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

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As Christians, we are called…

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By The Rev. Carlton Kelley
Interim Rector

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship is not a spectator sport

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Katherine Will
Director of Music and Worship

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

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

Wow!

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

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

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

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

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Centering prayer moves us beyond conversation to communion with Christ

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

By Marilyn Dressel

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

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

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

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

Engaging the Word: 6/18/17 (The Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 6)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7; Palm 116:1, 10-17; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:23. Go to www.lectionarypage.net for the weekly lectionary text.

We are in the season after Pentecost, also known as Ordinary Time, in which we focus on the mission of the church and how to live as faithful disciples day by day, week by week. For the next couple of months, our Old Testament readings will be from the Book of Genesis and our New Testament readings will be from Paul’s Letter to the Romans; we’ll read from Matthew’s gospel until the end of the church year on the last Sunday of November.

In this week’s readings, God keeps his promise to Abraham and Sarah, Paul guides us through how we achieve peace and hope through faith in Christ, and Jesus commissions the twelve disciples to ministry.

Sarah laughing by G. B. Tiepolo, c. 1726. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Sarah laughing by G. B. Tiepolo, c. 1726. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7: The story of Abraham is centered on God’s promises of land and descendants, but so far Abraham’s only son is Ishmael, the child of the slave Hagar, who became a surrogate mother since Sarah was barren. Both Abraham and Sarah are well past childbearing age.

In this week’s reading the Lord appears to Abraham in the appearance of three strangers (angels? the Trinity?) who suddenly arrive near his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham ran from the tent to meet them and showed proper hospitality to the three guests with water to wash their feet and a good meal.

While the guests are eating, one of them announces, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” Sarah was in the tent listening and she laughed at the incredible idea. The guest heard Sarah laugh and he asks, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” He rebuked Sarah for laughing (though she denied it) and reiterated the promise.

The Lord kept his promise and Sarah bore a son. Abraham named the boy Isaac, which means he laughs in Hebrew, and, in keeping with the covenant made between God and Abraham, Abraham circumcised Isaac when he was eight days old. Isaac was the first infant circumcised on the eighth day. Now Sarah laughed with great joy and gratitude for her miracle baby.

Palm 116:1, 10-17: in our psalm this week, the psalmist expresses love, praise, and thanksgiving to the Lord “because he has heard the voice of my supplication.”  In the omitted verses we learn that the psalmist was near death, and God saved his life. To repay the Lord, he will make a drink-offering and “call upon the name of the Lord” in the presence of God’s people. Hallelujah!

St. Paul by José de Ribera, c. 1630. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Paul by José de Ribera, c. 1630. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Romans 5:1-8: Paul had not yet been to Rome when he wrote this letter (c. AD 57), but he was well acquainted with the church. Romans is considered to be Paul’s most ambitious theological work and the Bible’s most systematic and comprehensive interpretation of the Christian message. Paul writes on the grand themes of sin, faith, God’s sovereignty, grace, freedom in Christ, the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and rules for living.

In this week’s reading Paul addresses the question of suffering endured by followers of Jesus. Because we are justified (in right relationship with God) through faith, we can live in God’s grace and peace. And we can even boast in our sufferings, because suffering strengthens us along a continuum—suffering produces endurance, character, and hope because of God’s love though the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Paul adds that it would be rare enough for anyone to die for a righteous person, but God’s boundless love is shown by the fact that Christ sacrificed his life for us while we were still sinners. This is very good news indeed.

Harvest in Provence by Vincent van Gogh, 1888. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Harvest in Provence by Vincent van Gogh, 1888. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Matthew 9:35-10:23: This week’s lectionary is the first of three parts to Matthew’s missionary discourse. In this week’s reading, we see Jesus’ compassion for the people “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  He said the people were like a harvest waiting to be reaped. He says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

He called his twelve disciples to be an extension of his ministry, naming them apostles (meaning sent out) with authority over unclean spirits and the power to cure diseases. So instead of just being followers, they became ambassadors.  They were to “go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and proclaim the good news of the kingdom without expecting any payment, or bring money, extra food or clothing. They were to rely upon the hospitality of those they visited. If the message of God’s peace was not well received, they were to “shake off the dust from your feet” and move on.

Jesus warned them that they will meet with resistance, division, and persecution, “See, I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” They needed to trust in the Spirit and “the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Fast once a month to show solidarity with families facing hunger

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

By The Rev. Carlton Kelley

Rev. Carlton in gardenThe Christian Church, most specifically the catholic and liturgical portions of the church, are churches that embrace discipline for the sake of building up Christ’s Body.  We are made disciples of Jesus Christ by the disciplines we keep.  These disciplines, most especially in the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist, keep us sound and whole, centered and focused on our head Jesus Christ.  Apart from these foundational disciplines there is very little that would make us distinctly Christ’s Body, the church.  There is little that would make us recognizable as a peculiar people who are the vanguard – the foretaste of the kingdom – of Jesus Christ to the world.

Out of these two foundational, disciplining sacraments grow the practices of prayer, study, reading Holy Scripture, good works, and, most neglected of all, fasting.  We recall that Jesus fasted from food from an extended period after his baptism to dwell more deeply in God’s will for his life.  By putting aside the legitimate needs of the body, we are given the ability to focus on what God might have us to do for our good and the good of the church and the world.  Fasting acts as an intensification of our desire.  We deny ourselves in order to give more to a particular concern to which we believe God is calling us.

On May 18, 2017 the Presiding Bishops of the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches issued a joint invitation to our members to pray and fast on the 21st of every month until the end of 2018, the end of the current Congressional session.  The purpose?  To raise our awareness and to cry out to God that hunger ceases and has no place in a land of such abundance.  We remember that everything we have is a gift to be distributed with equality and justice.  The 21st of each month was chosen because this is when many families run out of food.

“We fast to fortify our advocacy in solidarity with families who are struggling with hunger.  We fast to be in solidarity with neighbors who suffer famine, who have been displaced, and who are vulnerable to conflict and climate change.  We fast with immigrants who are trying to make a better future for their families and now face the risk of deportation.  We fast in solidarity with families on SNAP (food stamp program) who often run out of food by the last week of the month.”

This fast is a worthy discipline for the 150th anniversary year of Grace Church, a church that God has richly blessed!  We are blessed to live in an area of amazing beauty and abundance.  Would that more could share in this bounty!  This is a material and spiritual gift we are able to give to generations to come.

If you are unable to fast from food because of medical reasons, spend extra time in prayer and study or give up another activity that is meaningful to you.  Blessings to us all as we fast and pray on the 21st of each month.

 

Engaging the Word: 6/11/17 (The First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

Holy Trinity by Szymon Czechowicz, c. 1757. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Holy Trinity by Szymon Czechowicz, c. 1757. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20. Go to www.lectionarypage.net for the weekly lectionary text. .Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20. Go to www.lectionarypage.net for the weekly lectionary text.

Trinity Sunday is always the First Sunday after Pentecost. It celebrates the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, one God in three Persons: Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. The best advice I’ve heard is to think of this central mystery of our faith as analogous to water—water may be liquid, or solid, as in ice, or gas, as in steam, but it’s all H220. We may experience God as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, but it’s all one and the same God. This week’s lectionary is especially unified around the concept of the Trinity.

God the Architect, Frontpiece of Bible Moralisee, mid-13the cent. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

God the Architect, Frontpiece of Bible Moralisee, mid-13the cent. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a: The Book of Genesis opens with beautiful poetry, the holy drama of God’s creative work. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God (the Holy Spirit in my opinion) swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”

On Day 1 God made light and the separation of day and night.

On Day 2 God made the sky, and the separation of the waters.

On Day 3 God made dry land and vegetation.

On Day 4 God made celestial lights and separated day and night.

On Day 5 God made birds of the air and water creatures.

On Day 6 God made land animals and humankind, male and female.

On Day 7 God rested and blessed the day.

“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good…. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” God says the Word, and life begins. We remember from John’s Gospel that Jesus is the Word of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…. And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” All three persons of the Trinity were present at creation. And each day, God made something new. Still does.

Psalm 8: This week’s psalm is a hymn of praise to God as Creator, and the psalmist is amazed and humbled at the duties and responsibilities God has given to human beings. “What is man that you should be mindful of him? The son of man that you should seek him out? You have made him but a little lower than the angels; you adorn him with glory and honor. You give him mastery over the works of your hands; you put all things under his feet.”

2 Corinthians 13:11-13: Our brief reading this week is the final greeting and benediction of Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. Paul urges the Corinthians to live in peace and unity “and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.” He concludes with a Trinitarian blessing, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

St Ansanus Baptizing by Giovanni di Paolo, 1440s. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St Ansanus Baptizing by Giovanni di Paolo, 1440s. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Matthew 28:16-20: Earlier, on the day of his Resurrection, Christ appeared and told the two Marys to “tell my brothers to go to Galilee, there they will see me.”

In this week’s reading, the disciples are at the mountain in Galilee. When Jesus appears, some worship him and others doubt that it is really him. Jesus declares, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

And in his God-given, all-encompassing authority, Jesus delivers the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

One commentary noted we should recall the prophesy at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’”

And as we have read from Acts during the past few weeks, the disciples took Jesus’ words very seriously. By the end of the first century, Christian communities were found throughout the Roman Empire. Jesus kept and still keeps his promise.