Sermon for Year B Proper 15: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Mark 6:14-29

Year B
Proper 15; Pentecost 6
MP: St. Mary the Virgin, St. Paul the Apostle EP: Holy Trinity
July 16, 2006
Focus text: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Mark 6:14-29

I believe it was our former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, who said, “Why is it that when people jump up and down and dance at a football match, it is called joy and excitement, and when we dance and clap in church, we are accused of emotionalism?” We Anglicans are usually the first to make fun of ourselves, “the frozen chosen”—or is that Presbyterian? There is an old story of a woman who attended a Church of England service and was most pleased with the sermon. She would declare, Amen! in response to the preacher. She would raise her hands in song. The usher approached her and quietly asked her to refrain from such antics. “But don’t you have the Holy Spirit?” she asked. “Not in the Church of England we don’t,” the usher replied.
The truth is our tradition is made up of some interesting characters. Although the English Church is only four hundred years younger than Christianity itself, our identity was formed initially by a king who decapitated two of his wives, his son who died at a very young age, one daughter who had us all burned at the stake, including Thomas Cranmer, and another who amazed everyone by bringing high church and low church together.
In our readings today, we encounter two more of these wild and wooly characters. The first is King David, the lineage of our Saviour, who was capable of enormous miraculous victories and such shameful mistakes. So often, history leaves out the embarrassing and human bits. Not the Hebrew testaments. Here we have David, dancing in his underwear, essentially, slaughtering an ox and a “fatted” ox at every sixth step. He is dancing in ecstasy, before the Ark of the Covenant (the very presence of God) much to the chagrin of his wife, Michal. Later on, a few verses down, David replies to Michal: I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes…” For David, his dancing is an act of “pious self-humiliation” before the Lord. It reminds me of a scene from the film “A Knight’s Tale”. Will, posing as a knight, declares to the woman he loves, “I will win this tournament for you”. Her maid goes to Will in private. “My lady has many men who will win for her. If you truly love her, you will lose this tournament.” What follows in the film is a few excruciating minutes of Will being thrown from his horse and beaten by lances. Eventually, it becomes too much to bear, and the maid returns to Will, “If you love her, you will stop this! Please. Fight.” Will’s love requested an extra ordinary act to declare his love. Every analogy can only go so far. Our God is not nearly as fickle as this young woman. But David was compelled to go beyond himself to declare his devotion to God.
We also hear the tragic end of the life of John the Baptist, that man clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, eating locusts and wild honey, baptizing people in the River Jordan, declaring, “Repent, prepare the way of the Lord”. Another one of those characters who seems to resist being slotted in the pew. John died for speaking a truth in a court where it was outlawed. Herod had taken for a wife the wife of his brother, Philip-a sin in the holy laws-most holy laws in our world, no matter what religion. Herod placed himself above not only the Jewish law, but any known law or custom of the time. And Herodias disgraced her husband, by leaving him to be with Herod in his court. All of the courtiers kept their opinions to whispers at the palace walls, but not John the Baptist. John was born to declare the truth, even if it was to lose his life. And in such a dishonourable way, to have his life bargained for the cost of a dance.
This is what faith in God meant to such as these. That our appearance is nothing to sharing the truth, glory, compassion and love of God. It goes against today’s motto: If it feels right, do it. David and John the Baptist challenge us that, if it makes us squirm, don’t be too quick to dismiss it.
It is not easy to be a Christian in North America today. And we are becoming painfully aware that is not easy being a North American in the Anglican Communion today. It is enough, sometimes, to make one just let whatever happen happen, just let it be over. But the faith of our fathers and mothers is not one that sits back.
There have been several reflections written over the past two weeks on the state of our Communion. I hope to share more of these texts in a sermon in the coming weeks. But for now, I want to conclude with some words by the Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane.

What does it mean to be Anglican? (he writes) What is it about Anglicanism that has led so many to conclude that it provides the most productive spiritual soil for living out the Christian faith? What is it that we have, which we dare not lose?
(To understand this), we must better engage with Anglican Tradition. We need a fresh understanding of tradition not as dry forensic

history, but as holy remembering of God’s abiding with his people, through the centuries. We must own our history – the living and life-giving history of God at work among us – in order to find our place of participation within the unfolding narrative of God’s redeeming acts in and through his church.

To know the joy of David, the conviction of John, and the love of God, we must begin to answer these questions. Why are we here? Why is it so critical that we stay together? Why does the world need Anglicanism? We are followers of a God who gave up everything, walked on human feet, spoke more truthfully, loved more fully…and knew more shame, than many of us ever will…and delights in us at every moment.
Let us move forward into our world with delight,
knowing that we are part of the great divine dance of life.
May the blessing of God, the dancer and the dance,
Move with us and within us this day and always. Amen

Why all the Ashes?

Thought I would share. D.

ACNS 4120 | ACO | 28 FEBRUARY 2006

Why all the Ashes?

I was lucky enough to be in one of Professor Frederick Shriver’s classes at General Seminary just before he retired. Father Shriver is not one to keep his opinions to himself and I especially recall his thoughts about ashes. “You know what I’d do if I were the rector of a church?” he asked our class. “You know what I’d do? I’ll tell you what I’d do. At the end of the Ash Wednesday liturgy, I’d be at the back door with a big washrag. As people left the church, I’d wipe the ashes off their forehead and remind them of the words of our Lord, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1).

Father Shriver had no time for religious pretence or hollow religiosity. His sentiments are profoundly biblical, echoing the preaching of the prophets and the teaching of our Lord. Given this strong criticism of outward piety and given that at Saint Mary’s we will offer ashes all day on March 1, we might well ask ourselves, “Why all the ashes?

Because ashes are a sign, they are a reminder, and ashes are an invitation.

Archaeologists tell us that the people of Israel were not alone in using ashes in rituals of purification. Ashes appear in Phoenician burial art and Arabic expressions. Ashes were a sign of grief, mourning, humiliation and penitence. When Job loses everything, he sits among the ashes. Cursed and overrun by enemies, the Psalmist “eats ashes like bread, and mingles tears with drink.” Ashes are what are left after destruction. After chaos or catastrophe, ashes are what remain.

Ashes also remind us of a common origin. The second chapter of Genesis tells of how we were created from the dust of the ground. Though we may spend our lives trying to distinguish ourselves from others, running after success and trying to feel different from others, the dust and ashes remind us that we are all made of the same stuff. We are reminded not only of our beginning but also of our end. On the First Day of Lent, ashes are imposed with the words, Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Those words apply to us all.

While ashes may signify and remind, they also invite. They invite us to repentance. They invite us to turn again to God and to receive new life. Isaiah brings glad tidings to the people of Israel, “to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning.” Ashes are not the end but are just the beginning. They begin a season that moves us through silence and longing into a season of joy and resurrection.

Sunday, February 26 is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany. The music will be celebrative and the mood joyous. The alleluias will echo for the next few days, until we reach the quiet of Ash Wednesday.

On that day, may the ashes we receive be a sign of our humility and our penitence. May they remind us of our individual sins and the complexity of corporate sin. But more than anything, may the ashes invite us into God’s presence, into God’s love and into God’s gift of new life.

Article from: Angelus On Line Newsletter, St Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church, New York
by Father John Beddingfield

Editor\’s note: This church is located on 46th St in Manhattan just in Times Square, the church will have a minister on duty all day from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. Thousands will visit the church on that day. Have a good Lent. JMR

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ACNSlist, published by Anglican Communion News Service, London, is distributed to more than 8,000 journalists and other readers around the world.

Litanies for HIV/AIDS

For my presentation to Diocesan Council last week, I wrote two litanies. The first is a general litany using our relationships to God to highlight our concern for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters. The second is written specifically for India. If you would like copies, feel free to email me or post a comment. Cutting and pasting may be more trouble than it is worth.

Blessings,

Dawn

Litany

O God, remember your daughters. They care for the sick until they are too sick to carry on. Then who is to take care of them? AIDS is taking our women, many against their will. They endure great burdens with no choice. And yet they are strong and unstoppable. Bless them, Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

O God, remember your sons. They too are trapped by inequality. Give them the courage to speak out against , and support them as they support their families.
Lord, have mercy.

O God, remember your little ones. As parents die from AIDS, young children are left to care for one another. Surround them with loving mother and father figures. Do not leave them alone.
Lord, have mercy.

O God, remember your sick children. Accompany those left to die alone. Comfort those whose health is declining, and family members as they keep vigil. Bring them Your love, and your healing.
Lord, have mercy.

O God, remember your healers. The many women and men who devote their lives to healing without medicine or resources that we take for granted. Provide for them, Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

O God, remember those who have authority over us. They have the power to enact change. Grant them courage to enter into uncertainty in order to save lives from HIV.
Lord, have mercy.

O God, remember your church. Stir us from complacency. Open our eyes to AIDS in our midst. Show us the way to a generation without AIDS.
Lord, have mercy.

Litany for India

For India, a country on the threshold of a tragedy with the possibility of change still in her sights, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer

For pastors, teachers, bishops and lay ministers who struggle with the difficult conversations, that they may have courage to speak out and compassion for those who enter their doors, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For village health workers, doctors and nurses those brave women and men who travel for miles to educate their communities and provide healthcare, that they may be protected on their journeys and blessed in their healing work, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For migrant labourers, truck drivers and commercial sex workers, as they are forced to make difficult choices, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those organisations who work on the front lines, often challenging the governments they rely on, that they will be provided for in their fight for justice in the struggle against HIV, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the women of India, struggling for equality and the choice that could save their lives from HIV, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those who are turned away from their villages and suffer discrimination due to ignorance, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those who have HIV and those who are dying from AIDS, that they may experience comfort and healing, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those who have committed to the long fight against HIV/AIDS in India. May our eyes be opened to the urgency of their task, we pray in hope,
Lord, hear our prayer.

Resources for AIDS and Lent-Updated

Over the past few months I have been travelling around the Diocese preaching about my time in India and the fight against HIV/AIDS (CNI-HIV/AIDS Programme) . In my spare time (HA!) I have been trying to find resources that parishes can use to promote awareness for the Partnership for Life: A Generation without AIDS.

I would commend the many worship resources available on the PWRDF website (click on Partnership above). In particular, Jeanette Romkema PWRDF HIV/AIDS Education and Animation Coordinator has compiled a beautiful collection of prayers, litanies, confessions and affirmations. Along with that, I have found a Stations of the Cross (post below), courtesy of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis. I have adapted it somewhat to reflect a more global focus.

When looking for resources, I would recommend those that have a focus on more than one of the following:

  • AIDS in the Americas
  • The spread of AIDS in Asia and Eastern Europe
  • Caring for Africa
  • Women
  • Stigma and Discrimination
  • Orphans
  • Distribution of medications
  • Proactive awareness campaigns

Each of these can be overwhelming, but AIDS is overwhelming.

I will try to update this post over the weeks ahead with further resources to help your parish include the struggle against HIV/AIDS in your liturgies.

Blessings,

Stations of the Cross For a World Living with AIDS

PLEASE don’t cut and paste what is below. I’m sure it will cause you more trouble than it is worth! I have only posted Stations 1, 2, 14 and 15. If you would like to use it, please email me and I will send you a clean copy.

I have attended two liturgies of the Stations of the Cross in a Roman Catholic setting. Both were beautiful, profound, heartbreaking and completely transformed my Easter experience. However, not everyone is up for the entire journey in one go. Some parishes will perform 3 stations each Sunday of Lent ending the Sunday before Palm Sunday.

If you do not have stations posted on the wall, you can be creative. A red ribbon with a number under it for each station would be a powerful visual, for example. Lit candles on window sills also works.


STATIONS OF THE CROSS

FOR A WORLD LIVING WITH AIDS

Opening Prayer

Gracious God, we live in a world affected by HIV/AIDS. Its victims are our co-workers, our friends, our family members, our neighbours, our students, our classmates, our church members. Its face is both anonymous and very familiar. It is as close as our neighbourhood and as far away as the other side of the world. We gather now to pray for all those whose lives have been touched by HIV/AIDS. Be with us as we pray for them and for ourselves.

STATION I

Jesus is Condemned to Death Deciding to Be Tested for HIV/AIDS

Leader: Lord, be with us.

All: And come with peace to save your people.

Leader: Every day many people struggle with the decision to be tested for AIDS. Should I? Shouldnt

I? Would it be better to know? Will I need to leave my family if the test is positive? Can I ignore the possibility that I have HIV/AIDS and just go on living? And these people who struggle…they are just like you and me…just like our sons and daughters, just like our friends…and yes, just like our parents and grandparents. So many times it is fear that keeps them from reaching out for help. And for some, it is ignorance…they cant believe that they might be carrying the disease and might even be passing it to others. The absence of symptoms gives them a false security.

Lord, look on us with love.

All: Be near, hear our prayer.

Lord, help all those who are afraid to be tested for HIV/AIDS. Calm their fears and give them the courage they need. Bless those who do the testing with compassion and gentleness so that they may mirror your love to all they serve.

STATION II

Jesus takes up his cross: Accepting the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS

Leader: Lord, be with us.

All: And come with peace to save your people.

Leader: Each person who has HIV/AIDS has his or her own individual story, but people all over the world are united by this tragic illness and by the struggle to accept what it means for life and for death. The question, “Why me, and not some other?” strikes deep in the heart. The struggle may include anger at others, anger at life, anger at self, anger even at God, and the peace of acceptance seems unreachable.

Lord, look on us with love.

All: Be near, hear our prayer.

Lord, the journey of life for someone who has HIV/AIDS may be long, difficult, and painful. As Jesus was given courage and strength for his painful journey, give to those affected by HIV/AIDS courage and strength to make their journey through life. Let us remember that though heavily burdened we can come to you to be unburdened through your grace, and that through your journey we have the opportunity for eternal life.


Station XIV

Jesusbody is placed in the tomb:Leaving friends behind

Leader: Lord, be with us.

All: And come with peace to save your people.

Leader: After Daniel’s death family and friends struggled to come to terms with the loss, with letting go of him, and with the fact that physical death, rather than a miracle of new physical life, resulted. There was an empty space for caregivers who ran errands for him, kept watch with him, managed his medications, and handled his remaining daily affairs. No matter how strong their faith, there was a sense of loss and grief, an empty hole where care and comfort-giving have been. Even today the search for a personal meaning of the loss continues, and there is a great need to find spiritual comfort.. For many, there is a need to experience comfort with others who understand and who have shared similar losses. New bonds of friendship and family are being forged through these painful times.

Lord, look on us with love.

All: Be near, hear our prayer.

Lord, you tell us you are always with us. We know that in our minds. Help all of us to feel it in our hearts. We offer you our grief and pain; we know that others are suffering deeply, too, and we offer you their grief and pain. We know that your love will surely provide the healing comfort that we seek.

Station XV

The Resurrection: Beginning New Life

Leader: Lord, be with us.

All: And come with peace to save your people.

Leader: The joy of eternal life awaits all who have died. The blessing of this belief offers hope, reassurance, and peace to those who remain, to encourage them to see in this death a resurrection. Even where the idea of eternal life is doubted, all can be helped to open themselves to new ideas, new life, and new beginnings, a resurrection of its own kind, smiled upon by a gentle God who knows our hearts and our needs in death and in life.

Lord, look on us with love.

All: Be near, hear our prayer.

Lord, please forgive our fragile faith. Help us to recognize in your resurrection the wonderful gift that is right here before usours to accept your eternal grace and love. We pray for all our loved ones who are now with you, and we await with joy your promised reward.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone. No, I am not a day late.

It is often hard to differentiate between the secular celebrations of Christmas that fill our cities, towns and communities and the Christian celebration of Christmas. Frankly, I don’t mind calling what I see in town halls and shopping malls holiday.

For Christians, we are now, beginning on December 25 and ending on January 6 or Epiphany in the Christmas season. And so, today and for the next 10 days, I want to wish you, your loved ones and all in your communities a very merry and blessed Christmas.

Let us keep the good will and wishes for peace flowing for the 12 days of Christmas and throughout 2006.

Blessings.

Ordination to the Diaconate

I have some exciting news.

After a discernment process lasting 9 years, I received a joyful phone call from the Rt. Rev. Fred Hiltz, Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island.

Upon receiving my M.Div., I will be ordained to the diaconate on May 31, 2006 at All Saints Cathedral in Halifax with 5 of my classmates. It is a worship service, so open to all. It is my hope that it will be a sacred and celebratory time accessible to all.

The ministry of the deacon is an important foundation on which to build my growing vocation to the priesthood. The deacon is called to translate the needs of the world to the Church. As a deacon, I will be concerned with those in my community and through out the world who are marginalized and vulnerable due to poverty, oppression, discrimination and illness. This role is extremely important to me at the moment, particularly in my work on the global impact of HIV/AIDS, pastoral care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons, and the growing impact of poverty on many in our Atlantic communities.

My task is to hold these issues before the Church. I work hard among all, but it is not my job to do all the work. This is the ministry of the whole Church, and I am looking forward to working alongside my sisters and brothers to bring to fruition God’s good will for those in our midst.

The ordination will take place on the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth. It is the event of Mary, pregnant with the Messiah visiting her cousin, Elizabeth, pregnant with the herald of the Messiah-John the Baptist. It is a wonderful feast because it precedes my favourite piece of scripture, the revolutionary Magnificat, and it is all about WOMEN!

I look forward to sharing more news about this event with you and I do hope you can come and join in this celebration. If you can not, there will be another ordination around November or December to the priesthood, to which you are also welcomed.

Blessings