Friday, November 26 2021
Wednesday, November 17 2021
Christ Our Servant King
Next week, we will be in Advent, where we wait and prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus, our King. But, just who is this Jesus, the King?
Daniel Clendenin tells us that the birth of Jesus signaled that God would "bring down rulers from their thrones" (Luke 1:52). In Mark's gospel the very first words that Jesus spoke announced that "the kingdom of God is at hand" (1:15). John's gospel takes us to the death of Jesus, and the political theme is the same. Jesus was dragged to the Roman governor's palace for three reasons, all political: "We found this fellow subverting the nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King" (Luke 23:1–2).
Jesus announced that He is King and that the rulers of the world are not. We know that as humans we are prone to sin and under those circumstances our own human leadership would be filled with endless political strife and rebellions, which, in fact, is what we see in today’s world. The Israelites yearned for God to provide kings to lead and protect them, and maybe just make things easier for them, but those leaders, always ended up falling short of the goal of bringing peace and justice to their world.
The visions that Daniel has in this week’s reading trace the rise and fall of some of the greatest political kingdoms known throughout history: Babylon, Persia, Greece and finally Rome. But Daniel foretells of a king whose kingdom is not ethnically, spatially, or temporally limited. God’s kingdom is an everlasting dominion, not destined to pass away. Daniel goes on to say in verse 14 that peoples of all nations and of every language are welcome to worship the one true ruler of all the kings of the earth.
Christ, our King taught the disciples how to pray in the Lord’s prayer when he said. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." People who live and pray this way have a very different agenda than Caesar's. They enter a kingdom, pledge their allegiance to a ruler, and submit to the reign of Christ the King.
Jesus is a prophet, priest, and king. When he walked this earth, he didn’t look like a powerful ruler, yet he modeled a much more meaningful and effective kind of leadership as a servant king – one who welcomes, loves, and cares for all people. May we, at St. John’s continuing to walk in faith, love, and service side by side all those we meet in our community, persevere in modeling our lives after Christ our Servant King.
Friday, November 12 2021
“Our church, which has been fighting in these years only for its self-preservation, as though that were an end in itself, is incapable of taking the word of reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world. Our earlier words are therefore bound to lose their force and cease, and our being Christians today will be limited to two things; prayer and righteous action among men. All Christian thinking, speaking, and organizing must be born anew out of this prayer and action…It is not for us to prophesy the day (although the day will come) when people will once more be called so to utter the word of God that the world will be changed and renewed by it. It will be a new language, perhaps quite non-religious, but liberating and redeeming – as was Jesus’ language; it will shock people and yet overcome them by its power; it will be the language of a new righteousness and truth, proclaiming God’s peace with people and the coming of his kingdom…Till then the Christian cause will be a silent and hidden affair, but there will be those who pray and do right and wait for God’s own time.”
– Letters and Papers from Prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer-
Although some might complain, I feel that we live in a wonderful country and that we have a fabulous church. I give thanks for the freedoms we have and give thanks for those who have defended this great nation and for those who have kept the faith. Please join me in service on Sunday at 8:00 or 10:00 and give thanks to those who have served this country and defended our freedom.
My mom was born in Germany and her grandfather suffered persecution from the Nazis for refusing to give in to Hitler. He was taken into custody and tortured for refusing to reveal the names of the Jews that worked for him at the Berlin Broadcasting Company. He later died of a gunshot to the head. My grandfather was forced to give up the company and come to America or face the same persecution. The bad news in our lessons today is that there are forces of evil in the world ready to destroy us and what we believe in. The Good News is that if we have faith, we have the blessed hope of everlasting life.
In today’s Gospel, the disciples comment on the magnificent temple in Jerusalem. Jesus points to the temple and says, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left there upon another: all will be thrown down.” Some of you might know that the temple at the time of Jesus was beautifully adorned. Josephus describes the temple as such, “whatever was not overlaid with gold was purest white” (Josephus, Jewish War 5.5.6). King Herod the Great had lavishly adorned the temple with gold. In the year 70 C.E. the Romans, under Titus, burned the temple to the ground and destroyed it. Not a stone in the temple was left unturned. Gold was removed from each stone before laying it to waste. Josephus speaks of these terrible years in Jerusalem as the Zealots fought against the Romans and at times against their own people. There was starvation and suffering and lots of grim stories. When Jesus spoke in front of the temple, it was beyond the imagination of the disciples that something so beautiful would be destroyed in their lifetime. Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?’ Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!”* And they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”
I am thankful for this beautiful church at St. John’s and all the wonderful people that attend here. Yet I do not take for granted that all churches in America will survive. Attendance at church is in a steep decline in New York and in the Episcopal Church because folks have moved on to other priorities. Continue to utter the word of God that the world will be changed and renewed by it. Spread the language of a new righteousness and truth, proclaiming God’s peace with people and the coming of his kingdom. I urge you to continue to support this church and have faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. St. John’s will continue to thrive because we are doing God’s work in Huntington and you want that ministry to continue.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, November 05 2021
In this week’s Gospel, Mary comes to Jesus. She knelt at his feet and said to him,
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:32-44).
The real question I have for you today is: Are you open to the mystery of God and the unimaginable ability for the Gospel to transform our lives? Where will you be when you emerge from this Covid 19 cave? We live in a world filled with hate and there are always factions drawing each of us against one another. We are faced with forces that draw us from the love of God and the love of one another. We must believe that the Gospel has the power to turn us ever so slightly from our current trajectory to the Kingdom of God. To do that we must face the fact that we need to turn from the dead areas of our lives and the darkness of the cave we sometimes live in and walk into the light. How does our Lord come to the dead areas of your life and call you to come out? What is the tomb of your life? There are factors that bind all of us and limit us. Hate, violence, selfishness, the need for power and excessive money are examples of things that bind us and limit us. Warren Wiersbe once said that “God doesn’t bless us just to make us happy. God blesses us to make us a blessing (to each other).”
At St. John’s we have a wonderful family of people that are a blessing to one another. 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, many people have witnessed why they love St. John’s and what brings them joy. We have something special here at St. John’s. It is the love of Christ. 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. Giving of ourselves for the sake of others literally ushers in the coming kingdom.
On Sunday, we will celebrate All Saints' Day, the Holy Eucharist, Baptism and Loyalty Sunday. We will reaffirm our own commitment to Christ in the Baptismal Covenant. I ask each of you to first commit yourselves to Christ and then to turn in your pledge card during the offertory. If you are out of town, please mail your pledge card to the office by November 14th. Please join us for this very special Sunday and give generously to St. John’s.
In Christ’s love,
Rev. Duncan Burns