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Archive for October, 2018

by The Rev. Craig Lemming, Associate Rector

Sometimes, our minds wander during worship. Perhaps it’s because we are so familiar with the words that our minds switch to “auto-pilot” and we don’t really think about what we are saying when we recite the Creeds. At Evensong on Sunday, we chanted The Apostles’ Creed and we affirmed our belief in “the communion of saints.Thankfully, my mind was fully engaged, and our chanting of this phrase in the Apostles’ Creed reminded me of my favorite portion of our Catechism, found on page 862 in The Book of Common Prayer:

Q.

What is the communion of saints?

A.

The communion of saints is the whole family of God,
the living and the dead, those whom we love and those
whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament,
prayer, and praise.

 

 

Q.

What do we mean by everlasting life?

A.

By everlasting life, we mean a new existence, in which we
are united with all the people of God, in the joy of fully
knowing and loving God and each other.

 

 

Q.

What, then, is our assurance as Christians?

A.

Our assurance as Christians is that nothing, not even
death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in
Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


I am deeply comforted by these three responses which conclude our Catechism. As we approach the Feast of All Saints on November 1st and the Feast of All Souls on November 2nd, may we come to know this Truth again: that every person is indeed a member of “the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt,” and that all of our relationships – broken or whole; mended or un-mended – are indeed “bound together in Christ.”

On the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, when we pause to remember “those whom we love and those whom we hurt,” we oftentimes do not know where to bring our complex feelings of joy and celebration comingled with feelings of grief and loss. I would like to offer two rituals I participate in – one sacred and public, the other secular and private – which help me to embrace and bless these intense and intricate sentiments.

For the Feast of All Saints, in lieu of Sung Compline, we will celebrate Holy Eucharist at St. John’s on Thursday, November 1st at 7:00 p.m. We will be blessed to have the exquisite musicians of LUMINA women’s ensemble who will offer anthems and sing the Ordinary of the Mass by composers spanning the centuries from the Medieval and Renaissance eras to contemporary masters to celebrate this Holy Feast Day. In the “beauty of Holiness” I can bring the bitter-sweet emotions All Saints’ Day evokes in me, and together with members of my faith community, celebrate and partake in Holy Eucharist. I hope you will join us on the evening of All Saints’ Day to “be filled with God’s grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with Christ, that God may dwell in us, and we in God.

The secular and private ritual I find deeply comforting, is to meditate with the German art song, Allerseelen or “All Souls’ Day” by Richard Strauss. I invite you to join me in this ritual on All Souls’ Day: make a list of all your loved ones who are now deceased; speak their names silently in your hearts or aloud on lips; cherish a fond memory of each of them; and then, listen to this exquisite performance of Richard Strauss’s Allerseelen linked below, following along with the English translation. As you do all of this, remember, “By everlasting life, we mean a new existence, in which we are united with all the people of God, in the joy of fully knowing and loving God and each other,” and that “nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.”

Poem by Hermann von Gilm

Stell auf den Tisch die duftenden Reseden,
Die letzten roten Astern trag herbei,
Und laß uns wieder von der Liebe reden,
Wie einst im Mai.

Gib mir die Hand, daß ich sie heimlich drücke,
Und wenn man’s sieht, mir ist es einerlei,
Gib mir nur einen deiner süßen Blicke,
Wie einst im Mai.

Es blüht und duftet heut auf jedem Grabe,
Ein Tag im Jahr ist ja den Toten frei,
Komm am mein Herz, daß ich dich wieder habe,
Wie einst im Mai.

All Souls’ Day
English Translation by Richard Stokes

Set on the table the fragrant mignonettes,
Bring in the last red asters,
And let us talk of love again
As once in May.

Give me your hand to press in secret,
And if people see, I do not care,
Give me but one of your sweet glances
As once in May.

Each grave today has flowers and is fragrant,
One day each year is devoted to the dead;
Come to my heart and so be mine again,
As once in May.

English Translation: Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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At first I thought I had won the October Lectionary Lottery.

Two weeks ago, the Gospel presented the topic of divorce. Last week Jesus said that to follow him you need to give away all that you have. This week I drew “humility.”

In comparison, how hard can that be?

Oh wait…..

Could there be a less relevant topic in our self-esteem-obsessed, arrogant culture? All you have to do is watch the wrenching political ads that play repeatedly and relentlessly on television and you know that humility isn’t much in our political or national vocabulary. The highest leaders in our land can’t seem to admit their mistakes and hurl insults at half the population on a regular basis.

It can be exhausting and depressing, more so if you are on social media where your friends post regularly about their justifiable anguish. It also just makes me sad, discouraged.

Maybe we have to look elsewhere for examples of humility, those who are secure in who they are and yet have no need to attack others in the process.

Like Big Bird, whose puppeteer Carrol Finney, retired this week at age 84.

‘On July 2, 1990, Big Bird appeared at Jim Henson’s memorial service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, singing Kermit the Frog’s signature song, “Bein’ Green”. Performer Spinney nearly broke down several times during the deeply touching performance, which was later described by Life as “an epic and almost unbearably moving event.’” (Wikipedia)

See you in church, where Jesus calls us to service, and God gives a heart-stopping reprimand to Job and to all of us. In the meantime, take a break and watch an 8-foot tall yellow bird show you what humility look like.

Barbara

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by the Rev. Julie Luna, Curate

I’ve been pondering our journey together this past year as I’ve served at St. John’s both as a Transitional Deacon and as Curate, and how so many of my experiences have been ones of building Beloved Community.

The Episcopal Church, with the guidance of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, uses the promises found in our Baptismal Covenant as a guide to building Beloved Community.

 

Baptismal Promise: We will persevere in resisting evil, and when we fall into sin, we will repent and return to the Lord.

 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:43)

Each week I witnessed and participated in the St. John’s community coming together to proclaim our faith by listening to Scripture, confessing our sins, receiving forgiveness, and sharing a Holy Communion meal to remind us that we are part of the body of Christ.

Food is a really important part of my life and that of my family’s life.  I was pleased that St. John’s offered so many opportunities to eat together and to eat really good food together at the New Member lunch, the Chili Cook Off, the Christmas gathering, and the Sabbath dinner meals.  My favorite food gathering was the sabbatical ice cream social in the parking lot with the farmer’s market!  Gathering for a meal is an act of reconciliation as we leave our grudges at the door and enter into the sharing of food in Christ’s name.  It is a time to reconnect and re-learn why we love and our community and in that act we forgive one another and we again become the one body of Christ.  We practiced this each week as we shared the Holy Communion meal, and St. John’s shared with me the art of extending that Sunday meal to other times in the year when we could be a reconciling and loving community through sharing a good meal.

 

Baptismal Promise: We will proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.

By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.  (Matthew 26:12-13)

St. John’s is a living example of the good news, modeling by example the Good News of God in Christ.  Each Wednesday morning, I arrived at the church and headed to my office in the Gathering Space.  Twice a month, I was pleased to be welcomed by the prayer shawl knitting group.  One morning I had the honor of blessing a prayer shawl that our pastoral care team would take to a person in need of the prayers lovingly knitted into each stitch of the beautiful creation.  I liked to imagine that when a person draped themselves with the carefully crafted and blessed shawl they were experiencing the same feeling of love and compassion that Christ did when the woman anointed his head with oil.  That each shawl was like oil flowing with the love and prayers of our St. John’s community.

 

Baptismal Promise: We will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

I arrived at church each Sunday about 7:00 am to set the altar for the 8:00 service, make sure the readings and prayers were in the binder, and check on last minute details.   Each week, I was not alone.  There were others there with me to serve Christ in all the people of our community, and to love them as Christ.  Two consistent souls came early to make coffee—a much-appreciated gift for clergy and lay leaders as they began their day.  The altar guild faithfully appeared to clean up the 8:00 service and set up for the 10:00 service.  Many of these important tasks may go unnoticed and yet they are acts of love and service to our neighbor.

 

Baptismal Promise: We will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

…learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)

In the warmer months when I arrived at church Sunday mornings, the farmers were already setting up the Farmer’s Market.  I was excited when I saw them and couldn’t wait to see what seasonal fruits, vegetables, and flowers with which they would surprise me.  I often wandered out there between our Sunday services and bought fruits and vegetables for my weekly menu (the one I made up based on what I bought!).

I also had the opportunity to visit Hallie Q. Brown and learn about its programs.  My family and I spent an evening with several Project Home families.  My favorite memories are that of three little girls combing and styling my daughter’s long hair, and my son running and playing with other children while they played ball with our family dog.

St. John’s is filled with compassionate people supporting one another, and the broader with its many local and international ministries.  Each of these ministries helps build justice and peace and respect the dignity of all God’s people.

I am grateful for the love I have received from the St. John’s community and the ways in which we have engaged in and fostered Beloved Community.  And now, it is time for me to take what I have learned and spread my wings in a new faith community and learn to live into Beloved Community with new people and new challenges.  I take you with me and know that the love I’ve received from St. John’s will always reside in my heart and guide me in the ways of Beloved Community.  Peace and Love to All of You.

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The men and women of the Bible held the Sabbath so dear that they made it the Fourth Commandmentplacing it above the injunction against murder…

Judith Shulevitz, The Sabbath World

 

By the Rev. Barbara Mraz

When our rector and his family return from their sabbatical, we will hear all about it: the experiences, the adventures, the insights. They will also hear about what happened at St. John’s in their absence.

Here are some preliminary responses, preceded by a personal reflection on the challenging, persistent command to observe the Sabbath, even after summer ends.

Sabbatical and Sabbath

Both demand a break from the ordinary, the routine, the unnoticed, business as usual. The Scriptural mandate that the seventh day of the week “belongs to God,” has been replaced today by seeing Sunday as the last day of the weekend, perhaps interchangeable with Saturday. In fact, for many it often looks identical to Saturday, with the same tasks calling and the same schedule in place.

As Judith Shulevitz writes, “God stopped creating after six days to show us that what we create becomes meaningful only once we stop creating it and start remembering why it was worth creating in the first place.  …We could let the world wind us up and set us to working like dolls that go until they fall over because they have no way of stopping.  But that would make us less than human.  We have to remember to stop, because we have to stop to remember.”

I admit I have been sloppy about Sundays. While I almost always go to church, from noon on can be catch-up time: laundry, grocery shopping, yard work, house stuff. My grandsons have soccer practice and games virtually seven days a week some times. Weekly “family dinners” must be scheduled weeks ahead.

How, then, to “keep the Sabbath”? Remember, Sabbath can be observed whether you live alone or with a family or any other group that gathers on a regular basis and on any day of the week.

The major idea is to start small, remembering that the larger culture will rarely support you in your efforts. Overall, Americans are no longer a Sabbath people.

Sabbath and Community

The writer quoted above says this about the collective aspect of the Sabbath: “The Sabbath can easily be reconfigured as a twelve-step program for forging community spirit.”

I think that has happened this summer. We are socializing more often, hearing more diverse ideas from the pulpit, and have had the Sunday pressure and intensity reduced. This, in spite of the fact that during eight days at the end of July, we had three funerals!

More opportunities to give your thoughts and reactions will be coming soon.

Reflections on the Summer So Far

“I have loved the women power in the pulpit and at the altar! I hope it continues!”

“I like having the altar closer and distribution of Communion standing up and the chance for new service music.”

“We have dined and coffeed informally more this summer — not with sabbatical intentions— but with church people whom we have gotten to know. Perhaps the encouragement of the Sabbath dinners has helped this, or maybe just because we have felt closer to people.”

“The sermons from non-clergy provided us with insight that we may view as outside of the norm; I enjoy them during Holy week and again now.”

“The Sabbatical dinners are a blast! We all seem to let our guard down and really talk about ourselves and REALLY listen to each other.”

“I like Susan’s calm demeanor during the services.”

“I never knew how many supply clergy we had at SJE; we are really blessed! “

“As an 8 o’clock regular, I heard from people preaching who I never met; it caused me to listen harder, reflect on why they should impact me. The new made me work harder; more discussions at home, as well. The biggest point for me – I realize how lazy I’ve become, going by rote. Now it’s more like: Wait? What was said? What was referenced? I don’t remember that Eucharistic prayer at 8. Who is this? Why is ‘Hallelujah’ being sung before that sermon? I’ve woken up these last two Sundays, to go back and read 2 Samuel again and beyond. Is it odd that I feel ‘bring it on’ is in order? I am looking forward to seriously attending adult formation in the fall. I’ve never committed to that before.”

“It has been good to think about Jered and his family getting this time away together. Being the center of a church must be exhausting physically and emotionally and I imagine that this time will rejuvenate their family. When there are glitches on Sundays, it makes me smile and realize that everyone at SJE is pitching in to make the sabbatical work. The glitches have not been a negative but a positive.”

“I have really enjoyed the visiting preachers and the whole sermon series. New perspectives and new topics to consider.”

“Highlights for me have been the sermon series and dinners.”

“I’m not sure if it’s summer or the sabbatical but I feel less attached to the church and that there’s a little less of Jesus or God orientation in my life. It’s more guided by the fun activities of summer. I miss the structure. The ‘breaking bread and sharing stories’ dinners [that] were part of the sabbatical, these were positive.”

“Sunday attendance has seemed really good! I liked knowing who was coming up as a preacher and reading a little about them in the service sheet.”

“I have seen God through the smiles and positive feedback from folks who hosted and attended the dinners and ice cream social. I think our parish has needed the encouragement to JUST BE WITH each other. So many folks express the desire to get to know others but don’t always know how to go about it. This was a way in for people.”

 

 

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