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Archive for February, 2020

 

“We have ten fingers to remind us of the Ten Commandments.”

The Ten Commandments “epitomize the childishness, the vindictiveness, the sexism, the inflexibility and the inadequacies of the bible as a book of morals, (an anti-religion website)

Well.

Of course, there are other voices, such as that of the preacher David Lose. The Ten Commandments, he says, “are not only a baseline of decency but an embodied relational, transformative encounter with all whom we meet.”

Next Sunday’s reading from Deuteronomy says that the Commandments help us “choose life.”

I just finished reading Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham’s book, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels. In one of the most moving segments, he describes the meeting of Grant and Lee at Appomattox where Lee surrendered and the Civil War ended. It was a meeting of such respect, such dignity, that it stands in stark contrast to much of the present:

The occasion was muted; the generals gracious. They were soldiers and they understood one another. In defeat, Lee was stoic; in victory, Grant was sympathetic…. Grant sent word to the Union troops: no gloating. ‘The war is over,’ he said. ‘The rebels are our countrymen again.’ As the two generals parted in the yard outside, Grant took off his hat as Lee rode by. Lee raised his own in mutual tribute.”

Somehow this heals my heart, torn apart with our leaders at each other’s throats. It shows how an individual relationship can set the standard for how to treat one another, even at the end of the greatest internal conflict our country has ever endured.

Not only an anachronistic screed about being good or the name of a bad old movie, The Ten Commandments, as Jesus elaborates on them in Sunday’s Gospel, show us that relationships are where most of our moral choices are made, and the ancient, trustworthy tradition of the Commandments can help us do relationships right.

What could be more important?

See you in church.

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By Jayan Nair

During the rite for Holy Anointing, after the priest’s oil-soaked thumb traces the sign of the cross on your forehead, they offer a prayer for God to “restore you to wholeness and strength.” This image of God’s healing work as ‘wholeness’ carries a powerful weight with it, precisely because the brokenness in our world is overwhelming. We are brokenhearted, divided along the lines of difference, split by schisms in the Church, and torn between our own conflicting desires.

God meets us in this brokenness. He calls us into a relationship with Him and gathers together these broken pieces and binds them together. The burning desire that undergirds all of God’s work of salvation is that we might all be one—be whole. The business of the Church is bringing about this wholeness in the world—gathering the motley mass of humanity, molding and nourishing us through the Sacraments, and empowering us as agents to invite the world into this transformative healing.

In teaching us to live out this mission, our Anglican tradition invites us into specific practices to reckon with our brokenness, humbly bring it to God, and allow ourselves to be transformed. The Book of Common Prayer beckons us to join past generations of Episcopalians and seek our God of healing in the ‘trifecta’ of Benedictine spirituality: Eucharist, Daily Office, and Personal Devotions.

Holy Eucharist

The Eucharist, as “the principal act of Christian worship,” is our anchor on this journey of healing. In the act of making Eucharist, we gather “our selves, our souls and bodies” in all their aching brokenness and bring them to the foot of the cross. We can’t fix the brokenness ourselves, but we don’t have to. In the Eucharist we get to hand all the fragments of the world over to Jesus, who lifts them up to the Father as part of his own sacrifice. In this act of offering, our brokenness is brought into the unity of the Father and the Son and made whole. In Body and Blood of Christ, we get a foretaste of the perfect wholeness we will bask in at the last.

A great beauty of our faith is that we don’t make this offering, or taste its return, on our own. We make Eucharist side-by-side with other believers, other hurting people. And we make Eucharist in the company of the saints who went before us, and now sit in glory, joining their prayers with ours. Knowing we worship in unison with the saints is hugely comforting to me. As I look back on our Eucharist for St. Aelred (patron of LGBT+ Anglicans) on January 12, I’m heartened by the thought of offering myself up alongside someone who died centuries ago, who knows the pain that comes with life as a queer person, and who tastes the healing that has been promised.

Daily Office

As central as the Eucharist is to our lives as Christians, St. Benedict and the framers of the prayer book were careful to remind us that our spiritual lives can and should be further nourished by other practices. The Daily Office, a cycle of liturgical prayers for morning, midday, evening, and night, laid out in the prayer book brings a tradition with roots in pre-Christian Judaism out of the cloister and into the parish.

This practice has had a tremendous impact on my spiritual life and my own journey of healing. That’s the major motivation driving me as I’ve launched daily Morning Prayer to St. John’s and worked to establish the Society of St. Nicholas Ferrar, an association of people who commit to cultivating the Daily Office as a discipline in their own lives and their communities. As I pray the Psalms and the Scriptures day after day alongside fellow Christians, I’m continually astounded at the new depths of meaning and comfort that emerge.

I think this is why St. Benedict and Archbishop Cranmer were so insistent on the Office—if our lives are centered on praising God and recounting the stories of His healing work in the world, the experience of that healing is bound to saturate our souls over time.

Personal Prayer

St. Benedict knew, of course, that although the Body of Christ must be healed collectively, its Members come with brokenness that can be bared only to God. This is why personal prayers play a key role in a Benedictine/Anglican spiritual life. There are innumerable forms: contemplative prayer, the Rosary, journaling. As a parish we even explored a form from Eastern Christianity when Fr. Jonathan Proctor gave a workshop on praying with Orthodox icons on January 9.

Whatever form it takes, personal prayer is an opportunity for us to simply be present with God and open up our hearts for our innermost fractures to be healed. It’s between us and God. This privacy is, perversely, what can make it so difficult. It’s certainly where I struggle most, without obvious accountability. I can tell myself that buying myself that new icon or devotional book will be what gets me to make time for prayer. But new prayer aids rarely do it. The only thing that gets me to pray is noticing that I need the healing and comfort it provides.

That’s ultimately what these practices are all about: healing. That’s what all of this is about. God came into this world in its utterly shattered state, redeemed it, and raised it up to heaven. And he left his Church to continue making that wholeness manifest. The spiritual practices at the core of our Episcopal tradition—Eucharist, the Daily Office, and personal prayers—work God’s healing out in our lives and empower us to go out and invite the world to bring all its brokenness to God to be transformed into wholeness. We get to taste healing and say to the world with from our experience, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

*Originally published in the January/February 2020 edition of the Evangelist.

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Alice Lightner Johnson is a long-time member of St. Johns and the owner of LifeShift Services, LLC. She specializes in assisting clients with streamlining and organizing financial and estate documents, and also provides downsizing and move management services. Alice shares her top tips for getting organized this new year.

I like to think of these cold and dark days of winter as an opportunity to attend to tasks that get pushed aside at other times of the year. With my work in the financial services business over many years, I see great value in examining your financial situation on a regular basis. Taking these steps can help get you started on your path to financial wellness.

Review
Take a good look at your spending and saving habits. Examine credit card and debit card statements from the past year and highlight expenses you can cut out. Do you have an emergency fund? If not set up automatic withdrawals to get one started. Does your charitable giving reflect your values and are you supporting the causes you care about? Prayer and careful thought can help direct you to changes you may want to make for the coming year.

If you have retirement accounts, life insurance or annuities that have beneficiaries, review those designations to make sure they are correct and update if needed. It is also a good time to take a look at your estate plan. If you don’t have a will or estate plan in place, get it done! The Minnesota Attorney General’s office has a helpful website with a wealth of information to guide you, https://www.ag.state.mn.us/consumer/handbooks/probate/default.asp.

Simplify
Worthwhile goals are having less to keep track of and less paper coming into the house. Start by making a master list of all of your financial assets and obligations and identify what can be streamlined. If you have debt on several credit cards perhaps they can be consolidated into one lower interest loan. Maintaining multiple retirement accounts from job changes can mean lots of unnecessary fees, so look into rolling them over into one account. Set up online bill paying to simplify managing monthly bills.

Organize
Most of us hang on to paper much longer than we need to. My rule of thumb is that if you can get the information somewhere else you don’t need to keep it (if in doubt always check with your CPA or financial advisor). Clean out files of old statements and bills you no longer need. Set up a binder or file with all of your important estate and life documents so loved ones can find them. Include your master list of financial assets and obligations, as well as computer passwords and information about online accounts. I am always in favor of keeping hard to replace documents like birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, passports and the like in a fire proof safe or bank safe deposit box.

Communicate
Talking about finances and money with loved ones can be hard, but it is so important to have those conversations! If you have kids include them when you discuss family finances, charitable giving and your estate plans. Communicate with those you have designated to take care of your affairs if you become incapacitated or die so they know your wishes and know where to find things. I have seen in families where there is good communication about money, there is less chance of misunderstandings or hard feelings happening down the road.

Similar to taking care of your physical health, giving time and attention to your financial matters on a regular basis carries over into other areas of your life in positive ways. We honor ourselves, our work and our loved ones and we are showing gratitude to God for the gifts He has given us.

Thank you Alice!

Finance First Fridays is a pastoral initiative here at St. John’s. Discussing finances can be difficult and bring up feelings of worry and shame. However, money is a real factor in all of our lives and an important topic to address. A look through the Gospels shows us that Jesus had a lot to say on the subject of finances. If you have a personal story you’d like to tell or a financial resource or article you’d like to share in a future Finance First Fridays post, please contact Executive Administrator, Sarah Dull.

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Earlier this year, several members at St. John’s expressed a desire to be trained as healing prayer and healing anointing ministers. Since the rubrics in the Prayer Book state that “a deacon or a lay person may perform the anointing using oil blessed by a bishop or priest;” knowing that St. John’s receives chrism oil and oil of unction that has been blessed by our Bishop at the annual Chrism Mass every Holy Week; following Diocesan protocol, the Rev. Terry Dinovo, Dave Borton, and the Rev. Craig Lemming decided to organize a Healing Prayer and Healing Anointing training for those who are called to this ministry. Terry and Craig contacted the Rev. Joanie Delmater, a trained healing touch practitioner who works with the healing team at Episcopal Homes in St. Paul, and Joanie led a Healing Prayer and Healing Anointing training for eight lay ministers on Saturday, November 23 at St. John’s.

“We all are in need of healing — physical, emotional, and/or spiritual. As a new member of the church, I am delighted to serve as an instrument of healing through this ministry and to connect with parishioners in a deeply meaningful way.” — Wendy Fernstrum

“When I arrived for the training I was full of trepidation and thought I was just trying it out tentatively. However, when I did the healing prayer and anointing practice, with all of us sharing real concerns of the heart, and when I received the blessing comfort and then offered this to others, I was very deeply moved by the interconnecting spirituality. I was hooked. Practicing Healing Prayer and Healing Anointing made me deeply want to continue in this ministry as much as God grants me time to do.” — Jennifer Tianen

“I feel led to this ministry because I have been on the receiving end and I know what a blessing it is. From 2015 – 2018, I had 12 surgeries. Some were relatively minor but at least four were pretty “heavy duty.” In addition, I had three emergency hospitalizations. Healing prayers have enabled me to go into these with full confidence that I was in the Lord’s hands. And the outcomes have overall been very positive. I want others to be able to experience the blessings that I received.” — Gil Lautenschlager

“In the Healing Prayer and Healing Anointing Training, I realized we are all called to healing each other through deep, caring, non-judgmental listening; bearing witness, blessing, and anointing. These beautiful selfless acts reverberate in every direction. All are touched; even if only by Christ’s hem, and reciprocal healing manifests.” — Kathy Brown

“For me, the healing ministries need to once again come alive. They were an integral part of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus invites us, no, commands us in Scripture to heal the sick. It is at our wooden rail where we ask the Living Christ to touch the life of a St. John’s parishioner and allow God’s healing to enter in. What a blessing to be part of that.” — Dave Borton

*Originally published in the January/February 2020 edition of the Evangelist.

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