Saturday, November 29, 2008

Online Advent Calendar

Episcopal Cafe has posted an online Advent Calendar that will help celebrate and support the Bokamoso Youth Program in South Africa. The project was once funded by the Anglican Church in South Africa, but economic strains in that country have ended that stream of support. Donations raised through the calendar will help pay for students to attend community college or technical school in South Africa.

Visit the calendar daily in Advent and learn more about this program and the struggles faced by youth in South Africa today.

+ Kit

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Don't Just Give Thanks ... Say Thank You

I sent an email yesterday to a former mentor of mine. I wanted to say "thank you" to him for teaching me something very important about how to be a Christian and a priest. Today, I'm going to email an old friend from high school to thank her for her presence in my life these many years.

During this week of Thanksgiving, why not try this practice of saying thanks? Think of someone who has taught you something, shared an experience with you, stood by you, given you good advice, or made you laugh. Let that person know that you are grateful for their wisdom, friendship, and support.

It is easy, going around the table at Thanksgiving, to think of something we are thankful for. But how often do we say directly to another person ... "I am thankful for YOU"? God grants us many blessings, but surely the greatest blessings of all are those who travel the way with us.

Be swift to love. Make haste to be kind.

Say "thank you".


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Advent Conspiracy

This video tells us how to begin. The website tells us more.

As we begin Advent next Sunday, I support the core message of the Advent Conspiracy ... Worship fully, spend less, give more, love all. Let their suggestion to spend less money, enjoy our relationships more fully, and give more money to those who really need it inspire us all.

+ Kit

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saint of the Week -- C.S. Lewis

Today we celebrate Clive Staples Lewis, author and apologist for the Christian faith. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1898, Lewis had a lonely childhood. His father was emotionally distant, and his mother died when he was ten. A series of boarding schools, some nightmarish, some merely horrid, formed him, until he left for Oxford. A rich fantasy life, especially focused on the Norse myths, sustained him.

After serving in World War I, he kept a promise made to a fellow soldier, that if anything happened to one of them, the other would care for the family left behind. After his friend Paddy Moore died, Lewis took Paddy's mother, Jane, as his adopted mother. Eventually, in 1930, Lewis, his brother Warnie, Jane and her daughter Maureen moved into "The Kilns", the famous house outside Oxford where Lewis wrote the bulk of his work.

Lewis lapsed into atheism in his teens, and was reluctantly converted -- first to a sort of theism, then eventually to Christianity. He remained a loyal Anglican, to the dismay of his friend J.R.R. Tolkein, who had hoped Lewis would become a Catholic.

In Lewis's later life, he met Joy Davidman Gresham, an American divorcee who had corresponded with him. He entered into a civil marriage with her, but after she developed bone cancer, he realized the depth of his love for her, and a Christian marriage was performed at her hospital bedside in 1956. Gresham's cancer went into remission and she and Lewis lived together for four more years. His grief at her eventual death fueled the writing of A Grief Observed, a raw and painfully honest look at the loss of a beloved.

I treasure Lewis most for the Narnia books ... a series of children's stories set in the imaginary land of Narnia. While they lack the intellectual heft and subtlety of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings series, Narnia melds Lewis's imaginative and painful childhood with the beauty and confidence of his faith. As a middle aged man, "Jack" Lewis managed to awaken his own inner child to write classics that children and adults alike return to, over and over again.

Lewis died on November 22, 1963. News of his death was completely overshadowed by the news of President Kennedy's assassination.

+ Kit

Friday, November 21, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Feast of Christ the King

In this week's gospel reading, we end the church year with the last parable Jesus tells before his passion and death (in Matthew's gospel, anyway. This parable only appears in Matthew.)

The parable of the sheep and goats makes it very clear that it is not "believing" in Jesus that wins one eternal fellowship with the Lord. It is ministering to Jesus in his least obvious and most prevalent form ... those who are hungry, sick, thirsty, a prisoner, a stranger, naked. It is not what we THINK about religion that matters. It is what we do with it.

I visited an elderly gentleman once who was near death. "I've been thinking a lot about my life," he said. "I am really sorry that I didn't spend more time with people and less time trying to get ahead.

"I am most sorry that I spent all this time thinking about my religion, and not enough time living it," he sighed.

I was struck to the quick by that statement. It sounds like something you'd read in a book of sermon illustrations, and here was a real person saying this sad thing, with no time left in his life to do any differently than he had done.

Life is short, and we do not have too much time ...

+ Kit

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Get Ready for Advent

Advent starts in less than two weeks. Are you ready to get ready? We'll have several ways to help you embark on this season of waiting as if on tiptoe for the coming Messiah.

One, the ever-whimsical Advent calendar poster by Jay Sidebotham. Each day has an idea, a prayer, a thought for you as you move through this busy season, a way for you to keep the focus on the Incarnation in the midst of all the craziness. Pick one up Sunday at church.

Also on November 30, the first Sunday of Advent, we'll have Advent wreaths to assemble for your family during coffee hour after the 10 a.m. service. Call the office 351-7160 to reserve a wreath-making kit.

+ Kit

Friday, November 14, 2008

More reading ahead -- the gospel lesson

The gospel lesson for this week is a tough one.

First, it's not about "talents" as in God-given talents. A talent was a unit of money, worth about 6,000 days' wages. This landowner is not messing around. He is entrusting his slaves with huge sums of money. This is a parable about money.

Second, it's not about capitalism either. The economy of the first-century world did not understand capitalism. It was a fixed-resource economy. To make more money you had to get it from someone else. It is very likely the wealthy landowner got his land by loaning money to small landowners, who could not repay their debt, lost their land to the landowner and ended up working ... for him ... the land of their ancestors. Wealthy landowners are Biblical bad guys.

Third, is it even good news? Is GOD the ruthless landowner? Are the two slaves who made buckets of money off their fellows and gave it to the landowner good guys? Should the other slave really be punished for giving back exactly what was given to him, and not investing it with the money lenders? Usury (lending money at interest) was still a sin in those days.

I suggest you read the parable in its context ... Matthew chapter 25. It is the second of three parables that are the last teachings Jesus gives his disciples before he begins his passion. On one side, the wise and foolish virgins. On the other side, the parable of the sheep and goats. The ending of the parable of the sheep and goats seems to indicate that Jesus is where the poor people are, where the ones who got screwed by an unjust economy are, where the hungry and homeless are.

So knowing that, how do you read this parable of the incredible amount of money put in the hands of three slaves? What do you think?

+ Kit

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 27

Before Israel had kings, the people were ruled by judges ... men OR women who arbitrated between people, who settled disputes, and who kept the good of the nation in the forefront of their mind.

The book of Judges tells their story. It is a wild book, about the youth of the nation of Israel, its continuing fights with Philistines and Canaanites. The small section we will read Sunday comes from one of the most ancient parts of our Scriptures. It tells us of a culture where you could still rely on kin and clan to provide soldiers for the army of Israel. It also tells us of the importance of women in Israel's survival -- Deborah, the judge, and later Jael, the woman who kills the Canaanite general Sisera.

Taken as a whole, the book of Judges is offputting to many people. It is bloody, violent, gory, and filled with battles, sword fights, narrow escapes and murders. It is the perfect way to begin to introduce 8-year-old boys to the Bible! The book shows Israel descending into worse and worse behavior, which will lead eventually to the demand for a king. It is a shame, because the original exercise in the new nation was one of self-government, of tribes living side by side, able to sort out their differences through the administration of laws by a wise judge. The people proved too unruly, however, and settled for a human monarchy at last.

Or as the last verse of Judges puts it: "In those days there was no king in Israel. All the people did what was right in their own eyes." (Judges 21:25)

+ Kit

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Standing or Kneeling?

Paper or plastic? Smoking or non-smoking?

Standing or kneeling?

This has become an option during the Eucharistic prayer. Different people have different pieties, different ways of connecting with God.

The Prayer Book says after the Sanctus (the Holy, Holy, Holy) ... The People may stand or kneel. (Except in Rite I it says "The people may kneel or stand." and in Eucharistic Prayer C, it doesn't say anything at all ... it assumes everyone will stand through the whole prayer. You can tell what the Prayer Book prefers you to do when there is a choice, by which option is listed first.)

Why Stand?

Generally, the committee that prepared the Book of Common Prayer would prefer the people stand during the Eucharistic Prayer. It is the position Jesus would have used to pray, it is the position used by the first Christians for prayer, and it was the position specified by the Council of Nicaea. It reminds us that in his death and resurrection, Christ has made us worthy to stand before him. (The prayer in Eucharistic Prayer B even says that ...)

Standing is a position of piety for many people who have grown up with the 1979 Prayer Book. It is more comfortable for some people than kneeling. It strengthens their faith and helps them to feel the celebratory spirit of the Eucharist, to feel thankful for their redemption in Christ.

Why Kneel?

Kneeling for the eucharistic prayer is something that began in the Middle Ages. This was a period when the people did not generally receive the sacrament at all. Only the priests were thought to be holy enough to actually consume the bread and wine. So the people kneeled to show their respect for the priest as he offered the mass and received communion.

Kneeling has been a position of piety for many people long after the Middle Ages passed. It reminds them of their humility before God. It focuses their attention on the prayer and the sacrament. It enhances their devotion.

Now What? Some are standing and some are kneeling!

This is fine. People should be able to express their piety in the eucharistic prayer by standing OR kneeling, as each person prefers.

But this raises a question of etiquette. If you are standing to pray because that enhances your prayer, you may be standing in front of someone who is kneeling, because that enhances his or her prayer. If you are standing in front of someone who is kneeling, what do they see as they gaze toward the altar?

Your backside.

So that everyone's prayer life can be enhanced, if you are a "stander," it would help the "kneelers" if you could sit on the outer edges of the sanctuary, near the windows. That way, as people look up and toward the altar in the center, they will have an unobstructed view. If you are a "kneeler" and a "stander" gets in front of you, please be patient ... try to move to one side or the other if you can. Also, the forward pews and chairs will provide a better line of sight.

Let us be patient with one another, brothers and sisters!

+ Kit

Thursday, November 6, 2008

More Reporting on Day of the Dead

The State News, MSU's student paper, is expanding into multimedia reporting. Here is a great video report on last weekend's Day of the Dead celebration, where you can see the dancing, hear the mariachis, and catch Nico Gisholt and Dori Helm talking about our celebration and how awesome the Episcopal Church is!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

When You Think About God ...

...when you hear the word "God", what images come to mind?

For many people, their concept of God is built around a God who's outside of everything, a God who essentially is somewhere else, a God who make the world but then stands back and watches it from this other vantage point, a God who's there and then from time to time, comes here.

-- Rob Bell

Join us for the first installment of our Nooma series, when we examine what might be the nature of God, as we have come to know ... or as we fail to know ... God. Ask the questions. We might not have answers, but we can share the discussion.

Supper at 6 p.m., Nooma film and discussion from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays in November.

If God can help people find things on sale, then why doesn't God spend time on things that seem more important like earthquakes, or famines, or sickness?

It's a question ...

+ Kit

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Prayer for an Election

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers
and privileges: Guide the people of the United States, and of
this community, in the election of officials and representatives;
that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of
all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your
purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, November 3, 2008

All Saints, All Souls, and Forgetting the Dead

Michigan author, poet and funeral director Thomas Lynch writes in the New York Times about the ongoing American project to forget death.

He writes: "The dead get buried but we seldom see a grave. Or they are burned, but few folks ever see the fire. Photographs of coffins returned from wars are forbidden, and news coverage of soldiers’ burials is discouraged. Where sex was once private and funerals were public, now sex is everywhere and the dead go to their graves often as not without witness or ritual."

But the feast we just celebrated, which stretches from All Hallows' Eve (Halloween), through All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2), provides a tonic to this cultural amnesia.

"All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are time set aside to broker peace between the living and the dead. Whether you are pagan or religious, Celt or Christian, New Age believer or doubter-at-large, these are the days when you traditionally acknowledge that the gone are not forgotten."

The entire essay is well worth a read. Lynch himself is well worth getting to know better, in print -- and in person, here at All Saints on Wednesday, March 4, when he opens our Lenten educational program on the Spirituality and Practicality of Death.

+ Kit

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hablamos una fiesta! Day of the Dead Celebration Continues

Last night's fiesta drew more than 200 All Saints friends and community members to our undercroft to feast on Mexican food, dance to mariachis and honor our beloved dead with a community altar.
The Lansing State Journal had this report.

But most importantly, the celebration continues liturgically this evening at 5 p.m. All Saints will join with the student ministry, Canterbury-MSU, to celebrate All Saints Sunday with a bilingual mass, featuring readings, prayers, sermon and songs in both English and Spanish.

Join us!

+ Kit