Thursday, February 15, 2018
You have surely heard that yesterday another shooting took place in a school – I’m told the 18th time that has happened so far in the 45 days of 2018, or one every 2 ½ days. The emerging story seems to indicate that a young white man about 19 years old legally purchased an AR-15 and quite a bit of ammunition, went to his former school, pulled a fire alarm, and began firing. Actions on the ground may have prevented a worse catastrophe: a janitor redirected fleeing students to safety; a teacher literally took bullets for his students; “lock-down” procedures were used to shelter in place and lock doors. The alleged perpetrator temporarily fled by removing a gas mask and blending in with fleeing students before being arrested.
How does our faith respond?
Friends, since arriving here, I have written about shootings in my weekly reflections at least three times, and preached after several of the larger occasions. If I wanted to, I could find an example each week. Some colleagues in urban ministries name the victims each week in their Prayers of the People. It’s raw, and takes them time. Priests I know have suggested sermons to try to shock us from complacency with such acts as placing an AR-15 on the altar beside the Gospel book and asking which we shall worship. Organized groups in Chicago – a city often cited as a “failure of local gun control” – plead with elected officials for common federal rules and better inter-state enforcement, as an open-secret trade of un-background-checked handguns are bought at gun shows in Indiana, then sold from the trunks of cars to gangs in impoverished neighborhoods, continuing a cycle of violence, no matter how many guns real police work removes from the streets. The companies turn their profits, and turn a blind eye. They lobby elected officials to do the same, and match large campaign donations to that voice.
I am not anti-gun. Many of our members, and certainly many neighbors throughout this and other states, own weapons, and I have every reason to believe the majority of them do so responsibly. (And if you do own firearms and are not taking simple steps of registering them with the police, and securing them in a gun safe or with a trigger lock, so that they couldn’t be used in anger or by an overwhelmed young person who finds it, please take yesterday’s events for what they might always be: the final warning before it is your gun that is misused.)
How does our faith respond?
God has given us minds and the will to use them. When I think of these shootings, I’m aware of the criminology formula, “Opportunity + Motive + Means = Crime.” The opportunity seems constant: people will never cease gathering together, whether in schools or concerts or churches or baseball practice or campaign rallies outside shopping malls.
Part 2, Motive, is a common bogeyman: “Well, that was just one bad apple.” Or “That one was just ‘mentally ill.’” This is a frustrating pairing for the majority of those who manage mental illness perfectly reasonably, but even so, if mental illness is one part of the cause, let us address it, and support mental health research and treatment, especially for adolescents. If isolation is one cause, let us address it, and support school counselors and campaigns like the DARE officers, this time reminding our young people that they all need one another, and encouraging bonds of fellowship and respect. If you believe that motive was the deepest problem here, please call on your representatives to address it.
And let us also, finally, turn to part 3: “Means.”
Over and over again, the means is a gun. Polls show 80 or even 90% of Americans supporting universal background checks, but political officials balk, afraid they’ll lose funding or votes, or that this will be a “slippery slope” that might thereafter ban bump stocks or the AR-15 the way that tommy-guns were banned in the 1930’s. Other objections are raised: that a knife or a bomb or a car can kill. But we license drivers, and regulate fertilizer and monitor bomb-info websites, and a knife doesn’t kill 17 at a time. There are a number of things that can be done, all without preventing responsible gun ownership, which will also make a meaningful reduction in this national sin that has frozen us into inaction. You can educate yourself through Moms Against Gun Violence or Mother Jones or any number of groups, and call your representatives there, as well.
How else does our faith respond?
We pray. But if our prayer is that God will help us forget, so that we don’t experience the pain of these children who have died, or that we put out of our hearts and our minds the truth that our negligence has set a course such that our country is careening steadily towards the next dozen children who will be killed at school, the next score of concert-goers that will be shot from a window, the next domestic abuse that turns lethal because an angry man grabs the gun that his restraining order hasn’t prevented him from legally buying – then we are praying the wrong prayer.
Prayer is supposed to convict and convert us. Not to be “democrats” or “bleeding hearts” or “republicans.” Prayer is supposed to convert us to be better followers of Jesus.
Jesus said “If someone strikes you, turn the other cheek.” Jesus said “Two swords are enough” when Peter wanted to arm the disciples. Jesus did not call for angels to rescue him from the cross. When Roman soldiers taunted him, and a thief dared him, “Save yourself, and us!” Jesus instead offered a prayer: “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
But the suffering of Jesus is not there to tell us that we should seek a world full of suffering.
The suffering of Jesus is there to show us how terrible the consequences of sin are, when we do nothing to stop its advance. We who behold the crucifixion of Jesus are called to make the Resurrection of the world the calling of our lives. Today, that means repenting of the sins of negligence and indifference, and taking up the unpopular, courageous work of confronting the resistance to change.
The line doesn’t need to move dramatically: we don’t have to throw every gun into the ocean. But we need to stop this literal bleeding. And the God who calls us through Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves is calling us to join in this work, however carefully, on whichever front.
Pray, and hear what God asks of you, and go forth to do the work that you have been given to do.
The Reverend Benedict Varnum
Priest and Rector
St Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Elkhorn, NE
Our DioNeb Creation Community has written a set of short prayers for each day of the week, to be used during this season of Ordinary Time. These collects are unique to our Nebraska setting, and would be appropriate for use in both public and private prayer. May they enrich your prayers in the months to come.
Click here to download the prayers as a PDF document.
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.
It is that time of year when many of you prepare for your parish UTO In-gatherings, and I thank you for that. The images to the left give you some ideas about how people have promoted UTO.
It is with gratitude and sadness that I share with you that Kathy Graham has resigned from the position of UTO Coordinator in Nebraska because of health reasons and an expected move. She has been Nebraska UTO Coordinator since 2013 and has done great work here. We will miss her, and thank her. Until she can be replaced, I will fulfill that role. I will drop a bill in my blue box in thanksgiving for Kathy’s service.
Since our meeting in North Dakota, much has happened with the Dakota Pipeline. I know some of you believe the President did the right thing to allow the pipelines (Keystone and Dakota) to go through contested land and others do not. I think we still need to pray for the people of Standing Rock Reservation, the safety of their water and grieve with them over the intrusion of their sacred sites. Likewise in Nebraska, we need to pray for the protection of our people and our land with the resumption of the work on the Keystone Pipeline.
UTO Blue Boxes–how to get one, how to use it, collecting the money, and where does the money go?
- How do I get a blue box? Ask your priest or UTO parish coordinator for a blue box. If you can’t find a blue box, let me know and we will get you one. I have many stored in my garage in Omaha.
- How do I use the blue box? Put it in a prominent place where you will see it every day. I have a tray with change right next to my box so I don’t have to dig through my purse. Add giving to your blue box during your prayer time. Something great happens, thank God and, put money in the blue box.
- Where does the money go? Take your money to church for the Ingathering Sunday. Don’t have an Ingathering Sunday? Send it directly to the diocesan office to Beth Byrne, and tell her it is for UTO.
Every penny given to UTO is given in grants. 2016 funds will be given in 2017 in grants. Likewise, everything collected in 2017 will be given away in 2018. Questions? Contact me at email@example.com.
The Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal monastic community, is offering “Five Marks of Love” as a free individual or group Lenten devotional. Below is their invitation, including a link to the materials:
This six-week series invites us to observe and reflect on the ways in which the Divine Life expresses itself in and through us; individually and in our faith communities, as well as in the world around us. Week by week we will explore each of the Anglican Communion’s five “Marks of Mission” (Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform, and Treasure) through videos, questions, and exercises designed to help us speak clearly and act truthfully, motivated always by hearts marked by God’s love. We Brothers of SSJE believe that the Marks of Mission are actually “Marks of Love,” signs that God’s love is making its mark on us, and through us, on the world in which we live.
We are eager to share with others our experience that these Marks of Love are not a list of tasks to be checked off; rather they are signs that our life is rooted and grounded in the Being of God. Therefore throughout the series, we will reflect not on what we should do, but on how we should live. We will draw on our own monastic spirituality to suggest how we all can balance action with contemplation, so that our words and deeds proceed from the deepest places of our hearts, where God dwells.
This series is designed for use by individuals and small groups. Small group facilitators are invited to download the series facilitator’s guide to help you encourage participants to discuss and learn together. For individuals, be sure to check out the workbook and online video content, which will guide your own exploration. All materials and videos are free online and as downloads at 5marksoflove.org.
By the series’ end, we hope you will feel ready to offer yourself, body and soul, to God’s Mission, and to live for God’s glory.
Yours in Christ,
David Vryhof, SSJE
Director of Formation and facilitator of “5 Marks of Love”
The Prayer Vigil will begin with Morning Prayer at 8:30 AM, and continue throughout the morning, concluding with the Holy Eucharist at 12:00 Noon. From 9:00 until 12:00 will be a time for silent prayer. People of all faiths are invited to stop into Trinity Cathedral for a few minutes, a few hours, or the entire morning to join us in the vigil.
Dean Craig Loya of Trinity Cathedral said that, “This is an opportunity to quiet ourselves and to offer our hearts and minds a chance to rest from the tension and noise of this uniquely difficult time in our nation’s history.” Brother James Dowd, of the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska, said, “The time we will spend together will be completely non-partisan. Our prayers will be offered for peace and justice in our country and throughout the world. We will simply offer our prayers and engage in meditation.”
Dean Loya went on to say, “The level of conflict and divisiveness we’ve seen this season is really unprecedented in recent memory. As people of faith, we are called to promote peace and reconciliation. We developed this vigil as a follow-up to the one we held on Election Day as a way of offering a sanctuary of peace in the midst of a tense time, and helping us all offer our lives, our leaders, and our nation to God’s care.”
The specific schedule for the day is as follows:
8:30 AM Morning Prayer
9:00 – 12:00 Silent Prayer/Meditation
12:00 Noon Holy Eucharist
At all other times there will be at least one person praying in the church. All are welcome to join in the silent meditation, the prayer services, or both. For further information, please contact Brother James Dowd at 402-342-7010.
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral • 113 North 18th Street (corner of 18th and Capitol) • 402-342-7010
Join Fr. Randy Goeke and Fr. Jerry Ness as we explore God’s call to deeper relationship with Christ and each other.
The Cost is $140 for a single and $120 for a double, per person, includes 2 night’s stay and 6 meals.
The Registration Deadline—February 1st, 2017
Here is the agenda
FRIDAY EVENING – Feb. 17
5:00 p.m. – Arrival & Check-in
6:15 p.m. – Dinner
7:00 p.m. – Evening Prayer in the Chapel
7:30 p.m. – Introduction to Weekend
Gathering Exercise – Bible Trivia
9:00 p.m. – Compline in the Chapel followed by Meditation & Time for Reflection – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups
SATURDAY – Feb. 18
Quiet time for prayer, walking, rosary, etc.
7:30 a.m. Breakfast
9:00 a.m. Eucharist in the Chapel
10:00-10:15 First Meditation – A New Heart and a New Spirit (Ezekiel 36:24-28)
10:15-11:00 Meditation – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups*
11:00-11:15 Second Meditation – The Gathering of God’s People (Zephaniah 3:14-20)
11:15-Noon Meditation – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups*
12:15 – Lunch
1:00-1:15 – Third Meditation – Newness of Life (Romans 6:3-11)
1:15-2:00 – Meditation – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups*
2:00-2:15 – Fourth Meditation – The Resurrection (Luke 24:1-12)
2:15-3:00 – Meditation – Individually, Pairs, or Small Groups*
3:00-6:15 – Quiet time*
6:15 p.m. Dinner
7:00-7:30 – Community Conversation
7:30 – Movie, games, quite time*
After Movie Compline in the Chapel
SUNDAY – Feb. 19
Quiet time for prayer, walking, rosary, etc.
7:30 a.m. – Breakfast
8:30 a.m. – Holy Eucharist with healing in the Chapel
*During these times of quiet and meditation Fr. Jerry and Fr. Randy will be available for prayer, confession, direction, conversation, etc.
Here are links to downloadable resources for the retreat
Cold December flies away
at the rose-red splendor.
April’s crowning glory breaks
while the whole world wonders
at the holy unseen pow’r
of the tree which bears the flow’r.
On the blessed tree
blooms the reddest flow’r.
On the tree blooms the rose
here in love’s own garden,
full and strong in glory.*
Christmas comes at the darkest time of year—just days after the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. For a number of months, the dark of night has been encroaching on the daylight, building to the solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. But thereafter, the daylight begins to chase the darkness of the night away. Light makes its grand re-entry. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined,” says the prophet. “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then the angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them,” says the Gospel writer. Into the midst of the darkness comes the Light, chasing cold December and its shadows away; into the midst of the darkness, “April’s crowning glory breaks”—the Light of Easter shines—“while the whole world wonders.” Oh God,” we pray, “you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true light.” Jesus, the Light of the world, is born!
In the hopeless time of sin
shadows deep had fallen.
All the world lay under death.
Eyes were closed in sleeping.
But when all seemed lost in night,
came the sun whose golden light
brings unending joy,
brings the endless joy
of our hope, highest hope,
of our hope’s bright dawning,
Son belov’d of heaven.*
A recent study of the effects of terror attacks on people found there are two primary emotional responses to the attacks: anger, which can have the effect of short-circuiting one’s nuanced thinking processes, causing people to lash out with brash and irrational words and actions against the perpetrators of the terror; and fear, which can be debilitating, leaving people immobilized and victimized. Neither of these responses is surprising; in fact, in our present world—in this “hopeless time of sin”—such emotions seem to be the norm. Wars and rumors of wars, economic inequality, terror attacks, and natural disasters caused by a changing climate leave us angry and fearful. But it’s not just brokenness on a global scale that elicits these emotions in us. Brokenness in ourselves and our families and friends also call up anger and fear: broken and hurting relationships; grief that will not heal; disease that threatens our very lives; captivity to addictions that have stolen loved ones from us. Yet, into the brokenness of the world a ray of hope has shined—shined so brightly, in fact, that the angel’s words of comfort are as timely and relevant to us as to the shepherds that night, “Do not be afraid; for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”; unending joy, endless joy “of our hope, highest hope, of our hope’s bright dawning, Son belov’d from heaven.” “This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” On this night we discover that anger is not the final word; fear is not the final word; hope is. Oh God,” we pray, “you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true light.” Jesus, the Light of the world, is born!
Now the bud has come to bloom,
and the world awakens.
In the lily’s purest flow’r
dwells a wondrous fragrance.
And it spreads to all the earth
from the moment of its birth;
and its beauty lives.
In the flow’r it lives,
in the flow’r, and it spreads
in its heav’nly brightness
sweet perfume delightful.*
Oh God,” we pray, “you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true light”—you have caused this holy night to be fragrant with the sweet perfume of the purest flow’r. Jesus, the Light of the world, the lily’s purest flow’r, is born! Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey S. F. Nelson+
Church of Our Savior, North Platte
*Catalonian Carol; tr. Howard Hawhee, b. 1953.
Dear friends in Christ,
I write this on Election Day, not knowing yet what the results will be. As you receive this, we know who will be the next President of the United States. We know by now many of the people who will serve in Congress. Local races have been decided, and important issues have been decided in ballot initiatives.
No one needs a news anchor to predict something else. However our presidential campaign has turned out, we know that the United States is deeply divided. During the campaign–and before, to be sure–we have seen increased division along lines of race, economic class, political preference, sexual orientation and identity, religion, and more. That won’t change with the results of this election. In some ways, this election, like all others, is an opportunity to start a new chapter. This is true today perhaps more than any other day in recent memory.
What can we do? It’s an easy question to ask, a difficult one to answer, and a really hard one to live out. We Christians can pray. We can pray for reconciliation, for our enemies, for those who wish us harm, for those we fear, and for all those working for reconciliation. We can form relationships across obvious lines of division. We can make sure our churches are places where the whole community, not just some of the community, is welcome and involved. We can practice empathy by putting ourselves in the shoes of those with whom we disagree and trying to imagine what might bring about a common vision. We can work for justice and peace for all people, even when it is difficult or dangerous for us to do so. We can, above all else, give thanks for the God who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and whose love is stronger than any division on earth, stronger even than death itself.
Thanks be to God it is nearly Advent. We have a whole season ahead of us, a time to devote ourselves to preparing our hearts and our lives to receive the gift of Jesus Christ. We have a whole season to remember the promise of God’s kingdom of justice and righteousness. We have a whole reason to seek mercy and truth.
It’s time for us to stop decrying our division and to start doing something about it. That will take a different form for each person and each community. What will you do? What do you hope others will do? For now, let us pray.
O God, give me strength to live another day; let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties; let me not lose faith in other people; keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery, or meanness; preserve me from minding little stings or giving them; help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity; open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things; grant me this day some new vision of thy truth; inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness; and make me the cup of strength to suffering souls; in the name of the strong Deliverer, our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Forward Movement Executive Director
[Editor’s note: Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church, grew out of the determination of the General Convention in 1934 to counter a period of anxiety, distrust, and decline in the Episcopal Church with a “forward movement” charged to “reinvigorate the life of the church and to rehabilitate its general, diocesan, and parochial work.” It is best known for the popular daily devotional Forward Day by Day, which provides daily meditations based on scripture readings appointed by the lectionary and Daily Office. Forward Day by Day is published in English, Spanish, large print, audio cassette, and Braille editions, and the daily meditation is available online. Since 1935, Forward Movement has produced pamphlets, booklets, and books on such topics as prayer, liturgy, pastoral concerns, evangelism, stewardship, church history, and introductions to Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church.
Andrei Sorokin graduated from the Art Institute in Russia. Initially, he worked as a portraitist and icon painter. Since leaving Russia in 1993, Sorokin has lived and worked in the United States, primarily in the Midwest. Over 300 of his oil paintings have been sold to collections all over the USA and internationally – specifically Russia, Italy and Germany.
Through his work as an artist for a memorial company, Sorokin added stone etching as another artistic skill. He has worked in three dimensions as well – both restoring and creating sculptures. Sorokin continues to enjoy learning and experiencing a variety of fine arts techniques as he develops his own style of expression.
Sorokin’s works can also be seen at Metro Gallery in downtown Lincoln.
First Friday Artwalks are held on the first Friday of every month at galleries and business (and now, with St. Mark’s, Churches!) in downtown Lincoln. To keep up to date on future Art Walk exhibits and other happenings at St. Marks, like their Facebook page found here.
For more information, contact St. Mark’s on the Campus Episcopal Church and Student Center, 402-474-1979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.