The Ground of All Being

As many of you know, I am just returning from a three month sabbatical. Generously funded by a Clergy Renewal Grant from the Lilly Foundation, I sought out places of beauty for refreshment. Paris was one of my watering holes, a destination famous for breath-taking churches, world-class art and exquisite architecture.

The great theologian Paul Tillich described God as “the ground of all being.” He wrote that God permeates all of creation and is the foundation of all. For Tillich, God is so interwoven in all of creation that evidence of God is all around us, if we only have eyes to see.

Tillich’s catchphrase “the ground of all being” came to mind when I encountered a metal sculpture much like this one in a small chapel in France.

This sculpture captivated my attention. As it was in the lower chapel of the convent where I was staying, I had lots of time to listen to what it had to say.

I saw myself as a human being standing in the midst of it, surrounded by its branches. Because God is “the ground of all being,” the Creator is the foundation, the root system beneath. The visible branches above ground all around me are the many and various ways in which God is revealing the divine. My work is to develop the eyes to see. Can I see God all around me?

I needed this sabbatical time to help me see again. Daily schedules can move at such a lightning fast pace. Cultural values of efficiency and productivity can keep me task-oriented and results-focused. It is so easy to lose sight of the God in whom I live, and move, and have my being. But if I am blind to God in the world around me, I risk losing meaning and purpose for living.

In my grant application, I chose beauty as a sabbatical theme. Beauty is what I turn to when I need renewal: the beauty of relationships, the beauty of creation, and the beauty of the presence of God. I spend time with people that I love. I go for a hike and take in a scenic vista. I soak in a work of art. I seek out exquisite liturgy to be fed in word and sacrament.

Beauty awakens the human spirit to its transcendence. The longing for beauty is a cry of our soul. The making and appreciating of beauty is an integral connection between human beings and the Holy Spirit. We can trace anything that is beautiful in creation to the Creator who is Beauty.

What are the places of beauty in your life? Where do you turn for renewal and refreshment? If you look closely, you might see they are branches of the tree of life, signs of God reaching for you, loving you in your daily life.  

The Reverend Kim Seidman

Incredible

“Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.” John 6:21

Happy Friday, good people. I came across this verse the other day, relating the story of Jesus walking on water. Now, I have always focused on the miracle of Jesus walking on water in this story. I mean, how can you not? He walked on water!

Recently reading the novel-turned-movie The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young, there is a scene in the story where Jesus shows the main character, Mack, how to walk on water. In that story, I was struck by the incredibly simple act that walking on water was for Mack-because he trusted in Jesus. He thought there was no way that he would be able to stay on top of the water in his mortal, human state. But, just by holding Jesus’ hand, he was able to stay on top of the water and not sink. Incredible.

It is mind-blowing that such a daunting task could be made so simple through an act of trust; of faith; of love. That is exactly what I think about when I read these words out of John, also. The real miracle of this story, in my mind, was that a simple act of trust; of faith; of love, by the disciples made all the difference.

See, before they “were willing to take him into the boat”, the winds and seas were storming; and, the disciples were essentially floating in circles (as I envision it). Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Jesus climbs aboard, the boat immediately arrives. Incredible.

As humans, it is so natural to want to go it alone-to have that fortitude and know-how to just make it happen. I find myself doing it all the time! And, as I read this verse over and over again, I have to chuckle; because, it. is. so. simple. Without him, we are only human. With him, we are incredible.

It makes me ask myself, “what acts of trust; of faith; of love, do I need to perform today?”. Knowing that this kind of action can produce miracles, I am eager to answer the question. Having racked my brain, but not arriving on anything concrete yet, I will keep asking. For now, I find strength in this verse, knowing it is leading me to the answer.

Jackson Dreiling

The Holiest Week of the Year

Holy Week - the final week before Easter day - is the holiest week of the Christian year.  It is that week where we as the Church - the people of God - experience the “last days of Jesus’ life here on earth, as well as the time and events leading up to his resurrection.”  

Beginning with Palm Sunday and ending at sundown on Saturday, with the Great Vigil of Easter, we join countless other present-day Christians as well as Christians relating back to the earliest days of Christianity, as we make our pilgrimage together toward Calvary.  

The celebration of Holy Week, or the Great Week as it was called by ancient Christians, dates back to at least the 4th Century, where the pilgrim Egeria, possibly a Spanish nun on pilgrimage to the Holy Land sometime between 381 and 384 AD, joined the Christian community of Jerusalem on the afternoon of Holy Thursday when they began celebrations of the seasonal liturgy of the Easter Triduum in the Church of the Eleona, on the Mount of Olives.  For more about Egeria, check out this article: http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/301-600/egerias-pilgrimage-blessed-the-ages-11629681.html

There are many and varied special devotions celebrated during Holy Week.  Some churches offer services every day of the week, and our own lectionary provides special readings for each day (Monday through Saturday) should you wish to include them in your daily prayer cycle.  Some churches, including our own St. John’s Cathedral, offers a Tenebrae service - a monastic office similar to matins and lauds, but structured around 15 sets of psalms, readings, and responsories.  It is a truly awe-inspiring service.  I admit, I cry each time I go, it is that moving.

The special liturgies we at Holy Comforter celebrate this week includes the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday and the Triduum.  

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday (commonly known as just Palm Sunday) is actually two services in one.  We begin outside with a Liturgy of the Palms, and this liturgy focuses on Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  We join together in the waiving of palms and cries of Hosannah! as we parade around the church property ending at the door to the sanctuary, where we begin the Liturgy of the Passion.  It is a dramatic, schizophrenic shift as we go from the joy of the palms to the experience the Passion Gospel of Jesus’ final hours.  

The hallmark of Holy Week, however, is the Triduum or Triduum Sacrum - meaning three (triduum) sacred (sacrum) days - consists of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter.  Although they appear as three separate services, they are all, in actuality, one continuous prayer service.  You will note that after the opening greeting of Maundy Thursday, there is no dismissal by Deacon Linda until the Great Vigil of Easter.  Early Christians remained at their churches or holy sites for the entirety of the three days in constant prayer and reading of scripture.   

The Triduum begins on Thursday evening with Maundy Thursday, where we commemorate the institution of the Lord’s Supper and remember Christ’s example of love through the humble act of foot washing.  The term Maundy, it is believed, comes from the Latin for Jesus’ new command to love one another (mandatum novum), or possibly the verb to wash (mundo).  At the conclusion of that liturgy, we strip the altar as an act of spiritual remembrance of Christ’s betrayal and humiliation.  The church is left bare, and we are left to walk alone with Christ the rest of the way to the cross.  Therein, we find Christ’s presence an inescapable comfort.  In the darkened church, we sit and sing that we will remain and stay with Jesus during these last few hours in Gethsemane.  

On Good Friday, we enter into the mystery of Christ.  We experience the abandonment felt by the first disciples who thought that Jesus’ ministry ended with his death.  We hear once again his Passion, this time from the Gospel of John, we kneel at the foot of his cross, and we sit in the silence and darkness of the tomb, recalling our own own sense of abandonment and despair, which we all experience from time to time.  As we do so, we discover that we are not alone, but rather share this pain with each other, and with God, who also shares - and redeems - our loss and pain.

The Triduum concludes at sundown on Holy Saturday, which marks the beginning of the final day - Easter day.  We gather outside where the Church lights new fire with hopeful anticipation the resurrection brings.  We light the Paschal candle - the sign of the resurrection - which is then brought back into the church.  The Light of Christ spreads throughout the pews, lighting our way.  We hear Deacon Linda proclaim the coming of Easter in the Exsultet.   We retell our most sacred stories and welcome four new Christians (Andrew and Julia, Ryleigh and Emma) in the sacrament of Holy Baptism (by candlelight!).   Beginning with a rumbling from the Hook Organ, the Great Alleluia is proclaimed the church is flooded with light, bells chime and we all celebrate that “Alleluia, the Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia!  Alleluia!”  The tomb once occupied is empty, death is conquered!  

Often people tend to skip Holy Week, desiring to head directly to Easter Day.  However, I have often heard that this is like going directly from the appetizer to the dessert.  You miss the beauty and the joy, the communion and relationship that comes from the main course!  We walk this journey not alone, but with each other, in a great cloud of witnesses that have come and gone before us from the earliest of days.  Most importantly, we walk this walk with Jesus, our ever present guide, teacher, and companion in the way.  Come and experience that which is the holiest week of our church year, and then enjoy the spirit of resurrection!  Amen.

The Reverend William Stanton

A Visitor to Holy Comforter

You may or may not have heard the statistics.

Maybe you haven’t experienced it yourself or known anyone who has.

I met someone at Holy Comforter yesterday who had.

She is a young woman I’ll call Eleanor, even though that is not her real name.

She lives in Broomfield.

She has three small children whom she loves very deeply.

Eleanor is educated and articulate.

She told me that she never thought she would be in the situation she has now found herself in.

She had never prepared for it.

Or ever thought that she had to.

But it happened.

And her life has been changed forever.

You see, Eleanor is a victim of domestic violence.

The sad part is that she is not alone:

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
  • 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.
  • The presence of a gun in the home during a domestic violence incident increases the risk of homicide by at least 500%.
  • Domestic violence cuts across all lines in our society: economic, ethnic, racial, etc.

Eleanor has had to restart her life and the lives of her children.

She has had to figure out how to get work so that she can pay bills.

She has had to undergo therapy to work through the fear and trauma of her experience.

She called Holy Comforter because she was short of the rent amount she needed to pay for the month.

She had been referred to Holy Comforter by the local office of the Salvation Army.

She wondered if we could help her.

Because Holy Comforter has intentionally set aside funds for clergy discretionary accounts, we are able to help people in our congregation and our community with some financial assistance.

So, I wrote a check to her landlord toward some of her rent.

Eleanor was very grateful for the assistance.

I asked her if she had a faith community to provide spiritual support and she said she didn’t.

I let her know that Holy Comforter would welcome her and her children.

She let me know that she appreciated the invitation and would consider it.

As I walked with her to the door, she turned to me and said with tears in her eyes that her life right now is very hard; but, that she feels she is on the right path.

She thanked me again for the rent assistance, and we said good-bye.

In this season of Lent, the parishioners of Holy Comforter were asked to bring donations of toiletry items to the church during the Sundays of March.

The drive served as a reminder of our Lenten call to give alms to those in need.

By the 4th Sunday, all of the items donated filled 4 very large plastic bins.

They were delivered to A Precious Child, who helps families in need, and to Arising Hope, a shelter in Adams County for women and their children who are victims of domestic violence.

Please pray for Eleanor, her children and the many families like hers who are struggling to recover from domestic violence and abuse. 

Pray that they will find the loving care, healing and spiritual support that they need.

Pray that our eyes will be opened to what we can do to help them.

Deacon Linda Brown

Are You Ready?

Are you ready? I am - well almost! Holy Week. It strikes terror in the hearts of church musicians as we ready our choirs for the massive amount of music and liturgy that takes place. Emotions run high as approach each service. Sometimes it is easy for us to get caught up in the details of the service rather than in the meaning of the service. I find myself needing to take some time each day of Holy Week to look at the scriptures, read the text of the hymns, ponder and pray. Maybe looking head at some hymns might help you in your own Holy Week preparations. I might suggest looking at the following hymns and finding a verse or phrase on which you can pray and meditate.

My favorites:

Hymn 154 - All Glory, Laud and Honor 

Hymn 156 - Ride On! In Majesty!

Hymn 158 - Ah, holy Jesus

Hymn 159 - At the cross her vigil keeping, stood the mournful mother weeping

Hymn 160 - Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow

Hymn 162 - The royal banners forward go

Hymn 164 - Alone thou goest forth

Hymn 165 - Sing my tongue the glorious battle

Hymn 167 - There is a green hill far away

Hymn 168 - O sacred sore wounded

Hymn 170 - TO mock your reign, o dearest Lord

Hymn 171 - Go to dark Gethsemane

Hymn 172 - Were you there?

Hymn 173 - O sorrow deep

If you would like to borrow a hymnal from the church library room to use for prayer and contemplation as we approach Holy Week please feel free to do so. 

I hope that the offerings from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday will take you on a beautiful journey as we walk with Christ during the holiest of weeks.

Mary McIntire

The Precious PRESENT

“Daddy, what are you talking about?”

“The precious present.”

“What?!”

“The precious present. The only thing we have is now. We can’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. All we can do is be in the moment of now.”

“Well…yeah!”

This was the conversation my son, Joshua, and I had on the way home from baseball practice on Wednesday night. He already knew the truth. He already was a believer in what I was trying to teach him. And, even though sometimes their smarty-pants responses make us want to go crazy- I hate to admit it-they are right!

Kids. We work so hard to teach them. Right from wrong. Manners. Ps & Qs. Respect. Patience. Love. Sharing… Well, as the wise philosopher, the late Lonnie “Pops” Lynn once said, “I think I’m the one that got taught.”

See, kids are ALWAYS in the moment. They are the breath of life that comes into this world living in each and every second that is given to them. They don’t know any different; because, God gives them this ability as he blesses the world with their spirit, their love, their presence. They are made in his image.

And, we have to remember that we are too. As we grow and mature into adults, that ability to be in the moment seems to fade steadily; and, becomes harder and harder to grasp. Work. Dinner. School. News. Iphones. Emails. Laundry. Facebook. Dishes. Packing School Lunches. Groceries. Exercise. Homework. Sports. Karate... We become consumed by our daily activities and the distractions that surround us. We give into those distractions and activities like a dog chases a squirrel-always in a haphazard, undisciplined way. Nothing gets the full attention it deserves. We are masters of “multi-tasking”. Well, I don’t know about you, but, I don’t like the way that feels.

Kids don’t feel that way; because, they are all in on whatever they are doing. They are in the moment. And, they want us to be too. Because, remember, that is how we are created. So, let us go about our day, starting today, as a kid does: they play. When a kid plays, they play. They don’t check-email-do-laundry-play. They just play, with all their heart, mind, body and soul.

Let’s join in. And, as we play, we will know that we have been blessed with the only gift we have or need or want right now. The precious PRESENT.

The Labyrinth: Walking a Sacred Path

About six years ago, four friends went to see Mother Kim to ask her if we could paint a labyrinth on the parking lot. After her enthusiastic yes, the adults and the youth group members painted a labyrinth, choosing the parking lot because that was accessible for “rollers” as well as walkers. In those early days, this question was heard: “what are those circles that are painted in the parking.” The simple labyrinth was used for several years.

With continued growth at Holy Comforter a beautiful new labyrinth has been built by Holy Comforter folks and dedicated Nov. 1, 2016. It is located in the courtyard of the All Souls Columbarium. With its serene setting and beautiful landscaping, it is a quiet place for prayer and contemplation.   

What is a labyrinth?

A labyrinth is a tool for prayer and meditation: a prayer of movement. To walk or move about the labyrinth is to make a pilgrimage in our own church yard. To walk the labyrinth is to take a “time out,” to be refreshed. Each person brings his or her personal thoughts, prayers, problems to walk the path. It is an active, yet meditative, way to pray.

Labyrinths are found in almost every spiritual and religious tradition around the world. Their circular design has been part of civilization for 4,000 years. Designs are found in pottery, in cave art; among the Native American and Celtic cultures, to name a few examples.

In our Episcopal tradition, the Chartres Labyrinth, a classical eleven-circuit design, was among the first labyrinths in America at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco. The Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, an Episcopal priest, is credited with bringing the labyrinth to churches. Her book “Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool” is a classic. The Rev. Artress now leads pilgrimages to the Chartres Labyrinth in Chartres France which was laid in the cathedral floor between 1194 and 1220.   

Labyrinths are found indoors and outdoors, in churches, schools, hospitals, and business centers. Some are rustic out in the woods; others are made of beautiful stone like the Holy Comforter labyrinth.

A labyrinth is not a maze, which has dead ends and trick turns. A labyrinth has only one path leading to the sacred center and back out again.

In walking the labyrinth, there is no right experience. It invites us to journey within the sacred circle, quietly bringing our prayers, concerns and letting go of the anxieties of daily life. It invites us into the mystery of God. Moving in the circular motion can create a sense of balance and a way to enjoy some quiet time.

For those who may wish some guidelines for moving about the labyrinth:

            Pause at the entrance to calm your spirit and mind.

            Invite God to be present with you as you walk or move about.

            Walk in silence.

            Be sensitive to others’ personal space.

            Stop and be in silence in the center for as long as you would like.

            Allow yourself to find a pace that your body wants to go.

            You may pass others on the walk: the path is two ways, going in and out.

            Use a pace and movement that is natural to you.

            No two walks are the same. Each time is a different experience.  

The labyrinth’s winding path is a metaphor for the spiritual journey. It represents our journey, as well as reminds us of so many who have traveled before us in faith.

Rev. Sandy Grundy

Failing at Our Lenten Fasts

"I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word."  (BCP 265)

I love Lent.  I always have.  Or I should say, there are aspects of Lent that I truly do love and enjoy. I have always enjoyed times of when I am permitted to be by myself in periods of reflection and self-examination.  I also enjoy Lent as a time for purposeful prayer and meditation on God’s holy Word.  However, there are also certain aspects of Lent where I truly struggle – specifically, the areas of fasting and self-denial.  I remember one year I gave up desserts and meat (all meat – including poultry and fish).  I remember that by the third week of Lent, all I could think about was ham and pies, burgers and pastries.  Sadly, I couldn’t do it.  The temptations and cravings were too much for me and I cheated (with a chocolate brownie sundae if I remember correctly.)  I remember I was devastated.  “Why couldn’t I give up desserts for just little over a month?”  However, I learned a lot about myself that year, because failing at our Lenten practice, whatever it might be, is, I believe, one of the purposes of Lent. 

Let me clarify, our purpose in Lent is not to fail at our fast or our Lenten practice; but rather, to use what happens during that fast or practice as a starting point for self-examination and reflection. 

These Lenten invitations go hand-in-hand.  We fast and self-deny, which in turn provides a basis for our self-examination.  Our self-examination in turn informs our prayer life.  Our prayer life is supported through our reading and meditating on God’s holy Word, which informs our life and our actions.  It is a perfect circle, each one independent yet inter-dependent upon the other.  

Because it is rooted in perfect-ness, failure should not be seen as a negative.  Rather, it is and should always be seen as a starting point for beginning again.  For example, we might ask ourselves, “Why couldn’t I give up chocolate?” “or meat?” “or pastries?” “or ice cream?” “or Facebook?” “or coffee?” “or sarcasm?” “or …? (you fill in the blank)” for a full 40 days?  It is the foundational source of our self-examination. 

My own failures allowed me to ask, “Why?”  “Why was I so obsessed with these cravings?”  “What was it about food or coffee or whatever that consumed my whole being?” (Pun not intended.)  Through the self-examination that accompanied the successes and failures of my Lenten practices, I was able to forgive myself for my weaknesses.  I was also able to learn much about the source of strength that was hidden deep within me.   Overall, my self-examination helped inform me in ways that continue to inform me today.  I was able to grow, knowing that I am stronger than my cravings, and stronger than my weaknesses – and that my strength comes from a place of grace, compassion, forgiveness and Love – my strength came from God. 

The goal of Lent is so that we can learn about ourselves – our “true selves” as Fr. Richard Rohr might say – the self that God created us to be – right here and right now.  And so I pray that you accept the invitation of Ash Wednesday to engage in the observance of a holy Lent, and that you embrace all that it has to offer – the fasts and self-denial – the self-examination and re-turning to God – the prayers and meditations – and most of all the successes and failures of each – and that you do so from a place of grace, compassion, forgiveness and Love – knowing that you are indeed Loved by God.  

Blessings to you this holy Lent. 

Fr. Bill+

Being Barrier Busters

One of my favorite Bible stories is Jesus healing the paralytic (Mark 2: 1-12).  Word had spread around Galilee that Jesus could heal the sick and cast out demons.  So, people started flocking to his side seeking help for themselves and their ailing loved ones.  There was such a large crowd in and surrounding his house in Capernaum that no one else could get near him.  Some people came carrying a paralytic, but they couldn’t get close to Jesus.  Undaunted, they climbed up onto the roof and literally removed it piece by piece so they could lower the paralytic on a mat to Jesus.  “When Jesus saw their faith” he forgave the sins of the paralytic.  The scribes in the room were aghast thinking to themselves that this was blasphemy.  Only God could forgive sins!  Jesus, knowing these murmurings, showed them his authority to forgive and heal as only one from God can do.  He commanded the paralytic to stand up, take up his mat and walk home -- which is what he immediately did to everyone’s amazement!

What I love about this story is the persistence of the people who brought the paralytic to Jesus.  We don’t know if they were family or friends.  We don’t know if they came at the insistence of the paralytic or if they had heard about Jesus and convinced the paralytic to see him.   Nonetheless, they came.  Imagine their disappointment arriving at the house and discovering there was no way to get the man through the crowd to Jesus!  Yet they figured out a way -- by getting up on the roof and literally pulling it apart!  They were unwilling to let barriers keep them from Jesus. They persisted in their faith and actions.  As followers of Christ, I believe this is what we are called to do – to persist in our faith and actions.  We are called to be “barrier busters” for those who need Jesus and are seeking the love, hope and healing that faith in God brings.

An example of this call became abundantly clear to me this past Wednesday evening at Holy Comforter’s Community Summit on Domestic Violence.  Our speakers from Arising Hope, Safehouse Progressive Alliance on Nonviolence (SPAN), and the Broomfield Police Department described situations of domestic violence in our families, neighborhoods, and community. Victims often feel shame and are reluctant to speak of it to other family members or co-workers.  Faith communities have an important role in helping victims of domestic violence by: becoming their friends, confidants, and advocates; learning about and promoting the community resources that are available to victims; and becoming volunteers and supporters to local shelters. Domestic violence is learned behavior. It can be unlearned, but victims need help.  If you are interested finding out how you be a barrier buster, please contact me, deacon@holycomforterchurch.net.

Deacon Linda Brown

Change

Oh, that six letter word! 

Yup, that nasty 6 letter word has entered my vocabulary again and soon I fear, it will appear in yours! 

Look around. You can see it, you can feel it, you can hear it. It's here and not going away!

Change. There, I said it. It's out in the open and I feel better! Just when we are feeling comfy and cozy its time for a change.

The days are getting longer and warmer. Some birds are chirping, kids are outside playing, some folks are doing some gardening and yard clean up. A bit of spring in the air although we know there will be more snow. 

The clergy and music directors have been living with the next church calendar change for several weeks now. Praying, collaborating, and planning all happen weeks before the actual seasonal change. But in less than two weeks, LENT will make its debut. Changes in what you see, what you hear, what you feel are at the doorstep, just waiting for March 1st.  

I hope you will embrace this change in our rhythm of life. Take in the differences in our liturgy, our music and our surroundings. Reflect on what you see and hear. Take advantage of the extra offerings during this season of LENT. The reward will be great.

Mary McIntire

Our Manual

My wife, Jennie, and I have always supported each other's parenting by countlessly restating to each other "there's no manual for this". In other words, you do your best; and, keep striving to do better for your kids. There will be times when you fail. There will be times when you triumph. There will be a lot of landing in between. If you're a parent, I imagine you are nodding your head as you are reading this. We all go through the ups and downs of parenting-just like life. Why should we be treating parenting be any different? 

I have heard it said that "it's not the destination, it's the journey that matters". I think this speaks so well to the challenge of parenting. We don't raise our kids up to this perfect point and send them out into the world. Their learning, their growth, their journey, is always continuing. And. So. Is. Ours. Thus, how do we navigate through life's journey, along with our parenting journey, together, as one journey? 

I was reading my daily devotional a few days back; and, had somewhat of an epiphany, as I read the reflection. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to "bring your children up with discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord". All of a sudden, the words Jennie and I had countlessly said to each other were turned on their head! We had our manual. It has been there all of the time; and, always will be. I turned to her and said, "here's our manual." She smiled; and, knew it, too. 

Now, we will continue to fail. We will continue to triumph. We will continue to do a lot of landing in between. We will continue to learn and grow. And, so will our boys. Through all of these journeys, we will have a guiding light, just as we always have. And, when we are stuck and don't know what to do, or where to go, we will just have to reach for our manual.

Jackson Dreiling

"A Light of Revelation to the gentiles, and glory of your people Israel."

Yesterday was Groundhog Day.  I hear Punxatawny Phil saw his shadow, but I’m not worried about it—I know that February second is the first day of spring every year.  No, I’m not crazy, and yes, I can read a calendar.  But the equinoxes and solstices that by so many are called “the first day of [enter season]” are actually the mid-points.  (Gustav Holst’s famous  Christmas hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter” would become a much less poetic “two days after the first day of winter” if this weren’t true).  Most cultures in human history have marked these real starts to the new seasons (officially called “cross-quarter days”) with celebrations involving lights or fires. (Or, in the bizarre American case, rodents).   

So now that we agree it’s springtime…Yesterday was Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple. Forty days ago we celebrated Christ’s breaking upon the world like the first rays of sunlight on a midwinter dawn.   Yesterday we commemorated his being dedicated back to God the Father in a time-honored Jewish ritual, when Simeon proclaimed Jesus to be the Savior of all nations. “A light of revelation to the gentiles.” 

I wonder what that day in the temple would have looked like.  An old man, ready to be with God, who had seen how many thousands of babies come and go to the temple, recognizes this one baby as the savior of the nations.  It’s easy to imagine a Hollywood appearance for scripture:  Scene: temple.  Simeon sees Jesus, a ray of light shines on him from out of the ceiling, and cue majestic rumbling trumpet music.  But if ancient people were anything like modern people, the families entering the temple would have looked a lot like the families entering churches today.  During temple worship, did minds wander, as mine is prone to in church?  Was time reckoned, lists made, whispered gossip shared?  Did priests sometimes shuffle haphazardly through the prescribed rituals, going through the motions but doubting all the while? I can’t imagine not. Yet the sight of an infant inspired a spontaneous song and recitation of a psalm from one man.  What sort of baby would it take to inspire such actions today?

We heard last week about a few fishermen dropping everything and leaving their families behind to follow someone they had just met.  Think about that.  I passed an empty car on side of the highway on my way to choir practice.  It did not occur to me that the Messiah could have just called its driver to a life of ministry. Would it have occurred to a Palestinian regarding an abandoned boat on the shoreline 2,000 years ago? 

Simeon wasn't the only person in the temple, and the apostles weren't the only men that Jesus walked by on the beach.  

Which brings me back to February 2, 2017, and the first day of spring.  For being springtime, it sure is wintry.  But it’s spring—you can’t argue with the astronomy.  I even saw flowers blooming—outside—this week.  You  just have to know that it’s spring, and then know where to look.  In the swirl of doubt of everyday life and in the grime of the daily grind I have come to realize that God is there, God is calling me, God is a light of revelation.  I just have to be looking.

John Murgel

Walking In My Grandmother's Shoes

“You should never judge another person unless you first walk a mile in their shoes.”  

These are words my grandmother used to say that we should try and live by - or; at least, they are the words that my mother would tell me that my grandmother used to say to her when she was growing up.  

Regardless of who said what to who, I think they are pretty sound words to try and pattern one’s life after. I know I do … or at least I try to. Most often, however, I find that I fail miserably at it. Yet, I do not think that I am alone in my failing. In fact, I believe that if we were all truly honest with ourselves, we would all agree that we more often fail at this rule of life than we do at succeeding at it.  

The reason is that judging is a part of our human nature – our DNA. For good or for ill, this is what we do. We are human, and we judge other humans. If you don’t think so, go onto Facebook at any time of day. Facebook often reflects our conscious judgments that we make, and often post, for the whole world to see. However, we are so much more than our conscious judgments. Our judgments are usually influenced and informed by our own upbringing and experiences, our histories and our parents and grandparents’ histories. Or, as the author Malcolm Gladwell puts it, “The giant computer that is our unconscious silently crunches all the data it can from the experiences we've had, the people we've met, the lessons we've learned, the books we've read, the movies we've seen, and so on, and it forms an opinion.”  

These are our unconscious judgments – our unconscious and silent attitudes and implicit biases that we carry with us but have no conscious awareness of them. Yet, they inform how we look at each other and the world about us – how we look at persons of color, race or culture, immigrants, refugees – persons of another class status or political affiliation – persons of another gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation – and they often work to separate and divide us.  

Our conscious judgments, and how they are informed by our unconscious attitudes and biases, have been on my mind much this past week, particularly as I have been pondering the Gospel lesson appointed for this upcoming Sunday – a lesson on the beatitudes – those nine blessings spoken by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (“blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the cheesemakers” [sorry, I had to throw this one in for Deacon Linda and any other Monty Python fans who might be out there!]).  

As I read through Matthew 5:1-12, I came to realize that these “special blessings” that Jesus talks of, could and do, relate to anyone and everyone, regardless-and-in-spite-of their human condition. For who hasn’t at one point in our lives suffered poverty in our spiritual lives? Who hasn’t mourned the loss of a loved one or a relationship? Who hasn’t hungered or thirsted for the right thing to be done? Who hasn’t felt persecuted for their faith? Who hasn’t cried out for mercy and peace in their lives or their world?  

Jesus carries none of the unconscious judgments, the unconscious biases that so often divide our hearts and ourselves from each other. The unconscious judgments that keep us from loving our neighbor and stranger alike, that keep us from being in communion and community with each other – and instead looks into each of us and sees that which unites us. As the theologian Henri J. M. Nouwen wrote, “For Jesus, there are no countries to be conquered, no ideologies to be imposed, no people to be dominated. There are only children, women and men to be loved.” Love is Jesus’ own implicit bias – the lens through which he viewed the world.  

My grandmother was an incredibly wise and faithful person; for she knew that if we only took the time to walk in each other’s shoes, to learn each other’s stories, to understand where we come from, to love each other as Christ loves us, then there would be no judgment keeping us apart.  

In closing, I offer this prayer for each of us, a prayer that we always remember that we are more alike than different – more united that divided – regardless of the color of our skin, the language of our tongue, our gender, our orientation, our religion of choice or lack thereof, our documented or refugee status – that we are all, each and every one of us, beloved children of a Wondrous and Living God. All we have to do is look through Jesus’ lens of love, and walk in each other’s shoes. God bless.

The Reverend William Stanton



 

Source:

  • Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2005)

  • Henri Nouwen, Peacework: Prayer Resistance Community (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2005).

Holy Baptisms! Holy Resolutions!

Last Sunday’s services at Holy Comforter were amazingly joyful, with a bounty of baptisms of babies, toddlers and youth. Little Daniel led the way during the first service, followed in the second service by baby Stanley and his cousin Scarlett, then sisters Lorelai, Ogden, and Micah. There was much splashing around the baptismal font, as one by one the children were held to receive a three times handful of blessed water on their heads. Moms and dads, sisters and brothers, grandmas and grandpas, friends, and neighbors were all there to be part of the holy ceremony of initiation by water and the Holy Spirit. After the children were baptized, they then received an anointing of blessed oil on their foreheads – the mark of the cross. A lit candle was given to each, symbolizing their commission to become the light of Christ into the world. When introduced to the congregation, the newly baptized and their families processed around the sanctuary to the music and words of “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light.” It all brought tears to our eyes – tears of joy and the feeling of being bathed in God’s immense love. The Spirit of God descended like a dove upon us all, softly and gracefully.

In January, we usually make resolutions as a fresh start for the new year. As we said the Baptismal Covenant this past Sunday, I thought about the words as a reminder of the promises – the resolutions – we have made to God, and how timely it is for us to say them again at the beginning of the year. “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent, and return to the Lord? Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” To these questions, we respond, “I will, with God’s help.” Indeed, we need God’s help and the help of our church community to remain faithful to these promises in our everyday life and work.   

Deacon Linda Brown

e·piph·a·ny

e·piph·a·ny

[əˈpifənē]

NOUN

  1. the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).

    • the festival commemorating the Epiphany on January 6.

    • a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being.

    • a moment of sudden revelation or insight.

Last Friday at this time I was bundling up and getting ready to head out to Holy Comforter after a Thursday snow day. It was so cold but the Colorado skies didn't disappoint being crystal clear and the brightest blue ever! 

My task, to get the costumes for our annual Epiphany pageant across the icy parking lot into the Sanctuary without going down. Thank heavens for extra hands (well feet), as the task was easy with several volunteers.

As I contemplated the annual production this year, my heart wasn't in it at all! I knew I couldn't do the pageant in the same old way as we had for years! Herd the sheep, pack up the donkeys, halo and wing up the angels, deck out the kings.....yes, fun; but, it was the way we had always done it before, and this year I needed something new!

So what does the weary Music Director do the week after Christmas looking for a spark of creativity? She goes to PINTEREST of course - in the middle of the night - one of the best times for new thoughts and ideas in my opinion. Page after page of scrolling brought nothing - nada! And just when my eyelids were half down, there it was! The No Rehearsal, No Fuss Epiphany Pageant! I was saved! After reading the short details I knew this was the one for 2017. Kids choose and pick  their own part and costume and then come to the stage. As the rest of the congregation enters, they get instructions to listen carefully to the script and when they hear the character they would like to play they find a costume and join the other actors on stage. For many adults this was their opportunity to play the part they never were picked to play as a child. Children seeing adults putting on costumes just as they had - many being way too small. But it was so heart warming.

It was marvelous, it was charming, it was humbling! Six or so Marys, Josephs, a flock of sheep in all sizes and genders, little ones anxiously awaiting their parents arrival. And Kings....oh my we had Kings! Some very regal, some very humble.

And in the middle of it all a small, real, baby Jesus, taking it all in. 

Mary McIntire

Invest

Happy New Year! As 2017 is now upon us; and, will soon be rushing full force ahead, I have been taking some time to think about what I want for 2017. Now, I always have to chuckle when I try to put myself in control of what will be. However, I am a firm believer that putting faith in our intentions and goals will bear fruit-we just may not know what kind of fruit! So, what can I do to impact 2017? What am I in control of?

2016 was an amazing year for my family and myself, in many ways and in many blessings and in many lessons. To be sure, there were a few shots in 2016 that I would like to take a mulligan on. As I think about those lessons, I wonder how I can turn them into blessings-because, they are; if I learn from them…

 The question becomes: “How do I ensure that I learn and grow, in order to thrive in 2017?” My wife, Jennie, and I were talking the other day about this question. So, we decided to make a vision board for 2017. We essentially made a collage of inspiration, focused around how we will work at fulfilling God’s purpose (for us and for all) in 2017. We hung it in our room; and, it centers on a word: INVEST.

Now, we weren’t thinking financially (although, after our holiday season, we probably should have been!). We were focused around investment in people-our boys, our family, our community- oh, and ourselves. We realized that, in our experience, whenever we tried to improve, we always focused externally, only. Impact is absolutely the end goal for all of this-making this world a better place. But, we can’t change anything if we aren’t introspective first. We are our work’s foundation. If we aren’t strong physically, mentally, spiritually, how can we build anyone or anything else up?

So, to answer that question above, I will invest. I will invest in my quiet time with God. I will invest in my body-putting in the right fuel and strengthening it with activity. I will invest in my mind-reading, watching, listening, engaging-to learn. I will invest in my friendships-connecting and re-connecting. I will invest in all of my family-even if I don’t always want to. I will invest in my love, my wife, Jennie-our friendship and our marriage. I will invest in Joshua and Jack-together and individually. I will invest in my neighborhood…I will invest in life.

As you find your way forward in this new year, this fresh start to have an impact, I pray that you, too, will find your answer to that question. If I may suggest, listen. God has put the answer in you.

Practice Sabbath, Practice Beauty

Happy New Year!

I love a fresh start. A new beginning. A chance to reset.

I am on the cusp of a sabbatical. Every five years, the Episcopal Church in Colorado grants priests an extended period of leave for rest and renewal. Beginning January 9, I will step away from the daily rhythms of Holy Comforter and return on April 18.

A sabbatical has its roots in the biblical teaching of the Sabbath Day. Genesis’ poetic rendering of creation describes God working for six days then resting on the seventh. This divine precedence of rest is established from the beginning of time. A rhythm of labor and respite is hardwired into creation: we wake and then we sleep; we work and we play; nature produces, and then lies fallow.

Rest, though, is becoming harder to practice. Electricity can make make the night like the day, and communication and globalization means it’s always worktime somewhere. Efficiency and productivity are highly valued and rewarded in our culture, making us ignore the call of our bodies, our minds, our spirits, to enter into rest. Sabbath is one of the greatest gifts God offers, and one of the most ignored commandments. Creativity, health, and relationships suffer in the absence of rest, and I am thankful for the church’s commitment to wholeness.

Some have asked the focus of this sabbatical, and it is all about soaking in beauty: the beauty of creation, the beauty of worship, the beauty of relationships. To paraphrase Picasso, “Beauty washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Beauty, like rest, often gets pushed to the side. In modern life, beauty is often seen as a luxury. It is lovely when we can take the time to catch a glimpse, but rarely pursued and appreciated as an end in itself. Cultural values measuring efficiency and productivity rarely result in beauty. Beauty is hard to quantify; after all, it is “in the eye of the beholder.” But, beauty is an integral part of creation. Beauty awakens transcendence. Beauty invites awe and nourishes the human spirit. Beauty evokes wonder and sparks creativity.

I will spend these three months traveling to beautiful places, enjoying luxurious time with family and friends, and relishing worshipping in a pew rather than a presider’s chair. Holy Comforter has received a generous sabbatical grant from the Lilly Foundation to fund my experiences.

These funds also provide for an amazing sabbatical series for the congregation during my absence. Beginning January 28, for seven Saturdays, Holy Comforter will offer “The Practice of Beauty: A Community Arts Series” that is open to anyone and everyone. Each Saturday will feature a different expression of art, with a different artist providing a demonstration and introduction to practice. This series is intergenerational and open to beginners and experienced practitioners alike. Check out our website at holycomforterchurch.net/beauty for details and invite your friends and neighbors.


Practice Sabbath, Practice Beauty, with me this new year. Let us be renewed together.  

The Reverend Kim Seidman

In the Beginning was the Word

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  John 1:1-5

I love this piece of Scripture, with its talk of the divine Word, the Word that is both one with God and is God, the Word that is both life and light, the Word that became flesh and lived among us, the Word that is Jesus the Christ, whose birth we will be celebrating so very, very soon.

This passage from John is one of my most favorite pieces of Scripture in the entire Bible (it and the story of Balaam and his talking donkey in Numbers - but I digress).  It is also one of the very few Scripture readings that has the power to literally render me to tears whenever I either read it, or hear it being read by another.  

My response to its words is almost Pavlovian – from its very first words “In the beginning was the Word,” I begin to feel a catch in my throat and my eyes begin to tear.  (As I was assigned to read this piece during our most recent Advent Lessons and Carols service, I found myself practicing it over and over in the Sacristy before the service began so that my voice wouldn’t crack during its reading – and yet I still found myself caught up in its words.)  

I can think of many reasons why I feel the way I do about this piece from John’s Gospel: the beauty of its writing – being both very poetic and incredibly artistic in its prose - how it so beautifully describes Christ as divine Word, light and life, and how it is so sure in Christ’s oneness with God, a oneness that has existed from the very beginning of all time.  

Mostly, however, it is because these words awaken in me an overwhelming feeling of hope – feelings that can so often be, and often are, muted by the darkness of the world about us. Darkness not caused by the lack of sunlight – though I must say that I am so very tired of what seems to be the perpetual darkness of winter – but rather the darkness caused by the world – human-made darkness that threatens to snuff out all hope from all of existence.  

Darkness felt by and seen in the faces of the people of war-torn Aleppo.  Darkness felt by the families of the people injured or killed in the Berlin Christmas Market and the families of those killed in the fireworks explosion in Mexico.  Darkness felt by the people of the Standing Rock Nation as they face the ravages of winter while they seek to protect their water and historical burial sites.  Darkness felt by the immigrant, the refugee, the Muslim community, the LGBTQ community, the homeless community as they face an uncertain future in the face of rhetoric both written and/or spoken that is meant to evoke fear in the “other.”  

Such great darkness that it is so easy to lose our way – to get lost in a raging and turbulent sea of hopelessness.

It is in this sea of dark hopelessness that the light of Christ shines through, so pure and so true that the darkness cannot overcome it.  A light which calls us to not be afraid because it is the light which enlightens everyone, the light which came into the world with a Word of Peace and Love and Hope.   The Light we, as followers of Jesus, are to carry out into the world, bringing that Word of Peace, Love and Hope to anyone and everyone we meet.  

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….  And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”  Is it any wonder that I cry when I hear these words?  

Blessings to all this Christmastide.  May you find Peace and Love and Hope in your hearts.  

Father Bill+

Joy in Maglaras Hall

If you were at Holy Comforter this past Sunday, you would have heard me speak about the pink candle in the Advent wreath.  It represents “joy.”  To feel joyful is to feel great delight, to be glad.  I also said that I think of joy as an inherent sense of knowing and feeling that God is near, and creating something new and wonderful, and invites us to enter in and be part of the experience.  Our readings for the day from Isaiah, Luke (the Magnificat) and Matthew all spoke to the joy of knowing how God loves and cares for God’s people.
 
I had that joyful God experience this past Wednesday at the Christmas party hosted by Holy Comforter for 40+ developmentally disabled adults and their 11 counselors, who are associated with North Metro Community Services.  After arriving in Maglaras Hall, the group joined in the singing of their favorite Christmas songs, with much dancing, laughter and clapping.  They had lunch of pizza, salad, cookies, ice cream, and lemonade. Then Santa Claus, and his able elf helper, arrived to hand out presents and candy canes to each one of our guests.  The expressions on the faces of our guests clearly showed their feelings of sheer delight and joy. 
 
It could have happened only through the willingness of many folks at Holy Comforter to help to make the party possible – by bringing  presents as well as cookies, ice cream and salad, by providing music, and by taking the time to set up, serve and clean up the hall afterwards.  Thank you all for being part of this joyful experience.   God entered in, invited us to participate, and in doing so, created a sacred space of love, warmth and joy for our vulnerable brothers and sisters. God, indeed, loves and cares for God’s people.  I think our dear sister, Jeanne Butz, would have been most pleased.


Blessings, Deacon Linda

Comfort and Joy

Hustle, bustle, rushing around, lists, gifts, crowds…so much happening in December. And, in the past week we add the deaths of several close to us. How do we cope? How do we find the time to be comforted in our time of grief while preparing ourselves, our families and our homes for the birth of Christ?

For me, I love Advent and Christmas music. The texts are rich and so full of promise. Sometimes I just get out a hymnal and read those words penned with so much thought by wise poets. Loading up the CD player with some of my favorite Christmas music is also of great comfort and solace to me, it slows me down just a bit so that I can take in the richness of its beauty.

This weekend I am looking forward to two great musical events. On Saturday night I will be spending time with Handel’s Messiah. Oh, what a great combination of musical and poetic artistry! On Sunday afternoon at 4pm, Holy Comforter will present a service of Advent Lessons and Carols. Time spent listening, singing, and reflecting on the scripture will be of comfort during this season of Advent-the season of Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Comfort.

Mary McIntire