Sunday, July 30, 2017

The week of July 31

oin us this week at St. Stephen’s

Wednesday August 2 The Feast of the finding of the relics of St. Stephen
6:00 p.m. – Healing Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher
Supper at a local restaurant follows

Friday August 4
Fr. Jamie’s day off

Sunday August 6  – TRANSFIGURATION
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher

Coffee Hour following

Farewell to Darcy

A sad day as we said farewell to the truly wonderful Darcy Corbitt, who is moving back to Alabama this week. We'll miss you, Darcy!!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Marriage of Amanda and Roxanne

It was an honor to bless the marriage of two wonderful people this evening, Amanda and Roxanne Mohs.

The Feast of Sts. Mary and Martha

"Open...our hands to welcome and serve you in others..." The Feast of Sts. Mary & Martha

Monday, July 24, 2017

The week of July 24

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Wednesday July 26  
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher
Supper at a local restaurant follows

Friday July 28
Fr. Jamie’s day off

Saturday July 29
10:00 a.m. – noon – Great Plains Food Bank

4:30 - Wedding (off site)

Sunday July 30  – 8 Pentecost
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Farewell to Darcy Corbitt-Hall
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher

Coffee Hour following

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Darcy Corbitt's sermon from this morning

7 Pentecost

July 12, 2017

In the name of God, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

HEARTBREAK. That burning, twisting, empty feeling in the pit of your stomach, heart-wrenching, soul-crushing, blow with a two-by-four to the upper chest that knocks the wind right out of you. That hell through which all must pass before they finally understand what it means to be truly, head-over-heels in love. Not the Hollywood version of heartbreak, that oversimplified pining while downing pint after pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. I am talking the real deal. The sense of being lost in a wide-open space, of being disconnected from that which brought infinite joy and peace in a world of sorrow and turmoil that can only be achieved by the safe, encompassing passion that is true love.

In Minot last weekend, I encountered something I’ve always dreaded: A fundamental evangelist in the very place he ought not be. It was Minot Pride, and he was there to turn the fabulous of Minot to Jesus. He approached me with a friendly smile, and it wasn’t long into our conversation that I realized what he was and what he was trying to do. I’ve always wondered what I would do in this situation. Would I get defensive and scream down curses on his head? Would I pepper the air with my signature expletive and with a z-formation snap tell him I was “born this way, baby?” Would I preach a sermon in the style of Jonathan Edwards? Would he be a sinner in the hands of an angry Darcy? What he got surprised both him and me. In fact, he got a lot more than he bargained for.

I tend to have that effect on men.

Growing up, I was taught that sin was evildoing that people did because they are inherently fallen beings. Salvation, therefore, is the act of casting off sin and actively working to be good enough for God. This dichotomy between being naturally bad and having to atone for one’s own nature resulted, for me and unfortunately for most of those attempting to live Christian lives in America, in a life of fear of getting it wrong and being subjected to eternal damnation for missing one Wednesday night prayer meeting to go to a movie with friends. Sadly, my Minot friend was operating under this ideological quagmire.

He explained to me that he deserved death because of the sin in his life, but Jesus took the death penalty for him. He explained that he served Jesus because Jesus paid his debt. Then things got weird. He asked me if I knew the love of God. Normally, this is a triggering question for me conditioned over a lifetime of people making me feel like I wasn’t a good Christian because I refuse, point blank, to be legalistic about my faith. This time it was different. When he asked me if I knew God’s love, I felt it well up in me in an overwhelming and emotionally charged flood. I responded: “I am overflowing with God’s love.”

I told you he got more than he bargained for.

He saw my response as a foot in the door and replied that he, too, was in love with God, but not in that way. I asked him what he meant by in that way, to which he replied, “you know, in the way a man loves his wife.”
            “Why not in that way?” I asked.
                “Because it would be inappropriate,” he said.
            “How so?” I pressed.
                “Because God is different than us.”
            I replied, glossing over the fact that since Jesus is God incarnate and the Holy Spirit dwells in us and if we have been baptized Christ lives in us so God is like us and we are like God: “If you            aren’t loving God like a spouse then you     aren’t doing it right.”
Yeah, he wasn’t recovering from this one.

As a psychologist in training I know that when it comes to the bare basics of love, the psychological process, the very cognitive mechanism that drives love is the same no matter who it is we love. Ultimately, love is the deep, very real bond that exists between people who feel able to be emotionally vulnerable with one another. It is the feeling of safety, of warmth, of actual togetherness. You know what I mean. We’ve all been in a room full of people, even people we know, and still feel empty and alone. I wager there are people in this room today who feel alone even when surrounded by the warm and loving faces of this congregation. When you are with someone you love, however, you never feel alone. Because that bond, that connection exists in your mind as if it were a literal chain connecting their soul with yours.

When we love God, truly love God, it is as if we are connected to God by a very real chain connecting the spirit of God to our own soul.

Consequently, sin is the separation between a person and God. The unfinished links connecting God’s chain to your chain. And hell is the experience of heartbreak at being separated from the one we know will make us feel safe in our raw vulnerability. You might ask, “how can one feel heartbreak over something they’ve never had?” In the same way we feel longing for things we’ve never owned, places we never been, or people we’ve never known. We feel the lack of connection just as surely as every step we make in our journey of self-discovery is one link closer to God’s chain.

My evangelist asked me if I believed I was made in the image of God? I replied that I was. To which he predictably responded: “then how can you claim to be transgender if God made you and God is perfect and can’t make mistakes?” I was ready for him, he fell into my trap. I responded, “You are assuming that being transgender is a mistake. Actually, it is because God is perfect and doesn’t make mistakes that I accept that I am transgender and am perfectly happy with it.”

This is when he walked away.

As a trained therapist, I feel very safe in saying that nearly everything the Bible lists as a sin is the result of one thing: trauma. When you strip away individual experiences and abuses trauma is merely the outcome of a psychological distancing from reality. We experience abuse, horrible life situations, repeated invalidation, and our brain distances itself from reality so that it can survive the horror of what is happening to it. Over time, systematic exposure to toxic environments and people and experiences can, and usually does, lead to maladaptive behaviors. The extent to which these maladaptive behaviors control us and hurt ourselves and others depends upon the length of time the trauma was experienced and the severity of the triggering event.

The experience of trauma causes us, in a very real sense, to lose sight of who we are and how valuable we are. Our consciousness becomes so distant from reality that we often cannot see ourselves as other people do. Which is why we all know people who, no matter how many times we tell them they look good or are smart or are fun to be with, still feel ugly and dumb and boring. We cannot accept ourselves as we really are. The way God sees us as we are and accepts us as we are. The tragedy is that we cannot love God unless we love ourselves. The holy paradox is we cannot love ourselves unless we love God.
This is where the chain comes in.

When I decided to come back to the church I spoke to a priest friend of mine about getting re-baptized. I told him: “Fr. Richards, I feel as if I was coerced as a teenager by fear into baptism. I was baptized by another name, I want to be baptized by my real name.” His response made me see this heartbreak from God’s eyes. “Darcy,” he said, “so many people are coerced into baptism. The cool thing about baptism is that we don’t have to do anything for it to change us. It changes us whether we like it or not. And when you were baptized, God knew your real name. Even before you knew it.” There it was, plain and simple. God knew exactly who I was, trauma, self-loathing, fear, cellulite, and all. And God loved me in spite of it.

I am no stranger to heartbreak. In fact, my heart has been breaking ever since December. I am no stranger to trauma, to having my identity invalidated and spat on. I’m no stranger to bestowing love on people and having it thrown back in my face. And I am no stranger to the very real place of hell. I’ve spent 84% of my life there. Yet, during my tenure in hell God was forging our bond, link by link, even if I didn’t know it. Looking back, I remember hearing the faint whisper of the words, “you are beautiful and perfect” every time I felt badly about not being treated as a girl. The more I fought to be Darcy, the louder the voice became. Little did I know that every day I fought to be Darcy I was frantically forging link after link of my bond with God, bringing it, and myself, closer and closer to God.

And God was doing the very same thing, and it is God who puts the final link in our chain once we open our heart to God’s love.

Three days before I left Alabama for Fargo the final link in the chain connecting me to God was completed. I was sitting in a friend’s living room debating the existence of God. I was arguing the notion of God was an archaic remnant of a superstitious past. She finally asked me, “you’ve told me that you’ve thought about suicide many times. And you’ve told me that you’ve tried a couple times. What stopped you?” I replied, “a voice inside of me told me to keep hoping and to keep pushing on.” To which she said squarely, “have you heard of the Holy Spirit?” In a flash I realized that in spite of the days of empty loneliness that stretched before me (even to today), that even in the rejection of my parents, my grandparents, my childhood friends, even the men and women I’ve loved, I will never be alone again.

St. Paul in our Epistle today exhorts us to remember that

18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We are all in bondage to doubt, to invalidation of our identities, to insecurities and self-loathing forced upon us by years and years of conditioning. The time is coming, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe after you’ve lived 21 years, when your eyes will be opened to the glory of God, your ears will hear the validation you’ve longed for your whole life, and your heart will know fully that you are loved. Until that time, you are surrounded by the creation waiting with eager longing for the heartbreak to be over, for the radiant love of God to engulf us with its marvelous healing embrace. Let us love you and embrace you and help you forge the chain, link by link, that moors you to God’s eternal love. In so doing, you will never be alone again.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

A return visit from Deacon Phyllis!!

It was so wonderful to have Deacon Phyllis Manoogian, who serves in Guatemala, to join us again for Mass this morning (and with a nearly full house to boot!) Here she is with her niece Sandy Pearce. Thank you, Deacon Phyllis!!

The week of July 17

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Wednesday July 19  
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher
Incense is offered at this Mass
Supper at a local restaurant follows

Friday July 21
Fr. Jamie’s day off

Sunday July 23  – 7 Pentecost
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/Darcy Corbitt, preacher

Coffee Hour following

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The wedding of Matthew and Elena at St. Stephen's

A beautiful night at St. Stephen's for the wedding of Matthew and Elena combining Episcopalian, Methodist, Russian Orthodox and Lutheran elements (Elena is from Uzbekistan)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The week of July 10

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s

Monday July 10
Deadline for The Ambassador

Tuesday July 11 St. Benedict
5:00 p.m. Wedding at St. Stephen’s

Wednesday July 12  
6:00 p.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher

Friday July 14
Fr. Jamie’s day off

Sunday July 16  – 6 Pentecost
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher

Coffee Hour following

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The week of July 3 at St. Stephen's

Join us this week at St. Stephen’s
Tuesday July 4  
4th of July –church staff holiday

Wednesday July 5  
6:00 p.m. – Healing Eucharist*
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/ preacher
Supper at a local restaurant follows

*Please send Fr. Jamie the names of anyone in need of healing prayers you would like prayed for at the Healing Mass. We will be praying for all by name at this Mass. 

Friday July 7
3:00 pm – Burial Liturgy for Marlys Lundberg (+6/10/2017) at Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home, Fr. Jamie, officiant

Sunday July 9  – 5 Pentecost
11:00 a.m. – Holy Eucharist
Fr. Jamie, celebrant/preacher

Coffee Hour following

Sermon from today by John Anderson

4 Pentecost
July 2, 2017
Sermon by John Anderson

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.”

The lines I just read are from a psalm we did not read today: Psalm 13. It was part of today’s lectionary reading list but was not part of our service. Yet when I read the scriptures for this week I kept returning to Psalm 13. There are several psalms like this…psalms in which the writer is expressing grief, sorrow, doubt, loneliness and defeat.  If you ever feel this way, you are in good company; the authors of the psalms are never bashful to express their sense of God’s absence from their lives. Expressing pain and sorrow is not foreign to biblical faith. Last week we sang such a psalm:

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.

I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” (Psalm 69:1-4)

People in great suffering, the downtrodden, the lonely, the marginalized, the oppressed, may utter words in their hearts much like these psalms. It can truly feel as if God is absent, that we are alone in our struggles. O, if only God would answer our prayers. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? Everyone here has perhaps felt like that at some point in their life.

The psalm I have shared gives voice to many people in the world, and even in our community, who suffer. The sick, the hungry, the marginalized, the oppressed, the hopeless, the sinner, the lonely…  Suffering comes in many forms, and scripture allows us to claim it and name it.  And scripture often provides comforting assurance as well.

Our gospel reading this morning offers hope, an answered prayer, to those who suffer and feel alone. English teachers will tell us not to use a word too often in one paragraph. Being the rule breaker he often was, Jesus uses the word “welcome” six times in this one short paragraph.  The word “welcome” dominates this gospel reading.

Jesus teaches his disciples about the importance of welcoming others. To welcome someone is to welcome Jesus Himself; and to welcome Jesus is to welcome the One who sent him.  This is no small thing. To welcome others, is to welcome God. 

One of the most soothing words one who is in the midst of suffering can hear is “welcome.”  If you are lonely, welcome. If you are oppressed, welcome. If you feel lost and forgotten, welcome. If you are sick and dying, welcome. If you are a sinner and feel hopeless, welcome. 

Nearly four years ago I was the lowest I have ever been in my life. I was heartbroken, angry, lonely, hopeless, confused, wracked with doubt and fear…  With little left in my tank to help others, I walked away from a life of ministry as a pastor, thinking I may be done with God, because I thought maybe God was done with me.  Yet, I wasn’t done.

For a few weeks I thought about it. Then one Sunday I came here, to this little church. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what I would find, who I would find. What I found were ordinary people, friendly people, broken people…like me. Those people weren’t overly curious why I was there. They didn’t ask a lot of questions. They simply welcomed me as if I had always belonged.  And my healing began.  

I was not thrown from a horse, or blinded by the light. I did not see the heavens open with choirs of angels singing.  I heard no booming voice giving me clear answers and directions. But over the next weeks and months I heard hymns sung by regular people. I heard the Eucharistic Liturgy offered. I received the sacrament. I heard words of love and encouragement. And I felt the soothing balm of welcome soak into my soul. God’s healing came through the hands and hearts of ordinary people living the Gospel as they understood it. And my prayers were answered.

My friends, this is the place where prayers can be answered. God can use us in our brokenness to help others. God can work through us to answer the prayers of the suffering. People who are crying out “O Lord, will you forget me forever?” can begin to have at least some of their prayers answered here among us, and through us.   We are God’s people, entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:18), and we are called to welcome others in the name of Jesus Christ. When we do so, we welcome Christ Himself, and the One who sent him. It’s what we do pretty darned well here in this church.

Are we heroes? Nah. Have we come up with a revolutionary “new” way to “do church?”  Nope. We’re just trying to be faithful to Christ and his radical, and often uncomfortable, idea of welcoming others.

My friends, we can help God answer the prayers of the suffering. And to help us understand how we will do that, I will close with the words of St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582):

“Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.” Amen!