Evening Prayer Homily: The Power of Compassion
Given on September 23, 2015, by George Moberly
Reading: 2 Kings 6:1–23
Elisha, the “man of God,” was a prolific miracle worker. Through the power of God flowing through him, he interacts with kings and makes predictions that come to pass that affect the worldly powers of his time and place. However it is his individual displays of kindness and compassion to all types of people that draw my attention tonight.
There are at least 11 such interactions described in 2 Kings. He multiplies oil for a poor widow who owes money and multiplies barley loafs for the hungry. He purifies the drinking water for the Jericho villagers. He cures a leper, and he raises a child from the dead. But lest we put Elisha on too high a pedestal, he also calls forth bears to maul some boys who taunt him for being bald.
In tonight’s reading we hear another demonstration of Elisha’s compassion to the weak by miraculously retrieving the expensive axe head from the Jordan so his poor follower can return it to its owner.
Elisha reminds me of someone important to me who recently died. My father was kind and compassionate to everyone. I cannot recall a time or place where he didn’t instinctively reach out to help everyone around him. Much to the chagrin of my mother, this kindness extended to a habit of picking up hitchhikers. He cleared snow from the neighbor’s walks and drives along with his own, with a shovel for years, and a small snow blower as he grew older.
I have had the amazing experience of getting a lot of notes and letters from people Dad knew as I’ve spread the word of his passing, and decades later the memory of his kindness towards them is fresh and new. Here are a couple examples. My friend Tony said, “Senior year in high school when I was doing a dance marathon with Carol Von Holt, he massaged all our feet on the breaks and encouraged us to keep going.” Our neighbor Viki said, “I remember when I was living on Princeton by myself while I was in college and how Clell ferried me over to Gonzaga many a day and was always just there to talk with. He was such a comforting person to know.”
Watching this one-man altruism through my entire life has at times made me feel small, incapable of wanting to help the people around me in the same way. At times as a kid his demonstrations even made me a little jealous of the attention I thought belonged to me.
Experiencing dad’s last days together with him was his final gift to me and has helped me towards bridging this gap. As his life here faded away, he was able to travel back and forth between here and forever. Sometimes he saw his mother and thought that his beloved pet dogs were in the hospital bed with him. I have no doubt that he is now with them. It was a privilege to witness his passing, and I now know in a new way that death is not something to fear. I was able to see that what is beyond co-exists with what is material.
This has opened up a new reality for me: the understanding that God is not up there, out there, or away from here. Until recently I would walk in prayer up to a door, or a dark void, or a great black-grey veil, and pray that God would crack the door or shift the transparency even slightly, so that I could glimpse something of the light and presence on the other side. Something in me has shifted, and I can better sense the continuous presence of the Spirit in all I do. This has made it possible for me to take a few wobbly steps down the road of unconditionally channeling God’s kindness and compassion to those around me.
In the other Elisha story we heard tonight, Elisha deflects the violent forces arrayed against him away and they find themselves surrounded by the army of Israel. Instead of taking advantage of God’s power, Elisha invokes the hospitality customs of the ancient Middle East to see that the Aramean army is fed and lodged for the night.
What in our lives right now is that Aramean army coming to take us away by force? What can we do to call God to demonstrate his presence through us into a world that so needs us to return peace for violence, love for hate. Just as the Aramean’s response was to “no longer come raiding,” who knows what will grow from God’s love we bestow and release into God’s world?
The Blessing of the Animals, October 4
Bring all your creatures, great and small, pictures, and stuffed animals to either the 8:45 am or the 11 am service on October 4 for our annual pet blessing in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. Be prepared for a little chaos underfoot, along with a chorus of barks, mews, croaks, hisses, and tweets.
Please note the following logistical items:
- Please be sure to box and leash your animals appropriately.
- The stage will be the designated “dog-free zone.”
- If you have animal-induced allergies, you may want to consider attending the 7:30 am service or the 5 pm service.
October 4 Is a Family Sunday
Children are encouraged to go to church with their families and pets at whichever service works best for each family. If you are unable to sit with your child during the service but would like help coordinating him or her joining another family, please let Elizabeth Walker know.
- Family Sundays will take place on the first Sunday of every month this fall.
- There will be Sunday School offered in Matthew at 11am for children ages PreK–2nd grade, at family discretion.
- There will be no Eucharist for Sunday School participants; if you’d like your child to celebrate the Eucharist, please pick up from Matthew during the Peace.
- There is no PAW or CIT practice on October 4. Children can check in to the Upper Room during Formation Hour.
Diane Carlisle Is Our New Parish Administrator
I am pleased to introduce Diane Carlisle in her expanded role as our full-time Liturgist and Parish Administrator. Starting October 6, after the annual Verger’s conference and finishing the requirements of her school district contract, you’ll see her around Christie House Tuesday through Friday in addition to Sundays.
Many of you know her already; she and Terry have been active members of the Epiphany community for over three decades. If you do know her, you know that she has a very high attention to detail, is incredibly organized, and loves Epiphany deeply. If you don’t know her yet, I imagine you’ll meet her soon if you decide to become involved as an acolyte, Eucharistic minister, or lector. She will continue leading those ministries in addition to her new role. If you’re still not sure who she is, look for her on Sundays in black leading the procession.
We give thanks that in this season when Epiphany is embarking on the next 100 years with gusto, Diane is poised with enthusiasm to use her skills to keep our facilities scheduler and database in order, among other things. If you have questions about anything that goes on at Epiphany, she’s a great person to ask. If she doesn’t know the answer, she’ll point you in the right direction. Welcome (again), Diane!
—Emily Linderman, Associate for Staff and Ministry Formation
A Note from Diane:
First, let me say thank you. Thank you to Doyt and Emily for giving me this opportunity to expand my role at Epiphany. And thank you to all of you for your kindness and support.
Terry and I have been members of Epiphany for 33 years. Five years ago I became Epiphany’s verger. My job was to attend to liturgical details for the services. Three and a half years ago I began as a part-time liturgical coordinator charged with putting the services together, including producing the bulletins. And as of Wednesday this week (September 23), after 30 years of teaching, I am officially retired and available to take on an expanded role at Epiphany.
In addition to my liturgical duties, I now have an administrative role. Two of my new responsibilities are scheduling the use of our buildings and maintaining the parish roster. If you need to reserve a room on campus or need to update your address, I am the one to contact. If you have any administrative needs, please feel free to contact me. While I will continue to use my verger email address (email@example.com), you may also contact me at the generic office address (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I am excited about being able to serve the community of Epiphany in this new expanded role and thank God every day for this opportunity.
—Diane Carlisle, Liturgist and Parish Administrator
The Gospels and the Dust Bunny Theory
Would you help design a study course for the gospels that will provide you with information about how the theology of the church developed, and identifying and understanding the original words of Jesus?
After my sermon in July, seven or eight people asked about the Bible study I currently conduct. The time—currently Thursdays at 3:30 pm—just doesn’t work for anyone who works or has a family to look after. Each of you said, “What we need is a Bible study for the rest of us at a time we can make.”
This then is my proposal: Let’s run a feasibility and design study in which we meet for an hour each week, conduct a Bible study and, through your experience, tailor the design to fit your needs. This would be held in October and November on Saturday mornings at 8–9 am. We would then quit over Christmas, put the finishing touches on the study design, and then introduce a new class on the Gospels on Sundays.
The objective will be to give participants the freedom to ask all the oddball questions they have never dared ask, provide enough technical information to aid understanding of the theological layering we see evolve as the church came into being, and encourage a sense of ownership of these our sacred texts.
There will be no homework, nor prior knowledge required, but lots of questions will be appreciated. You will need a Bible. Buy an Oxford Study Bible if you decide to invest in a new one. Otherwise bring what you have.
If you are interested in participating, we will begin discussing the gospel of Luke on October 3. We will study the text verse by verse. The purpose will be to build an appreciation of the text and understand all the strands that are woven into it. There are early written sources, oral traditions, and contemporary cultural influences to be taken into consideration. Getting a handle on this process helps us appreciate what we hear on Sunday and also frees us from the expectation that we ought to believe it all without question. I call this the Dust Bunny Theory.
This is fascinating work and it opens the gospels to modern people who seek to understand rather than just believe. Everyone is invited, and I hope to see you there.
—Fr. Peter Snow
General Convention 2015
The 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church was held from June 24 through July 3, 2015, at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, UT. As always, it was a beehive of committee and legislative sessions, interspersed with elaborate Eucharist services. The Diocese of Olympia was represented by eight deputies in the House of Deputies (led by our diocesan chancellor, Judy Andrews), where there were usually more than 840 deputies on the floor. And of course we were represented by Bishop Greg Rickel in the House of Bishops.
The highlight was the first ballot election of the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry (bishop of North Carolina) for a nine-year term as the new Presiding Bishop, succeeding Katharine Jefferts Schori. Bishop Curry, who will be formally installed at Washington DC’s National Cathedral on November 1, is a charismatic evangelical preacher who identifies himself as part of “the Jesus Movement.” His inspiring style and enthusiasm bring hope to those who have looked with concern on the national decline in membership of the Episcopal Church (to which our growing Epiphany Parish is a happy exception).
Perhaps the most controversial vote was General Convention’s approval of an alternative service that deletes references to bride and groom (and which can therefore be used to solemnize same sex marriages). That service was not, however, added to the Book of Common Prayer, and individual bishops are not required to endorse its use.
Another vote changed the system of standing committees in the national church so that most of them “sunset” every three years. This restructuring is at least partly intended to avoid a situation where committees continue indefinitely and feel obliged to come up with new resolutions that needlessly clog the legislative agenda.
Our own cathedral dean (Very Rev. Steve Thomason) ably chaired and reported on a committee offering guidelines to avoid alcohol abuse. In addition, the numerous committees of convention offered dozens of recommendations for appropriating money or advocating issues in the secular community. The Archdiocese of Jerusalem offered a very interesting presentation on its hospital and other ministries in the Holy Land.
Our own diocesan deputation worked well together, usually voting as a block.
Those wishing for further information on General Convention are welcome to ask me, the deputy from our parish.
Parish Prayer List
Sunday Lectionary Corner
September 27, 2015
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Esther 7:1–6, 9–10; 9:20–22
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
This Week at Epiphany
September 27: Adult Forum – Wondering What to Do Until Christ Returns?
In this forum, Steve Clemons and Ben Bradstreet will introduce the apostolic letter to the Hebrews with an overview of who wrote it, who was it written for, why was it written, and when was it written. In addition, this introduction will include a theological framing of Hebrews and its relevancy for Christians today. Join us at 10–10:45 am.
September 27: Newcomers Reception
If you’re relatively new to Epiphany and would like to spend some time getting to know our priests and other parishioners, join us for a reception at the Conn residence after the evening service at 6–7:30 pm. Beverages and appetizers will be available. RSVP here.
September 28: OFFICE CLOSED
Comcast will be working on our internet service on Monday, September 28, but we do not have a clear time frame for their work. The office will be closed, but staff may be available offsite by email.
October 3: The Gospels and the Dust Bunny Theory
You are invited to a new Bible study series on the gospels with Fr. Peter Snow on Saturday mornings at 8–9 am in the Christie House Library. Beginning with the gospel of Luke, participants can bring all of the oddball questions they never got to ask about these sacred texts and discuss context and theology. No homework or experience required, but please bring your own Bible. Contact Peter Snow with questions.
October 3: Monthly Women’s Mini-Retreat
Join Epiphany women of all ages for laughter, discussion, and a light continental breakfast on the first Saturday of every month. We will meet at 9–11 am in the Fireside Room. Contact Ann Lockhart with any questions.
Events Down the Road
October 4: The Feast of St. Francis and the Blessing of the Animals
At the 8:45 am and 11 am services, you are invited to bring your pets, stuffed animals, or photos of your creature friends for a special blessing in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. Click here for logistical details.
October 4: Adult Forum – The Role of the Church in World War II
Jonathan Roberts will present this Sunday Adult Forum at 10–10:45 am in the Fireside Room on the extremely important role, or as unfortunately was often the case, the non-role of the Church in England, Germany, and Italy before and during World War II. We’ll discuss why the Church mattered to the leadership in each country and what the Church did in each instance. We’ll also reflect on what is the appropriate role for the Church during times of extreme conflict.
October 11: Guest Speakers from Kids4Peace Jerusalem
Join us for a rare opportunity to hear from the front lines of the peacemaking movement in Palestine. Rebecca Sullum (an Israeli) and Mohammad Joulany (a Palestinian) are the co-directors of Kids4Peace Jerusalem, an interfaith youth peacebuilding organization in Palestine, and will be sharing about their work at the Sunday Adult Forum at 10–10:45 am in the Epiphany School Gym. This forum will include a presentation and a Q&A session.
October 3: CareTeams Training with Samaritan Center
CareTeams volunteers offer practical, emotional, and spiritual support to people affected by HIV/AIDS and other life challenges. Join a CareTeam and make a difference! Click here for more information on the Samaritan Center, or click here to download the CareTeams flyer.