Tuesday, November 30, 2010

St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr

Patron of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Highland Park, Pittsburgh

(Greek: Ανδρέας, Andreas), called in the Orthodox tradition Protocletos, or the First-called, is a Christian Apostle and the elder brother of Saint Peter. The name "Andrew" (from Greek : ανδρεία, manhood, or valour), like other Greek names, appears to have been common among the Jews from the second or third century B.C. No Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him.

The Bible records that St Andrew was a son of Jonah, or John, (Matthew 16:17; John 1:42). He was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee (John 1:44). Both he and his brother Peter were fishermen by trade, hence the tradition that Jesus called them to be his disciples by saying that He will make them "fishers of men" (Greek: ἁλιείς ἀνθρώπων, halieis anthropon). At the beginning of Jesus' public life they occupied the same house at Capernaum (Mark 1:21, 29).

From the Gospel of John we learn that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, whose testimony first led him and John the Evangelist to follow Jesus (John 1:35-40). Andrew at once recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and hastened to introduce Him to his brother(John 1:41). Thenceforth the two brothers were disciples of Christ. On a subsequent occasion, prior to the final call to the apostolate, they were called to a closer companionship, and then they left all things to follow Jesus (Luke 5:11; Matthew 4:19-20; Mark 1:17-18).

Click here to read more.

ALMIGHTY God, who didst give such grace unto thy holy Apostle Saint Andrew, that he readily obeyed the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him without delay; Grant unto us all, that we, being called by thy holy Word, may forthwith give up ourselves obediently to fulfill thy holy commandments; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

When the Apostles went forth to preach to the Nations, Andrew seems to have taken an important part, but unfortunately we have no certainty as to the extent or place of his labours. Eusebius (Church History III.1), relying, apparently, upon Origen, assigns Scythia as his mission field: Andras de [eilechen] ten Skythian; while St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Oration 33) mentions Epirus; St. Jerome (Ep. ad Marcell.) Achaia; and Theodoret (on Ps. cxvi) Hellas. Probably these various accounts are correct, for Nicephorus (H.E. II:39), relying upon early writers, states that Andrew preached in Cappadocia, Galatia, and Bithynia, then in the land of the anthropophagi and the Scythian deserts, afterwards in Byzantium itself, where he appointed St. Stachys as its first bishop, and finally in Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, and Achaia. It is generally agreed that he was crucified by order of the Roman Governor, Aegeas or Aegeates, at Patrae in Achaia, and that he was bound, not nailed, to the cross, in order to prolong his sufferings. The cross on which he suffered is commonly held to have been the decussate cross, now known as St. Andrew's, though the evidence for this view seems to be no older than the fourteenth century. His martyrdom took place during the reign of Nero, on 30 November, A.D. 60); and both the Latin and Greek Churches keep 30 November as his feast.

El Greco, St. Andrew, 1606

St. Andrew's relics were translated from Patrae to Constantinople, and deposited in the church of the Apostles there, about A.D. 357. When Constantinople was taken by the French, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, Cardinal Peter of Capua brought the relics to Italy and placed them in the cathedral of Amalfi, where most of them still remain. St. Andrew is honoured as their chief patron by Russia and Scotland.

Click here to read it all in The Catholic Encyclopedia

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent Reflection

With thanks to the Rev. Lesley Fellows for pointing me to this. An Advent Reflection. Poem, "Broken Open," composed and performed by Jude Simpson.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent Sunday

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

Advent Sunday, 2010

Isaiah 2: 1-5; Romans 13: 11-14; Matthew 24: 36-44
Baptism of Jacob Sunderland Stasolla

Good morning, and grace and peace, and to say to all on this Advent Sunday, “Happy New Year.” I know we have a festive coffee hour this morning, with thanks to Vincente and Pamela and Grace and Reid--and Jacob!--celebrating Jacob’s baptism—but I think we still have a few weeks to go before we can break out the champagne and confetti and sing Auld Lang Syne.

But turning the page on the Calendar of the Church Year, moving from Year C now to Year A in the Three Year Eucharistic Lectionary of the Revised Common Lectionary, now a year to spend with a focus on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, and in the Prayer Book Daily Office Lectionary, for those of us who follow that in our daily pattern of Morning and Evening Prayer, moving from Year Two to Year One. With what I think is the most beautiful and meaningful of all the Collects of the Church Year, living in our Anglican tradition for over 500 years, since the time when Archbishop Cranmer put pen to paper.

And of course in the long narrative structure of the Seasons of the Church Year, to stand now at Advent, a season about expectation, about gestation, about waiting in hope.

Like the Prophets of Ancient Israel we are invited to lean forward, to catch a vision of God’s life and power intervening in the story of humanity and in the history of the universe to restore and renew, to judge and to bless. As it was, as it is now, as it will be. Like John the Baptist we are invited to lean forward to discern and to announce the beginning of a new age. Like Mary, we are invited to a season of watchful waiting, as the Lord of Heaven and Earth enters this world in us, by means of our faithfulness. All about time, about this time, ancient times, future time, end time, about the right time, and about God’s time. Beginnings, endings, new beginnings.

And it just strikes me with all that as being especially appropriate to celebrate a baptism on Advent Sunday. As young Jacob is taken up by God into his arms and blessed and made a member of the Body of Christ, and with all the themes of initiation and potential, a new beginning. I certainly can’t help but look up above our high altar here at St. Andrew’s and see the wonderful Tiffany Window representation of Jesus and the Children. Let them come to me, and forbid them not, for to such belong the Kingdom of God.

At once we along with Jacob are all made new in the waters of baptism, and at the same time we are made very old, ancient, grafted into the organic life of God himself, dying with Christ in his death, and born anew in his resurrection. All of that happening at once, here and now, from before time and forever. Each of us baptized, but not many different baptisms.

Thus Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians: One Lord, one faith, one baptism. All of us made one, and sent forth on this day not to walk our own way any longer, but to allow our lives now to take on a cruciform shape, to be conformed in obedience, through word and sacrament and in faithful discipleship, so that the way of his Cross may become for us the way of life. And that from our hearts day by day there may flow his gifts of grace and healing, forgiveness, generosity, kindness, love.

So again, with Advent blessings for all, a Happy New Year ahead, a new year of healing and renewal and new life as we would grow in Christ and in love for one another and in our ability and desire to be his hands and his feet in loving service in his name, with excitement for Christmas, and most of all with thanksgiving. And so in the Psalm this morning: I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord.And I would now ask the family and godparents of Jacob Sunderland Stasolla to come forward, as we celebrate all the great things God has done and is doing in our lives, and in the life of this parish family, and all around us, day by day.

Bruce Robison

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Abraham Lincoln, 1863

Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day
October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

Thanksgiving Day

November 24, 2010 Eve of Thanksgiving Day
RCL Philippians 4: 4-9; John 6: 25-35

Good evening to all, as we are here on this Eve of Thanksgiving Day and gathering not only for ourselves in this moment but on behalf of all our wider parish family first of all—those travelling in the holiday weekend, those coming together with family and friends—and lifting up in prayer our Church and the larger Christian family, our neighborhood and this wider community and our nation and all the wide world. The whole of creation, resting in the arms of our Creator and Redeemer.

Interesting that in the liturgical directions for Thanksgiving Day the Proper Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer, the sentence at the beginning of the prayer that indicates the theme or season, the Proper Eucharistic Preface is the one prescribed for Trinity Sunday. “For with your co-eternal Son and Holy Spirit, you are one God, one Lord, in Trinity of Persons and in Unity of Being; and we celebrate the one and equal glory of you, O Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The message for us seems to be the one so often repeated, I believe first used generally in the Twelve Step movement:

Remember to keep the main thing the main thing.

All these competing strands of our life coming together in this holiday. Food, football, family. More food. And then apparently for many there will be a just few hours of sleep, and then long drives up to Grove City for the 3 a.m. outlet store openings. The first wave in the coming storm of hyper-consumerism, I guess, even in this still very fragile economy. All that, and as we take care of our last minute holiday preparations this evening and tomorrow morning, this word from Jesus in St. John’s gospel. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.

It happens that this Thanksgiving service is the last service at St. Andrew’s in this Church Year, as we will be all ready to go for the new year and Advent Sunday this coming Sunday morning. And the message for us is about how we would see our priorities, our concerns—how we would organize ourselves day by day in the New Year ahead.

James Carville had that saying over the campaign room in the Clinton for President headquarters back in 1992: “It’s the economy, stupid.” A reminder to the candidate not to go off message. That people will vote their pocketbook, their own self-interest.

And if that’s generally true, then we hear this evening and would be called to represent with our lives something countercultural. Food that endures for eternal life. And what does that mean? What does it look like? We sort that out along the way, of course. No easy answers. In the light of his resurrection, conforming our lives to the cruciform shape of his. Seeking not to find our own way, but to follow in his footsteps.

Paul has this wonderful moment in the Philippians passage appointed for this evening. A clue for us, perhaps. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.

I’m not sure we’ve always—or even ever—done a good job of this. Arguments, mean-spiritedness, mutual disregard, self-centeredness, even violence, so much a part of our Christian past and our Christian present. No question about it. But we would at the end of this year just pause. In thanksgiving at Thanksgiving. To lift up in the feast of this world, the food that endures for eternal life. To make his way our way. The Lord is near. Advent Sunday just ahead. The Lord is near. Let your gentleness be known to everyone.

And all blessings in the holiday ahead.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr

Observance of St. Andrew

Grace to you and peace, indeed, friends, and again a warm word of welcome, as we are assembled today to celebrate in St. Andrew’s Church, Pittsburgh, for what I believe is now the 174th time, the feast day of our Patron.

His day on the calendar is actually November 30, of course, but since the preceding Sunday is in the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, it has been our custom in this parish for many years to break out the champagne in his honor a week early, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

In any event, I’m not sure our friends of the Syria Highlanders were able to join us for that first celebration, back in November of 1837, but certainly for a number of years now it has been a wonderful blessing to have them with us. I would say again to you, friends, thank you, and that it is as always an added way to enjoy this day to know that in sponsoring the bagpipes and drums we are as well sharing in the very meaningful charitable work of the Shriners’ Hospitals for children. A double blessing.

And so a welcome to all, and it will be fun to enjoy the festive St. Andrew’s Day reception in Brooks Hall after the service. Cookies . . . and more!

Every year I read through these readings appointed for St. Andrew, prayerfully as I am able, asking what word there might be this year for me, for us, to hear in a special way. The appointed lectionary readings don’t change from year to year, but of course we all change. Individually, and as a congregation, and in the context and contexts of our lives. Our personal situations, families, neighborhoods, the wide world all around us.

The unchanging Word always has a word for us that will be fresh and new. As they say on the television, “breaking news.” Up to the minute. Though we may need sometimes to tune the receivers. To see with eyes open, to hear with ears open. With open minds and open hearts. And not just that there’s one secret message here for us, but that we all might hear different things. The many facets of the diamond.

And I would simply say that what has stood out for me this time, reading through the lessons for our St. Andrew’s Day, is a phrase from Deuteronomy 30, this great Farewell Speech by Moses.

He has walked with the people through all these powerful and formative events. The confrontation with Pharaoh, the first Passover, the Crossing of the Sea, the Giving of the Law at Sinai, the hard 40 year time of nomadic wandering in the wilderness, filled with so many gifts and so many challenges. The long story of their life together. And now he knows that they are to move on into their future, into the future God has in mind for them, but that he will not be with them. But before they part ways, he would speak to them one last time, remind them of the message that he has done his best to set before them every day of this journey, which is that who they are, the foundation of their character and identity, the source and spring of all that they would become, is to be found in faithfulness to God.

That they would put down roots in the soil of his holiness, in obedience to his Word, his Torah, to be nourished by the Lord, and to become his garden, his vineyard, as they enter the Land of Promise.

And Moses I think senses the anxiety of the people. Although things have not always been smooth sailing in their relationship, deep down there has been this God-given confidence that the people have had in Moses. They saw how his face shone as he came down from the Holy Mountain with the Tablets of the Law, and they had seen again and again these great miracles. They knew Moses was God’s Man. But what would happen now? To whom would they turn? From whom would they hear the Word that God would have for them? For them now, at this moment of transition and transformation, there would no longer be his presence. They would be walking unmarked paths, sailing in uncharted seas.

And in this farewell moment, Moses says to them: “The word is very near to you.” The word is very near.

Or as we might translate. It’s not rocket science.

Seems that way sometimes, I guess. In all the swirling language of theological dispute—certainly as we experience that in our day. Perhaps true in every generation. If only I had a degree in Biblical Studies from Union in New York. If only I had a Ph.D in Theology from Duke. If only I could find the secret decoder ring. (See Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code.)

Knowing what God’s will for my life might be, knowing how God is calling his Church, knowing God’s purposes for the world and the universe of his creation. That’s all just so hard, so confusing. Overwhelming. Something to leave to the experts.

Not so, Moses says to God’s Chosen People. Not so: “The word is very near to you.” And again, as that might echo down the centuries, from that hilltop overlooking the Jordan Valley, to us, and for us.

174 years worth of life at St. Andrew’s. Men and women, boys and girls. Choirs and Sunday School classes and Altar Guilds, Confirmation Classes, baptisms and weddings and burials, committees and card parties, festival services and prayers together in the emergency room, Sunday by Sunday, week in and week out. 174 years, just in our little corner of world. The Word of God not far away, distant, hard to hear. But as we would open our eyes and ears and minds and our hearts: right here with us. The Word of God for us, his mind for us, as it is communicated in the Word of Scripture; the Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ. God here for us in the splash of water at the font, at the altar and the communion rail, in the bread of his presence and the new wine of his kingdom, the Word Made Flesh, Body and Blood.

And so Paul in another of our readings today, this great passage from Romans 10: “No one who believes in him will be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.”

Moses would speak to them one last time, remind them of the message that he has done his best to set before them every day of this journey, which is that who they are, the foundation of their character and identity, the source and spring of all that they would become, is to be found in faithfulness to God. That they would put down roots in the soil of his holiness, in obedience to his Word, his Torah, to be nourished by the Lord, and to become his garden, his vineyard, as they enter the Land of Promise.

As you know, I’m passionate about theological education and scriptural studies. But Andrew had no Ph.D from Duke. Peter hadn’t studied New Testament with N.T. Wright—though I’m certain they would have had many interesting conversations! James and John didn’t have to learn secret codes from Dan Brown. Their eyes and ears were open, their hearts and their minds were prepared, and so they met him right where they were, four fishermen, late in the afternoon, mending their nets.

He is ready, at all times, in all places. The message we will be singing about on Christmas Eve: we find him, because he first finds us. We come to him, because he comes to live where we live. As we would open our eyes, our ears, our minds and hearts, day by day. The word is very near.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Twenty-Fifth after Pentecost: In the Meantime

RCL Track One, Proper 28: Isaiah 65: 17-25, Luke 21: 5-19

Good morning and, again, grace and peace. This morning of worship after such a beautiful week of mid-autumn sunshine, and here this week in a kind of pause and interval in our congregational life.

That wonderful service last Sunday of All Saints Day, with the Mozart Mass, with our choir and the Baroque Ensemble and the dedication of the new entry—an amazing day. And then next Sunday morning, our annual observance and celebration of our patronal feast, the day of St. Andrew’s the Apostle—which is so often a day almost like our birthday, a homecoming for old friends, a reminder of so many aspects of heritage and tradition—and of course with the wonderful and joyful noise of the Syria Highlanders and their Bagpipe and Drum marching band.

So this a Sunday to catch our breath, perhaps, with all that will follow in the next couple of months as well, as St. Andrew’s Day is followed by Thanksgiving and Advent Sunday and then all the traditions of this season of the year.

In and with all that, the lessons appointed for this Sunday morning in our lectionary are it seems to me very helpful and, let’s say, seasonally appropriate. We’re in something of a “pre-Advent” mode, the old year coming to an end, days shorter, nights longer, and so the themes of our Church Calendar turning our attention to the theme of “the end.” The destination of the journey. The bottom line. The Church Year is a cycle, a circle, and we return to this place year by year. Each of us bringing to the circular return the changes of life and thought and perspective on another year of our lives. Older and wiser—or older, anyway.

But the word that is lifted up for us here is about an understanding of life and of the character of all the created order of the universe and of God’s fundamental identity not as an endlessly repeating circle, a wheel spinning round and round for eternity, but as a reality that has motion and direction and intention and purpose. Beginning, middle, end.

Not that we’re always aware of how that works, in tune with the flow. We can get spun around, so that up seems like down and so that we can’t really tell for sure which way forward really is. Our lives are short. Kids grow up, fly away. The old body begins to slow down. The interval between Christmasses seems to grow briefer and briefer, and we might even wander around the edges of the Stonehenge in England or the great Pyramids of Egypt and say that it’s all just gone past in the blink of an eye. Now you see us, now you don’t.

As the scripture says, all flesh is grass. The difference of all that, our ability to catch at least a glimpse, because of that one fixed point in the fluid universe, which is the cross on that hill outside the walls of old city Jerusalem, and because of the brief glimpse through the door, through an open window, at the empty tomb, and the first hint on the horizon of what is to come.

“For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people.”

Healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, renewal.

“No more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.”

“As for these thing that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down . . . . But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

The gift for us in Christ in this moment of our lives is that we can stand truly with one foot on either side of the stream. Here and now, in all the complexity of this world, its beauty and its brokenness. But also that day by day we are privileged to see and even more to see—to share in—the life of the world to come. The great sacraments, the “means of grace,” our participation here and now, there and now.

Leaning out toward the New Year on the calendar, and a time perhaps to focus our attention and to renew our resolution. A celebration of our citizenship, if that’s the right vocabulary. It is I suppose the foundation of Christian worship, Christian prayer, Christian ethics. Morality. Holiness.

I remember one of the most famous sermons and speeches of our era, when Martin Luther King, Jr., imagined the figure of Moses at the end of the Exodus story, to say, “I’ve been to the mountaintop; I’ve seen the Promised Land.” An image not just for Moses and not just for Dr. King, but for all of us. That we would already be living there, even as we are living here. Here and now, there and now, as we center our lives in the cross of Christ Jesus. In confidence of God’s care, no matter how steep the mountains we may be called upon to climb in this phase of our journey, no matter how difficult the terrain.

Where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Generosity and kindness, blessing and peace. Goodness, justice, mercy. This is what the theologians would call an “interim ethic.” Living in the present, in the future, making the future present. As when we pray, Thy Kingdom come, on earth as in heaven. And not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.

As rain and snow fall from the heavens and return not again, but water the earth, bringing forth life and giving growth, seed for sowing, and bread for eating. So is my word that goes out from my mouth. It shall not return to me empty, but it will accomplish that which I have purposed, and prosper in that for which I sent it.

Blessings again in the meantime, in this in-between time, for today and this week and for all our lives. And see you here next week for bagpipes!

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veterans Day, 2010

From the Office of the Suffragan Bishop for Chaplaincies of the Episcopal Church

A Prayer for Veterans Day

Governor of Nations, our Strength and Shield:
we give you thanks for the devotion and courage
of all those who have offered military service for this country:

For those who have fought for freedom; for those who laid down their lives for others;
for those who have borne suffering of mind or of body;
for those who have brought their best gifts to times of need.

On our behalf they have entered into danger,
endured separation from those they love,
labored long hours, and borne hardship in war and in peacetime.

Lift up by your mighty Presence those who are now at war;
encourage and heal those in hospitals
or mending their wounds at home;
guard those in any need or trouble;
hold safely in your hands all military families;
and bring the returning troops to joyful reunion
and tranquil life at home;

Give to us, your people, grateful hearts
and a united will to honor these men and women
and hold them always in our love and our prayers;
until your world is perfected in peace

through Jesus Christ our Savior.

This prayer may be used as a congregational litany with the following responses to each stanza:

1. We thank you and praise you, our Strength and Shield!

2. We thank you and praise you, our Strength and Shield!

3. We than you and praise you, our Strength and Shield!

4. Watch over and keep them, Blessed Savior.

5. Hear our prayer in His Name. Amen.

Compiled by the Rev. Jennifer Phillips, Vicar, St. Augustine’s Chapel, University of Rhode Island campus. Her prayers appear in supplemental liturgical materials for the Episcopal Church and in her books of prayers including “Simple Prayers for Complicated Lives.”

And I'm sure we would have in our prayers especially today Frank Buckles, a West Virginia neighbor of ours who is by all records the last surviving American veteran of the Great War--and one of the last two or three in the world. Click here for a newspaper story from a year or two ago.

With thanksgiving and continued prayers for all those in our extended St. Andrew's parish family who have served in the uniform of our country, and for those who serve now.

Bruce Robison

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Entry Dedication

A Service of Dedication
~On All Saints Sunday, 2010, we gather in the East Churchyard~

For many years the people of St. Andrew’s Church have desired to improve our buildings and grounds to enhance accessibility for those who have difficulty with stairs or who must make use of a walker or a wheelchair. Through the loving efforts and generous stewardship of many friends and family members during the past year, we are able today to dedicate a new entry to our lovely and historic Church.

The recontoured East Churchyard now includes a gently graded walkway, without steps, leading from the Hampton Street sidewalk to a renewed Entrance, providing enhanced accessibility for all.

For mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
Isaiah 56:7

The Entry that we dedicate today is presented to honor and give thanks for the ministry of the Rev. William H. Marchl, III, as Rector of the Church of the Advent, in Jeannette, Pennsylvania, Trinity Episcopal Church, Coshocton, Ohio, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Durham, North Carolina, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Smithfield, North Carolina; as Chaplain and Member of the Faculty of the Hill School, Pottstown, Pennsylvania; and as Priest Associate of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Highland Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We thank him for his gracious, wise, and caring service, and for the faithful spiritual witness that he shares in all seasons of life to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We celebrate with him in the love of his family, and most especially of his wife Laura, of their children Will and Caroline Grace, and of his parents, Bill and Mary Anne.

Minister Our help is in the Name of the LORD.
Congregation Who hath made heaven and earth.
Minister Blessed be the Name of the LORD.
Congregation From this time forth, for evermore.
Minister The Lord be with you.
Congregation And with thy spirit.

Minister Let us Pray. O God, who hallowest places dedicated to Thy Name; pour Thy grace, we beseech Thee, upon this new Entrance to St. Andrew’s Church; Sanctify and bless it, that all who shall call upon Thee in their worship here may feel the help of Thy gracious mercy and protection, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Revelation 3:20

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
John 10: 9

This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter into it.

Psalm 118:20

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
Psalm 24:7

The Cutting of the Ribbon and the Opening of the Doors

~The Congregation, followed by Choir and Clergy, enter the Church through the new Entrance~

All Saints Sunday

RCL C, Ephesians 1: 11-23

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace on this wonderful All Saints Sunday. A day to remember and to celebrate all the great heroes of the Christian family, and as I know we remember and give thanks as well for those perhaps not quite as well known in the history books, but are those loved ones, friends and family, whose lives and gracious gifts in so many ways are recorded not in the history books, but in large letters and indelibly in our hearts.

A day for music, as with this beautiful Mozart mass and with our Parish Choir and the Baroque Ensemble. Music and celebration, and I know and would express my and our deepest thanks to you as you lift us up in our worship this morning.

And it is a good day as well and very fitting that on All Saints Sunday we would be dedicating the new entry. So much creative planning and the hard work of gathering resources, and the gifts of so many workers over the past summer and fall. The prayers of family and friends.

This project of a new accessible entry on the drawing board in one form or another for many years, but a reality today in large part because of a gathering intention of folks who would honor and celebrate the ministry of my colleague and our good friend, the Rev. Bill Marchl. Mom and dad--Bill and Mary Anne--Laura, Will, Caroline Grace. All family and friends, and all of us of St. Andrew’s Church—and certainly beyond our congregational circle, as this indeed a blessing for others Fr. Bill and his family have touched in friendship and ministry, and for our neighborhood, as we gather in this place for so many programs and musical and theatrical and community events.

A great day for all the saints of God indeed. We honor the memory and celebrate the ministries of those who have gone before us. We expand the mission of the Church of Christ in our own day. And we build strong foundations to equip and support the saints who will come after us, generation by generation. Doors continuing to open wider and wider, that this might be truly a house of prayer for all people.

On a day like this so much of what there would be to say in a sermon is lifted up in our music and song, in our prayers, and always in the mysteries of the Holy Table, as we are made one in and with the Body of Christ. That he may dwell in us, and we in him.

So this morning I would simply take a marker to highlight the critical section of our second reading, from the opening chapter of Paul to the Church at Ephesus, in this stunning and beautiful language, beginning here at the 17th verse:

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

“God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the age to come.

“And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Wow. All this, on this glorious day, a reminder for us, as they say in the 12-step movement, “to keep the main thing the main thing.” To keep the main thing, the main thing. To keep our eye on the prize. Which is what we can know and what we can become in Christ Jesus. A celebration today, and always, always, an invitation. That we may come to know him ever more deeply and more completely. Wherever we are now in that process. Here this morning.

That the hope to which he has called us would become ever more deeply and more completely the hope and vision and purpose that shapes and supports and nurtures our lives. Day by day, “very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people, and also heirs through hope of” his “everlasting kingdom.”

They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still, [I’ve always loved this!] the world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. You can meet them in school or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea, for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.

On November 9, 2003, my good friend Fr. Bill Marchl was rector of St. Paul’s Church in Smithfield, North Carolina. And it happened on that day—and I’m sure you remember this, Bill, just seven years ago-- that there was also a service of dedication for a new ramp that would make that church accessible to people in wheelchairs, dedicated on that day as a memorial to a man named Sam Smith. [And it happens that his mom saved a copy of the sermon from that morning and shared it with me!]

In that sermon Fr. Bill talked about the ramp as a kind of bridge, which is a great image. A somewhat different kind of structure architecturally from the one we are dedicating today—but we get the idea. He talked about how during the colonial period in America there had been this great activity of building of churches. And to connect it to the event they were celebrating, a new “bridge,” to talk about the commitment to build for all who would “enter the way of Jesus” by the “door of faith.”

In any event, here seven years later and in a new place, another sermon, and we continue the good work of bridge building, of making connections, of opening doors wider and wider. In appreciation of Bill’s ministry, but more importantly today the Day of Celebrating All Saints to honor the one who has called us, lifted us up, generation after generation. The one who sends us out. Who calls us to himself. “The head over all things for the church,” as we read in Ephesians. Who is both Bridge and Bridge-builder. That we would come to know ourselves, and I love this phrase, “with the eyes of” our “hearts enlightened,” and to share among ourselves, and with the world, “the fullness of him who fills all in all.”