Prayer for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Ordinary Time)

Der Sonntagsspaziergang (The Sunday Walk) by Carl Spitzweg , c. 1865.

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of this redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

Unless otherwise noted, prayers come from the Book of Common Prayer, Revised Common Lectionary.

Prayers posted during Ordinary Time will feature art that is often not specifically religious, but art for arts sake. Enjoy!

Saint of the Week – Thomas Gallaudet

Thomas Gallaudet (1822–1902)

Thomas Gallaudet (1822–1902)

This week’s saint might not have a long a fraught story like some of the saints I have featured. The story may also be short but his work for the church is unique and I think it is worth recognizing. It’s easy to get caught up in the big stories and miss the smaller moments of grace and gracious people who help reveal them.

This week’s saint is Thomas Gallaudet and life is remembered in the Episcopal church on August 27th.

The father of Thomas Gallaudet was also (and confusingly) named Thomas Gallaudet. He had wanted to become a priest and professional minister. However his plans changed by a chance encounter with a deaf and mute child by the name of Alice Cogswell. This led the senior Thomas Gallaudet out of professional ministry and down a path that would see him opening the first school for the deaf and mute in America. At the school Thomas Gallaudet senior met Sophia Fowler who was also deaf and they married. Sophia Fowler would work to help found what would later become Gallaudet University which was the first institute of higher learning for deaf and mute students. It was into this work around education of deaf and mute children that Thomas Gallaudet junior was born on June 3, 1822.

The junior Thomas Gallaudet graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He, like his father, also had planned to enter professional ministry. However, at the encouragement of his father, Thomas Gallaudet junior began teaching at the New York Institution for Deaf Mutes. It was here that he would also meet his wife, Elizabeth Budd, who was deaf.

After teaching at the New York Institution for Deaf Mutes Thomas Gallaudet junior wanted to fulfill his dream of being a professional minister. He was ordained in the Episcopal church in 1851 and the next year would go on to found St. Ann’s Church in New York. Church services at St. Ann’s were focused primarily towards deaf and mute parishioners and services were mainly communicated in sign language. Along with the church, Thomas would continue his work with the deaf and mute community and even helped found a home for older and disabled deaf and mute people in 1872.

A student of Thomas and member of his church, Henry Winter Syle, was also deaf and had attended Trinity College, St. John’s College in England and Yale. At the encouragement of Thomas, Henry Syle would go on to become the first deaf ordained priest in the Episcopal church in 1884. Henry would later found a church for the deaf in 1888.

“But the more we think of the whole matter, the clearer we shall see that sounds are outward symbols of ideas, as well as signs, and that in the sight of God for the benefit of His silent children, the language of motion is the real, genuine method of conducting a service, whether it be sacramental or otherwise.”
Thomas Gallaudet, from his sermon The Language of Motion preached at the ordination of Henry Syle

Because of Thomas’ work, many congregations began that focused mainly on serving the deaf and mute population. Also because of his devotion to communicating the gospel to the deaf and mute community, many churches include a sign language interpreter during services. Thomas Gallaudet died on August 27, 1902.

May we, like Thomas Gallaudet, see that the church is and should be open to all regardless of disability. May we be open to all forms of communication of the gospel, even when vocal words cannot be used. May we realize that the miracle of Pentecost includes even those who cannot hear the words but can see the tongues of fire through motion of hands. May we welcome our deaf and mute brothers and sisters with open arms and see the beauty in their worship. While they may be silent, their words through motion still rise as a sweet fragrance to God.

 

More Information and References:
Mission St. Clare – Thomas Gallaudet
Wikipedia – Thomas Gallaudet
Project Canterbury - Thomas Gallaudet

The Real Choice That Adam and Eve Made

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil by Gustav Dore.

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil by Gustav Dore.

I recently found my mind wandering back to the first chapters in Genesis. As I mentioned in a earlier post, not too long ago I finished reading the Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton so maybe that is why I keep going back to this story. It is such a dense and rich narrative and I think it’s easy to overlook or oversimplify what is really going on there. What got me thinking this week was the choice God gave Adam and Eve between the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In my various Sunday school classes and/or Bible studies, I do not really recall much discussion around the choice of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil over the Tree of Life. Discussions mainly circled around disobedience, not trusting God and the idea of original sin. Obviously, there’s more to Adam and Eve’s choice than just disobedience. The trees would not have been given significant names if this was simply a story about disobedience and sin.

The real issue is not that Adam and Eve disobeyed God (although they certainly did), the real issue is revealed in their choice of food. They chose to ingest the Knowledge of Good and Evil instead of ingesting Life. Through the prodding of the serpent, Adam and Eve chose Knowledge of Good and Evil so that they might be like God. Because God had told Adam and Eve to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God removed them from the Garden and prevented them from ever eating again from the Tree of Life.

“The human being has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” Now, so he doesn’t stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever, the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to farm the fertile land from which he was taken.
Genesis 3:22-23 (CEB)

With their new found knowledge, Adam and Eve almost immediately begin determining what is good and what is evil. They then go through all sorts of actions and weak mental aerobics to attempt to make things appear good again.

Adam and Eve decide that being naked is not good, so they cover up to appear good again.

When God asks Adam what happened, he decides that it was really Eve who disobeyed and not him. Adam essentially calls Eve “not good.”

When God asks Eve about what Adam says, Eve points to the serpent saying it was all his fault. Eve shifts the “not good-ness” to the serpent.

After they are expelled we get the story of Cain and Abel. Cain gets jealous of Abel’s offerings to God and decides that he will kill Abel so that his offerings might be received as good.

And the story spirals out of control from there as people go about deciding what is good and what is evil. Generally, seeing themselves as always good and other people are evil or have done evil to them. The sad point of the story is that God spends the whole first chapter of Genesis creating and calling the elements of creation good. Then, rather than take that to heart, humans choose to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. Even up to the present day we spend a lot of our time attempting to make the same distinction. When we choose to figure out for ourselves what is good and what is evil, often life get’s thrown by the wayside. All of the major conflicts throughout the world have, at a very basic level, been conflicts over what one side considers good and what another considers evil.

It should not be that surprising that death enters into the world once we have the knowledge and power to determine what is good and what is evil.

Jesus then, as the second Adam comes along and attempts to right the ship. Jesus demonstrates what it means to truly understand the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In his temptation story Jesus does what Adam and Eve did not. Even after his ascription as the “Son of God” by God, Jesus’ temptation is to essentially act “like God” for his own benefit. Turning rocks into bread, having angels save him or having all the armies in the world are all temptations for Jesus to be “like God” as Adam and Eve were. Jesus resists by quoting the Law and demonstrating that life is more than being “like God” and knowing what is good and what is evil.

Attempting to be “like God” only leads to death. Knowing God and loving what God has called good leads to life.

Jesus not only shows us the right way to live in the world but truly leads us back to the Tree of Life which the book of Revelation says is also is for “the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). Those nations that have been bitterly divided since we decided to choose for ourselves what was good and what was evil.

I pray we choose life.

Prayer for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Ordinary Time)

Party in vineyard by Ivan Generalic, 1970.

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Unless otherwise noted, prayers come from the Book of Common Prayer, Revised Common Lectionary.

Prayers posted during Ordinary Time will feature art that is often not specifically religious, but art for arts sake. Enjoy!

Saint of the Week – Victoire Rasoamanarivo

Victoire Rasoamanarivo, 1848-1894

Victoire Rasoamanarivo, 1848-1894

For this week’s saint we are going to be looking a part of the world and the Church that probably does not get much attention. For today’s story we will spin the globe and drop our finger on the west African island of Madagascar. I doubt for many of us that Madagascar is the first place to come to mind when thinking about great stories and people in the Church. However, that is the very reason we should take the time to learn about our brothers and sisters there. The Church is much wider and deeper than the “greats” we are familiar with. With that said, let’s dig in.

This week’s saint is Victoire Rasoamanarivo and she is remembered on August 21st.

Victoire was born in the city of Antananarivo on Madgascar in 1848. She was raised by her uncle and grew up practicing the animist religion of her ancestors. She was related to a wealthy family and many served in the ruling class of people. Victoire started attended a Catholic school at the age of 13 and was baptized at the age of 15. While Victoire wanted to devote her life to the church and probably serve as a nun, her family organized a marriage. She consented to her family’s wishes and got married in 1864. By all accounts, the wedding was not a pleasant one. Victoire’s husband was a violent drunk and his relation to the leading military family allowed him much freedom to act as he pleased. While many urged her to divorce, she refused because of her belief that marriage was a sacrament for life. Victoire chose instead to constantly prayer for her husbands repentance and conversion.

In 1883 a war broke out between the French and ruling party of Madagascar, often called the Franco-Malagasy war. France had made many political and military moves in Madagascar trying to gain an economic foothold in the region. Because of France’s actions, the people of Madagascar began to turn against the Catholic church on the island. When France was threatening war, all foreign Catholic priests and missionaries were expelled, Catholic schools were ordered to be shut down and Catholic gatherings were outlawed. Any practicing Catholic was ordered to renounce their faith or otherwise be considered traitors. The war between France and the ruling family of Madagascar lasted from 1883 through 1885.  During this time, many local Catholics, including Victoire, refused to renounce and continued to meet in secrecy in the closed and boarded up churches. Victoire specifically worked to keep the schools open and would even openly confront and resist the police who would try to keep them from gathering for church services. When the war ended in 1885 and the foreign missionaries and priests returned to the island, they found a still thriving church community of about 21,000 members. Because of the work and fearlessness of Victoire in spite of the violent war and hatred against Catholics at the time, the church continued to thrive. Victoire was proclaimed the “guardian” of the church on Madagascar and she continued to work with the poor, sick and imprisoned until her death in 1894.

May we, in spite of political and economic turmoil, remain faithful to the Church like Victoire Rasoamanarivo. May we realize that the Church can thrive regardless of politics, war, gender, race or economic status. I pray that our eyes would be opened to see leaders and guardians of the church in the places we might least expect it. May Victoire Rasoamanarivo open our eyes to the strength in the diversity of the Church.

 

More Information & References:
Saints.SQPN.com – Blessed Victoire Rasoamanarivo
Catholic Online – Bl. Victoire Rasoamanarivo
Dictionary of African Christian Biography – Rasoamanarivo, Victoire

10 Things I Don’t Have to Worry About Today

WorryA strange thing happened today. I really wanted to put up a real post this week and had a few ideas stashed. When the time came to write, I could not bring myself to invest time or energy into them. I tried looking over Twitter and some other blog sites for ideas. I saved interesting ones to look at later because I did not really feel like reading them. Today I went on a walk during a break at my day job and pulled out my phone to read those articles and I could not do it. Not because of a failing in my technology, I literally didn’t feel like pushing the button and diving in. I thought about checking Facebook and still just felt bleh about even doing that. I slipped the phone back in my pocket and just kept walking.

With all the junk going on recently in the world, I have read my fair share of posts/blogs/status updates that range from compassionate and respectful to angry and all the way to hateful. I confessed to my wife recently that I think I have reached the limit of my emotional bandwidth. I am typically able to shake things off and not get too emotionally involved but the volume on everything and every pundit and post seems to be turned up to 11 lately. Also, we have decided to clean out the attic and other “storage” areas of our house. We are looking for things that we have not really touched in a while and deciding if we really need it or not. This is also bringing up a range of emotions as we come across items that bring up old memories both pleasant and sad.

So, as I was on my walk I began to think about things I do not really have to worry about because of who I am and where I live. I started to think about this in light of the constantly running news stories and the seeming endless amount negativity flowing from our screens and speakers. Here is a list of 10 things I could think of.

  1. I do not have to worry about being judged or threatened because of my religious beliefs.
  2. I do not have to worry about being judged or threatened because of the clothing I wear (religious or otherwise).
  3. I do not have to worry about whether I can find healthy food at prices I can afford or being judged by how I buy my food.
  4. I do not have to worry about my body not meeting the popular standards and images of beauty.
  5. I do not have to worry about my house or family being threatened by rockets, drones, missiles or artillery fire.
  6. I do not have to worry about tear gas seeping into my house through the air conditioner vent or an open window.
  7. I do not have to worry about the security of my job or the ability to find another if needed.
  8. I do not have to worry my sexuality being questioned, judged or portrayed negatively.
  9. I do not have to worry about where I can sleep safely tonight.
  10. I do not have to worry about people being suspicious when I walk down the street with a few of my friends.

These are not meant to prove how lucky or privileged I am, but really to shine a light on where these are troublesome issues for people. I do not have to worry about these things, but (as the news stories show) many people around the world or even around the corner do. People who have to worry about these things generally have to do so out of no fault of their own. They have generally not done anything to call for the worry or judgment they just happen to be in a place where these concerns are real. Many residents in Ferguson are not clashing with police, yet their neighborhoods are being torn apart. Many people in Gaza have no love for Hamas, but Israeli artillery and missiles fall constantly. Many Israelis love the people of Gaza and want peace, yet rockets still threaten indiscriminately. People in our neighborhoods who live outside can live in constant fear for their life or the security of their few belongings.

The challenge of not having to worry about such things is that I have the freedom to reach out to those who do. It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity and feel powerless to address the issue. Or we may be tempted by the lack of concern to not feel like it’s something we should think about or help with. It can easily become a “not my problem” or “not in my backyard” issue that we do not want to engage with. So, while I am temporarily overwhelmed by my concerns and the concerns of the world, I can be freed to engage because of the things I do not have to worry about. I am free to not focus on what I lack and instead see what I have and am able to open up and share with others.

“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.”
Matthew 5:43-48 (CEB)

Prayer for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Ordinary Time)

L’Angélus by Jean-Francois Millet, 1859.

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Unless otherwise noted, prayers come from the Book of Common Prayer, Revised Common Lectionary.

Prayers posted during Ordinary Time will feature art that is often not specifically religious, but art for arts sake. Enjoy!