Skip to main content
The Chalice
Sunday, June 24 2018

Christ sleeps in the deepest selves of all of us, and whatever we do in whatever time we have left, wherever we go, may we in whatever way we can call on him as the fishermen did in their boat to come awake within us and to give us courage, to give us hope, to show us, each one, our way. May he be with us especially when the winds go mad and the waves run wild, as they will for all of us before we're done, so that even in their midst we may find peace...we may find Christ (Frederick Buechner).

This morning we will sing the Naval Hymn. The song reminds me that there are people in harm’s way defending my freedom. I pray for their families that worry about them and I pray every day that they will safely return home to their loved ones as soon as possible. Most of us have never been on the front line like our military, our police, our rescue workers, and our firemen, but almost all of us have felt the deep fear when we have been in danger. Maybe it was a serious illness, an auto accident, turbulence on a plane, or a storm when we were on a boat, but most of us have felt that sick feeling in our belly.

Some of the disciples were experienced fishermen, so we know that the danger was real when the boat began to fill with water as they were crossing the Sea of Galilee. One of the disciples woke Jesus up and asked him if he cared if they were perishing. Jesus said, “Peace. Be still.” 

The world is a scary place. Just read the newspaper or watch the news and you might be fearful. Our culture and politics in particular use fear to drive your emotions. This week, a large group of people from Huntington protested the separation of immigrant families. Did you know that “Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2013 carried out more than 72,000 deportations of parents who said they had U.S.-born children, according to reports to Congress?” The fact is that all of us could be more compassionate to immigrants in this country. Take Action! Write Congress to stop family separation and defend access to asylum! If you’ve already reached out, get in touch with 5 friends now and encourage them to speak out too. Be an Informed Advocate. Learn more about immigration issues through these educational resources from the Office of Government Relations:

WATCH: “Understanding Our Immigration System" or 

“Loving Your Neighbor: Faithful Action on Immigration” webinar

Additional Resources: 

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Joint Statement on Family Separation at our Borders 6/7/2018

Statement from Rebecca Blachly, Director, Office of Government Relations                       

Immigration and Refugee Policies of The Episcopal Church                                         

UNHCR urges family unity at southern US border                                                   

Actions from the Women’s Refugee Commission                                             

Frederick Buechner believes that Jesus Christ is asleep in each of us. When the Gospel stirs our hearts, we can practice the loving-kindness that our Lord shows to us. We can begin to work together for justice with compassion in our hearts. You can lead the way by waking Jesus in our hearts and loving one another as God loves us. Be an Informed Advocate and take collective action.

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Duncan  

Posted by: Rev. Duncan A. Burns, Rector AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, June 17 2018

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Collect for Proper 6 Year B)

On most days of my job, I come into contact with a person that is having a difficult time in their life. It might be a homeless person, a recovering addict, a person that just lost their job, a recently divorced person, someone who has received a dire medical diagnosis, a person suffering from depression, or someone who has lost a dear friend or family member. I sometimes wonder how God can allow all the suffering in the world. My best understanding is that God doesn’t cause pain, but gives us strength to endure it.

The deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have shown a spotlight this week on the pain that many people are feeling. I had quite a bit of time to think about how disconnected our culture has become from the wellspring of life that is a source of joy and contentment. For me, hiking in Norway connected me to God and creation. Going to church and praying every day, keeps me in relationship with Jesus Christ. Church is more important than ever, because each of us needs to be connected to God and one another.

In today’s lessons, we are asked to “walk by faith, not by sight.” Faith for me is my connection to the Creator and all creation. I believe with all my heart that God loves every person that comes to me for help and that God can give anyone the strength to get through those difficult times that we all face in our lives. It is important in our busy lives to stay grounded in God throughout our lives. It is important to look after one another.

My prayer for everyone that is reading this chalice is that you will draw closer to the one who gave his life for you that you might have abundant life in him. We are part of the Jesus Movement in the Episcopal Church because, we believe that Christ came to show us the way, the truth and the life. We need God and one another to stay healthy and to have strength to face those difficult times that will undoubtedly come to each one of us.

Please enjoy your vacations this summer and remember to pray and give thanks in our good times and in our bad times. Proclaim the Gospel boldly by word and deed and do justice with compassion. God loves you dearly and we are blessed to have such a wonderful community at St. John’s. I also ask you to keep Deacon Anthony in your prayers while he is away at seminary this week.

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Duncan  

Posted by: Rev. Duncan A. Burns, Rector AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, June 10 2018

You might not have noticed, so ingrained am I with him, but I haven't called attention to “he who must not be named” in any of my homilies since I returned to Saint John's in January. However, in this edition of “The Chalice,” I want to begin with some remarks made to me by Fr. Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis's personal secretary toward the end of Lewis's life. These remarks may be found in the Introduction to “The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses,” a collection of essays and sermons by Lewis: “The Weight of Glory” is so magnificent that I dare to consider it worthy of a place with some of the Church Fathers. It was preached at the invitation of Canon T. R. Milford at Solemn Evensong in the twelfth-century Oxford University Church of St. Mary the Virgin on 8 June 1941 to one of the largest congregations ever assembled there in modern times.”

I have heard this sermon preached at St. Mary the Virgin on three occasions, twice by Joss Ackland, the British actor who played Lewis in the acclaimed production of Shadowlands, and once by David Suchet, best know for his role as Hercule Poirot, the detective created by Agatha Christie. The sermon lasted precisely forty-seven and one-half minutes, both when Lewis preached it originally and when Ackland and Suchet revived it. A virtual NO NO by today's standards, but no one left in 1941 and neither did anyone when I heard it—and it was the third time through for me (not to mention the many times I have read, hi-lighted, and commented on it in my copy of the sermon). I mention this because the sermon unwraps many of the mysteries in the elusive phrase “the weight of glory” in this morning's reading from 2 Corinthians. As an aside, the passage is one of the New Testament suggestions in The Book of Common Prayer for use at a funeral; it is one I have selected for my funeral.

The following short passages are all from Lewis's sermon. They are offered for your contemplation and prayer; they are a sneaky way of enticing you (hopefully) to read the entire piece.

  1. “We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meany by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
  2. “To please God...to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness...to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”
  3. “At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”
  4. “The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy.”

In some way, each of us is meant to reflect a different facet of God's glory, to be like diamonds held up to the light, radiant to behold. As one scholar phrased it, the renewed human race is “meant to be the mirror in which the rest of creation can see who its creator really is, and can worship and serve him truly.” As an old hymn puts it, let each of us so shine with the love of Jesus that we “fill this land with the Father's glory.”

Under the Mercy,
Fr. John+

Posted by: Rev. John Morrison AT 09:39 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, June 03 2018

More than a decade ago, a member of this parish gave me a copy of Books and Culture. It was in this bi-monthly publication that I first encountered the name of Michael O'Brien, the Canadian Roman Catholic novelist and icon painter, and his best known piece of fiction at that time, Father Elijah: An Apocalypse. I knew the reviewer and several other scholars who lauded the author's works. After reading Father Elijah, I was hooked.

The reason I mention this in this reflection is because there is a passage in the novel that makes a significant point with regard to the baptism of Noah Weinstein this morning, though O'Brien certainly did not have this intention in mind: “I think that it means that in every person's soul there is an icon of what he is meant to be. An image of Love is hidden there. Each soul is beloved beyond imagining. Each soul is beautiful in the eyes of God. Our sins and faults, and those committed against us, bury this original image. We can no longer see ourselves as we really are.” The assertion is made by Fr. Elijah to a dissolute, self-loathing man who fancies himself a realist; the remark penetrates his seemingly impenetrable shell; it functions as a catalyst for his eventual conversion.

This morning we are baptizing a very young child. This little chapter, really a preface, perhaps only a title page, is just the beginning for Noah Weinstein. As he grows into the full stature of Christ with the help of his family, most notably his parents and godparents, the holy material of his everyday life will be defined by the choices he makes. As C. S. Lewis notes in The Great Divorce, those choices, in their singular part in the drama of the universe, will shift the balance of the world. Though we may not know it, though we may not think about it this morning (especially if we attend the eight o'clock service), a baptism in a small church on the north shore of Long Island occupies a prominent place in the divine drama of salvation. As Pawel Tarnowski, the primary character in O'Brien's Sophia House, says, “[You and I] must live by the conviction that each human life—even the humblest—is of infinite worth.”

This is true even of a baby who has no grasp of what is to transpire at Saint John's. O'Brien puts it this way: “Every soul is an icon of Christ.” Gathered together, you and I transmit the message this morning that the life of Noah Weinstein is of paramount importance because he will make Christ manifest to others. This morning we sing “Open your ears, O faithful people.” Let our ears be so open to God's word that we will live out our promise to shepherd Noah on his journey, that he will know that God has come to him.

Under the Mercy,

Fr. John+

Posted by: Rev. John Morrison AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email