Saturday, October 18, 2003

Fr. Smith's Sermon Sunday October 19th

“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb.4:12)

I’m happy to announce to you that we have a new bishop in the Diocese of Arizona. Canon Kirk Smith was elected and I believe that this person will be a excellent chief shepherd for us and lead us through the difficult times in which we live and help us all to minister faithfully in Jesus’ name. The election of the bishop brought back to mind a question that a wise Monsignor once posed to a group of newly ordained priests: You have to make a decision--do you want to be a bishop or a priest?--and that decision will affect the rest of your life. Now, the old Monsignor wasn’t trying to be critical of all bishops, for obviously there are many fine ones--hopefully the one we just elected. What he was getting at is that a priest has to decide whether he or she is going to be a careerist or a servant of the least and that decision will influence the rest of life and what kind of priest the person will be. Hopefully, Kirk Smith, who we just elected, decided years ago he wanted to be a servant priest and was totally surprised by the Holy Spirit in this election!

And we can’t just pose the Monsignor’s question only to priests and bishops only, for we live in a time when the ministry of each baptized person is valued as essential for the mission of the church. If it is the case that some who begin as fine servant priests gradually get drawn to an upward, hierarchical career track, the same can be true for some lay persons for fall into the same error of clericalism, trading their servant role in for their own needs for importance and power in the church. When this happens it becomes hard to find out what anybody believes in: God? Their Role? Or Power?

Both our election of Bishop and today’s gospel bring this discussion of servant hood to the forefront. In the Gospel, James and John boldly approach Jesus, within earshot of the other disciples, and ask Jesus to do something for them. “What do you want me to do for you?“ Jesus asks. “Give us the highest places in your future Kingdom” they reply. When all the other apostles hear this they are upset and start arguing among themselves. Now the Apostles are portrayed in the Gospels as basically good people, nevertheless, we see them as ambitious, concerned with power, and their own backside. Jesus takes this encounter as a chance to teach them about true greatness. True greatness is found only in service and the high places in Kingdom will be given to the one who serves the needs of all especially those considered the least. Jesus explains that He has come not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for sinners. Jesus is the righteous Servant Isaiah foretold who would make many righteous and bear the iniquities of many and make intercession for transgressors.

Last week Fr. Daniel spoke of the “stuff” that can keep us from serving God and at the same time cut us off from our brothers and sisters. This week the teaching from the gospel is about power. The desire for power can have the same negative effect. When service is the motivation of our lives it will bring us into close personal contact with many of our brothers and sisters in the human family. But when power is the motivation for our lives we will find ourselves distanced from one another and the needs of our brothers and sisters. A life devoted to power disconnects us from both God and other people.

As Jesus watched the power struggles of his own chosen apostles, I think he is watching the struggle that is going on in our denomination today especially around the election of the first “openly gay” cleric to be elected in the Apostolic order. The division is great between some good and faithful people on both sides of the issue. While the main disagreement is claimed to around “faithfulness to scripture”, what if at root it is a question of power in the church? Faithful and committed Episcopalians elected Fr. Robinson bishop. Why? Some think it was just because he was Gay and in a committed relationship for a number of years. I really don’t think this is the case. I think rather that our brothers and sisters in New Hampshire and at convention saw in this man a “servant first” mentality and a servant leader who never in a million years thought he would ever be elected to serve as bishop. He has been such a Good Shepherd to those he has served over the years in “small” daily differences that it was this ministry that made the “big” difference of his election and confirmation. And this “Good Shepherd” quality of his life, acknowledged by those closest to him, adheres Gene Robinson to the “scriptural norm” of righteousness.

Let us be at peace about this matter and see what come of this. Remember the story of Gamaliel in the Acts of the Apostles? The disciples were preaching and teaching in Jesus’ name and get thrown into jail. In the middle of the night an Angel comes and lets them out. The next morning they are preaching and teaching again non-stop. They are arrested for a second time and brought before the Council of the Jews where they are ordered to stop. They respond: “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” The Council wanted to have them all put to death, but a wise member of the Council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel stood up and had the followers of Jesus put out of the chamber for a short time. He then told the council something that I think applies to Gene Robinson’s election and the disturbing movement it portends for some in the church. Gamaliel reminded the Council about a certain Theudas and his 400 hundred men who rose up, aspiring to be somebody. However, Theudas was killed and his whole movement died with him. And the same thing happened with another Judas of Galilee and his followers. Gamaliel made his point: So in the present case, I tell you . . . Let them alone; because if this plan or this understanding is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them--in that case you may even be found fighting against God! (Acts 5:38-39) The wisdom of Gamaliel prevailed, at least for the Jews.

So we can lift up our hearts. God reigns and is in control. And God’s purposes will be accomplished if we let go of petty struggles for power and become servants of one another and this means servants of Christ whose image we bear. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink? Or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with? The disciples answer “We are able.” But they don’t really understand what Jesus is asking: Are you ready to be a servant? To lay down your life in a million different ways so that my Kingdom of love will prevail in this world? Jesus asks the same question of us this morning. And two thousand years later, it’s hard for us to say we don’t understand. Our answer may come slower than those first disciples, but hopefully the answer will be: we will serve, we will give our lives, we will be the slave of all, and in doing all this we will help God’s Kingdom come.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

St. Michael's Annual Fundraiser ~ ANGEL FOOD CANDY
Remember an angel you love this coming Christmas holiday with the best Coconut Macadamia Toffee you've ever tasted. The recipe for this confection is an outgrowth of one that dates back to 1866 when a Yankee Soldier's wife took in a gravely ill former confederate prisoner of war and nursed him back to health so that he could return home. Out of gratitude, he taught her the art of candy making.

The modification of the original recipe came to our master candy maker in a dream, hence Angel Food. This product is meticulously made and packaged by the parishioners using only the finest ingredients just as in 1866!

This one pound of heavenly delight is beautifully presented in a red gift box with metallic gold lettering and angel graphic banded in a metallic gold elastic ribbon. For mailing purposes, it is then enclosed in a sturdy, white mailing box. Each one pound box of Angel Food is reasonably priced at $10 plus $6 for shipping box mailed at priority mail.

To order your Angel Food candy, please submit your name, address, telephone and the number of boxes desired, with payment, to St. Michael's Angel Food, 602 N. Wilmot Road, Tucson AZ 85711. Please indicate if your order is to be shipped to a different name and address. Checks or money orders are accepted with each purchase.

Proceeds from this sale will benefit St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church programs.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS' LABYRINTH - take time to visit the Labyrinth in the courtyard near the parish Center.

The design of St. Michael's Labyrinth is modeled after the one located in the floor at Chartres Cathedral near Paris, France. The Labyrinth at Chartres was built around 1200 and is laid into the floor in a style sometimes referred to as a pavement maze and is walked as a pilgrimage and/or for repentance. As a pilgrimage, it was a questing, searching journey with the hope of becoming closer to God. When used for repentance, the pilgrims would walk on their knees. Sometimes this eleven-circuit Labyrinth would serve as a substitute for an actual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and as a result, came to be called the "Chemin de Jerusalem" or Road of Jerusalem.

In walking the Labyrinth, the walker meanders through each of the four quadrants several times before reaching the goal. An expectancy is created as to when the center will be reached. At the center is a rosette design which has a rich symbolic value including that of enlightenment. This is where the individual is invited to mediate. You will notice the four arms of the cross are readily visible which provides significant Christian symbolism and also includes a Baptismal pool.

Come walk the Labyrinth--come experience a walking meditation-- every Monday morning starting at 8:00 AM with Fr. John Smith.

A NEW TESTAMENT GREEK CLASS FOR LAY PEOPLE to continues every Wednesday at 8:45 AM in the Parish Center. Fr. Smith will be teaching an Inductive approach to the Gospel of John. There is a $35 workbook fee for this class. For those interested, please call the church office at 886-7292 or email to

YOUNG ADULT BIBLE STUDY AND POTLUCK continues Wednesday evenings at 6:30 PM following Evening Prayer. The Bible Study will be led by the Rev. Daniel Richards and is open to all levels of knowledge or experience with the Bible. The study will be followed by a Mac ‘n Cheese potluck, so bring your favorite recipe and enough to share. Please bring your own Bible. Call the church office at 886-7292 or email to for more information.

RITE 13 YOUTH GROUP NOW FORMING - Rite 13 is a youth-oriented program, for ages 10½ to 13, developed to encourage community service, community building, and life-long relationships. Meetings are held every Sunday at 4 PM in the Parish Center. For more information, contact Leslie Weatherford, Rite 13 Coordinator, at 918-5261.

EPISCOPAL CHURCH WOMEN (ECW) MEETING THE THIRD WEDNESDAY OF EACH MONTH starting at 10:00 AM, in the Parish Center. All women are invited to attend.

SOCIAL CONCERNS MEETING HELD EVERY THIRD SUNDAY OF THE MONTH following the 10:00 AM Mass in the Parish Center. All are invited to attend.

COME HELP MAKE 500 BAG SANDWICHES FOR OUR COMMUNITY'S NEEDY served through the Casa Maria food program. Come join in fellowship every fourth week from Friday, October 3, in the Parish Center.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

The English Faire on September 27th was a great success! Thanks to all the Mayors, Sheriffs, and Town Criers and citizens who helped welcome so many to our church and school campus. We can forget “King” Karl MacOmber who guided the effort and Alicia Basemann, our parish administrator who provided support. The food offered at the Faire was delicious: fish n’ chips, bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pie. Thank you Joy Miller, Andy Bruno, and all your helpers! The Episcopal Church Women had a wonderful, sold-out tea! And Amy Bruno won the beautiful PT Cruiser donated by Steve Christy Chrysler Jeep- she really deserved to win as the tip-top seller of over 60 tickets! The English Faire effort netted $5,200 for our Habitat for Humanity House and the PT raffle made $25,000 for the Peace of Mind Organ fund. Thanks again to everyone who participated in our Faire!!

The 10:00am Patronal Mass to St. Michael and All Angels on Sunday, September 28th was beautiful. Our choir sang the Schubert Mass supported with orchestra and timpani. Thank you Jane Haman, choir director and organist, for all your efforts to make this a special celebration. Daniel Richards, our transitional Deacon, preached a message that since Michael, our Patron, has the sword and scales of justice, we can trust God and put away our own swords and judgments which divide us from so many of our brothers and sisters.

On that same Sunday afternoon at the Tucson Community Center four parishioners and Fr. Smith attended the “Families First” agenda rally sponsored by the Pima County Interfaith Council. Mayoral and City Council candidates responded to the agenda which strongly supported the need to fund programs for families like KIDCO, JobPath, and an eastside Adult Education facility. Program funding has been cut sharply and needs to be restored. Formerly at no or little cost, programs like KIDCO are now charging fees that are prohibitive for many families and require them to register with a credit or debit card which many low-income families do not have. Attendance in this afternoon program has been dropping. Idleness after school while parents work leads to crime. Prioritizing city funds away from flashy studies and projects could make these programs thrive again. Register and vote. Registration is offered after services on Sunday.

Sunday, October 5, saw many animals of all shapes and sizes, gathered at Mass with their owners for the blessing of the animals in honor of St. Francis. Fr. Smith shared how Francis lived in time much like we do: constant warfare, political scheming, and tremendous cruelty of people to one another and especially animals. In this context he opened himself to the grace of conversion which enabled him to embrace absolute poverty and the Gospel message of repentance, love, and reconciliation. Great stories are told of his reconciling a terrorizing Wolf with the townspeople of Gubbio and the harmony and love that ensued. Another story told of Francis and his brothers joining the 5th Crusade in 1219 in Damietta where untold crusaders and muslims lost their lives. Walking through the line of battle, armed with nothing but the Gospel message of love, Francis was allowed an audience with the Moslem Sultan Malek al-Kamil. The mighty Sultan could have had Francis’ head in a second, but he was so impressed with Francis’ sincerity and message of love for God that he gave Francis and his brothers a letter of safe passage to the Holy Land which was the goal of the whole crusade whose blood thirst in God’s Name made arrival there impossible! Can we pray for the grace to, like Francis, arm ourselves with nothing but Jesus in our world of constant warring, political intrigue, and cruelty and build a new relationship with God’s natural, animal, and human creation. Make us channels of God’s peace!