Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

FullSizeRenderThe big, bold sign proclaimed, “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All,” and underneath it was an entire wall of televisions filled with a variety of images of violence taking place in one form or another. Some of the images were of terrorist attacks, some of mass shootings, and others were individuals screaming at each other.

Our world feels incredibly, increasingly violent. And the fact is, the place the vast majority of us will experience an absence of peace is with another person. Statistically, most people will not be a victim of a terrorist attack, a mass shooting, or all out war. However, with a family member, a neighbor, a coworker, or even online, all of us are very susceptible to being attacked by one another.

We should be ever-vigilant, for we never know when a terrorist, an imbalanced individual with a gun or another weapon, may decide to attack the place in which we find ourselves. The other more likely scenario calls for much deeper reflection. What are the words and actions I am taking toward others? Are they in fact, in the end, meant to be an attack?

As we enter into this season of Advent, I am reminded of these words from the prophet Isaiah:

“For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9:6)

In this season when we are watching and waiting, how are we preparing for the Prince of Peace?

“So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” (Eph 2:17-20)

Those of us who have chosen to follow in the Way of Jesus are called to bring peace to those who are far off – all those who are suffering from violence in our world and to those who are near – our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and the strangers we encounter. 

May we hold fast to the words we hear in our Prayer for Peace in the Book of Common Prayer:

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (Rom 15:13)

Thanksgiving for a Good and Faithful Deacon

The Ven. Dr. Irma M. Wyman and The Rt. Rev. Brian N. Prior

The Ven. Dr. Irma M. Wyman and The Rt. Rev. Brian N. Prior

On this week when many of us are gathering with family and friends for Thanksgiving, my thoughts turn to the good Archdeacon, Irma Wyman, who, as many of you know, passed away last Tuesday after suffering a stroke the previous weekend. As you are aware, we have put a significant emphasis over the last five years on discerning, forming, and sending forth deacons within ECMN. My well-publicized hope is for every ECMN faith community to have a relationship with a deacon. Irma and I spoke often about the diaconate and shared much in the way of a consistent understanding regarding the role of a deacon in a faith community and, on a larger scale, in the world.

And on this week when our world feels increasingly more volatile, I am thankful for the way Irma lived out her calling, iconically articulated in a sermon of hers from 2001:

“How will we know when we have enough deacons?

When all the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable are met;

When to gather the gifts of the church and take them to the world, and to gather needs of the world and bring them to the church, has become a habit;

When as the Rev. Canon George Osgood says, ‘…Deacons, going back and forth, have worn down the boundary lines that we use to keep church and world separated…’;

When deacons, leading the baptized in and out, have beaten a path between the altar and the gutter so that everyone will see the link between the Blood in our chalices and the blood in our streets;

When all people respond to the challenge to live, not in the love of power but in the power of love.”

Thanks be to God for the good and faithful service of Irma Wyman. It is in that spirit that I would like to share with you a hymn she selected for the Evensong that honored her ministry at her retirement in 2008:

One more step along the world I go (Southcote by Sydney Carter)

One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go;
from the old things to the new
keep me traveling along with you:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.

Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see
you’ll be looking at along with me:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me traveling along with you.

As I travel through the bad and good,
keep me traveling the way I should;
where I see no way to go
you’ll be telling me the way, I know:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me traveling along with you.

Give me courage when the world is rough,
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me traveling along with you:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me traveling along with you.

You are older than the world can be,
You are younger than the life in me;
Ever old and ever new,
Keep me traveling along with you:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me traveling along with you.

Click here to read an Episcopal News Service article written by Joe Bjordal, about Irma’s retirement in 2008 and her remarkable life and career.

Respecting the Dignity of Every Human Being, and Striving for Justice and Peace Among all People

FullSizeRenderTheir family was one of the first to welcome Staci and me as their shiny, new curate. They were particularly excited because, as many of you know, both of us had come out of the camp/youth ministry world and they had three adolescent boys. Decades have obviously passed, but they all transitioned from parishioners to longtime friends, including their eldest being our son Gage’s Godfather. Their middle son pursued a career in Emergency Medicine and established himself in a midsize community close to outdoor activities he loves. As an ER doctor and a father of two younger children, he amazingly found time to write a book which his mother proudly shared with us a couple months ago. 

Trauma Room Two is a wonderful collection of our friend’s deep personal reflections as an ER doctor. In a very transparent, vulnerable way it describes what has gone on in his mind amidst the daily trauma in the ER.

All of us, to a greater or lesser degree, interact with others during the course of the work we do. For many, this is the most difficult part of their day. Whether it be cranky customers, demeaning bosses, or gossiping coworkers, the “human interaction factor” can undoubtedly take a toll on us. Reading Trauma Room Two makes it clear that the same is true for an ER doctor.

All of us are faced with challenging human interactions. However, the greater challenge is to not become jaded and judgmental in ways that inevitably pigeonhole us into boxes: “You know those lawyers…” “Those elitist rich people…” “Those poor people…” “Those Muslims…” How are we to respond?

The horrific tragedies that took place last week in Paris have once again corporately tempted us to question how we will respond to the most challenging of human interactions – when another life has been taken. Reactive response is understandable, but in the end isn’t the most helpful or the healthiest.

My friend and colleague Bishop Pierre Whalon, of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe (and resident of Paris), shared the following in an Episcopal News Service article:

“How can we pray this prayer of all prayers, here in Paris, the day after?”

He then went on to suggest, “When we baptize or confirm people, Episcopalians always repeat the promise to ‘strive for justice and peace among all people’… We need, therefore, to chart a way to make peace. Peace, not appeasement or total war. In order to be able to do that, we first need to turn back to Jesus and ask for help.

Like this:

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 818)

Human interactions at all levels can be difficult at a minimum and life-ending in the most extreme situations. Either way, we are called to the same: respect the dignity of every human being, and strive for justice and peace among all people.