Thursday, April 25, 2013

St. Mark

This morning I was able to celebrate Mass to commemorate the feast day of St. Mark the Evangelist.  He is quickly becoming one of my favorite saints of the Ante-Nicene period. I think it is important to remember that the title "Evangelist" holds more weight than just being the author of a Gospel bearing his name.

Mark was an evangelist in the deepest sense, as he began as a friend of Jesus.  We can credit the founding of the Church in North Africa to Mark's missionary and evangelistic efforts.  He was the first Bishop of Alexandria, and the current Coptic Pope Tawadros II is his spiritual successor.  He was martyred for the faith in the city that he evangelized, and before they were stolen by the Venetians, his relics were venerated in Alexandria.

The Church (Western, Eastern, and African) owes much to St. Mark, and so we rejoice in the witness of this Evangelist.  It is a shame that so much of the history of St. Mark and the Church in Africa have been forgotten by the West.

For more information on St. Mark, please check out the Center for Early African Christianity (linked on the side bar) and especially Dr. Oden's The African Memory of Mark.  Dr. Oden's book has been formative for my understanding of St. Mark.  Also, check out his lectures on the need to recover the history of Early Libyan Christianity.

Please pray, as well, for our brothers and sisters who currently are suffering persecution in Egypt for bearing the Name of Christ, remembering His Holiness Tawadros II, Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church; The Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, President Bishop of the The Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, and the congregations committed to their care.

Collect for St. Mark:

Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (BCP 240)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bible Reading

This past weekend the Diocese hosted an event at the Chiara Center in Springfield.  The center is run by the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, and is a wonderful location.

The presenter was The Rt. Rev. Dan Herzog retired from the Diocese of Albany, and he was quite the live wire.  His comments were prescient and inspiring, and I understand that many of us, including yours truly, came away renewed and re-energized.

Bishop Herzog gave one of the best, concise, Bible reading suggestions that I have heard.  He called is Spiritual CPR.

So here it is:

  • Pray that God open's the Scripture to you.
  • Read for the following:
    • C--Command to be obeyed
    • P--Promise to be received
    • R--Sin of which to repent.
That is it.  

He also gave an introductory plan for beginning (or renewing) a daily reading plan.  Start with Luke and read one chapter a day.  After completing Luke read Acts.  That should take two months.  Then move on to other material as you are led.

For additional reading plans I recommend the St. James Daily Devotional Guide or the Daily Office Lectionary (BCP Page 934).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I Think I See Your Problem

Of course, demons are no laughing matter, but from the Daily Mail:

A Romanian lawyer is suing his local Orthodox bishop and four priests claiming they failed to properly exorcise flatulent demons that were forcing him out of his home. 
Madalin Ciculescu, 34, accused the five of fraud after they turned up several times to exercise the demons which were responsible for the bad smells that were ruining his business.

This sounds like a conversation Mel Brooks would write into the script for Young Frankenstein II.

Frankenstein:  Igor I thought I told you to exorcise these demons.

Igor: Master, I did. They got plenty of exercise. I took them for long walks in the park, threw a Frisbee, and crunched their abs.  They may still stink, but boy are they cut!

What would demon exercises look like anyway?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today is the memorial of the Martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (if I may use the subtitle of Eric Metaxas' excellent book, linked above).  A champion of the Church, an outspoken critic of Naziism, and a first rate theologian, he was executed by the Nazi's on 9 April 1945 at Flossenburg Prison.

I have always enjoyed his writings and theology, and though I could pull great and deep thoughts from his work today, I thought it would be refreshing to see his mind at work on what many consider the light thing of the

But there should be singing, not only at devotions, but at regular times of the day or week.  The more we sing, the more joy we derive from it, but, above all, the more devotion and discipline and joy we put into our singing, the richer will be the blessing that will come to the whole life of the fellowship from singing together.
It is the voice of the Church that is heard in singing together.  It is not you that sings, it is the Church that is singing, and you, as a member of the Church, may share in its song.  Thus all singing together that is right must serve to widen our spiritual horizon, make us see our little company as a member of the great Christian Church on earth, and help us willingly and gladly to join our singing, be it feeble or good, to the song of the Church.  (Life Together, 61)

By the way, he was a big fan of unison singing so that individuals did not, out of pride, call attention to themselves, these were the greater foes of congregational singing.  He also did not believe that there were many who were  "unmusical" and could not sing, and considered those who would not sing due to some mood as disturbers of the the fellowship.

The Collect:

Gracious God, the Beyond in the midst of our life, you gave grace to your servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know and to teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and to bear the cost of following him: Grant that we, strengthened by his teaching and example, may receive your word and embrace its call with an undivided heart; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Holocaust Memorial

I was privileged to participate in the Holocaust Memorial Service at Moses Montefiore Temple yesterday evening.  As always, it was a tremendously moving experience, and an honor to bring the words of survivors to life.  The horror, and darkness, of the Holocaust is, frankly, unimaginable to me.  How could ordinarily kind people not stand up against the darkness?  The answer, only to easy, is because of evil.  Not that the ordinary people considered themselves evil, or meant to choose evil, but merely went along and remained silent out of ignorance, or a sense of self-preservation.  That is how we choose evil, by not choosing to stand up for right, by choosing the path of self-preservation, the easy and wide path.  Evil grows from the small choices that we make, or do not make.
One of the presenters, a child of survivors, stated frankly, "That when we allow Holocaust deniers to speak, unchallenged, we murder again those six million."

Christians are called to remember that evil is ultimately defeated in the Cross and Resurrection, and we are called to be people of hope, of life, and to make decisions that lead to renewal and true peace.  We can only make those decisions, when the perpendicular pronoun, and its self-interest, are replaced with the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit.  Let us pray that the Spirit give us new minds to make holy choices to stand against evil and be the resistance in our age, to prepare for the coming King.

Here are several pieces that particularly engaged me during yesterday's liturgy.

We have come here to remember those who cannot be forgotten
We have come to speak of that which cannot be spoken but must not be left unsaid
We have come to remind not others but ourselves of what was done and what was not done
We have come to ask questions that cannot be answered but cannot be left unasked.
We know how to remember the dead we have known.
We know how to commemorate the death of one person.
But all of us are mourners; all of us recall not one but six million ones.
Not only those we have known, but those no one can know, the names that are forever lost.
Rabbi Reuven Hammer

As I light this candle, I vow never to forget the generations cut off, and the generations never born The brilliance, creativity, wisdom, kindness, goodness, caring. The inventions, medical advances, healing and solutions lost with them and lost perhaps for all time. Our world is bereft, and as we light this final candle, we remember all the irreplaceable souls, all the people who would have taken our universe to places of which we can't even dream. All the souls who would have made this world a much better place for each of us .

When a new child comes
Everything seems strange to him.
What, on the ground I have to lie?
Eat black potatoes? No! Not I!
I've got to stay? It's dirty here!
The floor-why look, it's dirty, I fear!
And I'm supposed to sleep on it? I'll get all dirty!
Here the sound of shouting, cries,
And oh, so many flies,
Everyone knows flies carry disease.
OOOH, something bit me! Wasn't that a bedbug?
Here in Terezin, life is hell.
And when I'll go home again, I can't yet tell.
Teddy, 1943