Prayer is one of the most important things a Christian can do. It must come from the heart, and doesn’t have to be something difficult or complicated. It can be done anywhere at any time. The Episcopal Church Women at St. Francis Church in Scottsbluff do all we can to make our church community one full of prayer.
Pati McLellan heads up a prayer chain of women and clergy who pray for anyone whose name is called in whether it’s an emergency or on our weekly prayer list. She includes suggested prayers in her emails to us. We are also kept updated on loved one’s progress, if it is available for sharing.
Our Courtesy Committee (responsibility changes monthly) sends Birthday, Anniversary, Sympathy, and Get Well cards to our older members and the children. Our clergy encourages all to come forward during services and have their special day remembered by the congregation and a sharing of blessings with praise and prayer.
We also have a Prayer Discipleship Group that has been meeting weekly for approximately three years led by Father Mark, as we study and use prayer in our lives. Our prayers don’t change God, as some people think, but praying changes us. When we spend time with God, he changes our hearts to be more like His. We no longer live a self-centered lifestyle, but one that is focused on others.
Upon the recommendation of Canon Liz Easton, and a representative of the Tamar Project in Omaha, we began a Ministry with the Doves Center here in the valley. With the leadership of Sue Selvey, we assemble bags of personal supplies and prayer letters of encouragement to women leaving abusive situations. Upon request from DOVES, we have expanded our ministry to cover the Doves Centers in Sidney and Chadron besides here in Scottsbluff County.
The picture here shows another small group of our ECW members who have recently completed 18 lap blankets (with a lot of prayers) for those in area nursing homes. Prayer is a powerful force in not only the lives we pray for, but also for those who pray.
St. Francis, Scottsbluff ECW
On June 3, at the Willa Cather Spring Conference in Red Cloud, a Eucharist was celebrated with Fr. Randy Goeke-Celebrant, Dr. Steve Shively-Lector and Chalice Bearer, Fr. Chuck Peek-Preacher, and Rev. Ruth Eller-Gospeller. This was the anniversary of Ruth’s ordination to the Diaconate. Her father was ordained a Priest in this Diocese nearly 60 years ago. The Eucharist was attended by 65 participants from the conference on the occasion of the dedication of the National Willa Cather Center. Cather was Confirmed by Bishop Beecher at Grace Church.
Former first lady Laura Bush came to Willa Cather’s hometown Saturday and officially opened a $7 million center meant to re-ignite fascination in the famed novelist and the tiny Nebraska town where she set her most famous books.
See this Omaha World-Herald story for details on the conference.
WHAT: Our DR Youth Mission Team has been selected to participate in the Pizza Ranch Community Impact Program. This program acknowledges groups which make a difference in our community and beyond. Participating groups are given a generous portion of sale proceeds and all the tips received during the event.
WHERE: Pizza Ranch located in the Frederick Square Shopping Center, just South of Center Street on 84th Street.
WHEN: Monday Evening, May 22, 2017, 5:00 to 9:00 PM
Our Nebraska Youth DR Mission Team will be serving pizza, busing tables, and sharing the good news of the work being done in the Dominican Republic. Invite family and friends….let’s all join in the fun !!!
Our 2017 NE Youth Dominican Republic Mission Team has been selected to participate in the Pizza Ranch Community Impact Program. This permits us to share the good news of the work being done with our community, and at the same time receive a percentage of the sales proceeds and all the tips received during a 4 hour period of time. Our team members will be serving pizza, busing tables and sharing information.
We hope Episcopalians across our community might bring family and friends to join our team at Pizza Ranch on Monday, May 22nd from 5 to 9 PM.
We will have a team of 17 from Omaha to Alliance return to the mountains of the central Dominican Republic on June 20-27, 2017. We will continue to build upon the ministries we have initiated in the DR. Specifically, we will complete our work on the Children’s Shelter in El Pedrgal, continue sharing music programs with the community, and are really excited to promote a community renewal of our baptismal covenant. After returning last year, a youth asked if it would be possible to re-commit themselves to Christ by being baptized in the waters of a beautiful nearby waterfall. Our ministry continues to grow, and this year our team wants to stand with our brothers and sisters in a renewal of this sacred covenant. I do not know if this has ever been done before. We hope to have many in the community join us.
Things are going wonderfully….and the more at the Pizza Ranch the better.
The Eggplant: April 27, 2017
The Fast and the Fictive
When I was in Seminary, one of my classmates would joke that, if she were not called to be a priest, she would spend her time painting supper scenes from the Fast and the Furious movies, under the name Dom Tintoretto. Most of the time, people didn’t get the joke: Tintoretto was a Venetian Renaissance painter perhaps best known today for a Last Supper that contrasts dramatically with Da Vinci’s famous depiction thereof in its use of shadow and showing the table from a diagonal. Dom Toretto, played by Vin Diesel, is the protagonist of the Fast and the Furious series, now at eight films and counting.
The Fast and the Furious movies are one of Hollywood’s more curious franchises. After a modestly successful 2001 film about street racing and two less successful sequels featuring mostly new casts, in 2009 the franchise began pivoting by assembling a team of the most popular characters from the previous movies, led by Dom Toretto, and telling stories of heists and vehicular warfare among the criminal underworld. The result is a juggernaut that has become one of the most financially lucrative movie franchises and is still going strong.
Even moreso than Kong: Skull Island, these are movies that you watch not for the plot and dialogue but for the ridiculous action: a chase with a bank vault attached to the cars, a tank fighting on a highway, a car chase on ice featuring the unexpected appearance of a submarine. But beneath all the fun mayhem beats a surprisingly strong heart: Dom’s version of ‘honor among thieves’ is his code about family. More often than not, his team winds up in these crazy schemes because “you don’t turn your back on family” even when doing so would be the only way to avoid a world of trouble. A common feature of the franchise, in its quieter moments, is a scene where Dom and his team sit down to a meal together and, in a prayer before eating, Dom or another character thanks God for their family.
Setting aside the curiosity that movies with such a high quotient of violence and death are among the only blockbusters to include such explicitly Christian scenes, it’s fascinating that Dom’s family, for whom he willingly enters all manner of dire straits, is almost entirely fictive. With the exception of his sister, who eventually marries another member of the team, none of Dom’s ‘family’ is related to him by blood. The team is a group of friends who, between common interests and shared experiences, have become as close as family and chosen to treat one another as such.
This sort of chosen family is a very Christian idea: St. Paul, in his references to his disciples as his sons and other Christian leaders as his sisters and brothers, frequently uses the language of this fictive kinship, that we who are not related by blood from our birth are related even more surely in the blood of Christ. Today, we most commonly see this in addressing priests as ‘Father’ or ‘Mother,’ but beginning with Paul saying that he has become father to the runaway slave Onesimus (Philemon 10), this notion of fictive kinship has often guided Jesus’ followers in our efforts to relieve the suffering of others as though they were our children or stand with the oppressed as our siblings.
And Dom Toretto’s family features several traits that ought to define our own fictive kinship with our fellow humans. Dom’s family is, at least by the usual standards of Hollywood casts, incredibly diverse. Men and women are equal members of the team, and a wide range of racial and ethnic backgrounds are present. Too often, our Christian families lack such diversity, with most or all of our fictive kin sharing our race and ethnicity and women being reduced to inferior members.
Dom’s team also features a constantly rotating cast of characters, as old family members are killed or retire from the criminal life and new members join the team. The ease with which new members are assimilated is sometimes startling, perhaps because Dom has a curiously optimistic view of human nature: he seems to be positively inclined toward almost anyone he encounters who doesn’t threaten his family, and even when he himself is endangered, he sometimes retains that positive view. *Spoiler alert: spoilers for The Fate of the Furious follow.* For example, in the Havana-set opening scene of the most recent movie, Dom engages in a street race during which his opponent uses several tricks that nearly get Dom killed and spectacularly total his car. After Dom wins anyway, the opponent admits that Dom has earned his respect and Dom chooses to neither take his prize for winning nor otherwise punish this cheating foe. Said foe later shows up playing a small but crucial role in Dom’s plan for getting out of the pickle he finds himself in, suggesting that this is a potential future member of Dom’s family.
We Christians would do well to emulate Dom’s willingness to forego revenge despite the harm he endured, but even that pales in comparison to Dom’s willingness to forgive. After a cyberterrorist kidnaps Dom’s infant son so he will betray his family and work for her, he seeks help by reaching out to the Shaws, a literal family who opposed Dom’s team in previous movies and were responsible for deaths among Dom’s family members. At the end of the movie, Deckard Shaw delivers the baby to Dom, who forgives Deckard for killing Dom’s ‘brother’ Han and welcomes this former enemy to the family table. Given how well many Christians bear a grudge, even against our fictive kin, Dom’s forgiveness and welcome of someone who killed his family into his family is remarkable.
So weirdly enough, those Dom Tintoretto paintings would be an entirely appropriate hobby for a Christian. For a culture that looks upon the Last Supper (both the Da Vinci painting and, often, the event itself) as stuffy, old, and irrelevant, the suppers in the Fast and the Furious movies offer a more contemporary vision of Christian fellowship, where gender and race do not divide, where radical forgiveness is extended, and where everyone is family.
The Rev. John Adams
On Saturday, April 29th, people will be marching in Washington, DC and in cities across the country to advocate for stronger policies to address climate change. Participants will advocate for climate change policies that not only effectively mitigate climate change and its effects, but that will also open up new jobs that bring justice for poorer communities in the United States and around the world where the effects of climate change are often experienced first and worst.
Our suggestion is to pray at home, at your church, or wherever you might be between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM CT, or 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM MT. Suggestions follow as to how you might mark this event with prayer.
For those who might want to participate in a march in Nebraska, Lincoln will host a climate march beginning at 10:30 am on Saturday at the UNL Student Union, and Omaha has a march beginning at noon at the Gene Leahy Mall.
Suggestions for prayer:
- Gather around a candle, light the candle and pray this from the Book of Common Prayer (p. 827)
Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Pray for the leadership of our country that they may come to understand the seriousness of climate change.
- Pray for the safety of the marchers.
- Meditate (Centering Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, etc). for some or part of the three hour period.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ –
The story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is the essential tale of the Christian faith. All of sacred history, both before and after the cross and the tomb, derives its ultimate meaning from the events we remember and celebrate during this Easter season. We have no greater story to tell than the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We have no more important teaching to pass along … and no more hopeful news to share.
In his death, Jesus fully embodies the radical demands of the faith that he brought to his first followers and that we share in to this day. This is what “care for your neighbor,” “give to everyone who asks,” and “love your enemies” actually looks like in the midst of the fallen creation of which we’re a part. In going to the cross, Jesus demonstrates the depth of his love for humankind and offers a witness to the kind of love to which we too are called as children of the living God.
In his resurrection, Jesus offers the complimentary piece to his sacrifice on the cross. If the cross was the last word on “love your enemies” and “pray for those who persecute you”, then Jesus’ life and teaching would not matter to us. He would rather have been just another example of the weak being exploited and destroyed by the strong. But the events of Holy Week and Easter turn our conventional wisdom about power all upside down, as Jesus destroys the forces of darkness precisely by embracing death and using it as a tool for nothing less than the salvation of the world. Jesus’ resurrection confirms his teachings about how to live, ratifies theories about how to love, and fulfills his prophecies about his own destiny and that of all humankind.
Over the great fifty days of Easter the Church throughout the world will continuously celebrate the “sacred mysteries” of Christ’s death and his resurrection from the dead. We will tell this story again and again and again, because even though we know it well, we can never fully comprehend it’s meaning for our lives, the life of the Church, or the life of the world in which we live.
I pray that you will all join with me, my brothers and sisters, in proclaiming the surprising, joyful and still astonishing news that we’re blessed to be able to share in this and every season of our lives: Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
Faithfully Yours in Christ –
+ Bishop Barker
Passion Gospel John 18:1-19:37
Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. (John 19:15b-16a).
It may be tempting to numb ourselves to suffering, to live in a sort of gated community of the spirit, walled off from anything that might disturb. Jesus does give us peace, but genuine peace comes when Jesus stand by us in the midst of suffering. If we listen deeply to the story of the Passion, we will grieve at Jesus’s suffering. If we listen deeply to the Easter Gospel to come, we will emerge from that grief with hope and joy. Good Friday invites us to look at Jesus’s suffering so that we can experience the fullness of Easter. The powers that be encourage us to numb ourselves to suffering. The empire — the powers that be for the sake of being the powers — would like us to look away from suffering and numb ourselves with food, drink, drugs, and lots of consumer goods. They do not want us to notice our own distress or the distress of other people or the distress of other living things, the plants and animals on whom our existence depends. But keeping our eyes on King Jesus even when he is wearing a crown of thorns rather than taking seriously the pronouncements of the powers that be is part of our Christian witness to the world. When the powers cheer on the “beauty” of missiles or the explosion of the “mother of all bombs”, when the powers tell us the suffering of people who were killed in the Holocaust wasn’t all that bad, when the powers ignore the rapidly warming Arctic and dying coral reefs — and the new crack in one of Greenland’s biggest glaciers, when the powers discount the suffering of people worried they might lose their healthcare, when the powers speak in ways that encourage us to hate people different from ourselves, Jesus calls us instead to look and listen and acknowledge and feel the suffering: the suffering now, the suffering in the past, the suffering that awaits us if we don’t change course. We can be compassionate witnesses to suffering even when it is hard to look at it because Jesus calls us to live in hope. Oddly, while the powers that be want us to ignore suffering as if everything were fine, they want us at the same time to think there is little hope for a better world. They tell us we must continue to burn fossil fuels, that we cannot afford to welcome refugees, that we are wise to fear people whose skin is a different color than ours or whose faith is different from ours or whose primary language is not English. They tell us we can’t possibly provide basic health care for everyone in our nation, that public schools cannot adequately educate our children, that gun violence is inevitable. The powers that be don’t want us to grieve with those who suffer, but they also don’t want us to engage in any form of hope other than selfish hopes for our personal security and prosperity. But we can grieve and we can experience genuine hope for ourselves and our neighbors because we know well the story of Jesus on the cross and the story of Easter resurrection. We can look at death in all its forms because we are resurrection people who know death isn’t the final word. And not only can we grieve and hope, but if we are not to betray Jesus and deny that we know him, we must grieve and we must hope genuine hope. We have a king other than the emperor. His name is Jesus, and today on Good Friday we grieve his death on the cross and all the ways we continue to crucify him. Today we grieve, but tomorrow night we rejoice because love wins and Jesus is King. Amen.
DioNEB welcomes Rev. Amanda Gott as the new Rector at St. Matthew’s, Lincoln. Here is a brief introduction from our newest priest:
I just moved to Lincoln from the New Haven, Connecticut area with my husband Steven, our eight-year-old daughter, three-year-old son, two cats, two guinea pigs and some fish. At this moment, our house in Lincoln is still filled with boxes, packing paper, and wads of packing tape. I was born and raised in Atlanta, where I graduated from a high school of performing arts. I majored in religion at Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY) where I focused primarily on the study of Hinduism, but could often be spotted around the Drama/Dance department. After a couple of years as an office temp, a front desk receptionist in a public mental health clinic, a waitress, and a theatrical lighting designer and stage manager – all of which taught me skills that would later be useful in ordained ministry – I began seminary. I earned a Master of Divinity at the Iliff School of Theology (Denver, CO), after which I spent a year as a Chaplain resident at one of Denver’s major hospitals. After another year’s diversion as a Kindergarten teaching assistant, I then went on to earn a Master of Sacred Theology at The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church (New York, NY). I was ordained in 2005. For the past seven years I have been serving as Rector of Grace & St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hamden, Connecticut. Before that, I was the Assistant Rector at Church of the Good Shepherd in Nashua, New Hampshire. Over the last several years, I have also served in a couple of chaplaincy positions in New Haven, including an elementary school chaplaincy at an Episcopal Day School, and also chaplain to an amazing group of Episcopal Service Corps interns at St. Hilda’s House. In all ministry endeavors, I rely heavily on God’s grace, a hearty dose of humor, the help and prayers of other faithful people, and a little luck.
The Rev. Amanda Gott
We pray this week for people affected by floods and fires that have been made worse by warmer global temperatures, and we pray for our planet and the future of the human race as warming takes us into “uncharted territory”.
Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect For the Conservation of Natural Resources (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 827)
Please pray for:
People in Peru affected by severe flooding. Unusually intense rainfall — “the deadliest downpours in decades” according to this story from Reuters — has resulted in severe flooding in Peru. More than sixty people have died, and the rains and flooding are expected to continue.
People affected by wildfires in the Great Plains. Fires in the Great Plains have contributed to a “furious start” to the wildfire season in the United States. Dry conditions and very warm late winter temperatures contributed to the fires. Ranchers lost cattle to the fires, leading ranchers to call the fires “our hurricane Katrina”. Here in Nebraska this week, a wildfire near Lake Mcconaughy burned 800 acres and destroyed eight homes.
The earth as we enter “uncharted territory”. The Guardian reports on a World Meteorological Association report on the 2016 global climate, which reports that we have reached a level of warming that takes the planet into “uncharted territory”. NASA reported that on March 7 sea ice extent at both poles reached record lows. The need for action on climate change has never been clearer, but political prospects for such action in the United States at least look slim.
O God our heavenly Father, you have blessed us and given us dominion over all the earth: Increase our reverence before the mystery of life; and give us new insight into your purposes for the human race, and new wisdom and determination in making provision for its future in accordance with your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer For the Future of the Human Race (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 828)
As we pray for others, we might also pray for our own hearts to be open so we can see the needs in the world around us and gladly respond to those needs:
O heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty; Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for Joy in God’s Creation (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 814)
Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett
*Spoiler Alert: The following Eggplant contains spoilers for Kong: Skull Island (2017), Godzilla (2014), the Revelation to John of Patmos (~95), the good movies of M. Night Shyamalan (1999 and 2000), and Holy Week (~33).
For those who don’t spend time in the geekier corners of the internet, a spoiler alert indicates that plot details will be discussed, so if you have not yet seen or read the above and wish to do so without advance knowledge of their stories, read no further. If you have already experienced the above, have no interest in experiencing the above, or believe that knowing plot details will not detract from your enjoyment of the above, proceed.*
Earlier this month, Warner Bros. released Kong: Skull Island, an action-heavy monster movie that joins Godzilla (2014) in establishing the MonsterVerse (a shared cinematic universe analogous to the Marvel Universe in which fourteen superhero movies and six shows since 2008 have taken place). Immediately following the conclusion of the Vietnam War, Kong follows a team of scientists who are taken by military helicopters to a newly discovered, skull-shaped Pacific island. After the helicopters are destroyed by the gigantic gorilla of the title, the scattered survivors encounter further monsters and learn more of the island’s history during their struggle, inspired by Apocalypse Now (1979), to reach their extraction point before the appointed time. Among their discoveries is an isolated human tribe that, according to an American pilot stranded there during World War II, identifies Kong as their god.
Like Godzilla before it, much of the conflict in the film derives from the problem that, upon discovering that such monsters exist, some of the human characters want to destroy them all while other characters recognize that the titular monsters are beneficial to people, at least insofar as Godzilla can fight other monsters far more effectively than human weapons can and Kong defends all the island’s inhabitants, including the people, from the predatory, reptilian Skullcrawlers. In one scene in Kong, the surviving soldiers, who are hungry for revenge against Kong for killing their compatriots, almost come to blows with the civilians who only want to escape with their lives, while in another the civilians, having recognized Kong’s nobility, initiate a Mexican standoff in an attempt to defend the gorilla from the soldiers who are attempting to burn him.
Given that the natives identify Kong as god, I couldn’t help but notice that there’s a potential sliver of real world religious metaphor in that conflict. Two groups of people who ostensibly have the important things in common (they all come from the world outside of Skull Island and all want to get back there) part ways and almost kill each other over their different interpretations of god’s intentions: the soldiers see Kong as an oversized Vietcong, an enemy combatant who killed Americans and thus must be killed in turn, while the civilians see him as a king justifiably defending his home and dependents from potential threat. Like the people in Kong who struggle to come together to join the island’s god in fighting the Skullcrawlers, we in the real world fight one another, even Christian against Christian, over different understandings of God’s character, instead of joining with God to combat the real monsters of the world: violence, injustice, hunger, oppression, disease, climate change, etc.
Our inability to come together in the face of such ills is especially frustrating because, in Scripture, we have already read the ultimate spoiler: the monsters that would divide us from the love of God and one another have already lost. The God who defeated death also beats everything else that separates us from God. We spoil the ending every time we recite the Creed, celebrate with a Eucharistic Prayer, or otherwise remember Christ’s death, resurrection, and future second coming. Satan and Death and all those forces that sow hate and fear to prevent people from loving and serving each other as Jesus commands will be thrown into the lake of fire. Our failure as humans to unite against these monsters does no more than delay God’s final victory over them; one would hope that these spoilers in Scripture would galvanize us to join with God instead of feeding each other to the monsters.
But as those who at least occasionally visit the geekier corners of the internet are aware, not everyone responds to spoilers the same way. There are those who deliberately seek out spoilers as a way to whet their appetite; some folks happily go to the movies to witness the visual spectacle even after reading and dissecting a bootleg copy of the script (if you’ve enjoyed a movie that you saw after reading and rereading the book on which it was based, you’ve experienced something similar). But there are also folks who simply cannot find pleasure in the movie if they’ve already been told that, for example, Samuel L. Jackson is the villain or Bruce Willis is already dead.
As a story, Holy Week has been spoiled to the point that even folks who’ve never set foot in a church (and never intend to) know that the sequence of events from Palm Sunday through Good Friday ends with Jesus’ resurrection. And with regard to Holy Week, many Christians react to those spoilers in the second way, having no interest in watching the story unfold but wanting only to join in the Easter celebration at the end. Perhaps these are the same sort who, knowing God will win, find more pleasure in conflict with other people than in joining God to fight monsters.
But for me, and I hope for you as well, when it comes to Holy Week I have the first kind of response to the spoilers. We don’t attend the services of the Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil) for the plot (just as I didn’t see Kong: Skull Island because I was interested in the story). We go to bear witness to what we already know we will see, in this case not the fun mayhem of a giant gorilla taking down a squad of helicopters, but what Jesus gave out of love for us. We take the time each Holy Week to bear witness to Christ’s love as expressed in washing his disciples’ feet and serving them his body and blood, in facing betrayal by his friend and whipping by his foes, in dying on a cross and rising from the grave. And by doing so, we can then bear witness of that love to others.
So I encourage you to spend extra time at church on April 13, 14, and 15, experiencing the story of Jesus’ Passion even though it has been spoiled for you many times over, because it is through reliving that familiar story for ourselves that we can share it in loving and serving our neighbors.
The Rev. John Adams