A Miracle in Cana

 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

This Daily Cup is a thank you to the many parishioners of St. Alban’s parish who regularly contribute to Water-into Wine.  We started “water-into-wine” as a means to collect free-will offerings for various causes from parishioners.  IMG_8081From a specifically theological and sacramental perspective turning water into wine is a matter of ordinary things taking on extraordinary value.  It’s the miracle at Cana.  Pairs of socks and underwear sitting on a shelf at Target are ordinary things.  IMG_8152But when someone buys them, puts them in their car and then brings them to church and puts them into the bins marked “Water-into-Wine” so that they can be collected and distributed to poor children at a public elementary school… they become extraordinary.

The same is true for the diapers, formula and baby wipes that were given in abundance when the Water-into-Wine initiative was focused on turning the ordinary into the extraordinary for homeless infants in Washington, DC.  Or when we collected work boots so that releasees from the DC jail could have appropriate shoes to find employment.  Or when our youth sort and bag loads of donated toiletries for that same population.  Or when parishioners purchased and donated medical supplies for EBOLA relief.  Or when…  Right now I’m hearing Matthew 25:  Lord when was it that we saw you naked and gave you clothing, were hungry and gave you food, in prison and visited you?  To which the Lord replies, “Truly I tell you just as you did it to the least of these in my kingdom you do so to me…”

As was recently posted on St. Alban’s Facebook page, during the first three months of 2015, our St. Alban’s family filled the Water-into-Wine bins with 180 boxes of Macaroni and cheese , 55 boxes of pasta and 304 assorted canned goods , including soup, tuna, vegetables and pasta sauce.
photo-1This food is given to the homeless and unemployed people served by Samaritan Ministry. Our first quarter contributions amount to approximately 150 shopping bags of non perishable food given to Samaritan Ministry participants… a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over!

Thank you, everyone.  For your miracle at Cana.  For turning water into wine.  The measure you give will be the measure you get back, thanks be to God.

Happy Monday and Holy Week,

Jim+

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Word of The Day: Gifts

Gifts

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13  Feast of Charles Henry Brent, Bishop of the Philippines, and of Western New York, 1929

moonrise-kingdom

 

 

In the movie, Moonrise Kingdom, one of the main characters carries a pair of binoculars with her every place she goes.  She says the binoculars are her “special power.”  Each of us has been given our own, unique, personalized set of gifts by God, our own customized special powers.  These gifts are to be put to good use, developed and honed for one reason says the author of Ephesians: “…for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12b)  These opportunities to use our God-given gifts for “building up” happen every day, probably many times a day if we pay attention.  But like all gifts or special powers, we can use our gifts for good, or ill.  The gift of sarcasm can add humor and light or can cause humiliation and pain.  We can choose to either diminish or build up the body of Christ with our set of gifts.  Take a moment today and make a list of all of the special gifts you have been given by God.  My guess is that when you’re finished you will have quite a list.  Carry the list with you, like the binoculars of the movie’s main character.  Over the course of the next week, notice when you have used your gifts…were they for the building up of the body of Christ?  See if there are gifts you’ve been given that you aren’t using or that you didn’t use the previous week.  Notice the people in your life that help you to more readily use your gifts, or encourage you to use your special powers.  How could you employ them more often going forward?  How can you better use your gifts to the building up of the body of Christ?

 

With God’s Peace,

Matthewfirst

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I sat down under his shadow

Music lost a great champion this week with the death of Norman Scribner, who served St. Alban’s as Music Director for 47 years, as well as being the founder and long-time conductor of The Choral Arts Society of Washington. Yesterday’s Washington Post carried his obituary, and having known Norman for nearly 20 years, I couldn’t agree more with its closing paragraph, where the paper’s music critic was quoted from a review of his final concert with the Choral Arts Society in 2012: Scribner is one of music’s most devout acolytes. He takes it exactly as it is. He venerates [music] but does not pontificate; …[he] conducted as if he wanted to stand aside and give the music center stage. The writer captured the essence of the man in those few words – his humility and his unfailing sense of servant-hood.  To music.  To his family.  To God.

What I know is that Norman saw music as a gift from God, that music and his faith were interwoven in ways that often took me by surprise. His single-minded focus on getting it right – zeroing in on a problem and fixing it – was one of the ways he demonstrated to me his clarity about music as God’s gift to us, a gift worth taking seriously and treating with utmost care and respect.

So many pieces of music come to mind when thinking about Norman – Brahms’ Requiem, Bernstein’s Mass, Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, Haydn’s Creation (he considered Haydn to be the finest composer, so he told me). I’m sure there will concerts dedicated to his memory that include one or more of these great works. But my memory of Norman is tied up with the quiet moments before communion at St. Alban’s, when the choir sings a brief, intimate piece that invites people in to a few minutes of contemplative preparation for the Sacrament. Here is one of his favorites: I sat down under his shadow by Edward Bairstow.

I sat down under his shadow with great delight
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

He brought me to the banqueting house
and his banner over me was love.
                            — Song of Songs 2:3b-4

You were always aware that you sat in God’s shadow, Norman, and you took great delight in doing so. May His healing hands be on your beloved family now, and on all of us that mourn your passing from this life to the next.

SonyaFirst004

 

 

The service at St. Alban’s on Sunday, June 7 at 10:00 am will be celebrated in memory of Norman, honoring his many years of devotion to making music in the church.

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Annunciation

The-AnnunciationWhen I was in high school, my family friends, whom I’ll call the Stephensons, learned that they were going to have a child. The pregnancy was not only unexpected, but late: their other two children were almost finished with high school. The Stephensons were quite worried about how to tell their nearly-grown sons that they were going to have a sibling, so they plotted out an elaborate speech. When the boys were sitting in front of them, however, it all flew out of their minds, and Mrs. Stephenson blurted out, “I’m pregnant, so you two are going to have to share a room, and the dog’s got to go.”

Their older son had hiccups for two weeks.

How do you tell good news? How do you tell news that is deeply ambivalent? Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel, whose name means “God is my UnknownStrength,” comes to the Virgin Mary and shatters her life with the news that she has been chosen to bear a son to God Most High. And Mary gasps a bit, and temporizes, asking, “How can this be, since I have not known a man?” And Gabriel explains that she will be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, and Mary thinks and bows her head and consents — perhaps the most important “yes” in all of time.

Looking at the images artists have rendered, what strikes me is the preternatural calm with which they infuse the scene. If someone came and told me I was pregnant, just out of the blue, I would not be calm. I would feel shock, rage, terror, anguish, fear, hope — so many emotions all at once that the complexity might well make me speechless. And yet, the artists show Mary as clothed in tranquility.

Perhaps they are looking backward from the point of view of that “yes.” There is a time in each our lives (and often more than one) when what seems to be our destiny finds us, and we stand still in wonder and in fear, knowing that if we decline this moment, our true life will elude us forever.

Perhaps that is the point of all our practices: to make us ready, just that one time, to rooftop-annunciation-three-caroline-jennings-spring up and run in the direction of the person God is asking us to be, all those times of petty practice, the numbing repetition, shaping the courage in our hearts for the time we really need it, giving us grace to speak Mary’s “yes,” even when the one who is asking is God Most High.

Adrienne Rich writes,

No one ever told us we had to study our lives,

Make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history

or music, that we should begin

with the simple exercises first

and slowly go on trying

the hard ones, practicing till strength

and accuracy become one with the daring

to leap into transcendence, take the chance

of breaking down in the wild arpeggio

or faulting the full sentence of the fugue. 

How would your life need to change for you to seize that daring, that courage, to consent that deeply?

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Healing Eucharist

Readers may recall my Cup of a few weeks ago about my discovery of the Episcopal Church by marrying one and the estrangement it caused from my Roman Catholic parents.  I’m happy to follow that up by assuring you that it didn’t last forever. A big factor in the eventual reconciliation was how Jonnie Sue handled it, with perfect genuine graciousness towards them.  But it was nonetheless a long time coming and took Pope John XXIII and Vatican II.  A defining moment happened at our first daughter’s wedding at St. Dunstan’s in McLean, Virginia.  My parents came from Houston for the occasion.

For a myriad of reasons that I don’t now recall I decided I wanted to be a participant in the service.  I don’t remember if I read the lessons, but I’ll never forget communion.  I wondered if they would participate at all in the service, but when the administration of communion came, they followed Jonnie Sue to the rail and received the chalice from my hand.  I think I could barely speak the words that accompany administering the chalice for fighting back the tears.  I think one of them, I suspect it was my mother, had earlier decided that it was pointless to keep fighting this now that we had three grown children, and her change of heart prevailed.  The communion was a reconciling moment.

“May the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for you, preserve your body and soul unto life everlasting life.  Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s blood was shed for you and be thankful.”

Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 24-March-2015.

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Untitled as of Yet

IMG_4921A couple of months ago while brainstorming our next creative retreat for St. Alban’s parish Sandy Wilson, Leo Coco and I were inspired to create a sculpture for the Easter Vigil.  The piece is untitled, as of yet, and also unfinished, but the inspiration came from reflecting on the Alpha Omega window in St. Alban’s Nourse Hall.

The sculpture is a 48″ diameter sphere fabricated from hammered copper wire. The next step in creating the piece is to add some internal structure from which individual copper leaves will hang at different levels from smaller copper wire. IMG_8192Each leaf will be stamped with the initials of individuals known by parishioners and friends of St. Alban’s. Those who, as The Book of Common Prayer so aptly commends, are “those we love but see no longer.”

The “bottom” of the sphere will hold a copper oil lamp and our hope is to light the lamp (rather, or along with, the liturgically awkward Weber grill) for the Lighting of the New Fire at the beginning of the Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 4th at 8pm.  The oil lamp will illuminate the stamped leaves inside the sphere and then the sphere will be “raised,” symbolizing our hope in the resurrection.  IMG_8141Once raised the sculpture will be illuminated with LED lights.  If you are a friend of St. Alban’s parish and you’d like the name of someone that you love but see no longer incorporated into this work of art e-mail me with the name of your loved ones:  jimq@stalbansdc.org and write Vigil Project in the subject line.  We’ll incorporate, as best we can, every name that we receive.

Just where will the piece hang?  Could someone steal it after it is hung?  IMG_8139And how will it be “raised?”  All good questions, and I dare say theological in nature…  apropos for Holy Week, too.  Pray for the artists!  And send the names of those you love but see no longer.

Happy Monday,

Jim+

p.s.  click on the pics to enlarge them… the lines and shadows under the light of God are pretty cool

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Word of the Day: Worry

Worry

Matthew 6:24-33 Feast of Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, 687

I try not to spend any time worrying about things.  That statement is a goal of mine, one that I have not yet achieved.  Let’s be honest, there’s plenty to worry about in our lives.  And, while we’re being honest, let’s admit that we’re probably even pretty good at this oft-practiced state of mind.  When we worry we show concern about an unknown outcome, and indeed worry is bred from uncertainty.  Jesus tells us not to worry about things–even the most basic and essential elements of our existence: our bodies, our lives, what we’ll eat or drink or wear.  Jesus goes on to say, “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:27)  Worrying is, in the end, a fruitless task and keeps us away from the truth that we are God’s beloved.  Our worry shows that we do not believe that we are so very precious, so loved, so important so special to God.  And God loves us unceasingly, even if we “are of little faith.” (Matthew 6:30).  What would happen if we gave our worries over to God?  What would happen if we said, “OK, God.  I am worried about_______, but I know that you love me, so I am going to give my worry over to you and I’m going to try to stop worrying.”  For today, do something different: prayerfully ask God to remove the worry and to find a solution for whatever we are worried about.  Let God handle our worry, and let us remember that we are so very loved by God.

 

In the name of Christ,

Matthewfirst

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