God planted a seed in my heart that was indestructible: a story of healing

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Barbara Klugh

healing handsAlthough our Lenten series is about sexual abuse in the church, my childhood experience was much more common. One in five girls and one in ten-to-twenty boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. I was sexually abused by my maternal grandfather for seven years, beginning when I was three until he died when I was ten. I’m telling my story in the hope that someone else will find healing, too.

Why did I never tell my parents? I learned in therapy that it is common for children to protect their parents from these terrible secrets. In my child’s mind, I couldn’t tell my mother because my grandpa was her father, and she would feel so bad. I couldn’t tell my father because I was convinced that, if he found out, he would kill my grandfather and go to jail.

By the time I went to therapy I was married with children of my own. Therapy helped me to come to terms with my experiences, and I recommend it to anyone who is suffering from past (or present) abuse, whether sexual, physical, or emotional.

I became a Christian at age 52 and was baptized and confirmed here at Grace Church. I began to read the Bible passages listed in “Forward Day by Day.” One day I read Mark 14-16: Jesus said, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” Immediately I felt a loving warmth, which I now call the Holy Spirit, infuse my being, and knew that, at my very core, I was not defiled—I was clean and, no matter what, God had planted a seed in my heart that was indestructible.

Jesus took on the world’s violence and sin by his death on the cross. And, as his followers, often we, too, will suffer unfairly from the world’s violence and sin. Yet I learned that my memories of childhood abuse were easier to accept when I recognized that God was—and still is—protecting my immortal soul through every adversity. My Lenten prayer is that all people will realize that God’s presence and protection are with them always.

Keeping up with your pledge

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Ministry of the week.

Generations of GenerosityIn a perfect world the projected income for the budget would come along in neat packages of 1/12th in January, 2/12ths in February, etc. But, like in our own lives, income and expenses ebb and flow throughout the year. To the extent that is possible, there are ways to keep your financial giving to Grace current. Whether you are hunkered in because of weather, traveling to sunny parts of the country or home because of illness, giving to Grace can continue even if you don’t attend worship services.

Several options exist whether you have electronic access or not:

  • Use the DONATE button  which is located on every page of the Grace website
  • Make arrangements through your bank for automatic payments to be mailed to Grace in the form of a check
  • Make contributions yourself via snail mail
  • Use a book of envelopes to keep yourself on track; you can pick one up in the Commons

Quarterly statements (January through March) will be mailed or emailed  in April to those households that made a pledge in 2017. Be sure to review them for accuracy. If you have questions or would like to make a pledge now, pledge information is available in the Commons.

Join Generations of Generosity and make contributions to this place called Grace.



Engaging the Word: 03/19/17 (The Third Sunday in Lent)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

By Barbara Klugh

Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text.

In this week’s readings, God instructs Moses to strike a particular rock to get water for the thirsty Israelites, Paul tells us about the growth that comes from being in right relationship with God, and Jesus shares his identity with the Samaritan woman at the well.

Moses Striking Water from the Rock by Nicolas Poussin, 1649. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Moses Striking Water from the Rock by Nicolas Poussin, 1649. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Exodus 17:1-7: In this week’s reading, Moses and the Israelites are traveling “by stages” on their journey to the Promised Land. God has delivered them out of Egypt, divided the Red Sea, made bitter water sweet at Mara, sent them manna and quail to eat. Now you would think they would not only be grateful, but also trust that God will continue to provide for them. Instead, they are camped at Rephidim, and complaining to Moses of their thirst. “So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” God commanded Moses to strike “the rock at Horeb” and water will come out, which it did. Moses “called the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [quarreling; strife], because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’”

It’s easy for me to think, “What a bunch of ingrates,” but I recognize that I, like the Israelites, forget about God’s daily blessings and provision all too easily.

Psalm 95: Vs. 1-7 of this royal, or enthronement, psalm is used as a canticle called the Venite (Lat., come) for Morning Prayer in our Prayer Book. The first seven verses call us to sing to the Lord, our Creator, with joyful noise, thanksgiving, and praise.

Paul preaching on the Ruins by Panini, 1744. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Paul preaching on the Ruins by Panini, 1744. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Romans 5:1-11: In our reading this week, Paul tells about the joy that comes from being “justified by faith,” being made right with God, through Jesus Christ. The big deal to me is that when Paul says we are justified by faith, he’s not referring to our faith, but to Jesus’ faith. Therefore, “we have peace with God” and access to God’s grace.

Paul adds, “we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” And even more, “Christ died for the ungodly…God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners, Christ died for us.”

Christ and the Samaritan Woman by Angelica Kauffman, 1796. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Christ and the Samaritan Woman by Angelica Kauffman, 1796. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 4:5-42: This week’s reading is about Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well, an encounter that is reported only in John’s Gospel. Jesus and his disciples were traveling from Judea to Galilee, but had to go through Samaria, and came to the city of Sychar, where he stopped to rest by Jacob’s well at noon—Jacob had acquired land there. The disciples went into the city to buy food.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus asks her for a drink. The woman expressed surprise that Jesus would even talk to her, being that he was Jewish, and the Jews and Samaritans had been at odds for centuries; moreover, she was a woman. Jesus replied obliquely, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, `Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman doesn’t get what Jesus is saying but she isn’t intimidated by him either. She responds almost dismissively, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it? Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus knows about the woman’s personal life (five husbands in the past and no husband now), and she understands Jesus is a prophet. She wants to know which is the proper place to worship—Mount Gerizim, or Jerusalem. Jesus says true knowledge comes through the Jews. “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

“Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” So not only was the Samaritan woman transformed, but her testimony led others to believe that Jesus is the Savior of the World.

Register now for the Bishop’s April workshops

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Ministry of the week.

The Rev. Whayne M. Hougland, Jr., was elected at a Special Electing Convention on May 18 to be the 9th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan.

The Rt Rev. Whayne Hougland, Bishop of the Western Diocese of Michigan, will host a workshop at Grace Church on Saturday, April 1.

This annual gathering gives leaders in the Episcopal churches in the Traverse Deanery area a chance to connect, share thoughts and pray together. The Bishop’s presentation will be called “Adaptive Leadership in Reformation Times.”

There will be four breakout sessions that will include the following:

  1. Nuts & Bolts of Church Finances
  2. Discerning Our Own Racism
  3. Thinking Theologically in Today’s Culture
  4. Communications Tech Desk (for help with church websites and communications – please bring your laptops/tablets with you).

The workshops begin at 9:30 am with refreshments; the Bishop’s presentation starts at 10 o’clock. The event is free and lunch is provided. Childcare is offered. Please contact the office by March 28 if childcare is needed. You may register here.

The Diocese requests that all parish leaders, including vestry members (and especially NEW vestry members) and delegates and alternates to the Diocesan convention attend for the benefit of their role in the congregation. Staff members and leaders of ministries are strongly encouraged while other interested congregants are welcomed as well.

Contact Ann Hackett 231-947-2330 if you need help registering.


Stephen Ministry offers care to people going through tough times

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Ministry of the week.

By Barbara Dancer
Stephen Minister

Barb Dancer headshotWhen was the last time someone really listened to you?  We’re talking about that undistracted, full attention kind of listening.  That is one of the ways that Stephen Ministers care for others.

What is Stephen Ministry?  Stephen Ministry is a one-to-one lay caring ministry within our congregation.  In collaboration with Central United Methodist Church, we have Stephen Ministers who bring distinctively Christian care to those in need.  Irene Cotter, Linda Schubert, Bill Montgomery, and Barb Dancer are all Stephen Ministers who work with care receivers in our community.  For certification we completed 50 hours of training with role playing to help prepare us to provide one-to-one care to people experiencing a difficult time in life, such as grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, relocation, or separation due to military deployment.  Our goal, as Stephen Ministers, is to bring confidential, Christ-centered care to people who are hurting.

Have you ever had a crisis in your life that you needed to work through with someone who was outside the situation?  Maybe the word “crisis” is too strong.  How about a nagging issue that you need some perspective on?  Maybe you had something uncomfortable to discuss where confidentiality was key?  Or maybe it was something simple, but you just couldn’t let go.  Stephen Ministers are congregation members trained by Stephen Leaders to offer high-quality, one-to-one Christian care to people going through tough times.  A Stephen Minister typically has one care receiver at a time and meets with that person once a week (for about an hour) to listen, care, pray, encourage, and offer emotional and spiritual support. Twice a month, Stephen Ministers gather with their Stephen Leaders for supervision and continuing education.

It’s been over a year since we completed our initial training, and I’ve personally learned so much and grown in my relationship with Christ and his church.  Being a Stephen Minister has stretched and challenged my faith and world view.  Truly listening to another is hard, but so rewarding.  We reap the benefits in our relationship with our care receivers, and it flows over into other areas of our lives.  It truly is in giving that we receive – and the blessing of being a Stephen Minister is something  for which I am so thankful.

If you or someone you know would benefit from the support of a Stephen Minister, please feel free to contact one of us:  Irene Cotter (231-932-1522), Barb Dancer (231-223-7379), Linda Schubert (231-463-7397), or Bill Montgomery (231-421- 3260)

You can also contact Reverend Kelly or any of the members of the Grace pastoral care team.  We are here to help you.  Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2, NRSV).

What is a Stephen Minister: http://www.stephenministries.org/stephenministry/default.cfm/1596

Care Receivers tell their stories: http://www.stephenministries.org/stephenministry/default.cfm/1597

Engaging the Word: 03/12/17 (The Second Sunday in Lent)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John  3:1-17. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, God calls Abram to leave everything he knows and go to a new land—and he obeys, Paul explains that Abram was righteous because he obeyed God’s call by faith, and Jesus  tells Nicodemus the way to eternal life is through faith in the Son.

Abram Called to be a Blessing. Bible card by Providence Lithograph Co., 1906. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Abram Called to be a Blessing. Bible card by Providence Lithograph Co., 1906. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genesis 12:1-4a: This week’s reading is brief, but signals a momentous shift in the biblical narrative. So far, the stories in Genesis are the Creation, the Fall, Cain and Abel, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. Deceit, sin, shame, rebellion, murder, violence, and hubris have entered God’s good creation. Now God takes the first step toward mending this broken world. God’s call to Abram (later renamed Abraham), and Abram’s faith in God’s promises led to the birth of the nation of Israel, and began the restoration of creation and the blessing all the families of the earth. Here is the entire reading.

The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.

We have the hope that God’s dream of the complete restoration of all creation will be realized because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abraham. I’m reminded of Paul’s comment in Romans 8:22: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.” God is still active, saving the world through his Son, and God will have the last word. And we, like Abram, can respond with faith to God’s call in our time.

Psalm 121: Our psalm this week is one of the Songs of Ascents (Pss. 120-134), which were the songs the pilgrims sang as they went up to Jerusalem. The psalmist expresses confidence in God’s protection in all circumstances. Psalm 121 is one of the psalms for Noonday in the Prayer Book. Click here for an exquisitely simple video of the Westminster Abbey Choir chanting Psalm 121.

Apostle Paul mosaic in Monreale Cathedral, Sicily, c. 1270. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Apostle Paul mosaic in Monreale Cathedral, Sicily, c. 1270. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17: In this week’s reading, Paul argues that Abraham was in right relationship with God by faith, not by the law. “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Abraham’s faith came before the giving of the law and before he was circumcised. “For this reason, it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants…” All people who share in the faith of Abraham had are spiritually related to him, “for he is the father of all of us.” Indeed, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, descend from Abraham.

Jesus and Nicodemus by William Brassey Hole (1846-1917). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jesus and Nicodemus by William Brassey Hole (1846-1917). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 3:1-17: Recorded only in the Gospel according to John, this week’s reading is the story of Jesus and Nicodemus. Although he is a Pharisee and leader of the Jews, Nicodemus is a seeker. Unlike other questioners, he does not come to Jesus to trap him—he realizes that Jesus is “a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus is thoroughly confused because he doesn’t realize that Jesus is talking about a spiritual rebirth, not a physical one. And this birth comes by God’s Spirit. Jesus likens the Spirit to the wind—it will blow where it blows and we can’t control the Spirit any more than we can control the wind. Nicodemus said to Jesus, “How can these things be?” He just can’t wrap his head around these new ideas.

Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Here Jesus is referring to the lifting up of the bronze serpent in the wilderness (Num 21:4-9). When people looked up, they were healed. Jesus will be lifted up on the cross, and those who believe that he is God’s son will be saved.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Although Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about at the time–he was ‘in the dark”–later he defended Jesus when the authorities unjustly accused him (7:50-51), and then he supplied the spices for Jesus’ burial (19:39). Through the encounter with Jesus, the light of the Spirit was planted in his soul, and, by God’s grace,  Nicodemus began the journey to of spiritual transformation.

Vestry seeks the wind of the Holy Spirit

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Voice of the Vestry.

By Clare Andreasson
Senior Warden

Sr. Warden Clare Andreasson

Sr. Warden Clare Andreasson

Sometimes it is an image that grounds me and brings me grace.

In late January, the week before the vestry retreat, Rosemary Hagan and I met to prepare and to pray.  During our prayer, as Rosemary spoke of the wind of the Holy Spirit, an unbidden image arose in my heart.  I saw a small sailboat tacking back and forth in a strong wind through heavy seas.  It was hard going, and yet the boat seemed to be dancing on the waves.

I shared this at the meeting after church last Sunday, and explained that this image feels to me like an apt metaphor for the work the vestry has been called to do.  A sailboat is rarely able to move in a straight line from point A to point B.  The wind changes direction, and the sailors need to adjust their course.  They need to be attentive to the wind and to work well together in order to stay afloat.  It may be hard, but there is joy in the journey.

We, as a vestry, are seeking prayerfully to work together so that the “wind of the Spirit” fills our sails.  I feel deeply honored to be a part of this group of courageous, wise, and dedicated women and men.

The image of the sailboat also reminded me of a Celtic Christian prayer I learned in the early years of our marriage when my husband and I were living in England.  The Celtic Christians lived in perilous times, yet their prayers were saturated with a sense of the presence of God in every aspect of their existence.  They lived courageously.  Some took to the sea in small boats, abandoning themselves to the wind and the will of God.  This is their prayer – and mine:

God of the elements, glory to thee
For the lantern-guide of the ocean wide;
On my rudder’s helm may thine own hand be
And thy love abaft on the heaving sea.

Contrition as response to abuse

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Rosemary Hagan, D. Min

Hagan_RosemaryJesus tells us only one sin will not be forgiven, and that is the sin of blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.  I don’t know about you, but I grew up confusing this with not using God’s most Holy name if I should swear. Most biblical scholars tell us the lesson is actually a dire warning against sustained self dishonesty, meaning our ability to rationalize our actions and lie to ourselves.  As the English Mystic Ruth Barrows said, “What is most troubling is not our weakness and our sin, but our lack of searing contrition”. I believe the people of Grace Church, Traverse City, MI are trying to bring the broader Episcopal Church to a consideration of a lack of contrition around its handling of the abuse of women by its Priests.

If the Church places other parishes in harm’s way through continued deployment of a Priest who is a convicted predator of women, this may point to a lack of contrition. If the Church does not ask for forgiveness from an aggrieved parish after abuse, this places contrition in question. If pastoral concern for victims even appears to take a secondary role to pastoral responses to Priests and Bishops, contrition becomes suspect. The inherent risk in any of these is the appearance of the Church holding more concern for the esteem and authority of clergy than they do over the illegal and immoral actions of its clergy, and the subsequent harm done to women and whole parishes.

The tricky part of contrition for all of us is that we may feel really sorry that something happened, but upon closer examination we may find we are sorry because it places us in a bad light, or we fear we may be losing control. Our ego is crafty at protecting itself. There are three very basic human temptations. They are the fear of losing power, losing affection, or losing esteem. They all involve the need to control how others see us. When we fear a loss of any one of these we may slip into rationalization and self-protection. Without honesty about our fears, which is healthy spiritual examination, we stay locked in our own denial, justification, and inner pain. And we all know what happens to unexplored emotional pain. It will act again to get our attention. Herein lies the reason individuals in authority within the Church must examine their relationship to contrition. For denied contrition allows for and may embolden abuse to emerge again in another place and time.

Perhaps this sin against the Holy Spirit is like taking the Lord’s name in vain after all, for it is our vanity (ego) that keeps us from honesty, easing God’s love and grace out of our thinking and actions. May we all look within and pray to find those areas of our lives that call out for honesty around our own acts of self-protection and injustice. May we all pray for the desire for a contrite heart. But may our Church leaders pray these desires with urgency. Have courage dear Church, no one will die, except your own false self, and out of that will come the Church’s truest self in God. May our Church leaders join us bravely on the Narrow Way, and greet us with a kiss of honesty and peace.

Engaging the Word: 03/05/17 (The First Sunday in Lent)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text.

Lent 1 Lent (literally “springtime”) is the time when we Christians symbolically go into the wilderness with Jesus for forty days. We prepare to celebrate the joy of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ by means of repentance, prayer, fasting, self-denial, spiritual study, and giving to the poor. I think of it as an inner “spring cleaning,” a time to eliminate the extraneous in my life that I may draw closer Jesus during this holy season.

The Temptation by William Strang, 1899. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Temptation by William Strang, 1899. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7: Our reading this week has two excerpts from the second creation account and describes The Fall—the first act of human disobedience. In this story, God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him. In our reading, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’”

Then God made Eve from Adam’s rib. (The man and the woman are not named in this second creation story, but I’m using them for the sake of convenience.) They became one flesh and they “were both naked and were not ashamed.” Life was good in the garden.

Enter the serpent, “more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made.” He starts with a question to Eve, “Did God say, `You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Eve replies, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, `You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent entices Eve, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Eve ate, and Adam ate. “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.” Thus sin and shame came into the world.

Psalm 32: This week’s psalm is one of the seven penitential psalms. Confession of sin and God’s forgiveness bring happiness and a restored relationship with God; holding back brings an intolerable burden of guilt and misery.

St. Paul by Wolfgang Sauber, 1520. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Paul by Wolfgang Sauber, 1520. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Romans 5:12-19: Paul’s Letter to the Romans became a gift to the world. Written c. 57 AD, it’s Paul’s longest and most important letter. In this week’s reading, Paul compares Adam, who brought sin and death into the world, with Jesus, who brought—and brings—life.

When Adam sinned, sin and death entered the whole human race. Therefore, “death exercised dominion” even before God gave the law to Moses—this included everyone even though they didn’t disobey a direct command from God like Adam did. Paul contrasts Adam’s sin with the free gift of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. “Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

The Life with God Bible comments, “Sin and death, introduced by Adam, as extensive and terrible as they are, turn out to be a puny business compared to the free gift of life accomplished by Jesus Christ. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. There is nothing stingy or pinched about this Christ life. The deeper we live into the free gift, the larger and more interesting our world becomes.”

Matthew 4:1-11: The Gospel for First Sunday in Lent is always a story of Jesus being tempted by the devil. Here’s the account from the Gospel according to Matthew.

Temptation on the Mount by Duccio, c. 1310. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Temptation on the Mount by Duccio, c. 1310. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

After Jesus was baptized, he was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Angels ministering to Christ by Thomas Cole. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Angels ministering to Christ by Thomas Cole. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Here we have the important contrast between Adam and Jesus. Adam disobeyed God, and Jesus obeyed God, no matter what the temptation—food, protection, or power. He never caved. This is the way the true nature of Jesus as the Son of God became clear.

Renew & deepen your discipleship in Lent

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By The Rev. Carlton Kelley

Fr. Carlton Kelley

Fr. Carlton Kelley

Yes, Lent is almost upon us.  Many people do not appreciate this pivotal season as it seems too concerned with sin, repentance, self-denial, and fasting. Needless to say, none of those realities is popular in our culture or, for that matter, in the church. The burden that falls upon the church is to repeat the unpopular message that, as priest and noted preacher Barbara Brown Taylor says, “sin is the language of salvation.”  Juxtaposing those two ideas seems odd at first glance, but the reality to which they witness is as true as life itself.

Sin is about the many deliberate decisions, both known and unknown,  that we make to turn away from a loving, healing, creative, and redeeming God.  We turn away from the gift of life that has been so freely given to us in Holy Baptism.  We turn away from the cost of that life so wonderfully given to us in Jesus Christ.  While that life of grace is free, it is not cheap to paraphrase the saint and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Bonhoeffer understood the awful price of grace as he died in a Nazi concentration camp resisting Hitler’s evil with his least breath.  Bonhoeffer understood this because he followed Jesus who understood it first.

Participation in the fullness of Jesus’ life requires us to deliberately turn from sin, but not to be afraid to look at its consequences to discover, with God’s grace, that we are not what we should be.  And that is the good news.  God did not create us to be sinners. Bishop Matthew Gunter of Fond du Lac writes that “though (sin) infects our very nature, sin is not the truest thing about us.  And we are not stuck with the sinfulness of our egotism, greed, violence and unlove.  We can become ‘children of grace.’ We can repent. Through the mercy of God, forgiveness is possible.  Change is possible.”

Change and a certain freedom from sin are possible by immersing ourselves in love for God and each other. We do this, each in our own way, by regular prayer and the reception of Holy Communion, by Bible study, fellowship, giving of our resources, and fasting.  Isaiah instructs us by asking, “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (58: 7)

All we need to do is to let our imaginations run wild with possibilities for service to God and others.  Think of things you would like to do for someone else – and then do them!   Think of things you would like to do for yourself – and do them!  Think of things you would like to offer to God – and then do them!  Renew and deepen your discipleship this Lent.