Table of Contents
The Rev. Julie Blake Fisher
Rector, Christ Church, Kent
The Rev. Gay C. Jennings
President, House of Deputies
The Rev. Aaron Gerlach
The Rev. Lisa O'Rear-Lassen
Priest in charge, St. Patrick’s, Brunswick
The Rev. G. Keith Owen II
Rector, St. Peter’s, Lakewood
The Rev. Debra Q. Bennett
Priest-in-Charge, Church of Our Saviour, Akron
The Rev. Paul Gaston
Kent State University
The Rev. RJ Johnson
Rector, Advent Episcopal Church, Westlake
The Rev. Mary B. Vidmar
Supply, St. Stephen’s, East Liverpool
The Very Rev. Tracey Lind
Dean, Trinity Cathedral
The Rev. Margaret D’Anieri
Rector, St. Paul, Norwalk
The Rev. Howard M. Humphrey, Jr.
Rector, St. Martin’s, Chagrin Falls
The Rev. Gayle Catinella
Rector, St. Thomas, Berea
The Rev. Gary A. McElroy
The Rev. Mary L. Staley
Priest-in-Charge, St. Paul’s, Put-in-Bay
The Rev. Peter W. Nielsen, III
Deacon, Executive Director, Cedar Hills Camp and Conference Center
The Rev. Jan Smith Wood
Priest-in-Charge, Grace Church, Sandusky
The Rev. Heather Hill
Rector, All Saints, Parma
The Rev. Sarah Shofstall
Priest-in-Charge, St. Barnabas, Bay Village
The Rev. Dr. C. Eric Funston
Rector, St. Paul’s, Medina
The Rev. Jeff L. Bunke
Rector, St. Timothy’s, Perrysburg
The Rev. June Hardy Dorsey
Rector, St. Andrew’s, Elyria
The Rev. Aaron Paul Collins
Rector, Church of the Good Shepherd, Lyndhurst
The Rev. Percy Grant
Canon for Ministry
The Rev. J. Jeffrey Baker
Rector, Christ Episcopal, Warren
The Rev. Mary C. Carson
Rector, Church of the Redeemer, Lorain
The Rev. Alan C. James
Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of Ohio
The Rev. Peter Faass
Rector, Christ Church, Shaker Height
The Rev. Dr. Patricia L. Hanen, Ph.D.
The Rev. Dr. Michael A. Petrochuk
Priest-in-Charge, St. Andrew’s, Barberton
The Rev. George Baum
Cuyahoga Mission Area
The Rev. Rosalind Hughes
Priest-in-Charge, Church of the Epiphany, Euclid
The Rev. Stephen C. Secaur
Priest-in-Charge, Saint Bartholomew, Mayfield Village
The Rev. J. Kip H. Colegrove
Rector, Episcopal Shared Ministry of Trinity and Our Saviour
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio
The Rev. Canon W (Will) H. Mebane, Jr.
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
The Rev. Jeremiah Williamson
Rector, St. Andrew's Episcopal, Toledo
The Rev. R. Stephen Sedgwick
Summit Mission Area
The Rev. Elizabeth M. Hoster
Rector, Trinity, Toledo
The Rev. Lisa E. Hackney
Priest-in-Charge, St. Alban's, Cleveland Heights
“Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning…”
From Part III of Burnt Norton, No. 1 of Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
What would make you fumble your phone? Terminate the TV? Bow out of your browser? Toss your tunes? Leave your laptop? Deep six the donut?
Hesitant? I am. Because I love my distractions. It would take an earthquake to get my head out of a book, my eyes off the screen, my butt out of the chair.
And I’m not alone. We live in an age of distraction, bad enough in 1935 when Anglican Christian T.S. Eliot wrote the words above, and exponentially worse now. If you multitask all day, you need never catch so much as a glimpse of God. Satan must be delighted. Why bother with sin when distraction will do?
There’s only one cure. Put it down, whatever it is. Drop it cold. Then look up. He’s right there.
“…the One who made the Pleiades and Orion,
and turns deep darkness into the morning,
and darkens the day into night,
Who calls for the waters of the sea,
and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
the Lord is His Name.”
What will you put down so you can look up?
The Rev. Julie Blake Fisher, Rector
Christ Church, Kent
Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ They answered, ‘John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Messiah of God.’ (Luke 9:18-20)
People were talking about Jesus. There was buzz. Who is this guy? Jesus seemed just as glad to steer clear of the speculation, but then one day he asked his friends what people were saying. The disciples talked about it, and then Jesus put it to them directly – but who do you say that I am? It wasn’t an idle question. Jesus knew he would soon go to Jerusalem and the cross. Peter blurts out the answer – the Messiah of God! Even though Peter probably didn’t know the consequences of his answer, I believe he said it from the depths of his being.
During Lent, think and pray about how you answer the question Jesus asked the disciples - but who do you say that I am? King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and the Omega, the Good Shepherd, Lamb of God, the True Vine, the Only Begotten Son of God, Prince of Peace, Blessed Redeemer, Light of the World….the Messiah of God? Your answer makes all the difference.
The Rev. Gay C. Jennings, President
House of Deputies
“'Why do we fast and you don’t see;
why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?'
Yet on your fast day you do whatever you want,
and oppress all your workers.” Isaiah 58:3
Fridays in the Christian tradition have always been a day to remember the cross. We see this tradition reflected in the Collect for Fridays used in Morning Prayer. It reminds us that Jesus “went not up to joy but first he suffered pain” and it calls us to walk in the way of the cross. One way Christians did this historically was to show solidarity with the poor by refraining from meat on Fridays. This developed at a time when meat was more of luxury than it is today with dollar menus in fast food chains. We could reclaim this tradition by finding new and relevant ways of connecting with the poor on Fridays. One way might be by participating in what is called the SNAP Challenge. We could do this by restraining our food budget on Fridays to $4.50 which is the average daily value of government food assistance. But perhaps we are called to completely re-envision our traditional practice for our local faith communities. Playing off of themes presented by Luiz Coelho, our Winter Convocation presenter, we could explore questions similar to these:
- Prayerfully looking with the eyes of the cross, where do we see signs of pain and brokenness in our communities?
- What are some creative ways we could bring those experiences into our Sunday morning liturgical experiences during Lent?
- How can our prayer life ask for the joy of Easter to be made known to those who have first suffered pain in our local context?
The Rev. Aaron Gerlach, Priest-in-Charge
St. James Episcopal Church, Piqua, Ohio
St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Sidney, Ohio
On this day the Episcopal Church commemorates the life of Geoffrey Kennedy, poet and priest, who ministered to soldiers of the Western Front as a volunteer chaplain during World War I. In his poetry Kennedy reflected upon the reciprocal spiritual relationship he shared with soldiers in the midst of death. As a priest Kennedy experienced the fruits of the Spirit with the soldiers he served, seeing in their everyday heroism "the glorious madness of God." Ever mindful of his "unpaid debt" to those soldiers to whom he "owed God's peace" Kennedy remembered them in his poetry and advocated for Christian pacifism, a conviction born of his years in the midst of battle. By witnessing to the humor, heroism, and ultimate sacrifice of his brothers in arms, Kennedy reminds us that every soul is precious and that every human encounter, no matter how traumatic or troubled, presents the opportunity to both incarnate Christ and experience Christ in the eyes of the other.
The Rev. Lisa O'Rear-Lassen, Priest in charge
St. Patrick Episcopal Church, Brunswick
Three years ago, I spent a month of sabbatical time living in the Palestinian city of Nablus. Ever since 1987, when I first encountered Ramadan during my first visit to the Holy Land, I had wanted to try the experience. During a few Lents, I attempted the discipline of not partaking of food or water from sunrise to sunset. Every time, within days, my fasts fell apart. Nevertheless, the idea would not leave me. So, in 2011, I went to Palestine to experience Ramadan in its native culture.
Ramadan, I found, is not a burden but a gift. Muslims look forward to it all year. How do I make sense of this? Fasting in Christian tradition is mostly identified with penance. We fast to purge ourselves of sin, of bad habits, or to recall somber days in the life of Jesus and the Church. There is little about Lent of the kind of celebration I experienced in Nablus. This was what was missing in my failed attempts to replicate the fast.
The Ramadan fast is about solidarity. One fasts to be in solidarity with the poor, the kind of solidarity of which Jesus speaks in today's reading from Matthew. One fasts in solidarity with Muslims worldwide, enduring the same pangs of hunger and thirst, the same gripping fatigue in the afternoon. And then, at sundown, there is solidarity in giving thanks to God: a shared magical moment of sipping cool water and taking a bite of ripe fruit. I never knew what it meant to give thanks until this profound visceral experience. It was no less intense on night 29 than it was on the first night. There is solidarity hearing together nightly the recitation of the Quran as it is chanted aloud in its entirety in homes and mosques. And there is solidarity in increased attention to prayer, to friends and families, to slowing down the busy pace of life.
I wish we had this unity of purpose in Lent, this shared mix of struggle and celebration. What would a common shared fast look like for us? Could Lent ever become something like Ramadan? Could Lent become less of the “give a little something up” joke that it sometimes is, and become more real, more visceral, more joyful? I wonder.
saoum khabeer mubarak aleikom - A blessed great fast (Lent) upon you.
The Rev. G. Keith Owen II, Rector
St. Peter’s, Lakewood
Lent Beckons Us to “Have a Little Talk With Jesus”
A Lenten Reflection
“When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask. Pray like this…” Matthew 6:7-9
It is Day 7 on the road of 40. How appropriate to focus on prayer as we have just begun our Lenten journey. When Jesus began his journey in the desert, he was immediately confronted by the devil and in the confrontation he prayed the words of scripture as he responded. Lent beckons us to confront the challenges in our lives in reflection and prayer. It calls us to reflect on our relationship with God through Christ. As the words of the African-American spiritual Just A Little Talk With Jesus by Cleavant Derricks remind us, Lent is the opportune time to step away from the swirling mess of life, get reacquainted with an “old friend”, and “have a little talk with Jesus.”
The spiritual recalls a time in one’s life when sin reigned and when its hold was broken. We sing, “I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in
And then a little light from heaven filled my soul
It bathed my heart in love and wrote my name above
And just a little talk with my Jesus made me whole.”
Our Lenten journey allows us to step away from the messiness and through prayer add our voices to the chorus
Have a little talk with Jesus tell him all about our troubles
Hear our faintest cry answer by and by
Feel a little prayer wheel turning
know a little fire is burning, you will
Find a little talk with Jesus makes it right.
Prayer enables us to reach out to Jesus and through our prayers Jesus reaches us.
Now let us, have a little talk with Jesus.
The Rev. Debra Q Bennett, Priest-in-Charge
Church of Our Saviour, Akron
“Months in due succession,
Days of lengthening light,
Hours and passing moments
Praise thee in their flight.”
Hymn 179, “Welcome, Happy Morning” (Fortunatus, trans. Ellerton), reminds us that Lent in the northern hemisphere brings days growing brighter and longer. Our word “Lent” shares a common root with “lengthen.”
One week into Lent, our Daily Office offers two stories. In the first, Jacob is misled into thinking that his beloved Joseph has been killed. The truth is not much more promising, because Joseph has been sold into slavery. Yet we know that from this dark beginning God brings about blessing. Having risen to a position of authority in Egypt, Joseph will eventually greet his famished brothers: “God did send me before you to preserve life.”
In the lesson from Mark, Jesus arises in the darkness, “a great while before day,” in order to pray. But as the day begins, he resumes his mission of preaching and healing. For the leper made whole, that day must have been the brightest in his life.
Lent prompts us not dawdle in gloom but to relish the joy we feel in “days of lengthening light.” Even in Lent—especially in Lent—we are the people of Easter. We prepare ourselves for the darkness of Good Friday knowing that our brightest day lies just around the corner.
The Rev. Paul Gaston
Kent State University
Assisting Priest, St. Paul’s, Akron
When I hear the word, “repent,” I instantly think of a fiery preacher shouting at the congregation to, “Turn or burn.” It’s a word that makes me feel like someone is hitting me with a club.
The problem is not with the word. The problem is the way that is has been used, and the way that I have so often understood it. I have often thought of repentance as turning away from one sin or another. So, naturally, when I hear a call to repent, I assume that I must be doing something horribly wrong.
Turning away from sin is only part of what it means to repent. To complete repentance, I must turn to God. It is entirely possible for me to turn away from everything that I have done wrong, and still refuse to turn to God. That usually means that I have turned to myself. Like the people described in Psalm 50 who we offered sacrifices, assuming that was all they needed to do, I have at times given up bad habits, thinking, “Now I am on the right track.” The focus was on what I was doing.
The Psalmist wrote, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.”
That is repentance. Repentance is completed when I put my trust fully in God. When I think of the call to repent in that light, it no longer feels like a club pounding on me. It feels like the call of a lover to their beloved, a call that I want to answer.
The Rev. R. J. Johnson, Rector
Advent Episcopal Church, Westlake
5 The world's a huge stockpile of God-wonders and God-thoughts. Nothing and no one comes close to you! I start talking about you, telling what I know, and quickly run out of words. Neither numbers nor words account for you.
9 I've preached you to the whole congregation, I've kept back nothing, God—you know that.
11 Now God, don't hold out on me, don't hold back your passion. Your love and truth are all that keeps me together.
12 When troubles ganged up on me, a mob of sins past counting, I was so swamped by guilt I couldn't see my way clear. More guilt in my heart than hair on my head, so heavy the guilt that my heart gave out.
13 Soften up, God, and intervene; hurry and get me some help,
As old as the Psalms are we still find them amazingly relevant today. These particular verses of Psalm 40 really struck a chord in me. What a winter of discontent we have had! Sub-zero temps, discontent within the congregation, deaths from violence, illness and accidents, all pepper the newspaper reports and our daily lives. We too can echo the voice of the writer of Psalm 40 as he cries out to God "hurry and get me some help". But no sooner do I repeat those words than I begin to wonder about the strength of my own faith. Like the psalmist I have preached to the congregation and given testimony to God's faithfulness. The question is: does how I live support the truth of my words?
The Rev. Mary B. Vidmar, Supply
St. Stephen’s, East Liverpool
Today’s gospel reading (Mark 2:23-3:6) recalls the story of Jesus picking corn and healing a man with an injured hand on the Sabbath. When challenged, he retorts: “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath.” Jesus didn’t dismiss the Sabbath; rather he reminded his adversaries about the essence of Sabbath, the crown jewel in our seven-day week. Like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Jesus understood Sabbath as a weekly “opportunity to mend our tattered lives.”
Modern life dismisses the Sabbath as inessential or unattainable and we’re all paying the price for its absence. Might we keep Sabbath as a Lenten discipline? Consider a weekly pattern with intentional time for silence, prayer, rest, play, recreation, and slowing down. Find opportunities to be creative without having to create something, to breathe freely without having to produce something, to rest and enjoy life without having to earn something.
We who are overwhelmed, overburdened and exhausted by the obligations of life need to set aside Sabbath time. Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Director of Wisdom House in Nashville offers advice for those who can’t figure out how to do it on their own. “Rule #1. There are no rules. Rule #2. When tempted to make a rule for Shabbos, refer to Rule #1.”
That’s wisdom for the ages.
The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, Dean
Sources used and cited:
Rami Shapiro, “Shappos,” Alive Now, July/August 2012, 13-14)\
Reflection for the Feast of St. Patrick
It’s often said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. It is ironic that a cultural nationality unites people on this day; so often culture and nationality divide us. Patrick’s work was getting to know people who were new to him in a place that was not his home. One of the verses of Scripture that guided him was Hosea 1:10: “Where it was said to them: you are not my people; it shall be said to them: You are children of the living God.”
Many of us are just “getting into Lent” at this point, and if you’re looking for a Lenten activity, you might look for those places where we say, “They are not our people; they are strangers; they are not worthy of acceptance, by me or by God.” Then wonder, with God and with Patrick: how could we welcome the unwelcomed? In the unity that comes from today’s Irish-ness, we can pray that tomorrow brings the unity that comes from being human, from being children of the living God.
The Rev. Margaret D’Anieri, Rector
St. Paul, Norwalk
“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)
In reflecting on the above verses from Matthew, my thoughts were drawn to a question I usually ask a couple coming to me for pre-marriage counseling. My first question is not why do you want to marry this person. Rather, I ask them to reflect on how God has gifted their lives so that they are prepared to use those God-given gifts to be a channel of God’s love to build up their future spouse. This question is the direct opposite of the world’s question, “What do I get from this other person?”
During Lent I believe that our Lord calls us to focus first on how He gave his life for us! Take a little time to reflect on the model Jesus presents to us. Then ask our heavenly Father to give us the grace to discover that each of us has been gifted to offer our lives to Him in the service of the neighbor God gives us to love. May we all discover this Lent the joy of God’s love working through us!
The Rev. Howard M. Humphrey, Jr., Rector
St. Martin’s, Chagrin Falls
The Feast of St. Joseph
Today is the feast of St. Joseph and I chose this day because the traditions surrounding it and St. Joe are so much fun. For years, my friends and I had a huge Italian feast on this day, celebrating the stepfather of Jesus in the way we had had corned beef for the feast of that Irish guy. When I sold my last house we buried a statue of St. Joseph upside-down in the garden and the house sold the following week!!!
There is also a tradition of asking St. Joseph to pray for you by writing your intention on a piece of paper and putting it at the base of his statue in a church building. I confess I have actually done that, and his advocacy made good things happen. That should not surprise us since he was a man of compassion, and open to God’s mystical intercession in his own life.
Mostly though, in St. Joseph we see a model of humble faithfulness and willing obedience to God that should touch our hearts just as we are getting tired of Lenten observance and sacrifice. He offered his whole self into a situation he could not possibly have desired or understood. May we see him as an example in our own lives.
The Rev. Gayle Catinella, Rector
St. Thomas, Berea
Feast of Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, 687.
Cuthbert first became a monk in the Scottish lowlands and Northern Britain. According to a summary of his life (www.allsaintsbrookline.org/celtic_saints/cuthbert.html):“The ample sources for Cuthbert's life and character show a man of extraordinary charm and practical ability, who attracted people deeply by the beauty of holiness. He was a disciplined administrator, cared for many who had been felled by the plague, and distributed alms liberally even while he maintained frugal personal habits…… Cuthbert is said to have had supernatural gifts of healing and insight, and people thronged to consult him. …… On horseback and on foot, he ventured into the remotest territories. His task was not easy, for he covered a vast area……. But the people accepted him -- he spoke their language and knew their ways, for he had lived like them in a peasant's home. Bede wrote of his preaching that ‘Cuthbert had such a light in his angelic face, and such a love for proclaiming his Good News, that none hid their innermost secrets from him.’” So we pray in the Collect, “as he sought in dangerous and remote places those who had erred and strayed from your ways, so we may seek the indifferent and the lost, and lead them back to you.”
The Rev. Gary A. McElroy, Retired
First Psalm: Psalm 95; Psalm 69:1-36
Second Psalm: Psalm 73
Old Testament: Genesis 43:1-15
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 7:1-9
Gospel: Mark 4:35-41
In Psalm 69 and Mark 4 water is a symbol for the times when we face challenges, times when we feel external forces pulling us, and pushing in directions we do not wish to go. Today’s readings from the daily office are familiar friends to those who read Morning Prayer. The Old Testament and Gospel readings also make appearances in Vacation Bible Camp programs. For more than ten years I was able to join with several others for weekday Morning Prayer. I relish the opportunity to be in community for at the beginning of the day, especially during Lent. Morning Prayer can be an oasis of grace and peace in our otherwise busy lives.
I read Morning Prayer with a group that had a very tall member and a very short one. I always thought the shortest person should read that Psalm. If the water was up to her neck, the rest of us would be higher and able to reach out to each other. I’d rather not have the tallest person read. “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck” imagining the rest of us would be treading water!
Whether we are tall or short, whether our troubles are big or little, we should remember to call out to God, and to listen to God. Sometimes we save God for the big things and think we can travel solo in the little ones. We are called to offer up our concerns and to listen – we will hear the assurance of God’s calm when we listen in faith. Lent is a good time to seek God, to listen and to remember God is never too busy for us. We have faith that we will be fed, that the storm will be stilled, that the waters will subside because we walk with Christ.
On March 21st we also remember Thomas Cranmer (2 July 1489 – 21 March 1556) was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI and, for a short time, Queen Mary I.
The Rev. Mary Staley, Priest-in-Charge
St. Paul’s, Put-in-Bay
Readings: Micah 7:14-15; 18-20 Psalm 103: 1-4 (5-8)9-12 Luke 15:11-32
Almost everyone is familiar with the saying, “To imitate is the highest form of flattery.” In my desire to imitate the love of God I am challenged by the story of the prodigal son. God’s love, like the father in the parable, pushes back against the rejection one might face in this world when living outside of socially accepted norms. The kind of love witnessed in the father does not give into the human tendency to hold a grudge, or to retaliate, or to ostracize, if we believe that another has done us physical, emotional or spiritual harm. Love over-powers these tendencies.
Each time I reflect on this story describing God’s love, I find myself returning to the same challenging questions; especially if feeling hurt, or distracted, by the behavior of another:
How far would I run to greet them?
What shoes, clothing and symbols might I offer to restore them in the eyes of the community?
Would I have the strength to defend this kind of love in the face of those who would reject me for promoting it?
Today I pray for open arms to all God’s beloved, for God’s presence in our work of reconciliation, and for the strength to be the voice that puts love before anything else in imitation of God.
Submitted, with gratitude for our companionship,
The Rev. Peter W. Nielsen III, Deacon
Executive Director, Cedar Hills Camp and Conference Center
Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
Isn’t this the deep cry of our hearts?
We find ourselves estranged from God. Lost to our best selves. Yearning to be restored to balance and wholeness. We try and try to do it for ourselves. It doesn’t work. No matter how many times we hear differently and try otherwise, we simply cannot pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We cannot save ourselves. It is impossible.
We turn to all manner of tricks and surefire schemes to find that completeness for which we yearn. Sooner or later, we realize that none of it works. Not one thing we create will save us. Only God.
God willing, we come to realize that only God can restore us. Only God can bring us to wholeness, completeness, and balance. We cry out in need – and in confidence. Confidence that it only takes the teensiest divine light, shining in our darkness, for us to be saved. The dimmest light of God is sufficient. It is more than enough. It really is.
Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and we shall be saved.
The Rev. Jan Smith Wood, Priest-in-Charge
Grace Church, Sandusky
The Annunciation: Luke 1:26-38
When the celebration of the Annunciation comes in the middle of Lent, I find myself filled with mixed emotions. Here in the middle of a penitential season we find the beginning of the story. One filled with light and hope. An Angel appears to Mary to announce that she will bear a son who “will be great and be called the Son of the Most High.” Luke 1:32 The willingness of Mary to follow God’s call. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
Yet we read this in the midst of Lent, during our pilgrimage to Calvary. The hope of a new born baby while remembering the journey to His death. At the same time we rollercoaster back to joy looking towards the Resurrection of Easter. It seems to express the mixed emotions that we have at times in our lives when joy and sorrow are only a breath away. At times when I am unsure of the emotion to feel, when I wonder if God is truly leading me in the next step in life, I lean on scriptures like Luke 1:46, 48, “My soul proclaims your greatness O God…for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant” and the words of the angel, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37 May God lead us through lifes joys and sorrows as we look always to the hope of the resurrection.
Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord; that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. Collect for the Annunciation, BCP p. 240
The Rev. Heather Hill, Rector
All Saints, Parma
Shake off the Dust!
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all repeat the story of Jesus sending out his followers and telling them that if a place does not receive them they are to shake the dust off their feet as a testimony against that town. We can read these passages as a curse against the town or we can read them as a mandate to Jesus’ followers to choose to be liberated from slights, wounds, inhospitable treatment, to be liberated from anger and resentment. How often do we go into a new relationship or a new opportunity for ministry tracking in the muck from the last one—guarding ourselves against being disappointed again, fearful about taking risks?
Lent is the perfect time to shake off the dust. Forgive the people who have not asked for forgiveness, not because they have earned your forgiveness but because you deserve to be free, because you deserve to be free from the burden of dragging around all that dust. You deserve to arrive at Holy Week and Easter with clean feet.
The Rev. Sarah Shofstall, Priest-in-Charge
St. Barnabas, Bay Village
"The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, 'Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.'" -- Mark 6:30-31a
The Ash Wednesday exhortation with which we began Lent invited us "to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word." (BCP 265) That's a whole lot of stuff to do! At the end of the exhortation, however, is a rubric, a word of instruction, saying, “Silence is then kept for a time.” The rubric is not part of the Ash Wednesday exhortation, but those may be the most important words on the page.
When the exhortation and our tradition ask us to “give something up for Lent,” the purpose is to turn our attention from the distractions of the world around us. At a vestry retreat some years ago, the facilitator asked our vestry to consider the difference between “doing” and “being”, to consider whether the job of the vestry is to “do things” or rather to “be something”. Last year, I took part in a clergy study group reading the book Beyond Busyness: Time Wisdom in Ministry by Stephen Cherry. The author’s thesis was that being “busy” is a bad thing, that when we are “busy” we allow a lot of small distractions take us away from the bigger, more important things on which we should spend our time. “Busyness” results from concentrating too much on “doing” and too little on “being”.
Here, in the middle of this season of preparation, Jesus in Mark's Gospel reminds us that Lent is not really about doing. It's about resting in a deserted place. It's about keeping silence for a time and turning our attention away from busy doing and toward productive being.
There is a lovely verse from the Psalms which reads, “Be still, and know that I am God!” (46:10) In those catalogs like National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting send out from time to time, I’ve seen a carved stone plaque of that verse which repeats the verse several times, but in each reiteration leaves off a word or two:
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
"Come away to a deserted place and rest," said Jesus. So the rubric at the end of the Lenten exhortation may be the most important admonition of Lent: “Silence is kept for a time.” Be still and know that God is God. . . . . Be still and know that God is. . . . . Be still and know. . . . . Be still. . . . . Be.
The Rev. Dr. C. Eric Funston, Rector
St. Paul’s, Medina
Do you find yourself annoyed when people from the fringes of the community - the C&E set…the piddling pledgers…political candidates who appear (for the first time in years) in the pews a month before elections…the “hatch, match and dispatch” clans - appear on the scene expecting special consideration on the calendar, blessing for their special project, etc.? I must, first of all, confess that you are not alone. But join me in some personal angst as today’s gospel reading pricks at vestiges of self-importance and pride that I’d hoped were left behind long-ago. Jesus, himself, experienced persons on the fringes – those who: were satisfied…barely able…merely permitted…intimidated but who nonetheless dared - to touch the fringe of his cloak. Though these people were situated at the fringe, even minimal contact with Jesus brought healing.
How have our oft-hidden, our institutional and our club-like nonsense stood between those on the fringes and the healing power of our Lord? Better yet, might our repentance call us to race toward the fringes to pro-actively welcome and embrace those who have yet to encounter and know the Jesus?
The Rev. Jeff Bunke, Rector
St. Timothy’s, Perrysburg
Beside the doorway to our veterinarian’s office is a row of bushes that is almost always filled with small birds. Though there are several bird feeders nearby, the birds seem to prefer to hop and chirp and flutter around in these bushes, warmed by a nearby vent. I wonder if they also know that this is a place of care for all of God’s creatures?
Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” (Luke 12:22-24)
Humanity is gifted with the ability to remember the past and to look toward the future. This gift also gives us the capacity to worry. Mindfulness of the present cannot co-exist with worry. When we are fully present, right where we are, with the people with whom we find ourselves, are freed to trust in God’s provision, right now. Just like the birds in the bushes…
The Rev. June Hardy Dorsey, Rector
St. Andrew’s, Elyria
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…
Lepidoptera: the order that contains butterflies and moths. In the stages of a butterfly’s life, the ugly caterpillar goes through a transformation in the chrysalis, and comes out in flying colors. The life cycle of a butterfly is often compared to the liturgical season of Lent, with its emphasis on self-evaluation and penitence, leading up to vibrant new life at Easter. A person’s spiritual metamorphosis results in a new life in Christ, like becoming a new sacrament.
For example, Paul recalls his conversion and call into his new life. Paul writes to the churches in Galatia and explains, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Paul claims that he has been transformed into the likeness of Christ. The word order in the original Greek text emphasizes “I” and “Christ” by positioning them at the end of their respective phrases: “I live no longer I; but lives in me Christ.” (1)
At the Communion table, the words of Consecration change earthly bread and wine into Christ’s sacrifice for us. Paul’s “consecration” occurred “when Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” After these words, Saul was no longer Saul. Instead he was Christ’s.” (2)
When Paul was only attuned to the Law, his self (his ego) was the controlling factor of his life. But when he became alive to Jesus, Christ replaced that self. Here is a true transubstantiation: a transformation in a new sacrament. In embracing Christ, there is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. It is a divine change; Christ takes the place of the “I.” A new life in Christ is profoundly interconnected to the sacraments.
Lenten practices are a spiritual discipline, not a religious obligation. Change occurs within us, just as it did in Paul. The inward grace occurs through the new insight and reorientation of Christ living within. The way we live our lives becomes the outward sign. In the transformation, our lives can become sacra Sacramento, sacred sacraments for Him to the world. /p>
The Rev. Aaron Paul Collins, Rector
Church of the Good Shepherd, Lyndhurst
Sources used and cited:
(1) Frank J. Matera, Galatians, Sacra Pagina Series, Vol.9 (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Piturgical Press, 1992), 96.
(2)Edmund Fuller, ed., The Showing Forth of Christ: Sermons of John Donne, (New York: Harper & Row 1964), 170.
I was delight to be asked to write for today…No fooling. It is the anniversary of my baptism. When I applied for the priesthood and was asked for the date of my baptism, my certificate could not be found. Being the 4th child, I was sent to the church to look it up in the official baptismal record book. What I found was that Mr. Green baptized me at a private service, following Morning Prayer on April 1st.
Where to start! How to address this with my parents? I started with the date. It seems I was a small cranky baby and April 1st was the first Sunday after Lent, not an emergency but not taking too many chances either, prudent.
Over the years Mother and I had many conversation about morning prayer and the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, both of which we were able to come to an understanding. On the topic public versus private baptisms she remained firm, ending each conversation the same way. “Well, it worked for you”.
In thinking about our spiritual lives we often think about “my” relationship with God, but truly I did not make these promises, these promises are not about my relationship with God, but the community and family understanding of my welfare as a child of God. My parents did follow through with their promises made to God on April 1st as did the community and church they brought me up in. So today I offer for your reflection the promises made to God and to me from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and those we make today.
¶ When the Office is used for Children, the Minister shall speak unto the Godfathers and Godmothers on this wise.
DEARLY beloved, ye have brought this Child here to be baptized; ye have prayed that our Lord Jesus Christ would vouchsafe to receive him, to release him from sin, to sanctify him with the Holy Ghost, to give him the kingdom of heaven, and everlasting life.
Dost thou, therefore, in the name of this Child, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow, nor be led by them?
Answer. I renounce them all; and, by God’s help, will endeavor not to follow, nor be led by them.
Minister. Dost thou believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith, as contained in the Apostles’ Creed?
Answer. I do.
Minister. Wilt thou be baptized in this Faith?
Answer. That is my desire.
Minister. Wilt thou then obediently keep God’s holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of thy life?
Answer. I will, by God’s help.
Minister. Having now, in the name of this Child, made these promises, will ye also on your part take heed that he learn the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, and all other things which a Christian ought to know and believe, to his soul’s health?
Answer. I will, by God’s help.
Minister. Will ye take heed that this Child he brought to the Bishop to he confirmed by him, soon as he is sufficiently instructed?
Answer. I will, God being my helper.
When all have been presented the Celebrant asks the parents and godparents
Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present
is brought up in the Christian faith and life?
Parents and Godparents
I will, with God’s help.
Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow
into the full stature of Christ?
Parents and Godparents
I will, with God’s help. BCP 1979
The Rev. Percy Grant, Canon for Ministry
Diocese of Ohio
Commemoration of James Lloyd Breck
Priest, Educator, Missionary, 1876
This day in Lent, we commemorate James Lloyd Breck. He was a late 19th century priest, educator, and missionary…in fact, he helped start the Nashota House. To me he was a spiritual farmer. He planted the seeds of the Gospel on the frontier, another watered, and God created the growth. Mark’s Gospel lesson chosen for this day is none other than The Parables of the Growing Seed and Mustard Seed. God’s kingdom is where the transformation of something seemingly insignificant into something beyond our understanding is an everyday occurrence.
It reminds me to plant some spiritual seeds this Lent, no matter how little they seem, so that God can augment them into something much greater than I had hoped. Maybe in this small way, I too, can be a spiritual farmer.
The Rev. J. Jeffrey Baker, Rector
Christ Episcopal, Warren
Richard of Chichester, the 13th century English bishop remembered today in the church calendar of commemorations is best known for one brief prayer:
“Dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly.”
(Holy Women, Holy Men, p. 304)
I learned this prayer as a child when the rock musical Godspell made it famous with a melody I can still sing on cue. Yet as a child I had no idea what it meant. Only as I have journeyed with Jesus over the years up the mountains and down into the valleys of life have I begun to grasp what it means to see, love, and follow Jesus. Even then I still often feel like a beginner.
Developing a relationship with God in Jesus is a lifelong endeavor, not a weeklong intensive or even a semester course. During Lent we have an opportunity to be more intentional in growing in that relationship, but it is only worthwhile if we continue to do so into the Easter season and beyond. How will you continue to grow into seeing, loving, and following after our Lenten observance is over?
The Rev. Mary C. Carson, Rector
Church of the Redeemer, Lorain
Feast of Martin Luther King Jr.
Today is the 46th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. In November, 1957, Dr. King delivered a sermon at Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery, Alabama entitled, Loving Your Enemies. Four fundamental points to that sermon are:
- In order to love our enemy, we must seek to discover the good that is in that other person.
- Loving and liking are not the same thing. Loving demands more of us. Our love of the one who is our enemy is grounded in and reflects the truth that God loves that person as well.
- When we hate our enemy we create a vicious never ending cycle of hate and suffering. In order to break the cycle, someone needs to stop hating and start loving. The one who chooses to love the other first is the stronger person.
- Love has the power to redeem and transform another person; hate cannot do that. As disciples of Jesus Christ, our calling is to be agents of healing and reconciliation. In loving our enemies we can offer and experience the redemptive power of love.
Who is your enemy? Who do you need to choose to love today? To view the full typewritten text of the sermon:
Read the full text of the sermon
The Rev. Alan C. James
Canon to the Ordinary
Diocese of Ohio
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Originally the Teutonic word Lent - Lenz in German and Lente in Dutch - meant spring. As I write this meditation we in northeast Ohio are in the midst of one our most severe winters in years. There have been copious amounts of snow and Polar Arctic vortex’s bringing sub-zero temperatures and dangerous wind-chills . . . and it’s only February 1st!
Thoughts of the coming spring are definitely on my mind these days. I am particularly holding onto the thought of the 250 spring bulbs Anthony and I planted in our garden last November. Tulips, narcissi, snowdrops, grape hyacinth, crocuses and alliums all lie nestled in the earth – now hard as iron – waiting to burst forth in resurrection glory when the weather warms.
The Church season of Lent can be likened to that frozen earth and those spring bulbs. In Lent we plant the bulbs of fasting, scripture study, alms giving, prayer and self-reflection in the soil of our lives. God then gives the growth, even though we may be unaware of it at the time – and surprise! - we burst forth at Easter in new resurrected life!
The Rev. Peter Faass, Rector
Christ Church, Shaker Heights
Tikhon, Patriarch of Russia, Confessor and Ecumenist (1865-1925)
Born Vassily Bellavin in 1865, chosen as Patriarch of Russia during the First World War and the Russian revolution of 1918, and martyred in 1925 by the Bolsheviks, Tikhon seems miraculously right for the church in an age of crisis. His early life in the Orthodox Church shows him as unassuming, smart, and willing to serve in unusual and dangerous callings.
After seminary, he became a monk and then Bishop of Alaska, the Aleutians, and North America. He visited every Orthodox church and mission, increasing the number of churches from 17 to 50 and headquartering in New York. He cared for both the rustic and the urbane, finding ways to build up faith and extend the reach of the church by educating and serving the poor.
In Russia, as Archbishop of Jaroslav, Metropolitan of Moscow, and then Patriarch, Tikhon taught that violence is wrong, that honor is due the church when she follows the will of God, that pastors should live with their flocks, that lay people should participate in church governance, and that Christian unity in love is a more powerful evangelistic tool than purity of doctrine.
In San Francisco in 1903, Tikhon preached: "We ought to share our spiritual wealth, our truth, light, and joy with others who are deprived of these blessings, but often are seeking them and thirsting for them. . . ." But who is to work for the spread of the Orthodox Faith, for the increase of the children of the Orthodox Church? Pastors and missionaries, you answer. You are right; but are they to be alone? . . . The spread of Christ's faith ought to be near and precious to the heart of every Christian. In this work every member of the Church ought to take a lively and heartfelt interest. . . .”
If we have ears to hear, let us follow Tikhon’s words and example.
The Rev. Dr. Patricia L. Hanen, Ph.D., Retired
Today, we remember the life and ministry of William Muhlenberg, the noted Episcopal priest, poet, hymn writer, education reformer, and proponent of the social gospel. Muhlenberg lived from 1796-1877, contributing to a number of causes and movements (Ayres, 1880).
Among his hymns, “Savior, Who Thy Flock Art Feeding” was written in 1826 and remains his most famous. During this time of Lent, we often think looking inward, but Muhlenberg reminded us in this hymn to look outward – to serve the “other.”
Below are the first two stanzas from this hymn, interjecting the collect (italics) for his holy day (Holy Women, Holy Men, 2010). A question for reflection is also offered [in brackets], as a prompt for prayer during this sacred time of Lent.
Savior, who Thy flock art feeding
With the Shepherd’s kindest care,
All the feeble gently leading,
While the lambs Thy bosom share.
Do not let your Church close its eyes, O Lord to the plight of the poor
and neglected, the homeless and destitute, the old and the sick, the
lonely and those who have none to care for them.
[What have you done to care for those that are poor, sick, homeless, or the lonely?]
Now, these little ones receiving,
Fold them in Thy gracious arm;
There, we know, Thy Word believing,
Only there secure from harm.
Give us the vision and compassion with which you so richly endowed
your servant William Augustus Muhlenberg that we may labor tirelessly
to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy.
[What talents and gifts can you offer to create change?]
The Rev. Dr. Michael A. Petrochuk, Priest-in-Charge
St. Andrew’s, Barberton
Sources used and cited:
Ayres, Anne. The Life and Work of William Augustus Muhlenberg (Harper & Brothers: New York, NY; 1880).
Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (Church Publishing Company: New York, NY; 2010).
As a priest, I’m supposed to tell you “God loves you.” And as a good Christian, you’re not supposed to say, “So what?” I’m supposed to announce this benign acceptance, and you’re supposed to say, “Thank God!”
But, really? So what? What does it matter if this vague, amorphous God loves you regardless? Does that really help you in your daily life?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer—whom we honor today on the calendar—would call that “cheap grace.” A God who does not require repentance, is a God whose love is cheap, when you consider it.
The message of Christianity is not “God loves you.” The message of Christianity is “God forgives you.” On most days, perhaps, that distinction means nothing to us.
But on the darkest days, the painful days, the times when the weight of our sin is intolerable to us, this distinction can make all the difference. Knowing God forgives you means God stands by you, and gathers you up, and redeems those parts of you that you yourself can neither face, nor redeem.
God’s forgiveness is not cheap, because it comes from grace of the highest price. This is the grace you need, because this is the grace of forgiveness.
God loves you, sure. But the good news is, God forgives you.
The Rev. George Baum
Cuyahoga Mission Area
It is a day like no other, this Thursday in the fifth week of Lent. It isn’t one of the “big” days, like Ash Wednesday or Palm Sunday, or Fish-Fry Friday. Yet it is a day like no other.
On this day, in the garden, a plant shivered and began to bud in anticipation of the need for comfort and beauty ahead.
The man who owned the colt fed his animals and brushed the donkey’s tail. “Not long now,” he whispered, and the animal tossed its head and stamped impatiently.
The merchants and money changers began to stock up ahead of their busiest week of the year, grinning and cackling as they thought of the profit, and wondering why their wives looked at them strangely.
Somewhere, a baby was born. A child spoke her first word – “Abba.” An old man breathed his last, with a prayer that sounded like a sigh of relief. A woman had a fine dinner with friends and went to bed with a headache, to awaken never the same again.
For some, this will be remembered as a red-letter day. Others will misplace it in the jumbled narrative of a busy life. For some, it will be buried deep, and carried like a stone that splits the current of their river of beating blood.
It is a day like no other. When God created Time, that fitful and fine creature, and saw all of its minutes and hairbreadth moments stretching out (and it was good), God appointed this day to you. How will you live it?
The Rev. Rosalind Hughes. Priest-in-charge
Church of the Epiphany, Euclid
George A. Selwyn, Bp.
Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant George Augustus Selwyn, whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of New Zealand and Melanesia, and to lay a firm foundation for the growth of your Church in many nations. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Holy Women and Holy Men, p. 323
When I have read about missionary bishops of the 19th century, both in America and in foreign lands, I've always been impressed by two things: their strong motivation to evangelize, and their willingness to endure physical hardship in the process of their work. I remember reading about how Bishop Whipple in rural Minnesota would ride from one parish to another in a buggy with heated stones at his feet to keep from getting frostbite in the winter.
Many American and English bishops have been especially noted for their willingness and desire to bring the Gospel to indigenous folk and to work to overcome language and cultural barriers to achieve their goals.
According to a source from Forward Day by Day, Bishop Selwyn was a healing and reconciling figure between the Maoris and English colonists in New Zealand, and he won the love and affection of the Maoris.
In that spirit of reconciliation, note these biddings and responses from the Midday liturgy of the New Zealand Prayer Book:
For the hungry and the overfed; May we have enough
For the mourners and the mockers; May we laugh together
For the victims and the oppressors; May we share power wisely
For the peacemakers and the warmongers; May clear truth and stern lead us to harmony
For the unemployed and the overworked; May our impress on the earth be kindly and creative
For the troubled and the sleek; May we live together as wounded healers
For the homeless and the cosseted; May our homes be simple, warm and welcoming
For the vibrant and the dying; May we all die to live
The Rev. Stephen C. Secaur, Priest-in-Charge
Saint Bartholomew, Mayfield Village
A long, cold winter, and the warming soil
calls for a garden, calls for a tilling hand.
Who will raise up a new crop, trusting light
and gentle rain to bring the harvest home?
Surely the plow and harrow must cut the earth,
surely the seed must drop in darkness, die
and find a tomb before a golden crown.
February 7, 2014
The Rev. J. Kip H. Colegrove, Rector
Episcopal Shared Ministry of Trinity and Our Saviour
“See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.” Isaiah 42:9
There is a point in a figure skater’s program when she glides backward, gathering all of her concentration, energy, and spirit into a momentary stasis, a taught suspension of every movement before exploding into a triple salchow or axel or lutz. I often find myself holding my breath when skaters do this, participating physically and emotionally in that anticipatory suspense, narrowing my own attention and focus in a tense expectation of what is about to spring forth.
So it is with Holy Week, the quieting approach to Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and the great springing forth of the new things God declares in the Resurrection of Jesus. The penitential journey of Lent has led us once again, through a deepening self-awareness and the spiritual surrender of former things, to this holiest of weeks. Now, like the skater gathering herself in focused anticipation of bursting out in a great release of new expression, we gather ourselves in prayerful expectation of the empty tomb and the divine release of our own lives from the power of death. On this Monday in Holy Week, may we begin to be still and collect ourselves in deep anticipation of springing forth as God’s new thing in the risen Christ.
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
We have come through a long, hard winter…the worse to hit Northeast Ohio in several decades. Like a lot of you, I struggled each day to stay positive and keep in mind that relief would soon come in the form of spring.
I looked out from the sun balcony of our apartment overlooking Lake Erie on one of those winter mornings when the temps were in single digits with minus degree wind chill factors. The lake was completely frozen over for as far as I could see. A sinking feeling began to overcome me.
Then, I happened to look down among the plants arranged along the floor. To my astonishment, I saw that the begonias had sprouted bright purple, yellow and white flower buds. I was even more amazed to see that the Easter lilies from last year had grown from their seeds. The stems were strong and flowers that had long been off the bloom had burst forth in radiant beauty.
Lent can be like the cold, dark winter we experienced. However, we retain hope through the knowledge that Easter is coming. The seed that had died will bloom again will be even more beautiful than we remembered.
The Rev. Canon W. (Will) H. Mebane, Jr.
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
The Collect for today reads, "Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time." And we pray this prayer as we consider physical sufferings and undeserved humiliation far beyond what many of us will ever experience. We pray this prayer as we consider our Savior, our Savior who gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon.
During this week we contemplate the sufferings of Christ. And we find ourselves in a strange place - caught between guilt and solidarity, between responsibility and sympathy. We look upon the Jesus we love and yet, like Peter, we see that we have been unwilling to go all the way with him; our willingness to follow Jesus has proved limited.
But what would it mean to continue to follow even to the cross? Are we able to accept the suffering? Are we willing to trust that God's faithfulness endures even pain, even death?
It is Holy Wednesday. The cross is drawing nearer. God, give us the grace to keep walking.
The Rev. Jeremiah Williamson, Rector
St. Andrew's Episcopal, Toledo
Dean of the West Mission Area, Diocese of Ohio
George Herbert’s The Holy Communion (one of two of his poems bearing this title) begins with an allusion to an ancient controversy:
“O gracious Lord, how shall I know
Whether in these gifts thou be so
As thou art everywhere;
Or rather so, as thou alone
Tak’st all the Lodging, leaving none
For thy poor creature there?”
It is a controversy that, it readily becomes apparent, is of no interest to Herbert:
“First I am sure, whether bread stay
Or whether Bread do fly away
Concerneth bread, not me.”
What does concern him is soon apparent too:
“Then of this also I am sure
That thou didst all those pains endure
To abolish Sin, not Wheat.”
He ponders, briefly, how this holy sacrament can be a means of grace when
“Into my soul this cannot pass;
Flesh (though exalted) keeps his grass
And cannot turn to soul.”
(The other Holy Communion poem affirms the efficacy of the sacrament without really answering the question):
“Only thy grace, which with these elements comes,
Knoweth the ready way,
And hath the privie key,
Opening the soul’s most subtle rooms.”
And that, on this day in which Jesus has left us a memorial of this most precious death and passion, is all we really need to know:
“This gift of all gifts is the best,
Thy flesh the least that I request.
Thou took’st that pledge from me:
Give me not that I had before,
Or give me that, so I have more;
My God, give me all Thee.”
This is, to be sure, one of Herbert’s more “metaphysical” poems. But, like the grace inseparable from the elements of bread and wine, there is heartfelt prayer entwined with the wit and wordplay. “Give me not that I had before,” (which could mean either plain, unconsecrated bread or his own “flesh and fleshly villainy” or, more likely, both together), “my God, give me all Thee.” As the Church breaks bread tonight in Jesus’ memory and his Name, let me remember to pray, “My God, give me all thee.”
NOTE: In the interest of clarity, I have modernized some of Herbert’s spellings, but not his capitalization, which strikes me as part of the charm of the poems.
The Rev. R. Stephen Sedgwick
Summit Mission Area
It is now Good Friday. The journey of Lent is nearly over, but not before we travel with Jesus through today, the darkest of days. Can we slow down for one day and go through it in real time?
Imagine yourself as one of Jesus' followers, or one of his family members, there and then, and then follow him throughout the day. Follow the crowd into the courtyard. Smell the adrenaline. Listen to the crowd taunt and jeer. Hold his mother. Allow yourself to imagine what his followers thought and felt:
Why won't he defend himself?
Why won't he show he is the Son of God?
Why won't he DO SOMETHING?
Maybe everything is lost.
Maybe everything he said and did is in vain.
To do so is not to lose faith, but to face our human weakness and fear when we do not see any way forward. God will answer all of our questions and doubts, but not in ways any of us could have asked or imagined.
In Christ, God empties God's self on the cross. Those who were faithful to him must have felt utterly emptied out as well. Their expectations of Jesus, their expectations of God's very self, died on the cross too. We are invited today to sit with them in that death, and to be emptied out ourselves.
At times we must be completely emptied out before God's light and life can fully enter us again. The glorious light will certainly come in time. But today is a day to go dark, and, until tomorrow evening, imagine a world where we think Christ is not present. By feeling the darkness and emptiness and praying through it in community, the light will be that much brighter when it finally dawns again.
The Rev. Elizabeth M. Hoster, Rector
“You could hear the silence,” my husband said to me as he described the setting of his childhood home. Tucked up into the hills outside of San Diego, it was remote enough that the absence of sound became a physical sensation, and at night he knew when someone was approaching by car because their headlamps threw light up the canyon walls across the valley.
Imagine that sort of darkness; imagine that sort of silence. So quiet and so dark that you can perceive the coming of one miles away in the dark.
This is the silence of Holy Saturday – this strange time between the empty cross and the empty tomb. This is the time of shell-shocked disciples, wondering, “What now?” and of women impatient to tend to the body. Even though daylight surrounds, they are in a deep darkness.
This day is the feast day for every moment and circumstance in our lives where the seeming silence of God is so pronounced that we can hear it; where the darkness of unknowing and fear is so deep that even a headlamp, miles away, is a blaze of light.
Holy Saturday is the invitation, the reminder, to rest into that darkness, that silence, when it comes.
With Jesus’ crucified body -- silence and darkness in the midst of daylight --we wait.
The Rev. Lisa E. Hackney
Priest-in-Charge, St. Alban’s, Cleveland Heights
Associate Rector, St. Paul's, Cleveland Heights