Sunday, November 23, 2014

Monday Morning Offering: 11/24

Coffee in the Morning

Good morning, good God!

This week is a special time, Lord,
to do what we should do always and everywhere:
give you thanks and praise!

I offer you thanks for all the people I so often take for granted:
those who serve me in a hundred, quiet ways each day;
those who work with me, around me and near me;
those who so often make my life easier and my work lighter;
those whose work so often makes my work fruitful...

And I thank you for those who stand ready to protect me
in the town where I live and at posts far away;
I thank you for those who keep me safe
and those who safeguard my freedom and liberty...

I thank you for those whose work brings
food from farms,
delight from poetry,
love in songs
joy in the arts;
news from the world,
truth from study
and knowledge from a million different sources...

I thank you for those who deliver heat, light
and clean water to my home;
those who keep my home, my church
and my town the beautiful places they are;
those who bring the mail to my door;
those who deliver all the comforts I take for granted...

I thank you for all the people
who fill my mornings, days and evenings
with their smiles, their friendship,
their company and conversation...

I offer you thanks for the beauty of the world around me:
the light of the sun, the moon and the stars;
the pull of ocean tides, the depths of lakes,
the flow of streams, the ripples of ponds;
the colors of nature, birds on the wing,
flowers in field and garden
- and every square inch of Cape Cod...

I thank you for my faith, my trust, my hope in you;
I thank you for my ministry and the people I serve;
I thank you for the message of the gospel I preach
and the history of salvation
we inherit from your chosen people...

I thank you for the beauty of worship,
the depths of your Word,
they lyrics of the psalms,
the grace of the sacraments
and the life that is ours
through faith in you...

Make me truly and more deeply grateful, Lord,
for all you have given me
and for gifts I have yet to find, open and discover...

I thank you, Lord,
for all things bright and beautiful
and for all things bruised and broken:
let me find in everything
and in everyone around me
a trace of your presence,
the fingerprint of your grace,
the signature of your artistry...

Indeed, Lord, help me
always and everywhere
to praise and thank you
for every good gift
that comes from your hand...

Amen.


 

     
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Homily for November 23

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Homily for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily



Executive orders…

I’m sure we all have our own ideas about the plans
the president announced on Thursday night.
And what we think of what he said will depend largely
on our thoughts about immigration reform.

But whatever our opinions on those issues,
there’s another question of executive privilege before us today,
also connected to thoughts on reform.

I’m talking about the executive privilege God enjoys over all of us
and the executive orders he issues about reform in our lives.

The full title of today’s feast is:
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. 
King of the Universe:  you just can’t get more executive than that!
Nobody has authority higher, greater
or beyond the King of the Universe
and that’s how we honor Christ today.

Several questions follow from this:
- What authority over my life do I acknowledge and follow
above and beyond my own personal authority?
- How freely do I surrender my personal authority to Christ,
accepting his word and law as the norm
for reforming my life and my ways?
- In particular: do I accept Christ’s executive power over my life
when I’m uncomfortable with the reforms I believe
he’s calling me to make?

A feast like Christ the King challenges a culture like our own
which exalts the self as the ultimate authority, above all others,
and this day challenges us believers, followers of Jesus, to ask:
to whom do I pledge my allegiance?
to whom do I bend my heart?
to whom do I subject my will?

To whose rule do I turn when reviewing my need for reforming
my integrity?  my honesty?  my purity?  my generosity?  my charity?
my humility?  my loyalty?  my morality?  my sincerity?  my piety?
my decency?  my fidelity?

It’s one thing to declare that Jesus  the King of the Universe
but the harder question is this: is Jesus the King of my heart?
Does he rule over the choices I make?
Does he govern my desires?
Does he reign over my relationships?
Is he sovereign over my ethics?
Is he the crowned head of my family?

One way, a good way to know if Jesus is King of my heart
is to  take a look around me
and see if I’m surrounded by sheep – or by goats.
In the gospel today Jesus took the time to list
not once, not twice, not three times - but FOUR times –
those signs by which I might know that I’m in with the sheep.

So bear with me
and listen a fifth time to the standards King Jesus sets
for reforming my life according to his heart:
feeding the hungry and thirsty,  welcoming the stranger,
giving clothing to those who have none,
caring for the sick and for those who are in prison.

Whatever might be the implications of this scripture
for a nation’s immigration policies – and certainly there are some –
we need to remind ourselves that Jesus told this parable
not to crowds on a mountainside or by the shore,
but in a private conversation with his disciples, his closest followers.
He addressed it first to them
– and this morning to us, his followers today.

With regard to this scripture and today’s politics, two things are sure.
While Jesus is not proposing here a structure for immigration reform
(much less endorsing one plan over another)
it’s inescapably true that he’s handing over responsibility
for the care of the stranger, the poor, the sick and the incarcerated
into our laps,  our checkbooks,  our choices, our politics.
Jesus is less concerned with how we serve the least among us
and much more concerned that they be served 
and not turned away – by you and me.

I cannot claim allegiance to Jesus as the sovereign of my heart
if I fail to find and serve him in the neediest of people,
wherever, however they come into our lives.

There are so many ways each of us can respond
to the very people King Jesus presents to us in the gospel --
right at our church doors this weekend.

There are the Giving Trees
and you can be sure that those gifts will go
in every case to the poor
and in many cases to newcomers, strangers in our land.

And the Prison Gift Bag Project will reach through the bars into cells
at MCI Concord to men who will be among the loneliest of all
on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Our parish is not unique in these efforts
and I know that many of us are being generous in other venues, too.
But this!
Let none of us be among the goats who, the day after Christmas,
might have to ask, 
“But, Lord!  When did we see you hungry or thirsty
or naked or a stranger or ill or in prison and not serve your needs?” 
Rather, let all of us be counted among the sheep who recognize
and reach out to Jesus Christ, King of the Universe,
in the neediest and most marginalized of all God’s people.

Let us pray for a spirit of generosity among us
who so often have so much more than we need.

The King of the Universe invites us now to his table,
to feed our hungry hearts and slake our thirsty souls
serving us with his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

May we who recognize and receive our King
in the Bread and Cup of the altar,
recognize and warmly receive and serve him
in the lives of the stranger, the poor, the sick and the imprisoned.

 

     
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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 11/23

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Today is the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  The photo will make more sense after you've read the day's scriptures and heard them proclaimed and preached.

As you Pause for Prayer today, reflect with any or all of these hymns to Christ the Shepherd King.


Hymns for Christ the King by austin fleming on Grooveshark


   

   
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Friday, November 21, 2014

Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 11/22

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This weekend we celebrate your kingship, Lord,
although you told us in so many ways
not to make of you a king...

But I think I just might need a king...

I need you to reign over my choices
because when I'm left to my own devices
I mess things up way too often...

I need you to rule over my passions:
my hungers and my desires too often override
my thinking, reasoning and conscience...

I need you to govern and hold sway
over my erratic ways, my ups and downs,
my inconsistent unpredictability...

I need you to decree again your law of love,
commanding me to give with generosity
when I'm so tempted to hold back...

Be my king, Lord:
reign with loving order over chaos in my day;
rule with gentle strength when I start to go astray;
and govern with your word of truth the way I live my life...

Be my king, Lord,
and rule with gentle grace my heart and soul
and all my thoughts and words and deeds
that I might serve you always,
loyal to your name...

Amen.


 

   
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 11/21

The Empty Chair by Dena Cardwell
For those grieving the loss of a loved one, Thanksgiving and "the holidays" can be a particularly difficult time.  Anticipation of these special days begins early and so I'm posting this prayer today...
A Prayer at an Empty Chair 

This Thanksgiving, Lord, 
there’ll be an empty chair at our table,
an ache in our hearts
and tears on our cheeks...

We might shield others from our grief
but we can't hide it from you...

We pray for  (name your loved ones) 
whose loving presence we'll miss 
at this homecoming time...

Help us remember and tell again 
the stories that knit us as one
with the ones we miss so much...

Open our hearts to joyful memories 
of the love we shared
with those who've gone before us...

Let the bonds you forged so deep in our hearts
grow stronger yet 
in remembering those who've left our side... 

Help us pray and trust that those we miss
have a home in your heart
and a place at your table forever
and that one day we'll be one with them
once again...

Teach us to lean on you and on one another
for the strength we need 
to walk through these difficult days...

Open our eyes and our hearts 
to the healing, the warmth
and the peace of your presence...

Give us quiet moments with you in prayer,
with our memories and loss,
with our thoughts and tears...

Be with us to console us 
and hold us in your arms
as you hold the ones we miss...

Even in our grief, Lord,
this is the day that you have made:
help us be glad in the peace you've promised,
the peace we pray you share 
with those who've gone before us...

For ourselves, Lord,
and for all who find the holidays to be a difficult time,
we make this prayer...

Amen.

Prayer can provide a path through these days as well as opportunities for acceptance, healing and helping one another.  You might pray this alone as Thanksgiving approaches or print it, forward, share and post it for others who might find it helpful...



     
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RITUAL: where you might least expect to find it!

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There begins this coming week the season generally referred to as “the holidays,” a portion of the calendar stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Some of the celebrations in this season are common to all and others are particular to different faiths and followers. Without wanting to omit less well-known dates, “the holidays” are generally understood to include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day. And each of these celebrations has its own rituals.

Consider Thanksgiving Day which is fast upon us. How many times have you already been asked (or have you asked others) this question:  “So, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” There’s a ritual fascination for knowing when and where we and others will celebrate this day. And many times have you heard a response like, “Oh, we’re going to my sister’s - she’s having 29 for dinner.” At no other time of the year are we likely to know, much less announce to others how many people will be at table for a particular meal. A number of other ritual questions may follow: will it be a fresh or frozen turkey - and how much does it weigh? how many vegetables? sweet potatoes with or without marshmallows? who’s bringing what? is he bringing that string-bean casserole again? what kind of stuffing do you make? how many pies and what kind? are your married kids coming home or going to the in-laws?

Much conversation like this will be conducted before Thanksgiving and will then be repeated again after the holidays when folks begin to ask, “So, how was your Thanksgiving?” There’s a definite ritual dialogue that occurs before and after the actual Thanksgiving Day meal.

And what of the ritual dynamics and conversations that surround the Thanksgiving gathering? Will there a table for adults and a kids' table, too? Will there be a prayer before the meal even at tables where no prayer is usually offered? Do you go around the table inviting guests to mention things they’re grateful for this Thanksgiving? Who will carve the turkey? Who will get the drumsticks?  Who will break the wishbone? What family stories are told every year and exaggerated even beyond last year’s telling? Who will be the predictable tellers of the predictable stories? What political and religious topics will be fair game during dinner? At what point will some portion of those gathered excuse themselves to go watch the game?

Odds are you’re adding your own family’s ritual words and deeds to the list I’ve offered above. True ritual behavior and dialogue have many functions. They reconnect us to our roots and one another.  They offer us a conversation in which all participants know the vocabulary and their own part.  Ritual can offer us, if only for a few hours, a moment of sanity and serenity amidst the chaos of the rest of life. We are drawn to such ritual gatherings because they have the power to reassure us that in spite of everything else, there is still point in time, a place in our lives, in which peace can be ours in the simple experience of sharing a meal among those who have helped, for weal or for woe, to shape our lives.

We should be grateful to know that  a holiday like Thanksgiving not only survives but thrives in a culture that so easily dismisses ritual behavior as rote and empty.  And following Thanksgiving a whole season of such experiences draws us together between the end of November and the early days of January.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it might be helpful to reflect on how such holiday and family rituals play out in and prosper our lives and well-being: how these tried and true, age-old familiar activities and conversations touch us in the depths of our hearts and connect us with realities more important than we might often realize and acknowledge.

And may I take this opportunity to remind you that this very same ritual dynamic is played out week after week in our houses of prayer?  The ritual of worship in any faith is filled with: familiar words and dialogue; old, even ancient stories of the family of faith; meals shared in remembrance of our roots and our connection to one another; the offering of a place where peace can be found, where one can escape the chaos not by running away from it but by hastening towards a center, a calm, a serenity the chaos can never overwhelm.

The rituals of “the holidays” are life-giving in many ways but they also put us in touch with our losses, our hurts and our disappointments. Rituals in faith communities do the same but, again, such ritual offers a place not to deny our pain but to find healing for it in a community of others sharing joys and sorrows alike with any who will give themselves to the words and deeds of shared, ritual prayer.

May the rituals of this season of holidays enrich, strengthen, delight and heal you in your heart of hearts. And may the rituals of these holidays draw you home, through the new year, to the community of faith whose rituals are yours - and are waiting for you...


 

     
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 11/20

Photo by CP 11/18/14

An amazing grace, Lord!

This one last rose has weathered the cold,
the wind, the rain and even light snow,
to share its beauty still
in autumn's waning days...

'Tis the last rose of summer, Lord,
of this I have no doubt,
and I count its passing from my garden a loss
to mourn and grieve as my soul does 
when any gift of beauty finally fades 
and falls to die
and slip beyond my reach...

Comfort me, Lord,
on this rose lost,
now but a memory:
green leafed, velvet red, 
scented sweet and yes, 
a thorn or two or more...

Comfort me, Lord, and
keep fresh in my heart
the promise of the rose bush
hard by my porch steps,
wintering cold December nights
and waiting for a warmer time
to bloom again in beauty
and with grace...

(Perhaps you'll spend some time in prayer today
   mourning the loss of roses in your life.
Here's a simple setting of The Last Rose of Summer
   to provide some background for your prayer.)

The Last Rose of Summer by 張震嶽 on Grooveshark


 

     
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 11/19


Lord,
we all need a nudge
to shake us awake,
to get us to move,
to make some changes,
to do, to say, the next right thing...

And most of us, Lord,
need more than a nudge,
we need a kick in the butt!

You know how I need to be nudged,
you know what I'm holding back on,
what I'm reluctant and failing
to do and to say...

So nudge me, Lord,
and kick me in the butt
or wherever it is I need a good shove
to get me moving
on what I know I need to do...


 

     
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Monday, November 17, 2014

Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 11/18

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Lord,
even before I wake up
you know the whole of the day ahead of me...

Before I open my eyes
you know all of this day's sorrows,
all of this day's joys...  

Before I'm out of bed
you know the hopes and dreams,
the worries and fears I have
of what this day might bring...

You know everything I'll face today:
you'll be my strength when I am weak,
as you're my strength when I am strong...

You know the blessings and the burdens
of the day that lies ahead:
make me grateful for your gifts
and help me carry what I bear...

You know the help I'll need today
and you will not fail to share it:
give me all the grace I'll need
to live this day in peace with you
and with all whose paths cross mine...

Amen.



 

     
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A year later: remembering and praying...

Photo by MDH
(I posted this a year ago today when my Aunt Ann passed from this life to life with God forever.  I've left the place for a name open here today for any and all to include their own loved ones in this prayer...)

Sometimes all you can do is hold a hand and pray:
and in the holding, in the prayer, 
there is God... 
Let us pray...
We commend you,  _______,
to almighty God
and we entrust you to your Creator.
May you return to God
who formed you from the dust of the earth.

May Holy Mary, the angels, and all the
saints

come to meet you as you go forth from this life. 

May Christ who was crucified for you
bring you to his garden of paradise.
May Christ, the true Shepherd,
receive you as one of his flock.
May he forgive all your sins,
and set you among those he has chosen.

May you see your Redeemer face to face,
and enjoy the vision of God forever.

Amen.



The Lord is my shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing.
He shall feed me in a green pasture; 
and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.
He shall convert my soul; 
and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness, 
for his Name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil; 
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me.
Thou shalt prepare a table before me against them that trouble me; 
thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall be full.
But thy loving-kindness and mercy shall follow me 
all the days of my life; 
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


 

   
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