Sunday, April 28 2019
For the first time in many years, a mysterious piece of correspondence has fallen into my hands: another letter from Screwtape, one of the archfiends in the lower-archy of hell, a letter meant to be delivered to his apprentice nephew, Wormwood, a recent graduate of Tempters College. Those who read this letter are advised to remember that it is from the devil's perspective and that the devil is a liar.
My dear Wormwood:
I frequently receive reports on the horrors of the Easter season from minor apprentices such as yourself. Those events make all of our domain shudder. Even our father below recoils at the merest recollection of that abominable occurrence that Christians call the resurrection. We who are most close to him keep our distance because he fulminates with such anger that we are quite likely to become mere morsels to be consumed. That is between you and me; it would not be prudent to repeat such information.
However, in spite of the circumstances of this Easter season—I cringe when I write that word—certain things can be brought to our advantage if you will pay close attention to what transpires. Hence, do not permit any temporary depression over the state of your patient begin to dominate your thoughts or your job will be in jeopardy, and you know how our father treats those who fail him. Now some suggestions on how to undermine the faith of your patient.
Remember that all extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Remember last Sunday when the pews were filled with people? I see that you do. Well, turn this to your advantage since it is quite unlikely this will take place two weeks in a row. We want to keep those who don't return away permanently, or at least to make any return a social occasion rather than a religious one. For this reason, gently insert into the mind of your patient that Mrs. Bloggs, she of the second seat, sixth pew, gospel side, was wearing exactly the same hat she wore last Easter. This will shift your patient's mind from attention to the service and nudge him into a thought such as chapeau fashions and what he will be having for Sunday dinner.
Make worldly concerns his end and church attendance a means to that end, and you have almost won him for our father below. Provided that the latest fashions, egg hunts, and meals matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and love, he is ours. I could show you a pretty group of specimens we have secured already.
Even for those who have made it back to their place of worship for a second week, all is not lost. You have a marvelous opportunity when the time for the gospel arrives. This one concerns a certain Thomas, a particular doubter who finally comes to believe in the Enemy only when he has ocular proof. It is an unfair advantage of the Enemy that He loves even when he is doubted, but we can turn that to our advantage. Sneak into your patient's mind that doubt is healthy, that if he had been a real man he would have demanded more substantial proof than he was offered. Suggest that what the Enemy is about is propaganda rather than an appalling truth. Remind him of the last great war—and all the ones that have followed—how we were all conditioned to beware of propaganda.
Press home that after fifty days the Enemy will abandon him, that He will not always be present to his conscious experience. Hence, should he cry out, in a moment of weakness, with Thomas, he will be conditioned to expect no response. If, somehow, your patient persists, speak to him about “moderation in all things,” the via media, a particular Episcopal perspective. If you can once get him to think that “religion is all very well up to a point,” you can feel quite happy about the destination of his soul. A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.
Keep what I have written in mind and 'low Sunday' will sink even lower and your patient will turn his attention outward. And our father below will be well pleased. Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape
With all blessing, Fr. John+
Sunday, April 14 2019
Socrates and Plato believed that the most important kind of knowledge comes from a re-awakening of truth that is dormant within us. We celebrate the Eucharist by remembering the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The prayer of remembrance is called the Anamnesis. This Greek word for remembrance comes from one who has lost their amnesia. At the Eucharist, the priest says, “do this in remembrance of me.” We re-member the words of Jesus Christ at the last supper, but we connect with our soul in a past, present, and future event. Those who have lost their identity or purpose need to re-member what God has done for them and to know that they are unconditionally loved by God. I urge you to call your friends and family who have wandered from the church and invite them to re-member that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Palm Sunday and Easter are the core liturgical observances of the Christian year because we re-member what God has done, is doing, and will do for us. They are also the time when many people who have been away, come back to church. Please join us this week as we re-member the last days of Jesus’ life. Holy Week offers a series of services that reconnect our souls with the truth that God has given us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Maundy Thursday is a simple service in the tradition of the last supper. We will begin with a Seder meal at 6:00PM. This is the Jewish Tradition that Jesus practiced with his disciples. Please speak to Heather Kress and let her know that you will be joining us for this family friendly meal together. At 7:30PM, we move into the church. The Gospel from John is read and we wash each other’s feet as a sign of our servanthood and love of one another. The service ends with a dramatic stripping of the altar and we begin a prayer vigil through the night.
Good Friday is a somber reminder of the depth of God’s love for us. We pray at the foot of the cross with Mary and John. We pray in silence and ponder the incredible love of God in the act of Jesus death on the cross for our sins. Fr. John will preach from 12-3PM on the last seven words of Jesus Christ. At 7:00PM we will do the Stations of the Cross and at 7:30PM we will have a Good Friday service with music.
Easter Sunday is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection and the hope that Christ gives to each of us. All are welcome to share with us in his resurrection. At 7:30AM, we will light a fire in the Garden of Blessing and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The children will celebrate with the flowering of the cross and an Easter egg hunt at the 9:00AM service. There will also be a beautiful choral Eucharist at 11:00AM. We will proclaim the resurrection with the words, “Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!”
These services help us to connect to the love of God and see ourselves as part of a community baptized into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I urge you to come to as many Holy Week services as you are able, to invite guests, and to welcome everyone with open arms.
In Christ’s love,
Sunday, April 07 2019
“Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:1-3).
Barbara Brown Taylor, calls this display by Mary "an act so lavish that it suggests another layer to her prophecy: there will be nothing prudent or economical about the death of this man, just as there has been nothing prudent or economical about his life. In him, the extravagance of God's love is made flesh. In him, the excessiveness of God's mercy is made manifest."
As we walk to the cross with Jesus this Lenten season, I ask you to ponder the sacrifice that God gave to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many of us will get caught up in the busyness of the Easter season. Many of us have lots of things to do at church and home. Please take some time and meditate about Mary. Pray that you may know the unfathomable love and unbounded mercy that God has for you. The twelve disciples will continue to act like knuckleheads, missing the whole point of the walk to the cross because their own expectations close their minds to something new happening before their very eyes. “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:18-19). Again and again the prophet Isaiah speaks of the message of God. Again and again, the people can’t imagine that the path ahead may be anything, but the path behind us.
Mary has developed a deeper level of relationship with Jesus because she sits and listens to the words of her teacher. Listen to the words of the Gospel closely, but change your expectations slightly. The Holy Spirit will come to us and guide us. Put your faith and trust that God loves us enough to sacrifice his Son for our sins. Turn from your busy life and ponder the extravagance of Mary’s gift. Mary will need strength and courage for all that she will face in the coming weeks. She has seen firsthand the raising of her brother Lazarus. She anoints his feet because she knows deep in her heart that the path of life leads through his death.
We are asked in today’s collect to love what God commands and to desire what God promises. To do that we must turn again to God and listen to the Gospel. There can be no Easter without the cross and we cannot live in Christ unless we are willing to die to ourselves. But, oh the glory that awaits us if we believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We were baptized in water through the Holy Spirit and ate of the body and blood of our Lord. We are anointed in the Holy Spirit, given the peace that passes all understanding, and we will receive all God’s promises of abundant and eternal life. Let us open the life gate by confessing that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Let us give glory to God for he has done great things!
In Christ’s love,
Sunday, April 07 2019
Father, I’ve sinned — but O forgive!
I’ve heard enough, he said,
Rejoice my house, my son’s alive,
For whom I mourned as dead.
Now let the fatted calf be slain,
And spread the news around;
My son was dead, but lives again,
Was lost, but now is found.
’Tis thus the Lord his love reveals,
To call poor sinners home;
More than a father's love he feels,
And welcomes all that come (John Newton).
Today is the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Laetare Sunday, or as it has been more popularly called “Rejoice Sunday.” In this season of Lent, we are all called to return to the unfathomable divine mercy and unbounded holy love. “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart” (Psalm 32:11). I heard this morning on the radio that one of the keys to a long relationship with somebody is saying thank you on a regular basis. It is not so much the words we say as the deep feeling of appreciation that we have for the ones that we love. This feeling is difficult to understand or describe, but we can all experience it in our relationship to Jesus Christ. The story of the prodigal son describes a love so deep and unconditional that sins and suffering turn to gladness and rejoicing. Perhaps when we have a deep appreciation for what God has done for us, we can understand how to love one another. Listen to the words of the parable this morning and know that God loves you just as deeply as the prodigal son. God’s love of humanity was shown in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So on the roller coaster that we call Lent, we should rejoice on this day. Whether we are on a mountaintop or in the valley of our lives, God’s love always strengthens us for what is ahead. When we return to God with all that we have, we receive an abundant life of grace and mercy and the peace that passes all understanding. In the season of lent we are asked to re-examine our lives and to confess our sins on our knees, but the key to this season is to then stand up and give praise to him, who loves us so deeply that we can barely fathom the affection that he has for us.
“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen”
In Christ’s love,
Rev. Duncan Burns