Sunday, August 18 2019
This morning's Gospel is the sort that might make easily one of David Letterman “Ten Best” pieces that appeared on his show now and then, this time in the category of “The Ten Things You Wish Jesus Had Never Said.” Jesus wonders out loud whether people thought he came to bring a fabricated peace, the peace that would free the Jews from the hated Romans, the peace that seems to end every war, until the next one breaks out. Instead, he tells us that he brings division and it arises when we answer his call, and such an answer is very unnerving as we, who used to sleep in on Sundays or head off to the golf club, all the while telling the local pastor “I can be as close to God on the course as you can in church.” For sure, as you hand over another $20 to your opponent on the second hole and are heard to mutter, “O God”; as we, with, with smiles on our faces and a song in our hearts, leave to attend church.
At ten o'clock we will sing Linda Snow's wonderful hymn “Journey Into Freedom,” a hymn which is a call, a hymn which is sure to bring division if we take it seriously and not merely as a way through the service, but a hymn in which the refrain offers an astonishing truth.
Come with me, journey into freedom,
I am always with you follow me.
Come and drink my living water,
I will set your spirit free.
If you take the time when the service is over to ponder this song and not just dispose of it, you will discover some awesome insights.
Have you ever considered the possibility that the divine author who wrote you into the drama of salvation has created a role for you and “calls you to be who he alone knows you can be”? If you have, then you most likely know that often tacit response to your decision to follow Jesus is a something like “that's nice dear” followed by an inaudible mutter, “not to worry, he [or she] will grow out of it.” But perhaps not you or me. We have heard and responded to two words that changed the world—“Follow me.” And what follows? Ridicule? Division? Loss of respect? Mere lip service? Contempt? But even in this world of ever so many truths, hold fast to the truth of Jesus because he will “give you everything you need.” He is the only one who will never let you down, who, if you fail him will forgive you, who has paid the price for all your sins, who has breathed his last breath for you.
At the end of his wonderful book The Call, my friend Os Guiness makes the following observation at the end of the Introduction: “Answer the call of [God] and see all life as an enterprise transformed by his call. Count the cost, consider the risks, (remember the divisions that will come), but set out each day on an adventure that will multiply your gifts and opportunities and bring glory to God and add value to our world.” My dear, dear friends, come join with me and “journey into [the] freedom” of the risen Christ.
Sunday, August 11 2019
I am reading for the third time since mid-July a book by Alister McGrath, the Christian theologian and apologist who holds two doctorates from Oxford University and occupies the Chair of Professor of Science and Religion and directs the Ian Ramsey Centre (sic) for Science and Religion at Oxford. The book, one of many by Dr. McGrath, is titled Mere Discipleship: Growing in Wisdom and Hope and many of his observations dovetail nicely with the two cartoons in The Chalice. Professor McGrath also relies heavily on the wisdom of the ages past and following are several citations for you and me to ponder this week and beyond, to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.” I offer them for you to consider far beyond the limits of this morning's sermon; I have already placed them with my prayer list so that I will hold them before me each day.
1. “The mind needs to be enlightened by light from outside itself, so that it can participate in truth, as it is not itself the nature of truth. You will light my lamp, Lord.”--Saint Augustine, Confessions
2. “It is only with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”--Antoine Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
3. “We see through the Church of Christ as a man sees through the telescope to the stars.”--Austin Farrer, The End of Man
4. “Alonso of Arragon was wont to say in commendation of age, that age appears best in four things: the old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.”--Francis Bacon, Aphorisms and Apothegems
5. “The only true voyage of discovery is not to travel to new landscapes, but to possess other ages, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others.”--Marcel Proust, The Prisoner
The summer begins to draw to a close so I invite you to make or to continue with me on a :journey into freedom,” into the freedom of looking through a different lens, the lens of Christianity, and see the world in sharper focus and increased depth. Try on the spectacles of C. S. Lewis and enter into that realm that Father Duncan has cited so often: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” It's good to be home.
Friday, August 02 2019
While Jesus is teaching his disciples, someone in the crowd brings a request before Jesus. What he wants is a simple settlement of an inheritance dispute with his brother. “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me,” he says to Jesus. He wants more than he is legally allowed and wants Jesus to get him more than he deserves. Jesus rebukes the man, saying, “Who appointed me to be a judge over you?” Then, he brings up the topic of spiritual integrity. He tries to give the crowd a new understanding of possessions and their relationship with God. The rich fool built larger barns and filled them with his crops, he is finally satisfied and tells his soul to relax, eat, drink and be merry. It makes good business sense, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying what he has–good wine, good food and all. The trouble with the rich fool in the parable is not his possessions and his enjoyment of them. But, in storing up his possessions for himself, he has forgotten God. What we have here is a portrayal of a man who is so self-absorbed, self-centered, and self-sufficient that he believes he has complete control over his possessions and his life including his soul. He has deceived himself to think that the abundance of his possessions can satisfy the hunger and thirst of his soul. At this moment the rich fool dies and his possessions become a moot point. Quality of life isn’t found in the things we amass, but in our connection with God, our families, and our neighbors. John Wesley once said, “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” Matthew said, “Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.” Our legacy is not what we leave in our barns, but what we do with the resources we have while we are still here.
St. John’s is embarking on our 275th anniversary year celebration with many initiatives. One major focus is to build and increase our two endowments to provide for the future of our church: The Capital Building Fund and the 1745 Endowment Fund. Our parish is asking you to make a pledge. The suggested giving levels are Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze, $27,500, $11,000, $5,500, $2,750, respectively. Any amount will be accepted and greatly appreciated. You will also be recognized in the program for the St John’s Gala Event which will be on Saturday, June 6, 2020 at the Huntington Country Club. Pledge sheets are available in the back of the church or in the Parish Office.
In Christ’s love,