Translate

Monday, September 18, 2017

GOD'S WORD HELPS DEFINE CHRISTIAN LIFE: " Becoming a person that creates Mercy.." The Reverend John Smith

Imagen relacionada

Learning How to Live Debt Free Creating Mercy
Or Doubling Down on the Hell We Live In

          Today we celebrate Solis’ Baptism in Jesus Christ and her membership in Christ’s Church.  Every baptism is a chance for all of us to renew our own commitment to Jesus. 

          In the early days of the Church only adults were baptized.  They had come in contact with a local gathering of Jesus followers and heard the Gospel and decided to follow Jesus for the rest of their lives.  After a period of instruction in the faith, up to three years, they were baptized, usually on Easter Sunday. 

          The early theologians of the church reflected on the necessity of baptism and belonging to the Church for salvation.  The new life in the Holy Spirit was palpable and it didn’t take long for the parents in the community to request baptism for their children.  The episcopoi (overseers, bishops, apostles) agreed to allow the baptism of children if the parents would make a solemn promise to bring up their children in the Christian life.  This would be the greatest responsibility of their lives.  This morning we witnessed Kimberly take these promises for Solis.

          God’s Word we heard this morning helps define what the most important learning of Christian Life is:  Becoming a person that creates Mercy.  We raise our children, like Solis, to know God’s mercy and be able to create mercy toward others.  Let’s reflect on what we heard this morning:

1)    Joseph, so wronged and betrayed by his jealous brothers, thrown in a pit to die and then sold into slavery, shows them complete mercy, and, in their time of trial, gives them everything they need.  They had been so fearful of a harsh judgment by Joseph, but instead all they received was mercy.

2)    St Paul in Romans passes on his understanding of Jesus’ message:  Do not judge others.  If you think other people are in the wrong in your eyes and/or the eyes of God, keep your conviction on this matter to yourself.  Focus on the mercy God has shown you and what Christ has done for you.  This is how you show your true devotion to God:  not in being a (self) righteous judge of others, but instead creating mercy toward others at every turn of life.  It’s when people are recipients of mercy and not judgment that they may repent and change.

3)    Today’s Gospel of the Unforgiving servant underlines all of the above.  The Servant was given total forgiveness by the Master, who forgave all his debt, but when he came across a fellow servant in debt to him who couldn't pay, he had him thrown into debtor’s prison.  Confronted with a perfect opportunity to create mercy and to keep the mercy he had received flowing, he refused.

Heaven on earth is acknowledging the mercy each one of us have received by God and letting that mercy flow consistently to others, especially the ones in debt to us for any harm they have caused.  To do otherwise is to live in Hell:  a world that operates on judgment and insists on the strict repayment of debts.  The servant in the parable was invited into the heaven of God’s mercy, but he chose to go back to a world where debts are strictly kept.  Instead of choosing heaven, he doubled down on the hell he had been living in and suffered the consequences.

     When we talk about raising Solis in the Christian life we’re talking about her learning to create mercy.  Kimberly takes the main responsibility for this, but we share and support her and Solis in this task.  We want to be here for you.  The Church is really a school where we should be learning divine mercy.  Our grade point average is not very good, so we keep coming back to give thanks to God in Holy Eucharist, and we hope you and Solis will keep coming back too!  

Amen!
John+
St. Alban

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.


The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE

Anglican Communion

Sunday, September 10, 2017

KEEPING THE FEAST: "Satan is working to destroy or neutralize community, but fortunately, each person has received the Holy Spirit and can deal with the weakness and sinfulness of each person in the community with unconditional love and forgiveness." John+

Resultado de imagen para Keeping the feast, photo?

Don’t hit the Snooze Button when the Alarm Rings

You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake up from sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.” (Romans 13)

          God’s Word in general, and the Gospel in particular, always come to us as a wake-up call.  Just like when you are still tired and warm and comfortable in bed, it’s easy to just hit the snooze button when the alarm goes off.  My new phone’s alarm allows you to hit the snooze button up to three times!  I guess after the third time it won’t bug you anymore.  The alarm program gives up and you can just go back to sleep.

          God knows we need our sleep, but there’s a time to wake up too.  God has a plan to save the world and those who believe in God have a major part to play.  The first “locus” of God’s action in the world is the local gathering of believers- the church.  The work of God’s salvation, bringing heaven to earth, would be much easier if the church were more “awake” to what God is trying to accomplish.

          Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.  Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:14)

          Why would Paul feel the need to communicate this message to the community of believers in Rome?  Probably because they were “sleepy” and imitating those around them instead of living their faith and loving one another.  They were playing the game of “I’ll change my ways if you change your ways first.”  Individual desires (epithymia) were being put ahead of the community and living a life in the Spirit (pneuma).  A study of the Greek word epithymia (epi=over, thymos=wrath, violent movement of air, water, ground boiling up in smoke, eruption) can make us think of the hurricane we are watching wreak destruction where ever it goes.  As a dangerous storm develops in natural creation, it can also develop in the Christian community and impede the Holy Spirit’s ability to bring peace and salvation to the world.
          In today’s Gospel, Jesus points out that every person in the community must take responsibility for themselves.  Usually, we blame others for what’s wrong (skandalon= something small that trips us up) in the community.  Where we don’t find love, we refuse to put love.  Instead, each person must own their part in what is lacking, realize their own sinfulness, and put love into the community.  St. Augustine said about this, “Where you find no love, put love, and you will find love.” In the Old Covenant, under the Law, a person had to demonstrate repentance before they would receive forgiveness, but in the New Covenant of Jesus, unconditional love and forgiveness is given beforerepentance.  The reason for this is that unconditional love and forgiveness makes the possibility of true repentance real.
          This is a tremendous sea-change.  For Jesus, and his followers, things are different.  Jesus was aware that many of his followers would persist in living under the Old Covenant Law, but he taught that where he was acknowledged and even two or three gathered in his name, he would be in their midst.  Jesus’ presence brings about a “holy communion” where every follower takes responsibility to love their brothers and sisters unconditionally. In the Jesus community, when something is lacking in the community, no member can claim to be blameless and be a victim or scapegoat.  A person of faith is not scandalized by any kind of rivalry, envy, jealousy, resentment, or hatred that shows its ugly head in the community, rather it is to be expected.  Satan is working to destroy or neutralize community, but fortunately, each person has received the Holy Spirit and can deal with the weakness and sinfulness of each person in the community with unconditional love and forgiveness.  This is the way of the “Jesus people” as our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry likes to call us.
          Alleluia, Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us!  Christ is the Passover Lamb of the New Covenant.  We celebrate this Passover, not just once a year, but every Sunday.  The need for change from a sacrificial culture oriented to death, to a culture of unconditional love is crucial for bringing about God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven.”  It begins with us and every community gathered in Jesus’ name.  It’s time to wake up!  Let us keep the feast.  Alleluia!  
Amen!
John+
St. Alban

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.


The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE

Anglican Communion

Sunday, September 3, 2017

REVENGE: “Wrath is something human beings bring about to other human beings, not God." The Reverend John Smith

Core Convictions

          A pastor and theologian I’ve been reading and met this year at a Theology and Peace conference has a place on his website where he lists his “Core Convictions.”  These “convictions” come from his study, reading, and life experience.  He may revise or add to them from time to time I think, but they don’t change very much.  Reading his convictions have made me think about my own convictions of faith based on theological reflection on scripture, prayer, and my own life experience.

          I’m not ready to make a complete listing as my colleague has because mine is still a work in progress.  This week the scripture readings the lectionary gives us made me think of some convictions that will be a part of my “core” list.

          Moses, tending the flock of his Father in Law Jethro near Mount Horeb, is met by an angel of the Lord appearing in a burning bush.  As he approaches the burning bush, God introduces himself to Moses.  God explains to Moses that he has seen the mistreatment of his people at the hands of their Egyptian taskmasters.  God tells Moses that he will go to Pharoah and demand freedom for his people.  Moses feels inadequate to the task but God promises to be with him.  Moses asks God for his name so he can tell the Israelites who sent him and God replies “I Am Who I Am.”  God’s name reveals that God is the active verb to be, the source and ground of all being, and upholder of existence itself.  That’s definitely a fundamental core conviction.

          Another conviction is forming in me from Paul’s words in Romans this Sunday:  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  In this last part of the Letter to the Romans, Paul is trying to give practical advice to the followers of Jesus in Rome.  The love they have for one another is being tested, evil actions are everywhere, and they are being tempted to act like all those around them:  just look out for yourself, number one.  Who among them wants to give until it hurts, to suffer injustice, and watch while others take advantage of you?  It is not easy to live in the Holy Spirit:  loving one another, embracing the lowly and poor, forgiving the ones that hurt you, and trying to live at peace with everyone, believing justice will prevail one day.

          Do not avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath (of God), for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

          We’ve talked about this before.  Are we to “love our enemies” for their own sake, because they too are creatures of God and brothers and sisters, or, are we to “pretend” to love them (for God’s sake) until God can deliver vengeance and wrath upon them?  Sounds like the second approach is being counseled here, evil will be overcome by evil.  God can dish out evil better than any evil doer.  God’s on our side.  Isn’t this a contradiction?

          The “vengeance” quote above comes from Deuteronomy 32:35.  People then thought that God (or the gods) would work revenge upon all evildoers.  But Jesus demonstrated a different understanding:  “Wrath” is something human beings bring about to other human beings, not God. (Remember a while back, we had a similar text from Romans 5 and I pointed out that “of God’ was not even in the original Greek.)          When we talk about “wrath,” we’re talking about self-inflicted harm not God-inflicted punishment.  If sinful human beings bring wrath to others, God will allow them the consequences of their self-destructive behaviors.  Dante in the Inferno put it this way:  There is no one in hell who hasn’t chosen to be there.  Jesus taught that God is Love and there is no violence in God (and hopefully, in his followers) even in the struggle to bring about justice.  Anything to the contrary plays into the hand of Satan who is always working to spread the contagion of evil.

          In today’s Gospel, Peter gets the brunt of Jesus’ corrective to the popular view of a punishing God who would never be a victim.  Last week Peter got it right:  Jesus is Lord and God and not Caesar.  But this week, when Jesus begins to reveal that he must suffer and be put to death, Peter, out of his “love” for Jesus, rebukes him.  Peter, who doesn’t want Jesus to be a victim and give his life for the world, becomes an instrument of Satan.  Peter wants Jesus to ride roughshod over the Romans and take control, but this amounts to making Jesus do Peter’s will imitate him and not vice versa.  Peter is resisting the teaching of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount about loving enemies and turning the other cheek, acceding to even the outrageous demands of others.  Why???  A three letter word in the Greek text says it all:  dei delta epsilon iota, “It is necessary.”

          It was “necessary” for Jesus to die on the Cross and for us to daily take up our cross (following Jesus) for God to lead us and our fellow human beings away from violence and wrath to reconciliation and true, lasting peace.  We, like Peter, have a long way to go, but we will get there, like he did, with the Holy Spirit’s help. This is one of my core convictions.

Amen!
John+
St. Alban

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.


The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE

Anglican Communion

Saturday, September 2, 2017

PLEASE HELP TEXAS RECOVERY: Episcopal Relief and Development for Hurricane Harvey (linked here), The Reverend John Smith

The Reverend John Smith, Vicar
St. Alban Mission, Antigua, Sacatepequez
Guatemala



Dear Friends

I hope this finds you all well! Our Texas friends who reported in are well, but experienced very
heavy rains and associated trials. As you know there was catastrophic flooding and displaced so many
and destroyed homes. The main need helping organizations have is money to buy what is needed
locally. Many of you have donated already to your favorite organization. Terri and I have sent money
to Episcopal Relief and Development marked for Hurricane Harvey in the name of St. Alban Episcopal
Mission, Antigua. We'll be taking a special collection on coming Sundays to send to ERD.


Click on link: 


The need will be on-going.

John+
St. Alban

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.


The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE

Anglican Communion

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Peter’s confession: You are the Messiah. You are Lord. You are Son of God. You are the ultimate authority in life....


Thermometers and Thermostats

          I shared with you about my mailman dad receiving a really cool New Testament as a gift and giving it to me when I was fifteen.  I started to read the bible for the first time, loved it, and highlighted several verses, including the one today:

          I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

          After highlighting the verse, I placed a big asterisk next to the words living sacrifice and wrote in the margin “not a dead burnt offering!”  I’m sure I didn’t realize the full meaning of the verse, but I did take away from it a notion that in following Jesus we needed to be lively.  The practice of our faith needed to be real and alive in us.

          The whole idea of a living sacrifice is an oxymoron.  Things sacrificed are dead, not alive.  So to be a living sacrifice must mean to be fully alive while being sacrificed.  A young theologian-to-be, Gil Bailie, asked Howard Thurman, a black theologian and civil rights leader (rip 1981), two questions:  “What am I going to do with my life?  What does the world need?”  Thurman responded:  “Those are the wrong questions.  The question is “What makes you come alive?  Do that.  The world needs people who come alive.”

          Sadly, many Christians still have to learn how to come alive in their faith.  In Paul’s words they live in the “old Aeon” of sacrificial culture which required death of some to bring peace and reconciliation for the many.  They don’t realize that Jesus ushered in a whole “new Aeon” with his sacrifice on the Cross.  His was the living sacrifice to bring about real reconciliation without the need for sacrificing people or scapegoating to bring about peace.

          Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.

          The main purpose of the church is to be a laboratory of how to live in the new Aeon that Christ inaugurated.  Martin Luther King, Jr. once lamented “Christians are the thermometers of the majority opinion of those around them, rather than be thermostats that transform society and regulate its temperature.”  Thermometers take temperatures, thermostats change temperatures. Many can point out what is lacking or wrong in the present situation, thinking they are doing “God’s will.” But Christians know they are called to encourage others and make the context of their lives better.

          A good example is today’s Gospel.  Jesus goes to the regional headquarters of the Roman Empire, Caesarea Philippi, for a reason.  It is there that Caesar was acknowledged as “Lord” and “Son of God” with complete authority to regulate everyone’s life.  This was the best place, short of Rome itself, for Jesus to ask his disciples “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  They give the popular opinions, but Simon speaks up, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus acknowledges Peter’s statement as inspired by his Father and proclaims Simon “the Rock,” petras,Peter, upon whom he will build his church and the “gates of Hades,” meaning death, will not prevail against it.  Now, the Romans were the ones who wielded the power of death, but Jesus was talking in even broader terms:  his church will have ultimate power to free from death, not the Romans.  The Romans “bound” people, but Peter and the Church have the keys to loose, liberate, and forgive.  Jesus’ messiah-ship was not merely a counter force against Roman power, but was completely over it and all the powers of this world!

           Protestants and Catholics have argued about Peter’s role and what Jesus meant (being great thermometers!) for centuries, instead of focusing on Peter’s confession:  You are the Messiah.  You are Lord.  You are Son of God.  You are the ultimate authority in life.  Not Caesar.  You have come to transform, change, and bring a new flavor the world.  You are the Messiah who frees the world from its sacrificial culture of death and opens it to new Life.

          In 1974 I was with a group of young theologians at Caesarea Philippi and celebrated the Eucharist there on the sight of Peter’s confession. I believe the nourishment of the Holy Eucharist we celebrate today, will help transform us from being thermometers to thermostats that change our environment for the better!  We are alive in Christ!  Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!  

Amen!
John+

St. Alban

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.


The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE

Anglican Communion