Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Grace and peace be with you these Lenten days…
I was encouraged by several people to share some of the resources in my Lenten Wilderness Backpack that I referred to in my homily on this First Sunday in Lent.
The first resource is the Bible. I encourage you to read the Gospel of Luke or pick up a Forward Day By Day which has scripture references for each day as part of your daily prayer and reflection.
The second resource is The Book of Common Prayer, 1979. I read part of the Bidding Prayer from the Service of Ash Wednesday which begins on page 265. I also suggested that it might be helpful to pray through the Litany of Penitence which begins on page 267 and focus on one or more of the petitions.
There are several resources that I have used over the last few years. One that fun and educational is Lenten Madness 2016. It is an opportunity to learn about the Holy Women and Holy Men who have gone before us then vote for your favorite along with many other folks across the country and planet. The bracket gets narrowed down to Elate Eight, then to the Faithful Four. You can find out more about Lenten Madness 2016 at this URL address http://www.lentmadness.org/category/lent-madness-2016/ and I hope enjoy it.
Another resource that I begin my day with during Lent is a spiritual exercise prepared by the Society of St. John the Evangelist called Growing a Rule of Life which includes a daily video and reflection question and a workbook that you can download. You can sign up for this program at this URL address http://www.ssje.org/ and join many others engaged in this spiritual practice.
Another initiative sponsored by the Forward Movement is a program designed by the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops entitled Repairing the Breach: Discipleship & Mission in a Global Economy. There are daily meditations by various authors which you can subscribe to at http://repairingthebreach.forwardmovement.org/ and I encourage you to share your reflections with all of us.
Lastly, it has become our custom at St. Luke’s to identify a Lenten Project, locally, nationally or globally that we encourage those who wish to participate in as part of the giving of alms. This year’s theme is Creation Care and our Lenten Project is in collaboration with Quarry Hill Nature Center. If it is part of your Lenten Practice to set aside a financial contribution, you can support Scholarships for Summer Camp or help fund books for their Children’s Library or make a gift to support Youth Programming at Quarry Hill. Brochures are available on the table in the Church Entryway and on our website at this address https://stlukesepiscopal.org/outreach/nationalglobal-outreach-opportunities/lenten-outreach-project/ under Outreach.
Serving as Rector / Pastor
Advent marks the beginning of the Church year. It is a season within which we contemplate the Commonwealth of Christ as we await his return at the end of time. It is also a season in which we remember God “taking on human flesh” and dwelling among us which Christians call the Nativity or Birth of Jesus. There are four Sundays, which mark the Advent Season. Each Sunday, the scriptures call us to focus on important themes and people. The church also calls us to wait, in joyful hope! In contrast to the hurriedness and commercialism of the “X-mas” Season, which begins in November and culminates on Christmas Day, as Christians, we are called to hallow time in a different rhythm. For Episcopal Christians, Advent ends on Christmas. Christmas is a season of 12 days which ends on the 6th of January, the Feast of the Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Three Magi.
Advent is a preparatory season. It is an opportunity for us to contemplate and remember. It is a time to ready ourselves as we celebrate the Birth of Jesus, the Christ, which we call the Feast and Season of Christmas. For some years, the church gave a rather penitential focus to Advent. However, with the revision of the Liturgy, Advent has become more a season of hope and expectation rather than just penitence.
The color for the season is deep blue, for hope, expectation and repentance. The Advent Wreath has become an important symbol used throughout the Season.
During the Season of Advent, we will focus on THE ADVENT CONSPIRACY: WORSHIP FULLY…SPEND LESS…GIVE MORE…LOVE ALL!
The Advent Wreath
The origins of the Advent wreath are to be found in the customs of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples who during the cold December darkness of Eastern Europe gathered wreaths of evergreen and lit fires as signs of hope in a coming spring and renewed light.
Early Christians continued these customs, and by the 16th century Catholics and Protestants alike used these symbols to celebrate their Advent hope in Christ, the everlasting Light. The custom gradually spread to other parts of the Christian world.
The liturgical color of deep blue symbolizes hope, expectation and repentance, and so the candles of the Advent wreath are blue. The Third Sunday in Advent is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete Sunday, or “Rejoicing Sunday” is the Advent equivalent of the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Laetare Sunday, when the introit is based on Isaiah 66:10, “Rejoice with Jerusalem”.
The white candle in the center of the wreath is the Christ candle, and is lit on Christmas.
The circle of greenery in the Advent wreath is also highly symbolic: the circle representing eternity (as in wedding rings), and the greenery symbolizing new life and our ever-growing and ever living faith.
We will begin the Service each Sunday with an Opening Acclamation taken from the Hebrew Scriptures focused on the “O” Antiphons which includes the lighting of the candle or candles on the Advent Wreath. The service continues then with saying or singing the Trisagion, an ancient text which affirms the divinity of God. As a way of focusing on the Scripture of the Day, the presider will offer a Scripture Sentence of the Day which is followed by the Collect of the Day. We are then seated for the Readings from Scripture. During Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, we will use an Affirmation of Faith based on the Athanasian Creed.
During the Liturgy of the Table, we will use Eucharistic Prayer B from the Book of Common Prayer 1979 and the Post Communion Prayer is found on Page 365 in the Book of Common Prayer…reminding us that we are living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ!
The Gospel texts for this year of the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C) are taken from the Gospel of Luke. Advent 1 is from Luke 21:25-36 – encouraging us to STAY ALERT because you don’t know what day the Lord is coming; Advent 2 is from Luke 3:1-6– which describes the context of the Prophetic Ministry of John, proclaiming a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; Advent 3 is from Luke 3:7-18 – verses where Jesus affirms the ministry of John the Baptist in his ministry of preparing the way for the Messiah; Advent 4 is from Luke 1:39-55 – Mary visiting her cousin, Elizabeth who is with child and they both rejoice in God’s favor and grace!
The sources for the words used this season are many. Most come from the Book of Common Prayer 1979 and one of its supplements, Enriching Our Worship 1 (1997) and the Church of England’s book Common Worship (2000).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
May the grace and peace of God’s Word, made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, be with you!
I am always amazed at how the season of Christmas, more than any other liturgical season in the Church year, has produced such memorable hymnody and carols, from the ancient and medieval texts to modern and contemporary texts. Each carol speaks of the mystery we celebrate. God loves the world so much and desires to redeem us that he sent his own Son, Jesus, born of our sister, Mary and parented as well by our brother, Joseph.
Each year, at this time, I try to focus my prayer and reflection on one carol or hymn. I’d like to share these words of the carol I’m centering on this Advent and Christmas. It was written by Chris Rice in 1995, entitled Welcome to Our World.
Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You’ve been promised, we’ve been waiting
Welcome Holy Child.
Hope that you don’t mind our manger,
How I wish we would have known,
But long awaited Holy Stranger,
Make yourself at home,
Bring your peace into our violence,
Bid our hungry souls be filled,
Word now breaking Heaven’s silence,
Welcome to our world.
Fragile finger sent to heal us,
Tender brow prepared for thorn,
Tiny heart whose blood will save us,
Unto us is born.
So wrap our injured flesh around you,
Breathe our air and walk our sod,
Rob our sin and make us holy,
Perfect Son of God.
The text of this carol focuses our attention on mystery of God becoming one of us, coming into the midst of our fears and hopes, into our violence and darkness with the promise and power of peace and forgiveness, the Holy Stranger, wrapped in our injured flesh…Welcome to our world! I encourage you to choose a hymn to focus on during these last days of Advent as we prepare for Christmas. Begin and end your day by singing or praying it. I have found that it helps me to center in on some key images and ideas in preparing for Christmas.
Our Christmas Season Service schedule is:
Christmas Eve 5 p.m. Children’s Pageant with Holy Eucharist
10 p.m. Service of Carols
10:30 p.m. Christmas Choral Eucharist
Christmas Day 9 a.m. Christmas Eucharist
You will find envelopes for Memorial Flowers or Music on the table in the Church entryway. If you would like to give an offering in memory or thanksgiving, please fill out the envelope and place in the Offering Basin or mail it back to the Parish Office no later than Sunday, 21 December.
Be assured of my continuing prayer and gratitude for the privilege of ministering among you. May Christ, whose coming we await, find a place of welcome in you this Christmas!
“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24 CEB
This text from the prophet Amos was one of three scripture readings that we reflected on in November. God told the covenant people that God was tired of sacrifices and burnt offerings, of the noise of song and the melody of harps. Instead, what God wants is for the covenant people to live justly and righteously. Some scripture scholars suggest that Amos’ words are similar to the prophet Micah’s words…”He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: to do justice, embrace faithful love and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
Our nation has been reminded recently of how much all of us long for and desire justice. We are keenly aware of the events in Ferguson, in Staten Island and in Cleveland. Arguably, we live in a nation which is the beacon of hope and justice for others around the globe yet it seems that doing justice is a difficult enterprise. We live in a world and in a nation plagued with violence, violence visited upon those with weapons and on those without weapons, on those who would seek to harm us and upon those who, in some instances, have been singled out because of their race or ethnicity. The opening verses of John Mayer’s song “Waiting on the World to Change” express both hope and frustration…
Me and all my friends
We’re all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing
And there’s no way we ever could
Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it
So we keep waiting (Waiting), waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting (Waiting), waiting on the world to change
It’s hard to beat the system
When we’re standing at a distance
So we keep waiting (Waiting), waiting on the world to change
Justice is done…it occurs when people act…the scripture texts suggest that it is achieved when people seek to live at peace with one another. A phrase in the Baptismal Covenant reminds us that justice and peace require our best efforts…”will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” I WILL, WITH GOD’S HELP…is our response!
Advent is a time when we are reminded that God has a vision for the way we, God’s covenant people, are called to live. God’s commonwealth of justice and peace is possible if we are open to the healing and saving grace of the Holy Spirit. I invite you to consider what actions you might take to do justice in your daily places. I invite us as a Faith community to consider what actions we might take to do justice in our neighborhood. To this end, would you incorporate this prayer into your daily prayer: Keep your Church, alert, Holy Spirit, ready to hear when you are calling, and when you challenge us. Keep us hopeful, Holy Spirit, knowing that Christ will come again…
In Advent’s hopeful blessing…waiting…waiting for the world to change!
Serving as Rector / Pastor
We have passed the halfway mark in the Season of Easter! On Thursday, 29 May, we will celebrate the Fortieth Day in the Easter Season…the Day of the Ascension…when the Risen Christ ascended into heaven…and promised to send Another…the Holy Spirit…the Comforter…the Paraclete…to gift those Believers…those Disciples of the Risen Christ…with gifts for Mission!
On Sunday, 8 June, we will celebrate the Fiftieth Day in the Easter Season…the Day of Pentecost…when the Holy Spirit descended upon those believers and gifted them for God’s Mission!
Over the next few weeks, you will be invited to consider offering your gifts…in reading, in singing, in teaching…in visiting…and in so many other ways…which enrich our ability as a Faith Community to participate in God’s Mission of Renewal, Reconciliation and Restoration!
On the table in the Church Entry way, there are YELLOW MINISTRY OPPORTUNITY Sheets that you are invited to complete. The Ushers and Greeters will be distributing them as well. A PDF of the MINISTRY OPPORTUNITY Sheet can be found at the bottom of this Blog Post. Please take the time to consider how you might offer your gifts within and beyond our Faith Community! You are invited to place your completed sheet in the Offering Basin or drop it by the Parish Office.
We are richly gifted…and blest!
Thank you for offering your gifts!
“At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home. By your will they were created and have their being.” From The Book of Common Prayer, 1979 © The Episcopal Church, page 370.
The phrase comes from Eucharistic Prayer C…and it is one of my favorite phrases because it articulates is a few words, our call to be Stewards of God’s creation.
We have just celebrated Earth Day and are privileged to have Mr. Ed Cohen coming this Sunday, 27 April, at 9 a.m. to make a presentation during the Sunday Forum entitled “Why Christians should care about Climate Change.” I invite you to come for the presentation and discussion. The Episcopal Church along, with people of faith and all people of goodwill, who care for the earth, have a long tradition of calling humankind to earth care and stewardship. During these next few weeks in worship and during the forum, I would like to focus our attention to the various concerns we face at present regarding care for the earth.
There are a number of wonderful resources online that I have included in this blog for your review.
The Episcopal Ecological Network is a wonderful resource which includes a listing of all the actions taken by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
Earth Ministry is a collaboration of ecumenical and interfaith partners committed to the earth care.
The General Convention in 2012 adopted a number of Liturgical Resources Honoring God in Creation and Various Rites and Prayers for Animals. They are posted below.
Please make every effort to come for the forums these next few weeks as we consider our responsibility to care for this fragile, our island home!
Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday
“Who is this?” (Matthew 21:10) “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me, like a thief?” (Matthew 26:55) “By the living God, I demand that you tell us whether you are the Christ, God’s Son.” (Matthew 26:63) “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Matthew 27:11) “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:22) “This was certainly God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:54)
I invited those gathered for worship on the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday to take the Service Bulletin home and read over the Passion Narrative from Matthew’s Gospel as a way to give focus to Holy Week. Yesterday was filled with so many words. These few texts address the question posed as Jesus entered Jerusalem…Who is this?
Maundy Thursday…why would we, as Disciples of Jesus, the crucified and risen Christ…be asked to wash each other’s feet?
In the Episcopal Church…foot washing is an innovation of the Book of Common Prayer 1979 as a consequence of the Liturgical Movement among the Ecumenical Christians…committed to reclaiming the fundamentals of Holy Week…those primary symbols that reminds us of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ…bread, wine, oil, basin and towel, fire and water…the Three Days…Maundy Thursday…Good Friday…Easter Day!
When is the last time you had your feet washed? When is the last time you washed someone’s feet? I must admit…I’ve come to an insight about the value and gift of caring for your feet. I wear sandals a good bit of the year…and a consequence of the hot and dry summer is that my feet take a beating…dried out…calloused…cracked skin…this also happens during the real dry time in winter…washing and putting lotion or salve or ointment on my feet…is so soothing and healing but I need to attend to my feet regularly so that they stay healthy. Can you imagine wearing sandals year round…walking every day through the streets and alley ways with all manner of waste…animal and human…collecting on your feet? In Bible times, when you were invited to someone’s house for a meal…you were greeted in the entryway with basins and water to wash your own feet or a house slave or servant would attend to washing the filth from your feet as you prepared to dine.
There has been a suggestion that Foot Washing is an empty symbol…not valued among us as it may have been in earlier. I have been reluctant to set this practice aside because I believe it is a rich symbol…a reminder of the call to humble service laid on us by Jesus in John 13…”If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: just as I have done, you also must do.” (CEB)
The core of the Good Friday Liturgy, at 12:00 noon and at 7 p.m., is the Proclamation of the Word of God with its reading of the Passion according to St John and its ancient form of the Prayers of the People. To this, other elements have been added: such as the Proclamation of the Cross and in some places, Communion from the Reserved Sacrament. The apparent austerity of the rite derives not from the character of Good Friday, but from the fact that as a “solemn season” it faithfully preserves the original simplicity of the early rite.
The Word of God is proclaimed with a Hebrew Scripture, Gradual Psalm, a lesson from a letter to the Hebrews and the Proclamation of the Passion of St John in parts. You may be seated during the first part of the Passion and then stand as directed. Being faithful to the Liturgy’s original simplicity and contemplating this great mystery, silence is our most appropriate response to God’s Word. The Solemn Biddings and Collects are the most ancient form of the Prayers of the People. They are a trialogue, in which a deacon or lay reader bids the people to silent prayer, the people pray, and the priest concludes the silent prayer with a collect.
The Proclamation of the Cross dates from the fourth Century. At this time the drape which has covered the wooden cross throughout the Season of Lent is removed so that we might focus our attention, thoughts and prayers on the victory of the Cross.
The service then continues with the Lord’s Prayer and a final prayer. After the final prayer, all depart in silence.
Some folks gather for the Great Vigil of Easter which includes the blessing of the new fire and lighting the Easter Candle; the reading of Vigil Lessons; Holy Baptism or the renewal of Baptismal Vows concluding with the Holy Communion.
At St. Luke’s on Holy Saturday at 5 p.m., we are introducing a service called Keeping Vigil, a time of informal worship and conversation and refreshments. Keeping Vigil is an opportunity for those who wish, to bring some food and drink to share, reflect on the Gospel texts from Lent 2 (John 3: 1-17 – Jesus and Nicodemus); Lent 3 ( John 4:5-42 – Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the well); Lent 4 (John 9:1-41 – Jesus and the healing of the Man born blind) Lent 5 (John 11:1-45 – Jesus and the raising of Lazarus from the dead); and Good Friday (John 18:1-19:42) and consider what it means for you this year to renew the vows and promises you made at Baptism. I encourage you to read over the texts and consider these questions. What person or persons do you most connect with in the Gospel stories we’ve read during Lent and on Good Friday and why? What has changed about your life and Faith Journey since last Easter? What hope do you bring with you this Easter? You can find Questions for our Baptismal Conversation here.
I look forward to seeing you at worship during Holy Week!