Friday, March 24 2023
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To set the mind on the flesh is death,
To the people of the Community of St. John’s Church in Huntington: grace and peace to you.
This Sunday’s biblical texts all center around the paradox of death and new life; the ending yet the beginning; the completion of one story and the creation or launch of another. The bolded quote above is from this weekend's second reading of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, which St. Paul sums up quite nicely. We as human beings have an inclination to focus on the material, immediate results, and what is right in front of us rather than imagining the future tree from seeds planted: the larger picture.
Our gospel this Sunday takes us straight to the heart of this. Jesus’ longtime friend, Lazarus, has died. Jesus knows that He divinely shares in God the Father’s majesty and power, but he still weeps at Lazarus’ grave. The last time I wrote to you, we were reminded that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. Jesus’ humanity showed when He wept for the loss of his friend, when He shared in solidarity the hurt and pain of Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha. Jesus was brought into setting His mind on the flesh - the times that were right before Him. I’m writing to you today to say that it is okay. We can take moments to cry and mourn like Jesus did for Lazarus. It is okay to be upset. What brings us to metaphorical death is the everlasting dwelling there in that space.
Our first reading is the shortened version of the Valley of Dry Bones, which is typically read as part of the Saturday night Easter Vigil service. If you have ever attended an Easter Vigil service, the reading of this scripture from Ezekial in the twilight vesper hours by candlelight is an experience. God asking “Mortal, can these bones live?” and the response being “Oh Lord, only you know.” God commands the mortal to prophesy over the bones and make them live and they graphically get up and have life put into them again, using the power of the Holy Spirit, Sophia. This is an Old Testament reference to the resurrection that was to come, certifying and proclaiming that yes, after death, there is life.
As I mentioned last Sunday at church, the Bishop has asked me to answer the call of Priest-in-Charge at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Patchogue. This too is easy for me to focus on the material, immediate results, and what is right in front of me. I think about the big change of where I’m living, how much I will miss this community and the sadness that accompanies this change. I am also slightly nervous about my uncertainty of what is to come. This is natural. I must accept that these things will come to mind first. After this moment passes, where I should dwell mentally is the true point of St. Paul’s message: if one’s mind is set on God’s will, that is what gives humanity life in itself, and allows God’s Holy Spirit, Sophia, into the discerning human’s heart.
Please join us this Sunday to share in Holy Communion at St. John’s Church in Huntington. You will be all truly missed, but I hope you, with me, see the greater picture for the universal (catholic) church at large. I give thanks to God for my time here, and for the growth and the good ministry of this holy place. I continue to pray for the influence of Sophia, the Holy Spirit, to guide the ministry that is happening here at St. John’s.
It has been my pleasure to serve you all, St. John’s. Cheers to the journey; until our paths cross again.
Your sibling in Christ,
Friday, March 17 2023
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I Once was Blind, but now I See – God’s Amazing Grace
The lectionary this week is filled with images of seeing, vision, light. The irony of seeing but not perceiving. I see! I get it! We come to learn that seeing, grasping, understanding from our human individual perspective has limits. Lent offers us a time to slow down, to journey with others in community and to look more deeply into our own hearts – to see, share, learn, and perhaps to heal.
It is not unusual to view things differently when we gather in community. Hundreds of years ago, our ancestors thought the world was flat – simply because flatness was what was in front of them. In time, we learned otherwise, but most of us have not had the opportunity to journey into outer space to see firsthand the glorious roundness of the earth, our island home.
After morning prayer coffee hour takes us into conversation about what we see. Shared from our varied perspectives we discover a bigger picture of what we face each day. The rain is preventing me from going out. The rain is flooding our streets. The rain is watering our earth.
Last week, we enjoyed a perspective of “seeing” from Fr. Chavez, Canon for Border Ministries in the Diocese of Arizona. Borders are all around us – do we see them? How does being here - in my own little space - impact my consideration of a deeper, universal truth? We all stand together on our earthly home. Why borders? What do they teach us if we are willing to risk grappling with the larger view? How does engaging in relationship with those we “see” as “others” help our hearts to change?
In our Old Testament reading, the Lord sends Samuel to locate a new king. Samuel, with grieving heart and eyes, is unable to see anything new or transformative in his immediate surroundings. But the Lord sends Samuel. Go, look, and trust that I will help you see. “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature… for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
The Gospel this week is filled images of seeing and not seeing. When our eyes are opened by Jesus, we are offered the gift of transformation – but often, like the Pharisees, we don’t trust our own eyes – we don’t want to see what is in front of us as we reject God’s gift. We are not ready and so we choose not to receive God’s unconditional love and mercy. We get swept away with a group mentality that tells us “What you think you see – in front of you -- is not real – not truth.” So we miss a deeper healing of our hearts and a bigger picture of what God’s love and mercy truly is.
As we continue our Lenten journey together, I challenge us all to open our hearts, minds, and eyes. Allow ourselves to receive and to notice things with new eyes – with the healed vision Jesus offers. Steve Garnaas-Holmes encourages us to “Loosen your grip. Stop trying to make things be what you want.” May we open our eyes, receive, and be healed. Maybe, just maybe, we will see, enjoy, and grow together in love as we accept and welcome the incredible beauty, richness and deep truths that surround us.
Journeying with you towards healing, clearer vision, and deeper love,
Friday, March 10 2023
The Journey Onward – Toward Love and Healing
The season of Lent is indeed a time to reflect on our journey together with Christ to Gethsemane and ultimately to the cross. We have been called to spend quiet time both alone and in community to deepen our relationship with Jesus – to bring him into the center of our lives. What does it mean to be in relationship with Jesus? Fr. Duncan had us ponder that question in his sermon just this past Sunday. Perhaps you have felt dry – disconnected even parched. I would like to suggest as we continue our Lenten journeys that we look for moments to quench our thirst as we spend time with Jesus in the wilderness.
The lectionary this week invites us to accompany Moses as he guided the whole congregation of Israelites through the desert. No water to drink – the people became tired, irritable. They quarreled among themselves. Why did you take us out of Egypt? Such short memories they had – Egypt was not a safe place! Give us water, they cried! Moses, frustrated beyond our capacity to comprehend cries out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people?” Can you imagine accompaniment on such a strenuous passage?
Our own Lenten journey is nothing like this. In our attempts to grow closer to God – to Jesus, I pray that none of us has reached that kind of bottom – the bottom the Israelites experienced. The bottom so many migrants and asylum seekers reach when they journey beyond what they know – terror and fear for their lives, food insecurity, lack of water and other basic survival resources. But the journeys they take are often just as dangerous as what they have left behind.
We all thirst – we thirst for renewed minds, renewed spirits, for forgiveness of our sins. Our Psalm reminds us that the Lord is a great God – but it also asks us not to harden our hearts like our “forebears did in the wilderness…” How do we grow in love? Paul reminds us that “suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
It is time for us all to open our hearts to Jesus. That is just what he wanted from the woman at the well – that she open her heart to him. Just like peeling the layers off an onion to get to the center or even peeling off the petals of a rose to get to its heart, Jesus had to peel off the layers of resistance and bias in this woman to allow – to enable her to accept his offering of living water. Jesus thirsted for her faith and he thirsts for ours also.
Please join with me in welcoming The Rev. David Chavez, Canon for Border Ministries from the Diocese of Arizona. He will preach on these scriptures on Sunday at both of our services. What an honor it is for us to be able to host him!
Please also join us on Saturday, March 11th for our Lenten Quiet day, hosted by our Spirituality Group. Fr. Chavez will speak from his deep experiences of the many challenges we as humans face in our world today – a world that feels so broken. And yet – there is hope. “Hope and Healing for a Broken World”
Beauty for brokenness
God of the poor
Growing together in Christ,
Friday, March 03 2023
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