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

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

By Jeanette Kania

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

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

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

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

Vestry minutes – 3/21/2017

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Vestry minutes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treasurer’s Report:
Mark Stackable not in attendance.

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

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

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

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

Newcomer Breakfast coming up on April 8, 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Junior Warden Report: None

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

They are working on interview questions.

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

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

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

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

Respectfully submitted,

Michael Mittelstaedt
Vestry Clerk

 

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

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to the Resurrection

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

By The Rev. Carlton Kelley

Fr. Carlton Kelley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voice of the vestry: Open your heart to God’s presence

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

Your own ears will hear him.
 Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left.
Isaiah 30:21

By Eddie Grim2016 Eddie Grim vestry

This last year has been very difficult for Grace. There has been deep pain. There is uncertainty as we search for a new rector. There are all of the ordinary stresses of any active parish. There have been changes of leadership. There has been both growth and stress within important ministries of the church.

During times of pain, uncertainty, and stress, it is very easy to lose our sense of God’s presence and guidance. We quickly concentrate our attention on the problems we face, often feeling that it is up to us to solve the problems. We are often tempted to act without thinking or listening. We know that God has promised to always be with us, but our attention is drawn away. We are easily distracted by the noise of the world around us.

When we face periods of pain, uncertainty, and stress, we can become overwhelmed and question if God actually cares. The problems can be so present to us, that it is difficult for us to be aware of God’s presence in the situation.

In the church it is so very easy to simply begin to act out of habit and routine. This is what we do today and this is how we always do this. We face each day with our to do list. Much of the business of the church can begin to simply be business. We separate the “religious” parts from the ordinary day to day business. God is in the sacraments and services, but we can very easily leave him there.

Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to us as our guide and comforter. The Holy Spirit is Jesus with us, and most astoundingly, Jesus in us. We are not alone! As individuals and as a community of believers we do not need to face our difficulties alone. Both as individuals and as a community we have a guide and a companion.

The words from Isaiah were spoken to the children of Israel following their exile in a foreign land and after a period of time when they had experienced a long separation from God. It is a promise both for them, and for us, because it also speaks to the present time. Right behind you a voice will say “This is the way you should go.” In this coming year I challenge you to listen, to resist being more aware of the problems than God’s presence. To be open to God’s presence in all that we do, not only in the “religious” parts. To never go about the business of the church as if it were just business. Open your hearts to God’s guidance.  Right behind you a voice will say,“This is the way you should go,”whether to the right or to the left.

Engaging the Word: 4/2/17 (The Fifth Sunday in Lent)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. Our texts this week reveal the power of God to bring about restoration and new life.

Ezekiel’s vision from Luther Bible, 1534. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Ezekiel’s vision from Luther Bible, 1534. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Ezekiel 37:1-14: Ezekiel was a temple priest who was exiled to Babylon in 597 BC along with three thousand other leading citizens. Five years later, God called him to be a prophet to his fellow exiles. Ezekiel not only reminded the people it was their disobedience of God’s laws that led to the exile, but he also offered hope for the restoration of Israel and the temple.

Ezekiel experienced several fantastic visions during his lifetime. In this week’s reading, Ezekiel records a vision in which God transports him to a valley filled with dry bones. God asks the prophet, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel responds, “O Lord God, you know.” Following God’s command, Ezekiel first prophesies to the bones that they will live, and he hears an increasing loud rattle. The dry bones begin to move and come together as skeletons. The skeletons grow tendons, muscles, and skin. Then Ezekiel prophesies to the four winds and the breath came into them, “and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.”

This vision is intended to provide the exiles with hope. God will bring the dispirited Israelites back to their homeland. “O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

As we know, God is still acting. Whether as individuals, communities, or nations, again and again, God takes us when we’re dry, broken, in exile, and despondent and breathes hope and new life into our gloomy and miserable souls.

Illuminated Bible c. 1410

Illuminated Bible c. 1410

Psalm 130: Our psalm this week is one of the seven penitential psalms, and begins with an individual’s heartfelt prayer to God—waiting for and trusting in God’s mercy. “Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord; Lord hear my voice.” In the last two verses, the psalmist transitions from an individual prayer to a message for all people, “O Israel, wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy.”

Here is a lovely video of Psalm 130 sung in Anglican Chant by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge.

Romans 8:6-11: Chapter 8 is about Life in the Spirit, and is a summing up of Paul’s argument thus far. In this week’s lesson, a selection from Chapter 8, Paul differentiates between living in the Spirit and living according to the flesh. I read in a commentary that by “flesh,” Paul is not referring to our physical bodies but to our fallen human nature. “But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.” When we trust in Jesus, we are new creations—we are given the gift, the grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit so we are day by day being transformed to live holy lives. The Holy Spirit not only strengthens us, but we will be raised from the dead at the end of time.

Raising of Lazarus by Colin of Amiens, c. 1450. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Raising of Lazarus by Colin of Amiens, c. 1450. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 11:1-45: Recorded only in the Gospel of John, this week’s reading is the story of the raising of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. It’s the final and greatest sign in John’s Gospel.

Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus that their brother Lazarus was ill. But Jesus says, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” So Jesus remains where he was for two more days.

After this Jesus tells his plans to visit Judea (where Bethany was located), but the disciples are concerned that it’s too dangerous. Jesus is not deterred because he intends to “awaken” Lazarus. When they arrived, Lazarus had been entombed for four days, and many friends have come to console Mary and Martha. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again….I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” Martha then informs Mary of Jesus’ presence.

Mary knows that if Jesus had arrived sooner, Lazarus wouldn’t have died. When Jesus saw Mary and the other mourners weeping, he began to weep also.

They came to the tomb, and Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” When they took it away, Jesus looked upward and said, Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

Following our reading, we learn that the raising of Lazarus prompts the Pharisees to call a meeting of the council, and leads to the crucifixion of Jesus. They were afraid of Jesus’ growing following, “So from that day on they planned to put them to death.”

Looking and seeing – How Jubilee House became a house of love

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

By Glenda Andrews

jubileehouseThere are two words in our English language that in the dictionary have pretty much the same meaning.    LOOKING and SEEING

When we LOOK we see, but when we SEE it is with more depth, meaning, and intensity, which can turn into passion.  For example: a tree.  When we LOOK at a tree we see a tree.  But when we SEE a tree we see the color, shape, bark, leaves, and limbs.

This is how Jubilee House got started and how it grew to where it is today.

Ten years ago, the church desired to do more outreach to help those in poverty, but it was not sure what, where, or how help was needed.  A committee was formed to LOOK at what was needed in the community to help our fellow brothers and sisters.  The committee found that what the community needed most were showers and free laundry. And so Jubilee House was born–a place where anyone could come and take a shower (as no bathrooms were available for the homeless) and wash their one set of clothing.  The house was open a few hours a week, but as time went on and word spread, more and more people who needed these services came and the house grew in volume.  While all of this was happening we were still just LOOKING, but as we came to know each of our visitors we started SEEING.  SEEING people as people, just like us but for the fact that life had taken them down a different path. And once we started SEEING, we started LISTENING as their life stories unfolded.

We then realized that we needed not to only have showers and laundry for our visitors, but to begin to SEE, LISTEN, and ACCEPT the whole person and not just looking at their outward appearance.  That is when Jubilee House became a complete house that is shared by anyone who passes through its doors and where dignity and respect became not only the LOOK but also the SEE and LISTEN house of LOVE.

Stop in at Jubilee House and LOOK what this house is all about.  You may want to stay to SEE and LISTEN.