Friday, September 27 2019
O Magnify the LORD with me,
There are moments, dates, and times in life that mark milestones and significant transitions. Sometimes we know it in the moment but often times it is in reflecting back that we realize “that was the day.” In early 2013, Bishop Provenzano and Father Shin, knowing I lived in Queens, asked me if Huntington would be too far for me to travel on Sundays. I told them I would start walking on Saturday to get there if I had to! April 21, 2013 was my first Sunday at St. John’s. I did not know in the moment that it was the day I had been set on a new path.
What was to be a brief experience lasting just a few months transformed into an amazing journey of over six years. Father Shin became Bishop Shin. Father Duncan brought energy and new vision. There are now exciting and life changing ministries that are visible examples of what members and friends of St. John’s are doing right here and around the world.
During this time, you all have faithfully journeyed with me in discernment and formation to become a priest. The moment from deacon to ordained ministry as priest happened on Saturday, September 14. Words cannot express to you my gratitude, thankfulness, and love to each one of you for allowing me to explore God’s call in my life with you. Your encouragement, support, and love not only allowed space for God to work in me, but also allowed God to work in you. I truly believe this is, in part, because we have committed to magnify the Lord and we have exalted his name together.
During the Ordination service at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, representatives of St. John’s and St. Augustine’s joined to present me to Bishop Provenzano for ordination to the priesthood. This was more than a formality; it was more than symbolic. The presenters literally presented a part of themselves and the congregations with me as being those who recognized God’s call in me, formed me, presented me, and then willingly receive me back in a new way for a new ministry. It feels something like a parent releasing their child to live on their own as an adult. It is exciting and joyful to transition to a new and different ministry, but with excitement and joy come some moments of discomfort as our relationship in this place shifts. But God is doing and will continue to do more in us than we can ask or imagine.
I am so happy and encouraged that the worship, work, ministries, and events we have begun with St. Augustine’s will continue. I am grateful for the vision our congregations have to journey together in ministry and I am thankful to be with you in it! Let us continue in what has already begun. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
To God be the Glory!
Friday, September 20 2019
“A way of love that seeks the good and the well-being of the other before the self’s own unenlightened interest. A way of love that is not self-centered, but other-directed. A way of love grounded in compassion and goodness and justice and forgiveness. It is that way of love that is the way of Jesus. And that way of love that can set us all free”(Presiding Bishop Curry).
I am still a little delirious from the beautiful ordination of Deacon Anthony Jones to the priesthood. Bishop Provenzano specifically thanked the parish of St. John’s, Huntington for raising up such a fine priest. Deacon Anthony is now Fr. Anthony. As I reflect on the service and the standing room only crowd that was filled with St. John’s and St. Augustine’s parishioners, I am filled with great joy and pride. Fr. Anthony will continue to serve at St. Augustine’s in Brooklyn as he finishes his Master of Divinity degree and continues to work as an attorney for the Veterans Administration. The Bishop promised St. John’s a Vocational Deacon in the near future and the possibility of a Curate.
Next Sunday, Fr. Anthony will be celebrating the Eucharist and preaching at both the 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM services. Please plan to attend one of these services and show our appreciation for the love and ministry that Fr. Anthony has done at St. John’s. Please invite friends and family to the service. If you would like to donate to the gifts that we will give to Fr. Anthony, please write a check to St. John’s and put “Fr. Anthony’s gift” in the memo line. We will also be having a potluck brunch following the 10:00 service. Fr. Anthony has touched so many of our hearts that I ask you to show your appreciation by attending his Homecoming on Sunday September 29th. Pray for him in his new ministry that God will continue to keep him in the way of love and that he might bring others to God’s love.
As our culture becomes increasingly selfish and autonomous, I ask you to a life of self-giving love for the sake of others. In the hymn that we will sing after the Holy Eucharist we will be asked, “Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?” God calls each and every one of us to the way of love. This path is a path of connection and relationship. We are called to this life of self-sacrifice that draws us closer to God and our neighbor. I am thankful for the service that Fr. Anthony has done at St. John’s and for all the connections that he has made with us.
Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel about the negative effect that money can have on our lives. Money can actually stand in the way between God and us. The dishonest manager was over charging his clients for the benefit of the rich man and himself. Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters, we can walk the way of love or we can walk the way of greed. I would have enjoyed having Fr. Anthony as our assistant priest, but I realize that being an attorney, a seminary student, and commuting back and forth to Suffolk County from the city is not in his best interest. So as with so many things in life, we must allow Fr. Anthony to follow God’s call at another parish. The way of love is to thank him for his generous time, talent, and treasure that he has shared with us and pray for him as he moves to his next ministry. Maybe we will be called in the near future to train another individual for ordained ministry.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, September 13 2019
‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
So fair art thou, my bonnie lass, So deep in luve am I;
But we loved with a love that was more than love—I and my Annabel Lee;
And the sunlight clasps the earth And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove.
The great poets describe love in ways that bend our minds into a deeper understanding of this human emotion that we experience in different ways. Jesus tries to explain to the crowd the steadfast love of God. He begins by turning the Pharisees world upside down. He eats with and preaches to tax collectors and sinners The Pharisees see themselves as better than the common person and look down on anyone who does not live up to their lofty religious standards. But Jesus teaches the crowd that they may be despised by the religious leaders, but they are loved so deeply by God that there is no sin that they can’t be forgiven for. Jesus teaches that life is about relationship with God and our neighbor and not about the cultural standards of our time. So many people are told that they are not pretty enough, smart enough, or rich enough. We are told again and again that we do not live up to the unrealistic expectations of others. Jesus came to tell us that God’s mercy, love, and hope for each and every one of us is unbounded. “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).
Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin. In both metaphors, God is searching for you and me when we drift off the path. God is always reaching out to those who feel they are not perfect. Jesus comes to us with a message that God created us just as we are and we are loved by God so deeply that not even the greatest bards can describe the breadth and length and height and depth of that love.
I give thanks each and every day because God created this beautiful world and teaches us how to love one another. Last Sunday at St. John’s it was so nice to see people back from their summer vacations and worshiping together. I feel so blessed to serve the Lord with such a fine group of people. In both parables, when people return to the Lord, the natural reaction is to rejoice! We rejoice in the ordination of our Deacon, Anthony Jones to the priesthood. We rejoice in our prayers and in singing praise to God on Sundays. We rejoice in coming to the altar to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We rejoice by sharing a meal during the coffee hour and again at our parish picnic this Sunday at noon at the Centerport Senior Center.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9).
In exceeding thankfulness,
Friday, September 06 2019
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
If we are followers of Jesus Christ we have a decision to make. The Gospel tells us that if we are to be disciples of Christ, we must carry our cross. Jesus Christ is the incarnate Word of God. By this I mean that Jesus in the flesh, lives out the Word of God. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and love our neighbor as ourselves. Last week I mentioned that there is plenty of food, water, and shelter in the world, but we are not very good at sharing it with others. God asks us to welcome everyone to our table. This week Jesus asks us to give up ourselves and our possessions for the sake of others. Carrying our cross means that we need to live a life of self-giving instead of being selfish. Paul asks the church to do what God commands out of love. When we become followers we need to make a decision to follow the commandments of our Lord. Our lesson from Deuteronomy tells us that if we do this we shall live. Jesus tells us that if we believe in him, we will have abundant and eternal life. Both of these come with a cost. God’s grace is costly because it cost Jesus his life (Bonhoeffer). Jesus gave his life for us on a cross that we might be forgiven of our sins and have the only true life.
The beauty of loving God and our neighbor is that we feel the peace that passes all understanding, we receive the blessing of God, and we live a life that has meaning and purpose. As we begin another church school year at St. John’s, I ask you to give of yourself for the good of others. This can begin with prayer this Sunday for our loved ones, those on our prayer list, and those in need in the world. The Bahamas were devastated by the hurricane and they need our prayers and support. Families in Texas were devastated by two shootings and need our prayers and support. There is unrest and violence all over the world with refugees flooding our borders and countries all over the world. They need our prayers and support.
This week’s collect asks us to put our trust in God with all our heart. Jesus tells his disciples that they must love God above all other things. God asks for us to passionately follow the Gospel. I ask each of you to become passionate followers of Christ. Give of yourself for the purpose of helping others at St. John’s and you will live in the grace, love, and mercy of God. Stay for coffee and introduce yourself to newcomers. Invite family, friends, and neighbors to our concerts, Harvest Fair, and our church. Invite newcomers to share the hospitality that St. John’s is famous for at the coffee hour after church. We have an amazing group of parishioners and it is time to refocus our lives on being disciples of Jesus Christ.
Next weekend, Deacon Anthony will be ordained to the priesthood. He served the parish of St. John’s as a Deacon and will continue to serve as intern at St. Augustine’s in Brooklyn. He has carried his cross to several churches and to graduate school. We pray that God may fill him with the Holy Spirit and that his life will touch others. Please join us in Garden City for his ordination on September 14th at 11:00 AM. On Sunday September 15th he will celebrate the Eucharist at 9:30AM at St. Augustine’s in Brooklyn. Rev. Anthony Jones will also celebrate and preach at St. John’s on September 29th at 8:00 and 10.00.
In Christ’s love,