Friday, August 25 2023
Obedience is a concept most 21st century Christians in America struggle with. For many of us it invokes our fear of failure and judgement. Much of Protestant Christianity has used fear of judgement to get people to obey, to "tow the line." but the opposite often happens. Fear leads to anxiety, shame, and eventually alienation. In this week's lesson from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans we hear the exact opposite approach to obedience. In the first two verses of chapter 12, Paul encapsulates a vision for living the christian life based on gratitude for everything God has done rather than fear of punishment.
Before he tells us what to do, he reminds us of everything God has done for us, and then uses the simple word "therefore." Since God has broken all the boundaries that separate us from God through a lasting, abiding, unbreakable relationship in Christ -- Therefore, brothers and sisters, what do we offer back to God? The foundation of our relationship with God is gratitude for these cords of love binding us together. And God's response is delight. Our relationship with God can never be based in fear but only in mutual self-giving, gratitude and delight.
So this week, as we look at Romans chapter 12:1-2 ask yourself these questions: Do I ever obey God out of fear? What would change if I obeyed God out of gratitude and a desire to please him? What about my life delights God?
Friday, August 18 2023
Our lectionary for Sunday, August 20th, Proper 15, deeply reflects God’s dream – a dream for a world that is much greater than national identity, a dream that welcomes all young and old, poor and rich, Gentiles, Jews and all ethnicities. A beloved Community! It is a dream that doesn’t love the walls we create – walls that separate, isolate, categorize and make us think we are safe. Nevertheless, history has taught us – or at least we should have learned the lesson – that walls are a mere illusion and those who build walls end up locked inside them. Those who believe that by defining their own space against others end up in a space that is only bare and empty.
Robert Frost wrote a poem called “Mending Wall,” which casts a cold eye on the real and figurative walls that divide us. The first stanza goes like this:
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.
There is Someone who doesn’t love a wall and today’s extract from Isaiah introduces us to that Someone. Taking place when the Jews were released from Babylon to return to their homeland around 538 BCE, the prophet announces God’s salvation as a motive for maintaining justice and righteousness. This salvation will include non-Israelites – people from other nations to become worshippers of the Lord. God will bring those foreigners – all peoples - to his holy mountain.
Psalm 67 reminds us that we must be joyful – for God judges the peoples with equity and guides all the nations upon the earth.
In Romans, Paul is struggling to understand the disbelief of his own people – the Jews of Israel. Why do they reject the gospel of Jesus Christ? His argument reminds us that God’s gifts and call are irrevocable. God made an oath to Abraham and Sarah that he would always be their God and they would be his people. He dismantles the wall that divides Gentile and Jews as he reminds us that all are justified by his gift of grace.
Finally, in our Gospel – Jesus further removes the bricks from the wall of ethnic separation when he responds to the Canaanite woman and heals her daughter.
Please join us this Sunday as we embrace God’s dream – his yearning for us to break down our walls become his true beloved community.
In God’s Great Love,
Friday, August 11 2023
We often hear about how much impact words have on our life, especially in our relationships. Our words can hurt, uplift, spark curiosity, and bring joy and laughter. Other’s words can have the same effect on us of course. In this week’s reading from Romans 10, Paul highlights for us the importance of both faith held in one’s heart and the expression of our faith upon our lips, which culminates in the phrase that “Jesus Christ is Lord”.
Two phrases are central to my personal theology, “the Word of God” and “Jesus Christ is Lord.” It was once explained to me that all language is a response to the initial word spoken at the beginning of creation. Notice in Genesis 1 that God creates the universe through speaking. That Jesus Christ is Lord means for us that everything is ordered towards his authority under which we order our lives. He speaks His word, and we listen. How else could we believe it? I must include verses 16 & 17 of Romans 10 in this text because they continue the centrality of about which Paul is talking. I will read these verses on Sunday but know now that faith comes through listening (v. 17).
As well, “being saved” may sound a bit too “American evangelical” for some of us. I understand. But I must insist we work against the cultural zeitgeist of our time (like our Christian ancestors did all those centuries ago!). This is what Jesus Christ came to do, to save us (John 3:17). As Christians we do believe in salvation through faith and this is the Good News! The etymological root of evangelical is the one who is the bearer of Good News. That is the central essence of a Christian life, that we know, embody, and can share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Friday, August 04 2023
This weekend, the church commemorates the Feast of the Transfiguration, always celebrated on August 6. This year, it lands on a Sunday. For us, at St. John’s, we will also be celebrating five baptisms! Thanks be to God! We are pleased to welcome back three sets of families for the baptism of their children who have deep roots here at St. John’s. Much like Mary and Joseph in the Gospel of Luke going back to Joseph’s family’s ancestral town of Bethlehem to be registered, these families have made the choice to come back to their “ancestral” church for baptism. Pray for Logan, Connor, Wyatt, Colby, and Ryan as they begin their Christian journey.
Logan’s parents, Patrick and Stacey Wright, were married here and Patrick grew up here in the parish. Patrick’s sister Colleen, who will be Logan’s godmother, too was married here just last summer. John Mulada is the grandfather of the four young men being baptized, Connor, Wyatt, Colby, and Ryan. Along with his sister, Ruth, they attended St. John’s during their formative years. John’s children, Amy and Jeffrey, were baptized here as well. Jeffrey is the father of Connor and Wyatt. Amy is the mother of Colby and Ryan. We welcome them all back and look forward to seeing them on Sunday!
Yours in Christ,