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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saint Mark's Women's Retreat: May 1-3, 2009

The 2009 St. Mark’s Women’s Retreat is coming! We have reservations for Friday evening, May 1, through noon on Sunday, May 3, at the Cathedral Center in Echo Park, where we enjoyed ourselves last year.

This year on retreat we’re going to start our own personal prayer books. This will give us an opportunity to explore types of prayer and specific prayers that we find meaningful, and we’ll take home what we hope will be an aid and a springboard to our ongoing engagement with God. We’ll keep some of the elements that we liked best at last year’s retreat, including small prayer groups, meditations, music, and some guided art projects. As usual, we’ll catch up with ourselves and each other, and come home rested and renewed.

Like everything else in our lives, the Cathedral Center’s costs have gone up. The cost for the weekend, including five meals and two nights’ lodging, is $175 per person. We can accommodate 28 people in 16 double and single rooms with connecting bathrooms. We will accept payment in installments and will try to find financial assistance for those who need it.

To reserve a place at the retreat, please complete this registration form and return it to the church office with your deposit of $40.00 per person. The preliminary registration deadline is April 5, 2009 (Palm Sunday). The balance of the retreat fee will be due April 26, 2009. If we run out of rooms, we will start a waiting list.

If you have questions, please contact Terri Jones (797-7620), Mo. Betsy (798-6747), or Joanne Morse (798-6747).

These weekends are always special, and we hope you will join us.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Saint Mark's Church on Facebook

Are you on Facebook? Now Saint Mark's Church is too! Join the group and become a fan; you might be surprised who else you see there. Check it out here.


Memorial Service - Henry Ebert

Services for Henry Ebert will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 19th at Temple Sinai, 1212 N. Pacific Avenue, Glendale. 

"Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: Deal graciously with the Ebert family in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come. Amen."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Remember That You Are Dust...

A stunning visual meditation for Ash Wednesday from Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix, AZ. Be refreshed, renewed, and inspired in your Lenten practice for this holy season. Enjoy!

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Last Sunday of Epiphany, 2/22/09

2 Kings 2:1-12 & Mark 9:2-9

     “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
    Well, not exactly. But if you let your imagination run with it, there is something about both the story of Jesus’s transfiguration and the one about Elijah being taken up in a whirlwind that seems like it comes from another reality, from a galaxy where the familiar and ordinary are interwoven with the strange and extraordinary, with life as we don’t know it.
     Jesus, Peter, James, John…ordinary. Mountaintop, time away…ordinary enough. Jesus glowing?...extraordinary! Elijah and Elisha and assorted people of God…ordinary. Parting the water to cross on dry ground…well, it’s happened a couple of times earlier in the story, so we’ll say borderline. But a chariot and horses of fire carrying Elijah away in a whirlwind?...definitely extraordinary! And because this is scripture and not George Lucas’s magical movie world, we’re left to conclude that these are descriptions of “thin places,” those locations and times when the borders between our ordinary world and God’s extraordinary kingdom melt and merge.
     In the Celtic tradition, there’s a saying that the space between heaven and earth is only about 3 feet, and in a thin place it’s even less. In a thin place, we draw close to the glory and magnificence of God, a wondrous experience of God’s presence. And though it’s not explicitly a part of the usual description, I believe thin places also may draw us deeply into God’s unfathomable mystery and depth, an experience that may be more disturbing but just as profound.
     We may not have specifically identified them as thin places, but we all encounter places and events in our life that affect us in a deep way, that change who we are and how we see the world, when we know we’ve been near the Holy. I’ve been at the bedsides of people as they died and wondered, when I walked out the door, why the whole world hadn’t ceased in breath-stopping grief for a soul—a living, loving, beloved being—no longer in our midst. I remember being surprised, when leaving the hospital with each of our newborn sons, that the buildings were the same and the cars on the freeway didn’t give us any extra berth; shouldn’t the arrival of a brand new child of God somehow shift all of reality? In both cases, can’t everyone tell that the world has become entirely different, that God has drawn near?
     “Thin moments” like these have changed me, as I imagine they changed Elisha and Peter, James, and John, and have changed you, however you’ve experienced them. For Jesus’s disciples, more than seeing Jesus transformed, they saw who he truly was; God’s glory, blindingly brilliant, was fully revealed in him in that instant. Elisha saw Elijah enveloped by God’s ferocious power and strength. And then, the moment is over, the chariot gone, the brighter-than-white back to normal, and life re-sets to ordinary.
     Except…except that it doesn’t, not quite. The world is the same, but we are different. And then what happens? How do we re-enter the world when we’ve seen God’s glory or been overwhelmed by God’s mystery? Jesus suggests, as he’s prone to do in Mark’s gospel, that it should all be kept a secret; maybe he and the gospel writer figured some experiences need to be lived with for a while before telling anyone about them, so that those who’ve been changed can try to make sense of it for themselves before they have to explain it to anyone else. Elisha collapses in grief over the loss of his friend and teacher, which likewise seems a reasonable response, and then—if we read the story a bit further than we did today—picks up Elijah’s mantle and tries the water-parting trick himself…successfully. He confirms not only his new role in Elijah’s stead, but the nearness of God’s power.
     And what about us? At first, perhaps we journey through our hours or days with that inner smile of delight that sees everything at its most glorious, or we rest peacefully in a newfound inner calm. Maybe we discover that everything and everyone seems to be in sharper focus and more intense, or—just the opposite—we move as if in a fog, overcome by the weight of our emotions. Whatever our response, the world seems to take little notice, going on like ordinary, unaware of our new sense of the extraordinary.
     I think there’s another possibility, one that’s compatible with all the others and perfectly congruent with our faith. We ourselves can become “thin people”…not the pants’ size you’ve long since left behind, but disciples of Jesus through whom others see traces of God’s grace and glory, power and mystery. Only occasionally is this a more-or-less permanent state; those are the people we call saints. But what if we all were aware of the possibility and opened ourselves to the Holy, being as permeable as possible so that God’s love could flow through us and infuse our surroundings with the wonder of God? What if our own experience of God transforms us, even briefly, into a thin place or person through whom others experience God? That’s what happened with Elisha and with the disciples; why shouldn’t it happen with us? Not as a manner of being that we create by our own will, but as an invited gift, a natural outcome of an encounter with God.
     As we journey into Lent, I challenge you to recognize around you the thin places—in scripture and in life—which reveal a vision of the Divine, those moments when ordinary life lies open to God’s extraordinary holiness. Respond as you will, react as you must, with joy or struggle or awe. Walk with those whose lives have likewise been touched. Share your experience, be a thin place yourself. Shine forth with the glorious, mysterious, transforming light that leads us from the mountaintop of the transfiguration to the solitary desert of Lent, from the shadow of the cross to the celebration of the empty tomb. Discover once more a world in which everything old is being made new, and rejoice that the God of all creation is not a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but closer than we ever imagine!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ash Wednesday & Lent

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season of penitence and preparation for 40 days (not counting Sundays, which are always feast days) before Easter. Just as one cleans house before a big dinner party, so the Church intentionally takes time before the great feast of Easter to reflect upon where our lives have gone astray from God's hope for us. Our model is Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness after his baptism, time he spent in prayer, fasting, and denial of the world's temptations.

At the Ash Wednesday service, the priest marks each person's forehead with ashes in the sign of the cross. Ashes, an ancient symbol of mourning and repentance, remind us of our own mortality and our falling short of God's call to us. As for whether to leave the ashes on your forehead after the service, as you go about your day...there's no right answer; you may do as you wish!

In our worship, the season of Lent is notable for its more solemn and somber attitude. Our music is less ebullient, we don't have flowers in the sanctuary, and we "put away" the use of "Alleluia" until our Easter celebration. The liturgical colors of Lent are purple, for penitence, or an unbleached linen and dark red known as Lenten array, based on sackcloth as a symbol of mourning.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Time to start thinking about Lent

Many people choose a Lenten discipline, beginning on Ash Wednesday (2/25/09), as a way of growing spiritually in this season and of being consistently reminded of their dependence upon God. You may decide to try giving up something--a favorite food, a bad habit, or a harmless but time-consuming pastime--with each occasion of temptation being an opportunity to call upon God's help in sticking with your plan. Or you may choose to take on an additional activity--daily prayer or Bible reading, exercise, journaling, reading an inspirational book, or service to others--as a means of growing in faith. Be reasonable; quality is the goal, not quantity! As you consider your choice, remember that the purpose of a Lenten discipline is not a nicer, healthier, smarter, better you (though those may be welcome side effects); it is to focus our attention on God and draw closer to God's love.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Living with Alzheimer's

Living with Alzheimer's disease or any form of dementia, or loving someone with Alzheimer's, takes a huge amount of patience, humor, persistence--some might even say stubbornness!--and flexibility. Some days are better than others, and some moments are really awful. I've recently found a resource to help with this journey, one that views communication and everyday life for a person with Alzheimer's from a perspective I hadn't seen before. The book,"Learning to Speak Alzheimer's," is written by a woman whose husband had early-onset Alzheimer's. As they lived with the disease, she developed the idea of putting more emphasis on his remaining skills than on what he had lost, and on entering into his world rather than continuing to try--usually unsuccessfully--to keep him in hers. The book is filled with practical tips for daily life and common issues, anecdotes (nothing like knowing others share your experience), and consideration of the emotional aspects for all those involved.

Another excellent resource is "The 36 Hour Day," now in its 4th edition. This book offers realistic guidance and support for care partners and family members of a person with dementia. As evidenced by the title, the book reflects a compassionate understanding of the demands of such a role and the toll it takes on one's life and spirit.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sermon Postscript - Good News!

I began my sermon today with a description of our malfunctioning dishwasher--it's not draining completely at the end of the cycle--and the wisdom of knowing when a problem is beyond us and it's time to consult an authority. This afternoon, I took another look at the advice of internet experts. My husband and I then returned to under-the-sink-land, checked the hoses, removed what turned out to be a completely clogged air gap, cleaned it out, and once again have a perfectly functioning dishwasher!

Now, if only I can remember consistently to consult the One who is the best authority with my bigger problems...

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