Monday, October 31 2022
“To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)
Last weekend was an incredible weekend at St. John's. On Saturday, our Harvest Fair went extremely well. The church was busy and the comradery among our parishioners was palpable. The weather was wonderful and the food was terrific. I would like to thank our entire ECW team that worked so hard to make the event such a huge success. Today’s lesson tells us that the ministry of the church is to work in community to teach what loving God and loving our neighbor is all about. If churches are dying, it is because they are not glorifying God. Isaiah tells us to “Learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:16-17). We glorify God when we work together to restore each other to God and community. We do this by going to Nogalas, Arizona and listening, learning and loving. We do this when we volunteer at our Harvest Fair to help those most in need in our community. We will give over 30,000 to local charities and another 20,000 to support the mission trips and ministry of St. John’s.
A special thanks to Chris Boccia, Fran Gorman, and Carol Goldbaum for their leadership in the ECW and at the Harvest Fair. Thanks to Mary Beth and our thrift shop team. Thanks to Kamaria, Mike, Sean, John, the vestry and those who worked in the kitchen. Thanks to Mary, Sue, Patti, Janice, Martha and the St. Hilda’s Guild. Thanks to Alex and the choir. Thank you to Deacon Claire and Gary. Thanks to Fr. James and Jenni. Thank you to Fr. Anthony and the St. Augustine’s Choir. Thanks to the St. Augustine Steel Drum band and the Christian band. Thanks to Patti and all those who gave to the silent auction and those who made baskets. Thanks to Daria and Liz and all those that got gift certificates, Last but not least thank you to Coral and everyone that helped out with the Harvest Fair.
At St. John's, we want to bring people to newness of life through the teachings of Jesus Christ and in the Sacraments. We are a Christ centered church that values tradition, yet moves forward in the Holy Spirit. During our stewardship campaign, people will witness what makes St. John's so special to them. Last week John talked about giving proportionately and Sean talked about being welcomed at St. John’s. St. John’s is a friendly congregation because we follow the two simple commandments that Jesus gave us. We are also one of the most diverse churches in Suffolk County.
Our parish is dedicated, "to know Christ and to make Him known." We are trying to live in the present reality as we move towards the kingdom of heaven. The political environment may make us a little anxious, but our faith is the rock that never moves. Please love God and one another as Jesus Christ loves us. We have something very special here at St. John's. Giving your time, talent, and treasure brings both you and this community to a place where we can minister to our children, the poor, the sick, and the thirsty. This year’s stewardship campaign is “More than enough.” Please place your pledge card in the offering plate today or just sign up for online giving. There are pledge cards in all the pews. The cards will then be blessed at the altar. Giving of ourselves for the sake of others literally ushers in the coming kingdom.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, October 21 2022
This week’s Gospel once again finds us on the road to Jerusalem. Jesus addresses it to a group of people who are identified as confident of their own righteousness and who regarded others with contempt. Jesus has a message for them that involves a Pharisee and a tax collector and their relationship with God
The pharisee represents a group of people who believed they were acceptable and good simply because they observed the law. Acceptability was based on their behavior, their good deeds and their willingness to be obedient to the Law. This might be viewed as living from the outside in. God thinks more highly of me than others because of my good behavior. I fast twice a week and tithe – all outward behaviors. This Pharisee is proud of himself, believes he is respected.
But I ask us to contemplate: where is his heart?
The tax collector, on the other hand is among the most despised during this time of Roman occupation. As a Jew, he worked for the enemy, viewed as a traitor and beyond that, was known for pocketing the surplus. The tax collector in our story is so remorseful that he is unable to raise his head. He is aware of his sin and begs for mercy.
The error of the Pharisee is that he thinks he can be obedient to God while at the same time have disdain for people like the tax collector. He fulfills what the Torah demands but pays no attention to the command to love.
Jesus used this parable to remind us that we cannot be obedient to God’s Law without first loving one’s neighbor as oneself and he often challenged those who believed they were in good standing with God to rethink their position.
So, what indeed counts as righteousness before God?
Acts without compassion and love are not considered righteous by God. This parable actually shows us two images of God: one supposed by the Pharisee, which is false, and one hoped for but not presumed by the tax collector, which was right. God is not impressed with pious acts and feelings of superiority. God is a God of mercy who in fact, responds to honest prayers. More importantly, however, this week’s Gospel is a lesson on our attitudes towards ourselves and our neighbor.
Sunday is the formal kickoff of our 2023 stewardship campaign, entitled: More than Enough! Such an important time for us to prayerfully consider just how much we have been enriched by our relationship with and experiences as members of this vibrant, Christ-Centered community at St. John’s. “Stewardship involves all of life. It is our approach to living a God-centered life. It is about our commitment to discipleship, to be more like Jesus. Stewardship is more, much more than deciding how much to ‘put in the plate’ on Sunday. It has to do with our values. It is about a mindset. It is about doing all that we can with all that we have.” Ken Weliever. This is inside out thinking!
Your pledge is between you and God, but we are all enriched and blessed as we share together in the ministry at St. John’s.
Thank you for returning your pledge in the offering plate or mail it to 12 Prospect Street by November 6th.
In God’s abundant love and great mercy,
Friday, October 14 2022
A man is walking down the beach and comes across an old bottle. He picks it up, pulls out the cork and out pops a genie! The genie says, "Thank you for freeing me from the bottle. In return I will grant you three wishes." The man says "Great! I always dreamed of this and I know exactly what I want. First, I want one billion dollars in a Swiss bank account."
Poof! There is a flash of light and a piece of paper with account numbers appears in his hand! He continues, "Next, I want a brand new red Ferrari right here."
Poof! There is a flash of light and a bright red, brand-new Ferrari appears right next to him!
He continues, "Finally, I want to be irresistible to women."
Poof! There is a flash of light and he turns into a box of chocolates.
Before I talk about our stewardship campaign, I wanted to say that some folks have a misguided idea that money, fast cars, and increased sex appeal are what we should aspire for. As I grow older, I realize more and more that long-term relationships bring the greatest joy. Your children, spouse, family, and friends are important examples. A relationship with God can be at the center of your life and will help you maintain all your other relationships. What you may learn in a long term relationship with Jesus Christ is that you are created perfectly as you are, you are deeply loved, and that you have more than enough already without a billion dollars, a new Ferrari or increased sex appeal.
And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. Luke 9:16-17, NRSV
This year our campaign focuses on the miracle of sharing, the ways in which our means meet the needs of the world, the ways in which we respond to the Gospel, the ways in which we sustain our community. More Than Enough, the theme for our campaign, brings us back to that moment of miracle described in Luke’s Gospel, having just been fed by Jesus from a scant few loaves and fishes. The people in that story heard Jesus’ call to share what they had in order that all might benefit. When we have strategies that need to be developed, or committees that need to be staffed, or problems that need to be solved, you answer the call of your church, and share your wisdom and experience. You are that inspiration and action, without whom our church and our ministry would be diminished. I ask that you pray with us as we launch our annual gathering of gifts and gratitude, and consider how you will contribute your gift of wisdom.
Our pledge campaign kicks off this year on October 23rd and continues on October 30th and November 7th. You will receive a pledge card in the mail this week and I ask you to prayerfully consider the gifts that you receive and ask you to give to St. John's on a proportional basis. I ask you to turn in a pledge so our vestry can set a budget for 2023. Please consider raising your pledge this year so that St. John's may continue to grow and flourish. You may send your pledge card to the office at 12 Prospect St. or place it in the Sunday offering. Each of the next three Sundays you will hear parishioners witness to the love and mercy of God that they have experienced at St. John's.
St. John's Annual Harvest Fair will take place on Saturday, October 22nd from 10AM to 4PM. This is an “all hands on deck” event. Join us by just coming down and lending a hand. New members are especially encouraged to join in. Please invite your friends and neighbors to attend. Our ECW will give a substantial portion of the proceeds to local charities. Help us to help others.
I am so grateful for you. Your faithful membership at St. John's and your generosity sustains our ministry and is a source of encouragement to me.
In Christ's love,
Friday, October 07 2022
I love collects. Church collects are the prayer that begins every Sunday service after the priest says “the Lord be with you,” and the congregation responds “and also with you.” The priest then says, “let us pray…” and there follows the prayer for that day and the following week: that prayer is called a collect. Us clergy and laity who pray the Daily Office (Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer or Night Prayer, also called Compline) say that collect prayer throughout the week as well, so we get to know the prayer really well, potentially saying it up to fifteen times! Collects usually follow a particular formula: naming God, thanking God for something, and asking God for something else. Then the prayer concludes with a trinintarian tribute to the Almighty God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Collects typically tie in the themes for the Sunday Eucharistic readings or incorporate the time of year. This past Sunday gives a prayer that continues until tomorrow, which to me outranks every other prayer; of all 52 weeks of the year: every holy day, saint day, Christmas and Easter, no… in my opinion, this prayer takes the cake.
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Oh. My. Goodness. This prayer captures my entire theology in one prayer! For my chalice article this week, I would like to pull apart this collect. It starts off with a simple title for the divine: Almighty and everlasting God. We acknowledge God being all powerful and existing outside of time. The collect names God as always more ready to hear than we to pray. This prayer just named that God will always be with us, always stand by us, always be present - despite whether we're calling out to God or not! God is always ready, on standby if you will. God is STEADFAST.
Give[s] more than we either desire or deserve. God is overflowing with blessings. God’s generosity does not stop with what we need. God continues to give us, even when we stop asking. God does not work on merit. God is ABUNDANT.
Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy. I love that language. That phrase: pour upon us. It gives me the imagery of God’s gift of water. I think back to a few weeks ago when Fr. Duncan baptized one of God’s littlest creations and he poured from the carafe the warm, living water that would be used to bring a child into God’s family. It’s not enough that God is merciful. God saturates us with forgiveness. God gives us a wide berth. God knows we are trying our best because God is COMPASSIONATE.
Forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask. God is aware of shame existing in our society. I truly believe God condemns shame. One should not have to be in fear of God not forgiving us, even the most egregious offenses, if we truly lament. God is not a punisher; God will not allow us to feel we are unworthy of asking for something because of our sins and transgressions. God loves you UNCONDITIONALLY.
One of my Lenten practices that I think is relatable to us through this article is the spiritual practice of writing a collect. Name God, thank God for something God did for you or helped you realize recently, and ask God for that thing that you may be afraid to name. Let your recent unfolded life inform your prayer language and may you be transformed by the beauty of words which God has given you, to share back with God.
The gifts of God for the people of God, given back to God, to the glory of God. As you continue to discern your stewardship areas to God’s church of time, talent, and treasure, may you continue and in a deeper way experience God’s steadfastness, abundance, compassion, and unconditional love each day going forward.
God loves you, St. John’s loves you, and your clergy love you.
Your sibling in Christ,