Outreach and Mission
Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” – Matthew 22: 21
Well, given the challenges of loving one another across our political differences that I mentioned in this morning’s Annual Address, you can probably imagine how thrilled I was to see that the Gospel reading appointed for this occasion is precisely about the relationship between our Christian faith and our duties to the nation in which we live!
“Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”
This here is a trap. It’s a “gotcha” question in modern media parlance. Because the crowd Jesus is speaking to that day is a divided crowd. Some of them are basically in favor of what Caesar’s rule is up to and so are OK paying taxes to support the Empire, and the other bunch are opposed to Caesar’s claims to authority – divinity even – and so are roundly opposed to paying the taxes asked of them. Everybody listening that day expected Jesus to answer the question posed in such a way as to lend credibility and support to one side of this heated debate or the other. He’ll either support paying taxes and so tick off the Pharisees … or he will weigh in against paying taxes and so alienate the Herodians …
But either way, half his listeners are sure to head home pleased, while the other half will head home ticked off. Because it’s a gotcha question. It is a trap.
As is so often the case, Jesus utterly confounds the expectations of his listeners with his answer to the question posed that day. “Pay to Caesar what is due to Caesar … and pay to God what is due to God.”
Both Caesar and God make valid claims on your life, says Jesus. It’s not a question of simply choosing one over the other. There are obligations you owe to your government, and it is right and good to pay that debt. But there are obligations too, that you owe to your God. And those obligations also must be met. “Pay to Caesar what is due to Caesar … and pay to God what is due to God.”
“The answer that Jesus gave them,” writes the Reverend Doctor Marvin McMickle, “is as confounding and compelling today as it was in the first century.” Jesus suggests, “that his followers have a dual allegiance, both to the teachings and commands of God and to the government under whose flag and laws they live.” This is a notion that presents Jesus’ modern-day disciples with a challenge, says McMickle. For Jesus’ teaching here sets an unavoidable question before us: “What do we owe? And to whom?”
If we don’t find ourselves asking these questions – and wrestling with the application of our answers in our actual lives – then we may not be paying close enough attention to the world in which we live and the cares and concerns of this day. You sure don’t need me to tell you, that we dwell in very challenging times:
– We live in a culture that tolerates – even glorifies – violence of every sort.
– We live in a country in which racism and xenophobia are ascendant, and increasingly tied to circles of power in government and business.
– We live in a moment in which our advances in technology and our lust for comfort and wealth have combined to put our fragile earth – and indeed, the entire human population of this planet – at risk of environmental disaster from which we may never return.
– We live in an era in which access to the American Dream is available to fewer and fewer and fewer of the citizens of this nation. And where our reputation in the wider world as “the city on the hill” is being eroded year by year like sand cliffs on the ocean’s bank.
We live in very challenging times. And as Americans – and as Christians – we want to do the right thing. So what do we owe – and to whom?
It seems to me that perhaps our greatest obligation to our state in a moment like this, is simply to be fully engaged, knowing that our elected officials and the policies we pursue – whether at city hall or in Washington DC – will have a profound impact on the real human lives that hang in the balance of this moment.
– Surely that means that we need to vote, in every election, and not just for the candidate who excites us, but for the candidate who we honestly believe will contribute the greatest good to our larger commonwealth.
– Surely that means we need to pay attention. Our government is a complex and fast-moving operation and it is making decisions that will affect our lives and those of others in this fragile moment and for decades to come.
– Surely that means we need to be in relationship with those we’ve elected to office and those who are on the payroll we underwrite with the taxes Jesus sanctions paying. If you think the women and men who represent you in the halls of power are doing a good job, let them know … and if you feel otherwise, tell ‘em.
– And surely that means that we have to march: we have to march into our city council chambers … we have to march on our school board meetings … and when our elected officials and the policies the pursue fail to realize what is right and good for the people of God in this nation and beyond, we need to march into our streets.
(And if I may: don’t fool yourself, as I have, by imaging that posting on Facebook counts as authentic political engagement. At best, you’re calling out into an echo chamber, and at worst, you’re clubbing those with whom you disagree instead of talking to them.)
Get engaged. Take some responsibility. Render unto Caesar what is due Caesar.
We are free moral agents and the decisions we make every day matter: From how we treat our neighbors, to what charitable causes we will support, to what we watch on TV. From to the food we will feed our families, to who we will vote for in the next election, to what companies we will support in the products we buy. From the schools will we choose for our kids, to the neighborhoods we choose to live in, to who we will pray for and who we name as our enemy …
We are free moral agents … and the decisions we make every day matter.
So what do we owe? And to whom?
One terrific blessing of my line of work is the fact that almost every Sunday morning, it’s my job to lead the people of God in the recitation our Baptismal Covenant. I count it a blessing because that means I am constantly reminded of the details of our shared commitment to Christ as disciples and as his present-day Church on earth. As followers of Jesus, we make extraordinary promises about how we will follow him in the world, promises founded on the beliefs we embrace as Christians, the verities we proclaim when we say the Creed together in worship every week:
– We believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.
– We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son who was born of the Virgin Mary … who rose again on the third day.
– We believe in God the Holy Spirit … and saints and the forgiveness of sins … and life everlasting.
Claiming these truths – embracing them as real and meaningful to us – is the foundation of Christian discipleship. That’s where it all begins for us.
But this is NOT where Christian discipleship ends. You might think that from watching TV preachers and talking to friends who attend churches where every single Sunday’s sermon is addressed to the “unsaved” and where being “born again” is the high point of the Christian journey. But in our Episcopal tradition, discipleship is not just about what you believe – or even about what Christ has accomplished for you in his sacrifice on the cross – it is about how we will live in light of these things.
It is a privilege and a solemnity to watch and listen as the Church raises its voice on those occasions when because of a Baptism or a Confirmation, we join with those who are committing themselves to Christ and renew our own Baptismal covenant. It feels weighty to me because those words are not merely about what we “believe” to be true about God, they are also promises about how we will act in light of those truths.
Almost every single Sunday of my life, I see you standing together and boldly and publically affirming that you will act as stewards of creation … as caregivers to the hurting and the lost … as champions for what is good and right. I watch and listen as you call out, “We will!” in answer to questions like:
Will you persevere in resisting evil? Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ? Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons? Will you strive for justice and peace on the earth?
These are not affirmations about what we believe my brothers and sisters. This is not head work. These are affirmations about how we will live. These are commitments about how we will act. These are promises to be engaged … and to march!
I get that there are “dual allegiances ” in our lives. I get that the work of deciding what you will say and what you will do in any given situation that demands a moral decision can be “confounding” work. But remember whose you are:
Remember who created you. Remember who sustains you every day with what you need to live and thrive. Remember who it was that gave his very life for you, so that you might live in God’s love forever.
What do we owe? And to whom?
You belong to Jesus Christ. Before any family relationship … before any political affiliation … before even your allegiance to flag or country …
You have been buried with Christ in his death … and you have been raised with him into living a whole new kind of life. We owe it all to him.
Will you now march forth from this place, and remembering the promises that you’ve made as disciples of Jesus, render unto God what is God’s?
+ J. S. Barker
Friday, September 29th (7 pm – 9:00 pm)
Saturday, September 30th (8:30 am – 3:00 pm)
St. David’s Episcopal Church 8800 Holdrege Street, Lincoln, NE
The VISION of INVITE * WELCOME * CONNECT is…
To change the culture of The Episcopal Church to move from maintenance to mission.
Underwritten by The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska, in partnership with St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Omaha, and hosted by St. David’s Episcopal Church, Lincoln, you are invited to participate in a summit focusing on offering hospitality to the stranger in our midst. Invite * Welcome * Connect is designed for teams of lay people and clergy. The presenter, Mary Parmer, has 10 years of experience in evangelism and newcomer ministry in the Diocese of Texas and throughout The Episcopal Church in the USA and in Europe. She has conducted summits and workshops in 40 Episcopal dioceses.
Click here to access the registration form. The cost, per participant, is $25 which will cover the cost of materials, continental breakfast, lunch and breaks. A block of rooms is being held at the Staybridge Suite Hotel, 2701 Fletcher Ave, 402.438.7829 (across the street from St. David’s). Rates range from $95.99 –
$125.99 for Friday night (Saturday night based on availability). Please reference Invite*Welcome*Connect when you call for reservations. Deadline for accommodation reservations is September 1st to receive the group rate.
Please mark your calendars and plan to bring a team to participate in this summit guaranteed to change your ways of sharing the Good News through evangelism and welcoming. For more information, visit Mary’s website: http://www.invitewelcomeconnect.com/. If you have questions about the conference or logistics, please contact The Rev. Diane Pike at St. Andrew’s, Omaha: 402-391-1950 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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.
St. Martin of Tours has a clothesline in its front yard where we put coats, hats, mittens, socks, etc. we collect in our Fall clothing drive. They are then picked up by people who need them, at any time of the day or night.
Recently, Deacon Robin McNutt headed outside to place the last of our coats on the line. When she got there, she saw that the clothesline was full of coats, scarves, blankets, hats, and even boots that had not been there before. An unknown angel had replenished the line with an abundance of warm items. Many of them have already been claimed by our South Omaha neighbors.
We are grateful for the angel or angels who brought the items. You have warmed our neighbors and our hearts.
Vicar Kim Roberts+
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
Here is a report from Jacob’s current trip to Kakuma Refugee Camp, and the work of the Save South Sudanese Orphans and Widows humanitarian organization Jacob founded two years ago.
It’s always a joy to come back to the refugee camps and visit with our innocent brothers and sisters who are displaced into the camps due to war. After staying here in Kakuma for a week and a half, I have shared the pain that the people are going through and I understand their issues in more detail. The living situation here in Kakuma refugee’s camp is extremely difficult.
There are many issues, but most importantly:
- Shortages of water
There’s shortage of water due to an increasing number of the refugees that are coming into the camp from South Sudan and other countries that are affected by war. The temperature here in Kakuma is always hot because it’s nearly a desert and the wind blows throughout the day which makes the shortage of water a big concern.
- Food insecurity
The UN is now distributing two kilos of sorghum to an individual as food for a month. It uses to be one gallon of sorghum for a month which was not even enough for 15 days. However, it has been reduced to the level that makes it difficult for refugees to survive. The food that’s given to refugees monthly couldn’t even last 5 days if there’s no other support provided by the families abroad. Most of the people in Kakuma refugee’s camp survive because of the support that’s given to them by relatives abroad and from South Sudan. Beside food shortages, refugees in Kakuma are highly affected by the absence of medicine. Most people are malnourished.
High temperature and wind blow sands throughout the day and that contributes to high fever, typhoid, kidney stones and many other diseases that are also a big concern to most of the refugees here. Kakuma is mainly a desert so it’s always hot during the day and night. It’s really sad that people here in Kakuma have struggled for many years and still there is no solution in sight to solve the issues that are affecting them. The camp is now crowded; the reception center at the Kenyan border is crowded to the level that they don’t have enough medicine for yellow fever.
All the people that are immigrating to Kakuma refugee’s camp in Kenya have to get yellow fever at the reception before they cross the border into Kenya. However, currently, there’s no medicine for yellow fever so they have to wait at the reception until the yellow fever vaccine is provided to them. Some families from South Sudan have tried to go to Kakuma in order to skip starvation. However, waiting at Kenyan border without food in order to first get yellow fever injection has become extremely difficult so some people have to return back to South Sudan.
In the face of the struggles refugees are facing here, they haven’t lost hope of a better tomorrow, so they are supporting themselves as one family with every little thing they have. If one family doesn’t have anything to eat they would get help from their neighbors and their neighbors will do the same thing for them if they face the same situation tomorrow. It’s very encouraging to see most of the families here in the camp are working together to make sure everyone is taken care of—even when they themselves don’t have basic resources for living.
After I arrived in Kakuma with the idea of helping orphans and widows with basic education, I learned of an adult education program that has been run by a group of students who are dedicated to helping their elders with basic education. The teachers volunteer their time to teach. However, they don’t have any funding to buy chalk and textbooks for teaching. Since the students are willing to learn they sell half of their two kilos of sorghum that’s given to them as food for the whole month then they each give 300 Kenyan shillings to teachers so that they could buy supplies for teaching. The teachers also welcome students to learn even if they are not able to contribute 300 Kenyan shillings monthly (which is equal to $3.06).
The key challenges here faced by adult education is lack of support. The teachers and students are asking for your support so as you read this article, please consider helping this critical (and awesome) program. Teachers are volunteers and they would like to get paid even enough to cover their expenses for teaching supplies. There is a lack of a permanent place to teach because they are only allowed to teach adult education in the kindergarten school for 2 hours in the evening. Finally, students cannot afford to buy school supplies.
After meeting with adult education teachers and the director of adult education, we talked about the issues that are facing the program and as the result Save South Sudanese Orphans and Widows has provided 360 notebooks for 60 students so each student gets 6 notebooks. We also provided two pens and pencils for each student. This was only a one-time assistance due to insufficient funding. However, Save South Sudanese Orphans and Widows is hoping to continue supporting this adults education program when funding is available.
If you would like to help with this program or other programs run by (SSSOW) please visit our website at www.savesouthsudaneseorphansandwidows.org.
You can also “Like” us on Facebook by searching Save South Sudanese Orphans and Widows.
To all my brothers and sisters aboard, our people are extremely suffering in the refugees camps and within South Sudan due to the on-going crisis. I know many of them are surviving today already only due to your support. I encourage you to continue this great work you are doing. Savings people lives is the best thing anyone could do. Help us promote awareness of the current crisis that’s facing refugees in the refugee camps and within South Sudan.
Your contribution is highly appreciated.
Yours in Christ,
SSSOW Founder: Jacob Maluak Manyang
You can follow Jacob’s work daily on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/jacob.manyang
Contact Jacob for comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org and
This year has been a unique year for St. Monica’s. While we are fortunate to have expanded services and improved the safety of our programs and staff, it came at a cost. There are 3 factors that have made this year such a financial challenge:
- Our first expansion included opening a treatment program for adolescent girls again. As you may recall, we had a program several years ago, but were forced to close it during the states failed attempt at Child Welfare Reform. The challenge we did not anticipate was the length of time it would take to get the facility approved & licensed. We hired staff in anticipation of opening in a few months, but the process took much longer. The combination of paying staff with no clients in our services was a tough blow to the budget. I’m happy to report that the program is now full with a wait list, so things are moving in the right direction.
- At about the same time we were working on opening the adolescent program, we identified the need to move an adult program out of a unsafe neighborhood. Gunshots fired in the alley behind our facility, drug dealers living on the same block, and an employee’s car broken into were the kinds of regular occurrences that prompted our decision to move the program and move it quickly. Unfortunately, finding another home, making the required renovations and getting that facility licensed took almost a full year. During that time, we could not serve as many women, and the renovation costs exceeded our estimate The program is now full and resides in a beautiful home and safe neighborhood od! But, we lost about $200,000 on this experience alone.
- And finally, the growing disparity between our reimbursement rates and the cost of doing business is harder and harder to overcome. Most years we get no rate increases, or a small 1-2% increase, while our costs go up significantly more than that. We can’t retain good employees without increasing their salaries, our health insurance rates rise each and every year, sometimes as high as 15% percent over the year before. Our Board of Directors is working hard to create a fundraising plan to address this issue going forward, as the gap will only grow wider.
So we ask for your heartfelt consideration in supporting our 100 Day year end campaign. What is accomplished here at St. Monica’s is life changing and often lifesaving. Your support of treatment for women and families goes well beyond basic social issues, it gets at the core of many complex issues including homelessness, hunger, domestic violence, child abuse and behavioral health. Women who are well, who become healthy & strong, who can be good parents, can work and rent or become homeowners. They contribute to our communities. For many of the women who come through our doors, in addition to the treatment services they need, they find hope at St. Monica’s. Your support assures that hope is still within reach…
Thanks for your generous support –
St. Monica’s Behavioral Health Services for Women
You can write a check to:
120 Wedgewood Drive
Lincoln, NE 68516
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.
“…The unofficial Yazidi headquarters in Lincoln — St. Matthew’s — has been happy to oblige the blossoming community in Lincoln, which Khalaf estimated at nearly 1,300 people.
Associate Pastor Steve Lahey said the church recognized an opportunity to fulfill its mission of helping those in need by lending time and talent after nearly a century of keeping to itself.
“What’s the purpose of having a church with gifts if you don’t share them?” he asked.
Lahey said the church is open to the Yazidis to use as they will, including everything from the education and dance classes to worship if they so choose…”
Click here to read the full story at the Lincoln Journal Star website.