We are shaken by the news of the massive tornado that touched down yesterday, May 20, in Moore, Oklahoma. Here are some resources for responding in ways that will help those whose lives are affected by this devastating storm.
On the Occasion of a Disaster
Compassionate God… Draw near to us in this time of sorrow and
anguish, comfort those who mourn, strengthen those who are weary,
encourage those in despair, and lead us all to fullness of life; through
the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, who liveth and reigneth
with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen
— Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (Church Publishing: New York), page 733
A Prayer for First Responders
Blessed are you, Lord, God of mercy, who through your Son gave us a
marvelous example of charity and the great commandment of love for one
another. Send down your blessings on these your servants, who so
generously devote themselves to helping others. Grant them courage when
they are afraid, wisdom when they must make quick decisions, strength
when they are weary, and compassion in all their work. When the alarm
sounds and they are called to aid both friend and stranger, let them
faithfully serve you in their neighbor. We ask this through Christ our
— Adapted from the Book of Blessings, #587, by Diana Macalintal
Prayer for Preparedness and Response
O God, our times are in your hand. In the midst of uncertainty lead
us by your never-failing grace as we seek to be agents of healing and
hope. Walk with us through difficult times; watch over us in danger;
and give to us a spirit of love and compassion for those who suffer and
mourn. And finally remind us that you have promised never to leave us
so that even in the valley of the shadow of death your love may be felt,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
— The Rev. Lyndon Harris, from the Episcopal Diocese of New York disaster preparedness plan
For a Person in Trouble or Bereavement
O merciful Father, who have taught us in your holy Word that you do
not willingly afflict or grieve your human children: Look with pity
upon the sorrows of your servants for whom our prayers are offered.
Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience,
comfort them with a sense of your goodness, lift up your countenance
upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, page 831
Give through your local church, your denominational relief agency, or to a church or judicatory in Oklahoma. Here are some Episcopal Church links:
Many of those who were injured or killed in this tornado were children. Our own children may have fears about their own safety as they hear the news and identify with them. HERE are some helpful thoughts to guide you as you spend time and talk about this tragedy with the children and teens in your life. This resource was originally prepared following the Haiti earthquake and contain appropriate guidance in any tragic situation that touches the lives of those for whom we care.
A public official in Oklahoma, speaking with a reporter this morning, said, "In Oklahoma, when a neighbor comes to your home asking for help, we take them in and care for them. That's what we do." Those of us who are far from Oklahoma can't provide that kind of direct care for our neighbors in Moore, Oklahoma. But we can "take them in" to our homes through our prayers, our contributions, and by caring for those near us who look to us for wisdom and reassurance.
This afternoon, Patriots' Day in Massachusetts, officials reported that at least two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. We live in a world where animosity, terrorism, and violence threaten the
fabric of human community. The fear this incident raises in us is becoming all too familiar. In the midst of the chaos and as reports
continue to come in concerning those who were injured, discovery of
additional explosive devices, and the potential for further threats, let
us remember our vocation as Christians, let us be still, and let us
• Prayer for Victims of Terrorism
Loving God, Welcome into your arms the victims of violence and terrorism. Comfort their families and all who grieve for them. Help us in our fear and uncertainty, And bless us with the knowledge that we are secure in your love. Strengthen all those who work for peace, And may the peace the world cannot give reign in our hearts. Amen.
• A Prayer for First Responders
Blessed are you, Lord, God of mercy, who through your Son gave us a marvelous example of charity and the great commandment of love for one another. Send down your blessings on these your servants, who so generously devote themselves to helping others. Grant them courage when they are afraid, wisdom when they must make quick decisions, strength when they are weary, and compassion in all their work. When the alarm sounds and they are called to aid both friend and stranger, let them faithfully serve you in their neighbor. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
- adapted from the Book of Blessings, #587, by Diana Macalintal
• For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority
O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to your merciful care, that, being guided by your Providence, we may dwell secure in your peace. Grant to the President of the United States, the Governor of Massachusetts, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in your fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
- Book of Common Prayer
• For Peace
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
- Book of Common Prayer
• A Collect for Peace
O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Book of Common Prayer
• A Prayer Attributed to St. Francis
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. Amen.
- Book of Common Prayer
• A Hymn
The Choir of King's College, Cambridge, singing O God, Our Help in Ages Past
Today is the day on which Episcopalians commemorate John and Charles Wesley, Renewers of the Church. Most people associate the Wesley brothers as founders of the Methodist Movement. That movement was initially an evangelical renewal movement and a sacramental renewal movement within the Church of England. John and Charles Wesley remained Anglican Priests to the end of their lives. The musical and liturgical traditions of the Episcopal Church, of which I am now a Priest, are greatly enriched by the sermons and poetry that flowed from the pens of John and Charles Wesley. I wanted to spend a little time today reflecting on these two English Priests who have touched my life and the lives of countless others.
Although I was a United Methodist Pastor for twenty-five years prior to entering the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church, I never preached from nor saw a pulpit with an image of either Wesley brother on it. Now, at Christ Church Cranbrook, an Episcopal Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, I am privileged to deliver the Gospel from a pulpit into which the image of John Wesley is carved, along with three other great preachers from our heritage of faith, John the Baptist, St. Paul the Apostle, and St. Francis.
It's no wonder that John Wesley is included. He really was some preacher! He preached, on average, for a period of fifty-four years, fifteen sermons a week. That's forty-two thousand four hundred sermons. In addition to that, he delivered numerous exhortations and addresses. Methodist clergy are required to read and pay attention to his "Forty-two Sermons on Various Subjects" published in 1771. My favorites are "The Almost Christian," "The Means of Grace," and "A Catholic Spirit." However, if you were to read these sermons, you would discover that they were meant to be read, not spoken. John Wesley's preaching was considered to be much more down to earth than what you read in these texts. He once declared that he would no sooner preach a fine sermon than he would wear a fine coat. His sermons may not have been "fine" but they certainly were effective in the lives of his hearers.
So, John Wesley was better known for his sermons than for his hymns. John did few hymns and translated quite a number from German. Here is a Eucharistic hymn that was written by John Wesley, with music by Gordon Lawson, sung by the Pittsburgh Compline Choir at the Heinz Memorial Chapel, Univeristy of Pittsburgh.
Author of life divine,
Who hast a table spread,
Furnished with mystic wine
And everlasting bread,
Preserve the life Thyself hast given,
And feed and train us up for Heav’n.
Our needy souls sustain
With fresh supplies of love,
Till all Thy life we gain,
And all Thy fullness prove,
And, strengthened by Thy perfect grace,
Behold without a veil Thy face.
Charles Wesley, on the other hand, is better known for his hymns than for his sermons. He
was especially gifted in the art of expressing biblical, sacramental,
and theological concepts through the medium of poetry. Others set those
poems to music. Many of those tunes were popular tunes of the day
which originally had secular lyrics.
Many authorities say that Charles Wesley's most popular hymn during his lifetime was Jacob Wrestling, his poem about the experience of the patriarch Jacob who wrestled with the Angel of God that night on the banks of the River Jabbok. The original version had fourteen or more stanzas, making it difficult for modern editors to use in modern hymnsls. It is difficult to
eliminate any of them and still do justice to the poem, which is an
allegorical testimony of Charles Wesley's own conversaion experience. The version of this hymn as published today usually has only three or four stanzas. Isaac
Watts, another of the greatest English hymn writers, was quoted in John’s obituary tribute to his brother Charles
as having said, “…that single poem, ‘Wrestling Jacob,’ is worth all the
verses I myself have written.” Here is a setting of this great poem using three of the stanzas:
Come, O thou Traveler unknown, Whom still I hold, but cannot see! My company before is gone, And I am left alone with Thee; With Thee all night I mean to stay, And wrestle till the break of day.
In vain Thou strugglest to get free, I never will unloose my hold! Art Thou the Man that died for me? The secret of Thy love unfold; Wrestling, I will not let Thee go, Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.
'Tis Love! 'tis Love! Thou diedst for me! I hear Thy whisper in my heart; The morning breaks, the shadows flee, Pure, universal love Thou art; To me, to all, Thy mercies move; Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.
Another of Charles Wesley's hymns that is better known by Christians of all communions today is Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. Here is the choir of Wells Cathedral singing the hymn to the beautiful tune Blaenwern, under the
direction of Malcolm Archer.
Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down, fix in us thy humble dwelling, all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art; visit us with thy salvation, enter every trembling heart.
Come, almighty to deliver, let us all thy life receive; suddenly return, and never, nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing, serve thee as thy hosts above, pray, and praise thee without ceasing, glory in thy perfect love.
Finish then thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be; let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee:
Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.
Many of us would think some of our most important feast days would not be complete without a hymn of Charles Wesley. Here are a few examples: (Advent) Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending, Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, (Christmas) Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, (Epiphany) Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies, (Lent) O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done, (Good Friday) 'Tis Finished, The Messiah Dies, (Easter) Christ the Lord is Risen Today, (Ascension) Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise, (Pentecost) Spirit of Faith, Come Down.
In our era, O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing is probably the most well-known and beloved of Charles Wesley's hymns. With its emphasis on the impact of the Gospel of Christ in the lives of those in greatest need, it is a fitting hymn for the Church in a day when we seek to recover a wider missional focus. I'll end this commemorative tribute to the Wesley brothers on that note. Here are The Edinburgh Singers singing that great hymn on BBC Songs of Praise at Greyfriars' Kirk, using the tune Lyngham. I won't include the words here since they are included in the video.
Thanks be to God for John and Charles Wesley and the legacy of faith and praise they have bestowed upon succeeding generations. May their example inspire us to find our voices to proclaim and praise the Lover of our Souls in our own time.
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.
I served as Interim Rector at Calvary Episcopal Church in Ashland, Kentucky starting on Shrove Tuesday of 2012.
Here's the link to Calvary's online photo galleries: http://calvaryashland.org/about-us/photo-galleries.html
Images from my ministry as Rector-in-the-Interim at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Lexington, Kentucky. Also, here is a link to a slide show with other photos from my Interim in Lexington:
Noted Galveston leader R. Waverly Smith commissioned architect George Stowe to design and build this house in 1896. The house survived The Great Storm of 1900, the 1915 Hurricane, Hurricane Carla, and, more recently, Hurricane Ike. We have lived here and loved this place for ten years. If houses can love people, she has certainly loved us! Enjoy this album of some photos we've taken to share with people like you.
In the early morning hours of September 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike struck Galveston Island. The storm surge from the back side of the island inundated a large portion of the island. Twenty-four inches of salt water covered our lawn and gardens. This album contains photographs depicting the resiliency of the trees, shrubs, and other plants in our garden eight months after the storm.