Friday, May 27 2022
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“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 1:12-17).
Jesus preached love amidst hatred; unity amidst divisiveness; faith amidst the legalistic religious leaders of his day; inclusiveness amidst exclusionary religious leaders; wholeness amidst the brokenhearted; freedom amidst those held in yokes of bondage; Jesus spoke truth to power. Christ preached a love so radical that it cost him his life.
Meister Eckhart, a renowned German mystic said: “We must learn neither to seek nor to take our own advantage in any matter, but always to find and procure the advantage of God. For God does not give gifts, nor did he ever give one, so that man might keep it and take satisfaction in it; but all were given – all he ever gave on earth or in heaven – that he might give us this one more: himself. With all his giving he is trying only to prepare us for the gift that he himself is; and all his works – all that he ever did on earth or in heaven – he did for the sake of this one more: to perfect our happiness. Therefore I say that we must learn to look through every gift and every event to God and never be content with the thing itself. There is no stopping place in this life – no, nor was there ever for any man, no matter how far along his way he’d gone. This above all, then, be ready at all times for the gifts of God and always for new ones.”
Jesus prays for all believers in the present and in the future. The disciple’s will need the love of Christ to carry the Word of God. They will give glory to God and write about it in the New Testament so that others from every generation will come to believe. If we believe that through Jesus’ unity with this radical love that the glory of God is shown, then we are Easter People. We are resurrection people and we can bet that being unified in this radical love is not going to bring us in harmony with everyone around us. Paul practices this same type of unity with the father and he ends up in prison. A slave girl who can tell fortunes is being used to make profits for her owners. When Paul removes the spirit that gives her the power to tell fortunes, the owners get angry. Paul is just doing what is right, but if that affects their profits, then the Roman authorities can throw him in jail. The glory of Jesus is at the center of our lives. Every ministry we do, every person we help, and every use of the gifts that we have been given are for the glory of God and not ourselves. 1 John 4:11: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” This week’s sermon is about unity. We may not be in unity with everyone. Our unity is in the glory of God.
The confirmation class will meet next Sunday after the 10:00 service with me. It is Pentecost Sunday. We will decide what outreach the church will do with the funds received for the bishop’s visit. We have $1,960.00 to spend! Thank you to everyone who gave to our outreach fund.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, May 20 2022
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In John’s fifth chapter, we hear Jesus having mercy on a man who has been sick for a long time; the gospel writer says the man has been sick for thirty-eight years. This is an obscure number to mention and it caught my eye. This number mirrors us back to the Old Testament. In the Book of Deuteronomy, the Israelites were in the desert for thirty-eight years, plus the two beforehand of building the ark and seeing the miracles God had presented them. Once the forty years were over, God gave mercy and revealed a time of hope and prosperity in this new place.
In John’s Gospel this Sunday, at the Pool of Beth-zatha, the man there could never be healed – he couldn’t find the hope he sought. The Pool of Beth-zatha isn’t your average pool. It is ancient pool in Jerusalem that was in an undiscovered location until the 19th century. Legend says that angels would swirl the water in the pool and the first person who entered the swirling water would be cured of ailments of many kinds, cleansed of illness, filled with promises of a better life ahead.
Jesus asked the man, “do you want to be made well?” The sick man talked about the impossibility of the occurrence. “Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool.” He obviously had an ailment in walking; he is struggling to get to the pool, to attempt to receive healing from the waters stirred up by the angels. He also appears to be a faithful, believing man. Jesus never asked the man what he did or what he had done to try to heal. He simply asked “do you want to be made well?”
Are you suffering from an ailment? It could be physical, emotional, or even spiritual. Perhaps you have struggled for many years and the suffering continues, even though you have prayed daily and attended church weekly. ‘Where is God?’ you wonder. Maybe this is an issue of forgiveness. Do you need to forgive yourself? Easter is a season of resurrection and new life. Jesus is calling to you: “do you want to be made well?” He is prepared to send the angels to swirl the pool for you. Yes, he wants to heal you. God wants to give you His mercy and reveal to you a time of hope and prosperity, but first, Jesus asks this most provocative question, “Do you want to be made well?" How will you answer Jesus?”
Your sibling in Christ,
Friday, May 13 2022
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Open Unto Me, Lord by Howard Thurman
Open unto me — light for my darkness.
Open unto me — courage for my fear.
Open unto me — hope for my despair.
Open unto me — peace for my turmoil.
Open unto me — joy for my sorrow.
Open unto me — strength for my weakness.
Open unto me — wisdom for my confusion.
Open unto me — forgiveness for my sins.
Open unto me — love for my hates.
Open unto me — thy Self for myself.
Lord, Lord, open unto me! Amen.
I was watching 60 minutes this past Sunday. They were doing a story about anxiety among 7th and 8th graders. This Covid pandemic had a profound effect on the mental health of young people. Kids that were "A" students are failing classes because of the stress and difficulties in remote learning. Lots of kids have suffered from mental illness because of these past two years. I think it is safe to say that this pandemic has caused mental health consequences for almost every age group. Jesus said, “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other” (John 13:34-35 The Message).
Howard Thurman’s poem asks God to open unto me hope for despair. This week’s reading tells us that God will live among us and “he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21: 4). The point of these passages is that God can get us through the tough times in our lives. Instead of fighting with one another, we can help each other. Instead of being mad at one another, we can listen to one another. In today’s lesson from Acts, Peter finally understands that God’s love is offered to everyone. We are to love God and love our neighbor.
The solution is not to scream or get angry and frustrated at one another, but to love one another. The solution is to follow Christ who is the way, the truth and the life. We are to steadfastly follow the Way of Love according to our collect this Sunday and our Presiding Bishop Curry. Sometimes God answers your prayers with the help you need.
This week, I ask you to give a warm welcome to Fr. James Reiss, our new curate. I am excited to have him join Deacon Claire and me as members of our St. John’s clergy. We have been hoping and praying for help. The bishop has sent us a newly ordained priest who will help our younger folks and families. His many talents include music ministry, children, youth, and young adult ministry, theater, military chaplaincy, and his abounding energy and love of Christ will be a real asset to our active parish. I am delighted that he will start with us this Sunday, May 15th. We are asked to help him grow into his ministry with kindness and support. Please join him for some treats and coffee after church today in the parish hall.
Lastly, I am teaching bible study in May and June on the resurrection. Jesus came unto us to change our world from darkness to light, from despair to hope, and from turmoil to peace by giving himself for us. As he rose on Easter, we will rise as a congregation through loving and caring for one another. Open your heart to the life changing love of Jesus Christ. If you are feeling a little down, please don’t lose hope. God’s love is all around you in this place.
In Christ's love,
Friday, May 06 2022
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The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psalm 23 KJV).
I ask you to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. Maybe you are like Thomas and ask, “How can we know the sound of your voice?” One way to hear the voice of the shepherd is to align your mission with our Anglican Mission. The Five Marks of Mission are:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer has been one of my favorite theologians because he loved the Lord and followed the Good Shepherd. He wrote about the beatitudes and helping the poor and oppressed. He challenged those who where doing evil to others. Unlike many Christians that kept silent during the Nazi reign, Bonhoeffer gave his life to try and stop Hitler. The Quakers heard the voice of the Shepherd and spoke up against slavery when most churches were silent. They stood up for a group of people that had no money nor power and therefore had no voice. God calls those with a voice to stand up for those who have no voice. The White Supremacy movement, as of late is very disconcerting. The Racial Reconciliation and Social Justice Committee at St. John’s urges you to join us in the next section of Sacred Ground. The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Long Island, and the congregation of St. John’s have all committed to the long term work of transforming unjust structures and promoting racial reconciliation in our community. I believe that the Good Shepherd calls us to this work and I hope that you will participate in this ministry. I for one will not be silent about our need in America for racial reconciliation. Who in the church will stand up with me and speak the truth against the hate mongers in our midst?
Another way to hear the voice of the Shepherd is through creation. God created every living thing and everything in the universe. I like to garden with my wife. This month we will begin a unit on creation care. We will try and improve the way we care for creation. We will assemble a green team that will gather recommendations for both St. John’s and individuals. More people hear the voice of God in nature than in churches. We will invite Rev. Matthew Moore to preach on July 17th and he will speak as the Missioner of Environmental Justice in the Diocese of Long Island.
Last weekend we confirmed, received and gave first communion to many of our children, youth, and adults. We will continue to teach children and have baptisms. Please pray for Christine and our teachers and bring your kids to Sunday school at 9:45 on Sunday mornings. It takes a whole village to raise a child. This week our confirmands will decide where the money collected last weekend will go to support mission and outreach per our bishop.
We will continue to respond to human need by helping the homeless through HIHI, helping families in need through laundry love, donating to charities through our ECW, and helping others through our Thrift Shop. Please drop off some cloths, buy a raffle ticket, or visit us on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Saturdays.
In Christ’s love,