Witness your faith, then invite others to “come and see”

Posted by & filed under Voice of the Clergy.

By the Rev. Katheryn M. King

Katheryn KingJanuary 18, 2014: Second Sunday after the Epiphany A John 1:29-42

To me, this gospel almost feels like an intrusion from John thrust into the year of Matthew. Yet it is the Epiphany season (until March 4, actually) so this week we see how John revealed the Christ.

Next week we’ll hear Matt’s take of Jesus calling the first disciples –this week we hear from John. So listen up! There are some important differences.

The Gospel of John is a book of “signs” –things, events people who point to something else, necessary in this gospel in order to come to faith. I think that this is the theme and purpose of the entire gospel, “…so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” That’s why John wrote his gospel! This gospel is a “sign” to point us to the Messiah, who is a “sign” who points us to God. The story of Jesus is not a story about Jesus; it is,  in fact, the story of God. (O’Day p.524/Stoffregen)

We are told that “John came as a witness to bear witness to the light.” However, John’s first witness is not about the Light, but about himself. In previous verses he talks about who he is not: He is not the Christ; he is not Elijah; he is not one of the prophets. Secondly, he talks about who he is: “The voice crying in the wilderness…”

The first half of our text is centered on John “witnessing” about Jesus with five images: Here is the Lamb of God; who takes away the world’s sin; who existed before John; on whom the Spirit descends; This is the Son of God!

Without “witnesses” we would not know the one who is coming and who stands among us. (Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.) Even John needed the divine witness in order to know who Jesus was. In the other gospels, it is God who declares Jesus’ sonship at his baptism. Here it is John.

The “sign” of the Spirit not only descends but remains, stays on Jesus –very important word to John, e.g. abide. Jesus has “staying power” not like some prophets on whom the spirit comes and goes. The early disciples have this “staying power.” At least at first.

In the second half of our text, John witnesses to his two disciples who then follow Jesus. One of them Andrew, witnesses to his brother Peter. In the next story Jesus finds Philip without a witness, but then finds Nathanael and witnesses to him about Jesus. It seems a witness is needed to help others “see” Jesus. (Who put that Bible in your hands in order to say –Yes, Jesus loves me. Maybe one cannot really follow Jesus without also an invitation to others? Hmm.)

Talk about networking! The essence of our witness is to share what we have seen and believe and then invite others to “come and see.”

For John, faith begins by responding to the invitation to “come and see.” Slightly different words in Greek are uttered by the Samaritan woman to her people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!” (4:29)

At the end of this gospel –Mary comes and sees that the stone has been removed from the tomb. Peter and the other disciple come to the tomb and look in and see. The one sees and believes. (20:1,3-8)

Come and see, what could be simpler than that? Probably like discipleship –it may be simple, but not easy. Someone says to another, “Yea, I go to church –wanna come?” I get asked about Grace Church, I’m sure some of you do too. Instead of needing some great theological discourse, how about just answering, “come and see.”

One of the differences that faith should make in our lives is the desire that others –especially those we already know and care about, might also share in the relationship God offers through Christ. I’ve had people tell me about good restaurants, haircutters, dentists; and invitations to join a number of good organizations. Shouldn’t there be that same fervor and encouragement to “come and see” God’s gracious gifts in our worship and other activities? Salvation is meant for the whole world.

Indeed, our Christian faith may be personal, but never private. Remember, the one they are seeking, is the One who is seeking them. No one is here by accident.

Andrew is never mentioned just by himself.

Three times Andrew is doing something in John –and each time he is bringing someone to Jesus: First his brother, Simon, then a boy with five barley loaves and two fish, (6:8) and finally, Andrew (with Philip) go and tell Jesus about “some Greeks.” (12:22). Being the first follower of Jesus may be the first time that Andrew has been first in anything –especially living in the shadow of his more flamboyant brother Simon Peter. Congregations are full of behind the scenes “Andrews.” One doesn’t have to be a “Peter” to be an effective follower and disciple to Christ. The notion that “I can be a Christian all by myself” needs to be replaced with “I need the body of Christ and the body of Christ needs me” for us to live faithfully.

The story is simple, like little Andrew who responded to the invitation to “come and see” and then did his own small part to spread the knowledge of Jesus Christ to his brother and throughout the town to people who carry his message to the end of the earth.

From the beginning of time, God delights in taking little things, things the world decides are nothing –and do wonderful things through them. So our attempts to share faith may feel very small –yet the God who brought light from darkness and raises dead to life wants to –and will do marvelous things through you.

 

 

 

 

Prayer for Time: A Memoir

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

Bill Montgomery head shot2Bill Montgomery reflects on how his cancer diagnosis changed the stewardship of his entire life—the way he looks, the way he lives, the way he gives, the way he worships, and the way he serves our Lord. Following is Chapter 3 from his newly published book Prayer for Time: A Memoir.

 

 

Dear Lord,

I ask that you guide me each day so that thy will be done.

I am not the same person I was at the time of the original cancer diagnosis in 2008, and we are not the same couple we were four years ago. There are several reminders in the cottage to help me look for ways that I have changed since then: photo albums, pictures of the kids and their families, as well as a mind sated with memories and feelings of this place.

The most obvious way I have changed is the way I look. When I met Dr. Slovin the first time, she told me to lose weight immediately and suggested the elimination of alcohol and red meat. On the plane back to Michigan I proposed to Anne that we go out and have a big dinner to mark the end of an era of wine, scotch and steak. She told me that the new regimen had already started and that if I didn’t agree, we were going to have a problem. I agreed that we needed to implement the dietary changes immediately and that we would get back to Traverse City in time for the daily exercise and meditation regimen.

Over the next months I dropped 40 pounds. The clothes that hung in the back of the closet because they had become too tight returned to active duty. And there is no doubt that I am a calmer, more tolerant, more focused individual. I get more done. I now believe that the most effective part of the diet was the elimination of all alcohol. My increased effectiveness in the evenings has probably offset the increased time I spend sleeping due to the medication. Overall, I spend a lot less time sitting around “having one” with friends—so much so that in my mind’s eye, I see an ocean going tanker with a load of scotch circling off New York Harbor as the US scotch market slumps. I feel 10 years younger than many of my peers.

In order to lessen the negative effects of stress, we simplified our lives by selling our Dallas residence after 27 years of being Texans. We moved into a large condo in Traverse City and now enjoy the area on a year round basis. Our permanent residence is only 25 minutes from the Lake Skegemog retreat, which attracts our kids, grandchildren, and friends. The money saved by this consolidation allows for a larger participation in support of Traverse City religious, charitable and cultural activities.

By spending most of our winters in northern Michigan, we are seen as having “skin in the game” and thus have become a more significant part of the town’s institutions. We feel welcome in the community and the friends we maintain are those with whom we enjoy richer conversations. Imagine talking about the legacies we want to leave versus rehashing the last Dallas Cowboys football game. The social atmosphere in Traverse City provides us with more acquaintances than we ever had in Dallas and we now have more good friends, including the important friendships we maintain from around the country.

As a couple we are much more involved in the activities of the local Traverse City church; Anne through the parish-run indigent center and I through the church’s Finance and Stewardship committees. We have become sponsors of the National Writers Series, a Traverse City based organization that gives aspiring high school writers assistance with creative writing instruction and through college scholarships. In deference to our own reading and literary interests, Anne and I have almost entirely stopped watching television so as to focus upon life’s bigger issues and purposes.

Additionally, my difficulty identifying and choosing a cancer treatment, as well as the fact that I’ve had to travel to receive it, has led us to become significant contributors to the Munson Cancer Center that is now being built and staffed within the local hospital. I am on the Board of the Hospital Foundation that seeks to raise about a third of the cost of this center. That this center will be of great value in our community was underlined for me this noon when the person I was eating lunch with almost came to tears as he related his experience seeking the correct treatment for his recently diagnosed cancer.

But these are not the only changes. I am in the midst of a transformation from a worshiping, rite based Christian, to a more action based Christian. This is a change in my view of the role of the organized church and of the Sunday church service, which I now realize is preparation for going out into the world and acting like a Christian by “loving thy neighbor.” While it sounds like a relatively simple paradigm shift, it is an epic change for me—a redirection similar to turning a large naval vessel. It takes miles. The significance of the time it takes to make this turn is important because cancer is trying to shorten my life and I feel an urgency to identify and act upon tasks the Lord expects me to complete.

Excerpted from Prayer for Time: A Memoir by William R. Montgomery. The book is available at Horizon Books in Traverse City and on Amazon.com. Bill will donate all the proceeds from sales through February 8 to Jubilee House.

 

 

Signs of God’s gracious gifts abound

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

By the Rev. Katheryn King

“From his fullness we have received grace upon grace.” John 1:16”

Katheryn KingIndeed! Grace upon grace is how I would describe this year. The leadership of staff and Vestry, the volunteers in so many varied ministries, faithful worshipers, and delightful children are all signs of God’s gracious gifts

I thank God daily for the privilege and honor to serve the people of God at Grace Episcopal Church with the Very Rev. Daniel Richards along with these wise women, Erika Shenk-Tessin, Ann Hackett, Catherine Turnbull, and Kathy Will as we meet, read and study, plan and pray for Grace.

It has been three years now that I have had responsibilities in the areas of Pastoral Care and Worship.

I thank God for Adam Gahn, Lynn Feeter (and sometimes Fancy), Ellen Schrader, the Rev. Wally Draeger, and Mike McManus who make daily visits at Munson Hospital to all Episcopalians and others who request a visit. Kathryn Christian’s soothing harp and singing is also appreciated.

Lay Eucharistic Visitors bring Holy Communion along with thoughts and prayers from our Grace parish family to our sisters and brothers unable to be in worship with us.

I Thank God for Tom Thompson’s visits to Elaine Schubot, Helen Hankins to Maxine Ballentine, Anne Kelly to Dave and Julie Christensen, Bob and Sandy Foote and John Strickler to Kay Hollis. Our friendly visitors see Genevieve Fagerstrom by Connie Riopelle and Pete Clapp and Nancy Brannan for Marian Talbot and bring them to worship if possible. Sylvia Keely is available for errands, Gloria McClay and Dave Christensen keep in touch with some folks by phone. This fall the Monday Morning office volunteer began sending a copy of Sunday’s bulletin and Grace Life to all our homebound. This way they really feel included, often following the readings and prayers, and knowing “what is going on at my Grace Church.” Carolers from Joyful Noise, Grace Harmony and Chancel Choir brought special Christmas joy to members and friends at Traverse Manor and some homes in Eagle Creek.

For me personally, I live and breathe pastoral care for the whole Grace community. If you too believe this is the way to follow Jesus, as his Disciple, please come and be with us.

Another area of responsibility is the Saturday 5:00 pm Eucharist –and what a joy it is! We continued a whole year of liturgical exploration: Jazz Mass with the St. Louis Stompers in both January and October, Martin Luther’s “German” Mass, Celtic Service with music by the Tongue Family, Mass on the Grass was held at F & M Park followed by a potluck picnic, and Stir-Up Advent service prepared a symbolic cake that was served on Christmas Eve. The Rev. Pete Clapp is the moving force in creating these worship experiences, and I get to learn from our retired clergy.

I thank God especially for Pete and Wally Draeger. The Rev. Marilyn Dressel and the Healing Team is always supportive and an inspiration for the St. Luke’s Day Healing Service and attending a Healing Workshop with them held at St. Philip’s in Beulah. I embrace the richness of traditional worship but enjoy opportunities to be creative as in the Maundy Thursday Service.

2014 will offer a series of historic, pre-reformation Eucharistic liturgies on the fourth Saturday of the month in order to understand the development of our worship of Jesus and “why we do what we do.” I hope we can have more Healing Services for each other and the world.

I thank God for Grace Harmony and singing with them when I am not involved in preaching and presiding. I always enjoy opportunities with the children of Grace and their families. “Play and Pray” summer Bible school is again on my calendar.

I had a once in a lifetime experience to go to Spain and Portugal with my travel savvy friend, Connie Riopelle. For 18 days, some vacation, some continuing education, we saw incredible sights in Gibraltar, Tangier (Morocco), Corduba, Sevilla, Madrid, the Algave area, Sagres and Lisbon. I of course was impressed by the cathedrals and am still reflecting upon the rich history of Christians, Muslims and Jews. We shared a ‘travelog’ one Friday evening at Grace. It would be fun to see others’ journeys, too.

My hope and prayer this year ahead is for health and safety. Whether I participate in the splendid Consecration of a new Bishop or give a Blessing for the folks that come to Friday lunch –I Thank God!

 

 

Blessed by Daniel’s leadership – but not reliant

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

By Steve Wade
Senior Warden

Steve WadeIt is customary within the Episcopal Church for a rector of a parish to be given a sabbatical every few years. This time away from daily duties is intended to allow for a dedicated time of study and spiritual renewal. In the coming year, after five years of ministry at Grace and 10 years of ordained ministry, it is time for Daniel to go on sabbatical.

The obvious purpose of this sabbatical is to give Daniel time to learn, reflect, and grow in his faith. There is, however, a second benefit that is less obvious. By investing in this sabbatical, the church has a chance to remember that, although we are blessed by Daniel’s leadership, we are not reliant on it. We are, in fact, a ministering congregation, not merely a congregation with a minister.,

Daniel, Amy, Rachel, Jolie, and Henri will be spend June, July, and August traveling in Great Britain. While there Daniel will study, write, and rest. As a result of this time away, Daniel will be personally renewed, and we as a church will be ready to resume our ministry with him.

Daniel is intentionally preparing for this time away both practically and prayerfully, and I suggest we do the same. As a church we, too, have a great opportunity to grow, but if we do not prepare ourselves we will miss this opportunity. Over the coming months I encourage each of you to join the Vestry as we pray for Daniel and his family and to listen for how God would have us use this time.

 

 

 

Financial Peace University testimonial: “My debt seemed staggering, but the coach and I worked out a plan.”

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Kathy Will

Kathy Will_StaffPageWhen I heard that Financial Peace University was going to be offered at Grace, I told Erika and Barb Klugh to please let me tell my story. I am an alumni and I want you to know how this has made a difference in my life.

In 2005, I was a single mom with two children in college and the third in High School. I had heard of Dave Ramsey, and had listened to his broadcast several times on the radio. What he said made sense, but I was still struggling along from paycheck to paycheck and using my credit cards to pay for whatever the kids and I needed. I had even completed a remodeling project on my house and used those convenient checks the credit card companies sent to pay some of the remodeling expenses. But I was missing payments often, and beginning to receive creditors’ letters and phone calls.

Then in December of that year, I was in a serious auto accident: I totaled my car, and was anticipating surgery to repair a broken foot. The weekend before my surgery I had a collection agency calling to threaten me with a lawsuit – they had no sympathy for my situation and just told me I had better find the money somehow. I can remember sitting on my bed in tears – in physical pain, but also very low emotionally. Luckily, I had some wonderful friends in my church that connected me with one of Dave Ramsey’s financial coaches. He sat down with me to go over my finances and waived his $400 fee, with the stipulation that I attend the Financial Peace University sessions being offered soon at my church.

At that time I was approximately $50,000 in debt and working as an administrator at a charter school earning $50,000 a year. I had been single over 10 years and while I did receive some child support, it was never enough to truly take care of everything the kids needed. My debt seemed staggering, but the coach said many people with much greater incomes have much greater debt – second homes, expensive toys, etc. He and I worked out a plan to start working with the credit card companies and get a handle on what I was spending.

Then came the nine-week class. A friend from my church taught it and each of us in the group helped to hold each other accountable. The videos were entertaining, and Dave Ramsey speaks from personal experience. There are no short cuts, but rather a different way of looking at what you do. Because of the class, I was able to pay off $7000 in the first two months, and I cut up all my credit cards – even the JC Penney card I had carried for 15 years. I learned to pay cash for purchases, and to turn down those offers of store credit you run into everywhere. The class discussed life insurance and investments. The support materials were terrific – budget worksheets, envelopes, and Dave’s on-line blog. And our monthly budgets started with setting aside our tithe for the church before paying any other bills.

Fast forward 8 years. Brad and I married, and we each brought debt into the marriage and have experienced several financial bumps along the way. Brad is not totally on board with the process, and I have not followed it consistently – and we will try to take a refresher course in the future. But I have retained some of what I learned: we do not purchase on credit, and I do try to keep our emergency fund intact. And this past summer I paid off the last of the credit cards. All $50,000 worth! While we are not quite debt-free, we are ever so much closer. Financial Peace gave me the tools and the goal, and has certainly changed how I live my life.

 

Financial Peace University begins January 23

Posted by & filed under Events, Grace Notes.

FPU graphic

We all need a plan for our money. Financial Peace University (FPU) is that plan! It teaches God’s ways of handling money through video teaching, class discussions, and interactive small group activities. FPU presents biblical, practical steps to get from where you are to where you’ve dreamed you could be. This plan will show you how to get rid of debt, manage your money, spend and save wisely, and much more! It’s fun, easy to understand and it will change your life! The average family pays off $5,300 in debt and saves $2,700 in the first 90 days so you have nothing to lose and so much to gain!

Thursday nights from 6:30 – 8:00 pm

January 23 – March 20, 2014

Grace Episcopal Church

Childcare available

Cost: $99.00 for the FPU Membership Kit (some scholarships available)

Payments and FPU kits can be picked up at the Grace Church office. Questions? Please email Barbara Klugh at litlrivr@chartermi.net or call 933-9708.

Click here to register.

 

 

Advent at Grace Upstairs

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

Visit from St. Nicholas

A visit from St. Nicholas deepens the mystery of Advent.

By Catherine Turnbull
Christian Education Director

Jerome Berryman, the theologian whose work we rely on in our storytelling upstairs, says that we need Advent because the mystery of the Incarnation is so big that it takes several weeks to get ready to enter it. He reminds us how common it is—how easy—to walk right up to this Mystery (or even through it!) without noticing any mystery at all.

Welcome to the modern Christmas season, yes?

During these four Sundays of Advent, because we know the temptation to let the season swirl past us, the adults upstairs will be gathering with the children around the slow journey that leads to Emmanuel. Each week, we’ll tell just a part of the Advent story and mark it with the lighting of an Advent candle. The following week, we’ll start at the beginning and add another part, until we’ve lit all four candles and Jesus is born.

The mysterious Incarnation is a fine opportunity for wondering, and not just for children, of course. Along those lines, I offer you this excerpt of a song by a guy named Peter Alsop. It’s called, When Jesus Was a Kid. Perhaps a list of questions like these would be fun to generate at Coffee Hour?

It’s Christmas time again and the mall is really weird
Everyone gets stressed out Christmas shopping every year
I have to stop and wonder, looking at my Christmas list
When Jesus was a kid, would he be doing this?

I know he was a baby, but did he ever cry?
Did Jesus wet his diapers or were they always dry?
Did he use a bottle before he used a cup?
Did Jesus throw things on the floor for Mary to pick up?
Did Mary ever spank him? Does the Bible say?
Did Jesus scream and holler when things didn’t go his way?
I know he was a baby, but I wonder what he did
When he was about, my age, … when Jesus was a kid?

Did he have birthday parties? I like to think he might
But then I have to wonder, well, like, who did he invite?
Were there other kids in bathrobes who played tag the
way we do?
Was he bummed out when his birthday gifts said “Merry
Christmas” too!?
Did Jesus put on sunscreen, or did he wear a floppy
hat?
Living in a desert, you can sunburn just like that!
And he prob’ly hated eating “camel milk with mushy peas”
Or can saviors just get out of eating gross things when they
please?

(copyright 1991, Moose School Music)