Bishop A. Robert Hirschfeld

Eve of the Holy Cross; September 13, 2017

Diaconal Ordination of Sandi Albom, Shawn LaFrance, Charles Nichols

Texts: Philippians 2:5-11

            John 12:31-36b

We gather tonight to ordain three new deacons of the Church on the Feast of the Holy Cross. Charlie, Sandi, Shawn, you have each travelled the way of the cross to this moment in your lives when you stand ready and eager to dedicate your lives to service in the name of the Crucified Jesus and his Risen Body, the Church. From now on, I hope that whenever September 14th comes around, you will pause in your prayers and reflect on this new anniversary on your personal calendar. What will Holy Cross Day mean for you and your ministry as a deacon, as a servant of Jesus, his church and his world? How might the observance of the day, and your being ordained on this day, shape or inform your diaconate and your ministry as deacon? 

A little investigation into the meaning of this feast would be helpful. Some history that I will quote from a commentary on the Book of Common Prayer. [1]

This feast is known as "The Exaltation of the Holy Cross" in the Eastern church and in missals and sacramentaries of the Western church, and it is known as "The Triumph of the Cross" in the Roman Catholic Church. It was one of the 12 great feasts in the Byzantine liturgy. The 1979 BCP is the first American Prayer Book to include Holy Cross Day.”

Historically, the feast has been associated with the dedication on Sept. 14, 335, of a complex of buildings built by the Emperor Constantine (c. 285-337) in Jerusalem on the sites of the crucifixion and Christ's tomb.

Constantine's mother, Helena (c. 255- c. 330), supervised the construction of the shrine, and a relic believed to be the cross was discovered during the work of excavation.  [I believe that the church of the Holy Sepulchre in the center of the Old City in Jerusalem contains some of the remains of the building that had been destroyed, rebuild, destroyed, and rebuilt by centuries of conflict among the three Abraham faiths over the centuries].

Mythologies around the True Cross abound. The artist Pierro della Fransceco in the apse of the Church of St. Francis in Arrezzo, Italy has a series of frescos that tell the story of Tree of Life--you know, the other tree in the Garden of Eden--that had become the source of the wood for the Cross on which our Lord was crucified.  So, there’s a kind of magical power around the idea of the true cross, not unrelated to the magical power of the Indiana Jones movies about the Arc of the Covenant or the Holy Chalice, the Holy Grail.

All this is to say that there is a layer of meaning about the cross that has little to do with what actually happened on the cross, which was, let’s be honest, a bloody execution motivated by religious insecurity and at the hands of a thin-skinned and anxious empire.

Remember, it was Constantine, a non-Christian, who before a battle against a competing Emperor in the year 312 was told in a vision that if his army bore the symbol of the chi-rho, a form of the cross on their shield, they would be victorious.  They wore the cross, Constantine won the battle at the Milvian Bridge. Constantine converted to Christianity, making it the state religion, and in very short order, Christians were no longer a persecuted minority in the Roman Empire, but enjoyed a place of privilege in government, society, and the economy.  Thus Christendom, the era when the marriage between Christianity and the presumption of worldly power, military might, and privilege was born.  As was stated, in some places, today is known not as Holy Cross Day, but the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, the triumph of a Christianity that, having once been oppressed, then becomes aligned with, and an agent of, the oppressor.

Which is not, praise God, what we are celebrating tonight. What we celebrate tonight is a triumph of a much more lasting, eternally enduring, utterly more liberating.  Because, brothers and sisters, Christendom is dead. Indeed, there are many in our culture, nationally, locally, and even in the Church, who grieve and kick against the notion that Christians should accept their status as being on the margins of a society, and who insist that Church needs to reclaim its former entitled and privileged place in society.  Many reject or bristle at the notion of a Church that identifies with the weak, the oppressed, the homeless, the unarmed, the diseased, the rejected, the addicted. And yet, these are precisely the qualities of being human that were lifted up. By Jesus. In his body.  On the hard wood of the cross.

In “by this sign we conquer,” it is not a triumph of military or political power that we celebrate, but the power of weakness, of utter surrender, of vulnerability. Of self-emptying through which the Lordship of Christ springs and brings light, as Jesus says tonight, in the darkness. These are the realities of our frail existence that make the cross we bear indeed, true.  And they are the qualities that the devoted follower of Jesus Christ is called to accept, embrace, and see as the means of our salvation. As an ancient prayer goes, “Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace.”  As deacons, you are called to proclaim, remind, and even annoy the Church (including your bishop!) with the message of the True Cross, that path of solidarity with humanity, both broken and beautiful, as none other than the way to the renewal of Christ’s Church. A story of that way to God through the human comes to mind.

Years ago, my oldest son and I had a chance to visit friends in Southern California. It was the week after Easter, and, after a long cold snowy winter in Western Mass, we were looking forward to seeing sun and ocean and to cast off our wet New England wool for a bathing suit and running shorts and t-shirts. On the boardwalk along the beach, we saw roller-bladers with ear plugs, sunglasses. Everyone seemed so fit, sculpted, glamorous, very wealthy, healthy, bronzed, enhanced. On a run along the board walk, I turned to Willie and said, “Toto, we are not in the land of Emily Dickinson anymore.”  It was Sunday morning, and the only reference I saw of Jesus were small gold crosses on tanned men doing their bench presses on Muscle Beach.

We turned to run on the beach itself.  Then in the distance I saw something in the mist of the surf.  An assembly was gathering. I saw a huge white banner flapping in the sea breeze.  As we ran closer I began to make out that people were coming together around the banner which was staked next to a small amplifier speaker and a man with a microphone sitting on the sand.  “Come on in, friends,” he said in a gentle voice.  I looked around and there were people coming who seemed as sleek and groomed as though they were from Hollywood. Others were pushing what must have been stolen shopping carts, their wheels getting clogged in the beach sand. Every shade of skin was there: there were Anglos, Latino, black, Asian, native American, men, women, transgendered, gay, straight. Old, wrinkled, gray-bearded, teenager and middle-aged. Some seemed to be carrying the worn torn soiled sleeping bags they’ve lived in near the pier.  All were there.  The whole span of humanity. “What is this?” I wondered.

And then the man with the microphone shouted, “Good Morning everybody. My name is Jorge, and I am an Addict and it’s a beautiful day!”

And the hundred or so gathering…they were still coming onto the beach, shouted back, “Hi, Jorge!” 

And I looked again what was flapping in the breeze. It was a large, huge, white flag.  A white flag. The symbol of surrender!  We had stumbled upon what I would later learn was the largest twelve step meeting in California.  Outside. Every Sunday. Under the sign of the white flag that could just as easily meant to those gathered…“by this sign conquer.”

It could have been the cross, but for many of us, the cross is a symbol of privilege, of religious domination, of anything but surrender. I have spoken to Jews and Muslims who have been the victims of persecution or ridicule in the name of the Church who really get nervous around proud displays of the Cross.  This is part of our heritage, too.

But I wonder what would our church look like if we see the sign of the cross with the same joy, sense of liberation, serenity, purpose and fellowship as did all those on the beach who gathered to admit their powerlessness, their limitations, and, putting aside all need to keep up appearances, sat in the dirt with each other and asked for their God to get them through just one more day.

That’s what the Holy Cross means for me.  Another story, that I think you probably have your own version of, and if you don’t yet, you will as a deacon.  Last Sunday I walked out of a Church where I believed I, as their bishop, helped. At least I did no harm.  I was feeling relieved, exhilarated, even gratified in my work and role.  I was walking to my car parked on the street and I could hear a Jeep coming down the road.  Not wanting to open the door and get side swept, I waited for it to pass.  And just as it did, the passenger chose that exact moment to flick his cigarette butt right at me.  So much for my happy, triumphant Sunday.  Again, if you haven’t had an experience like that yet, you will as a deacon.  The collar invites these events, sometimes.

My blood began to boil, as I thought to offer another sign to the Jeep as it revved past me. But then, by God’s grace, and only by God’s grace, I chose to breathe, and even smile, and to pray. I waved.  This is where we are now.  Post Christendom. Post Constantine, relying solely on the Christ who had much worse thrown at him and who answered ridicule, hatred, and insults with love, prayer, forgiveness, prayer. This is the way God calls us.  This is, sometimes, the way of the cross.  Pray. And there is a power in that that stems from more than any accomplishment, any worldly or ecclesiastic success we might enjoy. The power that comes from the love of God who chose love over retaliation and humiliation over domination. I don’t know if my smile or my prayer accomplished anything beyond letting my sadness and anger dissipate, or anything beyond sending a ripple of peace and light into a sin-darkened road.  Just a ripple, and that may have been the most significant thing that I could have done that whole day. Pray and lift up our humanity to God. 

So, on this day, let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who,

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.

May your service as deacons be the means by which you carry the awful and beautiful cross of Jesus, and may God supply you with sufficient joy and grace in following the way he leads, that you may find true life and peace in your service.  Thank you for saying yes to this calling.  AMEN.

[1] https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/glossary/holy-cross-day

Posted
AuthorLaura Simoes

From Bishop Hirschfeld:

"Prayers tonight for #Charlottesville and all the places in our nation beset by the sin of racism and hatred. We will wake up tomorrow with work to do, equipped with the love of Jesus."

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

(Galatians 3:28)

 

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AuthorLaura Simoes

Invocation and Benediction for the Dedication Celebration of Winant Plaza, Concord, NH

By The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, Bishop

Episcopal Church of New Hampshire

June 30, 2017

Almighty God, we gather to honor your faithful and diligent servant John Gilbert Winant, who served as educator, Army air corpsman, Governor, civil administrator, and Ambassador in a time of tremendous turmoil, uncertainty, and peril. We gather to express our gratitude for the example of Governor Winant’s humility, integrity, wisdom and commitment to the well-being of the citizens of our state, the nation, and the world.  As he called us to remember that “it is the things of the spirit that in the end prevail, that faith and hope count, and that without love there can be nothing good; that by daring to live dangerously we can learn to live generously, and that by believing in the inherent goodness of humankind, may we learn again to stride forward together into the unknown of our own day with growing confidence.”[1]

May words spoken this day lead us beyond mere expressions of gratitude for how one noble and courageous man acted in the past, but help us see in Governor Winant inspiration to serve the common good and welfare of all people. May those entrusted with the authority of government in this and every land be endued with wisdom, compassion, and courage that there may be justice and peace at home and abroad.  In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness; in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee, Almighty God, to fail, nor our generosity and concern for others to falter.  All these we humbly ask in Your Holy Name.

Benediction:

We give you thanks, O God of Creation, for the gift of sculptors and artists who adorn our public spaces with monuments, which lead to the contemplation of inspiring figures from the past. May this monument of Governor Winant inspire us to deeper civility and to great acts of public service in the present and in the future.

May our lives be fashioned by a holy and life-giving Spirit, and may that same Spirit move every human heart, and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, hatreds cease, and that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice, freedom, and peace.  Amen.

[1] Adapted from speech delivered to coal miners in Durham, England, 6 June 1941. Cited in Citizens of London: Lynne Olson, Random House, New York, pp. 183-184.

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AuthorLaura Simoes

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a colt and a donkey--rather than on a war horse--is significant. His choosing to wash the feet of disciples whom he knows will betray, deny, and abandon him is significant. His choice not to call for a divine airstrike on the detachment of soldiers that came to arrest him in Gethsemane, but to surrender himself willingly and peacefully, ordering his fearful disciples to put down their arms, is significant. His choosing to be silent and not to engage in a jousting of rhetoric with Pontius Pilate, who has the power to crucify him, is significant. His choice to give himself up to death on one of the most agonizing, humiliating and degrading methods of execution devised by humankind is significant.

As Jesus entered the environment of Jerusalem on that last week, so we Christians are called to enter a deep contemplation of the agonizing elements of our world and our neighborhoods. Our Holy Week began with a searing reminder of how the world yearns for God’s salvation and healing and justice.  On Palm Sunday, as we assembled at our various churches to begin the reenactment the Jesus’s humble entry into Jerusalem, we heard of the two suicide bombings that killed or injured scores of our brothers and sisters in Cairo, Egypt.  This horrific news follows the pictures of the victims of the inexcusable chemical attack on civilians in Syria. Closer to home, we continue to hear of the limits of our work to free our neighbors from the scourge of opioid addiction, from gun violence, and the legal resistance to continue to provide hospitality to refugees, including those of the on-going civil war in Syria.

It occurred to me to say to a group of young people being confirmed on Palm Sunday that being a member of the Church does nothing to protect us from the sorrow, the pain, and the vulnerability of the world. In fact, following the Jesus movement means walking the way of the cross as the only means to a lasting life of purpose and true joy.  Any church that is solely concerned about its own self-protection and survival has begun its own funeral procession.

But, in Christ, we are alive.  Though government executive orders are already curtailing refugee resettlement and Episcopal Migration Ministries is forced to reduce its staff, I know that so many in our parishes are seeking ways to support efforts to bring relief to the suffering of those who live in fear. Several of our churches take seriously, as I do, the Episcopal Church’s commitment to the Sanctuary movement,[1] even as we explore how to open our doors and communities as our Bible urges us to, sometimes at some risk of public and legal opposition. In my travels among the parish communities in the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire, I see the Holiness of Holy Week, the Good News of Good Friday. These include our solidarity with those battling addiction of all kinds (please accept the invitation to observe the Recovery Sunday, on April 30th!); our work to mentor, tutor, feed and support youth and children who on the losing side of the Opportunity Gap; to sit with the dying and those in prison; to weep with and comfort the grieving; and to give God great thanks and praise for the chance that God is always giving us to reconcile with those with whom we have been in conflict.  You want to hear about an Easter miracle?  Let me tell you about the congregations all over New Hampshire, that have faithful people on every political side, but who would do anything to help their neighbor as a child of God, or their fellow parishioner in need simply because they are members of the Risen Body of Christ.

Our Church, with Christ, bursts out of tombs of fear, grief and cowardice when it sees how, despite the fracture we may be feeling in our hearts about the fallen state of the world, God is not done with us. God is still working God’s purposes out.  Even with people like us--fallen, broken, and gorgeously risen in Christ Jesus.

[1] The most recent policy statement of The Episcopal Church is found in Resolution 2015-D057:

"Resolved, That the 78th General Convention recommit to the spirit of the New Sanctuary Movement by supporting congregations so they can assist immigrant individuals, unaccompanied minors, families, and communities by being centers of information, services and accompaniment, and by supporting families facing separation in the absence of comprehensive, humane immigration reform."

Posted
AuthorLaura Simoes

Yankee folk wisdom says, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Each of the issues the recent Presidential Executive Orders seeks to fix deserves a considered, bi-partisan conversation, combined with a measure of humility from all sides. Blunt force can make matters worse.

The Executive Order tightly restricting immigration and refugee resettlement based on religious identity has done very little but intensify global tensions while worsening human suffering among those who honor and admire this nation.  What is called for is competent diplomacy, informed statesmanship, and a clear commitment to the biblically informed ideals of hospitality to the stranger and the oppressed. That these values are being so cavalierly rejected in favor of rash and fear-based edicts not only violates the dignity of those immediately affected, but also damages our own reputation. This is not what gaining respect in the community of nations looks like.  

We appear to be descending quickly from the Republican vision, as held up by President Ronald Reagan, of America as 'the shining city on the hill.'  It is worth noting that President Reagan was quoting John Winthrop, a Puritan who was himself, like so many refugees of our day, fleeing sectarian persecution and tyranny.

--A. Robert Hirschfeld, Bishop, January 30, 2017

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AuthorLaura Simoes

Sermon for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Concord, NH, on the Occasion of their Bicentennial Celebration
By The Right Reverend A. Robert Hirschfeld, 10th Bishop, Episcopal Church of New Hampshire

delivered January 8, 2017

“And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehendeth it not.”

So, the newspaper reports that we can’t help talking about fires around here. That may be so.  The fire I want to talk about this evening is the fire of God's love that kindled the hearts of the several souls who decided to build a church in the Anglican tradition in Concord.  More than that, I want to talk about the fire of God that couldn't be contained within the boundaries of heaven itself.   It is the fire of love that burns so wildly and urgently that it came down from heaven and took the form of a human being in Jesus.

As we celebrate the beginning of this parish community, I can't help but first talk about the very beginning, the beginning of creation. The prayer for this Sunday speaks of how God wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature. And, granted us grace to share the divine life of the One who shared our humanity: Jesus Christ our Savior.

The early church spoke of the relationship between God and Humankind as a fire intermingling with its medium. In a fourth century Christmas-Epiphany sermon, Basil the Great, the bishop of Caesarea, spoke of the mystery of God becoming human and shedding light into the world using fire and an analogy:

How, then will you say, did the light come everywhere, through one sole person? In what manner is the Godhead in the flesh? Like fire and iron: not by moving about, but by spreading itself. The fire, indeed, does thrust itself toward the iron, but remaining where it is, it distributes its own power to it. In doing so, the fire is in no way diminished, but it completely fills the iron, into which it spreads.

In other words, we are to see ourselves on fire, our own bodies, minds, souls, utterly consumed by a God who choses to be ablaze in our lives, but who also promises never to incinerate us.  Because the papers say we can’t help but talk about a fire, let us always keep in mind that wonderful showing up of God who calls Moses to free the people of Israel from their oppression by Pharaoh.  Remember the burning bush by which the God of all history, the one who stated his name as “I who am, who was, and who will be,” burns wildly when being revealed to us, but is not destroyed. Thus it is to be with us.

This is the image of our life in Christ, in a God who is indeed suffering, is crucified, and yet who lives.  That same God lived and inspired the first men and women who founded a church first named for one is famous for doubting, and then was reformed into a church named for one who is famous for his preaching to the religious and ethnic outsiders: St. Paul.  They were aflame with love for God’s mission, for over 200 years, and yet this congregation was never incinerated.

I’ve been thinking of the second law of thermodynamics in the light of the today’s gospel, the construction, and the continual reconstruction, renewal, and re-creation of St. Paul’s. I’ve consulted with some physicists, and this is what they tell me the law says in terms a scientific layperson like me can understand.

Things fall apart. Indeed, everything falls apart. Energy, when converted into motion or work, eventually expends.

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, in a recent column in the Wall Street Journal wrote:  

The Second Law deepens that discovery: Not only does the universe not care about our desires, but in the natural course of events it will appear to thwart them, because there are so many more ways for things to go wrong than to go right. Houses [churches] burn down, ships sink, battles are lost for the want of a horseshoe nail. Matter doesn’t spontaneously arrange itself into shelter or clothing, and living things don’t jump onto our plates to become our food. What needs to be explained is not poverty but wealth.

In summary: poverty, social decline, the disintegration of values in our political and social spheres…all can be seen as analogies, parallels, of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  It’s worth noting, by the way, that the Second Law was postulated, as it happens 200 years ago, just as Messrs. Albert Cady, Hill, Greenleaf and their colleagues chose to organize themselves as church and to worship according to the order, not the disorder, of the Book of Common Prayer.  Presumably, they found, like I do, that one’s soul is strengthened and equipped better to confront the entropy of life when one reads the daily office, is nourished by the sacraments together, and seeks to build a commonwealth of good under the benevolent auspices of a God who gives and forgives,

Here’s what saves us from being a collection of Debbie Downers or Bob Bummers: “In the beginning is the Word. And the light that enlightens everyone has come into the world.”

You and I, empowered by the Holy Spirit, are being continually remade, rebuilt, re-inspired, re-ignited, reconverted, re-born again, to our original Godly glow.  Though the original founders of St. Thomas Chapel encountered some kind of failure in their beginning, and though St. Paul’s has encountered episodes that might have led to its undoing, including fires, conflicts both within and outside its walls, not to mention a civil war, World Wars, and national political upheavals that would have shaken its confidence, the Second Law doesn’t really apply to us. 

We are not a closed system. The power of God’s love continually infuses new energy, new vision, new confidence, indeed new joy and delight in our worship of God and each other.  It’s not that we have to generate the power and energy to come here every day to offer our prayers for the world and our prayers of thanksgiving.  Rather, God is praying us, continually drawing us into God’s eternal and infinitely life-giving presence.

God is heating the cold iron of our hearts, aglow with God’s loving, justice seeking, peacemaking Spirit, so that the world may see the Incarnate Christ, God’s very presence, in our bodies, in our actions, in our thoughts and words, in the hands that reach out in service to those in need and to find reconciliation, even with those who have hurt us or seek to cause harm. 

Otherwise, we’d be nothing but burned out, unforgiving, grumpy and tired.  Instead, God calls us to into a warm strengthening fellowship without which life can indeed be as Thomas Hobbes describing in the 17th century “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”  Here, we partakers of the Jesus movement, indeed people of all descriptions of belief and unbelief, have found the peace that surpasseth understanding, and therein the power, the fire, to bring light to this fallen world where for many life is very dark indeed.

My wood stove…the embers burn…even after several days of what looks like cold and ash, there is still light within the pile.  So I take a piece of kindling, blow on it, watch the kindling ignite, then a dry log or a piece of birch bark, and behold, the thing is set ablaze again. All from a small, wafer-sized ember.

So it is with us.  Our embers seem totally extinguished, from exhaustion, despair, frustration.  Sometimes, driving around Concord or the highways and byways of New Hampshire, seeing very hostile stickers from the left or from the right, I can fall into despair at what the cover of Time magazine referred to as the Divided States of America. 

But then I come to a church like St. Paul’s. To see the light pass through the faces of these persons on these reconstructed windows, essentially the light of Christ enlightens them all, faces that cannot be separated from the light that fills them.  So, let us welcome the light, the fire of Jesus’ love for you and for this broken world. Let us welcome it. And, may it burn continually in our lives, which we offer in God’s service to the world.

Posted
AuthorLaura Simoes

For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   (Isaiah 9:5-6)

Tramping boots and blood-drenched garments. These images herald the birth of the Messiah: the words we hear on Christmas Eve.  We’ve read them for years on that night, but perhaps have tuned them out of our hearing.  Even Handel’s Messiah skips over them. But this year we might notice them as though for the first time.

Despite all our attempts and desires to make Christmas warm and cozy--chestnuts roasting on an open fire, St. Nick softly landing on snow-blanketed roofs--the Biblical witness does not shy from the real and stark context of Christ’s appearing.  To the prophet Isaiah, God’s people lived under the very near and present danger of oppression, and even deportation after a hostile invasion by Assyria.  Jumping ahead to Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth, we learn that the Holy Family is compelled to leave their hometown of Nazareth because the Emperor Augustus decreed a census--presumably to prepare for a tax that would help defray the exorbitant expense of Rome’s military expansion and occupation throughout the known world.  Even further on, “on the Fourth Day of Christmas,” those who are keeping to the liturgical calendar will hear, not of four calling birds, but of the slaughter by Herod of the Innocents, the brutal massacre of all the first-born males of Bethlehem on the orders of a thin-skinned and insecure tyrant who is afraid of being usurped by a mere newborn.

These are the settings into which God chooses to enter the world.  And these are the settings into which God chooses, in our own time, to continually take on our frail, broken, selfish, injured and fearful human condition.

Still ringing in our ears are the shouts of rallies, even in our own country, calling for the execution of a political adversary. Deeply disturbing to our hearts are the images of young children so traumatized by the destruction and displacement of their families in Aleppo that they cannot even cry.  Beyond our conception is the laughter of a young man confessing his murder of nine black parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charlestown, South Carolina.  Heartbreaking are the senseless deaths of hundreds, here in New Hampshire, caused by a scourge of opioid addiction that has touched families of every race and class.

 

Despite, indeed because of, all these facts and realities, I look forward more than ever to this Christmas, and I cherish even closer the joy and privilege of being a disciple of the Christ child.  In the midst of our perennial divisions and conflicts, I need to see and know that Holy Presence that is the “US’ that binds me together, however uncomfortably, with those with whom I may disagree, dislike, and even fear.  Jesus is the deep compassion of God-made-flesh that links all humankind with each other, that binds us to God’s creation, indeed to God’s own heart. The Bible tells us that God’s compassion in Jesus is the path toward peace, justice, love, and eternal life itself.  God chooses what is weak in the world to put the powerful and cruel in their place and to make all things new. 

 

Richard Wilbur in his poem “A stable lamp is lighted” captures the essence of God’s taking-on our flesh so that all human flesh can have means to God’s peace and glory. The poem was set to Hymn #102 in our Hymnal 1982.  I always look forward to hearing it, even more so this year. The final stanza reads:

Yet now, as at the ending,
The low is lifted high.
The stars shall bend their voices
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
In praises of the Child
By Whose descent among us
The worlds are reconciled.

May we enter anew the life of the one who came among us so that we may be reconciled with God and each other in Jesus, Immanuel, God-with-us.  And may our Christmas be filled with the steadfast hope and joy that God is still at work within us, doing things that we cannot even ask or imagine.  (Ephesians 3:20)

Posted
AuthorLaura Simoes

“Almighty God, we give you thanks for the gift of water.”  These are the words that open our prayer over water when we baptize your children into a life of freedom and life in your risen Son Jesus.  It was over water that you initiated the Creation.  Water is the source of life and is needed for the health of all we know of health.  And yet, O God, in our sin and brokenness, we have polluted this gift for so many, turning the blessing of water into a curse, and into an occasion for painful division, oppression, and the demeaning of the indigenous peoples of this land. Send your Spirit, O God, to your people, turn the hearts of those would threaten the health and safety of his sacred gift at Standing Rock.  Re-knit us together in bonds of love, a vision of justice, and deep peace that we have yet to know but we yearn for with a longing you have placed into our hearts, in the name of Jesus.   

Amen.

 

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AuthorLaura Simoes