Saturday, April 30, 2011

Prayer, Worship and Service: Not Slacking

During the days of Lent, we tried to post every day. (We failed, and this provided good fodder for our Holy Week Mea Culpas.) It was part of our spiritual discipline for this holy time, which is traditionally the church's great season of ascesis (exercise).

Now that the joyful feast of Easter has arrived, we're all inclined to kick back a bit, breathe a deep sigh of relief and cut ourselves some breaks. Which is as it should be. The great Desert Fathers and Mothers recognized this. Abba Antony once said,

"It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs." (Thanks to Cistercian Publications, for this quote found here.)

Even the Rule of St. Benedict, that wonderful guideline for life in community, which advises "the life of a monk ought to have about it at all times the character of a Lenten observance" (Chapter 49), also legislates periods of rest. St. Benedict is tolerant of our human need for time off.

Times of intense focus and work--both inner and outer--need to be followed by periods of rest and receptivity. Just as a field which is regularly planted needs to lie fallow from time to time, so it can continue to be productive.

Not that anyone is slacking! There are still prayers to be said, services to be lead, the hungry to be fed, garbage to be taken out. Keep praying for 20 minutes a day, worshiping for 1 hour a week, and doing a day of service a month. But be sure you make some extra time for rest.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Prayer: For those living in uncertainty

Last week, it was the spring rainy season. Yesterday and today, it was high summer. Tomorrow, flood season, with flood warnings posted. From day to day, we don't know what to expect of the weather. Really, if we are truthful with ourselves and paying attention to the world, we don't know what to expect from life.

For some of us, though, living in uncertainty is constant: will I have a job? will I have any food to feed my children? will this medical treatment help? will the flood wash away my home?

Pray for all those around the world and here at home living in uncertainty.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Prayer & Worship: Final Know Chocolate Family Service

Why not spend your hour of worship this week in a delicious way?  This Wednesday is the final Family Evening Prayer Service in the NO CHOCOLATE/KNOW CHOCOLATE series. This is Trinity's first ever Family Worship series for Lent and we can't be more excited! The service follows the Book of Common Prayer Evening service with a twist. It begins with a simple song while creating the altar that reflects the teaching of the day. After the readings of the Word, we hear a message, and end with chocolate for all! We will meet again on Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 PM. Light supper will be offered at 6 in the Parish Hall followed by a Family Service in the Chapel.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Worship: Alive! Alleluia!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
and on those in the tombs bestowing life!

No amount of alleluias is enough on this glorious day...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Prayer and Worship: Busy in Vigil

While we are feeling sad, dark and empty on Holy Saturday, with no Christ, no community, no hope, Jesus is busy. Unlike some traditions that think of him "resting" or "sleeping" in the tomb during the three holy days, there is an ancient sermon that reveals his work as a poison pill to death and hell.


"Something strange is happening-there is a great silence on earth today, a
great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King
is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in
the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world
began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

"He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly
desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he
has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God
and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon
that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had
created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: 'My Lord be
with you all.' Christ answered him: 'And with your spirit.' He took him by
the hand and raised him up, saying: 'Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the
dead, and Christ will give you light.'

"I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you
and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

"For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a
slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and
beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man
without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I
was a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

"See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I
once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order
to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the
scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back.
See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched
out your hand to a tree.

"I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in
paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain
in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that
pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

"Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly
paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you
in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I
who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as
slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne
formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal
chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are
prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of
heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity."

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Prayer: Love Stronger than Death

As we approach the Triduum, many of us are thinking about Jesus' passion and death. The Blessed Julian of Norwich has an interesting, and even revolutionary, take on that. In Chapter 22 of her Showings, or Revelations of Divine Love, she has a conversation with Our Good Lord Christ, in which she understands that Christ's love for us was so great, that he would have died over and over for us if that had been required. His suffering and death took place once in a specific time and place, but the love that prompted the saving Act is eternal. She writes: "I saw that the love which made him suffer is as much greater than his pain, as heaven is greater than earth."

As we contemplate the painful events of the rest of this week, let us also contemplate the immense and everlasting love that contains them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Prayer: Every Hour on the Hour

Yesterday I tried a style of praying that I have rarely ever tried outside of a retreat: to pray every hour on the hour for 12 hours (6am- 6pm). This was actually a pretty good day to try this out since I did not have that many appointments. I was really moved by the way this practice helped to change several moments around for me. It would seem that when ever I was getting frustrated or in the need for a mental or physical stretch, it would be time to pray and that would help to reorient the moment toward the Spirit. There was much to be grateful for in every hour of the day, and it was nice to take the time and thank God for that. Tomorrow, try to incorporate this into your day and you will be amazed by how centered you will feel.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Worship: Cliff's Notes for Holy Week

Palm Sunday is one of the hardest Sundays of the year to grasp. I get a sort of spiritual whiplash. We're hailing the Messiah and King, waving palm branches and singing, and suddenly, we are whisked at the speed of light to the foot of a cross, on which hangs a dead ?prophet?savior?anarchist?God?son?brother?friend? I find hope and comfort only in the Eucharistic prayers that follow.

Remembering the bad old undergraduate days at university, Palm Sunday reminds me of a sort of Cliff's Notes for Holy Week. Except that they leave me off at Holy Saturday. They don't quite get to volume two: "Early on the first day of the week..."

We're all waiting and watching, both in anticipation and dread.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Prayer: Vow of Silence

Thanks to an overnight case of galloping laryngitis (on the eve of Palm Sunday!), I have taken a Vow of Silence for today, in hopes of restoring my voice for Holy Week. When I need to pause and reflect on each thing that pops into my mind to say, it is amazing to discover how much of it is silly, extraneous, useless. Surrounded by a need for this kind of conscious silence, I am discovering also that I want more external silence. No TV or even music. Just the music of the birds chirping a rain song outside the window and the rush of the wind in the trees. Even the clack of my keyboard seems extraordinarily loud.

There are lots of versions of this quote floating around, but I am impressed with its reality: "God's first language is silence--everything else is a poor translation." I didn't expect to choose silence today, but perhaps it is a gift from the Creator. Perhaps I will hear better today.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Worship and Prayer: The fragrance of holiness

This morning the Diocese of Bethlehem celebrated Chrism Mass, at which deacons, priests and bishops renew their ordination vows, and the holy oils for the year are blessed. These oils including anointing oil for the Sick, for the Catechumens, and Holy Chrism. Following the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Paul's chaplain, Deacon George, bottles the newly minted oils into tiny vials for distribution to each parish.

While Deacon George and his assistants toil at the oil-filling machine (of Deacon George's construction), everyone else retires to the parish hall for a Lenten lunch.

I happened to be sitting at a table with a bowl of soup, when Deacon George came in to announce that the oils were ready. A faint fragrance of chrism floated behind him as he passed by.

Ancient tradition has it that holy people are sometimes surrounded by the sweetest and loveliest of scents. Indeed, sometimes even their relics give off the smell of flowers or incense. I hope that God sometimes looks down on us at prayer and worship, and experiences our prayers rising like incense (Psalm 141).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Prayer: Dirt, Worms and Humility

Last night, reading the chapter on Humility from the Rule of St. Benedict (chapter 7) in an older translation, I smiled to see a suggestion that we should think of ourselves as a worm, and not even human. Actually, I am rather fond of earthworms, who are an important part of our ecology. Any gardener, turning a compost pile, would rejoice to see a plenitude of worms. They turn "stuff" into good, rich, productive humus, fit for growing delicious vegetables, and exquisite flowers. Considering that I am a human created from humus makes humility an appropriate response to the Holy. I don't mind confessing that I am a worm.

(With thanks to the Holy Living, Living Wholly group in Emmaus.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Prayer: Visio Divina

A good priest friend of mine, Maria, has created a truly impressive Lenten Meditation booklet for her congregation. Among the several different types of reflections she has suggested are the different galleries online at the Episcopal Church Visual Art website found here. There are many different collections of art work dealing with topics of spirituality all of which encourage the viewer to engage the practice of visio divina. According to their website:

Refining Fire by Don Forsythe
The practice of visio divina shares its origins with the long-practiced form of scripture reading known as lectio divina. As with lectio divina, visio divina nurtures the spiritual life through an intentional practice of reflection on scripture. With visio divina, visual art and scripture are considered together, supporting the practictioner through the reading of the Word, seeing with the eyes, listening with the heart, and responding in prayer. Contemporary artists address many themes in their work, and often focus on compelling issues that face society today. This is true whether the artist's concerns are hidden or visible in their work. Themes emerging include some we might expect, such as beauty, light, and nature. There are also other themes that might tip us out of familiar ways of seeing our own lives, themes like emergence, suffering, and peace. 

For today's meditation, I decided to try the "Spirit's Fire" gallery and was impressed by the different types of visual arts which were represented. The collection included glass work, paintings, sculpture, textiles and more to capture the very essence of the Holy Spirit's work in our life. I encourage you to go online and pick the gallery which calls to you. Then just let your eyes soak up the Spirit.

Prayer: Get thee to a monastery

In other times, people would often go to a monastery for a retreat.  Such a visit provided the opportunity to step out of the pressures and busy-ness of daily life, to find space and quiet time to relax in God's presence, to pray and listen.  Many of us still do make regular visits to monasteries and retreat centers.

Most monasteries have facilities for guests, because that is part of the service they offer the world.  St. Benedict wrote, "Let every guest be received as Christ."  Most monastic houses are wonderful at that sort of holy welcome.  It is an unforgettable experience to come for the very first time to a monastery, and to be greeted with an attitude of, "Where have you been?  We've been waiting for you to come home!"  I hope I will have such a welcome when I get to the doors of paradise...

Times have changed, though.  There are fewer monasteries. And many of us do not have the leisure or finances to travel to them.  Even more of us feel constricted by work and family demands.  Monastic communities haven't survived for nearly 2,000 years without being creative, though, and some of them are making a concerted effort to respond to the times in which we live.

There are now a number of communities who have an online presence.  Some offer online retreats, which you can do from home.  And some offer the opportunity to experiment with being a monk in the world.  The monastery I'm affiliated with was an early adopter.  Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton, South Dakota, developed a thriving online program for Benedictine oblates.  In the past few days, an announcement has come out about a new, exciting possibility.  The Erie Benedictines are beginning an online monastic community.  Monasteries of the Heart has the motto:"A new movement for a new world."

There are also ecumenical monastic communities without walls, like the Community of Solitude.

If you sometimes find yourself with an urgent longing to get away from it all for a while so you can spend time with God, consider a monastic community, physical or virtual. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Prayer and Service: Thank God for meetings...

By the end of the day, I will have had 5 (count'em FIVE) meetings, only one of which was expected.  But each meeting was good, productive, and contributed to the ministry that we do together.  Each meeting let us encounter each other face to face, to explore plans, forestall the errors that we could foresee, turn in a different direction, or keep going full-steam-ahead.  Hopefully under our Good God's wise eyes.

Thank God for the gift of communication!  Thank God for partners in ministry.  And in life.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Prayer: Praying by hand

Many religious traditions encourage the use of prayerbeads.  The Roman Catholic rosary is perhaps the most familiar form here in America, but the Eastern Church uses a knotted rope; Hindus sometimes use a string made from seeds; Muslim prayerbeads may have the name of Allah written on them; Buddhist beads may be made from the wood of the sacred BO tree, under which Buddha sat to be enlightened.  This is only a small hint of the kinds of prayerbeads out there.  Google prayerbeads and prepare to be astonished.

There are Anglican prayerbeads as well. For many years, our prayerbead ministry has been offering workshops on praying with and making prayerbeads, because people find it so powerful literally to hold their prayers in their hands.  Using prayerbeads as we pray can help ground and focus us, so our mind is less likely to wander.  They can help our restless body to still itself.  And as we hold them, they remind us that praying is something we do with our body and mind, as well as with our spirit.

Many prayers lend themselves to use with prayerbeads: The Lord's Prayer, the traditional Hail Mary, the ancient Jesus Prayer.   Some people like to take a verse from Scripture to use.  Experiment!  Just pray.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Prayer and Service: For the poor, neglected, old, sick....

Today we celebrate the feast day of William Augustus Muhlenberg and Anne Ayers.  The collect the church has written is amazing, and especially applicable to those of us who are concerned with those in need.

God of justice and truth, do not let your Church close its eyes to the plight of the poor and neglected, the homeless and destitute, the old and the sick, the lonely and those who have none to care for them. Give us that vision and compassion with which you so richly endowed William Augustus Muhlenberg and Anne Ayers, that we may labor tirelessly to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today, pray for all those listed in the collect, for those who work with the needy, and follow up your prayer with doing something concrete--no matter how small-- to help.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Prayer: In the Hurly Burly

It is deafening here this morning. Delivery people are bringing bread and cake in.  Vegetables are arriving.  Eggs already here.  A full crew making lunch for 150 in the kitchen, clattering, calling, laughing, dropping pans.  And a bunch of student workers.  Kids and parents arriving for playgroup.  Printers printing.  Phones ringing.  Doorbell jangling throughout the building.  Calendar alarms chirping.  Organ practice on the other side of the wall.  Footsteps overhead.

In four hours it will be utterly still, and the building will be almost empty.. 

When I can't find God in the still, small silence, I can pray a blessing on everyone working hard in the midst of the joyful noise.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Worship: All you works of the Lord....

...praise the Lord! So says one of the Morning Prayer canticles, the Song of Creation. O heavens and all waters above the heavens, sun and moon and stars of the sky, every shower of rain and fall of dew, all winds and fire and heat, Winter and Summer...praise the Lord.

Birds and dogs and cats, with the trees and newly sprung flowers...praise the Lord.

Dawn and dusk, with brightly shining noon and deeply silent midnight...praise the Lord.

Let the people of God...praise the Lord.

And let me, too, in my creatureliness, praise the Lord.

You can find a lovely way to praise the Lord by watching EagleCam--a pair of eagles, raising their eaglets, in view of the camera.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Service: Trinity Soup Kitchen

Our mission station here at Trinity is, "Feeding all in body, mind, and soul." One way that we live into that mission and follow Jesus' mandate to feed the hungry is through our Soup Kitchen which feeds about 150 people daily. We can always use help cooking, serving, and cleaning. Feel free to come by and help in any way you can. We are open Monday through Fridays at 8:30-2:00. The only requirements are that you are at least 16 years of age, wear a head covering & closed-toed shoes, and have a willingness to serve.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Worship and Prayer: A bouquet

At every worship service, St. Francis de Sales used to collect what he called a "bouquet", a verse or prayer that he could take with him, to meditate and pray on until the next service.  What a lovely idea!  Try it for a week or two and see what a beautiful creation you have discovered!

(Thanks to Norvene Vest's *Preferring Christ", p. 126, for this idea.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Worship: From Afar

Circumstances sometimes prevent us from worshiping with our faith community: illness, travel, work, family concerns.  If possible, during the worship hour, imagine yourself there with your brothers and sisters.  Do the readings for the day, sing a hymn or three, pray God's blessing on each face you see in your mind's eye.  Pray for the concerns you know they all have. And pray for yourself as part of this vibrant worshiping community.  Give God thanks for the grace of needing and wanting each other's presence, and for the spiritual community we feel, no matter how far separated we are..

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Service: Not throwin' no rocks in nobody's path

I recently heard a story from a parishioner who attended an elderly person's funeral.  When she spoke to another elderly friend of the deceased, the woman said, "Well, now, she was never throwin' no rocks in my path."  In the moment, I laughed, but the phrase stuck with me. 

We don't always have the ability to help someone actively.  But we can always refrain from throwing rocks in their way.  Another way of being kind and treating people in a Christ-like way.  I'd be proud if someone said that of me some day.  Sometimes not doing is as important as doing.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Prayer- Confession is Good for the Foolish Soul

Lent is often thought of as the Liturgical Season most associated with the act of Confession. In that spirit, I will share this April Fool's confession with you inspiration for your own Lenten journey. Yesterday, before work began, I was doing an internet search for April Fool's Day pranks ideas. I had never actually pulled one of these types of pranks before and I was hoping to find a really good one to pull on some poor, unsuspecting person. Instead, the joke was on me when I clicked on a site that had a virus on it. I did not realize that this was the case until later in the morning when I kept getting bombarded with pop-up virus notes. At that point, I knew that I had to call in Mo. Laura to fix the problem that I made, and when I realized that it was probably because of the silly search I had made, I was totally abashed! Yet, she spent the time to help clean up the computer and even had a good laugh with me. When we confess something, we are admitting that we are human and that we need help to get out of the holes that we dig for themselves. Today, spend some time in conversation with God asking him for help fixing the problems in our souls that we have created in our foolishness.

Prayer: For those in need

This beautiful prayer comes from Catholic Relief Services, via our friend Jon Rinnander in Tucson, AZ.  Surely another example of the foolishness of Christ and of God's kingdom.

In the poor and lowly of the world,
let us see Christ.
In those forced to leave their homes because of war and 
let us see Christ.
In children who go to bed hungry and who cannot 
attend school,
let us see Christ.
In those who are living with HIV/AIDS and other diseases,
let us see Christ.
In immigrants and refugees, seeking freedom and hope,
let us see Christ.
In those who are orphaned or abandoned,
let us see Christ.
In the elderly who are forgotten,
let us see Christ.
In those who struggle to find meaningful work,
let us see Christ.
In those who work for justice and peace for all people,
let us see Christ.
Let us pray:
Jesus, teach us to recognize your presence in those 
who are in need.  May we give of ourselves in service 
to them and so hasten the coming of the Kingdom 
you have promised, where you live with the Father 
and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  

Prayer and Service: Be a fool!

The Apostle Paul liked to call himself a Fool for Christ.  And reflected that following Christ seemed like foolishness in the world's context.  What could be more foolish than people  knowing their actions would lead to a terrible death, carrying on for the sake of faith, and for obedience to God?  St. Thomas Becket comes to mind.  And the Blessed Oscar Romero.  And hundreds and thousands of martyrs and Confessors.  All of them following faithfully in the footsteps of our model, the ultimate Holy Fool, Jesus.

Today, pray that we will have the courage to hear the call to faithfulness, even if in some people's eyes it makes us a "fool".  Do at least one foolish thing to help someone in the name of Christ: pronounce God's blessing on a stranger; hand a ticket taker in a toll booth a piece of candy and wish them a blessed day; carry groceries for someone; make a random "April Fool's Day" call to a member of your parish.  If even giving a glass of water in Christ's name is a blessing, surely a small act of service in honor of Christ God's Fool will be, too.