God Be with Us

Lenten Reflection, Sunday, March 22, 2020

Shared by Robin Lind; Reprinted with permission from Rives Carroll

[As we begin to commemorate the anniversary of VE-Day, the end of the World War II in Europe, 75 years ago, it is fitting to remember the service of not only the soldiers, sailors, and airmen but also the pastors, priests and rabbis who accompanied them, shared their tribulations and ministered to their needs. The following excerpts are taken from “Chaplain, The World War II Letters of Army Air Corps Chaplain Paschal Dupuy Fowlkes,” edited by Rives Fowlkes Carroll; © 2018, reprinted by permission.]

March 16, 1945:
Writing to his wife, back home in Richmond, Virginia with their two small children, the young U.S. Army Air Corps Chaplain in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, expressed his innermost concerns for mankind:

“When we realize that a man’s wealth consists not in what he possesses but in what he does we’ll have taken a first step toward the cure of our universal disease. But the real cure is, I fear, something that requires more heroism than can be faced by most of us.

“Sometimes I feel like two people in the same job. Half of me is, I suppose, taken in by government propaganda and tends to equate the cessation of hostilities with peace. The other half sees that wining the war will, of itself, solve no world problems and may only introduce a new stage that is worse. Between them I don’t know what I’d do — I suppose I’d go crazy — if I was not fighting for ideals that the average G.I. either doesn’t understand or repudiates. It is sadly true. I can’t understand why a man fights for the freedom of the Jews or Czechs or the Filipinos thousands of miles away if he doesn’t believe in freedom for the Negroes or Jews in his home state…*

March 23, 1945:
A week later, preparing his men of the 3rd Battalion, 507th PIR, for an air drop the next morning into Fluren Germany, he exhorted them to prepare for the combat:

“I am particularly anxious that you should see your participation in this struggle in its proper perspective, in relation to the total significance of the struggle itself and in relation to your life. For the struggle itself we can say only that it is a heightened and more violent phase of the battle that went on between good and evil in this world before war was declared and that will go on after the war is past. … The battle for the preservation of decency and of freedom and of justice is a battle that never begins and never ends; it just always is. This makes life, your life and my life, a kind of warfare in which we are ever constantly engaged… Peace, therefore, is never mere absence of war. True peace is that knowledge that comes to us that in the midst of the warfare we are doing out duty. …

“We do not know all the future holds for us. What we think and hope is that it holds high adventure, What we fear is only fear itself. What we know is that if God be with us, as we pray He is, no one can stand against us, and none can keep from us the Peace which comes with knowing that we do His will.”*

March 24, 1945:
This morning, seventy-five years ago, — six weeks before the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany — Army Air Corps Chaplain Captain “Pat” Fowlkes, 29, former rector of two rural Fairfax County parishes, (St. John’s, McLean, and Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna), was killed by enemy machine-gun fire after parachuting into enemy territory with his troops.

He was survived by his wife and two small children, and a host of aunts and uncles and cousins, many of whom are today members of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

Living Water and the Bread of Life

Lenten Reflection, Sunday, March 15, 2020

By: Kitty Williams

Is Lent about food and drink?

Some of us view food literally during Lent. We give up a favorite food or drink, or we fast on certain days. But if you’re like me, it gets complicated. Pesky unwritten rules confuse me. Giving up French fries or sugar is healthy, as well. Can I get credit for fasting and wise choices at the same time? The “two-fer” is so tempting — and my own motives get so mixed.

Happily, scripture offers spiritual food and drink that’s good and good for us. In Sunday’s Gospel, for example, Jesus asks a woman for a drink of water, but immediately turns things upside down and offers her Living Water to drink. Naturally, she’s interested, and puzzled. Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus, after feeding the 5000, tells the crowd that he himself is the Bread of Life.

Living Water and Bread of Life. If you eat living bread and drink living water, says Jesus, you will never be hungry or thirsty again. Sounds good to me. Sometimes I echo the Samaritan woman, saying, “Sir, give me this water so that I may never be thirsty…”

Mostly, though, I forget about Living Water and the Bread of Life. Then Lent arrives to remind me to seek the food that matters.

Some years ago, I found Bread and Wine, a book that has enriched my Lenten practice ever since with Lent and Easter essays by ancient and modern writers. Every Ash Wednesday I open it again. It’s familiar and new every time, and throughout the season I am challenged and nourished. So far this year, phrases like these have spoken to me directly:

• Thomas à Kempis: “…wherever you go you take yourself along.”
• Thomas Merton: “We can deny ourselves rigorously for the wrong reason and end up by pleasing ourselves mightily with our self-denial.”
• Søren Kirkegaard: “[Christ] never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples.”

And because it’s close to my heart – and St. Mary’s – check out Christopher Brookfield’s Irreverent Relevancies for nourishment in Lent (and the entire church year)!

Taste and see!

More in my Heart to Reflect God’s Love

Lenten Reflection, Sunday, March 8, 2020

By: Sarah Hogeboom

“Let other people love you. The nature of love is reciprocal and relational, so love is incomplete when we don’t let it to come to us.” –Amy Julia Becker

Our kids are each about two years apart. Charlotte was born in 2011, Russell in 2013, and Colin in 2015. So for about eight years there, I was blessed to have a baby on my hip. Now that our youngest is four, even he is getting too big for me to carry him (though I still try!).

Now that my hands are a little less full, I was able to participate in the lovely weekend St. Mary’s hosted last month with author Amy Julia Becker. That was where I found—among many other gifts—my Lenten practice for this year.

During Amy Julia’s adult forum talk she explained that as human beings, we are created in God’s image to receive and reflect God’s love. She offered many practical ways to receive God’s love, and I was especially moved by one idea: “to use your spiritual imagination to envision yourself as a beloved child, climbing up onto God’s lap, being welcomed and received just as you are.”

So far this Lent, each morning before the kids wake up, I have spent a few minutes doing just that. I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. I try to imagine I am about three years old, and I am being held by God.

To do this I draw on memories of being held as a child myself—in my mom’s arms, snuggled up on my dad’s lap, and passed back and forth between aunts, uncles, and grandparents. (My Papa Frank was an especially good hugger.) I remember what it felt like to be wrapped up tight in a warm towel after a bath. To be carried half asleep to bed after long day of playing outside. To be read to. To be loved just the way I am.

It seems simple, but it is so profound to really try to be open to God’s love in this way. As His child.

The love that I feel for my own children is so big and all-consuming, that if God loved me that much, that would be enough. But I think what John is telling us in this week’s reading is that God loves us even more than we can possibly imagine. And the reading from Genesis about Abram helps me understand that God’s love is so abundant, so full of grace, that we can trust it to sustain generations.

If I’m honest, it feels a little uncomfortable to make time in my day to receive God’s love. And if any of you think it’s little “out there” that I am spending my mornings pretending I’m three, I would understand. But I’m finding already with this Lenten practice that I have more presence, more patience, and more space in my heart to reflect God’s love.

And just when I am fully immersed in prayerful contemplation … someone makes their way downstairs, so I put down my coffee and pull him onto my lap – even if he is getting too big.

Live a life like His and ‘Do This’

Lenten Reflection, Sunday, March 1, 2020

By: David May

This Lent, I want to hold up before us the words of Jesus at the last meal he shared with his friends when he said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ I treasure the clarity of his words, ‘Do this.’ Think about it, yes. Talk about it, yes. Wonder at the mystery of it all, yes. But most of all, ‘Do this.’

Jesus was specifically talking about sharing a sacred meal and with one another, and being fed by his life to live a life like his. Perhaps his instructions to ‘Do this’ given at this last meal can be just the beginning of many kinds of ‘do this’ in remembrance of him.

In preparing for Lent, some of us have been thinking about the ways that Jesus lived and naming some of the key characteristics of his life. We wondered, what would it be like if we applied Jesus’s ‘Do this’ from the Last Supper to those key aspects of his life? For example, Jesus forgave. Shouldn’t we ‘Do this’ – forgive – in remembrance of him? Jesus showed compassion. Shouldn’t we ‘Do this’ – show compassion – in remembrance of him?

Our Wednesday night Lenten Dinner and Speaker series begins this Wednesday. I am excited about the four speakers who will be joining us to discuss a key aspects of how Jesus lived his life and how we are called to ‘Do this’ in remembrance of him. Here’s our Lenten speaker schedule and the topics about which each will be sharing:

March 4: The Rev. Whitney Z. Edwards – ‘Proclaim’
March 11: The Rev. Ben Campbell – ‘Show compassion’
March 18: The Rev. Deacon Peggy Newman – ‘Forgive’
March 25: Dr. Charles Bryan – ‘Heal’

As baptized Christians and followers of Jesus, we are called to live lives like him. Proclaim good news, show compassion, forgive, heal – do this in remembrance of me. We’ll begin with a simple meal together beginning at 5:30 p.m. followed by our speaker’s presentation starting at 6:15 p.m. We’ll conclude by 7 p.m. with evening prayers. I hope you can join us for as many of these Wednesday evenings as you can, as we ‘Do this’ in remembrance of Jesus.

Willing to do God’s Work

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, February 23, 2020

By: Henly Deutsch

I have to be honest. Shame, guilt, and perhaps a little defensiveness, were my knee-jerk reactions when I first started reading Amy Julia Becker’s book White Picket Fences. It’s not the first time that my southern country club, private school educated self has felt this way and I’m sure that it won’t be the last. Yes, like most of us I venture to say, I have lived in a bubble. I don’t think I even fully realized that until I was in my mid-twenties just out of school and starting my career in the “real world.” As I continued to read the book, I began to understand Amy Julia’s intent was not to shame us, but to encourage us to acknowledge our blessings and then put all of that privilege aside.

Compassion is not an emotion held only by those who have experienced hardship. We shouldn’t feel apologetic for our upbringing or the upbringing we have provided for our children, and we should acknowledge that we are all a product of our environment. When we emerge from our protective but restrictive white picket fences and come out of the confines of our bubbles, we can imagine living life in someone else’s shoes. Looking at another person’s experiences through a different lens, their lens, we gain a new perspective. Whether it’s the elderly woman who’s struggling with loneliness, the homeless man on the corner you pass every day, or the little girl with Down Syndrome, Amy Julia asks us to see the similarities, not the differences. She says “…understanding the value of every human being, independent of work or achievement, is a truth we all need to hear.” Finding love and serving wholeheartedly is not easy; she acknowledges that. This is where God comes in. “It is an act of faith that God is love, that I am needy, and that by turning toward love, I will someday, somehow be given a way to participate in the restoration of the good world God made.” Amy Julia warns that it will take thousands of us who are willing to do God’s work.

I hope you will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity presented to our congregation this weekend. Amy Julia Becker will share with us and inspire us. She knows that together we can make a huge impact in our world. I know that I want to be one of those thousands. How about you?