Sunday, March 29 2020
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:38-43)
This past two weeks have been very difficult for many of us. Some are sick, some have lost jobs, some have closed their businesses, and some of us feel like we have been in a cave for four days. St. John’s will continue to do Morning Prayer each day this week at 9:00 AM. On Tuesday we will have Bible Study at 11:00 AM, Stations of the Cross at 5:30 PM, and Evening Prayer at 6:00 PM. We will celebrate Palm Sunday at 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM on April 5th, Maundy Thursday at 7:30 PM on April 9th, Good Friday at 12-3 PM and 7:30 PM on April 10th, and Easter on April 12th. We hope to throw in a few surprises also. The church will be closed, but our hearts will be open and Jesus will Rise. If you would like to participate in any of the services, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Palm Sunday we will re-member the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem without palms, a beautifully decorated altar, or a procession. We will celebrate Palm Sunday with a reading of the Passion of our Lord. If Jesus can raise Lazarus from the dead, he can be present in the Word of God.
The services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter are referred to as the Paschal Triduum. They 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 of year when many people who have wondered away from God, come back to church.
Maundy Thursday service begins online at 7:30 pm. The Gospel from John is read and we usually wash each other’s feet as a sign of our servanthood and love of one another. The service usually ends with a dramatic stripping of the altar.
Good Friday is a somber reminder of the depth of God’s love for us. Our first service is at 12:00 noon. 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. At 7:00 PM, we follow the Stations of the Cross and at 7:30 PM we have a choral service.
Easter Sunday is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection and the hope that Christ gives to each of us. We sing one of our favorite hymns, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.” These services help us to see ourselves as part of a community baptized into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Join us at all of the Triduum services and invite friends, family, newcomers, and guests to join us. Please re-member that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, March 20 2020
The Bishop of Long Island is directing all of our parishes not to resume public worship and events until at least May 17th. This means that we will not have Holy Week and Easter at St. John’s as originally planned. This will require us to connect differently than we have in the past. We are facilitating a virtual celebration of all services until at least May 17th. This will pose both challenges and opportunities. We will need to be creative and we will need to learn to do church differently for a few months.
Every weekday morning, we will pray together on Zoom with Morning Prayer. We will use Mission St. Clare on our phones to follow along with zoom on our computer. Please mute the sound unless you are reading the scripture or praying. It really helps to say the words out loud.
On Tuesdays we will have a Zoom bible study at 11:00 AM, Stations of the Cross will be streamed live at 5:30 PM and we will have a Zoom Evening Prayer at 6:00.
Sundays we will have Morning Prayer Rite I via Facebook Live at 8:00 AM, and Holy Eucharist Rite II will be live streamed at 10:00 AM on Facebook Live. Alex will be playing piano and Noelle and Leslie will be singing solos and duets.
Our primary focus is the same as always, loving and caring for one another in our parish and our community. Claire Mis will be gathering the names of the vulnerable and sick for our daily prayers and we are reaching out to all those in need with delivery of food and medicine. Laundry Love is still providing money for laundry in our community. I am working with Pete on organizing the AA group. We are getting food cards for the homeless from our ECW. I ask everyone to call a few members of the congregation every day. Many of us are experiencing job loss, loneliness, isolation and anxiety because of this pandemic. Our witness and ministry is needed now more than ever.
Please know that we are working every day to keep in touch, to pray with you and for you, to connect you through Zoom and live streaming, and to encourage you to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ. We will make you aware of opportunities to serve in the community as they arise.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. This is a time to listen to the medical professionals, avoid all contact with others, and wash our hands thoroughly. Please look after each other, be kind to everyone, and spend some quality time with your pets. My dog just knows when things are tough and teaches me to focus on the present and not worry about the future. Before we know it, we will all be back together.
Hang in there and know that God loves you deeply and will get us through this. If you need pastoral support, please reach out via email, text or phone. We are here for you. If you know of someone else in need of support, please let us know.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, March 13 2020
Sunday, March 08 2020
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from thy ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of thy Word, Jesus Christ thy Son; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (Collect for Lent II).
I know that there are a lot of people today that believe in God, but just can’t wrap their faith around the miracles, the resurrection, and that Jesus was the Son of God. This is probably the fastest growing religion in America right now. Loving God and your neighbor is the formula that Jesus recommended for all of us and I think that we would all agree to the two great commandments. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Again, it is easy for us to believe in a historical figure and we all want to go to some happy place after we die. But the unchangeable truth of thy Word is a little deeper than that. God is present in the water of our Baptism, in the bread and wine at the Eucharist, and in the Holy Spirit in the world. I believe that God claims us at our Baptism and anoints us with the Holy Spirit as a member of the Christian Church and that we are empowered with gifts that we will use to be the person that God calls us to be. Life is a spiritual journey and we are taking it together at St. John’s. Join us on Tuesday night for Journey to Freedom and Saturday, March 14th for our Lenten Retreat, “Journey with the Ammas: Words and Wisdom from the Desert” with Leslie Valentine.
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. Those who have lost their identity or purpose need to re-member the mighty acts that God has done for them and to know to whom they belong. I urge you to call your friends and family who have wandered from the church and invite them to re-member that Jesus Christ is Lord. It takes steadfast faith to proclaim Jesus Christ as the one who died on a cross for our sins and rose from the dead to prove to us that we will have eternal life. This is the unchangeable truth that we must not only believe, but the truth that we must tell to the next generation. If we are falling into the group that feels that Jesus was a great human being and that he taught a wonderful pattern for us to follow then the future of our church is bleak.
One of the youth in our confirmation class asked me if the miracles in the bible were real. I told her that they are still real today and gave her several examples of miracles that I have witnessed to the power of God. The Holy Spirit is plain to see in the hearts of those who minister here and in the ministry that we do. We live in scary times with the coronavirus, the changing weather patterns, and the hostility that we have for one another. Re-member the marvelous things that God has done, open your eyes to what God is doing now, believe in the unchangeable truth of Jesus Christ, join us this Lent on a spiritual journey that will deepen your relationship with God, and help bring the next generation at St. John’s to Christ as our good folks have been doing for 275 years.
In Christ’s love,
Sunday, March 01 2020
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith. I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word
Lent is the time when we realize that the distractions of the world have kept us from God’s purpose in our lives. 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. Please observe a Holy Lent and take a few quiet moments to re-examine your commitment to God’s purpose. Please invite your family and friends to join you each Sunday in Lent. Please attend our five Tuesday night programs and our retreat on March 14th with Leslie Valentine. This is the season when those who have been away, come back to the love and mercy of God. The church offers the practice of fasting in the season of Lent. This is not recommended for seniors, children, or those with medical issues. Fasting means skipping a meal and using the time to pray. Some people will give up an expensive habit or extravagance like lattes at Starbucks and give quarters to Laundry Love. An even better practice would be to give up some TV or social media time and volunteer at the thrift shop or clean out your closet of cloths that you no longer wear and bring them to St. John’s.
God is very near to us and loves us dearly. Each week I share the body and blood of our Lord with the good folks at St. John’s on Sunday morning. These sacraments are an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. When we can let go of our petty need for control over others and our enmity with others, we can live in love and charity with our neighbors. 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 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. Please join for Sunday services as you are able in Lent.
I have preached the last two weeks how deeper relationships can bring us to a place of great joy, even in the midst of pain. 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 we are. 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. Life can become more fulfilling and wonderful when we align our lives with the purpose of God. This is the true meaning of Lent, to align ourselves once again with God. God calls us to an abundant life and the only things we should give up are those things that draw us away from the love of Christ.
This Sunday is Newcomer Sunday. Please make a special effort to greet our newcomers with a radical hospitality. St. John’s is always about community. Please join us today for a cup of coffee and a few pancakes after the service in the Great Hall.
In Christ’s love,