Vestry minutes – 4/18/2017

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Vestry minutes.

Vestry Members:  Clare Andreasson, Karl Bastian, James Deaton, Maria DiStefano-Post, Eddie Grim, Kathryn Holl, Sue Kelly, Michael Mittelstaedt, Bill Smith, Jeff Tibbits, Marian Vermeulen, Jeff Wescott (Absentees in Italics)

Guests Present: None
Staff Present:  Ann Hackett  
Clergy Present: The Rev. Carlton Kelley

Prayer and Check-in:
Carlton opened with a prayer and we checked in with one another.

Scripture & Study:
There was no study for this evening.

Approve/Amend the Agenda:
The agenda for the 4/18/17 meeting was approved by acclamation.
The minutes from the 3/21/2017 meeting were approved by acclamation.

Reports:
Rector Report: 
Carlton reported that we have some good news:

  • The Wednesday evening study group re: Sexual Abuse wants to continue to meet around the topic of forgiveness.
  • Steve Wade has organized a presentation on civilly talking about politics and religion, using a book by Senator John Danforth.
  • Carlton will contact Central United Methodist Church to see if we might arrange van pickup for our seniors who need transportation to church. Seniors would potentially ride from the parking garage used by Central to Grace.  Grace would offer to share this expense.
  • There is a spiritual gifts assessment tool on the diocesan website – (60 questions) that purports to help you discern what your spiritual gifts are.
  • Jubilee House will be the recipient of the funds and donations raised by a national meeting of barbershop quartets performing at a convention in Traverse City.
  • Grace has received an unrestricted gift of about $110,000 from the estate of Julie Christensen. Carlton recommends that the vestry tithe a portion of this gift and save the remainder for future special projects or needs.

Treasurer’s Report:
In the absence of Mark Stackable, Ann Hackett presented the financial report.
The finances are looking healthy.

Ann said that the Finance Committee recommends that we set up an auto-payment on the loan, which would make the payments more even and the interest more regular.

Parish Administrator Report:
2016 Audit: An audit of Grace Church financials is necessary before the arrival of a new rector.  Two quotes were secured:

  • Dennis, Gartland & Niergarth (DGN) $10,600
  • Vanderwal, Spratto & Richards (VSR) $8,000

Motion by Marian Vermeulen and seconded by Jeff Wescott to accept the quote of $8,000 from VSR to perform an audit of the 2016 financial records of Grace Church.  Motion approved.

Brown House Vacancy: The lower apartment will be vacated at the end of May, becoming available for rent, June 1, 2017.  The rent is currently $1200/mo.  The management company suggested a rent increase to $1300/mo.

 

Motion by Eddie Grim and seconded by Jeff Tibbitts to increase the rent from $1200/mo for the lower apartment to $1300/mo.  Motion approved.

Safeguarding God’s Children/Adults Certification: Grace Church has been participating and complying with the Diocesan Best Practices for Safeguarding children and adults since the Diocesan Convention laid out expectations in 2007. The Diocese requires certification but does not spell out expiration for the certification at this time.  The vestry/rector can determine their own requirements for renewal.  Discussion ensued.  Carlton pointed out that this is ultimately the decision of the rector. Eddie suggested that given we are in transition and anticipating a new rector, it may be wise not to take any action at this point. The topic was tabled pending the arrival of future rector.

Review Building Use Policy:
Policy was established in 2009 and now needs review.  Carlton pointed out that canonically the rector establishes the parameters for building use.  The topic was tabled pending the arrival of future rector.

Other Topics:
We are nearing the initiation of the work of the renovation of the Jubilee House emergency basement exit.

Carlton hosted a breakfast for newcomers on Saturday, April 8, 2017. Thank you to Sue Kelly and Ellen Schrader for their hospitality and attendance.

It became necessary to rekey the exterior doors of the church, parish hall, and Jubilee House on April 13, 2017.  An individual who volunteered at Jubilee House but who still retained his keys to church facilities, exhibited unpredictable behavior and entered the premises before business hours.

As a leader of the church, attendance is required at the Anti-Racism Training on Saturday, April 29, 2017 from 9:30am – 2:30pm at Grace Church.  Register on the Diocesan website.

The first quarterly Vestry update for the parish is scheduled for Sunday, April 23, 2017 at 11:30am.
June 4 (St Paul’s at Grace) and June 11 (Grace at St. Paul’s) is the Great Church Swap with St. Paul’s in Elk Rapids

There will be a special coffee hour on Sunday, April 23, 2017 for Donna Olendorf and Jeanette Kania who have been received into the Episcopal church by laying of hands by the Bishop in Grand Rapids.

Senior Warden Report:
At the executive committee meeting, September was discussed as a potential month for the 150th anniversary celebration of Grace Church.  The first planning meeting is set for May 4, 2017 at 6:30 pm. Sue, James, Marian, Karl, Ann, and Clare are all willing to be a part of this committee.

Clare offered a reminder to complete Safeguarding training if needed.

There has been some conversation about finding ways to participate in more outreach to refugees. Jeff Wescott suggested that he could act as a liaison.  The vestry agreed to the idea by acclamation.

The vestry may need to look at the budget to ponder if there is the ability to increase the hours of some staff, with some consideration of discrepancies and equity. Jeff Wescott suggested we discuss this during the May meeting.

We will need a vestry member to take the role of the alternate clerk in the event that Michael Mittelstaedt cannot attend a vestry meeting.

Clare thanked the vestry for their faithful, prayerful and thoughtful conversation with Bishop Hougland and Canon Spaid last month.

Junior Warden Report: None

Old Business: 
Karl reported that he is still gathering information regarding the costs and the logistics of advertising in the bulletins.

New Business: None

Forum for Congregational Concerns: None

Core Ministry Reports:
Eddie Grim recommended that the vestry establish a Jubilee House subcommittee which is charged with the development of a long-term plan for the continued management and operation of the Jubilee House Ministries.

Motion by Jeff Wescott and seconded by Marian Vermeulen that the proposed Jubilee House subcommittee be formed with the following members: Jubilee House Director Glenda Andrews, Grace Church Rector, vestry representatives Bill Smith, Eddie Grim, and Junior Warden, James Deaton, and volunteer representatives Jake Morse and Ed Emenheiser. Motion approved.

Rector Search Committee:
Marian reported that the Rector Search Committee will meet Thursday, April 20, 2017 with Canon Spaid who will present the list of candidates to the committee.

Follow-up & Follow-through:

  • Carlton will follow up with Central Methodist Church on the possibility of using their van for our parishioners who are experiencing difficulty due to our limited parking.
  • Sue Kelly will write thank you notes to Julie Christensen’s family for their generous donation from her estate.
  • Clare will find out what the vestry might be able to do in memory of Mary Lee Pakieser’s brother who recently passed away.

Compline followed by dismissal at 9:00pm

Respectfully submitted,
Michael Mittelstaedt
Vestry Clerk

Engaging the Word: 5/7/17 (The Fourth Sunday of Easter)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In our readings for Good Shepherd Sunday, we learn how the earliest Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings and to fellowship with one another, Peter instructed his readers to rejoice in suffering for doing the right thing, and Jesus described himself as the true shepherd who is the gate for the sheep.

Good Shepherd window at St. John the Baptist’s Church, Ashfield, New South Wales. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Good Shepherd window at St. John the Baptist’s Church, Ashfield, New South Wales. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 2:42-47: Most likely written by the author of Luke’s Gospel c. 85-95, The Book of Acts connects the Gospels and the Letters, the documents that form the majority of the New Testament. This week’s reading continues with the events of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit empowered the people to become the first Christian community.

Peasants breaking bread. 14th century manuscript. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Peasants breaking bread. 14th cent. manuscript. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The newly baptized “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (This probably sounds familiar, as it’s the first promise of our Baptismal Covenant.) Responding to the teachings of Jesus, all who believed shared money and possessions and attended to one another’s needs in a joyous sense of community. They continued to be devout Jews and “spent much time together in the temple” and, as followers of Jesus, the earliest Christians “broke bread at home” (Luke’s expression for the Eucharist), establishing a new way of being in community.

I found the idea of living in such a close community attractive and scary—I really want to follow Jesus, and, at the same time, I resist the totality of this vision of community. I read a few commentaries, and learned that many interpreters since the Reformation consider this passage of Acts as a utopian description of communal life, or maybe a record of the honeymoon period of Christianity, but one that was unsustainable as the church grew. So maybe we can’t return to the life of the earliest Christians, but as Christ’s disciples here in northern Michigan, we’re coming closer and closer. And I treasure our community in the joy of celebration, of doing God’s work together, and being available to one another when times are hard. That’s Grace.

  Psalm 23: In this week’s reading we have the Twenty-Third Psalm, in which David describes God as his shepherd. In the Wikipedia entry for Psalm 23, I learned about J. Douglas MacMillan. He was a minister in Scotland, a shepherd for 12 years, and wrote a book about the Twenty-Third Psalm. He maintains that the shepherd theme permeates the entire psalm. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Douglas MacMillan argues that verse 5 (“Thou preparest a table before me”) refers to the “old oriental shepherding practice” of using little raised tables to feed sheep. Similarly, “Thou anointest my head with oil” may refer to an ancient form of backliner – the oil is poured on wounds, and repels flies. MacMillan also notes that verse 6 (“Goodness and mercy shall follow me”) reminds him of two loyal sheepdogs coming behind the flock.

St. Peter by Pierre-Étienne Monnot. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Peter by Pierre-Étienne Monnot. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Peter 2:19-25: This week’s reading is addressed to household slaves who are suffering unjustly. Peter argues that enduring unjust suffering wins God’s approval, and that one should imitate Christ: “When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.”

This text was meant to provide encouragement to the faithful followers of Jesus who were suffering at the hands of the Romans. Peter reminds them that by Jesus bore our sins that we might live for righteousness. “For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”

Drystone wall and gate near Drumkeeragh forest, UK. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Drystone wall and gate near Drumkeeragh forest, UK. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 10:1-10: In our reading this week, Jesus uses sheep and shepherd imagery to portray himself as the true shepherd (the Son of God) and gate for the sheep (God’s people), in contrast to the Pharisees who are thieves and bandits. Here is the entire reading:

Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

The lectionary stops there, but Jesus continues in the next verse: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” And he did.

Voice of the vestry: Turn off the fan

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

By Maria DiStefano-Post

Member Maria DiStefano-PostNoise is ever constant, ever present, and ever persistent. Nothing makes me aware of noise more than when white noise, such as a fan, gets turned off. I take a deep breath and become aware of how agitated I have become.  If you are anything like me, most days, that is how I go through my life, except for those moments, that I call a gift, when I notice when the “fan” is turned off.

As a child I grew up in Detroit proper where listening to police and fire truck sirens, motorcycles, and hot rods in the middle of the night was common. As a teenager, I enjoyed listening to the construction of new homes being built on my street. They were comforting sounds after moving to the quiet suburbs.  These abrupt sounds still comfort me today.

The noise I speak of, though, is relentless! It is the sounds of daily life: people being negative, television and radio turned on in the background, cable news, and of course social media.  These noises continuously feed into our very being, whether we think that they affect us or not. They are a part of our lives unless we are fortunate enough not to live in this type of environment.  Do you choose not to turn it on in the first place? How do we become aware of the noise before it becomes a part of us? This is a constant struggle for me, falling in the trap of modern vices and not finding a healthy balance. I gave up Facebook for Lent and found that deep sense of relief: the fan had been turned off, for a time. I believe that constant noise blocks out the potential to feel truly serene. In a time of over-stimulation, it is imperative for those of you like me to make it a point to turn off the fan, before the white noise takes over.

How can this be done? Let’s turn back time to a time of reflection, pondering, and prayer. A time where families catch up daily at the dinner table. Where writing letters was therapeutic and wondrous to receive. Taking a walk wasn’t just for exercise but to find your footing in life. This spring I am going to make it a point to find these joys again that have been drowned out by the noise.

 

Engaging the Word: 4/30/17 (The Third Sunday of Easter)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

By Barbara Klugh

Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. We have great texts to continue our Easter celebration. Three thousand people are baptized, the psalmist praises God for his saving help, Peter urges disciples to live lives of purity and deep loving, and Jesus is made known in the breaking of the bread.

Baptism of the people by Andrea del Sarto c.1516. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Baptism of the people by Andrea del Sarto c.1516. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 2:14a, 36-41: This week we continue with Peter’s sermon at Pentecost. Last week Peter talked about the Resurrection of Jesus and coming of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples—that God raised Jesus from the dead “because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.” This proved that Jesus was not a false prophet as some of the Jewish leadership had claimed, but truly is the Messiah.

In this week’s reading, Peter concludes his Pentecost sermon. “Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” When the crowd heard that they were implicated in the death of Jesus, “they were cut to the heart,” and asked what they should do. Peter tells them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then their sins will be forgiven and they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Three thousand were baptized that day and were added to God’s household.

Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17: In this wonderful song of thanksgiving, the psalmist comes to the house of the Lord to make a thank-offering for God’s gracious rescue from distress and anguish. God “has heard the voice of my supplication,” and saved him. The psalmist promises to fulfill his vows to the Lord in gratitude for his deliverance.

The Apostle Peter icon c. 1500. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Apostle Peter icon c. 1500. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Peter 1:17-23: In this week’s reading, Peter continues to encourage the Christian “aliens and exiles” who are living in the Roman Empire and suffering for their faith.

Peter reminds them that they should live in reverent fear of God their Father instead of the Roman culture. They were ransomed by the precious blood of Christ—the Lamb of God—so they can trust that God will not abandon them. God raised Jesus “from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.”

Then Peter exhorts his readers to live with pure souls and to “love one another deeply from the heart.” They, and we, have “been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.”

Supper at Emmaus by anonymous Italian painter, 17th century. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Supper at Emmaus by anonymous Italian painter, 17th century. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Luke 24:13-35: This week we have the much-loved story of Jesus’ Post-Resurrection appearance to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, which is reported only in Luke’s Gospel. Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, the women arrived at the tomb with spices to anoint Jesus’ body. “Two men in dazzling clothes” announce that Jesus has been risen. When the women report this astonishing news to the apostles, it “seemed to them like an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” Only Peter got up and ran to the tomb; “he saw the linen clothes by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.”

This week’s reading begins with two disciples walking the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus three days after the crucifixion of Jesus. As they are talking, Jesus (who they don’t recognize) joins them and asks, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” The disciples more or less say, Are you kidding? Are you the only one who doesn’t know what has happened? And they tell about him about Jesus of Nazareth, “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” who was executed by the Roman authorities. They had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah who had been sent by God to redeem Israel and get rid of the Romans. And, they said, some women say that he is still alive. Jesus interrupts and says, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then Jesus takes them through the scriptures that referred to him and his mission.

When they get to Emmaus, they invite Jesus to stay with them, and he accepts.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

The two disciples went to Jerusalem (I bet they ran!), found the apostles and told them what happened. They told the disciples “how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

On being received into the church: “I made a true connection with the people of Grace”

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

By Jeanette Kania

Confirmation - laying on of hands Olendorf 4One of my favorite books is The Way of a Pilgrim. It was first published in the 19th century, and I would likely never have picked it up if I hadn’t read J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. I read both of these books at a time when I was trying to find my roots as a Christian. I knew what I was raised to believe, but I was still on a journey to discover what I truly believed.

My first experience at Grace was back in October when I came into the office after having seen online that there was going to be a class for those interested in learning more about the Episcopal Church. Two weekends prior to my first experience at Grace, I was driving through Grand Rapids with my husband, Michael. We noticed a big white church with red doors that had a rainbow flag flying outside. Later that week, I googled the Episcopal Church. I was surprised to find that many of the beliefs of the church aligned with my personal beliefs. I was ecstatic to learn that the Episcopal church was liturgical (something that I really love and would greatly miss if I had found a community that was not liturgical). After some more quick googling, I found Grace Church and was pleasantly surprised to see one of my students from the Montessori school where I work on the homepage.

I have spent the majority of the past decade attending many of the churches in Grand Traverse County. I was raised in a Lutheran church and attended a Lutheran school. I’ve been through confirmation classes before; when I was in junior high, it was expected that when I entered seventh grade, I would also start the two year process of preparing to make my confirmation. I have memories of learning the history of the church, denominational-specific doctrines, and other theological topics.

In our Wednesday night classes leading up to our reception, Donna and I learned about the history of the church and doctrines of the Episcopal and other churches. We also talked about where we came from and what brought us to this point. I found this to be vital in my joining the church. Our conversations about our backgrounds led us down paths to discuss a wider breadth of topics relevant to our faith than we would have, had we merely stuck to a specific lesson plan. I feel like I made true connections with people at Grace through the period leading up to my being received. I also feel like it gave me the opportunity to be more introspective and cognizant of my own values and beliefs.

Vestry minutes – 3/21/2017

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Vestry minutes.

Vestry Members: Clare Andreasson, Maria DiStefano-Post, Eddie Grim, Sue Kelly, Michael Mittelstaedt, Jeff Tibbits, Marian Vermeulen, Bill Smith, James Deaton, Karl Bastian, Kathryn Holl, Jeff Wescott (Absentees in Italics)

Guests Present: None
Staff Present: Ann Hackett
Clergy Present: Carlton Kelly

Scripture & Study:
None for this meeting with the late start.

Approve/Amend the Agenda:
The March 21, 2017 agenda was approved by acclamation with one correction. A conversation with the Rt. Rev. Whayne Hougland, Bishop, and The Rev. Canon William J. Spaid, Canon to the Ordinary, took place prior to the vestry meeting.

The minutes for the February 21, 2017 meeting were approved by acclamation.

Reports:
Rector Report:
Carlton shared that reimbursement for consulting services provided by Lee Taft was covered by special gifts and donations outside our budgeted giving.

Treasurer’s Report:
Mark Stackable not in attendance.

Parish Administrator Report:
Ann presented the Parochial Report which is annually submitted to the diocese.

Ann reviewed the Financial Information Comparison Report with the Vestry, which provides a summary of operating revenue and non-operating revenue and determines our diocesan pledge. Over the past year the church has had healthy accounts, with more revenue than expenses due to a number of factors including staff attrition.

Membership counts were reviewed and adjusted for 2016. People who worship, and give, no matter the amount, are considered active members in our midst even though they may not have sought membership through a rite of passage.

MOTION: Marian Vermeulen moved and Michael Mittelstaedt seconded a motion to approve the 2016 Parochial Report. Motion passed.

Newcomer Breakfast coming up on April 8, 2017.

Senior Warden Report:
The church has received significant donations and pledge increases to help cover the budget deficit. As a result, we now have a fully balanced budget with no need to use funds from last year to cover salaries and expenses for 2017. Funds saved from last year will be available for repairs to the roof if needed.

Sympathetic with the budget issues, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship asked if they might have an allotment of $200 rather than $300 for 2017.

MOTION: Bill Smith moved and James Deaton seconded a motion to give the Episcopal Peace Fellowship $200. Motion passed.

MOTION: Eddie moved to reaffirm the online motion made by Jeff Wescott and seconded by Bill Smith to allot an $8000 donation to pay down the principal of the loan. Motion passed.

Vestry needs to replace Jeff Wescott, vestry representative on the Foundation Board, because of a time conflict. Kathryn Holl volunteered.

MOTION: Bill Smith moved and Marian Vermeulen seconded a motion to remove Jeff Wescott from the Foundation Board because of a time conflict and replace him with Kathryn Holl. Motion passed.

The vestry needs to have an alternate representative to the diocesan convention in the event that Jeff Wescott cannot attend. Clare Andreasson volunteered to be the alternate.

There has been positive feedback from parishioners to the meeting held on 2/26 following the 10 am service.

Junior Warden Report: None

Rector Search Committee Report:
Marian shared that the committee extended the posting date because they decided to pay for a featured ad on a popular Episcopal news and media website.

They are working on interview questions.

There have been questions from parishioners about the numbers of candidates that have applied but this cannot be disclosed due to the vulnerability of information for the candidates and the importance of privacy.

Old Business:
Karl Bastian is working on researching information about advertising in bulletins.             Questions about whether or not we can do that internally.

New Business: None
Forum for Congregational Concerns: None
Follow-up & Follow-through: None

The Lord’s Prayer followed by dismissal at 9:10 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael Mittelstaedt
Vestry Clerk

 

Engaging the Word: 4/23/17 (The Second Sunday of Easter)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. As you may notice, this is The Second Sunday of Easter—not after Easter. Easter is a season lasting for fifty days, from Easter Day until the Day of Pentecost, so we get to continue the celebration. Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed!

In this week’s readings, Peter preaches the first Christian sermon; in the epistle we learn Jesus’ Resurrection offers us “a new birth into a living hope;” and the risen Christ appears to his disciples behind locked doors, and later invites Thomas to touch his wounds.

St. Peter preaching at Pentecost by Benjamin West (1738-1820). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Peter preaching at Pentecost by Benjamin West (1738-1820). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 2:1-4a, 22-32: We will read from the book of The Acts of the Apostles instead of from the Old Testament throughout the Easter season. Acts tells about the beginnings of Christianity, and much of Acts shows how Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophesy. This week’s reading takes place on the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples with tongues of fire, and the disciples began speaking in various languages. The crowd was amazed.

Peter then gives the first Christian sermon. He reminded the crowd of Joel’s prophecy: that in the last days, God promised, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,” regardless of age, gender, or class.

In our reading, Peter tells about Jesus of Nazareth who performed “deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him.” His enemies had him crucified, “But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.” Peter then quotes from Psalm 16, where King David predicted the resurrection of the Messiah, not David himself, who died and was buried, but Jesus, David’s descendent. “This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.”

Psalm 16: We have another favorite psalm of mine, a song about living with joy, trust, and security as we follow the way of God, however imperfectly. Peter quoted Psalm 16: 8-11 in our reading from Acts, which seems to predict the resurrection of Christ.

St. Peter by A.W.N. Pugin (1812-1852). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Peter by A.W.N. Pugin (1812-1852). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Peter 1:3-9: Although scholars debate whether the Apostle Peter wrote this letter, I will stay with tradition and consider Peter the author. The letter is addressed to “the exiles of the Dispersion,” which was a term used for Christians living in provinces of the Roman Empire. It was a general (or catholic) letter, meant to encourage followers of Jesus who were suffering persecution from the Roman government We’ll have passages from 1 Peter throughout the Easter season.

Peter is full of passion and conviction. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Peter tells his readers that they have an inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,” being kept in heaven and protected by the power of God. The protection and power of God doesn’t mean Christians won’t suffer trials—in fact, trials test us and purify our faith like a refining fire. He reminds us of the wonderful gift of faith: “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Appearance Behind Locked Doors by Duccio (1268-1318). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Appearance Behind Locked Doors by Duccio (1268-1318). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

John 20:19-31: This week’s reading from John’s Gospel is read every year on the Second Sunday of Easter. It tells us that three days after the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples are hiding out behind locked doors because they were afraid for their lives.

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Thomas, who was not with the other disciples when Jesus came, said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Caravaggio, c.1610. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Caravaggio, c.1610. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

We, the readers of John’s Gospel two thousand years later, no longer have physical proof, yet Jesus calls us blessed because we “have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now that’s Amazing Grace, indeed.

Engaging the Word: 4/16/17 (The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Sunday)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Colossians 3:1-4; Matthew 28:1-10. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. Happy Easter! This week’s readings are about a living hope of new life for all God’s children—even us—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

St. Peter preaching by Masolino da Panicale (1383-1440). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Peter preaching by Masolino da Panicale (1383-1440). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 10:34-43: The Book of Acts describes the birth and spread of the Christian Church. During the season of Easter the first lesson is from the Book of Acts instead of from the Old Testament.

This week’s reading may seem familiar, as we read it in January on the first Sunday after the Epiphany, which celebrated the Baptism of Our Lord. In our passage, the Gospel is proclaimed to Gentiles for the first time. Earlier in Acts, we learn that Cornelius, a Roman centurion is a devout believer in God. He had a vision in which he was told to send for the Apostle Peter. Peter had a vision that it was okay to break the Jewish food regulations, and a message to go to the home of Cornelius.

Our reading begins with Peter arriving at the home of Cornelius where he had gathered his entire household. “Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all.’” Peter gets it that the gospel is for all—Jews and Gentiles alike.

Peter then gives a brief summary of the gospel: Jesus was baptized, anointed by the Spirit, went about doing good, healed the oppressed, was crucified, was raised by God on the third day, and appeared to selected witnesses. Peter finishes by saying, “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Girl with tambourine by Alexy Trranov, c.1836. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Alexy Trranov, c.1836. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24: Our psalm is a joyful call to thanksgiving—a perfect psalm for Easter, and we pray it every year. I’ve highlighted vs. 14 in my Prayer Book: The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. And vs.16: “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! the right hand of the Lord is exalted! the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”

In the parable of the wicked tenants, Jesus quotes from vs. 22-23, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” And we say, Yes, Yes! Alleluia, Alleluia!

Colossians 3:1-4: Earlier in Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, Paul made the case that we have been raised to new life by faith in Christ. In this week’s reading Paul helps us to deal with the question, “How are we to live in this new way?” Paul says we need to set our minds on heavenly things, not on earthly things—on the eternal, not the temporal. We need to allow Christ to shape our behavior. To me Paul is promising a spiritual resurrection for us  that is an echo of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  When Christ appears in glory at the end of time, then we Christians will be revealed with Christ in glory as well. What a promise!

Holy Women at the tomb, Walters manuscript, 1684. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Holy Women at the tomb, Walters manuscript, 1684. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Matthew 28:1-10: He is risen! In this week’s reading, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (mother of James and Joseph) come to Jesus’ tomb. “And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.” In scripture, earthquakes signify that God is up to something Big! You may recall that earlier in Matthew’s gospel (27:51), there was an earthquake when Jesus breathed his last.

The angel says, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised.” The angel tells the women to share the glorious news with the disciples, and inform them that Jesus will meet them in Galilee.

In awe and joy, the woman ran to tell the disciples. “Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’”

I like reading Bible commentaries because writers point out details that lead me to a deeper understanding of the text. For example, in Chris Haslam’s commentary for the last two sentences of our Gospel reading, he notes that when Jesus meets the Mary’s again later and they “they took hold of his feet” it confirms Jesus’ bodily resurrection. When Jesus refers to his disciples as “brothers,” it shows that Jesus had forgiven them for deserting him.

Welcome to the Resurrection

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

By The Rev. Carlton Kelley

Fr. Carlton Kelley

Holy Week is the pivotal point of the church’s entire year. In a very real sense, without Holy Week there would be no liturgical year because there would be no church! That is another way of saying without Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his institution of the Eucharist, crucifixion and resurrection, there would be no church. Imagine, if you will, the world without the church and, most especially, without Jesus Christ, fully God and fully human. The liturgical observance of Holy Week began in Jerusalem, the site of these events, in as early as the 2nd century, though they are first mentioned by a pilgrim to Jerusalem, Egaria, who wrote of them in her travel diary in 383AD.

As with all liturgies, the services of Holy Week are not simple reenactments of historical events. They bring into the present those saving works of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. We become part of these “mighty acts” as their reality is brought forward in time. The central reality of Holy Week is that we have been saved from sin and death, not by any effort of our own, but by the free gift of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. That is good news, indeed!

Palm Sundaypalm sunday
We begin our journey with the Sunday of the Passion, Palm Sunday. Many people have said this day feels “schizophrenic” as we first welcome Jesus with waving palms and then shout for his crucifixion moments later. It does feel that way, but I would also say that this is precisely the reality of our lives. One moment we welcome the light that is Christ and the next we happily dwell in the darkness of his absence. Palm Sunday clearly illustrates the stark choice we have between life and death.

During the reading of the Passion Gospel we all have a chance to participate directly in this drama. We are the sleepy and cowardly Peter, the traitorous Judas, the unruly crowd, the cynical Pilate, Pilate’s wife who senses the truth but is unwilling to proclaim it, the fearful high priest Caiaphas and the murderous Barabbas who is pardoned instead of Jesus. We are all these people at some point in our lives and, at other times, all of them rolled into one. But the Good News, the Gospel, is that we are still loved and eternally cherished by God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Why? Because God sees us through the eyes of Jesus the eternally beloved.

Maundy Thursday
This day commemorates two things: Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet and his institution of the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. It is so named from the Latin word for command, mandatum, taken from Jesus’ words… “a new commandment I give to you that you love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus embodies this command by washing his disciples’ feet, a direct and startling contradiction of the prevailing social practices of his day that continues to be so even to ours. Masters are masters, servants are servants, and everyone had better stay where they belong! Jesus says no, and emphatically so. Those who wish to be great must first be servants. This cannot simply be a “religious” teaching but must apply to all areas of our lives. Winning accounts for nothing. Success accounts for nothing, Service in love accounts for everything.

Our Lord instituted the sacrament of his Body and Blood so that he, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is always available to us. We do this great thing, not merely to recall a meal he had with his disciples, but to enter into the reality that Jesus is truly God and truly human. As St. Augustine says, we become what we are by partaking of this sacrament. We are refreshed and reconstituted as the Body of Christ by partaking of the Body of Christ. This is why the church has always insisted that Holy Baptism precede Holy Eucharist. In our day, the reception of the Holy Eucharist by the unbaptized is very much a consumer orientation emphasizing personal choice rather than communal responsibility and personal discipline even unto death. God’s infinite grace is free, but it is not cheap either for God or for us.

Good Friday
This is the day in which the work of Jesus is fulfilled. He said “It is finished” from the Cross and so our salvation is won through his obedience to the Father. The Liturgy for Good Friday is one of the most ancient of the year containing riches upon riches for us to receive. The Lord truly dies on the Cross so that we might truly live. Our salvation is won but it must be “worked out in fear and trembling” as St. Paul tells us. And again, God’s infinite grace is free, but it is not cheap either for God or for us.

The Great Vigil of Easter
Nocturnal services of prayer, frequently ending with the Eucharist, were common in the first Christian centuries. They were popular because it was widely believed that the second coming of the Lord would happen at Midnight, according to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. The vigil before Easter was and is the most important of these. In the Episcopal Church, the Easter vigil was observed in catholic minded parishes, but it was not until its inclusion in the 1979 edition of the Book of Common Prayer that this service became popular. The vigil itself is essentially an extended Liturgy of the Word with numerous Old Testament readings with prayers and psalms to accompany them.
The Great Vigil of Easter was and is the preeminent day of the year for Holy Baptism. The candidates for Holy Baptism came to the font after a lengthy period of preparation often lasting several years in which the Holy Scriptures and the disciplines of the Christian life were taught. Holy Baptism was understood to be a renunciation of an old way of living and a movement into a completely new life in Christ. Certain professions, such as acting and the military, had to be renounced if one wished to be a Christian. As a consequence of this new life, the newly baptized received Holy Eucharist for the first time.

The Feast of the Resurrection is the most joyful day of the year and is more theologically important than Christmas. This is so because God’s salvific work is completed by Jesus’ death and resurrection, a work that was begun with the calling of Abraham and Sarah. We stand in that ancient line of called and sent people who are to bring salvation to the world through Jesus Christ.

Engaging the Word: 4/9/17 (The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14 – 27:66. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text.

This Sunday begins Holy Week, the week preceding Easter and the most significant week of the church year. In this week’s readings, we ponder Isaiah’s account of the humiliation and vindication of the Servant, Paul reminds us of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation, and we read Hear, and reflect upon Matthew’s account of The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah's lips anointed with fire by Benjamin West (1738-1820).

Isaiah’s lips anointed with fire by Benjamin West (1738-1820).

Isaiah 50:4-9a: The Book of Isaiah spans over a period of at least two centuries (c. 740-540 BC) and is divided into three parts. Our reading this week comes from Second Isaiah (chapters 40-55), which were prophesies of comfort to the people who were exiled in Babylon.

Our reading is the third of four Servant Songs (42:1-7, 49:1-7, 50:4-9, and 52:17-53:12). These are poems about God’s unnamed servant, who God chose to lead the nations, who is rejected and abused, yet willingly sacrifices himself for the sins of others. Not surprisingly, the servant is known as “the suffering servant.”

In this poem, the servant says, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.” The servant is abused, insulted, humiliated, and spit upon; nevertheless, he does not rebel but steadfastly follows the path God has chosen for him. He knows that because God helps him, he is not disgraced. He’s not afraid of his adversaries because God will judge him, and, ultimately, he will be vindicated by the Lord God.

One of the reasons I find the Bible so rich and inspiring is that we can read a passage in more than one way and sense the hand of God no matter what our perspective. As Christians, we see Christ as the fulfillment of the suffering servant who was vindicated by God on Easter. Some think of the servant as a metaphor for the people of Israel collectively. Or, the servant may be the prophet Jeremiah or the prophet Isaiah himself. As modern people, we can think of the servant as a model for discipleship—that we may hear God’s call and remain totally obedient to God’s will, no matter how inconvenient or difficult the circumstances.

Psalm 31:9-16: In the portion of the psalm we are reading, the psalmist pours out all his sorrow to God—grief, weakness, ill health, depression, and enemies. Yet, he also turns to God in faith, and asks God to rescue him from his troubles—“Make your face to shine upon your servant, and in your loving-kindness save me.”

Philippians 2:5-11: Our passage from Philippians is Paul’s Acclamation of Faith, which is based on an early Christian hymn. In our reading, Paul urges the Philippians (and us) to follow Christ’s ultimate example of humility. It is because Jesus gave up all that was his—his divine authority, his equality with God, his very life!—that God raised him from the dead and has given him the highest place of all. The hymn proclaims, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend…and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 Matthew 26:14 – 27:66: Our reading from Matthew’s passion account begins with Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and concludes with Christ’s body taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb. This week I’m sharing how artists depicted various events of the Passion narrative. All the images are in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.