Friday, August 30 2019
Our Church has agreed to the five marks of Anglican Mission:
1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
2. To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
3. To respond to human need by loving service
4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society
5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
I want to thank Coral, Fr. John Morrison and everyone that filled in for me at church these past couple of weeks for my vacation. I am deeply thankful for the dedication and service of all our parishioners that take the mission of the church seriously and passionately follow Jesus Christ. The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other. At St. John’s our mission is to know Christ and make him known.
After two weeks of sailing, golfing, and relaxing on Long Island and celebrating at the wedding of my son Andrew and his wife Pauline, I am excited to continue the mission of the church with focus and passion. I think it is good to reflect on our purpose before starting another church season at St. John’s. I hope each of you have relaxed and enjoyed this beautiful island that we live on this summer! My goal in the next few weeks is to get you focused back on being followers of Jesus Christ and carrying out the mission of the church.
Our first priority is to love God. That requires us to get our families back into the practice of worshiping on Sundays and praying to God on a daily basis. In today’s collect we pray, “Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.” God reaches out to us at all times that we may love God with our whole heart, soul and mind. When we turn back to God our next priority is to love our neighbor. I noticed during my vacation that there is a lot of anger in the world today. People shooting each other and blowing each other up is just the tip of the iceberg. Many people in the world are just not nice to their neighbor. In this week’s Gospel from Luke Jesus says, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” I think we should all consider a ministry at St. John’s that provides loving service to our neighbor. Our biggest event of the year for this is our Harvest Fair and I would like 100% participation this year. Join our ECW in making this year’s event on October 26th another fabulous success. The money we raise will help our neighbors, but more than that will bind us together in our mission to make our community a better place.
Sunday school starts again on September 8th and we could use at least one new teacher. Please contact me if you are interested in assisting Barb Burns in the pre-K class. Please bring your families to the Canterbury Corner at 9:40am on September 8th for registration and a fun family project.
Deacon Anthony will be ordained to the priesthood on Sunday September 14th at 11:00 am at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City. Please keep Deacon Anthony in your prayers as he continues to prepare for the priesthood.
In Christ's Love,
Friday, August 23 2019
In the very early morning, I wake up at times with an idea for a sermon or a piece for The Chalice and I think about it; I toss and turn as I think about it; I can't get back to sleep as I think about it. And then I remember my little note pad that Sue placed on my night table next to the bed more than 20 years ago—and I still just lie in bed and think about it as the minutes fly by, sometimes until the alarm goes off. But, at last, not this past Monday, and so, as I am prone to do at this stage of my life, I hoisted myself out of bed, walked down the hall into my office, and began to write this rambling little piece, interrupted just once by Susan who asked, “What are you doing?” I thought it best not to reply; that could wait. So let us back up to a day earlier.
Last Sunday, after the baptism was over and the table had been set, I stood at the altar, drenched in perspiration in spite of the A/C, Gatorade near, and listened to the choir sing “Journey to Freedom.” I could not help but join in, though not obtrusively, so thoroughly immersed was I in this song about the call of God, this extended invitation by Jesus to “Come with [him] on a journey” into light, into loving light. And then I made the leap to this morning's Old Testament lesson and Jeremiah being known in the womb before he was born, and the gospel and a woman in pain then a multitude of songs erupting at once, all between 1:15 and 1:30, all insistent, and for once I wrote. Little more than a decade ago, Lucy Beckett, a wonderful British writer, wrote In the Light of Christ that literature and art and music have a way of inspiring for the Christian a meaning that is richer and deeper than the meaning found in them by those “for whom God is an empty word.” Just one quick illustration. The rest will be in the sermon.
Andrew Lloyd Webber burst on the scene of my sleepy and incurably romantic imagination with a piece from Aspects of Love: “Love, Love Changes Everything.” Romantic love, a love caught up in the raptures of whatever it was when Webber first heard the music inside him. But what if, what if just one word was changed in the song, what if love was changed to God? I came to the line in the first stanza, “Love, love changes everything, how you live and how you die.” I believe that's true, but I believe that it is also more deeply true that “God, God changes everything,” that God redefines life and death as we come to know him in Jesus Christ. Answer the call of Jesus and he will “turn your world around and that world will last forever.” Indeed, the risen God we know in Jesus Christ will “never ever let us be the same.” Just a snippet; try it sometime—just not at 1:15 am.
With all blessings for the journey into the joy of the risen Lord,
Sunday, August 18 2019
This morning's Gospel is the sort that might make easily one of David Letterman “Ten Best” pieces that appeared on his show now and then, this time in the category of “The Ten Things You Wish Jesus Had Never Said.” Jesus wonders out loud whether people thought he came to bring a fabricated peace, the peace that would free the Jews from the hated Romans, the peace that seems to end every war, until the next one breaks out. Instead, he tells us that he brings division and it arises when we answer his call, and such an answer is very unnerving as we, who used to sleep in on Sundays or head off to the golf club, all the while telling the local pastor “I can be as close to God on the course as you can in church.” For sure, as you hand over another $20 to your opponent on the second hole and are heard to mutter, “O God”; as we, with, with smiles on our faces and a song in our hearts, leave to attend church.
At ten o'clock we will sing Linda Snow's wonderful hymn “Journey Into Freedom,” a hymn which is a call, a hymn which is sure to bring division if we take it seriously and not merely as a way through the service, but a hymn in which the refrain offers an astonishing truth.
Come with me, journey into freedom,
I am always with you follow me.
Come and drink my living water,
I will set your spirit free.
If you take the time when the service is over to ponder this song and not just dispose of it, you will discover some awesome insights.
Have you ever considered the possibility that the divine author who wrote you into the drama of salvation has created a role for you and “calls you to be who he alone knows you can be”? If you have, then you most likely know that often tacit response to your decision to follow Jesus is a something like “that's nice dear” followed by an inaudible mutter, “not to worry, he [or she] will grow out of it.” But perhaps not you or me. We have heard and responded to two words that changed the world—“Follow me.” And what follows? Ridicule? Division? Loss of respect? Mere lip service? Contempt? But even in this world of ever so many truths, hold fast to the truth of Jesus because he will “give you everything you need.” He is the only one who will never let you down, who, if you fail him will forgive you, who has paid the price for all your sins, who has breathed his last breath for you.
At the end of his wonderful book The Call, my friend Os Guiness makes the following observation at the end of the Introduction: “Answer the call of [God] and see all life as an enterprise transformed by his call. Count the cost, consider the risks, (remember the divisions that will come), but set out each day on an adventure that will multiply your gifts and opportunities and bring glory to God and add value to our world.” My dear, dear friends, come join with me and “journey into [the] freedom” of the risen Christ.
Sunday, August 11 2019
I am reading for the third time since mid-July a book by Alister McGrath, the Christian theologian and apologist who holds two doctorates from Oxford University and occupies the Chair of Professor of Science and Religion and directs the Ian Ramsey Centre (sic) for Science and Religion at Oxford. The book, one of many by Dr. McGrath, is titled Mere Discipleship: Growing in Wisdom and Hope and many of his observations dovetail nicely with the two cartoons in The Chalice. Professor McGrath also relies heavily on the wisdom of the ages past and following are several citations for you and me to ponder this week and beyond, to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.” I offer them for you to consider far beyond the limits of this morning's sermon; I have already placed them with my prayer list so that I will hold them before me each day.
1. “The mind needs to be enlightened by light from outside itself, so that it can participate in truth, as it is not itself the nature of truth. You will light my lamp, Lord.”--Saint Augustine, Confessions
2. “It is only with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”--Antoine Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
3. “We see through the Church of Christ as a man sees through the telescope to the stars.”--Austin Farrer, The End of Man
4. “Alonso of Arragon was wont to say in commendation of age, that age appears best in four things: the old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.”--Francis Bacon, Aphorisms and Apothegems
5. “The only true voyage of discovery is not to travel to new landscapes, but to possess other ages, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others.”--Marcel Proust, The Prisoner
The summer begins to draw to a close so I invite you to make or to continue with me on a :journey into freedom,” into the freedom of looking through a different lens, the lens of Christianity, and see the world in sharper focus and increased depth. Try on the spectacles of C. S. Lewis and enter into that realm that Father Duncan has cited so often: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” It's good to be home.
Friday, August 02 2019
While Jesus is teaching his disciples, someone in the crowd brings a request before Jesus. What he wants is a simple settlement of an inheritance dispute with his brother. “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me,” he says to Jesus. He wants more than he is legally allowed and wants Jesus to get him more than he deserves. Jesus rebukes the man, saying, “Who appointed me to be a judge over you?” Then, he brings up the topic of spiritual integrity. He tries to give the crowd a new understanding of possessions and their relationship with God. The rich fool built larger barns and filled them with his crops, he is finally satisfied and tells his soul to relax, eat, drink and be merry. It makes good business sense, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying what he has–good wine, good food and all. The trouble with the rich fool in the parable is not his possessions and his enjoyment of them. But, in storing up his possessions for himself, he has forgotten God. What we have here is a portrayal of a man who is so self-absorbed, self-centered, and self-sufficient that he believes he has complete control over his possessions and his life including his soul. He has deceived himself to think that the abundance of his possessions can satisfy the hunger and thirst of his soul. At this moment the rich fool dies and his possessions become a moot point. Quality of life isn’t found in the things we amass, but in our connection with God, our families, and our neighbors. John Wesley once said, “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” Matthew said, “Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.” Our legacy is not what we leave in our barns, but what we do with the resources we have while we are still here.
St. John’s is embarking on our 275th anniversary year celebration with many initiatives. One major focus is to build and increase our two endowments to provide for the future of our church: The Capital Building Fund and the 1745 Endowment Fund. Our parish is asking you to make a pledge. The suggested giving levels are Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze, $27,500, $11,000, $5,500, $2,750, respectively. Any amount will be accepted and greatly appreciated. You will also be recognized in the program for the St John’s Gala Event which will be on Saturday, June 6, 2020 at the Huntington Country Club. Pledge sheets are available in the back of the church or in the Parish Office.
In Christ’s love,