Friday, October 19 2018
As part of the Jesus movement, we follow the One who loves us so much that he gave his life so that we might understand God’s never-ending love for all of creation. And here’s the hard part: As followers of Jesus, we are called to give all of ourselves to God’s work in the world (TENS).
There are so many exciting things happening at St. John’s right now. Next weekend is our Harvest Fair! There will be great food, raffle baskets, a white elephant sale, St. Hilda’s Guild crafts, holiday boutiques, baked goods, Vermont cheese, designer clothes and handbags, Thrift Shop clothes, and more. We are called to be generous in giving of our Time, Talent, and Treasure at St. John’s. Generous living is much more than what we do with our money. We are called to be kind to one another and to all living things. We are called to deal with each other honestly and to be humble. Stewardship is a call to action to each of us as followers of Jesus. Jesus showed us the way to live generously: by welcoming the outcast, by overturning the tables of the money changers in the temple, by dining with the poor, by healing the sick, by teaching, by forgiving, and by ultimately giving his life so that all might have life abundant.
Each year, I am asked to preach and teach on stewardship. The fact is that if you put God first in your life, everything else will come in line. Of course, we want to keep the building in good shape, to hire a curate, and to give to the poor, but what is really important to me is your spiritual health. When your heart feels the redeeming love of God, you will naturally love others. When you feel the forgiving grace of God, you will naturally forgive others. When you realize that everyone is welcome in the Episcopal Church, you will want to show hospitality to everyone you meet. Stewardship is so much more than money and it is what makes St. John’s such a special place. We are like one big family and although we can be a little dysfunctional at times, our greatest gift is our hospitality. Please know that this is the greatest gift you can give to St. John’s. Before you put one dollar in the plate, please give yourself that others might have life abundant.
We make a pledge each year to help the wardens and vestry make a budget for 2019. 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 make a pledge to St. John’s. If you have not received a pledge card yet, they are available on the table in the back of the church. We will collect pledge cards for the next three Sundays and bless them at the altar on November 4th on Loyalty Sunday. Each week, you will hear parishioners witness about what they love about St. John’s.
Our Diocese has hired a stewardship consultant, who advised us to figure a suggested annual pledge. We are trying the suggested pledge this year. Please use this number as a guide. We are thankful for whatever you can pledge. In order to hire a curate next year, we need to increase our pledges. Please consider raising your pledge this year so that St. John’s may continue to grow and flourish. Another way you can help is to invite someone to St. John’s. Perhaps they can come to the Harvest Fair or join you on Sunday. It is a hard subject for most of us to bring up, but many people are frustrated with their own church and now is the perfect time to invite people to St. John’s.
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. I am always proud of the fantastic turn out at Harvest Fair and all the outreach and mission that we do. God bless you!
In Christ’s love,
Sunday, October 14 2018
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone. (Thomas Merton)
As Jesus is setting out for a journey, a man kneels before him and asks, “What must I do to have eternal life?” The Greek word for eternal is aionion. The definition for eternal in this week’s Gospel message is life from God. Jesus Christ who was, is, and will come again helps us to understand what a life in God means. Eternal life comes through the grace of God and not through our own effort. We are asked to believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. We pray to God and follow the example of Jesus Christ the best we can. We come to church to hear the Word of God and to be in communion with Jesus through a continual remembrance of his life, death, and resurrection, until his coming again. When we give of ourselves for the sake of others, we feel the peace that passes all understanding. This is a foretaste of the eternal life that we will experience in the next life.
At St. John’s our mission is to know Christ and to make Him known. Our priorities are our children, hospitality, mission, outreach, stewardship, and pastoral care. Every year we have our entire congregation work together on the ECW Harvest Fair. We will raise a substantial amount of money that will be distributed by the ECW (women of the parish) to local charities. A donation will also be made for the continued ministry at St. John’s. I ask each of you to fully participate in this year’s Harvest Fair on October 27th. I would especially encourage our newcomers to volunteer. There is a sense of family at St. John’s that is palpable when you volunteer at the Harvest Fair. When we try and align ourselves with the purpose of God, we can experience this feeling of purpose and good will.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks the man to sell his possessions and give to the poor. We have heard in the Gospel, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). God asks us to care for one another and to give a tenth of what we earn to the poorest among us. Stewardship comes in the form of Time, Talent, and Treasure. Our Harvest Fair gives each of us the opportunity to help out to benefit the ministry of St, John’s and charities in our community. I believe that when we give a little of ourselves, our gifts, and our money to benefit those who are less fortunate than ourselves, we are following Jesus Christ. If we believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, we too will be inheritors of eternal life, both now and in the Kingdom to come.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, October 05 2018
After several weeks (it seemed longer) reading Job as the Old Testament lesson for Morning Prayer, the committee that put together the Episcopal edition of The Revised Common Lectionary decided that twenty-nine days with evil, pain, suffering, and redemption at the last (thank goodness) were insufficient and made Job the First Lesson for four successive Sundays. Supplement that decision with a phrase from today's selection from Hebrews that suggests that with suffering comes perfection—“...should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect (italics mine) through suffering”—and one is sorely tempted to shout “Enough already.” I am neither wise nor gifted enough to tackle this subject in any depth in The Chalice (or even in this morning's sermon), but I do have some ideas to offer, ideas that refuse to run away and hide, that demand attention, ideas that I hope you will take the time to explore on your own or with others, ideas that will aid us as we lock horns with the dilemmas of evil, pain, and suffering.
It is difficult to engage such observations, even painful, but that doesn't let one off the hook and so I always look for help and often find it in great writers, in prayer, in the never failing Passion of our Lord. One of those writers admitted candidly that he was a great coward with regard to pain, that when he thought of it, of “anxiety that gnaws like fire and loneliness that spreads out like a desert,...of dull aches that blacken the landscape or sudden nauseating pains that knock a man's heart out at one blow, of pains that seem already intolerable and then are suddenly increased,” his spirit is dashed. I read these words; I think of the cross; I conclude, “John, you're never alone.” As we will sing at the end of the service, this “God of glory,” this “Lord of love” whom we worship and adore not only “Melts the clouds of sin and sadness” and drives away “the dark of doubt,” but also gives to us “immortal gladness” and “fill(s) us with the light of day.” Those are no empty words; they are the sure and certain hope of the gospel. My spiritual guide reminded me that he could not make palatable the old Christian belief of 'being made perfect through suffering'; rather that it was not incredible.
With all blessings for joy on the journey toward the cross and the crown.