Sunday, March 24 2019
“Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings… Then the Lord said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:1-6).
About a week ago at least 50 people were killed and 50 wounded, in a hate-filled terror attack targeting two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. I am numb to the senseless killings that seem to be occurring with more frequency. I know that God hears our prayers, but we need to respond to God. The burning bush glows bright when we repent of those things in our lives that keep us from the purpose and will of God, when we turn aside. Lent is a time of preparation, when we teach our children and youth to draw closer to the one we love. It is by our example of worship, study, prayer, and outreach our children see that we are people of God. I can’t imagine what it is like to grow up in today’s fear filled world. I do know that there needs to be a counter balance to the hate in the world.
Eternal life begins today and never ends. Please use these next few weeks of Lent to draw closer to the one who loves you deeply. God calls us to be the place of radical hospitality where all people are welcome. While many churches in our neighborhood want to exclude people that don’t agree with their politics or exclude those who are different than themselves, we strive to be the place where all are welcome. We can have difficult conversations because despite our differences, we can love all our neighbors. St. John’s can be a light in a dark world. We can be a place of peace, hope, and love in a world that is dangerous, fearful, and full of hate. Please pray that we might reach out to a hurting world with arms of love.
May we give shelter to the homeless, help to the immigrant, food to the hungry, cloths to the naked, and support the many wonderful charities in Huntington through our ECW. We have the power to transform the nightmare that the world can be into the blessing of the Kingdom of God. We are transformed through the grace of God and we become the transforming power in the world. Please have hope that God can fix this mess of immigration, shootings in the world, plane crashes, racism, and sexism. Somehow God will transform us into beautiful children of God that we were created to be. So if you have been hurting, frustrated, sick, or a little down, have faith that you can come to at St. John's and be welcomed and loved for who you are.
In Christ’s love,
Rev. Duncan Burns
Sunday, March 17 2019
It's Saint Patrick's Day—we all know what that means: parades. I hate parades, whether for Saint Patrick, Columbus, or Thanksgiving; I've participated in all of them; I marched as a cub scout, a boy scout, the chaplain of a day school, an officer in a local organization—more than a mile, uphill, both ways. Yet, I'm not really an old curmudgeon. As far as this particular day is concerned, I like corned beef, potatoes, carrots, (not so much the cabbage), Irish soda bread, tea biscuits and scones, the Three Tenors, songs with a nationalistic flavor and history. Just not parades.
However, I am a huge fan of Saint Patrick himself, or, at least, of the hymn attributed to him. It's #370 in The Hymnal 1982; it's in ink in my funeral service as the opening hymn; it's a celebration of the Trinity, of a binding to oneself the strong name of the “Three in One and One in Three”; it's a tour through the Creed; IT IS LONG. When I mentioned my funeral plans to my children, my son said to me, “Dad, we're not singing all those verses.” I responded, “If you omit any, I'll rise out of that casket and call you to account.”
What I did not know, however, until 1993, was that another translation of the Gaelic preceded the one in our hymnal. This earlier version is not set to music; rather, it is written as a caim, as an encircling prayer with which to begin one's day:
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
Nearly every morning since 26 October 1993 I have begun my day with these words. It's not merely a matter of flinging myself out of bed in a cheery manner, but, as Fr. David Adam points out in his book on this hymn, of arising in the power of God. Sometimes I remember the words as a matter of habit; sometimes I forget all too quickly what they mean; but most of the time, at the least for part of the day, I remember that the Trinity is the integral part of all that I do. In one very important sense, this opening verse combines with a metaphor supplied by John Donne and George Herbert in their poetry as I arise and “tune the instrument of my heart.” Do I then always remain in tune? I wish. I strike discordant notes all the time and when I do my life becomes chaotic, much like a third grader having his first go at a violin: a tempest of noise in a very small teapot. Nonetheless, this is the way for me to begin the day—in the presence of the Triune God who loves me, who died for me, who calls me to be one with him. In the remembrance of this awesome fact, I am renewed, restored, healed, forgiven.
So have a blessed, holy, happy Saint Patrick's Day; delight in the parade, the food, the music, the memories; but remember that the day is more than mere revelry, that it is anchored in the eternal love and presence of the One, Holy, and Living God revealed to us in his crucified and risen Son.
Sunday, March 10 2019
“As the baptized, as the beloved of God, the challenge in my life is to learn to have deeper trust and confidence in the love of God. Lent is the wilderness space in time, set apart to teach me to trust God’s love once again and to hand myself over to be assumed and consumed by his love, for that is my only hope of redemption. Temper me, O God, with your love that I may learn to trust your love once again. Help my unbelief that I may believe and be healed by your love” (Bishop Allen Shin).
Lent is the time when we realize that the distractions of the world have kept us from God’s purpose in our lives. We need to put our full trust in God. If we want to be an authentic expression of Christ’s light, we need to pray, study, listen, and make God the center of our world again. For the first week of Lent please consider putting your full trust in God’s love. Please observe a Holy Lent and take a few quiet moments to re-examine your commitment to God’s purpose. God is very near to us and loves us dearly.
Each week we share the body and blood of our Lord on Sunday morning. These sacraments are an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Eternal life begins today and never ends. Please use these next few weeks of Lent to draw closer to the One who loves you deeply. The most significant preacher in a congregation is not the person in the fancy vestments in the pulpit, but the people in the congregation going out into the world. Apostles have been transformed by the bread of our Lord, to do the will of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The fact of the matter is that priests come and go, but the power of the Holy Spirit to transform the lives at St. John’s goes on from generation to generation. God loves us so deeply that Christ, God’s Son, suffered on a cross that we might be forgiven of our sins. We are asked to lead a new life, following the commandments, and walking in Holy ways. The Holy Eucharist is essential during Lent to bring us back to the place where God can do the most good with us. During the recessional hymn at the 10 am service there is an energy and spirit in the congregation that leads us to hospitality to our guests and sends us into the world with a mission to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. Today we will sing, “How great thou art.” Please join your voice with the choir and sing praise to God.
St. John’s is always about community. Please join us on Sunday mornings for a cup of coffee and a bite to eat after the service in the Great Hall. Hospitality is second nature to us at St. John’s and I ask all our parishioners to invite one of our newcomers to join you this Sunday after service. If you are looking for a great way to deepen your relationship with Christ, then please join Leslie Valentine for a Lenten Spirituality Group Retreat on Saturday March 23rd. Our Bible Study Group meets at 11:00am on Tuesdays. This week we begin, “The Path, A Journey Through the Bible.” This year’s Lenten program on Tuesday evenings will feature Dr. Nina Grief, Fr. Duncan, Rev. Eddie Alleyne, Deacon Jennifer Webster and Fr. John. Join us for Stations of the Cross, Evening Prayer, a simple meal, and our program, “SIN: Glittering Vices & the Dark Side of the Soul.”
In Christ’s love,
Sunday, March 03 2019
“O God who before the passion of your Son reveled his glory on the Holy Mount, that we may we be strengthened to bear his cross” (Last Sunday after the Epiphany Collect). “Christian discipleship consists of the discipline of self-denial and taking up the cross daily. It is refraining from the narcissistic self-indulgence and from feeding the superficial false ego to self-destruction. It is rather embracing my true self, the true image of God reflected in the depth of my soul. It’s a daily journey of self-discovery as a child of God and a daily walk toward a spiritual union with God” (Bishop Shin).
A bartender notices that every evening, without fail, one of his patrons orders three beers. After several weeks of noticing this pattern, the bartender asks the man why he always orders three beers. The man says, “I have two brothers who have moved away to different countries. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond.” Several weeks later, noticing that the man only ordered two beers, the bartender said, “Please accept my condolences on the death of one of your brothers. You know, the two beers and all…” The man replied, “You’ll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well… It’s just that I, myself, have decided to give up my beer for Lent.”
All Christians are invited "to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word" (BCP, p. 265). Somehow Lent has gone out of favor. Many Christians just don’t seem to understand why we do what we do in Lent. Do we need to go to service on Ash Wednesday? Will giving up chocolate or alcohol for a few weeks bring you closer to God? Will eating fish on Fridays help to draw you closer to Jesus Christ? Will getting off Twitter and Facebook bring on the Holy Spirit? I don’t have the answer for you, but I do know that many of us misunderstand the whole point of Lent. Lent is a time to strengthen your spiritual union with God. Through fasting, prayer, worship, scripture study, and acts of mercy, you make a conscious effort to draw closer to God. Jesus went into the desert for forty days to pray before beginning his ministry. The point is to refocus your attention on God so that the fire of God’s love in your heart may be strengthened for the ministry ahead. Please don’t cut back from three beers to two just because it’s Lent. Just find a way to do more of the things that bring you closer to God. Sometimes just going for a walk can be a time for union with God.
We offer many opportunities at St. John’s to rekindle that fire of God’s love at St. John’s. We offer Morning Prayer at 9:00 am M-F, bible study on Tuesdays at 11:00 am. On Tuesday nights we offer Stations of the Cross, Evening Prayer, Lenten Supper and a guest speaker. You may choose a Lenten Retreat with Leslie Valentine on Saturday March 23rd, serving in our Thrift Shop, serving meals to the homeless at HIHI, joining our choir to sing at Easter, and/or Holy Eucharist at 8:00 am and 10:00 am on Sundays. I invite you to the observance of a Holy Lent. Please take time from your busy schedule to draw nearer to the one that loves you so deeply. He sent his only Son to reveal his glory on the Holy Mount and to die on a cross for our sins.
In Christ’s love,