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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: The What!? Edition

The Revised Common Lectionary for this Sunday can be found here. (Edited to reflect the ACTUAL and CORRECT lectionary! Thanks to my friends for the help!)

In my tradition, the Episcopal, we have collects for each Sunday which sum up the Scriptures for the week. (As a child I thought of it as "collecting" the scriptures.)

Here is the collect for: Proper 22 The Sunday closest to October 5

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and theHoly Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I share this with you a layperson, I am not sure how in the world these disparate scriptures go together (or how the collect in any way addresses them). This is why I hang out with you folks!

I am always a reader of this feature, and it helps me prepare for Sunday worship to consider the scriptures along with those of you who are working on how you will use them to proclaim the Good News to your people.

With no ideas to offer, I instead offer you some good Dunkin' Donuts coffee (I just made a BIG fresh pot) and ask:

So! what are you going to preach on this Sunday? What is speaking to you out of these scriptures? What is God saying to your hearts?

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Hoppin' Autumn Meet and Greet

(is it a plane? is it a bird? No! It's a grasshopper on the windshield of my car... a sure and certain sign of fall) (oh, photo from mompriest's files)...

Fall is here and with it all the busy-ness that comes with a new church program year, the return of snowbirds, and the renewal of Christian Formation programs! Whether you are busy at church, or seminary, or work, or home with kids... it is a busy time for the Revgals! Please take a moment from your hoppin' crazy schedule and welcome each one of our new members!

Kim at random thoughts. Housewife is one of the identities that I now carry (and that makes me kind of crazy), but it's usually what society sees first. I'm also involved with worship design, media & tech at my church, teach tech at my son's school and I'm a newly activated activist and writer. As advertised, my thoughts are random and sometimes I write about faith.

Niwaki at Odyssey. Odyssey = spiritual or intellectual quest. I am realizing more and more that every day is a journey...marriage, motherhood, ministry, friendship, does it all fit together?

revmk at mary kay. Discussions and thoughts about the lectionary, devotional thoughts, and just life!

beach walkin' at life's a beach. Stories about my life... as a person and pastor... and my blessings and struggles with both.

Sunday's Coming at: thinkingaboutpreaching. A minister of the United Reformed Church in the UK blogging her thoughts leading to the sermon/reflection for each Sunday, based (usually!) on the RCL lectionary. Initially meant as a forum for discussion among our 'team' of lay preachers, it is also proving useful for people who can't get to church to keep in touch.

A new Josephine at: left turn at joy. I previously wrote at Snow on Roses but became a Postulant in the Episcopal church in June, and moved to Texas to start seminary in August. A new home, a new start, a new ministry, and a new blog to go with it.

Lutheran Julia at: faith grace and hope. I'm a brand-new Lutheran pastor at a small church in Anchorage, Alaska. My blog is mostly devoted to my theological musings on current events, devotional ideas, church seasons, saints and sinners.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Video - Deep Peace

This selection has always offered me a deep sense of peacefulness. It's one of my very favorite pieces to listen to when I want some music to calm me. Here is the blessing which goes with the tune by John Rutter.

Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you,
Deep peace of the gentle night to you,
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you,
Deep peace of Christ,
the light of the world to you
Deep peace of Christ.

What music offers you peace? Was there any music today in worship that allowed you to be at peace, whether is be with your neighbor, family member, or with yourself?

Sunday's Prayer (late edition)

Dear ones, I am sorry, I am late with this, no excuses here.
But here is the prayer for this Sunday;

Gracious God,
Thank you for this day.
Thank you for your presence in our lives.
Thank you for this day of worship and focus on you.
Thank you for your goodness to us.
Lord, forgive us when we take you for granted.
Forgive us when we take others for granted.
Forgive us when we take ourselves for granted.
Thank you for your forgiveness, may we live our lives as your forgiven people.
Lord we are grateful that our leaders care about the economic situation in our country, but Lord, can they go a little further than just Wall Street to Main Street to down the street to across the street and to those who make the street their home? Lord, may we do our part to make it so.

Cross Posted at revgal prayer pals and my blog

Saturday, September 27, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: STOMP Edition

It's been one of those weeks, hasn't it? The news has been tough, the politics have been rough, and the texts from the lectionary? Well, they have a little "stomp" to them, too.

We may want to side against the Israelites in Exodus 17:3--
The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?"

But aren't there people in our congregations feeling similar stress?

We listen to stories about who is going to be where, doing what important work, and we make our own judgments about them, and then we read this in Matthew 21:31--
"Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you."

Yikes! We're reading this to the faithful?

It's not often I turn to the epistle for the Good News, but I'm stomping over in the direction of Philippians 2 this week--
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Although, darn it! That's a major challenge in most churches!!

Yes, it's tough stuff this week. How can we help each other? Who disagrees with me and thinks these passages are easy-peasy? And what can you bring to our shared table? I've got good Fairly Traded coffee, and I'll offer up some apple muffins, too.

Join us in the comments, tell us what you're up to today.

My daughter is going to see Stomp tonight with her cousin, and thus the picture and the theme. Here they are via YouTube, for your stomping pleasure.

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's a Johhny Appleseed Friday Five

Raise your hand if you know that today is Johnny Appleseed Day!

September 26, 1774 was his birthday. "Johnny Appleseed" (John Chapman) is one of America's great legends. He was a nurseryman who started out planting trees in western New York and Pennsylvania, but he was among those who were captivated by the movement west across the continent.

As Johnny traveled west (at that time, the "West" was places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois) he planted apple trees and sold trees to settlers. With every apple tree that was planted, the legend grew. A devout Christian, he was known to preach during his travels. According to legend, Johny Appleseed led a simple life and wanted little. He rarely accepted money and often donated any money he received to churches or charities. He planted hundreds of orchards, considering it his service to humankind. There is some link between Johny Appleseed and very early Arbor Day celebrations.

So, in honor of this interesting fellow, let's get on with the questions!

1. What is your favorite apple dish? (BIG BONUS points if you share the recipe.)

2. Have you ever planted a tree? If so was there a special reason or occasion you can tell us about?

3. Does the idea of roaming around the countryside (preaching or otherwise) appeal to you? Why or why not?

4. Who is a favorite "historical legend" of yours?

5. Johnny Appleseed was said to sing to keep up his spirits as he traveled the roads of the west. Do you have a song that comes when you are trying to be cheerful, or is there something else that you often do?

Here are the instructions for the magical little link. Copy and paste the following: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ask the Matriarch - Honoring the Wishes of the Dead as well as the Living

Our question this week derives from our call to be stewards of the mysteries of life and death.
A woman in the parish is dying - she does not want a service or any "fuss" -- what to do?
A man died and told the family he did not want a funeral -- but the family is wanting to have something -- what to do?

This week several of our matriarchs share their experiences and insights.

Ann writes:

This is one of those issues I always hope to address before the person dies. The dying woman may be open to hearing that others need a time to get together and mourn her passing – that it is only partly about her and her needs at this point. It is a ministry she can perform even in weakness and death. She gets the last word on this as far as formal church services go. People can do what they need to do for themselves or gathered. If it is about control when her life is out of control – it might be presented as a way to set up some parameters for whatever people decide to do.

As for the man who died. Maybe the family can have a party on his birthday when it comes around again. Celebrating and sharing pictures and stories – laughing and crying. The Greek Orthodox have a ceremony a 40 days after a death – a church I attended in Boston used to have it as part of coffee hour after church.
What other non-service suggestions are there?

jledmiston, from A Church for Starving Artists reminds us that we can help clarify some of these questions while our parishioners are still alive:

This is a common experience in the church, I think. We lost a beloved 81 year old who also did not want "anything" which she happened to document one day sitting right next to me as we were completing Funeral Plans together using the forms our church suggests people to complete in the event of our deaths -- she did hers and I did mine. When she stated her wishes out loud, I said that she and I both knew that her friends would still want to have something to honor her - and we did.

We followed all her wishes in terms of cremation, burial, memorial donations, etc. But she couldn't stop us from gathering to thank God for her life. This was going to happen no matter what - even if it happened in someone's living room. When someone says this, I would simply say something like, "But people love you very much and will probably get together to remember what you've meant to them. That is a gift you can give to them."

Karen Sapio shares her insights as to what motivates a person to reject a funeral as well as the disconnect that we in the church can have with those who are not as familiar with church practice:

In my experience when someone says they do not want a funeral what they mean is they do not want an announced-in-the-paper, chancel-choked-with-flowers, procession-with-hearse-across-town, somber-organ-music, long-winded eulogy event. I think you and the family can come up with a creative alternative that honors the family's desire for a helpful/healing rite of passage as well as the deceased desire NOT to have a funeral straight out of central casting. The key is to have a good conversation about what everyone actually wants or doesn't want.

Recently I had a family who said they did not want a funeral, just a graveside service. So I arrived with at the specified hour ready to do my usual 10-15 minute committal service. But the family had arrived ready for each member to say something, for the grandchildren to sing a song, and for several recorded songs to be played on a portable CD player. We were there for over an hour in the BLAZING heat. Too late I figured out that they DID, want a funeral. They just didn't want it in the church. In their minds, "in the church" meant funeral and outside at the cemetery meant "not a funeral". We exist in such a churchy world that we think that since WE know what we mean by funeral, memorial service, graveside, etc. that those words mean the same thing to everyone. Not so.

Earthchick reminds us that we are called to be sensitive to the needs of those who remain:

Though I try to honor the wishes of the deceased whenever possible, my belief is that a funeral is for those left behind, not for the one gone. If the family wants/needs a funeral, I always do it. If they need help accepting that they are doing something their loved one didn't want, I help them with their feelings and work towards helping them claim what they need for their own healing. I like to find out, if I can, why the person did not want a service - it can tell me a lot about the person that may be helpful in ministering to the family. If it is the public nature of a funeral that the deceased did not want, I would talk with the family about doing something private, just for them. But ultimately, I would go with what they wanted. My first priority in the face of death is to minister to those in grief.

Finally, from a friend of the Matriarchs, here is a letter written to the congregation in the face of the death of a beloved member who wanted no services held, followed by her personal reflection on the event:

She wrote to the congregation…

I've been thinking a lot about the plan to have a service of remembrance for xxx. She had directed that no service be held and that her ashes be spread at sea. My pastoral concern was for people in the congregation who felt a need to honor her life and to have some closure. I've heard from those who say I should go ahead with the service and from those who say I should not.

This morning I decided that it is important to honor her wishes. Although I may strongly disagree, it's not my place nor my right to go against her instructions. If I were to go ahead with a service, it would also say to others in the parish that I could not be trusted to follow their final wishes. As your pastor, it's crucial that you trust me to do what's important for you after you die.

For those who wanted a service, I hope you can find another way to honor her life. For the parish community, the altar flowers will be given in her memory on a Sunday in September. Based on the conversations I'd had with her, I think that would meet with her approval.

Thanks for understanding, and if you have any questions or concerns, I hope you'll talk with me.

your pastor

She reflects on the experience…
For the family I would just suggest a small gathering at their home.

I think those that make these kind of insistences for no service are thinking only of themselves -- it often comes down to a fear of death or a fear that no one will attend or a feeling that a service puts too much attention on the deceased. What they don't understand is that the service really isn't about the person who died; it's about everyone left behind. We're going to be discussion this issue in the parish this fall. Ultimately and for even the nicest person who might die, to insist on no service is really selfish.

What might you offer from your wells of experience and insight?

May you live this day and every day in God's amazing grace+


(image courrtesy of

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday Festival: This and That

Sally shares a narrative reflection and two good news stories. She also shares this post, which, she says, "may be of interest to anyone who wonders what we get up to in the rural parts of the UK."

Hedwyg says: "I'd like to nominate this post on my blog -which arose from a search string that brought someone to Practicing Intentional Gratitude. I've been wondering what a bible intended for someone with a chronic illness would look like, or perhaps a bible written by only people who struggled with a chronic or invisible illness. Everyone is invited to suggest stories, parables, quotations, or other bible pieces in the comments."

Christine invites us to another Poetry Party at the Abbey this week, in celebration of the equinox:

Here is what PS has been thinking.

Cody asks for our input on a recent post.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "Let's Get Small" Edition

The coming Sunday's lectionary readings can be found here .

I'm old enough to remember the days when Steve Martin, pre-comic-intelligentsia days, was one wild and crazy guy who invited his standup audiences, Let's get smaaaaaall!

Interestingly, that phrase came to mind when I read this Sunday's lectionary.

In the Ezekiel passage, which I'll be hearing at my own church, Ezekiel tells it like it is to the people -- that, in the midst of their troubles, the right response isn't to blame their fate on big, collective intergenerational circumstances beyond their control, but to "get small," as small as their own lives and hearts, and make the changes that need to be made to mend the broken places in themselves and in their society. (And isn't it also a part of "getting small" to embrace the disciplines that support us in loving and serving God and our neighbors?) The Exodus reading describes God's chosen people lapsing -- and, to be fair, understandably -- into smallness of faith and vision, in the midst of their deliverance from bondage, as they once again experience want out in the wilderness.

Our Epistle lesson is one of my very favorite texts -- Paul's kenosis hymn in the letter to the Philippians. How can we wrap our heads around the concept of a God who stoops to conquer; whose power is made manifest in smallness, in servitude, in weakness, in "nobodyhood"?

And in our Gospel lesson Jesus points to the most notorious sinners in town, the moral nobodies of his day, as the little people who ultimately "get" the metanoia message when the highfalutin' holy folks do not; perhaps because they have no illusions of moral superiority that they must protect, that get in the way of getting real with God and with one another?

Big, meaty texts here -- isn't that ironic? And which of them speak to you and your people most powerfully right now? Or are you preaching on other texts? As always, share your moodlings here!

Monday, September 22, 2008

RevGalBookPals: Here If You Need Me

Kate Braestrup was having an ordinary day. She got her four kids off to school and her husband Drew went to work as a Maine state trooper. Her life completely changed when, two hours later, Drew was killed in a car accident. A year after that, Kate began her course of study at Bangor Theological Seminary; it had been Drew’s plan that, upon retiring from the state police, he’d become a Unitarian Universalist minister and (on the side) a law enforcement chaplain. To honor Drew, and to feel close to him, Kate took his place.

She became the first chaplain to the Maine Warden Service. Her funny, earthy, wise writing describes her ministry in that capacity and her adjustment to the profound changes in her world. She wrote,

If anyone needs proof that God has a sense of humor, here it is:
I am a middle-aged mother of four who works primarily with young, very fit men…
And I, a famously loquacious person, have a job that requires me mostly
to just show up, shut up, and be.

I was drawn to “Here If You Need Me” for several reasons:
  • I’m interested in the intersection of the sacred and the secular, with love and service as the ties that bind.
  • I find honest accounts of other people’s faith lives and ministries fascinating and encouraging…as I suspect may also be true for you, my RevGal friends!
  • People I trust said something like, “OMG—READ THIS!!!”
I’m glad I did; hope you feel the same way! It’s about all the real stuff: faith, love, friendship, life & death, service, honor. She has a lot of warmth and humor, and a few insights that rang so true for me, I actually gasped when I read them (more on this later). I also had a few questions as I went through the book; tell me what you think, or raise an issue that I’ve missed in the comments; I'll check in from time to time!

1. Kate was very clear about how she wanted to care for Drew’s body after his death. Her choices were unconventional, by today’s standards: washing and dressing him herself, with the help of his parents and best friend, and then standing by as he was cremated. What is your take on this, and what have you found to be particularly meaningful, with regard to rituals/prayers around grief and letting go?

2. Kate was something of a lifelong skeptic, where institutional religion is concerned; all the same, she gets to the heart of what most major religions are about in her work: love, faithfulness, generosity, mystery, beauty—especially the beauty of creation. I think her story captures some of what it means to be a religious person in this country, in this time:
  • Being approached with a sort of abashed skepticism on the part of the less-churched
  • A circuitous path into her life’s work
  • A fresh approach to Biblical narrative as an adult; she grew up unchurched
  • An openness to the truths inherent in many different approaches to God

3. Kate and the wardens with whom she works are very in tune with the natural world. Whether religious language is used or not, there’s a sense of awe among them at of creation, and a clear “call” to protect it and the "innocent" from the stupidity/misfortune/occasional malice of a few. These people are up to their necks in reality. Does that provide a kind of groundedness that is less readily available to people whose professions take place in other arenas?

4. I have two favorite insights in the book: the story about real-life evangelism on pages 53-54 (the story of the young pamphleteer and her neighbor’s brownies), and her discussion of miracles that culminates on p. 181 with this observation:

A miracle is not defined by an event. A miracle is defined by gratitude.

What were the moments that moved you or offered an insight you liked, and why?

Thanks for taking part in the discussion; I look forward to hearing what you thought!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Prayer

Gracious God, today as we labor in your vineyard, your Kingdom, guide our work.
As we stand in the pulpit with all our labor for a sermon, may all that is said bring forth fruit.
May your vineyard flourish, may your Kingdom flourish.
May your spirit flow forth like water watering the land,
may our souls be filled with your goodness, your mercy, your kindness.
Oh Lord we pray for our brothers and sisters
who were devastated by the power of hurricane Ike.
Oh Lord we pray for those who have lost their homes,
lost their jobs, lost their savings in this economic crisis.
Lord, presently, life just doesn't seem fair.
Life seems precarious, and unsure.
Lord we turn to you to right the wrong, bring peace to war torn lives,
comfort to those who are in pain and suffering, and love to those who feel unloved.
Oh Lord the list goes on of the needs in this world.
How do we find the words, to say, except to turn to you our rock and our salvation.
And so Lord to you we turn and place our trust. Amen

cross posted at my blog and revgalprayerpals

Saturday, September 20, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party:
be not anxious edition

Subbing for Songbird - here is your last minute site for sermon ideas and thoughts. Readings for RCL are here. Is the economic news hitting members of the church you serve? Are you preaching on this subject? The Episcopal Church prayer for this Sunday is:
Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Seems old prayers show us that others have been through this before.

From Tuesday's Lectionary discussion I hear:

Exodus has grumbling Israelites, Jonah is mad at God for forgiving the Ninevites: "I knew you would be like this, God - that's why I don't like working for you - how about a little fire and brimstone instead of all this forgiving, merciful attitude?" (my paraphrase of Jonah sulking under the shriveled vine).

Paul tells the Philippians: live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel. Always good advice for Christians - hard to do always.

The Gospel is a challenge for those of us who cry "not fair" - "I worked all day and now you are paying those slackers the same as you are paying me?" But if we look at it through the eyes of a day laborer - one who stands at the job corner waiting to be called to go work, maybe we can see how it could be better than fair. Imagine you are standing with the others waiting for the landowner to call you for work today. Who gets called first? The fit, the strong, the young? You wait knowing your family can't eat tonight if you don't get this job but you have many strikes against you - you aren't all the strong, you are not young, you are whatever the landowner does not see as attributes of a good worker. Still you wait in hope - noon comes and still no work. Mid afternoon - nope - not called this time either. Finally, the last hour and joy of joy you are called - even if it is a few cents it will be better than nothing to take home to the family.

What will you preach tomorrow?
What is your favorite fuel for sermon writing?
I think graham crackers and milk or maybe an Oreo or 2.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fall Equinox Friday Five

It's that time of year, at least north of the equator. The windows are still open, but the darned furnace comes on early in the morning. My husband went out for a walk after an early supper and came home in full darkness.

And yes, where we live, leaves are beginning to turn.

As this vivid season begins, tell us five favorite things about fall:

1) A fragrance

2) A color

3) An item of clothing

4) An activity

5) A special day

As always, let us know in comments if you play. Post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ask the Matriarch - Drowning in Paperwork...Not!

Our question this week is really an question and an update from a newly ordained pastor who has discovered that the congregation she is serving keeps no records...

Dear Ask the Matriarch,

I have worked for a few different churches in a non-ordained pastor role, always with other pastors and full time secretaries. About three weeks ago I started my first call, it is a solo call at a church with a volunteer part time secretary. I knew it would be different and I am excited
but....although the church is set to celebrate their 150th anniversary I cannot find hardly any records of anything. I don't mean just historical stuff, I mean basic day to day stuff like old bulletins, newsletters, and annual reports not to mention the parish membership records or budgets. What little I have found has been painfully incomplete. I just don't understand what happened or what I should do about it.

When I ask about the lack of records I am usually told I'm the pastor I should make all the decisions. When I ask about the lack of a budget I am told the congregation doesn't have a lot of money but if it is needed we can usually try to find it. I can't help but think its important for me to know what they have done in the past and have some kind of budget to work with. How can I the past or a budget. For all their talk about me being in charge I am convinced that without records I will miss something important and without a budget I will violate some financial taboo and end up unnecessarily offending the congregation.

How much of this is normal new call/first call stuff? And how should I proceed?

Frustrated in Wisconsin

Now as we were preparing to address that question, "Frustrated in Wisconsin" wrote again, this time even more frustrated!

Dear Matriarchs,

Over the last week I have found out more about why I can't find certain things, they never existed. Apparently I can't find old budgets because they have never had one. In fact the secretary told me I am the third pastor to asked her if we have one...and when the first one pushed this issue it apparently wasn't well received. So my revised question has to do with church budgets. Am I the only pastor in the land with a church that doesn't have and possibly refuses to create any kind of church budget? If you too go without a budget how do you make spending choices? Do you bring every little thing to council? Do you just do what you want
and assume they will pay for it? Or something in between? Have any of you come into a parish and tried to get them to make this kind of huge shift in the way they think about and deal with money? How did it work? Should I just leave it be (either until I get more settled or forever) or can I pursue this (now or later), because a big part of me wants to ask them to create a budget so I can know how they want to utilize their resources, but I don't want to stir up a hornets nest in my first month?

Even more frustrated in Wisconsin

An Episcopal priest, a friend of one of our matriarchs, writes:

This is going to take some counsel with her bishop. But if she can dig back through other parish records like newsletters and vestry minutes, she might shed a little historical light on the problem. But ultimately, I think she's accountable for the continuing lack of a budget and, by extension, the wise use of parish resources. A couple of questions:

Is there a treasurer and what does he/she do?

How does a pledge campaign fit into this lack of financial accountability?

Her language needs to move from "they" to "we".

A couple of other questions that affect this situation: How small is the parish? Is there a group of parishioners who have pretty much run things over the decades? Has she talked with the previous two priests? Did she not get parish information prior to accepting this call? Has she never talked with the bishop about this parish? How can they fill out a parochial report without solid financial info? I'd check national and diocesan canons as well to see if they're violating anything or if they're lack of budget implies that they must violate a canon. I don't think, though, that she'll be able to do much without the bishop's support. And if she cannot be assured of that, she needs to make a move out of there sooner rather than later. This is a major disaster waiting to happen and regardless of what the disaster is, the priest will be lifted up as the cause.

This parish reminds me of a priest-killing parish in xxx where I was the interim. A small group ran the place and it was a struggle every day. The treasurer wasn't even a member of the parish! When he called me the day before my first pay day and told me they couldn't afford to give me a check after paying the bills, I called the senior warden and told her that there would be no more services on Sunday until they could afford to pay me. I had a check within the hour. And that was only the beginning ....

A rector friend adds:

What a nightmare! I would find some good "financial stewardship" type information. The Episcopal Church has the Manual of Business Methods in Church Affairs – that would help. Then I would gather some numbers types in the church and share this information with them. Enlist a group to support a change process. Maybe as a first step then, this year, I would ask one of those folks to help track spending and maybe come up with different categories. Take that spending tracking to the council at the end of the year and set it next to your mission or parish priorities and ask if the way we operate reflects accurately who we want to be? If it does, let's set this as a sort of budget to help us stay on track. If it doesn't reflect who we think we are, then lets allocate money in advance and use that allocation to keep us faithful to our stated commitments.

It seems like budgets are good stewardship for two reasons – one is that we are open and hones in how we deal with money – no secrets from the congregation, the other is, as I said above, because they are tools to help focus our ministry where we believe God wants it to go.

Jan, who blogs at A Church for Starving Artists writes

Dear FIW,

This is not normal.

And keeping the status quo would be a lose-lose situation: if you spend whatever you want and you overspend, they'll be angry. If you spend nothing terrified of overspending and so certain ministries are not possible then they'll be angry.

As I've said in these posts before, most difficult conversations start best with "In a healthy church . . ."

Healthy churches have budgets. Budgets also give you and the congregation a clear understanding of boundaries, permission, core values, and goals.

You could also ask the leaders: why do we exist? (possible answers: To have someplace to go on Sunday mornings. To serve God in this community. To take care of our own needs.) Information, money, and energy are all needed - among other things - to do ministry. You cannot do your job unless you have those resources. You are not the only minister of that congregation -- unless they have called you because they want a personal chaplain. (I hope this isn't the case.)

Even More Frustrated is not the first to have experienced this lack of appropriate financial behavior. Do you have some insights to add?

(image courtesy of

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

what's up ?

Is there anyone out there still doesn't know what RevGals&Pals is all about? Please do skip over to read what Katherine from anyday a beautiful change says so well.

I know that RevGals and Pals are out there writing a lot of great posts - but there were precious few entries for the Wednesday Festival this week! So, I want to remind you that not only can you nominate a post of your own, (send it to but when visiting the blogs of those you read and enjoy - especially if something particularly catches your eye or your heart - then please send in a link so we can all get to enjoy it too!

One such blog for me this week was the 23rd poetry party hosted by Christine over at AbbeyoftheArts

Doesn't that picture just speak to you? Check out the poetry waiting for you here.

It's autumn already (for most of us that is - those of you living down under will just be coming into spring and I for one am envious that your days are getting longer just as our are starting to get shorter - but I digress ...)

Autumn in this part of Finland means that the university students move back into town- and this year (for the first time ever) I climbed the tower of the cathedral in Turku, as part of an outreach to international students . The climb was hard (and I wasn't sure I was going to make it at one point!) but the views were stupendous and so I was really glad I did. I met some very nice people too!

So what are some of the other RevGals and their pals up to this autumn?


Deb took time out to encourage us to take an hour out of our busy schedules (along with a group over in facebook) to read the Gospel of Mark in one sitting and then blog about it. She did so here.

and KnittinPreacher will be back at church after an extended time away this summer and wonders how anyone else has made the transition back after an extended leave?

As we were short of entries I thought I'd check on the gals who usually do the Wednesday festival round up and see that they have been blogging about recently.

Cathy is writing about goose eggs
Mrs M over at the kitchen door has been struggling a bit and here's why
pink shoes seems to have lost her mojo or else she really is out kayaking?
widenening circles has had her head in the clouds (well almost!)
Rev Abi posts her weekly prayer here
net's been southern bound

As you all know MaryBeth writes regularly and last I heard she had a houseful because of hurricane Ike - but her blog (and others who have typepad) and my computer are having issues - so you'll have to skip on over yourself to see what's cooking ...

Finally, if you are looking for something different to read ... may I recommend

Three Cups of Tea: One man's mission to promote peace ... one school at a time
? I blogged about it here It's an amazing testimony of how one man is making a difference in the lives of children (particularly girls) in the areas and forbidding terrain of nothern Pakistan and Afghanistan that gave birth to the Taliban.

And don't forget our very own Choral Girl will be leading a book discussion here next Monday on Kate Braestrup's true story. Here if you need me

That's it for this week.

love and blessings
see-through faith.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "It Ain't Fair!" Edition

This coming Sunday's lectionary readings can be found here .

Sometimes it just ain't fair.

God gets you out of a jam with the Egyptians only to send you out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat. Gee, thanks, God.

Or you get sent to preach fire and brimstone to an evil empire...but then the people up and repent, depriving you of the satisfaction of watching them "get it" from God. Sheesh.

Or you embrace the Good News, only to get your teeth kicked in by your neighbors. Some good news.

Or you work hard all day for The Man, and then some schmucks who show up at the last minute wind up getting the same wages as you do. What?

It ain't fair, I tell ya.

What does "fairness" mean in God's Reign? How do we live "in God we trust" when the short-term outcome isn't so great? Just two of the questions that may inspire, challenge or perplex you as you read the lessons this week.

Or perhaps you're recognizing St. Matthew this coming Sunday. Or preaching on a Creation Sunday. Or doing something completely different.

Whatever you're doing, do join us for a discussion on the texts you're tackling this week as you preach/pray/craft your worship service.

Monday, September 15, 2008

RevGalBlogPals Big Event 2.0--Women Prophets: Daughters of Miriam

We are delighted to announce the details for the RevGalBlogPals Big Event 2.0, Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in and Around Ancient Israel, presented by the Reverend Dr. Wil Gafney, an Episcopal priest and Associate Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

The Big Event 2.0 will take place at The Casa (also known as The Franciscan Retreat Center) in Scottsdale, Arizona. We will begin on Thursday evening, April 16, 2009, and conclude on Sunday morning, April 19, 2009. The cost of the retreat will be $385 to share a double room, or $475 for those preferring a single room. A deposit of $100 is due by November 1st, with the balance due on March 1st, 2009.

Rate includes all meals, a t-shirt and RevGalBlogPals, Inc. membership for 2009— transportation to Phoenix, Arizona, is in addition. Shuttle bus to and from the Phoenix International Airport via “Super Shuttle” will be approximately $16.00 each way. The Rev. Dr. Gafney's book, Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel, will be available for purchase at the retreat, but you are welcome to buy it ahead of time, too.

To request a brochure with more details, or to request a registration form, please send an e-mail to

(Monday Meet and Greet will return on the 29th!)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Psalm 139 - "If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there."

Joseph Gelineau, SJ, who brought the most ancient traditions back to life in chanted psalmody with his use of the "sprung rhythms" found in the original Hebrew and ancient tones, died last month. The introduction to my copy of the Grail psalter, which uses the Gelineau tones with a lovely English translation of the texts, remarks "the psalms are in our very bones". For me at least this is true. So often I find the words of the psalter rising unbidden to my lips, in times of joy, or of great sadness.

Gannet Girl found this psalm in her grief, and it has run through my mind all these last days, as I pray it for her, for her son. It brought me back to the dark hours of a Holy Thursday more than twenty years ago, to a hospital waiting room, praying this verse from Psalm 29 (30): At night there are tears, but joy comes with dawn. There were many tears that night. While there was to be no joy for me at dawn, only a yawning emptiness; for my spouse, the joys of heaven were his, I'm confident. The psalm let me surrender to that mystery of pain and certainty.

The psalms still give voice to my griefs, my joys, my angers, my failings...they hold me up. They are my very bones.

What psalms are in your bones?

Sunday Prayer

Forgiving and ever merciful God, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Help us to forgive when it is the hard thing to do. Help us to forgive one another for the slights, and big hurts as well just as you have forgiven us. Help us to remember that when we forgive we let go of wounds, pain, hurt and anger that would bind us and keep us from being free. Help us to remember that forgiveness does not mean we have to stay in abusive relationships or situations. Lord thank you again for the multitude of forgiveness that you have for all.

Lord as we remember this week the events of 9/11, help us to forgive those who caused these acts. Help us to continue to support and encourage those who were traumatized that day and those who still deeply miss their loved ones.

And Lord once again we lift up those in Texas and surrounding areas that have been impacted by hurricane Ike. We pray for the other countries that have also been impacted by the recent hurricanes. Help us to reach to out to our brothers and sisters in these areas with loving kindness and good will. Amen.

cross posted at revgalprayerpals and my blog.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: The Essentials Edition

Good morning, gals and pals! This weekend as I am farther behind than usual as I embark on "the preaching task." What about you? As I set the breakfast table and put the coffee on, and listen to news reports on Hurricane Ike, I am also reflecting on a weekend tradition of ours around here: TCM'S The Essentials. Every weekend there is a classic, essential movie, a movie like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, or Casablanca. And there is a discussion: just why is this movie an "Essential"?

Well, I can't help thinking that this weekend is a weekend for the essentials.

From Tuesday's discussion, I know we are going in many directions. Some of us are preaching on the lessons for Holy Cross, some on the 18th Sunday after Penteocst. Others have been winding their way through Exodus. And I'm sure there are many many sermon sparks out there we're not aware of: yet.

As for me, I've been thinking about forgiveness: Joseph and his brothers, Peter and Jesus, the unforgiving servant. As a Bible study participant said on Wednesday: so necessary, so difficult. That's forgiveness.

So: I've got the muffins and the coffee, the placemats and the flowers, the prayers and the meditations. It's all set for you. Will you join me on this very essential weekend?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Five: Back to School

It's time for a Back-To-School Friday Five!

1. Is anyone going back to school, as a student or teacher, at your house? How's it going so far?

2. Were you glad or sad when back-to-school time came as a kid?

3. Did your family of origin have any rituals to mark this time of year? How about now?

4. Favorite memories of back-to-school outfits, lunchboxes, etc?

5. What was your best year of school?

As always, let us know in comments if you play. Post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ask the Matriarch - To Blog or Not to Blog (Anonymously)

Our question for this week concerns this enterprise that so many of us have come to love: blogging!
I know this topic has been kicked around before on different blogs, but I'd like some more input. I have blogged anonymously and enjoy the freedom which comes with that medium. However as I continue seeking a call and looking at new ways to do/be church, I would like to be able to blog from that position also...where the members and friends can see me perhaps in a bit different mode. It would be a place to possibly post sermons, to dream, to wrestle with faith issues from a different perspective. Herein lies the tension...has anyone blogged in "both worlds" simultaneously, with one being anonymous and the other one not.

One of our matriarchs consulted a blogging friend, who offers this advice:
I like blogs. I'm not a priest but I have two separate blogs, one for my
daily life full of random thoughts and reports of what I ate for breakfast
and one for more structured essays.

My top two pieces of advice.

1. Remember than anything you post is being shared with the public at
large-- even if you only have three people who read your blog if something
blows up on it you can suddenly have thousands of readers from around the
world-- not all of whom are nice-- some just come to point and mock.

2. Having an a anonymous blog is no guarantee that some astute person won't
put two and two together and figure link your personal and professional
lives and publish that information (see rule 1).

Jan who blogs at Church for Starving Artists adds:
My church blog has always been non-anonymous/attached to my name. Frankly I am a snarky enough person that I don't trust myself to write comments without a filter or a means of making me control my semi-mean commentary. Example: I can imagine coming home from a Presbytery meeting so frustrated that I'd make unnecessarily catty comments about somebody's hair or something.
Even with my name attached, I've written posts that might disqualify me from a specific call, but my thought is that it's important to be the real me and if something I wrote keeps me from serving a certain congregation then I probably wouldn't be a good fit for them anyway. It's really important to be the person we really are - and for churches to convey who they really are too.
We all know both pastors and churches that pretended to be someone they aren't to receive a call/call a new pastor. Not pretty in the long run.

My Ask the Matriarch co-chair Ann writes:
Blogging under my own name reminds me to be mindful that anyone may be reading and that what I write will float around cyberspace for a long time. I put my sermon notes up - my thinking process towards a sermon and will often add what actually came out in the pulpit. Parishioners can see how it becomes a sermon or not!! I occasionally do controversial subjects - but mainly about how I came to that position or how it is playing out in the church and society. Those blogs I will let sit over night before posting. I have not blogged anonymously - don't really think that is possible as some techno savvy person can always track down who is behind most any blog. It is a fantasy in my opinion to think no one will find out. My rule is don't put anything in a blog that I don't want the whole world to know. That being said I think blogging is a great way to reach out to people who are seeking -- both those in the church you serve and beyond. I am always surprised (usually pleasantly) when someone comments on mine or the essays I write for other venues.

Great question...great insights! What wisdom or insight from your own experiences would you add?

May you live in God's amazing grace+

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Wednesday Fall Festival

This week is Oktoberfest in my city in September, go figure. I can't wait, now if I can only find time to go.

But here it is fall almost and another special Wednesday of writings from revgalbloggers. Join me in reading their wonderful posts;

Eternal Echoes has some good news..(yea!). Then she shares with us two poems; The first is from Monday’s lectionary reading elizabeth greets mary and the second inspired by the poetry party over at Abbey of the Arts called In patient anticipation (Thank you, and I just want to know; Are you talking to me? The picture however says it all.)

And by the way, Abby of the Arts invites you all over to the poetry party (It's the 23rd party, by the way, and you all are invited.) She has an image and a suggested title for you to use. (I must admit, even I am intrigued by this one, I am coming over, won't you come too? Let the party begin!)

Following Frodo has been musing about the nature of humanity. He wants to know are we truly totally depraved or naturally good? (Why, don't you help him find the answer.)

LutheranChik has had some sadness with the loss of one of her pets. She wants to know if any of you know of any Pastoral resources for for the death of a pet -- books, short family-friendly liturgies for the graveside, etc. She thanks you ahead of time! Go offer her your thoughts and help her with some the resources. (LutheranChik, I have lost several myself before we moved and had to have funerals for them as well, my thoughts are with you. I'll see if I can help, we just winged it with ours.)

Well, well, Sarah Palin is not the only one making the news these days, our own anglobaptist was interviewed for the Chicago Sun Times. Go over and catch the news at Conjectural Naval Gazing. (Congratulations, and I know you will be sending out autographed articles real soon, be sure to include your revgalblogpals. But inquiring minds want to know if you have a 'bridge to nowhere?')

Mitch Ross brings us this; Our church membership directory has a warning statement on the inside cover. It says, among other things:"Please do not use these phone numbers and addresses for sales solicitations, sales parties, or dating purposes."He then asks the question; Does anyone else have "Directory Dating" problems? :) (Well, all I can say is fiddle-dee.)

And last but not least by a long shot, drum roll and trumpets, "Here comes the Bride..." Our own very own gallycat has tied the knot! Go wish her congratulations! Here are some pictures of the beautiful bride and handsome groom. (Congrats gallycat, we are so proud for you, I'm even tearing up with joy for you.)

Ya'll enjoy your day and enjoy the Wednesday festival offerings. Remember to send in your nominations for next Wednesday's festival to
Wednesday Festival . It can be one of your posts or some one else.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Grace Division

Readings for next Sunday can be found here .

How do we show grace to those who do us, and/or in our perception do God, wrong? Do we extend grace to them? That seems to be the theme of our lessons this coming week: Joseph forgiving Brothers Behaving Badly (who, one notes, have a hard time owning their responsibility); Paul tackling the issue of how Christians whose Christian consciences take them in different directions can get along within the faith community; Peter asking Jesus how many times he can be reasonably expected to forgive, mebbe two or three times? (And what about the alternate Exodus reading, where Pharaoh's charioteers wind up "sleepin' wid da fishes" on earth does that fit into Sunday's big picture?)

Some of you may be planning an observance of a Creation Sunday. Or Holy Cross Day. Or something completely different. (Did I mention that Pentecost is a really, reeeally looooooong season?)

What are you thinking/praying/preaching about this week? Tell us!

Monday, September 08, 2008

musical musings: season of creation edition

desert bg white

I'm loosely grounding this month's musical musings in the Season of Creation, a recent emphasis for liturgical observation as late summer cycles into fall in the northern hemisphere, winter into spring in the southern. The site explains
What Is the Season of Creation?

For four Sundays in September, prior to St Francis of Assisi Day, we join in celebrating with Christ the wonders of creation. In the liturgy, we follow the lead of the psalm writers and celebrate with creation — with the forests, the rivers and the fields, which praise the Creator in their own way. Bible readings focus especially on the story of Earth, which complements the story of God and the story of humanity in the Scriptures. We commit ourselves to a ministry of healing Earth, with Christ and creation as our partners.
On this page Norman Habel gives us part of the history; here's an excerpt:
The season of Creation begins as an Australian story. I, like many in our Lutheran Church in Australia, grew up in the bush. I climbed every tree within miles. I felt close to creation: the soil, the streams and the sounds of the bush. Celebrating the creation I love has long been one of my dreams.

The Sundays of the first year in the three-year cycle of Creation are called Forest Sunday, Land Sunday, Outback/Wilderness Sunday and River Sunday. Congregations can turn the sanctuary into a vibrant part of creation as they celebrate with creation.
Check out these liturgies, too--this especially interests me as a theologian with particular interests in liturgical and ecological theology. As in the rest of the liturgical calendar, the Season of Creation pericopes place us in year A; here are links to Textweek's resources:

September 7 - 1A:Forest Sunday

September 14 - 2A: Land Sunday

September 21 - 3A: Outback/ Wilderness Sunday

September 28 - 4A: River Sunday

On this second Monday of September, I'm offering a potpourri of mostly vocal and choral music and I'm looking forward to instrumental and orchestral suggestions and from those of you who direct or sing in choirs, a few anthems to add to the list. A lot of this music is familiar, but nonetheless, I'm including some text from the music I've cited.

For our entrance song, most of us know William Monk's tune "Ellacombe" to Isaac Watts' hymn,

I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command, and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.

There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.

I love the gorgeous singing and visuals in this performance of "I Sing the Mighty Power..."

By the Team Strike Force from Mars Hill Church I Sing the Mighty Power of God; and here a great slideshow accompanies the hymn.

In the scriptures, land and the created environment are inalienable gifts to be carefully and faithfully stewarded; land is an aspect of common-wealth; land grows the stuff of sacraments! In a special way during the Season of Creation we recognize and celebrate the natural, physical backdrop, the living, breathing stage of God's self-revelation in history and in Jesus Christ.

The Mennonite Youth Chorus sings Let All things now Living

As we know from scripture and from our own experiences, the desert, wilderness and the outback that lack most civilized urban amenities especially form a fertile backdrop and habitat for identity-formation. A garden well-tended grows into a city and the city becomes a place of multicultural encounters, a place for the fine arts to flourish and for a middle-class to evolve; the city is a crossroads of exchange and often a seat of government. But in the city religion and spirituality tend to become static, codified institutions..."Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness!"

The images strike me as a bit overdone, but the lively singing does real justice to Marty Haugen's Canticle of the Sun...

Praise for the sun, the bringer of day,
he carries the light of the Lord in his rays;
the moon and the stars who light up the way
unto your throne.

Praise for the wind that blows through the trees,
the seas mighty storms, the gentlest breeze;
they blow where they will, they blow where they please
to please the Lord.

Praise for the rain that waters our fields,
and blesses our crops so all the earth yields;
from death unto life her mystery revealed
springs forth in joy.

Praise for the fire who gives us his light,
the warmth of the sun to brighten our night;
he dances with joy, his spirit so bright,
he sings of you.

Praise for the earth who makes life to grow,
the creatures you made to let your life show;
the flowers and trees that help us to know
the heart of love.

Praise for our death that makes our life real,
the knowledge of loss that helps us to feel;
the gift of your self, you presence revealed
to bring us home.


The heavens are telling the glory of God,
and all creation is shouting for joy.
Come dance in the forest, come, play in the field,
and sing, sing to the glory of the Lord.

© 1983 GIA Publications

In a parallel mood, The River is Here by Andy Park and what a lovely solo voice on this a cappella version of The River is Here!

Down the mountain the river flows
And it brings refreshing wherever it goes
Through the valleys and over the fields
The river is rushing and the river is here

The river of God is teeming with life
And all who touch it can be revived
And those who linger on this river's shore
Will come back thirsting for more of the Lord

Up to the mountain we love to go
To find the presence of the Lord
Along the banks of the river we run
We dance with laughter
Giving praise to the Son

Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann insists theologians have concentrated far too much on covenant to the often near-exclusion of The Land. Listen to the cadence of the deuteronomic historian's relentless refrain, "into the land, into the land, into the land!" In the writings of the exilic 2nd Isaiah we discover a persistent theme of redemption and hope and humanity's salvation physically located in the midst of natural creation's redemption--the Reformers' theology of God's descent and infilling of everything created recapture these and other biblical passages and Martin Luther's theology of the ubiquity of the Risen and Ascended Christ is right in line with this!

Hillsongs gives a reflective interpretation of Did You Hear the Mountains Tremble and I especially like this joy-filled, energetic performance: Did You Hear the Mountains Tremble...

Did you feel the mountains tremble?
Did you hear the oceans roar?
When the people rose to sing of
Jesus Christ the risen one

Open up the doors and let the music play
Let the streets resound with singing
Songs that bring your hope
Songs that bring your peace
Dancers who dance upon injustice

Did you feel the darkness tremble
When all the saints join in one song
And all the streams flow as one river
To wash away our brokenness

And we can see that God you're moving
A time of Jubilee is coming
When young and old will turn to Jesus
Fling wide your heavenly gates
Prepare the way of the risen Lord

Fitting in with the mood of hope and expectation is Send Your Rain by Kelly Carpenter

Send Your rain oh Lord
Send Your rain to Your people
Send Your rain oh Lord
Send Your rain bring Your kingdom

Soften our hearts and pour out Your Spirit
Fill us anew, let Your rain come

May Your kingdom come
And Your will be done
On the earth, bring Your kingdom

© 1996 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing

I've long loved the vernacular music of the North American continent's prairies and plains; "The Lone, Wild Bird," set to the tune Prospect, from Walker's Southern Harmony (1835), is exquisitely rung by the St. Olaf College Handbells
  1. The lone, wild bird in lofty flight is still with you, nor leaves your sight.
    And I am yours! I rest in you, Great Spirit, come, rest in me, too.

  2. The ends of earth are in your hand, the sea's dark deep and far off land.
    And I am yours! I rest in you, Great Spirit, come, rest in me, too.

  3. Each secret thought is known to you, the path I walk my whole life through;
    my days, my deeds, my hopes, my fears, my deepest joys, my silent tears.
Milk and honey is a visible, tangible sacramental sign of the fullness of God's sovereignty and of distributive justice accomplished on earth. Flowing honey and surging milk begin with rich land and rivers of clean water. Ample milk results from bees pollinating fruits, flowers and other crops so that cattle graze on luxuriant grass, produce healthy calves and as a result fertilize grains and gardens; clean air and smog-free sunshine are a given! Hearty vineyards, healthy fields and sufficient water result in Israel's symbolic olives, grape and figs and for us (I'm thinking very locally) in citrus, tomatoes, avocados, berries, grapes and grains. Dairy and beef, honey and harvest lead to nourishment for the farmers, their families and the community, with overflowing abundance to sell, to barter and trade in order to get whatever essentials you cannot produce on your own. Likely I've left out a lot of probable connections, but my intent is clear: heaven's blessings aplenty on earth!

From Trinity Church on Wall Street, this CD includes Leo Sowerby's setting of one of the alternate canticles for Matins, the Benedicite, with its incessant celebratory refrain "Sing his praise and exalt him for ever" (or a close variant). As Walter Brueggemann essentially says, "of course the trees sing and clap their hands--no more clear-cutting! Of course the seas roar and everything in them rejoices--no more toxic waste and pollution!" Here's an excerpt from the Benedicite, found in the non-canonical Song of the Three Holy Children in Daniel 3:52-88:

Bless the Lord all you works of the Lord: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord you heavens: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord you angels of the Lord: bless the Lord all you his hosts;
bless the Lord you waters above the heavens: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord sun and moon: bless the Lord you stars of heaven;
bless the Lord all rain and dew: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord dews and falling snows: bless the Lord you nights and days;
bless the Lord light and darkness: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord frost and cold: bless the Lord you ice and snow;
bless the Lord lightnings and clouds: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

O let the earth bless the Lord: bless the Lord you mountains and hills;
bless the Lord all that grows in the ground: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord you springs: bless the Lord you seas and rivers;
bless the Lord you whales and all the swim in the waters: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord all birds of the air: bless the Lord you beasts and cattle;
bless the Lord all people on earth: sing his praise and exalt him for ever.

Paradise by John Prine could not relate better to loving stewardship of creation and the devastating loss that often follows rapacious treatment:"Daddy, won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County, down by the Green River, where Paradise lay?"--"I'm sorry, my son, you're too late in asking; Mr. Peabody's coal train has hauled it away."

But Israel became the prototypical people of God not in the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey but in the desert of the trek toward that promised-landed freedom. In the desert's sparse economy, with surprising gifts like water from the rock and manna from the sky, Israel and Yahweh encountered each other into the kind of relationship that later would enable God's people to recognize God's paradoxical self-revelation in Word and Sacraments as they recall and evoke and as by grace we recognize and celebrate God's paradoxical self-revelation sustaining presence in, with and under creation's commonest stuff: the utmost essentials for life produced from the heart of the earth.

Avalon sings "Psalm 151"--Testify to Love; as pleasing as the photographs in the other videos are, I like the clean white sans-serif type against black (I know, a couple of typos), allowing the words and music to speak by themselves.

All the colors of the rainbow
All the voices of the wind
Every dream that reaches out
Reaches out to find where love begins
Every word of every story
Every star in every sky
Every corner of creation lives to testify...

Didn't Paul insist we discern the body, recognizing and acknowledging the Risen Christ's hidden presence in the church and in the world—discerning the body particularly as we participate in the eschatological feast of the Eucharist? The person presiding at Holy Communion holds the entirety and completeness of the redeemed and restored cosmos in her or his hands as the risen, ascended One also is now descended, once again "incarnate," among and within the gathered and transformed Eucharistic community.

Morningside is a primarily Asian-American ministry of the Korean United Methodist Church that's based in New York City; along with all creation Morningside Ministry Praise celebrates with Make a Joyful Noise by David Crowder:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord
All the earth
Make a joyful noise to the Lord
All the earth

The flowers of the field
Are cry'n to be heard
The trees of the forest
Are singing
And all of the mountains
With one voice
Are joining the chorus of this world

And I will not be silent
I will not be quiet anymore

Running through the forest
Dive into the lake
Bare feet on beaches white
Standing in the canyon
Painted hills around
The wind against my skin
Every ocean
Every sea
Every river
Every stream
Every mountain
Every tree
Every blade of grass will sing

Here's an exceedingly rare live performance that features pianist Dave Grusin and Lee Ritenour on guitar: Mountain Dance!

Mountain Dance on CD

As the Amazon reviewer says, the CD Sticks and Stones by brothers Don and Dave Grusin is OP, "out of print" but pre-owned copies are quite readily available. Happily I own the CD and highly recommend "River Song."

To conclude today's worship, a pair of North American classics, as Manfred Mann's Earth Band sings Bob Dylan's Father of Night, Father of Day by Bob Dylan, and I could not leave out the late, truly great Rich Mullins' "Calling Out Your Name!" Among many other options, it's on The Best of Rich Mullins: Platinum Series CD; and on YouTube, Calling Out Your Name

Well the moon moved past Nebraska
And spilled laughter on them cold Dakota Hills
And angels danced on Jacob's stairs; Yeah, they danced on Jacob's stairs
There is this silence in the Badlands
And over Kansas the whole universe was stilled
By the whisper of a prayer; The whisper of a prayer

And the single hawk bursts into flight
And in the east the whole horizon is in flames
I feel thunder in the sky; I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

I can feel the earth tremble
Beneath the rumbling of the buffalo hooves
And the fury in the pheasant's wings; And there's fury in a pheasant's wings
It tells me the Lord is in His temple
And there is still a faith that can make the mountains move
And a love that can make the heavens ring; And I've seen love make heaven ring

Where the sacred rivers meet
Beneath the shadow of the Keeper of the plains
I feel thunder in the sky; I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name
And I know this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain
I feel thunder in the sky; I see the sky about to rain
And with the prairies I am calling out Your name

Psalm 19:1-6, Psalm 65:5-13
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