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Prayers for Today

Father Rob's Blog - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 18:54

Leader: To the God whose love is with us all, we pray.
People: Help us to find the spiritual life we long for but do not always have.

Leader: We pray for those who are mean, and for those who drink all the time
People: Help them, and all of us, to be heroes, beating the demons that plague us, and choosing our better ourselves.

Leader: We pray for the church, recognizing our failure to capture people’s interest and imagination
People: Create in us such a robust life that the natural response is to dance with great joy, freely and without reserve

Leader: We pray for our world, a planet that you made so very good in all its great diversity
People: May we find the grace and courage not only to turn and face the strange, but to love those who are different from us.

Leader: We pray for all those who feel they have been put where things are hollow.
People: Deliver us all from living in such a way for twenty years that we die for fifty more.

Leader: We pray for all those who are under pressure, who feel the pressure “pushing down on me”, especially those on our prayer list.
People: We pray that tomorrow would take them higher, higher into the comfort and healing of Love.

Leader: We pray for our leaders, that they would be wise in dealing with the fame their position brings them
People: Deliver from being seduced by their status, and doing things with short term benefits that carry higher long term costs.

All: Though “love” is an old fashioned word, may it dare us anew to change our way of caring that we might care more deeply than we ever have people. As those who follow in the way of Jesus we pray, Amen.

And We Want to Believe

Father Rob's Blog - Thu, 01/14/2016 - 02:09

One of the thing that unites humans at their best—whether religious or not—is that we are all committed to recognizing and affirming truth wherever we find it. That is why a truly reasonable atheist is willing to learn from a Christian. They recognize that while we may get a great many things wrong, at least occasionally we get some things right, and at least some of those things are pretty darn important.

But it is also why (in my opinion) a truly christian Christian is willing to learn from people who believe very differently than we do, or who may not “believe” at all. To my mind, there is no better example of this than Jesus. He saw truth in nature, agriculture, the events of the day, the economy, even in the practices of the nation of Rome (upon hearing a high-level Roman soldier describe the concept of authority, Jesus exclaims, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel. the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works.”) I think one of the things that drew people to Jesus was the he was a master at seeing God’s truth all around him.

And that is why, though it may puzzle some, we are incorporating the music of David Bowie into our 9:30 service this Sunday morning. It is not gimmick or glitz or an attempt to entertain. It is, quite frankly, that we believe that he has some important things to say—things that, whether intended or not, can help us be better Christians.  And certainly help us be better human beings.

Winter Garden

Father Rob's Blog - Wed, 01/06/2016 - 18:54

Frost garden

It grew overnight.  Frankly, in a world filled with things I do not understand, I do not know how.

Crystal tree

The crystal trees were exquisite.

Ct

Sadly, it was not long before it began to melt.

Ctm

Light and Life (December 27, 2015)

Sermons - Sun, 12/27/2015 - 23:11

Blessed

Father Rob's Blog - Wed, 12/23/2015 - 12:32

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Who knows how the awareness of God’s love first hits people? ... Some moment happens in your life that makes you say Yes right up to the roots of your hair, that makes it worth having been born just to have it happen. Laughing with somebody till the tears run down your cheeks. Waking up to the first snow. Being in bed with somebody you love.

Whether you thank God for such a moment or thank your lucky stars, it is a moment that is trying to open up your whole life. If you try to turn your back on such a moment and hurry along to Business as Usual, it may lose you the whole ball game. If you throw your arms around such a moment and hug it like crazy, it may save your soul. --Frederick Buechner

Everyone Worships

Father Rob's Blog - Wed, 12/23/2015 - 00:15

David Foster Wallace was described in the secular press as "the most brilliant American writer of his generation." Read the following and you'll understand why.

"...Here's something that's true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual type thing to worship is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

If you worship money and things - if they are where you tap real meaning in life - then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you.

On one level, we all know this stuff already. The trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power - you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart - you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.

The insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default settings. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self...

But the kind of life that is most precious involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

The Most Important Part of Christmas

Father Rob's Blog - Mon, 12/21/2015 - 13:35

Mary

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tried.

Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. Electronics will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust.But giving the gift of love will endure.

--First Corinthians 13, Christmas Version

Deepening Our Connections

Father Rob's Blog - Fri, 12/18/2015 - 14:03

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In the month of December, evening meetings bring a very special bonus: I get to see all the Christmas lights on the drive home! It always reminds of when my parents would bundle everybody up, pile us into the family station wagon, and then drive us up and down the neighborhood streets looking at all the pretty lights. Every year I’d look forward to that particular night almost as much as Christmas morning. It was the repetition of that ritual that both drove it deep into my memory and built anticipation of going out and doing it again.

Those memories are all the more interesting to me as I think of how our culture increasingly distrusts ritual, and is less and less inclined to invest the energy needed to maintain it. That’s too bad, I think. Ritual involves repetition, and repetition builds profound connections like nothing else can. Those connections bind us to one another (think family dinner), a valued past (think beloved childhood stories) and to some of our truest and deepest sources of joy (think favorite songs that we've heard a bazillion times but which we still love to hear again). All of this is part of why I so love the seasons of Advent and Christmas.

The repetition and rituals of our worship go back thousands and thousands of years. In so doing, they connect us to a God who is more than the just the product of our current culture, the latest consumer trend. They connect us to the people we love but see no longer who thought these rituals so important that they bequeathed them to us. In doing what they did, I feel the span of the years drop away and our spirits drawing close. And they connect to us to our larger human family, people in every race and culture across the whole wide world, giving us hope that there may yet be peace on earth.

A New Hope 11-29-15

Sermons - Sun, 11/29/2015 - 20:30

Better and Better

Father Rob's Blog - Sat, 11/28/2015 - 12:31

A

Even reflected, this morning sunrise was quite a treat.

Sunrise 047

It seemed to stretch across the whole sky.

B

Even the cat enjoyed it.

 

Community

Father Rob's Blog - Sat, 11/14/2015 - 13:56

Today--Saturday, November 14, 2015--we are all filled with great sorrow at the events that unfolded in Paris last night.   The violence, the loss, the suffering makes us heartsick.  We are pained to the core.  And it always raises a question:  What do we then do?

Perhaps one thing we might do is get to know our neighbors, particularly those who are different than we are--those who are "other" until there are no "others" anymore.  Gregory Boyle, in his wonderful book Tattoos on the Heart, writes of creating a community so close there is "no daylight to separate us."  He goes on: 

Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased.

But this cannot be mere rhetoric. There must be action beyond our words.  And that is why we do Community Lunches at St. Matt's.  Sandra Gentry speaks to this:

People often ask me what the Community Luncheons are about. That always takes me back to when I was first asked to coordinate this ministry.  And I had a vision. I saw our Community Luncheons as an opportunity for us to enter into relationships with one another and our community, our neighbors. Who are our neighbors – why not find out?

[For example, at] the first Community Luncheon  in January of this year... there was one family in particular that stood out to me. It was a young man, his father, sister, and niece. I had met him at the Thanksgiving Day Luncheon last November. That day he was a late arrival, and I asked if he would mind if I sat with him as he ate. I inquired as to how he had heard about the meal. He explained that he was just driving by and saw the sign. Normally, he and his father (who lives with him) celebrated Thanksgiving Day with his sister’s family, but they had gone out-of-town. When he finished his meal, I suggested that he take some food for his father.

Well, in January he and his family came to join us, and they bought cupcakes to contribute to the meal. When he saw me, he asked me to come to their table so he could introduce me to everyone. We had made a connection, and that is exactly what my vision is about – relationships – connections.

If you have never attended one of the Community Luncheons, please consider doing so in 2016. I invite you to come and meet our neighbors. ~Sandra

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