Thursday, September 25, 2008

World Blogging Day for Millennium Development Goals

My stomach is aware that I usually eat at this time. But today at this time I will not eat. I am spending this time praying, fasting and witnessing in solidarity with thousands of others who are united in support of the Millennium Development Goals.

As my stomach grumbles I am remembering the people of Finetown, near Johannesburg, South Africa, who I met this summer. In spite of extreme poverty, living in homes made of cardboard and sheets of tin with outhouses out back and a water faucet down the deeply rutted dirt road from which they carted large plastic containers of water in wheelbarrows (if they were lucky), these lovely people shared their warm hospitality and joy with this stranger. In spite of AIDS and hunger, poverty and violence, these individuals shared their lives with me. The least, the very least I can do is pray, fast and witness.

O God open our eyes to see those in need. Open our hands to give to those in need. Open our hearts to care for those who are poor and in need, and to care for Mother Earth. Open our ears to hear the cries of women and men who are victims of rape, mutilation and terror. Break open our lives to love our global neighbors as ourselves and to care for this earth, our island home
. Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sept. 25: Pray. Fast. Witness.

In solidarity with people of faith throughout the world and in response to the Anglican Communion's call, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation invites you to commit tomorrow - Thursday, September 25 to:

+Pray. Say prayers with special intention for the extreme poor throughout the world.

+Fast. Skip at least one meal in solidarity with the nearly 1 billion people who go to bed hungry each night. (As possible depending on health ... consult your doctor if in doubt)
Click here for information about giving the money you would have spent on the meal(s) you skip to ERD's MDG Inspiration Fund.

+Witness. Participate in an online advocacy action promoting our government's fulfilling its promises to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Statehood for Washington, DC - PLEASE!!

The District of Columbia needs to become a state so that we are not governed by the Federal Government. Our citizens are being overlooked as the House of Representatives and possibly Senators with the President's backing EASE gun control regulations in DC.

From the Washington Post:
"The House bill would abolish the city's gun registration requirements and allow residents to own semiautomatic pistols and rifles. It also would allow District residents to buy guns in Virginia and Maryland and would prohibit the council from taking any action to "discourage or eliminate" private ownership or use of firearms. "

You've got to be kidding me! In the Nation's Capital, which already has a high crime rate, the government is going to allow residents to own semiautomatic pistols and rifles!!!

We need our statehood so we can govern ourselves. Then hopefully this type of legislation would never become law.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sermon - Constance & Her Companions 9.9.08

Texts - Psalm 116:1-8; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; John 12:24-28

Hear again Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ.”

This is considered to be the most eloquent passage on comfort in the entire New Testament. Paul notes that all comfort comes from God who, whenever God’s children experience sufferings and hardships, provides abundant consolation through Christ.

Paul, in this pericope, uses the words ‘paraklesis’ or ‘parakaleo’ ten times. This word is translated as consolation, appeal and comfort. Comfort – a feel-good word that describes for us a sense of well-being, physical ease, freedom from pain and anxiety. And yet, the meaning of Comfort is much more empowering. Comfort comes from the root ‘fortis’, which means to fortify or strengthen in heart, mind and soul. “Comfort relates to encouragement, help, and exhortation. God’s comfort strengthens weak knees and sustains sagging spirits so that one faces the troubles of life with unbending resolve and unending assurance.”
[1] Comfort is what we seek when we pray “grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart through Christ our Lord.”

Today we commemorate Constance and her Companions, commonly known as “The Martyrs of Memphis.” During August of 1878 Yellow Fever invaded the city of Memphis for the third time in ten years. While more than half of the citizens fled the city, nearly 20,000 people remained. At the height of the epidemic the death toll averaged 200 people a day. When the worst of the epidemic was over ninety percent of the population had contracted Yellow Fever and more than 5,000 people had died.

Constance, the Superior of the Sisters of St. Mary in Memphis, and her sisters remained to care for those affected by the epidemic. They were joined by three physicians, two of whom were ordained Episcopal priests, as well as several volunteer nurses from New York. They worked out of the Cathedral buildings that were located in the most infected region of Memphis. From these buildings the women and men of God gave relief to the sick, comfort to the dying and homes to the many orphaned children.

AIDS is today’s epidemic. In the Diocese of Christ the King, South Africa, AIDS affects more than 18 % of the population – predominantly the poorest of the poor, the most vulnerable and the defenseless.

During my visit there this summer I witnessed a heart-wrenching conversation between Nandi, the Diocesan AIDS Coordinator, and the mother of a young woman with AIDS. The mother had recently learned that her daughter’s AIDS might have been prevented had she not discouraged her daughter from reporting the rape. But she was ashamed of the rape and fearful of the reaction from her community so she refused to seek treatment for her daughter; treatment which she recently learned would have included anti-viral drugs that most likely would have prevented HIV & AIDS. Now, several years later, AIDS is slowly killing her daughter. Nandi, through her words and actions, provided this Mother with comfort and consolation, strengthening her in heart, mind and soul, and empowering her to share her story so that others will not experience the same fate.

We will all encounter opportunities, during our time at seminary, CPE, fieldwork and other ministries, to provide comfort and consolation to others who need to be strengthened in heart, mind and soul. We ourselves may encounter times when we need to receive comfort and strength. My friends, remember Constance and her companions, as well as Nandi, and know that the God of all consolation will comfort us and strengthen us and will empower us to comfort those who are in any affliction through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[1] David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians of New American Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999, p. 60.
[2] Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006. New York: Church Publishing Company, 2006, p.370.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Chapel Team Week

Week two of senior year and I've finally engaged! On hindsight I realize I've had more difficulty with 're-entry' than I thought or expected. While I successfully made it through the 3-week immersion in Greek which began a short 48 hours after returning from South Africa, I did not lock into my new schedule and responsibilities when the semester started after Labor Day! So this weekend I spent a significant amount of time getting a hold of things including my schedule, 'to do list', and upcoming deadlines.

The most important set of responsibilites this week revolves around Chapel Team! I am serving on a team with Juniors, Middlers and another Senior, as well as a Faculty Advisor. We lead daily Morning Prayer and the Wednesday Noonday Eucharist for the seminary community. Today I was the greeter; tomorrow I read the lesson from Job; Weds AM I officiate; Weds Noon I chalice; and Thurs I read the lesson from the New Testament. As I senior I am invited to preach at a noonday Eucharist during Chapel Team Week. I accepted the invitation and will stand in the seminary pulpit tomorrow at noon and share the Good News!! The text is II Corinthians 1:3-5. The thesis is that God comforts us, a.k.a. strengthens us, so we are strengthened to comfort others. Prayers are appreciated!