Prayer for the Third Sunday after Pentecost (Ordinary Time)

Two Ballet Dancers by Edgar Degas, c. 1879.

Two Ballet Dancers by Edgar Degas, c. 1879.

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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 – Sampson the Hospitable of Constantinople

Sampson the Hospitable of Constantinople

Sampson the Hospitable of Constantinople

For this week’s saint we are again digging deep into the history of the church. Also, we’re crossing the lines of tradition and looking at a man who is honored across almost all of the oldest Church traditions. I think he provides a great example for many of us who typically are well educated and have many resources at our disposal when compared with the rest of the world.

Today’s saint is Sampson the Hospitable of Constantinople. He is remembered on June 27th.

Sampson was born in Rome to a wealthy and notable family. Because of that wealth, Sampson was well educated by the ancient Roman standards of the time. He mainly focused on medicine and often would take care of the sick without any charge. When Sampson’s parents died he inherited all their wealth which included some slaves and probably a fair amount of property. Rather than settling down in a comfortable lifestyle, Sampson sold everything, freed the slaves and began to plan for heading off into the wilderness to become a hermit. Sampson set out towards the east from Rome and somewhere along the way his plans changed. Apparently, God had different plans and while Sampson was traveling towards Constantinople he felt impressed by God to head into the city and continue his work caring for the sick.

In Constantinople, Sampson bought a house and set up a clinic where he cared for the sick and housed many homeless and poor travelers. News about the hospitality of Sampson spread fast and because of his work the Patriarch of Constantinople ordained him a priest. However, we are never told that Sampson ever led services in a church or performed other duties typically associated with the priesthood. Apparently he just continued serving the poor and sick even after his ordination.

Because of his notoriety, when the emperor Justinian fell ill he sought the assistance of Sampson. Reportedly, none of the other doctors or physician’s had be able to help Justinian. Sampson attended to the emperor, prayed for him and laid hands on him. Justinian was miraculously healed and was very grateful for Sampson’s help. The emperor offered Sampson gold and wealth but Sampson instead asked for help to build a new home where he could continue and expand his work caring for the poor and sick. Justinian agreed and helped Sampson build one of the largest free hospitals in the empire.

Sampson continued working at the hospital that Justinian helped build for the rest of his long life. Late in life he caught some kind of illness that led to his death around 530 AD. The hospital Sampson founded with the assistance of the emperor would continue to treat the sick for nearly 600 years.

I pray that, like Sampson, we would see the value in serving our poor and sick neighbors. I pray that we would see our wealth as a greater opportunity to serve others . May we realize that some are called to notable positions and some are called to solitude, yet most of us are called to remain faithful servants in our homes and to our neighbors. I pray that we would always seek to be a free blessing to our communities. May we be willing to touch and heal those burdened by sickness or any of the other numerous and heavy weights of this life.


More Information:
Wikipedia – Sampson the Hospitable
Orthodox Church in America – St Sampson the Hospitable of Constantinople
The Onion Dome – June 27 Saints of the Day – Sampson the Hospitable and Cyril of Alexandria
Mystagogy – St. Sampson the Hospitable




Creating a Child, Creating a Father – Part 2

Enjoying the view together out our front window.

Enjoying the view together out our front window.

Last week I jumped into a little series where I’ll be revisiting my points from this message I gave last year on Father’s Day.  I had been a father for only a few months when I gave that message so I took the opportunity to set out on paper and in public my goals and ideals for being a father. Now that I’ve made it one full year as a father I figured it would be a good time to go back and see how things have been going. In the message I use the story of creation in the first chapter of Genesis as a framework for my goals.

Last week I covered the first point of my message which was about speaking words as God spoke in creation. Today we’ll examine another sense referenced in the Creation narrative. As  important as speaking to my daughter, I need to see who God created her to be. As her father, I can shape and mold her life in various ways, but ultimately she is a unique creation and will have her own ideas, passions and talents.

Seeing Potential – I am not only called to speak into her life, but to also try and see what is already there and encourage development and growth. She already has God given potential that I need to see and help cultivate. Genesis tells us that God was hovering over the pre-creation waters. In that formless and empty void he saw potential for a far greater purpose and function than just emptiness. The same can be said of the great artists, like Michelangelo who stood in front of a large, unformed block of marble and saw the potential for the great statue of David. As a father, I should not be spending most of my time just speaking and telling her what to do. I need to see her for who she was created to be. It is almost more important to watch her, see the passion in her own eyes, as we both begin to discover the unique person she is. I actually get a lot of joy out of this as a father. Just watching her play and interact with the world around her as she discovers her place in it and what she can do is one of the greatest blessings of being a parent. It can be tough to see at this early stage in life when practically everything is new. But, when she randomly bends over and wants help doing a somersault I might begin to wonder if there’s a little gymnast in there. Or, as she suddenly begins dancing to a song, maybe there’s some musical talent waiting to burst through her little fingers or dance out of her toes. If I’m only seeing what I want to see, I may miss who she wants to be seen as.

Letting Go – A bit of a disclaimer, I came up with this idea well before Frozen came out and burned a song with a similar theme into our collective ears. That aside, along with seeing the potential and helping her grasp her unique abilities, I will often need to let go and let her discover who she is on her own. She is not just our creation to hold on to and horde. Because she is also a creation of God, I will need to regularly let go of my plans and dreams for her in order for her to become that person God created her to be. Letting go can be the toughest thing to do as a parent because it means admitting that I am not God. My plans are not always God’s plans and there may be a better life out there for my daughter than the one I want to create for her. I may need to just step back and watch as she goes into her first day of Kindergarten, attends her first sleepover, asks for the car keys the first time, and when she chooses to walk down the aisle with another person she has chosen to love and join her life with. At a basic level, this also means letting go of some fears. Well…probably a lot of fears. Parents can have a pretty strong protective instinct and I know I would go to great lengths to prevent my daughter from getting hurt. Again, it’s pretty early in the game to let her go in any significant fashion. But, letting her go down a slide without holding her, dropping her off at daycare or even just simply letting her play without feeling like I need to direct or structure her time can all be small opportunities to let her learn on her own who she is and what she can do.

These first two weeks have been about what my role as a father is in helping my daughter become the best person she can be. Next week I’ll spend some time exploring the ways that I develop as a person in my role as a father. I’ll look at the ways that my daughter can actually help me grow and mature and become more of the person God created me to be.

Prayer for the Second Sunday after Pentecost (Ordinary Time)

The Augustan Bridge at Narni by Camille Corot, 1826.

The Augustan Bridge at Narni by Camille Corot, 1826.

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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!

Saints of the Week – Five Martyred Nuns in Persia

Women SaintsSometimes when I’m looking at the stories of people to feature as a saint of the week, I’m struck by their unique lives and service to the church. The fancy word for these stories is hagiography. This word is a combination of the Greek words hagios meaning holy or sacred and graphe meaning to write. Often these hagiographies feature grand stories of the person’s service to the church, often including their martyrdom. This week, I found myself drawn to a story not because it was especially unique or impressive. I was struck by the power in it’s simplicity.

This week’s saints are the Five Martyred Nuns in Persia, Thekla, Martha, Mariamne, Enmatha and Mary

The Holy Women Martyrs Thekla, Martha, Mariamne, Enmatha and Mary were beheaded with a sword during the reign of the Persian emperor Sapor II on June 6, 346.

That was the whole story for these women who are remembered in the Orthodox church on June 9th. At first I passed by the story thinking it was too simple and not interesting enough. But then my mind began to wander and wonder about these five women.

Who were they? Where did they come from? How did they become Christians? What led up to their martyrdom? Why did they become nuns? How did they serve the Church and other Christians? Did they have families?

On and on I began to think more and more about these women who I now know only by name and that they were beheaded for their faith. I wanted to know more, but I could not find anymore information about them. Then I realized something.

We know practically nothing about most of the Christian’s who died for their faith.

Most of the Christian’s in the Church throughout history, whether martyred or not, we will never hear about.

There are Christian’s living now under the threat of persecution and possible martyrdom and they suffer unknown to most other Christians.

These five women martyrs reminded me that the Christian faith continues not because of the great saints and witnesses we all know and respect. The Christian faith persists because of the faith of regular, everyday people like this. Men and women who choose to follow Christ and serve the Church without anything remarkable or distinctly miraculous ever happening to them. We will never hear their stories because we wouldn’t necessarily consider them noteworthy. But, I think it is important to take time to recognize that while the stories might not be long and notable, they are an essential part of the body of Christ. While we do not know anything else about these five women other than their names and the method of their martyrdom, we know that they were our sisters in Christ and witnesses for the Gospel.

That is enough to take a moment and remember their life and dedication to the Church.

I pray we would realize that the most important people in the church are the regular, everyday people like ourselves. The parents who pass the faith to their children, those who serve as witnesses amongst coworkers and neighbors, and those who are martyred in obscurity. I pray that we would take a moment and recognize our lives as important and necessary to the body of Christ. I pray that we might remember the Christians who we will never hear about, but that were essential for the Gospel to reach us.

More Information:
Orthodox Church in America – 5 Martyered Nuns Beheaded in Persia

Creating a Child, Creating a Father – Part 1

Been a father for about 1 minute.

Been a father for about 1 minute in this photo.

Last Sunday was Father’s Day in the United States. A day we set aside to recognize the male half of the combination that helped bring us to life. This day means a lot of different things for different people. For me, it’s a pretty significant day. Last year my wife and I were blessed with our first child in January and I got to celebrate my first Father’s Day. It was an amazing year where I experienced life in a whole new way. Most parents will tell you there is nothing like holding your newborn child for this first time and realizing from that moment on, your life will be blessed and challenged in ways you never imagined possible. You will do all sorts of things you had never thought or considered doing. I had the immense honor to reflect on my new fatherhood by giving this message to my church family at the time. Now, one year after that Father’s Day message and having survived one year as a father, I thought it might be good to revisit my ideas in that message. Over the next few weeks I’ll highlight the points from my message and share with you how I feel my planned “manifesto” for fatherhood has stood up after one year. I would encourage you to take some time and listen to the message too. While my family is probably a little biased, they tell me it’s one of the best messages I’ve ever given. Also, I cry a lot so…there is that.

For my goals as a father, I began at the beginning. Literally. The framework for my message was based in the initial verses of Genesis where we are given an account of God creating the world by bringing the natural forces in order and creating a space for life to thrive. Even in my early days as a father, I realized that bringing a child into the world was a unique opportunity humans are given to create and tend life along with God. When we reach out and pick up our child for the first time, we accept an invitation to step alongside God in tending for this new life. God did not just create the world and let it go. God did not just place Adam and Eve in the Garden and wish them luck. God daily walked through his creation and with his people. Being a parent, we get to walk with God in a similar process and relationship.

One of the most obvious things God does in the creation story that gave me a clue to what it would mean to be a father is that God speaks. God speaking in Creation is how things come to be, how they find their form, function and purpose. Fatherhood also brings with it the potential to speak LOTS of words. In speaking those words, I lay the groundwork for how my daughter will understand herself and experience the world. Every day I have the opportunity to speak to my daughter in many ways.  Here’s three sets of words that I hope will make up the majority of what I say to my daughter.

Calling Her by Name – This is the most basic, yet probably most profoundly influential words I can speak to her. My wife and I spent a lot of time deciding what we were going to name our daughter. By naming her, we also take responsibility for her as we work with God for her well being. Her name identifies her as a unique person but also welcomes her into our family and our care. Every time I call my daughter by her name I acknowledge her as a person, a unique creation of God and enter into an intimate relationship with her. Calling her by name lets my daughter know that I, as her father, know her and want to have a relationship with her. Along with that comes the understanding that the relationship is a two way street. Since I first came up with these points, she has already started calling me “Dada”. She knows that I’m the go-to person to pick her up, take her outside, read her a book, find her shoes and get her milk. I know that when I call her by name, she *generally* comes running with a happy smile. Even before she can put together full sentences, we’ve already begun our relationship. By knowing each others’ names, we are not strangers to be avoided, but members of a family working for the others benefit.

Words of Direction & Forgiveness – Almost as powerful as calling her by name will be the words of direction I will give. A wise mentor once taught me the difference between punishment and discipline and I’ve carried that knowledge into my developing role as a father. If I choose to punish I attempt to make her feel “puny”, smaller and less powerful. Punishment establishes control through fear, power and even humiliation. This is the authority method used by most despots and dictators throughout history. Conversely, when we choose to discipline we make the other person into a disciple. Discipline seeks to bring the other person up, allowing them to believe they can be just like the person offering discipline. Authority is not derived from fear, but comes from making the most sense and demonstrating how we live. It’s interesting to see the power of setting an example versus just saying “no” or exercising some (seemingly limited at this stage) authority by telling her what to do. I’ve often had to tell her not stand or walk on the couch. My repeated instruction generally goes unheeded accompanied by a sly smile. This will then end in a couple different ways. Either I give up and she eventually moves on to something else ignoring all instruction or she stumbles and falls and learns on her own how bad an idea it all was. My perceived authority was ultimately trumped by her perseverance, my probable lack of sounding forceful enough and natural consequences of falling. However, just by watching my wife and I cook (something we love doing), our daughter loves playing in her mini-kitchen. She’ll pull pots down, stir and cook with wooden spoons, sprinkle in imaginary spices and pour pretend sauces and oils. When she’s done she’ll walk around offering us all tastes of her imaginary but totally gourmet meal. Just from watching us cook and our encouragement to play in her kitchen she has picked up things that she could never grasp at this age if we tried to sit her down and tell her what not to do. Discipline leads by setting an example, encouraging growth and developing maturity.

Deeply tied to an understanding of discipline is the expectation that I will also have to ask for forgiveness. I know I will hurt my daughter and let her down from time to time. Heck, I know I’ve done this already. She’s pretty quick and still pretty small. So far I’ve managed to accidentally bite her finger as she was pretending to feed me, I’ve kneed her in the head when I didn’t see her standing by me and I’ve put her on a slide that was a little to big and she was afraid to go down. Thankfully at this early stage she’s already forgotten those things and they won’t develop into deep emotional wounds. However, I still find myself needing to apologize for hurting her in ways I never intended to. Hopefully this is training me to be better for asking forgiveness when it may really matter and when she will not so easily forget. Both discipline and forgiveness go hand in had

This week was a lot about my part as a Father in her life. Next week I’ll discuss what it means for me to “see” her as a creation of God.

Prayer for the First Sunday after Pentecost (Trinity Sunday)

TrinityAlmighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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