Monthly Archive for April, 2011

Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day April 24, 2011

Acts 10:34-43                                                                      

Colossians 3:1-4                                                                  

John 20:1-18

On all the Easter Days before I was ordained, when I sat where you sit, listening to Easter sermons rather than preaching them, I always came to church with one great question: Will this fellow, the preacher, say that he believes this stuff – really believes – or will he waffle? Will he (it was always a he in those long ago days) just go on about new life and new energy, resurrection as metaphor or image or inspiring story? Or will he say, Jesus really rose from the dead, the tomb was really empty, he really appeared to his disciples, this stupendous and supernatural thing really happened, and I, preacher man, really believe it, really stake my life on it? Which kind of sermon am I going to hear? Coming to church like you, that was always the question I had in my mind.

So this is my last Easter sermon, probably the last one I will ever preach, and I want to tell you right up front that I really believe this stuff – that it really happened, empty tomb, bodily resurrection, miraculous appearances and all. I really believe it, and I really stake my life on it. So there you have it, and the rest of what I’m about to say is all by way of explaining what I’ve just confessed. Continue reading ‘Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day April 24, 2011’

Good Friday April 22, 2011

John 18:1-19:42                                                                                                                                                                   

I’ve never watched one of those reality TV shows, where people are cast on tropical islands to fend for themselves, voting one another “off the island” until an ultimate winner is left. Maybe in retirement I’ll come to that, but in my ministry I find there is quite enough “reality” just in everyday life. Because I have only a vague, hearsay notion of these “off the island” shows, I don’t know whether you’re allowed to take anything with you to the island. But supposing you are, what would I take? What one thing?

 Well, narrowed down to just one thing, I would have to say the Bible. (A choice that would no doubt ensure that I would be the first person voted off the island!) And if I were pressed to choose just one part of the Bible, it would be the Passion according to St. John, what we just read. As one commentator has said of John’s Passion narrative:

From beginning to end, artistry and ideology have consciously shaped traditions grounded in historical memory for purposes unique to this particular story of Jesus. Numerous details have been included that are nowhere else mentioned in the New Testament. Precise descriptions and electrifying dialogue merge to produce one of the most compelling and powerful stories of courage and commitment, betrayal and fear, politics and passion known to humankind. If we have not learned to find the importance of each word and phrase . . . , we will largely miss the carefully nuanced message of the Johannine Passion narrative. But if we do pay close attention, the story will lead us to the heart of humanity’s most compelling questions, to a forked road down which we must choose our own path[i]. Continue reading ‘Good Friday April 22, 2011’

Maundy Thursday April 21, 2011

Exodus 12:1-14                                                                   

1 Corinthians 11:23-26                                                      

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

When I left the last parish I served – after a very painful time for me – the bishop, Frank Griswold, asked me whether I was going to look for another congregation. “Yes,” I said, “I am.” “Good,” he said. “John, you need a congregation in which to do theology.” It was a discerning judgment on his part. He was thinking of me as, like himself, basically an introverted intellectual who tends to live off alone in his head. Theology, he was reminding me – the word means basically knowledge or relation with God – theology can’t be done alone or in our heads. It requires immersion in a community, life together with others. And this has proved itself for me. In our years together, Holy Cross has transformed me, very intimately and deeply. I’m still by nature an intellectual, an introvert. But it’s always now for me the congregation, the community, you and your lives, where I begin and end my thinking. It is in you that I know and relate to God.

I say this because this liturgy, Maundy Thursday, is at its heart about community. This is the night before Jesus’ death; the hour before his betrayal by Judas. Jesus, as St. John presents him to us in his gospel, knows fully all that is to befall him. This knowledge is part of his “oneness” with the Father, as well as his “oneness” with humanity. And so Jesus is preparing his disciples, his little fragile community that he loves so completely, for his departure, for what is to come. Every word that he speaks, every action that he does, has significance. The disciples do not understand it all now, but they will recall and understand in the future. It will sustain and comfort and give them courage. As Jesus asked them to, they will repeat his actions in the future. And so of course Christians have done through the ages, and so we do tonight. Continue reading ‘Maundy Thursday April 21, 2011’

Palm Sunday April 17, 2011

Matthew 26:14-27:66                                                       

John 4:5-42                                                                            

Think of today as a drama in three acts, in each of which we play a different role. Act I is the palm procession outside. In all my years of doing Palm Sundays I’ve never managed to have a donkey for Jesus to ride on, but it’s still always a glorious celebration. We’re there singing hosanna! and waving our palm branches of victory. Jesus has come to save us. Everything is up and up.

And we all know what that Act is like in our own lives. It’s when we land the job we wanted or get a raise. It’s when we fall in love or the person we want to marry says yes. It’s the new house, the new car, the child graduating with honors, getting into college, building a new church, our candidate for President getting elected. All of those and more. Salvation: it’s what we long for, and in Act I it seemed to be there, finally in our grasp. Continue reading ‘Palm Sunday April 17, 2011’

Lent 5 April 10, 2011

 

The Rt. Rev. Arthur E. Walmsley

Jesus wept.  —  John 11:35

Begin with the shortest verse in the Bible: two words — Jesus wept.  They appear at the heart of the story in John’s Gospel when Jesus responds to his close friends and followers, Martha and Mary, whose brother Lazarus is gravely ill.  Jesus and the disciples hurry to Bethany, a village just two miles east of Jerusalem, and on their arrival discover that Lazarus has died.  That is a very human story, is it not?  We can probably imagine being there.   A month ago I had a telephone call — a longtime friend had suffered a stroke on the way to an appointment, his car crashed into a tree, and he was dead.  Would I come and preach at his burial service. Continue reading ‘Lent 5 April 10, 2011’

Lent 4 April 3, 2011

This was one of our periodic “Come with Joy” Sundays, in which the children are with the rest of the congregation for the entire service and we incorporate elements like the following drama into the worship.  This is a dramatization of the story of the healing of the man born blind in John 9:1-41.

WHO IS THIS WHO OPENS THE EYES OF THE BLIND?

 The Narrator takes her place on a chair before the Altar, her market basket (concealing the script) on her lap. She is clad in a shawl that covers her hair.

Narrator  Well, I’m here to tell you! I don’t know what to think. I’m still trying to sort it out. What I do know is that, for myself, well . . . I’ll never be the same again. You see, I was there in the marketplace, just minding my own business. And there was this man – I’d heard of him – the one called Jesus, who’s been causing all this talk and commotion around. He’d he was standing in front of the blind man who always sits there begging. His disciples were with him, and they’d asked him, “Teacher, is this man blind because he sinned himself or is he blind because his parents sinned?” Well, a crowd was gathering. We all wanted to know what this famous Teacher would answer. Who’s to blame for all that’s wrong in the world? It’s an important question.

Gong is struck and tableau players take their places: Blind Man seated on the floor, his eyes shut; Jesus in white robe standing next to him; Crowd on either side, peering curiously at the two of them.

Jesus I tell you, neither this man nor his parents sinned. You are all quite blind yourselves — always trying to blame someone or something for what’s wrong in life. But there’s another way. This man was born blind so that God’s mighty works might be revealed in him. You and I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

Narrator  (while Jesus pantomimes action she describes) After Jesus said this, he did something amazing. He spat on the ground and made mud with his saliva and spread the mud on the blind man’s eyes.

Jesus Go, wash in the pool called Sent Forth!

Gong is struck and tableau players return to their seats.

Narrator  Well, I tell you I didn’t know what to think. I mean, spitting: we all know saliva is unclean. But here Jesus was using it to make healing mud for the man’s eyes. And using the dust of the earth to do so: well, it made me think of the Lord God creating Humankind from the dust of the earth. And it wasn’t just me. Everyone was quite awestruck. But while they were still talking and wondering about it all, the blind man returned from washing and now he could see.

Blind Man stands in center, his eyes wide open and his arms stretched up to heaven. As singing begins, he returns to his seat.

 Verse One of “Amazing Grace”

Narrator  Well, as you can imagine this wasn’t the end of things. Oh, no! It was more like the beginning. There was a grand commotion, I’m here to tell you.

Gong is struck and tableau players take their places: Blind Man standing, his eyes wide open; Crowd around him, gesticulating with excitement and disagreement.

Narrator There were some who were saying this wasn’t the man who had been blind, just someone who looked like him. After all, who ever heard of a blind person being healed – especially the way Jesus had done. But the man himself kept saying, “I am the man. The one called Jesus healed my sight. He made mud, put it on my eyes, I went and washed in the pool called Sent Forth, and suddenly I received my sight.”

 Verse Two of “Amazing Grace”

 As singing begins, tableau players return to their seats.

Gong is struck and Blind Man and Pharisees take their places: Blind Man standing as before; Pharisees pointing accusingly at him.

Narrator  So they did what they always do in these situations. They called in the experts, the holy authorities: the Pharisees. And the man explained all over again what Jesus had done with the mud and how he’d been healed. But the Pharisees scowled and shook their heads. “This is impossible,” they decreed. “This man Jesus could not have healed you because he is a sinner himself. He does not observe the Sabbath. A sinner could not have performed such signs.” They confronted the man with this: “So what do you have to say about this Jesus now?” But the man responded, “He is a prophet.”

Narrator  Well, that about did it! The Pharisees flew into a rage. They called the man’s parents, but the parents were frightened and wouldn’t take sides. All they’d say is that the man was their son and, yes, he had been born blind. Yet the man who’d been healed was insistent: Jesus had healed him and now he could see. So the Pharisees began attacking the man himself, saying that he must be a sinner too. And it all ended with the Pharisees driving the man out of town.

Pharisees pantomime driving the Blind Man out of town.

Gong is struck and all return to their seats.

Narrator Well, that was enough for me. I headed for home, like everyone else. You don’t want to be around when those religious people get riled up like that. You could be the next one they attack when they’re in that self-righteous mood of theirs. But as I was nearing home, there on the road ahead of me was the man who’d been healed. Jesus had found him and was speaking to him.

Gong is struck and the Blind Man and Jesus take their places.

Jesus Do you believe in the Son of Man?

Blind Man And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.

Jesus You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.

Blind Man Lord, I believe.

 Verse Three of “Amazing Grace”

 Blind Man returns to his seat. Narrator exits. Jesus remains, standing in the center.

Jesus I came into the world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind. (He too retires as the singing begins.)

 Verses Four and Five of “Amazing Grace”

 At conclusion of the verses, the cast stands and acknowledges applause.

Holy Cross Observes Fasting and Prayer for Holy Week

At the suggestion of parishioner Arthur Walmsley, retired Bishop of Connecticut, we are inviting all our members to observe Holy Week this year with special disciplines of fasting and prayer in solidarity with the suffering around the world and here at home. In the news are the continued devastation and nuclear peril in the wake of the earthquake in Japan, violence and oppression in the Arab world as people struggle to achieve democracy and equality, and budget cut-backs at the federal and state levels that threaten the safety net for our most vulnerable sisters and brothers. In this week when the Church focuses on the suffering of Jesus, it is appropriate for Christians to take on special disciplines of fasting and prayer in solidarity with them, as Jesus sacrificed himself for us.

Part of our observance of fasting and prayer will be at church, each evening beginning at 6:00 p.m. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we will have two-hour services of silent prayer, readings, intercession for particular people or groups who are suffering, and a short, simple Eucharist. On Maundy (Holy) Thursday, the regular 7:00 p.m. liturgy commemorating the Last Supper will be preceded at 6:00 p.m. by a silent, agape soup and bread supper, during which there will be a reading. On Good Friday, the 7:00 p.m. liturgy will be preceded at 6:00 p.m. by Stations of the Cross.

The following are some suggestions for fasting at home during the week:

  • Make one meal each day a light one.
  • Give up snacks between meals.
  • Give up some food: meat, desserts, alcohol . . .
  • Give up prepared foods or gourmet foods.
  • Pray each day for some person or group of persons in suffering or need: Japanese victims of the earthquake; victims of violence or unrest in the Arab world; those affected by government cut-backs in services; the unemployed; those affected by rises in fuel, gas or food prices.
  •  Contribute money you save from fasting to the offering on Easter Day, which will be divided with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Pressured between Zionist Jews and Muslims, the Diocese operates many schools, hospitals and other charitable institutions in countries throughout the Middle East.

Holy Cross Divides Collection with Outreach

This year Holy Cross has started a new outreach effort, dividing the open offering receipts each Sunday equally between support of its own operations and donation to a designated project or charitable group. The recipients have been in the local community, in wider the state of New Hampshire, national and international. Some are church or faith based, others are not. Holy Cross is not a large or rich church. In absolute terms the amounts we donate are not large. But they help the recipients, they raise our own consciousness of needs in the world and the groups working to meet them, and they have a symbolic significance: we do not live for ourselves alone. What’s remarkable is that people have put enough money in the alms baskets each Sunday that the half going to Holy Cross has actually increased over last year’s collections. Recipients are suggested by parishioners.

Here’s a listing: of “split-the-plate” recipients so far:

New Hampshire Food Bank: $128. A program of New Hampshire Catholic Charities, the New Hampshire Food Bank serves as the only Food Bank in the state. Its current approach to ending hunger includes developing programs to help educate its registered agencies, rolling out a Mobile Food Pantry, expanding its Cooking MattersTM program, and developing its Recipe for Success program.  Every year, the Food Bank distributes over 6.5 million pounds of donated, surplus food to 412 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, day care centers and senior citizen homes. These registered agencies in turn provide the food to the over 127,200 different men, women and children throughout New Hampshire each year. For more information: http://www.nhfoodbank.org/.

The Friends Program: $116. The Friends Program strengthens communities by building relationships that empower people, encourage community service, and restore faith in the human spirit – “Building Relationships… Restoring Hope.” The Friends Program oversees four separate programs: Emergency Housing, Foster Grandparent, Junior/Senior Friends Youth Mentoring, Retired Senior Volunteer Program and RSVP-Interfaith Caregivers.   These programs serve communities within nine counties in NH: Belknap, Carroll, Cheshire, Grafton, Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham, Strafford, and Sullivan Counties. Distinctive Facts:

  • 4,500 children and families, older adults and people living with disabilities served annually.
  • 1500 volunteers.
  • 220,000+ annual volunteer hours.
  • Program outcomes exceed national performance standards.

Recent Recognitions/Awards:

  • New Hampshire Business of the Year Award 2006 for Excellence in Non Profit Management.
  • New Hampshire Business Review’s, “Business Excellence Award 2003”, for Outstanding Achievement in the Nonprofit sector.
  • Volunteer NH’s, “Volunteer Champion Award 2003” in the small nonprofit category for our outstanding ability to successfully manage volunteers.
  • Walter J. Dunfey Award 2003, for Excellence in Nonprofit Management.

 Staff:

  • 15 full-time, 14 part-time.

For more information: http://www.friendsprogram.org/.

Weare Food Pantry: $186. The Weare Food Pantry serves the people in Weare in need of food and other items. It is open Wednesday evenings from 5:00 to  7:00 at the Weare Middle School. There is also now food available at the Weare Community Thrift Shop for those unable to get to the Wednesday deliveries. At Christmas they were able to give 75 Christmas dinners and supply food throughout the month for 97 adults and 63 children. This is the most served since the pantry opened seven years ago. There is currently a gift cabinet which holds gifts for any child whose birthday falls in that month, if the family need is there.  The Pantry is therefore always grateful for toys for both smaller and older children. (At the present time, they have enough toys for ages 5 – 8.) Another new addition is that volunteers currently make birthday bags which include all you need for a birthday party, including the invitations and birthday cake mix and frosting. The pantry is currently most in need of deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, dish and laundry detergent and toilet paper. Recently, the volunteers at the pantry have been able to purchase gas cards, as there is always a need in that area. Over the years of its operation, all by volunteers, there has been continued growth in the services provided the Weare Food Pantry. They have worked hard to keep current with the needs of local families.

ChIPS (Children of Incarcerated Persons) Program of the Diocese of New Hampshire: $185. Together with other congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, Holy Cross participates each fall in the ChIPS program, collecting toys, books and money to purchase gifts for children of the men and women in the state’s correctional institutions. This year we decided we’d get a leg up on ChIPS by designating the program for donations in the winter as well. The ChIPS program has been operating for a number of years now and helps keep families of those in corrections together. Gifts are collected at the Diocesan Convention each November, sorted by volunteers who then help inmates select appropriate ones for their children and wrap them for presentation at family Christmas parties.

We Are Animal Guardians: $104. Founded in December of 1996, WAG is an all volunteer animal rescue and adoption organization based in Weare.  It is dedicated to providing humane care and shelter for abandoned, abused and unwanted animals, finding them suitable new homes, and increasing public awareness on the responsibilities of pet ownership. WAG operates without a physical facility or paid staff. Its animals are in WAG approved foster homes until a suitable adoptive home is found. It uses a detailed application and interview process in an effort to make the best match between the animal and an adoptive home. It also has a “Home to Home” adoption process which allows the pet to stay in his current home until a match is made by WAG or the current owner.

  • All WAG pets are current with shots; spayed or neutered if appropriate and have been thoroughly examined by a vet.
  • It works with pure breed rescue organizations to find homes for its pure breed friends.
  • WAG utilizes many forms of media including the web to spread the word and fulfill our mission.
  • Its operation is funded entirely by donations. WAG is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation.

For more information: http://www.wearewag.org/.

Piscataquog Land Conservancy: $ 76. The Piscataquog Land Conservancy (formerly the Piscataquog Watershed Association) is a regional land trust that protects almost 5,000 acres within the 11 towns comprising the Piscataquog watershed, including hundreds of acres in Weare. Many Holy Cross members belong to the PLC and a number volunteer to help with its activities, including John McCausland and Arthur Walmsley, who have served on its board and Will Townsend who works in the PLC office a day a week on computer mapping projects. The PLC’s main means of operating is through conservation easements, by which a landowner donates or sometimes sells development rights to the PLC which then monitors the affected land in perpetuity to make sure that the land remains undeveloped. Protected land can be used for recreation, farming or logging, as an owner designates; it just cannot be built on (except for designated exceptions, usually the owner’s home). Land conservation benefits wildlife, hunting and fishing, recreation, scenic beauty – and keeps taxes down. The PLC’s web site, with more information, is http://www.plcnh.org/.

American Committee for K.E.E.P.: $       . In the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power disasters in Japan, we included a project that the Episcopal Church began in that country in the wake of the devastation of World War II. The Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project (KEEP) is an economic and community development project rooted in Christian faith. KEEP was founded on four ideals: Food, Health, Faith, and Hope for Youth. KEEP added the principles of environmental education and international outreach to their advocacy work in the 1980s. But the mission remains constant: to offer program participants and visitors alike educational opportunities resulting in a new perspective, a stronger spirituality, a deeper cultural understanding, a richer appreciation for the ties that bind all people, and a call to serve others. KEEP is located in the part of Japan affected by the earthquake. It has responded by offering emergency housing and a place to rest and recover to families who lost their homes, providing bedding and supplies for shelters and transportation for people to secure medical help, and raising money for partner agencies engaged in relief efforts. You may read more about KEEP and its work at its web site: www.ackeep.org.