Friday, July 29, 2016

My working thesis of the moment:

Pollsters mislabel and thus misunderstand an important segment of the electorate.  What they often call “Evangelical” in polls about American politics, should more properly be labeled “Jacksonian.”  It puzzles outsiders that “Evangelicals” would give their political support to Trump, but if you change that label to “Jacksonians,” then no puzzlement is necessary.  See Walter Russel Mead’s, “The Jacksonian Tradition.”

Thursday, June 30, 2016

In prepping for this week's sermon I ran across a sermon I preached for Proper 9 Year C in 2010.

Homily for Proper 9 Year C 2010 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Louisville

The Episcopal Church has set aside July 4 of each year as a day of prayer for our nation.  Proper Psalms, Lessons, and Prayers were first appointed for this observance in the Proposed Prayer Book of 1786. They were deleted, however, by the General Convention of 1789, primarily as a result of the intervention of Bishop William White. Though himself a supporter of the American Revolution, he felt that the required observance was inappropriate, since the majority of the Church’s clergy had, in fact, been loyal to the British crown.
Writing about the Convention which had called for the observance of the day throughout “this Church, on the fourth of July, for ever,” White said, “The members of the convention seem to have thought themselves so established in their station of ecclesiastical legislators, that they might expect of the many clergy who had been averse to the American revolution the adoption of this service; although, by the use of it, they must make an implied acknowledgment of their error, in an address to Almighty God. . . . The greater stress is laid on this matter because of the notorious fact, that the majority of the clergy could not have used the service, without subjecting themselves to ridicule and censure. For the author’s part, having no hindrance of this sort, he contented himself with having opposed the measure, and kept the day from respect to the requisition of the convention; but could never hear of its being kept, in above two or three places beside Philadelphia.”
It was not until the revision of 1928 that provision was again made for the liturgical observance of the day.  Since 1928, however, this observance has been an official day on the Church calendar.  For the last decade, we have held a special service on the fourth day of July, here at St. Mark’s, in observance of this special day.  At these services, we have sung hymns--musical prayers--asking for God’s blessing upon our country and giving thanks to God for the many benefits we enjoy as citizens of this country.  We have offered up prayers to God for ourselves as citizens, and for those who serve us in the government--Administrative, Judicial, and Legislative.
The service has become part of the community’s celebration of this day.  We have had nearly as many persons from the neighborhood as we have had members of this parish in attendance.
This year, however, we will have no special observance.  I figured since the day of the observance this year, did not fall on the fourth of July, that no one would attend.  This year, the observance of Independence Day, falls on the fifth day of July.  So, I canceled the service.  It is hard enough to get people to come to a special service for our nation when it falls on the fourth of July.  I knew it was pointless to attempt it on any other day.  Next year, however, when the fourth day of July falls on a Monday, we will once again liturgically observe Independence Day.
As for today, our nation and its founding, rest heavily upon our hearts and minds.  We will, therefore, include in our prayers (both sung and said) particular petitions for our country and its citizens.  I am particularly aware of those members of our parish who cannot be with us today, because their service to this nation has taken them to Afghanistan or Iraq.  While they are continually in my prayers, on this day, I am very aware of the burden upon my heart that concern for their welfare has created.
We have many prayers to make, as we contemplate the state of our union.  Environmental disaster on our southern coast, an economic crisis in its third year, two wars that are proving very difficult to end.  While our petitions are many, so are our thanksgivings.  Even in economic crisis, we enjoy a prosperity others can hardly imagine.  We enjoy liberty and freedom few in the history of the world have ever known.  
All of this, however, is but prologue to my sermon--a sermon for when “Proper 9 of Year C” happens to fall on the fourth of July.  In fact, the sermon is not on the “propers”--as is typical.  The sermon is, rather, a meditation on the annomoly of it being Proper 9 of Year C on the fourth of July, 2010.
As many of you know, all Feast Days appointed on fixed days in the Calendar, when they occur on a Sunday, are
transferred to the first convenient open day within the week.  There are some exceptions to this rule.  Easter and Christmas are such exceptions.  Given the importance of the observance of the Lord’s Day, few other observances are to take precedence.  
Now I know that this rather strict adherence to the rules of the Church calendar sometimes annoys you.  I remember being chastized a few years ago when Holy Week fell during March Madness.  I was asked, “Can’t you plan Good Friday on another day?”
I had to explain that I lacked the authority to do so.  To change the Church calendar is “above my pay grade.”  But we can learn a great deal about ourselves when such conflicts arise.  What are our priorities?  What are our values?  Is the object of our worship the creator, or merely some part of the creation?
Today is an object lesson.  Is today the Lord’s Day or is it Independence Day?  What we learn from the Church calendar is that the observance of Independence Day does not take precedence.  We enflesh that rule by the choice of readings and collects for today.  But, I ask myself--how do I enflesh that rule in my life--not just my liturgical observance?  Maybe the answer is easy for you, but it is not for me.  Historically, it has not been easy for persons of conscience.
As I indicated earlier, most clergy of the Episcopal Church were loyal to the English throne during the Revolutionary War.  At their ordinations, they had taken a vow of loyalty to the King and they took their vows seriously.
Those who take their faith and their allegience to any earthly realm seriously must always struggle with the tensions such convictions bring.  Its why Rome fed Christians to the lions two thousand years ago.  Christians said their ultimate loyalty could never be to the state.  Its why Bonhoffer was imprisoned and killed.  He said his ultimately loyalty was to God, not his country.  Even today, in too many places, governments continue to persecute Christians precisely because we refuse to give our ultimate loyalty to any earthly power.

I suppose their are persons who worship America.  Some of them may even think of themselves as Christians.  We can’t forget that the vast majority of the citizens of Nazi Germany were church-going Christians.  Most clergy, both Catholic and Protestant, supported Hitler and his government.  But I don’t know any personally who worship America (at least not of which I am aware).  But what we say and what we do are not always in sync.  So, I wonder, in the living of my life, when the Lord’s Day conflicts with Independence Day (as it were)--what will I do?

Friday, January 29, 2016

When an animal companion dies

For we who live closely with animals, the death of these companions is a time of grief.  From time to time, I am asked to "say a few words" over the burial of a beloved pet.

Below I have posted a service created by the Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary for the Diocese of Georgia.

A Liturgy for the Burial of a Pet

A Liturgy for the Burial of a Pet

The service which follows is for use with the burial service of a pet. Please adapt the service as needed to fit the needs of the particular service you are conducting. The N. marks the places where you will need to insert either the pet's name or the owner's name as is appropriate.

A Liturgy in Remembrance of N.

Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
a gentle Father,
and the God of all consolation,
who comforts us in our sorrows,
so that we can offer others, in their sorrows,
the consolation that we ourselves received from God.
 -2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God is with us;
God's love unites us,
God's purpose steadies us,
God's Spirit comforts us.
Blessed be God forever.

Merciful and compassionate God, we come to you with N. in grief and ask for her the strength to bear the loss of their companion N.. We bring you our thanks for all you give us through our pets; and we bring you our prayers for peace of heart in the knowledge of your mercy and love, in Christ Jesus.  Amen. 

Psalm 121


I lift up my eyes to the hills:
but where shall I look for help?
 My help comes from the Lord:
who made heaven and earth.
 The Lord will not let your foot stumble:
the one who guards you will not sleep.
 The one who keeps watch over this people:
shall neither doze nor sleep.
 The Lord is the one who will guard you:
the Lord at your right hand will be your defense,
 so that the sun shall not strike you by day:
nor yet the moon by night.
 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil:
yes it is the Lord who will keep you safe.
 The Lord shall take care of your going out,
and your coming in:
from this time forth and forever.  


And if thy heart be straight with God, then ever creature shall be to thee a mirror of life and a book of doctrine, for there is no creature so little or so vile, but that sheweth and representeth the goodness of God. 
~Thomas à Kempis 


The reason why God's servants love his creatures so deeply is that they realize how deeply Christ loves them. And this is the very character of love to love what is loved by those we love. 
~Catherine of Siena

All Creatures Great and Small

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small.
all things wise and wonderful, the lord God made them all. 

Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours, He made their tiny wings. 


The purple headed mountain, the rivers running by,
the sunset, and the morning that brightens up the sky. 


The cold wind in the winter, the pleasant summer sun,
the ripe fruits in the garden, he made them every one. 


He gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell
how great is God Almighty, who has made all things well.


Almighty God, your Son taught us that though five sparrows could be bought for two pennies, they are not forgotten before you. We thank you for N., and  for the companionship N. offered to N.. And  we thank you for all the pets who share our homes and our lives.  We ask for comfort for this family in their loss, knowing that you grieve with them for you care for all of your creation as you care for us. May we live more peacefully because of today, and come at last, in the fellowship of all your people, to the haven where we long to be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer  

May Christ the Good Shepherd enfold us with love. Fill us with peace, and lead us in hope, this day and all our days.  Amen.

Service created by the Rev. Frank Logue.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

GOE Day Three 2016

Set 3: Christian Ethics and Moral Theology
According to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, those who are baptized promise to follow and obey Jesus as their Lord; and those who are ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood promise that they are willing and ready to obey their bishop and other ministers who may have authority over them and their work [BCP: 303, 526, 538].
Obedience has been described in many ways that articulate differing aspects or perceptions of the concept. Consider the following two quotes:
A 20th century Christian mystic has written that “Obedience is the only pure motive, the only one which does not in the slightest degree seek a reward for the action but leaves all care of reward to the Father who is in secret and sees in secret.”
The views of a contemporary artist have been characterized with the following words,  “All the world’s problems stem from obedience ... war, genocide, and slavery [are] products of such silent compliance.”
In an essay of about 1,000 words:
Provide an ethical definition of Christian obedience that takes into account promises of Baptism and Ordination, explaining how obedience is viewed in Christian life and ministry, as set within the Christian tradition of moral reflection.

Address each of the above quotes, describing how obedience in Christian life and ministry is the same as, or different from, what is suggested by the phrase, “silent compliance.”

GOE Day One 2016

Set 1: The Holy Scriptures
Open Resources

The Bible study group in your parish is reading the books of Ruth and Ezra, and has asked you about the apparent contradictions between these two books. In particular, they are concerned about the role of the “outsider” in the community in light of recent political discussions about immigration. The group has asked you, their Rector, to speak to them about these texts, and you have chosen to focus your discussion on the following two passages

The land that you are entering to possess is a land unclean with the pollutions of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations. They have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, so that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever. -- Ezra 9:11-12 NRSV

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David. -- Ruth 4:13-17 NRSV
Write an essay of about 1,000 words that forms the basis for a presentation to this Bible study group that demonstrates awareness of the literary, theological, and historical contexts of the passages while addressing the concerns of the group. Bring in at least two other scriptural references, one of which must be from the New Testament, to support your essay.

GOE Day Two 2016

It is that time of year again.  GOE's (General Ordination Exams).  Here is day two's question:

Christian Theology
Open Resources
Write an essay of about 1,000 words offering at least two Christian theological perspectives on wealth. Cite for each perspective at least one biblical or Book of Common Prayer passage and one Christian theologian. Of the theologians cited, one must be from the Post-Reformation Anglican tradition. Conclude the essay by describing how one or more of your theological perspectives on wealth would inform your work with the members of a Vestry faced with deciding what to do with an unexpected, substantial, and undesignated financial legacy gift.