A Liturgy of Remembrance for Memorial Day

Recorded, edited and produced by Christian (Ian) Tulungen

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Order of Service

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here.

Prelude:  Variations on the “Navy Hymn” Michael Joseph with Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ

Welcome, The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: “Let all the world in every corner sing” George Herbert’s poem set to music by R. Vaughan Williams as part of his Five Mystical Song Cycle. Sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort, Gabe Alfieri, St Martin’s Choral Director accompanied by Steven Young, St Martin’s Organist

Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
“My God and King!”
The heav’ns are not too high,
God’s praise may thither fly;
the earth is not too low,
God’s praises there may grow.
Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
“My God and King!”

2 Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
“My God and King!”
The church with psalms must shout:
no door can keep them out.
But, more than all, the heart
must bear the longest part.
Let all the world in ev’ery corner sing,
“My God and King!”

Hymn 578 vv 1&3 St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with human hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf .

Alleluia. Christ the Lord has ascended to the heavens: Come let us adore him. Alleluia!

Collect for Purity

The Trisagion : S102, sung by St John’s Girls Octet, St John’s Orthodox Church, Warren, Ohio

The Collect for Heroic Service

O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision gave their lives for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading: The Book of Wisdom, 3:1-5,9 read by Lauren Hill

Psalm 46, pg 649 BCP sung by Lori Istok, staff soprano

Second Reading: The Book of Revelation, 21:2-7 read by Sarosh Fenn

Gradual Hymn: 719, “O beautiful for spacious skies vv1&2, St Martin’s Chapel Consort with Steven Young, organ

The Gospel: John 10:11-16 proclaimed by Linda+

Gradual Hymn: 719 v3

The Sermon: “To Remember in 2020”, Mark+ (a stand alone recording and text appear below together with a Memorial Day tribute “I vow to thee my country”)

The Nicene Creed: (pg 358 BCP) -(we recite together)

The Anthem:  J.A. Korman, “Pie Jesu” sung by Jacob Chippo, staff tenor, with Gabe Alfieri, baritone and Steven Young organ

Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer

The General Thanksgiving (pg 101 BCP)

The Peace

Final Hymn: 307 “Lord enthroned in heavenly splendor” sung by the St Martin’s Chapel Consort with organ

Easter Blessing

The Postlude: Fugue on “America” (Second Sonata)  W. Eugene Thayer with Steven Young playing

Mark+’s stand alone sermons and youtube tribute for Memorial Day “I vow to thee my country”

To Remember in 2020

The calendar cycles through. The yearly cycle of the calendar rolls alongside the annual cycle of the church’s kalendar; both herald the passage of the year’s progress; both signal the passing of time.

Time, so often appearing to move in a straight line from past through present to future, is in reality also a cycle. The months of the year commemorate the cycling through of festivals and seasons.

We arrive at the Memorial Day Weekend, which falls at the same place in the calendar’s cycle as it did last year. Since the 1968 passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Memorial Day is always the last Monday in May, creating a three-day weekend for federal employees – and now many others- with the last Monday designated as a federal holiday.

Each year we arrive at the same place, i.e. the Memorial Day Weekend. Yet, with each revolution of the cycle the context of our arrival changes. We arrive at the Memorial Day Weekend in 2020 – within the contextual game changer of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The Memorial Day Weekend still betokens the promises of summer. Each year we arrive at this three-day holiday in a state of some exhaustion. We are exhausted by the long, grueling New England winter; exhausted by an unremitting workaholic culture that despite its rhetoric despises and works against the interests of an effective work-life balance for the majority of workers. Our kids arrive at the end of the academic year exhausted by an outdated culture of teaching to tests, aided and abetted by helicopter parental anxiety that results in overscheduling and piling stress upon stress upon our children and teens.

Therefore, the three-day weekend is a godsend for many of us, the first intimation of the change of pace as we wind down into summer; a season pregnant with the promise for families and friends of badly needed time for recreation.

Although in a normal year amidst the excitement of summer, beaches, and barbeques – the Memorial Day Weekend also commemorates a more solemn theme. Memorial Day is a day for remembering – a day of remembrance – an invitation to a grateful nation to honor the men and women who have paid with their lives the ultimate sacrifice in our service.

But this year we arrive at the three-day holiday after the three month lock-down that has seen all our lives changed – perhaps unalterably changed by the sudden plunge into fear, grief, and an acute uncertainty that leaves none of us unscathed.

The context in 2020 profoundly mutes our longing to celebrate the official arrival of summer. The annual commemoration of the fallen in 2020 carries the painful poignancy of finding ourselves embroiled in a different but equally deadly kind of war. The fallen in this war are not only names from the distant or more recent theatres of war in far flung places. They are the names of healthcare workers and first responders; of teachers and unsung service-sector workers upon whom we find ourselves even more reliant to keep us in our much reduced lives; they are the names of those who have sacrificed their lives by simply doing their jobs in the war against the virus. These are the names of the newly fallen who have given their lives in our service.

And so, in 2020, the commemoration of the nation’s fallen in war evokes added emotional complexities. The great national emergencies of the First and Second World Wars alongside the Korean War make it easy to feel proud of our experience of war because these wars were fought in pursuit of a noble cause, with victorious outcomes. However, the Vietnam War together with today’s continuous low level conflict in the Middle East evoke more ambivalent feelings in us about the merits of war. It is yet too early to assess the longer-term impact of the virus’ effects on our collective remembrances.

Today, Memorial Day, we are newly mindful of the fault-lines that lacerate our society. As in former years we are aware of a largely hidden veteran presence among us; a population of minds and bodies scarred by the trauma of war no longer as an epic struggle involving the whole nation, but of war as an interminable state of low level conflict the brunt of which is born by members of racially and economically deprived sections of society. So it is with the virus. Across the land, the Coronavirus strikes at the heart of poor, black and hispanic communities. In a just published statistic from Kansas one third of deaths are among the black community which makes up only 5% of the State’s population.

The virus is forcing us to confront these systemic indicators of racial and economic injustice as never before, challenging us to the urgent need for a society-wide new deal.

In 1912, Sir Cecil Spring Rice was appointed British Ambassador to the United States. He was hugely influential in persuading Woodrow Wilson to commit to America’s entry into the Great War. In 1918 he was recalled to Britain. Before he left he penned the words to the text that became the poem  I vow to thee my country. Rice’s words were later set by Gustav Holst to the hymn tune Thaxted, taken from the Jupiter Movement of his Planets Suite.

The two verses of the poem are juxtaposed, voicing the tension between love of country and love of God. In contemporary America we have conflated love of country with love of God to disastrous effect.

In his first verse, Rice penned:

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice
.

We are newly mindful of the tragic consequences for the fabric of The Republic and for the integrity of our democracy of the love that asks no question; of a love that over and over again manifestly fails to stand the test; that is too swift to lay upon the altar the dearest and the best, heedless of the consequences.

Remembrance of the casualties of traditional war alongside the remembrance for the casualties from the virus war reminds us of the love that never falters, of the love that pays the price – for a chronic lack of preparedness, for federal neglect of national leadership and a partisan disregard for the common good.

We are no longer so confident that the recent sacrifices – be they of the continued sacrifice of our young men and women in the theatres of low level conflict – or in the ER’s and nursing homes of a largely for profit health care system that has built shining medical edifices as temples to technology while denigrating the vital networks of public health-care provision built up over generations to deal with the very crisis that leaves far from undaunted the final sacrifice.

However, in the second verse Rice’s tone shifts:

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

The love that leads women and men to sacrifice their lives in war; the love shown by countless doctors, nurses, healthcare and support workers; the love shown by first responders, and service sector workers – leads them to sacrifice their lives in the line of simply doing their job in the face of the onslaught of the virus .

With gratitude we remember those who willingly – yet never forget regrettably – have been called upon to give their lives simply because they were unfortunate enough to live in a time when this sacrifice was asked of them. We must never forget that their loss is also our loss for:

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

John Donne

In our countless acts of remembrance on this year’s Memorial Day, let us confront the urgent need to redouble our commitment to working tirelessly to ensure that our future – the world of our children and their children will not be a mere repetition of our doleful and shameful past.

And of the fallen?

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. 

For the Fallen, Robert Laurence Binyon

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Ascension Day

We trust you will enjoy this special webcast for the Ascension of Our Lord. Ascension is one of the major festivals of Jesus but because it always occurs on a Thursday (technically the 40th day after Easter) and is not transferred to the following Sunday – it often passes many of us by. This is a pity because the Ascension is theologically significant and in my reflection below I will explore the practical daily living implication of a theological tension running through how we can think about the Ascension.

Reflection in Music and Word for the Ascension of Our Lord

Webcast produced by Christian Tulungen

Reflection Structure

Prelude: Allegro from Symphony II by Louis Vierne, Stephen Young, organist.

Hymn 494 “Crown him with many crowns” Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA

The Readings

Acts 1:1-11 read by Linda+

Psalm: 93 Choir of King’s College Cambridge

Ephesians 1:15-23 read by Linda+

Gradual Hymn: 460 vv. 1-2 “Alleluia! sing to Jesus” Rowland H. Pritchard · William C. Dix · Robert E. Kreutz · Randall DeBruyn

Gospel: Luke 24:44-53. proclaimed by Linda+

Gradual Hymn: 460 v. 3

Reflection Theology Matters: Mark+

Anthem: “God has gone up”, words by Edward Taylor set to music by Gerald Finzi, sung by the choir of Wells Cathedral, England. Taylor’s text appears below.

Anthem Text

Edward Taylor (1646? – 1729), “Meditation Twenty”

God is gone up with a triumphant shout:
The Lord with sounding Trumpets’ melodies:
Sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praises out,
Unto our King sing praise seraphicwise!
Lift up your Heads, ye lasting Doors, they sing,
And let the King of Glory enter in.

Methinks I see Heaven’s sparkling courtiers fly,
In flakes of Glory down him to attend,
And hear Heart-cramping notes of Melody
Surround his Chariot as it did ascend;
Mixing their Music, making ev’ry string
More to enravish as they this tune sing.

The First Collect for the Ascension of Our Lord

Let us pray:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ
ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things:
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his
promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end
of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory
everlasting. Amen.

Hymn 450 “All hail the power of Jesus’ name” First Plymouth Church, Lincoln, NE

The Postlude: Scherzo by Edouard Commette, Steven Young organist

Stand Alone Reflection Podcast and Text

Theology Matters

Mark’s+ stand alone reflection on the Ascension

Theology matters because theology maps out our view of the world- dictating the values we hold and the way we chose to live our Christian lives.

When we look at the collects for the Ascension we find there are two, not one. My concern is that the thrust of each collect sets different priorities for living the Christian life.

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ
ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things:
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his
promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end
of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory
everlasting. Amen.

compare

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your
only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended
into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend,
and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I think you get a sense of what I’m getting at.

The Ascension is the pivotal transition point between the earthly and post resurrection ministry of Jesus and the empowerment of the community of the Church to carry on the work Jesus began. It is most fully fleshed out by Luke who develops a chronological view – rather like a chapter book: Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection and then his ascension. With his ascension Jesus leaves the stage of salvation history making way for God’s next great move – the sending of the Holy Spirit. Through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit the Church – community of believers becomes literally the Body of Christ in the world.

Q: I can’t really take seriously the idea of Jesus floating up through the clouds with feet dangling into a separate realm three miles above the earth.

A: Yes, some very bad Ascension-tide theology in prayers and hymns pictures Jesus jettisoning his humanity like a discarded suit of clothes as he ascends through the clouds to heaven where a fine new set of divine clothes await him. This image is not only unhelpful for most of us today. In the language of the second collect above it encourages us to focus on our spiritual ascending away from the focus of this world in the here and now. The Ascension is actually the opposite from the popular image of Jesus floating heavenward – shedding his humanity like his garments in the process. Instead I encourage you to think of it in these terms. The Ascension of Jesus is God incorporating the fullest expression of being human – now represented by the post-resurrection human Jesus –  into the divine identity.

Q:  Where exactly does Jesus go?

A: The first Christians didn’t think about heaven as somewhere up there. This is a later medieval idea. They pictured heaven being all around them. They made a distinction between heaven and earth or put in more contemporary language a distinction between God-Space and Our-Space. The first Christians understood heaven and earth, God Space and Our Space, not simply as different places but as interleafing and interpenetrating dimensions.

Today, we no longer possess a Medieval imaginary. A better inspiration for our imaginations is drawn from the world of science fiction. To make a contemporary Sci-Fi analogy, God-Space and Our-Space are parallel dimensions occupying the same place or location. I like this Sci-Fi notion of parallel dimensions because it bannishes the unworkable imagery of the Middle Ages and brings us closer to how the writers of the New Testament understood the relationship between heaven and earth.

Q: Wow, so, when I die, I will cross over into God-Space in the same way as Jesus at the Ascension?

A: Yes, you could put it this way. But being with God in God-Space is not the ultimate goal of our living. Our goal is to work tirelessly to implement the expectations of God-Space within Our-Space before we die. The human Jesus passed through the interdimensional boundary – from Our-Space to God-Space, in order that the dynamic Spirit of God could move back across in the other direction – from God-Space to infuse Our-Space to equip us to collaborate with God in the real time healing of the world.

Q: Is that not quite a responsibility?

A: That’s well put. Through being God’s agents in Our-Space we are assisting God in preparing for an eventual time when Our-Space and God-Space become One-Space. God’s incorporation of Jesus’ full humanity in the Ascension is a foretaste of what the Bible refers to in the language of a new heaven and a new earth.

Q: So the Ascension really sets-out the Our-Space agenda then?

A:  It clears the stage for the next act -so to speak – coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the everpresent, dynamic expression of the Divine Community – a concept we will revisit when we come to celebrate the Holy Trinity.

The Irish poet John Donohue in his final stanza of Morning Offering captures it the Our Space agenda:

May [we] have the courage today

To live the life that [we] would love,

To postpone [our] dream no longer

But do at last what [we] came here for

And waste [our] heart[s] on fear no more. Amen

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Liturgy of the Word for Easter VI, May 17th

Webcast of The Liturgy of the Word for Easter VI
recorded, edited and produced by Christian (Ian) Tulungen

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Order of Service

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here

Prelude: Prelude in G Major, Felix Mendelssohn with Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ

Welcome, The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

Introit: “The Call” George Herbert’s poem set to music by R. Vaughan Williams as part of his Five Mystical Song Cycle. Sung by Gabe Alfieri, St Martin’s Choral Director accompanied by Steven Young, St Martin’s Organist

THE CALL.   

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life :
Such a Way, as gives us breath :
Such a Truth, as ends all strife :
And such a Life, as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength :
Such a Light, as shows a feast :
Such a Feast, as mends in length :
Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart :
Such a Joy, as none can move :
Such a Love, as none can part :
Such a Heart, as joyes in love.

Hymn: 204 “Now the green blade riseth”, 1st and last vv, staff singers with organ

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Collect for Purity

The Gloria: S280, sung by St Martin’s staff singers, Steve Young, organ

The Collect for the Sixth Sunday after Easter

You can find a link to the readings for the day here

First Reading: Acts 17:22-31 read by Pat Nolan

Psalm 66:7-18, sung by Jacob Chippo, staff tenor

Second Reading: 1Peter 3:13-22 read by David Blake

Gradual Hymn: 390 v1, “Praise the Lord, the Almighty” staff singers

The Gospel: John 14:15-21 proclaimed by Mark+

Gradual Hymn: 390 v2, staff singers

The Sermon: Orphaned? Mark+ (a stand alone recording and text appear below)

The Nicene Creed: (pg 358 BCP) -(we recite together)

The Anthem:  “If ye love me, keep my commandment” Thomas Tallis, The Cambridge Singers with John Rutter

Prayers of the People: led by Mark+

The General Thanksgiving (pg 101 BCP)

The Lord’s Prayer

The Peace

Final Hymn: 385 “Many and great O Lord, are thy works”, A Native American Melody sung by the staff singers with organ

Easter Blessing

The Postlude: Allegro Maestoso (Sonata II), F Mendelssohn with Steven Young playing

Stand alone Sermon Recording

Orphaned?

It’s 4:41am on Saturday morning. Covid-19 has changed everything about doing church. It’s not only doing church that has changed. It seems there isn’t one aspect of our former lives that remains unchanged by the arrival of the virus. But it’s the change to doing church that preoccupies me at the present moment.

I note the time -early Saturday morning – because having made numerous false starts on this sermon throughout Friday, in the pre-virus world I would still have a full 24 hours to get it right. However, one of the aspects of doing church that has changed is that Ian, our virtual Sunday Service webcast producer needs my completed product by midday at the latest for editing into the webcast that will go live at 7am tomorrow, the 6th Sunday after Easter.

I’ve italicized doing because there is something odd about it. Doing and its cognates is frequently used today. We ask one another are you done?, when what we really mean is have you finished? Doing-do-done are very American colloquial usages which as a self-respecting speaker of the Queen’s English is a good reason for me not to use them here. A better verb might be being church. It’s more inspirational, somehow. And if nothing else language’s power to inspire us amidst all the chances and changes of this world – to borrow from Archbishop Cranmer’s knack for the inspirational phrase -takes on a greater not lesser importance.

It’s now 5:01am on Saturday morning. Covid-19 has changed everything about doing Church. Much may have changed in the last two months about doing church, yet, the challenge of being church remains unchanged. Being church has always been challenging, if by this we mean being Christian. Changing worldly circumstances do not fundamentally alter the task of being Christian – as the writer of John’s gospel puts it: in the world.  

The World?

As spring finally seems to have secured a late toehold on wintry southern New England, we are all so very conscious of the world burgeoning with the glorious expression of the goodness of the Creator. But as we struggle to come to terms with all that has recently changed for us, we are very aware of this natural world as also a threatening place, always potentially hostile to human flourishing.

Then there’s the world- as in worldliness – the short-sighted politics of the moment, the manipulation of the national need by the rich and powerful for their own ends and the rest of us be damned.

Let’s not overlook the world as a place where challenge provokes human beings to innovate -turning challenges into opportunities for new and imaginative solutions capable of taking us to the next level of our social evolution.

At 5:32am, I must finally get to grips with the text from John 14 as the gospel pre-ordained to be read on the sixth Sunday after Easter.

At the turn of the 1st and 2nd centuries of the common era in Jerusalem a community of Christians had coalesced around the teaching of one who is known as John the Evangelist. This is not John the Beloved Disciple of Jesus (JTBD) for he would have been long dead by this time. John the Evangelist (JTE) is one who as a young man must have known JTBD. Having been profoundly shaped by his teaching, JTE now presents JTBD’s teaching to his community – a community made up from disparate and hard to hold together factions. Jewish followers of Jesus, some out and proud but many still hiding in the Jewish closet; the remnants of John the Baptist’s followers; a large group of Samaritans, and a smattering of Greeks formed the nucleus of what came to be known as the Beloved Community. JTE wrote his gospel for them. This helps go some way to explaining why John’s gospel is so different from the other three gospels. The community for whom John wrote was so very different.

Chapters 14 -17 cover Jesus’ extended farewell to his disciples at the Last Supper. Since Easter we have been working through mostly John’s recording of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances. But now we are coming to the end and our attention focuses on Jesus’ words of farewell in which he prepares his disciples for what was to follow after his death, resurrection, and ascension from this dimension of time and space.

Because of the privacy of the setting and the often-close relationships between the table companions, dinner table conversations can be both intimate and fraught affairs.

14:15-21 offers a rare glimpse into the tender intimacy that can accompany a family conversation around the dinner table – a conversation in which like a 5th grade teacher of a class with a very limited attention span, Jesus is trying to prepare his disciples for what is to follow. Of course, at the time they don’t really get him. They have their own dreams. But in time – through the disillusionment and loss of their cherished dreams, they will come back to Jesus’ words with the same dawning understanding as we are doing now.

Jesus, around the Last Supper dinner table shares his vision for the world and their place in it. We note that he speaks to them no longer as servants but calls them friends. Jesus’ vision centers on the love that unites him and the Father together in a unity of being. By extrapolation, this love becomes the template that unities Jesus and his disciples also in a unity of being – not quite the same as Jesus and the Father, but pretty close and certainly a very provocative-inspirational notion. Jesus’ ultimate point is that being his friends, the disciples now also become God’s friends.

Through Jesus we remain God’s friends. For we are those who are challenged to respond to the commandment to love. And as Jesus had earlier demonstrated when he took the towel and washed their feet, the love he speaks about has little to do with the sentiments of liking one another. The kind of love Jesus commands them to practice is the love of service in action.

Being friends of God is fleshed out as Jesus speaks about his imminent departure. He tells them that his going from them will not leave them orphaned, for God will send something else to sustain them; an advocate to support them as they face the challenges of being his inspired followers in the world, living lives of love as service in action.

Grappling with this text at what is now 6:03am on a wet Saturday morning with a pre-recording and editing deadline looming – the word orphaned jumps off the page and smacks me in the face in a way it never has before.

Isn’t being orphaned our experience in these early months of a covid-19 changed world? The metaphor of being orphaned is an experience of being abandoned and left unprotected.

We find ourselves adrift, unprotected in a world that fills us with grief at the loss of so much we took for granted. Of course, there is real grief and worry for so many as they survey the damage to their livelihoods caused by the economic fallout from the virus. There is the grief of helplessness as we watch loved ones succumb to the virus, isolated and separated from us at such a time of dire need for human love and touch. Then there’s the rage at our leaders, who at the federal level have the power to make our situations so much more bearable but lack the will to do so because they remain afflicted with a virus even worse the covid-9 – the virus of political short-termism; a different kind of killer – an affliction of the imagination that eats away at the capacity for courageous and far-sighted leadership.

Much may have changed in the last two months about doing church, yet, the challenge of being church remains unchanged. Being church has always been challenging, if by this we mean, being Christian. Changing worldly circumstances do not fundamentally alter the task of being Christian it in the world.  

At 7:57am and I am more and more convinced of the truth that challenge is also opportunity. That no matter how it feels to us at the moment as we struggle to cope with our sense of loss, being Christian in the world is to show that God has NOT be left us orphaned. We are reminded of Jesus’ words: You may no longer see me, but I continue to live in you through your commitment to live lives of love as service in action. Or to borrow from Archbishop Cranmer once again – we are currently being called to rally together to let the whole world know that things that were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new.

I’m excited by the challenge and prospect before us of being church – being Christian and making a better world!

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The Liturgy of the Word for May 10th, Easter V

This Service Webcast with Sermon was recorded in St Martin’s Church and produced by Ian Tulungen

If you are not a regular financial supporter of St Martin’s we invite you to

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Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing

Order of Service

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer     

Prelude: Cantilene (Sonata XI) Josef Rheimberger, Steven Young on the St Martin’s Organ

Welcome

Introit: “Love bade me welcome” George Herbert’s poem Love III set to music by R. Vaughan Williams as part of his Easter Mystical Song Cycle. Sung by Gabe Alfieri, St Martin’s Choral Director accompanied by Steven Young, St Martin’s Organist

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
            Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
            From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
            If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
            Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
            I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
            “Who made eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
            Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
            “My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
            So I did sit and eat.

First Hymn: 455 first and last verses sung by the St Martin’s Staff Singers, Steve Young accompanying

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Collect for Purity

The Gloria: S280, sung by St Martin’s Staff Singers, Steve Young, organ

The Collect for the Fifth Sunday after Easter

You can find a link to the readings for the day here

First Reading: Acts 7:55-60 read by Meg LoPresti

Psalm  31:1-5, 15-16, sung by Lori Istok, Staff Soprano

Second Reading: 1Peter 2:2-10 read by Fla Lewis

Gradual Hymn: 518 v1, Staff Singers with organ

The Gospel: John 14:1-14 proclaimed by Linda+

Gradual Hymn: 518 v4

The Sermon: Reflections from Mark+

The Nicene Creed: (pg 358 BCP) -(we recite together)

The Anthem: Schubert, Benedictus “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” sung by Jacob Chippo, Staff Singer and Gabe Alfieri with Steve Young, organ

Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Peace

The Lord’s Prayer

The General Thanksgiving (pg 101 BCP)

Easter Blessing

Final Hymn: 194, Staff Singers with organ

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The Postlude: Fugue (Sonata XI) J Rheimberger with Steven Young playing

Words Matter

Stand alone Sermon Recording

In this week’s E-News message I wrote about the Golden Calf story in the daily Exodus readings as an example of what we human beings – left to our own devices – will do. We make gods in our own image, to create for ourselves comfortable gods; gods who are immediately to hand and can be molded to support our social world views; gods who reassure us in the face of universal anxieties.

It’s natural to want to feel that we are the special ones, the ones who fall under the protection of a merciful God. However, we cannot shelter under the protection of a MERCIFUL God if we exclude someone else from this same protection because they hold a worldview different from us. We cannot claim the protection of a God whose name is MERCY if we remain blind to our collusion in systems that:

  • devalue those lower down on the economic and social ladder
  • discriminate against others on the basis of race or ethnicity
  •  oppress and exploit others’ relative powerlessness.

Today’s gospel passage comes from a section of John’s Gospel known as the Farewell Discourses which take the form of a conversation between Jesus and his disciples immediately following the Last Supper. John 14 is a favorite at funerals, speaking as it does about prepared rooms in God’s heavenly mansion.

On Mother’s Day 2020 when many of us will be experiencing the bitter sweetness of expressing our love for the mother’s we are prevented from being with because of the Virus, in this reflection entitled Words Matter I thought we might take a little more time to delve beneath the surface of John’s words in chapter 14.

The text emphasizes what the old Prayer Book version of the Nicene Creed referred to as the consubstantiality between Jesus and God. Jesus and God are of one substance or shared identity. Thus, for John, Jesus is more than the Son of God, the title used by the other gospel writers. For John, Jesus is God the Son, the Word preexistent with the Creator before the beginning of time. Thus, John’s Jesus proclaims to his disciples that to know him is to know God, and vice versa – if you have seen me you have seen the Father, for the Father and I are one. Through this portrayal of Jesus’ teaching John is warning those members of his Beloved Community who felt they could bypass Jesus because they had accessed the higher knowledge (gnosis) that gave them direct access to God.

However, it’s when Jesus talks about going ahead to prepare a place for the disciples before coming back to take them with him, that John presents one of the most controversial of all Jesus’ teachings.

I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

This is a favorite text for those who long to restrict access to God only to others who are like them.

In capitalizing I AM we are reminded of Exodus 3:14 when God tells Moses to say to the Israelites when they ask who sent him: tell them I AM sent you. In Chapter 14, by deliberately evoking the ancient form of the divine name, John’s Jesus is including himself within it.

That Jesus says: I AM the way, the truth, and the life is taken by the Christian Right to mean unless you are a Christian, God is not interested in you. Only by saying Jesus is my Savior, will God accept you. John 14 is used as a way of telling us that God is only interested in Christians. It forms the bedrock of the hard and exclusive message that we are so used to hearing from the religious right. For if you can exclude others (Jews, blacks, women, LGBTQ persons, immigrants) from inclusion within God’s grace, by extension, you can justify attempts to marginalize and exclude many others because they don’t share the values of the comfortable god you have made in your own image.

Richard Swanson in his commentary on this text reminds us that the rabbis say that the Divine Name -I AM which is translated as LORD in our English Bibles appears only when God is acting to rescue, nurture, claim, and protect. In John 14, Jesus is not seeking to narrow the divine life’s entry qualifications. He’s doing the opposite. He’s deliberately invoking God of the Exodus who rescues, nurtures, claims, and protects –in other words, the merciful attributes of God. Swanson suggests we might better read John 14 as: MERCY is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by way of MERCY.

When Jesus speaks of going to prepare a place for his disciples, he’s not telling them that this place will be exclusive to them. He’s saying the opposite when we remember that John’s Jewish Christians had been excluded by the Jerusalem authorities from Israel’s covenant with God. Bearing this in mind we can see that John’s Jesus is seeking to reassure his followers that of-course, there will be room for them – alongside Israel, i.e. everyone else.

The essence of MERCY is that we don’t get to decide who is in and who’s out.

In today’s America we cannot hide any more from the ugly truth that we are implicated in a system that teaches some that it’s OK to kill a black man for being in a place they don’t think he has a right to be in. Those of us who enjoy easy access to health care are conspirators in a system that questions this as a basic human right; something dependent on ability to pay. Those of us who have the financial capacity to send our children to the best schools are implicated in a system that denies quality public education to everyone else. The essence of MERCY is that we don’t get to decide who is in and who’s out.

The danger for us lies in remaining complicit with:

  • an economic order that exploits most of the population by depriving them of the necessity of a living wage
  • a system driven by the principle of uncontrolled consumption that has led us to the brink of environmental and ecological catastrophe
  • our sleep walking through election cycles that return a political philosophy that has actively eroded our precious public institutions and civic protections; that has shrunk government to the point that it is incapable of a nationally coordinated response to a health pandemic like COVID-19

Words matter, and the word that matters is MERCY. MERCY is the way, the truth, and the life, for no one can come to the Father except by way of MERCY.

Liturgy of the Word with Sermon for Easter IV

Order of Service

Prelude: ‘Variations on “Bunessan” Robert J. Powell with Steven Young is at the console of the St Martin’s organ

Service begins on pg 355 of the Book of Common Prayer

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed!

The Introit: I got me flowers a George Herbert poem set by R. Vaughan Williams’ in his Easter Mystical Song Cycle and sung by The Men and Boys of St Matthew’s Church with Gerald Finley, Baritone. This song cycle is part of our choral repertoire which Gabe Alfieri sang at Easter, 2019

I got me flowers to straw thy way:
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sun arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.

The Gloria: Healey Willan, Mass XII, sung by the St Martin’s Choir, recorded last Christmas Eve, directed by Gabe Alfieri with Steven Young, organist.

The Collect: for the Fourth Sunday after Easter

The Readings: Here is a link to the Preparing for Sunday Lectionary page

Acts 2:42-47, proclaimed by Laura Bartsch

Psalm 23: pre-recorded by St Martin’s Chapel Consort

1 Peter 2:19-25, proclaimed by Elizabeth Welshman

Gradual hymn: 440 vv 1-2, St Martin’s staff singers w/organ

The Gospel: John 10:1-10 proclaimed by The Rev. Mark Sutherland

Gradual hymn: 440 v 3, St Martin’s staff singers w/organ

The Sermon: The Rev. Linda Griggs -(the text appears below)

The Nicene Creed: (pg 358 BCP) -(we recite together)

The Anthem: There Is a Balm in Gilead, St Martin’s Chapel Consort

Prayers of the People: Linda+

The Peace

The Lord’s Prayer

The General Thanksgiving (pg 101 BCP) and Easter Blessing

The Postlude: Trumpet Tune in C by Michael McCabe with Steven Young is at the console of the St Martin’s organ

The service was recorded, edited, and produced by Christian (Ian) Tulungen

Service Audio cast including the Sermon
Stand alone Sermon Audio

On Deployment

 “The Church is not empty; it has been deployed. “

This is a social media meme that became viral (pardon the pun) about a month ago, as clergy frantically pondered how to do Church during Holy Week and Easter, grieving with our parishes as we faced a time that is traditionally filled with hectic activity, high attendance, and high expectations, all the while knowing that no virtual/online/ webcast/livestream/zoom liturgy could possibly substitute for the visceral experience of being together and worshipping together during one of the most important seasons of the Church Year.

As I noted in my Good Friday meditation, this is not a situation any of us wanted, but it is where we are, and with God’s grace we are called to understand how to make meaning from this moment.

“The Church is not empty; it has been deployed.”

The flock has until now been safe within the sheepfold, protected by the walls and the gate from all who wish it harm. But now the gate has moved aside and the flock has been called reluctantly out of the fold into open land and uncertain territory. We blink in the harsh light of this new time and long to turn around and head back to our comfortable shelter. But instead the Shepherd insistently calls us onward, away from the fold. We are on a new journey.

Even as the restrictions of the past weeks are gradually lifting in the community, we still face an indeterminate amount of time before we can be back in the church, and even then we need to be realistic about the fact that there may be new resurgences of the virus before a vaccine is ready. This will probably mean that this will not be the last time we will be confined to our homes, unable to gather for worship in person.

So for now the sheepfold remains off limits, and we don’t know for how long, or when we will be called away again once we are back. We can’t really conceive of what “normal” will look like.

We are in a liminal place, trying to understand our identity in new circumstances, when we have only our old circumstances as a frame of reference.  Who are we now, and is that different from who we were several weeks ago?

What does it mean for the Church to be deployed?

In order to understand this we need to go back to the beginning.

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. 

Acts 2

Scholars differ as to whether Luke, the author of Acts, was writing this iconic passage descriptively or prescriptively; was he telling how it was, or how he wished it to be? Regardless, what we have here is a Gospel vision of a community saturated by the Holy Spirit and living out its call to follow Jesus in a particular way, in a spirit of faithfulness, fellowship and generosity. This early Church was in liminal space–a period of transition from being a group of Christian Jews still meeting in the Temple to being a separate community that would eventually move beyond those walls with a new understanding of itself and how to live out its faith.

Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers… 

Those of us who have been baptized, or been part of a liturgy of Holy Baptism, will (I hope) recognize this description of the new community; this verse is the primary template of our identity as followers of Christ. As baptized Christians we have entered into a covenant of engagement with scripture and the traditions of the Church, and to worshipping and praying together for ourselves, each other and the world.

This is who we are. And it is really important to remember that we have been called into this identity and that it has stood in some form or another for two millennia, through the ups and downs of countless historical upheavals and crises. The Church can withstand a pandemic. This may even be our opportunity to thrive. Not that we are casting off those crucial marks of our identity that remind us who we are, but that we have learned to experience them in new ways. Through technology we have managed to remain in contact with one another, and even to increase our reach—this past week we were joined at Zoom Morning Prayer by a worshiper calling in from Athens, Georgia. Our online Meditation classes have gone from 5 to 20 attendees.  I’ve noticed from our Zoom Coffee Hours that we are gradually learning to listen in a different way because only one person can speak at a time in a large group and we must pause more often, and think a little more carefully before speaking. Technology definitely has its frustrations, and these are well documented, but it elicits gifts as well.

Yes, we miss Eucharist—the “breaking of bread” at God’s Table and meeting together at the altar rail.  Bishop Knisely has called this moment a time of fasting, and I think this is helpful. Fasting is a discipline intended to bring us closer to God. When we remember what it is we are missing through our fast, we remember the One who created, liberated and sustains us. We can remember that the sacred can be found in the ordinary; that invisible grace permeates the outward and visible world. We can learn to seek the holy where we are.

Which brings us back to where we began a few minutes ago. Where are we? We are deployed. We are a flock cast out of our fold and led into an uncomfortable landscape. We are finding new ways to do old things. But our Shepherd wants more from us than that. If we are to live out our Covenant fully where we are, we need to remember who we are. And who we are lies not just in how we worship, but in what that worship, through the Spirit, calls us into.

The landscape into which we have been led is admittedly pretty bleak. This time of pandemic has laid bare the issues of economic, social, and environmental injustice that have plagued this country and our world for decades and more, but now are more starkly evident than ever. The catalogue of bad news, especially for our most vulnerable neighbors, is heart wrenching and frightening for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear. But this is not a time to be fearful. The Good Shepherd’s call to compassion, justice and healing is the same as it ever was; nothing has changed. What has changed is the urgency of the call and the opportunity of this liminal moment. We can’t pass it up.

I came across a series of questions that may help to equip us for this landscape; questions that we might bear in our hearts and minds as we engage, not only with our spiritual world, but with our secular and civic worlds as well. Think about the decisions and priorities we set as individuals and communities. As we do so, ask:

Does it heal?

Does it bring hope?

Does it remake a part of the world so that people can rebuild their lives?

Does it invite us to participate in God’s work of transformation?

We are deployed.  We are called to courage by a Shepherd who walks with us through this Valley, and when we return to the fold, whenever that will be, it will be a different place because we are different; because we will have remembered who we are; the Body of Christ empowered by the Spirit, and renewed in faithfulness, fellowship and generosity. A transformed people, as ready now as the early Christians were to move beyond the walls and to transform the world. Amen

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