Friday, September 29 2023
Hello St. John’s,
While I will have a sermon prepared for Sunday, all I can think about this week is my late sister, Theresa. Last year on September 27, my family lost her to metastatic breast cancer. I’m sure most of us has had a devastating loss in our own families, so I hope we can share in our mourning about these special people in our lives and would love to hear from you about who they are. I would like to share Terry with you today.
As I read this weekend’s reading from Philippians, the famous Christ Hymn, I am especially reminded of her. She was incredibly selfless and loving and spirit filled. She took her diagnosis and fought it with every ounce of her being, while at the same time always making sure all of us around her were taken care of. The week she was in the hospital leading up to her death, my mother was also admitted to the same hospital back in Michigan for what turned out to be kidney stones, all my sister could do was ask about mom, how she was doing, and demanded my mom start drinking more water. Terry loved her family, her husband Mark and two boys, James and Connor. She supported them in all they did; shuffling the boys to sports practice, volunteering with their school, all the while committed to her work as an office manager at a medical office. She cared deeply for people.
She never complained about her fight and took every minute as a gift from God and remained so calm in the face of such certainty. I especially rely on this steadfast faith of hers every time I feel down and out about losing her. We both knew that we would see each other on the other side. The last time I spoke with her, she joked with me that she would get to meet Jesus first. I know she is in His loving arms.
For all the women out there especially, please get tested for the BRCA gene and stay on top of your mammogram screenings.
Your in Christ,
Saturday, September 23 2023
Friday, September 15 2023
September 14 is always Holy Cross Day. This day marks a feast in honor of the Cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified. But why September 14? Wasn’t Good Friday sometime in the spring, shouldn’t that be Holy Cross Day? That’s a great question! The September 14 date commemorates three events: the finding of the True Cross in AD 326 by Queen Helena, the Christian mother of Emperor Constantine; the dedication of churches soon after built by Emperor Constantine at Holy Sepulchre and Mount Calvary; and the restoration of the True Cross at Jerusalem in AD 629 by Byzantine Emperor Heraclius after it was taken by the Persians. Unfortunately, much of the Cross supposedly found by Queen Helena is now lost, with only fragmented relics claimed to be of the Cross now found throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. By the Reformation, John Calvin is noted as having said that there were so many relics of the True Cross that they could build a ship.
So this week, the readings present us with a beginning framework of reconciliation and forgiveness. It is through the Cross that Jesus Christ reconciled himself, as God the Son, to us. How are we to exactly forgive someone 77 times? How are we to relate with those who hurt us, or who we hurt? We seek the way of Jesus first and that way begins with his work on the Cross. God Himself has reconciled himself to his people. He has forgiven sin once and for all. That of course means we cannot abuse this gift. As one priest colleague put outside his church, “Enjoy your forgiveness.” Indeed, enjoy it! Because the freedom found therein can help us not only build bridges, but repair broken ones that need repairing, that need the healing love that Christ offers for us on the Cross. The Cross is a moment in history which affects us eternally. It is the way through troubled times as the perfect symbol of reconciliation and forgiveness this world so often needs.
Yours in Christ,
Friday, September 08 2023
Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, *
and I shall keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law; *
I shall keep it with all my heart.
Make me go in the path of your commandments, *
for that is my desire.
Incline my heart to your decrees *
and not to unjust gain.
Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless; *
give me life in your ways. (Psalm 119:33-37)
I would like to give a special thank you to our Wardens, Patti and Sean, to our vestry, to Fr. Daniel Ade and Alex, to Coral, to Deacon Claire and Deacon Zack, to John, Jenni and Chris and all those who helped with the floors, to our teachers in the Nursery school, and to all those who helped and supported the kitchen remodel. I invite our entire congregation to service this Sunday, to see the new, remodeled kitchen and floors, and to the Parish Picnic on September 17th. September is a homecoming for many of us, as we return back to the practice of listening to the Word of God at St. John’s.
During my sabbatical this summer, I wrote about my great-grandmother in a book that will be titled, “Restless Heart.” The book is about the life of one strong, independent, indigenous woman. I include some of the stories that she gave me that reveal what it was like to be an orphan on the reservation in Muskogee, Oklahoma. I am amazed that she named a musical society that is still active over a hundred years later in Tulsa, that she was a music composer from New York to Paris, that she knew President Teddy Roosevelt, that she helped found a mission school that later became Tulsa University, that she was number one on the Dawes roll of all indigenous people in Oklahoma, and that she went from extreme poverty to abundant wealth and back to poverty in her lifetime. I gave her a promise that I would share the oral tradition of the Muscogee (Creek) people and share her thoughts on how to teach the next generations to align their lives with the will of God.
Paul tells us in Romans that the fulfillment of the law is to love one another. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus brings people from slavery to freedom, from brokenness to wholeness, and from death to life. We need to have a relationship with Jesus that we may also love each other as Jesus loves us. Paul asks us to, “Owe no one anything except to love one another.” Jesus tells us that when we are gathered here together, he will be with us. Let us witness to the reconciling power of Jesus Christ by listening to one another, caring for one another, and loving one another.
My great grandmother told me that there are two ways to know God. The first is with a relationship with Jesus Christ through loving one another. The second is through the Native American practice of knowing God through nature. She taught me to watch the sunrise every day and to give thanks to God for everything that I have received from God. She showed me how to listen to God’s will through a deep relationship with the natural world.
In a few weeks, many of us will travel to Iona, Scotland on pilgrimage. We will have the opportunity to meet God in nature and Jesus in the Word of God at the St. Columba Chapel. We will celebrate the Eucharist and either Evensong or Compline every day. Please pray for us and we will pray for you.
We are given the opportunity to hear the Word of God and to be in community each weekday through Morning Prayer. We have an 8AM and 10AM service on Sundays in person or on Zoom. There is noonday prayer on Wednesdays in the church and a Healing Service and an Evensong every month on Thursday nights. You are invited to join us with God because, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am among them ” (Matt. 18:20).
In Christ, Fr. Duncan
Friday, September 01 2023
This week’s Gospel reading contains one of the most famous of Christian imperatives, “take up our cross and follow him.” The snippet from Paul also contains a list of imperatives. Our love is to be genuine, hate what is evil, give good hospitality, bless those who persecute us, be humble in thought and, what seems like an impossible task nowadays, live in harmony with one another. Human nature is so complex and much psychologized these days, that it never seems to remind us how broken we are. One of the great hypocrisies of modern Christian life is the downplaying of the sinfulness of our human nature while also thinking that science and what is so fashionably called “progress” will save us from our ills. But Christian faith rests in the knowledge that Jesus Christ has completed the work of reconciling God’s love and grace to us, which is sufficient to get us through all our ills.
Of course, I don’t mean to sound like praying can simply heal us physically! Much of modern medicine and technology is well and good (though not above critique and miracles do happen), but at the core of who we are, as both spiritual and physical beings, we need both spiritual and physical help. Christians offer the world in the fullest way both, by offering the Gospel to the world. God is using us to help the world learn how to love, care, and seek truth. We cannot do these things on our own; we need God’s help. The self-denial that Jesus calls for is the sacrifice that we proclaim: not our own way, Lord, not our own will, which will always be imperfect, but thy will, which is always perfect. Everyone’s “cross” will look different, but it is the same in that we are allowing ourselves to be led by God and His will for us and for the world. But the world, in its imperfection and self-interestedness, does not like this and may well persecute us for it but we keep on loving like Christ loves us.
Yours in Christ,