Friday, March 25 2022
This week, we read the story of the Prodigal Son, in Luke 15: 11-32. Most of us are most familiar with this parable, but the lectionary actually takes us back to the beginning of Luke 15: All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."
Jesus goes on the share two parables depicting loss. The first, is the parable of the lost sheep. If even one out of the hundred is lost, the Good Shepherd of us all will leave the other ninety-nine and go search for the one who is lost. When found, there is much rejoicing and celebration. The message to the Pharisees and Scribes is that there is more joy in heaven over just one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine who believe they are righteous and need no repentance. The second parable is about a lost coin. “…there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15: 10. These parables say much about the character of God, whose love pours forth in measures we cannot even comprehend. They clearly remind us that God’s grace is sufficient for us, that we can rest in the safety of God’s arms if we are willing to turn and return to God when we have strayed – even like lost sheep – and we have all erred and strayed.
The parable of the Prodigal Son takes our lostness a little further. When we allow the words of our confession to flow through us – the words that say, “we have sinned against you in thought word and deed”, God, as represented by the father in this story, will not just rejoice when we turn toward him, but will actually run towards us. We, in fact are met on our way home by a loving and forgiving God.
In the rabbinic literature of Pesikta Rabbati, the story of turning and returning is summed up like this:
“A King had a son who had gone astray from his father on a journey of a hundred days. His friends said to him, ‘Return to your father.’ He said, ‘I cannot.’ Then his father sent word, ‘Return as far as you can, and I will come the rest of the way to you.’ So, God says, ‘Return to me, and I will return to you.’”
We are in Lent, a time when we are called to quiet our minds and search our hearts. Where is it that we are being blocked from returning – returning to our loved ones, returning to church, but most of all returning to God. May we continue our Lenten journey with open hearts knowing that our most loving and gracious God is already celebrating our homecoming!
In God’s love,
Deacon Claire Mis
Friday, March 18 2022
Friday, March 11 2022
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Luke 13:31-35)
“The Episcopal Church, one of the largest mainline Protestant denominations in the U.S., conducted the survey of American adults with market research company Ipsos in part to identify those gaps [how we perceive ourselves versus how other people perceive us], according to Curry. The denomination also wanted to open a conversation and dialogue, the presiding bishop said. Christians need to learn to listen, he added. “This was an attempt on our church’s part to actually listen to what others were saying about Jesus, about us. We dared to ask, ‘How are we perceived?’” “There is a disconnect between the reality of Jesus and the perceived reality of Christians,” Presiding Bishop Curry said.
We need to love one another as Christ loved us. To do this, we need to gather together and listen to the Word of God, repent of our sins, be forgiven, and go forth loving God with our entire self and loving our neighbors. God gathers us together as a mother hen gathers her chicks. Jesus asks us to turn from living in fear of one another and return to the loving arms of God. Thomas à Kempis said "If, however, you seek Jesus in all things, you will surely find Him" (The Imitation of Christ, Book II, ch. 7). In the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd leaves 99 sheep unattended to look for the one lost sheep. The shepherd gathers the lost sheep over his shoulders and rejoices when the lost sheep is found. Jesus says that there will be great joy in heaven when just one lost person returns (Luke 15:1-7). The parable of the prodigal son is another great example of returning to God. The son asks for his inheritance and takes it to a distant country. The son squanders the money and then comes on very hard times. When he returns to his father he says, “I’ve been bad and I’m not worthy.” The father is so happy that he is back that he gives him a robe and a ring and slaughters the fatted calf for the celebration (Luke 15:11-32). Each year in Lent we are called back under the mother hen’s wing. Please join us on Saturday March 12th for a Lenten Quiet Day with Bishop Wolf.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, March 04 2022
The Cross is the judgment seat of Christ, the holy of holies for Christians. In every Eucharist the faithful approaches and comes face to face with the crucified Christ. Here death is not the end but the threshold into eternal life. The gifts of bread and wine, the produce of the earth and of human labor and toil, are united with and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. In receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, our souls and bodies are united with Christ. This is our participation in the eternal life of Christ here and now (The Rt. Rev. Allen K. Shin, A Lenten Journey).
I invite any 7-12 grade students to join our confirmation class on Sundays at 5:30 pm. I invite any newcomer to join our newcomer’s classes at 11:15 am on Sundays starting March 20th. I invite any second grade student to take our First Communion classes on Wednesdays at 5pm. I invite all those wishing to be received by the Bishop to join us on Sundays at 5:30 pm. I invite every member of St. John’s to a holy Lent through prayer, study, and worship. Confirmation and Reception will be held on April 30th at 11:00 am. First Communion will be held on May 1st at 10:00 am.
Lent is a time of preparation, when we teach our confirmands, newcomers, children, and youth to draw closer to the one we love. It is by our example of worship, study, prayer, and outreach that they will see that Jesus Christ came that we might have life and live it abundantly. Jesus Christ came that we might be transformed from sin to the beautiful children of God that we were created to be. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Eternal life begins today and never ends. Please use these next few weeks of Lent to draw closer to the one who loves you deeply. The most significant preacher in a congregation is not the person in the fancy vestments in the pulpit, but the people in the congregation going out into the world. Apostles have been transformed by the bread of our Lord, to do the will of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The fact of the matter is that priests come and go, but the power of the Holy Spirit to transform the lives at St. John’s goes on from generation to generation. God loves us so deeply that Christ, God’s Son, suffered on a cross that we might be forgiven of our sins.
We have the power to transform the nightmare that the world can be into the blessing of the Kingdom of God. We are transformed through the bread of life, and we become the transforming power in the world. Please have hope that God can transform our hearts to see the problems of war, the environment, racism, and sexism. So if you have been hurting, frustrated, sick, or a little down, have faith that you can come to the altar at St. John’s and receive the bread of life that has the power to transform us all from sin to righteousness. Please join us at St. John’s this Lent. Masks are optional, coffee will be served after service, and small groups are meeting again in the church. Please join us for Holy Eucharist again so that you may participate in the eternal, right here and now.
Here I am, a servant of the Lord, may it be according to your Word,
Rev. Duncan Burns