Friday, May 26 2023
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 1:12-17)
On Easter Morning the disciples heard the eyewitness account from Mary who said, “I have seen the Lord.” In this week’s Gospel from John, Jesus goes to the Upper Room that very day and says to the disciples, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” The Hebrew word “Shalom” is a general greeting that means peace, but the peace of God that passes all understanding has a meaning that is much deeper. “Peace be with you” means restoring you to wholeness. Jesus knows that the mission that he was given has been fulfilled and now it is the time for God to breath the Holy Spirit into a new creation. The disciples will start the church forward, and you and I will keep the church and the peace of God going. We are God’s new creation and we are holy and beloved. God gives us the power to forgive and the power to love unconditionally.
Another meaning of the word peace is to rest in the Lord. God asks one day of rest for every six days of work. The idea of a Sabbath has been practiced by Jewish people for thousands of years. A sabbatical is a few months of rest from the rigors of church life after my first six years (well maybe a little more because of Covid). I will be off in June, July, and August to renew my pursuit of telling my great grandmother’s story. When I was just a young lad, she asked me to listen to her stories and pass them on to future generations in our family. She grew up in Oklahoma and went to the Carlisle Boarding School in Pennsylvania with other Indian children. She lost her mom, dad, stepdad, two brothers and husband to bullets. Yet out of the tragedy of her life she triumphed through the love of God. A music society bearing her name (the Hyechka Club was organized on Oct. 20, 1904, in Tulsa, Indian Territory) is still strong. The boarding school Henry Kendall College which she helped start with her mother (who adopted her) is now Tulsa University.
When Alice Robertson met her as a little orphan girl, she knew that the only power strong enough to bring her to peace and wholeness was the Holy Spirit. Her story is that of a courageous full blood Muscogee Creek Indian that would not rest until her heart rested in the love of God. She earned a master’s degree in music composition, helped translate the Gospel into the Muscogee language, traveled and performed around the world, composed music, and was friends with President Teddy Roosevelt. While her life had many difficult turns, she always turned to the Lord.
I would like to thank our wardens and vestry for allowing me to take some needed rest and to write my great grandmother’s oral history. This will be my last Sunday until after Labor Day.
Friday, May 19 2023
Crown Him the Lord of life who triumphed o’er the grave,
(Hymn 494 Words: Matthew Bridges).
“It was my first Mother’s Day without my mom. So blessed and thankful that God chose this rock of the universe where I would be known and loved by such a strong and beautiful soul” (David Burns.) Last Sunday was Mother’s Day and I felt very blessed by the beautiful sermon given at our service by Deacon Claire, the wonderful music that we sang, and especially for the participation of our children and youth. It was one of those moments when time slows down and you feel the peace that passes all understanding. The children were singing and serving in many capacities and their moms were grinning from ear to ear.
Yet there was sadness in my heart for most of the day. Maybe I wasn’t expecting to feel like I did, but I spoke to several folks who were also feeling a little melancholy on this particular day. I sometimes feel the glory of God in our services at St. John’s, but that mountain top feeling subsides when I am back in the valley of life. Perhaps what makes me get through these days is knowing that Jesus overcame death on the cross and brought our humanity with him to heaven. In the pain of our loss, Jesus gives us the hope of glory.
In this week’s Gospel of John 17:1-11, Jesus is praying to God the Father. Jesus is finishing up his final discourse that his followers might understand what is going to unfold in the next three day when he dies on the cross and is resurrected on Easter Morning. This past Thursday, we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension with Evensong. Jesus prays to God in heaven that the disciple’s might understand that it is going to be okay after he ascends and sits on the right hand of the Father in heaven. We get a chance to listen in with angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. Jesus first prays that the Father will bring to fulfillment everything that Jesus has done. Then he prays for the disciples and finally for all believers of all time. This passage is so deeply steeped in truth that it is almost beyond our capacity to comprehend. In fact the eleven disciples and the women will not understand what he is saying until the resurrection.
We are believers at St. John’s because we know that our redeemer abides in heaven and intercedes for us in our pain. As we learn to know Christ in our heart, we can share the love of Christ with others. I guess that is what my brother was saying on Mother’s Day. Not only was he grateful that Jesus triumphed over death on the cross for our sins, but that individuals can love one another with the same love that God has for us. What a blessing to have a mother that loved us in this manner. Yet even those who have dwelt in the pain of the valleys of this life can experience the love of God in Jesus Christ. So on this final Sunday of the Easter season let us commit ourselves to knowing the love of God in Jesus Christ and let us love our neighbors with that same love.
Crown Him the Lord of Heaven, enthroned in worlds above,
In Christ’s love,
Friday, May 12 2023
“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.”
John 14: 18
Such a comforting message that Jesus gives his disciples in this week’s Gospel! “I will not leave you orphaned.” Comforting even as we yearn for stability. Please don’t change. Please don’t go. We hope that our loved ones will be with us forever and we dread the day that they will no longer be at our physical side.
The disciples were being given a message that must have been churning in their stomachs. Jesus is leaving them. What will they do now? All they understood about how to follow him was through his physical presence.
I remember when I lost my father. It felt like the bottom of my life just fell. What will I do now? And so, I became ever so protective of my mother. No, I can’t lose you! We traveled back and forth to Rochester so often to make sure mom was ok. That she was still there. And yet, she too died less than five years after my father.
We live in a world where many of us feel and experience the uncertainty of each day. Uncertainty and impermanence are always real. Yet, we long for something that is unmovable yet lifegiving. We are given that in this week’s Gospel. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This is how you are being called to live and love. Not holding tight, but sharing that love.
Jesus’ farewell discourse takes place at the last supper the night before he knew he’d be crucified. He is preparing his disciples for their loss. He prepares us also. How to live into the uncertainty of the days ahead when we feel so alone and abandoned.
But the good news is that we have not been abandoned. When Jesus tells his disciples “I will not leave you as orphans! I will come to you,” he is acknowledging their vulnerability and reminds them that they are never alone. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” Jesus has sent the Comforter, the Intercessor, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.
When I travel to my birth home in Rochester now, I am not able to be in the physical presence of my own mother, and yet there are always the signs of her presence among us – my siblings and extended family, our old home – still occupied by a family member, my grandmother’s home where we picnicked and worked in the garden. I can smell mom in the flowers and freshness of the air around me.
We celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday. It is also a day when we think about all the people who have loved us and who we have loved in return. For the many of us who feel vulnerable – perhaps lost in a motherless world, be reminded that we all have an Advocate and Comforter.
“O Love, that will not let me go”…. You have not been orphaned – not by the Spirit, and not by those in whom the Spirit has made a home!
May we each find our home in You, Lord!
Sharing with you in a love that will not let us go,
Friday, May 05 2023
I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life
Wherever someone knows that they are lost,
Wherever someone searches for the truth
Wherever someone sorrows over death
You come to us before we ask or pray
One of the hardest things to deal with in our lives is the fact that we live in a temporal world. My mom died a few months ago and joined my dad in heaven. Those whom we love and love us will be separated from us one day, and everything we see will eventually fade away. As we age, we constantly hope to look and feel younger, but time will catch up with us. As difficult as it seems, we will witness the funeral of our loved ones or they will witness our funeral. When we see a beautiful flower, its beauty can only be captured in that moment. Two weeks later, that flower might be compost in the soil. Jesus offers us a look beyond the temporal life that we live. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. We don’t have to wait for the death of a loved one to understand that everything is passing away in this world.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1-6)
A deepening relationship with Jesus Christ is the path to the eternal. We can get a glimpse of the eternal by loving as we have been loved, giving generously of ourselves, forgiving as we have been forgiven, being thankful for everything we receive, and living life with joy in our hearts. We are Easter people because we live in the hope of the resurrection. We know that Jesus died for our sins and conquered death that we might live abundantly. Abundant life is not something we have to wait for, but is offered to us right now. In his Farewell Discourse, Jesus is telling us that he will soon be ascending to our God in heaven, but that we can get a glimpse of eternal life through faith, prayer, and action. John teaches a realized eschatology. Walk with Jesus in this life and the next and you will live the abundant life.
In Christ’s love,