It was about fifteen minutes before the end of my shift as hospital chaplain on call when I was paged to the cardiac catheterization lab.
I’d never been to the cath lab before. It’s not a place chaplains usually have a reason to visit. Patients usually go there for a procedure, then go home, or back to their inpatient beds. As I answered the page I could hear the shock in the nurse’s voice as she told me what had happened. A man in his fifties—let’s call him James—had come in for a test. Things seemed to be going routinely, until they weren’t. Without any warning, his heart stopped. The team performed CPR, but despite their frantic efforts, James died there on the table. (more…)
That’s what Jesus hears over and over as he hangs there. “If you are the King of the Jews, come down!” “If you are the chosen one, save yourself!” “If you are the Messiah, save yourself and us!”
And it’s as if his story has come full circle, back to the beginning, after his baptism when he went out into the desert and faced his first test, when Satan tempted him with almost the very same words. “If you are the Son of God. . . .” Turn these stones into bread, to feed your hunger. Bow down to me, and become king of the world. Leap from the temple, and test the Lord your God.
In the beginning just as in the end, the temptation is the same. To misuse his power. To turn his divine authority to his own ends. (more…)
There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. Luke 21:11
We live in apocalyptic times. Let me explain what “apocalyptic” means. It is the opposite of the words of the song: “Don’t worry; be happy.”
Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note.
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy
But we do worry because we are threatened by the coming of “the Four horsemen of the apocalypse,” which are disease and war, famine and death. the gospels list the signs of tribulation as “great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”(more…)
It’s very human to want to escape mortality. To cheat the Reaper and live forever.
Sometimes quite literally. Maybe you’re familiar with the movement called cryonics in which people have their bodies frozen in hopes future technology will be able to bring them back to life one day. On the other end of the timeline, there are some biotech folks in Silicon Valley who are hoping to extend human lifespans to the point of never dying in the first place, at least not from old age. Now as Christians we might say that there’s a difference between endless life and eternal life. A life that’s just chronologically endless, and where you’re continually afraid of dying in an accident, might turn out to be a nightmare instead of a dream. (more…)
This past Thursday I was unpacking my car when I found myself drawn into the stories of the saints.
What my car was full of was, essentially, Incarnation’s go-bag. In the midst of the evacuations, several of us packed up sacred items, vestments, chalices, and historic records into our cars for safekeeping. For four days my car was filled to the top with boxes of service registers and parish archives, along with our jeweled brass processional cross, removed from its staff, safely cushioned in Abigail’s car seat.
We packed those items up in a hurry. But on Thursday, during the unloading, I couldn’t help but leaf through some of the old records. And there they were: names and narratives of the great cloud of witnesses whose prayers have soaked into these wooden walls around us for nearly a century and a half. (more…)
When I was a teenager I had a number of friends who were conservative Christians with a pretty literalist understanding of the Bible. They would often quote this verse, sometimes using the translation “God-breathed” where the translation we heard today uses “inspired by God.” Now the word in Greek can mean either one. But of course there’s a difference between believing scripture has been inspired by God, or perhaps breathed into by God’s spirit, and believing that it is breathed directly out of the mouth of God. And as a bit of a contrarian, I would sometimes point that out. I would also point out that it’s a circular argument to quote scripture to support your argument about the inerrancy of scripture. (more…)
“He makes his marvelous works to be remembered, the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.” Psalm 111:4
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The Leper’s Thank You
When I was a young girl my mother used to make me write thank you notes whenever I was given a gift. This was one of her “home training” rules (home training rules were designed to ensure that you had good manners). My mother wanted me to understand how important it was to be grateful that someone took the time to find something I would like, buy it, wrap it and give it to me. Thank you notes were to be written and mailed within the week. And, it took time to write those notes because it required thinking about what the gift meant to me and which words would best show my appreciation. I kept up this tradition for many years and I still hear my mother’s voice in my head if I do not send a thank you note when I should. (more…)
“If you had faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.”
I’m sure I’m not the only person in this room that has tried this a couple of times. So far without success. I remember hearing this passage as a child, or maybe one of its parallel passages in Matthew and Mark’s gospels where it’s not a tree but a mountain that’s thrown into the sea. And the impression I got was that getting a prayer answered was a matter of believing hard enough. Driving every possible iota of doubt or uncertainty out of one’s mind and holding it that way long enough to get the words out. (more…)
The Church of the Incarnation is an inclusive community of faith, following Jesus Christ as a parish of The Episcopal Church. We are a downtown urban church. We recognize that Christ has no body now on earth but ours, and we are committed to carrying out Christ’s charge to love one another through service, worship and prayer. Our abiding values are those expressed in our Baptismal Covenant with Jesus Christ, and those values guide us in our life of faith.
We believe that Christ calls us to strive for justice and peace among all people while respecting the dignity of every human being. While we are partners in God’s work throughout the world, we are called in particular to respond to the needs for both bodily and spiritual nourishment of the community where we live, work, and worship.
The Episcopal Church is a member of the global Anglican Communion which has a common root in the Church of England. Anglican churches follow a middle path between the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant denominations. The Episcopal Church includes diocese in the United States, Mexico, Central America, Ecuador and Taiwan.
Every Sunday beautiful flowers adorn our altar, arrangements created by our Altar Guild. If you would like the opportunity to contribute to our flower fund in thanksgiving for, in memory of, or in honor of a loved one, you may sign up for a specific Sunday, make a donation of $50 to the flower fund, and the name(s) of those you wish to honor will be printed in the bulletin for that Sunday. This is a lovely way to both support our flower ministry and remember or honor a loved one.
There are two ways to sign up for altar flowers:
Write your name on the flower chart in Farlander Hall and mail your check to the office or place in the collection plate. Make sure to write “flower donation” in the memo field. Send an email to the address below and say who your donation is for.
Come as you are to a service of lamentation where through prayer, quiet, and chant we will make our grief an offering to God, entrusting it to that divine love always at work in us and the world. The service will be followed by an opportunity to walk the labyrinth.
Officiant: The Rev. Patricia Moore
Musicians: Jean Farmer, Robin O’Brien
Labyrinth guide: Diane Schoenrock
There is so much to grieve—and often there seems to be no place for our grief in this season of preparation for Christmas. and its anticipated joy. And to be honest, some of us try to avoid our grief for fear that it will be too painful to bear. There are our personal losses: loved ones who have died, or moved away, losses and disruptions caused by fires, dreams unfulfilled, jobs lost, divorce or separation, the ache of family relationships, the list is long. And, then encircling those griefs, there is the pain of the earth, and there are the seemingly intractable divisions within our nation, and perhaps a sense that who we thought we were is not who we really are.
In truth, avoiding grief or closing it down, only leaves us numb, overwhelmed and apathetic. The path toward new life leads through grief—and our willingness to go there. Grief is a spiritual practice honored in our tradition. When we dare to embrace our grief, we find that underneath it is our love—our love for others, for life, and for the world itself.
Alas for those who are at ease in Zion, and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria. Amos 6:1
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Back in 1972 when we were married, my aunt gave us £30 which we spent on a Vango “Force 10” tent from Blacks of Greenock. I was glad to see that in a photo of one of the Everest expeditions they were using our tent. We spent our days off camping in different parts of Britain; we still have it, though we do not use it often. It protected us from hurricane winds and torrential downpours. On various occasions we hosted friends whose tents leaked, soaking their clothes and sleeping bags.
On a number of occasions I have been backpacking in the Sierra. I enjoy the sensation that I am carrying everything I need on my back far from civilization. Life becomes very simple. There’s nothing to do except hike to our next campsite. At night I hear the sound of the wind in the trees and I look up to see the stars and in August the Perseids (shooting stars). There are no shops to buy things–so there’s no point in having a credit card; and there’s no cell-phone coverage. Up above 10,000 feet the air is thin, the sky is blue, the lake water is clear and stocked with golden trout. (more…)
“There is no death, daughter. People die only when we forget them,” my mother explained shortly before she left me. “If you can remember me, I will be with you always.”
-Isabel Allende, Eva Luna
The urge to honor and remember is long and strong in the human spiritual story. From the ancient traditions of Hindu home shrines to Eastern Orthodox icons to Dia de los Muertos altars of Mexico, people through time and place and religion have created structures and images to remember and honor those we love and revere. To create a piece of art dedicated to a person or idea is to take the time to absorb, observe and remember-to put that person or concept foremost in our hearts and minds.
Join artist and teacher Lisa Thorpe in an afternoon of art and meditation and community building. Each person will make a decorative icon on a wooden plaque. Lisa will bring images of saints to use or you can bring photos of someone who has passed that you would like to honor. If you have been to this retreat many times before, we have some new offerings for you.
We will assemble a beautiful Dia de los Muertos altar in the church to share with the whole Incarnation community during the Harvest Party on October 27.
Adults and teens $35.00 – Includes all the materials needed to make one icon
Registration closes October 21, 2018. Space is limited; don’t wait to register!
What to bring:
You don’t have to bring anything. Everything will be provided to make one saint icon. However, if you would like to honor someone important to you—be they famous, family or friend—you are welcome to bring a photo or printed image. The boards we are using are 6×8 inches so you will want your image to be smaller than that to fit on the board and leave room for embellishment. Don’t bring anything you aren’t willing to glue down.
Lisa Thorpe is the Artist in Residence at The Bishop’s Ranch Retreat Center outside of Healdsburg. She has been making art and teaching to all ages for 30 years and loves merging art, spirit and community! Find out more about Lisa at her website and her blog:
Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate and learn about all the ministry groups here at Incarnation! Whether through prayer and worship, study and learning, community life, or action, there are dozens of ways to get involved, serve God and neighbor, and connect with others here. Ministry groups will be staffing tables after all three services. There will be fun, festivity, and maybe some surprises.
Check out our full Directory of Ministries, and fill out a Ministry Interest Form to let us know which ministry groups you’re interested in learning more about. You’re not making a commitment to join a group right now—you’re just expressing your desire to learn more. See you there!
According to the Oxford Dictionary, wealth is defined as, “an abundance of valuable possessions or money.” Its synonyms include affluence, prosperity, riches, substance, and well-being. A person’s understanding of how much wealth they have can be based on a comparison to what someone else has, otherwise known as keeping up with the Joneses. A sense of wealth can also be a measure of what possessions and money represent: status, having “made it,” “living large,” “buying what I want when I want it even if I don’t really need it cause I just want to have it syndrome.” (more…)
It’s a little silver Celtic cross I wear on a chain around my neck. My parents gave it to me when I was in the first grade. So the three years I’d been wearing it by then pale in comparison to the thirty-three years I’ve been wearing it now. But even then, it had been almost a third of my life.
My friends and I had taken to doing some wrestling at recess, in a wooded area of the schoolyard somewhat screened from interfering adult eyes. And mid-wrestle, I heard the jingle of a snapped chain and felt it slip from around my neck. I cried out, and my friends must have sensed my genuine distress, because the roughhousing stopped and we spent the rest of recess searching the leaf-strewn ground. To no avail. (more…)
It was 1862. It was wartime. But despite the Civil War, the new dome was still in progress on the U.S. Capitol building. The last piece was the great statue of Freedom for the top. It had been shipped from Italy in five sections and temporarily plastered together. But there was a problem. It was time to separate it again for the final casting, and no one knew how to get it apart. The seams were hidden by the plaster. One skilled laborer saved the day. He attached a pulley to the top and pulled up just enough until the seams began to show. The casting could proceed, and the statue stands atop the Capitol to this day.
That man’s name was Philip Reid. He was a black man. And he was a slave. Or rather, he was one of many, many enslaved people who provided the labor for the Capitol Building, most of whose names we don’t know.(more…)
I’m one of those rare people who have never watched an episode of the show Game of Thrones: all I know is context-free cultural references. But over the past eight years it’s been impossible not to hear about things like the Red Wedding, the White Walkers, dragons, armies, and a gripping mix of violence, intrigue, and high fantasy, all centered around the manipulations, alliances, and betrayals involved in jockeying for the right to sit on the Iron Throne.
Palace intrigue, jockeying for position: it’s a formula that seems to work for TV in general. It’s been at the heart of other recent series from The Tudors (set in 16th-century England) to House of Cards (set in modern-day Washington). The record-setting number of hirings and firings in the current presidential administration means we hear a lot about the game of power in real life too. It’s a game with lots of strategies. But false humility is often a good one. It pays to be visible, but not too visible. People in power don’t like to be outshined. You don’t want to overplay your hand. Better to bide your time, kiss up to the boss or king or president, and then bask in their praise when it comes your way. (more…)
That’s one of the Ten Commandments, either #3 or #4 depending on whose numbering system you use. They aren’t actually numbered in either of the two places they appear in Scripture, so Jews, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and other Protestants have all developed slightly different numbering systems.
Those two places are the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. And each one gives a different rationale for this commandment. Exodus says: “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy … for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.” So in Exodus the Sabbath is based on God’s own day of rest after the creation. Deuteronomy: “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy … (for) you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” So in Deuteronomy, the Sabbath is based on liberation: the day of rest is a sign that the people of Israel are no longer slaves who must work seven days a week, but the free people of God. (more…)
Fire! Ominous-sounding baptisms! Divisions among families! Threatening signs of social disaster!
Sometimes I fantasize about publishing an expurgated version of the Gospel. You can bet the section we just read wouldn’t be in it! In fact, I think most of us operate on a sort of mentally-expurgated version of the Bible, where the parts that threaten us most–or fit least well with our personal experience–just disappear.
Some of you know that my husband used to be the Protestant Chaplain at Napa State Hospital, a hospital for the criminally insane. I asked him whether he would preach on this passage to his mental patients, and he said, “Absolutely not! They need to hear about peace and love and forgiveness.” I knew he would say that. But I couldn’t help thinking, “Isn’t that what I need to hear, too? Isn’t it what all of us need to hear? Peace and love and forgiveness? Why do we have to deal with these nasty sayings of Jesus? And more to the point, what do I think about Jesus–and my commitment to Jesus–if he really said things like this?” (more…)
We welcome you to any and all services at The Church of the Incarnation. All who seek God in Christ are welcome to receive communion at God's Table.