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A True Sabbath

Originally published in the May/June 2018 Evangelist.

Dear Friends in Christ,

It is something of an inside joke in our home that Erin can remember where we were for every birthday and anniversary, and I can remember what we ate. There isn’t a morsel of food, a meal or snack, that I cannot, given some time and a few clues, remember and recount. For me, food, like smells or sounds or music for others, connects me to memory. There was the restaurant on the shores of Phuket, in Thailand that only served “the catch of the day”, fried or grilled whole, and paired with either red, green, or massaman curry. We ate there every night during our stay and I can remember each fish, each curry, and each preparation. There was the breakfast of fresh venison steak and instant oatmeal and wild blueberries served by my father and cooked over a small fire of juniper branches, when we were stranded on a mountaintop after a particularly bountiful deer hunt. The discovery of a new restaurant or the introduction of a new food to one of my boys – seeing their delight and pleasure in something I have known and loved – I can remember each of these as clear as day.

For some, food is merely sustenance. For me, it is almost always an experience and an event. So it was that when I had the chance to prepare an application for a grant to go on sabbatical, I knew that food would be at the center. So it is that I also wanted food to be at the center of the sabbatical experience for our whole faith community. As the sabbatical team wrote in that application, we are a busy people, intent on doing, working, fixing, and shaping the world in which we live… we “crave time, but often don’t take it, to sit across the table from one another to break bread and share our stories, discovering the tapestries of people’s lives and faith. Consequently we struggle to identify and articulate how our story fits into the narrative of God’s hospitality and the wider story of where we’ve come from and where we’re going.”

The Spring-Summer mailer, arriving in June, will contain opportunities to sign up for dinner parties being hosted over the summer, books to read that tie into the themes of the sabbatical, and I hope you will participate. More than this, I hope you will consider ways that you can break bread spontaneously outside the events and opportunities created for you. Introduce yourself to someone new over cookies at coffee hour. Invite a new member to lunch. Arrange a coffee or beer with someone you’ve been wanting to get to know better. Ask questions that move you past the superficial:

What keeps you coming to church when so many people don’t go?
What keeps you up at night?
What are you hungry for in your life?
What breaks your heart?
What gives you hope?

The theme of the sabbatical is “Companions in Transformation: Meals, Stories, and Our Future” and invites both you and me into our own process of considering our stories and doing so in the context of shared hospitality. As the word “companion” implies, we believe transformation happens when we break bread (pan) with (com) one another. Parker Palmer notes in his class on healing political divides, we cannot solve problems by talking about others who are not in the room. We can only change the global by being transformed on a very local level, on a personal level. And personal transformation happens in relationship, over stories and meals.

Priest and writer Robert Farrar Capon describes this reality in his book The Supper of the Lamb: A culinary reflection, using humor and anecdote to describe the recipes and necessary accoutrement for an ideal dinner party. Capon describes such a meal of lavish hospitality, formality and informality, attire and menu items as echoing the great apocalyptic “supper of the lamb” – a meal set at the end of all things when God has gathered all to his banquet table. Capon describes the incarnation of Christ as having assumed all things human – meaning that God now loves like we do, enjoys the fleshly realities of food and feast and storytelling as we do. So it is at the last, when all things are reconciled, God in Jesus will lift us too in our fleshly realities, to be like Him. All that is created and incarnate will not be lost or dissolute. Capon writes:

We can, you see, take it with us. It will be precisely because we love Jerusalem enough to bear it in our bones that its textures will ascend when we rise; it will be because our eyes have relished the earth that the color of its countries will compel our hearts forever. The bread and the pastry, the cheeses, the wine, and the songs go into the Supper of the Lamb because we do: it is our love that brings the City home.

There is nothing lost in this great feast. It is a feast that echoes the Eucharist, a place where we find our earthly loves lifted up and all our selves reconciled and united in Christ. So, companion with others here at St. John’s. Break bread together. Share stories of loss and love. Find your life united with his. Be transformed.

I’ll see you in worship, for a little longer. I am praying that you and I will have a true sabbath – a time of rest, restoration, renewal, and that when we come together again, we will have such stories to tell one another, that we will see where God is calling us together next, in mission and in ministry.

Faithfully,
Jered+

Originally published in the May-June 2018 Evangelist.

By Children, Youth, and Family Minister Jean Hansen

In Godly Play, Pentecost is one of the three great mysteries of our liturgical calendar. The other two are Christmas and Easter. Many people walk right through these mysteries and don’t even realize what’s there. Therefore, we need time to draw close to these mysteries. What can we do to get ready for Pentecost?

Just as the Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles that day, the power of the Holy Spirit was given to each of us in our baptism. Honoring Pentecost in your household helps focus on the gift and the work of the Holy Spirit, which fills us at all times and in all places (not just at church).

To prepare for and practice Pentecost at home, use the symbols of Pentecost, based on the description from Acts: wind and fire. Make your own fire sticks to use on Pentecost and the time after Pentecost to help you remember the power of the Holy Spirit.

Making a Fire Stick

Materials Needed

  • A sticks, such as a wooden dowel or a stick from outdoors
  • Several long pieces of ribbon: red, gold, and orange
  • A short piece of ribbon.
  • Glue, hot-glue, or other method of fastening the ribbons to the stick.

How To Do It

  • Gather your household: consider inviting friends and neighbors, too. Read scripture: Try the passages from Acts 2 or John 14 (see below).
  • Make your fire sticks: Glue or fasten the long pieces of ribbon to one end of the stick. Then use the shorter piece of ribbon to wrap around the glued ends so that everything looks tidy.
  • Take your fire sticks outside: Watch the wind bring them to life. Remember that like wind, we cannot see the Holy Spirit, but we constantly see and experience its movement and effects.
  • Enjoy: Leave your fire sticks out for the season after Pentecost, which lasts until Advent.

 

Acts 2:1-4
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

John 14:15-20
‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

Originally published in the May-June Evangelist. 

On May 6, St. John’s will celebrate New Member Sunday and welcome a number of new families into our faith community. Read on to get to know some of them a little better and say hello next time you see them!

Richard and Paula Day

Richard and Paula have been attending St John’s since November of 2017 and are currently finishing up the Basics Class. They picked St John’s after checking out other churches. They are here because of the music, liturgy, and outreach.

They are relative newlyweds, having been married for just about a year and a half now. Richard was living in Madison and Paula in Eden Prairie when they met via the internet. They clicked and picked a middle-ground location in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood of St. Paul to settle together in.

Richard is a widower and has a married daughter with two teenage children. Paula has two sons from her previous marriage. Richard is retired from medicine, an internist; Paula still works as a media buyer and planner.

Richard knows several languages and Paula several more. Richard plays the organ (they have one in their house!) and enjoys musical performances, while Paula enjoys reading, music, politics, and travel (and her work).

Megan August-Hau and Andrew Kampa

Megan & Andrew are planning to marry in February 2019. After graduating from Cretin DH, Andrew went to UW-Stout, but decided to move back to St. Paul and found his calling attending Dunwoody College for HVACR Systems Servicing. He is now an HVACR Service Technician.

Megan grew up in St. Paul and spent her early years at St. John’s, leaving to continue her education at U of MN – Morris. She then returned to St. Paul, completing her degree in Social Science at Metro State University. Megan is now a Logistics Program Manager.

Megan and Andrew enjoy spending time outdoors, camping, and relaxing at the lake . When asked if they have a “favorite” part of the liturgy, Andrew mentioned the Homily; Megan enjoys the passing of the Peace.

Mike, Jamie, Louie, and Charlie Bents

Mike and Jamie Bents have a very busy household. Besides two energetic boys— six-year-old Louie and two-year-old Charlie, they both have careers and lots of hobbies.

Mike is a software engineer with Target, having received his MS from St. Thomas. Jamie is a transportation planner, working in Environmental Studies out of Chicago, and is able to work from home.

When not working or tending their boys, you will find Jamie in her potter’s studio or with her plants and gardens. She is also very involved in social action campaigns. Mike likes hockey (playing and watching) and is interested in baseball stats.

Their quest for finding a mutual church home has been an interesting one, as their backgrounds are very different. Jamie comes from a Reformed Jewish background in Iowa, while Mike was raised as a WELS Lutheran. While living in Chicago, they gravitated to the Methodist Church, but began looking at the Episcopal Church. After moving to this part of St. Paul, they found St. John’s and feel as though they have found a real fit.

By Jeff Olsen, head of Greeter Ministry

Think back to the last time you visited another church. What was that experience like? Did you feel welcome? Would you go back?

On a trip to Maine, I found an Episcopal Church to worship at for Easter. Prior to church I was greeted warmly by the rector, but after church, as I wandered around the fellowship hall, not a single person came up to say hello, to welcome me, or to offer a means to get more information about the church. I noticed small groups of people talking to each other, and I smiled and walked slowly past them before I went to my car and left. I was hoping to hear some of the history of this lovely church and instead left feeling disappointed.

At St. John’s, we take the ministry of hospitality very seriously. We believe—as our nickname, “Church of the Open Door” indicates—that all are welcome into the body of Christ. We’re called to practice the ministry of hospitality by extending a warm welcome to visitors, sharing our stories with one another at coffee hour, and inviting our visitors to sign our guest book so we can pray for them by name and invite them to join us again next week.

I remember well being greeted and welcomed to the St. John’s community. Even on days when I am not assigned as a greeter, I look for people I don’t recognize and introduce myself to them: “Hello, I don’t believe we’ve met before, my name is …” Using simple words such as this helps me to be the person I had hoped to meet in Maine.

Another way to welcome the stranger is to participate in wearing a name tag at church: before, during and after the service and coffee hour. To help with this, St. John’s has added beautiful magnetic name tag boards to the two closets adjacent to the front doors in the Narthex. This was done under the direction of our Building Committee, especially Julia Ferguson, Jim Johnson, Dusty Mairs, Rick Moore, with a generous donation from Gopher Signs.

If you have not already started using them, please take a peek next Sunday and find your name tag. It may be hanging on the board already, or in the filing box in the left-hand closet. If you don’t see your name tag, please ask a greeter to help you.

Everyone is worthy of being known. Learning each other’s names is a good place to start. In this way, you also can practice the radical act of hospitality to others by being your usual friendly self, wearing a name tag, and reaching out to those you don’t know.

 

 Originally printed in the May/June 2018 Evangelist. 

 

In March of last year, the Rev. Sam Wells visited St. John’s and spoke about social engagement and the ministry of Jesus. He drew on his relationship with Marcia Owens, a gun violence prevention advocate. Her experiences, and Sam Wells’s model, are relevant once again, as some members of St. John’s and the Episcopal Church in Minnesota currently are supporting and engaging in activism to end gun violence in our communities.

 

We had the pleasure to welcome the Reverend Doctor Samuel Wells, vicar of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields, London, and one of the world’s leading theological minds for a weekend of reflection, learning, and worship. The weekend began with an all day Saturday seminar on the subject of “Living Without Enemies” (also the title of our Lenten read, cowritten by Sam Wells and Marcia Owens.) It continued with Sam preaching at our Sunday morning Eucharists and offering a forum in between. Finally, it concluded Sunday night with a service of music featuring the St. Martin’s Voices and a series of reflections by Sam Wells on the history of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

Throughout all of it, the resounding message was of the need for the church to reclaim the primary ministry of Jesus—the ministry of “being with.” Wells spent a great deal of time Saturday illuminating what he believes are the four models of social engagement: Working For, Working With, Being For, and Being With. Walking us through these, he arrives at the conclusion that while all four have stumbling blocks and advantages, the main thrust of Jesus’ ministry was a ministry of “being with.”

He then encouraged us to take this as a model for our own social engagement—to focus the majority of our ministry on relationship, presence, and interdependence.

Sam offered us this thought: “’Being with’ begins by largely rejecting the problem-solution axis that dominates both the previous models…It sees the vast majority of life, and certainly the most significant moments of life, in these terms: love can’t be achieved; death can’t be fixed; pregnancy and birth aren’t a problem needing a solution.”

Christians, says Sam, need to worry less about solving problems—to stop seeing the world in terms of its problems, and people in terms of their deficits—and remember the end to which we are all called is relationship with God and relationship with each other. Our job, he said, is to “enjoy people for their own sake.”

Of course this doesn’t mean the church or Christians shouldn’t be concerned about pain and suffering, or that we shouldn’t try to alleviate it. But it does mean we may take a different approach than the rest of the world.

Using the model of gun violence prevention, Sam described in his Sunday forum the story of his relationship with Marcia Owens and her story of transformation. What started as a passion of hers to end gun violence in Durham, NC through legislative solutions became a ministry of presence and solidarity. Marcia’s life changed slowly as she spent time in the neighborhood where the shootings were most prevalent. She began to see her work not as addressing the problem of violence, but of getting to know the community most affected by the violence. As her focus shifted from “working for” to “being with” the community, she stopped dividing people into separate categories of victims and offenders, and experienced personal transformation as she discovered the beauty of simply being present.

I was deeply edified and inspired by The Reverend Doctor Wells, his wisdom and presence. Our time with him has given me new energy to look again at the ministries of Saint John’s, how I work as a leader in our community, and even to how I live my life as a neighbor and citizen.

The story of Easter which we are now celebrating is the story of God’s commitment to be with us. This one brief moment where God seems to be working and being for us is buttressed and supported on either side with a vast story of God’s willingness and desire to be with us. There in the garden, after conquering death and sin, Jesus shows up again, to be with us.

 

By the Rev. Jered Weber-Johnson, originally published in the May-June 2017 Evangelist.

Michael Corleone’s words in “The Godfather” (Part 3) not only live on in film history but possibly in our own experience. Just when Corleone thought he was making a life outside of the Mob, he can’t completely get out. And just when we thought we were out – of a relationship, a commitment, an illness, or a pattern of behavior, these things “pull us back in” in ways we may not completely understand.

I think they also apply to church, at least for me. Many times I have been SO done with it all: unimaginative liturgy, exclusionary language, irrelevant preaching, people staring at their phones.

But then there is a Sunday where everything lifts me up: exquisite music, inspired preaching, a sense of community and energy and shared meaning. It “pulls me back in.”

The blog “Journey with Jesus” puts it this way: “We may embrace the consumer mindset, trusting that we are free to join up, and free to quit as personal preference dictates.” Free to miss summer church, free to attend if nothing better comes up, free to let others set the table, do the dishes and plan the programs. All true. Yet we’re also there to worship God, to hear the Scriptures, to praise. It’s not all about what we get in the short term.

The lessons for this coming Sunday challenge a “Lone Ranger” mentality. “Abide in me,” Jesus says. (Note he doesn’t way “believe” in me.) Stick around; get to know us; dig into the Big Questions. Sing. Pray. You are always welcome and we will always support you if you let us know what you need. Abide.

I’m making you an offer you can’t refuse!
See you in church.

Barbara

Now there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

This Sunday, April 29 is Service Sunday.  This is a special day during which we will take time to thank all of our generous volunteers at St. John’s — from those who help out with all our various Faith in Action programs, to those who participate in Godly Play and Rite 13 and Youth classes and activities, to those who volunteer on committees, or are in service groups that greet, usher, read, assume charge of altar guild duties, to those who perform myriad other important services. During and following the 10am service, we celebrate all that they do and bless their work for the year to come.

We are grateful for our volunteers’ countless hours, acts of kindness, and service. With them, it becomes possible to more effectively minister to one another and make a difference in the world. They are giving back to God from the spiritual gifts that God gives to each of us.

By the grace of God, we are all gifted people, Christians called to use the skills God has given us for the strengthening of our communities and the healing of the world. Discovering how best to use our gifts in the world can be the tricky part; we might feel overwhelmed, underprepared, or doubtful of what we can accomplish.

One way to help ourselves best use our gifts is through discernment—reflecting and praying, individually or in community, about what we are called to do and who we are called to be—of our vocation. Our bishop, Brian Prior, says the big question is “What does God want to do with me?”

He offers four approaches to help us answer that big question:

  • What are you really passionate about? What do you love to do and never tire doing?
  • What are you really good at doing? What feels effortless to you?
  • What do you find yourself always doing? What do others always ask you to do?
  • What do you believe in your heart of hearts? What do you truly value in yourself or others?

As Frederick Buechner says: Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need. The intersection of your joy and that need is the place where the Spirit is asking you to go. You can explore that intersection in the exercise below, which uses Bishop Prior’s questions to prompt discernment.

 

Adapted from the November-December 2017 Evangelist.