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Peter Gomes really ‘gets’ the whole Colbert premise. I particularly like the line that almost gets lost when Colbert talks about his neighbor. “We all have your neighbor”Amidst all the thrust and parry of their ‘fencing’ are great calls to the nature of what it means to follow the ‘Scandalous Gospel of Jesus”.

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Transfiguration Icon

Transfiguration Icon

Last spring a member of the parish approached me about starting a contemplative prayer group at St. Luke’s.  Needless to say, I was thrilled that inititiave was bubbling up from the community.  Much of what we’ve done in our first two years together has been structural work that, hopefully, will undergird a deepening of the spiritual life of the community.

I have to admit that I was unaware of how unbalanced my own approach to ‘getting things going’ had become.  I mentioned to the Vestry that I was very excited about the new prayer group starting for a number of reasons.  One, it was lay conceived and lay led.  What a great thing!  God’s people praying for the life of the world and the role of their faith community in it.  Secondly, that I believe the attentive gathering of that group has been foundational for the parish.  Whether we sense it or not, the prayers of God’s people for their community is what holds us together.  I believe that the prayers of that group sustains the activity of the parish in many ways.

Jesus tells us in Matthew’s Gospel about the need and blessing of prayer and that it is, as much as anything else, an exercise in aligning our will with the plan of God for the world.

5 ‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.*

7 ‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 ‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.(Matthew 6:5-10)

Our prayers are not news to God. As we seek to be in tune with the mind and heart of God, our reward will be a clearer vision of God’s will and the courage and confidence to work for it.  That’s Kingdom building of the first degree and worthy or our best efforts.

That being said, I believe that remembering to pray for one another, for things big and small, in whatever way makes sense for us is the glue that continues to hold our community and the world itself together.  Prayer is one of the important exercises that allows the work of God to be done in the world.

Say a little prayer for one another today.  It might be the most important work you do all day!

If only I could tell you with confidence that following God in the way of Jesus would prevent sadness and tears in your life.  But I can’t.  The human condition in the world shows us again and again that we are going to have to endure trials of all sorts.  The promise of a life lived in relationship to God is the ultimate ordering of all things in God’s purposes.  If any portion of Scripture is a mantra to that promise it might be these:

Psalm 126:6-7

6
Those who sowed with tears *
will reap with songs of joy.
7
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *
will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

These are the last two verses of the psalm appointed for today in the Lection of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, remembering the Martyrs of New Guinea.  Your trials may not include the physical martyrdom endured by these Missionaries remembered this day, but the fact of the matter is that every life lived in faith and discipleship is going to require a death of one sort or another.

In Sunday’s gospel from Matthew (16:21-28) Jesus makes clear that dying to self is a requirement of discipleship.  Jesus makes clear that surrender and emptying of self, abandonment of personal agendas and a radical trust on God in times of severe trial and bad news is the narrow way to living the life of Holy Union with God in Christ that we are all invited to tread.

For today (and face it that’s all we can face right now), I choose to believe that every road of sorrows I’ve traveled with weeping in my heart and tears on my cheeks, will be overshadowed by the marvelous homecoming bathed in unbridled joy which the Psalmist speaks of here.

May all our tears be followed by the songs of joy that come only from God, the creator of all.  The one which is in all and is the hope of our salvation.

Scot McKnight and his blog Jesus Creed are among my favorites. Here’s a clip of Scot talking about what it means to be ‘Missional’.

This text from Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 39:11 concluded the Hebrew Scripture reading for the Feast of Bernard of Clairvaux, celebrated today throughout Christendom.

If he lives long, he will leave a name greater than a thousand, and if he goes to rest, it is enough for him.

Bernard is in many ways one of the fathers of modern monasticism. Born to privilege he abandoned it all in order to spend his considerable gifts in the passionate pursuit of establishing truly Christian communities. Though few of us today in full-time pastoral ministry are setting out to establish monasteries we are engaged in very similar endeavor to that of Bernard.

Bernard’s passion (often at the expense of sleep and other frivolous activities) for building the Kingdom through the establishment of praying communities ought to be what the leader of every congregation would do well to imitate. Bernard sensed that the traditions of Jesus and The Way were threatened by an increasingly hostile or at least indifferent secular reality. If we’re honest with ourselves, we live in a similar age, asking for the same kind of compulsive, passionate and thorough proclamation by the Gospel by communities of praying, serving, studying and compassionate followers of Jesus.

We may, none of us, live long enough or cast as long a shadow as Bernard to remembered more than a thousand, but should we spend even a few days chasing as passionately  the life of discipleship for ourselves and those whom we pastor as did Brother Bernard—that will be enough.

Thanks be to God for Bernard.

‘Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ (Philippians 4:8-13)

The Apostle Paul writes these words near the end of his letter to a fledgling church in Philippi struggling along with Paul in the challenges he faced as he was imprisoned and uncertain about his future. It seems to me that we might do well to put a bookmark at this passage as we face the uncertain future of a challenging world. I particularly draw your attention to verses 12 & 13:

‘I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’

Given the current state of affairs in the economy (especially at the grocery store, the gas station and when the oil delivery comes), it might be wise to pray that we can become as Paul in knowing the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry. What Paul is calling the Philippians (and be extension us) to is being mindful of the ground of our being (as theologian Paul Tillich would put it), which is God alone. At the very core of our being as humans created in the image and likeness of God is an insatiable yearning to connection, relationship, even union with God. We were created to reflect the confidence, glory, compassion and love of the God of all that was, is and is to come.

I guess I’d summarize one of our challenges like this: It has been said that tough times don’t last but tough people do. I would like to make an appeal to a different understanding. One that comes from a place of deep faith and confidence in God’s good wishes for us and for the whole world. I want to suggest that Paul’s appeal to the Philippians might be best summarized that tough times don’t last simply because God is. So then I see the challenge as not giving into the temptation to despair by remembering, to the core of our beings, that whatever tough times we endure, we do so with the God of all the universe at our side and in our corner. Maybe Julian of Norwich said it best, “All will be well and in all manner of things, all will be well.” She recognizes that it is not at present well in the eyes of God but that the promise is that the completion and perfection of the creation is a promise, not merely a dream. I believe that is what leads Paul to boldly proclaim is ability to ‘do all things through him who strengthens me’ (v. 13).

Here’s to strength for your journey, my journey and our journey. I trust that sooner or later, we’ll all learn to deal .

Our Prayer Book boldly states that:

“The Holy Eucharist, the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day and other major Feasts, and Daily Morning and Evening Prayer, as set forth in this Book, are the regular services appointed for public worship in this Church.” (BCP p. 13)

This fact makes the active life of the community very important especially when we view ‘Eucharist’ by the literal meaning of the word in Greek, which is ‘thanksgiving’. Each and every week as we gather around the table and expect our Trinitarian God to transform our gifts of bread and wine into the ‘Real Presence’ of Jesus at our table we should be profoundly thankful. That thankfulness should not be limited to a ‘feeling’ of gratitude but should extend in to lives which display, in tangible ways, how thankful we are to be fed at the Communion Table.

One of the ways we have done this over the years at St. Luke’s is to gather non-perishable goods on the first Sunday of the Month to send off to Jeremiah’s Inn to help with their work with those seeking to break the grip of substance abuse. I don’t have to tell you that times are tough. I don’t have to tell you that it costs more to fill our grocery bags with our accustomed fare. I don’t have to tell you that just getting to the store is more expensive than it’s ever been. You all know all of that.

The really important question, given all of these realities, is; “What’s a Church to do about it?” I think that, among other things, we need to be more public about our support for those who feel this pressure most acutely and we need to do it publicly within the context of our regular corporate worship. A number of you have suggested over the course of the past months that we need to be more public about our monthly ingathering and have suggested that it become a weekly practice. I could not agree more and you all will be happy to see (I hope) that I’m getting around sharing your suggestion with the community.

Beginning this weekend, I invite you all to bring whatever non-perishables you have, whether it be macaroni and cheese, canned goods, dry cereal or the like. It doesn’t have to be much, but I believe it is a Holy Habit to cultivate, tend, nurture and watch blossom. Just as the flowers at the church or at our homes give us pleasure through our care and cultivation, so to does our Heavenly Father take pleasure in the gratitude that we cultivate in the giving of what we have to those who have so much less. I would also like for these offerings, whatever they may be, to be a part of the offering of our treasure and the gifts of bread and wine in the service. I conclude with this Offertory Sentence from the Book of Common Prayer (p. 376):

Through Christ let us continually offer to God the sacrifice of
praise, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his Name.
But do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:15, 16

Peace and Good,
The Rev. Warren Earl Hicks, Rector
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
921 Pleasant St.
Worcester, MA 01602

Dear St. Luke’s Community,

As some of you might know, I have succumbed to one of the latest trends in our increasingly digital and pluralistic world.

I am on FACEBOOK.

For those of you who don’t know of it, Facebook (www.facebook.com) is a social networking website in which folks can make connections with people of similar interests and communicate in real time in a virtual community. As with most of the internet, you have to take the good with the bad, but Facebook lets you choose your content and who has access to that content. But that’s not what I’m really writing about.

Earlier this week, I received a ‘bumper sticker’ on my account from on of my Facebook ‘Friends’. He is a freshman in college at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, Minnesota and the oldest son of one of my seminary classmates. He still finds it amusing that relics like his mother and me are on Facebook. The sticker he posted on my site quotes noted 20th Century Anglican C.S. Lewis, saying, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” The implication, at least in part, is “there’s more to us than what you see….WAY more!”

Again last night while I was reading Ronald Rolheiser’s book The Holy Longing a similar claim barreled into my space. It said, to paraphrase, that the soul is what brings the chemicals of the body, the stuff of which we’re made, into animation. In that sense, according to Rolheiser, to lose one’s soul is to cease to live. It gave me pause to reflect. In fact, it’s still giving me that pause.

This morning I asked a gentleman who came to a meeting in my office, “How are things with your soul?” He pondered a moment and thend said, “I don’t know, I don’t think about it that much.” I was taken aback with his honesty and had to admit that though I ask the question of others fairly often, I don’t often take stock of how things are with my soul as often as I might. If my soul is that part of me that makes life fully possible, then you’d think I’d pay more attention to its health. After that meeting ended, (a couple of hours ago) I spent some time dealing with the question of how it is with my soul. It seems to me that is entirely consistent with what Lent call us to do. So, having said as much, here’s how things are with my soul just ahead of Holy Week…


Thus far this year my Lenten Journey has been, as it often is, about focusing my energies on the things that God is calling me to do and not being concerned so much with those things that I’m told I ‘ought’ to do (either by myself or others). I don’t know about you, but it makes it much easier for me to step out in faith when I sense that God’s desire is my invitation and not that the expectations of another are my compulsion. Make no mistake, some of what we ‘ought’ to do is God’s will, but I invite you to at least acknowledge the possibility that what we ‘ought’ to be spending our time doing might be taking time away from getting into the heart of God in which our souls find their true rest and most powerful inspiration.

Well, enough of the reflection, I ought to get back to work. (he said with tongue firmly planted in cheek).

May the Love of Christ and the song of God in your soul inspire you to hopeful living this Holy Week!!!!

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