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This was composed and read at both services on Sunday, November 15, by the Rev. Betsey Monnot.
On Friday, I heard, as I expect many of us did, about the terror attacks in Paris. As it happened, I was first informed by other people, and quickly my understanding of the events there grew through social and traditional media. I spent yesterday at our Diocesan Convention, along with the clergy and delegates from around the Diocese of Northern California, and while there our bishop led us in prayer for those affected by the Paris attacks.
We do, indeed, need to keep those killed, injured, or otherwise affected by the attacks in Paris in our prayers, and we included them in the Prayers of the People here just a few moments ago. At the same time, we must remember the refugees from Syria and other parts of the middle east, fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries, who will now be subject to increased violence, persecution, and suspicion in the countries to which they are fleeing for refuge. They may find that there is nowhere safe for them to go.
We also need to be mindful of other terrorist attacks that have taken place over the past several days, that were less widely reported here than the attacks in Paris. I speak of ISIS attacks in Baghdad and Beirut, that also killed civilians as they went about their daily lives. These attacks were less reported in both mainstream and social media, and we need to consider why not.
I suggest that the systemic racism that plagues this nation is alive and well in this selective media reporting. When white people from a European city like Paris are killed as they enjoy time in a cafe, at a concert, or at a football game, we become immediately saddened and outraged. When the same thing occurs in Beirut, or Baghdad, we, collectively as a society, shrug our shoulders and turn away.
Let us pray:
Holy God, you move in all that we are, in all that we see, and in all that we do. We ask you to bless, heal, and guide all those affected by terror attacks everywhere: in Paris, in Baghdad, in Beirut, and anywhere else they occur. We ask you to work in the hearts of those moving toward violence, helping them to turn and to see your face in the ones they want to attack. And we ask your forgiveness for our part in the system of racism, intolerance, and privilege that results in people for whom violence is the only answer, both here in our country and throughout the world. We ask these things through your son, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who calls the whole world into union with you.
Ten days ago, I sat by a campfire, wondering how I would answer my own question.
About thirteen of us were watching the smoke rise from the fire pit at the first-ever All Saints Parish Camp at our diocesan camp and conference center, Camp Noel Porter. We had eaten dinner and were chatting about this and that, and it was time to bring the group together and to introduce the theme of our time at camp. I read a Miwok creation story, and the group reflected on how it was similar to and different from the creation stories in Genesis. Then, as we were about to go to our tents, I invited everyone to speak a blessing or an intention for our time away from home, up at camp.
It is very easy to ask others to come up with a blessing or an intention for a time away, but I discovered that it was harder to think one up for myself. As I listened, I became aware that the circle would eventually get around to me, and that I would have to answer my own question. What would I say?
I went up to camp after a very intense week with some of the volunteer work that I do for Camellia Waldorf School, the school that my children attend. I had been on the phone, on email, and texting with school staff and volunteers every day, leading up to the culmination of the work we had been doing for months. I was ready to take a break and disconnect.
What I realized, when it was my turn to speak, was that I wanted more than just to disconnect. I also wanted to reconnect with things I had become disconnected from during the intense work I had been doing. I wanted to reconnect with my family, with the natural environment (so very beautiful up at Camp Noel Porter), and with God.
I wonder how often that feeling of wanting to “get away from it all” includes, hiding behind it, a desire to reconnect with those life-giving things that tend to fall by the wayside when life gets stressful. I would guess that this happens especially at transition times, such as moving from summertime to school time (which is often a transition time even for people who aren’t in school themselves!).
Take some time to pay attention to your feelings, especially when you are stressed. If you are feeling like getting away from things, ask yourself if there is anything that you want to move toward–silence, family, friends, God–and then, in addition to disconnecting from things that cause you stress, make the opportunity to reconnect with things that give you life.
The next meeting of Holy Wisdom Chapter will be Monday, September 14th, at 6:00 p.m.
We will gather at Norma Kohout’s home, 5994 Lake Crest Way, Apt. 3.
Our dear Norma is back home after suffering a major set-back following hip surgery. She was in ICU for a week. The chapter is very thankful that she is doing well with lots of prayer and good care.
The book we are reading and discussing during the meeting is “The Screwtape Letters”by C. S. Lewis.
For information about Holy Wisdom Chapter and The Order of Daughters of the King contact Carolyn Sutton at 916 395-4972 or Norma Kohout at email@example.com.
The Episcopal Church Women (ECW) are planning their first meeting after summer break. The meeting will be in the parish hall on the third Monday, September 21st, at 11 AM. Lunch will be served following the meeting. Pat Youmans is the incoming president. Please contact Pat or Carolyn Sutton if you have any questions.
The ECW Book Nook has become a fixture in the Parish Hall and is used by many in the church and many who visit our church. The books have been sorted recently and many donated to other groups in the community. New books are coming in regularly and are appreciated by all. Please consider sharing your books with others through the Book Nook. This is the only on-going fund raiser for ECW at this time and we hope to continue some outreach in the community as in the past. Hardback books are $2.00 and paperbacks are $1.00.
All Saints Episcopal Church
2076 Sutterville Road
Sacramento, California 95822
8:00 am Sunday Holy Eucharist, Rite II
9:15 am Sunday Adult Bible Study
10:00 am Sunday Holy Eucharist, Rite II
Nursery and Sunday School at the 10 am service.
All Saints Church is located across the street from Sacramento City College. Each semester we offer students the opportunity to purchase a pass to park in our parking lot Monday through Friday from 7:00 to 4:00. For more information see our parking pass information page.
Sermon by Dr. Jill Joseph
November 15, 2015
Let me begin with the truth, probably a good place to begin a homily. I find today’s readings both from the Jewish Scripture and from the Christian gospel difficult. Very difficult.
The Jewish scripture brings us the story of Hannah and of prayers fulfilled. A beloved but barren wife, taunted by her husband’s other wife who bore him children, prays fervently for a child. God is moved by her tears and her prayers and seemingly especially by her promises to return this child to Temple service. And thus a son is born to Hannah.
Tidy. Very tidy. But what can we reasonably conclude about the intimate mystery we name as God from this tale? How do we reconcile this neat transaction with what we know of human suffering and the silence of God? How do we reconcile this neat transaction with what we know of the love of God?
In response, I here offer you another story found in no Bible, but known to me, and perhaps similar to some known by you. I offer it to you in Biblical words:
There was a godly woman, Rivka, beloved of her husband and devout in her faith. She offered daily prayers and her life was a light to many. Among the poor she gave of her time and from her purse most generously. Children were her delight and all around her they gathered, the sons and daughters of her sisters and of her brothers and of her friends. So daily she prayed silently and deeply troubled, for she was barren and no child issued from her. She saw ahead the long years of married life without a child. She saw her awaiting old age and death, alone and without a child to mourn her or to remember her life and pass on its stories. And thus she was grieved and thus she prayed ever more fervently. But she grew old, as did her husband, and no child was given them. Yet each day she arose graced with the peace of God and each day she knew she found favor in the sight of her God. For her God, and our God, speaks not only in surprising miracles. God’s gifts are many, and for Rivka especially, these gifts were manifest in her own courage and her faithfulness. She was deeply thankful for she understood that her ability to pray faithfully, to see the many joys given her, to live with courage and gratitude, were manifestations of God’s grace. She knew it to be the strength of God which sustained her. And for that she gave thanks. At the end of her long and generous life she sang with joy, much as Hannah had:
“My heart exalts in my God,
And my strength pours forth as living waters from my God.
The barren have borne him no sons,
But their hearts still rejoice.
We are each beloved of God
Who is far beyond our petty ways
And we each rejoice.”
I knew Rivka when I lived in Israel, as I know many other women who hoped for children and bore none. I know also the families that bore children, only to have them slip away from sudden accident or long slow illness.
It is certainly true that wonders occur. The long-sought but unexpected pregnancy. The yearned for reconciliation that overcomes years of animosity. The strength to recognize one’s own weakness and turn from addiction. And it is only right that we see in these wonders the graciousness of our God. As Hannah did, our heart exalts at these times.
But as I reflect on the spiritual gifts that are given to me, and to each one of us, I offer thanks for the gifts of courage and faithfulness when no child is given, when the animosity continues and there is no reconciliation, when the addiction returns. If our God is one who is “out there”, beyond us in some remote heaven or some ancient text, it implies that we are largely on our own much of the time. This God may reach into our life as an inspired response to prayer, and we rejoice. The God who is “out there” implies that it is through our own efforts that we endure. That it is our own faithfulness that brings us to prayer even when the words seem dry and empty. That it is our own commitment that brings us to church when we’d rather be sleeping in or having a nice brunch somewhere. That it is our own ability to forgive and forgive again, both ourselves and others, that sustains relationships through troubled times.
As we grow in faith, we begin to see the grace and generosity and love of God are not “out there” but “in here”, sustaining us in our sacred struggles and in our sacred doubts and in our sacred times of darkness. After all, “I am the vine and you are the branches”, we have been told. With sudden laughter I find myself realizing that my very ability to give thanks is itself a gift. To return to the story of Hannah, I would propose that evidence of the favor of God was to be found as much in her simply rising up and presenting herself at the temple and in her continuing prayers as in the gift of Samuel, her son.
Now almost 20 years ago and on the day I was finally completing my training as a physician, I found out that I had a brain tumor. On the basis of the MRI it was likely not a cancer, but it was in a very nasty part of my brain that would require a 10 to 12 hour surgery to remove. And I wouldn’t know until the surgery was over whether the tumor was cancerous or not. The surgery itself was fraught with many risks of which I was all too well aware. Because it was a surgery on my brain I knew there was a chance, however large or small, that the woman I knew myself to be would not be alive after that surgery, whether or not my body survived. There were about 6 weeks between the time the tumor was diagnosed and the date of my surgery, and during those long weeks the pain in my head would rise and fall and my anxiety would rise and fall. There were many hours that I almost could not bear the uncertainties, the possibility of my own death, or worse yet, my lingering life in a semi-coma. I would become so frightened I could hardly breathe. During those long weeks, there was but one consolation, one “home” where my restless and relentless anxieties were at rest. There was one truth that I came to know and to which I have returned many times since. To talk of that truth I need to tell you about St. Clare of Assisi.
St. Clare was a companion to St. Francis of Assisi and founded a contemplative monastic community that is known to this day as the “Poor Clares”. This religious contemplative community, like all the Franciscan communities, is suffused by a spirit of poverty, by awareness that everything we have is a gift from God, not something that we own or something that we create. It is said of St. Clare that prayed in that spirit of grateful poverty and that on her deathbed her final words were simply, “Thank you for having created me.”
During those six weeks, that with my consolation, my refuge, and my home. It was the deep awareness that all of life is a gift. That life itself is a gift. And, in our usual human confusion, we get lost….I get lost We think that we somehow “deserve” what we are given, that we actually deserve more, must have more. We forget that everything we have is gift. The ability to even realize our gratitude is a gift.
I’m delighted that Hannah’s prayers were answered. It was wonderful that she was given not only Samuel but other sons and daughters. But I will not permit myself to be confused by her tidy story. God was always with Hannah. God never loved her more or less in one moment or another.
Pray as you will, pray as you can. Your prayer is a grace and a gift of the God who abides with you. Your desire to pray is a grace and a gift of the God who abides with you. All of life is a grace and a gift of the God who abides with you. Let us give thanks always.
Sermon for October 11, 2015, by the Rev. Betsey Monnot
So, are you worried about eternal life? That’s what the unnamed man in this morning’s gospel was worried about. He ran up to Jesus and asked him what he had to do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus starts with the basics–some of the ten commandments–and the man assures him that he has kept all the commandments ever since he was young. So Jesus realizes that he has a tougher case on his hands. Jesus looks at the man and loves him. Then he says exactly what the man doesn’t want to hear: “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Mark tells us that the man is shocked and goes away grieving, because he has many possessions.
Let’s work our way into this man’s mindset a little bit. We need to keep in mind that he lived in a culture in which possessions, material wealth, were seen as a sign of God’s blessing, of God’s favor. As someone with many possessions he was sure that God was on his side, and since he also claimed that he had kept all the commandments since he was young, he may have been expecting a pat on the back and a “good job, you’ve done all that it takes!” from Jesus. That’s why he was shocked.
The thing is, the man is being entirely self-centered. He doesn’t want to know what Jesus wants him to do, or what God wants him to do, or how to grow closer to God, or how to become a better person. He just wants to take care of himself. He wants to inherit eternal life, and he wants Jesus to tell him the specific steps that he needs to go through in order to do that.
But that’s now how Jesus works. Jesus isn’t an eternal life machine, handing out tickets in exchange for something. Read more
Sermon by Dr. Jill Joseph, Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost ,September 27, 2015
Today we played in the collect, “Grant us the fullness of your grace that we, running to obtain your promises, may be partakers of your heavenly treasure.”
What a task it is to be human yet yearn for the grace of God, to yearn for God……Years ago, as a late adolescent, I heard the great Jewish rabbi and writer, Abraham Heschel, speak about exactly this as he pulled on his long white beard and shook his head sadly, saying something like:
“What a thing it is to be human. To be created because the Robbonem Shalelem, the Master of the Universe, gathered together dust of the earth and filled it with the breath of life, combining dirt and the spirit of God. What a mistake! Why didn’t he ask me what to do? Why not hold the wings of a butterfly and breathe into it? Or perhaps a ray of sunlight? But no, here we are, suspended forever between dirt and the breath of God.”
I propose that both the reading from the Book of Numbers and from Mark confront us with the mystery that is our human frailty and therefore invite us to ponder our relationship to the God for whose grace we yearn. In this week’s readings we are given opportunities to reflect on what it is to be human and on the nature of our intimate relationship to one we call “God”.
As for ourselves, dust of the earth and breath of God, the picture is pretty clear. We are too often just a mess.
Listen to the Book of Numbers. Rescue us from slavery, miraculously bring us dry and safe through what would have been a watery grave, cast down armed fighters riding chariots that pursue our helpless families, promise a new land, bring forth food in a barren desert and what do we do? We crave what we left behind and do not have. Remember that grilled fish flavored with leeks and onions and garlic, and the heirloom cucumbers and the sweet late-summer melons and how about Read more