God in All Things

“O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” –Collect for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

As summertime in Charlotte or wherever we are continues to unfold and we go and come from St. Peter’s, we are invited to praise and seek God in all things. The Collect for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost reminds us well that without God nothing is strong and nothing is holy. These comfortable, encouraging, and powerful words are perfect, as I will travel from July 26 to August 2 with my wife, Ellie, to Kenya for a church-related conference that will focus on the important matter of human sexuality and justice. (More about this is found in today’s notices.) Gathering with a host of ordained and lay ministers from throughout the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, we will pray, listen, respond, and learn what it means to seek God in all things. More, we will learn explore what it means to put ourselves aside in the name of Love and the Other. It should be a rich time amid breathtaking scenery. In October 2011, I attended this same conference in South Africa and continue to reflect on the transformative nature of being with other Christians from diverse settings who are invited daily to praise and seek God in all things.

I invite you to join me in the praising and seeking of God in all things, as we make our spiritual home at St. Peter’s and are called by our ministries to bring about justice and peace and to live in love. Godspeed, blessings, and looking forward to our return.

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Praying for Our Country and God’s World

The Book of Common Prayer offers a prayer “for our country” in thanksgiving for Independence Day and the unique freedoms we are afforded in the United States of America: Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance; and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Before, during, and after July 4th, we are called to pray for our country as well as all nations of God’s world. If we read closely the prayer “for our country,” we find rich words and images of brokenness and hope that reflect a common humanity and creation. Even as we live freely on different soil and seek peace among the nations, our Baptismal Covenant calls us to be more like Jesus and to learn increasingly that all people are created equally in the image of the same God.

America and all the nations of the earth are blessed, will continue to be blessed, and become better as we reach out to one another in love and prayer. I ask your prayers.

–The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

June 30—A Day of Thanksgiving at St. Peter’s

Our common life at St. Peter’s is full of opportunities to give thanks to God from all whom all blessings flow. Even as we naturally are less aware of our countless blessings, we are called daily into mindfulness of, and gratitude for, people, places, and things that bless us.

June 30 is definitely a day of thanksgiving as our community of faith gives thanks for the 99th birthday of parishioner Edith Pearson. All are invited to gather after 10:45 a.m. worship for a festive birthday celebration. Amazingly, Edith was baptized at St. Peter’s and is able to attend 10:45 a.m. weekly worship preceded by regular presence at the 9:30 a.m. Rector’s Forum from September to May. (Learn more about this celebration in today’s news.)

On this day, we also give thanks for the June 29 ordination of the Reverend Joslyn Ogden Schaefer as Transitional Deacon approximately six months before her upcoming ordination as Priest at St. Peter’s. In addition to programmatic duties as Associate Rector for Formation and Pastoral Care, Joslyn will perform liturgical duties designated for the holy order of Deacons: proclaim the Gospel, bid the Confession, bid the Prayers of the People before the Intercessor offers intercessions, set the Table, and dismiss the people into the world. She also will preach, teach, and join me in leading the baptismal call for each of us to serve the poor, sick, and oppressed.

Although I will be away from June 25 to July 4 with fifteen youth and four adults for the Journey to Adulthood (J2A) pilgrimage to Italy, our pilgrimage crew will be in prayer and thanksgiving for the gift of St. Peter’s. Let us all hold one another in prayer wherever our daily pilgrimages take us and be thankful for our blessings.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Pilgrimage: The Daily Faith Walk

In hymn 209 in The Hymnal 1982, Henry Alford (1810-1871) offers perfect words about pilgrimage and the daily faith walk: We walk by faith, and not by sight; no gracious words we hear from him who spoke as none e’er spoke; but we believe him near. We may not touch his hands and side, nor follow where he trod; but in his promise we rejoice; and cry, “My Lord and God!” Help then, O Lord, our unbelief; and may our faith abound, to call on you when you are near, and seek where you are found: that, when our life of faith is done, in realms of clearer light we may behold you as you are, with full and endless sight.

A pilgrimage is an intentional journey into the sacred, an embrace of the holy ordinary of life. Often, I have heard and know I believe that life is a pilgrimage. It also is a deeper engagement of God through holy places that help us to know God better. Christian pilgrimages first were made to historical sites connected with the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and to specific places where Christian foremothers and forefathers have walked by faith. Today, youth and adults through formation programs such as Journey to Adulthood (J2A) make pilgrimages primarily away from familiar cultural and national contexts after several years of togetherness in a parish church community.

I am privileged to be one of five adults to lead fifteen youth from St. Peter’s in Italy (Milan, Assisi, Rome) from June 25 until July 4. More, I am grateful to our parish church family for the prayers and provisions that will make possible our journey. Let us all hold one another in prayer wherever our daily pilgrimages take us and remember that God is present in all things, especially as we walk by faith.

Blessings and peace on the way….

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

“For the fruit of all creation…”

In this season of Pentecost when we are called to cultivate our souls and live more deeply into our relationships with God, may you find food for your journey in the words of F. Pratt Green. The words (Hymn 424, The Hymnal 1982) were the opening prayer of my sermon on Sunday past; several persons inquired about them so I thought I would share the source. Over the years, they have served me well in a variety of situations, including times of devotion, thanksgiving gatherings and throughout the day.

For the fruit of all creation, thanks be to God. For his gifts bestowed on every nation, thanks be to God. For the plowing, sowing, reaping, silent growth while we are sleeping, future needs in earth’s safekeeping, thanks be to God.

In the just reward of labor, God’s will is done. In the help we give our neighbor,

God’s will is done. In our worldwide task of caring for the hungry and despairing, in the harvests we are sharing, God’s will is done.

For the harvests of the Spirit, thanks be to God. For the good we all inherit, thanks be to God. For the wonders that astound us, for the truths that still confound us, most of all that love has found us, thanks be to God.

Blessings, peace and grace as we journey together into Christ.

 

Abundance, Glory, and Craze

O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for the Third Sunday after Pentecost)

In the gift, abundance, glory, and craze of every new day, you and I are invited to immerse ourselves in God – more than anyone or anything else. In thought, word, and deed, we are called to delve deeper into our discipleship. In the mystery of love, as faithful followers of Jesus, we are given the daily opportunity to be all about God, even as we might struggle with the meaning of this.

Today, I am reminded of a collection of prayers and worship resources developed in Salisbury, England, during the 13th century, called the Sarum Primer. It was used throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, as well as some parts of continental Europe and continues to be a gem for daily devotion. May the following words from the Primer bless our journeys with the Creator and devotion amid the fullness of life.

God be in my head, and in my understanding;
 God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
 God be in my mouth, and in my speaking; 
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
 God be at mine end, and at my departing.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Ordinary Time

Remembering the Sabbath Day in Ordinary Time. The Day of Pentecost (May 19) marked the start of Ordinary Time. This longest season of the Church Year runs until the first Sunday of Advent. Symbolic of a time of growth and maturity in daily expression of faith, our liturgical color has changed to green, except for at baptisms, weddings, and funerals. It is an incredible time to deepen one’s prayer life, read the Scriptures, unite more deeply with Jesus in the Eucharist, and become a more holy and whole person. It is an opportunity for people like us to answer God’s call to discipleship and become better messengers of the Gospel we were commissioned to be through our Baptism. One writer offers that “ordinary time is this day, this moment, now.”

As summertime approaches, school years come to a close, and our lives might have new variety including travel, let us “remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.” Not only is this the fourth of the Ten Commandments, it is imbedded in the Baptismal Covenant: Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? I will, with God’s help. Every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. and on third Sundays at 5:00 p.m., all who are able are expected to worship God in Word and Sacrament. If Sunday schedules might not permit, St. Peter’s offers Tuesday and Thursday 12:00 Noon worship in the chapel. If you are away from Charlotte on a Sunday or weekday, please worship at any Episcopal or other church and bring me a copy of the worship service leaflet. (I like to see what others are doing and it will remind me of my childhood visits to all sorts of places!)

God always is faithful to us and never takes a break from us. Let us strive, as followers of Jesus, to remember the Sabbath Day in Ordinary Time, and keep it holy.

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Dancing with God

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for the First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday)

Dancing with God. The first Sunday after the Day of Pentecost commemorates and embraces not an event, but the reality of the Holy Trinity. It is one of few celebrations of the Church Year that commemorates a reality and belief rather than a specific event or person. On this day, Christians remember and honor the eternal God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Symbolic of the unity of the Trinity, it lasts one day and continues to be a both fascinating and controversial dogma of the faith. The mystery of the Trinity does not mean a riddle, but rather that the Trinity is a reality above our human comprehension that we may begin to grasp, but ultimately must know through worship, symbol, and faith. It has been said that mystery is not a wall to run up against, but an ocean in which to swim.

I offer that the Trinity is a three-person dance with God, whereby no partner of the dance can ever break away, loose step or fall out of sync. Instead, every partner remains perfectly in step and bound even as the music inevitably will change. The partnership circle cannot be broken. Every day, we are called to dance with God. Now, let us work on our dance moves and remember always to let God lead.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

Spirit of the Living God, Fall Fresh on Us

O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for the Day of Pentecost: Whitsunday)

Spirit of the Living God, Fall Fresh on Us. As we celebrate Pentecost, the birthday of God’s Church, I am reminded of a certain breathtaking red vase that lives on a window ledge in my office. This pottery piece was crafted and gifted to me during my seminary years by children of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd from my sponsoring parish in Jackson, Mississippi. It was given as a reminder that the Spirit of the Living God lives within every human being and that we are to share the Spirit with any and all around us.  More, its rich redness is a symbol of blessing and prosperity for the journey of faith.

The Day of Pentecost strikes me as the perfect day on which you and I are either to restore old or to make new covenants of faithfulness with the Creator who gives us breath.  More than two thousand years ago, our Christian ancestors embraced and celebrated the God within and were united because they were able to speak a common language. They were able to speak the hopeful language of one holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic church. Through them, God’s Church was born and the message of God’s love became widespread. Today, we are the heirs and stewards of the redeeming work of Christ to be proclaimed and done in the world at this time and in this place.

May we daily seek ways to be stretched by the Spirit of God and open our hearts increasingly so that we can go where God might lead us. The Spirit of the Living God already has fallen fresh on us. Let our new life with God in Christ begin today. Since Pentecost is our birthday as the body of Christ, let us celebrate and grow together.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector

The Last Steps of Eastertide

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. (Collect for the Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Sunday after Ascension Day)

The Last Steps of Eastertide. As we journey from the Ascension (May 9) to the Day of Pentecost (May 19), our common prayer is that God will never leave us comfortless and that the Holy Spirit will be revealed as a source of strength. As an Easter people, a people who believe in new life, a people who believe God has the capacity to do the impossible, do we know that God lives within us?

You and I are called daily to go to God in prayer (conversation) so that the presence of God within us will make our paths clearer and the world might become better. Through weekly engagement of life at St. Peter’s and the various offerings for worship, formation, and fellowship in this incredible place, the God within will become increasingly known. Transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit is bound to happen within and all around us, especially when our hearts are open and we pray without ceasing. May the last steps of the Eastertide journey bless us “real good” and prepare us for even richer lives in Christ.

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector