Maundy Thursday 2014

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“ALMIGHTY Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of his Body and Blood; Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him, who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal; the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.”

 – Collect for Maundy Thursday, 1979 Book of Common Prayer


 

REFLECTION

Maundy Thursday (or Holy Thursday as my Roman Catholic brethren call it) is the day of the maundy (foot washing) and the Last Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ, before the crucifixion and resurrection. Some churches practice one or the other and sometimes both rituals on this day.

I remember the first time I participated in the foot washing ritual. I was a student at Boston College participating in a service trip to Mexico. We spent a long day working on a house for a family. The Jesuit priest, who was our trip leader, began to explain what the foot washing ritual was. My colleagues were all Roman Catholic and were well aware. I was a Baptist at the time and had no clue. I knew the scripture reference, but was confused as to the nature of the ritual.

When the priest brought out the large bowl, I decided to make sure I sat next to an attractive woman, in order to wash her feet. I was 20-years-old at the time and preferred my foot washing experience to be enhanced by pretty, manicured, feminine feet. Yes, this is quite shallow, and in many ways, I was a shallow Christian at the time.

When large bowl made its rounds, I began to get a little nervous of having a woman wash my feet. It felt a little too intimate. I remembered that the only person who had touched my feet was my mom when I was child. She would tickle my feet. The time came, and I took off my shoe and my sock. I placed my foot into the bowl and felt the lukewarm water. I then felt the hand of the young lady grab my heel and with her other hand, scoop the water onto the top of my foot.

I immediately felt, as much as I could, the feeling that the disciples felt; uncomfortable, and unworthy. I started to picture Jesus washing my feet. I wanted to jerk my foot back because of these feelings, but I endured. I started to reflect on what just happened, then I remembered, it was my turn to wash feet.

As I grabbed the bowl and turned to face the next woman, I still had those feelings of uncomfortableness, confusion and worthlessness. I decided that I was going to clean this woman’s foot as best as I could, because of the feelings that I experienced. I gently grabbed her heel, and with my free hand, I scooped water onto her foot several times. I took my time in drying her foot. A small part of me wondered if she thought I had some sort of foot fetish. But I think she knew I was genuine. I remember when the foot washing ritual ended, and the we concluded with the Eucharist, I thanked God for the opportunity to participate in such a powerful ritual.

Since that moment, I participated in various foot washing ceremonies. Some of the ceremonies corresponded with Maundy Thursday (in the historical churches), and others did not (free churches, during revivals and such). Each and every time I think about the type of servant leader that Jesus of Nazareth was. How He, as the Lord, decided to psychically take care of his brothers, his flock. I can only hope and pray, that I can show a fraction of the level of love and care for my brothers and my flock.

 – Fr. JMH

Holy Week 2014

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Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the
human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to
take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross,
giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant
that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share
in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.”

 – Collect for Palm Sunday. Book of Common Prayer, 1979

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REFLECTION

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. The sermon I preached (located in the media section) addressed some of the generational gaps in our society and how Christians from different generations interpret Holy Week or Passiontide. In the end, the purpose of Holy is for us, as Christians, to not only celebrate Easter, but to also remember the happiness that was Palm Sunday, the sadness that was Maundy Thursday, and the sorrowful despair that was Good Friday. All too often we skip Holy Week and jump straight to Easter. We sometimes regulate Easter to mean the bunny and eggs. It is to the point where some Christians do not refer to Christ’s rising again as Easter, but rather “Resurrection Sunday.” I find this to be sad.

It is sad because we, as Christians, have allowed someone else to determine who we are. I had a conversation with a Jewish colleague of mine. He is preparing for the Passover Seder this evening. He was lamenting on the attitudes of some of his Jewish congregants. He relayed the following story to me:

I (my buddy) asked him (his colleague) when he travels, because he flies everywhere, does he go into the cockpit and speak to the captain of the plane? He says no. I then say, ‘Oh, you mean you don’t go into the cockpit, look around the area, inspect everything, question the pilot to make sure he know what he is doing?’ He starts looking at me confused. I then say ‘So you assume he know what he’s doing, right? Because he is the pilot? You trust him enough not to ask any questions, but you don’t trust the minister, the priest or the rabbi about matters of God? Matter of fact, you don’t trust God about matters of life? You sit there and say ‘Oh, I need proof, I need to see it for myself’ when it comes to God and matters of God, but you don’t need proof from the captain, who is flying this plane, with your life in him hands?’ This is the problem with all our religions, its man made chaos because man does not want to serve God, they want God to serve them, and what they want. They see God as their servant. They ignore the fact that they have an obligation to serve God.

 

After my buddy finished, I began to think about associates I know who do the same thing. They take God and mold Him to their own instruments. I recently heard a story of a guy (new or rededicated Christian, no denomination specified) telling his friend, that God didn’t call said friend to their current occupation because it wasn’t confirmed by “a pastor”, despite the fact that the friend spoke to me, a priest. The guy did not know the difference or rather similarities between a pastor and a priest. I suspect that the guy just wanted to use his false sense of righteousness to spiritually beat up and bully his friend by telling him that he is less than. This is sickening. This is what is harming the Christian Church.

On the flip-side, we have those Christians who are afraid to stand up and defend the faith because they are afraid of hurting someone’s (usually one who can care less of the faith) feelings. They will downplay the fact that the sins that Christ died for, are the same sins that we commit day in and day out. They will not address the fact that we are no better than St. Peter, who denied Christ three times. All of this will be negated because of the fear of being called judgmental by someone who has their own agenda against the church.

During Holy Week, I urge you to fight the temptation to use God as your personal instrument of destruction. I know it may seemed a little far fetched but it is the reality of the situation. During Holy Week, many people who do not attend church throughout the year show up to services, much to the chagrin to the faithful that attend weekly. This can cause a sense of anger and even resentment from the faithful. I urge you to show love to them, especially since they rarely attend church for whatever reason. Show them the same love, that God the Father showed to us this time, over 2000 years ago.

I also urge you to hold steadfast to the faith. Do not condone the ungodly behavior of friends and loved ones, or allow the watering down of scripture just to not appear judgmental. In the end, you are doing them a disservice by allowing them to live a life that is contrary to what God wants.

 – JMH+

Fr. Absalom Jones, Priest, 1818 (13 FEB)

Fr. Absalom Jones

Fr. Absalom Jones

Set us free, heavenly Father, from every bond of prejudice and fear; that, honoring the steadfast courage of your servant Absalom Jones, we may show forth in our lives the reconciling love and true freedom of the children of God, which you have given us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.   Amen.

 – Collect from Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 2003

REFLECTION

I first heard of Fr. Jones a few years ago during the beginning stages of my journey on the Canterbury Trail. I began researching the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and read about Bishop Richard Allen. This research then lead me to Fr. Absalom Jones. Fr. Jones’ story is an amazing one. Being born a slave, then obtaining his freedom, earning an income so he can buy his wife’s freedom is an amazing feat.

Fr. Jones, along with Bishop Allen were initially Methodist ministers in Pennsylvania at St. George’s Methodist Church. When I visited the church, the following story was relayed to me:

The church was segregated. Allen and Jones were the pastors of the Black congregation and held services at a different time slot. If there was a joint service between the Black and White congregations, the Blacks would sit in the balcony. One day, while the church was empty except for the church secretary, Jones and Allen both walked down the isle and prayed at the altar. The content of their prayer is speculated but some suggest that it was due to the racism that they were facing at that time and their next steps as clergy caring for the flock entrusted to them. In the midst of their prayer, the church secretary came running down the isle demanding them not to pray at the altar and “ordering” them never to to do, even if the church is empty. That was the end of both Jones’ and Allen’s affiliation with the Methodist Church.

I’m not sure how true this account is. I’m inclined to believe it more so due to the source, a Philadelphian church historian. Regardless, the rest is history. Richard Allen went on to establish the AME Church. Fr. Absalom Jones went on to find the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. Afterwards, he and his congregation join the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States (The Episcopal Church). St. Thomas was the first Black church in Philedelphia.

Fr. Jones is an inspiration to many Black priests, ministers, and elders. A new colleague of mine who is Episcopalian (and preached a really good sermon on Fr. Jones last Sunday night) and I may have differences of theological opinion, but the one thing we do agree on, is the place of Fr. Jones in the history of Black clergy. Fr. Jones should be a inspiration to all clergy for his resolve, his determination, his desire for unity, and his steadfast faith.

 – Fr. JMH

Phillips Brooks, Bishop (23 JAN)

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O everlasting God, who didst reveal truth to thy servant Phillips Brooks, and didst so form and mold his mind and heart that he was able to mediate that truth with grace and power: Grant, we pray, that all whom thou dost call to preach the Gospel may steep themselves in thy Word, and conform their lives to thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

– Collect from Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 2006

Phillips Brooks was an American clergyman and author. During the American Civil War he upheld the cause of the North and opposed slavery, and his sermon on the death of Abraham Lincoln was an eloquent expression of the character of both men. In 1869 he became rector of Trinity Church, Boston; today, his statue is located on the left exterior of the church.

“{My only ambition}”, Brooks once wrote “is to be a parish priest and, though not much of one, would as a college president be still less”.
He briefly served as Bishop of Massachusetts in the Episcopal Church during the early 1890s. In the Episcopal liturgical calendar he is remembered on January 23. He is known for being the lyricist of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.

– Adapted from wikipedia.org


REFLECTION

I first heard of Phillips Brooks as a child. My family lived around the corner from a school named after the clergyman. I recall wondering why was this school so close to my house, more elaborate than the one I had to travel twice the distance to attend? The school has since been converted into low income housing. As I began my secondary education in one of the better Boston Public high schools, Snowden International School at Copley, I would walk pass the following statue:

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With my adolescent/teenage eyes, I noticed the figure in the foreground (being Brooks) proclaiming something and the figure in the background, unknown to me at the time, watching. I would give the statue a cursory glance (completely ignoring the text at the base) and assumed it was honouring someone from the Enlightenment period. I assumed it was some bourgeois statesman proclaiming the pursuit of knowledge and a faith in God that justified owning African slaves. I assumed this because of the emphasis of the Enlightenment in my history and literature courses at the time and the figures who were lauded as American icons who, more often than not, believed in God, and owned African slaves. It wasn’t until one evening, years later, I sat in front of the statue to take a closer look:

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I realized that Phillips Brooks was a clergyman and he guided his actions by the words of Christ, as illustrated in the statue. I was amazed that this display would be in public. The act of preaching and allowing Christ to guide the words is something that is becoming a rarity. I find that the temptation to preach to the congregation’s taste is strong. I see some of my colleagues across all religious lines either fight or submit to this temptation. I have faced this temptation as a Baptist minister in the past, and now as an Anglican Priest. This statue to me is a reminder to allow the hand of God to guide me, despite who may be happy or upset. I have a framed picture of the statue in my office and I visit the statue periodically to remind myself of God’s presence.

 – JMH+

The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ – A (6 JAN)

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Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 – Collect from Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 2003

Epiphany is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. Western Christians commemorate principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Baby Jesus, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. 

 – From Wikipedia.org


REFLECTION

The Epiphany is an interesting time in the Christian Year. There is some confusion of what exactly it is. This is due to the pop culture, secular version of the Christmas story. Society tells us that when Jesus was born, the Three Wise men travelled far and wide and arrived just minutes after Jesus’ birth (or minutes before, depending on the source). The Three Wise Men, the Shepherds, the Little Drummer Boy, the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and the animals we all present right?

NO!

The Three Wise Men were an adaptation of the Magi as depicted above. The Magi arrived about a week after Jesus was given his name officially in the Temple, and when his circumcision was performed. Yes, the Magi did come bearing gifts to the child who is the Messiah.

The lesson that I gather from this mishap is that proper study of the Bible is quite important. Not every can go to seminary, nor should they. But it is the responsibility of the believer to seek the proper education by reading the Bible, asking questions of the clergy and attending services.

 – JMH+

The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (1 JAN 14)

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The Circumcision of Jesus

The Circumcision of Jesus

Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

 – Collect for The Holy Name of Our Lord; Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2003


REFLECTION

This feast day is interesting due to its significance. The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus is a day that has multiple instances of significance. The first is that it is the day in which the child that Mary delivered and Joseph protected and cared for is now officially given the name of Jesus. The second is that the child would undergo circumcision as well. Both of these acts would occur eight days after the child was born, per Jewish ritual outlines in the Book of Leviticus.

Originally this day was celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church and removed it in 1969. Pope John Paul II restored the feast in 2001. In the Anglican Church, the feast was originally called The Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus. However, in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, it was renamed to the current title.

This feast day is a remembrance of another step in the life of Jesus. It reminds us that Jesus is a Jewish child with Jewish parents and grows up to be a Jewish man. He is the Messiah, the Saviour. We, at times, over look the childhood of Jesus because of the lack of source material. However, considering the lack of information, we should cherish the information that we have.

 – JMH+

St. Thomas Becket; Archbishop and Martyr (29 DEC)

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St. Thomas Becket (http://pacemstudio.com)

St. Thomas Becket (http://pacemstudio.com)

O God, our strength and our salvation, you called your servant Thomas Becket to be a shepherd of your people and a defender of your Church: Keep your household from all evil and raise up among us faithful pastors and leaders who are wise in the ways of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ the shepherd of our souls, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 – Collect for Thomas Becket; Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2003

Thomas Becket was born in around 1120, the son of a prosperous London merchant. He was well educated and quickly became an agent to Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, who sent him on several missions to Rome. Becket’s talents were noticed by Henry II, who made him his chancellor and the two became close friends. When Theobald died in 1161, Henry made Becket archbishop. Becket transformed himself from a pleasure-loving courtier into a serious, simply-dressed cleric.

The king and his archbishop’s friendship was put under strain when it became clear that Becket would now stand up for the church in its disagreements with the king. In 1164, realising the extent of Henry’s displeasure, Becket fled into exile in France, and remained in exile for several years. He returned in 1170.

On the 29 December 1170, four knights, believing the king wanted Becket out of the way, confronted and murdered Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Becket was made a saint in 1173 and his shrine in Canterbury Cathedral became an important focus for pilgrimage.

 – From BBC History: Thomas Becket


REFECTION

I must admit that I first recall hearing about St. Thomas Becket was due to the play that was produced some time ago, highlighting his life with King Henry II, his time as Archbishop of Canterbury and his death in 1170. During my “Anglican Year”, I watched the 1964 film, based on said play, titled Becket starting the late Richard Burton (as Becket) and the recently deceased Peter O’Toole (as Henry II).

O'Toole (L) and Burton (R)

O’Toole (L) and Burton (R)

St. Thomas Becket’s story is one that I believe many clergy can relate to. Its a story of a man who loves God and is willing to serve him more than most, but less that what God wants from him. Becket served as a deacon in the Church and then left to serve as the Chancellor to King Henry II. Afterwards, he was reluctantly appointed/consecrated as the Archbishop of Canterbury. During his tenure as the Archbishop of Canterbury, his relationship with King Henry II began to strain. His relationship with the King would eventually crumble.

I know that I faced this when I was ordained to the Baptist ministry. I faced it even more so when I was ordained to the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (Anglican, Roman, Orthodox). Some of my friends stopped speaking to me, others would treat me different. Some family members would accuse me of being judgmental when I would address their role in family situations.

I also had clergy colleagues that would expect me to act a certain way or embrace a certain theological perspective because of their personal preferences. After much prayer, conversation with various folks, and a certain level of comfort, I have learned to be strong in the faith and my convictions of the faith. The relationship to man is secondary to the relationship to God.

I pray that you stand strong and be firm in the faith, as St. Thomas Becket was. He did not waver and held onto God’s unchanging hand all the way to the end.

  – JMH+

Feast of the Holy Innocents (28 DEC)

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Alexey Pismenny. Massacre of the Holy Innocents

Alexey Pismenny. Massacre of the Holy Innocents

O ALMIGHTY God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths; Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 – Collect for The Innocent’s Day; 1662 Book of Common Prayer


REFLECTION

The Feast of the Holy Innocents is a difficult day to commemorate. I have found that when it comes to the Holy Innocents, many clergy glance over their demise and rush to the more comfortable moment of the Holy Name of Jesus (1 JAN). At times, when the scripture describing the slaughter of boys under the age of 2 years-old is read, the reader either consciously or unconsciously rushes to finish that section of the text. It is important that we do not forget the Holy Innocents.

The children who were slaughtered that day over 2000 years ago were martyrs of the faith. Without them, we do not know for certain what would have been. The death of children is never an easy topic for discussion. We see this now when it comes to the tragedy of Sandyhook Elementary in Connecticut. Rather than discussing the real issue of mental illness and the lack of support for those who are mentally ill, parts of the media and politicians are arguing for stronger or less regulated gun control. At the end of the day, whether it was a gun, or in the days of King Herrod, a knife like object, there was a element of evil that was present. Whether or not that evil is in the form of jealousy or depression, it is evil nevertheless.

The children who were massacred 200 years ago, like the children of Sandyhook Elementary, like the thousands of kids worldwide who are dying of starvation, HIV/AIDS and/or civil war, they were innocent. Let us keep this day, as a remembrance of the innocent lives that were lost. And let us hold on to the hope that they dwell in the Kingdom of God, because Jesus loves the little children.

 – JMH+

Advent IV – A (22 DEC)

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Our Lady of the New Advent

Our Lady of the New Advent

“O LORD, raise up, we pray thee, thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.”

 – Collect for Fourth Sunday in Advent; 1928 Book of Common Prayer


REFLECTION

As we approach the end of the Advent season, there is much to reflect on. However, what we ought to reflect on, is not advertised on television, the internet or any other outlet of the media. We are told repeatedly to reflect on how much money we have saved up to purchase the best gift for our friend/loved one/colleague. We are told to reflect on the Black Friday, Cyber Monday and DOORBUSTER sales.

It is my hope and prayer that you (the reader) reflect on the course of your life. Reflect on the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her strength to endure the labor of delivering a child during that time frame. Her strength in carrying a child that she knows will die in a manner that is unthinkable in todays context. She is the God Bearer.  Let us also reflect on the life of St. Joseph, the stepfather of our Lord and Savior. He was in charge of protecting the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus from all harm. As a father in the Jewish society of the day, he was also responsible for the raising of the child as well.

These are the things we need to reflect up during the Advent Season. The birth, death and resurrection of Christ is everlasting. A $97.00, 32 inch flat screen HD television is not.

 – JMH+

Veteran’s Day 2013 & The Faithfully Departed (10-11 NOV)

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Fr. Emil Kapaun, US Army Chaplain

Fr. Emil Kapaun, US Army Chaplain

This Veteran’s Day is especially difficult for me. I will do what I have been doing since I returned from Afghanistan, attend the Annual Veteran’s Day Mass at Boston College. I’m excited for it. It is an opportunity to bring two of my loves (Boston College and the Army) together in one place. However, this year is different.


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“Rest eternal grant to her, O Lord; And let light perpetual shine upon her. May her soul, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.”

That is what said during a Requiem mass or funeral by the priest is presiding. We are asking God’s blessing on the souls of all those who past away. Today (10 NOV) is the birthday of a friend of mine who recently lost her life. And although her and I haven’t spoken in many years I still carry a deep amount of love for her. I ask God to continue to watch over her soul as she faithfully departed. I ask God to watch over her family, her friends, her husband. May she find peace in HIS everlasting grace. Amen.

– JMH+