Tag Archives: St. Paul’s Episcopal KCMO

Ash Wednesday

A full beginning to this holy season of Lent.  We had faces in the congregation at each service that were new.  One young self-AshWednesday 2016identified Roman Catholic woman visiting (she had seen the video invitation) for the first time  commented to Mother Megan she had “never been to a mass where a woman participated as a priest.”  She seemed very pleased with her experience.  We hope she will visit again.  I took ashes to a parishioner in the hospital.  On keeping a doctor’s appointment after that visit, a woman in the doctor’s office lamented that she would not be able to get ashes this Ash Wednesday.  As it happened, I had ashes from the hospital visit in my pocket.  So be it!  The journey has begun.

We are packing our offices in preparation for the deconstruction that will precede the reconstruction of offices, choir room, nursery, parish hall, garden room, etc.  While adding to the busyness of Lent, maybe this is a right discipline for Lent–tear down the old in preparation for God constructing the new.  It will not be easy, it will not be painless, but it will make for a new creation!

a luta continua

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What do you want with me? Much.*

homeless_mother_children

**It is Wednesday night and I am leaving the church late to go home.  As I head up the driveway toward Walnut Street, I notice the line for the Food Pantry extends all the way up to the street.  As a group, they look forlorn standing in the fading light and dropping temps.  I am glad we are here for them.  Near the end of the line, there is a young woman holding hands with two little girls.  A third child, boy or girl I cannot tell, is standing on the fence wall.  Unexpectedly, in my mind’s eye, I see Guytie and our three daughters standing there.  As with the Ghost of Christmas Past, it is like a scene from my distant past playing out in a painfully unexpected way.  My eyes tear up and I want to move on as quickly as possible . . . I do not look back . . . I try not to feel the confused emotions penetrating me like a cold, damp fog.  I drive home profoundly sad.  I do not know the woman or her children; yet, my heart breaks with the sight of this small family, cold, hungry, and waiting to get food–in the darkness, my family. 

Several years ago, the leadership of the Food Pantry first proposed the idea of opening on Wednesday nights.  During our daytime pantry hours, our clients would tell us of people they knew who worked but could not make ends meet with the low wage jobs they were able to get.  They were hungry and needed our assistance was the message we heard.  The Food Pantry leadership requested and we agreed to a trial run.  Now, several years later, Wednesday night is as busy as our daytime pantry.  While we do not have demographic documentation yet (something we are hoping to work on this year), we are confident from anecdotal reporting that many of these Wednesday pantry clients are working people often with multiple jobs-and still, they need help feeding their families.

What is it the Lord requires of you . . .

                                     Do justice . . . (Micah 6.8)

It is a good thing we do in our Food Pantry.  People are hungry; children are hungry.  It is a good thing to feed hungry people; but it is not justice, it is mercy.  Justice challenges us to ask, “Why are these people who work, sometimes two and three jobs, unable to feed themselves?  Why must they stand in line in the cold and dark in order to receive the small bit of help we offer them in order to avoid hunger for themselves and their families? What is wrong with this picture?” Justice challenges us to action and change.  What must change to allow justice to flow like a river(Amos 5.24)?  In 2013, we served about 2200 people each month through our food pantry.  By storage and financial limits, we are perilously near our maximum service capacity.  Feeding the unemployed, the homeless, and the elderly is one thing, but why do working people, some working 60+ hours a week, still need our assistance?  In the US, full-time workers should be capable of paying their own way and caring for their family needs, or so the prevailing myth of the American Dream suggests.  Tonight, as I drove from the parking lot to Walnut Street, that Dream seemed tarnished and more difficult to imagine.  Tonight I saw my wife and daughters standing in the cold dark waiting for food–it hurt my heart.  Maybe it takes the sting of personal “hurt” to understand what it is the Lord requires of me!

*Title: an exchange between Scrooge and Marley

** This is a re-run of an earlier, pre-blog piece.  I want to make it a part of my blog record.

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Ash Wednesday

Image

It is a new day in the church.

No, I am not talking about Christology or Pnematology, high church or  low church, or even wafer or real bread . . .  I am talking about the age-old question, “Hey Father Stan, is that dirt on your forehead?”  For years, I have known this question was coming on Ash Wednesday and I am always prepared with an age appropriate response, trying, in 25 words or less, to convey the full content of our salvation history, church calendar, and this ancient liturgical practice to the person who asks {Sidebar: I prefer this question  come from children; they are always more willing to accept the ambiguity of my compact response}.   Without fail, each year it comes and each year I am ready.

It is a new day.

This morning, I led 3 and 4 year-old chapel at our school.   Chapel followed soon after the early morning Ash Wednesday liturgy, so, of course, I had ashes in the shape of a cross on my forehead.  One of the teachers asked me if I was ready to explain the ashes.  With great confidence and the certain knowledge of my past competency in this matter, I replied, “If asked, I am ready!”

I didn’t have to wait long . . .

“Hey Fr. Stan,” the cute little girl with curly auburn hair, freckles,  a brightly colored smock, and stripped leggings called out, “is that a tattoo on your forehead?”

—-long pause—-

Not the question I was prepared to answer.  It is a new day.

Next year, I will be prepared, “Yes, let me tell you about chrismation and the “tattoo” that shows up once a year”

(note: I was asked about the ashes on my forehead three separate times as I visited with children at chapel this morning.  All three times they wondered, “Is that a tattoo?”  It is a new day!)

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In the beginning . . .

I am told it is essential for me to have a presence in the blogosphere.  I am told it is necessary for people, at least certain people who for whatever unlikely reasons have an interest in my thoughts or opinions, to have free access to my ruminations.  Truthfully, despite what I am told, I find this a highly unlikely proposition.  However, I am willing to entertain the possibility this exercise may be fruitful in ways yet undefined and unanticipated.  If, along the way, someone finds something of curiosity or interest in my journey, I am glad to freely share.   Thus, I blog.

For a beginning, I share a favorite poem and a brief reflection on a parable, each contributing essentially to the substrate from which I move forward in this endeavor.

First a poem by David Whyte.  I offer no commentary; it stands on its own.   I only suggest you read it indulgently as Whyte would, slowly, in short phrases, repeated, until the words penetrate.

new moon

FAITH

I want to write about faith,

about the way the moon rises

over cold snow, night after night,

faithful even as it fades from fullness,

slowly becoming that last curving and

impossible sliver of light before the final darkness.

But I have no faith myself

I refuse it even the smallest entry.

Let this then, my small poem,

like a new moon, slender and barely open,

be the first prayer that opens me to faith.

Second: the parable of the five loaves and two fish from the Synoptic Gospels.  I carry a small cross in my pocket.   On it, the loaves and fishes of this parable are embossed.  No matter the circumstance or challenge, no matter the seeming impossibility of the moment, no matter my own sense of inadequacy, I touch this icon and know the faith gifted me by God, even though it appears to me a mere sliver like a new moon, is enough.

What I offer is what I have, it is enough for now . . .

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