Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bless the Beasts and the Children

Thursday, October 4, 2007 -- Week of Proper 21
(Francis of Assisi, Friar, 1226)

"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

Audio Podcasts of today's "Morning Reflection" and those from the past week are available from (go to St. Paul's Home Page and click "Morning Reflection podcast")

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 986)
Psalms 105:1-22 (morning) 105:23-45 (evening)
2 Kings 18:28-37
1 Corinthians 9:1-15
Matthew 7:22-29

Today we finish the Sermon on the Mount with the wonderful image of the house built on a rock. Follow these teachings and you will have a firm foundation. The sermon began in Matthew 5 with the Beatitudes -- blessings on the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, merciful, peacemakers, etc. We are told to be salt and light, to fulfill the highest ideals of God's laws, to purify our thoughts, to give without counting costs, to love enemies, to live humbly, oriented toward God's kingdom. We are given the Lord's prayer and instructed not to be anxious; to eschew judging; to ask, seek and knock; to bear good fruit. The Sermon on the Mount is a powerful vision for human life at its finest.

Today is the feast of one who lived as fully by the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount as anyone, Francis of Assisi. The son of a wealthy merchant, Francis spent the first part of his life like most young men of his time, having fun and seeking fame in the army. It was the poor who changed him. His conscience was touched by what he saw of lepers and beggars. Against his father's will, Francis gave up everything material, embraced Lady Poverty, and started a movement of humility, simplicity, joy and generosity. He is known as the happy saint who welcomed suffering and the sufferers.

How appropriate that we celebrate St. Francis on the week when we have just heard the story of Lazarus as our Sunday gospel and the warnings of Amos to the rich as our first reading.

One of the things we do each year in memory of Francis is to have our Blessing of the Animals service on a Sunday near his feast day. We'll do that this Sunday at 5:30. It is a delightful and joyful event when we give thanks and bless our friends in this amazing creation.

But how much more appropriate might it be for us to remember and honor Francis by doing something to attend to the humans who so engaged his heart: the poor, the ill and the suffering. Maybe its a good week to think of a way to engage with some part of human suffering in our community and even the world.

Our congregation has our own institutions of service to "Francis' friends" -- food through Community Meals and Angel Food; help for the homeless through Seven Hills and Habitat; outreach internationally through Episcopal Relief and Development and our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals; support for those who are ill through Healing Touch, pastoral meals and visits, and especially our Community Clinic at St. Francis House.

How appropriate it is that our church's health care ministry carries Francis' name. And like his own movement of friars minor monks which grew into a major order, our little ministry has grown into our area's largest clinic offering dental, medical, and pharmaceutical help to the uninsured and underserved. The Community Clinic at St. Francis House is currently expanding at its Springdale location, has just opened a new dental clinic in Rogers, and plans to open a new medical clinic in Benton County by January 2.

At the heart of the clinic's ministry is its service to low-income children who qualify for SCHIP benefits but have no dentist or doctor to serve them. Private doctors and dentists can take only a few SCHIP children; a strong majority of the children we serve at the Community Clinic at St. Francis House are either uninsured or on ARKidsFirst, Arkansas' version of SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance).

SCHIP is in the news today. Congress passed a bipartisan bill to continue and expand this life-saving health care for children. The president has vetoed that bill. As more employers cut back or quit offering employee family insurance, more children are without access to basic health care. The compromise bill that Congress passed would have made coverage available to more than three million children who are currently eligible but not enrolled.

Our congressman John Boozman was the only person in the Arkansas delegation to vote against the bipartisan SCHIP bill. His vote will be one of the important votes if this significant legislation is to overcome the president's veto. On St. Francis Day, when we remember the joyful saint of generosity and compassion, what would be a better way to honor Francis than to contact our representative and ask him to help the children. It's a local call to the Lowell office 725-0400 or long-distance to the Washington office is (202) 225-4310. On St. Francis Day, bless the beasts AND the children.



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The Rev. Lowell Grisham
Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, AR

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.


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