Voice of the vestry: Be joyful and let your light shine

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

By Jeff Tibbits

Every day is the day to portray a message of hope, love, and joy at Grace. HOPE –it’s a powerful word. Some of you may know this word as an acronym: Hold On; Pray Expectantly.  So what does the Bible tell us about hope?

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12: 12)

JOY. JOYFUL. REJOICE! These are words that describe one’s state of being in gladness of heart or one expressing being in such a state of exuberant bliss granted to one by the grace and power of our Holy Spirit.  What does the Bible tell us about joy, being joyful, and rejoicing? In a word: lots. Here’s a sampling:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy.  Psalm 34:5a

My wife Christine’s term of endearment for me is “Sunshine,” which I pray that I am able, with God’s help, to portray to her and the world even on a cloudy day. I believe that by portraying the abundant light and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and our Holy Spirit who joyfully dwell within each and every one of us, we can share and spread God’s message of love with others throughout our communities through acts as simple as smiling, saying hello, and reaching out to lend a helping hand.

For those who attended Grace’s second quarterly meeting of 2017 this past Sunday, we pray that we portrayed a message of hope, love, and joy to you. Our church finances are in fine shape, thanks to the generosity of several members and members’ families. And we have our 150th anniversary to celebrate—let’s party, be joyful! Sure, Grace faces challenges: our plumbing is a mess, our roof leaks, the search for our new rector will take a while longer, but as James writes in his epistle:

Brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1: 2-4

 As for this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine big time with the help of the Holy Spirit and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please join me today and every day in shining forth in hope, love, and joy and in this prayer for our new rector:

Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on Grace Episcopal Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a rector for this parish, that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Episcopal Youth Event draws Grace teens to Oklahoma City

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Youth group.

Michigan youth at EYE17

Michigan youth at EYE17

By Brittney Collins

Stepping off the plane into Oklahoma City, I wasn’t quite sure how a week of Episcopal Youth Even (EYE17)t would affect me. I definitely expected to have some fun, though I never imagined that there would be times where I couldn’t breathe because I was laughing so hard. I expected to feel a few strong emotions, yet I did not know that I would have to comfort friends with tears in their eyes, and that they might have to comfort me as well. I expected to feel touched, but I did not know that I would be so moved at times that my heart would actually feel full.

Maggie Miron, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Brittney Collins (L. to R.)

Maggie Miron, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Brittney Collins (L. to R.) at EYE17

One of my favorite memories from EYE was after three amazing speeches from young adults involved in an organization called Kids4Peace. These teenagers–one an Israeli Jew, another a Palestinian Christian, and the last an Iraqi refugee–each told their own amazing story about settling conflicts and overcoming stereotypes. After a roaring standing ovation, over one thousand youth and adults held hands and passionately, yet tranquilly, sang “Peace, Salaam, Shalom,” a calling for peace that incorporates three different languages. In this moment that song reassured me that we, as Episcopalians, wish unity and love on every person no matter what faith or race. It was an instant where my heart truly felt at peace, and all the conflict and differences in the world seemed to melt away.

Coming back to the “real world” (as we call it at camp), my heart does not always feel like this; in fact, it can be a little bit of a shock to leave a safe space such as EYE. However, God calls for his people to go into the world to spread his faith and love. And while it may be difficult at times, it is our job as loyal followers of the Lord to take what we learned from the Episcopal Youth Event and present it to the world.

By Maggie Miron

At Episcopal Youth Event 2017, it was easy to be overwhelmed – by the heat, the number of people, the sound of 1,200 teenagers all in one room. But the most overwhelming thing for me was the faith that filled the room, for God, for each other, and for ourselves.

In Presiding Bishop Curry’s opening sermon, he reminded us of what Jesus said were the most important things in faith: “Love your Lord our God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” He repeatedly told us “Love God, love your neighbor, and love yourself.” I had heard this before, many a time, but it took this past week for me to truly understand what it meant.

I have seen faith in God. I have been surrounded by it my entire life, having been raised in the Church. I know how it looks, and what it can do, and how vast and powerful it is. This past week I was (there is no other word for it) overwhelmed to realize that faith in God is not just faith in God. It is faith in the God in each and every person you see, including the one in the mirror. As deep as your faith in the Almighty runs, it must also include your neighbor, your enemy, and yourself. This is no easy thing to do, but watching my Presiding Bishop practically shout it to me, and hearing well over a thousand people shout and clap and dance their agreement, it seemed the most natural thing in the world. God is in everything, and our faith must extend over every part of Him.

 

Engaging the Word: 7/23/17 (The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 11)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 28:10-19a; Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. Go to www.lectionarypage.net for the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, we have the story of Jacob’s dream, Paul continues to contrast living according to the flesh or in the Spirit, and Jesus teaches the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds.

Genesis 28:10-19a: Last week, we read about the birth of Esau and Jacob and then later that Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of stew or, depending on your point of view, that Jacob took advantage of his hungry brother by demanding it. The lectionary passed over the story of how Jacob, with the help of Rebekah, deceived his old, blind father into giving him the special paternal blessing that was supposed to be Esau’s.

Not surprisingly, Esau is furious: “He took away my birthright; and look, now he has taken away my blessing.” Esau plans on killing Jacob after their father dies. Rebekah learns of this and tells Jacob to flee to her brother Laban in Haran. Then Rebekah gets Isaac to send Jacob off to find a wife from among Laban’s daughters.

Jacob’s vision of a ladder to heaven, Morgan Bible, c. 1250. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jacob’s vision of a ladder to heaven, Morgan Bible, c. 1250. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In this week’s reading, Jacob is on his way to Haran to find a wife. He came to “a certain place” and stops for the night to sleep, using a stone for a pillow. “And he dreamed that there was a ladder ([or a stairway] set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” And Jacob sees the Lord standing beside him. The Lord confirms the original promise he made to Abraham. Jacob is promised both land and offspring, though it is not just for Jacob’s benefit. The Lord said, “All the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.” In addition, the Lord promises to be with Jacob wherever he is and will bring him back to his homeland.

When Jacob woke up from his dream, he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” Jacob realizes that this a sacred place, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” When he got up in the morning, Jacob set up his pillow stone as a pillar and anointed it with oil. He called the place Bethel, which means “house of God.” From now on, Jacob will live with an awareness of God and his part in fulfilling God’s purposes.

Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23: Attributed to David, our psalm this week praises God for his complete knowledge of the psalmist and for being omnipresent in a direct and personal way. Because God’s spirit is everywhere, even if we attempt to flee from God’s presence, there is no place to hide. In the psalm’s conclusion, the psalmist prays for God’s guidance that he may live a righteous life. “Search me out, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my restless thoughts. Look well whether there be any wickedness in me and lead me in the way that is everlasting.”

St. Paul writing by candlelight by Nicolaas Verkolje (1673-1746). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

St. Paul writing by candlelight by Nicolaas Verkolje (1673-1746). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Romans 8:12-25: Paul continues to talk about what it means to live in the Spirit rather than by the desires of the flesh—in other words, living as children of God instead of living self-centered lives. We have been set free from our old way of life, but old habits die hard and we still have work to do. Our salvation is a gift from God and we need to live into this reality. As I read somewhere, salvation is not so much about getting into heaven, but more about getting heaven into us. When we were baptized, we were adopted into the family of God.

In a Kindle book, Barclay on the Lectionary, William Barclay, a Scottish minister and author, says we need to understand how serious Roman adoption was in order to understand the meaning of this passage. In Paul’s eyes, once we have been adopted into the family of God, our old life no longer has any rights over us. The past is cancelled and all debts are wiped out when we begin a new life with God, and we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Whatever Christ inherits, we also inherit. If Christ had to suffer, we also inherit that suffering; but, if Christ was raised to life and glory, we also inherit that life and glory. So we have hope for the full and final redemption of all things in creation. We wait with patience.

The Enemy by Heinrich Fullmaurer, c. 1540. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Enemy by Heinrich Fullmaurer, c. 1540. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43: In this week’s reading, Jesus tells the crowd the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to someone who sowed their field with good seed, but comes to find out that an enemy sowed the field with weeds while everybody was asleep. Commentators say that the weed in question is darnel, a weed that looks like wheat. The farmer knows that if he tries to gather the weeds, he will uproot the wheat, so he decides to wait until the harvest, when the wheat and weeds can be sorted, and the weeds collected and burned.

Jesus told the parable to the crowd, but he goes on to explain the meaning to his disciples. “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.” The granary is heaven, and the furnace is hell.

The story is concerned with the mixture of good and evil in the world, which will be sorted out on judgment day. As Christians, we need to beware of trying to judge who is good and who is not. We need to leave that up to God.

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.