Friday, November 20 2020
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power (Ephesians 1:17-19).
During the past four weeks, parishioners have witnessed to the joy and love that they experience at St. John’s. One of the common themes is the relationship we have with our Lord and the deep sense of family that we experience at St. John’s. In his convention address, Bishop Provenzano spoke of racial reconciliation and outreach to those who are hurting during this Covid Pandemic as two areas that our Diocese needs to focus on. I am thankful for our Sacred Ground team and the ECW for keeping our focus in line with the bishop’s vision. If we can continue to speak the truth of the Gospel and witness to the love of Christ, we can remain on our path to becoming a Beloved Community
God reveals to us the hope in which he has called us. When we work together for the benefit of others, God draws us into a deeper relationship with Christ, enlightens the eyes of our heart, and blesses our ministry. When this happens the hungry in our community are fed, the lonely are visited, and the sick are healed. When we read the stories and witness in our Sacred Ground Curriculum, we get together in circles that can have frank conversations about racial reconciliation.
In this week’s Gospel we hear, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Matt. 35:34-36).
Each of us is called in this season of Hope, to help those in our community that are in the greatest need. Many of us feel the fear, loneliness, and separation of this Covid Pandemic. And yet through Christ, we are able to look at those in even greater need than ourselves. When we have compassion for those in need, we respond to the suffering of one another. This in turn makes us vulnerable. We begin to feel their pain and give out of Christ’s love. When we give because we care, we can have an impact just by being there. Have you ever wondered what to say to a person that has just lost something dear to them? You might listen carefully to their pain and then thank them for sharing. Your presence means more than any words that you might think will make the situation better.
I pray this holiday season that you will be blessed with good health, good friends, and a family that cares about you. St. John’s can be a family to all those who wish to join our community. With the eyes of our heart enlightened, we can love others as Christ loves us.
In Christ's love,
Friday, November 13 2020
“Emily Dickinson is a famous American poet who lived a rather unusual life. As an adult she rarely left her home and during the time that she lived “hidden away” she preferred wearing white dresses. She wrote nearly two thousand poems, but she hid most of her poems away as well. Only five of her poems were published during her lifetime. After she died her sister found her poems and they were published into books of poetry. How fortunate for the world that her poems were found and that others valued them enough to see that they were published. All of the poems of Emily Dickinson have now been published and thousands of readers take pleasure in the beauty and rhythm of her words” (Richard Donovan).
In today’s Gospel, each disciple is given a sum of talents. A talent in Jesus’ time was a very large sum of money. Multiply your annual income by 15 and you will have a relative idea about the value of a talent in the first century. The first steward is given 5 talents. He is able to double the money before the man returns from his journey. The second steward is given 2 talents and also doubles the value while the man is away. The man says to the first steward, “Well done good and trustworthy servant, you have been trustworthy in a few things, I put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.” The man says to the second steward, “Well done good and trustworthy servant, you have been trustworthy in a few things, I put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.” The man has the exact same response whether the stewards make 2 or 5 talents. What is important is what you make of what you’ve been given. The third steward is given 1 talent and is so afraid of the man, he hides the talent and gives it back to the man when he returns. The man is very disappointed with the third steward and takes away what he has and throws him out in the cold. Our lesson for today is that living in fear can hold us back from God’s plan. Perhaps Emily Dickinson did not think her poems were worthy of publishing. Thank God that her sister knew the value of her gift.
In today’s Covid environment, we are tempted to live in fear and not continue with our mission or our ministry at St. John’s. Jesus tells us that we all have been given gifts and talents and we are called to use our gifts and talents in God’s service. When everyone is deepening their relationship with God and one another, we are following God’s plan. Zoom services are not like being at St. John’s. I miss giving the Holy Eucharist to all our parishioners. I miss the pancakes and the feeling of family at St. John’s coffee hours. I miss all the kids running around at church. I will miss not being with my brothers, nephews, and nieces on Thanksgiving. But we must focus on our ministry and mission at St. John’s to insure that we are healthy when we come our of this pandemic. Please send your pledge card into the church this week so the vestry can make plans for next year. I know times are tough, but we really need every member of our church to share their time, talent, and treasure in 2021. Our mission is to know Christ and make him known. Together, we can be steadfast in our mission in St. John's 276th year.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, November 06 2020
Just below are the words of a song written by Linda Snow to an old English folk tune. Please read the song before you continue.
You are beloved branches, I am the Vine.
Abide in me, my people, my gifts are thine.
Drink of my living water and be refreshed.
I will fill you with my Spirit, and give you rest.
Without the vine, the branches will never bloom.
They'll bear no fruit or flowers, they'll wither soon.
Without my love dear children, you'll do the same.
You need my living water as flowers need rain.
Let my words live within you, and there I'll be.
To glorify my Father, abide with me.
Whatever you shall ask me, it shall be done.
My joy shall be within you, and all my love.
Yes, my joy shall be within you, and all my love.
You will notice immediately that the singer of this song is Jesus and that the ones who are addressed are his followers, are you and me.
If you are not fortunate enough to hear this music at a service this morning, then you will need to absorb it from within because Jesus is singing about you and me, about us, about Saint John's, about how his people are living out his commission to know him and make him known. Now the song is certainly more than about us and our parish, individually and corporately, but it is not less. He sings about a relationship between himself and us, a relationship of such intimacy that we are his people, beloved branches nourished by that water that issues from the one who is the true Vine.
One of the things we learn in the gospels is that Jesus is not aloof, not just paying us a casual visit from some far off heaven light years away; rather, he is tabernacling among us; he is the light shining his glory in Saint John's and to its people and, in one of Tom Wright's best metaphors, we have become angled mirrors reflecting joyfully that glory back to him. Linda Snow is not hesitant to reveal the real intimacy that Jesus desires with each of us. We are beloved branches who are grafted into him; all of his gifts are accessible and available to us and the people of Saint John's have used those gifts to feed the homeless, clothe the poor, proclaim the gospel, refresh others with the living water that has been given them; and so many have prayed—daily—for others—so that the joy of the living Lord that lies within them may refresh others. As we sang on All Saints' Day, we rest in the sure and certain hope that our Lord is our Captain in the darkness drear of this world, the one true Light.
Linda has Jesus sing to us in the last verse, Let my words live within you and, if you do, there I'll be. In the midst of fear and chaos, in the midst of civil strife and violence, in the midst of plague and natural disaster, why are Saint John's and its people thriving? Because Jesus has promised that those who have chosen to follow him, to believe and trust in him, to drink of his living water, will be refreshed and fulfill his commission to be filled with his Spirit and be for others what he has been and is for them. I don't think that Tom Wright knows either this song or this parish, yet he summarizes succinctly what is transpiring in Linda Snow's composition and at Saint John's: “The living God is going to make his home, as Jesus promised, not just with us, but actually in us. We are the branches extending out into the world, brought to life by God's Spirit so that we too can feed the lambs and tend the mother sheep.”
Under the Mercy,
The Vine & the Branches: Alex Pryrodny, piano