Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"Here I am, the servant of the Lord."

On this Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Advent, we continue to hear from Luke’s Gospel.  Today we read how the Angel Gabriel visited Mary and how she responded to God’s call:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. (Lk. 1:26-38).
Can you imagine what Mary would have felt when Gabriel made his appearance?  She must have been afraid, and Gabriel speaks some of the most often repeated words in Scripture, “do not be afraid.”  Mary is then confused by what God’s messenger told her.  Even in the midst of her fear and confusion, Mary says, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”
How many of us are willing to trust in God when we are afraid and confused?  How many of us would rather rely on our own strength instead of relying on God’s promise to us.  On this Tuesday in the last week of Advent, as we prepare for the feast of the Incarnation, Christmas, let us, like Mary say, “Here am I, the Lord’s servant.”
Let us pray: O God, you manifest in your servants the signs of your presence: Send forth upon us the spirit of love, that in companionship with one another your abounding grace may increase among us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Your servant in Christ,
Fr. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550

Monday, December 21, 2015

The World Turned Upside Down

On this Monday in the Fourth Week of Advent, the appointed Gospel for the Daily Office is taken from the first chapter of Luke:


Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.


In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.


Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’


Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.


After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, ‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’ (Lk. 1:1-25).


Luke writes to Theophilus, the lover of God, and I hope that includes you and me. Luke’s Gospel turns the world upside down!  Women, who were essentially powerless in that day, play the key parts in the Gospel.  Those who are in charge, like Zechariah, the priest, are silenced.  In Luke’s Gospel, the lowly are brought high, and the arrogant are brought low.  That is what the Kingdom of God looks like.


Let us pray: Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.




Christmas Eve Eucharist Rite II, 4 PM Thursday.


Please remember everyone on our prayer list, especially Gladys, Shaleah, and Nigel.


Your servant in Christ,


Fr. Chester J. Makowski+

St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church

Galveston, Texas 77550

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Just & Generous God

On this Wednesday in the second week of Advent, we are reminded that God is concerned with justice; that God is concerned with the plight of those who are taken advantage of by the greedy who make their money dishonestly and at the expense of others.  The assigned reading from the Old Testament in today Daily Office is from the prophet Amos who writes, in part:
Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, ‘When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.’ Amos 8:4-6.
The shekel was not originally a coin, but a weight used in a balance.  The ephah was a unit of dry measure that was equal to about a bushel.  So the dealers would cheat the customer by using the measure to sell the grain that was too small and the measure they received in payment too heavy, so the customer got less and paid more.  It is the old “thumb on the scale” trick.  This practice was rampant in Amos’ day, and he warned those who were doing it that God was not pleased with taking advantage of people in that manner. 
God is a God of justice. God is a God of generosity.  God speaks of a good measure, pressed down and running over. As we prepare for the feast of the Incarnation, we should remember that just as God is just and generous, God calls us to be just and generous. 
Let us pray:  Lord God, you created all that is out of love.  Give us the grace through the Holy Spirit to be more and more like Jesus in our daily lives and interactions with one another that we will be just and generous.  Amen.
Seaside Seniors Christmas Party, Thursday, 17 December starting at 11 AM.
Christmas Eve Eucharist, 4 PM on the 24 December.
Please remember everyone on our Prayer List, especially Bishop Curry.
Your servant in Christ,
Fr. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Hospitalized


For those of you who may not have heard, our new Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, was taken ill.  He is currently in the hospital in Virginia awaiting surgery. 
Here is a link of a video from his hospital bed:
Here is the report from the Living Church:
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
As Episcopalians awaited word Tuesday about Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s urgent brain surgery in Richmond, Virginia, two medical-school professors explained the risks and outlook associated with draining a chronic subdural hematoma.
Dr. Alex Valadka, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical School, said the procedure involves drilling a hole in the skull and draining built-up pools of blood in the wake of a head injury.
“I would call it brain surgery because that’s the whole goal: to take the pressure off the brain,” Valadka said. “You don’t want to go into the brain. You want to stay out of it. But the brain is right there. You of course have to be very, very careful not to cause any injury.”
Patients will sometimes suffer a stroke as they’re waking up from the operation, he said, although stroke risk is low. They also run a low to moderate risk of experiencing epileptic seizures in the days to follow, he said.
Overall, the long-term odds bode well for Bishop Curry’s recovery. About 80 percent of those treated for his condition return to their pre-hematomal level of function, according to John Higgins, a sports cardiologist at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. A month after surgery, the chances of dying from hematoma hover around 5 percent.
Yet because the condition can recur and the surgery can disrupt brain function, the mortality rate is 10 to 30 percent within 30 days of surgery, according to Higgins. It’s a period that necessarily involves close observation, follow-up CT scans, and lots of rest before gradually increasing activity.
“They can try to seal off the blood vessel, but it may continue to ooze,” Higgins said. “If the stitches don’t hold, it could rapidly accumulate again. So there are definitely issues following the actual surgery in terms of how long it’s going to be before he’s out of the woods.”
Doctors scheduled Curry, 62, for urgent surgery after a Sunday visit to Bruton Parish in Colonial Williamsburg, where he was helping celebrate the congregation’s 300th anniversary. He had difficulty finding words, according to his nurse, Roland Anderson, and was diagnosed at a local hospital before being transferred to a Richmond tier-one medical center for treatment.
Subdural hematoma occurs with greatest frequency in older people who have suffered head injuries, which can seem minor if they involve merely bumping one’s head on a cabinet or car door. What can ensue, however, is effectively a one-way valve in which blood from a damaged vein or artery pools up with nowhere to drain. Pressure in turn mounts on parts of the brain and can become life-threatening if it’s not relieved.
The surgery can take anywhere from less than an hour to several hours, Valadka said, depending on how much of the pooled blood can be drained through the first drill hole. Sometimes a larger portion of the skull needs to be removed to access all the affected areas. Afterward, a patient generally needs a day or two in intensive care for close monitoring and then several more days in the hospital before being sent home.
In Curry’s case, the prognosis calls for a full recovery, according to a statement issued from the Episcopal Church before his surgery. From his bedside, he was alert enough to record a brief video with his nurse and the Rev. Canon Michael Hunn, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry within the Episcopal Church. He probably did not suffer any brain damage from the hematoma, according to Anderson.
Following discharge, Curry will need to function on a reduced schedule, at least for the first few weeks. Most surgeons will advise their patients not to fly for a month after this procedure, Higgins said, while they monitor for a hematoma’s possible recurrence.
Depending on how the recovery proceeds, Curry’s schedule might need adjusting in the long term to accommodate diminished stamina. Even months and years after a hematoma-draining procedure, patients who are accustomed to putting in long, busy days often find they can no longer maintain the same schedule.
“What patients often report after the brain surgery is that they seem to feel fatigued,” Valadka said. “People may notice that it’s a little bit harder once they get to the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th hour of their days.”
Still, if Curry can steer clear of stroke, seizure, and recurrent hematoma for 30 days, he stands a good chance of returning to his usual schedule, which he’s been carving out since his Nov. 1 installation as presiding bishop. Long hours and frequent air travel have for decades been staples of Episcopal primacy. Whether Curry will need to modify those standards in light of his health, time will tell.
“In the new year, start low and go slow,” Higgins said, by way of advice for Curry. “I wouldn’t go from zero to 100 percent of his activity. I would start at maybe 20 percent and, every couple of weeks, add a little bit more.”
Let us pray:  O God, the strength of the weak and the comfort of sufferers: Mercifully accept our prayers, and grant to your servant Michael the help of your power, that his sickness may be turned into health, and our sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Your servant in Christ,
Fr. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550