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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, October 27, 2007

When the casseroles stop coming

When a nation is sideswiped by a disaster of natural, carelessness or terrorist origins we have seen individuals rise to the occasion to give of their time, talent and treasure.

This was so very apparent at on the site and at St. Paul's chapel on September 11, 2001 and the following 18 months. Restaurants, private companies, school children, service organizations, private contractors, clergy of all faiths, superstores, and individuals in this and other countries pitched in with money, food, groceries, muscle power, machinery, clothing, medical care and supplies and moral support.

Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma affected the states Alabama,Florida,Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas in the infamous hurricane season of 2005. The response of individuals - and thank goodness the congregants of many houses of worship - pitched in immediately while government agencies lagged behind, their feet bound in red tape and ill preparedness.

When wildfires were ignited and spread in San Diego county, California aided and abetted by the notorious Santa Ana winds,organizations and individuals came in to help selflessly and generously.

When an earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean unleashed its fury on December 26, 2005 the countries of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand were profoundly affected. To date, 186,983 are dead, 42,883 remain missing and 1,174,749 have been displaced. Relief poured in.

It would appear that when a catastrophe occurs we are moved to help quickly.

Not surprisingly, our response to personal catastrophes is similar. When we hear about the death of someone who has touched our lives we make the effort to attend the funeral or memorial service, send personal condolences, send flowers, make donations to a designated charity, prepare food for the immediate family members or a memorial gathering, make calls to 'check up' on the family's grieving survivors.

After a period of time, though, whether the loss was on a personal or colossal level, interest, donations, ongoing concern, the ministry of presence falls off. For lack of another definition for this phenomenon, I'll call it 'when the casseroles stop coming'.

The worst aspect of this syndrome is that it coincides with the very time when those who were most affected by the loss are coming out of their self-preservation numbness to begin feeling the full brunt and the magnitude of their loss.

Before us, as Christians, stands an opportunity for service and compassion. We can be the hands, ears, mouth, heart of Christ for those who grieve. It is the time when we can practice the ministry of presence. We can offer prayers, assistance in chores, rides, food and our parishes as places of support, comfort and strength. For the huge disasters, we can be those who faithfully continue in the restoration efforts, particularly through organizations such as Episcopal Relief and Development or Habitat for Humanity.

The casseroles need not stop a week after the traumatic event. We are called to be a representative of Christ where suffering exists, to visit and nurture the widow, the orphan, the prisoner, the displaced, the homeless, the unemployed. Be there - Jesus will join you. And bring a big enough casserole for left-overs!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Proper 25 (RCL) Faith, Hope and Charity

Teachers and preachers, feel free to borrow from this piece with a simple attribution. No other permission is required.

Joel 2:23-32; Psalm 65; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14

Collect for Proper 25
Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of
faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you
promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Like many currently attending or received into the Episcopal Church I started life being raised in the Roman Catholic tradition. Being from that tradition, when the words Faith, Hope and Charity come to mind, specific images come to mind. Many a young girl has been given a charm bracelet or necklace with 3 charms attached. [Can I have a show of hands of those who either owned one of these pieces of jewelry or know what the symbols are]. Since this isn't a game show, I'll let you in on the answers. An anchor represents faith, a simple cross represents hope and a heart represents charity.

There are some obvious links between the readings today and the symbols that are related to their content.

Faith would certainly anchor (I couldn't resist) the people Israel in the psalms 'roaring seas' and that same anchor kept them steadfast and grounded throughout the trying times retold in Joels writing. The anchor of faith strengthened Paul throughout his various travails - whether on land or sea, on the road or chained in prison. The same anchor of faith was in the very soul of the tax collector who, while knowing full well the contempt in which he was held by his contemporaries, was moored in the harbor of the temple where all prayer was welcome.

The Hope of the people Israel was that they would come to a land that God would provide for them. Though dominated by one conquerer after another, Hope led them forward, through desert and sea, captivity and inner struggle. Part of their Hope was realized when they made it to 'the promised land'. Their other Hope was incarnated in the person of Jesus, the Christ. The cross of Hope was the incentive for Paul to run the race and fight the good fight. The Hope of mercy drew the tax collector to the temple to pray.

In each of the readings, the thread of Charity - Caritas - Love of God runs true and through. God's Charity and Love provided Israel with a place to live and wonders to marvel at and be grateful for. Charity gave Paul the grace not to wish evil on his persecutors. God's Charity and Love forgave the sinner in the temple who pleaded for mercy: he went home with a renewed heart of love and a clean slate.

The much quoted passage from 1 Corinthians, often read during the celebration of a marriage, says it far more eloquently than I ever could:
'And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.'

Love and charity are so great because they move us beyond our individual selves. Love and charity are so great that they move us to do beneficial things for others, without obvious compensation. The unique qualities of love and charity are that the more we give them away, the greater our reserve of them becomes.

This sermon is now over. Once we leave this place we will ALL have the opportunity to practice what I have now preached: Faith, Hope and above all, Charity Love. Amen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Halloween 2007.....Laughter is great medicine!

Last year at this time I wrote about the origins of All Hallows Eve and its religious significance. This year, in the words of a famous Monty Python phrase:'And now for something completely different'.

As you may have read from Barbara's e-Mo 'Festivals' dated October 14, Miss Emmy Lou and I arrived at the Farm with two plastic storage boxes full of decorative odds and ends collected over the years. The results of our decorative endeavor is quite eye-catching, if I may say so. Two huge spider webs adorn the porch entrance, replete with significantly sized spiders. One banner has fall images of pumpkins, leaves and the like. A second banner, skewered with one of Q's famous bamboo poles, bears the words TRICK OR TREAT and is covered with an avalanche of appliqued orange,yellow and white candy corn on a black background.

The final touch is, of course, the extensive string of orange mini lights draped between the columns of the two-toned purple castle that is The Geranium Farm. Another string of lights, encapsulated by smiling Jack O' Lanterns, frames the front doors.

I admit to enjoying Halloween. I always have. On 23 of my 27-year stint at the United Nations I came to work in a different costume. I was never embarrassed. I savored the opportunity to enter the mirrored elevators and notice the rigid 'suits' in back of me attempting to stifle a grin or giggle. Upon exiting the elevator I would wish always give them permission to have a good laugh and a Happy Halloween.

Laughter does a body good. Humor is a potent antidote for stress and apathy.

So go ahead and put on that pair of plastic black glasses with attached absurdly large nose. Drive to work or go food shopping just like that.... the smiles you will provoke will be the sweetest treat on earth!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Living fully into this life and the next

Although I have admired Oprah Winfrey for years for her persistence in life, her thirst for knowledge and the range of topics covered on her syndicated TV show I have not taken the time to actually watch the show.

By wonderful chance, I watched a repeat of Monday's airing. This special show was presented by Dr.Mehmet Oz, a physician and regular contributor to her program. Under a recurring segment dubbed Healing Body and Soul this episode is entitled 'Confronting Death'. It featured two people who will undoubtedly die soon. The second profile was of Professor Randy Pausch of Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Pausch stood up in Oprah's studio and recreated the last lecture he gave at the University in September. Professor Pausch is dying from pancreatic cancer and probably has only a few months to live.

His personal testimony is breathtakingly eloquent and inspirational. I cannot encourage you enough to read the interview and/or watch his testimony by going to:, go to 'This week on the show' then click on Monday, Oct.22. I was awestruck by the second interview "A dying professor's emotional final lecture". Professor Pausch has given us his wisdom on the precious gift of living fully into each day. I guarantee that his grace filled words will touch your heart.

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