Monday, December 24, 2012

2012 Christmas Message

Linda Worthiemer (of NPR) shared her  mother's
recipe for Lemon fruitcake.
The carols…the lights…the greens…the stockings hung by the chimney with care…the 78 degree weather…it just feels like Christmas.  And, Christmas reminds me of fruitcake.

An “Ode to a Fruitcake” by Ryan Taylor:

Fruitcake! Fruitcake!

 Oh, what a glorious fruitcake!

 Nothing quite says, “Merry Christmas, Good Cheer!,”

 like a fruitcake.

With raisins, green pineapple, candied orange peel,

 an applesauce batter to make a good seal,

 the walnuts and hazelnuts, pecans and cherries,

 cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves mid dried berries!

Though many may dispute its reputation,

 the fruitcake is a holiday sensation!

 And, though the thought might fill a few with dread,

 I proudly declare that the fruitcake

 is the ultimate queen of quickbread!

Fruitcake! Fruitcake!

 Oh, what a marvelous, glorious, beauteous fruitcake!

 “Merry Christmas, Good Cheer!”[i]

 In ancient Egypt the fruitcake was considered an essential food in the afterlife.  The oldest fruitcake dates back to Roman times. In the Middle Ages they branched out and added honey, spices, nuts and preserved fruits.

By the 1700s, in Europe, a ceremonial type of fruitcake was baked at the end of the nut harvest. By the eighteenth century people got inventive and created the plum cake; they were so “sinfully rich” they were outlawed.  During the Crimean War soldiers carried them into battle.  In the end the fruitcake would find its home at tea. 

Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat a fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation and good taste.  So it is that, good citizens of her Majesty’s realm, and all Anglican Church men and women have become fine connoisseurs of fruitcake – it’s in the catechism. 

Today the average fruitcake has a 1:1 density ratio with mahogany.

The world's oldest known fruitcake was made on Nov. 27, 1878, by Fidelia Ford, of Berkeley, Ohio.  Today, Fidelia Ford's great-grandson Morgan, who is 92 years old, lives in Tecumseh and still possesses the 134 year old cake.

So you see…the fruitcake has been made, and its miraculous mysteries have been shared, passed down by generations, for over a millennia because it gives life, it nourishes and it sustains you no matter what the world may bring. [Pause]

No matter the darkness.  No matter the loneliness or heartache…God’s love, love, is the most sustaining message of Christmas.  Like an ancient recipe passed down to us tonight we hear the echoes of love in songs and readings.

The truth is we live lives of spiritual uncertainty.  Lives marked by faith and goodness can seem out of reach. The world longs for renewed hope, words of kindness and mercy.

As one philosopher put it, “We try to find cosmic satisfaction in a lifestyle, a career, a self-image, or a romantic relationship.  Some employ therapists to attain self-acceptance, forgiveness, and understanding."[ii]  Yet, that does not satisfy.

We gather to night, to rediscover a spirituality adequate for our times.  On this most holy of nights, we remember the story of love.

We remind ourselves of the sustaining angelic words, “Do not be afraid, love has come.  A light in a land of darkness…  Joy in the midst of sadness… Peace in the midst of war… Justice out of chaos… worthiness instead of relentless guilt…Fear not, God is with you, love is here.”

We put ourselves in the midst of the story of God’s in-breaking love; that it may wash over us and sustain us.

We allow ourselves to feel the love of God which swims within our heart to the deepest corner of our soul where it connects with our intimate quiet longing.

We acknowledge the love which unites heaven and earth.

We rehearse the truth that God’s love comes to the lowly, the weak, the powerless, and the forgotten. 

We recall this love and we name him Jesus.

Tonight we share our love abundantly with one another, with our neighbor, with our family members, and all those we meet; wishing them the very best of life.

We believe in a world where love triumphs over greed, poverty, oppression, malnutrition, abuse, illness, war, and all other dark powers we have created and have come to know.  And, for those who find their life yoked to this sacred story there is an inescapable desire to change the world one small act of love at a time.  The world is being recreated by love. 

Such miraculous mysteries passed down, for over a millennia.  Sustaining truth, that no matter what may come or what the world may bring.  God’s love, love, is the most sustaining message.

 In his letter to a friend, the great American preacher, Philips Brooks (Episcopalian, rector of Holy Trinity, Boston, and author of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”) wrote:

 God is seeking us and giving himself to us…that is love, not that we loved him but that he loved us…There is such a thing as putting ourselves in the way of God’s overflowing love and letting it break upon us till the response of love to him comes, not by struggle, not by deliberation, but by necessity, as the echo comes when the sound strikes the rock.[iv]


O holy Child of Bethlehem

Descend to us, we pray;

Cast out our sin, and enter in,

Be born in us to-day.

We hear the Christmas Angels

The great glad tidings tell:

O Come to us, abide with us,

Our Lord Emmanuel.[v]

So take your children’s hands, embrace your beloved, welcome your family, hold your friends tight, and share the warmth of God’s overflowing love. 



[i] Ode to a Fruitcake by M Ryan Taylor, Copyright © 2008 M Ryan Taylor
[ii] Helminski, Knowing Heart, p 5.
[iii] Robert Bly, "A Christmas Poem", Morning Poems. © Harper Collins, 1998.
[iv] Alexander V. G. Allen, Life and Letters of Phillips Brooks, London, 870ff.
[v] Phillips Brooks, in English Hymnal, London, 1906, no 15.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons

In this fourth week of our Advent 2012 Book Study on Bonhoeffer's Christmas sermons he mentions the Albrecht Altdorfer nativity scene which his parents at one time had in his home.  Here is the picture as it is worth seeing and keeping in mind the setting for these last pieces of writings we cover in this week's podcast.

Advent Podcast Week 4, 2012

This is the last week of our Bonhoeffer Book Study on the Christmas Sermons. What a delight it has been. I have enjoyed doing them and enjoyed our conversation! Blessings for a wonderful conclusion to your Advent and a joyous Christmastide!

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Little Hobbit Theology: fear not

Sermon preached at Trinity Galveston Advent 3 2012, post Sandy Hook, Newtown shooting.

Check out this episode!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting

By the waters
The waters of Babylon
We lay down and wept
And wept for, thee Zion
We remember, thee remember
Thee remember, thee Zion

By the waters
The waters of Babylon
We lay down and wept
And wept for thee Zion
This morning's news of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut has taken us all by surprise. We have awakened in the midst of our preparations for the Holiday into a nightmare that reminds us of our vulnerability, and the vulnerability of our children. 
Rachel Weeps
As many of you know I have been leading a book study on Bonhoeffer's Christmas sermons.  During the taping of this third section I spoke on the nature of God's compassion for the most vulnerable.  Boenhoeffer's words are worth repeating today:
Again and again, when the people of God are in trouble and distress, tears flow.  So it was in the time of Rachel, the mother of the people of Israel, whose grave lies near to Bethlehem, Rachel weeping for all her children.  It was in the last days of Jerusalem before it feel to the Babylonians, when the prophet Jeremiah looked down upon the tragedy and wept....A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.  (Jeremiah 31:15)
What has taken place is a tragedy.  We all mourn the loss, and we mourn with these families affected.  The repercussions of this awful event will change us.  In fact they already have. 
Our hearts and our prayers are offered to all those affected.  Our diocesan staff stopped work at 1:00 today and offered prayer.  I would ask you to join our country, and indeed the world, in mourning these losses.   We should pray specifically for peace to be poured upon this town and the Sandy Hook Elementary School community.  As we weep with Rachel let us pray for a healing balm to be given to the children and parents.  For those who have died let us pray that they may rest eternally with the saints in light.  Let us pray for the first responders and for our Episcopal clergy who are already on the scene offering care and support.  Let God hear our lamentation, our intercession, and our hope.
Let us be mindful of the opportunity now before us to work towards a world that has no longer a place for hate, fear, and senseless acts of incomprehensible violence. 
I am aware of our own families here in Texas who dropped their children off today and will embrace them this afternoon.  The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has clergy and lay pastors in congregations all over the diocese who are ready to help all of those who feel in need of conversation and prayer in the wake of this disaster.
I have reprinted below resources for talking with children and the statement from our Episcopal brothers and sisters in Connecticut and invite your prayers for them as well.  Let us weep together. Let us mourn the lost. Let us pledge to work towards the loving kingdom of God that Christ Jesus envisions.  And, let us hope for our future and the future of the Sandy Hook community.
Faithfully yours,
C. Andrew Doyle

This is a comprehensive list of excellent resources compiled by Sharon Pearson and leading Christian educators for those of us needing guidance after Friday's tragic and senseless shooting. Most importantly, turn off the TV.

Statement from Diocese of Connecticut on Sandy Hook Shooting

The Connecticut Bishops released the following statement following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14:

Dear Friends in Christ:

We are shocked and overwhelmed by the horrendous tragedy of the school shooting in Sandy Hook. We hold the victims, their families, and all who are affected by the shooting in our thoughts and prayers for healing and strength. We pray that those who have died will be held in the arms of our loving God whose heart aches for those affected by this tragedy.
We bishops have been in touch with the Rev. Mark Moore, the rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Sandy Hook which is adjacent to the school were the shooting took place. We have also communicated with the leadership of Trinity Church, Newtown, and we understand that the Rev. Kathie Adams-Shepherd, rector of Trinity Church is on the scene ministering to the bereaved.
We are departing immediately for Newtown/Sandy Hook to be of whatever assistance we can. We will be in contact when we have additional information.
We invite all clergy to open our churches for prayer.
Please keep all who have died, the one who has perpetrated the shooting, and all affected by this incident in your prayers. May the God who we await this Advent season bring us hope and new life in Jesus the Christ.

Faithfully, Ian, Laura and Jim
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens
The Rt. Rev. James E. Curry

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advent 2012 Book Study Advent 3 Bonhoeffer's Sermons.mp3

This week we have the third installment of our 2012 Advent Book Study on Bonhoeffer's Christmas sermons.  You can read along and listen to all three reflections.  The fourth and final reflection will be posted prior to the 4th Sunday in Advent.

Check out this episode!

The Word Of God Comes in a Country Squire Station Wagon

Sermon preached on Advent 2 regarding John the Baptist in Luke's Gospel, Trinity Episcopal Church Marble Falls, and Epiphany Episcopal Church Burnet Texas.

Check out this episode!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent 2012 Book Study Advent 2 The Berlin Years.mp3

This podcast covers the second section of reading material from Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons.

Check out this episode!

Advent 2012 Book Study Advent 1.b The Death of Moses.mp3

A number of individuals had conversations following the first Advent Book Study podcast about the death of Moses. I thought you might enjoy this little diversion from the reading of Bonhoeffer.  I hope you enjoy.

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball