Last Sunday, our friend Deacon Stephen L. Segebrecht preached a fine sermon about following the call of God. The entire text of the sermon can be downloaded from here. Included in his sermon was an illustration involving a tigress and some piglets along with a list of seven effective ways to follow God's call. I commend these seven principles and the sermon for your own reflections.
Stephen’s Seven Effective Ways to Follow God’s Call
One ~ We have to put on the clothes of those we serve. Two ~ We strive for the greatest gift that we have to offer God at any given time. Three ~ Often we are led to do something we normally wouldn’t do. Four ~ Service is done with a sense of affection or attachment. Five ~ Our call to service can have an effect on others that we never expected. Six ~ Our ministry seems to change with time. Seven ~ When we give of ourselves and serve Christ in others, we too are nourished.
We've been asked to pray for those who are suffering in Haiti and those who have gone to their aid. People have been praying for a member of our parish who is a Haitian student living in Lawrence. A mother came by the office yesterday to place her daughter's name on the prayer list because she has gone to Haiti to help out in the relief effort.
Do our prayers really help?
The following message from former Presiding Bishop Ed Browning speaks to this question.
"Almighty God, you have promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in your Son's Name..." (For the answering of prayer, BCP p. 834)
Some researcher somewhere has determined that people who pray, or who have people praying for them, have such-and-such better chance of recovery from gallstones than people who don't. Good. I often pray that sick people will get well.
But I also pray for many people who don't get better. If my prayers do not turn these things into the releases and healings for which I long, does that mean they've failed? Does it mean I didn't pray right? Didn't pray hard enough? Only if the narrow test of immediate historical change is the only test of prayer's efficacy. If the only useful prayer is a prayer that works right here and right now, in just the way I want it to work, we're in trouble.
Prayer is not a way to get around human sorrow, a special incantation that produces a desired result God would otherwise withhold from us. It is a thread of holy energy that binds us together. It enables the communion of my soul with the souls of others, whether I know them or not. "I could feel myself lifted by all the prayers," someone will often tell me after a serious illness. Get enough of these holy threads wrapped around a person, and she will feel them, quite apart from the issue of whether or not she gets what she wants.
- From A Year of Days with the Book of Common Prayer by Bishop Edmond Lee Browning.
May God use our prayers as a "thread of holy energy that binds us together" with one another and all those for whom we offer prayers!
The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church delivered the sermon this evening at the Washington National Cathedral prayer service for Haiti. The links below will take you to the video and to the text of her sermon. You may need to download a Microsoft application in order to view the video, but if you do, it will come in handy anytime you want to watch a video from the Washington Cathedral.
Evangelist Pat Robertson said earlier this week that he believes the earthquake in Haiti is the result of a pact with the devil made by Haitians long ago. Here is a thoughtful response to Mr. Robertson's viewpoint. I hope it lifts your heart and strengthens your confidence in our compassionate God.
Tuesday's devastating earthquake in Haiti has sent shock waves around the world. We've asked our people to pray and we are asking for contributions for Episcopal Relief and Development to sustain their efforts on behalf of the people of Haiti. Other people in other churches and in other countries, heads of state and legislative bodies, rescue and military personnel, health professionals and engineers - all sorts and conditions of people - are responding in ways that show us the spirit of compassion knows no boundaries.
The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti is the largest diocese in the Episcopal Church with somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 members in 168 congregations. Yet they have only 40 Priests and one Bishop. Many of our churches, including Holy Trinity Cathedral and School have been destroyed. I have posted the photo of a mural in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Port au Prince, painted by a Haitian artist. I was inspired by this mural when I visited Haiti in 1972 and lived for a week in St. Peter's Episcopal School. The mural depicts Jesus' first miracle at Cana, this Sunday's gospel.
Even in the best of times, the people of Haiti struggle, living in the poorest country in the hemisphere. Now this.
We will pray for the people of Haiti and those who are helping them. Our prayers are powerful because the One to whom we pray is powerful. "Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested" (Hebrews 2:18). The words of William Bright's hymn sum it up,
At your feet, O Christ, we lay / your own gift of this new day; / Doubt of what it holds in store / Makes us crave your aid the more; / Even in a time of loss, /Mark, it Savior, with your Cross.
And, among our prayers will be the appeal that the Savior of us all will show us how to become a part of the answer to our prayers for those who are hurting.
Yesterday, January 6, was the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord. For the next six weeks, we will continue to reflect upon the epiphanous events in Jesus’ life. This is a good time for me to explain how my blog came to be called e-piphanies.com.
First, let me make sure we’re all on the same page regarding the meaning of the word "epiphany," especially as Christians use it. Answers.com offers a pretty comprehensive definition if you are not sure what I'm talking about.
Our Christian concept of epiphany starts with the manifestations of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, and continues in our own lives as we recognize the reality of his reign. In other words, he is not finished manifesting himself to us!
Brian McLaren’s book,The Secret Message of Jesus, heightened my awareness of the kingdom of God as the core of Jesus’ message. Moreover, I realized that I was not alert to the signs of the kingdom all around me. McLaren writes, “I think that the best glimpses of the kingdom of God come to us unexpectedly in everyday life – and the sermons we hear (or books we read) help us keep our eyes open so that when those moments come, we don’t sleepwalk through them.”
With that prompting, e-piphanies.com was born. I intended it to be an interactive online journal of glimpses (epiphanies) of God’s hand at work in our lives. Sometimes, my postings must suggest that I just have a firm grasp of the obvious. However, that’s what is so amazing about the kingdom in our midst, isn’t it? It is hidden in plain sight! What may be obvious to some of us may be an epiphany for the rest of us. Jesus went around pointing out signs of the kingdom in what often appeared to be ordinary. That's what I want to do in e-piphanies.com.
So, I hope you will enjoy reading and contributing to e-piphanies.com. Use the comment feature (below) to share your own insights, glimpses, and concerns.
I also hope you will take advantage of the season of the Church wherein we are reminded of ways the kingdom was manifested in Jesus’ life and his invitation to us to be witnesses of that kingdom. Our testimony will be more believable if we've actually seen it so we can tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."
And, I hope you will find a copy of The Secret Message of Jesus and read it. Your eyes may be opened a little wider to discover glimpses of God’s hand at work.
Here's a wonderful passage from the book:
Earlier in the season, I heard the unmistakable sounds of a flock of cedar waxwings passing through on their way north. I never saw them, but by the high chatter of their unique song, I knew thy had passed by as I lay in bed. Before I learned the distinctive call of these common birds, I heard the sound, but I didn't know what I was hearing. . . I wonder if the secret message of Jesus isn't like that. Maybe you've been hearing it all along, but you didn't realize it. Maybe you've been seeing it or seeing signs of it, but you didn't know what you were seeing. Maybe the best outcome of this book is that your ears and eyes - your heart and mind - will have been in some way "born again," so that you will now and forever know it when you hear it or see it, when it comes near and sings its song in the high branches.
And, in its own way, maybe my e-piphanies.com will provide for you a similar outcome!
Your thoughtful comments will make a visit to e-piphanies a richer experience for everyone. By clicking on the "Comments" link beneath each post, you can read the remarks others have written or add your own. If you leave a question, I will respond in the journal. In order to maintain the integrity of this blog, all comments are reviewed before being published on line.