Category Archives: Christian Quotes

All Shall Be Well

Today is the feast day of Julian of Norwich. I’m not a big “saint” fan (sports or religious) and I do not pray to any saints or ask that they intercede for me. But Julian is one who captured my imagination years ago. The Reverend Peter Holroyd (whom I invited to do a Lenten study on environmental spirituality in a church where I was serving about 20 years ago) handed each of us a hazelnut as we began. He shared that he always carried one in his pocket; a reminder that such a tiny thing has so much possibility and that we, too, are seeds of possibility. The hazelnut is often used as a symbol of Julian.

Born about 1343, the time in which Julian lived was one of upheaval: the Black Plague, the Hundred Years War, and the crisis of church authority due to a long papal schism. The people of Europe were full of anxiety and concerned about personal salvation. The yearning for a personal, experiential faith spawned a growth in Christian mysticism, including those who were not living in religious communities. Many mystical classics were written by lay people living as solitaries (recluses), sharing their experiences of the divine. Such was Julian. We do not know much about her, including her real name. The name Julian was given to her because St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, England is where she lived and worked. Nearly dying as a child, she had visions (shewings) in which she experienced Jesus. Most of her writings are all that we know of her. You can read more about her (as well as some intergenerational activities to do regarding her) in my forthcoming book Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God with the Saints coming in July 2019.

Continue reading All Shall Be Well

And the Survey Says . . .

4006230793_9b2742c25e_oAn on-line survey was held on a voluntary based during June 2016 to learn what curricular programs were being used in congregations with children, youth, and adults. The survey was disseminated through e-mail and social media (predominately Facebook groups) and various organizational list-serves (Forma, APCE, CEF, AUCE, and the Christian Education Network of the ELCA). The construction and results of the survey was conducted by the research group of the Church Pension Group, the parent company of Church Publishing Incorporated. The analysis of the data is strictly mine, and I take all responsibility for its interpretation.

Godly Play continues to be the most used program with children, with Montessori-type programs used by 36% of churches. The other three types of curriculum were lectionary-based (25%), Bible story based (30%), and workshop rotation model (9%). Most churches use a variety of resources, combining and tweaking them to fit their needs. Continue reading And the Survey Says . . .

Pack Light

Overpacked-SuitcaseA sermon preached on the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8, Year C based on Luke 10:1-11, 16-20.

For years every summer around this time I would be packing a trunk for either my son or daughter as they were getting ready to go to camp (Camp Washington in Lakeside, Connecticut). So with checklist in hand, I would make sure each had enough clothing, towels, bug spray, and clean underwear to last them two weeks. The trunk would be filled with all the necessities for being away from home that also often included a stuffed animal, some books to read, paper with pre-addressed & stamped envelopes (for of course they would write home), and other personal belongings he or she couldn’t live without. By their request, we would drop them off early and pick them up late. Inevitably, every time we picked Chris up, most of his clothes had not been touched, having lived in the same couple of shirts and shorts the entire two weeks. He came home happy and healthy, filled with stories, songs, and plenty of new friends. He had used all that he needed; I had packed too much.

How many of you have gone on a business trip or vacation and crammed as much as possible in a suitcase (even just a carry-on to beat the baggage fees)? We’ll be going to the Cape for two weeks in August and we’re already talking about taking two cars to hold all our stuff we want to bring. And I don’t know how many business trips I’ve been on that I’ve come home realizing I didn’t need that extra pair of shoes or projects to work on “in my free time.” Through the years I have learned to travel light, bringing just what I need, but I am always afraid as I leave the house with my carryon that I’ve forgotten something, so I jam in some last minute extras. Continue reading Pack Light

Life, death. Light, dark.

Feast of Jeremy Taylor

Proverbs 7:1-4       John 3:11-21

“My child, keep my words and store up my commandments with you; 
 keep my commandments and live, keep my teachings as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

Passing on the Christian faith from generation to generation is at the heart of the life and work of the Christian church. But this fundamental task requires much more than passing on biblical and doctrinal information. Passing on the Christian faith to others involves the work of the Holy Spirit, who gives birth to trust and confidence in the creative, redeeming, and renewing power of God.

We are called to be witnesses to the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are called to tell God’s story as we share our own faith stories through our teaching, mentoring, and ministering with and for children, youth and adults in our church communities. And in the year 2011, this is not an easy task. We find ourselves in a culture that is not always open to hear the radical message of Jesus: to wear our faith on our sleeve, our hands, our hearts – outwardly as well as inwardly.

As it was and is to our Jewish brothers and sisters, the Shema is at the core of their relationship to God . . . to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. Marking it on our foreheads and our doorposts. It was probably the underpinnings of Jesus’ religious education as a child in the home of Mary & Joseph. As Jesus grew to adulthood, he deepened and broadened that commandment to include and love your neighbor as yourself. And perhaps almost 400 years ago, Jeremy Taylor, for whose life we mark today, grew up with the same mantra as a child.

Bishop Taylor is remembered as one of the “Caroline Divines,” those Anglican theologians and writers of the mid-seventeenth century who wrote with great passion and belief. He wrote what we might call a manual of Christian practices entitled, “The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living”, published in 1650. Some of his chapter headings resonate as timely topics for us today: Care of our Time, Holy Living, Purity of Intention; the Practice of the Presence of God; Christian Sobriety; Of Christian Justice; of Christian Religion. Some of the actual writings are a bit puritanical, but he spoke to the centrality of putting God at the core of who we are. Isn’t that what we are called to do today?

In many ways, Jeremy Taylor lived in a time similar to ours. Yes, he didn’t have globalization, an unstable stock market, Facebook, sports on Sunday, or a culture that spoke of being “spiritual, but not religious.” But he did live in a time in which the Church (which was also the State) was caught in a political as well as religious struggle. The son of a barber, who somehow was educated at prestigious schools and ordained at the ripe old age of 20, he was known for his preaching. But was also known as a spiritual guide and director, someone people came to see from far and wide for advice and counsel.

The period of history in which he lived was not one of stability. The mid-1600s was a time when the Church was caught in the midst of a Civil War in England. Soon after he was ordained, he was chaplain to Archbishop William Laud and King Charles I. Soon the Puritans came into power forming the Commonwealth; those who were supporters of the king’s cause and the episcopacy found themselves imprisoned. It was an unsettling time full of risk of death for many, depending on “what side” you were on – whether it was with the Puritans or the “papists.”

The context of our Gospel today is also one of tension and taking sides. The verses before our reading is of Nicodemus coming to see Jesus in the middle of the night. What we just heard was Jesus’ response to him. It is a message of light found in the midst of darkness, of new life and new sight. Following Jesus brings us clarity of vision. We are called to be witnesses for Christ.

Taylor was a witness for Christ, and was repeatedly imprisoned for it. Would we follow in his footsteps in our proclamation of the Gospel? How are we imprisoned within ourselves by being hesitant in sharing the Good News of Christ?

A quote that is attributed to Jeremy Taylor is one that we can carry with us today. “A religion without mystery must be a religion without God.” It is what I believe those in our communities (within and outside the church) are hungry for – mystery. We can find just about anything we need to “know” by googling it. But we seek that mystery – that wonder, awe, and mystery that Nicodemus was searching for.

Knowing Christ, we have the peace that passes all understanding. The Christian hope that we will be reconciled to God in Christ. In the meantime, we are called to preach the Gospel and go about the work of reconciliation in the world. Like Nicodemus, and perhaps Jeremy Taylor, we know our days are numbered – but our time is not the same as God’s time. We seek rebirth. We seek to be the apple of God’s eye. And through Jesus we know we are. We are loved. It is what we hope for our children, and our children’s children.

One of the prayers for the Visitation of the Sick as found in the Book of Common Prayer (p 316 in the 1928 American edition) was written by Taylor. It reads as follows:

O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered; Make us, we beseech thee, deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of human life; and let thy Holy Spirit lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days: that, when we shall have served thee in our generation, we may be gathered unto our fathers, having the testimony of a good conscience; in the communion of the Catholic Church; in the confidence of a certain faith; in the comfort of a reasonable, religious, and holy hope; in favour with thee our God, and in perfect charity with the world. All which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. 

Homily preached by Sharon Ely Pearson at Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington, Kentucky at the joint Christian Formation Day  of the Dioceses of Lexington and Kentucky. August 13, 2011

Oscar Romero

This week we celebrate the anniversary of the assassination of Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador. On March 24, 1980 he was gunned down while saying Mass in a hospital chapel during that country’s civil war. Once a lightning-rod for criticism because of his support for liberation theology, Archbishop Romero today is seen as a champion of human rights.

President Barack Obama will visit his tomb during his visit to El Salvador this week, a gesture that some say is U.S. recognition of the slain human rights activist’s cause. Romero spoke out against repression by the U.S.-backed Salvadoran army during the Central American country’s 12-year civil war in which at least 75,000 people died. The government and leftist guerrillas reached a peace treaty in 1992. “It’s historic,” said Congresswoman Lorena Pena, a former guerrilla fighter with the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, a rebel group-turned-political party. “It’s a recognition of our pastor who was killed for fighting for justice, for democracy and human rights.” (Washington Post, March 19)

I often like to share the Prayer of Oscar Romero when I speak at events focused on Christian formation. To me, his words resonate the role that we have as Christian educators in our world today:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,

It is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction

Of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying

that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about,

we plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted,

knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation.

In realizing that. This enables us to do something,

And to do it very well. It may be incomplete,

But it is a beginning, a step along the way,

An opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference

Between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.