Sunday, June 27 2021
“Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live. So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” (Mark 5:22-29).
There is no doubt that Jesus is a healer. Jesus is healing folks and announcing the coming of the Kingdom. What is evident in the lesson this week and next week is that the coming of the Kingdom happens through our faith and through a relationship with God. In my teaching sermon two weeks ago, I mentioned that the Kingdom of God is the gathering of believers that follow the will of God. The irony of being a Christian is that without faith you can’t even imagine the coming of the Kingdom. With faith and a relationship with Jesus Christ, you can’t imagine anything besides the coming of the Kingdom.
This is what makes St. John’s such a special place. Many of us have journeyed through difficult waters during the pandemic, but our faith and the prayers of our brothers and sisters have guided us. Jesus not only healed folks with faith like the woman in the Gospel, but heals faithful folks every day. God can’t fix every problem we have, but Jesus can walk with us through the stormy days. The Kingdom comes when we feel our fellow St. John’s parishioners right there with us.
Even Jairus, a synagogue ruler, believes that Jesus has the power to heal his daughter. There is no doubt that his power comes from above. When your mind is closed to the possibilities of the coming of the Kingdom, you will struggle to have faith in a being greater than yourself. The woman in our story believes that Jesus has the power to heal her. This is not to say that God will answer every prayer and heal every disease, but that the healing had a purpose in God’s plan. Jesus feels the energy leave his body as this faithful woman touches Jesus’ prayer shawl. Jesus will often tell folks that their faith has made them well. When we open our minds to the possibilities of the Kingdom, God will keep us on the path to the Kingdom of God. When we believe that Jesus was merely a Carpenter who did good things instead of the Son of God, we close the door on the power of the Holy Spirit. When we have faith that God loves us dearly and we are open to the power of the love of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, we can have an incarnational expectancy.
St. Augustine said, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us. Therefore, there is no one on this planet that God loves more than you and no one that he loves less.” An incarnational expectancy is the knowledge and faith that God is present at St. John’s and that we are in store for amazing things.
Ministries like our thrift shop, our racial reconciliation committee, our nursery school, our concert and music programs, altar guild, our morning prayer, lay ministers, nursery school, spirituality group, Hilda’s group, or bible study all point to the coming of the God’s Kingdom when we have faith. Mission trips next year to Puerto Rico, Navajoland, and the southern border in Arizona will happen only if we have faith in the power of God’s love.
Right now, as we emerge from the pandemic, is a great time for all of us to re-claim our faith, develop our relationship with Jesus Christ, and discern God’s call in our lives.
In Christ's love,
Friday, June 18 2021
“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
In last week’s sermon, Fr. Duncan spoke about the parable of the mustard seed, and how, although even the smallest of seeds may grow to be a very large bush. The seed represents the humble beginnings of the kingdom of God. We are God’s seeds. Have we nurtured our individual seeds through prayer – to become strong enough to advance God’s kingdom in our own world today? We cannot successfully go forward unless we know who Jesus is – and we learn through prayer, study, and being in communion with all of the faithful. This is how our faith, knowledge, and ability to be obedient grow, enabling us to be more effective in our various ministries.
This week, further on in Mark, the disciples find themselves in the midst of a storm. While they have been listening to Jesus preach and heal all day, when that storm surges and they believe they are all going to die, the fear that arises in them is palpable. It almost seems like an eternity before they turn to Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38) They clearly expected a response from Jesus, but after he calmed the storm, their fear did not abate. “Who then is his that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Who IS this Jesus?
Is our God big enough to calm the storms in our lives? Lately there have been many storms that we have been suffering through together, and perhaps some that you have had to endure on your own. Think about Job. In this week’s lesson, God actually speaks to Job from the whirlwind of a storm – chastising him for not really knowing him deeply enough:
“Who is this that obscures my plans
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.” (Job 38: 1-3)
Job’s picture of his God was just not big enough, but ultimately, Job is forced to grow and to see God in a much grander way.
Like Job, the disciples too are now forced to take another look at this Jesus who calms the storm. Clearly, he is more than a teacher. His disciples at least got the question right, but the story is more than just about their lack of faith. “Who IS this Jesus?”
In both Job and Mark, the storm reveals something about God, the world, and faith. Ultimately, in the case of Job, he will begin to have hope and even risk starting a new family after his many great losses. In Mark, the disciples now take one more step toward recognizing Jesus as their Messiah.
As we navigate the storms in our lives, let us work together to grow our faith. Perhaps then, our tiny mustard seeds will grow into amazing bushes more visible and vibrant as we continue to live out our Mission in the community: “To Know Christ and To Make Christ Known.” Maybe our bush will even bloom into exciting new ministries!
Claire Mis, Seminarian
Sunday, June 13 2021
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade” (Mark 4:30-32).
Parables are a powerful tool used by Jesus to communicate the coming of God’s reign and the coming of the Kingdom. They are compelling stories of everyday people that often surprise us. Who would expect the Prodigal Son to be met with open arms by his father after wasting his inheritance? What a surprise that the man that is robbed and beaten does not receive help from the priest, but from the hated Samaritan? Who would expect the greatest shrub to come from a tiny seed? Parables have the ability to change the way we see the world and therefore are able to transform us into seeing from the divine perspective instead of through our normal cultural lenses. God’s reign spreads from a spark to a wild fire when we hear, accept, and grow in God’s love. Even a seed as small as the mustard seed will flourish when it is sown in the ground. I see the mustard seed as the love of God that is sown in our hearts. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that everyone that believes may have eternal life. Jesus love is sown into all of our hearts and each of us can, have, and will do amazing things. From small beginnings come great things through the power of God. Today’s Gospel demonstrates God’s mystery and power in commonplace events and activities.
In last week’s sermon, I used Mark’s question of “who is Jesus? “It is somewhat ironic that the disciples heard the parables in the Gospel of Mark and then showed us what not to do by their actions. It is important to see the literary context of this Gospel. The rhetorical effect of asking these questions is that the reader must look for their own answer. To heighten this rhetorical effect, Mark portrays the disciples as totally unaware of who Jesus is. The audience now shares the enlightened viewpoint of Jesus with the narrator. We therefore need to approach the passage within the context of this irony and Mark’s overall purpose in this Gospel. We cannot just look at the passage from a historical perspective. Mark isn’t just trying to tell us a story. Mark challenges us to answer the question, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Peter denies Jesus three times before hiding in the upper room during the crucifixion. When Mary comes and tells the disciples that “he is risen,” they don’t believe a word of it (until they meet Jesus themselves in Galilee). This is one of the great lessons in the Gospel of Mark. Sometimes a mustard plant might look like a weed, but when we nurture it and take care of the plant it can grow to be a twelve foot shrub.
We too can have our doubts at certain points in our lives. Many churches act like the disciples and do exactly the opposite of what God asks them to do. Most of us get off the path at various times in our lives. This is why the Word of God is vital and daily prayer is so important. God loves us unconditionally and offers us the way, the truth, and the life through the Gospels and through the parables of Jesus Christ. They ring true yesterday, today, and always because they were uttered by God to keep us on the path. When we let scriptures wash over us and when we enter into the unexpected story of the parable, God is able to do amazing things through us. I am thankful for the sinners and saints that have preceded us in the past 276 years at St. John’s. May the Holy Spirit guide us this day and always to God’s path.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, June 04 2021
Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind” (Mark 3:19-21).
As we study the Gospel of Mark this year, I ask you to look a little deeper into this Gospel. The passage contains several questions that lead you to Mark’s main purpose of the Gospel. The Gospel begins, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1 NRSV). In the end of the passage the disciples are asking, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:41b NRSV)” It is important to see the literary context of this question. The rhetorical effect of asking these questions is that the reader must look for their own answer. To heighten this rhetorical effect Mark portrays the disciples as totally unaware of who Jesus is. The audience now shares the enlightened viewpoint of Jesus with the narrator. We therefore need to approach the passage within the context of this irony and Mark’s overall purpose in this Gospel. We cannot just look at the passage from a historical perspective. Mark isn’t just trying to tell us a story. Mark challenges us to answer the question, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” My hope is that you live with an expectancy of many great possibilities with the Risen Lord at St. John’s.
In Sunday’s Gospel, the people are saying that Jesus has gone out of his mind. The disciples will struggle to understand the mission of Jesus until the resurrection on Easter Sunday. The understanding of his brothers and sisters being those who follow the will of God is still tricky for us today. God is able to reach his arms of love through Jesus Christ to find the lost, heal the sick, cloth the naked, repair the broken and give Living Water to the thirsty. At St. John’s we are called to open our doors wide and welcome everyone into our church. On Sundays at noon, we will open our church for a concert from Alex. Three days a week, we will open our church to AA. Twice a week we open our doors for the Thrift Shop. Next Thursday at 4:00 our Spirituality group meets. Every morning a group welcomes folks to Morning Prayer at 9AM. We have bible study on Tuesdays at 11AM. This summer we will follow Forward Day by Day. Copies are available at 12 Prospect St. and on the table in the back of the church. Hilda’s Guild meets at 12noon on Tuesdays. Sundays we have service at 8 and 10 in person, on zoom, and on Facebook Live. Please join us this week and please invite a friend!
While the country is ravaged with gun violence, political strife, apathy, and selfishness, Jesus calls on you to be peaceful, loving, caring, and selfless. Be kind to everyone who enters our space and love them like they were your family. This month is gay pride month and we celebrate all our LGBTQ+ members. We are focused on racial reconciliation and we are called to love one another and be thankful for the diversity of race that we are blessed with at St. John’s. I am proud to fly the American flag in front of our church and support our troops and all that serve in uniform. God loves all of us as children of God and we are called to do likewise. While many are leaving the church and joining the political tribalism of today’s culture, I would rather follow our Presiding Bishop and be one of those “Crazy Christians.”
In Christ’s love,