hosted a group of homeless women for two weeks, beginning on Christmas night. I volunteered to be the overnight host on Christmas night.

One of the jobs of being the overnight host, besides sleeping on an air mattress, is to get up early to make coffee.

I’m an early riser, so being up at 5:30 am was no big deal, but I must admit feeling a little sorry for myself that I hadn’t been home in my own bed on Christmas.

Just then one of our guests came in. I gave her a cup of coffee, and she wanted to talk.

She told me she had been paroled from prison only a few days earlier, and she hadn’t seen her grown son in many years. He was in the military, and he had called her on Christmas night.

She said the call from her son was the greatest Christmas present she had ever received, and she had hardly slept all night she was so thrilled.

Then she told me how she had fallen into a deep dark hole in her life.

She told me how perfect strangers, including some people right here in this church, had become the face of Christ to her in a few short hours.

And then I knew something else: She had become the face of Christ to me by sharing her story. We both got a glimpse of heaven that Christmas night, and how God intends Heaven begin here on earth with each of us.

Jesus does not promise us a comfortable bed or an easy way of life. We do not belong to a sanctified social club. The church cannot be just for insiders.

There are times when we are called to jump in the hole and be as Christ to one another, and times when someone will jump in the hole and be as Christ to us.

Jesus challenges us to take up our Cross daily, and take the hard path in our homes and in our classrooms, in our work and in the world. That is what it means to be his follower.

But know this too:

Jesus points us toward the dawn. He opens the gates of hell, and frees all who are in it. The grave is empty when Jesus leaves. And we are with him when he goes. AMEN

* I first heard the parable of the man falling in a hole on an episode of The West Wing, “Noel.” December 20, 2000.
By James Richardson, Fiat Lux

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Water and life, looking upstream

Ancient depiction of the Samaritan
woman at the well with Jesus
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
John 4:13-17

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The dawn breaks cold and overcast this morning in Central Virginia. The weather report has icy rain on the way later today. Yet my morning reflection takes me far away, to the life-giving waters of Jacob’s well in the Judean desert that is depicted in John 4:1-26 in today’s Morning Prayer reading.

In the story, Jesus is on his way home to Galilee, having heard an argument has broken out among the Pharisees about the topic of baptism. Jesus cuts through Samaria, a land full of untouchables, and he pauses at the well. He encounters a Samaritan woman, and rich conversation ensues. Gender and religious stereotypes are cast to the dust, and it is one of those stories that preachers can mine from many directions. Indeed, I have commented on it four times before on this page.  We could go many more places; the passage might well have been written as an instruction manual for baptism.

This morning, though, I am struck by the simplicity of the water in the well. Life comes from water. Dirt is washed away by water. The old is washed away, and the new comes from it.

Sometimes in my prayers, I imagine myself sitting beside a cool mountain stream in a grassy meadow. Often I am looking downstream as the water flows past, remembering moments of my life that are gone. But today, I am looking upstream at the water yet to come, and giving thanks for what it will bring.

By James Richardson, Fiat Lux

Friday, February 22, 2013

Grace in the pebbles

“You have shaken the earth and split it open; repair the cracks in it, for it totters…”Psalm 60:2 
“After this, Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized…” John 3:22

Photo by Lori Korleski Richardson
During Lent, I have taken to reading the psalms in the evening. Psalm 60 came as the lectionary assignment for last night, full of earthquakes, armies, enemies and God’s wrath. Not exactly comforting bedtime reading.

This morning’s reading from John 3:22-36 brings calm. Jesus is in the countryside, teaching his disciples and baptizing. A side discussion ensues about baptism and how it is a gift of the spirit. It is the only suggestion in any of the gospels that Jesus himself might have been baptizing people, though a few lines later the gospel writer says it is the disciples – not Jesus – who are performing the baptisms.

A couple of years ago, Lori and I traveled to the Judean countryside for a few days. In the morning I sat beside the Sea of Galilee and watched the sun rise. The beach was thick with stones and pebbles, the rubble from the earth split open from centuries of earthquakes and floods. I could easily imagine Jesus sitting on this shoreline, praying as the sun came up.

Nearby were olive groves, and it was easy for me to imagine Jesus and his disciples finding shade there at the noonday. No words were necessary for my imaginings.

I brought back a few olive leaves from the groves, and pressed them in my prayer book. I also brought back a pocketful of pebbles from the shore of the Sea of Galilee. I keep them in an olive wood bowl near my favorite chair at home.

Lately I hold one of the pebbles during my morning prayers. A few days ago, as I held the smallest of pebbles, I heard a small still voice telling me to look for the small pebbles of grace in my day.

I leave you with this today: Hold a pebble in your hand. Find the grace that comes your way. It might be very small, and unexpected. It might be a smooth or rough. But that pebble is a blessing that is yours to keep forever.

Also from today's readings. . .
So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it, yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today.

Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship.

Deuteronomy 10:12-20

By James Richardson, Fiat Lux

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I am still learning to grow in your love

For me, Lent is a time for getting back to basics, for brushing up and brushing off my prayer life. I feel blessed to enjoy a regular prayer practice every morning, but I've let a key part of my practice lapse in recent months --the "examen" at the end of the day.

The idea is to take the time to reflect on the moments of God's grace in the day that is closing, and where I might have fallen short in responding. It is a practice from Ignatian spirituality, the underlying foundation of the Jesuits (all of my spiritual directors have been Jesuits, so it rather fits with how I pray).

I have a card that helps me make this self-examination at the close of day. The card is tattered and in need of tape, but I still carry it in my prayer book, a gift from a member of one of our Education for Ministry groups. Here are the questions.

Light a candle, and try it out yourself tonight:

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Praying the Jesuit Examination of Conscience

1. Thanksgiving: Lord, I realize that all, even myself, is a gift from you.
Today, for what things am I most grateful?

2. Intention: Lord, open my eyes and ears to be more honest with myself.
Today, what do I really want for myself?

3. Examination: Lord, show me what has been happening to me and in me this day.
Today, in what ways have I experienced your love?

4. Contrition: Lord, I am still learning to grow in your love.
Today, what choices have been inadequate responses to your love?

5. Hope: Lord, let me look with longing toward the future.
Today, how will I let you lead me to a brighter tomorrow?

By James Richardson, Fiat Lux

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I am from the common earth

Sequoia National Park
Photo courtesy of the National Parks
From my friend Bishop Stephen Charleston...

I am from the common earth made, shaped by calloused hands, fashioned by a working God, whose design was to create a useful art, a mechanism mysterious but functional, a creation that could do something worthwhile, that could serve a good cause, and return value for what it cost, by making life for others just that much better. We are all from the common earth made, sisters of the soil, brothers of the ground on which we stand, varied but same shaped, built for the same goal, organic machines of love, durable in every season, set to a task shared in every part.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Funnies

It's been too long since we've had the Monday Funnies. When better to start up again that in the dreariness of February? Here's a cartoon and a joke from Pat Hill at the expense of people in my profession.  Enjoy your week...

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A visiting minister was very long-winded. Worse, every time he would make a good point during his sermon and a member of the congregation responded with “Amen” or “That's right, preacher” he would get wound up even more and launch into another lengthy discourse.

Finally, the host pastor started responding to every few sentences with, “Amen, Pharaoh!”

The guest minister wasn't sure what that meant, but after several more, “Amen, Pharaohs” he finally concluded his very lengthy sermon.

After the service concluded and the congregation had left, the visiting minister turned to his host and asked, “What exactly did you mean when you said, ‘Amen, Pharaoh?’ ”

His host replied, “I was telling you to let my people go!”

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Join us for Joyful Noise!

Last September we started a new worship service for kids and kids-at-heart -- called "Joyful Noise." We hold it in the Lounge at 10 am for songs, prayers and a story. Then everyone in Joyful Noise joins the bigger worship service for Holy Communion at about 10:40 am. Above is a wonderful photo taken today of Pastor Heather Warren leading Joyful Noise this morning. The turnout was smaller than usual, but no less joyful.

What if you know you are the beloved?

Judean desert, photo by Alexey Sergeev
Today's sermon is based on today's gospel lesson for the First Sunday in Lent: Luke 4:1-13

Here is the sermon:

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Have a seat.

It’s time we had a little serious talk about Lent.

Last week we were up in the thin air on the mountain at the Transfiguration with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Everything was shimmering and dazzling.

But today is Lent, the most serious season of the church year.

Here is what I want you to do about Lent this year: I want you to relax a little, ease up on the guilt, ease up on your worries, and take things a little slower and a little more simply.

All of which is to say: I want you to take Lent seriously like you never have before.

I want you to start every single day of Lent with a prayer – I learned this prayer from New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson. Here goes – repeat after me:

“I am the beloved of God.”

I want you to repeat that to yourself every single morning in Lent. Let’s do it again:

“I am the beloved of God.”

And I want you to start every single day for the rest of your life with that prayer.

“I am the beloved of God.”

I want you to say that enough times that you really believe it.

And then I want you to ask yourself a question every single day for the rest of your life: How does this make me feel to really know I am the beloved of God?

If you really know this – really believe this about yourself – that you truly are the beloved of God – where is that leading you in your walk with God?

And then ask, what is blocking you from walking on your path with God?

That is the reason for serious self-examination in the time of Lent.

What needs to change for you to live fully into being the beloved of God?

Where have you turned away from the path God would have you take? What is in your way?

Lent is a season of penitence. This is not about fake, sappy piety, but about having an honest conversation, at your deepest core, with God about where you are called to go and how to get onto that path.

That makes Lent a season of change, sometimes radical change.

If you want to give up something for Lent, give up whatever stops you from taking the next step on your path with God.

Is it an unhealthy habit? Or a distraction?

Give up being too busy to smile. Give up being too busy to pray and to listen. Or how about giving up being afraid to hear the small still voice telling you that you really are the beloved of God?

Find a way to simplify, slow down, lighten up, and discover again what really matters in life. Be generous like you never have before.

Do not simply withdraw into your own personal Lent, but look for the beloved of God in everyone you meet.

And that makes Lent something more than about us as individuals. Lent is really about all of us walking this path together.

If we can embrace a Holy Lent that is both inside us and beyond ourselves, maybe we might see that the hunger and pain of the world is ours, too.

That is why we open our doors to ministries like PACEM when we host women who are down on their luck, and have no other place to sleep to get out of the winter cold.

It is why we are involved in IMPACT, a coalition of 26 congregations in Charlottesville that is tackling the knotty systemic issues of homelessness and unemployment.

We do these things not just because they are good to do, but because we are connected to each other in this world as the beloved people of God.

The fact that Lent comes in the middle of winter is no accident. Maybe we need the chill of the air to remind us to be a little closer to each other.

Lent is the long season into the valley of Good Friday. Easter is coming, but not yet.

Nor is it an accident we get this strange story today from the Gospel of Luke. Like much else in Lent, the story is designed to shake us from our comfort zones.

Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, is led away from the refreshing waters of the River Jordan and into the desolation of the desert where he has a frightening vision of the Devil.

He is tested by the greatest temptation of all: Power.

He is offered the power to turn stone into bread; the power to rule every kingdom; the power to stay unharmed if he falls from the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Each of these tests has Jesus hovering above the world like the Greek God Zeus.

He can fix everything if he will stay above it all – and above us.

The ends will justify the means, or so the devil argues.

But Jesus rejects all of it.

Instead, he chooses to be down here, with us, in the griminess of the world. He chooses to be with us especially in those moments especially when we feel the most powerless.

He defines both his humanity and his divinity by being with us in the Valley of Lent – not hovering above us.

And then Jesus does one more thing: He invites us to walk out of that valley, as hard as that walk might be.

He invites us to know – to really know – that each of us is truly the beloved of God – always and forever – every single day of our life. AMEN.

By James Richardson, Fiat Lux

Friday, February 15, 2013

The next Pope? How about a nun?

I have several friends who are Catholic nuns. While the speculation is running rampant about where the next Pope will be from (Europe? Asia? Africa? The Americas?), the nuns I know are a little more jaded on this topic.

The male hierarchy have been bested by the sisters in recent years on issues like health care and advocacy for the poor. The men have been pushing back on the nuns of late. But the sisters are a resilient bunch. One them put this cartoon on her Facebook this morning.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ashes to ashes

Our Ash Wednesday services were fuller than last year. I am not sure why, or what that means. I saw a lot of University of Virginia students throughout the day, many I have never seen before.

For me, Ash Wednesday is a powerful experience on many levels. It is a little like going to your own funeral. It takes a certain amount of courage for those who come to hear words of certain mortality and have ashes smeared on foreheads.

It also takes a certain amount of honesty to kneel and admit where we've lost our way in our walk with God and each other. There is a lot going on with Ash Wednesday.

For me, it was an exceedingly long day that began when I arrived at the church at 6:30 am and ended when I got home a little after 9 pm. I brought a pinch of ashes home for Lori who was feeling a little under the weather and missed the services. Somehow having ashes on her forehead and hearing that "to dust you shall return" perked her up. Ash Wednesday is definitely an experience like no other.

Here is the sermon I preached this Ash Wednesday.

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Whether you’ve experienced this a dozen times or this is your first Ash Wednesday, let’s hit the pause button to be candid about something:

Ash Wednesday is as strange as it gets.

Tonight we use words not heard in ordinary conversation, like “wretchedness” and “lamenting our sins” to describe our human condition.

In a few moments, we will have grimy ashes smeared on our forehead. We will hear “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

And after that, we will admit our sins, that as individuals, and as the human race, we’ve made a mess of this world, and we will pledge to do better – though we know we might not – and seek forgiveness, though we might not believe that we really are.

On the face of it, the words we use on Ash Wednesday are definitely not the most comforting, joyful words in the English language, or in the Christian religion, or for that matter, in any religion. This is not a warm and fuzzy feast day we are celebrating, not a day designed to attract new members. Ash Wednesday is probably one of those occasions that church growth experts would like us to forget.

The biblical lessons for Ash Wednesday are the same year after year, and they are reminders of how tough life can be, and how very thin we find the line between life and death.

In all candor, “To dust I shall return” is not something I particularly like to think about as I go through the daily drumbeat of my life.

There are no Christmas trees or Easter lilies today.

Just ashes.

Today we are asked to consider that we are mortal finite beings, that we will one day die, and that our bodies will disappear into the ashes and we will leave this world.

We are asked today to be a little brave and do something. We are asked to stand at the gate of our own death, and embrace the fact that we cannot reach new life without first passing through that gate.

Here on Ash Wednesday, we are doing something startling that goes totally against everything our culture teaches us:

Tonight, with ashes on our forehead, we proclaim that there is more to life than death, more to life than what we see now.

We declare there is more to the story than death – that death does not, and never will, get the last word.

With ashes on our forehead, we proclaim our defiance of death, and we embrace the promise of forgiveness and salvation that begins in this life and in this world.

The word salvation means healing. The root word of salvation is “salve,” which is healing ointment.

There can be no healing – no salvation – without the death of all that harms and hurts us, the death of all that enslaves us and holds is, the death of all that blocks us from the fullness and grace of life. That is the treasure Jesus speaks of, and that is where our heart should be. That is the gift of the ashes on our forehead.

If we can look through the ashes of our disappointments, the ashes of our wounds, the ashes the injustices in the world, we might just catch a glimpse of the healing that is the promise of new life today for us – now.

As Paul reminds us, “see, now is the day of salvation!”

That is why Ash Wednesday begins this season of Lent.

That is the true purpose of Lent – this season for simplifying, for the “giving up” of those things that get in our way of experiencing the fullness of God’s amazing grace.

Begin Lent with honest self-examination about your life, about your whole being. Self-examination can be hard, and takes courage, but it is a gift for your whole self.

Ask yourself this: What is it that gets in your way of experiencing the fullness of God’s love in your life? What do you need to give up that is a barrier for you?

Let me suggest we can start here today by giving up this: The fatalism that pervades our collective life and culture that says grab for all you can get because that is all there is.

Let’s give up the idea that death is all that there is.

Yes, we will die, but we will be made new again beyond the limits of what we see now, in ways we cannot yet experience.

And then maybe we might go one more step beyond the ashes to find another gift.

If we can embrace the gift of God’s love given to us, maybe we can see that the gift of God’s love is given to all people everywhere, of every tribe, every nation, every religion. Ours is not a small God.

Maybe when we see that, we might grasp, at the depth of our soul, that every pain, every wound – every injustice on this planet, is shared by us, too.

Maybe in these ashes, we can see ourselves as truly the brothers and sisters God intends us to be, and then do what we have been given to do to bring God’s Kingdom alive on earth as it is in heaven. If we can do that, it would be truly the gift of these ashes.


James Richardson, Fiat Lux

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Uh oh, it's Lent. Now what do I do?

Lent is upon once again, the season of fasting, penitence, and "giving up" things.

Maybe this year I should try to take something on -- like writing on this page again. I admit I've felt too pressed for time, found my life filled with too many meetings and too many mini-dramas in the church world to take the time to reflect in this space. But I've missed it.

So, dear readers (those of you who still come here), it's time for me to get back to pen and paper (or fingers and keyboard) and start writing again.

As Lent unfolds this year, I will likely have a few things to say about issues in our world, like guns, poverty and homelessness. I also will reflect once again on prayers, church politics (maybe), and post a few jokes for good measure. And cartoons by Dave Walker, like the one on this page.

Let me also mention that members of our wonderful Charlottesville congregation wrote reflections for Lent, one for each day. You can read them on a special blog we've set up HERE.

If you lose the link, it all you need do is click the purple cross on the upper left and that will get you there, or go to the homepage for St. Paul's to find the link.

May you have a blessed Lent. Ashes to ashes.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Statement by Presiding Bishop Katharine about gun violence

The United States has witnessed far too many public shootings in recent months and years. Far too many lives have been cut short or maimed by both random and targeted acts of gun violence. The school shooting in Newtown was horrific, yet since that day several times as many young people have died by gunshot.

It is abundantly clear that Americans are ready to grapple with the complexities of gun violence. The Spirit is moving across this land to mobilize people of faith to act. I urge the United States members of this Church to call your federal legislators on Monday 4 February to express your concern and your expectation that gun violence be addressed. The outlines of the necessary policy decisions are clear and widely supported: limits on sales of military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, effective background checks for all gun purchases, better access to mental health services, and attention to gun trafficking.

We believe all God's people should be able to live in peace, as Zechariah dreams, "old men and women shall again sit in the streets...And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing." The prophet reminds his hearers that even if this seems impossible, with God it is not. [Zech 8:4-6] I urge you to add your voice to those clamoring for peace. Call your legislators and sue for peace.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church