Sunday, February 28 2021
Lord, your summons echoes true
When you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
And never be the same.
In your company I'll go
Where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow
In you and you in me (The Summons).
Paul’s finest letter, in my opinion, is his letter to the Romans. Written at about 57 BCE, Paul writes to the church in Rome to establish them in the true Gospel. The theme of the book is the righteousness of God. Righteousness (dikaiosune in Greek) is given by the mercy of God through faith. In this week’s lessons, we observe that Abraham was given the free gift of righteousness long before God gave the law to Moses through the Ten Commandments. Abraham did not earn the righteousness of God through the law. Salvation comes through the mercy and love of God simply because we are God’s beloved. When we were baptized, we were sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.
God makes a covenant that “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you” (Genesis 17:7).
We were all created in God’s likeness and image. We are called to move and live and grow, me in you and you in me. We need to have faith in God’s ability to call us into relationship. God’s grace is unearned. We cannot earn salvation through any work of our own. All of us have committed sins, but because God loves us, God gave Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, to die on a cross for our sins. Many people worry about sins that we have committed. Those sins were washed away like the ocean washes away a sand castle at high tide. We are asked to repent or turn to God in Lent.
Our response to the love, mercy, and grace of God is to give God praise, develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, and to love our neighbor. A perfect example of that was last week’s Gospel Concert. Our relationship with St. Augustine’s has created a bond that is palpable. Several members messaged me that they cried as the youth sang last Sunday. The music went beyond this temporal world, through the bones and muscles in our bodies, and into our souls. The deep faith of our congregation meets the deep faith of St. Augustine’s and creates a bond much stronger than our cultural norms that would divide us.
In today’s Gospel Jesus asks, “Who do they say I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:27-27). The Messiah by definition is the Savior of the people. Christian’s believe that Christ is the anointed Messiah, who came to save us. I ask you to put your trust in God. Have faith that your sins are forgiven and respond by listening to God, loving God and loving your neighbor. The Hebrew word Shema means to listen, but also to obey God’s will for our lives. We are children of Abraham because he modeled what Shema means. Shema is that bond that we create through racial reconciliation.
In Christ’s love,
Sunday, February 21 2021
The spiritual journey is a process of liberation from programs for happiness that cannot possibly work: ones rooted in the gratification of instinctual needs for security, approval, power, and control. The journey is not just a method of mediation or a practice to find personal peace. Rather, it is a total surrender to the human condition, in all its ramifications, including its desperate woundedness. It is a transformative process into the light, life, and love of God. Then we no longer manifest the false self but the image of God within us and the likeness to God which is the assimilation of the mind and heart of Christ into our everyday life (Heartfulness, The Human Condition, Overview).
Lent is the time when we realize that the distractions of the world have kept us from God’s purpose in our lives. This pandemic has given us free time at home, but many of us are consumed with social media, online shows, the weather and all the political nonsense that the networks try to get us addicted to. If we want to be an authentic expression of Christ’s light, we need to pray, study, listen, and make God the center of our world again. Please journey with St. John’s and observe a Holy Lent this year. Take a few quiet moments to re-examine the gifts that God has given you and align yourself again to God’s purpose.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Please use this Lenten season to go into a deeper relationship with Christ. Join us for Morning Prayer at 9:00 AM. Join us on Tuesdays via Zoom for Stations of the Cross at 6:00PM, Evening Prayer at 6:30, and our Adult Christian education program from 7:00-8:00. We will look at racial reconciliation through children’s books this year. Next Sunday, February 21st at 4:00 PM we will offer a Gospel Concert with our sister parish St. Augustine’s in Brooklyn. On Saturday February 28th, Fr. John will lead our quiet day via Zoom from 9:30-11:30 AM. This year’s topic is “Eternity & the Public Library.” Monday nights at 6:30PM and Tuesday Mornings at 11:00 AM we will be offering Bible Study. Thursday nights we do compline at 8:15 PM.
Our Mission at St. John’s is to Know Christ and to Make Christ Known. Lent is the perfect opportunity to do this at St. John’s. You are God’s Beloved and God blessed you with gifts that you might a blessing to others. Despite this nightmare that many are facing during this pandemic, we can be a light to others. But first, we must take care of ourselves and one another. We offer extensive opportunities to step out of this confused culture we live in and into the loving arms of our Lord. May all that we do be to the glory of God!
“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever” (Ephesians 3:20-22).
In Christ’s love,
Sunday, February 14 2021