Sunday, February 23 2020
“Joy is the meeting place of deep intentionality and self-forgetting, the bodily alchemy of what lies inside us in communion with what formally seemed outside, but is now neither, but become a living frontier, a voice speaking between us and the world…Joy can be made by practiced, hard-won achievement as much as by an unlooked for, passing act of grace arriving out of nowhere; joy is a measure of our relationship to death and our living with death, joy is the act of giving ourselves away before we need to or are asked to, joy is practiced generosity. If joy is a deep form of love, it is also the raw engagement with the passing seasonality of existence, the fleeting presence of those we love understood as gift, going in and out of our lives, faces, voices, memory, aromas of the first spring day or a wood-fire in winter, the last breath of a dying parent as they create a rare, raw, beautiful frontier between loving presence and a new and blossoming absence. To feel a full and untrammeled joy is to have become fully generous; to allow ourselves to be joyful is to have walked through the doorway of fear…the sheer privilege of being in the presence of a mountain, a sky or a well-loved familiar face - I was here and you were here and together we made a world” (David Whyte).
In the Gospel, Peter, John, and James go to the mountain to pray. Jesus face changed in appearance and his clothes became dazzling white. Then they see Moses and Elijah, talking to him. It was obvious that they were outside the temporal realm. Do you believe in a world outside the temporal world in which we live?
Last week I spoke of a path that brings us to wholeness in our lives. I explained that two of the characteristics of the abundant life are deep relationships and deep joy. The poet David Whyte helps us to understand what deep joy is. If we live our life (to the best of our ability) as God intends us to live, we are promised the peace that passes all understanding. This inner peace is the key to a life filled with joy. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life because if we follow him we will experience the abundant life that we are promised.
The abundant life is filled with experiences outside the temporal realm. This fleeting presence of the Kingdom of Heaven is a foretaste of what we will experience in eternity after our resurrection. In today’s lesson Jesus crosses the temporal realm so that the disciples may have this foretaste, but the disciples are not in the right place to understand. I imagine that most of us miss out on the deep joy and peace that we are offered by God because we are too distracted by our egos, our anger, and other “stuff.” The trick in life for me is to let go of the “stuff,” give of ourselves to others, and to forgive others as we are forgiven by God. This deepens our relationship with God and our neighbor and allows us to experience the full benefit of God’s love and mercy. We are not only able to recover from bad things that happen to us, but somehow the glue that puts us back together makes us stronger than we had ever been. Once we see each other as broken vessels in need of the love and mercy of God, we love all our neighbors because we know that they are just as broken as us. We begin to walk the path that our Savior walked, who hung on a cross that he might know our pain and we might know the hope of the resurrection.
In Christ’s love,
or Psalm 99
Sunday, February 16 2020
"The great malady of our time, implicated in all of our troubles and affecting us individually and socially, is 'loss of soul.' When soul is neglected, it doesn't just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning... The emotional complaints of our time, complaints we therapists hear every day in our practice include, emptiness, meaninglessness, vague depression, disillusionment about marriage, and family, relationship, a loss of values, yearning for personal fulfillment... All of these symptoms reflect a loss of soul and let us know what the soul craves." (Thomas More).
There is no doubt in my mind that our nation suffers from a loss of soul. David Brooks describes the problem as, “The foundational layer of American society — the network of relationships and commitments and trust that the state and the market and everything else relies upon — is failing,” he writes. “And the results are as bloody as any war.” The consequences of our rampant individualism — tribalism and social isolation reflected in an epidemic of suicide, addiction and despair — have reached crisis proportions, he writes. But personal renewal, second-mountain-style, can do more than save our souls. It can rescue us from societal collapse.” This second mountain or recovery of soul can be achieved if we allow the Gospel to change our thoughts and actions. Jesus says that our righteousness has to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees or you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. As we grow older, we realize that there is more to life than money, success, and recognition. We realize that relationships are the most important thing to revive our soul. Many of us have created barriers to loving our neighbor. We don’t like their politics, the color of their skin, or where they come from.
Today’s lessons ask us to love God and our neighbor. We are promised abundant life, the second mountain, the Kingdom of Heaven or whatever you call the feeling of deep contentment, relationship and joy. We must turn from the tribalism and individualism in this nation that are destroying our soul. St. John’s offers an opportunity to shine our light to the community of Huntington as we have for the past 275 years. Lots of people will hear our story and visit us during our 275th Anniversary celebration this year. I ask you to deepen your relationship with Christ and one another. Love those in need by volunteering for our Thrift Shop, Laundry Love, HIHI homeless ministry, or any of our many ECW activities. Treat one another with respect and dignity and welcome the stranger with radical hospitality. Teach our children that church still matters by attending regularly. Fill the church with your prayers, praise, and worship.
In today’s Old Testament reading, Moses is talking to the people of Israel as they prepare to enter the Promised Land after forty years of struggling in the desert and leaving their captivity in Egypt. The People of Israel have sinned or turned from God again and again. Moses tells them, “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess” (Duet. 30:15-16).
In Christ’s love,
Friday, February 07 2020
“Shine in our hearts, Lord Jesus”
Since the year is 2020, one of the things that I’d like to do is explore briefly the theme of sight, of clarity of vision, of beholding with so much more than merely our physical eyes. The key to all this seeing is to behold the one who is the “light of the world” and then respond to his summons to us to follow him and fulfill our vocations and become light-bearers to the world.
In one sense, Jesus’ declaration that he is “the light of the world” can function as a song that signals an entrance into the acts and events of individual lives and out the other side, a journey that commences in response and concludes in glory. This is music that sings of a pilgrimage; it is a tune that is played with many variations throughout the world, but the theme is always the same: that Jesus died for our sins and that God raised him from the dead; it is a hymn whose music rises and falls until it finally erupts in action while there is still time; it is a composition that announces some of the great themes of our redemption. For us to fulfill our vocation, to be a light in the dark culture of the world, will be to “know the joy of Jesus.”
Perhaps an analogy will help. Do you remember the Robin Williams movie Dead Poets’ Society? At the beginning of that movie, the new and charismatic English teacher, Mr. Keating, takes his class from the security of their J. R. Pritchard text book with its suffocating definition of poetry and the sanctity of the classroom into the hall and invites them into a relationship with the “living presence of the past” and engage themselves with all those dead who are pictured on a corridor wall or memorialized in a trophy case. Then he asks his students to hear the voices of the dead calling to them “Carpe diem! Carpe diem! Seize the day.” Well, the music of the Sermon on the Mount functions in a similar way; it whispers to us to go beyond the hillside setting and some magnetic and mesmerizing words spoken by Jesus, beyond the narrow confines of a Sunday morning service snuggled in comfortable pews, and engage ourselves with a Lord and Savior who is eternally present, to see ourselves embracing intimately all that he has done for us as living Lord, and to fulfill our vocations to be “the light of the world.”
We sing that we want “to see the brightness of God, to look at Jesus,” and we ask the “Clear sun of righteousness” to “shine on [our] path and show [us] the way to the Father,” which means that we desire to be enabled to fulfill our vocations to be the light of the world. We look up and see, but sometimes we are mesmerized, sometimes we don’t stop to drink in or behold so in a hurry are we to get somewhere else and thus we lose all that the moment has to offer. Perhaps we’re just in a hurry to move on to the next part of the service. But such haste is a mistake because the landscape on the mount and the call to be the light of the world offers a pageant that takes time to unfold. This song opens up for us the entire drama of salvation through the acts of Jesus and our responses to those acts.
So, what are we to do? Well, again, we are to look up and see, but what are we to see? Let me suggest that what we behold is a glimpse of glory, a glimpse that teases and tantalizes because the complete composition is not yet fully unveiled. We sing; may we behold as well “the light that shines in our hearts through Jesus our Lord” so that we may be “a light to light all nations.” Can you and I apprehend for just a moment that such seeing is what we are made for, that such seeing is a gift, a vision that has the power to alter what one is on the inside as with cleansed sight one beholds the Lord who is the light of the world and obeys his summons. As Bishop Tom Wright points out so poetically and perceptively in Christians at the Cross, a marvelous collection of Holy Week meditations, “If you want to know what Christ’s death and resurrection mean, you have to hear the music, to listen not just to the tune which says he died and rose, but to the harmony which says ‘and this is what it means.’”
To look and behold Jesus coming as the light of the world and to fulfill our vocation to be the light of the world—well—it is to begin to see that it is he and he alone, this beaten, battered, broken, and shattered man—who holds the key to salvation and who is the sole response to the dominion of sin in our world.
To look and behold Jesus coming as the light of the world and to fulfill our vocation to be the light of the world—well—it is to begin to see that it is he and he alone, this beaten, battered, broken, and shattered man—who holds the key to salvation and who is the sole response to the dominion of sin in our world. Ecce—behold—look and see the Lamb of God “who takes away the sins of the world.” If you and I want to walk as children of the light, if we want to “see the brightness of God,” if we truly want to be the light of the world and “look for the coming of Christ,” then we must act and bring others to the Lord of all. As Bishop Wright argues, we must “Learn to see the glory in the cross; learn to see the cross in the glory.” If this is a lesson that we can manage, then the response to our Lord’s call is under way. That unmistakable voice will be a clear tocsin sounded with power and beauty and love.
“This is what I’ve longed for,” sings Emile De Becque in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific. Well, when we become the light of the world, we get the awesome sense that this is what we’ve longed for, that this is what we were created for. Fools will attempt to give us a reason for this; the wise dare not even make the attempt. When everything is placed in its proper perspective, we are left with a clear vision, an awareness that to be called to be the light of the world is to be given a loving invitation to a new way of life. The eternal joy of Jesus becomes a living reality as he shines in our hearts.
“Shine in our hearts, Lord Jesus.”
Sunday, February 02 2020
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
I would like to thank all our parishioners on a beautiful year in 2019 and encourage you to make 2020 even better at St. John’s. This will be our 275th Anniversary. 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, our wardens, Scott and Rob, our vestry, and committee chairs. We give a special thank you to Camille, who has faithfully served as our vestry clerk.
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, a brief annual meeting, and a special Taizé service. We will elect a warden, a vestry clerk, and three vestry members. In 2020, our priorities are the 275th Anniversary, 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 one of the following ministries: Laundry Love, 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.
1st Communion classes are beginning with Sue McGinnis on Wednesday February 12th at 5:00 and 1st Communion will be April 19th at the 10:00 service. Confirmation classes will continue on Sunday, February 23rd at 5:30pm. Confirmation is May 9th at 11:00am at the Cathedral in Garden City. Our Youth Group meets at 6:30pm 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. St. John’s will be hosting people who are homeless on February 14th through our HIHI program right here at St. John’s. Please bring in food for the Food Pantry and donations for our Thrift Shop. We are particularly looking for men’s jeans, t-shirts, boots, and sneakers. 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