Habits of Grace – The Growing Edge

Habits of Grace, July 7, 2020: An invitation for you, from Presiding Bishop Curry

[July 7, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new meditation will be posted each week. These meditations can be watched at any time by clicking here.
July 7, 2020: The growing edge
Watch the Video
The 4th of July weekend has just concluded and a new week has begun, but the titanic struggles of the old world continue. The struggles to face painful truths of our racial past, the struggles to find ways to fashion a new future, the struggles for racial justice and human equality and true human reconciliation. Even in the midst of these struggles, we still face a pandemic that is worldwide. Now the United States itself is gravely threatened and affected by COVID-19. And even in the midst of all of that, we enter a season of electioneering, campaigning, a presidential election that could well be a profoundly polarizing and divisive election for our country.

In this time, I remember the words of Howard Thurman, who I often go back to. Dr. Thurman was one of the founders of probably the first interracial and interreligious church in the United States in San Francisco, back in the forties and fifties. He was the author of Jesus and the Disinherited. He was one of the people who went and met Mahatma Gandhi in the 1940s, and brought back his teachings of non-violent social change that influenced an entire civil rights movement. He was quietly, if you will, the spiritual director of many of the leaders of the civil rights movement. Whitney Young, Roy Wilkins, Martin King, many others went quietly to Howard Thurman to talk, to reflect, to pray. He wrote this in one of his meditations about times of great transition and turmoil:

Look well to the growing edge. All around us, worlds are dying and new worlds are being born. All around us, life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such as the growing edge. It is the extra breath from the exhausted lung, the one more thing to try when all else has failed. The upward reach of life when weariness closes in upon all endeavor. This is the basis of hope in moments of despair, the incentive to carry on when times are out of joint and men have lost their reason. A source of confidence when worlds crash and dreams whiten into ash. The birth of a child — life’s most dramatic answer to death — this is the growing edge incarnate. Look well to the growing edge!

God love you. God bless you. And may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.

Habits of Grace

Habits of Grace, June 16, 2020: An invitation for you, from Presiding Bishop Curry

[June 16, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new meditation will be posted each week.These meditations can be watched at any time by clicking here.
June 16, 2020: In this month of June
Watch the Video
During this month of June, we find ourselves in the midst of great titanic struggles, hardships, and difficulties. When important things are at stake, when the lives of God’s children, and the life of the world in many respects is at stake. Even as I speak, protestors march through our streets, protesting the way we have been. Protesting for the way we could be. Black Lives Matter, protesting in our city streets that we might learn to live the ways of justice, and mercy that reflects the heart of God’s love. And even as I speak, this month of June is Pride Month when our LGBTQ siblings remember and recall, and continue their struggle for equality and mutual respect, and human dignity in our society, in our church and throughout the world.

And even as I speak, the COVID-19 pandemic continues in strange and unanticipated ways, but it continues. This is the month of June. These are some hard times. Hard times for all, but really hard times for so many. Sometimes it’s helpful to go back and look how others navigated hard times. I went and picked up a small book. There’s a book of sermons by Harry Emerson Fosdick. It was published in the mid 1940s, in 1944 I believe. It was a collection of sermons that he preached as the pastor of Riverside Church in New York City, during the Second World War when the entire world was in an apocalyptic struggle between good and evil. One of the sermons he titled, “In such a time as this, no dry-as-dust religion will do.”

He pleaded with people of God to draw closer to God for strength and energy. To live lives of love, of faith, of hope. In that same period of time, he composed the hymn that’s found in many of our hymnals, and I would offer it for us this week in this month of June.

God of grace and God of glory,
on thy people pour thy power;
crown thy ancient churches’ story,
bring her bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
for the facing of this hour . . .

Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore;
let the gift of thy salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
serving thee whom we adore.

(Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1930)

God love you. God bless you. May God hold us all in those Almighty hands of love.

Reference: “No Dry as Dust Religion Will Do,” A Great Time to Be Alive: Sermons on Christianity in War Time, Harpers & Brothers, 1944

Second Sunday after Pentecost

Joe’s sermon is on our Facebook page video of the Sunday worship service. His sermon begins at 25.31.

Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)

Jesus went about all

cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. [Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”]

 

The Gospel: Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. [Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”]

A Pastoral Letter on the Regathering of Congregations

A MESSAGE FROM BISHOP SUTTON

A Pastoral Letter on the Regathering of Congregations

June 9, 2020

Dear Members of the Diocese of Maryland,As state and county restrictions have begun to ease and as some of our congregations begin regathering under our diocesan phased guidelines, I want to thank you for the creative ways you have kept worship services going, provided pastoral connections with one another, and maintained important social justice ministries such as food pantries.

I want you to remember that regathering will look different for every single congregation and ministry for a variety of reasons. Some will be due to the difference in local restrictions and testing capacity. Some will be because of the restrictions your church’s architecture presents. Some will be based on the comfort level of congregants as well as the clergy who lead them, many of whom are also in a high-risk health category. So, I want to offer a few words of pastoral advice as each congregation and each of us individually consider what regathering will look and feel like:

Stay calm. Emotions are high and we are all coping in different ways. Our clergy are feeling that pressure just like everyone else. If the pressure of regathering is too much on your leadership, please wait until that pressure subsides sufficiently. I don’t want any of you to feel pressured to regather! Our physical and emotional health are paramount during this difficult time which will remain with us for a while. Clergy need a break and need to still take vacation time this summer. Utilize our cathedral service as need be, even once a month if that helps take the pressure off your own priest or deacon.

Stay connected. Thanks to Zoom, Facebook and other digital platforms (including the good old telephone), we are able to continue to stay connected. So continue to pray for one another. Continue to participate in worship as best you are able. Reach out to neighbors, call people whom you haven’t spoken with in a while, and continue to connect with your governmental leaders on issues of importance.

Stay church. Remember, the church never closed. Our buildings have been closed for public gatherings, but the church is really you, the people, living out your baptismal vows. Our community of love is not defined by bricks and mortar. It is our capacity and passion to pray, to connect, to give, and to speak out that defines who we are as a church.

Friends, we will get through this. It may take a while, but God’s presence and God’s love is steadfast. This is a resurrection moment for us – not a death – and God’s grace is abundant. We need to allow ourselves the space to receive that grace as a salve for the pressures that weigh upon us. So, wait to regather only when you are ready. I have your back and we in diocesan leadership want to help guide you, not force you. We have “guidelines” for a reason, rather than policy or mandate. Trust yourself and your leadership.

Stay calm. Stay connected. Stay church!

+Eugene

The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Maryland