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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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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Pentecost 23 (RCL): No Matter where you are.... GOD is there.

This essay may be used by preachers and teachers with a simple attribution. No further permission is needed.

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; Psalm 66:1-12;2 Timothy 2:8-15 and Luke 17:11-19

In the reading from the Hebrew scriptures, the Jewish people are in exile in Babylon under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar. Once again under another rulers thumb, Jeremiah brings a message to God's chosen people: do not languish - flourish! Set up homes, build a community and invest in that community "...for in its welfare you will find your welfare". No sense having a pity party. For now this is where you are planted - pray to Me and I am with you and you will grow.

Psalm 66 reflects the theme. 'Be joyful in God, all you lands....Bless our God, you peoples; let the voice of his praise to be heard....For you, O God, have proved us; you have tries us just as silver is tried...You let enemies ride over our heads; we went through fire and water but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.

Paul writes to Timothy from prison:... [though I am chained as a criminal]The word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect...Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

In all these passages I see a thread made up of several strands: our personal lives, our lives in God, our lives in community. The three are interwoven and inseparable. We live separate lives, but not solitary ones - we are with God and created to live with one another. Do we - within community - have differences? One need look only to your parents and siblings (that nuclear community) for confirmation on that one! Do we have similarities? Yes. Foundationally, fundamentally, intrinsically we have more similarities than differences.

Why then do we (particularly those of us in the densely populated developed countries), who are so utterly dependent on each others toil, talent, knowledge, skills to get through each day and each night avoid thinking of or dedicating more of our life's work to our communities?

There is missionary work beyond your apartment door, beyond your parish doors, beyond the water cooler. There are evangelism opportunities directly on the other side of the street from Saint Swithen's.

Oh,but Episcopalians don't DO evangelism. Why not? Is there an exemption clause in the Baptismal vows for us? No, my friends, read carefully:
Will you continue in the apostles teaching and fellowship...Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being? No exemptions.

Luke's Gospel story emphasizes the power of mission and evangelism. Jesus was traveling in a fragile neutral zone - between "his" Jewish community and one hostile to his faith. A band of roaming lepers, considered unclean and banned from living within the general population is approaching on the outskirts of a town. They stopped in their tracks when they saw him in the distance, silenced the bells they were obligated to use as a warning to others that they were approaching and called out as one, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us'. Some of the ten must have been Jewish to recognize him as a Teacher and Rabbi. Jesus saw them, acknowledged them and told them to go to the priests - Jewish ones.

Jesus, against the prescribed laws of his faith, challenged them to join fully into community. All ten went in the direction of the local synagogue and presumably all ten were healed and cleansed on their journey yet only one - a non believer - came back to thank Jesus for the two gifts he had been given: the gift of health and the gift of community.

So many churches today bemoan dwindling numbers but few are bold enough to embark on a courageous act of evangelism. Parents fail to notice when their kids thoughtlessly toss a cup, candy wrapper or juice box out of the car and onto someones lawn but few take the time to explain civic responsibility.

If there was ever a time to evangelize, to renew pride in our communities, to befriend the stranger or the outcast, that time is now. Even if only one new family out of ten in a condo complex of 100 came to your parish to see the hand of God at work there, wouldn't it be worth it? Live into your faith in the home, on the block, at the grocery store, volunteering for the community blood drive, elections, ambulance corps, highway cleanup, community garden, or soliciting donations from fellow employees for a walk-a-thon for research in finding a cure for Altsheimers disease you will be strengthening the strand that runs through all of us: our personal lives, our lives in God, our lives in community.

Copyright © 2007 K.L.Joanna Depue and DJ on

A Matter of Time

Being human we eventually come to the realization that we will spend a limited amount of time on this earth in our ever remarkable miracle of a body. Life as we know it in the here and now will cease for us one day.

In our younger days the majority of us had some concept that anyone over 20 was old - and I mean old!. Slowly but predictably, as we age, the age that which we begin considering someone "old" increases. After all, old is relative. Relative to the folks I met recently in a retirement residence, I am "a kid". Relative to the Mexican family and 3 young children living in their home directly across the street from mine, I am a relic of sorts.

It was, appropriately of interest to watch a series of cable TV programs on The Science Channel this past Sunday on the subject of TIME. Divided into four programs: Cosmic Time, Daytime, Earth Time and Lifetime each could stand on its own, but when combined was extremely powerful for me. Just to give you a sample, here is the 'copy' for the segment entitled Earth Time:

The most powerful effect of time on our lives is the way it limits us. Our knowledge of death is so embedded in our lives and spirituality that, were immortality possible, would we lose the sense that makes us human?

Does our knowledge of our own mortality make us human? Does it inspire us to live most profoundly into our humanity or drive us to our knees in search of Divinity? A valid question for which I have no immediate answer. My Judeo-Christian belief system is based on a foundation that God - the I am before there was 'be-ing' as we perceive it - created me out of love. I am here to experience love and joy here and spread that love and joy with others. The span of years that I am here is limited - and perhaps because of that limitation my time is precious, my work is precious, my love, sorrows, journeys, arrivals, departures, connections, family, friends, enemies, defeats and triumphs are precious to me, to others and to the Creator, Sustainer and Animator that started me on this path to begin with.

I hope that this series will run again for those of you who missed it. With or without the series, I hope these thoughts have provoked some thoughts and prayers of your own.

Please feel free to send in your own take on this issue to me at: so that I can read and post it here as an article, or add your comments to this posting.

No matter what time of day or night it is when you read this, may God bless you on your journey again and again during your lifetime!

Monday, October 08, 2007

The mystery of a human being

Tammy Faye Messner (of Jim Bakker, the PTL implosion and mascara fame) died on Friday, July 20, 2007. I only found out about it today going through news on the internet.

I - and perhaps most of us - recall the Tammy Faye of thirty some years ago. The lipstick, highest of heels for her small frame and that trademark eye makeup. Now I understand that she may have known what was going on with PTL in defrauding many probably lower income people to buy into a dream that never came to fruition due to Jim's (and probably her) love for the 'finer things' rather than letting the money go to its designated destination. Big mistake. A mistake she atoned for in her life.

Being one to surf the channels I later saw her on the 2004 season of "The Surreal Life" and saw something I had not bothered to see before... a REAL person that just happened to have a big personality. On the show she would comfort those who were in the dumps, defend those being ganged up on, had a healthy sense of humor when being lampooned and said she trusted in the Lord. Anyone who worked on the show said that - even in all the footage that was not 'sensational' enough to make it to the final cut - her heart was large indeed. She embraced the gay community and lived (in the 'surreal' house)for a month with the most recognizable male porn star of all time, Ron Jeremy with whom she became friends (although she did question his unabated use of one particular four letter word which Ron would use as a noun, a verb, an adverb and an adjective without discrimination).

Through adversity, Tammy Faye put her faith in God. Neither divorce, gossip, public condemnation, bankruptcy, or disease could separate her from the love of God. She was human and flawed, vulnerable and visible. The day before her death she appeared with her husband and son on a series of segmented interviews with Larry King. Under home hospice care, with little strength or voice, maintained on morphine for the pain, ravenged by the disease that left her weighing 65 pounds she went before the cameras still evangelising to put your care and trust in God, to let go of regret ("'s a waste of brain space..") and to face whatever comes your way in faith.

Do you stand accused of judging a book by its cover? I do. And how ironic it is that I (or maybe you) become personally hurt, offended, confused when I/you discover that someone else has done that very thing to me/you.

Judge not, lest ye be judged. Sound advise. Bless you, Tammy Faye, now in that place where there is no more pain, no more tears, no more fear or grief, but in new life in Christ Jesus. Amen and Amen.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

WWII hits home..... again..... for the first time

I was born after the end of World War II. I know that my father served in the Merchant Marines and my Uncle Bob falsified his birthdate to serve in the Navy.

Never having bought war bonds or gone through rationing or feeling my heart drop when my newly-wedded spouse either enlisted or was drafted I had always been detached from the immediacy of those moments - hours - days - months - years that this country went about assisting others by putting the life blood of its youth and young adults on the line.

My family never spoke of the hardships, the ups and downs, the fear of being handed a telegram from the State Department/Department of War. There was never a gold star in Mare's window.

My uncle was drafted again for the Korean 'conflict' - and, young as I was, did not know where he had gone or when he would be home.

Ken Burn's latest piece "The War" has brought me close to those events and images that had been so distant. They, mostly in black and white stills and file footage, have brought the grim realities of war to the forefront of my heart and mind. Even Vietnam - the un-war - occurring during my both high school and post high school days did not hit so hard.

Now through this unparalleled documentary I am looking at the faces of war.

None of the faces are victorious. There are survivors and those who did not survive. There was fanatisim, bravery, arrogance and thousands upon thousands of lost lives: military and civilian alike. Thousands upon thousands of untold stories and lives cut short or truncated through grief, disability or madness.

Whether this war or those waged currently between races, creeds, ideologies, denominations, tribes, classes worldwide ... what are they worth? What does a man gain if he win wealth, power, domination but lose his soul?

The question has been asked many times - and we still war on. I have no answer.

My heart goes out to those in this country's armed forces and to their families - they bear a heavier burden than I will ever carry. It goes out to those lost in the crossfire, caught in the crosshairs, on the receiving end of any weapon.

I pray that peace may cover the earth and that a contagion of hope and goodwill may spread everywhere. No weapon do I bear but the prayer that reason and compassion will prevail and that we may finally be filled with the grace to begin to understand God's peace which to this point has eluded our understanding both here and abroad. Amen.

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