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The Chalice
Friday, March 05 2021

“The love which he incarnated, by which we are saved, is to become the love which fills us beyond capacity and flows out to heal the world; so that the Word may become flesh once more, and dwell (not just among us, but) within us. Having beheld his glory, we must then reveal his glory, glory as of the beloved children of the father, full of grace and truth.” 

(NT Wright and Michael Bird, The New Testament in its World)

Last Sunday, Alex, our choir, and the choirs and musicians of St. Augustine’s, Brooklyn put on a Gospel Concert. What made it remarkable was the deep spiritual content of the program. Gospel music can be incredibly more than just a genre of music. Claire told us that Gospel singing goes deep into our physical beings and I believe that it can go right into our souls. This way of thinking is expressed perfectly in the Gospel of John. Jesus says I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Fr. John said in Bible Study that there is one word that sums us the Gospel of John, Love. Paul said that, “The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us that are being saved it is the power of God” (1Cor. 1:18). Our mission at St. John’s is to feel deep in our hearts the love of God through Jesus Christ so strongly that the love of Jesus Christ exudes from our singing, hospitality, worship, prayer, mission outreach, and love of our neighbor.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus travels to Jerusalem early in his ministry. Jesus prepares for the Passover by going to temple in Jerusalem three times in John’s Gospel. The temple in Jerusalem was the center of attention for Jews in Jesus’ time and Passover was the time when Jews made a pilgrimage to the city. Jerusalem was the place that their God had promised to dwell with them. It was more than just the place where they worshiped; it was the center of all facets of their life. When he arrives he is angered by the money changers and the merchants. Some are trying to make a large profit by converting Greek or Roman coinage to Tyrian currency so that it may be donated to the temple. Others are controlling the sale of animals to be used in temple worship. Jesus can’t believe what is going on and he seems to totally lose control. He makes a whip and chases away the animals, turns over the tables and pours out the coins of the money changers. Jesus had the ability to see not only their actions, but also their motivation. This is a deep conviction from Jesus that the people of God have forsaken their relationship with God and reverence for God’s house for personal gain. Jesus is purging the temple of those who are taking advantage of the pilgrims.

Too often today, I see churches that are focused on being politically correct and as a result miss the truth. While taking the popular flavor of their cultural time, they miss the whole point of the Gospel. The Gospel is offensive to those who use God’s House for personal gain. The Gospel is offensive to those who pollute our environment for their personal comfort. The Gospel asks us to love God and our neighbor. Therefore, it is offensive to those who do not love God with all their heart, soul, and might. It is offensive to those who hate one another. The Gospel is offensive to those who perpetuate racism by what they say or don’t say.

“I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 3:15-22).

Today is a perfect day to hear the love of the Gospel of John and to give yourself fully to God. God waits patiently for a deeper relationship. Your witness in word and deed may be the only Gospel that many people will ever hear. Ring true to the love of God deep in your heart as our choirs and musicians did at our Gospel Concert!

In Christ's Love,

Fr. Duncan

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Posted by: Rev. Duncan A. Burns AT 10:24 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, February 28 2021

Lord, your summons echoes true

When you but call my name.

Let me turn and follow you

And never be the same.

In your company I'll go

Where your love and footsteps show.

Thus I'll move and live and grow

In you and you in me (The Summons).

Paul’s finest letter, in my opinion, is his letter to the Romans. Written at about 57 BCE, Paul writes to the church in Rome to establish them in the true Gospel. The theme of the book is the righteousness of God. Righteousness (dikaiosune in Greek) is given by the mercy of God through faith. In this week’s lessons, we observe that Abraham was given the free gift of righteousness long before God gave the law to Moses through the Ten Commandments. Abraham did not earn the righteousness of God through the law. Salvation comes through the mercy and love of God simply because we are God’s beloved. When we were baptized, we were sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.

God makes a covenant that “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you” (Genesis 17:7).

We were all created in God’s likeness and image. We are called to move and live and grow, me in you and you in me. We need to have faith in God’s ability to call us into relationship. God’s grace is unearned. We cannot earn salvation through any work of our own. All of us have committed sins, but because God loves us, God gave Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, to die on a cross for our sins. Many people worry about sins that we have committed. Those sins were washed away like the ocean washes away a sand castle at high tide. We are asked to repent or turn to God in Lent.

Our response to the love, mercy, and grace of God is to give God praise, develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, and to love our neighbor. A perfect example of that was last week’s Gospel Concert. Our relationship with St. Augustine’s has created a bond that is palpable. Several members messaged me that they cried as the youth sang last Sunday. The music went beyond this temporal world, through the bones and muscles in our bodies, and into our souls. The deep faith of our congregation meets the deep faith of St. Augustine’s and creates a bond much stronger than our cultural norms that would divide us.

In today’s Gospel Jesus asks, “Who do they say I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:27-27). The Messiah by definition is the Savior of the people. Christian’s believe that Christ is the anointed Messiah, who came to save us. I ask you to put your trust in God. Have faith that your sins are forgiven and respond by listening to God, loving God and loving your neighbor. The Hebrew word Shema means to listen, but also to obey God’s will for our lives. We are children of Abraham because he modeled what Shema means. Shema is that bond that we create through racial reconciliation.     

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Duncan

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Posted by: Rev. Duncan A. Burns AT 10:39 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, February 21 2021

The spiritual journey is a process of liberation from programs for happiness that cannot possibly work: ones rooted in the gratification of instinctual needs for security, approval, power, and control. The journey is not just a method of mediation or a practice to find personal peace. Rather, it is a total surrender to the human condition, in all its ramifications, including its desperate woundedness. It is a transformative process into the light, life, and love of God. Then we no longer manifest the false self but the image of God within us and the likeness to God which is the assimilation of the mind and heart of Christ into our everyday life (Heartfulness, The Human Condition, Overview).

Lent is the time when we realize that the distractions of the world have kept us from God’s purpose in our lives. This pandemic has given us free time at home, but many of us are consumed with social media, online shows, the weather and all the political nonsense that the networks try to get us addicted to. 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. Please journey with St. John’s and observe a Holy Lent this year. Take a few quiet moments to re-examine the gifts that God has given you and align yourself again to God’s purpose.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Please use this Lenten season to go into a deeper relationship with Christ. Join us for Morning Prayer at 9:00 AM. Join us on Tuesdays via Zoom for Stations of the Cross at 6:00PM, Evening Prayer at 6:30, and our Adult Christian education program from 7:00-8:00. We will look at racial reconciliation through children’s books this year. Next Sunday, February 21st at 4:00 PM we will offer a Gospel Concert with our sister parish St. Augustine’s in Brooklyn. On Saturday February 28th, Fr. John will lead our quiet day via Zoom from 9:30-11:30 AM. This year’s topic is “Eternity & the Public Library.” Monday nights at 6:30PM and Tuesday Mornings at 11:00 AM we will be offering Bible Study. Thursday nights we do compline at 8:15 PM.

Our Mission at St. John’s is to Know Christ and to Make Christ Known. Lent is the perfect opportunity to do this at St. John’s. You are God’s Beloved and God blessed you with gifts that you might a blessing to others. Despite this nightmare that many are facing during this pandemic, we can be a light to others. But first, we must take care of ourselves and one another. We offer extensive opportunities to step out of this confused culture we live in and into the loving arms of our Lord. May all that we do be to the glory of God!

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever” (Ephesians 3:20-22).

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Duncan

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Posted by: Rev. Duncan A. Burns AT 10:37 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, February 14 2021

Has God ever revealed his glory to you? If you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and answered “no” to this question, then I promise you that you will witness God’s transforming grace one day. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10). Jesus brings us from shadow into light, from brokenness into wholeness, from blindness into seeing, and from death into life. Herbert O’Driscoll, renowned Anglican theologian and preacher, believes that God offers all of us this transforming grace, but the heartbreaking paradox is that even though we desire meaning, purpose and fulfillment more than ever in our age, the many demands for our time and sheer busyness in our lives often push God’s transforming grace to the periphery of our thoughts.

The collect asks God to strengthen us to bear our cross and that we might be changed into his likeness. As we prepare for a Holy Lent, I ask you to listen for a small, still voice. God reveals his glory to us that we might witness with passion. Witnessing with passion is following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. It means to give of yourself for the sake of others. This week, we were asks if our churches went out of business because of the financial stress that non-profits are feeling, would anyone in our community even notice? I believe that St. John’s can be a light in the shadows of a confused and divided nation.

Jesus Christ was about connection. In the story of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus connected the Old Testament with the New Testament. Moses represented the law and Elijah was a great prophet. Jesus removes the temporal setting so that the disciples might understand that when he dies on a cross, he will rise again. It was a glimpse that they could not fully understand,but it is through those glimpses that we are passionate about our faith. We know that God loves us, that our Redeemer lives and that the Holy Spirit can strengthen us to follow and bear witness.

In Christ's love,

Fr. Duncan

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Posted by: Rev. Duncan A. Burns AT 10:35 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 22 2021

Hope and Good News are in the Air!

This has been such a difficult year for most of us and recent events have added to our continued angst and feelings of hopelessness. But it is important for us to remember that there is always hope for Christians. With the change in our government along with clearer ways that we may receive our vaccinations, we may begin to see a brighter future ahead.

All of the scripture for Sunday is pointing toward that hope. The Psalm is so comforting – reminding us that God is our rock, our salvation and our stronghold. We can indeed trust God and lean on him. He is undeniably powerful and steadfast, and promises never to abandon us, even in the midst of turmoil and confusion.

The Gospel message has asked us to be available – to be ready to respond to Jesus’ call to ministry. That call for all of us at St. Johns is to deepen our knowledge of Christ and to make Christ known in our world. That, dear friends, is what evangelism is all about. How we spread the good news may depend on our unique personalities, our gifts and our temperaments, but there are as many ways to spread the Gospel as there are parishioners here at St. Johns. Of course, the easiest way is to know who Christ is and to live out his message in your daily actions. Perhaps taking a meal to one of our fellow-parishioners in need, or helping to transport a friend who is unable to drive to a medical appointment. It may be as simple as picking up the phone and reaching out to someone from whom you haven’t heard in awhile. This is not hard…we can all share the Gospel message of love and charity through our actions.

Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians that the “present form of this world is passing away.” We are being instructed to make the most of our time before Christ’s return. There is an urgency about answering the call. Let us not wait, like Jonah, for God to call us twice. We have been given the Good News. Now we too have been called, just like Jesus’ disciples to spread that good news – whether it be in words or actions, but please, let’s make our words and actions reflect the heart of who Jesus is.

Faithfully yours,

Claire Mis

Seminarian

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Posted by: Claire Mis, Seminarian AT 09:30 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 15 2021

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry uses the 2nd Inaugural Speech of Abraham Lincoln and the words of Martin Luther King Jr. to ask the question, “Who will we be?” Should we as a nation go forth in chaos or community? Jesus taught us to move towards the Kingdom of God. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then unselfish sacrificial love is the way beyond chaos to community. The Episcopal Church asks us to work together on a path away from chaos to Beloved Community. Please be an agent of God’s love by blessing someone in need this very day.

 “God, the Gospel proclaims, works that Divine Will not through the overwhelming demonstration of power, but rather by working from powerlessness and vulnerability that is both apparent and real. What transforms, what transfigures this powerlessness into the power that God uses to the Good is the willingness to be open to God. To be made, and remade, in God’s image. And that takes imagination, courage and faith” (The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk).

In today’s Gospel from the first chapter of John Nathanael meets Jesus and says to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Phillip said to him, "Come and see." When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you." Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God!”

In the Gospel of Mark, it is the Roman Centurion that acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God after he dies on the cross for our sins. In John’s Gospel, Nathaniel declares that Jesus is truly the Son of God. Jesus knew us well before we knew him and we are anointed with the Holy Spirit to be the Beloved Community that God calls us to be.

If you are wondering how we will proceed as a nation through all the chaos, I ask you to put your faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is in our vulnerability and powerlessness against this Covid virus that we need to stay safe and put our faith in God. Together we can make it through this. Once you have faith that God can transform this chaotic mess into community again, you are able to reflect the light of Christ to a dark world. We do that through proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord, seeking to develop our relationship with him in prayer and worship, and loving our neighbor. Please join me in prayer and worship on Sunday in person at 8 and 11 or on zoom for Morning Prayer at 8 and 9:15. I ask you to turn in prayer to the love of God in Jesus Christ. We would also like for you to join us at 9:00 for daily Morning Prayer and on Tuesday evening at 6:30PM for a dramatic Reading of the Gospel of Mark.

Let me end with the question that Presiding Curry asks us,” Who will we be?” Please have trust in God that we can break free in our vulnerability from the chaos and into Beloved Community if we love God and one another.

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Duncan

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Posted by: Rev. Duncan A. Burns AT 11:42 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 08 2021

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. “But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her (Luke1:26-38).

One of the greatest surprises in the story of God’s coming into our midst is that God did not choose a queen or a princess to be the mother of God’s Son. In fact, God chose a very unlikely person. Instead of choosing royalty from a high and mighty family, God chose a lowly maid. In a period of history that emphasized the importance of age, God chose a young virgin. In an empire where wealth was power, God chose a poor servant, betrothed to a Jewish carpenter.

God comes to ordinary people with an incredible plan to bring God’s reign in heaven on earth. As we look at the many ways God has come to people in the past, we can see a pattern in their response. Mary says, “Here I am Lord, let it be according to your will.” There is an incredible relinquishing of control that takes place when we faithfully say these words. I am convinced that giving up control to God is one of the most important keys to deepening our relationship with God and following God’s will and purpose for our lives.

God comes into this broken Covid world to make it whole. Mary was uniquely favored to be the “Holy Mother of God” the Theotokos or God bearer. God comes to ordinary people, but the grace given to Mary is especially unique, because in a short time, God will come from heaven to earth in a way that God has never come to earth before. A child is to be born very soon. God wants to heal this broken world through turning people’s lives and hearts to God’s will. God’s reign on earth can only come when people turn control of their lives over to God. At St. John’s we are drawing closer to God through out outreach, worship, and prayer. Please join us this Sunday for a zoom Christmas Concert. I know zoom and facebook live are not the same as being at church in the Christmas season, but we have a unique opportunity in a time of deep distress to turn again to God. Let’s make this Christmas extra special by patiently waiting for God to come into the world and into our hearts. God also waits patiently for ordinary people like you and me to be part of this incredible plan. We are simply asked to be faithful to God’s plan and either say yes or no to God’s will. My hope is that this Christmas our faithful response will be to say, “Here I am Lord, let it be according to your will.”.

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Duncan

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Posted by: Rev. Duncan A. Burns AT 11:39 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 08 2021

Thank You God for Your Greatest Gift

I used to have a regular Sunday routine after church. Covid-19 has changed that routine drastically and my cardiologists has said “No visitations.” So now after Zoom services, it's time for the newspapers. Some sections can be discarded easily: automobiles (not interested), employment (don’t need it), business (don’t understand it), classifieds (don’t want it), store circulars (no coupons for what I buy—all that stuff about hair coloring and mascara). But the comics usually offer something, and when they don't I go to my files and last Sunday I discovered a Christmas piece that I had saved from 13 years ago. The strip is Mallard Filmore.

Mallard: “Wow! Look at this date! I think this is our traditional ‘Sunday before Christmas comic strip’”

Censor: “I hope it’s not going to be one of those ‘religious’ ones.”

Mallard: “Last time I checked Christmas was a ‘religious’ holiday.”

Censor: “But what if the cartoon makes some people uncomfortable?”

Mallard: “What’s that you always say about pornography: ‘they don’t have to read it’?”

Censor: “What if they’re just reading along and it sneaks up on them?”

Mallard (pen in hand): “WARNING! The following may offend the habitually offended: Thank you, God, for your greatest gift, and for a land in which we can worship him freely.”

Censor: “Can I open my eyes?”

Mallard: “Hey, why start now?”

Several significant elements present themselves in this exchange, the foremost of which is that the greatest gift we can receive is Jesus Christ. In the midst of the Christmas season, when our eyes are often focused elsewhere—existing in the midst of a pandemic, cleaning up the mess, surviving the pandemic, paying the bills acquired over the last fifty days, wondering about the vaccine—we are reminded by a CARTOONIST that the best present of all is Jesus. What an inspired connection this duck, this Mallard Fillmore, makes with today’s gospel from John: Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, is NOT merely an adjunct to the presents of Christmas morning, is NOT merely an appendage to often economic madness; rather, Jesus Christ is instead ultimate reality, ultimate fact, from the beginning and at the root of the universe, the one who says to each of us “Be not afraid.”

When the politically correct censor asks whether he can open his eyes, and Mallard responds, “Hey, why start now?” we are the ones who are targeted. As I sit with Susan, perhaps alone this year, sequestered, quaratined, my thoughts will turn often to the greatest gift that renders all other joys real. I open my eyes and behold, see and believe, because NOW is always the right time. The love of God, incarnate in Jesus Christ, bursts through the threat of the global pandemic and reminds me that I am a story whose chapters are being shaped and written by a God who chose to become like me, like you, so that we might become like him, by a God who says to each of us “Open your eyes and behold in my Son the greatest gift that the world has ever received.” The Christmas story of the birth of Jesus is significant part of our stories because how we respond to him shapes all else that we do and the world would like to keep that a secret; the birth of Jesus is a watershed in human history though the world would like us to see it as a “cleverly devised myth”; the birth of Jesus, God incarnate, transcends our understanding of time though the world would like us to be confined by clock and calendar.

A Christmas reminds me: “Jesus Christ was born to save…Christ was born to save.” Therein lay the entire purpose for Christmas: “God’s greatest gift” is the source of your redemption and mine. As Saint Paul wrote in the passage read from Galatians this morning: “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.”

Someone remarked once to a friend as they drove by a church that displayed a crèche outside the entrance, “O Lord! They bring religion into everything. Look—they’re even dragging it into Christmas now!” The Gospel of John reminds us that even such ignorant and cynical darkness will not quench the light of Christ; Saint Paul reminds us that we have been set free in Christ and made heirs of his kingdom; and exploding forth out of the darkness of the politically correct post-modern world, a comic strip duck reminds us that Jesus Christ is God’s greatest gift.

“Thank you, God, for your greatest gift.”

Fr. John+

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Posted by: Rev. John Morrison AT 11:32 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, January 08 2021

Bishop Curry was recently asked what he would say to all the people that feel disconnected. Our Presiding Bishop replied, “I think we have got to figure out ways to be connected to each other. I mean, I have jokingly said, if you're high-tech, Zoom, if you're low-tech, text, if you're no-tech, call, send a note, stay in touch, socially distanced, following what the public health folk tell us, but stay in touch. Don't get disconnected. Don't get cut off. The psychologists tell us, cutoff is unhealthy. We actually need each other. So, if we can't touch each other physically, we can touch each other on the phone by writing, across the fence, but find a way to stay connected to other people, and to intentionally, if you're able, connect with other people. Sometimes, I experience love when I love myself, which is to say, when I step beyond Michael and reach out to somebody else, you know, like that song says, reach out and touch somebody's hand. When I do that, somehow, I begin to experience love myself in a very different way, when I give it away.

When Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River the heavens are torn apart, the spirit descends on him like a dove and a voice from heaven says to Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” At that moment of Mark’s Gospel, at the age of thirty, Jesus' ministry begins. Jesus' baptism is a moment of literal divine intervention into the realm of this world. Jesus will come to challenge the status quo and centers of political and economic power. Isaiah and other prophets promised justice for the poor and disenfranchised and Jesus came from heaven to proclaim God’s justice and to show us what the peace of God feels like. Jesus comes out of the river, still wet from the waters of baptism and goes to the margins of society where people feel disconnected. Jesus then teaches how to give your life for the sake of others.

St. John’s has always been known for the hospitality of our coffee hours and breakfasts. In the pandemic world that that we live in, it is impossible for St. John’s to gather for service and breakfast. We offer live services at eight and eleven on Sunday mornings, but they cannot compare to the hospitality that our congregation offered in a pre-Covid world. There is no doubt that many Americans feel a disconnect because of the Covid restrictions that have been placed on us, so that we may stay safe and stop the spread of this terrible pandemic.

We will offer all types of connections in the months ahead. We offer live Eucharistic services, zoom Morning Prayer, and streamed services in the comfort of your home. We have daily Morning Prayer, Education for Ministry, Bible study in the evening or day, Hilda’s Guild, Thrift Shop, Laundry Love, and C.A.R.E. I also ask every member to connect with a few of the parishioners that you have not seen in the last few weeks. We must all reach out our hands to the lonely, the elderly, the disenfranchised, and the discouraged. Zoom, text, or call as our Presiding Bishop suggests. The darkness of our time is depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The light of Christ could be a text, note, or call to someone that need a little love right now to endure this time of separation. Please connect with one another as much as possible in the months ahead. At the Baptism of our Lord, the connection with God is established and Jesus heads out into ministry to restore all people with God and one another. We are called to do likewise.

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Duncan

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Posted by: Rev. Duncan A. Burns AT 11:25 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, December 04 2020

Advent is a time for preparation of the arrival of Jesus Christ and Christmas, but it is also a time when we deeply miss those whom we love but can’t be with due to the Covid Pandemic. We feel emptiness in the pit of our stomach that never seems to go away. This feeling is very palpable during the holidays. We long for those days when we were together.

Last week, I set the stage for our reading from Isiah: Jesus Christ came from heaven to live a fully divine and fully human life. God knows what it feels like to be lonely because Jesus cried out on the cross the prayer that we say from time to time. “Why have you forsaken me,” Jesus exclaimed when he felt separation from God. Mark’s Gospel says, “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mark 1:2-3). You will notice an echo in the Old and New Testament readings today. The voice of God cries out through the prophets and through the Gospel. “Prepare the way of the Lord.” God comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ that we might know the way, the truth, and the life. There is lots of darkness and loneliness in the world, but God comes to bring us light.

Advent is the time of the year that we prepare for the coming of that light. It is the hope of something better to come that marks this time in history. The hope is that a light will come in our darkness. A messiah will soon come that will rid God’s people of this terrible separation that they feel. I wish it was just as easy as opening a present on Christmas morning. To prepare the way of the Lord, we must surrender to God's control. We need to be intentional about preparing for the coming of the Lord. We need to carve out some time for prayer and worship. Faith just doesn’t arrive on Christmas Eve. In many ways the rush and the push of the holidays makes it even more difficult to come into the nearer presence of God. The need to make room for God in our lives is a particular challenge for us on Christmas. The challenge is to get our lives aligned with God. Once we have made a decision to put Christ number one in our lives, we do not have to deal with the constant conflict of interests. The one who was born at Bethlehem will be the Lord of our lives, if we are willing to make room for him. All else that crowds our lives is measured by the standard of God’s love and falls short.

A defining event in the history of Judaic history was the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE and the exportation of its inhabitants. As the Babylonians conquered Israel, the people of God were given the stigma of being punished for their sins. They were devastated by the intolerance of this foreign power to their religion. Forty eight years later a new power emerged. Cyrus, ruler of the Persians, conquered the Babylonians in 539 BCE. Cyrus was a tolerant ruler. In 538 BCE, he would allow the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem and Judea and resume practicing their religion and traditions, as long as that they recognized his authority. Today’s Old Testament reading comes at this point in the history of the Israel when people were longing for things to return to how they once were. “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God...” A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40.1-3).

Times are very tough for us as they were for the people of Israel. Many of us are feeling that emptiness in the bottom of our stomach. Being separated from our loved ones and our church community is difficult. Many of us are feeling the pain and anxiety that this pandemic has caused. Please quiet your heart, pray for God to come, and make room for God in your heart. God will be with us very soon and before we know it, we will all be back together.

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Duncan  

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Posted by: Rev. Duncan A. Burns AT 01:18 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email