Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Randomly Random....

I am busy. Oh my, really busy. All in good ways. I helped organize and send off our delegation to Liberia. I arranged, also, for the church to do a wire transfer of some money to help the church in Liberia build their school. I have never done an international wire transfer before - but trust me it is not like what one sees on television. It's a little more complicated...but very cool! Then I spent a week following the delegation's posts on Facebook of their travels while they were there.

 I wrote newsletter articles and a bunch of other documentation trying to help the congregation understand what we are doing. It is amazing how complex it can be to people who are not part of the day to day conversation. I know that leadership is always several steps ahead of the congregation, and this has really made that point clear. Despite very intentional efforts to communicate well!

In addition to all of this, along with a lengthy Vestry meeting to finalize the budget (with a projected deficit) and the annual meeting, add the fact that our annual Vestry retreat is coming followed by Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. It's not like I've been ignoring Lent, I've been working on it for awhile - but it comes quickly this year...and that always makes for an intense January.

Plus all the other day to day stuff.

Like trying to squeeze in exercise (YouTube is my health club these days, finding some great cardio stuff that keeps me interested and moving)...and meditation, reading, and knitting...

Like needing to move my brother from one nursing home to another because his needs have changed. He is now, sadly, in a neighborhood in Chicago that I would not go to alone....so visiting him will be even more difficult. I really hope I can get him to Michigan, but that is proving to be a big challenge.

And every day my old dog Roxie lumbers along. She will be sixteen the end of March. I can hardly believe she is still with us. She's a bit of a challenge as she declines but she still seems to enjoy her life and wants to eat and go outside and be with us...so. she is.

Summer 2011, when she was still vibrant and healthy...much weaker now

So, some randomly random pieces of my life....no complaints. Just busy.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tending too....

A number of people in the congregation wonder why we are considering an outreach project in Liberia instead of doing something in the Detroit area. Another good question! No doubt there is plenty of work that could be done in the metro Detroit area. The answer is simple – no one has proposed an idea to the Undesignated Gifts Fund for a project in Detroit or this area. The Undesignated Gifts Fund is governed by a Vestry constructed policy put in place in 2008. This policy states that monies received from a parishioners estate and allocated to the Undesignated Gifts Fund can only be accessed through a proposal for the use of funds. The proposal can be submitted by any parishioner using the proposal form and guidelines. Proposal forms are in your bulletin this morning and in the parish office. The guidelines state that project needs to help us live into our Mission and fit two criteria – the proposal needs to be an outreach project or a new project never considered by the parish. The project in Liberia fits these criteria. It is currently being considered by the Vestry, pending more information on how to actually develop it into a project we can work on. Now that our delegation has returned from Liberia they will submit to the vestry ideas for developing the school project. The Vestry will then determine if this is a project we can take on.

Now in terms of doing something local – if you have an idea for something, please fill out and submit a proposal to the Undesignated Gifts Fund Committee – Paul Vandervert, Julia Garris, and Todd Kappauf.

But also remember that we are currently working on an important ministry that addresses poverty in Dearborn, the Blessings in a Backpack ministry. This ministry provides a backpack of food each weekend of the school year to supplement meals for hungry families in the Dearborn public school system. Last week many of us attended a fund raiser at Park Place, a local catering facility, who donated the food and their banquet room to raise money for the Blessings in a Backpack ministry. Four local churches organized and participate in this program. We take turns collecting food, doing fund raisers, and packing backpacks. On Thursday night our YAC group – the high school youth group packed backpacks. They are organizing a contest between the four churches to see who can collect the most jars of peanut butter. So, watch for more information from them.

Another area of need we could address, if someone is interested in exploring this, is a food pantry. Every week Jan, the Parish Administrator, and I give out Kroger gift cards to people who are hungry. These are just ten dollar gift cards, only enough for some bare essentials. Many days she and I also take people to the kitchen on the first floor and let people help themselves to the food we collect. Now this food is intended to go to Crossroads, an organization in Detroit that assists people with food, clothing, and job searches. We have helped Crossroads for years. Nonetheless, when faced with a hungry family in need it is impossible to send them away when we have food a few feet away. So off to the kitchen we go. We give them a grocery bag and allow them to take what they need.

It seems to me that this is an area we could explore developing. Maybe we should have a food pantry here? We have the space to store non-perishable foods and we could offer a better variety if we did this intentionally. So, I encourage you to think about this and if anyone feels inclined to pursue developing it, speak to me about it, and we’ll see if it’s possible.

Our scripture reading today from Nehemiah and Luke point us to consider how we are addressing the needs of people around us. The reading in Nehemiah comes after the Israelite people, who have been in exile in Babylon for hundreds of years, have been freed. They have returned to their homeland and are hearing again the reading of the laws of Moses – reminding them how to be a people of God – how to love God, love self, and love others. The reading reminds them that being a people of God includes caring for others but also celebrating life. They are to enjoy this gift of life with good food and drink. They are to share the abundance with others so no one goes unfed, uncared for.

The Gospel of Luke tells us this same thing – that bringing forth God’s justice means we live with compassion for others, helping the poor in mind, body, and spirit, to be fed with food, love, and companionship. Living the life of a faithful Christian is never done in solitude attending  to only our own individual needs, but always in community, where we are mindful of the needs of those around us.

Today we have our annual parish meeting. We will reflect on the ways we have gathered as a community over the last year. We will look at our finances and how we are trying to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. And we look at how we have lived together as the Body of Christ and how we have been mindful of the needs of others. But also we will celebrate and give thanks for each and every one of us, for the gift we are to one another, to this church, and to the world – as we strive to be Good News in the world today.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Five: NEVER AGAIN! edition

Deb, over at RevGals offers this Friday Five:

You may have read David Foster Wallace's essay "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" where he notes his lack of enthusiasm for going on a cruise. (That's putting it in a nutshell. It's hilarious. Do read it!) However, I think it (perhaps) is just a wee bit of a hyperbole. ;) Some of our awesome RevGals are heading out on the next BE 6.0 (Big Event) for a cruise. They absolutely will have an amazing time.....

All this is the inspiration for this week's Friday Five! 

Perhaps you have tried something that everyone assured you was SO MUCH FUN!!! and you swore on a stack of Bibles that you would never ever be dragged to said activity ever again. Was it horseback riding? Rappelling? Ballet class when you were 7?

So share with us 5 Supposedly Fun Things You'll Never EVER Do Again. You may find some commiserating souls among us. A bonus if you share pictures.

Surely I can think of 5 things I'll never do again..or maybe never do ever?

1. In the 1980's my dad lived in Puerto Rico and owned a sail boat. One year I went to visit my dad with my new husband in tow and we went sailing on the Caribbean - perhaps the most beautiful ocean ever.  But I was terribly motion sick for the entire first day and the ear patch I used knocked me out so I slept most of that first day - of a two day sailing trip. So, alas, I probably won't ever go sailing on the ocean again. Nor, on a cruise. Actually, the very idea of a cruise causes me to become a bit claustrophobic...so, no I won't go on a cruise, not my idea of fun at all. Sailing on a lake, however, seems to be okay - or at least it was the last time I tried it...but I was, uhm sixteen...so maybe not now that I am almost 56. :-)

2. A high ropes course. No, I won't do that either. Nor would I repel off the side of a mountain. But I'll go hiking in mountains anytime.

3. Eat pineapple or kiwi - I have developed a terrible allergy to these fruits. sigh. So I can't and won't eat them nor can I eat any fruit or food that has come in contact with these...so, that means I often don't eat fruit salad. sigh

4. Be a runner. Unless I can acquire more strength in my pelvic floor muscles my running days are over. (Okay, I never was a runner, but I would like to be and use to try)...After years of core work, which has enabled some strength to return, but not enough..no, I'll never be a runner. But I can walk :-) and ride my bike and do other kinds of cardio work out.

5. Summer sleep-over camp for youth...sorry, sleeping on smelly old dirty bunk bed mattresses is not my thing. Nor do I really enjoy camping out and sleeping on the ground. But I do love cabins in the woods so long as I can have my own bedroom and I love the night sky filled with stars.

This was harder than I thought it would, more difficult to think of five things I'd never do again. And of course I just thought of anything - roller coasters and fast twirly rides, most any ride at an amusement park - I'll go to them but I'm not a fan of the rides...

Okay, now I'm done. And, actually not completely convinced that I'd NEVER do any of these, but right now at this moment my intention is to never do them again. (smiles)

Monday, January 21, 2013


My children were young, one in fifth grade and the other in first grade. It was a school holiday, a Monday off and we decided to go to a nearby shopping mall. We probably had to buy something like a white blouse for my daughter's upcoming school concert. Or maybe we were just going there to kill time on a cold winter day. NPR was on the radio and they were rebroadcasting Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. Listening to the speech I was transported back to when I was in fifth or sixth grade and the speech was first delivered, an impassioned face and voice pouring through our small black and white television. My kids and I sat in the car, me mesmerized again by the power and potency of hope. I have to give my kids credit, they listened too, and didn't bug me to get out of the car until the speech was over. We just sat in the car in the parking garage and listened to the entire speech. Then, wiping away tears, I helped them out of the car and holding their hands we walked into the mall to do our errand.

Last Sunday, a week ago, the local Dearborn, MI interfaith community held our worship service commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. day. American Baptists, Lutheran (ELCA), Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Polish Catholics, Muslims, and Jews along with the concert choir of the Henry Ford Community College, all gathered to sing, pray, and remember. The mayor of Dearborn was there, as was Rep. John Dingell, Congressman for this district. Last year and this year both the mayor and congressman spoke passionately about their memories of Martin Luther King, Jr. Dingell knew MLK, Jr. and worked with him back in the day. Both the mayor and the congressman reminded us of how far we in the metro-Detroit area have come. We have made huge strides in the last thirty some odd year toward racial equality. And, as the choir director at Christ Church  reminded us yesterday, celebrating this service in Dearborn is profoundly important, considering the multicultural and interfaith reality we live in. One of the most profound moments of the service, following the reflections from the mayor and congressman, was the reading of "I Have a Dream." A Muslim woman, headscarf and long dress, stood in the pulpit of the First Baptist Church and read the speech. Honestly, it still brings tears to my eyes. This woman, a college student, read that speech in such a way that one knew deep in one's soul how powerful the words are for her - that we are still trying to live into that dream - that this is this woman's dream too.

In sermon yesterday I spoke a great deal about our delegation in Liberia and the potential for us to help a church in Monrovia build a school. We have a sum of money given to the church that can be accessed through a grant proposal process and the school is one project being considered for a grant. Some parishioners question this project and wonder why we don't do something more local. No doubt there is plenty of need right here in our backyard, in Detroit. But the answer is simple, no one has sent in a grant proposal for a project in this area. Any parishioner can submit a proposal. This one in Liberia came from a parishioner. Through out the world there are high needs. Does it really matter, in the end, if we help someone here or there?

The people at Good Shepherd Church in Monrovia have BIG dreams. I hope we will decide to use some of this money, given to the church through the estate of a parishioner, to work with Good Shepherd and make a dream a reality.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dreaming Big, a catalyst for Divine Generosity

 A reflection on the Gospel for Epiphany 2C: John 2:1-11

The other day someone asked me why the Vestry decided to spend the money to send the delegation to Liberia instead of just giving that money to the church in Liberia for the school. I thought it was an excellent question. The Vestry struggled through long discussions for many months regarding how to develop this project. It came to the Vestry from the Undesignated Gifts Fund Committee. For more on the Undesignated Gifts Fund and process see the insert in your bulletin. The information was also emailed to those on our email list and will be included in the annual Parish Report for 2012.

 In the end the answer was simple; the Vestry wanted this project to be about more than just money, they wanted it to be about building a relationship between that community and us. We just didn’t know how to do this. The Vestry was uncertain how to manage the money aspect because it can be complicated to send money into Africa. Certain safeguards need to be in place to ensure that the church actually receives the funds. We were advised that sending too much money into Africa all at once could be problematic and destabilize the economy. So the Vestry determined that the solution to gain answers for all of our questions and concerns was to send a delegation over to listen and learn.  

So the work began. We commissioned the delegation in church on November 11 and they proceeded to get travel arrangements in order. And last week they headed off. It took them twenty-five and half hours of travel to get there, including a two hour delay in Paris due to weather. But from what they say, their arrival made it all worth-while. They were greeted at the airport in Monrovia by sixteen members of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd who treated them like celebrities. The mood was joyous and celebratory. Erika sent me a text saying that the people there are “incredulous that someone in America wants to help them build this school.”

Here is some of what they have posted on Facebook about their journey:

The landscape is much different than expected: lots of trees but also lots of hills. The people are VERY friendly and our celebratory welcome from last night has carried over to today.

The weather is VERY HOT and HUMID! After sunset last night it was still 84 degrees F. During the day the temperatures reach well into the 90’s. At night, the condensation from the humidity drips off the metal roofs and sounds like rain. In the morning the wooden decks are so wet they look like they’ve been hosed down.

Our visit with Bishop Hart began at 11am who told us that the School of the Good Shepherd is a project that started years ago with research and hopeful dreaming. The project has developed to the point where the Ground Breaking ceremony (today) is another beginning.

As we were walking down the hall to the luncheon, we heard singing…a noonday service had just begun. Our group, our Christ Church delegation, Good Shepherd Sr. Warden and Vestry, and some of our cathedral hosts joined the service. The sermon was one that touched us all; the priest challenged us to think about our call to ministry and how we will broaden our influence and hope for the world.

The unexpected nervous moment today involved radio interviews. Daniel and Jamie did the first interview with Radio Monrovia (ELRM) and Edwina and I did the second interview with the Liberia Broadcasting System (ELBC), the National Radio Station

Our hotel serves a complimentary breakfast, so this is how we’ve started our days. We talk about the day to come, although, we really don’t know what to expect…. For instance, on this second day we were to go to the Church of the Good Shepherd’s “Outreach”.….we found out that Outreach means that they have started a second, smaller church farther into the country but still in Paynesville. It took us over an hour to travel a distance of approximately 10 miles. The roads are in very poor condition and the people of Liberia sell their goods along the side of the road; sometimes taking up parts of both lanes of traffic making it all but impossible for 2 cars to pass.

Good Shepherd started this outreach mission church of the Good Samaritan on the porch of a home. Since this church started on private property Good Shepherd bought 1 acre of land down the road: another spiritual dream in the making. Other dreams include building a church building and perhaps a school and medical clinic to serve this poorer population. The people here in Liberia dream BIG, as they know that if they don’t, no one will.

The children’s choir of Good Samaritan sang like angels, both in English and in their tribal tongue, truly enjoying themselves and lifting their voices to God.

The third day started with a 1-hour drive to the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. A long table was set up in the churchyard…The architect provided one set of drawings in print and we were able to conduct our meeting, get a lot of information about their school project, the limitations, dreams and initial thoughts about where they’re headed.

Musu is the name of a person and also a local restaurant owned by a parishioner and Vestry member of the Church of the Good Shepherd. Musu has provided our midday meals each day and the feast we had tonight, topped it all. Ocean crab (with no utensils to crack the shell; we resorted to biting it to retrieve the crab meat), spare ribs, bbq river shrimp (they look a little like crawfish and are delicious), and fresh grilled fish (picture a large fish, grilled but looking like it was just plucked from the sea, on a platter), bong (an indigenous vegetable similar to a potato) and sweet potato fries were on the menu. Everything was delicious, especially the crab and grilled fish, so fresh. Outside, under a shelter, it was still very hot and humid, but nothing a beer couldn’t wash away. On another day we had Chard rice, chicken, cuda (Barracuda served with a light cream sauce) and fruit. The food has been good and plentiful; Wilbert Clarke (Good Shepherd senior warden) keeps telling us to “eat, drink, you’re on vacation”. We do as we are told, sometimes, but have kept our focus on the project at hand…at God’s hand.

As I read these daily updates and the photographs being posted on the Christ Church Facebook page I am profoundly grateful for the wisdom of our Vestry and their decision to send over a team of people to learn and listen.

Our readings today from the Gospel of John directly connect to this reality, to our delegation to Liberia and the Good Shepherd school project.

Listen again to the conversation between the mother and Jesus:
Mother says, “They have no wine.”
Son replies, “What concern is that to you and to me?”
Mother, knowing full well what her son is capable of, says to the staff  “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus the son, perhaps with that kind of sigh that kids give their parents from time to time, says to the staff “Fill the jars with water.”

The mother of Jesus is a catalyst to Jesus’ extravagant divine generosity, the love, hospitality, and compassion of God that is lived out in the life of Jesus. And Christians, by virtue of being heirs of Jesus’ mother are likewise called to go on prodding divine generosity – to push for the ways in which love, compassion, and hospitality are revealed in the world.

The wedding feast at Cana and the sign of Jesus turning water into wine remind us that God desires life to include joy and celebration. Throughout his life and his ministry, Jesus celebrated people—people getting married, people being healed of disease and deformity, people enjoying meals together, people growing in faith and finding new life. Jesus carried a spirit of celebration with him wherever he went as he proclaimed a God of mercy and peace and joy.[i]  

We too can be like Jesus’ mother, prodding the divine into action. As one person from the delegation said on Facebook: the project has grown in (her) interest to include a global vision of what’s good for the world: EDUCATION and following your heart to do ‘good’ in the world.

We can use this gift of money given as a bequest from Mary Jane and Earl Bergeron to do good, to celebrate life, to make a difference in the world, to bring joy to others, and to help BIG dreams come true. And I suspect, because this is how divine generosity works,  if we go forward with this church school project, the real gift is one we will receive back, one waiting to be revealed, one that will be abundant, profound and transformational, like turning water into wine. 

[i] Feasting On The Word for Epiphany 2C

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Praying into life....

 A reflection on the readings for "The Baptism of Jesus" from the Gospel of Luke (3:15-17, 21-22)

Our reading this morning conveys a key theme in the Gospel of Luke – prayer. Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, helps us understand how to pray

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.   (Mary Oliver ~ Thirst)

Oliver reminds us to keep it simple, patch a few words together, don’t try to be too elaborate, give thanks and let there be some silence so God can speak too.

Jesus, after his baptism went off to pray, something Jesus does a lot of in the Gospel of Luke. Prayer is central to who Jesus is and how he lives out his ministry. Prayer is central to our faith life too and how we are invited to live out our various ministries.

 In the Bible Jesus gives us a simple prayer to pray, we call it The Lord’s Prayer. There are two versions of it in our Book of Common Prayer which you can find if you turn to page

There are also two versions of the Lord’s Prayer found in the Bible – one is in the sixth chapter of Gospel of Matthew  and it goes like this:

 “ Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you;  (Matthew 6:9-14)

And, one in the Gospel of Luke and it goes like this:

(Jesus) said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”  (Luke 11:1-4)

The versions of the Lord’s Prayer that we have in the Book of Common Prayer are similar, one to the Gospel of Matthew – which we use most of the year and call it the traditional version – and the other to the Gospel of Luke – which we use in the summer and call it the Contemporary version. Both versions are based on how Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. 

N.T. Wright, a Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and a New Testament scholar says this about the Lord’s Prayer: “(it)is not so much a command as an invitation: an invitation to share in the prayer-life of Jesus himself…..”[i]

All Prayer is an invitation into the inner life of the Divine one and brings with it an opportunity to experience something of that divine life. Prayer is an invitation into mystery and the idea that there is something at play in the world that is bigger than we are. This something we call God – the divine source of all creation, the one who brought forth all life and called it good. We, being made in the image of that divine source are made good to do good.

For Christians baptism is the invitation into the life of Christ. An invitation into prayer, an invitation into an understanding of life that helps us make meaning out our lives, helps us navigate the challenges of life, a life of community and faith, a life in which we are never alone.  In baptism we are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gifts which become our strengths, the gifts which define our lives. Jesus’ gift is teacher – he teaches us how to live as God desires, how to live as Jesus did, a life of boundless compassion, love, mercy, and grace for all people, all creation.

Mary Oliver has something to say about the mystery of life and prayer in another poem, The Summer Day. Here is a portion of that poem:
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,….
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Today we have come to baptize Lexi into her new life in Christ. As a parish family we have been praying for Lexi and her parents and godparents, for many months – all during the adoption process. Now today we join our prayer with her prayer and offer our lifelong commitment to nurture her in her life in Christ. Every person we baptize we embrace with delight their potential, their new life in Christ, and we look forward to finding out just:
“What is they will do with their one wild and precious life!”  

 Let us now prepare to welcome "L" into her new life…

[i] http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Christian_Prayer.htm

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Gift of Gifting

 A reflection on the Gospel of Matthew (2:1-12) for the Feast of Epiphany...

A friend of a friend had a groupon for a party bus that expired the end of last year. She decided to use it for field trip for her school kids.  So she loaded the bus up with 1st and 2nd graders and took off around the city to do random acts of kindness. The kids sang Christmas carols at the nursing home. They took cookies to firefighters at the local firehouse. They passed out quarters at the laundromat and left more quarters on top of the bubble gum machines at the grocery store. They bought someone's food at McDonald's.

 The bus driver refused a tip at the end of the afternoon, saying "you've reminded me that there's kindness in the world. This is the best drive I've ever done." No doubt this was a transformational experience for everyone involved, most of all the children.

Three wise ones called the Magi took off one night to follow a star. They believed this star was leading them to a king, a holy child. They brought with them gifts for this holy child king – frankincense, myrrh, and gold. 

Do you know why they brought frankincense, gold, and myrrh?

These were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil.

Frankincense is a milky white resin extracted from a plant species that thrives in the arid, cool areas of the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and India. The trees grow to a height of 16 feet and have a papery bark.

Myrrh is a reddish resin that comes from a plant species native to northeast Africa and the adjacent areas of the Arabian Peninsula. The tree has spiny branches and grows to a modest height of 9 feet.

People in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula have produced frankincense and myrrh for some 5,000 years. These aromatic resins were the region's most important commodity, with a trade network that reached across Africa, Asia and Europe.

Frankincense and myrrh were desired for personal, religious and medicinal use. In a time before daily bathing, people would use the sweet smoke from the resins to make themselves smell better.  Egyptian women mixed the ash of frankincense into their eye shadow. These substances were also widely used in religious ceremonies and burials.

Frankincense and myrrh also had medicinal uses. Both resins were recommended for the treatment of wounds. They were also used to cure hemlock poisoning, leprosy, worms, snakebites, diarrhea, plague, scurvy and even baldness! Some think frankincense was used to treat arthritis.

The high demand for frankincense and myrrh created a booming trade in the Middle East lasting about six hundred years, until about the 4th century.

Frankincense and Myrrh were widely used at the time of Jesus’ birth and would have been considered practical gifts with many uses. The expensive resins were symbolic as well. Frankincense, which was often burned, symbolized prayer rising to the heavens like smoke, while myrrh, which was often used for burials, symbolized death.  Accordingly, a mixture of wine and myrrh would be offered to Jesus during his crucifixion.[i]

Giving gold to the baby Jesus is an indication of his royalty and kingship.

So, does it make a difference to us whether the gifts given to Jesus in the story from Matthew were intended to be practical gifts for health and wellbeing or gifts of honor and prestige befitting a king?

Having just passed through the Christmas seasons what does it mean to you to give gifts? What about random gifts given to strangers like the kids who spent the day doing acts of kindness?

It’s curious to me that on Facebook there are two movements in play for these early days of 2013. One movement encourages us to be attentive to the ordinary daily things that bring us joy, for which we are grateful. And, whenever we experience something that brings us joy and gratitude we are to write it down on a slip of paper and put it in a jar. Then at the end of 2013 we are to read each slip of paper and remember all the good things that happened to us over the year.

The second movement is individuals who are paying forward random acts of gifting. To this people post a status update that says:

“For the 2013 Creative Pay-It-Forward: The first five people to comment on this status will receive from me, sometime in the next calendar year, a gift -perhaps a book, or baked goods, jewelry....something homemade - a surprise! There will likely be no warning and it will happen whenever the mood strikes me. The catch? Those five people must make the same offer in their FB status.”

Both of these ideas, along with the Gospel reading, have me thinking about the act of giving and what it means to be generous.

Next week we will send a delegation of four people to Liberia. The fact that we are doing this is startling to me. I can hardly believe it, having never before been part of a congregation and Vestry who were capable of doing such a thing. I imagine it is equally startling to many of you as well. I hope it is startling in a good way. Good in that the purpose of this trip is to consider if and how we can partner with an Episcopal Church in Monrovia to build a church school. Good that the delegation is going over in order to listen and learn about the people and the culture of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Monrovia. Listen and learn so they can report back to the Vestry so that the Vestry can more fully consider this partnership.

As you may know, education of children, especially girls, is key to the economic growth and stability of any country, but particularly a developing country. In Liberia there are three types of schools: public, private schools owned by individuals, and private church schools. Private church schools offer the best education including scholarships for those who cannot afford the tuition. The Episcopal Diocese of Liberia has its own school system which this school will be part of.

We are able to fund this trip and perhaps a financial contribution toward the building of the school because of a generous donation given to the church in a bequest from a parishioner who died in 2008.

From a generous gift given to this parish comes the potential for us to make a real impact on a community and a difference in the world. In the meantime this delegation is going on a journey. Like the Magi who set off to bring gifts to an unknown king and found instead the humble Christ-child, so to may we find the living presence of God’s transforming love.  Like gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh, this gift just might prove to be good for our health and wellbeing and a gift fit for a king.

Discipleship: becoming one's true self

My seminary advisor was a renowned New Testament scholar, one of his protege students turned out to be Sarge Thomas' daughter, Amy, who ...