Friday, August 31 2018
My beloved speaks and says to me:
'Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;
for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away (Song of Solomon 2:8-13).
Some of us will remember hearing this passage at a wedding. Many couples choose this lesson because the words of the poet express a love that is deeply passionate and long lasting. The attraction we feel to one another at certain times in our lives is palpable. The promise of the passage is that the winter of our lives is over. We yearn for a love that will last our whole life, but the reality is that not all marriages work out and many end in divorce. Our loves oned pass away and it leaves us feeling a little empty. Those of us who have experienced a time of separation or loneliness know the feeling of a long winter. Those who have gone through a difficult time know the feeling of a rain that just wouldn't seem to end. Christ offers us a lasting hope through the love of God. We are offered a relationship with Christ that will ease our pain, fulfill our yearning, and quench our thirst.
God loves us deeply and wants us to come away. God's love is always flowing towards us and drawing us into deeper relationship. The Hebrew word for God's love is hesed. Jews believe that God's loving kindness to them is steadfast. The stories of the Torah witness to God's love for the people of Israel. To Christians, God's love is expressed fully in the Gospel. God gave Jesus Christ to live among us, provide healing, and to teach us how to love God and our neighbor. He suffered, died, and was buried for our sins and shows us the way to eternal life.
In our bible study on Tuesday mornings at 11:00 am, we are discussing the letters to the seven churches in Rev. 2:1-3:22. In the letter to Ephesus, the people are told that if they lack in love for their neighbors, it indicates their lack of love of the Lord. We are asked to love God and all our neighbors, especially those who are most vulnerable. I see our nation divided over many issues and a growing trend of not respecting the dignity of our brothers and sisters. Please pray for racial reconciliation in our community and support our efforts to love all our neighbors as ourselves.
The Sunday after Labor Day is usually the time that everyone comes back to church after school starts and we are back from vacation. We have a special memorial dedication planned for Mary Simon and her family. Please join us this Sunday to give praise and thanksgiving to God. God loves you deeply and waits for your love each and every day. God's love is steadfast and eternal. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
In Christ's love,
Friday, August 24 2018
How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee (Psalm 84 2-4 KJV).
Thousands of years ago, Pilgrims who were coming into Jerusalem after a long journey might sing or recite this psalm as they entered the city. To the Pilgrim, giving of oneself on the journey for the purpose of experiencing communion with God produced a feeling of shalom. Psalm 84 is a profession of a deep faith and longing for God. It is a psalm about the deep experience of well-being, peace, and joy that one feels in the presence of the living God.
We can experience this feeling of peace by a steadfast love of God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Marvin Tate said, "Visible actions become the means of grace and revelation of the real presence of God." On Sunday, we will pray, "My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God." We are drawn to St. John's by the hesed (steadfast love) of God. We respond to that love by coming to church, hearing the Word of God, giving praise to God, and experiencing God's presence at the Holy Eucharist. We are then sent out in the world to share that love with our neighbors and to bring others back to an experience of the living God. When we follow the will and purpose of God, our lives are filled with the peace that passeth all understanding. We come to church humble in heart, full of praise, and yearning for another taste of the living God.
Friday, August 17 2018
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and he will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:1-4)
This week in our bible study on Revelation, we spoke about the coming together of heaven and earth. The mixing of heaven and earth is difficult to understand. I find the Eucharist both deeply meaningful and still somewhat mysterious. New life comes when we believe that Jesus is the bread of heaven. Each and every Sunday morning we can feel the real presence of God in the bread and wine that we receive at the altar at St. John’s. The Anglican Theologian Hooker said, “Through Christ’s presence in the sacrament, God’s causative presence in the world was transformed into his saving presence in the Church.” “The benefits we receive are the forgiveness of our sins, the strengthening of our union with Christ and one another, and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet which is our nourishment in eternal life.” (BCP 859) This foretaste of the heavenly kingdom is what makes St. John’s such a special place. We are one in the love of Jesus Christ and we have the power to transform the world by God’s love. Isaiah tells us that the wolf shall lie with the lamb, there will be no sorrow or pain, death will be swallowed up forever, the desert will rejoice, and the swords will be beaten into ploughshares. Does that sound like a place that you would like to spend eternity in? If it does, I ask you to recommit yourself this fall to St. John’s and try your best to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. God calls us to bring others to receive this foretaste of heaven.
In Christ’s love,
Rev. Duncan Burns
Friday, August 10 2018
After Sue and I had returned from our summer vacation some years ago, a young boy in my Confirmation class asked whether I went to church while on vacation. I'm not sure what the look on my face was like: bemused, perhaps puzzled, maybe offended. Yet the answer was easy—of course I went to church. Certainly the temptation to sleep in presented itself, but, for me, if I had succumbed to the lure, the rest of my day would have been shallow and empty. Read the Sunday paper on line, enjoy the serenity of the lake, have a hearty and leisurely breakfast—I would have been nourished in a variety of ways (intellectual, contemplative, physical), but I would have been left bereft of the one thing that gives eternal sustenance. Not only did I go to church, but I also maintained a daily discipline of prayer and scripture reading while, impossible as it may seem to some, enjoying a relaxing four weeks with family, friends, and books, and more books.
Now such practices don't make me any holier than anyone else; rather, they illustrate an always growing realization that I am part of an unfolding drama, that I have a part to play in that story as it discloses itself, that I have an obligation to play that part as best I can. As many have taught me and as I have tried to pass on to others, to go to church while on vacation, to partake in the Eucharist, is a reminder that each Sunday the entire drama is re-enacted up until the present moment and offers me sustenance for a heart and a life that are hungry for nourishment.
As my hunger and thirst have been satisfied, as I have sat on the porch and drunk in the delights of a tranquil and beautiful Lake Champlain, as I have immersed myself in family and friends, in food and drink, in books and Wimbledon and the Yankees and more books, I offer you for reflection the following tidbits that have provoked daily thought and prayer this past month. Make of them what you will, but keep in mind the wisdom of Saint Paul in his letter to the young church in Rome: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
“I am glad that my son was here, but I want him to know that there is more to life than winning trophies”—Novak Djokovic in an interview after winning Wimbledon
“In a way it is even humiliating to watch coal miners working. It raises in you a momentary doubt about your own status as an intellectual and a superior person generally. For it is brought home to you, at least while you are watching, that it is only because miners sweat their guts out that superior persons can remain superior...all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms and belly muscles of steel”—George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier
“I'm a Roman Catholic, albeit a bad one. I believe in God and the whole business, but I love women best, music and science next, whiskey next, God fourth, and my fellowman hardly at all”—Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins
“We need to recognize that [the practices of the mall] are not neutral or benign, but rather intentionally loaded to form us into certain kinds of people—to unwittingly make us disciples of rival kings and patriotic citizens of rival kingdoms”—James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation
“Did Werner really think that Stalin's promises would be delivered and his stories were true because he had won the war?....Joseph had seen enough to know that really it hadn't had much to do with the stories that either Hitler or Stalin told to keep people obedient. Both of them shot people to keep other people obedient. And the war wasn't about history and grand ideas; it was about how many soldiers and how many tanks and bombs and trains and guns and aeroplanes—” —Lucy Beckett, The Leaves are Falling
With all blessings, Fr. John+
Friday, August 03 2018
“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom God has sent.” (John 6:27-29)
I have no doubt why churches that promote the prosperity gospel are usually full. Wouldn’t it be nice if God came to humanity so that we could have lots of $ bread $. The people in this week’s Gospel from John witness the feeding of five thousand, the healing of the sick, and some even get to see Jesus walking on water. The people want to know what they must do to perform the works of God. Jesus says that we must believe in him. It is hard for some to understand that Jesus does not give away $ bread $ or (rye) bread, but that he is the bread of life. Jesus is the water that quenches our thirst. Jesus is the path that brings us to the full stature of God. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Our reaction to Jesus’ words should be to make Jesus the focal point of our lives. Most of us want to have meaning and purpose in our lives, but do we realize that all we have to do is love God and love our neighbor. When the people in the Gospel ask for this bread, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
In Christ’s love,
Rev. Duncan Burns