Sunday, September 30 2018
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 124:8).
I believe with all my heart that we need Jesus Christ right now. We live in a Post Truth Society. What we mean by that is that his truth and her truth will differ depending on what media we listen to. America no longer has complete access to the truth. Everything seems to get a spin on it to draw us to a particular viewpoint. The confirmation hearings for Brett Cavanaugh to the Supreme Court have illustrated this fact with a classic, he said, she said. If you are tired (or angry) from all this, I have a few words from Jesus Christ to comfort you.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
Jesus Christ is the truth, the way, and the life. The Gospel gives us an example of how we are to live our lives. Jesus tells us to be at peace with one another. He says that we need to be salted with fire. That fire that we are salted with is the love of God. The creator, who made heaven and earth loves you deeply and wants to be in relationship. That fire is what we demonstrate when we love our neighbors as ourselves. In the next month, we are gearing up for Harvest Fair. The proceeds will bring the love of God to many in our community. I urge you to focus on this event and sign up to help out or bring lots of friends and family with you on October 27th.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
The many conflicts we face can make us anxious, upset and even angry. The love of God comforts our pain and suffering and focuses us on helping those in need in our community. This weekend lots of folks will come to our Thrift Shop and find fabulous deals or use the vouchers that we sent out. By cleaning out your closets, garages, and basements, you help those in need in our community. Our Thrift Shop is expanding because we have volunteers dedicated to this ministry. Helping others brings us the peace that passes all understanding.
I have died everyday waiting for you
God’s love for us will carry us through times of pain and anxiety. This song speaks to my heart about the deep love I have for my wife, my children, and my mom. God has been waiting for each one of us to be in relationship. We need to focus on loving God and loving our neighbor and not be distracted by the all the nonsense. At St. John’s, we have a wonderful opportunity to love our neighbor through our Thrift Shop and our Harvest Fair. I urge each of you to support these two important ministries this month.
In Christ’s love
Sunday, September 23 2018
Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
We will pray this opening prayer as we begin our time of worship this Sunday. There are so many day-to-day worries that can cause us anxiety – work, school, relationships, finances, health – and the list goes on. No doubt, it is easy to let anxiety creep into our lives. When it does, it is easy to be consumed by it. Anxiety is linked to depression and leads to fear.
Did you know that the Bible speaks to us directly about anxiety? In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV) So, we can see that feelings of anxiousness are not unique to our time and place.
Paul’s advice to the Philippians was to present it all to God – give it to God and leave it there. How true are these words of wisdom for us today! How often do we pray about our needs, burdens, and worries but fail to leave them there? Too often we pray about those burdens that are causing us to be anxious, but we don’t leave them with the Lord. Too often we say amen and take the burdens back. Paul says present your requests – and that means present them and leave them trusting that God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds.
Fear is closely related to anxiety – and Paul speaks about that too. He says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV) We really have no reason to live in fear or anxiety because God is for us. He knew us in the womb before we were born (Isaiah 44:24) and He knows our needs before we even ask (Matthew 6:8). I find comfort, peace, and hope in that.
Earthly circumstances and situations change and pass but Jesus is our solid rock and foundation that endures. Hold fast to him and trust him, know that he cares for you. Hold fast to the words of scripture. Commit them to memory so that when trying times come, you can draw upon those words and promises.
Would you join me in memorizing Philippians 4:6-7 and 2 Timothy 1:7 this week? Perhaps this can be for you a starting point for committing even more scripture to memory - it will become your well to draw from.
Blessing on the journey!
Sunday, September 16 2018
This summer Susan and I spent a month at what is affectionately designated the “family compound” on Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh. For several evenings over the extended and celebratory Fourth of July period nearly the entire family gathered at the long dinner table on the porch that looked out on the tranquil lake—in laws, children, grandchildren, cousins, second cousins. Conversation was always lively, diverse, often punctuated by genuine laughter, even prolonged laughter. Only one subject was forbidden—POLITICS. Being the occasional breaker of decorum, I impetuously decided to seize the verbotten topic by the throat and asked brazenly, “Did anyone read the 'No Trump' column in this morning's Press Republican?” Silence. And then I added, after a suitable pause, “It appeared in the Bridge Column and dealt with opening leads against No Trump contracts.” Amid initial groans as my brother-in-law rose to leave the table, accompanied by “Honey, you promised,” a drawn out “Dad,” and “Uncle John” and “Grandpa,” there was a long sigh of relief but not much laughter.
At this point in our nation's history, no one seems able to divide a room of intelligent people into often angry factions or a closely-knit family into tempestuous antagonisms than our current president—unless that person is Jesus Christ. Conversation is amiable, genuinely inquisitive until someone asks innocently, “Well, Dad, what's it like to be back at Saint John's?” And as I commence an updated and integrated account of how one responds to “Who do you say that I am?” as it manifests itself in my life and in the lives of parishioners with whom I have become close once again, someone begins to clear the table, forgetting that the task is done by the grandchildren, while another has to get two babies ready for bed, though they are already sound asleep, or the pie has to be cut, though no one has room for dessert after a sumptuous dinner.
The mention of Jesus Christ, the confession that he is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, no matter the circumstances, manages to bring division into the equation; okay, if you must, mention the Messiah, after all we asked the question, but do so without passion, without conviction, without any hint of conversion. Never introduce the extreme variable of how Jesus has shaped your life, continues to shape your life. In one of his biblical commentaries, Kent Hughes illustrates this by citing a scene from a G. K. Chesterton novel in which a conflict occurs between a Christian and an atheist and they are brought before a magistrate. The Christian claims that his antagonist is an “enemy of God,” to which the judge responds that “God has nothing to do with us. Religion is too personal a matter to be mentioned in a courtroom...of course there is a formal oath to be taken, but to talk in a public place about one's most sacred sentiments—well I call it bad taste.--(Slight applause).” Finally, the Christian and the atheist are committed to an insane asylum, but Chesterton makes it apparent that their captors are the ones who are insane, not they.
As we have begun an examination of Revelation in the Tuesday morning Bible Study group, Fr. Duncan has emphasized that the text is not an historical artifact, that it is as pertinent today as it was 2000 years ago, that the letters to the seven churches are meant for us, and he has asked us to consider where we fit in, how the letters apply to the contemporary Church as praise and warning as well as to the early Church. One of the things that stands out in the study group and in the question asked by Jesus in this morning's gospel selection from Mark is that one's confession of Jesus as Messiah, as the Christ, as Lord will often be an occasion for division. Stand firm in the marketplace of antiquity, modernity, post-modernity, or any other current fashion and it will become apparent that how you and I answer “Who do you say that I am?” will take us to whatever cross lies before us. Jesus will disclose the nature of that journey as we decide to follow him, but if we will drink of his living water, he will fill us and sustain us and we will rest in him.
With all blessings, Fr. John+
Friday, September 07 2018
“Open my heart, O Lord that I may lay aside the preoccupations of my life
Martin Smith gave me this prayer at a retreat I was leading. I wrote it in my journal and share it with you because I think that the preoccupations of our lives are becoming overwhelming and the peace of Christ that passes all understanding is a treasure that we all need and desire. I pray that you will open your heart and your ears to the love of Christ and that St. John’s will continue to be a place of radical welcoming, hospitality, and God’s grace. May we crave the One whose steadfast love is eternal. May we share that love with our families, our congregation, and our neighbors. May we love one another as Christ loves us.
As you volunteer your time, talent, and treasure at St. John’s, it is my responsibility to keep you centered in Christ. One of my most important roles as pastor of this congregation is to lead each of you to a deeper spirituality. We are all very busy people and most of us can relate to “running” from one place to another in our life. It gets so crazy at times that I think people forget where they are running to.
Please take a few minutes from your busy life and enter into the peace that passes all understanding. God loves you deeply and wants you to live a meaningful life. When we draw close to the love of God, we begin to see the path of self-giving love that Jesus Christ has taught us through his life, death, and resurrection. At St. John’s, you will see many examples of those who give themselves to others.
There are saints among us that have such a deep love for Jesus Christ that the love of God exudes from their ministry. They often care for the sick, visit the lonely, feed the hungry, and provide Living Water to those who thirst. They provide this Living Water by living a Christian life that is rooted in their faith and love of Jesus Christ. They may work on the breakfast team, visit shut ins, or serve on our Hilda’s Guild. You will not often see them taking credit for anything they do and may never even notice the wonderful ministry that they do, until you are in need yourself and they care for you and love you like family.
I ask you to join us this Sunday to celebrate the saints that serve at St. John’s. We will remember John Simon and William (Uncle Bill) Slade through a memorial dedication. Please join Mary Simon and her family at the 10:00 for a very special service. Then join us after service for a hot breakfast and coffee. We look forward to seeing you back again this Sunday.
In Christ’s love,