This Week – 06/01/2020

This week.

Light has come into the world.  A voice crying through the vista of time calls men to walk in the light.  Man’s earthly life will become a tragic cosmic elegy if he fails to heed this call.  “This is the condemnation,” says John, “that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.”
–Martin Luther King Jr, ‘Love in Action’

Fire plays an important role as an image of God’s involvement with Israel. The Bible often uses the imagery of fire to denote the presence of God, the judgment of God, the testing by God, and the power of God.  In Genesis 15, the covenant God makes with Abram involves a flaming torch passing between the parts of the offering Abram makes to God.  In Genesis 19, the sin of Sodom, the abuse of hospitality, causes God to rain fire from heaven in the destruction of the cities of the plain.  Fire is a key element of Genesis 22 as Abraham and Isaac set out in a moment of shock and horror in a test that threatens our faith as well as the story of God with the promise God made.

In Exodus, the fire of a bush burning but not consumed is the occasion for Moses to meet God and then commissioned by God to go to Egypt to demand the release of the Israelites in bondage.  Exodus 9 records hail which burns in fire as it hits the ground as the seventh plague, meant to compel Pharaoh to release Israel and let them be free.  Fire is central to the night of the Passover, when Israel is instructed as to how to cook the lamb they are to consume because this night, one of the mixed emotions of pain and release, is a night like no other.  And God uses fire as a nighttime companion for Israel, lighting their way as a pillar of fire as they make their uncertain way to freedom; then that same pillar of fire becomes the threat to the pursuing Egyptians and the cause of their panic and ultimate destruction in the Red Sea.

The fire and wind of Pentecost is an event meant to unify the disciples and open them to an understanding of life and faith beyond boundaries.  As the people of God they’re no longer part of a nation, a race, an ethnicity, even a family.  The identity of God’s people comes in the power of community given to all present, and all to be included as equals.  Fire can get our attention like nothing else can.

In our own time, the fires we experience are the language of pain, fear, hurt, and oppression.  In our own time, the fires are a symptom and a result of the long legacy of broken relationships by racial hatred and superiority; they are a symptom and a result of a society built on bondage of God’s people.  Fire can be scary as it consumes what we see around us, and yet fire can be the presence of God and the opportunity to get our attention if our hearts are not hardened.  May the fires of this Pentecost be an opportunity for us to not fear the fire or cling to what it consumes, but find within it the opportunity for a new covenant with God and with one another, endure the uncomfortableness in judgment and testing, hear the calling and instruction, and find a companion as we go forward as a new people with a new sense of freedom.

–Thomas

Gathering Online: https://bit.ly/TCZoom

Tuesday Checkin on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join Thomas and Kelley on Zoom. This is a time to check-in or just say hello.

Sunday Evening Prayer on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join us on Zoom for a service of prayers and scripture.

This Sunday – Pentecost Sunday

This Sunday.

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”   –John 20.19-23

  •   Are you a confident person, or is finding your voice to speak or power to act difficult for you?
  • What would you like to do or accomplish if you only had the power?
  • What exactly does the Holy Spirit empower disciples to do?
  • I wonder what it would look like if we could gather together in a common mission.

The day of Pentecost; wind, fire, speaking in other languages.  It sounds hard to imagine and yet the gift of the Spirit is what connects the past to the future.  If the Ascension, Jesus’ leaving earth to go to be with God, is an ending then what keeps the story going; what keeps us going?  The Spirit is the power of God, the presence of God, and the strength for us to flourish in the absence of Jesus.  That’s why we gather as a people of God, to remember that God hasn’t left us, to remember the stories of God’s saving acts of the past, and to remember the power is in us as we go to love and serve the Lord.  That’s for today and tomorrow; we’re meant for today and tomorrow.

But also Sunday; join us Sunday at 6 pm on Zoom (Download Bulletin) to remember the power we have when we work together.  We’ve missed being together and this is the best we can do for now.  But it’s all we need to connect, laugh, pray, sing, and share in the power of God given to us and for us to name that power we have to be the change for today and tomorrow the world needs.

–Thomas

 

 

This Week – 05/26/2020

This week.

Ever since our Thursday Lenten series on money and possessions ended we’ve been continuing to meet on Zoom each Thursday at 6 pm to discuss some intersection of faith and culture.  We’ve watched shows, listened to podcasts, and had really good discussions.  This week will be our last Thursday faith and culture discussion and I think we should end it on a timely subject: religion and nationalism.

“A Buddhist monk becomes a martyr.”  That was the chant repeated in English and Vietnamese by a Buddhist monk who watched another Buddhist monk, Quang Duc, immolate himself on a street in Saigon on June 11, 1963 to protest of the repression of Buddhists by South Vietnam’s president Ngo Dinh Diem.  There were political as well as religious implications to this act, which led to other Buddhist monks burning themselves on the streets.  That led to a series of protests by the largely Buddhist population, and the escalation of repression by Pres. Diem.  All of this led to a tragic outcome in a tragic war, and foreshadowed similar religious protests which sparked our own civil rights movement.

If you’re willing, I’d like us to watch and discuss a part of Ken Burns’ documentary “The Vietnam War,” found on Netflix.  We’ll focus on the roughly last twenty-five minutes of Episode 2 “Riding the Tiger, 1961-1963.” While you’re welcome to watch the whole episode, our conversation will focus beginning around the 59:34 point and lasting until the end.  This segment contains pictures and film of Buddhist monks immolating themselves, and can be difficult to watch.  How we understand the place of religion in society, where we demand justice and fairness, what we expect from politicians, are all questions which we still struggle to navigate.  Quang Duc began a movement that dramatically changed life in Vietnam, and caused millions of people, Vietnamese and Americans, Buddhists and Catholics, to reflect on their faith and how to live it out.  It’s worth a conversation for us too.

–Thomas

Gathering Online: https://bit.ly/TCZoom

Tuesday Checkin on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join Thomas and Kelley on Zoom. This is a time to check-in or just say hello.

Thursday Theology & Pop Culture on Zoom @ 6 pm 
Join us as we explore our faith through popular culture. This week you are invited to watch the last 25 minutes of Episode 2 “Riding the Tiger, 1961-1963” of Ken Burns’ documentary The Vietnam War found on Netflix.

Sunday Evening Prayer on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join us on Zoom for a service of prayers and scripture.

This Sunday – 7th Sunday of Easter

This Sunday.

Jesus said, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.”     –John 17.6-10

  • Do you miss being hugged, held, touched by others?
  • Who do you most miss, and wish you could spend time hanging out with right now?
  • Why does God go to such lengths to redeem the world?
  • Do you struggle to say prayers?  What would you like to pray for?  What would you ask someone else to pray for on your behalf?

Now that classes are over with do you find yourself missing something that was lost?  We’ve missed seeing you and having you a part of life at Trinity Commons.  While we can’t gather in person, we can still be together to share in prayer and laughter.  If you haven’t joined us for Evening Prayer on Sundays at 6 pm (bit.ly/TCZoom) (Download Bulletin) then we’d love for you to join us this Sunday because we’ve missed seeing you and sharing in life together.

–Thomas

 

 

This Week – 05/18/2020

This week.

It’s up to you. This is a sentiment we’re hearing increasingly as life goes forward, and as the debate between politics and public health about how to, well, do whatever it is we’re supposed to do. Whatever the politicians or public health workers say, what happens will happen because of you and what you do or don’t do. The decisions, the choices, the attitudes, we have will create the tomorrow for you and many others. There is uncertainty, and living with uncertainty requires endurance; as New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote last week, “Endurance is the knowledge that the only way out is through and whatever must be borne will be borne.”

Jesus knows we need endurance too, and as we come to the end of Eastertide we hear Jesus preparing us for the time when he’s no longer with us in body, and what must be borne will be borne by us. This Thursday is the feast of the Ascension; as Luke’s gospel puts it, Jesus leads the disciples to Bethany, blesses them, and then is carried up into heaven.  The response of the disciples was, first, to worship Jesus; and second, return to Jerusalem, to the Temple, with great joy. The story that began in the Temple with Zechariah ends in the Temple with the disciples. And yet, we wait for something more to happen.  What’s next?

It’s up to you.  The power is given to us.  The mission is ours.  The participation and engagement with the world is our work on behalf of God. The Ascension may be the day Jesus goes from earth to heaven, but it’s also the day when we realize it’s up to us. Worship, blessing, healing, teaching, feeding, all of these are up to us. Compassion, mercy, patience, endurance, all of these are up to us. There’s not really a clear way forward, and that uncertainty requires endurance.  But it also requires you, your voice, your action, your participation to make tomorrow better than yesterday. Whether the world, your faith, the future, makes any sense to you or not the important thing is to engage with others, endure what comes, and share the good news for those still waiting for the revelation of good news.

–Thomas

Gathering Online: https://bit.ly/TCZoom

Tuesday Checkin on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join Thomas and Kelley on Zoom. This is a time to check-in or just say hello.

Thursday Theology & Pop Culture on Zoom @ 6 pm 
Join us as we explore our faith through popular culture. This week you are invited to listen to Episode 1 of Nadia Bolz-Weber’s podcast The Confessional. This episode features Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of Westboro Baptist Church. You may remember Nadia from our Lenten series in 2019 and our discussion of her book Shameless.

Sunday Evening Prayer on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join us on Zoom for a service of prayers and scripture.

This Sunday – 6th Sunday of Easter

This Sunday.

Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”   –John 14.18-20  

  • What is a fear you experience right now?  Do you feel like you’re constantly having to fight it?  What would diminish that fear?
  • I wonder what it feels like to be orphaned.  Why do you think Jesus uses this expression?
  • I wonder what Jesus means when he says “because I live, you also will live.”
  • Would it make a difference to your faith and life if you got to visually experience Jesus?

Are you living your best life now?  I think most of us would probably say “no, not really but we’re making do.” Sometimes that’s the best we can do while we wait and hope for something better to come along.  Classes may be over and done with, but our Episcopal community continues to meet to remember that God offers us life unlike anything else. We say prayers, we listen to scripture being read, and we hope for God.

Join us Sunday at 6 pm on Zoom (bit.ly/TCZoom) (Download Bulletin) to participate in that life, whatever it may look or feel like for you.  We see this life best when we stay connected with one another and stay connected with God.

–Thomas

 

 

This Week – 05/11/2020

This week.

Did you ever get a participation trophy?  Did you ever get thanked or appreciated for just showing up and being there, whether you did anything to contribute or not?  We all want to be noticed, feel appreciated, recognized for our contribution; and most of us want what we do to matter, to make a difference for someone else.  I think that’s because we find so much of what we experience day to day as disappointing, or meaningless. We see what we do which doesn’t seem to make much of a difference, and we wonder is this all there is, and if so, what’s it all for?

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  We hear Jesus tell us how to find a way forward and it’s not something which just began in 1 AD.  Life began long ago, in the beginning, and Jesus is God’s participation in a legacy, a legacy that has grown and reshaped the way, the truth, and the life.   What Jesus shows us is the power of life, human life, lived with human beings, which is why we feel that absence of gathering and sharing in the little things of life so much right now.  Jesus reaches to each of us, inviting us to find the way, the truth, and the life, and participate in the legacy.

A legacy is something we leave behind in the world, for good or ill.  Many of the legacies we intend to leave are things we want other people to remember us by: a phrase, a gesture, a trait or habit, maybe even an experience.  But we can think bigger if we’re willing to risk engaging with others, risk failing, risk letting our real selves show.  Legacies are really about love, what others seen in us that they admire, what encouragement we offer for someone struggling, what memory someone else walks away with from time with us.  What legacy would you like to leave?  It doesn’t have to be a building with your name on it or an invention which changes the world; it can be as simple as a kind word or an embrace.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and the way to life with God goes through his example as we remember and connect our lives with others.

–Thomas

Gathering Online: https://bit.ly/TCZoom

Tuesday Checkin on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join Thomas and Kelley on Zoom. This is a time to check-in or just say hello.

Thursday Theology & Pop Culture on Zoom @ 6 pm 
Join us as we explore our faith through popular culture. This week Thomas will lead the discussion, and we’re going to discuss the life of Catherine Hamlin as discussed in the April 24, 2020 podcast The Intelligence from The Economist found here, the segment for our discussion begins at 15:20.  You can also read her obituary in The Economist here.

Sunday Evening Prayer on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join us on Zoom for a service of prayers and scripture.

This Sunday – 5th Sunday of Easter

This Sunday.

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”   –John 14.1-7

  • What is more important, to be right in what you believe, or to understand some else’s perspective?
  • What legacies have you inherited from people now dead or no longer known to you?
  • What legacy have you generated?
  • Who would you like to support in becoming less fearful?  How might you help with this task?

A legacy is something we leave behind in the world, for good or ill.  Jesus leaves us knowing where he’s going, to be with God.  The legacy he leaves us is a place with God too whom we’re invited to know intimately, even if sometimes uncertain.  Join us Sunday at 6 pm on Zoom (bit.ly/TCZoom) to be with God and with one another as we hear about the importance of legacies, the legacy Jesus leaves us, and the legacy we can make for others. (Download Bulletin) I hope to see you Sunday night.

–Thomas

 

 

This Week – 05/04/2020

This week.

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.      –Psalm 23.6

In our Thursday ‘Theology and Pop Culture’ gathering on Zoom, we talked about the last episode of the first season of the HBO show ‘Deadwood.’ The episode “Sold Under Sin” has a lot of moving parts to it, and I focused on two that I think have relevance for being people of faith.  The first centers on the progression of the brain tumor that afflicts the Rev. Smith, his care (and the prayer to God) by Doc Cochran, and how Al Swearengen decides to ‘assist’ God in providing mercy, or an answer to Doc’s prayer. What counts as mercy?

The second centers on the conflict between political and economic interests, which comes out in the murder of the Chinese man that causes Mr. Wu to go complain to Al Swearengen.  Al’s reply to Wu: “When did you start thinking every wrong had a remedy, Wu?  Did you come to camp for justice, or to make your way?” frames many of our challenges in life.  How do we, how does God, demand justice and seek remedy?

How we understand God’s will, God’s desire, God’s hope for us matters for our choices and our actions.  Are we, like Al Swearengen says, left to find our own mercy and make our own justice?  Or do we trust that, whatever the moment may be, that God will hear us, care about us, and respond.  Israel’s story is walking that tightrope of looking to God for mercy and justice, and looking to create it for yourself.  In this last verse from the 23rd Psalm, a psalm many look to for comfort in times of grief and loss, the hope is expressed for good fortune all the days of our lives.  The hope is to dwell with God here and now, which means security and harmony here and now.  It’s not always easy and it’s not always clear.

There was a particularly beautiful and hopeful ending to that episode we discussed.  Jewel, using the new brace provided for her damaged leg, and Doc Cochran, drunk with anger and grief, dancing away in the Gem Saloon.  Love seems to be our ability to look beyond our hurts and struggles to find something bigger, something more, something which sweeps us up and away to follow us as we dwell with God, as we dwell with one another all our days here and now.

–Thomas

Gathering Online: https://bit.ly/TCZoom

Tuesday Checkin on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join Thomas and Kelley on Zoom. This is a time to check-in or just say hello.

Thursday Theology & Pop Culture on Zoom @ 6 pm 
Join us as we explore our faith through movies and TV shows. This week Kelley will lead the discussion, and you are invited to watch “Hard Times” from Good Omens (S1:E3), especially the first half of the episode. It is available on Amazon Prime.

Sunday Evening Prayer on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join us on Zoom for a service of prayers and scripture.

This Sunday – 4th Sunday of Easter

This Sunday.

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”     –John 10.7-10

  • What would abundant life look like for you?  How would you know when you have it?
  • Is what we have now considered abundant life?
  • Do you find the image of sheep and shepherds helpful in your understanding of God?  What is a helpful image for you?
  • What would it mean if Jesus’ invitation is an idea of abundance which doesn’t see pluses and minuses, but cooperation and sharing?

The priest I worked for at Heavenly Rest in New York was fond of quoting from the solemn collects of Good Friday which refers to the church as a “wonderful and sacred mystery.”  When he used it, it was usually as a way of saying he has no idea what’s going on; “they don’t call it a wonderful and sacred mystery for nothing,” he would say.  Much remains a mystery in life which we struggle to understand sometimes, but I think in our uncertainty and confusion we do better when we’re able to share, whether it’s specific help with something we need or just a friendly and kind person who’s willing to listen.

Join us Sunday at 6 pm on Zoom (bit.ly/TCZoom) to find friendly and kind people who aren’t afraid of the mystery, and are willing to share abundant life whatever it looks like. Download the Sunday bulletin here.

–Thomas