Sunday, November 24 2019
Our gospel call to “social action” as understood 151 years ago, as is today, comes from the center of our worship life, prayer, and study. Our liturgical life cannot be free of the concerns of God’s people. The very liturgy, a work of the people, must be a weekly (if not daily) celebration in which each person is further equipped to live in the world as a member of the Body of Christ. Our liturgical experiences (that is what happens in the church service) must encapsulate a legitimate, sacramental encounter with God, a binding together of God’s people and the offering of prayers representing the genuine needs of the world…A crisis in the ministry of the church today is our inability to clearly and faithfully articulate the impact of Jesus’ message—his life and teaching, his death and resurrection in the midst of a complex and fractured world…The Church must return to being the Church. There is no substitute for real community, actual—not virtual—prayer, conversation and study, liturgical action and sacramental encounter. Sisters and brothers, I am calling upon each of you once again, to return to the basics of our common life and common prayer, our formation and education and our sharing with everyone around us. Literally return to church. Be together more. Teach our children how to be together, work together, pray together. (Bishop Provenzano)
As we transition from Christ the King Sunday to Advent, I ask you to spend time in prayer, study, and worship. Please make an effort to attend church every Sunday in Advent and draw closer to the One that loves us all unconditionally. During our Advent suppers on Tuesday evenings (beginning 12/03), we will study the Gospel of Matthew as we prepare for the coming of Christ. Join us on December 7th from 9-1 for an Advent Quiet Day. Our topic is “Preparation: Matthew’s Journey through Advent” with Rev. Lawrence Womack of St. Augustine’s Brooklyn. Fr. Anthony Jones will also be joining us for breakfast and the program. I ask you to sign up today, so that we can prepare enough food for the event.
At St. John’s our mission is to know Christ and make Him known. Most of us need to build a deeper relationship with Jesus. In both the Sunday Gospel and in our daily prayer, we are studying Matthew. Please read and meditate through Matthew in the coming month. Forward Day by Day daily meditations are also available for those of us on the go. Just take one line of scripture and meditate on it each morning. Please pray each and every day that the Holy Spirit will draw you closer to Jesus Christ through your prayer, study, and worship. Our bible study meets on Tuesdays at 11:00 am and will be finishing the “Path” in the next four weeks. We will study the Acts of the Apostles in January.
Our Youth Group will host HiHi at St. John’s for the homeless on December 13th. Our youth will be selling Christmas wreaths on December 7th and 8th. Please fill out your order form after service today. This is the last Sunday to bring Operation Christmas shoe boxes. Please pick up a tag, wrap a gift, and bring it back to St. John’s by December 8th for the ECW Adopt-A-Family program.
Please mark your calendars for the last Taizé service of the year on Sunday December 1st at 5:30 pm. This is a contemplative prayer service with beautiful music from Alex and friends. Join us tonight at 4:00 pm for “Year’s End” with the Rambling Readers. Last, but not least is our biggest concert of the year. If you are new to St. John’s, please join us for songs, carols, and stories that are sure to put you in the Christmas spirit! Sing Noël! will be held on December 15th at 7:30 pm.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, November 15 2019
“When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down’” (Luke 21:5-6).
The temple at the time of Jesus was beautifully adorned. Josephus describes the temple as such, “whatever was not overlaid with gold was purest white” (Josephus, Jewish War 5.5.6). King Herod had lavishly adorned the temple with gold. No one could imagine that this beautiful temple could be destroyed. In the year 70 C.E. the Romans, under Titus, burned and destroyed the temple to the ground. Not a stone in the temple was left unturned. Gold was removed from each stone before setting the temple on fire. When Jesus spoke in the temple, it was beyond the imagination of the Jews that something so beautiful would be destroyed in their lifetime. When Luke wrote the Gospel, the prophecy that Jesus spoke had already come true. The magnificent temple in Jerusalem had already been utterly destroyed. The stuff that we see as magnificent pales in comparison to the love of God found in the Good News of Luke’s Gospel. As we finish our wrap up of the Gospel of Luke for this lectionary cycle, let us remember the question that we have been dealing with all year. “Who is this who even forgives sins?” (Luke 7:19). Jesus was called the Son of God, Prophet, Lord, Messiah or Christ, Son of Man, and Savior. Jesus preached God’s redemptive plan for the salvation of all humanity. Even death no longer had a sting.
This week we look towards our mission trip next summer to Puerto Rico. Hurricane Dorian leveled parts of the Bahamas recently with winds in excess of 180 MPH. Our parish sent funds to help the Bahamas recover. Puerto Rico was utterly turned upside down by Hurricane Maria a few years ago and we are working on a long-term relationship to help them recover. Last year we heard stories of terrified individuals that had no place to go and weathered the storm. One 80-year-old woman survived by holding a sheet of plywood against the windows to prevent water from rushing in her house. Another family put all their pigs, chickens and dogs into their living room to save them from the wind and water. Several years later, roofs are still leaking and there are not enough adequate shelters ready for the next hurricane. On July 5-10th, St John’s will send a mission team to continue our relief effort. Most of all, we make good friends and bring the love of God into their lives. If you are interested, please attend the meeting after the 10:00 service in the guild room.
Jesus asks us to see the temporal world for what it is and to look beyond to the eternal world. Last week I said that the resurrection proves that love is stronger than death. In fact, God’s love is stronger than anything. “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God… For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:18-19, 38-39).
In Christ’s love,
Friday, November 08 2019
Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things.
The book of psalms articulates God’s coming reign and calls us to pray and sing praise as we await God’s peace, justice and righteousness. I am an associate of Holy Cross Monastery and for ten years, I spent every Friday praying the psalms with the brothers. For me, the singing of the psalms articulates my lament to the evil and pain in the world and praise for the love, mercy, joy, and hope in the person of Jesus Christ. It is no wonder that Psalm 98 is often sung on Christmas because we recognize in the birth of Jesus Christ that God’s Eternal Kingdom is ushered into our mortal existence. From the day you recognize that Jesus Christ is the Messianic King, you are called to love God and love your neighbor. At St. John’s and in many areas of this country, we give a tenth of what we have to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Today we will donate a few dollars to provide baskets for the women through the Long Island Against Domestic Violence organization. We will provide 12 Christmas baskets to families of four through our Youth Group, the ECW, and your generosity. This week we will also collect 100 Operation Christmas shoe boxes that will be sent all over the world to children that will only receive a present through your generosity.
God’s Reign comes to humanity through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In today’s psalm we react to the love, mercy, and justice of God in praise and prayer. We come to St. John’s to praise the name of Jesus Christ as we await his coming again. In today’s psalm, we are reminded what God has done for us, what God is doing, and that God’s righteousness and justice will reign forever. God is steadfast and faithful to each of us. God will judge us in righteousness with justice and equity.
We are called to celebrate what God has done and to praise and worship God. Sing to the Lord and shout with joy. Pray with your whole heart. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.
People have sung the psalms for thousands of years. They represent our tears of sadness and joy. The psalms express every emotion that we feel back to God. Psalm 98 is a psalm of praise and worship. It asks us to join in with the sea as it makes its noise, the rivers as they clap their hands and the hills that ring out with joy. I have expressed many times how I enjoy listening to the ocean, hiking in the hills, and wading in the river. Praising and worshiping God connects us to the eternal truth that God created everything and everybody and loves us unconditionally. While our culture draws us into focusing on our little iPhone box, God draws us into relationship with all of God’s creation. While our culture draws us to be independent and self-absorbed, God draws us to be united with Jesus Christ and our neighbor. This Sunday give praise and worship to God and connect to the love, joy, hope, and mercy that surrounds us as we await the coming of God’s Kingdom.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, November 01 2019
Then Jesus looked up at his disciples and said:
In last week’s sermon, I spoke about the self-giving love of Jesus Christ. We are the light of Christ when we give of ourselves for the sake of others. I can’t think of a better example of this than our Harvest Fair. The atmosphere at the fair was amazing and the comradery among our parishioners was palpable. Many of our parishioners gave an incredible amount of time, talent, and treasure to make the weekend such a huge success. We had lots of newcomers working on the Harvest Fair, and we invite you to continue in the ministry of St. Johns. We will break another record in total sales. The ECW will use the proceeds to help our community through ECW donations to charitable organizations, our Thrift Shop, Laundry Love, our HIHI Homeless Ministry, Operation Christmas Child, Adopt-a-Family, Thanksgiving Baskets for the domestic abuse shelter, our Prayer Shawl ministry, St. John’s Hospital Toy Drive, our Book Ministry, our mission trips to Puerto Rico, and a sizable donation to support all the other ministries at St. Johns.
I would like to thank our entire ECW team that worked so hard to make the event such a huge success. There are posters in the Great Hall with the names of charities that the ECW gave to last year, the vendors that contributed to our baskets, and the names of all the sponsors that made this year such a success. Please support our local businesses that support our Harvest Fair. There will be an ECW meeting on November 3rd at 11:20 in the Guild Room to recap the Harvest Fair. A special thanks to Chris Boccia and Fran Gorman for their leadership in the ECW and at the Harvest Fair. There are too many people to thank individually, but please know that I appreciate the work and ministry of everyone that helped out this year.
During our stewardship campaign, people will witness to what makes St. John's so special to them. Dave Lasek spoke about how the parishioners at St. John’s are like family to him. He pointed out people like Mary Simon who quietly visits and calls people who are sick or in the hospital. Dave and Nelly work on the breakfast team on Sunday mornings, they volunteer in the Thrift Shop, help with HIHI, and are part of the Spirituality Group (to name of few of the ministries that Dave and Nelly support). Last week, Michael Ade talked about coming to St. John’s as an Ex-Pat. He found the congregation incredibly friendly and is heading the 275th Anniversary Committee, working on the vestry, and leading our grounds committee in 2020. Michael’s partner, Sean has also been active at St. John’s and volunteers as an usher. Through parishioners like Dave, Nelly, Sean, and Michael, we make St. John’s an extraordinary parish. Please listen to Susan Cronje and Scott Cooley on our Loyalty Sunday as they witness to their experience at St. John’s.
Our parish is dedicated, "to know Christ and to make Him known." We are trying to live in the present reality as we move towards the kingdom of heaven. Please love God and one another as Jesus Christ loves us. We have something very special here at St. John's. Giving your time, talent, and treasure brings both you and this community to a place where we can minister to our children, the poor, the sick, and the thirsty. This year’s stewardship campaign is “Shining our Light.” Please place your pledge card in the offering plate today. There are extra pledge cards in all the pews. The cards will then be blessed at the altar. Giving of ourselves for the sake of others literally ushers in the coming kingdom.
In Christ’s love,