Monday, May 31, 2010

Two Celebrations

Monday, May 31, 2010 -- Week of Proper 4, Year Two
The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(Memorial Day)


Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer)
EITHER, the readings for Monday, of Proper 4, p. 969
Psalms 41, 42 (morning)       44 (evening)
Ecclesiastes 2:1-15
Galatians 1:1-17
Matthew 13:44-52

OR, the readings for the Visitation, p. 997)
Morning Prayer:  Psalm 72; 2 Samuel 1:1-20; Hebrews 3:1-6
Evening Prayer:  Psalms 146, 147; Zechariah 2:10-13; John 3:25-30

I chose the readings for The Visitation


Today the church celebrates the faithfulness of Mary, who accepted her vocation to be the mother of a child announced to her by the angel.  Mary welcomed her calling, along with the suffering that it entailed.  Our lectionary invites us to remember Hannah, the mother of Samuel, as a forerunner of Mary.  The barren woman prayed for a child, promising that if her prayer were answered, her child would live under a nazarite vow, consecrated for service to God.  We also read from Hebrews of the faithfulness of Jesus, who served in God's house as a son.

It is a good day to remember all who wish to have children but find childbearing challenging or impossible.  It is a good day to remember all who expect a child, joining with them in anticipation and promise.

It is also a good day to embrace faithfulness.  As Mary accepted her vocation to be Godbearer with her simple "let it be," so we are to accept God's call in our lives.  May we let it be, accepting the circumstances of our own lives as the context that God would use to bear fruit in the world through us. 

It is also Memorial Day, when we give thanks for the faithfulness of those who have served our nation, accepting their calling, along with the suffering that it may entail.  We remember those who serve under the vows of the military, and ask that they be protected and effective in their calling to defend freedom and to create peace. 

I'm drawn to the psalm appointed this morning, Psalm 72.  It is a royal psalm, possibly used as a prayer on a day of coronation.  It celebrates God's intention for justice and righteousness.  Power when exercised rightly, will defend and enable justice and righteousness.  As we hear repeated so often in the scripture, the focus of God's attention for justice is upon the poor.  When our political power functions rightly, in accordance with God's will, the powers "shall defend the needy among the people; ...rescue the poor and crush the oppressor."  In this ideal scenario, there is prosperity for all and "abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more."

Again the psalm describes the king's responsibilities.  "For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress and the oppressed who has no helper.  He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; he shall preserve the lives of the needy.  He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, and dear shall their blood be in his sight."  The psalmist says that the consequences of such a just rule, with relief for the poor and release from oppression as the ruler's focus, the consequence will be prosperity:  "abundance of grain on the earth, growing thick even on the hilltops" with fruit that flourishes "like Lebanon" and "grain like grass upon the earth."  Such a king would have an everlasting name.

On a national holiday as we observe today, it is good to be reminded of our own highest values as a people.  At our best, we are a nation that serves the common good.  We are a nation that welcomes and upholds the poor and oppressed in the words of Lady Liberty:  "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

At our best, we are a nation that delivers the poor who cries out in distress and the oppressed who has no helper.  At our best, we are a nation which redeems the lives of the needy from oppression and violence.  At our best we are like Mary, faithful to our vow to bear a new creation of God, a nation committed to freedom, justice and righteousness. 

We have made vows and we have consecrated ourselves to the reality that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  We have consecrated ourselves to a high purpose:  "...to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." 

When we go wrong, we lose our focus upon our common responsibilities for the equality and welfare of all, we allow power to be concentrated in ways that promote exploitation, and we tilt our systems to favor the wealthy rather than the poor.

May the angel visit us again with the message of our calling to be a people of service and holiness.  May we like Mary also say, "Let it be unto me, according to your word."

Lowell

_____________________________________________

Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
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 www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

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

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

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

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pearls of Wisdom

Friday, May 28, 2010 -- Week of Proper 3, Year Two
John Calvin, Theologian, 1564

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 969)
Psalms 31 (morning)       35 (evening)
Proverbs 23:19-21, 29-24:2
1 Timothy 5:17-22(23-25)
Matthew 13:31-35

First, a note about the new feast today from the proposed calendar Holy Women, Holy Men:
John Calvin [1509-May 27, 1564] Reformer and theologian in France and Geneva, his writings were the primary influence on non-Lutheran Protestants. He established a theocracy in Geneva, Switzerland, with himself as its head. The Reformed Tradition of Churches (Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Reformed Church of America, etc.) counts him as their founder. (May 28)
_____________

Proverbs:  "Do not be among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat...  Who has woe?  Who has sorrow?  ...Who has redness of eyes?  Those who linger late over wine...."

1 Timothy:  "No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments."

The wisdom and practical advice of Proverbs urges a young noble to live a disciplined life of moderation.  Gluttony in all of its forms has its own consequences. 

In many ways, portions of 1 Timothy pick up the same tradition as Proverbs, intending to offer sage advice and wisdom to a still young, but maturing church.  The elders who lead well are to be paid and respected.  There is a provision for dealing with disciplinary issues.  Both writings presume that justice and virtue will prevail over time. 

Picking up the mantle of wisdom, Jesus too teaches in proverbs.  Like a master teacher he adds drama and illustration to his instruction, offering his insights through parables.  The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed..., like yeast, ...a pearl of great value.  In the tradition of the proverbial wisdom, Jesus points toward the small things that yield big consequences.  Virtues practiced for their own sake do indeed have their rewards. 

Virtue, discipline and moderation.  These are subjects that sometimes do not have a lot of sex appeal or entertainment value.  Reading Proverbs and 1 Timothy can feel a bit tedious, especially compared with the drama of the passion of the Psalms or the narratives of the Gospels.  But there is great value in the traditions of pithy wisdom. 

Maybe it is no coincidence that some of the greatest proverbial wisdom of the twentieth century comes from the spirituality of the twelve-step recovery traditions.  We see Proverbs and 1 Timothy address the powerful destructive tendencies of gluttony and addiction.  In our age, recovery disciplines have offered some of our wisest collections of proverbs for living with virtue, discipline and moderation:

Let go and let God.  One day at a time.  First things first.  Live and let live.  Time takes time.  Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.  Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.  Live life on life's terms.  You can't think your way into a new way of living... you have to live your way into a new way of thinking.  Your worth should never depend on another person's opinion.  Learn to listen and listen to learn.  Nothing changes if nothing changes.  Feelings are not facts.  Progress, not perfection.  Keep it simple.  This too shall pass.  Easy does it.  Keep coming back.

Pearls of wisdom.  They are much more than ornaments or decoration.  

Lowell
_____________________________________________

Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
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 www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

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

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

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

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas
 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Triumphalism

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 -- Week of Proper 3, Year Two
Bede, the Venerable, Priest and Monk of Jarrow, 735

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 969)
Psalms 26, 28 (morning)       36, 39 (evening)
Proverbs 15:16-33
1 Timothy 1:18 - 2:8
Matthew 12:33-42

One of the characteristics of of faith is its essential humility.  Jesus consistency resisted those who insisted that he show them some sign of power in order for them to be impressed enough to follow him.  Jesus deflected the disciples' dreams of status and honor that they assumed would be theirs as followers of the Messiah and as confidants of the true God. 


Today Jesus denies a request for a sign.  The only sign they will be given, he says, is the sign of Jonah.  For the early church, the story of Jonah's descent and return from the belly of the whale was a precursor and metaphor for the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.  The sign of the cross is the only sign necessary, said the early church.  The cross is the way of humiliation and death.  The path to life is through death, Jesus teaches.


This is not the kind of teaching that these questioners are looking for.  But Jesus only continues to burst their bubble of pride and precedence.  Jesus tells them that the famous sinful Gentile city of Nineveh will be in a more privileged place than they because the people of Nineveh listened to Jonah, and something greater than Jonah is here.  Jesus tells them that the Gentile queen of Sheba who famously visited Solomon in ancient days will sit in judgment upon these who think of themselves as insiders, God's particular and chosen people. 


Triumphalism is not an appropriate characteristic for God's people.  We are not to assume that have a privileged place before God just because we believe that we follow the correct faith.  The Bible points out abundant examples of faith that are outside the circle of insiders.  Our duty is to respond humbly to what God has given us, and expect to see God's presence and grace in the unexpected circumstances and people.  For Jesus' listeners, criminal execution would be a completely unexpected circumstance for the demonstration of God's presence and grace.  They also would not have expected God's presence and grace to be especially manifest outside of the believing community, among those of other faiths.  Jesus tells them that their view is too narrow.


Christian arrogance and triumphalism is inappropriate for us just as Jewish arrogance and triumphalism was inappropriate for these whom Jesus addresses today.  We are not to sense ourselves as privileged and special simply because we have found the truth of Jesus.  To follow him is to accept his path of humility, the way of the cross.  We are to die to our own sense of power, and humbly expect to see God's presence and grace manifest in all times and places, including among those who are not of our faith.


We've heard the warnings.  Humble seekers from outside our traditions are closer to God's truth than we are when we function with an arrogant sense of certainties.  God has shown us the way.  To follow Christ is to follow his humble path of self-emptying love for all.

Lowell

_____________________________________________

Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
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 www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

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

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

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

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas
 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Begining the Pastorals

Monday, May 24, 2010 -- Week of Proper 3, Year Two
Jackson Kemper, First Missionary Bishop in the U.S., 1870

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 969)
Psalms 25 (morning)       9, 15 (evening)
Proverbs 10:1-12
1 Timothy 1:1-17
Matthew 12:22-32

We start reading 1 Timothy today, the longest of the "Pastoral Letters" of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.  These writings were not included in many of the early lists of the Christian scriptures, and they were not accepted until after around 175 CE.  They are pseudonymous writings, attributed to Paul, but written much later than Paul's life.  The author intends to speak in Paul's tradition and with Paul's authority.  (The Book of Daniel is another pseudonymous book.)

1 Timothy shares some language with the genuine letters of Paul, but the meaning of some Pauline words is different.  In Paul's letters, the word "righteousness" means the relationship of being justified before God thanks to the free gift of grace through Jesus.  In the Pastoral Epistles "righteousness" means moral uprightness -- good behavior.  (In some sense, the same word is used in an almost opposite meaning.)  In Paul's letters "faith" is used more like a verb -- faith is active trust in God.  "Faith" in the Pastorals is more of a noun -- an objective body of traditions and teachings that one is to guard and protect.

By the time these letters are written, the expectation of Jesus' immanent return has waned.  Some of Paul's early writings are dominated by the expectation that Jesus will return very soon and inaugurate the new age.  Some of Paul's teaching has been called an "interim ethic,"  such as his encouragement of young widows to remain single and celibate.  There was little point to plan a new family when the end is so near.  The Pastoral letters do not speak of the second coming of Jesus, but rather of his "epiphany -- appearance."

The overriding concern of Paul was to inspire a trusting response to the gift of grace through which God reconciles us to God and frees us to be charitable toward one another.  The central concern of the Pastorals is the ordering of the community of the churches -- the establishment of an institution.  In several ways the church of this later era is rather different from the church of Paul's era.  Paul expressed support for women and gave them active roles of leadership in his churches.  The Pastoral Epistles reverse this.  Paul endorsed a charismatic authority.  In the Pastorals, the figure of Paul becomes the final authority. 

As we open this first reading from 1 Timothy, the writer commends "the divine training that is known by faith."  He continues to say that "the aim of such instruction is love."  That is a statement which is consistent with the core of Christian tradition from Jesus through Paul and on to the later Epistles.  This writer urges us to follow love -- the "love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith."

Shifting to the Gospel reading, we see Jesus acting in love toward a deaf-mute demoniac.  Conventional behavior would only have regarded the man as an object of evil, someone deserving his punishment by God or by the demons.  Jesus challenges their conventions by healing the man.  The authorities are not pleased with such a challenge.  They impute Jesus' acts to evil.  "It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons." 

Jesus reacts strongly when these others see good and call it evil, see love and call it demonic.  After a brief argument about a house divided, Matthew's Jesus sets down one of the starkest dividing lines in any of the gospels.  "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters."  (Contrast Mark 9:30, "Whoever is not against us is for us.")  The text continues, "Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age of in the age to come." 

The unpardonable sin.  On more than one occasion people have come to visit ith be because they are terribly afraid and burdened with the fear (or the certainty) they they have committed the unpardonable sin and are doomed.  In each of these conversations, it became clear to me that the person was not a blasphemer against the Holy Spirit, but a troubled soul with irrational fears. 

I do not know what is meant by "blasphemy against the Spirit," but it is probably some form of rejection of God's presence and work -- to see love and to call it cursed.  For Matthew, this admonition probably also included a word against those who rejected the disciples sent in the Spirit as missionaries.

There are many other places in scripture where Jesus opens the boundaries of forgiveness and creates unfettered access to God's unbounded mercy.  It is unfortunate when some people become obsessive about the unpardonable sin.  But this passage from Matthew speaks a strong caution against our tendency to look at something that is love and call it evil.  It is a reminder to be open to the work of the Spirit which does new and good things that may not coincide with our conventional expectations.

Lowell

_____________________________________________

Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
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 www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

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

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

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

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Friday, May 21, 2010

A New Vision

Friday, May 21, 2010 -- Week of 7 Easter
John Eliot, Missionary among the Algonquin, 1690

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 965)
Psalms 102 (morning)       107:1-32 (evening)
Jeremiah 31:27-34
Ephesians 5:1-20
Matthew 9:9-17

First, a note about the new observation from our proposed calendar Holy Women, Holy Men:
John Eliot [1604-May 21, 1690] Apostle to the Indians, he came from England to New England where he translated the Bible and the Catechism into Algonquin, compiled many grammars of Amerindian languages and wrote texts books for tribal use. (May 21)
____________

As we approach Sunday's feast of Pentecost, we hear a spirit-filled prophecy from Jeremiah. 

So much the previous content of Jeremiah's prophecy speaks of Israel's infidelity and injustice which, Jeremiah says, provoked God "to pluck up and to break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil."  Jeremiah suffers with the people as the Babylonians invade and destroy Jerusalem and send so many of its people into exile.

Today's prophecy sees the coming days when God will reseed the land "with the seed of humans and the seed of animals," and God "will watch over them to build and to plant."

Then Jeremiah says something very significant.  Jeremiah has been among the prophets who interpreted Israel's fall as being God's judgment upon the nation for its unfaithfulness and its injustice, not just punishment for the generation of the living, but also a punishment for the sins of the previous generations.  The Ten Commandments speak of a God who will punish the children "for the iniquity of the parents, to the third and fourth generation."  Jeremiah quotes a common parable expressing that same sentiment:  "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." 

But Jeremiah changes the rules.  He tells the people they will no longer speak this parable.  Punishment for sin will no longer be passed from one generation to the future generations, "but all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge."

This is a radical word.  In the name of God Jeremiah is changing a foundational principle enshrined in the Ten Commandments.  As God's prophet, he knew himself empowered by God to do so.  Ezekiel (ch. 18) will also adopt the same reinterpretation as Jeremiah, prophesying some years later.

We see in Hebrew Scripture a lively and malleable tradition of interpreting scripture.  In the Spirit, the prophets announced new things from God.  In the name of God's Spirit, the prophets would reinterpret and even change the words, the law and traditions that previous generations had received as settled revelation.  Jeremiah and Ezekiel challenge a tradition received from the Ten Commandments. 

Jesus lived in that same heritage.  He angered many because Jesus violated the Sabbath commandment according to its traditional interpretation.  He flaunted many of the purity laws which are enshrined in the Torah.  Jesus followed the tradition of the inclusive prophets, reaching beyond the boundaries of Judaism to extend healing, grace and table fellowship to those who were unclean according to some Biblical interpretations.  As we see in Matthew's gospel today, Jesus "sat at dinner (with) many tax collectors and sinners."  To those who criticized him, Jesus replied with a quote from Hosea 6:6, "Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'"

Jeremiah imagined a day that would come.  A day of a new covenant.  No longer would God's law be something outside the people, an objective text of rules and statutes.  No longer would the covenant be one like the covenant of the Exodus, a covenant that the people broke.  The new covenant will be within our hearts.  God will be in our hearts and write God's will within our consciences.  "I will be their God, and they shall be my people," says the Lord. 

People would no longer need to teach and learn the rules, "or say to each other, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more."

It is not hard to see Pentecost, and the coming of the Spirit to dwell with us, as a fulfillment of Jeremiah's vision.  In the Spirit, God's love is written into our hearts.  Jesus unlocks free access to forgiveness.  The law is superseded by the simple life of love:  Love God, love neighbor, love self.  God is love.  All people know love, from the least of them to the greatest.  God's Holy Spirit seals the new covenant of love given to us in Jesus.  Everything is rewritten under the new rule of love.  Thanks be to God.

Lowell

_____________________________________________

Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
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 www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

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

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

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

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Today's Readings

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 965)
Psalms 105:1-22 (morning)       115:23-45 (evening)
Zechariah 4:1-14
Ephesians 4:17-32
Matthew 9:1-8

I slept late today.  Woke up to a call telling me that the Dalai Lama was to be interviewed live on TV this morning.  So I waited to watch that.  Just now getting to Morning Prayer.  Won't have time to write a Reflection.

Here are today's readings.
 
Lowell

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Love's Unity in Diversity

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 -- Week of 7 Easter
Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, 988

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 965)
Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 (morning)       119:121-144 (evening)
Isaiah 4:2-6
Ephesians 4:1-16
Matthew 8:28-34

Again today Ephesians offers us an inspiring exhortation.  We hear ourselves being called to "lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called."

The characteristics of that life, offered in this passage from the epistle, begin with humility, gentleness and patience.  In a spirit the echoes the prayer from Ephesians that we read yesterday, the grounding characteristic is love.  We are to bear with one another in love.

The writer urges us toward the union that is our gift from God through Christ.  "Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."  I preached about unity and oneness last Sunday, focusing on the Gospel passage from St. John.  (http://www.stpaulsfay.org/id472.html)

This passage from Ephesians offers a compelling image of unity in diversity.  There is "one body and one Spirit, ...one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all."  (Note especially -- God is "in all."  God's image resides in every human being, for our race is created in the image and likeness of God.)

Within that vision of union, there is remarkable diversity.  Each of us is given different grace.  Paul lists some of the gifts and ministries.  We are to exercise our various gifts on behalf of the whole, on behalf of community -- "to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ."  Our goal is maturity:  "until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ."

The writer recognizes our immaturity, but encourages us to grow.  Again he calls us to love.  "Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ."  The passage closes with an image of the diverse parts of the one body working together to promote "the body's growth in building itself up in love."  The goal is love.  The means is love.

I am reminded of one of the visions of Dame Julian of Norwich:

"And from the time that [the vision] was shown, I desired often to know what our Lord's meaning was.  And fifteen years and more afterward I was answered in my spiritual understanding, thus: 'Would you know your Lord's meaning in this thing?  Know it well, love was his meaning.  Who showed it to you?  Love.  What did he show you?  Love.  Why did he show it?  For love.  Keep yourself therein and you shall know and understand more in the same. But you shall never know nor understand any other thing, forever.'

"Thus I was taught that love was our Lord's meaning.  And I saw quite clearly in this and in all, that before God made us, he loved us, which love was never slaked nor ever shall be.  And in this love he has done all his work, and in this love he has made all things profitable to us.  And in this love our life is everlasting.  In our creation we had a beginning.  But the love wherein he made us was in him with no beginning.  And all this shall be seen in God without end ..."
  (translation by Liz Broadwell)

And a final benediction from Dame Julian, a benediction that relates nicely to our reading from Ephesians:
"Glad and merry and sweet is the blessed and lovely demeanor of our Lord towards our souls, for he saw us always living in love-longing, and he wants our souls to be gladly disposed toward him . . . by his grace he lifts up and will draw our outer disposition to our inward, and will make us all at unity with him, and each of us with others in the true, lasting joy which is Jesus." 

Lowell
_____________________________________________

Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
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 www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

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

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

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

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas
 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Morning Pryaer

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 965)
Psalms 97, 99, [100] (morning)       94, 95 (evening)
1 Samuel 16:1-13a
Ephesians 3:14-21
Matthew 8:18-27

Today's readings include a wonderful prayer and a picture of stability in the midst of challenge and chaos.

Let's start with the prayer.  (Let this prayer from Ephesians be spoken for you.)

I pray that, according to the riches of God's glory, God may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through God's Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.


What a marvelous prayer.  We are to be grounded and strengthened with God's power as we trust that Christ dwells in our hearts.  Our source and root and grounding is love, for God is love.  It is a love so broad and long, so high and deep that it surpasses all we can know, but fills us with God's own very life.  With the indwelling of divine love breathing us into being, we are empowered to accomplish more than we can imagine, to the glory of Christ.  That is a description of our daily inheritance.  Each morning we are invited to accept this gift of loving presence to empower our day.

Now let's look at that empowering love in action.  Will Christ's presence be enough to sustain us through what we must face? 

Some people face homelessness or threats to their security.  Jesus himself knows their plight and lives with them -- "the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."  I have known homeless neighbors who could speak with such authenticity about their trust in Jesus.  They know Jesus is with them and near them.  For some, Jesus is their only hope, for they have nothing of themselves.  I've looked into their eyes, hopeful eyes, and I've recognized the deep trust in Jesus whom they know will not let them down.

Some people find themselves in deadly, life-sucking circumstances.  Trapped, stuck, weighed down; crushed, oppressed.  Jesus liberates us from death.  "Let the dead bury their own dead."  Jesus gives us the self-definition which enables us to separate from unhealthy dependencies and to live with authenticity and power.

Many of us experience times of chaos, when we feel overwhelmed, like we are sinking and swamped.  Jesus is in the boat with us.  He can rebuke the winds that we fear will overcome us; he can bring calm to our raging seas.  Dwelling within us, in the center of our being, Jesus is the stillpoint of peace. 

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen. 

Lowell

_____________________________________________

Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
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 www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

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

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

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

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas
 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gentiles and Immigrants

Monday, May 17 2010 -- Week of 7 Easter
William Hobard Hare, Bishop of Niobrara, and of South Dakota, 1909

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 965)
Psalms 89:1-18 (morning)       89:19-52 (evening)
Joshua 1:1-9
Ephesians 3:1-13
Matthew 8:5-17

First, a note about our observance today from the new proposed calendar Holy Women, Holy Men:  William Hobart Hare [May 17, 1838-Oct. 23, 1909] Bishop and missionary to Native Americans, he was the grandson of Bishop Hobart. He was the first missionary bishop of Niobrara (now the Diocese of South Dakota) which served many tribes. (May 17)
____________________

Our culture debates the status of immigrants within our nation.  There are various classifications of immigrants.  Some have successfully negotiated the complex and restrictive immigration system and live here legally.  For the most part they are welcome, facing only the garden-variety prejudice of racism and of projected guilt-by-association imputed to them by those who might assume all "like them" are illegal. 

Some arrived here legally on a work or student visa but their visa expired before their work or their degree program finished and they chose to stay, many because of the fear that they would not be able to return. 

Some intentionally violated our immigration laws and came here illegally seeking a better life for themselves and their families.  They would have loved to have immigrated legally, but for non-professionals and for those who are not wealthy, legal immigration is virtually impossible.  Legal immigration takes sixteen years according to the latest information I've seen.  For some families, the risk of coming to the US illegally seemed more hopeful than waiting sixteen years without any guarantee that one's immigration application would ever be approved.  The immigration system only awards a few thousand visas annually for laborers.  For decades American businesses have welcomed willing workers who help create their prosperity.  These workers often do work that American citizens will not do.  Studies show that they contribute to our economy more than they cost in education or other benefits.

Many of those who live in the US without documentation are innocent in the sense that they were children when they were brought here by their parents.  Some have grown up speaking English as their primary language.  Some have excelled in our schools and on our athletic fields.  Some have completed college degree programs, and some have advanced professional certification.  All live with the shadow that they could be deported at any moment to a country they may not know, a birthplace that they left as a child.  (I recently heard about a student who finished his architecture degree at the U of A and had to move to Mexico, a country he was unfamiliar with, because he lacked the documentation he needed to work as an architect in the US.)

Our culture debates the question:  How will we regard our immigrant neighbors?

The early church had a similar question.  How will regard our Gentile neighbors? 

We have several stories from Jesus, including the one today where Jesus commends the faith of the Gentile centurion in Capernaum and cures the centurion's servant.  Jesus performed many of the same miracles for Gentiles as he did for Jews, including the feeding of the multitudes.  (He did not expect them to become Jews before he would heal them or eat with them.)

The church began as a movement within Judaism; all its initial members were Jewish.  There were two distinctive markers of Jewish identity:  (1) circumcision for males, and (2) obedience to the laws of the Torah.  All early Christians accepted these markers as givens for their religious identity and practice.

But then some Gentiles entered into the fellowship of the church.  They heard the Good News of Jesus and they responded.  Would they have to become Jews in order to be included?  That was the biggest question facing the early church.  Would Gentile converts be required to be circumcised and to observe the Jewish Torah?

In its most important early decision, the Church decided in favor of inclusion.  Gentiles would be welcomed into the Church.  Our reading today from Ephesians speaks to that inclusion as a "mystery (that) was no made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to (Christ's) holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:  that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."  The new "immigrants" into the church would not be required to follow the traditional paths of inclusion into the Jewish tribe, but would be welcomed as equals to share in the fellowship and good work of the Church.  I count myself and my family among those who benefit from being welcomed into the Body of Christ without having first to become Jewish.

I think our nation could learn something from our ancestors of faith.

Lowell



_____________________________________________

Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
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 www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

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

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

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

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Friday, May 14, 2010

Already There

Friday, May 14, 2010 -- Week of 6 Easter

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 963)
Psalms 85, 86 (morning)       91, 92 (evening)
1 Samuel 2:1-10
Ephesians 2:1-10
Matthew 7:22-27

There is an interesting phrase in the reading from Ephesians today.  The writer speaks of God's love toward us which reaches toward us in mercy even when "we were dead through our trespasses" and saves us.  Not only that, but -- this is the phrase that jumped out to me -- God also "raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus."

The compelling image sees us already enthroned with God in Christ.  We are residents of the divine realm, the author asserts.  Already.  Now.  "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God -- not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life."

The end is now, the writer claims.  We have been given God's gracious gift of love and we have been raised up and seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  Pure gift, given to us when, again in the words of Ephesians, we lived "in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else."  Despite our broken and failed condition, God chooses to love us, to save us, and to make us dwell with God in God's eternal presence.

That is an ontological shift, a shift of being.  We are invited to accept our new status.  Simply be the enthroned, beloved of God.  Nothing to prove, nothing to earn. 

From that perspective, from the perspective of one who is so loved by God that we are enthroned in heaven even now, the invitation is both simple and gracious.  Be who you are, and do good, for God has made us "for good works."  We are empowered to do good.  We don't have to earn anything or feel like we are under judgment or in a competition.  The end is already accomplished.  We are raised and seated with Christ.  So, simply be.

How different does life look from that perspective?  What might we do today, as we sit in heaven?

Lowell

_____________________________________________

Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
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 www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

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

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

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

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Absent Presence

Thursday, May 13, 2010 -- Week of 6 Easter
Ascension Day

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 963)
Psalms 8, 47 (morning)       24, 96 (evening)
Daniel 7:9-14
Hebrews 2:5-18
Matthew 28:16-20

"And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

I remember.  I remember hearing Billy Graham quote this verse, on a black and white TV, during one of his televised crusades many years ago when I was a child.  As Billy Graham always has done, he simply quoted from the Bible and asserted that the words were true -- to be taken and believed at face value.  That's what I did, and it was very comforting.

I felt the sense of Jesus' being with me here and now, at all times and in all all places; I felt confident of that presence until the end of the age.  In the anguished misunderstanding and loneliness that often accompanies the process of growing up, I needed those words.  I needed Jesus to be with me, to the end of the age.

At some point later in my growing up, I realized that the Bible was more complicated and mysterious than an answer book with words to be taken at face value.  Yes, the Bible was divine revelation, but it was also a human document, written by people not unlike me, who were reflecting on their experience of the divine. 

So now, again I read this verse that carries so much remembered richness for me.  For many years now I have experienced the presence of Jesus with me, with us, in all times and places.  Today I return to this passage with a second naivety.  I am again comforted by Jesus' presence, now and to the end of the age. 

The disciples experienced Jesus as a present presence and as an absent presence.  While he was with them in the flesh, he was their friend, teacher and companion here and now, a present presence.  They were with him here and knew where he was now.  He was in one place and not another.  He was in this time and not all times.

After the resurrection, the disciples experienced Jesus as an absent presence.  He was with them in the spirit.  He was their friend, teacher and companion still, and yet he was so much more.  Now he filled all things.  He was with them in all times and in all places.  There was no where that he was not.  They spoke of this transition as Jesus' Ascension. 

An important characteristic of the experience of Jesus as the absent present is the realization that because Jesus is everywhere, we need not seek him elsewhere.  Jesus is here.  If I do not recognize him here, it is pretty useless for me to go and search for him somewhere else, because it is not Jesus who is absent from me, it is I who am absent from him.  Oh, there are thin places and evocative holy times when it seems easier to recognize the divine present, but the deeper invitation is to discover Jesus in every situation and person, in every time and place. 

As we read the accounts of his life we are reminded that Jesus is present in all ordinariness.  We read the gospel stories and see him present with his disciples in our waking and working and sleeping, in our meals and conversations and travel, in our love and joy and wonder, in our arguments and frustrations and confusions.  The stories of his table reminds us of his particular presence in the Eucharist, and the story of his cross reminds us of his deepest presence in human suffering and evil.

But there is no place where Jesus is more than right here, right now, for he is risen and ascended and has filled all things with his presence.  Whenever I can remember that, I am re-membered.  His words literally ring true again.  "Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Lowell

_____________________________________________

Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
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 www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

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

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

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

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Process for Growth

Monday, May 10, 2010 -- Week of 6 Easter
Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, Prophetic Witness, 1760

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 963)
Psalms 80 (morning)       77, [79] (evening)
Leviticus 25:35-55
Colossians 1:9-4
Matthew 13:1-16

First, a note about our new observance from the proposed calendar Holy Women, Holy Men:

Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf [1700-May 9, 1760] Founder of the Herrnhuter Br├╝dergemeinde or Moravian Brotherhood. A reformer of the Holiness Movement, who believed in religion of the heart, and worked to infuse new life into Protestant orthodoxy. (May 10)
____

Our reading from Colossians is a wonderful prayer to begin the day:
We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.  May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.  He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

There is a pattern here that begins with spiritual wisdom and understanding.  When we know who we are and whose we are, we are grounded.  We are better able to know what God's will is for us each moment of the day.  Armed with that knowledge, we then need the strength to do what we are called to do -- to do God's will.  We are to bear fruit and we are to endure with patience what needs to be endured.  When we act in a way that is consistent with our conscience, when we do what we know we should do, we are to then be thankful and joyful.  We are sharing in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

The pattern that this prayer offers reflects a traditional understanding of our nature and humanity and of our spiritual growth.  One ancient way of understanding our being is to speak of human beings as a unity of intellect, will and emotion.  Our healthy spiritual progress moves, as this prayer suggests, from our intellect to our will to our emotions.  At each of these three stages, we can become stuck.

When our intellect is stuck, we do not understand.  We do not know what we should do.  We experience anxiety.  In times of anxiety, we need God's Holy Spirit to fill us with the spiritual gift of faith, deep trust in God, or the indwelling of God's spiritual knowledge.  Our trust in God leads us into truth, which overcomes anxiety.

When we know what we should do, but we cannot do it, our will is stuck.  We experience anger or depression -- the stuckness of our will directed either outward (anger) or inward (depression).  In times of anger or depression, we need the Holy Spirit to fill us with the spiritual gift of hope, strengthening us to do what we know we are called to do, to do God's will.  Our hope in God leads us into right action, which bears fruit, and allows us to endure with patience that which must be endured. 

When we know what we should do, and we are doing it, but we are not enjoying doing God's will, our emotions are stuck.  We experience resentment or hurt -- the stuckness of our emotions directed either outward (resentment) or inward (hurt).  In times of resentment or hurt, we need God's Spirit to fill us with the spiritual gift of charity, filling us with love so that we may be joyful and thankful as we act in ways consistent with our knowledge of the truth.

Healthy spiritual growth proceeds through just such a process of growth in faith, hope and love, stretching successively our intellect, will and emotions.  We grow, and reach a place of equilibrium when we enjoy doing what we know is right.  After a while, we will again be challenged and stretched to grow in wisdom, strength and joy in the process of moving through anxiety, anger/depression and resentment/hurt as God's Spirit fills us successively with more faith, hope and love.

Sometimes we can take our spiritual temperature by recognizing where our primary afflictive emotions are at the moment.  Are we experiencing anxiety?  We need the gift of deeper trust which brings understanding.  Are we experiencing anger or depression.  We need God's gift of hope, so we may be strengthened to act.  Are we experiencing resentment or hurt?  We need to Spirit's gift of love to heal and comfort us.

God is always working to give us what we need so that we may grow in knowledge, strength and joy.  May you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.  May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.  He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Lowell

_____________________________________________

Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
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 www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

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

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

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

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Monday, May 03, 2010

I'm on Retreat This Week

The monastery where I'm staying doesn't have Internet.  

The Daily Office Readings are listed in the Prayer Book on page 963, Week of 5 Easter.

Or you can read the Office online at http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html

I'll be back to the blog Monday, May 10.

Lowell