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  • The Blue Room

    The 2014 DC Ragnar Relay is a wrap, and the Steeple Chasers (seven pastors, three elders, and two significant others) blasted their way through 199 miles from Cumberland MD to Washington DC. It was insane and exhausting and exhilarating, and I’m already scheming about 2015. Here is my 8 year old’s rendering of the weekend’s events. Yes, […]

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  • Still Waters

    “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'” (Matthew 18.21-22) Below are ideas for interactive prayer stations focusing on that parable of the unforgiving servant. You can view more photos here. (For more specific instructions on layout, purpose, design, and more ideas, you can view previous posts tagged under “Interactive Prayer Stations.”) Interactive Prayer Station #1: Patience Materials: Magic Water Painting Paper, Paint Brushes, Bowls, Water   Interactive Prayer Station #2: Letting Go Materials: Alka Seltzer, Bowls, Vases, Water Ideas for this prayer station was adapted from Fizzy Forgiveness. Interactive Prayer Station #3: Affirmation of Faith Materials: Cross, Rope, Paper, Pens This version of the Affirmation of Faith was taken from a worship service done at Central...

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  • It's a quiet evening at home.  I'm sitting in the bedroom, reading and thinking and relaxing.  I can hear the television in the living room.  It's a re-run of the old show, "The King of Queens".  I recognize the plot.  It's a flashback episode, the one where Doug and Carrie are recalling their engagement and the days leading up to their wedding. In the episode, Carrie says "yes" to Doug, of course, but she is plagued by fits of anxiety that make her literally sick to her stomach.  She loves Doug, but she is plagued by doubts, until they visit the priest, and he remembers that Doug and Carrie met once when they were children at summer camp.  They were on a hay ride together, the priest recalls, and Doug fell on top of Carrie (or did Carrie fall on top of Doug?  I don't quite recall). All of a sudden, Carrie is calm and relaxed, no longer anxious and sick.  The story of their accidental childhood meeting is proof that they were 'meant to be...

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  • Generation after generation celebrates your abundant goodness and sings aloud of your righteousness, O God. Compared to you, we are of small account--what can we do? We can commend one another to the grace of the Lord, that the house may be filled with the fragrance of love. Lectionary Readings Ps. 135; 145; 97; 112 Job 40:1-24 Acts 15:36-16:5 John 11:55-12:8 Selected Verses Ps. 145:7 [Generations] shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,          and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. Job 40:3-4a Then Job answered the LORD: "See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? Acts 15:40 But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. John 12:3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

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  • Finally, I’ve been motivated to bring 7WD out of hibernation. You’re welcome, readers. What is that something? Why, of course, it’s the latest TREC letter! Yep, the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church has spoken. Non church-geeks will want to move right along now. Come back next time, when I rant about something of more general interest OK, church geeks, now that we’re on our own here, let’s talk about the TREC letter. I’m not going to unpack abbreviations or code language, since we’re among friends of high geekery. Now, most of what needs to be said has already been said by my fellow church geek bloggers. Go check out the many excellent posts in this handy roundup brought to you by Acts 8. I agree with much of what’s been said. Just a few thoughts here. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything here that’s Crusty Sized. I trade in pamphlets, hence my relative brevity. First, I’m grateful for everyone on...

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  • September 14, 2014 – The 14thSunday after Pentecost, Proper 19AGenesis 50:15-21; Matthew 18:21-35© 2014 Evan D. GarnerListen to the audio of this sermon here.Forgiveness is a spiritual exercise that may be harder than we think.In last week’s gospel lesson, Jesus urged his disciples to look for opportunities to forgive those within the church who sinned against them. “Go when it is just the two of you and point out the fault while you are alone. If that doesn’t work, take one or two witnesses with you. If that doesn’t work, tell it to the whole church…” At each step, the hope is that reconciliation might be possible. But Peter—who often plays our part in the story—approached Jesus and asked, “Wait, how far does this forgiveness stuff go? How many times are we supposed to forgive—as many as seven times?” “No,” Jesus replied, “Seventy-seven times.”What are the limits of forgiveness? How far should forgiveness go? Our youngest child is at the point where he likes to test the boundaries of...

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  • When You Want to Quit: Sermon Preached at Federated Church Exodus 14:10-14 Do you remember the last time you quit something? We’ve all been there . . . if not some time this week! We might want to quit our jobs (no me! I just started). We might want to quit going to the gym. Or, we might want our kids or grandkids to quit the soccer team because we are tired of taking them to practice. Though you might perceive me to be a well-traveled person who’s lived in a lot of places in the US and visited many countries around the world, this has not always been the case. Wanting to quit on trips was an emotion I often expressed as a child. I would weep when my mom put me on the bus for an overnight field trip. I would call home crying when I went to summer camp. And I would count the days till I got to sleep in my own bed at night when I went to visit my grandparents. But, even with all of this true, I always wanted to TRY to be like my braver friends. When I was a junior in high school, living...

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  • Emily C. Heath

    May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable to you, O God, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. Remember how last week I talked about how a shorter sermon is sometimes called a homily? Well, I don’t know the a name for a longer Scripture reading, but whatever […]

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  • I’ve been watching the push toward privatization in the new “prison industry,” “education industry,” and more, with both perplexity and alarm.And wondering when and how the theology of free market salvation gained so many devoted believers.I didn’t major in business, but even I know that rule number one for any for-profit business is maximize profits, minimize costs.So, for instance, in the push to privatize prisons, preservation of inmate contact with families has been sacrificed to maximizing profit from phone calls (more than $1.13 a minute until a federal cap was putin effect in February 2014)  Profits are  maximized through “insourcing” work to inmates, some paid as little as $0.25 an hour.   And intensive lobbying shapes legislationto keep prisons full As I discussed in more detail in an earlier post, privatization of prisons incentivizes incarceration; a net result is that many states now spend more on prisons than education, and one out of four inmates –...

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  • Sometimes we are hurt: every now and again it is intentional, but more often than not these wounds are unintentional. One of the blessings of Celtic spirituality is the way it links the truths of the earth to our encounters with the soul. One prayer, Lord of the Morning, puts it like this:Bless to us, O God, this day, fresh made.In the chorus of birds, bless us.In the scent of blossom, bless us.In the wet grass and the spring of flowers, bless us.Bless us and heal us,for we come to you in love and in trust.We come to you in expectant hope.O God, give us a well of tearsto wash away the hurts of our lives.O God, give us a well of tearsto cleanse the wounds,to bathe the battered face of our world.O God, give us a well of tearsor we are left like arid earthunsanctified.Heal us and your grieving worldof all that harms us.By the power of your resurrectionrestore us to new life,set us on new paths,bring us from darkness to light,help us to choose hope.Jesus says, "Pick up your bed and walk."...

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  • Today’s sermon is now on the Saint Paul’s Website or you can read it below. – Peter is often impetuous.  He jumped out of a boat in the middle of a stormy sea to walk toward someone he wasn’t sure was actually Jesus.  On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter pulled out a sword and cut off the ear of one of the High Priest’s slaves.  When the crowds rushed in to see what was happening on that first Pentecost Day, Peter stood up and preached the Church’s first sermon.  When Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter shouted, “You are the Messiah!”  And when Jesus told him that being the Messiah meant dying at the hands of Rome, Peter was just as quick to shout, “God forbid it!”  Here, in the middle of Jesus’ teaching on what life is going to be like after he’s gone, Peter wants to be absolutely clear that Jesus is saying what he thinks Jesus is saying.  And so he asks, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive?” Our Gospel lesson this week follows immediately after...

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  • I spent a great deal of my early years in ministry trying to lead congregations to engage with me in actions that might BRING the Kingdom of God to earth.I would list all the particular VALUES of the Kingdom (my list included things like peacemaking, justice, feeding the hungry, loving enemies, etc.). Then I would saying something like, “This is what the Kingdom looks like. Let’s get out there …and make it a reality.” How very legalistic such list based living can be. It doesn’t matter the content of the list (conservative, progressive, charismatic, liturgical), it was still a list – a list of things that we suppose WE can do to bring God’s Kingdom to our neighborhoods, communities, cities, country, and the world. But then I wondered: “Jjust how significant this Kingdom of God thing if it is dependend on the WE and the ME?” Recently I have been discovering a liberating truth. The Kingdom came in the INCARNATION of Jesus Christ (he...

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  • Nikos

    This photo was taken at our Crossroads facility to be used for the front cover of our new pictorial directory. We used the shape of a large heart to match our church's logo, "Love First." The photo is also a way of commemorating the 100th anniversary of our church's 1915 photo of the world's largest men's bible class.[Church Photo for 2014 Pictorial Directory, September 7, 2014][World's Largest Men's Bible Class, 1915 - Lancaster First Methodist Episcopal Church]

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  • Click here to view the embedded video.When my pastor recently did a sermon series about controversial topics, I initially wanted to write songs that explored each theme. It soon became clear that that was not a realistic goal. But having found that there were few songs actually about monotheism, and that subject being a scholarly research interest of mine, I did take a stab at writing a song which explores the progression through different kinds of monotheisms – exclusive, inclusive, and mystical.I’m not entirely satisfied with the result, even after tinkering with and trying to improve on the original lyrics I came up with. But here it is, such as it is. Lyrics follow below.Only GodVERSE 1I come with my sword outstretched And a book in hand In the name of GodThere can be only one So prepare to bow And come follow me CHORUS Only one God Only one way Only one nation Only one king The logic is clear We can’t both be right Accept what I say Or stand up and fight You...

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  • Nikos

    Sunday, September 21 - (9:00 am & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, September 24  (6:30 pm Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)Features - 15th Sunday After PentecostScripture - Philippians 1:21-30Sermon - "A Life Worth Living"Theme - Why are some people so excited about each day that they want to do a back handspring out of bed? Paul's letter to the Philippians is a positive letter about a life that is worth living. It is worth living because of the hope we have in Jesus Christ. 

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  • Nikos

         How many of you like math? Great! Two of you!      For some reason, there are a lot of us who don’t like math all that much. Math can be frustrating.     Here’s a little math trivia. Do you know how to make seven an even number? You just remove the letter, “s.” That will make it “even” just by doing that.     Why shouldn’t you do math in the jungle? Because if you add 4 plus 4, you get ate!     Why is 6 afraid of seven? Anybody know? Because seven eight nine!     Where do two math teachers go on vacation? Times Square.     I know, I know. I’ll keep my day job.     Today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew requires a test of our math knowledge. And that math problem is, “How many times should I forgive someone who has hurt me?”      This is the question that one of the disciples asked Jesus. It’s a...

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  • The first frost of the season--far too early--left a swampy mist on Saturday morning, a thick cloud, over the Big Sioux River valley.  I don't remember who said it anymore--I'm not good with such things--but some wise foto-bug once said that photography doesn't show you things, it teaches you where to look and how to see.  Ever since we moved out into the country, I haven't spent Saturday mornings looking for beauty because dawn breaks gloriously right outside my window.  Saturday, it was time for a little therapy, so I took off, and a cloudy gossamer world opened up quite graciously.  

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  • Exodus 14:19-31 We cross borders all the time.  Crossing the border into Canada is relatively easy, as long as we have the proper identification.  If you’re trying to cross from Mexico into the United States without documentation, it can be incredibly difficult and dangerous.   The plight of the children fleeing the violence of Central America and the status of young adults who came here with their parents as small children and who have known no other world but America has raised important questions about the nation’s immigration laws. Many are asking whether they are fair and just and appropriate.  Then there’s the border dividing Detroit from its suburbs.  While no one has to present their papers to cross the divide that 8 Mile Road symbolizes, in the minds of many Detroit and the Suburbs are two different worlds.  In fact, crossing the border can be frightening for many – on both sides of the divide.  We cross borders every day of our lives as we...

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  • Matthew 18:21-35Ridiculous, Extravagant LoveJames Sledge                                                                           September 14, 2014How many times? When Peter asks that question he is speaking of forgiveness, but his question could have been about a number of things. How many times should I help someone? At what point do I say “No”? How many chances should I give someone? What’s the limit?But Peter asks about forgiveness. Presumably the forgiveness here is for something significant, not some imagined slight or inadvertent failure. Someone has sinned against another, has told lies about her, gossiped about her...

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  • Today I was with the people of Trinity Church in Shrewsbury. The Scripture readings appointed for today can be found here.Have you ever been in an ecumenical setting when it comes time to pray the Lord’s Prayer? If you don’t clarify how you are going to do it, then the Roman Catholics will invariably stop at “…but deliver us evil…” waiting for the priest to interject something before continuing. And when you get to that part about trespasses, the Baptists and some others will be talking about debts. And even at the end it’s only us Episcopalians and the Lutherans who extend forever to “forever and ever…” It’s a great image of our diversity and unity in the Body of Christ that we don’t even agree precisely on how to pray the one prayer that Jesus taught us all to pray. There is a solution, and that is to pray the contemporary ecumenical version – which may get you equally into trouble with everybody!You know what Garrison Keiler says about those of us who ask for our...

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  • Life With Jack

    Bless to me this chair This strong and safe chair Under which I hide At the doctor’s office. Bless to me this chair And it’s durable seat That hides me from the Giant vet tech who threatens To pick me up And put me on the table. Bless to me this chair In its little corner And bless to me the treats I know are in the cabinet Come quickly, treats, Come quickly, come now. More Jack is at jackthescottie.com.

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  • HT LotharLorraine

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  • Before and behind, without and within surround us, O God. Stretch out your hand to lift us up to call us out. Be our sanctuary and our wilderness, our foundation and our trembling. Before and behind, without and within overtake us, O God, with a flood of grace. In our worry in our chaos, be a mercy and a judgment, a proclamation and a secret. Before and behind, without and within lead us, O LORD. Mark our ways for love for wonder. Bless us to something new. Bless us to relationships. Free us to change. Free us to life. Amen. A pastoral prayer reflecting upon the Narrative and Revised Common Lectionary readings for 9/14/2014.

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  • Allan R. Bevere

    Old Testament: Numbers 21:4b-9Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1:18-24Gospel: John 3:13-17___For the healing of the nations, O God, you raised up your Son on the wood of the cross and exalted him as the Lord of all creation. Grant that all who believe in him may have the gift of eternal life and share in the glory of your kingdom, where you live forever and ever. Amen.

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  • Admittedly, the Church does not have the best record when it comes to apologizing for its mistakes. However, the Church is made up of individuals who freely and openly admit their own brokenness and inability to redeem themselves by their own power. Regrettably, this admission does not necessarily entail a corporate willingness to repent of our corporate wrongs and brokenness. For example, for far too many years some who have claimed the Church's banner have also exhibited a virulent strain of antisemitism that persists even to today. The self-described followers of a crucified Jew have labeled Jews as "Christ-killers" or some other dehumanizing and ignorant epithet. This has not been good for either Jews or Christians because hate destroys those who is directed at and those who wield it.In 1965 (starting on September 14), the Roman Catholic church met for the fourth session of the Second Vatican Council. One of the primary concerns was coming...

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