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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, December 17, 2011

Advent Prayer In Four Directions

Blogger Maria Evans of Kirksville, MO wrote this wonderful prayer that I'm sharing with you, with her permission.  If you would like to read it directly on her blog, the link is:  Even if you don't check out this particular entry, any of her posts are considered, thoughtful and thorough and I recommend it highly to you.  For the time being, here is the 4 directions prayer.  Thank you for your blogosphere ministry, Maria!

Come, Lord Jesus, from the North:
Come to me amidst the cold icy blasts and blizzards;
Come to me in the foggy dark grey cloud of unknowing;
Come to me in the pristine white snowflake;
Come to me in the guiding wink of the North Star.
Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Come, Lord Jesus, from the East:
Come to me as strangers came to you, bearing gifts;
Come to me with the new days and possibility of the dawn;
Come to me cloaked in the uncertainty of the shifting East wind;
Come to me in the dense habitation of the life I've led;
Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Come, Lord Jesus, from the South:
Come to me in the warm, gentle breezes;
Come to me when I am parched in the baking, dry, desert heat;
Come to me in the drenching, humid stickiness of my existence;
Come to me in the long, lazy evenings of summer that never seem to end.
Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Come, Lord Jesus, from the West:
Come to me in the prevailing winds, bringing what they may;
Come to me in the thunderstorm, with mighty lightning;
Come to me in the whirlwind's destructive power;
Come to me robed in the expanse of unexplored territory.
Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Come, Lord Jesus, from the vicinity of your choosing:
Come to me from the place you'd will and not from mine;
Come to me in my joy and in my sorrow;
Come to me in my peaceful serenity and my anxious strife;
Come to me in my shallow self and my deep holy longing.
Come, Lord Jesus, come!

O Sapientia/O Wisdom

O Sapientia,
quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter,
suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom,
proceeding from the mouth of the Most High,
pervading and permeating all creation,
mightily ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Wisdom is God’s spokeman, the One who speaks the truth about God from the mouth of God. By wisdom the simple gain prudence, and the foolish gain understanding. Wisdom is more precious than jewels; wisdom’s gifts are worth more than gold. Wisdom is a gift from God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Wisdom is the amazing gift of Spirit.
Wisdom left its mark on the created order. Through Wisdom all things were created. Wisdom was with God before all things, and through Wisdom all things were made. The beauty of the stars, the splendor of the seas, the marvelous variety of birds and fishes, the intricacies of a DNA double-helix, the mystery of distant galaxies.
Jesus Christ is Wisdom incarnate, holy Wisdom in the flesh. He is the “power of God and the wisdom of God.” “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He reflects the very glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.” He is the “glue” that holds the universe together.
He teaches us the way of prudence, the way of Wisdom that leads to life. That way is the way of the cross, of dying and rising, of repentance and faith. This way is foolishness to the wordly-wise, yet to those made wise through His Word and Spirit, it is God’s holy wisdom to save. Through Christ and Wisdome we will shine as the brightness of the heavens.

-- by Pastor William Cwirla, ed. by Deacon J

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gifts that give back, year-round

We tie ourselves in knots trying to purchase just the right thing for the few on our gift lists that 'have everything'.

If they have everything that they need -- and more than a few things they want -- why not give a gift in their name to someone that has close to nothing???

Need is everywhere if we open our eyes. The Geranium Farm folk encourage you to give gifts that will be put to use, that will encourage good health, that will provide a means of income to those who are without the many advantages that we enjoy. Episcopal Relief and Development has a catalogue chuck-full of ideas. Click here to read about this life-giving/life-saving ministry: Gifts that give back, year-round!

Friday Focus: Called to Greatness

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.  Luke 1:26-38

How many girls do you know who have been painted and sculpted by DaVinci and Michelangelo…who’ve been serenaded by Bach and Schubert, Verdi and Puccini…who’ve been praised by Aquinas and Augustine and venerated in a constant stream of devotions? Or more to the point, can we ever hope to know anyone after they have been so endlessly exalted? This Sunday let’s try. And let’s see what we can learn from Christ’s earliest and closest companion.

In the first chapter of Luke, we meet Mary before all that, long before she becomes swathed in centuries of sentimentality. We meet her as a kid…a very, very good kid … but only a kid. She’s scared. She’s stunned. But she is not overwhelmed. This is her first encounter with an angel. But it is obviously not her first encounter with God. He is not an abstraction to her. He is a constant presence in her life. Even as a teen, she defines herself as God’s servant. Rick Warren would say: She has a purpose driven life. She is here to serve God. She embraces it. Even if that means being the mother of the Messiah, let it be with me according to your word.

Scripture gives us this beautiful portrait of a Mary in the moment, not of the myth. In the most mind-boggling circumstances, she stands her ground, momentarily confused by the message and the messenger, but confident in the goodness of God, giving herself reflexively to his service. For all our maturity, how many of us have such a clear grasp of life’s ultimate reality? We are here to serve God. That is our own personal call to greatness. Not from angels, but constantly from God’s grace.

We get to answer that call everyday in countless ways --- in our respect for others, in our kindness, in our generosity, in our forgiveness, in our family responsibilities, in our professional ethics, in our fearless, unrelenting witness to Christ’s love. Doubtless, none of us will be sculpted or painted by masters. Choirs will not sing our praises. But God will. He rejoices in the goodness we give back to him. He knows the obstacles we must overcome. He knows the sea of secular cynicism that surrounds us. He knows we can be confused and distracted. That is why scripture gives us the wisdom of Mary, the kid who was surprised but then quickly focused, the kid who knew she was God’s servant and knew that God would see her through. I pray that we may share that same serenity and join Mary in her joyous song: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.  

Introduction to the Great "O" Antiphons

During the next week I will post installments, written by Rev. William Cwirla, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights, CA - meditations on the Antiphons to the Magnificat of the Vespers office.

Here is Pastor Cwirla's introduction to the meditations, with an historical reference by Fr. Wm. Saunders of Sterling, VA:

"The Great "O" Antiphons are seven brief prayers that are traditionally chanted or sung on successive evenings starting on December 17. The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.  These ancient supplications beautifully express the Christian church's profound yearning for her long expected Savior. They continue to be part of the seasonal devotions of many churches today. The Great "O" Antiphons form the basis of the popular Advent hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel by English hymnographer John Neale.

The Great " O" Antiphons are rich in meaning and nuance. Each antiphon begins with the acclamation "O," addresses Christ by one of His messianic titles from the Old Testament, and ends with a heartfelt plea for His coming. The sequence of the antiphons is theologically precise, progressing from before the creation of the universe, through the messianic prophecies of Israel, and culminating with the Incarnation and birth of Christ in Bethlehem. The initials of each Latin titles of these antiphons were arranged by the Benedictine monks with a definite purpose-- Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, and Emmanuel -- combine to form SARCORE. When this is arranged backwards, it spells ERO CRAS, which means "Tomorrow, I will be." This wonderful coincidence has fascinated Christians since the Middle Ages because Christ seems to answer the pleas of the Great "O" Antiphons by promising to come to His people on Christmas Eve (December 24), the day after the singing of the final antiphon."

Tomorrow we will begin with the first Antiphon, "O Sapientia/O Wisdom".

Thursday, December 15, 2011


A faithful Geranium Farmer, Harry Taplin of Chelmsford, MA has for years put together an Advent calendar for family and friends and has been kind enough to send me one - in daily installments - for several years now.

This is a photo he took of The Colosseo at Arles, France: a somewhat smaller version of the Colosseum in Rome and one of many Roman edifices still extant throughout France, especially in the southern region.

The Romans would use these arenas for spectacles : chariot races, gladiator fights, competitions, acrobats and circus performers, theatre pieces.

According to Webster's College Dictionary, a spectacle is: 1) anything presented to the sight or view, especially something striking or impressive; 2) a public show or display, especially on a large scale.

We as Christians await the commemoration of one of the most spectacular events in history - the birth of Christ.

It may be a worthwhile Advent meditation to consider and contrast aspects of  these spectacles: a huge stone structure versus a stable; viewed by hundreds versus viewed by a handful.

If you could have been present at each of these venues, which event would have been more spectacular to you? 

Thanks so much, Harry, for sharing your amazing photography!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


An excerpt from Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John by Jean Vanier

Being a witness

Witnesses tell how Jesus is transforming their lives
and bringing them a new inner freedom, peace and joy.
People in our world find hope when they find credible witnesses,
men and women with a living faith,
bearing witness to the presence of God-
more by their lives, their growing compassion
and their dynamic love
than by their ideas or their words.
Jesus said that people will know his disciples
by the love they have for one another.

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