James Weldon Johnson, Poet


Click image to listen to the Metropolitan Baptist Church Choir (Largo, MD)
sing “Lift every voice and sing” by James Weldon Johnson

Today (June 25th) the Episcopal Church remembers James Weldon Johnson.

James Weldon Johnson was born in 1871 in Jacksonville, Florida…. In 1900, he collaborated with his brother, Rosamond, a composer, to create “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” Written in celebration of President Lincoln’s birthday, the song, still popular today, has become known as the “African American National Anthem.” Read the entire post at Holy Women, Holy Men

As we remember, we pray:

Eternal God, we give thanks for the gifts that you gave your servant James Weldon Johnson: a heart and voice to praise your Name in verse. As he gave us powerful words to glorify you, may we also speak with joy and boldness to banish hatred from your creation, in the Name of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. Source: Holy Women, Holy Men

On Trinity Sunday we read “The Great Commission” (Matthew 28:16-20). In James Weldon Johnson we have a wonderful example of using God-given gifts to glorify God and benefit the community and we pray that the same may be true in us. God will surely hear that prayer–are we ready to work with God’s grace and for God’s glory?

Lyrics for “Lift every voice and sing” by James Weldon Johnson

Lift every voice and sing,
till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the
dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
bitter the chastening rod,
felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
yet with a steady beat,
have not our weary feet
come to the place
for which our fathers died?

We have come over a way that with tears have been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
out from the gloomy past,
till now we stand at last
where the white gleam
of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
thou who hast by thy might led us into the light,
keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee;
lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee,
shadowed beneath thy hand,
may we forever stand,
true to our God,
true to our native land.

Source: Gospel Music Lyrics

I am surrounded

I am surrounded was the suggested title of a homily for Trinity Sunday. In our Sunday worship we seldom hear a homily or sermon opening the text of the Psalm. Once again, the folks at WorkingPreacher.org are present to help, exploring this text for preacher and hearer alike.

Another sermon derives simply from the poetic structure of the psalm. A modern, Western reading of the psalm tends to focus on the question “What are humans that you are mindful of them?” as an outburst of existential anxiety from an “I” alone in the midst of overwhelming vastness. There might be something in that, but the structure of the psalm puts the singer in a different place. Psalm 8 (NRSV) has a rather clear concentric structure:

A   O Lord, our Sovereign… (verse 1a)

B   You have set your glory… (verses 1b-2)

C   When I look… (verses 3-4)

B’  Yet, you have made… (verses 5-8)

A’  O Lord, our Sovereign (verse 9)

The A/B/C/B’/A’ structure is, in part at least, grammatical or rhetorical, comprised of sections introduced by Lord/you/I/you/Lord.

The psalm begins and ends with the outburst of congregational praise of God’s majestic name (A/A’). Within those verses comes the praise of God’s particular works (overturning foes in B; blessing humans in B’), and, at the center, the wondering awe of the poet (C). Now, instead of an isolated “me,” viewing a distant universe in existential anxiety, “I” (C) stand surrounded by the gracious and protecting works of God (B/B’) and the congregation gathered to sing God’s praise (A/A’).

Fred Gaiser, Professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

Read the entire post: WorkingPreacher.org. (select Psalm tab)

In future posts “NJPS” will be used to refer to the Jewish Publication Society 1999 Tanakh Translation of the Hebrew Bible. Both the translation and the study notes for Psalm 8 can be found here: Psalm 8 NJPS. Professor Gaiser refers to NJPS in his essay. As you will encounter again, the NJPS verse designations vary slightly from the NRSV verse designations.

A Proper 8 Art for Readings 6/25/2011


Rembrandt van Rijn (artist)
Dutch, 1606 – 1669
Click to open National Gallery of Art Artist Biography and to explore other works by this artist.

Abraham’s Sacrifice, 1655
etching and drypoint
sheet (trimmed to plate mark): 15.7 x 13.4 cm (6 3/16 x 5 1/4 in.)
Rosenwald Collection
1943.3.7161
Click to open National Gallery of Art display page.
 Click on their image to enlarge/fit page etc.

Pentecost: The coming of the Wild Goose

Wild Goose LogoOn Pentecost Sunday the Forum was introduced to the Wild Goose as an image of the Holy Spirit used in the Celtic Church. This bit of information was part of an essay on Pentecost by Jim Wallis.

While much of my work revolves around challenging unjust systems and structures, I do not doubt that the world we see around us of broken people and institutions is only a small portion of what is real. The Spirit of God extends wider and deeper and is at work in my life, the lives of others, and in the communities and institutions of this world. While I work for societal transformation, I try to stay rooted in the transforming work that the Spirit is constantly doing in me.

How are you working (with the Spirit of God) beyond yourself? How are you being transformed by the Spirit of God?

Too often, it feels like we need to make a choice between the work of this world, and the work of the Spirit, or between a personal focus, or a social focus of the gospel. “Either/or” marks how some churches present the Christian faith. Often, however, this is a false dichotomy. Early in the days of the Sojourners community I remember that one of our favorite words was “and.” We would talk about personal salvation and social justice, prayer and peacemaking, faith and action, belief and obedience, salvation and discipleship, worship and politics, spiritual transformation and social transformation. These were things that complemented one another and deepened each other instead of being in opposition.

How comfortable are you in living in a both/and situation?

In two weeks, my family and I will be headed down to Shakori Hills, North Carolina for the Wild Goose Festival. In the Celtic Church, the symbol for the Holy Spirit is a wild goose — wild, free, and untamed. The festival will be a weekend of justice, spirituality, music, and the arts. It is an “and” kind of space, more than an “either/or.” It will, no doubt, be a busy weekend. But I am looking forward to it, not just for the activities, but for the reminder that it is by chasing after the wild goose, the Holy Spirit’s movement, that we see ourselves, and our world, transformed.
Read the entire essay: Pentecost: The Coming of the Wild Goose

Find out more about the Wild Goose Festival

A Message from the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church

The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church issued the following letter at the conclusion of its three-day meeting at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, MD (Diocese of Maryland).

A Message to The Episcopal Church

from the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church,

meeting in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, June 14-17, 2011

these widowed boats,
the men who loved them
gone to their graves.

By M. Kei (an award-winning poet who lives on Chesapeake Bay)

————————————————

Models, paintings and photographs of “widowed boats” line the halls of the Maritime Institute, some showing vessels caught in mid-explosion, others detailed in all their newly launched beauty and power. Scripture often uses the sea as a symbol of danger and chaos, and the boat or ship as a symbol of the safe place God creates for God’s people–a symbol for the church.

For the last three days the Executive Council has met among these powerful symbols to talk of hard financial issues and church decline and growth, to address elephants in the room, and to speak truth to one another in love.

The Presiding Bishop began her opening address by saying she was seeing a “significant rise in readiness for mission . . . for connection to needs beyond the local congregation.” The President of the House of Deputies spoke of the need for courageous change and called for a structure that “supports mission and ministry at the most appropriate level – congregation, diocese, province or church center.”

These have been reoccurring themes in the addresses of the Executive Council’s chair and vice chair this triennium as they have repeatedly urged the Council to be creative risk takers in addressing the challenges facing The Episcopal Church.

Read the entire Message: NewsLine.

———————————————————–

A question for youForum participants: do you know any of the elements of our St. Margaret’s Mission Statement? Would the Presiding Bishop see a “significant rise in readiness for mission…[and] connection to needs beyond [St. Margaret’s]” in you? in our congregation? These are questions for personal consideration as well as communal (Forum) consideration.

Begin the conversation now, leave a comment here.

The Abundant Life in a cup of coffee

Sherry has been doing important research for our group. I am proud to share the results of her research and invite you to consider how we might make a difference “for good” in our little Sunday Morning Forum. –Dan

COFFEE WITH A CONSCIENCE

You may be surprised to discover that you can savor a great cup of coffee while supporting a great cause.  Coffee is the world’s second most traded commodity.  By buying Fair Trade coffee, every cup of coffee you consume makes a positive difference in the lives of poor coffee farmers around the world.

WHAT IS FAIR TRADE?

Fair Trade certification guarantees that farmers who grow and process the beans receive a fair price, which keeps small farmers in business. 

Fair trade standards encourage sustainable agriculture practices for disposing of hazardous wastes, minimizing water use, avoiding erosion, and conserving the soil.  Fair Trade farms must also meet labor standards such as paying a minimum wage to workers.

WHY ARE WE, AS EPISCOPALIANS, INTERESTED IN FAIR TRADE?

Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) partners with Pura Vida Coffee, a Seattle-based company, in committing to using their resources to do as much for coffee farmers and their families as possible.  Together, they give back to the coffee-growing communities in the form of health, education, and infrastructure projects.  ERD and Pura Vida are helping to create strong and sustainable communities.

More about the partnership between Pura Vida and ERD: Bishops Blend
A short video about Pura Vida and its vision

WHERE CAN I BUY FAIR TRADE COFFEE?

Finding Fair Trade coffee is as easy as looking on your grocer’s shelves for containers with the Fair Trade Certification logo, a click away for online shopping at Pura Vida: Create Good, or by phone at 877.469.1431.  ERD and Pura Vida have partnered to produce a delicious organic, shade-grown coffee called Bishops Blend, the purchase of which not only guarantees fair wages to coffee producers, but 15% of the purchase price of each bag  goes to support ERD’s mission of responding to poverty, hunger, and disease around the world.

Sherry Wollenberg is Co-facilitator of the Sunday Morning Forum at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, CA.

A question for youKnowing more about Fair Trade coffee, about Pura Vida and about its partnership with ERD, what are some things we (individually and/or collectively) can do as we strive to promote “justice and peace among all people,”  as we “respect the dignity of every human being”? (from our Baptismal Covenant) Leave a comment or share your comment in the Forum on Sunday. –Dan

Praying and believing

Lex orandi, lex credendi

Lex orandi, lex credendi (Latin loosely translatable as “the law of prayer is the law of belief”) refers to the relationship between worship and belief, and is an ancient Christian principle which provided a measure for developing the ancient Christian creeds, the canon of scripture and other doctrinal matters based on the prayer texts of the Church, that is, the Church’s liturgy. In the Early Church there were about 69 years of liturgical tradition before there was a creed and about 350 years before there was a biblical canon. These liturgical traditions provided the theological framework for establishing the creeds and canon. Source: Wikipedia

If you want to know what a community believes, listen to how it prays; if you want to know what an individual believes, listen to that person pray. This is my version of the meaning of lex orandi, lex credendi. If we assume a community or an individual is going to be honest when speaking to God, then we listen to the prayers and gain insight into belief. Likewise, the more a community or an individual prays in a certain way, the stronger becomes the belief, belief becomes more mature, better articulated; there is a dynamic interchange between mind and heart and faith in the act of praying.

In Anglicanism, the worship of the people of God plays a very distinctive role, being the principal arena not only of supplication and praise but also of theological experimentation and formulation. This relationship of worship and belief is often discussed under the Latin tag, lex orandi, lex credendi—’the law of praying is the law of belief’.  Source: W. Taylor Stevenson in The study of Anglicanism, John E. Booty, Stephen Sykes, Jonathan Knight, p. 187

Lex orandi, lex credendi: A Latin phrase often used in the study of liturgy, it means “the rule of prayer [is] the rule of belief.” The phrase describes the pervasive pastoral reality that habits of prayer shape Christian belief. Official provisions for worship can thus have a determinative role in shaping Christian doctrine. Source: Glossary of Terms maintained by the Episcopal Church

1124 The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine [5th cent.]) The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition. Source: The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church

Throughout our study the group will share the prayers that shape our faith and thereby reveal the faith that shapes our prayers. We invite you to share your prayers with others in this (online) Forum.