Friday, January 26 2024
In today’s Gospel, Jesus immediately begins teaching in the synagogue and the people are amazed at the authority by which he teaches. By authority I mean that by the actions of Jesus Christ, justice and righteousness are served. It was the Sabbath and most Jewish folks went to the synagogue. In Jesus day, they had the same problem that we have in our day. Folks follow the law or rules of the church because they believe that they will be made holy. They believe that they can become spiritual by following a set of rules. Suddenly they are faced with a new interpretation of scripture that makes sense to them. Not only does Jesus preach on the Hebrew scripture, but Jesus follows the teaching with a healing.
Richard Rohr said, “Jesus enters the synagogue and of course he recognizes the evil ones, and they recognize him (Mark 1:24). They’re exposed. This is the first exorcism, or casting out of a demon, and it’s in a most amazing place. It’s not in the marketplace, it’s not in the prostitutes, it’s not in the tax collectors. The devil is in the synagogue itself! This is no small symbol. The only way evil can succeed is to disguise itself as good. And one of the best disguises for evil is religion. Just pretend to love God, go to church every Sunday, recite the creed, and say all the right things. Someone can be racist, be against the poor, hate immigrants, and be totally concerned about making money and being a materialist, but still go to church each Sunday and be “justified” in the eyes of religion.”
We pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus proclaims, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven has come near; repent and believe in the Good News” God is active at St. John’s and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to witness to the love of God and to be the light of Christ in a land of darkness.
The Good News is that Jesus came to show us that God loves us, equips us with the gifts we need to respect and love one another, and gives us what we need to live an abundant life. We are a healthy and active church in the Diocese of Long Island. If we are healthy, it is because of our relationship with Jesus Christ and our willingness to witness to that love. If we are active, it is through the grace of God, in the love of Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. We can shine a great beacon of light because everything we do comes through the peace, love, and grace of God. Ask yourself this, "If St. John's were not here, would it make a difference to this community?" Let’s be the beloved community that God calls us to be in 2024.
At St. John’s, we can witness to our faith by coming to church, worshiping and praising God, and being sent out to the community to love and serve Christ. We are a parish in an ever secular, fast moving, polarized, and violent world. Paul asks us to, “be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” In other words, we are all one in Christ. Please be confident that God has the strength to bring us to the Kingdom, that place where heaven and earth intersect, if we will only allow ourselves to be transformed.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, January 19 2024
The Call to Follow Jesus
We are in the season of Epiphany – a season that continues well beyond the Feast Day itself, when we experienced the joy and wonder of the magi who travelled so far from the east. Following a light – a star that aroused their curiosity, that aroused them out of complacency. But God was clearly calling them to move!
Have you ever experienced an epiphany – a moment of recognition – a moment of light and awareness?
Perhaps your epiphany occurred when you recognized a call and you deeply believed and discerned that it was from God. Some may wonder, is that you, God? Nevertheless calls from God can be life changing, like seeking ordained ministry, changing your career, realizing that you need to use your gifts on the Vestry. Calls can lead us into new directions and enable us to meet new people and use new skills, – like volunteering for Hospice, for a local hospital, or for our Thrift shop. You never know who you will meet and how that will change your life. No call from God is too small. A whisper in your ear (that still small voice) tells you that you need to make a meal for your sick neighbor, or to stop to help someone who fell on the sidewalk. But you heard a call and you discerned it to be from God.
Our lectionary this week focuses on “the call.” “Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ…” We know that Mark is a Gospel of action and urgency. Jesus approaches Peter, Andrew, James and John and simply says “follow me.” And, “immediately” they drop what they were doing to follow. Their willingness to respond to the call changed our world.
Recognizing God’s call is not always easy or obvious. That is why we spend time reading the scriptures in Bible Study, or come together for Morning prayer – which exposes us to the daily lectionary. In both instances we are in community, learning to hear God’s call. The interesting thing about God’s call is that God is persistent, as we will see in Jonah this week. He returns to Jonah again and again until Jonah responds. The beauty of responding to God’s call is that God is always there to guide and support you in every step of the journey.
Where is God calling you?
See you in church!
Friday, January 12 2024
For you yourself created my inmost parts;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
Doctors often give us the advice that we need to listen to our bodies in terms of our physical (including mental!) health. But this weekend in the readings, I sense that God is asking us to listen to our bodies in terms of our spiritual health. Our spiritual life and our physical life are always connected, each part is what makes us human beings. Perhaps we think more often of how our physical life impacts our spiritual life and rarely about how our spiritual life impacts our physical health. This is, of course, a two way street that should be heavy with traffic because they are so well connected.
So how does our spiritual life impact our physical life? Our lives are influenced daily by the world around us. I think we understand how and when this occurs, and certainly I’ve preached here already on this topic. When we sin, Paul teaches, our bodies are affected. And as the Psalmist declares, our God knows everything about us. Like the members of our prayer shawl ministry pray over their shawls, God knitted us together in our mother’s womb and prayed over us, declaring who we are. “Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb; all of them were written in your book.” (Ps. 139:15a) Yet the world is alright with using you and me and discarding the rest. Our careers, our schedule, the media, heck even church if not properly prioritized (i.e., know when to say yes and when to say no), can all have negative effects on our physical health.
To remember we are God’s can be a daunting task because we may feel like we do not need him. But we are not ours only, we are not only our parent’s child, we are children of God. We are God’s own; our bodies are meant to be loved and cared for by Him. They are temples to be used for God’s glory who gives us the strength to endure. No spiritual life is perfect, but when regular rhythms of prayer and reflection are introduced, they absolutely play a part in one’s physical and mental restoration.
You want to know your body and soul better? Seek God and all these things will be added unto you.
Sunday, January 07 2024
“How do we as a community encounter the living presence of our risen Lord? How do we celebrate that presence in the midst of our heterogeneity—together as one people of different ages, genders, political parties, races, sexual orientations, ethnic and cultural backgrounds? How do we incorporate that presence into our daily routines? How do we act on that presence through our baptism? How do we live out our relationship with Jesus joyously and take its baptismal responsibilities seriously? In other words—How do we live mission?” (Rock Schuler)
John the Baptist is proclaiming that the Messiah is coming to liberate the people from sin and death and to baptize them with the Holy Spirit. John baptizes Jesus in the river Jordan. God acts through the water. As Jesus comes out of the water, the heavens are torn apart, the spirit descends on him like a dove and a voice from heaven says to Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” At that moment of Mark’s Gospel, at the age of thirty, Jesus’ ministry begins. Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit as Messiah to lead us out of death and into everlasting life. As Jesus comes out of the water, the heavens tear open.
Mission is the inertia behind healthy, dynamic congregations. When we are empowered to live this vision—life-changing ministry happens. Jesus’ baptism is a moment of literal divine intervention into the realm of this world. Jesus will come to challenge the status quo and centers of political and economic power. Isaiah and other prophets promised justice for the poor and disenfranchised, and Jesus came from heaven to proclaim God’s justice and to show us what the peace of God feels like. Jesus comes out of the river, still wet from the waters of baptism and goes to the margins of society. He heals the sick, gives hope to the poor and in other words—Jesus teaches us how to do mission. Jesus then teaches how to give your life for the sake of others. Jesus doesn’t worry about what the rich and powerful are going to do to him, he prays and heals everyone he meets with a broken heart, every person that is lonely, sick, hungry, alienated and suffering. Jesus gets into the muddy waters of our messy lives and shows us the way to new life. God up in heaven loves us so much, that God shows us this path of emerging from this water into new life.
Our mission at St. John’s is to know Christ and make him known. We do this through our mission in the community. Please join us making meals for the homeless through HIHI on January 5th and 26th, February 13th and 16th and March 1st and 9th. We also bring gift cards from Dunkin, McDonalds, Burger King and Taco Bell. Join us in the Thrift on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 12-3 pm. We also need lightly worn winter clothes, boots, gloves and hats. Our ECW meets again on January 28th at 11:15 am in the Guild Room where they will plan a whole year of outreach and ministry.
This year we will be traveling to Sedona, Arizona and Bluff, Utah to do mission work with the Navajo. Please let me know what dates work for you, if you are interested. St. John’s is also providing opportunities to deepen your spirituality with the Lord this year. We will travel to Holy Cross Monastery for a retreat from March 19-21. The cost is $220 for lodging and meals. On May 6-8, we plan to travel to the retreat center of Trinity Wall Street in Connecticut. Please consider joining us this year by contacting Coral or by reaching out to one of our clergy. Space is limited on all trips.
In Christ’s love,