Deacon Liz will be honored as the ICJU 2018 Wallenberg Honoree

Deacon Liz prepares the gifts

Memo to: Trinity Episcopal Church, Bethlehem
Re: IJCU Honor for Deacon Elizabeth M. Miller

The Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College has named its 2018 Wallenberg Honoree, and it is our own Deacon Liz.

In the letter to Liz, IJCU Director Dr. Peter A. Pettit writes, “Your example of moral action on behalf of others, for its own sake and not for any reward, aligns precisely with the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg. His reward for saving upwards of 100,000 lives was arrest and imprisonment in the Soviet prison system, where he likely died within two years, unnoticed and unreported. In lifting up your example, we extend his legacy and honor him, helping to inspire others to similar selfless servanthood.”

The honor will be bestowed on the evening of Sunday, October 14, 2018 at Muhlenberg College. It happens at the Annual IJCU Annual Dinner. IJCU members come together on that date to celebrate community interfaith work. All Trinity folks will be invited, as will Soup Kitchen volunteers and benefactors.

Recent honorees from the community include Alan Jennings, Director of Community ActionCommittee of the Lehigh Valley, Rabbi Allen Juda, Ilene Wood, Bill and Jane Seaman, past Director of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches and The Rev. Christine Nelson, also a director of the Lehigh Conference of Churches. Deacon Liz is joining an accomplished group of Lehigh Valley’s best.

Thanks you for your kind consideration in lifting Deacon Liz’s ministry up for honor and celebration. I think we all agree that she is worthy.

Please contact me with any questions.

In His Peace,

Marcie Lightwood

The Diocesan Newsletter

The July 19th edition of the Diocesan Newsletter has been received. If you would like to view it online, here is the link.

Do please view the section dealing with the Ordination and Consecration of Kevin, our Bishop-Elect. There is also a section about the upcoming Diocesan Convention.

If you are interested in subscribing to the newsletter, there is a link at the bottom of their online page which will allow you to do so.

DOB Bethlehem Star

Maintenance–a perennial struggle

As anyone who works in an ageing building which is used often knows, maintenance is a constant struggle. Warmer weather often reveals problems which happened during the freezing and thawing season, and provides a time for repairs to be undertaken. Today, Sebby and friends are hard at work repairing the front steps of the church so that they will be ready for use this weekend.

There was a lovely online prayer which asks for God’s blessing on those who work to keep our buildings in good repair:

Thank you Lord for these gifted men,
that you sent to us to fix and mend.
The job they do is non-compare,
for they are first-rate, in their repair.

They are committed to their trade,
and their dedication doesn’t fade.
As they work in pairs or all alone,
they help make this a better home.

When fixing wrongs to make them right,
they also use your guiding light.
So Lord, please watch over these gifted men,
that you sent to us to fix and mend.

Copyright Paul MacPherson 2013. All rights reserved.

 

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“The Lord of the Dance”

The Lord of the Dance
a farewell sermon preached by
The Reverend Donna J. Larson, Interim Priest
At Trinity Episcopal Church
in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 15, 2018

Donna Farewell Preaching Collage

Anyone who knows me well, knows this: I love to dance. I mean I LOVE to dance. Anyone who has seen me dance at wedding receptions and other public events, knows that I put my whole body and heart and soul into dancing. So you will not be surprised to know that when I read our scripture lessons to prepare for writing this sermon, it was the dancing that leaped out at me.

Our Hebrew scriptures tell us the story of King David who brings the Ark of the Lord back to the Israelites after a long absence. David will give it a permanent home in Jerusalem and God’s presence will once again be in the midst of his people. Now this is a huge, historic moment for the people of Israel. It calls for an all-out celebration. Our reading from Samuel tells us that “all the whole house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with sound of the trumpet.” And, oh yes, with something else: dancing! We hear that “David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might; with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.” And as David leaps and dances holding the ark of the Lord high above his head, biblical scholars tell us that he is also dancing naked. Why? Well, some biblical scholars suggest God is also, in a sense, naked in that Ark, because the covering has been removed from the Ark. That means God is completely present with the people. They can no longer hide from God, nor will God be hidden from them. And for believers, this is a “right, and a good and a joyful thing.”

Well, as you might guess, I love this image of David dancing with all his might, putting his entire body and soul into this moment of joy and celebration in thanksgiving to God. And I believe that God was also there, dancing with David in the midst of the multitude. Because from our ancient beginnings, religious traditions have employed sacramental dance of various kinds in worship—some worship God with highly stylized and dramatic bodily interpretations of scripture, some with grand movements and flamboyant gestures, some with discreet holy gestures inspired by prayers and other liturgical forms, and some moving or swaying to the pulse of inspiring rhythms in music. We need only to think of a few of the kinds of dance in done by Whirling Dervishes, Native American Indian, Native African, Pentecostal, and mainline Protestant to name a few. In fact, my daughter-in-law teaches and choreographs liturgical dance performed by children and youth in her Methodist Church in New Hampshire. All are rooted in the biblical culture of dance. And for those who believe dancing can only be done by the feet, let it be known that dance has become popular in our secular world for people in wheelchairs, and people who can only make gestures with their hands, faces and other parts of their bodies. This includes people in liturgical traditions like our own, where bodily movement and gesture are sacramental, if not very discreet.

But back to David. When the dancing is over, David blesses the people and then he invites the multitude, both men and women who are gathered there, to share in a feast of rich and plentiful food. And then, when the celebration is over, the revelers simply go home. But you can be sure of one thing. This story and others continue to inspire and generate the joy of the dance in religious traditions throughout the world.

I wish I could say the same for the story we heard in our gospel lesson today. This is also a story of celebration and dance, but the dancing in this story comes to a cruel and vindictive end. The event is King Herod’s birthday, and he has invited his courtiers and officers and the leaders of Galilee to a banquet in his honor. His daughter, Herodias, better known as Salome to us, provides the entertainment. Now, it is obvious that Salome is a very good dancer. She pleases her father and his guests so greatly that Herod vows to grant her anything she wishes if she will continue to dance for them. He even offers her half of his kingdom. And he makes this vow publicly to impress his guest. Well, Salome dances the dance of her life, but her father is shocked and “deeply grieved” by her request for payment. She wants John the Baptist dead, his head brought to her on a platter. And Herod feels compelled to comply because it is a point of honor that he grant this request to save face with his important guests. Now, we all know how this story ends. Most of the sermons you will ever hear focus on the beheading of John the Baptist and the devastating effect this has on his cousin, Jesus. But today I want to focus on the importance of dance in our scriptures.

In both stories we heard from Samuel and Mark, David and Salome dance for good purpose, but with very different reasons and very different ends. The difference is that David dances a mighty and joyful dance of life, in thanks-giving to God, while Salome dances a mean and seductive dance of death. David dances to please the Lord; Salome dances to please her father and mother.

In our gospel account Herod and his wife manipulate their young and innocent daughter for selfish purpose and evil intent. Herod seizes the opportunity to use Salome to gain favor and status among his honored guests. Herod’s sense of pride, his need to be honored by his guests, and his need to please his wife at any cost, all require him to keep his vow to Salome, even though the price he must pay seems too high. It is clear that Herod does not want to have this prophet killed; because, in fact, Herod is fond of John the Baptizer; he knows he is a holy and righteous man and, if anything, Herod has been his protector. He only wants to put John in jail for a time to diminish John’s popularity with his followers. Herod’s wife, on the other hand, wants John put to death for publicly accusing Herod of being married to her unlawfully. So, while Herod seeks familial and public peace by putting John in jail, his wife seeks revenge for the public shame and humiliation John has subjected her to. And now Herod has no choice; he must have John beheaded, because this is the most convenient solution for his dilemma.

So, one important question we might ask about our gospel lesson today is this: Where do we find ourselves in this story? Where do we see ourselves in these characters? We might remember a time that, like Salome, as a child or a vulnerable adult, someone used our talent or abused our innocence for personal pleasure or gain. The “Me, too” movement comes to my mind. We might recall a time when, like John the Baptist, we had our own head taken off—figuratively speaking— saying or doing the right thing and for the right reason, but it was also the unpopular thing. This always happens to people like John who “speak truth to power.” Or to stupidity. But it may be a little more difficult for us to see ourselves in the person of Herod who seems to function with a “conscience of convenience.” Herod makes us look at those times we have conveniently denied our conscience for some self-seeking good or self-serving end; when we could have done the right thing, but we didn’t. It may be even more difficult to see ourselves in the person of Herod’s wife, because her actions make us recall times when we planned strategies to manipulate or control others our self-seeking desires and our self-serving ends. Like Herod, it was too easy it was too easy for us to decapitate our conscience for the sake of a convenience.

I think we can agree, this story is hard on us when we see ourselves in the mirror these characters reflect to us. We might remember or admit that in the dance of our own life we have also danced the dance of Salome, the dance of Herod and the dance of Herod’s wife, feasting on our compliance with evil, feasting on the convenience of our pride and privilege, feasting on our hatred for people who are not like us, and our desire for revenge for people who hurt or betray us until we realize that, in the end, the food that we eat becomes poison to our own life and our own souls, and the dances we dance are dances of death.

But thank God we hear this story of David in our readings for today. Thank God we get to see what it is like to dance with the Lord of life; this Lord who has come to be called the “Lord of the dance.” Because we know that David dances his dance to glorify God. And he takes so much joy in serving God’s purpose for his him in this moment that he leaps and dances with all his might. Thank God, because today David invites us to see ourselves in his story, as well. As a people of faith, we also remember moments of joy and celebration in serving God’s purpose for our own life as we dance the dance of worship and service to God with all our might. Moments which transcend the limitations of language to express our enthusiasm; moments that move us to shout, clap our hands, wave our arms, gesture with our movements, or just plain dance for joy.

Thank God for David who helps us remember our gratitude for God’s blessing us in this dance of life. Gratitude which spills over into generosity and makes us a blessing to others and a blessing to God. David’s limitless joy in leading the dance of the Ark of the Lord into Jerusalem; his limitless spirit of holiness in blessing his people, and his limitless generosity in feeding them shows us something about the ways we express our own joy, and blessing, and thanks-giving each time we come together to celebrate the Eucharist. At the invitation our celebrant says, “Lift up your hearts,” and that’s our cue to respond; not just with a cerebral response, but with a heart that leaps and dances for joy in Eucharistic thanksgiving.

This morning, like David and his people, we also celebrate the presence of God in our midst in this Ark of the Lord we call our church. We dance the dance of worship each Sunday with music and song which glorify God. And while I am not David, and we might not consider ourselves a multitude, I’d like to believe that God called me to lead you in this dance we do each Sunday as we worship the God of David. I believe that God also blesses us by our participation in our liturgy of Word and Sacrament as we, too, are fed by the abundance of this table before we leave to go home. Like David, we know when we have put our whole body, and mind and spirit into worshiping the “Lord of the dance.” We know by the blessing we receive in the music of our hymns in the rhythms of our prayers, in the gestures and movements we make as we approach this altar in holy expectation of the gifts we will receive here.

Today, I would like each of us to imagine that we are the multitude, dancing mightily with David as we approach this communion table; think of ourselves as David’s burnt offering, purified by the fire of the Spirit who brought us here today. I would like us to think of ourselves as so very blessed that we can’t help being a blessing to others.

And know that this eucharistic banquet we regularly enjoy enables us to dance the dance of life, even as others around us in our world dance the dances of evil and death. But remember this. David did not dance this dance of life alone, and we cannot dance this dance alone. We need willing and able partners who will dance with us through this world. Most of all we need to be God’s partner in the dance of our life, God’s partner in the dance of our worship and service to others, and God’s partner in all the dances we have with others not like us in a world God made for our common good. We need to follow God’s lead; try not to step on God’s toes; be willing to learn new dance steps; not give up or walk away in anger or frustration. And so, as I take my leave from the good people of Trinity Church, and as you prepare to greet Pam, your new dance partner at Trinity, I believe God has a message for all of us:

Dance, then, wherever you may be.
I am the Lord of the dance said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be.
And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.

To view the entire text of “The Lord of the Dance,” here is the Insert to our Bulletin from this past Sunday: “The Lord of the Dance”–Insert for the Bulletin for July 15, 2018 (PDF)

A reception for Donna

The Hospitality Ministry and Wardens hosted a reception following the 9:30 a.m. Eucharist to thank Donna for her ministry to us as Interim Priest. It was an amazing feast and a time to say thank you and farewell. Special guests included Donna’s family (from Allentown and Georgia), dear friends from Trinity Parish in Easton, and dear Muslim friends from the Lehigh Dialogue Center.

Donna ended the Eucharists this weekend with a special blessing which she brought with her from the Diocese of Western Massachusetts.

 The Blessing (Written by The Most Reverend Stewart Payne)

May the Lord Jesus, who loves with a wounded heart,
Be your love for evermore.
May the Lord Jesus, who serves with wounded hands,
Help you serve others.
May the Lord Jesus, who walks with wounded feet,
Walk you to the end of the road.
Look for the face of Jesus in everyone you meet.
And may everyone you meet see the face of Jesus in you.
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be with you and remain with you always. Amen.

To see the full album of photos, click here.

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Parishioners, could you please help us with Musikfest?

It’s that time of year and Musikfest is fast approaching. It runs from August 2-12. We will again be offering paid parking to festival goers and we need your help. We are in dire need of car shepherds to guide vehicles to their places in our lot, dispense information and handouts, and generally welcome our guests. The shifts are 3 hours long with two people for each shift. Don’t have a partner? Sign up anyway and make a new friend. Free T shirt is included. Please take a moment and check your schedule for a time that would be convenient to offer Trinity some of your “time, talent, and treasure”. This is Trinity’s biggest fundraiser of the year and we need your support!! A sign-up sheet is on the bulletin board next to the Rector’s office.

In case you wonder what is happening at Musikfest, here is the link to the  daily schedule.

Happy Feast of Saint Benedict, Abbot and Religious Founder–Come worship with us today at 11:30 am at Trinity

Transitus of HFSBenedict
You are invited to join us today at 11:30 am in the Church, here at Trinity, to celebrate the Feast of Saint Benedict.

Today the Benedictine family celebrates the Feast of Saint Benedict of Nursia, Abbot and Religious Founder. He is also the Patron of Western Monasticism, Europe, and of a happy death. In 595, Pope St. Gregory the Great sent Augustine of Canterbury to Kent to found the successful Christian mission to Britain. Both Gregory and Augustine were Benedictine monks. The legacy of Saint Benedict continues in the Church of England to this day. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer drew heavily from Benedictine sources in crafting the first Book of Common Prayer. Thus, it embodies a truly Benedictine charism in enabling all the church–but especially the laity to “seek God” through the “Work of God,” which is daily prayer. Recently, the Bishop of London described it in this way; “The BCP was an attempt to make a heavily Benedictine influenced spirituality of prayer and Eucharist available to all people.  I have heard it called “the monasticism of all believers,” but in the very least in was taking ascetical spiritual practices  from the monastery and putting them right in the bedrooms, kitchens, and parish churches of lay people.”

An old monastic antiphon captures the spirit of Saint Benedict, “Holy Father Benedict, the man of God, blessed in word and in deed.” This alludes to the fact that  benedictus, in Latin, means “blessed.” A very famous Latin motto often used by Benedictines is ut in omnibus glorificetur deus, “That in all things God may be glorified.”

Saint Benedict had a great devotion to the Holy Cross. On the 1400th anniversary of his birth (1880), a special medal, “The Jubilee Medal,” was issued which has become very popular–among Benedictines and others.

This lovely collect for the Feast of Saint Benedict is taken from For All the Saints (The Anglican Church of Canada):

Eternal God,
you endowed your holy servant Benedict with gifts of discernment and power
to be a true and faithful guide
in the way of Christian perfection.
Instill in our hearts the virtues of stability and concord, that our prayers may be fixed on you and our judgments may be formed
according to your great commandment of love; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

For those who are not able to be with us in person today, here is the .pdf of our Bulletin for Today’s Eucharist. And an insert describing the Jubilee Medal of Saint Benedict.

Saint Benedict of Nursia Abbot and Religious Founder 07-11-18
The Medal or Cross of Saint Benedict