July 2016 Newsletter

Breastplate – July 2016

Sermon on the Orlando Tragedy

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Smith

I Kings 19:1-15

Omar Mateen did horrible damage to us as a nation last Sunday.  First and foremost, he killed 49 people, all of them young, all of them in the prime of life.  We should mourn their loss.  He wounded more than fifty others; a horrific tragedy.

On another level his actions also magnified almost every issue we have been fighting over in the culture wars of recent years.

He had to be a Muslim.  And so that raises all our fears, including the fears of our moderate Muslim friends. We’re all afraid of domestic terrorism, local radicalization, and lone wolf attackers.

Never mind that he appears to be Muslim in name only.  He has lived in this country all his life. In his acts of violence, he pledged allegiance to both ISIS and Hezbollah. Like most Americans he did not even realize that these two groups are at odds with each other and would welcome killing one another. Yet his very name, Omar, instills more panic.

And it had to be a gay bar.  We are still fighting over issues of sexuality and even a small group of Christians protested at a funeral for one of the victims. I am sure most Christians would not even consider this, but it does not change the fact that conflict over issues of sexuality are still being debated in our churches.

Mateen also exhibited severe mental health issues.  He was violent, bragged of connections with terrorists when there were none, and was obviously confused about his own sexuality since patrons at Pulse recognized him as a person who previously came to the bar to meet men.

And that raises our concerns about health care and how we afford mental health care for those who need it.  As the cost goes up and up and the affordable care act does not seem to help, we wonder if only the wealthy will receive the care they need.  And it ignites that debate as well.

And he bought guns.  He was investigated twice by the FBI for links to terrorism.  There were none.  He was just shooting his mouth off.  But even with the past investigations he bought guns. And so we haul out that hot button issue and fight and fight over gun control.

Finally, it was Latino night at the Pulse. So let’s fight about immigration.

Last Sunday was an event of extreme horror, and an event which heightened all our tensions and conflicts in the midst of a culture war. It makes you want to run away and hide.

That’s exactly what Elijah did. He, too was dealing with a culture war, and one that may be even more deadly than ours. You see, Israel was supposed to be different than the nations around it. The nations around Israel all believed that might made right. The strong were supposed to lead and the weak should get out of the way or die.

But it was not supposed to be that way in Israel.  If you read through the prophets of the 8th century BCE you come to realize that Israel was not going to be judged by how many other countries it defeated in war. It would not be judged by how well it preserved its borders, or by assuring that the king’s heir would take over the kingship upon his death in a smooth transition of power. No.  The prophets kept pointing out that God wanted to be sure the king brought justice to the poor, and remembered the helpless like widows and orphans. Israel would be judged not by its might alone, but by how it cared for the least of God’s children in the kingdom.

Ahab and Jezebel did not like this idea.  They wanted to be more like the other nations. And so they threatened Elijah whenever he would remind them of God’s justice.  So Elijah ran away for his own safety.  In fact, he went as far away as he could to be still among people who worshipped Yahweh.

An angel appears to him and offers food and drink and encourages him to partake, otherwise the journey will be too hard for him.

Then, God comes to Elijah and ask, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah.”

And he says, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, I’ve done everything you asked. But they’ve killed your prophets, abandoned the covenant and thrown down your altars and I, I alone am left.”

I half expect God to say, “Oh Elijah, quit whining.”  But instead God appears to Elijah, not in fire, or wind, or earthquake, but in the still small sound that cannot be mistaken for anything else but the very presence of the divine.

And again God asks, “What are you doing here Elijah.”

And despite the power of God’s self-revelation, Elijah comes back with the same whining rant.

“I have been very zealous for the Lord. I’ve done everything you asked. But they’ve killed your prophets, abandoned the covenant and thrown down your altars and I, I alone am left.”

This time, God does tell him to stop whining. He informs Elijah that there are still thousands back in Israel who remain loyal to God. And he informs Elijah that Ahab and Jezebel will not last forever, but that God will bring about a change.  You might say God has always been about regime change when necessary.  And God invites Elijah to be a part of that change.

Here we need to revisit that food and drink given by the angel. The angel says it’s to empower Elijah for a hard journey.  But Hebrew can be an ambiguous language. There’s another way to translate it.  The phrase could be, “eat and drink for the journey is bigger than you are.” In other words, it’s not all about you Elijah, it’s about God and what God is doing to bring about his goodness and his purposes for humanity and the world. The journey is bigger than you are and you can come along if you want.

God says the same to us.  The journey toward God’s goodness is bigger than we are. Good is working God’s purposes out, and God invites us to come along. It’s easy to believe that God is working out God’s purposes when things are going well, but when it’s all a mess . . .

There are signs, however.  Two weeks ago David Brooks wrote a column calling for a new culture war, not one based on our positions alone, but on the moral obligation to treat each other as human beings; to treat each other with dignity and respect. Can you here the baptismal covenant? David Brooks is an Episcopalian. He called this the “new moralism.” New? We’ve had since the publication of the 1976 prayer book, so let’s live it!

And in Orlando itself there are signs of the goodness of God. Scott Simon shared the following Morning Edition. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, after witnessing the outpouring of love, support, and the people lined up to donate blood said of his community that it was “the most horrific day in the history of the city of Orlando yet I stand here prouder today of our community than ever. We will not be defined by the act of a cowardly hater. We will be defined by how we respond, how we treat each other, and this community has already stepped up to do that.”

Dr. Joshua Corsa, a surgeon at the Orlando Regional Medical Center helped care for 54 wounded people until his shoes were covered in blood.  He said of these shoes on his Facebook page:

“…when the last patient leaves our hospital, I will take them off, and I will keep them in my office. I want to see them in front of me every time I go to work. For on June 12, after the worst of humanity reared its evil head, I saw the best of humanity come fighting right back.”

The journey to God’s goodness is greater than us.  We come to this church to encounter God and God asks of us, “what are you going here?”

How else can we respond but to say that we are seeking God’s nourishment for a journey toward God’s goodness. Even in the midst of a world stunned by horrific tragedy and culture wars, we join the journey that is greater than us.

 

 

June 2016 Newsletter

Breastplate – June 2016

Sermon for Seventh Sunday of Easter

Rev. Deacon Steve lane

 

Today we celebrate the last Sunday of Easter. It is a long season that ends next Sunday with Pentecost.

Our Church calendar doesn’t always synch with the world around us, especially as Easter is based on a different calendar and so it changes in relation to fixed holidays like Mother’s day.

Today we have a secular holiday that encroaches on our liturgical calendar.  Partly due, I think, to the fact that Mother’s day is comparatively new. Who knows, in another century, it might find its way onto the calendar.

The Church doesn’t officially celebrate Mother’s day but I’m willing to bet that many of us here do. I’ve always dismissed Mother’s day, calling it a hallmark holiday. Now mind you, I always did something for my mother, I mean I’m somewhat clueless, but I’m not a complete idiot J

I saw a facebook joke where in the first panel the pastor was questioned by a woman asking why he didn’t preach about Mother’s day and In the next panel a vestry person asked why he didn’t preach on the lectionary.

I’ve been to a lot of Church services on Mother’s day and I don’t remember a sermon that discussed it. So I took it as sort of a challenge to preach about Mother’s today. So let’s see how this goes.

In the lectionary today we heard the last part of Jesus’ prayer for us where Jesus prays that the world will know the love God has for us “even as you have loved me”. When I think about the use of the word love I think of action. Love in this sense is a verb, and action, a passion, a compassion that supersedes all boundaries, including gender.

Well, it turns out that Mother’s day isn’t a Hallmark holiday at all. It was started shortly after the Civil war by several groups of Church women as a way to help mend the divisions caused by that war. They held meetings of mothers from both sides; mothers who had lost sons in the war. They celebrated the perseverance of the Mothers and their common suffering that knew no bounds of political division.

Did you hear that? It came from the Church, not the official Church mind you, but from the women in the church.

The faith tradition that we have inherited comes to us filtered through almost two centuries of Patriarchal domination. We speculate that Women held prominent positions both during Jesus’s time and in the Early Church, but by the time the Gospels were written, that had changed and women were no longer allowed in leadership roles. God became Him and it hasn’t been until recently that this is changing, at least for many protestant denominations.

So, back in the 1860’s getting something like Mother’s day established was quite a feat. It was women that got it established. Of course, once presented to Congress, I imagine it would have been difficult to vote against J

It seems ironic to me that I’m talking about this while there are four old white guys serving at St. Patrick’s. What makes that okay is that this is an aberration for St. Pat’s. I have heard comments about it, it doesn’t fit quite right. This church truly needs some gender balance. Of course it is a temporary situation that won’t last much longer. I bet if there were four women up here, it wouldn’t be an issue at all and I think that’s awesome!

One thing that has been buried because of long term male domination in the Church is the essence of a Mothering God.

What might that look like? Creation seen as a birthing.

Is a mother’s love different than Fatherly love? Certainly in an old fashioned family system, the father figure was distant from the family and the Mother was the one who created a sense of home, a place of safety.

Picture a God that sends her only Son to be with us, to show us the way to safety, to salvation. Picture a mothering God watching her only Son dying on the cross. What kind of love is that?

What if the Trinity was Mother Son and Holy Spirit? Would we talk about eternal love in a different way?

In thinking about Mothers and what that kind of love looks like. I’m not talking just about birth mothers now, I’m thinking of those who nurture, nourish, and raise others. I think we all have at least the potential for motherly love.

I could tell you about my mother who loved me despite my best efforts to push her away (but that might lead me to places I don’t want to go to today); But can you hear echoes of our relationship with God? I know I’ve done the same with God, pushed God away yet when I turn back, God is still there with love.

Love, in a mothering way, is an action, a verb. Mothers show their love through their actions.  When we show love to others without expecting a return; that is a mothering kind of love.

I’d like to tell you about Josephine Robbins. She is one of the leaders at St. Phillips in Buffalo where I interned when preparing for the Deaconate. She watched over the children at the church. She is actually very stern with them yet they adore her.

It took me a long time to learn Josie’s story and the more I learned, the more amazed I became. She was raised in North Carolina and she once told me about how she would walk to Church with her sister and they would have to get off the sidewalk when they walked by the white peoples church because they were people of color.

She moved to Buffalo as a young adult and became a principle of a high school in buffalo. During her tenure there, the children behaved; believe me, they behaved!

She has this way of being very stern while all the while you can see the love and compassion. Josie was at St. Phillips when the Curry’s came to St. Phillips. Michael Curry’s Dad became the rector. Shortly after they moved to Buffalo, Michael’s mother died. Josie took over caring for the 11 year old Michael. She nurtured, and disciplined him. The woman who had to walk in the street in front of the White Church raised up the man who today is our presiding bishop. Every time I hear our new Presiding Bishop I think of Jose and her strength that she imparted to Michael. Bishop curry has always excelled in part because Jose would have it no other way.

What if we saw those kinds of characteristics in the transcendent God?

Now, just to be clear, I’m not making God in Josie’s image, rather, I can see a loving compassionate God behind that which motivates her.

When I am hurting, when I am struggling and in need of love, the image of a mothering God is where I find succor.

What would today’s Gospel look like with Mother instead of Father?

Jesus prays for the disciples and for those who believe through their love. We are all children through Christ, we are adopted into God’s family at baptism.

We will see the Love of God through the actions of the Son and through the actions of those that come after.

Righteous Mother, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

Amen!

Adult Forum for May 15

Education for Ministry (EfM)

EFM has a long history at St. Patrick’s.  It is one of the best lay education programs in the whole church. It gives participants an in-depth knowledge of scripture, Church history, and practical theology.  It also teaches participants how to think about life, decision-making, and service to others, from a Christian perspective. Groups meet once a week from September to May. Currently St. Patrick’s sponsors three groups, one on Monday morning, another on Monday evening and a third on Thursday evening.  Spaces are available in all three groups.  Come to Adult Forum and learn more, and sign up if you are interested.

Regional Confirmation to be held at St. Patrick’s

This service will be held on Saturday May 7 at 11am.

All are welcome to attend.

There will be a reception following the service.

May 2016 Newsletter

Breastplate – May 2016

Men’s Group to meet Tuesday, April 19

The newly forming St. Patrick’s Men’s Group will begin meeting this coming Tuesday, April 19, from 6:45 to 7:45 a.m. at the church.    There will be coffee and light breakfast.   We’ll pray, reflect on the readings for the day, discuss how things are going, and work on plans for making this get-together a recurring activity.

Adult Forum for April 17

This Sunday we’ll hear a conversation among present and former St. Patrick’s parishioners who have spent a half hour a week helping a first-grader at an exceptional school in Dublin:  Daniel Wright Elementary.  You’ve seen the notices in the Sunday News and Breastplate.  Now come and hear what actually happens once you’re inside the school, sitting with a first-grader!

Adult Forum for April 10

This Sunday is the second in a series on Resurrection.  Last week we talked about the way our culture looks at resurrection and at the stories of the empty tomb – none of these stories were compelling evidence that led the disciples to experience resurrection.  That experience came in relation to the other set of stories in the gospels – the appearance narratives.  This Sunday we will look closely at a few of those.

A Joyful Community of Faith