Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gathering Prayer

Gathering Prayer

Creator, we give you thanks for all you are and all you bring to us within your creation. In Jesus, you place the Gospel in the center of the sacred circle through which all of creation is related.

You show us the way to live a generous and compassionate life. Give us your strength to live together with respect and commitment as we grow in your spirit, for you are God, now and forever, Amen.

Elsie Dennis gave us this gathering prayer during the Little Feast on Saturday, May 15th. Elsie is from the Sinixt tribe and works in First Nations and multicultural ministries with the Diocese of Olympia.

Gleaned by Christine Sine (


two futures

Jurgen Moltmann once wrote … that in Latin there are two words for the future.

One is futurum. Futurum, he said, is the future we see stretching out in front us by our brainstorming, trend spotting, number crunching etc. It comes from our wrestling. He calls this the Future of Social Calculation.

But, he says, there’s another future that comes towards us from beyond us, over which we have no control. We can’t fashion its outline or calculate it. We grapple with this future by asking a question. “What kind of X (parish, diocese, state, country, family, etc., etc.) would we like to have in (fill in a date)?” In other words we in a sense “dream” this future. Moltmann says that this dreaming can be very powerful.

When a society starts dreaming of a different future to what it now has, it can produce tremendous energy. Sometimes all the tanks in the world can’t stop it. Walls can tumble. He calls this future the Future of Ethical Anticipation.

He then says that each is incomplete with out the other. Both are needed for future planning.

(Herbert O’Driscoll, email to Fr. John 11/23/09)


a fresh start

Pentecost 2010

Come Holy Spirit and kindle the fire that is in us.
Take our lips and speak through them.
Take our hearts and see through them.
Take our souls and set them on fire. Amen.

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

The kingdom is within you, waiting to emerge in your mind, your heart, your words, your deeds; the kingdom is all around you, waiting to break in to this world, through your mind, your heart, your words, your deeds - and the unbridled work of the Spirit.

In the prayer that Jesus taught us, we pray both 'deliver us from evil' -praying for ourselves- and 'thy kingdom come' - praying for the world.*

We ask for our own needs - give us this day our daily bread - and for the needs of others. We ask forgiveness for ourselves, as we ourselves forgive others.

But above all, and first of all, we have the temerity to address the Holy One as 'Father' - not in our own merit but in the name of Jesus. And we, having gone so far as that, then praise his name - and ask for his will to be done.

That will, the will of God to be carried out by the action of the Spirit in the world, has implications for us both as individuals, in our experience of God, and as members of the body of Christ, who are charged to carry forward his work in the world. Love’s redeeming work is at work in each of us, transforming us into the image of holiness each of us is to bear, and it is at work in all of us, transforming our work in the world into the work of the Holy Spirit - if we let it.

In our prayers sometimes we focus on one or the other - our own need for God, our own desire for God, our own intention to live a life that is worthy of our calling to be people of God; or on the need to transform the world in his service, to reach out to others with the good news of Christ, or to work for transformation of that world into the peaceable, righteous kingdom of God.

These two elements, personal and corporate, inward and outward in focus, seem lost in tension. And yet both are present in the day we celebrate today, the day of Pentecost. For in the upper room where they stayed, and where they prayed, the disciples, men and women, the assembled multitude of brothers and sisters, gathered to await what Jesus had promised them: an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who was to lead them into all truth.

They did not know what to expect. Neither do we. But on that day, some 1980 years ago, there came upon them a noise like a great wind, filling the house, and then the apparition of tongues of fire. What came upon them then was the gift of speech in languages not their own; not their own, but known to others. For soon, these, summoned by the sound of the mighty wind, gathered.

What is going on? Are these people drunk? They cannot be! The bars are not even open yet--it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. What is going on, Peter said, is what Joel foretold. The spirit of God is being poured out upon all flesh. The old will dream dreams; the young will see visions. There will be portents of fire and blood and drifting smoke; the sun shall be blotted out.

It was a vision of apocalypse--of the end of the age. And it was the end of the age--the age of the rule of the Prince of this world. For the kingdom of God was clearly at hand.

What the people witnessed, what they experienced, when they came to investigate, was this startling phenomenon: no matter where they were from, no matter what their native language was, they heard the disciples talking in it, speaking of the great deeds God had done. The good news spoke to them in the language of their hearts.

And they heard the good news--and responded to it. Once Peter explained to them what was really going on, how the Lord had called to them through Jesus whom they had despised, they turned and repented, seeking to do what was right. Call upon the Lord, Peter said, just as the prophet told you. And be baptized in Jesus’ name for the forgiveness of sins.

In the upper room, in the midst of the wind and the tongues of flame, Peter called upon them to repent and be saved. And he gave them the charge of seeking baptism.

(What does baptism mean? What does it do? What does it imply? How does it empower the people of God? How does it call upon them to act?)

Baptism we so often remember is a dying to the old self, the self that lays claim to the world in its own desire. Baptism is a washing-away of the stain of sin, of self-centered living, of pride. But it is also a rising--a rising to new life in Christ, made new, reborn, in the Spirit’s power, a fresh start.

It is a fresh start--but not on the old path. For in baptism we are called to leave the old ‘me’ behind, and to seek the kingdom of God first. For we are assured that all we need will come from that.

What we need then, is to carry out the mission of our baptism, the mission given to the disciples and their hearers so long ago, that is encapsulated for us in the promises we make at Baptism, and take again as our agenda in the renewal of the baptismal covenant. Pentecost is a day for that; just as much as it is a day to welcome new converts, it is a day to renew ourselves in Christ.

Conversion can be seen as taking responsibility for our own growth and development. You can take that personally; we can take that corporately, together, as the people of God called together in this place, at this time.

The people gathered in the upper room, in that place, at that time, felt individually spoken to and corporately called, as the body of Christ, into new relationships with each other, God, and themselves. They needed to know what to do, where to start, how to make a new beginning.

And they began with taking on the new life, the life in Christ, that we are promised to. And that we, too, promise to lead, as we take on ourselves the task and the glory and the joy of Christ.

Here today we have a chance to renew our own baptismal covenant, in the words that echo the creed - the Nicene Creed - and in the promises that follow, to flesh out and make real in our own lives the words that echo the words spoken so long ago, as Christians of old, in the baptismal rite, took on the life of Christ as their own.

Let us now renew our own baptismal covenant.

The Baptismal Covenant (Book of Common Prayer, USA, 1979, p. 304-305)

May the Lord, the God of hope, the God of peace, the God of joy, and of strength, fill us with the Spirit, giving us the gifts to share that we may bear the fruits of the Father’s will in our lives. AMEN.

Come Holy Spirit and kindle the fire that is in us.
Take our lips and speak through them.
Take our hearts and see through them.
Take our souls and set them on fire. Amen.

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
Romans 8:14-17
John 14:8-17, (25-27)


*Dorothee Soelle, Thinking about God: An Introduction to Theology (Trinity Press International, 1991)

John Carlin, Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation (Penguin, 2008). Basis of the film "Invictus" directed by Clint Eastwood (Warner Bros., 2009).


They are filled with new wine

Come Holy Spirit and kindle the fire that is in us.
Take our lips and speak through them.
Take our hearts and see through them.
Take our souls and set them on fire. Amen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Legacy of Saint Alban

"I worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things." --Alban, First Martyr of Britain (3rd Century A.D.)

A third of the way around the world and over seventeen centuries ago, in a town about an hour's drive north of London, there lived a Roman Briton named Alban. This was in the latter days of the pagan Roman empire, and the church was still living under persecution. One day an itinerant Christian priest, on the run from the imperial troopers, came to Alban's door seeking shelter. A hospitable and courageous man - not to say a curious one - Alban let him in. They began to talk. Alban was so impressed with what the priest had to say about this newfound faith that it became his own faith too.

When the knock on the door came, as inevitably it would, Alban answered the door - in the priest's clothes. He was arrested and hauled before the magistrate, who demanded to know his name, his origins, and what he believed. My name is known to you as is my family, Alban replied, and I worship the living and true God who made all things. That was enough for the magistrate. Take him away! They led him across the river and up to the top of a hill, where they beheaded him with a sword.

For his faith, his courage, his charity, and the hospitable abundance of God he showed in his witness, Alban is remembered to this day in that town, once called Verulamium, now renamed Saint Albans in his memory.

Alban, by turning from pagan idols to the Christian faith, embrace a complete change of worldview. He let it cost him something precious: the life he knew. He did not, however, cling to his life when he was called upon to lay it down in service to Christ.

Alban extended hospitality to a stranger, and in so doing allowed his guest to challenge and change him. Later, on the strength of his new faith and his own charism of courage, he faced down the empire's representatives. He knew his allegiance to the one true living God mattered more than pleasing the court. He knew that life in abundance, eternal life, meant more than grasping onto his place in the world.

And so his life, a witness to all, inspires us - as an example, a model, and a sign pointing beyond itself to the One he worshiped: the living God whose love is ultimately revealed to us in his son Jesus Christ, and whose inspiration comes to us all through the holy Spirit.

This is the legacy of Saint Alban. May hospitality, courage, faith, and an eagerness for the abundance of life everlasting, show forth in our lives as well, as a church dedicated to God's glory, and the memory of Alban, first martyr of Britain.


Almighty God,
We thank you for this place built to your glory
and in memory of Alban, first martyr of Britain.
Following his example in the fellowship of the saints,
may we worship and adore the true and living God,
and be faithful witnesses to the Christ,
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.


May we live by faith, walk in hope and be renewed in love, until the world reflects your glory and you are all in all. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Church of Ireland, 2004)


Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban

Bede, Ecclesiastical History ("In Britain's isle was holy Alban born.")


For the Gospel Grapevine (June/July 2010), parish newsletter of Saint Alban's Episcopal Church, Edmonds, Wash.