Sunday, December 27, 2009


From THE LOG, The Church Newsletter of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Seattle - The Reverend Dr. Peter Strimer, Rector -

December 15, 2009



The essence of Christianity that separates it from the other world faiths is what we celebrate at Christmas time. Our belief that God dwells incarnate among us, that the Word became flesh, is our gift of faith to the world.

What does that mean for you? As a German mystic wrote, "What does it profit me if Gabriel hails the Virgin unless he brings to me the very selfsame tidings?"

What the Incarnation demands of us is that our faith is found in the flesh. WE are the body of Christ given for the world. We are God's indwelling spirit born anew. Christ is born in us today, not just in Bethlehem long ago.

Go tell it on the mountain; Jesus Christ is born: in you, in me, for all.

Peter Strimer



Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas 2009

There in their little corner, there were
no angels, no kings, no sign—
as yet…

There was only—
a baby.

They had wrapped him in bands of cloth, as any baby would be, and then they did something unusual, something that would stand out in a crowd: they laid him in a manger, a feeding-trough.

There was no room for a woman with a newborn child up in the house where the guests gathered, so there they were in the quiet place, the hidden place.

Maybe the animals were gone, and it had been cleared out and cleaned. They were in the only space left – cave or stable – for this little family on this special night.

And so it was there that the shepherds found them.

Shepherds, men or women and children, crowded into the room,
not high society,
not fancy people,
ordinary folk,
who kept watch over a flock by night,
who came with an extraordinary story

what they had heard

that they would find in the City of David

a baby
wrapped in swaddling clothes
lying in a manger

what they had heard
they now saw

and so they believed
and told
what else they had heard

that this baby
born to this girl and her chosen husband
was to inherit the throne of David his ancestor

to become

all the things promised by the prophet Isaiah – wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, prince of peace—

and more

to become Savior, Messiah, Lord.

he was born

and Caesar Augustus and Quirinius the governor of Syria
and Herod and all his children
…their day was passing, was spent, was gone…

a new—the real—power in the world
Son of God, Savior, Prince of Peace
anointed One, Lord and Father

was neither the emperor nor his servant,
not the king or his minion

but this

little family

bore in its midst a power
greater than all the powers that the world knows

Among these people was born a king not like the ones the world knew but one who would bring God’s own kingdom into being

beginning here, in a manger,
in a little town,
among people unknown to the greater world

a man
his bride
their child


Shepherds— who had brought them for the first time from outside their kin some confirmation of the promises, the extraordinary news, that they had been hearing – and cherishing in their hearts –

Zechariah in the Temple, struck dumb as he stammered out his momentary disbelief, –

Elizabeth greeting her cousin Mary: “Blessed are you!” –

Elizabeth’s son in the womb greeting Mary’s newly conceived child with a leap for joy, –

Mary receiving an angel’s visit: “Let it be to me according to your word”, –

Joseph in a dream, hearing God’s command and God’s assurance –

and so they believed
something else would be coming true—

the extraordinary series of promises sung in the Christmas Canticles,

the Song of Zechariah, the Benedictus,

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior, *
born of the house of his servant David.

the Song of Mary, the Magnificat,

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

the song of the Heavenly Host, the Gloria in excelsis,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

(as when he was old enough to be presented in the Temple they would receive the greetings of Anna the prophetess, and Simeon, with his Song, the Nunc Dimittis, “... these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, *
whom you have prepared for all the world to see: …”)

they began to know the light
that was coming into the world

they began to know the peace
that was coming into the world

announced in these songs
as sure
so sure
that it is reported as a done deal—

God has done these things; you can count on it.

Into this world has come its light, its salvation, its redeemer,
the one who will bring the creation to completion,
who will bring all travail to its close,
who will bear in himself, on the cross, the sins of the world,
the one whose resurrection and ascension is the vindication of the world,
the one who establishes righteousness, who brings peace,
who calls us
out of error into truth,
out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life,

who calls us into a new relationship with God,
who proclaims a new hope for the world,
borne with him on Christmas,
and renewed tonight, this Christmastide,
as together we sing his praise.

Alone among religions, in Christ God comes to us in this person, committed to this actuality, in this place at this time, incarnate, particular, involved – made real in a real place.

Here and here only, in this little one we welcome tonight, the fullness of God is pleased to dwell.

God is really present in Jesus, realized in this person at this time, and so committed to human salvation, that the word becomes flesh, and dwelling among us, redeems the time, and renews the creation.

The incarnation – the Nativity – is a fresh creative act of God himself.

So we are called into being in a new way, as new people,
refreshed, renewed, and ready
to embody
and to carry forth in ourselves,
the holy mission of Christ, the one who is alive and active,
creating, redeeming, making holy,
the son of God,
firstborn of Mary,
the source of our salvation,
the foundation of our righteousness,
the fount of all grace,
the home-source of our peace, and the future of our hope.

As Lesslie Newbigin writes,

This, then, the ‘flesh’ of Jesus, the concrete humanity of a man of a certain time and place, is the actual presence of the Word through whom all things were made, who was from the beginning with God, who was and is God.

this is the one

the one

we have seen and heard and touched and held in our arms, as John the evangelist says,

and so we have seen what could not be seen,
heard what could not be imagined, and
become acquainted with the secret beyond the skies –

the presence of God among us, Christ with us,
the hope of glory and the assurance of peace.

Come, Lord Jesus,
come to us as you came of old,
into this world bring your light,
into our future bring your hope,
into our lives bring your call –
that we may be your people and know you,
Our God.



The Song of Mary Magnificat

Luke 1:46-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The Song of Zechariah Benedictus Dominus Deus

Luke 1: 68-79

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior, *
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old,
that he would save us from our enemies, *
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers *
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear, *
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, *
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation *
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The Song of Simeon Nunc dimittis

Luke 2:29-32

Lord, you now have set your servant free *
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, *
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations, *
and the glory of your people Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.


Lesslie Newbigin, The Light Has Come (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1982) 10.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

seen from a mountain-top

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Collect for the xxv Sondaye after Trinity (1549, 1552, 1559)

STIERE [Stir] up we beseche thee, O Lord, the wylles of thy faythfull people, that they, plenteously bringing furth the fruite of good workes; may of thee, be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christe our Lorde. Amen.

Zephaniah 3:14-20

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away the judgments against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the LORD.

Canticle 9 (Page 86, BCP) The First Song of Isaiah, Ecce Deus (Isaiah 12:2-6)

Surely, it is God who saves me; *
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, *
and he will be my Savior.
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing *
from the springs of salvation.
And on that day you shall say, *
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
Make his deeds known among the peoples; *
see that they remember that his Name is exalted.
Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, *
and this is known in all the world.
Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, *
for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Luke 3:7-18

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages."

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

* * * * *

Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Sea Fogs”, The Silverado Squatters, (London: Chattus & Windus, 1883)

One Sunday morning, about five, the first brightness called me… The sun was still concealed below the opposite hilltops, though it was shining already, not twenty feet above my head, on our own mountain slope. But the scene, beyond a few near features, was entirely changed. Napa valley was gone; gone were all the lower slopes and woody foothills of the range; and in their place, not a thousand feet below me, rolled a great level ocean. It was as though I had gone to bed the night before, safe in a nook of inland mountains, and had awakened in a bay upon the coast… Far away were hilltops like little islands. Nearer, a smoky surf beat about the foot of precipices and poured into all the coves of these rough mountains. The colour of that fog ocean was a thing never to be forgotten. For an instant, among the Hebrides and just about sundown, I have seen something like it on the sea itself. But the white was not so opaline; nor was there, what surprisingly increased the effect, that breathless, crystal stillness over all. Even in its gentlest moods the salt sea travails, moaning among the weeds or lisping on the sand; but that vast fog ocean lay in a trance of silence, nor did the sweet air of the morning tremble with a sound… An eagle, or some other very great bird of the mountain, came wheeling over the nearer pine-tops, and hung, poised and something sideways, as if to look abroad on that unwonted desolation, spying, perhaps with terror, for the eyries of her comrades. Then, with a long cry, she disappeared again towards Lake County and the clearer air.

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

All night they bored through the hot darkness, and jackrabbits scuttled into the lights and dashed away in long jolting leaps. And the dawn came up behind them when the lights of Mojave were ahead. And the dawn showed high mountains to the west. They filled with water and oil at Mojave and crawled into the mountains, and the dawn was about them.

Tom said, "Jesus, the desert's past! Pa, Al, for Christ sakes! The desert's past!"

"I'm too goddamn tired to care," said Al.

"Want me to drive?"

"No, wait awhile."

They drove through Tehachapi in the morning glow, and the sun came up behind them, and then suddenly they saw the great valley below them. Al jammed on the brake and stopped in the middle of the road, and, "Jesus Christ! Look!" he said. The vineyards, the orchards, the great flat valley, green and beautiful, the trees set in rows, and the farmhouses.

And Pa said, "God Almighty!" The distant cities, the little towns in the orchard land, and the morning sun, golden on the valley. A car honked behind them. Al pulled to the side of the road and parked.

"I want ta look at her." The grain fields golden in the morning, and the willow lines, the eucalyptus trees in rows.

Pa sighed, "I never knowed they was anything like her."

The peach trees and the walnut groves, and the dark green patches of oranges. And red roofs among the trees, and barns rich barns. Al got out and stretched his legs.

He called, "Ma-come look. We're there!"

Ruthie and Winfield scrambled down from the car, and then they stood, silent and awestruck, embarrassed before the great valley. The distance was thinned with haze, and the land grew softer and softer in the distance. A windmill flashed in the sun, and its turning blades were like a little heliograph, far away. Ruthie and Winfield looked at it, and Ruthie whispered, "It's California."

Winfield moved his lips silently over the syllables. "There's fruit," he said aloud.

Casy and Uncle John, Connie and Rose of Sharon climbed down. And they stood silently. Rose of Sharon had started to brush her hair back, when she caught sight of the valley and her hand dropped slowly to her side.

Tom said, "Where's Ma? I want Ma to see it. Look, Ma! Come here, Ma." Ma was climbing slowly, stiffly, down the backboard. Tom looked at her. "My God, Ma, you sick?"

Her face was stiff and putty-like, and her eyes seemed to have sunk deep into her head, and the rims were red with weariness. Her feet touched the ground and she braced herself by holding the truck-side.

Her voice was a croak. "Ya say we're acrost?"

Tom pointed to the great valley. "Look!"

She turned her head, and her mouth opened a little. Her fingers went to her throat and gathered a little pinch of skin and twisted gently. "Thank God!" she said. "The fambly's here." Her knees buckled and she sat down on the running board.

The Third Sunday of Advent, Year C, RCL

Zephaniah 3:14-20, Canticle 9, Ecce Deus, Isaiah 12:2-6, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:7-18.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Happy Holidays from Eliza and Zecko

Before Bing Crosby sang “White Christmas,” before Gene Autry sang “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer,” there was… the Holiday Letter.

* * *

Hi folks! Happy Holidays!

Dear friends and family,

Well, it’s been quite a year, full of surprises.

In our little household, the biggest of course was one we’ve been anticipating since, oh, end of September last year.

This summer Eliza gave birth – yes! – to a son, and let me tell you, young Jackie is one hell-raising little boy.

The desert fascinates him. We go out for a picnic down by the Jordan and there he is, playing in the sand by the river, and making all sorts of sounds.

At six months, he is beginning to produce an immense variety of sounds in increasingly complex combinations.

He seems to be saying something, over and over, that sounds like “repent, repent!” –Whatever it means, he’s very insistent about it.

Sometimes you’d think he’s practicing public speaking – and it’s just some cactus, a picnic basket, and us two old folks. Some day he may be speaking into pricklier ears than the cactus have.

He loves animals too. Some funny old guys and little folk wearing false beards passed through here just the other day, going somewhere, looking for somebody, and he kept stroking their camels’ itchy hair like it was the best thing you could have on your skin.

He has an itch for little things too – bees and such. Or maybe it’s just a sweet tooth.

Those strangers – said they were looking for someone. Not our Jackie…

Hey! a tip for Eliza’s cousin Molly and her husband Joe, who are expecting their first: don’t let anybody tell you what name to give your kid. You two decide – and may be you’ll get some inspiration, like we did. Though, by the way, some name like Josh or Jess strikes me as pretty good. We’ll look forward to getting the little cousins together when we hear the glad tidings from you.

Well, better close – love from us all – Eliza & Zecko.

* * * * *

Of course that was a long time ago… the child grew into a man and became the ‘voice crying in the wilderness’ that was foretold; he became the fore-runner of the Messiah, the one who prepared the way for the good news of God, and the coming of salvation for all people.

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’ (Mark 1:4-8)

John the Baptist called the people of Israel, the people of God, to return to their home in the favor of God. He called the beloved children of God back into right relationship with God and with one another. He said, this is what it means to begin to live into the kingdom of God – this is how you prepare your hearts and homes for the coming King.

John called the people to prepare, for the call to gather – and that call came, in Christ.

The community then gathered around the one foretold: the one we are waiting for now, this Advent, God’s anointed – the son of Man, the son of God, Christ our savior … as we anticipate the celebration of his birth, as we await with expectation, and with hope, the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

And we continue to pray, for the coming of the kingdom of God among us, the kingdom that is the will of God - as it is in heaven, to be so on earth as well, to emerge among us.

As Christ embodied – bore forth – the Word of God into the world, the love and compassion and forgiveness and mercy of the Father, so we are to embody him, bearing forth hope in the world, bringing that hope to completion in love, bringing the message of faith, of peace and reconciliation, and testifying to it - not only with our lips but in our lives, to a hurting world, a seeking world, a world that needs as never before, and as it always has, the healing touch of its Savior, its Lord.

Maranatha! we pray: come Lord Jesus! Be among us — and dwell within us, that we may be your voice and your hands, bringing your grace and glory into the world.

How does our community live out that love, that faith, that hope, and that mission?

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you.

Your hospitality, the warmth of your welcome, your love for one another, your faithful perseverance, your delight in children, your desire to seek and serve new people; your care for kids in need, children and families, single people, young adults, and neighbors; your ability to roll up your sleeves and get things done – the sense that now you can get down to work – these are all things I am thankful for.

The people who greet us on Sunday morning, the folks that are there early (or the day before) making coffee or bringing sandwiches, the people at the door handing out the bulletins, the folks who take up the offering and carry it to the altar, the altar guild working behind the scenes to give us a lovely worship setting, the musicians – singers and organist – who lead us in songs of praise and devotion, the readers and leaders of prayer and Eucharistic ministers, and the acolytes and ‘the sound guy’ – all help in making this a good place to worship, warm to welcome and welcome back. These are all people I’m thankful for.

The people who quietly pray in preparation for worship, the kids that run around the back, the teachers that show the Sunday School children the joy of being together in the good news, the youth and youth leaders working for a better tomorrow – not only for themselves but for those around us, for the adult class studying the vision of this parish and the teachings of Scripture.

The folks who give each other a ride to church – and those who come along with them. Those that must stay home, and pray for us, all of us – some of them through the night watches.

The people who work in the office, staff and volunteers, on the administration and finances of the parish, on its records, on its books, on its programs. The people who turn out for grounds work days – and those who come alone even in the rain to prune a tree or trim a hedge or clean a gutter or clear a roof. Those who mow the lawn, those who mow the paths of the green labyrinth and those who mow circles around it. Those who quietly keep the good place running.

The children – with their joy, the youth and young adults, the single people, the young married folks, the people with families and those who are on their own – all part of our parish family.

I’m thankful for Boy Scouts, Hands-on, Prayer Shawls, Episcopal Church Women, and Inner Healing; for all the groups who minister and all who share hospitality. Men’s lunch group, Cursillo, Hem of his Garment, Prayer Chain and prayer beads and those who pray on their own. I’m thankful for all these people – and for all of you.

These are all people I am thankful for. And I am thankful for how we try to reach out to each other and beyond these walls to the community around us. For how we try to treat each other, in respect and graciousness, in gratitude and caring, and how we show that even in quiet ways.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians, to encourage them:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (3:12-17)

As Paul said to the Philippians in the letter we listened to this morning, so I say to you:

And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 3:9-11)

Eternal God, you are
the light of the minds that know you,
the joy of the hearts that love you, and
the strength of the wills that serve you:
grant us so to know you
that we may fully serve you,
whom to serve
is perfect freedom,
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Collect from Celebrating Common Prayer)

John Leech
St Alban’s Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash.,
Sunday, December 6, 2009


Saturday, December 5, 2009


December 6 is the feast day of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (around the year 300). We know him as St Nick or Santa. This is the collect (or prayer) for St Nicholas Day:

Almighty God, who in your love gave to your servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness on land and sea: Grant, we pray, that your Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


On December 9-12 1531, while Saint Juan Diego was on his way to Mass, the Blessed Virgin Mary revealed herself as Guadalupe and spoke to him on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico. On July 31, 2002, in the presence of 12 million people, Pope John Paul II canonized the humble Saint Juan Diego. Guadalupe was given the title "Patroness of the Americas and the Philippine Islands." This what Guadalupe said:

Let nothing frighten or grieve you,
let not your heart be disturbed,
do not fear any sickness or anguish.
Am I not here, who am your Mother?
Are you not under my shadow and protection?
Am I not your fountain of health?
Are you not happily within the folds of my mantle, held safely in my arms?

Her words are reminiscent of the prayer of Teresa of Avila: nada te turbe:

Let nothing disturb thee;
Let nothing dismay thee;
All things pass;
God never changes.
Patience attains all that it strives for.
He who has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.


A prayer for Christmas that Jill Hunting found among the papers of her brother, Pete, a civilian IVS volunteer who was killed during the Vietnam War. Jill writes about him in her book, Finding Pete.

By the way of Bethlehem, lead us,
O Lord, to newness of life;
By the innocence of the Christ Child,
renew our simple trust;
By the tenderness of Mary,
deliver us from cruelty and hardness of heart;
By the patience of Joseph,
save us from rash judgment and ill-tempered action;
By the shepherds' watch,
open our eyes to the signs of thy coming;
By the wise men's journey,
keep our searching spirits from fainting;
By the music of the heavenly choir,
put to shame the clamor of the earth;
By the shining of a star,
guide our feet into the way of peace.
--Author unknown

From St Patrick's Grapevine, newsletter of St Patrick's Episcopal Church, Kenwood, Cal., December 2009


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
Come celebrate Christmas with us!

Rejoice with us this holy season as we celebrate the birth of Jesus— a new birth of hope for the world.

Come, let’s worship together throughout the holidays, from the festivities of Christmas Eve & Day, through all the twelve days of Christmas, Epiphany pageantry on the first Sunday of the New Year, and beyond. Come and celebrate!

Christmas Eve – Thursday, December 24th at 5:30 pm we herald the birth of the Christ Child, in a family Eucharist service including a children’s pageant (Shepherds! Angels!) (All children are welcome to take part. No prior rehearsals needed: just arrive by 5:00 to choose a costume.) Then stay after the service for hot cider and delicious treats.

Christmas Eve - Thursday, December 24th at 10:30 p.m. We begin by singing Christmas carols, celebrate the Eucharist, and then by candlelight we quietly sing “Silent Night.”

Christmas Day Service – Friday, December 25th at 10:30 am.

Epiphany Pageant and Eucharist – Sunday, January 3rd at 10:30 am. We anticipate a visit from the Magi (wise people) and their friends. All children are welcome to participate.

We worship every Sunday morning at 8:00 and 10:30 – childcare is available at 10:00

Please join us in welcoming the King promised of old, a King not like the world knows, but One who brings among us the very peace and presence of God.

You are always welcome at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church,
21405 82nd Place West, Edmonds, WA 98026 (425) 778-0371


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Let The Day Begin

On a road in winter the sky is gray and cold. The ground is hard. Nothing seems to grow. The earth waits, for the quickening of the year, the coming of a new season.

You know when the fig tree sends out fresh young leaves that summer is near.

The signs of the times will be as sure as that when the day is near; the day of judgment, the day of the Lord, the day the kingdom of heaven comes – and the day of the deliverance of God's people.

Listen to what the Lord is saying:

"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves."

People may think the end is coming when they feel some local disturbance. They may think their own troubles are the end of the world.

Then others may say,

“Ye think the rustic cackle of your bourg
the murmur of the world! What is it to me?”


And yet — the day will come. Jesus says,

"People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken" – stirred up.

"Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory."

This is just what the book of Daniel said would happen, on the day the Lord delivers Israel from its oppressors — Babylon, Rome, the empire of this world.

And Jesus says,

"Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Hold your heads high — what looks like disaster to others is just a sign of the times to you. It means your deliverance, your vindication.

Then he told them a parable:

"Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near."

Summer is a-coming in – you can see it, can't you, in the greening of the trees? – and so too you will see the beginning of the end foretold in these signs, and the promise of your deliverance coming into reality.

"So also," Jesus says, "when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place."

The generation that sees the signs of the time of the end will see it through to completion. The generation that sees the dawn approaching will see the morning light.

That's good news. And Jesus assures us,

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."

Amidst all these tumults and trials, wars and persecutions, sorrows and joys, there is one thing to hold on to, there is only one thing you need: the words that will not pass away; the words of the Lord, the eternal Word.

When everything is shifting, like an earthquake,
and the pavement turns to sand, shifting beneath your feet,
turn to God – he alone is steadfast, his promise sure –
and he will guard you and see you through to the end.

Jesus warns us,

"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap."

Keep yourselves awake — live like people who know the day is approaching, not like creatures of the night.

Don't get mired down in doubletalk and dire warnings — be ready for the coming of the One who is sent to set you free.

When he comes, he calls his own. Be ready for the call.

Make sure you are sober and watchful and ready — don't get lost in the moment, in the distractions the world has to offer.

When he comes, he calls his own. Be ready for the call.

The things that bog you down, the things that bring you sorrow — these are real enough, but they will pass. Be of good courage and hold your head high.

When he comes, he calls to you. Be ready for the call.

Jesus says,

"For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth."

These tidings shall be for all people. Everyone will see the coming of the glory of the Lord. And what seems like bad news, to some, will be glad tidings of peace on earth among all of good will.

The gospel warns us,

"Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

The first hearers of this gospel, the first generation of the church, knew how true its words could be.

In the year 70 the armies of Rome encircled Jerusalem and laid siege; it fell, and the Temple was destroyed. The foundation stones of the building alone were left — just one western, wailing wall.

All these things came to pass within a few years of Jesus' passing — no wonder his people expect the returning of their savior at any moment.

All these things are yet to come —
though they have happened already,
again and again in the history of the human race,
they are yet to come —

and what they mean,
what they portend —

is the necessity of the coming of the kingdom of God among us,
the kingdom that is the will of God
as it is in heaven,
to be so on earth as well,
to emerge among us.

As Christ embodied the Word of God into the world,
the love and compassion and forgiveness and mercy of the Father,

so we are to embody him,
carrying forward his work in the world,
bringing it to completion,

bringing the message of peace,
and reconciliation,

not only with our lips but in our lives,

to a hurting world,
a searching world,

a world that needs
as never before and always

the healing touch of its
Savior, its

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.

Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!
Be among us —
and dwell within us,

that we may be your voice and your hands,
bringing your grace and glory into the world.


*(Tennyson, Idylls of the King, “Enid”, 1859)

Notes for a sermon to be given on
The First Sunday of Advent, 2009
St Alban's Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Joyful Anticipation

Advent 2009

There comes a time in a family’s life when they realize that indeed a new baby is on the way. The quiet expectation and the peaceful preparation are going to give way to some very visible (and audible) changes in life – and they are welcomed!

The new child represents new hope – the future of the family, and a future for the community in which the child is born. For more than the immediate family is concerned in the birth of a child – it is a matter of moment for the whole community.

So it was for the people who gathered around a simple bed in a humble place, in the city of David, two thousand years ago. They had been waiting – some in anxiety, some in hope – for a new day to dawn in Israel, a new beginning for God’s people.

They wondered how God would come to them – for God had promised to dwell in their midst.

They wondered how God would redeem them – for they surely felt themselves in need of liberation.

They wondered how God would sustain them – and they relied on the promise of the Spirit.

All these expectations built slowly, surely, as the winter deepened toward the dark end of December, and autumn leaves turned to cold gray boughs. Fallen needles spread their carpet below the cedars of Lebanon and the pines of the heights.

They waited – for they knew the promise. God would send the One to redeem us, sanctify us, keep us holy, and help us prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.

It was Christ they waited for: the Messiah— the “anointed one” chosen by God to be God with us, Emmanuel, God among us, the one sent by God to us, to call us.

And God sent his Son to dwell among us, to bless us and redeem us and call us forward into a new future, free from fear, free to worship, a future with hope.

This season we invite you to be with us at St Alban’s as we anticipate with joyful preparation the advent— the arrival— of Christ at Christmas.

We invite you to stay with us through the holidays for the celebrations of Christmas Eve & Day, and into the season of Christmas, all the way through Epiphany celebrations on the first Sunday of the New Year, and beyond.

Come to worship!

We come together on Sunday mornings, for worship at 8:00 & 10:30 (Sunday, December 6th— one service at 9am followed by the annual parish meeting) and every Wednesday evening during the four weeks leading up to Christmas, for evening worship at 6:15 p.m.

Come to worship! Special services for the holidays—

We celebrate the birth of the Christ Child on Christmas Eve – with a family service at 5:30 p.m., including a children’s pageant (Shepherds! Angels! — Your children are welcome to take part), and at 10:30 p.m., a candlelight service.

And we anticipate a visit from the Magi and their friends on Sunday, January 3rd, 2010...

Please join us in welcoming the good news of the coming of the King promised of old, a King not like the world knows, but a One who brings among us the very peace and presence of God.

Yours in joyful anticipation,

Fr. John

The Rev. John R. Leech
Priest and Rector

Sunday worship at 8am & 10:30am
(Childcare available at the 10:30 hour)
Wednesdays in Advent - evening worship 6:15pm

Christmas Eve Family Service
Shepherds! Angels! —
Pageant & Eucharist 5:30pm
Christmas Eve Candlelight Service 10:30pm
Christmas Day Service 10:30am
Jan 3rd— Epiphany Pageant & Eucharist 10:30am
Wise men still seek him…

* * *

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christ the King 2009

Who's in charge here? Who's on trial? Who's condemned, and who is triumphant?

In the courtyard of the governor's palace, Peter is warming himself by the fire. You were with him, someone says, you are one of them - I can tell by your accent, you're a Galilean. Will Peter pass the test?

Inside the palace, Pilate is pacing the pavement - and considers what to do with this strange prisoner. A silent one, yet somehow compelling - could he possibly be a threat to the Roman order? Could he turn it over, cause its demise? Will he pass the test? Will Pilate pass the test?

And then, he asks, incredulous or sarcastic - 'You?! Are you the king of the Jews?'

Are you the One? Are you the one who is supposed to be the big threat to me, the one who calls for ultimate allegiance to something other than Rome?

'I came into this world for judgment', Jesus said, 'so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.' (John 9:39) and his witness to the truth, his revelation of truth to all humanity, effects judgment. His Word brings judgment to the World.

'I am the way, and the truth, and the life.' (John 14:6)

He is the embodiment of truth; what he says and does, his words and deeds, testify to the truth.

When Pilate asks, 'Are you the king of the Jews?'

He is asking the real question, but does he realize it, does he realize the consequences?

Does he realize what he is dealing with? Who is facing him?

Jesus asks him, is this question really yours - or were you fed it (by some other group with a larger agenda)? Do you know what you are asking? Or is it just some sort of gambit in a game? Are you being played?

No. Pilate does not realize what he is asking.

'I came into this world for judgment', Jesus said, 'so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.' (John 9:39)

Then Pilate asks another question: "What have you done?"

Jesus answers the first question, after hearing the second:

My kingship is not from this world; I do not derive my authority from its practices, its powers. My kingship is given me from above, not from this world.

Pilate asks again, 'So you are a king?' Pilate is practicing due diligence, an interrogator giving the silent prisoner another chance, before condemning him. Are you?

Then Jesus replies to the second question: you say that I am a king; those are your words.

And finally he lays his cards on the table, exposing the paradoxical, not-of-this-world nature of his authority: for this I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth.

My testimony brings judgment upon this world. But for everyone who hears my voice - everyone who belongs to me - there is salvation.

For everyone who belongs to the truth belongs to me -- and belongs to the Father who sent me.

The eternal Word has come into the world, the very One through whom it came into being, and yet the world does not recognize Him.

The light has come into the world, and yet everywhere people remain in the darkness, until that light shines upon them, and they turn to it and live. (We are called, to turn to that Light, and live.)

Throughout the encounter of Jesus with Pilate, and Pilate with the truth, the innocence and the kingship of Jesus are revealed:

He is the true judge who tries his adversaries; he is the truth come into the world.

The truth stands before Pilate - and Pilate turns away. He does not listen; and so he ends by serving the world's purposes. He is the means to the end. He who would rule becomes the servant - he is just the hand, the factotum, of a larger purpose.

The world would condemn Jesus, - 'it hates me,' he says, 'because I testify against it that its works are evil' (John 7:7) - but yet its judgment is not final, and its purpose is not ultimately successful. At the moment of his condemnation, he is crowned; in the triumph of the cross Jesus is exalted.

This is paradox - not a king as the world would have him king, but as the one who rules from below - a position of service.

For Christ Jesus,
though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death-
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

These are words Paul wrote down in his letter to the Philippians (2:6-11).

Jesus asks questions of Pilate as if he were the judge, the one on the throne. From the moment Jesus opens his mouth, Pilate is the one on trial. Does Pilate belong to the truth? Will he respond to it? Will he listen? (Do we belong to the truth? Will we listen?)

Truth! What is that??

He casts aside the question, and turns away from the Truth. He does not recognize it -

Indeed, he has asked the wrong question - the question really is, who is truth?

"For Christ is the truth, in such a sense that to be the truth, to be its embodiment in the world, is the only true explanation of what truth is," (Søren Kierkegaard) and its only genuine testimony.

The truth as revealed in Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate revelation of the Father in this world, comes to us not as a set of propositions seeking assent, nor as an argument to win us over, but as a person - an invitation to faith, that is, to trust in him.

God through Christ calls us into relationship - a relationship with the ultimate reality, that is revealed through this man, betrayed, accused, beaten, mocked, tried, condemned, and yet triumphant, compassionate, merciful to those who show no mercy, wise to fools, offering freedom even to those who condemn - for here he is before Pilate, supposedly a prisoner in chains and yet he is calling to Pilate to be free - to respond to the truth.

Jesus is the one offering freedom. Who is in charge here, indeed?

Christ is the king of life and love - the one who challenges the destructive powers of this age, offering life and light, love and hope, to all who have faith, all who believe in him.

At last the prophecy of Isaiah, release to the captives, eyesight to the blind, has come true.

The king has come at last - and he has come to set his people free.

The very concept of king, as the world once knew it, may seem obsolete in our world - nobody embodies the sovereignty of our nation or many nations anymore - and so the kingship of Jesus so unlike it we express his compelling authenticity in other terms - and yet God remains, sovereign, one, personal, active. He is active in our lives, calling each of us to him, and calling all of us to follow him.

He is calling us to turn to the Light, the Light of the World; to listen to His voice, the voice of the Good Shepherd; to belong to the Truth; to follow his Way.

The king has come at last - and he has come to set his people free.

When he calls us he is calling us forward to freedom, to live into our ultimate identity. And his call to us, to give of ourselves in his service, is a call to our true home; to receive the gift of Life in his Kingdom; and then, living in that Kingdom, to bear its reality into the World.

* * *

You are the King of Glory, O Christ: you are the everlasting Son of the Father.

We give you our love and offer you our lives.

Come, Lord, and rule in our hearts,
until your kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.

Come, Christ our King, and reign over us, as you reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen.

--David Adam, Traces of Glory (SPCK, 1999) 149.

All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. (1 Chronicles 29:14b)

Grace to you and peace from God, from him who is, who was, and who is to come. The peace of the Lord be always with you.

--David Adam, Traces of Glory (SPCK, 1999) 148.

To him who sits upon the throne, to the One true and Living God, be praise and glory, for ever and ever, and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen.

--David Adam, Traces of Glory (SPCK, 1999) 149.

Christ the King 2009

Sources and Resources

The Gospel According to John (18:33-38a).

New Revised Standard Version Bible
, 1989.

Michael D. Coogan, ed., The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Third Edition, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) NT 177-178.

David Adam, Traces of Glory (SPCK, 1999) 149-151.

Leonard Beechy, “Living The Word: Reflections on the lectionary”, The Christian Century, November 17, 2009, Vol. 126, No. 23, 20.

Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (xiii-xxi), The Anchor Bible, Volume 29a (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970) 843-872. “Indeed he is the embodiment of truth.” (854)

Richard A. Burridge, John, The People’s Bible Commentary (Abingdon, OX, UK: The Bible Reading Fellowship, 1998, 2008) 214-215.

Fred B. Craddock et al., Preaching Through the Christian Year, Year B, (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1993) Karoline M. Lewis, “Christ the King”, 474-481.

Scott M. Lewis, The Gospel According to John and the Johannine Letters, New Collegeville Bible Commentary (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2005) 90-92.

David B. Lott, ed., New Proclamation, Year B, 2009, Easter to Christ the King (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008) “Christ the King”, 281-289.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Light Has Come (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1982) 245-246.

Herbert O’Driscoll, The Word Today, Year B, Volume 3, (Toronto, ON: Anglican Book Centre, 2001) 158-162.

Scott Gambrill Sinclair, The Past from God’s Perspective (North Richland Hills, TX: BIBAL Press, 2004) 316-319.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

what her heart most longed for

The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. (Isaiah 40:5)

In the name of God, the merciful Father, the compassionate Son, the Spirit of wisdom. Amen.

The good news of the story of God, the long story of the love of God for humanity, is the story that we tell throughout the Christian year:

• from Advent, the coming of the Messiah, the coming of the Christ Child,

• through Christmas season, celebrating the birth of our Lord,

• on into Epiphany – the season of showings, revelations, epiphanies, that make manifest the presence of God in human history, in our lives;

• into Lent, with its sober wisdom that we must prepare our hearts to receive the full assurance of God’s grace,

• into the compressed season of the Church year that is Holy Week – running from the absurd spectacle of Palm Sunday through the horrendous events of Good Friday and beyond hope into the transcending glory of Easter morning;

• absorbing the good news of Christ’s triumphant vitality through the Easter season, and

• then experiencing Pentecost, the long season of coming into the fullness of God’s kingdom, and

• then, again, as December approaches, to find ourselves waiting once again, in hope, in preparation, in anticipation, for the coming of the King.

This is the second Sunday before Advent – in some quarters, this is the Kingdom season.

It is the time of year in which at last we realize that the kingdom of Heaven is with us, within us, around us, waiting to be recognized, lived into as a present reality – it is not some story of a fantastic future but a present which is more than we recognize. God is with us, the glory and the grace are among us; we are called to embody their reality.

This is no easy task. The kingdom is often invisible, even when it is right before our eyes. You lose your job; you contract a disease; you hear bad news from far away or close by.

Where is God in this, in this world? Where is the hope? It is in the whole story of the people of God.

We have a story that will last forever – the story of the love of God for God’s people, and that’s us.

Begin with the child – the child of Hannah.

Hannah, the barren second wife of Elkanah, was mocked by Peninnah, the fruitful one.

Every year she prayed, every year she was tormented. Hannah would not eat she was so upset. And then she prayed – and God answered.

At first the priest thought she was drunk – he was not used to people praying like that.

I am not drunk; I’m desperate. I am praying to the Lord – give me a son! I will give him to you, as a servant in the Temple.

God answered, and gave Hannah her heart’s longing: so she named the boy child Samuel, “I have asked him of the Lord.”

She left him there for the Lord. He would serve the Lord faithfully, as a prophet.

And then she sang: in the exultation of her heart she sang a triumphant song, like the song of Moses, and the song of the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, who took a tambourine in her hand and led the women out with dancing, as Israel was freed from Pharaoh.

And Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’
(Exodus 15:21)

Hannah sang, as Mary mother of Jesus would sing, of the victory of her God – a victory long awaited, long prayed for.

For the people of Israel in bondage in Egypt, the people of Israel in exile in Babylon, and the people of Israel in bondage under Rome, prayed too: for their deliverance, their vindication, in the sight of their adversaries – that God would save them, bring them hope – and bring them freedom from what bound them.

The story of liberation, of God’s people released from bondage, is a story of a people, and it is the story of a person, any person who feels enslaved or exiled, a-wander in the desert, unable to find their way, or their freedom, or their home, and then appeals to God.

God my savior – the people cry. God my deliverer – says the one who is freed. God my vindicator, my sure defense – this is the one who brought Israel out of Egypt and across the desert to the Holy Land; this is the one who called them home from exile in Babylon – and this is the one who calls to you and me to come to him now for our own freedom.

For we too seek vindication, deliverance, freedom – and our hope is in our God.

That is the story of God – the story that is told throughout the Bible, the Scriptures. And that is why the collect today reminds us, that the whole story of the people of God, which is told throughout the pages of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, is a story of hope.

This hope finds its final fulfillment in the One that Mary sang about, her son the Savior:

The Song of Mary – Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

This is the child of the promise:

This is the One that the people of God were waiting for, through all the ages. It is the Son who God gave, who gave of himself unsparingly, One once offered for the freedom of all.

At last this is the hope of the ages: that God would in the flesh dwell among us. That is what we wait for, too – to know that we are not left alone but that God is with us. Right here, right now, in the midst of our own situation, however glorious, however painful,

Throughout the Scriptures we hear the story of the love of God for the people of God.

God walks with us, beside us, from our beginning to our ending. He is the beginning and the ending of all our days, and in him is our hope. That is the story of the hope of Glory.

That is what the Bible tells us – that is why we pray, today, in the words of the Collect,

Blessed Lord,
who has caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our edification:
Grant us so to
hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that,
by the encouragement the Scriptures give us,
we may embrace and ever hold fast
the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St Alban’s Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash., Sunday, November 15, 2009.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

the widows’ might

Today we have heard a part of the story of Naomi, returning from exile, of Ruth, the foreigner in a foreign land, and of Boaz, who is there to meet them.

It is a story that moves from famine to harvest, from scarcity to abundance, from widowing to wedding, from poverty and widowhood to providence and safety.

Naomi, the tale tells us, was a woman of Israel who had traveled to the land of Moab in a time of famine. She had been married then, and had two sons, who married local women, there in Moab, Orpah and Ruth.

Those men, all three of them, had died. And so Naomi was left alone in a far country.

Could she provide new husbands for her daughters-in-law? No, she said, I cannot. All I can do is return, alone, to the land I came from long ago, and hope to make out some kind of living there among the people who once knew me. Leave me, and return to your own people, she said. Orpah did so, turning back from the long road to Israel, and saying farewell to Naomi, but Ruth stuck with her.

Where you go I will go, where you live I will live; your God will be my God, your people my people; where you are buried there will I be buried also. And so the two of them set out, crossing the miles and miles from one side of the Jordan to the other and moving up into the hill country of Ephraim, to the little town of Bethlehem.

It was in this country, the home country Naomi had come from, that they hoped to live.

Would Naomi be accepted back? Would anyone remember her? What about her husband’s land, the inheritance she would have to reclaim to make a living from? Could she, with the younger widow working beside her, farm it and live on the produce? In the meantime, how were they to eat?

It is a harvest time. Ruth goes out, to gather the grain left behind by the reapers; she is gleaning, a traditional way the poor kept from starving.

She finds favor in the sight of the farmer. His name is Boaz, and he has heard of her selfless care for her mother-in-law; in fact, he is kin. And he knows the law of the land—the law that laid out a role for the next of kin, the closest male relative to Naomi’s late husband and Ruth’s, to serve as the redeemer, the one to take over the care of the inheritance and of the family’s future.

Imagine the sorrow and loneliness Ruth felt; now turning to joy. She had been a widow from a far country, traveling among strangers and serving her mother-in-law. She had been gleaning in the fields, trying to make a livelihood out of poverty and forbearance, and had been rewarded with the regard of the man in whose fields she had gleaned.

Her mother-in-law, a widow too, saw this and, savvy to the ways of men, saw a way out of poverty. Put on your best clothes, my daughter, and go to the threshing floor tonight, where Boaz will be resting. Quietly go to him in the night. He’ll take it from there.

Ruth comes home that night to Naomi, bearing grain in her cloak— and good news. It must have been clear from her face.

Naomi may have thought things would progress farther than they had, in one way. Boaz had a good heart and saw that Ruth had one too. He continued to look after her, and did offer her protection, not the warmth of a night’s blanket but a lifetime of husband-hood.

Already he—a man of means, and of generous manner—saw in her his equal, calling her a worthy woman, that is, a person of honor and wisdom, like the capable wife, the accomplished life-partner, extolled in Proverbs (31:10-31).

He went to the city gate in the morning, where such business was transacted in that land, and there he made the deal— to a closer kinsman of Naomi, the one who had prior rights, he said, you are the redeemer, if you choose to be, of the inheritance of Naomi: a parcel of land, to farm, and a daughter-in-law, with whom to marry and raise a family. This is what you have to redeem, if you will be the redeemer.

I cannot do it, said the other man; I have an inheritance of my own to protect. And so he sealed the deal with Boaz, clearing the way for the marriage— and a new life for Ruth, and Naomi.

Soon there would be children, and this stranger to Israel, this sojourner in their midst, became one of them. Her faithfulness, her steadfast loyalty to her mother-in-law, her sacramental love and care for her, would be recognized and rewarded. She who had been a foreigner, daughter-in-law to Naomi, the returning exile, would marry the man who had stayed in the land—she became included among the people of God.

There is something more than blood kinship at work here; there is more than fulfilling an obligation of law. There is grace, and welcome, and faith made effective in love.

The story goes on to tell us about the children of Ruth, her son Obed (which means “servant”), her grandson Jesse, and of Jesse’s son—David, who would become king.

This widow, in her steadfast love and loyalty, her selfless care, is not the only widow extolled in today’s stories. She is not the only example of God’s care, of what it is to live in faith.

In the gospels we hear parable after parable to tell us what the kingdom of God is like. It is like a treasure buried in a field, it is like a pearl beyond price, it is like a mustard seed; it is like a father welcoming home his prodigal son.

Today also we have what amounts to a living parable, the poor widow that Jesus watched in the Temple, as she gave without stinting her last two coins, all she had to live on—in effect, her whole life—given over as a free gift to God.

Look, Jesus said to his men: there it is.

This is what the kingdom of God is like. It is like a poor widow, who on reaching the Temple gave without reserve her whole life as a sacrificial offering to God. She, unlike the others who came there that day, had no prominence in the eyes of men: she had no large gift to catch the eye, nothing that would show off well, just a simple gift—of everything.

Where is the good news in this story?

The good news is manifest in God’s unfailing love, open-handed beyond caution or common sense, acted out by this woman at the Temple treasury.

The good news is in God’s open-handed love, beyond precedent in the lives of men or women, which would soon be shown by Jesus himself, as he offered himself as a sacrificial offering, once for all.

The priests who entered the Holy of Holies, Hebrews reminds us, did so every year: not so our Lord, who once in his lifetime offered his whole life to God, for the redeeming of us all.

This is what the world looks like when God is truly in charge: a world in which all comes from God, and everything we have we have from God. All we offer to God—our gifts, our work, our offerings of thanks—comes from God and it is to God that we return.

So Ruth is welcomed home to a place she had never been before; she is welcome, known, recognized, as one of the very own of God—generous, loving heart, faithful—she is home, for the very first time.

So we too are welcome, in the kingdom of God, a world characterized by what the Hebrews called chesed, loyalty or faithfulness arising from commitment, the steadfast love of a loving Lord, the God who first loved us.

The widows in the story of Ruth, the widow in the Temple—they are exemplars to us of faith in living. The widow in the Temple does not give her whole life, her two coins, as a bet—she is not placing a desperate wager on the generosity of the Messiah. This isn’t a holy lottery, hoping that last dollar will turn into thousands. She is, by what she does, showing us a picture of absolute faith in the providence of God, the one who has given her all she has, and of whose own provision she has made radical return. We don’t, most of us, give with that little thought for the morrow.

Giving out of the abundance God has granted us, with thanks, with obedience, with grace, and with the knowledge that all we have is his, is what we do: it is the human thing to do.

What we see in the widow’s mite is more than just a human response—it is a sign, of God’s grace, of God’s abundance, of God’s profligate generosity. For soon, as the story carries us forward, this same son of Man who watched the widow put her two coins in the Treasury, will himself be given—will give himself—as the gift of God for our own souls’ redeeming.

He is the one who did not count equality with God as a thing to be held onto, but will be the one of whom it is said, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believed in him, whoever trusted him so completely as to put their whole life into his care, would not perish but live eternally.

Everlasting life—and the love that is its source—is what stands behind the widows’ story.

Love, loyalty, life itself: time, talent, treasure: all we have, all we give, comes from God—who gave himself for us.

Guide me, God of grace, to give, as you would have me give, of what you have given me.



The Lessons appointed for use on the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost;
Proper 27, Year B, in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL):

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 and Psalm 127
(or 1 Kings 17:8-16 and Psalm 146)
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

The Abingdon Bible Commentary
(Abingdon Press, 1929)

The HarperCollins Study Bible, Revised Edition (HarperSanFrancisco, 2006). Galatians 5:6, n.

The New Revised Standard Version Bible (National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America, 1989)


Saturday, November 7, 2009


FOOD for MEDITATION, Compiled by Paul Clasper, Dean, St. John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong
(Green Pagoda Press Ltd., Hong Kong, 1986)


I was not born to be free:
I was born to adore and to obey.

—C.S. Lewis.

When prayer stops

Coincidences stop.

—Archbishop William Temple.


Look on the rising sun ;
there God does live
and gives His light
and gives His heat away ;

And flowers and trees and beasts and men
receive comfort in the morning
joy in the noon day.

And we are put on earth
a little space,
and we may learn to bear
the beams of love.

—William Blake, in The Little Black Boy.


The great thing, if one can
is to stop regarding
all the unpleasant things
as interruptions of
one’s “own” or “real” life.

The truth is, of course
that what one calls the interruptions
are precisely one’s real life —
day by day :

What one calls
one’s “real life”
is a phantom of
one’s own imagination.

—C.S. Lewis,
letter to
Arthur Greeves.


He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy ;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.

—William Blake.


It is by
my not denying as false
what I do not yet see to be true,
that I give myself
the chance of
growing in insight.

—Baron F. von Hugel, in Essays & Addresses I


And what did God do?

First of all,
He left us conscience,
the sense of right and wrong.

He sent the human race
what I call good dreams :
I mean those queer stories scattered
all through the heathen religions
about a God who dies, and
comes to life again, and
by His death, has somehow
given new life to men.

He selected one particular people, and
spent several centuries
hammering into their heads
the sort of God He was —
that there was only one of Him, and
that He cared about right conduct.
Those people were the Jews, and
the Old Testament gives an account
of the hammering process.

—C.S. Lewis,
Mere Christianity


You never enjoy the world aright
till the sea itself floweth in your veins,
till you are clothed with
the heavens and crowned with the stars;
and perceive yourself
to be the sole heir of the whole world,
and more than so,
because men are in it
who are every one sole heirs as well as you.

—Thomas Traherne, in Centuries


Appreciate words
are the most powerful force
for good will on earth.

—J. Donald Adams, in The Art of Living


Come, Holy Spirit, Come

as the fire and burn;

as the wind and sweep clean;

as the dew and refresh;

Convict, Convert & Consecrate
until we are wholly thine!


According to
the 8th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans,
there is more hope when one sighs,
than when he exults
as if the Spirit were already his.

—Karl Barth, in The Word of God & the Word of Man


taught us to care.

is the greatest thing.

matters most.

—Baron F. von Hugel.


A friendly grin and a hand extended
are sacramental in nature:
outward and visible signs of inward, spiritual grace.
An impulsive hug says,
‘I love you’,
even though the words may come out,
“You old billygoat”.

—Marjorie Shearer, in Love & Marriage


The first duty of love is
to listen.

—Theologian Paul Tillich.

who has made us the creatures of time,
so that every tomorrow is an unknown country,
and every decision a venture of faith,

Grant us,
frail children of the day,
who are blind to the future,
to move toward it with a sure confidence
in your love,
from which neither life nor death can separate us.

—Reinhold Niebuhr.



Compiled by

St. John’s Cathedral
Hong Kong

Pentecost Day 1986

Printed by the Green Pagoda Press Ltd.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

What are saints?

What are saints? The lessons tell us they are:

• the righteous
• those who trust in him
• the faithful
• his holy ones
• the elect – chosen, called, set apart.

Saints are those people
who respond to the call of God
to do his work in the world
and to be faithful to his service.

They embody
the reign of God:
the establishment of God’s peaceable kingdom.

They begin to experience life eternal—
life lived in the knowledge of the love of God—
not hereafter but here and now.

Life eternal begins in the present,
secure in the knowledge that nothing
can take away from you
the love of God.

Indeed, the love of God is assured
from the beginning to the end of life—
he is the Alpha and the Omega—
because ‘the home of God is among mortals’.

Emmanuel – God with us – present in Christ.

He dwells with us, among us.
He is present with us in love, joy, suffering, hope.

Here he is with Lazarus—
anticipating and moving forward toward his own similar fate—
a tomb, a cave, a stone across the mouth,
‘he cries with a loud voice’ to one bound
with grave clothes and a wrapping around his head—
all too, too familiar.

No wonder he is anguished.

The God who is present with us,
who calls us to follow him:
Christ before us, behind us, around us,
at our beginning and at our ending;

This is God in Christ as he dwelt among us,
as he came to Bethany, into the home town of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus,
his friends, who not too much later would be mourning him—
even anticipating the grief as his death drew near,
(Mary wiping his feet with her hair, anointing him with burial oils).

And this is the One who raised Lazarus, and was himself raised, from the dead.

This hope of the resurrection,
this hope of life in Christ,
draws us out of our own track
into a larger world.

We can take a broader view
of the legacy we have inherited—
of the gifts in faith we have received from those who have come before us;
of the blessings we enjoy, and of the gifts we have to pass on to the future.

For the church we see around us
is an outpost of a great assembly;
through time and across the world
it spreads out behind and before us.

Today – All Saints’ Day – we remember those
who have come before us as God’s faithful people—
and we call to mind those yet to come—
and those around us and far away,
keeping the faith in the glory of God.

What do we do?
What do we do to live in faith?
What is our mission as a people of God?

Our mission is stated,
as Bishop Greg reminded everyone at convention,
right in the Book of Common Prayer,
and that is where we are going to look for our Mission Statement—
the Baptismal Covenant.

We as a parish have a vision to flesh that out — but we state it first, up front, in the affirmations and pledges we make in the vows we now renew…

We as a parish have a vision to flesh that out—but we state it first, up front, in the affirmations and pledges we make in the vows we now renew…

We are buried with Christ by Baptism into his death, and raised with him to newness of life. I call upon you, therefore, to renew the solemn promises and vows of Holy Baptism, by which we once renounced Satan and all his works, and promised to serve God faithfully in his holy Catholic Church....

The Renewal of Baptismal Vows (Book of Common Prayer, 292)


Holy Lord, take us and make us holy,
make us yours and make us obedient,
make us faithful, make us joyful and
make us to be numbered with your saints,
in that glory which is everlasting;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen.


God give you the peace of the blessed, the peace that the world cannot give, the peace that passes all understanding. The peace of the Lord be always with you…


The Lord give you his grace and make you to be numbered with his saints in that glory which is everlasting; and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Feast of All Saints
Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9
or Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 24
Revelation 21:1-6a
John 11:32-44


David Adam, Traces of Glory (SPCK, 1999) 139-141.

Barbara Crafton, (October 30, 2009).


Saturday, October 17, 2009


“It’s getting warm,” we said to each other. We were walking through the desert with friends. It was the middle of the morning and the temperature was rising into the 90s.

We had a drink of water. We sought the shade down in the relative cool of the arroyo. We made our way toward the food and shelter we knew were waiting for us – and the car.

It was a pleasant morning, out for a hike with friends and family. It was beautiful. It was dry and sunny. And it was getting warm.

Imagine walking through such a desert alone, or with strangers. Imagine walking across a desert, jobless and homeless, hoping for something not seen, for a place on the far side. No car waits, no friends or family, just a chance of finding a new way to live.

It happens every summer, in the Sonoran desert. People cross it, heading north, looking for a job, for food and water and shelter, and perhaps a new life. Carrying with them – not much but hope.

Imagine crossing such a desert with someone who has just been family for a little while: a relative by marriage. The two of you have dozens of miles of wilderness to cross, and you are alone in the world. You have left the known behind; there is a famine there.

You have an international border to negotiate. You hope that when you arrive in the new place – and it lies across that border – you will find a little food and water and shelter and perhaps a new life.

Their husbands were dead, and they heard the famine might be lifting over there to the west.

Naomi had said her farewells to Moab and to one of her widowed daughters-in-law, Orpah – perhaps the more sensible of the two, who stuck with what she knew.

Ruth came with Naomi. They were widows now, both of them – the older woman and the younger. They set out together to the west. Somewhere there might be a place for them – with the family Naomi had left behind years ago.

Ruth came with Naomi, offering her a love and a loyalty and faithfulness beyond what was required by any law: “Where you go I will go and where you lodge I will lodge and your people will be my people and your God will be my God.”

With that passionate pledge Ruth began a spiritual journey into a new identity, as one of the people called to be the people of God.

They reached the other side – they came to the neighborhood of Bethlehem, in Judea. They came to fields of ripe grain, and a threshing floor; it was harvest time. Naomi’s relatives were there – and an ending of their journey. They found, as the story continues, after the harvest, a future and a hope.

This November the calendar of the church year carries us from the feast of All Saints, —when we gather together in the presence of all the faithful remembering those past and anticipating those to come, and welcoming those present with us in the Eucharist, — through Ingathering Sunday to the feast of Christ the King and the Thanksgiving holiday and on to the first Sunday of Advent.

All Saints Day assures us we are among friends, the family of Christ that extends its embrace through time and space. Ingathering Sunday provides an opportunity to give our thanks for what God has given us. We rejoice together in Christ the King, proclaiming that our God reigns indeed, that he alone is sovereign. And we come to that first day of the season of anticipation, quietly but joyfully singing as we prepare the way of the Lord.

This month forms a part of the journey of the Christian year, from the hope of the coming king (past and future, in the first coming and his return in glory) to the blessings of the Nativity of our Lord and the epiphanies that herald his presence among us; from the thoughtful preparations of Candlemas (Candelaria) and Lenten tide to the raucous anticipations of Palm Sunday, the humble moments of Holy Week, the gift of Maundy Thursday and the crushing truth of Good Friday, and the scenes beyond dreams of Easter Day; through the revelations that follow that morning and build beyond the Ascension into the long green season after Pentecost, around again to the last days of autumn and the return of the king.

This is where we are now – and shows where we are going, from a known past and gifts we are thankful for, with family and friends (if we are so blessed) into a future with hope.

We do not always know where we are going, we are not always sure of our way, and as C. S. Lewis somewhere pointed out, the Christian faith does not give us a map but a compass.* We are not provided with a chart of what awaits us, just a directional aid.

Faith orients us toward the blessing of the presence of God. Hope assures us we are moving forward toward a future God has prepared for us. Love gives us the way to be with each other on the journey. And we know, that now in the present Christ is here among us, and in the unknown country, yet to come, he will be there to welcome us.

Let us share the welcome of Christ with each other – and those whom God brings to us, and whom we seek out in the world around us. The future beckons us, a future with hope.

May the true and living God who created all things bless us; the eternal Word of God take root in our hearts and the holy Spirit of God bear fruit in our lives. —Fr. John


*cf. Herbert O’Driscoll, The Word Today, Year B, Vol. 3 (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 2001) 130.

For the Gospel Grapevine, parish newsletter of St Alban’s Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash., November 2009.



Sunday, October 11, 2009

Congratulations! you win the prize...

In the name of God, Merciful Father, Compassionate Son, Spirit of Wisdom. Amen.

Congratulations! After months of searching and careful deliberations the committee has selected you to receive the Servant of God prize… not for anything you’ve done – but for what you’re called to be.

You are called to be – God’s child, what you already are. You are called to be – his partner in service. You are called to be – his disciple, following his way.

You are called to inherit eternal life. You are called to be – a saint.

“The only tragedy is not to be a saint.”— Leon Bloy said it; my teacher Donald Nicholl used to love to quote that.

A saint? How can I be a saint? How can anyone be a saint?

That’s what the rich man wanted to know. That’s what the disciples wanted to know.

Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’ (Mark 10:27)

A saint is not a person who is perfect – who has made it on their own – but a person who has trusted God, whatever their life circumstances.

A saint is one who is consecrated, set apart, for the service and worship of God.

A saint is one who dwells in the tabernacle of the holy, who lives within God's love.

And sometimes that is all we are - and all we have.

Job, that righteous man, stood naked before God: like King Lear buffeted by adversities (though not of his own making, Job’s daughters not being Lear’s) he voices his complaint even to the winds of the storm.

“Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning.” (Job 23:1)

Job feels no presence – just absence – as he tries to get a hearing with God.

“If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left, he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.”

As Herb O’Driscoll pointed out, it’s ironically reverse from a familiar hymn:

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me.

The psalm too, presents us with a man undone, laid bare to the eyes of all – and most of all, to the one who will be our judge.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1)

It is the cry of the Exile, the cry of the homeless, the destitute; it is the cry of the powerless, the cry of the Holocaust. And it is the cry of Jesus on the Cross.

It is the cry of one utterly bereft of resources, completely unable to make it on his own.

How does it feel to be on your own?

“O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; by night as well, but I find no rest.” (Psalm 22:2)

And yet – we are not alone. God has called us, not to try to make it on our own, not to try even to earn our way into the kingdom of heaven. He has only called us to walk with him.

He has not called us to be perfect: he has called us to follow him on the way.

And he will walk with us, and help us find the way.

Herb O’Driscoll reminds us of C. S. Lewis’s observation that our faith does not provide us with a map for the journey forward; it simply gives us a compass – a directional aid.

So often we expect the future to be simply an extension of the past.

We may picture history, past present future, as like a map spread out before us – or a picture of Earth seen from out in space, turning toward the sun, with some of it already lit, some still in shadow. The line between that moves with the sun is called the ‘shadow line’.

The lit-up part is the past: we can see the roads, the bridges, the mountains and the passes through them. We can see where we have come from. That’s nice – it feels secure. Whatever the road was like, we know what it looks like.

Now – looking to the future is like trying to look past the ‘shadow line’ on a distant planet, or the moon: what is lit up is easy to see – the features can be discerned – but what is in the dark, not yet revealed, because the sun of the present has not touched it yet, is hidden from our view. We do not know what is happening – we do not know the way. We only know we have our guide with us, our faith-compass in our hand, and our road before us. We must step forward – in faith.

Thomas Merton, in his book Thoughts in Solitude, offered this prayer:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

We don’t know. That’s the peril of it – and the glory. What must I do to gain eternal life?

What, in effect, did Jesus say to the man who ran up and knelt before him?

You must let go, my friend, and know that indeed you stand naked before God and answer to him, that you cannot make it on your own. Follow him.

Follow Christ.

Follow the one ‘who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’ (Hebrews 4:15-16)

It’s a hard road, but a true one. It leads to life.

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’ (Mark 8:34-35, 37, 36)

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honor and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong
and no human is worthy to mention Your name.

Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me true faith, certain hope and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out
Your holy and true command. Amen.

(Prayers of St Francis of Assisi)

O Christ, the master carpenter, who at the last, through wood and nails, purchased our whole salvation, wield well your tools in the workshop of your world, so that we who come rough-hewn to your bench may here be fashioned to a truer beauty of your hand. We ask it for your own name’s sake. Amen.

(Prayer for our own reshaping, from the Iona Community)

St Alban's Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash.,
October 11, 2009.


Sources and inspirations include "The Word Today" by Herbert O'Driscoll (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre) and the Franciscans' website for Francis' prayers.