This Week – 04/06/2020

This week.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, 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.    –The Book of Common Prayer, Ash Wednesday service

This week, those of you on Facebook are likely to see your feed filled up with churches attempting to ‘do’ Holy Week services in a variety of ways.  Some will be, like we will, pre-recorded and from our homes; some will be as close to ‘normal’ as they can get while observing social distancing.  Some will endeavor to recreate what you would see if these weren’t the times they are as churches, big and little, near and far, do Holy Week.

But what if the invitation to Lent, to Holy Week, this year isn’t about doing anything?  What if the invitation is to stop worrying about questions like ‘how do we do it right?’ or ‘how can we make what’s supposed to happen, happen?’  What if, we’re just supposed to read the story, hear the story, and then find where we are in the story?  What if all we’re supposed to do is cease trying to make everything fun, or exciting, or entertaining, or a spectacle, and just hear the story?

Old habits are hard to break and the church has been hearing and liturgically engaging with the last week of Jesus’ earthly life ever since the end of the 4thcentury.  Doing church, by which most people mean offering a liturgical worship service, is a hard habit to break.  But notice in that invitation to a holy Lent what we’re invited into is all about finding a way to connect that part of our lives which is so caught up in doing, achieving, performing, that we miss the real power comes in what we do inside ourselves: praying, examining our lives, learning to make do with less and by loving more.  This is what Jesus came to show us by his whole life, not just one week in Jerusalem; my hope for you this week is to read and listen to the story in a different way this year.  If that’s by watching one of our videos or another church then great; but I hope, if nothing else, you’ll just sit and read Exodus 12.1-14 and John 13.1-17, 31b-35 on Thursday.  That you’ll read Isaiah 52.13-53.12 and John 18.1-19.42 on Friday.  That you’ll read Exodus 14.10-31,15.20-21; Ezekiel 37.1-14 and Matthew 28.1-10 on Saturday evening.  And if you can’t join us Easter Sunday at 6 pm on Zoom then I hope you’ll read Isaiah 25.6-9 and Luke 24.13-49 Sunday evening.

What I hope you hear is the story of God with us, and that, this year, while not doing anything, you’ll hear the ‘with us’ part a little more clearly and distinctly.

–Thomas

Gathering Online

Tuesday Checkin on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join Thomas and Kelley on Zoom. This is a time to check-in or just say hello. https://bit.ly/TCZoom
Maundy Thursday on Facebook @ 6 pm
Join us on our Facebook page (fb.com/trinitycommonsepiscopal) as we begin our Triduum worship with a service of prayers and scripture for Maundy Thursday. You can get the bulletin here.
Good Friday on Facebook @ 12 pm
Join us on our Facebook page (fb.com/trinitycommonsepiscopal) as we continue our Triduum worship with a service of prayers and scripture for Good Friday. You can get the bulletin here.
Stations of the Cross on Facebook @ 3 pm
Join us on our Facebook page (fb.com/trinitycommonsepiscopal) as we join in the Stations of the Cross across the diocese. You can get the bulletin here.
Easter Vigil on Facebook @ 7 pm
Join us on our Facebook page (fb.com/trinitycommonsepiscopal) as we conclude our Triduum worship and offer the first celebration of Easter with a service of prayers and scripture for the Easter Vigil. You can get the bulletin here.
Easter Sunday on Zoom @ 6 pm
Join us on Zoom for a service of prayers and scripture as we celebrate Easter. You can get the bulletin herehttps://bit.ly/TCZoom

This Sunday – Palm Sunday

This Sunday

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”     –Matthew 21.6-10

  • Can you remember a time when you felt like a success, and you were ready to celebrate?  What made you feel successful?
  • Who is someone you look up to or admire?  What is it about them that inspires you?
  • Do you ever think that maybe God is closer to the folks who weren’t able to enter into Jerusalem, than with those happy ones who were already in?
  • What is the message of Palm Sunday?

Funny thing (well, not really so funny at all), but we’re not going to process or parade around together to remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem this year.  And frankly, maybe that’s for the best; I’m not sure Jesus really wanted this spectacle.  There’s something which connects with me this year as I hear that question at the end of this passage: ‘who is this?’  Who is this, indeed, and what are we doing, now and this week?

Join us Sunday at 6 pm on Zoom for Evening Prayer (download the bulletin) and to reflect on Palm Sunday by asking ourselves that question, ‘who is this’ and in asking that question we may find an answer to the question ‘who are we?’

–Thomas

This Week – 03/30/2020

This week.

The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
–Isaiah 50.7

I’ve been thinking a lot about this passage from Isaiah which we’re going to hear this Sunday, Palm Sunday.  Flint was rock, basically, easily crafted into use as a knife or sharp tool. Flint was something central for individuals and society to survive.  While the survival of our society isn’t ultimately in danger, there is something important about what it ultimately means to survive.

COVID-19 has, I suspect, made us all a little more aware of what we need to survive, what we can do without, and what we can’t do without.  As Palm Sunday approaches, I’d like you to consider that this liturgical celebration is meant to do just that as well; focus our attention. This isn’t going to be the usual Palm Sunday and Holy Week, but I suspect it’ll be one that, if only for the week, takes on a new significance for us.

If you haven’t joined us yet on Sunday night at 6 pm for Evening Prayer I hope you will.  We can, following Isaiah’s example, all be set like flint, to be a useful and important means for the prosperity of someone else, maybe even ourselves.  While we all need reminders, the reminder of Holy Week is to become what you are capable of being, and to live into your nature as the holy people of God.   We do that best when we do it together.

–Thomas

 

This Week on Zoom at https://bit.ly/TCZoom

Tuesday at 6 pm – Check-in
Join Thomas and Kelley on Zoom. This is a time to check-in or just say hello.
Thursday at 5 pm – Lenten Series  
We will gather via Zoom to continue our discussion of Money and Possessions by taking a look at the Book of Revelation.
Sunday at 6 pm – Palm Sunday Evening Prayer
Join us for Evening Prayer and time to check-in.

This Sunday – Fifth Sunday in Lent

This Sunday

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”    –John 11.17-27

  • What loss do you experience in your life now and you mourn its loss?
  • Who is someone close to you that shares the pain of loss?
  • What do you think Jesus is asking of Martha?  What is he asking of you?
  • Do you ever wish God would ‘fix’ the things that are wrong in our world?  Why do you think God doesn’t?

This passage begins with us being told “Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany.” Illness is something we’re all too familiar with these days; but we’re also told who Lazarus’ family was, about his sisters Mary and Martha.  We’re told where he came from, Bethany.  We’re told why all these details are important, because they’re about human life.  While we remain separated, we’re still people with lives who find relationships important and sustaining in the midst of loss and fear.

Join us Sunday at 6 pm on Zoom (http://bit.ly/TCZoom) to gather with others who know loss and fear but also look to Jesus to be with us as we’re with one another. Download the bulletin here.

–Thomas

This Week – 03/23/2020

This week.

“What we do in a particular liturgy must come from within—not some decorative element that we apply from outside.  The heart of authentic liturgy is always the inner reality of faith embodied, using fragile human forms that are our stewardship of the gifts of grace.”  –Louis Weil

Often, when I’m asked what is an Episcopalian, I find myself referring to the Book of Common Prayer.  There’s no getting away from how foundational worship is to the identity of Episcopalians as a part of the Anglican heritage.  Where our theology is most apparent, where our hearts and minds are directed, where beauty and joy are to be found, is most deeply expressed in the liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this book, and these liturgies, as we clergy types find ourselves struggling, burdened, frantic, with ways to connect the people together without the use of our buildings.

It is as if we are the blind man in the gospel we heard on the 4th Sunday in Lent (John 9.1-41).  We’re grieving what we no longer have, we’re trapped by an experience in which there’s no clearly defined end, and we’re unable to see a way forward.  Lent can be like that; life can be like that.  Jesus heals that blind man by the simple gesture of a loving gesture and the invitation to trust in what God will do.  Our Eucharist, our evening prayer, our compline, all of our worship together is a recognition that God can help us to see too, and what we see is that we belong, that we have a way forward, and that we can help each other.

The truth is all times in our lives are uncertain; none of us know what the next day will bring and moments like this remind us of how little control we ultimately have over the things that we’d like to have control over.  But it’s an invitation to see clearly what does matter, who does matter, and why they matter.  You matter to God, and in times of physical distancing, we can still gather together on Zoom to remember those prayers create us and form us to be people who see clearly.  I hope to see you with us this week as we gather together on Zoom.

–Thomas

 

This Week on Zoom at https://bit.ly/TCZoom

Tuesday at 6 pm – Check-in
Join Thomas and Kelley on Zoom. This is a time to check-in or just say hello.
Thursday at 5 pm – Lenten Series 
We will gather via Zoom to continue our discussion of Money and Possessions by taking a look at the Gospels.
Sunday at 6 pm – Evening Prayer
Join us for Evening Prayer and time to check-in.

This Sunday – Fourth Sunday in Lent

This Sunday

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”     –John 9.1-5

  • Have you ever spent time with someone you thought you knew, only to find out something which helped you see and understand them in a new way?  What changed for you
  • How do you think others see you?  How do you see yourself?
  • What might God be choosing you to do or accomplish today?  What might God be asking you to see differently today?
  • Does God still perform miracles?

What do you see around you in our world right now?  Are you afraid, anxious, confident, determined?  What do you see in those around you; how are they doing?  Jesus invites us to see with different eyes, or to awaken to some things we thought we knew and understood which need adjustment.  We live in a time of a lot of adjustments, don’t we?

Join us via Zoom (bit.ly/TCZoom) on Sunday at 6 pm for Evening Prayer, a reflection on what Jesus invites us to see, and some check-in time to see how you’re doing. You can download our bulletin here. We’re all seeing things a little differently and are uncertain as to how long this will last, but we can still get together to hear, share, and hopefully see things anew.

–Thomas

This Week – 03/16/2020

This week.

Well, this wasn’t the way this was supposed to go.  I’m not sure what you expected from this semester but I’m willing to bet it wasn’t this.  As with any disruption, I wonder what you’re feeling, what you’re dealing with, and what you need right now.  We can still stay connected, you may always call, text, email, message us for anything you need, or if you just want to talk.  Using Zoom, we’ll continue to gather on Sundays at 6 pm and say Evening Prayer (BCP, page 115); we’ll have time each Tuesday at 6 pm for check-in, a chance, just like we do on campus, to come if you want to and share what’s going on with you.  We’ll continue our Lenten series ‘Money and Possessions’ each Thursday at 5 pm.  This isn’t the way it was supposed to go; but we can continue to connect, share, and be a community of faith with one another. Links are listed at the end of this email.

Social distancing doesn’t mean isolation but staying connected is requiring a new way of life.  Uncertainty is hard, and when we don’t know when or how life will get back to normal we begin to grieve what we’ve lost.  In one of the more important lines from our service of burial the priest (or bishop) says, “for to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended.”  Life is indeed changed and it’s not ended.  We still need to carry on with life but in new ways, in ways that demand creativity, in ways that inspire conversation.  We need a human touch and a human voice to remind us we’re not alone; and we need to remember that God hasn’t forgotten us or abandoned us when our lives get turned upside down.

A friend recently joked to me saying, of all the congregations yours is the best suited to this new way of communication.  While you are far more tech-savvy than older generations, in the days to come I suspect you’ll miss gathering together on campus, in dorms, apartments, at your jobs, even in class.  You’ll miss the rituals of college life, and for those of you graduating, a chance to be recognized for your hard work and achievement.  This is a hard time and Jesus teaches us that in hard times we do best when we remember God is with us and we should be with one another.

I hope to see you on Tuesday, thanks to Zoom; and I hope you’ll let us know what you need, how we can help, if a prayer needs to be said, or if you just want to talk about a show you’ve seen or a book you’ve read.  Life is changed, not ended; and together, as God’s people have always done, we can move forward in trust and hope knowing we’re not alone.

–Thomas

This Week On Zoom

Tuesday at 6 pm – Check-in
Thomas and Kelley will be on Zoom beginning at 6 pm. Drop-in and say hello: https://zoom.us/j/821152763.
Thursday at 5 pm – Lenten Series
We will gather via Zoom to continue our discussion on Money and Possessions by taking a look at the letters of Paul. We will post this link soon!
Sunday 6 pm – Evening Prayer
Join us for Evening Prayer and a time to check-in via Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/554598167.

This Sunday – Responding to COVID-19

This Sunday

Friends,

One of the reasons we return again and again to scripture for guidance, solace, and instruction are the many stories which help remind us that God is present, understands our fears and hopes, as well as responds to our cries for help or mercy. It’s easy to forget when we’re anxious, confused, and uncertain about where our life may lead. Scripture points us back to God as someone who understands us and is alongside us when we’re prone thinking we’ve been abandoned and are alone.

As your schools wrestle with the best way to keep you and your loved ones safe while still offering you instruction to finish the semester, I invite you to trust that God continues with you on your journey, wherever it may be and wherever it may take you.  There is an abundance of caution being practiced, as well as an effort to minimize and contain the spread of COVID-19; we are on a new journey, but it’s still a journey best done together.

At Trinity Commons, and for Episcopal Campus Ministry in Birmingham, we are following the directions of your school administration and the Diocese of Alabama.  This Sunday, March 15, we will not gather at Trinity Commons for our 6 pm Eucharist and supper; we will offer Evening Prayer at 6 pm via Zoom and continue to do so until further notice.  I hope you join us on this platform for prayer, conversation, and an opportunity to stay connected.  On Tuesdays at 6 pm we will offer TC Tuesday via Zoom; this will be a chance to just connect, share, hangout for a while if there’s anything on your mind and you’d like a chance to connect with the group.  Our Thursday Lenten series will continue at 5 pm, also via Zoom.

Here is the link to join us this Sunday at 6 pm for worship: https://zoom.us/j/554598167.

We will send out the links for the other meetings on Monday.

While prayer and worship are important, it’s equally important for you to get the help you need in a difficult time.  We are working to arrange some assistance for students who need help, so if there is food you need, help with some financial hardship, dealing with medical concerns or issues, we will work to meet that need; please let us know how we can help you should you find yourself in a time of need.  As always we continue to be available for conversation and pastoral care, either in person, by text, email, phone, or video chat.  We urge you to stay up to date on information about this virus, take COVID-19 seriously, and to monitor and report any symptoms to your doctor.

In our own journey into uncertain times we’re still here to support you, to listen to you, and to guide you. In this wilderness time of Lent we find uncertainty, just as Israel did both in exodus from Egypt and in exile in Babylon, and the relief of connection with God as the Samaritan woman at the well in the noonday heat found with Jesus. Wilderness experiences are rarely easy but they usually offer important lessons worth remembering; in this wilderness season remember you are not alone and do not be afraid.

–Thomas & Kelley

This Week – 03/09/2020

This week.

For who has despised the day of small things?
–Zechariah 4.10 (Robert Alter translation)

When we think about Lent the concept of delight isn’t the first thing we typically think about.  But Lent is about changing our perspective, and finding delight is all about seeing the people around us and our situation with a different perspective.  Delight is about seeing abundance over deficit, opportunity over stagnation, relationship over isolation, and joy over happiness.  Delight is moving beyond our expectations of how things should be to open ourselves up to the surprise of what we encounter.  Delight is about taking time, avoiding the need to rush, moving beyond urgency and hurry, in order to be present in the experience right in front of us.  This Tuesday we’ll encounter this concept of delight as we experience a chance to connect with people looking with us for hope.

Hope doesn’t have to come in big ways, but by little things, little gestures, the ‘day of small things’ as the prophet Zechariah put it.  Those who ignore, disregard, and dismiss humble gestures or the very first steps of any opportunity don’t appreciate how important a small gesture, a humble beginning can be; great things are done by the day of small things.  Hope begins with a willingness to listen, to show compassion, and to offer our most precious commodity: time.

This Tuesday we’ll meet at Trinity Commons at 4 pm and walk (or carpool if it’s raining) over to UAB hospital where our friend the Rev. Malcolm Marler with introduce us into a way of offering hope and sharing in delight with others.  We’ll offer Prayers to Go at UAB hospital, which is a way of offering a prayer for someone who needs it, and find the power of delight in connection in a time of anxiety and uncertainty.  Prayers are always welcome, and being a part of this will probably take you out of your comfort zone and that’s ok.  Lent is about seeing with new eyes, and delight comes when we slow down and engage in the experience.  Prayer is a small thing but from this willingness to connect and name our needs before God we’ll find delight, offer hope, and experience a whole new way of seeing the world.

–Thomas

On Campus

Tuesdays at BSC
We will be on Campus hanging our in front of the Caf beginning about 9 am. Join us for a Holy Eucharist in Yielding Chapel at 11:45 am, and then for lunch in the Caf after.
Wednesdays at Samford 
Enjoy your Spring Break! We look forward to seeing you when you get back!
Thursdays at UAB
We’ll be in the Hill Center from 10 am to 3 pm. Come by and have a coffee, or lunch, or for a chat or a prayer, or just to say hello.

At Trinity Commons

Tuesday, 4 pm, Prayers-to-Go @ UAB
We will meet at Trinity Commons at 4 pm and then walk or carpool (depending on weather) to UAB Hospital. Or you can meet us at the Pastoral Care office at UAB Hospital.

Thursday, 5 pm, Money & Possessions Lenten Series
Join us at Trinity Commons as we continue our discussion of Money & Possessions. This time we will explore what the Prophets have to tell us.

This Sunday – 2nd Sunday in Lent

This Sunday

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”
–John 3.1

  • Can you name a teacher who made a deep impact on you, or helped open your eyes to something you hadn’t seen?
  • How do you learn best: by doing, by seeing, by figuring it out on your own?
  • I wonder what Jesus might have to teach you?
  • What might God be trying to help you understand about yourself and your life with God today?

Learning new things can be tricky for some people.  But learning something new can open us to something we might be missing.  God wants us to learn that we’re valuable, included, an important part of what God is doing in and through us.  If you’ve been looking for a new start, a chance to learn something new, then join us at Trinity Commons for Eucharist and supper this Sunday at 6 pm.  We’ll welcome our friend from St. Mary’s-on-the Highlands, the Rev. Danielle Thompson, and enjoy supper thanks to the youth group from St. Mary’s.

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

–Thomas