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The deepest crisis of any society are moments of change when the stories we live by today become inadequate for the present situation.”

Thomas Berry
American monk, historian

Stories have been a major theme at St. John’s for some time, especially the stories about ourselves that we tell each other and the stories of Scripture that we hear each Sunday.

The thing is, the “truthiness” of stories changes (thank you for the term, Stephen Colbert). I know that some of the stories that I used to tell about myself aren’t as true as they once were because I have finally learned some new ways to understand my life. Old stories such as: Me as the kid whose parents never told her they loved her; Me as the kid in high school who never fit in; Me as the sad but valiant survivor of divorce.

My stories now are more like this: Me not fitting in during high school but who wanted to be with those people anyway; Me modeling resilience for my daughters; Me as “successful” by the standards I now value; Me, grateful for the changes that almost destroyed me.

And now you don’t even have to eat with me!

Some of the stories in Scripture are not as pristine as we may have thought once. Next Sunday’s lesson from Samuel is an example. The story is about the selection of David as the new king of Israel and it begins with a lie.

Saul was losing it as a king and God sent Samuel out to find the new king – with a cow. He did this so when the nervous elders asked him what he was doing in Bethlehem he would say, “Oh nothing, just going to church to make a sacrifice — see the cow?”

No report on what happened to the cow, but Samuel found David, the greatest of Israel’s kings.

Each Sunday the preacher of the day has a mighty challenge because of what people want at church. Some want comfort, peace and direction –they are unhappy if the stories are interpreted too much in light of present events, especially political ones. Others are unhappy if the stories are NOT interpreted in light of the present day because the outrage and despair they feel about the state of the country and sometimes their own lives cannot be instantly forgotten as they walk through the red doors. They want immediate relevance.

Jesus didn’t have much time for the separation of church and state. In fact, he was forever reinterpreting the stories of his Jewish tradition. He enlarged the meaning, he changed it; sometimes he even said it was just wrong. He roared against the injustice and selfish arrogance of the Roman oppressors.

Stories are living, breathing entities that change as we learn more about ourselves and about God.

Mine sure did.

See you in church.

There will be stories.

Barbara

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By Eric Odney

In June of 2015 Pope Francis issued his encyclical (letter) titled Laudato Si. The encyclical dealt with many issues but chief among them was a concern for the environment and a “…care for our common home…”.

In 1991 the Episcopal Church General Convention called on “all citizens of the world, and Episcopalians in particular, to live their lives as good stewards with the responsible concern… for the environment” and urged all Episcopalians “to reflect on their personal and corporate habits in the use of God’s creation.”

In a very small and fundamental way, we here at St. John’s can participate in this effort by renewing our commitment to recycling. We applied for and received a grant from BizRecycling (a program of the Ramsey/Washington Recycling and Energy Board) for new recycling bins and signage. With this grant, we hope to improve and expand our recycling efforts, and to send less trash to the landfill.

(This also benefits the stewardship of our financial resources, along with our environmental ones. Ramsey County charges a 53% on garbage collection for non-residential customers — but recycling is not taxed!)

We offer our thanks to you for participating, and a prayer that we may be good stewards of God’s creation and our common home!

Originally published in the May-June 2018 Evangelist. 

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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

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Easter fell on April Fools Day this year, and one of my musical colleagues handed out bulletins to the choir that had Christmas carols listed for the hymns. I’m guessing that chaos and consternation ensued! There were surely plenty of unfortunate jokes told as part of sermons all over the world as well, and so it doesn’t feel quite as unseemly as it might to suggest that we were celebrating Jesus thumbing his nose at death on Easter.

Thumbing his nose? Where on earth did that kooky expression originate? […]

from Sonya Sutton’s blog Notes for a New Day  Click to read the full post.

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[…]When I pay attention to the big picture I am constantly outraged, and I have to admit that is as depressing and wearying as it is overwhelming. The words of Good Friday’s O vos omnes remind me, however, to pay attention to those right around me. Those that I might otherwise walk by[…]

Read more at: Attendite — Notes for a New Day

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PROCESSIONS

Adapted from something I wrote four years ago:

 

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t just an impromptu, spontaneous procession that Sunday outside of Jerusalem in the year 30 where the supporters and fans of Jesus seated him on a donkey, cried “Hosanna,” and spread palm branches in his path as children cheered.

No, Jesus had planned it in advance, using the Jewish book of Jeremiah as his guide. Here it says that a king would be coming to Jerusalem “humble and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” It was to be a peaceful, procession, since Jeremiah also says that the king riding on a donkey will banish war from the land – no more chariots, war-horses, or bows.

Even more surprising is that there was a second procession that same day, at the same time, far different from that of the peaceful procession of Jesus and his enthuiastic supporters. Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan tell us: “On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Ideuma, Judea, and Samaria, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers. It was the custom of the Roman governors of Judea to be in Jerusalem for the major Jewish festival such as Passover, in case there was trouble.

They go on: “Imagine the imperial procession’s arrival in the city: A visual barrage of imperial power; cavalry on horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun gleaming on metal and gold… The sounds of the marching of feet, the creaking of leather, the clinking of bridles, the beating of drums. The swirling of dust. Pilate’s procession was not only about Roman power but also Roman theology, wherein the emperor was not simply the ruler of Rome, but the Son of God.”

So Jesus entered the city from the east, on a donkey, Pilate from the west, in a golden chariot. One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession, brandishing all of the might and power of the Roman Empire. The confrontation between these two powers continues through the last week of Jesus’ life. Holy Week is the story of this confrontation.

We, too, are conflicted, torn. The pull of the world and its obligations, along with the power of structures that hold us fast – commitments we must keep, appointments we cannot break, obligations we must honor — challenges the invitation to walk through this week with Jesus, step by step. The confrontation of powers, of authority, of loyalties, plays out in the hearts and lives of us all.

This Sunday we will carry our palms and process from the the undercroft, upstairs and outside and down Kent Street to mighty Summit Avenue, and then back to church, identifying ourselves to everyone who sees us as followers of Jesus. And then back to church where we will hear the full story…

See you there.
Barbara

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The Poet Thinks About the Donkey

by Mary Oliver

On the outskirts of Jerusalem
the donkey waited.
Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,
he stood and waited.

How horses, turned out into the meadow,
leap with delight!
How doves, released from their cages,
clatter away, splashed with sunlight.

But the donkey, tied to a tree as usual, waited.
Then he let himself be led away.
Then he let the stranger mount.

Never had he seen such crowds!
And I wonder if he at all imagined what was to happen.
Still, he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient.

I hope, finally, he felt brave.
I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly upon him,
as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to, forward.

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