℣ and ℟ are the symbols for “versiculum” (main composition) and “responsum” (refrain), and they are used in psalms, canticles (an example is found on p 97 of the Book of Common Prayer), and responsorial prayers. A versicle is the first half of a preces, said or sung by an officiant or cantor and answered with a said or sung response by the congregation or choir. One of the most familiar examples of this is, “Alleluia, Christ is risen.” answered by “The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia,” Their are other examples of this format scattered throughout our services. According to our Book of Common Prayer, psalms can by said or chanted in several formats. Direct recitation is the reading of a whole psalm in unison. Antiphonal recitation is the verse-by-verse alternation between groups, between the minister and the congregation, between the choir and the congregation, or between the two sides of the congregation concluding with the Gloria Patri. Responsorial recitation is chosen by some churches. In this format a refrain is first sung by a cantor and repeated by the congregation. The cantor then sings several verses from the psalm interspersed by a reprise of the refrain by the congregation.
~ Dr. Gil Haas
An ordinary is a church or civic authority who has “ordinary power” to execute laws. Such officers are found in hierarchically organized churches of Western Christianity. Diocesan bishops are ordinaries in the Episcopal Church. The term can also be used in outside the church, and in many southern states, the county ordinary issues marriage licenses and adjudicates claims. In the Episcopal Church, a person exercises power to govern either because the person holds an office to which Canon Law grants power (ordinary power) or because someone with governing power has delegated the power to that person (delegated power). Jesus originally gave ordinary power to bishops when He established Peter as the first bishop; diocesan bishops are successors to Peter and retain ordinary power within their dioceses. Episcopal Canons assist a Dean in a cathedral’s administration or a bishop in a diocese administration. The latter bears the title “Canon (assistant) to the Ordinary (the bishop).” Canons to the Ordinary oversee the ordination process and are involved with parish development. The title of Canon may also be honorary and is bestowed by cathedrals or bishops to clergy or laity who provide significant service. Fr. Tony Moon served as a Canon in our diocese.
~ Dr. Gil Haas
Let us pray
We come to you today in need of rest.
There is much in us that is restless.
There is much around us that brings anxiety and uneasiness.
Help us to receive your rest today.
Give us awareness of your presence.
Allow the truth of your love to fill our minds and hearts.
When I first read today’s epistle, I was both excited and petrified. Petrified because of the raw despair that is in it.
“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
How appropriate it seems that this lament is paired with the reading from Matthew which in ends asking us to share the vison of infants and includes a simple call, “Come to me”.
Many of you have heard the anguish in Paul’s voice before. You may have heard those words in your own voice.
My upbringing was such that I cringed every time I heard this passage. Keeping track of all the times I acted contrary to God’s call was for me a full-time job. still can be. To so clearly admit our inability to “get it right” is hard medicine to swallow. Try as we might, we fall short of living the life that Christ has called us to. It is a flat-out, honest acknowledgement by Paul of his short comings. And we have them too
We have failed to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
And yet, even as I reflect on this on a personal level, I wonder if there might be something else. Was Paul also addressing social failures? Was Paul addressing the collective sins of society? Was he commenting on our failure to look after each other, on the neglect of those in need?
Was he throwing light on the attitudes that were passed on, sometime unknowingly to our children? Do these unconscious biases become part of our automatic and unthinking response? Even if we do the things we hate? Society is often described as being greater than the sum of its parts. Is Paul asking us to address these ingrained “assumptions” too and how they impact our lives and the lives of others?
The news seems to give credence to this idea.
COVID, an organism 1/6 the size of a grain of sand, has changed the world. The spread of COVID continues unabated and expanding. What the future will look like remains a mystery. Yesterday, it was reported there have been almost 3 million US cases with over 135,000 deaths. And these numbers pale compared to the world impact in places like Spain, Brazil, and India.
Our ability to understand and embrace our interdependency on each other seems to have been lost. We have not acted as our brother’s keeper. We have not followed Christ.
And even more pressing: is the light that George Floyd’s death has cast upon the unspoken failures of our society to live up to it founding creed – that all men are created equal. This standard boldly celebrated yesterday does not ring true for all. There are other injustices too which need to be addressed. To be sure, it is a gift to be an American, to live in America. Democracy has been, is and always will be is a work in progress. We all play a part. But we need to ask, why are these issues a surprise? Why have we not seen this? I think Paul’s lament is asking ‘Why have we failed to see the light of Christ in each other”
As Paul says, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
But even as we listen to Paul’s challenging and troubling words, I find the reading from Mathew to be a perfect bookend.
… Jesus says in part, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants. … Come to me
Who do you think were “the wise and intelligent”? And why were things hidden from them but shared with infants. He says, in effect – you old guys just don’t get it. In this passage, Jesus tells us how to see, how to act and how to respond so that we will follow his example and bring heaven to earth.
Jesus asks us to see the world as a child.
So, what do little one have that adults have often lost?
First - Children have open minds.
The celebrated educator Maria Montessori declared that every young child has an “absorbent mind.” I took my 2-year-old granddaughter to Martin Nature Park a few weeks ago. What would have been a 20-minute walk for me became a 2 ½ hour trip of wonder. Looking, touching and looking. They don’t “know” the answer’s and are comfortable without them
Second, Children are honest and direct, they cut to the heart of the matter. They get to the deep issue and announce it with simplicity and candor. There aren’t any bushes to hide behind.
And third, children live by trust.
Most endearing is a child’s sense of trust. I see it when my granddaughter jumps out of her chair. She trusts that I will catch her. You can see this in her clear eyes.
We cannot hope to understand God’s call to us without the clear eyes of a child.
The hope for us today is in the last part of reading from Matthew. It is laid out for the Paul’s of the world , for us.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
I often find myself ill at ease, anxious and worried.
When I discover that am not listening, I am not coming to Jesus.
If I am not experiencing the rest Jesus promised, it is not because He is no longer present, but because I am no longer coming to receive it.
I have lost the eyes of a child.
We need to see with the clear eyes of a child, we need
to be open,
to be direct
to Trust in God
~Deacon Intern Todd Olberding
The lit red sanctuary lamp in front of the ambry reminds us of Christ’s reserved sacramental body and blood (by tradition, the sacrament was reserved for the sick who for “weighty cause” could not be present at communion). To honor this “presence”, many parishioners perform a reverence when entering or leaving their pew, although no action is required by the Book of Common Prayer. Tradition suggests that if the reserved sacrament is not present, a profound bow to the altar and cross is an appropriate reverence. A profound bow is performed by bending the body at the waist so that the knees could be touched. Tradition also suggests that in the presence of the reserved sacrament, a genuflection is performed upon entering or leaving your pew to acknowledge Christ’s presence in the reserved sacrament. A genuflection is accomplished by touching the ground with the right knee where the right foot was located and then rising upright while making the sign of the cross as you rise. A genuflection to one’s monarch or bishop (i.e. a “human” and not God) is accomplished by genuflecting on the person’s left knee - for instance, when the bishop passes in procession.
~Dr. Gil Haas
In 1940, on the 251st anniversary of the ratification of Episcopal church’s Constitution, Canons, and the first Book of Common Prayer, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church adopted an official flag and seal. The flag was designed by William Baldwin, a member of the Cathedral of the Incarnation on Long Island, NY. The white field represents the purity of the Christian religion. The red cross represents the sacrifices of Jesus and Christian martyrs. The red cross on a white field is the cross of St. George, the patron saint of England, indicating our affiliation with the Church of England. The “Madonna Blue” field in the upper left hand corner represents Christ’s human nature which He received from His mother. The nine white crosslets on the blue field represent the original nine dioceses of the Episcopal Church when it was founded in 1789. The nine crosslets are arranged in the form of St. Andrew’s cross, the patron saint of Scotland, commemorating that Samuel Seabury, the first American bishop, was consecrated there in 1784. The red, white, and blue colors represent the United States as the American branch of the Anglican Communion. The same design is used in our Episcopal seal.
~ Dr. Gil Haas
“Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Happy Pride Sunday! Again, such an honor to be here. It’s wild that I grew up here but never could I ever imagine as a young queer kid how church could ever be a safe or welcoming space for me. Or people like me. Can I just say real quick, PRAISE GOD FOR PLACES LIKE ST. AUGUSTINE’S! YA’LL ARE SAVING QUEER KIDS LIVES. AND THIS IS GOD’S WORK YA’LL. THIS IS KINGDOM WORK YA’LL ARE DOING OUT HERE. YES. IT. IS. CAN I GET AN AMEN?!
The gospel reading is pointed, isn't it? Jesus gives us the powerful and rich mystical truth of radical hospitality that shatters all cultural and social norms. Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me, he says. And whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me.
Jesus gets at the basic truth of our theological anthropology here, that we are made in god’s image and when we welcome others we welcome God into our lives. Now this is a different kind of understanding of what it means to welcome. It’s an opening to a radical hospitality.
Jesus’ definition of welcome directly includes interacting with the Holy. Before we dive deeper into Jesus’ definition let’s think about what it means to welcome. What do you think about when you think about being welcomed?
Feeling at home? Feeling safe? Loved? Acknowledged? Seen? Heard? How about a warm and fuzzy? All of this makes up that beautiful word - welcome. I firmly believe this is why we chose the rainbow flag to be our flag, like who is offended or scared of rainbows? They are like God’s smiley face in nature! But that’s the point of such a symbol for the queers, we just want you to feel all the love and the warmth in the world ya’ll! And have you ever been around a group of queers? I know this Church loves itself a Pride Parade, Come on! But oh how joyful and beautiful and diverse WE ARE. Made it God’s glorious diversity.
Indeed, all gender identities, sexual orientations and human bodies are GOOD, A GIFT FROM GOD.
So Jesus knows this already and he is pointing us to this theological truth here again. When you welcome these folks, the least of these, the littles ones, he says - YOU ARE WELCOMING ME. Can’t you see folks, God is in all created order, every living thing. Even in the folks that you despise or find odd or make you uncomfortable by the way they look or perform their gender. And by the way there is a difference between discomfort and danger.
Our baptismal covenant reminds us that we are to respect and honor the dignity of every human being. This is what makes us Christians. This Christ-like attitude and way of seeing the world is what Christ always brings us back to - because it’s really damn hard. Because seeing the world as Christ does WILL MAKE US UNCOMFORTABLE. It forces us to look at ourselves and our own garbage we bring to relationships!
For example, It says more about YOU if YOU find a same-sex couple holding hands off putting. It says more about YOU if you can’t use they/them pronouns when someone asked you to! That’s your problem. Not theirs. God made that couple GOOD. God made gender queer and trans folk GOOD. WE have to do the inner work of stripping down our cultural and social assumptions and the stories our egos tell ourselves to really be able to see as God sees. This isn’t easy work. (We will get more into this later)
Another part of welcoming someone and making them feel seen and comfortable and all those words we mentioned earlier, is to actually know them! Know them well enough to know what would make them feel those feelings! Right?
You can’t tell a trans man he’s gotta use a woman’s bathroom just because YOU are confused and uncomfortable. This isn’t meeting someone with God’s love. This is meeting someone with fear. Have you ever talked to a trans person? Like really had a conversation with one of these beautiful souls? Read a book about them from their perspective? Watched a movie? I’d highly recommend Disclosure, which is Laverne Cox’s new documentary made with an all trans cast exploring the ways in which trans folks have been portrayed in film and television throughout American history.
It will take your breath away.
You see Jesus is asking us to essentially put ourselves in another’s shoes.
One of my favorite intellectuals and Black social activist, Rachel Cargle, insists that true allyship contains three movements - knowledge, empathy and action. I really think this resonates deeply with what Jesus is doing here. In order to welcome someone as God would, we must learn about God’s people in all their diversity - we must consider their perspective putting it over and above our own, lift it up as valid - and those feelings God gives us from loving God’s people without our baggage is what allows us to be transformed and act on behalf of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in the world.
Let me paint a picture of these movements for you.
A good friend and colleague of mine from Casady sat me down in his office a couple weeks ago and shut the door and told me he had been wanting to speak to me about something very personal. His college age son just came out as gay to him and the immediate family. And with tears in his eyes he said, “Sarah, as a gay woman that holds herself with such grace and strength, how do I support my son so that he turns out to be like you?” Okay so now I’m crying, we are both crying! “What a beautiful, honest question,” I said.
I said this is the first part, friend. You got over yourself and whatever garbage you have in between you and your feelings about this and made it first and foremost about your son! Because this IS what this is about. Your son just disclosed something so intimate and personal to you in complete and utter vulnerability in hopes that you would love him. And then you said “of course I love you, son, I’ll always love you, now how can I support you?” Ya’ll how beautiful is that!? Really?? I wish every queer kid had that reaction from their parents. We’d have a lot less pain and suffering in the world that’s for sure.
But my answer besides naming the movement he made in his heart to love his son first, was BE A PART OF HIS LIFE! ASK HIM QUESTIONS! ASK HIM ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCE! I don’t know why this part people seem to suck at so bad or why it is so frightening to treat LGBTQ folks as NORMAL HUMANS, GOOD HUMANS MADE BY GOD, IN GOD’S IMAGE! If it is normal for you to ask a straight person about their love life then why on earth aren’t you asking about your gay friend or daughter’s love life!?
Silence is violence. It severs vulnerability and authenticity in relationships and allows one person to hold all the power. It erases one person’s experience altogether. Silence erases queer stories and queer lives. Again, put yourself in my shoes. How would you feel if someone never asked you about your life? Your love? Your hopes and dreams? What if you couldn’t put a picture of your family on your desk at work for fear that you would get fired for who you love? How would you feel if people kept calling you the wrong name? If people kept assuming you dated men? It’s not just annoying, it’s exhausting and it completely shuts off the ability for God to work in and through our relationship.
Because when you refuse to see me, love me, receive me and welcome me with open arms like God does then YOU ARE REFUSING GOD.
If you refuse me, you refuse God. I’m gonna let that sit for a minute.
At the end of this gospel passage, Jesus promises reward for those who welcome him and others as God would welcome. And I don’t think it's the reward we have been trained in our evangelical culture to think it is. If we think of this as eternal life in heaven I think we’ve missed the point of this axiom.
The reward is more LOVE.
The reward is knowing God more through one another. That is more LOVE.
God’s LOVE is transformative. God’s LOVE Heals. God’s LOVE defies all our garbage, all of our dualistic categories and political affiliations. God’s LOVE is that whole milk that nourishes our souls and our hearts so that we don’t have to hate each other anymore. It’s a feeling of wholeness and peace that makes us stop caring about the divisive ways of this world and start loving one another, seeing one another and welcoming one another as Christ loved us first.
Now... let’s go Dance together, It’s Pride Month!!
~ Sarah E. Smith
In Christianity’s earliest days, every community had its own bishop. The bishop, assisted by presbyters (priests) and deacons, presided at Eucharist. At each Easter Vigil, the bishop would baptize, anoint with oil in the sign of the cross, and lay his hands upon the white-robed catechumens who had undergone a year of instruction preceding this event. As Christian communities multiplied in number, a bishop became responsible for several communities. Because a bishop could not be present at each baptismal celebration, priests assumed the responsibility for baptism. Subsequently, the bishop would anoint and lay his hands upon the baptized to “confirm” the baptism performed by the priest. In this paradigm, a bishop’s confirmation of a priest’s baptism had nothing to do with a reaffirmation of personal commitment. As the Church evolved, the perception of confirmation changed radically. Today, confirmation is perceived as an individual’s affirmation of their faith, and an individual’s baptism by any person is sufficient. In early times, catechumens were asked to leave before Eucharist was celebrated. Our current canons do not require a person to be confirmed to receive Eucharist. However in 2012 our national church rejected a resolution removing the requirement for baptism.
~Dr. Gil Haas
In Exodus, God instructs Moses to place one “omer” of manna in a jar “for your generations”. This jar of manna was placed before the Tabernacle for the next 40 years until the Israelites arrived at Canaan. An omer is a volume unit for grains, and the writer of Exodus explains that it is one tenth of an ephah. An ephah was defined as being 72 “logs”, and a log was equal to the Sumerian “mina” which is one sixtieth of a “maris”. The latter is the quantity of water equal in weight to a light royal talent; i.e., about the size of an average amphora or jar (around 30.3 liters). This makes the omer equal to about 3.64 liters. The omer does not fit well with the remainder of the ancient Jewish measuring system, as it constitutes 0.32 se’ah. A se’ah contained a volume which could be filled with 144 eggs. A mikvah, which is a ritual bath used for ritual cleansing after an impure incident contained 40 se’ah so that all parts of a person was covered. We should be grateful in our local Homeland’s produce section that we are not shopping in ancient Israel.
~Dr. Gil Haas
Excerpts from a Sermon Delivered on
The Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 21, 2020
The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
“His Eye is on the Sparrow”
At the 86th Annual Academy Awards, the movie— 20 Feet From Stardom won the Oscar for best documentary feature film. The movie honors the unknown musicians who sang backup vocals for Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, U2, and many other stars.
Many of these backup singers were African-American women who grew up in church. Many of them had fathers who were pastors — like Darlene Love. Love, who is featured prominently in 20 Feet From Stardom and accepted the Oscar on behalf of the film. She wasted no time in her acceptance speech to Hollywood's glitterati: "Lord God, I praise you, and I am so happy to be here representing the ladies of 'Twenty Feet From Stardom.'"
She then burst into an enthusiastic rendition of one of the most famous gospel hymns ever: "I sing because I'm happy, / I sing because I'm free, / His eye is on the sparrow, / And I know he watches me."
The song comes from the words of Jesus in this week's gospel.
That's the message of this week's gospel "Don't be afraid."
It has been said, that particular phrase is used over 70 times in the entire bible.
"Don't be afraid," "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father."
Don't be afraid, for God sees and hears. He knows.
This is also the message from this week's reading from the Hebrew Scriptures.
Here we recall the rich family saga of Abraham and Sarah, the patriarch/matriarch of Israel, the founding couple of the people of YHWH.
After God promised Abraham a progeny with his wife Sarah in Genesis 15, they laughed in disbelief, then took matters into their own hands. This is a story that we sweep under the rug. This the skeleton that we relegate to the dark corner in the back closet.
Predictably, the pregnancy provoked Sarah's acrimony and jealousy. Sarah abuses and demeans her slave-girl. I can imagine that during their “Pillow Talk” Sarah told Abraham that we have an “uppity slave and you have to do something about it.” Abraham being the upstanding man that he is responds, “Whatever you say, honey. The slave-girl is yours. You take care the problem” So, wonder of wonders Hagar hits the bricks and flees like a runaway slave. Who could blame her? She goes not just around corner, but escapes into the yellow hot sands of the desert towards Egypt.
It is there, in the searing heat, that the angel of God found Hagar in the desert.
The child to be born would bear a special name. "You shall name him Ishmael," said the angel, which in Hebrew means "God hears me," for "the Lord has heard of your misery."
Hagar then "gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: You are El roi 'You are the Living One who sees me.' Beer Lahai Roi: " In a delightful play on words, Hagar exclaims, "I have seen the One who sees me."
Fast forward fifteen years to Genesis 21, which back tracks to the story of Ishmael.
One day, Sarah sees Ishmael "playing," with Isaac, and she cannot stand his very existence.
So once again, Sarah demands that Abraham banish Hagar and Ishmael. “Throw out that child and her slave mother, too."
Abraham gives Hagar a bit of bread and water and drives her and her child, Ishmael, out of the camp, dooming them to a terrible death in the desert.
Too easily any one of us may forget our own origins, may assume that we are far grander than we in fact are, and may begin to treat others as slaves and lesser beings.
Wandering in the desert of Beersheba, Hagar’s waterskins empty, she can’t bear to see Ishmael, the child she loves and bore, die in front of her eyes. So, she " began to sob" with the love of a mother for her child.
Then, from out of the ground, a well springing forth with water, a gift of God appears and saves the lives of Hagar and Ishmael.
Such an old story, and yet how current it finally is, offering a lesson that we still have yet to learn.
God is not deaf, dumb or blind or banal. He's not implacable or impassible, without feeling or emotion. He's not an absentee landlord deity or forgetful father.
God is infinite, but the story of Ishmael and the words of Jesus remind us that he's also intimate.
~ Fr. Joseph C. Alsay
The Feast of Corpus Christi is not found on the Episcopal calendar. The feast commemorates the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus on Maundy Thursday. The establishment of the feast resulted from many years of work by a Belgium canoness, Juliana of Liege. She experienced a vision of the moon with one dark spot on it which she interpreted as signifying the absence of a feast honoring Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. When this vision was relayed to her bishop, he celebrated the first Feast of Corpus Christi in 1229. Thomas Aquinas wrote our hymn 320 for this feast’s gospel hymn, and he wrote our hymns 329-331 for its vespers. This feast’s mass often includes a procession of the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance which is used in a special blessing of the congregation in a service called Benediction. In addition, many children receive their first communion on the Feast of Corpus Christi. On this day in 1519, Spanish explorer Alvarez de Pineda discovered a semi-tropical bay in what is now southern Texas. He named the city Corpus Christi in the Feast’s honor.
~ Dr. Gil Haas