Friday, February 24 2023
Friday, February 17 2023
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“Life on the surface keeps us judging the circumstances. We look at the circumstances as a picture. If it is pretty, pleasing, and shows us what we want to see then God is good and life is as it should be. When we don’t see what we want then we often look for a new picture. The restless searching, the longing for more, the desire for meaning are not, however, usually answered by changed circumstances. The answer is found in depth, intimacy, and the vulnerability of the interior journey. We do not need to see new things. We need to see the same old things with new eyes. We do not need to hear a different voice. We need to hear the same old voice with different ears. We do not need to escape the circumstances of our life. We need to be more fully present to those circumstances. When this happens life is no longer lived at the surface. These are the transfigured moments, moments when the picture of our life has becomes a window into a new world and we come face to face with the glory of God.” (Michael K. Marsh)
In the Gospel, Peter, John, and James go to the mountain to pray. Jesus' face changed in appearance and his clothes became dazzling white. Then they see Moses and Elijah, talking to him. It is obvious to me that Moses, Elijah, and Jesus and are outside the temporal realm. The bible calls this situation, “the Kingdom of Heaven” and this is the place in our time and space where heaven and earth overlap. Many people can only experience the temporal realm. When you are a believer, God is able to bring the light of Christ to a hurting world through you. When we give of ourselves for the sake of others, we feel the peace that passes all understanding. This is a foretaste of the eternal life that we will experience in the next life.
The abundant life is filled with experiences outside the temporal realm. This fleeting presence of “the Kingdom of Heaven” is a foretaste of what we will experience in eternity after our resurrection. In today’s lesson, Jesus crosses the temporal realm so that the disciples may have this foretaste, but the disciples are not in the right place to understand. Most people believe that they will go to heaven, but my experience is that non-believers don’t think that God can come into our time and space.
In the fifties and sixties, while I was growing up, practically everyone I knew believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. The church was filled and when we went out of church, we felt like servants of Jesus Christ on a mission. The times were tumultuous in the sixties, yet the Episcopal Church was a great place to be. We felt good that we were changing the world in a positive way to the problems of the environment, war, women’s rights and racism.
I imagine that most of us miss out on the deep joy and peace that we are offered by God because we are too distracted by our egos, our anger towards certain individuals, and other “stuff.” The trick in life for me is to let go of the “stuff,” give of ourselves to others, and to forgive others as we are forgiven by God. This deepens our relationship with God and our neighbor and allows us to experience the full benefit of God’s love and mercy. We are able to not only recover from bad things that happen to us, but somehow the glue that puts us back together makes us stronger than we have ever been. Once we see each other as broken vessels in need of the love and mercy of God, we love all our neighbors because we know that they are just as broken as us. We begin to walk the path that our Savior walked, who hung on a cross that he might know our pain and we might know the hope of the resurrection.
In Christ’s love,
Friday, February 10 2023
God, Help us to live slowly:
To move simply:
To look softly:
To allow emptiness:
To let the heart create for us. Amen
The lectionary for this week, the sixth Sunday after Epiphany, is deep and rich – inviting us to a more profound understanding of who we are as followers of Jesus. Indeed, these scriptures could inspire several sermons, but I will focus on the overall theme of being a beloved community- and as we honor Black History month, it reminds us of our call to grow together in the spirit of the law – to enter into deepness and wideness of God’s love – a challenge to go beyond simple dichotomies of rights and wrongs.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we learn about a community that is squabbling over which spiritual leader is better – Paul or Apollos. Their fighting and confusion point to the fact that they have not understood the deeper message -- human wisdom alone is unable to attain the knowledge of God. It is the Holy Spirit that equips us to know God – and to know God’s will for our lives. The problem with the Corinthians is they have been fully depending upon wisdom from the wrong sources. We do need teachers and guides to help us along the way to spiritual maturity, yet we must be receptive to the voice of Jesus sent through the Holy Spirit.
In our old testament lesson, Moses attempts to illumine the path that will lead the Israelites to life and prosperity – if only they obey and follow the commandments of the Lord their God. Sometimes, when faced with two roads, both seemingly desirable and good, we need someone with vision to point us in the right direction. We always have a choice, but Moses reminds his people that part of choosing is knowing God and keeping his commandments. The decalogue is not just a list of laws to blindly follow – it is a gift from God which invites us into relationship with each other and with God. We are asked to know God’s heart – to love God and to walk in ways of justice, righteousness, and loving kindness. Into the fullness of the law.
What does God’s love really look like? Jesus is inviting us into a wider view for building community and righteousness. It is more than just following specific rules. Righteousness is about being in right relationship with our God and our community and this is a righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees and scribes who live into the letter of the law. We are called to live into the spirit of the law – as we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our everyday decisions about how we treat each other and grow into a beloved community.
In early December 1967, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. unfolded his vision for the Poor People’s Campaign, his next protest in Washington, D.C.. Assassinated on April 4, 1968, he never made it to the mall in Washington, but thousands traveled there to honor King’s memory and pursue his vision. The Rev. Ralph Abernathy picked up the torch lighting the way for the erection of Resurrection City. He is quoted as saying, “We’re going to build this city…a community of love and brotherhood. The American Indians, Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans, white poor Americans from the Appalachian area of our country and Black Americans will all live together in this city of hope.” It remained intact for 42 days before being disbanded. It was a community of people who had often been set against each other now living in love and action- looking down new roads of possibilities – challenging the status quo. This was a place where people felt a profound hope for beloved community.
Jesus has called us to live into a deeper understanding of God’s love, which may require that we struggle a bit in the gray areas – where we are called to live into a much broader and glorious way of loving.
We pray for another way of being:
another way of knowing.
Across the difficult terrain of our existence
we have attempted to build a highway
and in so doing have lost our footpath.
God lead us to our footpath:
Lead us there where in simplicity
we may move at the speed of natural creatures
and feel the earth's love beneath our feet.
Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel
the movement of creation in our hearts.
And lead us there where side-by-side
we may feel the embrace of the common soul.
Nothing can be loved at speed.
God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights
of the pilgrim; another way of knowing: another way of being. Amen
In the spirit of God’s Love,
Tuesday, February 07 2023
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“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”(Matt. 5:13-16)
Jesus went out to the margins of society respected the dignity of everyone, healed the sick, forgave the penitent, and ate with sinners and outcasts. His words were so revolutionary that they transformed the community. His action of giving up his life on a cross that they might have life was also transformative because it means that we are loved and forgiven and loved by God, even when we mess up. I ask you today to come to church, to listen to the Gospel, to be transformed by the revolutionary words of Jesus Christ, to regain that belly burning salt, and to shine the light of Christ so brightly that it will transform others to the love of God. The focus for the coming year at St. John’s will be Spirituality, Evangelism, Children, Youth, and Young Adult Ministries, Outreach, Hospitality, and Pastoral Care.
I would like to thank all our parishioners who made this year deeply spiritual for one another. The Rev. Claire Mis, Deacon has certainly been an inspiration to all of us. Fr. James Reiss, our curate, has brought energy, enthusiasm, and a deep love of Jesus Christ to our community. Our Morning Prayer group met every weekday at 9 AM (260 times in 2022) and has prayed for our friends, neighbors, and for all in need. Prayer is the foundation of everything we do at St. John’s. Thank you for your leadership, your generosity, your ministry, and your continued faith in Jesus Christ. We are very blessed by your presence. I would also like to thank Coral, who has done an outstanding job as our administrator, Alex our talented musician and choir director, Jenni, our St. John’s Nursery School Director, and our wardens, Rob and Sean, who have led this parish with our vestry and committee chairs. May God continue to bless your ministries!
This week our service times on Sunday are 8:00am and 10:00am and we will have our annual meeting after the late service in person only! We will elect one warden and four vestry members. Our theme for this year’s Annual. Please live out your Baptismal Covenant by coming to church, worshiping with us on zoom, helping those in need in our community, donating to our Thrift Shop, volunteering in our Thrift Shop, striving for justice by supporting our racial reconciliation and social justice committee, and getting involved in a ministry of St. John’s such as our Altar Guild.
I ask each committee to personally invite new members to join their group. If you are a new member or would like to help out please consider joining our Altar Guild, Thrift Shop, EFM, Racial Reconciliation and Justice Committee, HiHi, ECW, Lay Eucharistic Ministers, Youth Group, Christian Education, Readers, Spirituality Group, Nursery School Steering Committee, Ushers, Lay Eucharistic Visitors, Prayer Shawl Ministry, St. Hilda’s Guild, Laundry Love, or one of our other committees. Our mission team met this week to prepare for our trip to Puerto Rico in April. We are also planning a trip to Iona, Scotland in late September. This will be a restful and wonderful pilgrimage with Leslie Valentine. We still have 2 spots open!!
Our Sunday school starts at 9:45am and we will have confetti cake and ice cream cake after class. 1st Communion classes are beginning on Thursday, March 2nd at 5:00 and 1st Communion will be April 16th at the 10:00 service. Next Week, February 12th is the Souper Bowl of Caring and our Youth Group is collecting donations to fight hunger in the Huntington Community. If you are interested in volunteering for the Thrift shop on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays, please drop by on one of those days from 12-3.
In Christ’s love,
Rev. Duncan Burns