Vestry minutes – 6/20/2017

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:  None  
Clergy Present: The Rev. Carlton Kelley

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

Scripture & Study:
Carlton led us in a reflection.

Approve/Amend the Agenda:
The agenda was approved by acclamation.
Minutes from April 18, 2017 were approved by acclamation.
Minutes from May 16, 2017 were approved as amended; the spelling of Carlton Kelley’s last name on page 3 was corrected.

Reports:

Rector Report:  None

Treasurer’s Report:
Mark Stackable reported that we continue to have a positive budget.  There is a trend, however, in contributions from pledges going down over the last few years, which is why he advocates paying down the mortgage.

Parish Administrator Report:
Ann Hackett is away on vacation, but submitted a written report.

It is time to pay the diocesan pledge/apportionment – our share is $65,622.  Discussion ensued about what it means to pay an apportionment to the Diocese.
Motion by Eddie Grim and seconded by Maria DiStefano Post that the vestry accept and include the Diocesan Apportionment of $65,622 for Grace Church for the budget of 2018.  Motion passed.

During the budget process for 2017, some expenses related to the 150th celebration were anticipated, but not all.  Now that the committee is hard at work, other expenses are emerging.
James Deaton reported on the plans for the 150th celebration.  There will be a special activity every month, beginning with participation in the Heritage Parade on July 4th.  In October, the focus will be on community outreach.  An open house is planned to which the Traverse City community will be invited.
Motion by Sue Kelly and seconded by Eddie Grim that the vestry endorse a limit of $5,000 to be spent in addition to the money already budgeted ($5,000) in celebration of our 150th Anniversary events.  Motion passed.

Since the opening of the new sanctuary in 2005 the Altar Guild operates with little to no hot water in the sacristy.  This is due to a very small hot water heater with a capacity of only four gallons.  Discussion ensued related to a quote of $889 for a 19-gallon hot water heater installed.  The vestry asked for more information related to the cost and size of the new hot water heater.

Ellen Schrader is now trained in the computer program used to produce the weekly worship bulletin, the bulletin insert, and the online Gracevine.  She is ready to fully assume these responsibilities which had been taken by Kathy Will and Donna Olendorf when Charissa left Grace.  This means that Ellen has an increase of 5 hours to her weekly rate.
Motion by Jeff Tibbits and seconded by James Deaton that the vestry accept the change to the salary and benefits of the Administrative Assistant effective May 22, 2017.  Motion passed.

TC State Bank offered to switch our status from a business account to a non-profit, which means that we will not have bank fees since we are a non-profit.

Senior Warden Report:
The Rector Search Committee is currently interviewing selected candidates face to face.

The vestry received a letter from Bishop Matthews dated April 18, 2017.  A draft letter of response was presented to the vestry.  Discussion ensued.
Motion by Eddie Grim and seconded by Karl Bastian that we send the letter of response as presented to Bishop Matthews, Bishop Curry, Bishop Hougland, Mary Kostel, and Bishop Ousley.  Motion passed.

Our next quarterly meeting will be held on Sunday, July 23rd after the 10 am service.  A report about current plans to change the deanery structure in the Diocese of Western Michigan will be one of the items presented to the congregation at this time.

We have not received the Julie Christensen bequest, but we can make a decision with regard to the tithe prior to receiving the gift.  There is support for giving a tithe of 10% to the new Safe Harbor building project.  Any gift would be tripled by a generous matching donor.
Motion by Jeff Tibbits and seconded by Eddie Grim that we commit a tithe of 10% of the Julie Christensen bequest to the New Safe Harbor building project.  Motion passed.

Discussion ensued with regard to the timing of the receipt of the bequest and a possible time-limit on the matching funds campaign.
Motion by Jeff Tibbits and seconded by Eddie Grim that, if there is a time limitation to the matching funds, we give $10,000 from the Leap of Faith account to be reimbursed upon receiving the bequest.  Motion passed.

Jeff Tibbits presented the problem of snow and ice on the sidewalk and the suggestion of using the bequest money to install a heated sidewalk.

Junior Warden Report:
We’re going to do our best to keep people informed for the 150th Events.

After a period of heavy rain there was some water leakage observed in the sanctuary near the choir area.  A possible next course of action will need to be considered.

Old Business:  None
New Business:
Jeff Tibbits, vestry representative to the Finance Committee, reported that there was a long discussion at the Finance Committee meeting about what recommendation the Finance Committee could make concerning the Julie Christensen gift.  They had a strong consensus that $50,000 be used for an elevator fund.  The Finance Committee advocated for a capital campaign to raise the remaining necessary funds.

Carlton Kelley suggested that Grace consider contacting a foundation that could help with a long-range plan of updates to the Parish Hall and further a whole site renovation.

Forum for Congregational Concerns: None

Core Ministry Reports:

Jubilee Ministries
Eddie Grim reported that the Jubilee Ministries subcommittee continues to meet and is currently developing a general mission statement and specific policy recommendations to be presented to the vestry and rector. All aspects of the history and current operations of the Jubilee Ministries of Grace are being considered and evaluated. The members of the Jubilee Ministries subcommittee are: the current Rector, Eddie Grim (vestry liaison), Bill Smith (vestry liaison), Kate Wood (Jubilee House volunteer), Ed Emenheiser (Jubilee House volunteer), Nancy Johnson (Jubilee Ministries Food Pantry), Glenda Andrews (Director, Jubilee House), and James Deaton (Jr Warden).

Follow-up & Follow-through:
Sue Kelly needs addresses for thank you notes to the family of Julie Christensen

Compline followed by dismissal at 8:45 pm.

Respectfully submitted,
Michael Mittelstaedt
Vestry Clerk

How does your garden grow? Food Pantry gets fresh veggies from Schuberts’ farm

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Jubilee Ministries.

By Donna Olendorf
Director of Children & Youth Formation

There was a time, not so very long ago, when gardens were as common as smart phones are today, and almost everyone grew their own vegetables. Those days are gone, even here in Traverse City where many people are still farmers.  For most of us, visiting the Sara Hardy Farmer’s Market or buying organic food is as close to farming as we get.

And that suits us, because buying local produce is healthy, fresh, and easy, especially at this time of year. But, for the homeless and the working poor in our community, getting fresh produce is more of a challenge. It is expensive, perishable, and often requires refrigeration. No wonder low-income families often turn to a diet low in fruits and vegetables, and high in empty calories.

While Grace Church cannot singlehandedly reverse a national trend, we can stock food pantries with local produce to support our patrons. And that’s what Connecting Soul and Soil  has been doing for the past three years.  Under the umbrella of the Jubilee Ministries, Art and Linda Schubert’s Jubilee Ministries Pantry Garden has augmented the Grace Food Pantry with fresh fruits and vegetables from their local farm.

Linda and Sue Lovell do most of the work with occasional help from friends. But their vision is for the garden to be tended by Grace members, and others, who will connect to local patrons with hands-on service while learning how to garden.  Linda and Sue would like to provide three seasons of fresh, nutritious produce for the Grace Food Pantry.  To help defray the garden expenses, the Schuberts reached out to the children of Grace: “Would you like to help feed the hungry?”  they asked.   Yes! The kids support was unanimous and enthusiastic and so, the children decided the best way to help was by contributing their weekly Church School offering to the Pantry Garden.

Over the past three years, that collection has grown to a sizeable sum and this Sunday, the Jubilee Garden will receive a generous gift of up to $900 from the children. The funds will be used to buy seed and fertilizer, rebuild raised beds, and help build a convertible greenhouse that will allow crops to grow for a longer season. To celebrate the event and introduce more families to the farm, there will be a Church School potluck in August. Learn where food comes from and help get more of it into the pantry. We hope to see you there.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Church School Picnic: Join us for a potluck at Art & Linda Schubert’s farm on August 6 from 4pm – 6pm.

  • 4 -5 o’clock- the children will participate in garden tending, planting seeds, and harvesting produce.
  • 5 o’clock- dinner is served, followed by horse rides, lawn games, and fun for the whole family.
  • Look for a sign-up sheet in the Commons to rsvp and bring a dish to pass.
  • Farm is located at 7535 East Fouch Rd., 49684.

Special vestry meeting minutes – 7/5/2017

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: Ken Andrews
Staff Present: Ann Hackett
Clergy Present:
Clare opened with a prayer.

Ann gave an overview of the issues with the church plumbing. The water has been turned off for the entire main building due to backups and significant leaking. The problem appears to be more than just a sewer backup. There is crumbling of the cast iron pipes.

Sheren Plumbing, with whom we have an ongoing contract, has given two initial bids:

$2,000-$3,000- partial fix (needs clarification)
$8,000- full fix (needs clarification)

Ann has asked them to give a quote to include the second floor. She will also obtain a second bid from Precision Plumbing.

Ken, representing the Buildings and Grounds Committee, has been assessing the issues. He is currently trying to pinpoint the problem and explained what he knows so far.

Motion by Eddie, seconded by Jeff, to empower the Senior Warden and the Junior Warden, along with the Rector, to authorize needed repairs to the plumbing system up to the amount of $20,000. Discussion ensued. Motion passed.

Follow-up and Follow-through:

  • Keep vestry and Buildings and Grounds Committee apprised of repair decisions.

Eddie closed in prayer and the meeting adjourned at 8:22 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Sue Kelly

Engaging the Word: 7/16/17 (The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 10)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 25:19-34; Palm 119:105-112; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. Go to www.lectionarypage.net for the weekly lectionary text. This week we learn about Isaac and Rebekah’s twins, the psalmist revels in the word of God, Paul tells us the law is powerless because of Jesus Christ, and Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower.

Esau Gives Up His Birthright by Everhard Rensig, 1521. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Esau Gives Up His Birthright by Everhard Rensig, 1521. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genesis 25:19-34: Last week’s reading told the story of Isaac and Rebekah’s meeting and marriage. In this week’s reading, we read about the births of Esau and Jacob, their twins.

Twenty years have passed since Isaac and Rebekah married. Rebekah is barren; Isaac prays for Rebekah to conceive, and God grants his prayer in double measure. Rebekah becomes pregnant with twins. She was having a difficult pregnancy and asked God, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” God responds that the two sons represent divided nations, and the older son will serve the younger son. The struggle in the womb is just the beginning of the conflict and discord that will follow. The twins are born, Esau (Heb. “hairy”) is born first, and Jacob (Heb. probably “may God protect”) follows quickly, “gripping Esau’s heel.”

When the boys grew up, Esau loved to hunt and roam the fields and Jacob was a homebody. Isaac loves Esau, and Rebekah loves Jacob. It never bodes well when parents play favorites. One day, Jacob was cooking a stew and Esau came home famished. One commentator finds it interesting that Jacob was “cooking up a stew,” meaning “stirring up trouble.” Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.”

The birthright of the firstborn son entitled him to the father’s special blessing and a major part of the estate. By demanding the Esau’s birthright as payment for a meal, Jacob was a poor example of a gracious and loving brother. Yet, Esau sells his birthright all too easily. He devalues his coming privilege by being more concerned about a meal in the present than about his future inheritance. And this is the beginning of how it happened that Abraham’s line continued through Jacob rather than Esau.

Psalm 119:105-112: Psalm 119 gives a beautiful pattern for living by the torah, God’s sacred law, and brims with piety, praise, thanksgiving, and joy. It’s the longest psalm in the Psalter, with 22 stanzas, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet; it’s arranged in an elaborate acrostic. When the psalmist reflects on God’s law, he doesn’t see it as a bunch of rules and regulations but as an invitation to be in relationship with God through trusting obedience. Our verses this week will be familiar to those who pray at noonday from the Prayer Book, “Your word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path.”

St. Paul Writing, 9th century manuscript. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Paul Writing, 9th century manuscript. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Romans 8:1-11: In last week’s reading, Paul struggled with the internal conflict that comes to all believers: “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” In this week’s reading, Paul tells us, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” How can this be? Because God sent us salvation through Jesus. The law is a good thing, but our fallen human nature (“flesh”) is so damaged and sinful that we can’t follow it.

Paul contrasts two ways of life that reflect our relationship with God. “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Because of Christ, “you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Through the indwelling grace and power of the Holy Spirit, we have been set free to live new lives of justice and holiness. Thanks be to God.

The Sower by Vincent van Gogh, 1888. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Sower by Vincent van Gogh, 1888. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23: This week, we begin the first of three readings from a set of parables on the kingdom theme. This is also called the Parables Discourse. In this week’s reading, Jesus tells the familiar Parable of the Sower and its interpretation, which is found in all three synoptic gospels.

Great crowds of people have come to see Jesus, so he got into a boat and taught from there, while the crowds listened from the beach.

The sower sowed seed that landed in various places: on the path (the birds ate them), on rocky ground (they sprouted, but quickly withered away because they had no root), among thorns (the thorns choked out the seed), and on good soil (they brought forth grain and multiplied).

Jesus explains the meaning of the parable. The seed represents the word of the kingdom. Jesus sows the word of the kingdom everywhere he goes. The soils represent the different receptivity (hearts) to the word of the kingdom. The seeds falling on the road don’t sprout because people are unreceptive and the evil one takes it away. The seeds falling on rocky ground represent folks who respond to Jesus’ teaching, but fall away when the going gets tough. They have a shallow understanding. The disciples partially fit here, as they responded to Jesus immediately, but later desert him at Gethsemane. The thorny ground represents people like the rich young man who has other loyalties competing with God’s word, and the word gets choked out. These people are attempting to serve two masters. Good soil stands for those who hear and respond to Jesus’ message and bear the fruit of an abundant life.

The first thing that popped up for me as a gardener is that soil structure can be improved by amending it with organic materials such as compost, peat moss, fertilizer, manure. No matter if our faith is shallow, or our lives are rocky, we can amend our soil by practicing spiritual discipline. If we practice our welcome, worship, study, and service, we will grow in understanding and “indeed bear fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” In addition, as we till and turn over our soil, seeds that may have been planted in our childhood but have been dormant for years and years, will sprout when they are exposed to the light and love of Christ.

Summer is a time to celebrate each day

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

Karl Bastian

Karl Bastian

As another Cherry Festival draws to a close, I’m again reminded of the fleeting nature of summertime here in Northern Michigan. The festival itself lasts a mere eight days; a speck of time when over 600,000 people draw together to enjoy as much living and celebrating as they can.

While I often avoid the throngs of festival goers, I can appreciate their drive for “carpe diem.” It seems we often don’t (or can’t) appreciate the gift that God gives us each day. The simple, yet wonderful, gift of being able to draw breath.

This point has been driven home to me on a couple separate occasions in my life. Each of which was a time of personal trial. I most recently took notice of the need to “live every day to the fullest” when my father took ill last December. Since that time, he has rallied, flagged, and rallied again. All while enduring transitions between home, hospitals, and a senior care facility.  Truly, not every day has seemed worthy of celebration. There has been pain. Anguish. Confusion. But he (and we) have persevered. On July 6th, Dad will have made it into his 90th year.

Given the situation, I’m reminded of the quote by operatic tenor and Michigan native, Robert Breault;

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

With this in mind, I’ll seek to enjoy the little things this summer. Long days of sunshine. A cool dip in the bay. Good times with family and friends; for however long they last.

May you find time to celebrate all that God and life offers here in Northern Michigan.

Heritage Parade highlights

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Photo Gallery.

As Christians, we are called…

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By The Rev. Carlton Kelley
Interim Rector

Many of you were quite happy that I preached the sermon I preached on June 25 which called into question the propriety of the Senate’s health care bill.  Some of you were not.  I want to take this opportunity to explain more fully why I preached that sermon.

rev-kelleyAs Christians we are called to pray for all people everywhere according to their need.  This, of course, must include the officials of our government.  We pray for them that they might do the will of God, a will that bids all come to a fuller vision and experience of life.  When any government of any time or place begins to discard people because they are too old, too ill, too deformed, or simply too expensive which is, without doubt, the case of the current Senate health care bill, then the church must speak out as forcefully as possible to encourage and promote change because it is our duty as followers of Jesus Christ.  Our final allegiance is not to any government or political party.  In fact, I am afraid that many of us give more attention to the demands of our political affiliations than we do to the demands of our Christian faith. They are not and never have been one and the same.  We are not a state church and, despite much belief to the contrary, our country was not founded as a Christian one.  Our Founding Fathers were Deists, at best.   They believed in God but one who was far removed from the affairs of ordinary men and women.  We Christians believe in a God who in Jesus Christ became one of us so that we might enjoy eternal life with Him. If the United States truly “trusted in God” as our money says, this country would look far different than it does. An occasional prayer by a congressional chaplain or a state funeral at the Washington Cathedral does not a Christian nation make.

If some of you heard a criticism of your political affiliation, it was because that party needs to be recalled to the highest ideals for which we stand as Christians.  Sometimes those ideals have been affirmed by our government.  Many times they have not.   Everyone deserves to have health care. Everyone deserves to eat.  Everyone deserves to have a home.  Everyone needs to feel safe.  It is clear that the proposed reforms to the Affordable Care Act will hurt the most vulnerable among us by taking from them to give to those who already have the most – in the form of unneeded tax cuts.  That is not what Jesus wants. Does the Affordable Care Act need reform?  Yes, of course.  Do people need to be destroyed in the process?  Absolutely not.

St. Paul reminds us that “our commonwealth is in heaven.”  It is not here. But until that great and glorious day when the thoughts of all hearts will be revealed, we are bidden by our Lord Jesus in the prayer that most of us have prayed thousands of times…”your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”  On earth, as it is in heaven.  That is our goal.  That was my goal when I preached the sermon.   God surely does not want others to die so that the wealthy might have more of what they do not need.

Any political party, Democrat or Republican, Tory or Whig, conservative or liberal stands under the judgment of God.  Our parties are not the final word on anything.  At best, they are but efficient tools to order a better society.  At worst, they are instruments of wickedness, a wickedness of which both Democrats and Republicans have been guilty.  Our eyes must always be on the Cross, not on anyone’s flag.  Many, many Christians have died opposing the tyrannical demands of the governments of their time and place.  They went to their deaths knowing they were proclaiming as best they could the will of God in Christ by doing so with their very lives.  They did not fear because they had already died to their old selves in Holy Baptism and been raised to new life in Jesus Christ.  Death did not and will never have the last word.  Their deaths witnessed to Christ’s life.

Despite the obvious advantages to a separation of church and state, the chief disadvantage is that we are encouraged to separate our spiritual and religious lives from our more broadly public ones.  Thus, we are able to compartmentalize our public and secular views from the demands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   What generally suffers is the religious side of the equation.  It is regrettable that some churches have allowed an ultraconservative wing of the church to control the public forum. We, as faithful Christians, have been given the freedom to disagree on the implementation of many divisive public issues.  What we have not been given the freedom to do is disregard any human being as unworthy of our care and support or to permit any government to trample on the dignity of any human being.

Worship is not a spectator sport

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Katherine Will
Director of Music and Worship

Kathy Will_StaffPageAs I sat in a pew recently for worship, I had a thought about the difference between attending worship and attending a sporting event or other type of entertainment.  We treasure tickets on the fifty yard line or at center court, so that we can be close to the action, yet the front pews in church are almost always empty. We think nothing about adding our voices to the cheers and chants for our teams, some of which can be rather silly, yet we recoil at the idea of singing or praying out loud.  And the next day, we discuss and describe the highlights of the game in great detail.  How often have we shared the highlights of a great sermon around the water cooler?

But worship is not a spectator sport. The Rev. Dr. Delesslyn Kennebrew in an article entitled What is True Worship writes “Worship is not the slow song that the choir sings. Worship is not the amount you place in the offering basket. Worship is not volunteering in children’s church. Yes, these may be acts or expressions of worship, but they do not define what true worship really is.” True worship, in other words, is defined by the priority we place on who God is in our lives and where God is on our list of priorities. True worship is a matter of the heart expressed through a lifestyle of holiness.”  She goes on to say “We worship God because he is God. Period.”

Wow!

Thomas Cranmer, in creating the Book of Common Prayer, emphasized this idea of holistic worship – worship that involves our entire lives.  Weekly worship was not something to check off your list of things to do, but was an opportunity to unite the people of God in the Eucharist, and it drew its strength from those who were united together in prayer during the week. The liturgy of worship demonstrated the fullness of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and what God was doing invisibly in the hearts and minds of all who took part.

Writer and Music Director Jonathan Aigner adds, “When we worship together, we aren’t only part of one community, but we’re identifying ourselves with the incredible story of the Gospel and joining the radical political movement begun by Christ himself. As we meet as God’s covenant people, the centuries of time collapse, and we find ourselves alongside the saints who have come before.  In fact, we are joining the song of the angels, and twinkling along with the light of the morning stars, begun even before creation.  And we are rehearsing for the unending hymn, the heavenly liturgy, which we will join one day.”

So the next time you are in the pew, don’t expect to be entertained, but expect to find God – in the stillness, in the music, in the ancient prayers and rhythms of liturgy, in the Word and Sacrament, and  in the people sitting around you.  We are the Body of Christ, and God’s story has become our story. Alleluia!

Engaging the Word: 6/25/17 (The Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 7)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 21:8-21; Palm 86:1-10, 16-17; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:24-39. Go to www.lectionarypage.net for the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, Abraham casts out Hagar and Ishmael, Paul explains how we are united to Christ through our baptism, and Jesus warns the apostles of the challenges of discipleship.

Abraham casting out Hagar and Ishmael by Guercino, 1657. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Abraham casting out Hagar and Ishmael by Guercino, 1657. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genesis 21:8-21: In this week’s reading, we have a painful family drama that results in the casting out of Hagar and Ishmael from the family home.

Earlier in Genesis, we learned that Hagar was Sarah’s Egyptian slave. Sarah was barren and offered Hagar to Abraham as a way to create heirs to fulfill God’s promise. Back in the day, a man could bear children through a surrogate mother. When Hagar conceives, she “looked with contempt” upon Sarah, and so Sarah “dealt harshly with her and she ran away.” An angel of the Lord finds Hagar and tells her to return to Sarah. In addition, the angel told Hagar that she will have many descendants and to name her son Ishmael. Hagar obeyed. Fast-forward fourteen years. Sarah herself bears Isaac in her old age.

In this week’s reading, as Isaac is weaned, Sarah is concerned that the older Ishmael may threaten Isaac’s position as heir. She insists that Abraham cast them out. Abraham is distressed, but God tells Abraham to do as Sarah says, “for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you.” God said he will make a nation of Ishmael also. So Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away with some bread and water.

Hagar and Ishmael by Benjamin West, 1776. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hagar and Ishmael by Benjamin West, 1776. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

As Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba, the water is gone and they are dying of thirst. Hagar wept in despair, and an angel of the Lord called to Hagar from heaven, told Hagar not to be afraid, and proclaims that her son would become a great nation. A well of water then appeared and it saved their lives. “God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.”

Although not recorded in the Bible, according to the Qur’an, Abraham visits Ishmael at Mecca (in modern-day Saudi Arabia), where they build an altar together, called the Ka’aba. Today the Ka’aba serves as the most holy site of the Muslim religion.

Bill Moyers comments in Genesis: A Living Conversation,  “The themes in this story are deep and painful—a woman’s infertility, surrogate motherhood, class differences, and the price human beings pay for God’s will to be done. And something else: This triangle sets off fireworks, and by dawn’s early light Judaism and Islam go their separate ways.”

Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17: Attributed to David, the psalmist cries out to God to watch over him and be merciful. He is confident that God is “good and forgiving,” and will answer him.

St. Paul by Folo and Camia, 1826. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Paul by Folo and Camia, 1826. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Romans 6:1b-11: In chapter 5, Paul stressed the abundance of God’s grace, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Continuing his train of thought in this week’s reading, Paul asks the rhetorical question, “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?” And he answers, “By no means!” through our baptism, we have been crucified with Christ and we have been resurrected with Christ. “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Exhortation to the Apostles by James Tissot (1836-1902). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Exhortation to the Apostles by James Tissot (1836-1902). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Matthew 10:24-39: Our reading this week is part two of the three-part sequence known as “The Missionary Discourse,” which emphasizes the mission of the 12 apostles. In last week’s reading, Jesus commissioned the twelve apostles.

This week, Jesus tells the disciples to expect to be targets of persecution just as he is persecuted. Jesus says not to fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear (revere) him (God) who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Their Heavenly Father cares for them and will not abandon them.

Jesus says, “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.” Then he says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Jesus is preparing the disciples for the tension and division that the gospel can have even in families. Christians must place their loyalty to Christ above their families. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

What they (and we) will find is the joy of eternal life.

Centering prayer moves us beyond conversation to communion with Christ

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

By Marilyn Dressel

Centering Prayer 2017 05 31 (5)Centering Prayer is a method of prayer in which we consent to rest in God’s presence.  It is a wordless prayer that moves us beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.  The gospel story of Mary and Martha, (Luke 10:38-42) teaches us that silence and action, prayer and work are two chambers of one heart.  They need each other to realize the fullness of life.  Centering Prayer teaches us stillness, how to be centered and quiet.  From this time alone with God, we take the fruits of the spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness out into the world.  Following a time of silence, the community reads a passage of scripture (four times through) followed by a time of sharing how the Spirit spoke to us.

The Centering Prayer Community offers a Quiet Day in November inviting the parish family to join us atCentering Prayer 2017 05 31 (2) Waldheim Retreat House on Old Mission Peninsula.  This is a day of silence, praying the scriptures, Holy Eucharist, a guided meditation, and free time to walk in the beautiful Neahtawanta Woods.

The Centering Prayer Community held its twelfth annual Advent Quiet Morning on December 3, 2016, for the parish family and the community of Traverse City.  This is a time of stillness through silence, prayer, an Advent scripture, and meditation with Grace Harmony leading the community in Taize singing.

The prayer community also adopted a family during Advent through LOVE INC. to help brighten their Christmas.  We hold a space available to God as a free gift of our love.  We invite you to join us in our quiet journey “every” Wednesday at 11am in the prayer room.  Please feel free to pick up a Centering Prayer brochure on the table in the commons.  “For you alone, O God, my soul wait in silence, for my hope is in You.”  Psalm 62:5.  For more information, call Marilyn Dressel at 231-929-2575.