Thursday, June 29 2023
Over the next three Sundays we will explore chapters 6-8 of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans. Paul calls us to reflect the absolute generosity of God in our daily lives. God's faithfulness is the gift that gives birth to our own faithfulness in return.
In a certain way we reflect on Paul's theology every Sunday. One of the things I've come to appreciate about St. John's is the use of the Collect for Mission at the end of the 10:00 Eucharist. Its an unusual liturgical choice, but a wonderful way to remind us all of the gift God has given us and our sharing that gift in our lives in response.
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on
the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within
the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit
that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those
who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for
the honor of your Name. Amen.
Jesus' saving embrace is the place of our healing, our peace, and our hope.Our mission is to proclaim God's extravagant generosity. Paul reminds us, we can't boast of our own accomplishments, but only of the enduring faithfulness of our loving God.
I invite you to read these chapters from Romans over the next several weeks and reflect on where you are experiencing the healing peace and faithfulness of God in your life. This week we will sing hymn of thanks for God's generous gift.:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine with 10, 000 beside
Friday, June 23 2023
This week’s scriptures take us through some murky water. You may believe, like me, that having a relationship with God would make life easier. Yet this week’s lectionary challenges our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. What does it take to follow Jesus!
In the Old Testament reading, the prophet Jeremiah rails against God. All along he has been doing what God asked of him and it just hasn’t gone well for him. “I have become a laughingstock all day long;everyone mocks me.” He continues to complain saying, “All my close friends are watching for me to stumble.”
Our Psalm is less than comforting – like Jeremiah, another lament, and a plea for God to intervene:
“Surely, for your sake have I suffered reproach,
The “Missionary Discourse” in Matthew’s Gospel is challenging at best. The disciples are near Jesus – there to learn in order to carry his message forward. Some rather confusing words come from Jesus’ mouth:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Confusion. Cost. Courage is needed. And yet, as we will learn there is hope. Please join me this Sunday as we wrestle with the deeper understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
Friday, June 16 2023
Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands; *
serve the LORD with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.
Know this: The LORD himself is God; *
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
Our Psalm this Sunday points us towards our vocation for joy. We sing joyfully for the good news that we belong to God and each other. Last week, we looked at our inheritance through faith as the children of Abraham. God's mercy has claimed us and made us his own. The psalmist is correct that God has created us and made us his people. Belonging to God also means belonging to each other as a community.
As a newcomer to St. John's, I am struck by the sense of loving care everyone in the congregation shows in raising the children in the faith. It truly is a communal experience. All the people of St. Johns are involved in the love and care of the youngest members of the community. That is one reason why we will honor all the men of the congregation during the prayers of the people on this coming Fathers Day. The vocation of fatherhood is wide and doesn't refer only to biological fathers. Any man who has been a foster father, an adoptive father, an uncle, a teacher, mentor, or coach shares in the vocation of fatherhood for children.
Part of Sunday's celebration will also be remembering Juneteenth and we will be using hymns and prayers honoring the experience of the African American community. I look forward to joining with you as we joyfully come before the Lord's presence with a song.
Friday, June 09 2023
Last week we looked at Rublev's icon of the Trinity revealing the creative power of God's hospitality shown through Abraham and Sarah. This Sunday, we once again return to the story of these ancestors in faith through the lens of St. Paul in his magisterial Letter to the Romans. Paul reimagines what it means to be a member of the household of Israel. It is a natural human tendency to gather as a community with people who look like us, think like us, and worship like us. Paul's message is that the resurrection of Jesus changes everything and the household of faith is wider than we could ever imagine. A hymn we will sing this week puts it this way: "For the love of God is broader than the measure of the mind; and the heart of the eternal is most wonderfully kind. If our love were but more faithful, we should take him at his word; and our life would be thanksgiving for the goodness of the Lord."
Friday, June 02 2023
This Sunday will be my first as a supply priest for the summer, but I have been attending St. John's since late last fall. It's been a pleasure to be part of such a welcoming, diverse, and energetic Christian community. I look forward to us spending summer Sundays together while Fr. Duncan takes his well deserved sabbatical.
This week we keep the Feast of Trinity Sunday. It is tempting to see this day and the theology behind it as abstractions best left to theologians, but not of much practical use to the average person in the pew. What does this mystery at the heart of the Chistian faith have to say about how we live our everyday lives? In the year 1410, Andrei Rublev wrote one of the most famous icons of the Trinity in the Eastern Church; creating it not for decoration, nor as a helpful explanation of a difficult doctrine, but as a window through which everyday people might experience the hospitality at the heart of God.
During this week's liturgy, we will gaze at the icon together to discuss how God's hospitality and invitation to rest can inform our daily lives in a concrete way during this summer of 2023.