A Statement from the Episcopal Bishops of the United States, meeting in retreat in Navasota, TX, March 11-15

A Word from the Episcopal Bishops of the United States.doc

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Syrian Refugees – a statement from our Presiding Bishop

Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry addresses the current Syrian refugee crisis:

“Be not afraid!”

Often in the gospels, fear grips the people of God, and time and again, either the angels, or Our Lord himself, respond with the same words of comfort: “Be not afraid.”

In times like this fear is real. And I share that fear with you. Our instinct tells us to be afraid. The fight-or-flight mentality takes hold. At the present moment, many across our Church and our world are grasped by fear in response to the terrorist attacks that unfolded in Paris last Friday. These fears are not unfounded. We can and should support law enforcement officials who are working hard and at great risk to protect us from crime and keep us safe. And yet, especially when we feel legitimate fear, our faith reminds us “Be not afraid.” The larger truth is that our ultimate security comes from God in Christ.

In the Book of Leviticus, God says to the people of Israel that, “the foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” Accordingly, we welcome the stranger. We love our neighbor. The Episcopal Church has long been committed to resettling refugees in our own communities fleeing violence and persecution.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, through its Episcopal Migration Ministries service, works with dioceses and congregations, and the United States government, to settle refugees in communities across this great country. The Episcopal Church has been engaged in this ministry for more than 75 years. We will not let the nightmare this world often is keep us from carrying out the words of Jesus who told us to be a neighbor to those in need.

Refugees from places like Syria seek to escape the precise same ideological and religious extremism that gave birth to the attacks in Paris. They seek entry into our communities because their lives are imprisoned by daily fear for their existence. Just as Jesus bids us not to be afraid, we must, in turn, pass those words of comfort to those who turn to us for help.

But Jesus calls us to go even further: not just to love our neighbors and our kin, but to love our enemies. This is particularly difficult when we are afraid. But even in the midst of our fear we stand on the solid ground of our faith and proclaim the faith in Christ crucified and risen from the dead. In practical terms, this may mean finding strength in prayer, or in our neighbors, or in our churches, or in acts of solidarity with others who live in fear. This is the hope that casts out fear.

The fear is real. So we pray. We go to church. We remember who we are in Jesus. Our resurrection hope is larger than fear. Let nothing keep us from that hope, that faith, that security in Gods dream for all of humanity.

“Be not afraid!”

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

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the narrow way

“Realize that to know Christ you must lead a dying life. The more you die to yourself, the more you will live unto God. You will never enjoy heavenly things unless you are ready to suffer hardship for Christ. Nothing is more acceptable to God, nothing more helpful for you on this earth. When there is a choice to be made, take the narrow way. This alone will make you more like Christ.” – Thomas à Kempis

Dying to myself is not an attractive or appealing practice, but I can understand what Thomas a Kempis is saying. I have found that the more I can let go of my own agenda, my need to control and be in charge, the more I can surrender results, my agenda and what I think should happen, in other words the more I practice humility and detachment, the more I find myself at peace and feeling closer to Christ. How many different ways did Jesus remind us that he came, not to be served, but to serve? In the gospel of John, the depiction of the Last Supper centers around Jesus washing the feet of his disciples – a sign of humility and service.

This coming Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. I am going to spend some time in reflection and prayer this week looking at Jesus in his “kingly moments” so that I can learn what it means to follow him and help to work for the coming of the kingdom he has given to us.

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I am grateful my daughter likes to go fishing!

That’s all. Just grateful.

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The Joy of Tithing – here’s the text

The Joy of Tithing

Christianity can be confusing, but a few directives come through loud and clear: Love others as you love yourself, love yourself as you love others, and give generously to the community around you through your tithe.

We’ve grown used to using the word “tithe” to refer to whatever portion we choose to give the church, but a tithe is technically one tenth, and giving one tenth of our income to the church and charity has been a goal of mine for years. My husband and I finally achieved that goal three years ago, and we couldn’t be happier.

It wasn’t easy. Like everyone, we have holes in our budget and many things we genuinely need to save for–on top of the unexpected fallen tree or busted oven. I knew tithing would be “good for us,” like spinach, but setting aside one tenth of our income has given us peace of mind that goes well beyond the financial.

The truth is, even my pared down attempts to walk in Christ’s footsteps regularly fail. It’s hard to love everyone all the time, even harder to silence that critical voice in my head. Compared to these goals, tithing is easy—and fun!

After letting automatic deposit whisk ten percent out of sight and out of mind, we use our tithing fund to give to St. Mary’s and allow another portion to build up until we feel moved. Even though we are always robbing Peter to pay Paul, we have managed to keep the tithe fund sacred and untouched for three years. This has allowed us to say “yes” when the spirit moves us—which is great fun—and the act of giving has helped us relax about our finances as a whole. For years, we were afraid to tithe. We told ourselves resources were scarce and had to be guarded zealously. Giving more has helped us live in a state of abundance and gratitude that has unexpectedly—and abundantly—spilled over into other areas of our lives.

I know you don’t believe me. You’re thinking we have more money than you do, or fewer needs, or maybe we’re just a little deluded. But I promise you, tithing is not painful; it is joyful and it feeds our souls in surprising and wonderful ways.

So why not give it a try? Set aside a true tithe for the first six months of this year, keeping some in a private discretionary fund to give freely when the spirit moves you. Six months! Some of us dedicate ourselves to sports seasons longer than that! I promise you, the returns from giving with a joyful heart and knowing your gift is doing wonderful things is like watching your team win the Super Bowl every single game…or actually, it’s like being a quarterback who throws the winning touchdown over and over again–every time you have the opportunity to write a check for someone in need. Try setting aside ten percent this year, and start practicing your Lambeau Leap!

Anonymously Yours.

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The Joy of Tithing – from a member of St. Mary’s, Dousman

The Joy of Tithing.doc

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Idols and the Right Question

“Our lives as we live them seem like lives that anticipate questions that never will be asked. It seems as if we are getting ourselves ready for the question “How much did you earn during your lifetime?” or “How many friends did you make?” or “How much progress did you make in your career?” or “How much influence did you have on people?” or “How many conversions did you make?”Were any of these to be the question Christ will ask when he comes again in glory, many of us could approach the judgment day with great confidence. But nobody is going to hear any of these questions.

The question we all are going to face is the question we are least prepared for. It is: “What have you done for the least of mine?” As long as there are strangers; hungry, naked, and sick people; prisoners, refugees, and slaves; people who are handicapped physically, mentally, or emotionally; people without work, a home, or a piece of land, there will be that haunting question from the throne of judgment: “What have you done for the least of mine?”

-Henri Nouwen, Seeds of Hope

I receive a daily email from Plough Publications. They send a variety of quotations and writings that are worthy of a good ponder or two. This morning while Mia was learning a bit about making a book using our home computer, I was reviewing a Bible study that I’m considering for St. Mary’s this coming Advent. What’s it about? Idolatry, a very timely topic for all people of faith. While thinking about that, my daily email came from Plough, with this quote, which also speaks very well to one aspect of the power dynamic of idols in my life and perhaps yours, too.

As Nouwen notes above, sometimes we can get lost in life and prepare for “questions that will never be asked.” Sometimes these questions spring from people, places or things that are really not God. Naming our idols helps us to let go of them so that we can be in right relationship with God and prepare ourselves to answer the question that will for sure be asked: “What have you done for the least of these, my brothers and sisters?”

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