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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Reality check (Gospel-Revised Common Lectionary)

Mark 13:1-8

13 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

As I have mentioned in these vignettes before, my work-a-day world takes me into New York City. A city of much asphalt, marble, steel, glass, brownstone, plaster, iron.

It, along with other huge cities and historical towns around the world, are beautiful, each in their own way. Throughout the years, kings, nobles, town planners, architects have tried to preserve sections of cities in a relatively natural state - grass, trees, walkways. However, the things that do strike us most radically are the buildings. Some tall, some unique in design, some ornate. Even the churches and the cathedrals in these cities draw tourists and pilgrims alike to see the amazing things that "man" has made.

In the time of Christ within Jerusalem, the Temple was the center of life and the most architecturally amazing building that existed. It was massive, took years to complete and contained many wonderful, expensive items. The disciples and Jesus had just been praying in the temple and came out, admiring the surroundings.

Jesus - whether in the context of the tumult surrounding his upcoming death by crucifixion - or the eventual destruction of the Temple by outsiders - said even this great structure would not last.

We make things and they do not last.... not forever. The transitional nature of what we 'accomplish' in the way of making things, or creating institutions, or populating the earth only comes to our consciousness occasionally and briefly. Something within us yearns to create something that will last - will testify to our having been here.

The buildings we create may crumble; our love, our faithfulness, our good will and good deeds, our selflessness, our devotion, our faith in action...... these will never be destroyed. Amen and Amen.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Losing your way in the storm

Yesterday and last night horrible weather hit parts of the United States. A tornado touched down in a "risk" population - a trailer part community - in North Carolina, leveling everything. People with so very few things were left with no-thing.

Here in the New York/Metro area, relentless winds of over 40mph whipped through. Due to the grid nature of the majority of Manhattan, even a slight wind is magnified going across the cavernous crosstown streets. New Yorkers - creatures of habit who carry umbrellas in inclement weather - were stripped of their portable,fragile shelters by the hundreds; each black fabric mushroom blown inside-out, eventually resembling rather grotesque oversized, aluminum gilded honeysuckles tumbling down the street or growing out of trash cans on street corners.

On the 37th floor of my office in a high rise building in Manhattan, everyone in my department was on pins and needles as the building creaked, popped and swayed - almost perceptibly - in the wind. It sounded more like the Jolly Roger on the 7 seas than a building of steel, marble, glass and concrete.

I left the office after 7pm and fared better than most, the oversized fiberglass golf umbrella C had given me shielding me as I fought the gale coming off the East River. Got into the building w/o getting wet, got into the car and made my way slowly onto the ramp for the FDR Drive northbound. Sections of this inner city highway system are notorious for their lack of appropriate drainage. The FDR/Harlem River Drive has several of these pooling areas. Thankfully, I didn't get sogged down.

The fog and rain were so thick that the uppermost lights strung on the Geo. Washington Bridge's cables could not be seen. OK... I had better turn on the traffic report on the AM newsradio band.

Unfortunately, I caught a story mid-stream. All I heard was that over a hundred people or so were huddled in mid-town with little shelter out in the elements. How horrible.... what had happened? A building fire? A subway car derailed?

No. NONE of those scenarios. It turns out that hundreds of people had been camped out, waiting for midnight when certain select stores would open to sell the new Playstation 3.

A game.

A video game.

Let me be one of the people in this country who has the chutzpah to bring up the topic of the elephant in the middle of the living room.

What have we come to that an individual would sit on a lawnchair since Sunday in order to purchase a 'state of the art' video game (which currently has only one operable application!!) costing about $500. Subsequent interviews revealed that most buyers were going to sell the unit they had just purchased on e-Bay for nearly $3,000, counting on the hunch that someone was dying to be the first on their block to have this wonder.

What of need - true need? What of necessity? What of earning a living? What of greed? What can you and I do to rectify this rather obvious tilt away from the sublime to the ridiculous?

I urge you to consider your blessings as Thanksgiving is on the horizon next week. First acknowledge then count your blessings. The best things in your life may NOT be "things" after all.

Once the turkey has disappeared via meals, left overs, sandwiches and soup, think/pray about Advent and what outlook or discipline you might embrace for that season of expectancy and longing. I certainly pray that you won't lose your way in the storm of commercial pressure to buy, buy, buy and go, go, go.

Perhaps you need think no further than visiting the website for ERD and make contributions in the names of the loved ones on your list. Your gifts will benefit those in need - like those without anything in Wilmington, NC or other devastated places in this world of God's. Look for the True Light of Advent and Christmas...... it won't be emanating from a Playstation 3.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sam Seabury, Bishop

Tomorrow the consecration of Samuel Seabury as the first American Bishop of the Episcopal Church. There had been another bishop - of the Anglican Church - in the "new world" preceding him.

Samuel Seabury was born in Groton, Connecticut, was ordained in England and was assigned, as a missionary, to Christ Church, New Brunswick, NJ. He later served as rector for churches in Jamaica (Queens), NY and Westchester County, all before 1766. During the Revolutionary war he served as a chaplain to the British Army.

After the war a meeting of Connecticut clergymen was held to determine if someone would be ready and willing to go to England to seek consecration as a Bishop. From March 1783 to 1784 he was in England in negotiations and deliberating with the Church of England to have the orders conferred. Because, as an American citizen, he refused to swear allegiance to the crown the Church would not budge.

Having tried to work within the system, Seabury turned to the bishops of the Episcopal Church in Scotland and on November 14, 1784 was consecrated by the Bishop and Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness.

Returning home in 1785 he became Bishop of Connecticut and with Bishop William White was active in the organization of the Episcopal Church at its General Convention in 1789. It is not surprising that the Episcopal Church in this country has so many parallels with the running of government - nominations and election by vote rather than appointment or privilege.

Let us give thanks for the visionary Bishops of the Episcopal Church in Scotland who took that bold leap of faith and for the witness and work of Samuel Seabury and his contemporaries that set up a structure that allows us to speak, listen and be led by the Spirit of God to accomplish the mission of Christ in this country and elsewhere. Amen and amen.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Psalm 146:5 -10

146:5-10 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD!

Our diocese has just completed its annual convention. Workshops, prayers, food, presentations and.... dare I say this..... a healthy dose of politics. For those who have not served on vestries or gone to a diocesan or national convention, this may sound shocking. To those of you who have attended these bodies, I am certain you know what I'm talking about.

We want this and we want it now. There are many, many people in need and our mission is to go out into the world. We are also called to serve those in our midst. It is a daunting task. We can plan and write and caucus and speak. After it comes to a vote and the majority has spoken, that is pretty much the end of how we can speak to or for an issue. After all of the relative eloquence of words we may have spoken settles, it will be the strength of the Spirit that will motivate us to put things into action. Each decision made will take time to implement - each side of some issues will have to recollect and pray hard to find the common place to put word into action.

When the politics recede and we are faced with our own reality, it will be God that points the way to our freedom..... and that of others...... because God and God alone will reign forever and ever. Amen.

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