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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lights Out! Earth Hour - March 28, 8:30 PM

As people of faith, we're called to be good stewards of God's creation. If you recycle, carpool, turn off the water while brushing your teeth, or unplug your phone charger when not in use, you're taking steps in the right direction.

Here's another idea that allows you to be a witness to the importance of that call: at 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, March 28th, individuals, businesses, governments and organizations around the world--from the Great Pyramid of Giza to Broadway theaters--will be turning off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – to make a global statement of concern about climate change and to demonstrate commitment to finding ways we can make a gentler impact on our planet. To find out more, or to sign up to indicate your participation, go to the Earth Hour website here.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lynn...pondering

[Editor: Welcome to the first in a monthly series of blog reflections by parishioner Lynn Marini! ]

A Brief Lenten Reflection based on my own examination.

The writer Anais Nin once said, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to oneʼs courage.” The word courage comes from coeur which means heart. To have courage is to listen to our our heart; to speak from our heart, to act from our heart. To be courageous is to take a stance regardless of its popularity. It also means that we must take time to pray before we react.

Courage is responsive, not reactive. Sometimes no matter how good or grandiose our intentions, they evoke reaction rather than response. When that happens, we must have the courage to forgive.--To forgive from the heart is an act of liberation; it sets us and the other person free from negative bonds. As long as we do not forgive, forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or rather drag them around as a heavy load.

In this season of Lent, let each of us (myself included) examine our hearts to see whom we have wounded, or who has wounded us unintentionally. In the 6th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke we are reminded, “Love your enemies, do good expecting nothing in return...Forgive and you will be forgiven”.

Let us choose one bit of emotional garbage to which we are clinging, get rid of it, and get on with our life that we may meet our Risen Lord with a clear conscience and outstretched arms of welcome and praise.

Shalom,
Lynn

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Dust bunnies and the 10 Commandments

Lent 3, Yr. B: 3/15/09
Exodus 20:1-17, John 2:13-22
Saint Mark’s

     We all spent a good chunk of yesterday morning hunting for one of Stephen’s textbooks. When we didn’t find it in any of the obvious places—the dining table, the computer desk, the family room sofa, on his bed, or (heaven forbid!) the bookshelf on which it’s supposed to reside—we began to resort to a more thorough and desperate search. This is the kind where you start looking in places that don’t see the light of day very often, under and behind and in-between, those harder to reach dark spots we usually ignore. But oh, the shock when I started shining a flashlight around! I guess with 4 people and a big dog, we’ve been breeding large herds of a fuzzy, grimy dust menagerie that’s taken up residence in what are obviously undisturbed locations around the house. When I turned that flashlight on and shone it all around, suddenly, there for my eyes to behold, was a whole lot of dirt and debris.
     Having confessed all of this to you, I can say that I think there's some connection between that experience and today's lessons. All too often, parts of our lives are like those out of the way dark spots. Tucked into obscure corners are occasions of sin, events and thoughts and statements that have been put out of sight and out of mind. They happen, and then either on purpose or with no particular notice they get shoved into our mental closets or drift under the bed of our life. They're far from the largest part of our being, but they certainly exist. We may even glance at them occasionally and decide they weren't really so bad after all. And then something comes along that causes us to remember them or to have to deal with the consequences of them, and we get out our 10 Commandments flashlight, point it at just the right angle, and suddenly see clearly the mess lurking in the shadows.
     The 10 Commandments aren't really in vogue these days; we tend to think of them as something we memorized in Sunday school at age 9 or find on a bookmark in a religious store. I suspect a lot of their unpopularity has to do with our society not wanting to be told what we shouldn't do. That's the most common use of the commandments: to create boundaries that keep us clear of territory that's hazardous to the health of our souls. But I'd like to suggest another use: that of the commandments as spotlights that help us see where we need to clean up the sin we've already committed.
     This second understanding of the commandments explains for me a little better why they appear as a reading during Lent. Lent isn't really a time when we're specifically called to try to be better, more faithful people; we're supposed to be doing that all the time. It is, however, a season of housecleaning, of scrubbing down to the smooth surface of a restored relationship with God. But before you can clean, you first have to know where you've got a mess. The commandments can be the bright light that helps us dispel the shadows of rationalization, denial, carelessness, and apathy, in order to take an honest and thorough look at our lives.
     This same perspective also makes obvious why we might be assigned to read the commandments in conjunction with the story of Jesus clearing out the temple. The people of Jerusalem simply had become accustomed to the chaos, petty dishonesty, and turmoil in the courtyards surrounding the temple. What perhaps had once been a well-intentioned means of helping people faithfully offer their best to the Lord became an end in itself, barely disguised as holiness. It took the light of Jesus—harsh and hot—focused on the situation to make obvious what a mess they'd created and to which they’d turned a blind eye.
It isn't comfortable to shine any kind of spotlight on the dark corners of our life, but until we do, we'll continue what began with Adam and Eve and the snake: pretending that sin really isn't sin.
"That lie didn't actually hurt anyone."
"Everyone else is doing it too."
"Well, she made me angry."
"No one will ever find out."
"It's kinder that way."
“I deserve it.”
     There are all kinds of explanations for why we sin. Life isn’t clear cut, and sin can’t usually be divided neatly into 10 distinct categories, just as the clumps of debris behind the bed come from multiple sources. A specific act of sin, by itself, is only part of the danger to our souls. By God’s grace, through the love and power of Jesus in his death and resurrection, we have a way back to God after the separation of sin. Where it really starts to pile up is if we refuse to acknowledge and repent of the sinfulness of a particular action or event, when we start to believe the validity of our rationalizations or to squeeze shut our eyes in denial. The peril is that the sin accumulating under and behind and in-between eventually threatens to overwhelm our whole house, and after a while we're too embarrassed or scared, angry or apathetic to invite God to come in anymore. It's a fearful thing when sin takes over.
     By all means use the 10 Commandments as a guide to making decisions about your actions. But I challenge you also to use them during the remainder of this Lenten season as a spotlight to help identify the parts of your life, past and present, that need cleaning up, that need the healing and redeeming hand of God. Put them right before you by taking home your scripture insert today, or setting the home page on your computer to open to them for the next few weeks, or bookmarking your Bible or prayer book—they’re listed at the start of the service of Holy Eucharist and in an amplified form in the Catechism toward the back of the prayer book. Asking first for God’s help and discernment—in essence, turning on the flashlight—read the commandments, ponder them, hold your life up to their bright light and try not to shy away from what you see.
     The commandments were given as a guide to the people of Israel by the authority of the God who had brought them out of slavery, made a covenant to be in relationship with them, and was leading them toward the promised land. As you shine these same commandments into your life, don't tremble with fear, but instead rejoice in the knowledge that the God of Israel desires nothing more than to bring us also out of bondage to sin and death into the freedom of eternal life.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Archbishop Rowan's Lenten Reflection

A rich and rewarding reflection on the season of Lent by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. We are reminded that Lent is a time to,"sweep and clean the room of our own minds and hearts so that the new life really may have room to come in and take over and transform us at Easter." Enjoy.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Coffee Hour needs you!

Saint Mark's has a wonderful tradition of hospitality and food after each of the Sunday services. We currently need volunteers for the 10:30 service coffee hour for April and beyond. You--on your own or with a friend--can sign up to provide the goodies yourself, or you can sponsor a coffee hour for which someone else will do the shopping and set up. Think simple; we are blessed with some great cooks who enjoy sharing that gift, but our fellowship is just as friendly over cheese & crackers, fruit, sandwiches, Costco frozen appetizers, or salads!

Sign up sheets are available by the plates and napkins every Sunday, or you can contact the Church Office at 626-798-6747 or by e-mail here.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Volunteer at the Episcopal Church's General Convention: July 8-17 in Anaheim

We have a rare opportunity for ministry and learning coming our way this summer: The Episcopal Church will hold its triennial General Convention July 8 - 17, 2009 at the Anaheim Convention Center in the Diocese of Los Angeles, and they need helpers...lots of them!

It takes about 1,500 volunteer workers to efficiently run the Convention. This is a great opportunity to see the Church at work, and see how the winds of the Holy Spirit can blow through committee rooms and plenary sessions and send the Church's bishops, deputies and members out to do its work in the world.

Volunteers are needed in the following areas:

  • Public safety
  • Information
  • Meeting rooms
  • Volunteer services
  • Registration
  • House/worship services
  • Print distribution
  • Communications/press

Times and days are flexible; even signing up for one shift helps the planners and will be a great experience. Quite a few of us have already indicated our interest. To register as a volunteer online, click here.

For more information, contact Lynn Headley, General Convention volunteer coordinator, at lynnheadleygc@earthlink.net

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