Sunday, February 24 2019
Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus gives a passionate teaching to all who will listen. Most of us know this as the Sermon on the Mount, but today, Jesus is sitting on level ground teaching his disciples, all who have gathered to hear him speak, and those who are trying to touch him in order to get healed. In fact, Jesus is speaking to all people in all times. We all hear these words again and again. Some of us know them by heart. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.” (Luke 6:20-24)
Some of this teaching is very difficult to understand, but one verse stands out to me as a summary of all the rest. Even my nursery school children know this verse from scripture. They know it as the “golden rule.” We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. While this is a simple rule to understand, Jesus turns the perspectives of world upside down in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus will cross boundaries, break religious rules, and cause people to be so uncomfortable that they will nail him to a cross to suffer and die. We must also push the boundaries of our own understanding, if we are ever to truly understand these radical teachings from Jesus.
Deacon Anthony has created a wonderful relationship with our sister parish, St Augustine’s so that we might see the world from a slightly different perspective and that we might enrich the lives of some good folks in Brooklyn. We have witnessed the lively, spiritual worship of St. Augustine and today we share our more traditional approach. Today, I am preaching at St. Augustine’s and Fr. Lawrence is preaching at St. John’s. It is an honor to have such an esteemed preacher in our midst this Sunday, and I ask and pray that his Word will fill your heart and bring you closer to the love of Jesus Christ.
Please give Deacon Anthony a warm welcome home at St. John’s. As you know, he has just finished the General Ordination Exam and is working on a Master of Divinity degree while working full-time as a VA lawyer and doing his internship at St. Augustine’s. Please pray for him as he prepares for ordination to the priesthood. We have been so blessed by the ministry of “Saint Anthony” these past few years and although we miss him greatly, we know that God is preparing him for a wonderful ministry as a priest.
Born in Indianapolis, IN, Father Lawrence received a B.A. from Wabash College in Biology and an M.A. in Molecular Biology from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. While working on his doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins, he answered the call to ministry. He received his M.Div. in 2003 from Bexley Hall Seminary of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York, and was ordained to the priesthood in January 2004. He is the former Rector of St. Anne's Episcopal Church in North Carolina and is currently the Rector at St. Augustine’s in Brooklyn. Father Lawrence and his wife, Sharita, are the proud parents of three children Caleb, Isaac and Miriam. Let us welcome him as we were welcomed at St. Augustine’s.
In Christ’s love,
Sunday, February 17 2019
As I was collating the collection of poems I am going to use with the Saint John's Spirituality Group on February 23, I had an “Aha” moment. Immediately to the computer to download John Updike's Seven Stanzas at Easter. Below are the first and last stanzas of the poem.
Make no mistake if he rose at all
it was as his body;
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules reknit,
the amino acids rekindle,
the church will fall.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
Okay, Fr. John, you had a sudden epiphany. So what? Why is this so important?
1 Corinthians 15 is one of the crucial chapters in all of Saint Paul's corpus. In this chapter, he sets out the gospel as it was preached in the early church from the beginning. Evidently, the Corinth of the first century was very much like the culture today in the West. Indeed, in the Revised Common Lectionary (from which we take the readings for each Sunday), the Church has seen fit to omit some verses from this crucial chapter, even when the Season of Epiphany is not shortened because of an early date for Easter.
But Paul will have none of such editorial license; nor will John Updike; nor Fr. John: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” and Paul's full explication of this central moment in Christian belief must not be truncated. Now John Updike's poem is not the gospel; he carries no such authority. And Fr. John certainly is not. Yet the great poets and writers, composers and lyricists, artists and architects often serve the gospel through what they create, even if unknowingly, even if sometimes unwittingly. Updike commences his piece with a contingency: “Make no mistake if....” However, the contingent opening is clarified immediately. The church hasn't fallen; it still stands; the event of the bodily resurrection, rooted in history, is anchored in fact: “it was as his body.” A new day has dawned in human history: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.”
With all blessings, Fr. John+
Sunday, February 10 2019
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.” (Psalm 138)
“so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.” (1 Cor. 15:11)
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” (Luke 5:10)
This week’s lessons really fall into line with the message from our Annual Meeting on February 3rd. We will worship God this Sunday at the 8:00 Rite I Holy Eucharist, the 10:00 Rite II Holy Eucharist, and the 5:30 Taizé service. We offer a variety of ways to give praise to God at St. John’s. We also offer many ways to sing praise to God. Alex and our choir have prepared beautiful music from the hymnal, LEVAS, our praise book, and Taizé chants.
In our bible study class we are studying Revelation. “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Rev. 4:11) Perhaps this is one of the most important things that we must do in our lives. Please pray deeply on these words of scripture and worship our God in the beauty of holiness.
Each of us is gifted by the Holy Spirit at our Baptism. We have a purpose in life, and we are given the gifts to accomplish that purpose. God’s steadfast love is always flowing in our direction and we are asked to follow scripture to stay on this path. “We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) “For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I will thank you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well. (Psalm 139:12-13)
When we love God with all our heart, soul and mind everything starts to fall in line in our lives. Life is not made easy, but there is a peace that instills a deep sense of gratitude in our hearts. When we express that love back to our neighbors, people are drawn into the love of God. Let me give a few examples. You come into the St. John’s kitchen before the service and prepare breakfast for everyone that comes to the parish hall after service. A parishioner remembers the name of a newcomer and greets them by name. Someone else invites this newcomer to come to breakfast and sits with them. These simple acts can change a person’s life. As members of the Jesus Movement, we show our love of God and neighbor by our actions. We believe that, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” (1Cor. 15:3-4) We do not have to stand at the mall and hand out the theology of the Episcopal Church in a pamphlet as we yell, “Jesus died for your sins” in their ear. We just need to love as we are loved.
If we are to be “fishers of people” we must begin by deepening our own faith. Only by an authentic faith in God will we ever convince anyone to come to the Lord in this crazy post truth culture that we live in. We do not use scripture to explain the way we are and exclude others. We should find that when we have a deep faith, scripture rings true in our heart. Please keep a few of these scriptures highlighted in your bible, written in your journal, or just commit them to memory. The bible keeps us focused on some basic truths such as: God created us, God loves us, we should give glory to God, and when we share God’s steadfast love, others will follow.
In Christ’s love,
Rev. Duncan Burns
Sunday, February 03 2019
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;
I would like to thank all our parishioners on a beautiful year in 2018 and encourage you to make 2019 even better at St. John’s. Thank you for your leadership, your generosity, your ministry, and your continued faith in Jesus Christ. We are very blessed by your presence. I would also like to thank Coral, who has done an outstanding job as our administrator, Alex our talented musician and choir director, Jen, our St. John’s Nursery School superintendent, and our wardens, Scott and Rob, who have led this parish with our vestry and committee chairs.
This week our service times on Sunday are 8:00 am and 9:30 am because we will have our annual meeting after the late service. Please join us for food, fellowship, and a brief annual meeting as we elect a warden and three vestry members. In 2019, our priorities are Growth, Children and Youth, Outreach and Mission, and Hospitality. We are especially focusing on living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Jesus Movement.
My hope for the coming year is that you will deepen your faith and love in Jesus Christ. Please live out your Baptismal Covenant by coming to church, helping those in need in our community through our ECW, striving for justice by supporting our racial reconciliation committee, and getting involved in the ministry of St. John’s.
I ask each committee to personally invite new members to join their group. If you are a new member or would like to help out please consider joining our Racial Reconciliation Committee, HIHI, Thrift Shop, ECW, Altar Guild, Lay Eucharistic Ministers, Youth Group, Christian Education, Readers, Breakfast Group, Spirituality Group, Nursery School, Ushers, Lay Eucharistic Visitors, Prayer Shawl Ministry, St. Hilda’s Guild, or one of our other committees. If you are new, think about our new members class that starts next Sunday.
Our Sunday school starts again next week at 9:40am in the Canterbury Corner. 1st Communion classes are beginning with Sue McGinnis on Wednesday March 6th at 5:30 pm and 1st Communion will be April 28th at the 10:00 am service. Confirmation classes start on Sunday February 10th at 5:30 pm. Confirmation is May 4th at 10:00 am at the Cathedral in Garden City. Our Youth Group meets at 6:30 pm on most Sunday nights with Ford Spilsbury and the rector.
Outreach is a focus again this year. Today is the Souper Bowl of Caring and our Youth Group is collecting donations to fight hunger in the Huntington Community. The Youth Group will be hosting people who are homeless on March 8th through our HIHI program right here at St. John’s. Please bring in food for the Food Pantry and donations for our Thrift Shop. If you are interested in volunteering for the Thrift shop on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays, please see Nancy.
In Christ’s love,
Rev. Duncan Burns