Thursday, December 29, 2011

History of Grace Church, 1866 to 1966


Laura Chace's The Parish of Grace Church was written in 1966 to help celebrate and document the first 100 years of Grace Church's life. See the scanned text and many historic pictures in Grace's photo album here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Grace Healing Authentic and Whole


Homily by Hawley Todd given at a Celebration of Wholeness and Healing at Grace Church, 12/14/2011.

Exodus 3:13 – 15 the Divine Name Revealed

But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I AM has sent me to you.” ’ 15God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”: This is my name for ever, and this my title for all generations.

Open with prayer invoking the Holy Spirit

Welcome and explain context of the service

Who are you?

Think about it for a moment. Who are you?

How would you answer that question?

What I really want you to think about is how you would answer that question to yourself. It does not matter how you answer it to me. Where it really matters is how you answer it to yourself.

Healing is at its deepest center Becoming the Persons God Created Us to Be

When Moses asked God what his name is, Moses was asking “Who are you?”

What a perfect answer “I am who I am”

Are you “who you are” “who you were created to be in your truest sense” or are you somebody else?

Healing is about becoming real – becoming authentic – becoming whole.

I doubt if any of us have arrived at complete wholeness – it is a journey – a process that may take us all our life (lives).

Yet it is the journey to which each of us is called.

We are called to become real, whole, and truly ourselves.

There is so much healing that is needed in our lives – to live into becoming who we truly are.

We spend so much time and effort creating illusions and images of ourselves so that others will like us – so we can get ahead in the world – so we can receive some degree of acceptance from others – or whatever else your particular need may be.

During childhood and adolescence we strive to fit in.

Parts of us that don’t receive the approval of others get stifled or broken.

So who are you?

When Jesus told us to “love others as we love ourselves” – He was telling us that an essential aspect of loving is to Love and Honor who we are!

The more we grow into becoming whole, real, and authentic – the more we can encourage and allow each other to be real and authentic.

Conversely, the deeper we allow ourselves to be split off from being who we were created to be – the more we try to force others to conform to become what we think they SHOULD BE.

I don’t know who you were created to be.

However I do know that the more we enter into relationship with God – with the Divine Spirit – the more we are empowered to grow and become authentic.

So take time this Advent season – yes it is Advent: Christmas doesn’t start until at least Christmas Eve – to honor your self.

Seek healing for those parts of yourself that are damaged and broken – especially for those wounds that inhibit you being real.

And give yourself the precious gift of love.

Give yourself permission to DO what nourishes your soul and spirit.

“No” is a wonderful word. It really is okay to say “no” when others are sucking you dry.

This is such a busy time of the year. And people place so many demands and expectations upon one another.

Here is a novel concept for us to consider as we prepare for the Christmas season. Perhaps the best gift we can give to those we love is to love who we are and become the persons God created us to be.

Let us pray

[prayer time to ask the Holy Spirit to come and heal and bless us to become whole]

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Sermon: Living in God’s Kingdom Right Here, Right Now

Readings for Last Sunday after Pentecost—Year A

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.

Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, `Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'

Then he will say to those at his left hand, `You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, `Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."


The Sermon: Living in God’s Kingdom Right Here, Right Now

Here’s a quick summary of today’s Gospel: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit prisoners. If you do that, when you die, you’ll go to Heaven. If you don’t, you’ll spend eternity burning in Hell. Pretty simple: Be good, or else!

So, I guess I can just sit down now?

Well, no, I don’t think so!

· Life doesn’t work that way: deferred rewards & punishments don’t work.

· No gray areas.

· No allowance for repentance & forgiveness.

· No place for the saving power of faith.

· No place for a loving God.

· It sets up another set of rules.

Today’s lesson is another of Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of God. Parables aren’t about the future; they tell truths about the reality of the here and now. Further, they usually have an element of surprise—they overturn some piece of common knowledge. So let’s look at this parable as an expression of some surprising truth about life in the here and now.

There’s nothing unusual or surprising about the idea that God wants us to care for those less fortunate than ourselves. In Jesus time, every Jew knew that. Throughout the Hebrew scripture, God’s people are called to love their neighbor as themselves. They were to also to love the aliens among them as themselves, and to care for widows and orphans, among other things. Today’s OT reading condemns those in power who haven’t cared for the people in their charge, comparing them to the fat sheep who crowd the weak animals and butt them with their horns until they’re scattered all over the place.

And it doesn’t surprise anyone that the story has a powerful judge who sentences people. Everyone knows that those in authority have the power to reward and punish in this world. It’s common knowledge that we need to pay attention to those who have the power. Conversely, we all know that we really don’t have to pay that kind of attention to the powerless. We may decide to be benevolent, but the common knowledge is that there’s no consequence if we don’t.

It’s at this point that the parable turns the tables on the people in the story—and on us. In the story, the judge suddenly calls the powerless and disadvantaged his family! The implications quickly become obvious. Everybody knows that if you want to get on the right side of the powerful, you better treat their friends and family well. When the judge calls the powerless his family, suddenly, the powerless have become powerful—and they’ve just gotten the power to judge us.

And that’s actually how it is in real life. We carefully watch—and judge--the people in our lives who have power over, just as those who are less powerful than we watch—and judge us.

Jesus preached the Kingdom of God as being “at hand” right here, right now. So what are the consequences in the here and now of being a caring person vs not? The here & now truth that the parable points to is that caring people are already living in God’s Kingdom in a way that uncaring people are not.

I think we love Dicken’s Christmas Carol story because it gives us a neat example of how this can be. The stingy mean Scrooge is living in his own little hell on earth; after he sees his situation in a new light, the generous caring Scrooge goes on to live in a little bit of heaven.

It’s important to understand that today’s Gospel isn’t setting up a set of specific rules to follow—yet another list of good works to perform. No, it has to do with living a life of mercy and joy--of living a life of thankfulness for the gifts we’ve been given and of experiencing joy in sharing what we have. When we live like that, we are already living in the Kingdom.

Contrast that with living a life of concern that what you have won’t be enough and a life of fear--fear that even what you have will be taken away. That’s not a life that could be described as living in the Kingdom, and that stance toward life would be reflected by acts of selfishness and greed and mistrust.

I don’t mean to imply that living a life that cares for others is all sweetness and light. Real life isn’t that easy. It’s like there’s an Olympic event called caring, and there are degrees of difficulty in this event, like there are with the Olympic diving event.

The easiest kind of caring is caring for the Deserving Poor—those who have become disadvantaged through no fault of their own.

Caring for them is lots easier than caring for the Undeserving Poor—those who got themselves in trouble through something they did or didn’t do—those whom we feel deserve what they got.

This dichotomy plays out in our national life. It’s easy to think about welfare when we think it’s for people like us who have simply fallen on hard times, but it’s harder to think about supporting people who don’t ever seem to be able to get it together. This situation comes up clos to home as well. How many times do we help a friend or family member get back on his or her feet after they’ve messed up yet again? When is it helping, and when is it enabling? Tough question; no easy answer. But to me it’s clear that caring and trying to do the right thing is way better for us and for them than either giving up on them and opting out or conversely, giving up and giving in to demands that aren’t helpful in the long run.

Now, I’d like to present another, more modern twist to the story. People who study such things report that some people simply have more capacity for caring than others. In some people, the senses of empathy or sympathy are simply not well-developed, and, in psychopaths, they’re entirely lacking. They become the mean-spirited among us. Perhaps they’re racists or sexists or gay-bashers. Some of them may be among that rich and powerful 1% that people are complaining about. Where do these people fit in our lives as caring persons?

Because they lack the capacity to care for others, they are denied the joy of living in the Kingdom here and now. So, even though they may be rich or at least have some power over others, this puts them in the ranks of the disadvantaged. For short, let’s call them the Undeserving Rich. They present a third degree of difficulty to those who have been granted the gift of caring. So, after the challenges of caring for the Deserving Poor and caring for the Undeserving Poor, now we’re presented with the challenge of caring about and for the Undeserving Rich!

Is it possible to have an impact on even these people’s lives? A Christmas Carol does portray the conversion of rich uncaring stingy unhappy Scrooge to a rich caring sharing happy Scrooge. That’s fiction, but we have real-life examples as well: Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie used his fortune to fund schools and libraries all over the US. Microsoft founder Bill Gates quit heading his company to devote himself and his fortune to enhancing healthcare and reducing poverty worldwide. I’d like to believe that some caring person was instrumental in these people’s decision to devote their lives to caring for others.

Closer to home at Grace Church, we, as a community, and as individuals, have learned to include people who were previously excluded—and we have come to understand that we are much the better for it—that we are now blessed to be living more in God’s Kingdom than ever before. As Phillis has said, “We’re smaller now, but we’re better.”

Now, if you or I aspire to be living even more in the Kingdom, how might we become more caring? The answer is the same as it is for anything else we want to learn: practice, practice, practice. And we don’t let the fact that there are hard cases out there stop us from doing what we can. We start easy and we work up.

Our daily life gives us lots of chances to practice caring. When we’re driving, for example: At a four-way stop intersection, do we wave the other person through before us? When we see people in crosswalks, do we stop for them? When people are merging into our lane, do we let them in--even when they’ve run ahead of us and don’t deserve to be let in?

Even closer to home, at the Snack ‘n Chat following the service, being a caring person can be as simple as being on the lookout for anyone who’s sitting or standing alone & make it a point to chat with them.

Remember the promise of today’s parable: the more we act like we’re a caring person, the more we’ll be a caring person and the more we’ll find ourselves living in God’s Kingdom—right here, right now.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Grace Church Congregational Meeting 1: The State of Grace Church

October 8, 2011

Mission Statement

To be a place of Grace, a community where all are welcome:

· to experience the grace of God through worship, study and action,

· to celebrate our diversity and history,

· to care for our community and each other,

· to serve Christ daily in our lives and work.

Grace church Goals

· Increase participation and inclusion of those seeking God within the ministries of Grace church.

· Develop and practice way of bringing deeper spirituality and healing into the lives of parishioners and our neighbors.

Present: Carol Lyon, Grace Staples, Ruth Bertram, Judy Handy, Marjorie Shadd, J White, David Mukasa, Roger Perna, Wanda Miller, Bill Jenne, Ken Lyon, Chuck Bowles

Introduction: Carol introduced the meeting by explaining that the purpose of this, the first of two meetings, is to get a better picture of the current state of Grace Church.

How has Church Changed: Ken led a discussion of how Church has changed since were young, and how Grace Church has changed since each of arrived here.

Church Size Model: Carol shared a Church Size Model that’s often used to better understand how a church operates. Grace, having fewer than 75 average Sunday attendance, is a Family Size Church in this model. One of the attributes of this size church is that power is vested in lay people.

Where is our Energy going? Carol asked each person present to write down all of the Grace activities they participate in and, for each of these activities, write rate the amount of their energy that activity takes, either 1 (low), 2 (medium) or 3 (high).

In the results below, note that this represents only the people in the room, and it’s very approximate in the details. However, the group did think that this gives us a pretty good picture of where our energy is going.


Individual’s Energy





Building & Grounds/Rental









Finance & Stewardship






Pastoral Care












Mission Council



Mission & Formation



New Members/Member Nurturing



Joy & Happiness



Wrapup: Chuck said that Grace Church has some similarities to the business he was managing. When his staff was cut, he had to figure out what was essential to his business area, and he had to find creative ways to use his limited resources to do the essential things, and he had to cut out less essential activities.

At our next Congregational Meeting, we will assess where our energy is going and decide on changes we can make use our energy to maximum effect.

Next meeting: November 12 from 10 am to 12:30 pm. (Note the change from what was previously announced.)

Ken Lyon, 10/17/2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

Grace Church Celebrates Wholeness and Healing Wednesday Evenings

Grace Church's Wednesday evening Celebration of Wholeness and Healing combines traditional laying-on of hands with vibration therapy of African Drumming and the employment of the universal life force energy through the Japanese practice of Reiki. This healing service takes place the second Wednesday of every month. Drumming begins at 6:30 pm; a short formal service begins at 7 pm; it's over when everyone has left, sometimes as late as 10 pm.

While many are familiar with the traditional healing service found in many Episcopal churches, the combining of this with the non-traditional healing services is unique.

The drum has been used to heal people in tribal cultures for thousands of years. The history of The Drum and Sound Therapy is that tribal societies, both eastern and western have long recognized the connection between drum energy and their physical & emotional health. Many cultures from all over the world have used this tool and now we use the energy of drumming to help us make the changes we need in our body, mind and soul.  Sound Attunement Therapy or (SAT) is simply the use of vibration energy, in this case, The Drum. This vibration energy helps promote, heal and restore a person's natural health and bring the body, mind & spirit/emotions into harmony.

Many scientific studies attest to the power of the drum to reduce stress, promote pain management and boost the immune system to combat the spread of disease. Another interesting study suggests that drumming produces increased NK or natural killer cell activity in cancer patients. Modern science has documented that drumming significantly reduced feelings of stress, fear, anger, confusion, fatigue and depression among others. In addition, participants in the study experienced an enhanced sense of emotional and physical well being after exposure to drumming.

A Japanese healer first propounded Reiki in the early 1900. It combines the employment of the universal life force energy in a concentrated method to promote healing.

All three of these methods have many testimonials to their effectiveness.

Adapted from the press release announcing the first healing service on September 12, 2007.

How Sign up with Facebook & Interact with Grace Church’s Page

Grace Church has a Facebook page here that’s visible to the millions of Facebook members. We already have a thousand views a month with the potential for many more if the content of the page improves—meaning if more people interact with Grace’s page and post things that show how active a community we are. To interact with Grace’s page, you need to have a Facebook account.

Signing up for Facebook is easy, but for some, the thought of it might be a little intimidating. What’s it for anyway? Who can see my stuff? Might I be bombarded with things I don’t want to deal with? Might information harvested from my Facebook profile be used against me somehow?

These are good questions. In reality, the risk that someone can hurt you via Facebook is pretty low as long as you don’t share anything that you couldn’t stand having posted on a public bulletin board. Frankly, I’m less concerned with thieves breaking in and stealing my information than I am with people who have legitimate access sharing my stuff in ways I didn’t expect.

Most people simply go to and sign up without worrying about the details. They take Facebook’s default security settings and the vast majority of them don’t experience problems they can’t easily handle. However, if you want to further limit exposure to your information, change Facebook’s default security settings. My guide to setting Facebook’s security settings to the “paranoid” level are given below.

What Facebook is For

Facebook (FB from now on) is for sharing information with your FB friends and for seeing information that your FB Friends have posted for you to see. When you register with FB, you create a personal profile. Then you can add other users as friends and exchange information with them and, optionally, others.

· When you register with FB, you put information about yourself in your FB profile that is then shared with your FB friends, friends of friends or all FB members, depending on the security settings you choose.

· Once you register with FB, you can search for friends and ask them to “Friend” you. Depending on the security settings you choose, others may be able to find you and ask you to “Friend” them. If you get a friend request, you have the option to ignore that request and even to reject all future requests from that person.

· You have a Wall upon which you and others can post information or photos to be seen by friends, friends of friends, or all FB members. Who can post on your wall and who can see your wall depends on security settings that you choose.

· You have a “News Feed” that shows the posts as they appear on your wall and on your FB friends’ walls.

· When you see a post, you can “like” it and/or post comments on it.

· The above also applies, in general, to organizations that have set up FB Pages. When you “like” an organization’s Page, that adds posts to that page to your News Feed.

You can read lots more about FB in a Wikipedia article here:

Sign up with Facebook

1. Go to You should see the FB Sign Up page that asks you to provide your name, and other basic information about yourself. If you see someone else’s personal page instead (you’ll notice a name near the upper right hand corner of the screen), then click on “Home” in the upper right hand corner of the screen and then “Log Out” to get to the Sign Up screen.

2. On the Sign Up screen, provide your name, email address, a password (remember it!), gender (FB calls this sex) and birth date. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be taken to a screen that asks you to enter some characters (to prove you’re a human) and then you’re in!

3. FB will now take you to some pages asking for more information. You can skip those pages if you want. You can provide that information later.

4. Check your email for a message from FB asking you to confirm that you are who you say you are. Once you’ve clicked the link on that email, you’re a FB member with a FB profile.

5. Now you can click various links on your FB page to find interesting things to try. Below are three things we recommend you take care of first.

Interact with Grace Church’s FB Page

Now that you’re a FB member, go to Grace’s FB page

  • Click the “Like” icon next to “Grace Episcopal Church” at the top of the page to ensure that posts on this page appear in your News Feed and to allow you to interact with this page.
  • Look at the posts on Grace Church’s Wall and either “like” or comment on posts as you so desire.
  • Post your own comments, photos, links or videos on Grace Church’s Wall as you are inspired. The more interactions there are, the more people will see our page and the better Grace will be portrayed as the lively place it is.

Set up Facebook Security

Click on Home, then Privacy Settings. If you’re concerned about your visibility, following are my “paranoid” recommendations. You can always become more visible later if you want. In any case, I’d recommend you go thru the following pages to become familiar with what FB’s default settings are.

  • How you Connect:
    • Who can look up your profile by name or contact info? “Friends” is the most limited setting. Basically, this means that you’ll need to take the initiative to find FB friends (assuming that they have allowed themselves to be seen by people who aren’t already their friends).
    • Who can send you friend requests? “Friends of Friends” is the most limited setting.
    • Who can send your FB messages? “Friends” is the most limited setting.
    • Who can post to your wall? “Only me” is the most limited setting. “Friends” would seem to be a reasonable setting.
    • Who can see Wall posts by others on my profile (meaning on my wall)? Again, “Only me” is the most limited setting. “Friends” would seem to be a reasonable setting.
  • How tags work: (See for an explanation of tagging).
    • Profile Review…: Turn on to require you to approve tagging.
    • Tag Review…: Turn on.
    • Maximum Profile Visibility: Set to Friends.
    • Tag suggestions: Set to off.
    • Friends can check you in to places …: Set to Disabled.
  • Apps and Websites:
    • Apps you use: Turn off all platform apps.
    • The other settings on this page are disabled by the other settings you’ve chosen.
  • Limit the Audience for Past Posts.
    • No need to set this, you have no past posts.
  • Blocked people and Apps.
    • oou should have no need for this given the above settings, but if there should come to be interactions you want to prevent, you can block them here. You can also block future unwanted interactions when they occur.

Edit your Profile

Click on your name in the upper right hand corner of the screen and you’ll see an Edit Profile link near your name. On the left, you’ll see lots of areas in which you can provide information about yourself. Next to each item, you’ll see a little world-like link with a down arrow. Click the arrow and you’ll see that you can specify who can see that item. Change as you see fit.

Final Comments

There’s lots you can do on FB, and this introduction has just scratched the surface. Have fun with it, and try things out. If you get confused, use the Help facility (under “Home” in the upper right hand corner) to learn more. If FB’s help doesn’t help, then I find that googling Facebook plus my question works pretty well.

Ken Lyon
September 25, 2011

Please send comments and corrections to Ken Lyon at

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About EfM …

... But Were Afraid to Ask.

What Is EfM? Education for Ministry (EfM) is a structured group learning experience in which lay people discover and/or refine their faith, learn to articulate their faith and discover new ways to live their. EfM is an extension course from the School of Theology of the University of the South at Sewanee. It is sponsored by the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Seminar groups consist of 6 to 12 adults of any faith, led by a trained mentor, meeting weekly, reflecting theologically and discussing the Bible, church history and theology. In its 30-year history, the program has graduated over 22,000 theologically-grounded lay people.

What Can EfM Do For Me? Better than any other theological education program, EfM graduates learn to integrate their faith with their life experience in ways that make sense and bring meaning to their lives. EfM graduates attest to being able to live more full and abundant lives. Many discover (or rediscover) their ministries in their daily life and work. Some find themselves called to use their talents in new ways. In all cases, EfM-ers develop new confidence to live their lives as theologically articulate Christians.

What Should I Not Expect From EfM? EfM is not a Bible study, although EfM students study the Bible. EfM will not provide a lecture on the week’s lessons, although you may address specific questions at the seminar. EfM does not tell you what to believe; rather it provides you with tools and opportunity for you to further develop your beliefs. EfM is not a support group, although you will find support from your EfM group.

What Commitment Does EfM Require? EfM is a four-year program, but students commit to only one year (9 months) at a time. EfM groups meet weekly in three-hour seminars from September through May. Preparation for the seminar consists of studying the texts and reading material for the week’s lesson. Depending on the individual, this advance study may take from two to five hours.

What Is An EfM Mentor? An EfM Mentor is trained and certified by Sewanee to facilitate the seminars and guide the EfM Group through the program. The Mentor facilitates the students' learning process; he or she does not teach the material.

What Is Theological Reflection? Theological Reflection (TR) is a mentor-led discussion process during which students discover new ways to relate their life experiences, Judeo-Christian tradition and the culture in which we live. During TR, students are often struck with potentially life-changing, insights (aha's!). This Sewanee-developed methodology has been refined through use in EfM groups over the past 30 years.

What Is Ministry? For starters, EfM is not training for "The Ministry." EfM helps seminar members discover their own ministry--one that grows out of their life situation and their God-given gifts. Some discover they were already doing their ministry but didn't know it; some find themselves called to make a major change in their life; most are somewhere in between.

What Does EfM Cost? Tuition is  about $350 per year, paid in advance. Scholarships are available, so cost is not a barrier to participation.

How Can I Find Out More About EfM?

  • Contact Hawley Todd, TSSF (513-967-6581,
  • Come to an Informational Meeting in late July or early August (call Hawley for details).
  • On the web, see Or use your favorite search engine to search for Education Ministry EFM; you'll be surprised at how much is out there.

How Can I Enroll In EfM? Call mentor Hawley Todd for an enrollment form. Classes begin in early September. Advance enrollment is required.

Ken Lyon
5/29/2007, corrected 9/29/2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Selections from Grace Church's 9/11 Service


The introduction to the Sunday Service Bulletin

Dear Friends,

This morning we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001.  Needless to say, each one of us has vivid memories of this event which will ever be etched in our minds: where we were that day when the Twin Towers were attacked, how we reacted, what we were thinking, feeling -- the horror, the sadness, the disbelief.  Now ten years later we revisit that tragic day hopefully with some positive perspective which makes sense of what seems still to be an unthinkable occurrence. 

Through the horror of 9/11, we have learned some hard but valuable lessons -- we have learned the amazing courage and strength and goodness of the American people -- their willingness to help in times of peril, their bravery in the midst of acts of violence, bravery even unto death.  We have seen a nation rise from the ashes of this tragic event more aware of the abundant gifts which it possesses and the preciousness of life at once brilliant yet ever transitory.  We have learned to hold those dear to us with tenderness and be much more careful that our love for each other is affirmed daily.  We have learned to take each moment as a priceless gift from God.  We have learned to broaden our acceptance of our neighbor who is different from us -- not seeing in them potential terrorists but rather children of God made in His image and likeness. 

For those who set out to hurt us and who despise us, we can only pray for their souls and protect our nation from their anger.  For those who have died innocently and without malice, we know that they are in the loving hands of God.  For those who died bravely as martyrs helping others, their crown of glory in heaven is assured.  May we hope and pray that an event like this may never happen again -- that we as the world's people may be generous, kind, and loving towards each other.

Faithfully in Christ, Fr. Bob Hufford+

From the Epistle Lesson (Romans 14: 1-12)

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

From the Gospel (Matthew 18:21-35)

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times."

The Prayers of the People: A Litany of Remembrance, Penitence, and Hope

Officiant: We light a candle in remembrance for all those who suffered and died on September 11, 2001, in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.  We light a candle to remember those who still live and who suffer because of the events of that day.

Reader: When we remember the stockbrokers, office workers, maintenance workers, bystanders, window-washers and all the others who worked together so valiantly to help each other, we can say together,

All: We remember great courage

Reader: When we recall the firefighters who rushed upstairs as most everyone else was racing out, we can say together,

All: We remember selfless service.

Reader: When we recall the police officers who stood to protect and defend the people and performed their duties until the towers came crashing down on top of them, we can say together,

All: We remember selfless sacrifice for the safety of others.

Reader: When we recall the thousands of workers, women and men, and old and young, single and married, American-born and those born in countries around the world who did not escape the buildings, we can say together,

All: We remember the loss of human life.

Reader: When we recall those citizens who rushed to help, did all they could to help, we can say together,

All: We remember and give thanks for dutiful commitment to those in distress.

Reader: When we recall the people who stood in line at the nation's blood banks to make living donations from their very bodies, we can say together,

All: We give thanks for those who live on to pass on life and love.

Reader: When we remember the millions of Americans who gave so generously of their life and labor to endow funds to help the survivors and their families recover from their losses, we can say together:

All: We are grateful for generosity.

After the Eucharist

All: God of all creation, our hearts are broken over the destruction and loss we remember this day. And we acknowledge, O Lord, that on that day of human carnage yours was the first heart to break.

Congregation left side: In our remembering, may we stand with those who mourn and those who cannot stop mourning. Through remembering, may we find new comfort in your care. In our remembering may we be drawn to a new hope for the whole world, and may we gain for ourselves a measure of your peace.

Congregation right side: You who can turn the shadow of night into the bright promise of a new day, empower us to shape a world marked by ways of life that lead to justice and peace for all peoples.

Congregation left side: Fashion in us a people who are more ready to grow in understanding than eager to judge those who are different from us. Form us as a people determined to heal wounds rather than inflict them.

Congregation right side: We pray at last that you would cultivate such love in us that we may reach out in compassion to all those who are still wounded by the events of that day; and in seeking to heal others, may we experience a love that makes us whole.

All: This we pray in the strong name of Jesus our Christ. Amen.

By the Rev. Eileen W. Lindner, former Deputy General Secretary of the National Council of Churches.

The Closing Hymn (Hymnal 1982, number 570)

All who love and serve your city,
All who bear its daily stress,
All who cry for peace and justice,
All who curse and all who bless,

In your day of love and sorrow,
In your day of helpless strife,
Honor, peace and love retreating,
Seek the lord, who is your life.

In your day of wealth and plenty,
Wasted work and wasted play,
Call to mind the work of Jesus,
"Work ye now while it is day."

Risen Lord, shall yet the city,
Be the city of despair?
Come today, our judge, our glory;
Be its name "The Lord is there!"

For all days are days of judgment,
And the Lord is waiting still,
Drawing near his friends who spurn him,
Off'ring peace from Calvr'ys hill.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"No Weeding" A Sermon on the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds (Tares)


Given by Ken Lyon at Grace Church on July 17, 2011

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

imageJesus put before the crowd another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, `Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' He answered, `An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, `Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he replied, `No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!"

Sermon: “No Weeding!”

Near the end of today’s Gospel, Matthew quotes Jesus saying words that probably startled many of us: To paraphrase:

In the end, all sinners will be tossed into a fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. But the righteous will shine like the sun in God’s kingdom. Listen up!

There are difficult words for people who believe in an unconditionally loving God. Hearing that God will condemn some to eternal punishment just doesn’t compute. How do we reconcile the apparent meaning of today’s Gospel with what we think we know about God?

Our reading starts with a story about wheat farming that people 2000 years ago could easily relate to. Let me restate the story in terms that we may find easier to identify with.

Imagine a garden belonging to your mother or father or someone else you’re close to. In the spring, they prepare the soil and plant seeds with care and great expectation. In their absence, they may ask us to water their garden for them, and we might do that. As we visit that garden we begin to see plants emerging—all kinds of plants. Some look to us like flowers or vegetables--but some look like weeds.

So now what happens? “Somebody needs to get in there and take out those weeds!” we may think. We may have an urge to get in there and do some weeding ourselves. Even though it’s not our garden, we may actually do some weeding. Have you ever done that? And have you ever discovered that, in your weeding frenzy, you weeded out some of the good plants? Or have you ever discovered that you may have actually nurtured some weeds?

So what’s a person to do about the weeds in that garden, and about the weedy people in our lives? First of all, let’s recognize that the garden of my story not is our garden. Similarly, this world is not our world. That garden was planted by someone else and this world was created by someone else--God. It’s simply not our place to be weeders of that garden or of God’s world. It’s not only not our place, but--not being gardeners in the case of the garden, or God in the case of the world--we’re very likely to get it wrong.

That’s the moral of today’s story—resist the urge to weed!

We’ll look at the implications of “no weeding” in a moment, but first, what are we to make of the end of today’s story, the part where Matthew’s Jesus has God’s agents come and throw the evil people into the fire, with weeping and gnashing of teeth?

Let’s think about what might have caused Matthew to remember Jesus speaking this way. Matthew’s Gospel is the only place where we find the parable we read today. Most of what Matthew recorded is in the other gospels, but today’s parable and some other things are found only in Matthew, who was writing in a particular Christian community some two generations after Jesus lived. If we look at those unique passages, we can get a glimpse of the issues that Matthew’s community was dealing with, and that will help us understand where Matthew is coming from.

In the earliest days of the Jesus movement, all Jesus’ followers were Jews. They continued to worship in their Temple and in their synagogues. But, as time went on, the ideas and practices of the Jesus believers began to look strange—even offensive—to the members of their communities. For one, the Jesus believers came to believe that non-Jews should be allowed into the community without having to obey all the rules of Judaism. To include them, separate meetings were organized for Gentile Christians. At some point, even the Jewish Christians weren’t welcome in the synagogues any more. There was a split, and they got weeded out. As you might imagine, like any time when communities split up, hot words were exchanged and emotions ran high. Matthew’s community knew from intense personal experience what it was like to be weeded out.

Matthew’s “weeded-out” community went on to set up a new kind of body, and Mathew includes in his Gospel some rules for how this new body—now called the “church” should operate.

One example is today’s lesson explicitly emphasizing Jesus teaching about avoiding the urge to weed out members of the community.

Here’s another example, specifically using the word “church,” which didn’t exist in Jesus’ day but which did at the time Matthew was writing:

Peter came to Jesus and said, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times!”

Here’s another you may be familiar with:

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, …. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

Until recently, I had thought that this passage described a process for excommunicating someone. Just a couple of weeks ago, it was pointed out to me that “Gentiles and tax collectors” were exactly the people that Jesus ate with and included in his community, including one tax-collector that went by the name of Matthew.

So Matthew’s Jesus is especially adamant: “No weeding!”

So Matthew remembers Jesus calling for us to forgive without limit, to include all kinds of people in our communities, to eat with them as friends. Specifically, in a famous Matthew passage, we are to take care of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the ill-clothed, the sick, the prisoner as though they were Jesus himself. In the beatitudes, Matthew’s Jesus calls his followers to be merciful and to be peacemakers.

Matthew’s Gospel recognizes that weeding, and the anger and judgmental feelings that go with weeding, are a real burden—a burden that we need to shed. In Matthew, Jesus says,

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I think this applies very well to the burden of being a weeder.

But how do we reconcile this anti-weeding stance with God’s weeding out some people and condemning them to the furnace with weeping and gnashing of teeth? Let’s start by realizing that many things in the Bible aren’t to be taken literally—Jesus often uses exaggeration to make a point.

Now, about teeth gnashing: when people are angry in the Bible, they gnash their teeth. They feel like biting someone. Perhaps the modern phrase “chewing someone out” is related to that idea. The phrase, “gnashing of teeth” is a favorite of Matthew. Most of the time, the people he says will be weeded out and damned to eternal teeth gnashing are the very people who weeded out Matthew’s community—the very people who gnashed their teeth at them in anger. So Matthew’s view of justice for those angry weeders is an eternity of being angry and weeded out. It’s a kind of poetic justice.

Personally, I believe that God will have other ways to deal with us sinners, but I can understand why Matthew would say what he did. It reminds me of what I say when I’m confronted with one of those unopenable shrink-wrapped packages: “The people who design these things should be condemned to an eternity of opening shrink-wrapped packaging!”

In any case, our Gospel is clear: if there’s weeding to be done, it is not to happen now, and we’re not the ones to do it.

Every Sunday, our worship is full of reminders to do less weeding and more reconciliation in our lives.

When we have Eucharist, we come to God’s table together to eat and drink with Jesus and to share the common cup. When we do that, we remember those many common meals that Jesus shared with so many unlikely, weeded-out, people. We see Communion as a foretaste of a heavenly banquet in which all those created in God’s image are gathered at the table. Our weekly Eucharist is the sign of our intent to be reconciled to God, to one another and with our neighbors in the world.

In today’s healing service--our “Celebration of Wholeness and Healing,”—let’s remember that wholeness and healing isn’t just about healing individual bodies and souls, it’s also about healing the broken relationships that may exist in our lives or in the life of our community. In our lives, there may be important people that we have weeded out--or that we’ve been weeded out by—with whom we could and should be reconciled. Today, let’s pray that those from whom we are separated may become close again.

Today’s worship ends with the passing of the peace. We pass God’s peace not only to those we are comfortable with, but also to those we may not really feel at peace with. Passing the peace isn’t an expression of our relationship as it exists at that moment. It’s a liturgical act—an expression of what God intends our relationships to be. By practicing this act of reconciliation, we open the way for our minds to make our beliefs and feelings catch up with our actions.

I suggest that, as we pass the peace today, we think about this as a step towards being reconciled with those in this community with whom you might be estranged. As we return home, let’s think about those weedy others in our lives—in our families and those others whose weediness is a burden to us—and let’s imagine, with God’s help, making a move toward reconciliation.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Sacrament of Healing

Outline of a sermon preached at a Celebration of Wholeness and Healing on Sunday, July 3, 20121, by Hawley Todd, TSSF.

My homily today will be about what we are doing in this service--this Celebration of Wholeness and Healing.

First, we are celebrating the graduation of eight wonderful people from EfM – Education for Ministry. (I’d rather it was called Formation for Life.) While we spend four years studying and worshipping together, EfM is first and foremost a formation process. It is a time when people set aside what others have told them to believe and to struggle with the tough questions of life. There are no fixed answers and each person is responsible for his or her own journey of faith.

Yet we here today are all in that same boat. These eight people have just been intentional about coming to terms with their beliefs and how those beliefs are becoming manifest in their lives.

In EfM we study many things.

The first year we study the Hebrew Bible. Notice I said Hebrew Bible and not the Old Testament! We study the Sacred Scripture of the religion to which Jesus belonged. And that religion was NOT Christianity. So we study it to learn what a good Hebrew might have understood it to say!

The second year we study the New Testament – the sacred scriptures of Christianity.

The third year we study the history of the Christian faith. All the fights and battles and politics about how we came to believe and do what we do. It is messy and continues to evolve! It changed and changes over time and location.

The last year we look at theology and how theologians of the past two centuries have tried to make sense of Christianity to the world around it.

Let’s just consider one of the many topics we have discussed in EFM.

What about sacraments?

Every Sunday, most Episcopal Churches come together to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion. Yet I am sure that at least a few of you remember when Morning Prayer was more typical in southern Ohio on a Sunday morning.

So what is a sacrament? Give me the definition ….

A sacrament is an “outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.” (Page 857 Book of Common Prayer)

We all know "outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace."  How often do you think about the second half????? "Given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace." As a Sure and Certain Means by which we receive that Grace!

Please hear me that there is no uniformity in Christianity as to which “sure and certain means” are the “sacraments” or who is qualified to administer them. Denominations make those decisions.

Typically Baptism and Holy Communion are regarded as sacraments.

The Catechism in the back of the BCP is actually quite enlightening. It breaks the sacraments (baptism and Holy Eucharist) and the sacramental rites (confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent, unction of the sick) into outward and inward aspects.

While the outward forms differ and the purpose for each sacrament differs, there appears to be one common element in all of them. They are the sure and certain means by which God grants us Grace and we come into God’s presence.

Page 861 of the Catechism asks “is God limited to these rites?”

And then answers “God does not limit himself to these rites; they are patterns of countless ways by which God uses material things to reach out to us.”

So why does Grace Church have a Celebration of Wholeness and Healing on a Sunday morning? Why aren’t we worshipping the way most of you are used to doing and have the sacrament of Holy Communion?

On one level, it is pragmatic. The hierarchy of the Episcopal Church restricts the Eucharist to priests and Bishops. Similarly, it restricts confirmation to Bishops.

Not all denominations do it that way. If we were in a Disciples of Christ Church, any of us could consecrate the bread and wine. Yet I would need to be ordained to stand up here and preach.

However since I am not ordained and I am playing by the rules of the Episcopal Church, I will not ask the Holy Spirit to come and consecrate the elements.

Yet the Episcopal Church does allow in its rubrics (the rules) for lay people to do other sacramental actions.

We can have a healing service. Healing is the process by which we become the people God created us to be. We are restored in God’s image-- male and female. We are brought back to harmony and balance in body, mind, emotions, spirit, and in relationships.

Actually all sacraments are in some sense the same.

In all sacraments, we come into God’s presence. We invite God to come into us. We seek God’s grace to transform us to become who we were created to be. We use some external mechanism to receive the Holy Spirit/Jesus. We are renewed in God’s Love. We are restored in God’s image.

So when we have the laying on of hands today, come in simple faith. Come in that same expectancy that I hope you have each week as you receive the Body and Blood of Jesus when you go to a Eucharist. Come expecting to receive Jesus deep into your heart and soul.

Rather than a priest saying the Epiclesis (invocation of the Holy Spirit) over the bread and wine, today, we will be saying our own “epiclesis” over each and every one of you who comes forward. We will ask that God fills you with his presence and blesses you in whatever ways you most need God’s presence. That today and for the remainder of your life, you may become the REAL Presence of Christ to the world.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

All is Sacrament

The outline of a sermon preached at a Celebration of Wholeness and Healing on Wednesday evening, June 8, 2011, by Hawley Todd, TSSF.

Our reading for tonight is from the Book of Common Prayer, from the section called the Catechism.

On page 857 we read:

Q. What are the sacraments?

A. The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.

Critical issue is sure and certain means by which we receive that grace

Many people of different religions and spiritual practices get all concerned about what is and what is not a sacrament.

How many of you were baptized?

If you are Buddhist, how many have taken refuge in the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha?

If you have practiced Hinduism, have your received diksa?

How many of you have taken Healing Touch?


Other healing traditions?

Almost all traditions have initiation ceremonies and various rituals.

Rituals are just another name for sacraments.

What I love about the BCP is that it continues on pp 860-61 and talks about other sacramental rites.

And on p. 861 it asks

Q. Is God's activity limited to these rites?

A. God does not limit himself to these rites; they are patterns of countless ways by which God uses material things to reach out to us.

Isn’t that awesome!!!!!!!!!!!

Several months ago, I gave everyone here, who wanted it, some Frankincense Essential Oil. Pure 100% Frankincense. We anointed ourselves with that oil. That was a sacramental act!

As far as I am concerned that was a sure and certain means by which we received God’s Grace.

When Bob plays the drums and we all join in, we are engaged in yet again another sacramental activity. The vibration of the drums sets up frequencies that facilitate our receiving the holy.

I have been trained in a number of different healing modalities.

Christianity calls anointing with oil and the laying on of hands a sacrament in some denominations and in the Episcopal Church it is a sacramental rite.

The name or the word we use for it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that it is a sure and certain means of Grace.

Guess what? I have been trained in both Healing Touch and Reiki.

We have our rituals too!!!

For many years when I worked at St Thomas Church, my primary time of worship and receiving God’s Grace was the weekly Healing Touch session I received from my friend Judy Bowers. Judy was a nurse, worked on my healing team at St Thomas, and also was a Healing Touch Practioner.

Yet for me the most holy time of the week did not take place at the parish where I worked, but it took place on her table during those weekly healing touch sessions.

Granted, I experienced God’s presence daily at my parish. Yet what I want you to hear is that God uses many material means as sacraments – as means of Grace.

They are not limited to the church or to Reiki or to Healing Touch or to Holy Oils.

Lately God has been blessing me with the special energy and vibrations in various rocks and stones.

How many times have you been blessed by watching the clouds or seeing a sunset or sitting on a beach? They are all sacraments. The Grace is there. It is free – simply open your heart and mind and receive it!

When Jesus held up the bread and wine and said this is my body and this is my blood, he was not limiting grace to just those material items.

Ask the Holy Spirit to be manifest for you in everything! Bless everything and be blessed by it in return.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Channeling God's Love

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter

Preached by Ken Lyon, 5/1/2011, at Grace Church, Cincinnati.

The Gospel: John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The Sermon

My wife and I took our kids, then ages five and seven, on a sightseeing vacation to Mexico City in 1975. We decided to take the train, the Aztec Eagle, from the US/Mexico border to Mexico City, stay there a couple of weeks, and then take the train back.

But we also wanted to see some of the countryside. We looked at the train schedule, and instead of going straight to Mexico City, we got tickets to a stop about 100 miles before Mexico City near a town called Queretaro. We planned to stay there a few days and then take a bus in to the big city.

The train trip was wonderful. We were the only English-speakers, and we knew only about ten words of Spanish, but no matter; our blonde-blue-eyed kids were great hits with the other passengers. During the day, we saw all kinds of interesting sights as we crossed the high desert. At night, out the window of our comfortable berth, we saw millions of stars in the clear air, all the way down to the horizon.

On the second day, when we heard the conductor calling our stop, we grabbed our bags. We were ushered off the train onto the gravel beside the track, and the train quickly pulled away.

Wait a minute! Did I say gravel!?!? Where was the platform? Where was the train terminal? Where was the city? Where were the busses, the taxis, the restaurants, the people? We’ve been dropped in the middle of nowhere--Mexican nowhere--thousands of miles from home.

My wife and kids are looking at me: what now, dad? Indeed! What have we gotten ourselves into? This is nothing at all like what I had expected! What will happen to us now? Where will we stay? How will we ever get out of this fix? Nothing is making any sense! I’m petrified. On top of that, I’m feeling guilty about getting my family into this fix.

By virtue of the fact that you see me standing before you now, you know that we survived, and in fact, it’s given us a great story about an adventure that I’m glad we had. But I still remember that moment--the sense of utter dislocation—crazy discombobulation—as my sunny, optimistic, naive expectations were turned upside down. Have you ever felt that way? Hold that thought, we’ll come back to it.

As for what happened to us: Down the tracks there was a little building that turned out to be the train station. There were a couple of men inside. “How do we get to Queretaro?” I asked. A barrage of Spanish came back. “Where’s the bus to Queretaro?” More Spanish. I rack my brain for some Spanish words. “Donde esta el bus a Queretaro?” Somehow, patiently, the man got me to understand that we should get on that old school bus parked out in the lot; that it would not take us to Queretaro, but it would take us to a place where we could get a bus to Queretaro. We got on the bus, and with the help of the bus driver, who refused my offer of money, he found us that bus to Queretaro. There, we found a hotel, slept well that night, and had a wonderful, memorable, trip.

I said you should remember that feeling of utter dislocation, terror and immobilization that comes when our lives are turned upside down, because that’s where the disciples were on the Sunday night after Jesus’ execution.

The disciples—minus two—are together.

Judas isn’t there. Depending on who you believe, he either hanged himself out of shame for having turned Jesus over to the authorities, or he met the end he deserved when he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.

Thomas, the hero of today’s Gospel, isn’t there either.

These ten have locked themselves up in a room out of fear that what happened to Jesus might happen to them. Their leader, the man they counted on, the man who had given purpose to their lives for the past three years—was suddenly taken away and executed! Their world has been turned upside down. Now, two disciples report that Jesus’ body has disappeared. And Mary claims she has seen and talked with him. None of this makes any sense! Worse yet, they are feeling guilt—shame—because they know that they deserted their friend when he needed them most.

So they’re feeling disoriented and guilty, but—being men—they’re not talking about how they feel. Instead, I suspect that they are engaged in a blame game, laying their feelings off on Judas. “It’s all Judas’ fault! If he hadn’t turned Jesus in, none of this would have happened!” (And they continued to blame Judas. From that time on, it’s as though Judas’ name becomes “Judas Who Betrayed Jesus”—that’s what he’s called every time he’s mentioned anywhere in the New Testament.)

So the room is filled with “ain’t it awful” talk.” But suddenly they’re aware that someone else is there with them! They’re not sure who it is at first, but when he shows them his wounds, they know it’s Jesus. His presence makes them even more aware of their shame at having deserted him. What will he say to them? What will he do to them? They think of what happened to Judas, and they know they deserve the worst.

But Jesus simply says. “Shalom. Peace be with you!” It’s like nothing has changed between them. They’re off the hook, and they’re overjoyed.

Then Jesus tells them that they are to be his successors. He breathes life into them as God breathed life into humankind at the creation. And he makes them God’s agents of forgiveness in the world—forgiving as they have just been forgiven.

And then, he disappears as mysteriously as he appeared.

These are astounding events. Yes, they’ve seen Jesus—sort of—but what’s it all mean? They’re more confused than ever. They plan to meet again the next Sunday and they go back home.

Now, what about Thomas? At an earlier time when Jesus was about to walk into a dangerous situation, it was Thomas who said to the rest of the disciples: “Let’s go with him, so we can die with him.” Unlike the others, Thomas understood where following Jesus would lead. Now, he’s feeling worse than the rest, because he had known in advance what was required of him and still he’d failed.

Thomas doesn’t feel like being with anyone right now, he just wants to be alone in his grief and shame.

But now the disciples seek him out and use the same words with him that Mary Magdalene used with them: “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas doesn’t believe them any more than they believed Mary. He thinks, “You might have seen something or somebody, but it certainly can’t have been Jesus. No way Jesus wants any part of us after how we’ve failed him.” So Thomas demands proof that the person that appeared to them really was Jesus.

So the next Sunday, Thomas joins the disciples in that locked room, and Jesus again comes into their midst, again saying, “Shalom—peace be with you.” And he shows Thomas his wounds, daring him to touch them. Thomas, seeing that it really is Jesus who has passed the peace to him, understands that Jesus’ love for him hasn’t changed one bit. Through Jesus, he experiences the almost incomprehensible forgiveness and acceptance that is only God’s to give.

In that moment, he blurts out the most powerful statement of Jesus’ identity in all of the Gospels—“My Lord and my God.”

In that moment, Thomas sees what no other person in any of the Gospels has seen. “My Lord and my God”: This statement is the climax of John’s Gospel, the statement that John’s entire Gospel leads to.

Suddenly, things makes sense to Thomas. He has one of those great “aha” moments. When Thomas calls Jesus “God,” it’s because he sees that Jesus is channeling God’s unconditional love--love for him, and for the others; for all people.

He understands: This is what Jesus’ life was all about: About channeling God’s love that has always been there from the moment he created the world and everything and everybody in it--a fact that, through the ages, people so often lose sight of.

And, in that moment, Thomas’ own confused life makes sense. If Jesus is channeling God’s love to him, then his life’s work is to channel that love to others. The meaning of his own life becomes clear—and he’s no longer paralyzed.

It’s at this point that the real Easter miracle occurs: a group of formerly confused, demoralized, leaderless, guilt-ridden disciples goes out in a dangerous world to spread the Good News about God’s love. In only 300 years, Christian believers are the majority in the whole Roman Empire.

And what about us? When we, as individuals, experience God’s unconditional love for us, our lives change. Our life’s work becomes clear to us. We worry less about our mistakes--whether they are mistakes we’ve made, or the mistakes we’re afraid might make--and our energies are released to channel God’s love to the world around us. As we have experienced God’s unconditional love for us through Jesus, we channel that love to others.

In each Sunday’s liturgy, when we come to the rail for communion or for healing, we re-enact this transmission of God’s love. Let these acts be for us a reminder that we are to channel this love to the world, and let us pray with St Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Father Forgive Them …

Sermon by Ken Lyon given April 22, 2011 at the College Hill Community Good Friday Service.

A reading from Luke 23:33-35

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”

“Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Jesus says this in his last hours, as he’s dying on a cross at the hands of the Romans. He’s been turned over to them by his own people and deserted by his friends. And he knows that this is a punishment that he didn’t deserve. And yet he says, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

This is an amazing statement. It’s a statement that challenges us. It’s a statement that has fundamental implications for our life with God and for our life with other people.

When Jesus says, “forgive them,” who does he have in mind?

As he looks around, he sees the Roman authorities and soldiers who had put him on the cross.

He sees some of the Jewish authorities, who turned him over to the Romans.

He sees the bystanders--executions always draw a crowd.

He’s probably thinking about his disciples--his followers—his best friends--who are nowhere to be seen.

Perhaps he has in mind all people--humanity in general. He understands that what the Romans and the Jews and the bystanders and the disciples are doing are things that most everybody does at one time or another.

It’s enough to make one weep for humankind.

And then Jesus says, “they don’t know what they’re doing.” Hmmmm. If they don’t know what they’re doing, what do they think they’re doing?

The Romans know what they’re doing. They’re executing an enemy of the state before he causes real trouble.

The Jewish authorities know what they’re doing. They’ve turned one of their own over to the authorities to prevent his movement from growing to the point where it risks triggering Roman retaliation that will kill many people.

The curious bystanders—well, they probably figure that those people being executed probably deserved what was coming to him.

And the disciples who ran? Who knows what they thought? Maybe they figured that Jesus could handle this situation on his own. Maybe they figured that when he couldn’t face down the Romans, he wasn’t the man they thought he was, that he had betrayed them and he didn’t deserve their support. People have amazing powers to rationalize their actions.

If we had been there that day, what would we have been thinking? Would we have been any better—would any of us known what we were doing?

And yet, for all of them, and for us, Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”

And look: none of these forgiven people ever admitted they’d done anything wrong or asked for forgiveness! With the possible exception of the disciples, they most likely lived the rest of their life never thinking they’d done anything wrong that day--that there was nothing to ask forgiveness for. But they are forgiven! Right here, right now! No strings attached!

And the disciples? Nowhere is it recorded that ask for forgiveness. The evangelist John tells us that on the evening of Easter Sunday and again on the Sunday after Easter, the resurrected Jesus appears to the disciples where they are hiding in a locked room and he opens the conversation with “Shalom,” “Peace.” There are no pleas and no recriminations. Instead he commissions these undeserving people to be his representatives to the world!

This unasked-for, unmerited, grace on God’s part is consistent with God’s acts recounted elsewhere in our Bible. There are times when the people God chooses to save or that he chooses to be his agents neither asked for it nor deserved it.

He rescues the Hebrew people out of Egypt before they even know who he is, and he supports them all the way to the Promised Land even though they misbehave all the way. I can hear them now: “I’m hungry.” “Are we there yet?” But God sticks with them.

And then there’s David: God chooses David to be his favorite king, even though his morality makes modern politicians’ indiscretions pale by comparison.

How are we to get our minds around a God that loves and forgives and saves so unfairly? Maybe we’re having trouble with this because we don’t see the big picture—God’s picture.

Let’s see if we can look at this from God’s perspective--as well as any human can understand God’s perspective.

In the first creation story in the book of Genesis, God creates the world in stages, and at each stage but the last, he pronounces His creation, “Good.” But, at the last stage, when he creates humankind, he makes an exception to the pattern. He doesn’t pronounce us “good,” He pronounces us, “very good.”

From God’s perspective as creator of all that is--as the metaphorical parent of all people--God knows his children are, after all, children, compared to Him. God did not create us perfect—only God is perfect. God created us to be an interesting mixed bag of gifts and contradictions. And he called us “very good.”

So now I have an inkling why--from God’s perspective--why he loves and forgives you and me. He loves and forgives us just as human parents—on their good days at least-- love and forgive their children unconditionally.

In one of our prayers, we Episcopalians ask for forgiveness for all our sins, things we’ve done and things we’ve left undone, and, more to the point for today, for sins unknown as well as known. And we know that God grants that prayer, even without our asking, and that really is good news.

This is a God I can love!

But wait! If this is good news, it’s good news with a kicker. If God forgives me, God also forgives all those other people! Including those people who are hurting me or my friends or my country. Including people who are hurting on purpose and think that they have good reasons to do so!

How can I possibly forgive like Jesus did? Like God does?

And yet, that’s just what we’re called to do. As we pray in our Lord’s Prayer, we expect God to “forgive us our trespasses we forgive those who trespass against us.” To say it another way, as God has forgiven us, we are to forgive others.

We do have some shining examples of people who actually forgive in seemingly impossible situations—situations more difficult than most of us will ever face.

In a trip to England a few years ago, my wife and I visited the cathedral in Coventry. There, we heard an amazing story:

One night in November, 1940, the city of Coventry was bombed by the German air force. Five hundred and forty people died, nearly two thousand houses were destroyed, the city center was left in ruins, and the cathedral that had stood for over 600 years was destroyed by fire--only its walls and tower were left standing.

Six weeks after the bombing, the BBC broadcast a Christmas Day worship service from the Cathedral’s ruins.

It would have been so easy to hate the German people for what that had done and to call for vengeance--for German cities to be destroyed in the same way as Coventry.

But Provost Richard Howard, the senior priest at the Cathedral, had a different message. He had already written the words “Father forgive” on the smoke blackened wall of the sanctuary of the ruined cathedral. And in that Christmas Day broadcast to the nation he said,

Six weeks ago the enemy came, and hurled down fire and destruction upon our city from the sky, all through the long night. So many lives were lost, so many homes destroyed, and our Cathedral utterly burnt and brought to the ground.

I am looking now at the heaped-up ruins and the long line of outer walls, scarred and windowless. Yet even now, the ruined Cathedral keeps much of its former majesty and beauty, unconquered by destruction.

So is the Spirit of Christ unconquerable. He suffers alongside of us, just as this Cathedral suffered the same fate as the city. Christ lost everything he had, and won the world.

What we want to tell the world is this: that with Christ born again in our hearts to-day, we are trying--hard as it may be--to banish all thoughts of revenge. We are bracing ourselves to finish his tremendous job of saving the world from tyranny and cruelty. We are going to try to make a kinder, simpler–a more Christ-Child-like sort of world-- in the days beyond this strife.

As you might imagine, Provost Howard’s words of forgiveness and reconciliation took some courage to speak at that moment, and they were not well-received by many. But members of that Cathedral and others did reach out to Germany after the war, and Coventry’s Community of the Cross of Nails continues to work for reconciliation worldwide.

On 9/11, when those airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center, I listened for a voice like that of Provost Howard calling for forgiveness and reconciliation for the hijackers and those who sent them, but I don’t remember hearing it. I wish I had heard such a voice. I wish I had been such a voice.

Yes, there are times when it’s hard to dare to take the Gospel—the Good News of God’s unconditional love and acceptance for all his creation—seriously. And yet it’s just those times when we need to.

Closer to home, we do sometimes hear of people in our own community who forgive just when it seems impossible:

During the sentencing of someone convicted of murder, or before their execution, we often hear those close to the murdered person testify about the pain the murderer has caused, about how they deserve execution, about how an execution will provide closure.

But sometimes we hear the bereaved testify that they’ve found a way to forgive the murderer, and they ask for mercy.

From the human perspective, this can feel like they’re letting someone get away with murder, but again, let’s try to look at this from God’s perspective, again using the parent metaphor.

I love both my kids. I do my human best to love and forgive them no matter what. When they were kids, one thing that really drove me up a wall was when they picked on each other. On a long road trip, I can remember seemingly endless arguments over exactly how much space each had in the back seat of the car. “Dad, he’s touchin’ me!” From my elevated parental perspective, I saw that they were squabbling over things that were trivial in the grand scheme of things. From my perspective, they really didn’t realize what they were doing.

Is that how God sees his world? Like a bunch of squabbling kids who need to get a clue? People squabbling over trivia at the risk of their friendship? Political parties squabbling over spoils and risking the nation? Does God see whole nations squabbling, as it were, over their space in the back seat of the car?

We have a lot to learn about forgiveness and understanding. Jesus’ words from the cross continue to challenge us. Jesus continues to say, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” We need to learn to pray, “Father, forgive us, we don’t know what we’re doing.”

At Coventry Cathedral, a litany of reconciliation is now prayed regularly in the under that sign that Provost Howard put up, “Father forgive.” My wife and I prayed it there one Friday. I’d like to pray it with you now.

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Let us pray.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

For the hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class, Father Forgive.

For the covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own, Father Forgive.

For the greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth, Father Forgive.

For our envy of the welfare and happiness of others, Father Forgive.

For our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refuge, Father Forgive.

For the lust which dishonors the bodies of men, women and children, Father Forgive.

For the pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God, Father Forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sermon by Hawley Todd for February 13, 2011

Outline of sermon preached by Hawley Todd on February 13, 2011 the 6th Sunday after Epiphany, year A.

Open with Prayer

Welcome to Grace Church for our service, a Celebration of Healing and Wholeness.

I was very tempted to speak on Absalom Jones but I know you will hear a much better sermon from Bishop Rivera if you go to the special service at the Cathedral this afternoon. So I invite you to come to the Cathedral this afternoon for a Festival Choral Eucharist to celebrate the life and ministry of the Rev. Absalom Jones.

Our scriptures appointed for today caused me a great deal of discomfort this week. They did not at first seem to be the easiest ones to use for a healing service or for our annual meeting!

What does the reading from Sirach say?

Sirach 15:15-20

15 If you choose, you can keep the commandments,
   and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.
16 He has placed before you fire and water;
   stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.
17 Before each person are life and death,
   and whichever one chooses will be given.

18 For great is the wisdom of the Lord;
   he is mighty in power and sees everything;
19 his eyes are on those who fear him,
   and he knows every human action.
20 He has not commanded anyone to be wicked,
   and he has not given anyone permission to sin.

This passage is all about choosing.

The spiritual life at its core is learning to make choices that are pleasing to God

God created us to be whole and in balance and harmony with ourselves and one another.

Healing is restoring ourselves, each other, and all of creation to the way God intended us all to be.

While there often are many things outside our control, there are always aspects of our lives that are within our control.

It is in those areas that God wants us to choose between life and death,

Between growing closer to God or growing further away,

Between becoming the person God created us to be or becoming Judas.

"And he has not given anyone permission to sin.”

That is a leadin to our second reading from the 5th chapter of Matthew.

Matthew 5:21-37
Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, `You shall not murder'; and `whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, `You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

"You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

"It was also said, `Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

"Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, `You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.' But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be `Yes, Yes' or `No, No'; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

This passage has always bothered me.

Why is Jesus talking about cutting one’s hand off or plucking one’s eye out???

On the surface, this passage is just plain disturbing. I have read of people who toke it literally and disfigured themselves.

He really does not want us to willfully sin.

He says that the inner act of lusting is as bad as the outer.

Earlier he said:

21“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

He has moved the outer acts of murder and adultery to our inner life and our words.

And I think this is the CRITICAL POINT

Unlike the psychology and beliefs that I was taught in college that it is okay to think or feel whatever we want as long as we don’t externalize them, Jesus is saying the condition of our hearts and minds are CRITICAL.

If anything needs to be cut off or plucked out, it is not our outer physical bodies.

Rather it is the habits of thought and emotion that we entertain quietly in the hidden parts of our beings.

And what does this have to do with a healing service?

Remember that as we have been learning about healing and becoming the precious children God created us to be, I have stressed over and over that we a unified whole made up of a physical body, emotions, mind, and a spirit.

A sickness in any one area impacts all the areas.

My observation in working with people is that our bodies are often the last part of us to get sick.

Physical illness is often BUT NOT ALWAYS a manifestation of something amiss in our emotions, our thought patterns, and our spirit.

In this passage, Jesus is telling us to pay attention to our own inner lives.

First of all notice what is going on!


Ephesians tells us to be angry but do not sin,

Do not let the sun go down on your anger.

This is where choice comes in.

We get hurt.

We get angry.

But we decide – we choose what to do with the hurt and anger.

The passage from Matthew though deals with another aspect of “sin” – missing the mark – that I want to touch on today.

23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

The gift – the worship – that God wants is for us to lead an ethical life.

God wants us to truly love one another.

And when we fail to do that – God wants us to make it right.

Say you are sorry.

Make amends – that is true worship.

Admit your errors and don’t make excuses or offer reasons.

REPENT – turn around.

First to you sister and brother, and only then to God.

How healing would that be for all of us?????

When others hurt us, that they would admit their wrongs and come and be reconciled.

Yes they will know we are Christians by our love!!!!!

Grace Church strives to be open and welcoming to all people.

We strive to exclude no one.

Read and live into our values and our goals.

Yet tolerating another’s differences is not the same thing as honoring and welcoming them as a brother or sister.

Pay attention to what is going on inside your heart and mind.

Ask Jesus to heal and transform whatever is within us that needs to be changed so that we can choose life and truly welcome each other and anyone who comes through our doors!

Let us pray!!!