Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Taking Action for Children

Justice and advocacy for children has long been an important aspect of our calling to Christian witness and service here at All Saints. Our annual observance of the Children’s Sabbath, frequent collections to furnish apartments for children leaving foster care, layette and teddy bear collections, and our work with the families at Haven House, the project at the orphanage in Haiti, all show our commitment and concern for the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society.

This month, we have an opportunity to ally with local churches to speak out for equity and justice for the children of mid-Michigan. Action of Greater Lansing, the interfaith justice network, of which All Saints is a member, has chosen to focus this year on children’s health. Specifically, working to make sure that the new Children’s Health Initiative (CHI), coming into being in our community, will address the health needs of ALL area children, regardless of whether or not their families have insurance or are able to pay.

Last fall, the Action member congregations voted to focus on the lack of user-friendly, centralized access to human services in the Lansing area. The research committee that tackled this broad request soon learned about the CHI --an effort of local parents, health care providers and organizations--to create a children’s health center where pediatric sub-specialists – the doctors your child must see when the primary-care doctor cannot address all their health needs – can provide care for children with serious health problems. Currently, families must travel to Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids or even farther for their children to receive care. The CHI would bring this kind of care back to the Lansing area for our local children.

Action’s interest is to make sure the CHI meets the needs of all children in our area … not simply the ones whose families can pay. You can imagine the kind of burden this need for specialty care places on poor and uninsured families and their children – 40 to 50 percent of the children in our area are on Medicaid. Traveling to distant doctors, trying to retain a job, caring for the other healthy children in the family, all without financial resources, is vastly more difficult for poor families than for those of us with insurance, education and financial security.

There is a key event coming up where our presence is necessary to show our support for uninsured and underinsured children.

Everyone is asked to come to the Nehemiah Assembly and to bring THREE PEOPLE. The Nehemiah Assembly will be held at Union Missionary Baptist Church, 500 S. MLK Blvd., on Tuesday, May 12 at 7 p.m. We will bring leaders from MSU and Sparrow Hospital to hear our request for the CHI and for a commitment to serve all children, regardless of ability to pay. Our Action goal is to turn out 600 people at this assembly. Your presence is so important!

Come out to this event. Bring your family members, friends and neighbors to the Nehemiah Assembly. Speak out for Lansing area children, who need our voice and our commitment.

Feel free to speak to any All Saints Action team member ... me, Janet Chegwidden, Pam Miklavcic, or Gus Breymann, with your questions.

+ Kit

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rebuilding Ingham

More than two dozen All Saints folks spent their Saturday helping to restore the home of a woman in South Lansing, through Rebuilding Ingham. Rebuilding Ingham, formerly known as Christmas in April, sends out teams on a Saturday in April to repair the homes of elderly and ill people who are not able to repair their own homes, and who cannot afford to pay for others to do it.

Our team assisted a woman with diabetes, lupus and other medical conditions. They built a handicapped ramp, repainted the home's exterior, and the living room and hallway inside, cleaned up the yard, and generally made it more habitable and comfortable for the homeowner. All before the torrential rains started!

Special thanks to Neil and Carolyn Plante, who always do an excellent job organizing this annual event. And thanks to all the All Saints folks who pitched in.

(Pictured above, from top to bottom ... Katie Ellis and Rachel Korest; Deb Babcock and Jean Lepard; Cassandra Peyerk and Amy Maffeo; Larry Hart.)

+ Kit

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Haiti Update and Coffee Fundraiser

Sunday during coffee hour, members of the mission trip to Haiti will report on our work there, what we did and what we learned. We'll have an a/v presentation, and a chance for you to hear from the group about what was meaningful to us.

Also, Cafe Rebo, a Haitian coffee, will be available for sale -- both whole beans and ground. A 10-ounce bag of either costs $8. The proceeds will serve as a fundraiser for the Haiti Outreach Mission and its work in Mirebalais.

See you Sunday!

+ Kit

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another Poem

From Anne Porter's Fire, and Torrential Rain

Fire, most beautiful of flowers,
Whose only perfume is brightness,
You have no season, and you bloom
On the highest of high altars
And under the vagrant's pot.
Through centuries on centuries
Like Christ you are everywhere,
To kindle the half cigarettes
Which the homeless find in the gutters,
And the tall paschal candle.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Seven Stanzas at Easter

By John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Telephone Poles and Other Poems © 1961 by John Updike.

Monday, April 20, 2009

More About Faith ... And the Bible

As usual, Father Matthew Moretz tells it better than I can ...

How to grapple with the Bible, particularly the question of Biblical inerrancy.

+ Kit

Sunday, April 19, 2009

David Sedaris on Faith

Here is the full quote from "Jesus Shaves" by David Sedaris, as I quoted him in the sermon this morning.

I wondered then if, without the language barrier, my classmates and I could have done a better job making sense of Christianity, an idea that sounds pretty far-fetched to begin with. In communicating any religious belief, the operative word is faith, a concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom. Why bother struggling with the grammar lessons of a six-year-old if each of us didn't believe that, against all reason, we might eventually improve? If I could hope to one day carry on a fluent conversation, it was a relatively short leap to believing that a rabbit might visit my home in the middle of the night, leaving behind a handful of chocolate kisses and a carton of menthol cigarettes. So why stop there? If I could believe in myself, why not give other improbabilities the benefit of the doubt? I accepted the idea that an omniscient God had cast me in his own image and that he watched over me and guided me from one place to the next. The virgin birth, the resurrection, and the countless miracles -- my heart expanded to encompass all the wonders and possibilities of the universe...

The essay is wonderful in its entirety. Warning: One very, very bad word closes the essay out.

+ Kit

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Jokes

The Orthodox traditions call Easter Monday a day of holy hilarity. It is a day to remember God's great joke on the cosmos in raising Jesus from the dead. So it is a day for celebration, and for telling jokes. Do you know a good Easter joke? Share it in the comments section (see green link at the bottom that says "comments", click and share).

Here's my favorite:

Three blondes died and are at the pearly gates of Heaven.
St. Peter tells them that they can enter the gates if they can
answer one simple question.

St. Peter asks the first blonde, "What is Easter?"

The blonde replies, "Oh, that's easy! It's the holiday in November
when everyone gets together, eats turkey, and are thankful."

"Wrong!" replies St. Peter, and proceeds to ask the second blonde
the same question, "What is Easter?"

The second blonde replies, "Easter is the holiday in December when
we put up a nice tree, exchange presents, and celebrate the birth
of Jesus."

St. Peter looks at the second blonde, shakes his head in disgust,
tells her she's wrong, and then peers over his glasses at the
third blonde.

He asks, "What is Easter?"

The third blonde smiles confidently and looks St. Peter in the
eyes, "I know what Easter is."

"Oh?" says St. Peter, incredulously.

"Easter is the Christian holiday that coincides with the Jewish
celebration of Passover. Jesus and his disciples were eating at
the last supper and Jesus was later deceived and turned over to
the Romans by one of his disciples. The Romans took him to be
crucified and he was stabbed in the side, made to wear a crown of
thorns, and was hung on a cross with nails through his hands.
He was buried in a nearby cave which was sealed off by a large

St. Peter smiles broadly with delight.

The third blonde continues, "Every year the boulder is moved aside
so that Jesus can come out... and, if he sees his shadow, there
will be six more weeks of winter."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday

Today is Christ's great Sabbath. Jesus rests from his labors. His work is done; nothing more is needed. The stone is rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb, and Jesus -- dear, dead Jesus -- is safely laid away in death and darkness.

After yesterday's two services ... three hours of meditations on the Way of the Cross from noon to 3 p.m., then the Prayer Book Good Friday liturgy last night ... I asked my husband as we walked home from church under the Paschal moon:

"Well, do you think we've got him locked up for good in that tomb this time?"

As much as we love the pomp and pageantry of Easter, the promise of hope and new life, most of us are very uncomfortable with the idea of resurrection, that illogical, unscientific, irrational concept. We would rather imagine Jesus at rest, at peace, a good man unfairly killed, like Martin Luther King or Abraham Lincoln or Gandhi. The tomb is actually a comfortable place for most of us to leave Jesus.

So we can rest this day along with Jesus. Today we don't have to ponder any deep theological concepts, like how the death of Jesus saves us from Sin, or was the resurrection real or just a mass hallucination, or what all of this will mean to us come Monday morning. We can just rest, with Jesus safely tucked away where he can't trouble us or disturb us.

But starting tonight, the rest is over, the comfort ends. Tonight we light a fire in the darkness. Tonight we tell those ancient stories of our creation, our fall, our deliverance, our hope. Tonight we trust the future enough to baptize a child into it. Tonight we burn candles, shout songs of praise and allow our complacency to be uprooted once more, as the stone rolls away from the door and Jesus busts out to rock our world again and again and again.

+ Kit

The Great Vigil, with Holy Baptism and the First Eucharist of Easter begins at 8 p.m. today.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

From East Coker:

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees
The fever sings in mental wires
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses and the smok is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood --
Again in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

T.S. Eliot

Good Friday meditations on the way of the Cross from noon to 3 p.m. today. Good Friday Prayer Book liturgy with choir, 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Paschal Moon

Last night, the full moon, the Paschal moon (from the Greek transliteration pasch of the Hebrew word for Passover, pesach.) appeared. The first night of Passover was observed by our Jewish brothers and sisters, and we look ahead to this evening's Maundy Thursday celebrations, and the remembrance that our eucharist rises out of the Passover supper, observed by Jesus and his friends, who were -- after all -- Jewish.

This moon has caused a deal of controversy in the Christian church, as early Christians struggled to determine the correct day to observe Easter. In the earliest days of the church, it tracked with Passover, but occasionally, Passover is celebrated before the spring equinox, and the church fathers decided Easter had to fall after the spring equinox. The formula -- roughly -- is that Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

But not always, and there have been debates about it through history as vigorous and vicious as the debates we now conduct over human sexuality. This Wikipedia article can tell you more than you ever want to know, including how Christianity in England abandoned its Celtic practices and became Romanized ... all over a fuss about the date of Easter (and how monks ought to cut their hair!).

I prefer to look into the sky in the evening, and think of a poem by American poet Anne Porter ...

In Holy Week

While we're asleep
The paschal moon is shining
High above the trees.

And high above the trees
Even while we're sleeping
Easter is growing
In the paschal moon
Like a child in its mother.

-- Anne Porter

+ Kit

Maundy Thursday service of Holy Eucharist with footwashing and stripping of the altar, tonight at 7 p.m. The night watch with the Reserved Sacrament begins immediately after the service.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tenebrae -- A Service of Gathering Darkness

Tonight, the students and chaplain from Canterbury-MSU will lead a service of Tenebrae at All Saints. Tenebrae is the Latin word for "shadows," and this service is designed to capture the emotional aspects of the gathering darkness of Holy Week.

It dates from monastic times, when some of the late night services, Matins and Lauds, were moved to the evening of the night before for a special Holy Week observance. The service is a series of readings and psalms that evoke the sorrow and suffering that Jesus must undergo. As the readings progress, the candles on the altar are extinguished, one by one.

Finally at the end of the service, only one candle remains, representing the light of Christ. It is taken away and hidden. A loud noise is made, symbolizing the earthquake at the resurrection. The candle is returned to its stand, symbolizing the light that shines in the darkness, which the darkness cannot extinguish. The congregation then departs in silence.

The service tonight will include Taize-style chants to aid our meditation and prayers. There will also be visual displays to lead us through the journey to the cross.

If you have never attended a Tenebrae service, you should come and experience this ancient, meditative and moving worship.

+ Kit

Tenebrae will be held in the main sanctuary tonight at 7.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Holy Tuesday

Jesus was already in Jerusalem when some Greeks came to his disciples and said "We wish to see Jesus."

Do you wish to see Jesus this week? It won't be like a Sunday School picture, gentle Jesus meek and mild, holding a lamb or patting a child on the head. This is Jesus showing us something very important about who he is and how much God loves the world. It's not that God is a divine child abuser, beating and killing a son instead of us. It's not a festival of blood and guts, as Mel Gibson would have had us believe.

It's that Jesus remains absolutely faithful to his identity as God's son; he remains absolutely clear about who he is and what he is doing here; he walks right into the center of power of his world and religion, unmasks all the ways that world and religion crush the life out of people, and because he unmasks those powers, they turn on him and kill him.

And so all the ways we fail him, fail his father ... all the ways we collapse under the weight of the world's evil and our own fallen natures ...all of that does not stop him. He goes anyway, he goes where we cannot go, he goes in a manner we could never attain. He goes even when it looks like God has abandonded him completely.

He does not fail us. Ever.

Can you see Jesus this week?

+ Kit

(Holy Eucharist is offered this evening in the chapel at 7.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Holy Monday

The readings for today tell the story of the woman who anointed Jesus prior to his passion and death. In the version we heard yesterday, in Mark, Jesus tells his friends that she has done a good deed, she has already anointed his body for burial.

As always in Mark's gospel, there are only ever a few people who see what Jesus is really doing ... demons, a blind man, a sinful woman. The people who think they know Jesus and understand him ... his friends, the authorities ... don't get it at all.

Can we try this week to see all the ways we avoid looking at Jesus' death? Can we look at him with the open gaze of the centurion at the cross, or with the extravagant thanks of the woman with the ointment?

+ Kit