THANK YOU BASKET PROGRAM A SUCCESS!

Thank you to our nominees in the Green County Veterans’ Office-Our Fall thank you basket program was successful! We at St. Andrew’s are honored to be able to be part of THANKING them for their public service!  Thanks to all who nominated, put together baskets, donated, and delivered baskets!

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Breast Cancer Survivor Support Group Formed!

Breast Cancer Survivor Support Group 

Are you dealing with breast cancer or do you know someone who is?  St. Andrew’s announces a new support group for Green County for individuals who are breast cancer survivors.   Our group is designed to provide support for breast cancer survivors and to respond to concerns in a support group format.   We look to assist the whole person in this journey, meeting needs of body, mind and spirit.  Please join us.  Join us if your  journey has been long or is just beginning.  We meet on the FIRST WEDNESDAY OF EACH MONTH at Wisconsin Bank and Trust, 1717 10th Street off the square (parking available) in Monroe. 608-328-4000.  We begin with refreshments and coffee and conclude at 7:00.  For more information please contact Kris at kriswis@tds.net.  

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THE GIVING OF THANKS

THE GIVING OF THANKS              The Rev. Brian E.Backstrand     Aug 15, 2015

A few weeks ago, I learned that one of our long-time friends – whose name Jay is on our prayer list—had discovered that he had cancer.   He had just retired as a professor at Rocky Mountain College in Montana when he noticed a lump on his neck and discovered that his first summer after retirement was going to pretty much be devoted to chemo.

I woke up one morning thinking about Jay.   A good friend, it had been decades since we had seen one another and now here I was thinking about him in a way that I took to be an invitation from the Holy Spirit to reach out. I sent him an email and a poem.

I remembered that Jay had been in a one car accident in which he had nearly been killed but remained unscathed. He had faced death before. This led to a poem that I included as I remembered this incident. The poem and the email I sent out into the long silence of many years.

And now just this week, Jay wrote back. He shared that he had leukemia of an undifferentiated type and that, although the tumor was shrinking, most of the time it felt like the cancer was doing just fine, but the rest of me, he said, was being disassembled.

I wondered how I would do in the vise grip of cancer. I have listened to some of you describe your own journey with this illness either now or in the past and have both respected and admired your faith and honesty and courage.

We support one another in the journey. But how would I react?   Would I ever be able to approach this illness with any measure of positive energy.   Would I be down and out spiritually?   And especially, in the midst of struggle, I wondered if I would ever be able to muster up any gratitude.

Our second lesson from Ephesians puts the issue of gratitude squarely before us this morning. Note this powerful and practical advise.

And do not be drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual song, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

This verse is a two-part heavy hitter.   First of all we have material that arises out of the context of worship. We are to be filled with the holy spirit but notice that it comes in the form of worship when the community gathers.   The church in worship addresses one another and notice how this addressing takes place.   It takes the form of psalms, of hymns and songs, of singing in which addressing one another we make melody to the Lord, the source of our lives and the source of our common life together in Christ Jesus.

Worship is a place of gratitude and indeed the very name of the service that we share together Sunday by Sunday is built on the word eucharist which is a Greek term for the giving of thanks.   This is a holy that is a separate and distinctive thanksgiving in which we lift up our hearts and give thanks specifically to the Lord.

But notice that final portion of this verse from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians– always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

Always.   We are invited to do this to the point of doing it always. Not leaving gratitude here in the pews or after we leave the church.   Not leaving gratitude alone when we enter into our work week. Not abandoning gratitude when we journey to the hospital or the clinic.   Not forgetting gratitude when a lump (metaphorically or physically) shows up in our lives to take us in new directions. Not leaving it on the pillow in the morning when I rise and feel very ungrateful and thankless.

I have discovered in my own life that I am not very good at gratitude. And so Betty Jo’s habit of listing things for which I am grateful has been a wonderful thing, even recently, when I have been engaged in negative thinking.   She told me and has told many of you that she lists things for which she is grateful.   And, if I remember correctly, she does this in the morning, before rising.

The very habit of trying to specifically list things is important to being grateful.   I have found that unless I cultivate gratitutde, I miss it. It disappears and instead my cup is half empty and I am a negative thinker. But when I list specific things, I invite myself to discover the things in my life for which I can be grateful and my spirit rises like a phoenix from the ashes of self negativity.

Specific things matter when it comes to gratitude.   Simple things. Personal things.   Vulnerable things listed – all of these things matter.   To be thankful is to be specifically grateful not blandly and generally and vaguely grateful.

And so, in spite of its   awkwardness, I invite you to be specific; to make lists; to cultivate gratefulness. As they say in AA:   Fake it until you make it.   That is, spiritually, grow into gratitude. Do not passively and wistfully wish for it and thereby make gratitude itself a negative because you are missing it and it has not yet arrived. Instead plant the seed and cultivate the crop.

***

In our Gospel lesson, we have one more reading from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John where the emphasis is again upon Jesus being the bread of life.   The reading here once more lifts up the perspective of holy communion in which we repeat the words of institution of the lord’s supper. That is, we remember that Jesus took bread and wine, gave thanks, gave to his followers and then said take eat and drink.

The Eucharistic service is part of what we call The Liturgy.   And the basic definition for liturgy is simply this:   Liturgy is defined as the work of the people. That is, when we worship, we do this together.   We pray and sing songs and present gifts unto the Lord. And then we enter into a time of prayerful remembrance in which we remember that this grace, this Spirit and Presence does not come inexpensively. In fact, it cost Jesus his very life.   And all of this is the work of the people s we gather and address one another and worship.

Each Sunday I announce a Eucharistic prayer.   Occasionally we have used prayer C or D but most often B or A.   Let us look at Prayer A for a moment.   You’ll find it on 361.

Salutation            It begins with a salutation.   That is, it begins with a simple greeting and a response.   The Lord be with you// And also with you.   Some have suggested that this was used as a sign and countersign in the early Church when the church was being persecuted and infiltrated by spies.   House churches were used often.

Sursum Corda              This greeting then flows into what is known as the Sursum Corda. Corda is a latin term that relates to hearts and sursum is a term that binds or gathers up. And so the two together are the binding up or gathering of our hearts.   Our hearts are lifted up.   And so notice the pattern

Lift up your hearts                   We lift them to the Lord.

One early Greek version of this prayer from the 2nd century, that is sometime after the year 100 and before the year 200 states this prayer even more dramatically

Up with your hearts                   We have them with the   Lord.

Notice how this binding of hearts or lifting up of hearts concludes:

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

Here we have introduced early in the service of Holy Communion the notion, the theme of thanksgiving.   If you look at this page you also will notice that this section is called The Great Thanksgiving.     Gratitude is an essential part of worship.

The next portion of the service involves two parts of the Eucharistic Prayer known as the Preface.   One part is specific and involves material specific to the Sunday. This is known as the Proper Preface and often in the church year these proper prefaces are reflective of the church year.   The proper preface is not listed in Prayer A on page 362 but the general preface is. It begins with the phrase Therefore we praise you…Together these two prayers bring us to one of the ancient parts of the prayer service, The Sanctus.

You see the Sanctus on page 362 as it begins with Holy, holy, holy Lord God of power and might.   We often sing sanctus together and lift up our praise in song. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord is a reference to Jesus and we cross ourselves and perhaps bow slightly to honor his presence and his name.

Then the Eucharistic Prayer contines with a post-Sanctus prayer, a general transitional prayer that reminds us of the great story of   creation, sin, love and redemption.   This prayer gets us to thinking in cosmic terms and reminds us not only of the fact that God came in Christ to share our human nature and that Jesus the Christ offered himself as a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.  God comes to redeem the world,   the cosmos. God’s work is not done and God’s presence in the Holy Spirit is a sign that God is working still.

The words of institution come next.   Here the priest presents the bread and the wine separately.   He states the words of the institution of the Lord’s Supper.   He makes the sign of the cross and blesses the bread and wine so that they become elements. God is present here and as we remember these things we bring them into our present so that bread and wind, body and blood, healing presence forgiveness all become available because the Lord is here,   mysteriously and powerfully, to claim us once more and make us his.

On page 363 we join together in what is known as a Memorial Acclamation. An acclamation is a shout, a shout of joy in which we remember that Christ has died, is risen and will come again.   God is present,   God is active and God is not through.

As the prayer continues, we find these words:   We celebrate the memorial of our redemption O Father in this sacricie of praise and thanksgiving.   We remember and we recall. Again we make what is known as a sacrifice or outpouring.   This out pouring is one of joy and gratitude and praise.

And then there is what is known as the oblation. That is,   we make an offering. We present bread and wine and ask the Holy Spirit to come down and to sanctify these simple things, so that the very presence of God is in these things. This prayer is known as the epiclesis — the coming down of the Spirit to bless and be present.

Our Eucharistic prayer is almost over.   We are almost ready to come forward and to receive. But some important things remain.

One is the doxology.   Again this is found on page 363 and it begins with All this we ask. Notice that this is a triune prayer. It is followed by the Our Father and then we come to the Faction, the breaking of the bread and the proclamation Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.  

The prayer is now over and the gifts are presented to the people and we are ready to receive bread and wine at the altar.

Here at St Andrew’s we all receive the bread.   If you want to receive the bread alone, when the cup is presented simply cross your arms.   If you want to receive the bread by having it dipped in the wine, simply hold the bread in your hands and the chalice bearer will intinct it with wine.   Grape juice also will have been blessed and is available. The priest and not the chalice bearer will then bring grape juice. If the wine comes first, simply refuse it.

To sum up, gratitude can take many forms.   Most importantly it needs to find a home in our lives.  We also discover gratitude right here as we worship. And together we lift up grateful hearts in this service of praise and thanksgiving.

I invite you now to turn with me to page 125. Here is another prayer of gratitude that sums up much of our thankfulness to God.   As we conclude this sermon, let us   pray this prayer together.

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THE STAFF OF LIFE

THE STAFF OF LIFE                      The Rev. Brian E. Backstrand         August 9, 2015

About seven months ago, now, Joanna Jolly of the BBC wrote an article the detailed one of the shifts in the American diet.   Entitled, “Why Do Americans Love Ancient Grains?” the article was written in response to an explosion of popularity and of interest mostly by Americans in ancient grains—grains of ancient Mesopotamia, grains of the indigenous peoples of South American,   grains of Egypt and the Nile.

Well, Jolly is right: We’re interested.   Suddenly we are interested in spelt, emmer, teff, and many other grains from ancient times.   We are interested, to be sure, in part because of the gluten free craze that has people like me looking for pancakes and sandwich breads and cereals that are free from gluten. (And I thank all of you who have fed me during the coffee hour and at other times with gluten free goodies.)   But we’re also interested in part because Americans are always on the lookout for some magical food ingredient from the past, a silver bullet that when taken ensures longer life or more vibrant health.   And, let’s be honest, we’re also looking to eat our way into ancient history—to sample the common foods of the ancient Egyptians, or of the Romans or Greeks or the Persians, travelling by our pallet back through the centuries as we imagine others reclining to eat, like the disciples or the Pharisees with Jesus in the First Century AD.

Spelt has a slender rice-like grain and contains less gluten than wheat, but has a higher protein content.   Freekah has a characteristic smoked aroma and a toasted, mildly sweet flavor. A grain from Arabia, freekah contains more protein, vitamins, and minerals than most grains, and up to four times the fiber content of brown rice, though it has hardly any gluten, since it is harvested before its protein develops. It is used in soups, and stews.

Emmer, termed “farro” in Italy, is an ancient wheat that has been cultivated for over 10,000 years. It is also a very sustainable grain—it grows well without chemical inputs and can better tolerate stressful growing conditions than modern wheat. The emmer grown in New York State comes from Europe by way of North Dakota, where diverse types brought by German immigrants have been grown since the late 19th century. Emmer is known for its distinctive, delicious flavor as a cooked grain. This flavor carries through when it is used to make pasta and fl at breads as well.

And then there is Einkorn. Domesticated in ancient Mesopotamia in the Fertile Crescent, Einkorn is considered to be one of the “ancient” grains. Einkorn is higher in protein, trace minerals and essential amino acids than any other wheat. The grain may be cooked whole or ground into flour for baking. Einkorn is also safe for some gluten sensitivities.

Often we call bread “the staff of life.”   A staff provides support and this phrase with the word staff in it was first recorded in 1638. Today, however, bread is far less of a staff than rice. A majority of the earth’s people eat rice instead of bread.   In Indonesia, rice is readily available and no one in that vast country goes hungry because as a staple rice is provided.

In Jesus’ day, however, the staff that provided necessary nutrition was bread.   And some layers of Mediterranean society in his time did not always have access to even this most basic commodity.   We can imagine Jesus and his disciples reclining in the Upper Room before his Passion.   And we can hear his words. In John 13 he speaks of his betrayer and when Peter asks, “Lord, who is it?” he replies, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.”   The morsel is dipped and handed to Judas.   And I imagine bread.

Today as last Sunday in our Gospel reading bread, that ancient grain, that staff of life, shows up. Jesus says I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he or she will live for ever. And the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.

It is hard to imagine the impact of bread in Jesus’ day.   To eat bread and to have bread to eat was to survive.   We cannot imagine this.   Even though hunger is present in our society, we often cultivate the impression in our lives of an abundance that fills us up almost to the point of being over-full and nauseated.   It is a cloying abundance. At least in our images of the good life.   But hunger, that American shadow land, remains. Today one out of every six Americans faces hunger.   Food insecurity is one of the terms used to describe the face of hunger in America.   The USDA defines “food insecurity” as the lack of access, at times, to enough food for all household members.” In 2011, households with children reported a significantly higher food insecurity rate than households without children: 20.6% vs. 12.2%.

Food insecurity exists in every county in America. In 2013, 17.5 million households were food insecure. More and more people are relying on food banks and pantries. Forty-nine million Americans struggle to put food on the table.   We rub elbows with them, but they mostly are invisible.

When we take the bread of life at the altar, today and on other Sundays, no doubt we should more fervently think of ways that we here at St. Andrew’s can supply food to others—even others in our own community.

It arrives unheralded often at the main meal of the day.   It may be a triangle of pita gracing the edges of a bowl of salad. It may arrive in a basket in the form of a small loaf. It may be wrapped and wrapped and wrapped in suffocating plastic wrap making it difficult to sample.   But it often is there.

We assume it.   We sometimes avoid it.   We now quite commonly possess an interest in its historic roots and lineage.   Today it will come modestly in the form of a wafer, thinly sliced and for many of us it will be tinged with wine.

And when we take it in with faith and with a sense of emptiness this meal can be a banquet.   And this bread coming as it does from the Master can bring into our existence the spiritual staff of new and unending life itself because it comes from him, from his mission of love,   from his willingness to be present to us yet again through this simple thing. Today, this wafer, this morsel, this emmer or perhaps einkorn is offered and blessed and lifted up and then presented.   It comes as a vehicle of grace and of presence. It comes to arrest us in our journey, so that at the intersection of this engagement with the Divine, this simple thing might feed us, deeply and completely, bringing us newness and forgiveness,   peace and reflection,   renewal and joy.   We feed upon the presence of God who is for us and for the whole created order the staff of life.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good,” Psalm 34 proclaims. “Happy are those who take refuge in him.”    Fed with the bread of life, let us also be people who, in spirit and substance, bring nourishment, strength and even food – to others.

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

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