Friday, May 29 2020
Unless the eye catch fire,
God will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire
God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire
God will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire,
God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire,
God will not be known.
— William Blake
There are many places where I experience the living presence of God. I love to worship God in familiar liturgy that survives the test of time like Rite I. I love prayers that I have been saying since I was young like the Lord’s Prayer. I love holy, beautiful, and magnificent spaces like Cathedrals. I love to hear God praised through prayer, chant, and song. I love to share Eucharist in community. I love to read the bible in community and discern what the Holy Spirit is saying. The Coronavirus has made this very difficult. We need to be socially distant for a little while longer. We are working on a plan to open the church!
But church is not the only place where I experience the eternal. I love to watch the sun rise and watch the sun set. I love to watch wind as it blows through trees. I watch wind as it forms ripples on the water and move across the sound. I love to see waves at the ocean and to hear the melody of the water crashing against the shore. I love to watch water flow from the top of a mountain, through a waterfall and form a river. I love to stare into a fire. I enjoy the smell of burning wood, the feeling of warmth on a cold night, and the crackling of a fire. I love to hike deep into the woods. I love to hike so far and high into the wilderness that the only sounds I hear are the birds singing, the water rushing, and wind dancing through the forest. I love having 25 people at Morning Prayer on Zoom each morning. I love our coffee hours and our bible studies. The fact is, God is everywhere.
The Holy Spirit is coming to you if you look towards his eternal truth and the presence of the One, Holy, God. Yes, God is found at St. John’s, in our outreach, our bible study, our Thrift Shop, Hilda’s Guild, and in our community at breakfast, but God is also in our food donations and our benefit concerts. People ask me how to experience the Holy Spirit in their lives. I like to use the example of Peter to explain how it happens. “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:28-30)
I tell people that the first step is to have faith that Jesus Christ is Lord. Faith requires a little shift from the frontal lobe of your brain and that is where the experience can be lost before it even starts. This shift only occurs when we express true love and thanksgiving to God. Please know that you have been forgiven through the giving of Jesus Christ on the cross. I wish it were easier for us, but God asks us for nothing less than our whole self. God responds by giving us a taste of the eternal. This love eventually burns in all of our senses. Our soul becomes a conduit through all our senses of the ever living God. So what are you waiting for? Get out of the boat (church). Go catch the fire of God’s love and share it with everyone you meet.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, May 22 2020
So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." (Acts 1:6-11)
I find incredible meaning in the fact that Jesus Christ died on a cross, was resurrected three days later, and ascended back to heaven. It gives me comfort in these troubled times that God has the power to go back and forth from heaven. Jesus ascends to the God and promises us that he will not leave us orphaned. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to hear the Word of God. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He sets a path for us to walk. Part of this path is horizontal. We follow the commandments of God in our life by being the best person that we can be. We help each other when we are hurting and we invite everyone to join the family at St. John’s, Huntington. Through our prayer and worship we develop a vertical spirituality. This rarely happens if we are casual Christians. When we give our whole life to Christ, we develop a personal relationship with God. We have a conversation every morning. We pray for those who are hurting and God fills our heart with love, peace, joy, and a sense that our life has meaning. When things are tough for so many people both financially and mentally, God is especially present with us. We are able to do incredible things through the Holy Spirit and we can draw other’s hearts to relationship with God. I feel the presence of God when I am doing church together with all of you. This physical separation really tests our faith, but we have come together through zoom in new ways that have kept us close in heart.
We are going to throw the biggest 275th Anniversary celebration next year when we are allowed to come back together! I want to still have the Harvest Fair in October. Some of the raffles might have to be online, but we need our ECW to have the resources to help our community. We are going to start getting back together at church in July in small groups, but it won’t be long until we are all back together. The bishop will set the rules, but have faith that we will emerge stronger than ever at St. John’s. We have faith that Jesus Christ died, rose again, and ascended into heaven. He will be with us every step of this uncertain Covid-19 path. We will continue to live stream with Facebook and YouTube. If you do not have the ability to get online with zoom, we are hiring interns to get you a computer that will easily get you connected. Please let Coral know of your situation and we will get back to you.
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Friday, May 15 2020
“Alleluia, He Is Coming”
I looked up and I saw my Lord a-coming.
I looked up and I saw my Lord a-weeping.
I looked up and I saw my Lord a-dying.
I looked up and I saw my Lord a-rising.
I looked up and I saw my Lord a-coming.
A frequent image in literature and music is that of sight, of clarity of vision, of beholding with so much more than merely our physical eyes and one song that is unashamedly explicit in its use of this recurrent image is Martha Butler’s “Alleluia, He Is Coming.” Simple and familiar, easy to learn, easy to sing, yet sometimes simple and easy are best. But it is also a song charged with meaning, a song about you and me and the way in which we behold our Lord Jesus Christ coming, weeping, dying, and rising, a song about the fact that in the resurrection the kingdom of God has been inaugurated in a new way and you and I are to be part of that kingdom.
What we behold is a glimpse of glory and, just when we think that we understand, we discover that it is only a preview of something more glorious that for now must elude our grasp. It’s a bit like the overture to a Broadway musical that announces briefly the major themes to come. It is to apprehend for just a moment that such seeing is what we are made for, but not quite yet. Such seeing is a gift, a vision that has the power to alter who one is on the inside as with cleansed sight one beholds the Lord coming, weeping, dying, and rising as part of an eternal present—“He is coming; he is here.” Alleluia! At each moment our response is one of awe and admiration, praise and thanksgiving, humility and worship.
My Christian friends, the neo-pagan, post-modern secularist culture and intellectual academe seek to limit our vision and diminish our gifts: what the world of fact can neither see nor corroborate must therefore not be. What a suffocating view of existence as one is reduced to a mere accumulation of information. But this short hymn invites us to look up and discover that eternity remains resonant in the present and that the living reality of what we see is given unto us by grace and thus assert truly that “the concrete is not the last word or the ultimate arbiter of what is real.” As Bishop Tom Wright points out so poetically and perceptively in Christians at the Cross, “If you want to know what Christ’s death and resurrection mean, you have to hear the music, to listen not just to the tune which says he died and rose, but to the harmony which says ‘and this is what it means.’”
To look and behold Jesus coming—and here—is to see the one marked out as the rightful ruler of the world. With each repetition in the refrain, one has the overwhelming sense that the incarnate Lord comes first into history, then into our hearts, then, finally, at the end of time, he sets in place the new Jerusalem, the new heaven and the new earth. We may look up and see only through a glass dimly now, but even dimly it is God, paradoxically, in his fullness: incarnate, among us, crucified, risen, ascended, the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords, or as C. S. Lewis puts it “the glorifier and the glorified, Glory himself.”
When we look up and behold Jesus, we get the awesome sense that this is what we’ve longed for, that this is what we were created for: this clarity of vision and purity of sight. Fools will attempt to give us a reason for this; the wise dare not even make the attempt; because to behold our Lord and embrace the life-giving, truth-imparting Spirit he has sent us is what it means to be truly human. To look up and behold Jesus coming, weeping, dying, and rising is to have the barren deserts of our lives irrigated by a living water so that the promise of eternal joy becomes the certain hope of our lives and the Lord of all becomes the cornerstone of our existences. “Alleluia, he is coming. Alleluia, he is here.”
Friday, May 08 2020
‘The Bright Field’ by R. S. Thomas
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
At our recent clergy conference, former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold gave three lectures with Bishop Geralyn Wolf (who had planned to join us for Easter). They presented, “Going deeper in the Word and in Prayer.” Their talks aligned perfectly with our Gospel reading from John 14 for this week. Thomas asks the Lord, “How can we know the way?” Jesus replies, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” St. Augustine said, ““O Lord, do I love Thee. Thou didst strike on my heart with Thy word and I loved Thee.” This week in morning prayer, we have been reading the 5th chapter of Matthew. In the beatitudes we get an idea of the love, grace, peace, and hope of God in Jesus Christ. In bible study, we looked at Acts chapter 14. Paul is traveling in Turkey and the Holy Spirit is lighting a fire in the hearts of both Jews and Gentiles. I ask you to meditate on the words of today’s Gospel and follow the daily lectionary in morning prayer at 9AM with all of us. When we look at the Word of God daily, the Holy Spirit has a way of bringing a message to our hearts that offers comfort and direction when we are suffering and lost. You have told me that you miss the physical touch of one another and the Holy Eucharist on Sundays. The Word of God and prayer combine to help those who are hurting toward the new path that is ahead of us. We see angry people on the television that do not know where they are going. I ask you to turn your frustration to the Lord who says, “Come unto me, all ye who are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” (Matt. 7:28) I promise you that if you follow Jesus Christ, you will be on the best possible path and together, we will get through this pandemic. St. John’s is strong because we love one another in community, but we are also strong because of our faith in the Word of God and in our prayer.
Bishop Wolf used the example of Moses taking off his sandals when he came to the burning Bush. She explained how you cannot go very far when you are not wearing shoes because the desert has many small pebbles that aren’t very comfortable to stand on in bare feet. In other words, we are stuck in our houses and are now a captive audience for our Lord. We are uncomfortable standing on the small pebbles where we are right now. We are suffering and in need of God. The ramifications of this Covid 19 pandemic for our future are unclear, but they are certainly scary to many. Bishop Wolf offers the Word of God and prayer as a way for the Holy Spirit to touch us deeply because many of us are in need and paying attention. The sun will break through the field again. Maybe you can’t see it right now, but if you look towards the burning bush or the treasure that we are willing to give everything to possess. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. God has seen your suffering and heard your prayers. God will strike your heart through the Word and prayer if you will just take a few moments each day. If you will be present with a contemplative heart in the coming weeks, you will witness the Living God in your presence, and you will be transformed forever.
Friday, May 01 2020
“Abundant Life” by Lisa La Grange
Abundant life is knowing You;
In this week’s Gospel from John, the Good Shepherd promises to believers that they may have life and have it abundantly. Jesus is the gatekeeper who knows our voice because we pray to him. Jesus know us by name and lays his life down for us. In this pandemic, the St. John’s community can no longer use the gate of the church. We are asked to stay home and stop the spread of the virus. I have learned that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. We call one another, worship through Zoom, donate to those in our community that have no money for food right now, care for our families and those who are vulnerable, and pray together every day through morning prayer and the daily office. This experience has been financially devasting to some. Many families have lost loved ones. The virus has hit the population in Huntington Station the hardest and has impacted Latino and African American families harder than most. My prayers go out to all of you who are suffering. Maybe you are asking where this abundant life is?
Jesus Christ loves us dearly as a shepherd loves his sheep and was willing to die for our sins that we might have abundant life now and eternal life when we meet our Lord again. There is great hope in the resurrection and there is great hope in abundant life. Abundant life is finding the pearl of great price. A pearl so valuable that the merchant would give up everything else to have it. Relationship with Jesus Christ lets us know that we are rescued from a meaningless life and given purpose. Nurses and Doctors are giving themselves to those who are terribly ill. Nursing home workers risk their own health by caring for the elderly. Police and First Responders put their lives on the line for us. Our military stands between danger and our shore to preserve our freedom. Jesus teaches self-sacrifice and we need to support all those who are bravely putting themselves in danger for all of us. Most of all abundant life comes when we realize that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, walks with us when we are suffering.
Would you walk together with Jesus this week? Please pray for those who are hurting, pray for those who are vulnerable, pray for those who are hungry, pray for those who are broke, pray for your families, and pray that we all have the good sense to socially distance ourselves enough for a full recovery.