Friday, September 24 2021
Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased. So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child, to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors’? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once—if I have found favor in your sight—and do not let me see my misery.” (Numbers 11:10-15)
Justo Gonzales is a Liberation Theologian and historian. He compares the activity of the church across the world over the past two thousand years. Gonzales observed that the North American and European Christian churches are receding. The geology of Christians is shifting. The global south is growing by leaps and bounds and the Northern Churches are barely holding on.
When we look at our lives in the past several years, most of us notice that our Christian landscape in America is changing. Episcopalians have decreased from 3.4 million in 1965 to maybe 1.6 million today. Of the 1.6 million, a majority will not attend church this Sunday. Mark’s Gospel asks us “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?”
In the reading from Numbers, the people of Israel are complaining to Moses. God brought them out of bondage in Egypt, to the desert and provided them with manna to eat. They struggled to see that the landscape had changed and could only look back at the good food that they enjoyed as slaves in Egypt. They missed their roasted meat so they complained to Moses. Moses tells God that their burden is too great. They whine and complain about not having meat. The fact of the story that most people do not realize is that most of these folks will never make it to the Promised Land.
At St. John’s we are called to proclaim Jesus Christ as the messiah, the son of the Living God. For the past few weeks we have been asked question after question. This week Fr. John Morrison will be recognized for his ministry at St. John’s and will preach at the 10:00 service on Sunday. Please join us to celebrate his ministry, his move to Connecticut, and to hear him preach, “Questions, questions, questions.” At 11:30 we will have a memorial service for Robert Boise and celebrate his ministry at St. John’s. This week we had a Sacred Ground session with eight different churches, the Thrift Shop was open, we had two sessions of bible study, five Morning Prayer services, a wake, two memorial services, a baptism, a wedding, a youth group barbeque, three AA meetings, two choir rehearsals, yoga, Nursery school with 54 children, Sunday school, an ECW Harvest Fair meeting, a St. Hilda’s Guild meeting, four Holy Eucharist services, and we have almost completed a $150,000 historic restoration of our building. I give thanks for your faith and the saltiness of your ministry in an ever changing landscape.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, September 17 2021
Mark 9:33-35 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way? But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.
Micah 6:8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Luke 14:11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Eph.4:1-2 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
Col. 3:12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Jam. 4:6 But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.
Luke 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples a second time that Jesus will be betrayed, killed and rise again on the third day. Jesus knows that he is running out of time. Jesus is instructing the disciples because although they know he is the Son of the Living God, they do not know what is ahead. They will soon be headed for Jerusalem and Jesus needs the disciples to understand the truth about what is about to happen. The disciples are so confused about Jesus’ self-sacrificing love that they argue who is greatest among them. It will take the resurrection for the disciples to catch on. Judas will betray Jesus, Peter will deny knowing him, the rest of the disciples will hide in the upper room for their very lives as Jesus is crucified. Today’s lesson is about humility. May the Spirit of Truth guide us down this path gently.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, September 10 2021
“Open my heart, O Lord that I may lay aside the preoccupations of my life and know that you are already here. Teach me your desire for steadfast closeness and swallow me in your love. Open my ears that I may know an intimacy that is already there. You have dwelled in me since my baptism. Let me deepen my desire for intimacy with you (Martin Smith).”
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. This pandemic seems to be with us for another fall and winter. Please take a moment away from the media and back to the one that loves you eternally. 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 at the Thrift Shop, help with our Harvest Fair, visit shut ins, or serve on our St. 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 on September 19th and 26th to celebrate the saints that serve at St. John’s. We will give thanks for the ministry of Rob Wheeler on September 19th at the 10:00 service. We will give thanks on September 26th at 10:00 for the ministry and service at St. John’s for Rev. John Morrison. At 11:30 on September 26th, we will have a service of remembrance for Robert Boise. Please join us in the church, on zoom, or on Facebook live.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, September 03 2021
This Sunday's first reading is from the 35th Chapter of Isaiah. Here we see a reflection of the power of Israel's God to restore creation. Once God's aims are accomplished, and God's vengeance is satisfied, nature is restored to the order God desires. In fact, nature is made better than it was before. The desert not only blooms as it might do in a normal spring season (Vs. 1-2), it also runs over with new sources of water (Vs. 6-7). The desert has been transformed into a marsh. And like the orders of nature, the people themselves are also better than they were before. All their physical infirmities have been healed (Vs. 5-6), and their fears have been allayed by the knowledge that God's vengeance, in this case, is expressed for their benefit and not their harm (Vs. 3-4). Here the prophesied curse of ears that do not hear, eyes that do not see, and minds that do not understand the intentions of God (Isaiah 6:9-10) are replaced with a promise of bodies whole and strong and a God that can be heard clearly calling for the people's restoration. This is a clear and awesome promise of a faithful God, the same God we worship today.
Our second reading from St. James is part of a letter to Jewish Christians who were caught up in the social tensions of the mid-first century. At this time, there were outbreaks of violence and insurrection taking place in Jerusalem and environs — a conflict that would culminate in the Jewish revolt of A.D. 66-70. In fact, the whole Roman world was dealing with unrest, including food shortages, economic problems and the rapid turnover of Roman emperors that led to an erratic government policy toward Christians, Jews, and others. The problem before the church in this time of upheaval can be summed up: "How do we remain a faithful Christian community in the midst of this time of trial and temptation?" St. James wrote to encourage his brothers and sisters and to give them some instruction on how to navigate in difficult times. In essence, he says faithfulness must be practiced. He gives a series of instructions on how to live a good Christian life. However, he admonishes them not to just listen to the way but practice it. We may be sorely tested in life, but if we see those tests as an opportunity to be faithful, we can come to appreciate it as a gift from God.
Today's Gospel from St. Mark continues from last Sunday. Here we are told of two healing miracles by a rather tired traveling Jesus. Although different, these miracles, clearly reveal the awesome power of Jesus as well as expressing his desire to keep his identity secret. The first miracle reported here involves the daughter of a Gentile woman. It seems like Jesus initially does not want to heal the girl, however, Jesus clearly respects the mother’s persistence. On the basis of her words, he directs her to go with the promise that the demon has left her daughter. The reversal that Jesus demonstrates in his willingness to perform the miracle from verse 27 to verse 29 is unparalleled throughout the gospels. That an unclean, Gentile woman should be the cause of such a reversal is even more astounding. In the second healing miracle, Jesus adopts a rather unusual procedure for healing the deaf man by putting his fingers into his ears, spitting, and touching his tongue. In antiquity, saliva was sometimes imagined as conveying healing or magical properties. We remember that Jesus also uses his saliva later in the gospel to heal the blind man at Bethsaida (8:23). However, for the healing of the deaf man, even more, actions are evidently necessary as Jesus pronounces the word "Ephphatha." In Jesus' speaking of an Aramaic pronouncement at the moment of healing, one might be reminded of the scene of Jairus' daughter's healing where a similar pronouncement affected the healing (5:41). Just as this secrecy does not stop the word about Jesus spreading within the narrative, so, too, does the gospel itself stand as testimony that such witnesses to Jesus will not ultimately be silenced.
-- Cn. Richard Visconti