The Gift of Water

I requested that we do a series on water this time of the year when we are experiencing triple-digit days of heat, a record-breaking drought, and our dependence upon ample supplies of water increases. This Sunday, we will begin our three part Adult Formation Series, “Let’s Talk About Water” at 10:25 a.m. in Crail C. I hope you will join us as we explore water in our lives.

We thank you, God, for the gift of water.

Water – something that is absolutely essential to life and something that we sometimes take for granted. Outside of oxygen, water is the most precious thing we need to stay alive.

Roughly 60% of our body weight is water.

The average American uses 80–100 gallons of water each day.

And almost daily there is an article in our local paper that we are running short on this  valuable, life-giving, life-sustaining commodity.

Do we give thanks to God for water? Are we aware that it is coming to be in shorter and shorter supply? Are we concerned for those who don’t have the abundance of water that we take for granted?

Such is the case for our brothers and sisters in the diocese of Southern Malawi, Africa. We have been working over several years to help establish a medical clinic in the village of Mindanti. This is a small rural community which I and others from our community have visited. Our overseas outreach arm, Warm Heart International, has sufficient funds to supply all of the necessary components, but with one missing piece. Though it may seem somewhat primitive in this age of technology, the last piece needed to make safe, fresh water available for the medical clinic, church/rectory, and the population of Mindanti is a windmill (like the old fashioned ones many of us remember from childhood.) The windmill will cost about $10,000. Your donations are invited in any amount. May we each be grateful to God for water…for life…and may we be aware of and responsive to the needs of others.

Lest we forget that water is a gift from God. God has used water throughout history that we might know not just life, but new life. In our service of Holy Baptism we pray over the water of baptism:

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

An A-Ha Moment at the Movies

By Lara Lowman, Director of Stewardship and Planned Giving

The night before my husband was admitted to UT Southwestern’s Zale Lipshey hospital for back surgery, we went to see “The Heat” at Inwood Theatre on Lovers Lane in Dallas. We were both feeling anxious and a comedy seemed like the solution. Having attended SMU in the ’80s, I know the Inwood more for the martinis in the adjacent Lounge than the films that flicker through the plate glass window dividing the two spaces.  I looked forward to introducing my husband to both.

The Lounge hasn’t changed, but the theatre has taken comfort to a new level. The space where the seats were now looks like a Rooms-to-Go couch showroom: row after row of oversized loveseats with plump matching ottomans and decorative throw pillows. A few oversized, overstuffed chairs for singles are interspersed, everything upholstered in soft velour with cup-holders on the armrests. My husband’s surgery was the farthest thing from my mind as I plopped down, nestled myself amongst the pillows, and hoisted my legs on to the ottoman.

As I sipped my wine, the pre-movie ads began. I wasn’t paying much attention. The theatre lights were up, everyone was getting settled, and because the theatre feels like someone’s massive living room, we were all a bit chatty.

If everyone is busy making everything…how can anyone perfect anything?

We start to confuse convenience with joy. Abundance with choice. Designing something requires focus.

My eyes glanced at the words flitting across the screen on spare black-and-white backgrounds as crisp tinkling piano music played. What’s being advertised, I wondered? Sounds pretty meaningful.

The first thing we ask is: what do we want people to feel?  Surprise.  Delight.  Love.  Connection.

Then we begin to craft around our intention. It takes time… there are a thousand no’s for every yes.

We simplify. We perfect.  We start over. Until everything we touch….enhances each life it touches.

Maybe this is one of Dallas’s prosperous mega-churches, I thought. Pretty innovative, reaching potential worshipers at the movies. But this was the Inwood, and everything about the evening had been a little different.

Only then do we sign our work. Designed by Apple in California.

Wait. So, it’s Apple who is relying on emotional words alone – no images – to sell products. And the language they’ve chosen reminds me of what goes on at St. David’s every day.

Ironically, St David’s – which doesn’t push out an advertising message, but simply offers surprise, delight, love and connection as part of who we are – is in the midst of launching new technological tools that will make it easier to be involved with the church. The results include greater convenience, accuracy and efficiency. But there’s a learning curve. The irony is that to launch our new technology, we’ve shifted to straight-forward instructional language, while the company who makes some of our technology simply talks about transforming lives.

Obviously, there’s a place for both emotional and practical language. The goal of our new technologies is to make everything St David’s offers convenient so you can focus on your faith and deepen your relationship with your church. However, if you’ve found any aspect of it frustrating, just contact us. We may not have a big advertising budget that puts our name in front of thousands of moviegoers, but we do have me, Peter, Nancy, Rebecca, Catherine and others who will help. Like Apple, we do whatever we need to enhance every life we touch.

To see the ad: http://youtu.be/Uw9Ty4djCHg

To explore what you can do online, go to My St David’s at the top of www.stdave.org

If you have questions about using My St David’s, contact Peter Hahn by email or at 512-610-3500. He can assist or direct you to the right person.

Aside

I am reflecting today on the lesson from the Acts of the Apostles which we will hear this Sunday (9:36-43). The lesson tells the story of Peter raising the woman, Tabitha (also known as Dorcas), from the dead. At the time that Acts was written, it was common for people to have both a Hebrew name and a Latin or Greek name as with Saul who was also known as Paul. Both names, Tabitha and Dorcas, mean Gazelle. This lesson and the name Dorcas have particular meaning for me because of a spiritual director that I once had whose name was Dorcas. Sr. Dorcas is a gazelle-like Episcopal nun who was of great import and supported me at one of the more challenging times of my adult life.

In reading from Daily Feast: Meditations from Feasting on the Word, Year C*, the reflection on this lesson suggests that we live in a world where the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty seems to greatly influence our life view and theology.

“Humpty Dumpty is broken, and the common assumption is that putting him back together again is an impossible task. That is just the way it is – but not according to Acts. Acts tells us the followers of Jesus were empowered to ‘turn the world upside down’ (17:6). So, raising someone from the dead is very possible by this community empowered by the Holy Spirit.”

Truth be told, much of our world and culture has a “Humpty Dumpty” mentality. As Christians, we continue to live as did the people of Acts: in the power of God’s Spirit in our midst and we remain empowered to ‘turn the world upside down.’

This Acts lesson seems particularly poignant this week. Like those who grieved the death of Dorcas in Acts, our nation grieves the tragedies which occurred in Boston and West. A lesson such as this can be very challenging to us. As people of faith, we believe that God is in control, that God will heal all, and that God will make all things well. And yet we are faced with the reality of this broken world in which things happen which are confusing and impossible to understand.

I cannot claim to fully understand the ways of God. I have come to believe with firm conviction that it is in the times of tragedy that God is most present. I try not to  ask “Why did God let this happen?” as the Bible and Christian history illustrate clearly that we live in a broken world and “stuff” does indeed happen. Instead, I have learned to ask, “What has God done about the brokenness of the world?” In answer to that question, God has shown through the coming of Jesus Christ to be with us as a healer and life giver.

As people of faith, we believe that God is very much present in the world and that God continues to work miracles of healing. God does not always heal in the ways which we desire, but we have been given the ultimate answer through God’s last and greatest act of healing: Jesus Christ’s victory over death and the gift of eternal life.

We continue to pray for healing with eager expectation even as we acknowledge that we cannot know or understand all of the ways of God.

In times of challenge, fear, and doubt, this prayer from the Daily Feast: Meditations from Feasting on the Word, Year C  can be helpful:

God, I bring before you _________  (insert name of someone you know who is ill) and ask that you would bring healing to this person, whether that healing is a renewed assurance of your love or a  physical improvement. Your will be done. Amen.

May we continue in faith and know that Christ is with us, in us, and all about us.

- David

Daily Feast: Meditations from Feasting on the Word, Year C is a devotion resource with daily reflections on the lessons for the upcoming Sunday. It can be ordered through Amazon, and if you access Amazon through the portal on the St. David’s website we get a rebate on your purchase.

Jesus Feeds Us

“When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.”

John 21

This lesson from the 4th Gospel, which we will hear this Sunday, was ever changed for me when I accompanied several of St. David’s members on a pilgrimage to the Diocese of Southern Malawi, Africa.

We saw many things on our journey, many of them close to overwhelming in lovely and, sometimes, challenging ways. In the midst of our two-week trip, Bishop Tengatenga had wisely scheduled a retreat for us at their diocesan camp on the shores of Lake Malawi so that we could process what we were experiencing. Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and is a major source of food.

During our stay at the lake, we watched each night as local fishermen headed out for their night’s work in simple dugout canoes. It struck me at the time that the technology and equipment they used was the same as in Jesus’s day. Through the night, we could see them out on the lake, torches lit in the front of the canoe as they worked their nets

In the morning as the sun rose they returned, their canoes burdened with the night’s catch. At our camp there had been hired for us a local cook who took care of our meals. Each morning as the fishermen returned, he walked down the beach and purchased fresh caught fish for our breakfast. Soon after, we smelled the wonderful aroma of fish cooking.

The story of Jesus cooking fish on the beach for the famished disciples became intensely real as we experienced the same sights, smells, and tastes as they had. In the Scriptural account, the disciples knew that it was Jesus who fed them though none of them dared to ask. What about us? Do we realize day by day that it is Jesus who feeds us? That Jesus knows when we are empty and our efforts seem to be without result? That it is Jesus who calls to us: “Come and be fed”?

As Jesus called to the cold and wet disciples, may we hear him calling to us, seeking to feed, and comforting us in all our needs.

 

Lenten Blog Series, #6

This blog concludes a series of reflections on the paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer found in the New Zealand Anglican Prayer Book service of Night Prayer.

This version of the Lord’s Prayer concludes:

“For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever. Amen.”

I have nothing against the well-known traditional words: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.”

The New Zealand paraphrase articulates a concept that was likely accepted and assumed by previous generations but that, I fear, isn’t known by many today – that ‘God is love’!

I greatly fear, no- I believe, that to many in our world the message that God is love has been substituted for the suggestion that God is harsh, eager to condemn, threatening, and that we must somehow work to earn God’s love. This is a tragic reality, and it is why many have turned away and/or not even experienced the Christian faith and Christ’s Church.

Love is the strongest power in all of creation.

The First Letter of John, particularly the 4th chapter, is a favorite of mine and contains several verses about love which we do well to preach and proclaim:

7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God;
everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.

19 We love because God first loved us.

This concluding phrase of the Lord’s Prayer is actually not in the Bible. It was added as a doxology to the words which Jesus taught, as a statement that God is love, God’s reign is of love, and that God’s love reigns eternally.

Lastly there is that wonderful word “Amen.” Amen means literally ‘let it be so’, and when we say “Amen” we are praying let all these words be so, let them be so with me, let them be so in my life.

I say “Amen” to that!

May it be so!

New Zealand Lord’s Prayer

Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all, loving God, in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and for ever. Amen.

Lenten Blog Series, #5

In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

As we come to the last days of Lent, our season of preparation for the Great Easter Feast, I would reflect upon these lines from the Lord’s Prayer paraphrased from the New Zealand Anglican Book of Common Prayer:

In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.

From trials too great to endure, spare us.

These words make clear that temptation and test are a part of living. I know that not everyone would agree with me, but I am convicted that God does not temp us and, also, that God doesn’t test us. Well-meaning people often say, “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.” I have trouble with this on two levels.

First, it would seem to imply that when we face difficulty it is because God has given the challenge to us. I don’t see this in God’s nature, and I believe that living as we do in a broken world, we encounter difficulty and challenges that are simply a part of living and for which we may turn to our God for strength and sustenance.

My second issue with the statement is that it seems to imply that we will not face ‘more than we can handle.’ My experience both of life and faith is that I do encounter times when that which comes at me is more than I can handle. I like to say that there are times when the world is bigger than we are, and this is why we need and have a saviour and are called to a community of faith where we find strength, support, and sustenance in difficult times.

It is good and right to ask that God’s presence to be known to us and for God’s aid in being spared from those things which seem to be and/or are more than we can endure.

From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

I delight in the wording of this phrase because it has the nature of a ‘catch all’, asking protection and aid from ALL THINGS that are not of God, things of which we may be aware and those which we cannot see or even imagine. We live in a world in which evil exists. To deny this, as the great writer C. S. Lewis suggests in the ‘Screwtape Letters’, is to play into the evil one’s hands. Hear me, I don’t see a devil hiding behind every lamppost, but I know that we regularly encounter things in our lives which are not of God. We cannot even begin to imagine all of the ways in which we might be assaulted by evil and all of the ways in which we can in “thought, word or deed” slide into things which are not of  God, and so we are right to pray ‘from the grip of all that is evil, free us’.

This brings to mind a favorite passage from the letter to the Romans (chapter 8) where St. Paul writes:

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As we approach our celebration of Easter and Christ’s great victory for us, may we know and celebrate that nothing, NOTHING, can separate us from the love of him who died and rose for us.

Lenten Blog Series, #4

This is the fourth blog in a series of reflections on a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer found in the Prayer Book of the Anglican Church of New Zealand.

New Zealand paraphrase: “In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.”

Contemporary words: “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

Traditional words: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

New Revised Standard version of Matthew 6:12: “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

The four phrases above are intended to communicate the same meaning. It is fascinating that the same concept would be variously translated as: hurts, sins, trespasses, and debts.

I prefer ‘sins’ to ‘trespasses’ or ‘debts’ as it is more specific and, for me, less prone to obfuscation. The simple and blunt truth is that I have sinned. I am a sinner and, for my own spiritual health, I must acknowledge this. St. Paul’s words come to mind: ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23).

But still, it is all too easy to categorize sin as a thing or act, or a list of ‘no-nos’ that we must not commit – and to fall into the trap of thinking, “I really haven’t done anything THAT bad.” This can also lead to a view of God being somewhat like Santa Claus, looking at us as if making a list of who is ‘naughty or nice’ watching to catch us.

The phrase: “In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us” is very personal and specific and speaks to me of my own fault when I cling to a wound that I perceive someone has inflicted upon me. I recognize that the phrasing of this petition may not capture the fullness of Jesus’ words from Matthew 6, but it does alert me to my tendency to blame or to harbour resentment toward others. 

Asking forgiveness, which implies repentance and amendment of life, reminds me that I make a choice when I hold on to a such things and that to do so is to embrace a spiritual and emotional poison which then infects many, if not all, aspects of my life.

I am convicted that Jesus’ intent in giving us these words to pray is that we be set free; set free from those things we have ‘done and left undone’ through sincere repentance and God’s forgiveness; set free from the burden of holding on to hurts that we choose to absorb.

May we remember, embrace, and absorb not our wounds, but the grace, love and forgiveness of the one who came to set us free.

New Zealand Lord’s Prayer Paraphrase

Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
     source of all that is and that shall be,
     Father and Mother of us all, loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!

The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
     Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!

Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.

     With the bread we need for today, feed us.
     In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
     In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
     From trials too great to endure, spare us.
     From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever. Amen.