Thursday, November 16, 2017

Yours is the day, O God

Yours is the day, O God, yours also the night; you established the moon and the sun. You fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter. 

Psalm 74:15-16

Friday, November 03, 2017

So draw our hearts to you

A Prayer of Self-Dedication

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray you, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The real law of averages, Seth Godin

Another thoughtful and interesting piece from Seth Godin today.  Well-worth a read!

And, while you're at it, go check out his blog!


The real law of averages

If you want to raise the standards of any group, improving the top of the heap isn't nearly as effective as focusing your effort on the base instead.
Simple example: Getting a Prius to go from 50 miles per gallon to 55 miles per gallon isn't nearly as important as getting SUVs to go from 10 miles per gallon to 15. There are two reasons for this. The first is that there are a lot more SUVs than Priuses. The second is that they use far more gallons, so a percentage increase has far more yield. (You can't average averages).
If you care about health and a culture of performance, it's tempting to push Olympic athletes to go just a tenth of a second faster. It's far more effective, though, if you can get 3,000,000 kids to each spend five more minutes a day walking instead of sitting.
Organizations pamper and challenge the few in the executive suite, imagining that one more good decision in the biz dev group could pay off. The thing is, if every one of the 10,000 customer-facing employees was more engaged and kind, it would have a far bigger impact on the company and those it serves.
I think the reason we focus on the few is that it feels more dramatic, seems more controllable and is ultimately easier. But the effective, just and important thing to do is to help the back of the line catch up.


More Recent Articles

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Tradition and Innovation: Seminaries that Change the World, Class of 2017-18

Glad to see my own seminary, Virginia Theological Seminary on this list in an interesting article in the Huffington Post.

Tradition and Innovation: 
Seminaries that Change the World, Class of 2017-18
11/01/2017 08:36 am ET 
I loved going to Seminary. It defined me. It challenged me. It shaped me. It broke me down and built me up. Because of it, I am who I am today.
Seminary made me into my best self and from that place I gained the courage to engage in the world with energy, creativity, experience and confidence.
In seminary, I learned about the multi-cultural context of the Bible’s literature. I learned about the courage and stamina of the Hebrew prophets. I learned about the history of our faith. And I learned that ministry didn’t have to look any certain way.
In seminary, I was challenged not to accept easy answers, but to ask tougher questions and then to lead with insight, grace and resolve.
Read it all HERE

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey Sermon 29 October 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
29 October 2017

Listen to the audio track HERE

“increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity”

“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Cut to the chase
At the end of the day
The bottom line is
The final score

I hear that there are people who like to read the final page of a book before they begin the book.  They want to know what happened, and want no surprises along the way.  They want to know “who-done-it” before the mystery begins and likely are the kind of folks who might ask you to “cut to the chase” when you speak with them.

I don’t think I have ever picked up a book and read the last page first, I would rather enjoy the book, and I am one who is interested in the process, interested in the narrative, character development and the descriptions so carefully presented by the author along the way.

However much I enjoy the story and the developing narrative or argument of a writer or speaker, there are times, when I appreciate having a clear “takeaway” from a talk, lecture, book or essay.  What about you, are you more of a “enjoy the narrative process” sort of person, or are you someone who want a message you can memorize or put on a notecard?  I think, no matter how much we love the story, at times, we are looking for a “lunchpail message” which we can reflect upon over our peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity”

Pour into us, increase in us, fill us with gifts.  There is a deep recognition that we are gifted with our very lives, with all that we are, and all that we have.  Here we ask God to build us up with faith, hope and love.  Where we may falter in faith, God will provide faith.  When we may falter and enter fearfulness and have hopelessness, God will increase our hope.  Where we may falter and fear, God will increase our love and charity - caritas.  Just as we have these gifts increased in us, we also steward and care for all the blessings that God has given us, and we offer these gifts to others.  We offer our time, our treasure and our talent back to God.  “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”

“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”

Blessed.  Set aside.  Having a holy purpose - not unlike the frontal, the chalice, the paten.  You shall be holy.  Not merely here as crude matter, not merely as automotons, not merely as random beings in the world.  We are called, and empowered to be holy, to be set aside as blessed beings for God’s mission in the world.  We are empowered to be disciples, to follow God, to enter the Way of Jesus.

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Cut to the chase.  Here, the lawyers, pharisees, sadducees are finally trying to trick Jesus again, but here the question is not unlike our own.  Fine, Jesus, many parables later, many healings, exorcisms, miracles and all that.  But, really, Jesus, what are we to do, what is the one most important commandment?  Here, Jesus breaks it down.  Here, Jesus cuts to the chase.  Here, Jesus gives us all the bottom line.  “Love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all our soul, and with all your mind - (and) You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

So get to it.  Go do it. Every single bit.  That’s it.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Be still

7Be still before the LORD *
and wait patiently for him.
8Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, *
the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

Psalm 37

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey Sermon ~ 22 October 2017 ~ “Give it back to God”

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon - 22 October 2017
“Give it back to God” ~ “Of thine own have we given thee”

Listen to the audio HERE

Earlier in the gospel of Matthew, which we heard just a few weeks ago, when Jesus was teaching in the Temple, Jewish officials questioned his authority to do “these things”.  Jesus declined to answer the question, for the answer could only be understood by those with faith.  Just before our gospel today, we find the parable of the Wedding Feast, which the Pharisees saw as an attack on them.

Now followers of the “Pharisees” and “Herodians”– who all wanted to get Jesus arrested  – speak to him. They appear to respect him, but speak with irony. And then the question, the subject of great debate in Jewish circles: should we pay the annual poll tax to Rome?

As with any good question, the possible responses varied:

If Jesus says yes, Zealots and other Jews hostile to Rome will turn against him; if he says no, he will risk arrest for inciting rebellion against Rome. We know his answer, as translated, but “Give” can be give back or repay.   

So he says, “Give back to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God, give back the things that are God’s.”

“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee”
2 Chronicles, chapter 29, verse 14

Pharisees try to entrap Jesus, and he uses some rhetorical brilliance to get out of a jam.
But is there more than that?
Is there more to say here.
Of course.
Look at the end.
Look to the very end, the part that Jesus adds to his answer to the Pharisees.
“And to God, render the things that is God’s”
And so, we should consider what is God’s, after all.
After all, you have made the time to be here in this glorious place.
Everything is God’s

The emperor - that’s fine...give him a bit…


But, to God, give to God what is God’s.  Jesus was not playing around with these petty entrapment kind of questions.  He knew the truth of God’s gift.  He knew what Thomas Merton later wrote:

If you want a spiritual life, you must unify your life. A life is either all spiritual or not at all.

And, what have we received from God, that we might give back to show our gratitude, our Thankfulness?  What might we “give back” to God?

God’s People
Money to the church
Time to the church
Good will
Wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.

But to God, render what is God’s.

“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”

And so, if we were thinking that this was merely a debate about a coin, whose head was on a coin...let’s remember that Jesus knew his Bible.  And his Bible was the Jewish Scriptures.  And he knew his prayer book.  And his prayer book were the Psalms.

In today’s psalms...ALL creation sings to the Lord.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it; *
let the field be joyful and all that is therein.
12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy
before the Lord when he comes, *
when he comes to judge the earth.

Of course it does.
Every instant
Every moment
Every love
Every pain
Every pleasure
Every suffering
Every fellowship
Every loneliness
Every cup of coffee
Every slice of bread
Every sip of wine
God is in it
It is God’s

And so, this is the state of mind of Jesus when he is asked about giving money to the Emperor, giving back the money which was minted by the Roman Empire.  Jesus says fine - give back to the Emperor.  BUT, give BACK to God the things which are God’s - which is all.  Jesus’s life was unified, and he was deep in Holy Week when he answers their question with this great truth.  

“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Rev. Peter M. Carey ~ Sermon ~ 15 October 2017 ~ Matthew 22: 1-14

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
15 October 2017
Matthew 22: 1-14

Listen to the audio HERE

"The parables of Christ, even the innocent, pastoral, tender, innocuous-seeming ones, conceal just below the surface a whiplash, a shock, a charge of dynamite. The stories set conventional expectations, whether concerning God, religion, politics, vocation, status and class, utterly off kilter."   ~ Daniel Berrigan

My interpretive lens, “The Wedding Banquet”

I cannot come to the banquet, I cannot come to the banquet,
don't trouble me now.
I have married a wife; I have bought me a cow.
I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum.
Pray, hold me excused, I cannot come.

A certain man held a feast on his fine estate in town.
He laid a festive table and wore a wedding gown.
He sent invitations to his neighbours far and wide
but when the meal was ready, each of them replied:

The master rose up in anger, called his servant by name,
said: "Go into the town, fetch the blind and the lame,
fetch the peasant and the pauper, for this I have willed,
my banquet seem so crowded, and my table must be filled.

When all the poor had assembled, there was still room to spare,
so the master demanded: "Go search every where,
to the highways and the byways and force them to come in.
My table must be filled before the banquet can begin.

Now God has written a lesson for the rest of the mankind;
If we're slow a responding, he may leave us behind.
He's preparing a banquet for that great and glorious day
when the Lord and Master calls us, be certain not to say: I cannot come.

In today’s gospel, we are introduced to two different challenging parables which are more or less conflated together by Matthew.  The setting and context for these parables are the city of Jerusalem.  As I mentioned just a few weeks ago, Jesus is only a few days away from his crucifixion.  He is teaching amidst a great diversity of people in the melting pot stew of the religious, political, and social setting of Jerusalem.  In this context, Jesus is comparing the kingdom of heaven to a king who gives a wedding feast.  

Before we take a look at what IS going on here, I want to give a bit of a sense of what IS NOT going on in this gospel.

First, this is NOT about what we are literally required to wear to a party, not what we require people to wear at church.  This is not about Carol Palmer or Earl James or Steve Zartarian or Steve Snyder throwing anyone out of church for not wearing their Sunday best.

Second, this isn't just any banquet. It's not a backyard barbecue.  It’s not even just “any” wedding.   

Third, these parables were probably not taught by Jesus right after each other, and so it is helpful to separate the messages.

Fourth, not every part of these parables might have a direct referent.  What I mean by that, is that Jesus is painting a picture, or two pictures of what the Kingdom of God is like, and we can certainly get caught up in the details and forget the message.

Now, what IS going on here?

First, to begin with the second parable about the seemingly irrational and grouchy king who throws out a guest for not wearing a wedding robe.  The kingdom of God is like an irrational and grouchy king?  No.  This episode would be understood in the context of conversion, and of entering a new way of life.  The wedding robe in this story symbolizes a “new way of life,” which is required of those who would enter the Kingdom of God.  This “new way” is centered on love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self.  This approach, this “garment” of love is what is required of those entering the Kingdom of God.  Those who can’t live out this life of compassion, caring, and abundant love are already in the outer darkness, already weeping and gnashing their teeth.

Second, let’s talk about the wedding feast.  As I mentioned, this is no mere party, no backyard barbeque, no tailgate at an Eagles game.  This is not even *just* any old wedding.  It's the royal wedding of the king's son.  The best we can imagine is Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981. By one count, 750 million people watched it live on television.  Or, perhaps the wedding of Prince William and Kate more recently.  Jesus is making the point that you just really wouldn’t refuse this invitation Who in their right mind would refuse such an imperial invitation?
There once was a king who prepared a royal banquet for his son's wedding. After the elaborate preparations were made, he sent out the invitations.  Then comes the first shock. Some people rejected the king's invitation. Jesus says that some people "refused to come." Others "paid no attention." Another group even killed the king's messengers. Such responses, said Jesus, showed that these people "did not deserve to come" (22:8).

Would you have refused an invitation to St. Paul's Cathedral in London for the royal wedding of Charles and Diana? Not a chance. But that's what happened in this parable. The people on the king's A-list refused his extravagant generosity. They spurned an invitation to the most prestigious party in town.
To those who refused his invitation, the king "sent his army and burned their city." The king then goes out and finds people who are willing to put on the garment of God’s love, to enter into the free gift of God’s banquet.  To the highways and byways God sends out his messengers!  

Everyone without exception has received a free invitation to the Kingdom of God. It's a banquet of abundance. But some people refuse God's generosity. It's hard to believe, but experience tells us it's true.  Some others may think they can enter this banquet without putting on the “garment of God’s love” and forget that God requires us to “love God, love our neighbor, and love ourselves.”  Sneaking in the side door will not work.  Life doesn't work that way, not in the world and not in the kingdom of God.

Paradoxically, God's generosity is free for all and it doesn't come cheap. It requires us to be “all in,” and requires us to adopt an ethic of love, but the reward is beyond our imagination.  

God has written a lesson for the rest of mankind;
If we're slow a responding, he may leave us behind.
He's preparing a banquet for that great and glorious day
when the Lord and Master calls us, be certain not to say:

I cannot come to the banquet.