Thursday, February 28, 2013

Flunking Sainthood - Week 2

The two chapters we were looking at this week were Finding God in Daily Things and Lectio Divina.

The first practice is centered around doing everything that you can with the intention of finding God in it.  Find God in making dinner, find God in baking bread, find God in making the beds, find God in hanging out the wash.  You get the idea.  Pay attention to what you are doing and do everything to the glory of God.

The second practice is the reading of the Bible as prayer itself.  Done intentionally over time it is possible to pray a small passage of scripture for a long time.  We don't read like this too much any more- but with practice it can open whole new meanings from even familiar passages.

One of the things that struck me this week is that these - and all the other spiritual practices - seem to be perfectly designed to help people find God in the midst of life as it was lived for most of human history up to about 70 years ago.

Most people spent most of their time on the daily tasks of making food and clothing and shelter and getting fuel to make food and clothing and shelter.  For most people, even today for most people on earth, life has limited choices, the same tasks every day, and lived close to the edge of not having enough.  In those circumstances the "traditional" spiritual disciplines serve to use the reality of daily life as a way to draw us closer to God.  In a way they point to the presence of God in the midst of daily life.

For most of us that is no longer what life is like.  Our lives are composed of abundance, endless choices, global connectedness and the constant presence of others either virtually or in reality or both.  What would spiritual practices would point the way to the presence of God in the midst of our daily life.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Flunking Sainthood - part one

Along with the rest of the Diocese of Western New York, St. Paul's is reading Flunking Sainthood by Jana Reiss.

The book is the memior of the journey of the author as she tries a different spiritual practice each month.

The first chapter lays out the premise - that a different practice will be tried each month, that she will look at some of the writing about that practice and that she will blog about it.

I was really struck by her reflection on the scene from Exodus where the people of Israel are given the 10 commandments and reply "All that you have said we will do and hear" and that through the centuries the rabbis have taught that we can't really hear God until we have tried to do what God calls us to.

I've been really reflecting on that - words take on more and deeper meanings where there is experiance that connects with them.  I can listen to someone talk about the Grand Canyon, for example, but having travelled down to the bottom myself, I hear the story differently.  It's one of the reasons I like our cycle of readings.  When the Gospel reading from three years ago comes up again, I hear it differently because I've had different experiances since I preached on it the last time.

The first month of her practice is February and she picks fasting. 

One of the things I remember being taught about fasting is that one of the original purposes of fasting in the Christian world was to try to live like the poor.  To eat what the poor ate.  That got me thinking about what the poor eat in our world.  It isn't fish anymore, it certainly isn't vegetables, at any rate fresh vegetables.  Actually the poor in our world tend to eat canned and processed food because it's what available and what they can afford.  

I wonder what a fast would be like if we tried to eat like the poor today.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ashes to Go

This is the Rev. Sare Anuszkiewicz and I out in front of the church yesterday during our Ashes to Go.

We had 70 people drive in for ashes.  A few were our own parishioners who couldn't make it to church but more than 60 were people who weren't a part of St. Paul's.  We prayed with them, imposed ashes and gave them our Lent brochure and some prayers they could say at home.

My favorite story was the mother who pulled in with her teenage daughter, then about an hour later came back with her 4 or 5 year old.  They had gotten home and the little girl was upset that she didn't have ashes too. 

I think next year we will add morning hours as well - one of the things I learned is that I need a couple of people to help direct traffic, greet people and hand out the prayers.  So look for your chance to help next year.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lent is coming

Lent is a time of preparation for Easter.  For more than 1,000 years Christians have spent the six weeks before Easter in special study, prayer and fasting in order to be prepared for the most holy day of the Church Year – Easter Day.

Ash Wednesday

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday – this year Ash Wednesday is February 13.  On Ash Wednesday we impose ashes – made from blessed palms on the forehead as a reminder that we are all mortal and that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  We will have two services on Ash Wednesday.  One at Noon and one at 7 p.m.    We will also be participating in “Ashes to Go” this year.  If you wish to receive Ashes but don’t have time for a full service – Ashes will be available from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the kitchen door – just drive around the back of the church.

 Giving Something Up

Giving something up for Lent is a traditional type of fast.  People usually pick something that is an extra and give it up for the 40 days of Lent.   Often giving up an extra is accompanied by giving the money that would have been spent on that item to charity.  Sundays are feast days and not part of the season of Lent so many people do not fast on Sunday.  Some common things that people give up are: chocolate, ice cream, red meat, alcohol and eating out.

Daily Prayers

Many people add daily prayers to their schedule during Lent.  Prayers can be added at the beginning of the day, at noon, in the early evening or at the end of the day or any of the above.  There are short prayer services in the Book of Common Prayer. At the web-site you can find some prayer services that can be down loaded to an e-reader.  If you want some brief reflections for each day pick up a Forward Day by Day booklet from the back of the church, the rack across from the ladies room or the shelf in the office.


Many people take on some kind of study during Lent.  This Lent we are reading the book Flunking Sainthood by Jena Reiss.  It’s the story of her attempt to try a different spiritual practice every month for a year and how she did with it. The book is available for $10.  Let Pastor Vicki know if you want one. We are gathering to study the book at two different times:  Sunday mornings from 9:15 – 9:45 February 17 – March 17

Wednesday evenings from 6:45 – 7:15 – February 20 – March 20. Evening prayer will be said in the church from 6:30 – 6:45 on  those Wednesdays

Quiet Morning

We will also have a Lent Quiet morning on Saturday February 16 from 9:30 – Noon.   The morning will be made up of several different kinds of prayer and spiritual practices.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ashes to Go

I have to say that I am very pleased with the front page coverage that Ashes to Go got in this morning's Buffalo News.

Here's the link if you haven't seen it.

Ashes to Go

One of the things that I love about Ashes to Go is that it is the Church responding with what we do best - pointing the way to the Holy in our daily lives - and at the same time adapting it to what our daily lives look like in 2013. 

The best part about this is that it is a perfect example of "both and" or parallel development.

We are continuing to offer the regular Ash Wedensday liturgy at noon and 7 p.m. for those of us who want the Eucharist and the full experiance of taking real time for prayer and contemplation.  And we are offering Ashes for those who want to respond to the Holy but who can't or won't come to a full service. 

This is what we are talking about when we talk about reaching out in new ways to new groups of people.  We have to keep doing what we do that feeds those of us who are here now and we also need to find new ways to point to God in the lives of people who need something different.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Jacob, Laban, Esau and God

We pick up the story with Jacob deciding that he is ready to leave his father-in-law and go back to his own land.  But Laban convinces him to stay and cuts a deal with him to divide the flocks based on whether they are speckled or not and the lambs based on whether they are black or white. 

Laban attempts to trick Jacob and Jacob attempts to trick Laban - these two seem to deserve each other.

After six years Jacob decides that he's leaving - so he sneaks out.  On their way out Rachel steals her father's household idols - in the parlance of the time stealing the blessing of his house.

Laban takes off after Jacob and catches him and gives him what for both for sneaking away and for taking his idols.  Jacob says - hey go ahead and search.  Laban searches but doesn't find the idols because Rachel is sitting on them and excuses herself from getting up by telling her father that it is that time of the month.

Laban and Jacob make peace and go their separate ways.  Jacob is now out of the Laban frying pan, but he has the fire of his brother Esau ahead of him.

He sends out a messanger who says that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men.  Jacob figures he's in trouble.  So he divides his company in two so that at least one might have a chance to get away.  He sends out lots of livestock as a gift to his brother and waits.

We have a story added in there - that probably comes from an earlier source - where Jacob wrestles with a man who is either an angel or God - the man wins by putting Jacob's hip out of joint and gives him the name Israel - that literally means "contends with God"

In the morning Jacob finally meets his brother and they agree to live in peace.