Nov 262012
 


 

Grace to you and peace from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Amen

“In India, we have a saying — everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, it is not yet the end.”

 Name the movie? Hint: Stars Judi Dench/released this year- not a James Bond movie.

(Don’t go to the movies enough. Maybe you should keep some of your money this week and rent the DVD on iTunes).

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel-

A group of 7 British retirees decide to “outsource” their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India. Enticed by advertisements for the newly restored Marigold Hotel, they arrive to find the palace to be a run-down remnant of its glory days. Instead of the luxury and elegance promised on the website and brochure, the place is infested with dust, birds, cockroaches, pipes that leak, and telephones that don’t work

It’s based on the intriguing premise that with so many people living so long, it would make sense for England and other countries to outsource their elders to India where they can be taken care of for less money and no drain on budgets of Western nations.

Each character struggles with important issues: impulse to do life review, health crises, financial short-falls, disappointments, the looming prospect of death, changes in marital relationships, the continuing desire for companionship, and spiritual openness.

The hope of the movie rests in the enthusiasm of the young hotel manager Sonny who encourages  each character to become open to new possibilities. All that is needed is an open heart, an open mind, and patience.

Each time they complain about their circumstance or get discouraged he reminds them:

“Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, it is not yet the end.”

I like that quote. I think it gives us an interesting lens to view this Feast of Christ the King. So, reflecting on this quote lets look at the Feast of Christ the King:

  1.       In our Liturgical Year
  2.       In our Gospel
  3.      In our lives today.

Christ the King- Liturgical Year

  1. The Feast of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925  in his encyclical Quas Primas. The encyclical quotes Cyril of Alexandria, noting that Jesus’ kingship is not obtained by violence but his by essence and by nature. Pope Pius added the feast to our liturgical calendar to remind us that our allegiance is to our spiritual ruler in heaven as opposed to earthly supremacy, which at the time was being claimed by Mussolini.

Look around the world, still relevant today.

Does the Episcopal church celebrate a feast instituted by a 20th Century Pope?  After all, this is not an ancient Christian feast day.

Google it.

As I continue to learn, the Episcopal Church has a definitive answer: Yes and No.

Yes- Revised lectionary.  Last Sunday of Pentecost- The Feast of Christ the King

No- Book of Common Prayer. Calendar- Thanksgiving but no Christ the King. Not officially adopted by General convention.

Purist: Last Sunday after Pentecost

Moderate: Christ the King

Progressive: Reign of Christ Sunday (don’t like language of kingship)

  1. Christ the King is the end of our Liturgical Year. End of story.

Does the Jesus story have a happy ending?

Will everything will be all right in the end?  Feast of Christ the King- answer is Yes.

  1. Christ the King- Scripture

Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world.”

One of the rules that Pilate was called to enforce was the rule that anyone who claimed to be a king, anyone who dared to set themselves up as an authority over and against the lawful authority of Caesar, was to be executed.

Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Pilate doesn’t get it because Jesus doesn’t fit the image of King.

What kind of king bends down on the ground to be with a woman accused of adultery and leans in close to hear her voice when nobody else bothered to listen? What kind of King dines with tax collectors and prostitutes?  What kind of king acknowledges the abundance of a poor widow’s offering as preached by our youth two weeks ago? What kind of king puts a towel around his waist and then kneels on the floor to wash his disciples’ dirty feet

These actions landed Jesus before Pilate and eventually on the throne of the cross – a place where this crucified Christ declares that despite all evidence to the contrary, everything will be all right in the end. Do we have the faith to believe and testify to this truth?

Not naïve belief that everything will be fine- the faith that somehow God will provide.

  1. Christ the King- In our lives today (3 lessons- many more)

I remember once preaching on the Feast of Christ the King. This long-time parishioner (Tom) came up to me and said: “You didn’t mention the last Judgment of Christ.” That’s an important part of the Kingship of Christ. In fact we pray it in the Creed each week: He will come in glory to Judge the Living and the Dead and his kingdom will have no end.

My response: To be honest, I find the language of kingship to be too patriarchal and the Judgment of Christ archaic theology- after all don’t we believe that that God is Love?

Then Tom asked me to be seated and he began to preach to me:

Christ reserves the last judgment to himself because human beings are too judgmental.

Look how often we judge one another- discriminate, set apart, point to that which divides rather than unites. Not just in the world, it happens in church as well. People have judged me my entire life- I’m just glad they don’t have the final judgment!

For Tom, everything will be alright in the end, because he trusts in Christ’s compassionate reign and not the authority of others.

Wisdom in his belief.

So stay awake, be prepared-  Non-Judgment Day is coming!

  1. Second, Jesus is a king who never rose so high that he couldn’t see those who were down low. Even today, we see Jesus in the compassionate response  from those assisting people who are still waiting for relief from hurricane Sandy. We see Jesus once again walking on holy ground in the streets of Gaza and Jerusalem. A painful reminder that things are not all right. If you want to see Jesus, look in places kings seldom go.
  2. Finally, true royalty is about testifying to the truth. Message of today’s Gospel- Jesus came to testify to the truth. It’s about personal integrity. When we live truthfully and with a sense of personal integrity, we experience the Reign of Christ. There are many in our parish that seek to live truthful lives.  Some are parents who make unpopular parenting decisions for the welfare of their children. Some make decisions at work as a matter of personal integrity that leave them outside the group. Some spoke their minds at the Thanksgiving Table taking an opinion contrary to the rest of the family.

This week, I was invited into a conversation with two people in our parish that took a step in their relationship to live more truthfully- they did so knowing they may be judged by others.  But, by doing this, they helped make known the Reign of Christ.

So my friends, on this last day of our liturgical year, I welcome you to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel otherwise known as St Paul’s Church.

Like the characters in the movie, our parish family also struggles through health crises, financial short-falls, disappointments, the looming prospect of death, changes in marital relationships, the continuing desire for companionship, and spiritual openness.

When you check in, you will be asked to help create a Judgment Free zone- You will be invited to places that kings seldom go. You are welcome to be yourself and live a life that is truthful to your call.

And when discouraged or facing challenges in life, we can turn to one a familiar message of hope:

In the Reign of Christ, we have a saying,

“Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, it is not yet the end.”

 

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 Sermon for November 25, 2012  Posted by on Mon, 26-Nov-12 News, Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for November 25, 2012
Nov 222012
 

Edie Ellen Knitters

This group of women meets on the second and fourth Monday of each month from 2-4 pm in the library at St. Paul’s. We welcome new members at any time.

If you don’t knit we can teach you and give you directions for a prayer shawl. If you are a knitter but cannot join us we would welcome those who would be able to knit a shawl on their own. Donations to purchase yarn are always appreciated. Since our inception we have given out approximately 400 shawls!

November 26 – Joanne Alukonis; December 10 – 6pm – Shirley Walton – Cookie Swap and Soup.

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 Edie Ellen Knitters — Prayer Shawls!  Posted by on Thu, 22-Nov-12 Events, Ministries Comments Off on Edie Ellen Knitters — Prayer Shawls!
Nov 202012
 


In my Weathervane article this month I wrote about how I had gone to the grocery store on the morning that Hurricane Sandy was due to hit the east coast.  It never ceases to amaze me how our hunting, gathering and nesting instincts kick in when we are in some way threatened.  How fortunate we are to have been spared a direct hit from that particular storm.

But of course many in the Greater New York City region were not so fortunate. A picture really is worth a thousand words when it comes to taking in the magnitude of the devastation in New York and New Jersey, and so I have covered the front of the pulpit this morning with pictures that have been posted online.  The turmoil in terms of human lives disrupted or sadly in some case ended is immense.  And then there is the chaos of what happened to people’s homes and possessions.  Whole neighborhoods were destroyed. So many there are still suffering to put their lives back together with the help of government agencies and thousands of volunteers carrying donations from all over the country to help give some comfort in these difficult days.  We are part of that effort through the collections we are making.  Please see the bulletin insert of learn more about what is needed.

These brothers and sisters of ours,  suffering in this aftermath of Super Storm Sandy were very much in my thoughts this week as I read our lessons for today.  In the prophecy from Daniel and again in what Jesus says in our Gospel passage from Mark, we find ominous predictions of the turmoil, chaos and suffering of the end time transition when the full realm of God overtakes our time-bound reality.  “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” writes the author of the letter to the Hebrews And how! These readings about the end times evoke alarm because they expose an aspect of God’ that we tend to shrink from or would rather not think about very often – the unpredictable, uncontrollable, cosmically powerful side of God.  But the full picture of what those end times will be like remains vague- when we try to focus in on exactly what it is being predicted, it eludes us.  There is no real specificity here.  It leaves even the prophet confounded. Later in this prophecy, Daniel, himself cries out, “I heard, but I could not understand.” All we can really know about the end time after hearing these readings is that it doesn’t sound good.

What are we to do in the face of this cosmic forcast?  How are we to prepare?  Hurricanes show us that our human efforts at organization and preparedness often fall far short when it is our neighborhood that takes the direct hit.  It is like that with our individual lives too – when someone we love gets sick, or a child is struggling, or a relationship we depended upon disintegrates – our normal coping abilities seem inadequate to the devastation we encounter.

Thank God for our faith. Thank God for our scriptures. Thank God for our churches where we come week after week to find what we need to face the storms of both our personal and collective lives.  Here we find hope even among the prophecies that can unnerve us.  This morning that hope comes to us from the writer of the letter to the Hebrew.

Throughout this letter this writer continually affirms, yes the end times of judgment and cataclysm are coming, but that  we  already possess the one thing necessary to survive.  In our passage this morning we read: “…we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus…”  Confidence is the word to underline here!  Confidence is the one thing necessary to weather the storms of the present time and those yet to come.  This writer feels that confidence down to the tips of his or her toes.

If we read on in this tenth chapter of Hebrews the writer tells us this confidence does not come from warehouses full of supplies, or passwords that gain entrance to cosmic bomb shelters.  Rather, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, tells us, this confidence is hewn out of already having followed Christ into places of need and chaos; from voluntarily being acquainted with the suffering and pain already going on in our world, even in our own lives, or the lives of those we love.

Your relationship with Christ enables you to endure hard struggles and sufferings, even sometimes public abuse and persecution, and to be partners with those who are so treated.  Your faith gives you over to compassion for those in prison, and to cheerful surrender of material possessions, knowing your true riches can never be taken from you.  You are clad with confidence born out of finding God’s grace alive and well, and very active in the midst of chaos that already grips our world.  You are already receiving the riches of the kingdom. So, when the final birth pangs of the kingdom come and the cosmic storm rages, you will not be overcome.

When many others are caught up in terror, you will not be.  When many are grabbing resources and running for cover, you will not.  Rather this confidence founded on faith in Christ Jesus will lead you to reach out to those who get trampled in the rush.   We, as Christians, clad in our confidence that God is strong to save, are called upon to resist the panic and do what we can for those who are suffering and in need – now, and then.

As the prophecy from Daniel predicts, In the face of panic you will stand firm as beacons for others  – lanterns of God’s grace in the midst of chaos, even as you already are, here and now.  And you should never underestimate the contagious effect of this confidence.  When you shine with the confidence founded on your relationship with our Lord, you affect the hold that fear has over others.  Your light can help loosen the bonds of fear and bring calm to panicked hearts- hearts that can then join the work of reconciling all of creation to God.

You may hear me and protest; “I feel no such confidence”.  But my friends in Christ, it is ours even before we possess it.  It is the free gift of our baptism.  All we need do is claim it and let it take root within us.  It will lead us to live into the strength of Christ that paradoxically comes from joining hands with weakness and need.

This confidence is yours.  This confidence is mine.  It is ours as Christians.  And its reward is this; the reassurance that no matter how terrifying God’s methods, in the end times, or even now, they will prove grace filled.  Like a surgeon’s knife, God’s ways often wound before they can healPreacher Barbara Brown Taylor has put it this way:   “While we would prefer to forgo the pain altogether, our survival depends on our trust in the surgeon’s skill.  If we believe that the One to whom we surrender ourselves is competent, then, in the words of Blessed Julian of Norwich, ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well, no matter what.”  (Barbara Brown Taylor, In The Other Side Magazine, March & April 2000) May this confidence grow in and among us day by day and may God use us to bring hope and light to those who today suffer devastation.

In Christ’s name. Amen+

 

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 Sermon for November 18, 2012  Posted by on Tue, 20-Nov-12 News, Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for November 18, 2012
Nov 062012
 

 


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 Sermon for November 4, 2012  Posted by on Tue, 6-Nov-12 Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for November 4, 2012
Nov 012012
 

This is a Stewardship Minute delivered on October 28 by parishioner Suzanne DeWitt


 

 

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 Stewardship Minute October 28, 2012  Posted by on Thu, 1-Nov-12 News Comments Off on Stewardship Minute October 28, 2012
Nov 012012
 

   


The bishop who ordained me to the priesthood was The Rt. Rev. Robert Denig of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts where I served as Curate at The Church of the Atonement in Westfield for my first 2 years following seminary.  Bishop Denig was a young and energetic bishop, who sadly died after only 2 years as bishop from a very aggressive form of bone marrow cancer.  Even in the short time I knew him, Bishop Denig made a big impression on me.  I will never forget something he once said to the clergy when he had us gathered all together.  He said, “I want clergy here in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts who know God in Christ, and not just by hearsay!”  That has always stuck with me because it reminds me that I am best able to be part of Christ’s body in the world when I have a strong and intimate relationship with the Holy One.  Hearsay about what it is like to know God in Christ is not enough to feed, nourish and ground us or any we would hope to serve in his name.  Knowing God, making time to be with God through worship, prayer and meditation are what fuels who we are and what we do as people of faith.

In our first reading Job testifies to this.  After seeing God face to face his complaints against his lot in life melted away and he told God:

 “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know… I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”

Worship here at St. Paul’s on Sunday is where it all starts for us – where we come to celebrate together how we are experiencing God’s presence in our lives, or where we come because we have veered off the path and need to be regrounded in our connection to the divine.  Here together we find meaning and make connections with each other that are amazingly grace filled.   I caught sight of this again in a powerful way at our Vestry retreat 2 Saturdays ago.

As Ollie mentioned in his sermon last week we spent a good part of our vestry retreat telling each other why we feel called to be leaders in this parish. I have to tell you it was an amazing experience for me! As I listened to vestry members talk about how they had found their way to St. Paul’s, and the twists and turns of how they were drawn into being members and ministers here, I felt I caught sight of God’s hand guiding each of them through the various circumstances of their lives to be drawn in here – to be called as ministers here.  By the end of that time together I was awestruck and humbled by how important this parish is in people’s lives – how much it matters – what meaning it gives – what a vehicle of God’s grace it has been and is.  I, one of the preachers, was preached to in a deeply nourishing way that day by brothers and sisters in Christ who knew God in Christ and not just by hearsay- people who have been touched by God and testify that they have never been the same since.  Praise God!

And I know that is not just true for our Vestry members.  I know it is true for each of us.  God is alive and active within each of us, between us in this holy place, and God is also on the loose out in the world working outlandishly graceful healing and making wonderfully loving connections among people which we can observe every day if our eyes are open and we have the vision of faith.

And all of this leads me to rejoice!  And rejoice is the word of the day- rejoicing is the final stop on our stewardship tour this year.  I rejoice because I see what much God is doing among us and through us and I believe with all my heart that it is also God who will supply all the resources we need to keep this parish – this well of grace- vital and growing.  I believe this with all my heart because though our financial challenges are clearly before us in our proposed budget for 2013,  also clearly before us is the power of God that never quits finding a way forward, even when we cannot see that way from where we stand.  Jesus asks the blind beggar, Bartimeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” the answer comes back “My Teacher let me see again.”  May we ask to be given the sight to see the miraculous things God is doing for us and through us.

For instance, just since the beginning of this calendar year we as a parish have felt an earth quake of sorts – and I’m not talking about the one 2 weeks ago.  In this year we have felt a generational shift begin as several of our long-time members have died or moved into new chapters of life that take them away to other places.  This is bitter sweet for those of us who remain.  While we wish them all joy as some of them taste the mercies of the full presence of God in heaven, and others find new abodes in this world – while we wish them joy we also miss them- achingly- here with us.  We wonder how we will go on both as individuals and as a community without them.  And God honors our grief and holds us as we let them go.

At the same time it seems God has been busy inviting in among us new friends, new seekers, new members – people who are looking for a new spiritual home.  Since the beginning of the calendar year we have officially welcomed at least 12 new members. And this fall we have already mugged 20 + people after services – that is our funny way of saying we have greeted people who are here for the first time with a St. Paul’s mug.  We are so pleased that many of these visitors are returning and finding their place in this community of faith – bringing with them new perspectives and new resources which deepen our ministry in Christ here at St. Paul’s.

And what a ministry it is – build on the foundations laid by the faithful who have gathered in this parish for over 300 years – the ministry we share in Christ is rich and ever deepening. So much to rejoice about! Over the last year we have made adjustments and tried new things.     Here are a few that came to mind for me this week:

  • Weekly laying on of hands for healing  at our Sunday services
  • Jesus Healing Ministry Bible Study or Centering Prayer Group every  Tuesday evening here at the church
  • Youth Forum on Sunday mornings in its second year, and a newly established every other Sunday evening service and youth gathering – both under the leadership of our Assistant Rector, Ollie Jones
  • 3 youth from our parish involved with the diocesan Youth Leadership Initiative and the Diocesan Youth Committee
  • A member who is discerning a call to ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church has been invited into the Diocesan Discernment process
  • New energy around the Fair an Silent Auction
  • Our second trip to our partners in the Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador
  • Opening our doors wider to the larger community as 500 people a week – come into our building for our 3 Among Friends meals, the 8 12 step meetings and various other arts and community groups that use our building
  • Our Finance Committee seeking to give us solid financial footings for the future through stewarding our investments.
  • Vestry Shepherds gathering members to work on the outcomes of our Holy Conversations Strategic plan.
  • Dedicated Staff working together with me and each other to provide the structure and services that keep all of this coordinated and working smoothly

My prayer is that all who come in contact with this vital and life giving ministry will meet God through us – all to God’s glory and honor.  That everyone might know God and not just by hearsay!

None of this is possible without our financial stewardship!  The Stewardship brochure that you received in the mail -or if you are not yet on our mailing list, you can find in the pews – shows clearly that we give really does matter. Making a financial pledge to St. Paul’s via the pledge card is a real grace.  To those of you who are pledging all that we possibly can I say thank you and rejoice!  To the rest of us who have the means to make an increase in our pledges this year, I invite you to join me in making an generous increase, assured that what you give will matter deeply to the lives of many.  And I say to you thank you and rejoice!  Let all of us rejoice as good and faithful stewards of all that has been entrusted to us here at St. Paul’s.  And may God continue to richly bless all that we do in Christ’s name.  Amen+

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 Sermon for October 28, 2012  Posted by on Thu, 1-Nov-12 Sermons Comments Off on Sermon for October 28, 2012