Archive | November 2014

Are You Watching? Are You Ready?

    Following those hard times, the sun will fade out, moon cloud over, Stars fall out of the sky, cosmic powers tremble. And then they’ll see the Son of Man enter in grand style, his Arrival filling the sky – no one will miss it! He’ll dispatch the angels; they will pull in the chosen from the four winds, from pole to pole. When you see all these things, you know he is at the door. Don’t take this lightly. I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too – these things will happen. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out. But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father. So keep a sharp lookout, for you don’t know the timetable. It’s like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. So, stay at your post, watching. You have no idea when the homeowner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning. You don’t want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job. I say it to you, and I’m saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch.” (Mark 13:24-27)

Today, Christians begin a new liturgical year and celebrate the ancient Season of Advent. For most American Christians, Advent passes virtually unnoticed, because the secular and intensely commercial celebration of “Christmas” begins earlier and earlier each year; this year Black Friday shopping started on Thanksgiving Day.

But in the hustle and bustle of the various holiday celebrations, the time of Advent offers us a time of quiet reflection, hopeful and patient waiting, and thinking about what the birth of Jesus means in our world today.

Advent is an ancient celebration, a four-week celebration ending with the birth of Jesus on Christmas. Advent is the time of waiting with anticipation for the fulfillment of the prophecies of Daniel and Isaiah: that a Messiah will come and gather the people to Him. The Messiah, the great and all-powerful one who brings us life everlasting, is being celebrated in this season as a tiny, helpless baby.

Most people think of Advent as a time to prepare us for Christmas, but Advent is about preparing for the arrival of Christ with new ears and open hearts. However, the story has become so familiar to us that we often take it for granted. We become like people that live next to the train tracks and no longer hear the train when it goes by. We tend to sleep walk our way through the story.

But if we wake up, we can see that the Christmas story is like a soap opera. Jesus is born to an unwed teenage mother. Jesus’ princely throne was a food trough, his princely court consists of some smelly animals and a few wise men. His ambassadors and evangelists are a handful of dirty shepherds just in from the fields.

That is what Advent is all about. We are waiting with hope for our Messiah. We will celebrate his birth by remembering what it felt like to wait for him the first time he came.

In this way, the crèche or manger (where Jesus was born) is very much like the cross (where Jesus died for us). They are both symbols of times when God’s love came into the world.

For the last four years we have lit an Advent wreath each of the four Sundays of Advent. This year we are going to do something a little different. You see a picture of the manger on the wall; notice it is empty, except for the star. Each Sunday, as we move toward the birth of Jesus, we will see more things appear, until we finally see the Baby Jesus in his crib.

Each week we will wait to see what appears. We are in the season of waiting. Waiting for the coming of Jesus, not only to celebrate his birth, but also awaiting his Second Coming.

But we don’t know when Jesus is coming again. There has been a lot of forecasting about when the Second Coming will happen, but those dates have all come and gone. We have no insight into the time. Jesus even warns us:

    No one knows when, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father. So keep a sharp lookout, for you don’t know the timetable. (Mark 13:32)

Jesus’ coming will be sudden; there will be no time to prepare for him. Jesus says his return will be sudden! If we could see Jesus coming and his coming would take place in a year or so, or even a month from now, we might have time to get ready. But, that is not the case. You are ready now before he comes, or you will never be ready at his coming. So, it’s time to wake up and start watching and waiting.

When Mark’s gospel was written, watching was a bit different than it is today. In the twenty-first century we have cameras everywhere. At every traffic light, on our cell phones, in stores, banks, and down sidewalks and streets, we are all “on camera” all the time, it seems. In 2014 there is no such thing as not being “on watch.”

In Jesus’ time, “keeping watch” was much more “low tech”. “Keeping watch” meant keeping your eyes open and staying wide awake in order to respond quickly to sudden changes and threats.

We must watch and be ready. The coming can happen any time — it may be when we are paying attention, when we are awake and alert. But Jesus cautions that he may come while we are sleeping, while we are not paying any attention; Jesus warns

    “Keep awake.” (Mark 13:37)

But Jesus does not mean that we are never to sleep. He means we must:

    Wait patiently as we go about our daily activities. Waiting is hard; ask any little child waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. But we need to wait, and use that time while we are waiting to learn how to be patient. The best things in life always take time.

    Not be distracted by the Christmas Holiday hub-bub. Preparations for Christmas started in some stores in August. We need to not get entangled in all this shopping and commercialization that we forget what is the ‘reason for the season’.

    Be ready in our hearts for Jesus’ arrival. We need to remember the lessons Jesus taught us through parables and the Scriptures about how we are to live. We need to try to live the way Jesus taught us.

    Strengthen our relationship with God. All things come from God; we should be ready to join the kingdom of God at any moment. We need to remember our prayer life, and daily give thanks for the blessings we have received. But don’t panic – remember we are all loved by God.

This Advent, we wait and watch with hope. We wait and watch, believing that the God who comes—whether as a baby in a manger or a king in glory—has the power to gather all the people around Him and establish the Kingdom of Heaven. May we be awakened from our slumber to wait and watch with for the God who comes yet again to be among us.

Are you watching? Are you ready?
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 30 November 2014

Should We Be Thankful for Thanksgiving?

This coming Thursday, as you probably know, is Thanksgiving Day. The day in which our entire nation sets aside time in our complicated lives to give thanks to God for all our blessings. Thanksgiving Day has been a national holiday since 1863, when Abraham Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, wrote a proclamation declaring a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” to be the last Thursday in November. We were supposed to be thankful when brother was fighting brother, north was destroying south, race was fighting against race over the cruel and immoral practice of slavery but, despite it all …Be Thankful!! What sort of “Beneficent Father” would one thank for all that?

Now today, after 150 years, most of us associate Thanksgiving with the stories we were told as children about happy Pilgrims and Indians sitting down peacefully to a big feast to celebrate together. And perhaps that did happen – once, but it didn’t stay that way!
Let’s take a few minutes to learn the true reality about the history of Thanksgiving. It is not really a pretty story at all.

In the early 1600s, religious fanatics called Puritan were seeking freedom from oppressive rule of the King of England and the Church of England. They began immigrating (yes, IMMIGRATING—sound familiar?) from England to this new unexplored world of North America. They were arriving by boatloads to what is now Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Maine, after hearing about the riches and “free land” in the “new world”.

Finding no fences around the land, they considered it to be public domain, theirs for the taking. Joined by other British and Dutch settlers, they seized land, capturing young native Americans who had lived in those villages for centuries, taking them for slaves and killing the rest.

In 1637 near present day Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival, which was their type of Thanksgiving celebration for good harvest and peaceful times. In the predawn hours these sleeping Indian natives were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who ordered them to come outside. Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death while the terrified women and children who huddled inside the longhouse teepee were burned alive.

The next day the governor of the then Massachusetts Bay Colony declared “A Day Of Thanksgiving” because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered, and this land was now theirs;

    this was our FIRST Thanksgiving!

Cheered by their “victory”, the growing number of immigrant colonists and the few natives who became their allies in order to stay alive, attacked village after village. Women and children over 14 were sold into slavery while the rest were murdered. Boats loaded with as many as 500 slaves regularly left the ports of New England to be sold in Europe (long before slaves from Africa were brought here). Bounties were paid for Indian scalps to encourage as many deaths as possible.

Following an especially successful raid in 1638 against the Pequot in what is now Stamford, Connecticut, the churches announced a second day of “thanksgiving” to celebrate victory over the heathen savages. During the feasting, the severed heads of Natives were kicked through the streets like soccer balls! Even the friendly Wampanoag tribe did not escape the madness. Their chief was beheaded, and his head impaled on a pole in Plymouth, Massachusetts — where it remained on display for 24 years.

The killings became more and more frenzied, with days of thanksgiving feasts being held after each successful massacre. Finally, in 1789 George Washington suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside instead of celebrating each and every massacre. This was the celebration tradition that Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national holiday – while we were brutalizing each other in the Civil War and on the same day as he sent soldiers to massacre the starving Sioux in Minnesota!

The Puritan pilgrims were not just simple religious conservatives persecuted by the King and the Church of England for their unorthodox beliefs. They saw themselves as the “Chosen Elect” mentioned in the book of Revelation. They believed in the imminent occurrence of Armageddon and hoped to establish the “Kingdom of God” foretold in the book of Revelation here in the new world. So they came to America by the thousands, with every intention of taking the land away from its native people to build their prophesied “Holy Kingdom.”
Sound like the peaceful, happy festival you heard about in school?

    No, it sounds more like what is happening today in Africa where a group of Fanatics called Boka Harom are kidnapping young girls for slave brides and destroying villages in the name of God.

    No, it sounds like what is happening in Syria and Iraq where a group called ISIS is slaughtering people by the thousands and publicly beheading westerners to incite war and hatred and violence.

    And it sounds a bit like here in the US, as people from Central America struggle to come here as immigrants to escape persecution and violence and to try and make a new life for themselves, and some of us are telling them they are not welcome, we have no place for them – they are not “real Americans”!

Killing, destroying, and hating in the name of God is not new and still goes on! There are still groups in the Middle East and in this country who think they are God’s ‘chosen people’ and kill and maim in the name of God, and then go have a ‘feast of thanksgiving’ for all their blessings!

    What is wrong with this picture?

What do we honestly have to be proud of and thankful for with a history like that? What can we do to make this right?

Well, the truth my friends is, we can do almost nothing. It is history – it is sadly a real part of human behavior, and this sort of history is universal and has gone on for thousands of years. We in the USA are no better or worse, no more civilized or saintly than any other people, old or new, and that is the way it is. Evil and cruelty are as much a part of God’s world as Goodness and Justice, and all you and I can do is try to stand for Goodness and Justice as best we can every day of our lives until we actually get to the Kingdom of Heaven!
So, should we be thankful for Thanksgiving?

In light of all that is sad and shameful in our past and in our lives today, should we thank God? How should we deal with this annual day of gathering with friends and loved ones to feat and celebrate our blessings?

Well, let’s consider this moment. . . this day. It is really all we have, you know.

You and I can’t change what people did in the 1600s in Massachusetts. We can’t change what happened in the Inquisition or the Holocaust, or what some of our ancestors did to native Americans. We can’t stop radical religious fanatics in Syria from wreaking havoc and pestilence on the entire Middle East . . . nor can we even get our own government to quit bombing them!

We have just this moment, just today, just now. We have only our own lives and those of the people around us that we can do something about. And oh my, there are problems for sure right here and now!

    • Some of us don’t have jobs, it is cold, and some of us don’t know for sure where we are going to sleep tonight;

    • Some of us are fearing legal and police persecution for things that we feel are unfair or that we didn’t do.

    • Some of us are experiencing physical pain and grave illness;

    • Some of us are dealing with emotional sadness and pain from loss of loved ones, or separation from family.

Then, can we be thankful?
But I want to suggest to you that here, right now – in this moment– at In The Garden we have many things we can be grateful for:

    • This space is warm, clean, and reliable—we can be here every week—and even on weekdays upstairs,

    • Over the past 7 years we have formed a community of people who know and care about each other; you are
    welcome here.

    • Today, and every Sunday, we have a good meal—prepared by people who come from all over Columbus , a
    diversity of faith communities and organizations, to bring this food to you, because they care about you.
    Today it is Jodi Overfield and a lot of good people from Pickerington

    • I hope you are thankful, as I am, for the Core Team of Trinity church, who help make ITG possible: Carrie,
    Chise, Lori, Paula and John and Lexi, Andrea and Olivia, David, Kim, Kathi, Jean, Karen (whoever else is there today]

    • The Ohio State University Muslim Student Association who fast for one day in order to provide sack lunches
    for you

    • The love and concern for each other we feel as a part of the community.

So now think for a minute about right now what you are thankful for? And as you eat your dinner today, perhaps tell each other about the good things in your life, your blessings, the people who have meant the most to you . . .

and know that in this moment, right now . .

    we ARE blessed,

    we ARE loved by God,

We have each other, and we do have much to be thankful for.

Let us pray…. (sung)

Bless this house, O Lord we pray,
Make it safe by night and day . . .

Bless these walls so firm and stout,
Keeping want and trouble out . . .

Bless the roof and chimneys tall,
Let thy peace lie overall . . .

Bless this door that it may prove,
Ever open,
To joy and love . . .

Bless these windows shining bright,
Letting in God’s Heavenly light,

Bless the hearth, ablazing there,
With smoke ascending like a prayer!

Bless the people here within,
Keep them pure and free from sin . . .

Bless us all that we may be,
Fit O Lord to dwell with thee . . .

Bless us all that one day we may dwell,
O Lord! With Thee!

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church On Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 23 November 2014

For Caregivers And Those Who Grieve: How To Handle The Holidays

Missing Someone Over The ‘Happy Holidays’?

The commercials for the holidays started early (some of the stores already had their Christmas trees up in August), and now is the time that those of you who have suffered a loss are beginning to experience ‘Holiday blues’. Whether you’ve experienced a divorce, the end of a friendship, or the loss of a loved one, the holidays can make the loss of that person even more painful. Instead of feeling jolly, one may assume a pasted smile accompanied often with sadness and depression. Those that have never experienced these ‘holiday blues’ don’t understand; those that have, know that it can be terribly debilitating. Whether the loss happened years ago or recently, the hurt is there, and in unexpected and startling ways. You see or hear something that reminds you of your loved one and the pain is there all over again. It’s normal to mourn even years later, especially during the holidays when it can be extra painful. Friends and family may think that they are helping with suggestions like:

    “Oh, just come on out, you will feel better!”,


    “It’s been so long ago, can’t you just move on?”

and for those who’ve have experienced a death,

    They’re in a better place!”

it doesn’t heal the pain and often times intensifies the loss. But don’t fault those who are trying to ‘help’; they don’t know what to do and really care about you and the painful time you are having. Know that, in some cases, they are experiencing the loss as well as you are, although not as intensely. However, although you can never go back to ‘the way things were’, you can find ways to heal or minimize the pain. Each person is different and must find their healing in different ways. It may take years, but you can begin now and find your way. It doesn’t mean that the pain won’t come back, or the sadness will evaporate – but we each can choose our attitude. We each choose our mood. We each choose to take steps forward (or backwards), even if tiny ones.
How to Celebrate when Missing Someone

Do Something Positive: When you start feeling sad, do something that brings you joy or at least pleasure; see a movie, take a walk, play some music. Do something that makes you feel good.
Practice ‘Random Acts Of Kindness’: When we help others, we get outside ourselves and focus on the needs of someone else. We may see them smile, it makes us feel good too. There are numerous ways to do this! 

    Pay for the order of the car behind you at a drive-in or in a restaurant. 
    Put change in an expired parking meter. 
    Bake cookies and give them to a neighbor, your doctor’s office, co-workers, the church, etc. 
    Clean out your closet and donate clothes you won’t wear to a worthy cause. 
    Volunteer at an animal shelter or nursing home. 
    Shovel a neighbor’s walk, take their paper to the door, carry their trashcan back from the curb or rake their leaves. 
    Take someone you haven’t seen for months to lunch to ‘catch up’.

Create a New Tradition: Whether your loss, it is the emptiness and memories that bring the pain. Often we think that the pain we encounter by keeping old traditions is worth it, but in the end we are the ones that suffer. Create a new tradition – whether it is the food, the decorations or even the location the festivities are held. Change or add to the festivities with new traditions.
Don’t Ignore the Pain: By ignoring it, you are only allowing it to sabotage you at unexpected times. It’s okay to admit that you aren’t okay. So plan a time during the holidays to fully remember and mourn those you have lost. Look at scrapbooks, read old letters or favorite poems. Write a journal entry about what they have meant to you and how they affected your life, visit old places that you shared together. Talk to someone about your loss, toast them together or alone, cry, remember – missing lost loved ones during the holidays is natural and it is important to communicate your emotions instead of avoiding them. This is where that healing comes.

In this sort of catharsis there can be real healing that makes a space for you to move on with joyous holidays.

A Kinder and Gentler Community

NOTE: in the past couple weeks we have had disturbing incidents at In The Garden that I felt needed to be addressed, reminding the community that we are family.

Jesus gave us only two commandments:

    This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12)
    The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. There is no commandment greater than these (Mark 13:21)

For those of you who are relatively new to In The Garden, I thought I would give you a little history about our community. We started in 2007, serving sack lunches ‘in the garden’ for a half-dozen people. In the Garden was founded by Joe Mazza, a diaconal student in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Early on, before people became aware that we existed, Joe and Carrie Stowers used to drive around and invite people to come. In the Garden was held ‘in the garden’ at the side of the church, hence our name.

The first bitter winter, we moved here into the undercroft, so that we could offer hot coffee and a hot, nutritious meal. Since then, the word has spread and the maximum we have welcomed to the community was 185 on one Sunday. That number caused us to change from serving cafeteria-style to the sit-down dinner we now offer.

Our weekly attendance usually exceeds 120 and we have gone from a feeding program to a community where everyone is made to feel welcome and treated as if you are guests in our own homes.

Through the generosity of many different organizations (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Faith Fellowship churches; teachers from Pickerington Schools, students from The Ohio State University, the Muslim Students Association at OSU) we are able to provide you with a warm, nutritious meal as well as hot coffee and goodies. Those who do not wish to, do not have to participate in the short spiritual service, often featuring contributions from members of the community. We always welcome anyone participating in the service.

We have encouraged that those who attend In The Garden consider us a community, and over the years we see lots of familiar faces and have grown to consider everyone a part of our own family, and hope that you feel the same way. We have gone from pandemonium to a what you would expect when members of families gather. We all care about each other; the pains, the joys, the heartaches. . . we are family.

Unfortunately, in the last couple weeks, we have seen some disturbing behavior on some people’s part. Not a lot, but I feel the need to address it so that it does not escalate.

We have a lot of volunteers who give up their Sundays to come and be with us. Some of these volunteers are young children. Recently, two of the girls, one a ten-year old, has been treated in a manner that you would not want your sister or daughter to be treated.

When you receive your plate from one of our volunteers, the curse word or 4-letter word is not the correct way to respond. If you can’t say ‘thank you’, the KEEP YOUR MOUTH shut. You do the entire homeless community and In The Garden a disservice when you verbally assault anyone that way, a child or adult. I am sure your fellow community members don’t want to be remembered like that.

Also, our volunteers are not be leered at, asked their telephone number, and followed around as if you are a stalker. You would not want your sisters or mothers to be treated like that. These people who want to be your friends?

The volunteers and Core Team of In The Garden Do Not carry money – we are here to build a community and provide a warm meal. We have had requests for money for as little as 75 cents and as much as $10,000! We are not a bank – do not ask the volunteers for money.

In our nearly seven years, we have had only two incidents of violence – one was directed at the building and the other was a shouting match which almost got out of hand. I know that sometimes you are in a bad mood, or have been emotionally or physically injured, but you cannot take it out on others here.

I have only had to ask one person to leave (who later apologized and came back). I do not want to have to do that again. . . but if the behavior warrants it, I WILL ask someone to leave.

Last week we had an incident that could have escalated into a situation where one person would have ended up in jail and another in the hospital. Let me make this perfectly clear: THERE ARE TO BE NO WEAPONS at In The Garden. No guns, no knives, no shivs, no weapons.

If someone offends you, either let it go or come see me. We WILL NOT HAVE verbal or physical assaults here. . . I will be more than happy to call the police and have that person removed.

But, let me tell you about the things that I am so proud about. Last week Karen and I served a dinner at another church as part of their weekly feeding program. The amount of people that were there was about what we normally see on a Sunday. But that is where the similarity ended.

When the people came in, they were unruly, pushing through other people and generally surly. They took their seats and started demanding things. This dinner was served family style, so there were large bowls of food on the tables. Some of those who sat in front of a bowl, took all the food, leaving nothing for the rest of the people at the table. We had made enough pasta that everyone could have had thirds if they wanted. But, before we could even finish serving milk to everyone, some of the people were demanding more food and being pretty nasty about it. And there was a lot of pushing and shoving, and no consideration for the few families with babies that were there. The language was very colorful and the volunteers were treated with disrespect. Those of us who served felt battered by the time we left.

That DOES NOT happen at In The Garden. . .


Because we are a community, a community of people who care about each other. . . we consider each other to be our brothers and sisters . . our neighbors. No one has special privileges, no matter how long you have been here or how new you are – we are all equal. And that is what makes In The Garden different, whether you are a volunteer or a member of the community.

All of us who volunteer at In The Garden are proud to say we are a part of this community. . . a part of a great group of people, good people, caring people. And we want to be around you. We are happy to spend out Sunday afternoon here with you.

Let’s continue to be that caring community. Let’s remember that each one of us is a child of God, loved by him. We are one big family. . . and just like all families, we sometimes disagree with each other. But let us do it in love and continue to be that community and family.

Let us pray:

Dear Lord, sometimes we have bad days, sometimes someone says something that makes us mad, sometimes everything has gone wrong this day. Please help us to remember that we are all thy children, loved and worthy in thine eyes. And help us to remember that we are all family at In The Garden, that we should love each other and treat each other with respect. Be with us, guide us, help us to remember Jesus’ two great commandments, and love us. Amen.

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 16 November 2014

Advent Candlelighting Liturgy

As the season of Advent approaches, I am re-posting an Advent Candlelighting liturgy. . .

Blessed Advent!
Advent Candlelighting Liturgy

First Sunday in Advent

Leader: Lord our God, we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ. He is Emmanuel, the hope of all peoples; he is the wisdom that teaches and guides us; he is the Saviour of every nation. O God, let your blessing come upon our community gathered here before you.

Bless us and our advent wreath. (+)

May the light that shines forth from these candles illumine our way as we journey towards Christmas; may the light that shines forth from them illumine our lives as we wait in hope for the birth of the Christ-child. We ask this through Christ who is the Light of the World. Amen.

As our nights grow longer and our days grow short, we look on these earthly signs–light and green branches– and remember God’s promise to our world: Christ, our Light and our Hope, will come.

Listen to the words of Isaiah the prophet:


    The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined… For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:2, 6)

Reader: Today we look with anticipation to the coming of an Anointed One, a Messiah, as foretold through Old Testament history. As God’s people were abused by power hungry kings, led astray by false prophets, there were some who prayed for God to raise up a new king who could show them how to be God’s people.

People: Today we give thanks for those among us who bring us surprising new visions of hope, who challenge us to think outside the box, who show us a future we could never anticipate.

Candlelighter: On this first Sunday of Advent, we light this Hope Candle as a symbol of the hope and anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child.

(Light a purple candle.)

Prayer: O God, rejoicing, we remember the promise of your Son. As the light from this candle, may the blessing of Christ come upon us, brightening our way and guiding us by his truth. May Christ our Savior bring life into the darkness of our world, and to us, as we wait for his coming. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
Second Sunday in Advent


    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned (John 3:16-18).

Reader: Today we remember that God gave us His only Son, to live among us as a human, suffering as we do. And He loved us so much that he sacrificed His Son so that we may all have eternal life.

People: Today we thank you for your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world. We who have sat in darkness have seen a great light, the light of Jesus Christ, our salvation.

Candlelighter: On this second Sunday in Advent, we light the Love Candle as a symbol of God’s love that sent his Son to live among us and die for our salvation.
(Light two blue candles.)

Prayer: O God, rejoicing, we remember the promise of your Son. As the light from this candle, may the blessing of Christ come upon us, brightening our way and guiding us by his truth. May Christ our Savior bring life into the darkness of our world, and to us, as we wait for his coming. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
Third Sunday in Advent


    And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name’ (Luke 1:46-49)

Reader: Today we look with joy to Mary and the Savior that grows in her womb. Mary sang boldly when she might have been meek; she carries the beginning of a mighty revolution as the proud are brought down and the lowly lifted up.

People: Today we give thanks for the Marys among us, who step out of the roles society has planned; unintended pioneers determined to do as God asks; fearless and fearfully stepping out in faith, and beckoning us to do the same.

Candlelighter: On this third Sunday of Advent, we light this Joy Candle as a symbol of Mary, mother of God, bearer of the Way, and in joy of the anticipated birth of the Christ Child.

(Light two purple candles and one pink candle.)

Prayer: O God, rejoicing, we remember the promise of your Son. As the light from this candle, may the blessing of Christ come upon us, brightening our way and guiding us by his truth. May Christ our Savior bring life into the darkness of our world, and to us, as we wait for his coming. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
Fourth Sunday in Advent


    For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Reader: Today we remember Joseph, worn-out traveler and worried husband, doing what was necessary for the sake of his family, the burden of poverty stifling his hope in the promise of God. There was no room for him, yet he knows to whom he belongs.

People: Today we give thanks for your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the Prince of Peace. We who live in discord and strife have found peace in the promise of eternal life, through Jesus Christ. Amen..

Candlelighter: On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we light the Peace Candle as a symbol of the Prince of Peace and God’s eternal kingdom.

(Light all candles on wreath.)

Prayer: O God, rejoicing, we remember the promise of your Son. As the light from this candle, may the blessing of Christ come upon us, brightening our way and guiding us by his truth. May Christ our Savior bring life into the darkness of our world, and to us, as we wait for his coming. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
Christmas Day
(Insert white candle in center of wreath)


    In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Then the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:1-20)

Reader: As we light these candles today, we thank God for hope he gives us, for the peace he bestows, for the joy he pours into our hearts, and for the love that redeems us and shows us the way

People: Today we thank God for his gift of Jesus. We thank him that through Christ his light has come into the world and made it possible for us to see, and in seeing, to rejoice. His truth, his love, his very self, transforms all who receive him

Candlelighter: On this Christmas Day, Loving God, Emmanuel, we thank you for being with us -for sending your Son to walk with us and to lead us. Grant that the hope, the peace, the joy, and the love of which we have heard and spoken of throughout Advent may be fully realized in us as we worship and serve you through Christ Jesus our Lord, this both now, and in the new year that comes this night, and forevermore. Amen.

(Light all candles on wreath and Christ candle.)

Remembering The Living . . . And The Dead

Veterans Day 2014

On this Tuesday, the 11th day of the 11th month of this year we once again gather to remember. We gather to remember and give thanks for all who have chosen to serve their country. We give thanks for their bravery, their commitment, and their love.

Many Americans mistakenly believe that Veterans Day is the day America sets aside to honor American military personnel who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained from combat. That’s not quite true. Memorial Day is the day set aside to honor America’s war dead.

Veterans Day honors ALL American veterans, both living and dead. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank the LIVING veterans for their service to their country. November 11 of each year is the day we have set aside to let veterans know that we acknowledge and honor the sacrifices they have made in their lives to keep our country free.

In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson designated November 11 as “Armistice Day” in order to commemorate the end of World War I — which ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (literally 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918). In 1938, Armistice Day became an official U.S. holiday. They named the holiday ‘armistice’ based on the mistaken belief that this was the ‘war to end all wars’, being an agreement between the warring nations to stop fighting.

In 1954, however, after a second war, as well as the Korean War, President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day. In the official proclamation he issued, he stated that on November 11 each year:

    let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.

But peace has not prevailed since the beginning of the United States. We have continued to have wars or conflicts, all in the name of promoting democracy and establishing peace.

Nevertheless, it is our duty and honor to acknowledge and bless those brave men and women who have served faithfully in the armed services to ensure that those of living here are safe and free. And we can pray that cooler heads will prevail and someday, we can all live in peace.

Let us pray:

Creator, Life-Giver, Source of Hope, on this day of remembering we pause to share words of thanks. Thanks for all those who have gone before us in this world to create those things that make our life easier and better, thanks for all those things that we too often take for granted, thanks for food on our tables, roofs over our heads and money in our pockets – even while we know that others struggle for the same blessings, thanks for family and friends with whom we share our lives. We also pause in the midst of our remembering to hold in our hearts, minds and souls those who struggle this day. May they know that they are not alone. May Your promised word of peace touch the disquiet and disorder in their lives.

God of peace, we pray for those who have served our nation and who laid down their lives to protect and defend our freedom. We pray for those who have fought, whose spirits and bodies are scarred by war, whose nights are haunted by memories too painful for the light of day. We pray for those who serve us now, especially for those in harm’s way. Shield them from danger and bring them home. Turn the hearts and minds of our leaders and our enemies to the work of justice and a harvest of peace.


Each of the tables have a paper with blessings and prayers for those who fought, died or were impacted by the faithful service of our military. Please join me in these prayers:

Prayer For Veterans.

God of love, peace and justice, it is your will for the world that we may live together in peace. You have promised through the prophet Isaiah that one day the swords will be beaten into ploughshares. Yet we live in a broken world, and there are times that war seems inevitable. Let us recognize with humility and sadness the tragic loss of life that comes in war. Even so, as we gather here free from persecution, we may give thanks for those that have served with courage and honor.

Please Rise: Those that are in our presence that are either in active duty or reserve duty, and the fathers, mothers, siblings, spouses and grandparents of those that are currently serving.

All: God, we praise you for those that are willing to serve. Let all Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen serve with honor, pride, and compassion. Do not let their hearts be hardened by the actions they must take. Strengthen their families. Keep them surrounded in your love and peace.

Please Rise: Those that are in our presence that have served in the military in the past.

All: God, we praise you for those that have served in the military. We thank you for those that put the welfare of others ahead of their own safety. Let us all be inspired by their self-sacrifice in service to those who needed protection.

Please Rise: Those that are in our presence who have lost a loved one in war.

All: God, we praise you for those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. We ask that you comfort those that still feel the pain of their loss. Keep us mindful that you have promised to comfort those that mourn.

Please Rise: Those who have gathered in your name in safety because of the sacrifices of others.

All: God, we praise you for granting us these freedoms. Let us honor those who have served by working for peace. Let us never forget those that have served, and let us never let go of your promise of peace.

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 9 November 2014

6th Circuit Court Breaks From Unanimous Appellate Rulings, Upholds Discrimination

NOTE: my wife/spouse (of almost 17 year) and I chose to go to Greenwich Village, NYC in December 2013 to be legally married. We had intended to wait until marriage was legal in Ohio, but because of my position as a clergy and activist in Ohio and the United States Congress for the marginalized, disenfranchised and needy, we felt the time was right to make a statement by going out-of-state to receive the right of marriage equality that the State Of Ohio denied us.

After the fall of all the previously contested DOMA laws, we were fairly confident that the 6th Circuit Court would follow suit. . . alas, we were wrong. It is unconscionable to think that professed ‘progressive’ states would uphold the draconian restriction against marriage equality.

Many thanks to Adam Polaski for publishing this synopsis of the court rulings.

Although disheartened (and more than a little ashamed of our circuit court for being so out of step with the rest of the nation), we are not defeated. Our campaign to ensure ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness‘ for these four states is not over. . . to paraphrase a line from Martin Luther King, Jr. “until all are free, none are free“. We stand with John Paul Jones – We Have Just Begun to Fight!
By Adam Polaski,
Nov 06, 2014 at 04:30 pm

Today, November 6, the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit issued the first ruling in favor of upholding laws that discriminate against same-sex couples from a federal appellate court in the past several years. In doing so, the Court upheld marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee and led to the continued discrimination of thousands of same-sex couples in these four states.

The plaintiffs and legal team in the case may now seek certiorari from the United States Supreme Court, or they could seek an en banc review before the full 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. On Monday, October 6, just one month ago, the Supreme Court indicated that it saw nothing wrong with the freedom to marry for same-sex couples by effectively allowing anti-marriage laws to be struck down in eleven states.

Learn more about the six cases from the four states here, at, and read the full ruling HERE..

Freedom to Marry Founder and President Evan Wolfson said today:

    Today’s ruling is completely out of step with the Supreme Court’s clear signal last month, out of step with the constitutional command as recognized by nearly every state and federal court in the past year, and out of step with the majority of the American people. This anomalous ruling won’t stand the test of time or appeal. But with discrimination still burdening too many families, and now with this split in the circuits, Freedom to Marry calls on the Supreme Court to swiftly take these cases, affirm the freedom to marry, and bring national resolution once and for all. American couples and their families should no longer be forced to fight court by court, state by state, day by day for the freedom and dignity that our Constitution promises.

6th Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey dissented from the ruling. She wrote:

    These plaintiffs are not political zealots trying to push reform on their fellow citizens; they are committed same-sex couples, many of them heading up de facto families, who want to achieve equal status — de jure status, if you will — with their married neighbors, friends, and coworkers, to be accepted as contributing members of their social and religious communities, and to be welcomed as fully legitimate parents at their children’s schools. They seek to do this by virtue of exercising a civil right that most of us take for granted – the right to marry.

    For although my colleagues in the majority pay lip service to marriage as an institution conceived for the purpose of providing a stable family unit “within which children may flourish,” they ignore the destabilizing effect of its absence in the homes of tens of thousands of same-sex parents throughout the four states of the Sixth Circuit.

    Instead of recognizing the plaintiffs as persons, suffering actual harm as a result of being denied the right to marry where they reside or the right to have their valid marriages recognized there, my colleagues view the plaintiffs as social activists who have somehow stumbled into federal court.

The 6th Circuit is the first federal appellate court this year to rule against the freedom to marry. Previous victories emerged this summer and fall in the 4th Circuit, 7th Circuit, and 10th Circuit. Those rulings added to nearly 40 additional wins in state and federal court.

In just the past month, same-sex couples have effectively won the freedom to marry in 16 different states: On Monday, October 6, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in five marriage cases, clearing the way for the freedom to marry not only in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin – but also paving the path toward marriage in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming, the other states in the 10th and 4th Circuits. Just one day later, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also affirmed the freedom to marry in a case from Idaho and a case from Nevada, setting the stage for marriage in those two states, as well as Alaska, Arizona and Montana. So far, just four of these states – Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, and South Carolina – have not yet implemented the appellate orders.

With these victories, just 15 states will soon remain without the freedom to marry – and today’s out-of-step ruling from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ensures that in four of these states, same-sex couples will for now continue to be denied the freedom to marry and real American families will continue to be hurt. As the prospective appeal in this ruling works its way to the 6th Circuit and, likely, the U.S. Supreme Court, it is more important than ever for the nation’s highest court to recognize that it is time to take up a case and rule for the freedom to marry nationwide. It is simply untenable for 15 states to deny same-sex couples the same fundamental freedoms that are available or soon will be available in 35 other states.

It is simply time for the freedom to marry nationwide.

Meet the real families – plaintiff couples and their childrenimpacted by today’s ruling. And Read the full ruling here.

All Saints and All Souls . . . and Us

All Saints Day, 2014

Do any of you know why October 31 is called ‘Hallowe’en’?

Just like the day before Christmas is called ‘Christmas Eve’, the day before ‘All Hallows Day’ or what we now call ‘All Saints Day’ is called ‘All Hallows Eve’, shortened to ‘Hallowe’en’.

So, what is this holy church day we celebrate today? ‘All Hallowed Souls’ or ‘All Saints Day’ and ‘All Souls Day’. It is the day we honor those who have died, the day we remember all our loved ones, as well as the saints of the church.

‘All Saints Day’ originated in Europe as the Feast of Samhain (saw-win), a pagan celebration marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It was a joyous occasion of remembrance and thanks for those who once lived on earth, but now are loved as ‘saints’ in the spirit world beyond. People dressed in costumes, went door-to-door begging for food (sound familiar?), and received Soul Cakes as gifts for the spirits of the dead. Feasts were held with empty seats reserved at the table for the spirits of the dead. The fields were cleared and big bonfires lit to purify the earth. People visited the graves of their ancestors (much like we used to do on Memorial Day).

Always in need of fun (and perhaps blasphemy!), common people began to envision the night before All Saints Day as ‘All Hallowed Eve’ – with ghosts and goblins roaming the earth.

But, instead of fearsome spooks and skeletons, this three-day celebration marks a loving and good time, regardless of what you may believe about the life after this one. It is time to remember and celebrate those lives, famous or not, who have gone before us.

When we think of ‘saints’ there comes to mind a picture of a person in ancient costume with a halo around their head shown on a stained-glass window. But that’s not exactly correct either; the Bible teaches that all who trust in Jesus and try to do His work on earth are ‘saints’.

Saintliness means conveying the love of God to people. A saint is one who displays goodness and tries to live according to Jesus’ commandments. The saint is kind, forgiving, charitable, always living for others, always doing for others.

Saints include the extraordinary and the ordinary, the common as well as the uncommon, the unnamed cloud of witnesses, the living as well as the dead. In fact, one need not die to be a ‘saint.’

Saints are agents of change – making good things happen instead of bad. Regardless of whether we take part or not, we must realize that change will take place. Tomorrow always brings new challenges, problems, opportunities so will we fight for change, ignore it, or be a part of the improvement and solution?

Will we be a saint?

Who are your saints (your mother, teachers, boss, child, neighbor)? Who would you remember, living and dead, in your life on All Saints Day? Who are the folks, living or dead, who you think look to as examples in your daily life? Take a few minutes and recall those people who have had a significant impact on your life.


And how about those ‘saints’ of today?

The Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God), working with, among, and in us, enables the saint in us to recognize, face, and survive difficulties. Saints are able to look life in the face, without flinching. We need saints in today’s world – saints who will go into the world showing the good news of Jesus Christ every day!

To be a saint is to

    • listen to someone’s troubles,
    • to share what you have,
    • to speak kindly to the sorrowful,
    • to forgive the unforgivable

Someone who gives others the ‘Good News’ of the love, hope and salvation of the life of Jesus.

And so we thank God for those brave men and women down the years who have been faithful unto death in making known the Gospel and the family of God. And we, too, if we love Jesus, belong to that same family of God. We’re not likely to be martyred, but as followers of Jesus we’re called to be faithful to Him in our daily living, at school, at home and at work, and draw inspiration from the saints who have gone before us.

In remembering the saints in our lives, let us vow to be modern-day saints to those around us.

Let us pray:

    Living God, we thank you for the gift of life eternal, and for all those who having served you well, now rest from their labours. We thank you for all the saints remembered and forgotten, for those dear souls most precious to us. Today we give thanks for those who during the last twelve months have died and entered into glory. We bless you for their life and love, and rejoice for them.

    God of Jesus and our God, mindful of all those souls who have gone on ahead of us. Teach us to follow their example to the best of our ability; to feed the poor in body or spirit; to support and comfort the mourners; to encourage the meek and stand with them in crises; to affirm those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; to cherish and learn from the merciful; to be humbled by, and stand with, the peacemakers.

    Let us clearly recognize what it means to be the children of God, and to know we are to be your saints simply by the call and the healing holiness of Christ Jesus our Saviour.


For Those Who Walked With Us
For those who walked with us,
this is a prayer.

For those who have gone ahead,
this is a blessing.

For those who touched and tended us, who lingered with us while they lived,
this is a thanksgiving.

For those who journey still with us in the shadows of awareness, in the crevices of memory, in the landscape of our dreams,
this is a benediction.

Let us pray the prayer our Lord taught us:

    Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.


Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 2 November 2014