Friday, July 30 2021
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
Do you remember going to church when you were young? What I remember is the mystery and transcendence of God back in the sixties. It was a different age in the life of the church. Churches regularly filled the pews and needed to set up extra chairs in the isles to accommodate the crowd at holiday services. I love to hear the stories of when St. John’s was packed on holidays, stories of youth group trips, Sunday school, Harvest Fairs, St. Hilda’s guild projects, and other fond memories that so many of our parishioners have. If there is one constant that I always hear at St. John’s, it is the family atmosphere, welcome, and friendships that people experience when they come here.
But in 2021, in the madness of this pandemic, we tend to lose focus on why coming to church on Sunday (or watching on zoom) is important. Many people see church as an option when it is convenient. God offers something far more precious than most people can ask or even imagine. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” This means that everything eternal will be just fine. Although our times may be difficult, Jesus has taken care of our worst fear. This used to be known by a majority of people, but a majority of folks now face uncertainty. Without faith in the resurrection, we are forced to live in anxiety and fear.
When I was young, I remember the words of the Eucharistic prayer and the sound of the clergy’s voice is forever etched in my memory, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you.” I then witnessed the transcendence of the bread at the table turned into the body of Christ. We were offered the real and tangible Body of Christ, who died on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins. At the end of the service, after singing hymns like Onward Christian soldiers; we strode out of the church with Christ like purpose to bring the kingdom of God closer and to make God real to a hurting world. TH Episcopal Church was at the forefront of civil unrest because the life of Jesus Christ stood in opposition to the practice of racial bias and we choose to follow his path and not the path of the “real world.” Martin Luther King Jr. and others preached a Gospel that changed the way we behaved as a country and brought Good News and hope to those who were oppressed. We were a church that heard the Gospel and demanded justice in the world. I remember leaving the church building with the purpose of God, through the self-giving love of Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. I think of my memories of my childhood as the passing of an age. But I believe with all my heart that St. John’s is doing the work of Christ. We preach the saving grace of Jesus Christ through our faith and through our actions. Please join us.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, July 23 2021
“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
In today’s reading from Ephesians, Paul prays to the good people of Ephesus that their inner being will be strengthened by the love of God in Jesus Christ. We can all pray for the good folks at St. John’s that we will comprehend this love, that Christ will dwell in our hearts, and that we may reflect that love to all the people we meet in our lives. In today’s reading, Paul speaks of the oneness of God’s love. Although the world tries to divide us, the love of Christ is wider, longer, taller and deeper than anything in the temporal world. Please pray for social justice, “Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
One of the ways we work for oneness of God’s love at St. John’s and in this community is through our racial reconciliation and social justice committee. We meet on every third Thursday at 6:30PM and we are planning a wonderful schedule for the fall. We need to your help! Despite the odds, God can make all things new again. God “is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,” Please join me in the prayer for social justice and if you are so inclined, in the fight for God’s justice and mercy to all who are hungry, thirsty, naked, oppressed or hurting. It begins with prayer. Then we feel the love of God in our heart. After we reach our arms to others, the Holy Spirit will change the world to Christ.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, July 16 2021
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
We profess our loyalty to God. God provides life and security. God is all we need! We shall lack nothing if we follow our shepherd. This is a way of being. Put your trust in God. Seek ye first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you (Matthew 6:33). The word shepherd in Hebrew can also mean friend or pal. Christianity is a relationship with our shepherd. The relationship that we have with Jesus Christ is passed on to others by the love that we show to those in need and by our burning desire for justice and righteousness.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
Palestine is a desert and the sheep need to be led to green grass to eat and water to drink. This means that we will have sustenance (food and drink) from God. It means to be safe from harm. We wear our masks when necessary, stay a safe distance apart, and get our vaccines because we don’t want to spread this disease any longer. In fact we want to do what is necessary to end this pandemic, get our economy back on track, and care for those who have been affected by this past year financially, physically and mentally. The shepherd needed faith because there was not much sustenance in the desert. They needed to find food for that day. Tomorrow was always in God’s hands.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
God keeps me alive. Food, drink and shelter are provided. We depend solely on God. God draws us to the path of righteousness and justice . While some will be selfish and gather more than they need for themselves at the cost of others, Jesus teaches us to be self-giving. The environment is a great example of this. We need to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and we need to reduce our use of waste products like plastics that are filling our oceans and landfills. We need to stop using poisons and eating carcinogens. We need to eat healthy, exercise, rest, and give to others to maintain our good health. This pandemic has taught us that many folks don’t have enough access to healthy foods and have developed poor habits. As a parish, we need to accept our differences and work together.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
This puts God in charge of protecting us from walking in the shadows. God leads us home from exile. Jesus shows us the way from brokenness into wholeness and from death into life. We walk through the desert to higher ground. Jesus came out the other side of death to lead us to Beloved community. We don’t end up in the desert. Life doesn’t end in death. Death is always right there. But Shadows can’t hurt you. Angels are with you. He will send his angels (Mark 13:27). The shepherd is with us through the challenging times. The host of heaven is with you. 276 years of St. John’s folks are already through the desert and comfort us by their prayers for us.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
God is sovereign. God is in control, not us. In this week’s Gospel of Mark, Jesus asks the disciples to come with him and rest. We can follow a path of a selfish, unhealthy lifestyle of the shepherds in this week’s lesson from Jeremiah or the self-sacrificing path to glory. God’s Kingdom is right here and we need to witness to others the love in our hearts that overflows to others.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
The word mercy in Hebrew is hesed (God’s love or mercy) Death has been rendered harmless in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God offers every single one of us abundant life that is characterized by goodness and mercy.
In Christ’s goodness and mercy,
Friday, July 09 2021
In July, we will feature the cartoons of Cuyler Black.
I remember my EFM classes for the wonderful relationships we formed and for readings and conversations that challenged my faith. Early in my class, I learned that the people of God followed a regular pattern of creation, sin, judgement and redemption. One of objectives in EFM is the “development of skills in theological reflection. The goal is to learn to think theologically. By examining their own beliefs and their relationship to our culture and the tradition of our Christian faith, participants can learn what it means to be effective ministers in the world. In coming to terms with the notion that everything we do has potential for manifesting the love of Christ, we discover that our ministry is at hand wherever we turn.” This Sunday at 10:00AM, we celebrate the graduation of Dr. Nina Greif. Please join me in congratulating her for completing the Education for Ministry four-year program. Please consider joining our new class in September.
This week’s Gospel is Mark 6:14-29. Herod (Antipas) was a first century Jewish leader in Galilee. John the Baptist criticized him for marrying his brother’s wife. Herodias had divorced her husband and married her husband’s brother. Herod had a celebration at his compound and was delighted by a dance that his wife’s daughter preforms for his guests. Salome was unmarried at the time, but later would marry her uncle and then her cousin. Herod offers his step-daughter (and niece) anything she wants, up to half his kingdom. Salome talks to her mother and Herodias tells her to ask for the head of John the Baptist, who Herod has imprisoned for speaking a truth that he didn’t want to hear. Herod beheads the prophet because he has offended his wife, Herodias.
At St. John’s, we try and stay focused on our mission to “Know Christ and make him known.” This Sunday at 4:00PM we will celebrate our Friendship Day with St. Augustine’s. There will be great music, witness talks and lots of singing from both of our choirs. You can view the program on zoom.
In Christ's love,
Friday, July 02 2021