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Call a Solemn Assembly

In the reading from Joel (2:1-2;12-17) appointed for Ash Wednesday, God entreats God’s people to come together for worship and prayer, to literally drop everything and gather together to offer their liturgy – the work of the people. As we enter into our Lenten journey, we are reminded that this is a journey we take together because our faith is communal as well as individual.
As Americans, I believe, we often put too much emphasis on the individualistic nature of our faith and forget that someone brought us to the faith.We want to believe that our redemption is achieved through our own merit and not dependent on another’s actions or inaction. I also believe, however, that our redemption has already been accomplished by Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, BUT our SALVATION is something we as a community must work out together in community.[I am eternally grateful to The Rev. Gerry Skillacorn and his work on this concept.]
It is true that each of us must accept that we are indeed worthy of…

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing!

On February 12th, the song, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” celebrated it’s 120th anniversary. A great article about the history of this song can be found here. Our Bishop has asked that 120 congregations around the Diocese of New Jersey use this song during our worship to celebrate both this anniversary and Black History Month.I have pledged to do so at St. Peter’s and we will use it as our offertory hymn this Sunday.
The lyrics by James Weldon Johnson are powerful, haunting and, ultimately, redeeming.As I sing this song as a person who identifies as ethnically white, I am both ashamed of the ugly truth of slavery that helped establish American and awed by the perseverance of people who rightfully claim worthiness in the eyes of God. While I cannot share in the existential pain of those descendants of slaves and the slavery system, I can stand in solidarity with all who understand race to be a social construct and racism as a grievous sin.
Since we don’t have much time to appreciate th…

America’s Crisis of Contempt

Last Friday (February 7th), Arthur C. Brooks, a social scientist and a member of the faculty at Harvard’s Kennedy Business School, offered a thought-provoking speech to attendees of the National Prayer Breakfast.I encourage you to read his remarks in their entirety here.
Mr. Brooks is not a member of the clergy but a devote Roman Catholic layman.I find it interesting that he was selected as the speaker at the prayer breakfast as sometimes those of us in the clergy can be very full of ourselves and forget that God works through all of God’s children, whether or not we claimed to be “ordained.”His message was poignant and timely, and unfortunately may go unheard.
Mr. Brooks as raised by “liberal” parents even though he identifies as “conservative.” When he hears “liberals” being called “stupid” and “evil,” it is understandable that he takes that very personally. He loves his parents regardless of their politics or ideology.I am sure many of us have loved ones who have very different op…

Fellowship

One of the unique aspects of Christian faith and life is fellowship.That might seem like an odd statement since many activities in our lives involve fellowship in some fashion.Sports teams, drama clubs, professional associations or just getting together with friends are forms of fellowship, but they are not necessarily CHRISTIAN fellowship.While we are always Christian in whatever context we might be in (and hopefully engage our Christian values whether overtly or covertly), we might not actively think about or reflect upon our faith in such circumstances.That is why it is vitally important to have opportunities to be in Christian fellowship; to have times to share with each other the intimate parts of our lives and seek others support and love.
Hopefully you are still with me and not appalled by such a notion.And what I am talking about is not as “touchy/feely” as you may think.The reality is that our faith is an intimate part of our being because it speaks to life's Big Questio…

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matt 5:4)

I was shocked to read the news on Sunday that Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter accident.My heart broke further when I saw that his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, had also been killed.As the story developed and it was reported that all 9 people on board were killed, I stopped what I was doing and said a prayer for all the families that were devastated by this event.
On Tuesday, I learned that two of the victims were Sarah and Payton Chester, mother and daughter.Payton was on the same basketball team as Gianna and she was a student at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano.Sarah was a trustee at the school.
I didn’t know the Chesters any more than I knew Kobe Bryant, but they were members of our tribe – the Episcopal tribe.I knew millions of people (who didn’t know Kobe any better than I did, but felt like they did) were mourning the loss of a sports icon, but his loss is no more tragic than the loss of those who were less well known.In fact, I think most might bel…

A Christmas Poem

‘Twas a week before Christmas and all through the land The Church reminded us that the Savior’s birth was at hand.
The season is not about the perfection of glitter But about a loving God who would not leave us bitter.
And so God sent us the Son wrapped up like a present In the garb of our mortality, the human flesh of a peasant.
The cookies may not be made, the decorations may not be hung, The cards may not be sent, the lights may not be strung.
Yet let us all make the true preparations for the coming of our Savior And open our hearts and lives to the Lord’s loving favor.
No more precious gift has ever been received. It is up to us to remind the world what we truly believe.
Not in jolly old elves, talking snowmen or reindeer in flight But in God, who loves us with all of God's might.
So stop for a moment and take a deep breath, As we await the Christ, the true conqueror of death.
Let go of the need to fulfill a secular call to perfection And allow Jesus’s sacred will to become our motivation.
To p…

The Pink Candle

This coming Sunday is the third week of Advent, sometimes referred to as “Rose Sunday,” or “Gaudete (Latin for “rejoice”) Sunday,” for those really wanting to connect to our Roman Catholic roots.Unfortunately, the Advent Wreath we have in our Sanctuary does not have a pink candle (which I do hope to rectify for next year), but the tradition continues and hopefully the Advent wreaths you have at home do have a pink candle.
I recall the old Sesame Street song, “Which one of these is not like the others?” when I look at the Advent Wreath.It is such an obvious difference that it immediately draws our attention.I know many an acolyte who was delighted that it was the week to light the pink candle because it was “special” just because it was a different color.But why?
There are several explanations, and, as with most Church traditions, I think the truth lies in the amalgamation of them.First, Advent is considered by some to be a mini-Lent, a time of reflection and penitence.Similar to Lent…