Friday, September 30 2022
The Saint Who Launched a Thousand Birdbaths
Francis of Assisi, the saint who launched a million birdbaths, hundreds of thousands of statues, and the occasional service of the “Blessing of the Animals” was, for Chesterton, the one Christian who actually lived the Gospel. Francis was the son of a wealthy textile merchant and as such part of the new Italian middle class that was coming into its own. His father’s wealth and Francis’ own natural charisma made the young man a leader of the youth of his town. Francis gained a rock-star like following by the early 1200’s. He remains famous today not because of his own words and actions so much as because his words and actions conformed so closely to those of Jesus. As a boy Francis dreamed of earning glory in battle. He got his chance at an early age when he enlisted, along with the other young men of Assisi, to fight in a feud against a neighboring city-state. Assisi lost the battle and Francis was imprisoned for a time. Defeat in battle and serious illness in prison caused Francis to turn away from his visions of glory on the battlefield. Francis’ path toward God took a series of turns closer and closer to God, rather than an all at once conversion. However, the course of Francis’ life was profoundly changed by at least two formative experiences. On a pilgrimage to Rome, Francis saw a beggar outside of St. Peter’s Church. The Holy Spirit moved him to trade places with the beggar. Francis exchanged clothes with a beggar and then spent the day begging for alms. That experience of being poor shook Francis to the core. Later he confronted his own fears of leprosy by hugging a leper. Like trading places with the beggar in Rome, hugging a leper left a deep mark on Francis. Shaped by his experiences with the beggar and the leper, he had a strong identification with the poor. Francis cut himself off from the opulent lifestyle of his father and sought out a radically simple life. By the time of his death, the love of God had compelled Francis to accomplish much toward rebuilding the church. He could look on thousands of lives transformed by his call for repentance and simplicity of life. Yet, Francis of Assisi was simply a man transformed by the love of God and the joy that flowed from a deep understanding of all that God has done for us (Rev. Canon Frank Logue).
Jesus asks us to have the faith of a mustard seed. He goes on to say that we should simply do what we are supposed to do. There are Christian saints that have done just that. St. Francis led thousands to Christ by his simplicity. Jesus Christ gave himself for the sake of others. St. Francis followed in his footsteps. Our Presiding Bishop calls this the Way of Love. Every Christian is called to follow Jesus with acts of love to one another. St. John’s mission is to “Know Christ and make Him known.” Perhaps our mission could be rephrased, “Know the love of Christ and share it with others.” This begs the question, “How are you (we) sharing the love of Christ.” We know the love of Christ by the joy we feel in practicing self-giving love. Following the love of Christ also adds meaning and purpose to our lives. When we follow the “Way of Love” others will feel that love and pass it on to others. Please be generous in sharing your love with others. Follow the path of the Saints and remember St. Francis this weekend. Please bless your pets this Saturday at 5:00 pm in the Garden of Blessings or at the very least, set up a bird bath.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, September 23 2022
Wild Geese (from Dream Work by Mary Oliver)
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
This past week, we had a beautiful barbeque after the Sunday service. Fran noticed that it was the best attendance that she could remember. Dave and the breakfast group cooked corn, burgers, and hot dogs. Each member brought a salad or a dessert. The tables were filled with a combination of homemade dishes and delights from local stores. Fr. James organized the youth and Deacon Claire organized the prayer ties with Dr. Ric Statler and
Qi Gong with Leslie Martin. Sunday was an amazing example of the deep love that this community has for one another and Jesus Christ.
We are made whole when we realize that everything comes through the mercy and grace of God. Jesus Christ came that you may have life and live it more abundantly. Abundant life is a life lived in thankfulness. But that does not mean that our lives are perfect. At times, we need to share our despair with others and listen to their despair in return. We are created in the image of God to follow God’s path of mercy, forgiveness, and love. Let your love flow in your life in everything you do. Give thanks for everything you have.
Join us this fall in volunteering for the Harvest Fair on Saturday October 22nd from 10:00-4:00. St. John’s has been doing ministry in Huntington for 277 years and we know that what Christ is doing here is vitally important. Our ECW will support Long Island Cares, Helping Hands Mission, the Community Food Council, Family Service League, and many other vital local charities. Please participate in any way you can to this important event. The harvest is great and the laborers are few. Let your light shine even if you are surrounded by darkness.
We need to continue to transform our growing congregation through an experience with the living God to an authentic faith which sends us into the world to be the light of Christ and to be the leaven that transforms the world around us. Our focus this fall is on our children, youth and young adults and on creation care. We will continue our work on racial reconciliation and justice. We need to continually grow our outreach to the poor, the sick, the lonely, the disenfranchised, and the powerless. We are the arms and feet of Jesus Christ to a hurting world.
I believe that finding your place in the family of things is important. If you choose the path of Jesus Christ, then you will be blessed with a thankful heart and abundant life. Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled and that has made all the difference. “
In Christ’s love, Fr. Duncan
Friday, September 16 2022
I usually take Mondays to be monastic - or a bit like a monk. I sit, I read, I pray, and be contrary to my self for a day. It centers me and brings me to stillness. I had had a busy Monday morning with our first day at the nursery school and started Morning Prayer a little later than usual when Fr. Duncan knocked on my office door to check in on me. We sat at the conference table in my office catching up for a few minutes and then we transitioned to talking about liturgical theology - meaning our personal beliefs and piety surrounding the liturgy (or public worship). It was a bit of a jump from our conversation but within the topic. We came to talk about the Eucharist, being an act of remembering Jesus: “do this in remembrance of me.” Fr. Duncan emphasized different portions of the word remember back-to-back: remember… re-member.
I sat for a brief moment in silence; an epiphany. Re-member. It was not something I had contemplated recently. When we take communion, we are literally coming together to become part of the body of Christ as we receive God into our bodies through communion with one another. We are quite actually re-membering ourselves to God. This had bridged a thought pattern I have mused about in the past but I really dwelt there this Monday.
This coming Sunday is our parish picnic at Centerport Beach. I don’t know if you are new to the parish like me, or have gone to the picnic for years like Fr. Duncan, but this picnic isn’t just a picnic; it’s an act of re-membering. Jesus gathered with friends for a simple meal two thousand years ago when he said, “this is my body; this is my blood… do this in remembrance of me.” We are coming together as a community, bonded through our common trait of believing God wants us to be in community with one another.
Many of you have asked me, why priesthood? Why become a priest? It was a challenging question to answer throughout seminary, when I knew God had called me but I did not have the appropriate language to answer those who asked. Last Lent, I had some time off and I contemplated this question: Why does Jesus call me to the priesthood? It has to do with this re-membering. I am called to priestly ministry, by way of distributing the sacraments, through being in community with others.
How are you a member in this community? For the next several weeks, we are approaching stewardship season. We will talk about time, talent, and treasure. Do you have a ministry that you give yourself to? Breakfast crew, St. Hilda’s Guild, Youth Group, Sunday School, Altar Guild, Thrift Shop, Nursery School, Choir, Vestry, are some of the important ministries we have here at St. John’s. Do you give your time or talent to any of these ministries? Do you feel called to be a part of them? To be a member? What about treasure; do you give a portion of what God has given you, to this community that you are a member of?
In order to be a living, thriving community, we all have a job to do. Whether its pouring orange juice and coffee on Sundays, knitting blankets for the Fall Festival, being a part of our youth ministry, or teaching our youngest siblings-in-Christ about Jesus, or preparing the sanctuary for service, or assisting someone buy a gift through our Thrift Shop, or watching little ones from our Nursery School on the playground, or sing your heart out from the choir stalls in the front of the church, or help lead this community, or financially give to sustain these ministries to ensure their survival for the betterment of our community, you are giving. Have you discerned how you can do any of these things better? I ask you to meditate on the various ministries we have here at St. John’s and ask yourself: how can I do this better, in remembrance of Him? How can I be a part of this parish family differently this year?
I ask you to re-member yourself to this community, whatever that means to you. You are called by God to be here. How will you allow that call to change your life? Do this in remembrance of me.
I hope to see you at the picnic.
Your sibling in Christ,
Friday, September 09 2022
Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, "Whoever receives one child like this in my name receives me; and whoever receives me does not receive me, but Him who sent me." (Mark 9:36-37)
At St. John’s, we say that our children are our treasure. Today is Sunday school registration in the Canterbury Corner and next week we will begin our Sunday school program. Christian Education begins every week at 9:40 in the Canterbury Corner with a children’s message from our curate, Fr. James. If anyone is available to assist with Sunday school, we are in need of help. Please let Christine Dore or Fr. James know if you are available. We will also kick off our youth group and young adult ministry this month. Registration for Confirmation and First Communion are also this Sunday. Youth Group is run by Rev. James Reiss and Ford Spilsbury. The first event is the barbeque on September 18th at 12 noon at the Centerport Beach. The first meeting is on September 25th at 6:30 pm in the Guild Room. In January we begin formal Confirmation and First Communion classes. First Communion will be April 16th at the 10:00 service. Confirmation will be held in May at the Cathedral in Garden City. We will also have adult classes for Reception into the Episcopal Church in January. Any children or youth who wish to be Acolytes may sign up with Fr. James. The training will be on October 9th after the 10:00 am service. New acolytes may serve on any Sunday starting on October 16th. Our experienced acolytes are invited to join us and help the new acolytes learn “the ropes.”
I know that parents are extremely busy and I understand that there are constant demands on Sunday morning. In my thirty years’ experience as a Youth Minister and Priest, I have found that Sunday school, acolyte ministry, and youth group are instrumental in developing great young adults. Giving of yourself in ministry, service, and worship has a lifelong effect on young people. I recommend that you invest as much of your precious time as you are able because of the fine women and men that come through the St. John’s youth programs. If you look around the church, you will notice some really fine people that make this parish and our Huntington community as nice as it is.
Today’s Gospel is about the overwhelming abundance of God’s forgiveness and the transforming love of God. Each of us plays the role of the Pharisee when we judge people. The Pharisees were grumbling about the way Jesus welcomes sinners and tax collectors. Like the people of the Old Testament, the people of Israel are portrayed as a complaining, grumbling stiff-necked people. The lawyers grumble about those who do not follow the law. The Pharisees complain that Jesus is healing on the Sabbath, eating with tax collectors and going out to a lower class of people. In today’s story, God’s unmerited love is offered to everyone, including sinners and outcasts. The fact of the matter is that we are forgiven through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is only through grace that we are saved. Perhaps we can learn something from those who are poor and powerless in our society. Perhaps Jesus comes to us when we least expect it in the person of a lost sheep or an immigrant at the border.
Do you remember the thief on the cross who humbly asked for forgiveness? The amazing grace of God is that we are all loved equally. God and heaven rejoice when just one sheep is returned to the flock and when one coin is found. God’s love for us exceeds our ability to understand it. We are called to treat everyone who enters our doors as God’s beloved and we are called to the border to be with those who are lost and hurting.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, September 02 2022
Faithful discipleship is definitely not for the faint of heart.
What does it really mean to follow Jesus. So often we say those words, or even sing those words. We have a song in our Praise Book called, “I have decided to follow Jesus.” It is an upbeat song that energizes us. When we sing it, many of us feel a deep joy and true commitment to walk the road as a disciple of Jesus.
This week’s Gospel, however, paints a much clearer picture of what is really at stake when we make that commitment. Jesus uses strong language to spell out the high cost of discipleship. He tells us that it must be a total dedication that moves us from wanting to be a disciple, to considering being a disciple to making the final decision to being a disciple. There is nothing simple and easy about this decision.
It was easy for the multitudes, and in fact for us to follow Christ superficially. Many followed Jesus because he was charismatic. He taught, prayed, healed, and performed many miracles. We, like the multitudes in Jesus’ day are captivated by the excitement of his ministry. We want to know what is next on his plate.
But in today’s Gospel, Jesus looks to weed out those who followed him for superficial reasons. He was sent by God to not only die for our sins but share God’s truth to humankind. As he continues his journey to Jerusalem, things will begin to heat up and those who were mesmerized by his incredible energy will most likely fall away. This would be damaging for his greater cause.
We are being asked to consider the cost of discipleship, and Jesus’s message is radical and demanding. We all fall short, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God, we have the capacity to prevail. It is a process that all of us at St. John’s are engaged in, and at its heart is transformation.
“The call to discipleship is a gift of grace, and that call is inseparable from grace.”
May our hearts be transformed!
I Surrender All
All to Jesus I surrender
All to Jesus I surrender
All to Jesus I surrender
I surrender all
With great perseverance, hope and love,