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Saturday, March 26, 2016

GOOD FRIDAY HOMILY: "Today, as we remember Jesus' death on the Cross, we think of his great example in showing us that it is possible to love one another, even our enemies! John+



Dear Friends:
Image result for Black out, photo?
Greetings!  For Terri and I, this Lent and Holy Week has been extraordinary in so many ways:  the beauty of the carpets and processions, the dedication of so many people in planning and participation, and the crowds of people.  What a preparation for Easter!  I look forward to celebrating Easter with you tomorrow at 10am in the Convento.

This afternoon, Justin and his students will walk the Stations from San Francisco to El Calvario, gathering at 3:15pm.  Terri and I will join them.  Any others from the St. Alban community who would like to participate can meet the group at San Francisco at the above time.  We'll be joining thousands of people walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem and churches throughout the world during Lent and especially during Holy Week.

God Bless everyone!  John+  and Terri too!

Yesterday I preached the following Good Friday sermon at the Episcopal parish of Santiago de Jerusalen in Chimaltenango.  Here is the English version:


Good Friday Sermon, Chimaltenango

"I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly."  As we gather at the Cross today we remember that Jesus gave his life for the life of the world.  When we say these things, we can ask ourselves what is the "life" Jesus is talking about?  Is it the "good life" that money can buy?  Is Jesus speaking about living a "long life" that lasts many years?  I don't think so.  Most people just have enough money to live on day by day, and we all know many people die before they are old.  What is the life that Jesus wants to give us abundantly?  It is a life where all people live as brothers and sisters, children of Our Father in heaven.

No other religion in the whole world understands God as a Father, Creator of one human family.  Jesus taught us to pray to God as Our Father.  Did Jesus mean that God was Father of only Christians?  I don't think so.  I think Jesus wanted all people to remember that whatever race, faith, or place they come from, all people are sisters and brothers in the human family.  This is very important, because if we acknowledge that God is our Father, then we will live in this world and think about this world differently.  This means that we would never want to hurt other people because they truly are our brothers and sisters, whether near or thousands of miles away, Our Father is their Father too.

So as we witness Jesus die on the Cross to give us Life abundantly, forgiving those who put Him on that Cross, we can understand how much he hoped we would live in love for one another, free from jealousy, greed, and violence, even from those who hurt us.
  
Jesus, the Son who revealed the Father, is the very best person to teach us this.  Jesus suffered the violence of the crowd, really including all of us, who, at one time or another have joined with others to call for the death of some unfortunate person.  Rather than seeing others as our sisters and brothers and showing them mercy and forgiveness, we have sometimes considered them our enemies and been happy when others joined with us in condemning them.  We forget that Jesus taught us to love our enemies.

We must be clear on this:  Because we are God's children, God loves us even when we have been disobedient or unloving to one another.  Jesus looks down on us and says "Forgive them for they know not what they do."  God is Love.  God, his Father, didn't send Jesus to die for us to make us lovable to God.  We, and everyone else, have been loved by God from the first moment of our existence.  God loves us just like any mother or father loves their children even when they make mistakes or are unloving to others.  All people in this world, brought into being by God, are works in progress.  Parents love their children until they change for the better, and even if they don't.

Today, as we remember Jesus' death on the Cross, we  think of his great example in showing us that it is possible to love one another, even our enemies.  Because of his example, and the Holy Spirit's help, we can show mercy to others who hurt us and  live in peace wih everyone.  This is the life that Jesus gives to the world today.

The world, all of us, still have a long way to go to fully receive this "New Life" that Jesus brings us.  But his Life is slowly taking root in the world.  Each time we receive Holy Communion Jesus nourishes this Life within us.  Every time we hear the Gospel of Jesus preached and Jesus' teaching explained, the Life is strengthened in each one of us to be shared in our daily lives.

Jesus died on the cross that we might live a new Life here and now.  Heaven begins, not when we die, but when we allow God's will to be done here on earth as it is in Heaven.  Don't wait. Live this life of mercy now.  The Holy Spirit will help us!  

Amen! 
John+ 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

MAUNDY THURSDAY and HOLY WEEK FINAL SERVICE SCHEDULE (for St. Alban, Antigua)

Maundy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


John 13:1-5
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Thanks to Padre Mickey, sidebar or HERE: 
http://padremickey.blogspot.com/2016/03/maundy-thursday.html
HOLY WEEK SERVICE SCHEDULE
The Reverend John Smith, Vicar, St. Alban Mission/Antigua

Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday
Dear Friends
Greetings in the Lord! Fr. Fernando, the pastor of Merced, has invited our community to take part in their Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday) celebration at 5pm. Terri and I will be waiting at the Cross in the courtyard of the church around 4:30pm for those in the St. Alban Community who would like to join us. We should be able to find a place where we can all sit together. 

*Please join us! Once again, Maundy Thursday, 4:30pm at the Cross in front of the entrance to the Merced church.
*Good Friday, Terri and I will be going to Chimaltenango and the Episcopal Church there where I will be preaching at 9am.
*Holy Saturday we'll be walking the Stations of the Cross with Justin's students.
*Easter Sunday, we'll have our service at 10am as usual. Look forward to seeing you there!
Peace and Love, 
John+ and Terri too!

   

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) 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 

(everyone means everyone)


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

COMING ATTRACTION - APRIL 22nd: Saint Andrew's/Tampa Choir Concert at La Merced Church, Antigua (mark your calendar)

Saint Andrew´s Choir, Tampa, Florida
Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida, TEC

YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO ATTEND

The Episcopal Mission of St. Alban, Antigua and  La Merced Church and Orquestina invite you to
join us for an early evening
concert featuring the St. Andrew's Choir from the Episcopal Church diocese of Southwest Florida, Tampa


Friday, April 22nd

6:00 P.M.

La Merced Church

Antigua, Guatemala

 * Gratis *

Monday, March 21, 2016

PALM SUNDAY - DO NOTHING FROM SELFISH AMBITION OR CONCEIT: "Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." Philippians

The Crowd - Palm Sunday - 2016 - Anitigua, Guatemala
The largest crowds that I have been a part of in recent memory have been the Lenten processions on the past few weekends.  They have been orderly, respectful, and pious gatherings of thousands of people.  On the approach of the floats of Jesus and his mother, with clouds of incense engulfing them, proceeded by spear-carrying Roman soldiers, men took off their hats, made the Sign of the Cross, many with tears forming in their eyes.  This was not a sporting event crowd or a partisan political crowd as we see most often these days, not a crowd trying to find someone to blame for anything, but a crowd that sensed that they, and truly everyone on the planet, are in need of Jesus' mercy and forgiveness. 

As we gather on this Palm Sunday, with its two part liturgy of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem and his arraignment, conviction by the crowd, and Roman crucifixion, the question for me is how do you get from the "Hosannas" of Palm Sunday to the shouts of "Crucify him" of Good Friday?  The crowds in both cases were practically made up of the same people.  It wasn't like having a rally for one political party on Palm Sunday and another political party on Good Friday.  The crowd clamored with excitement and hope as Jesus entered Jerusalem on that donkey and just a few days later shouted their disappointment and disgust.

It's what we have been talking about in Lenten sermons recently:  crowds unite against common rivals and scapegoat certain individuals in order to find a modicum of peace for themselves.  Human beings unite against common enemies ie. Herod and Pilate became friends on that day.

Jesus Christ, by freely embracing the role of the Victim, freed the world from this need for constant rivalry which benefits the powerful few and robs many of their freedom, livelihood, and their very lives.  Jesus saves us from a culture focused on death and fear to a culture of mutual service (think:  foot-washing) and abundant Life.

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a humble donkey greeted by peaceful, hopeful crowds waving palm branches, but on the other side of town, Herod rides in on a war horse, surrounded by soldiers with spears, intimidating fear and the threat of violence.  The watching crowds catch the contagion and get caught up in the spirit of the moment, imitating each other, unaware really, of what is driving them to good or ill.

This is why, in what ever crowd we find ourselves, it's important to keep our main focus on Jesus.  This is what St. Paul was getting at, in a very confusing, polarizing, and pluralistic setting:

Have that same mind in you, that was in Christ Jesus.

Jesus, equal to his Father in every way, was never caught up in rivalry with his Father, but emptied himself of every perogative he had to leave us a supreme example of rival-less Love, even asking forgiveness for the crowd that called for his death.

I'll conclude here with two verses (Phil. 2:3,4) that come directly before verse 5 in our Philippians reading:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Have the same mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.

I invite you to join me in meditating on these words of St. Paul as we begin Holy Week.  They will help us experience the Good News and the joy of Easter just one week from today!

 Amen!
John+
   

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) 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 

(everyone means everyone)

Friday, March 18, 2016

THE DAILY OFFICE: Morning and Evening Prayer in the Anglican tradition according to the Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church, (English and Spanish)

Acolytes.StBrigit'sFrederickCO

Thursday, March 17, 2016

THE ANGLICAN JOURNAL IN LENT: Angels among us? Encounters? Many say yes!

Angels attract Anglican devotees, skeptics

By Tali Folkins on March 16, 2016



Therapeutic musician Hannah Roberts Brockow believes angels often appear to patients as they approach death.Photo: Contributed
(First of two parts) 
Hannah Roberts Brockow is a therapeutic musician. She regularly visits two palliative care wards in her adopted hometown of Montreal—one for adults and one for children—to play her instrument, a harp, to the patients there. The music, she says, helps relieve people’s anxiety and ease their pain in their final days.
Seeing her carrying her harp, she says, bystanders in the hospital will sometimes joke about angels. But Brockow doesn’t doubt the ward is visited by them. She believes that angels will often appear to patients as they approach death, to help them make sense of their lives, know that they are loved and ease the “transition” they are about to experience.
“In most cases, if not in all, although sometimes people aren’t verbal, they’re going to talk about seeing religious figures, often angels, and often family members. This is common knowledge to the nurses and doctors.
“When people have these encounters, the change is dramatic in the way that they are perceiving what is happening to them,” Brockow says. “This is the point at which patients might say, ‘I realize that I had a really great life, because it was full of love.’ Or, ‘I realize that the kind acts that people have done for me, or that I’ve done for them, are what matter the most for me or my life.’ ”
Sometimes these encounters happen in her presence, she says. “I had a woman who was looking past me to a corner of the room, and she said, ‘I just want you to know that Jesus is here, and there are four angels with him, and they love listening to you play.’ ”
Although she herself has never actually seen an angel, Brockow says, they are a huge part of her spiritual life. She sees herself, she says with a laugh, as the “angel lady” in her church, St. John the Evangelist; she has spent years researching angels, and has chaplets—prayer beads—to Michael, Raphael, Uriel and Gabriel, which she uses in worship.
“I like to ask them to help me to pray,” she says. “I like to ask them to help me do the work that I do in palliative care and to show me the ways in which I can be a better person.
“I’ve had people ask me before, ‘Why would you not just pray to Jesus?’ And I say to them, ‘Well, I think Jesus is very happy for me to ask the angels for help, because the angels know Jesus very intimately’...We all love Christ together.”
How exactly does it help to invoke the angels in prayer? “It’s difficult to put into words,” Brockow says. “It’s something I feel inside, but it feels like I’m surrounded by love when I sit down and pray.”
Not everyone, of course, believes in angels, but Brockow is in the majority in Canada. An Angus Reid poll on faith, released in March 2015, suggested that 62% of Canadians believe in angels. Belief in angels has remained quite constant over the last few decades; it sat at 61% of Canadians in 1985 and 63% in 2000, the poll noted.
A certain amount of today’s interest in angels appears to be coming from outside of religion. In a Maclean’s magazine article on the poll, Reid commented, “I’m not convinced what we’re seeing there is a fervent religious belief in the existence of angels...I don’t think it’s religiously rooted as much as it’s rooted in pop culture.” Indeed, a 2014 survey of Americans performed by Baylor University in Texas found that roughly three in 10 of respondents who said they had no religion also said they believed angels either “probably” or “absolutely” exist.
One possible explanation for their current popularity is the flexibility of angels to fit into all kinds of spiritual traditions, says Joseph Baker, a professor of sociology at East Tennessee State University and co-author of a recent study on angelic belief in the U.S. Some may see them as light that appears at the foot of their beds; others may simply consider as angels other human beings in whom God is believed to be at work.
A certain amount of angelic belief today, he says, also seems likely traceable to the New Age movement.
What do most Anglicans believe? It’s not entirely clear.
“I think you’re certainly going to get a wide range of opinions in Anglicanism—that’s par for the course for anything Anglican, I guess!” says the Rev. Christopher Snow, who served 11 years as rector at St. Michael and All Angels in St. John’s, Nfld., before his current role as rector of Grace Anglican Church in Milton, Ont.
On the one hand, he says, “Protestants have trouble with intermediaries” between humans and God. At the same time, Snow notes, angels play a prominent role, not only in the Bible but in much Anglican liturgy. “Every Sunday, Anglicans gather at the Eucharist and we sing the angelic chorus—you know, the Sanctus—“Holy, holy, holy”? Snow says. “We join with the angels and archangels as part of our eucharistic prayers.”
Some Anglicans are probably “a bit skeptical,” Snow says, especially concerning angels as having any kind of physical reality—which, he adds, however, actually isn’t an essential aspect of belief in them.
In response to an Anglican Journal Facebook post soliciting readers’ opinions on angels, one skeptic responded in two words: “Magical thinking.”
Others seem less decided. Teresa Looy, a 24-year-old Anglican now working toward a master’s degree at the University of Manitoba, says that for most of her life she has viewed angels with skepticism—partly because of what she calls a “very Protestant” upbringing.
She has become “open to learning more” after discovering how, via a growing familiarity with Roman Catholicism, the concept of angels can be seen as fitting into a theological system.
“I’d like to understand more about the role that they play and what they are conceived of as being,” Looy says.
If belief in angels among parishioners seems mixed, among theologians the topic has become distinctly unfashionable; courses on angels do not figure prominently in most seminary curriculums today, Snow says. Much Protestant theology over the past two centuries, says Wayne Hankey, a specialist in medieval philosophy at Dalhousie University and a former Anglican priest, “has made belief in the angels meaningless, or worse.” The goal of many influential Anglican theologians in the 19th century, he says, was to justify Christianity on practical, moral or emotional, rather than theoretical, grounds—rather than working out, for example, a structure of being in which God, angels and human beings might all have a place. More recently, some Roman Catholic theology, he says, has taken a similar direction.
But what are angels? The answer seems to depend on whom you ask. One thing they are definitely not—at least according to some of history’s most respected theologians—is a human-like winged being.
In the next part of this series, the Anglican Journal will explore how angels have been understood by some of the great theologians of Christian and other traditions.
Back to Top

By Tali Folkins| March, 16 2016

About the Author

Tali Folkins

Tali Folkins

Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal.  His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer
See more at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/articles/angels-attract-anglican-devotees-skeptics#sthash.o9y9ZGF2.dpuf

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

FOLLOWING JESUS - REACHING OUT TO THE POOR: " The poor you will always have with you, but you won't always have me. "

Extravagant Love
I've never experienced a Lent like this one in Antigua:  the showings (velaciones) at the end of each week, the beautiful carpets, the Processions every Sunday, the crowds of people from here and all over the world- I've never seen anything like it.  It's completely extravagant.
John+

Lent was a construction of the church, to form a framework for three sets of Gospel readings all recounting Jesus' last journey to Jerusalem.  I say "last" journey, because Jesus had been to Jerusalem before for visits and High Holy Days.  Remember the visit to the Temple where he overturned the tables of the money-changers who were ripping off the poor or the times he aided the man waiting for someone to help him get into the swirling waters of the healing pool.  He did a lot of teaching and healing work around the Temple Precincts.  He had a reputation for responding to, and defending the poorest of the poor.

On his visits to Jerusalem, he made acquaintance and developed a friendship with Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary.  Jesus stayed with them when he was in the area.  Their town was Bethany,  situated 1.7 miles from the entrance to Jerusalem.  Bethany was in the shadow of the Mount of Olives which looked down on Jerusalem.  Because it was just out of sight from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, it became a place where the poorest would stay on their way to Jerusalem.  It also was a place that welcomed those suffering from leprosy, and as I mentioned it was "out of sight" from Temple Mount because nothing "unclean" should ever be witnessed from that holy place.  So Bethany where Jesus liked to stay, with Lazarus and his sisters, was a place where the poor and lepers were accepted and found some solace and comfort.

I'm not saying that the disciples liked staying in Bethany as much as Jesus did.  Jesus had been telling them that he was going up to Jerusalem where he would be put to death.  They hadn't signed on for this.  They still had hope that, with his charisma, he would raise up an army and march on Jerusalem, defeat the Roman overlords, and restore the city and its people to former glory.  This was the Messiah they wanted, and by the way, "Lord, which of us will be the greatest in your kingdom?"  The disciples didn't get it.  They didn't want Jesus to die, but live to rule.

Lazarus, Martha, and Mary did get it.  Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead and they knew, or were beginning to understand, that death wasn't something to be feared.  Jesus brought life out of death.  So after refreshment, Mary goes and gets a jar of very expensive nard, concentrated perfume, and annoints Jesus' feet and his whole body, using and wiping with her hair.  This was a completely outrageous act in everyone's eyes--except Jesus'.
 
   The Gospel says that the fragrance filled the whole house.  The smell was a wonderful contrast to the smell that would be present in Jerusalem in a few days:  the body smell of thousands of pilgrims and the smell of burning carcasses as thousands of animals were being sacrificed in the Temple.
  
Mary's anointing Jesus' body for his impending death in Jerusalem was an act of extravagant love.  But Judas, most likely giving voice to what the disciples and others were thinking, criticizes this act:  Why wasn't this expensive nard sold and the money given to the poor?  After all, everybody knew Jesus' commitment to serving the poor.  This critique sounded well-founded and righteous, but Jesus thinks it necessary to speak up in her defense:  The poor you will always have with you, but you won't always have me.  Jesus wasn't disparaging the poor by any means, the poor were found all over Bethany and all over Israel and the world. Extravagant Love (extravagantly).  But this extravagance is allowed because in a few days I'm going to give my life for the whole world.  Judas and the others got it wrong, but Mary got it right.

This is what St. Paul is talking about when he says:  Not having a righteousness of my own, but one coming through faith in Christ.  Or better, a righteousness coming through the faith of Christ.  ("My" faith doesn't save me, but Christ's faith, and the Holy Spirit given me as a free gift saves me.)  Judas and the others, focused on their own "righteousness" miss the point.  (Story of hard-working pastor and wife looking forward to going to a relaxing retreat/conference that the church had set money aside for, but when a church council member brought up a hunger crisis somewhere on the globe and asked where they get some money to respond, there was silence broken only by the pastor who said "I guess we can use the money that was set aside for our trip."  Oh, great!)

Lent and Holy Week is about extravagant love.  The marriage of Olivia and Andrew (present with us this morning) in two days is about extravagant love.  We are gathered to share this Holy Eucharist out of extravagant love for Jesus Christ.  We are called to share extravagantly with the poor all around us, always with us.  We are called to be spiritually extravagant in showing mercy to those around us (even when we think they don't "deserve" it.  This way of living is truly the "new thing" prophesied by Isaiah:

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.  I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.  The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people I formed  for myself that they might declare my praise.

That's us.  God has been extravagant to us.  We can, with the Holy Spirit's help, be instrumental in bringing this extravagant love to the world.

 Amen!

John+

  

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) 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 

(everyone means everyone)

Monday, March 7, 2016

THE REVEREND JOHN SMITH: "The Father leaves us free, only loves us and forgives us, inviting us to the party if we'd like to come."

Invitations
An Open Invitation
      When we look at the Bible as a whole, it can appear that the Gospels and Jesus' teachings are a very small part of it, especially for us in a culture that quantifies everything.  It's so easy, therefore, to give less emphasis to the Gospels.  Many think, that while remaining very important, the story of Jesus' life and teaching, is just part of a bigger picture.  Think of all the bible studies you've heard of or been part of in your memory.  Very few, maybe none, I would surmise, have been centered on Jesus and the Gospels, most have been focused on the Old Testament and the Letters of St. Paul.  Most conservative churches, while praising the Lord in song, shy away from the Gospels and the hard sayings and teachings of Jesus.  The thinking:   There is so much more to God's Word than the Gospels.

In a way, this is true.  There is so much more to the Bible than the Gospels.  And yet here is the rub:  If Jesus is the true and fullest revelation of God and what God is like and what God's will for the world is, then the Gospels must be given center stage always.  It is Jesus who becomes the chief and absolute interpreter of the Bible and never the other way around.  The development of Liturgy over the centuries has revolved around two parts:  the proclamation of the Gospel and the Breaking of the Bread.  Leave the Liturgy of the Church behind and the pastor picking the texts each Sunday and doing "series" on say, a book in the Old Testament, and you might never hear Jesus or his hard teachings mentioned.

Today, in this Gospel story/parable, we have the most complete revelation by Jesus of what his Father (God) is like.  We have Jesus to blame for revealing God as Father and all the implications of what God's Fatherhood means.  I say "blame" because there is not one religion, including Judaism, calls it adherents to relate to God as Father, and if God is Creator of all of us in this world, then as Our Father (as Jesus taught us to pray), every human being is a brother or sister in one family!  If someone doesn't accept this, they have Jesus to blame.

The whole human experience from Cain and Abel onward is about brothers and sisters being estranged from one another.  Brothers killing brothers is the never ending story.  This is the case also in a Christianity that distances itself, however subtly, from Jesus and Gospel.  Case in point, there are over 40,000 christian denominations, many at enmity with one another, who have virtually said, give me my share of the inheritance, I'm out of here!  Off they go with part of the Truth and a chip on their shoulder!

It's as if the father is actually dead, when the younger son demands his inheritance and goes off and squanders it in loose living.  It's no better really for the elder son.  He's doing his work and abiding his time to inherit everything when the Father dies, and, in a way, the Father is dead to him also.  Just a little longer.

But the Father is alive.  Watching down the road hoping his son will come home.  When he finally does, the Father runs to him with open arms and orders his servants to prepare a party of celebration!  No matter that even the wayward son believes he doesn't deserve his father's love and welcome.  And, the elder son, seeing his Father coming alive, resents the party being put on for his brother.  He's been faithful and good, a hard worker, keeping his nose clean, and there's never been a party for him!  He complains to the father:  This son of yours did this and that!  He refuses to acknowledge his brother as such.  But the father replies:  This brother of yours has returned and we have to celebrate.  The elder son states he will have no part in the celebration.  There is no angry retort from the father, he doesn't say that he isn't welcome.  The father leaves it open.

The question for me:  Is God our Father, or not?  It seems that God as Father is dead for the vast majority of the world.  There is a lot of belief in God, but very little relating to God as Father as Jesus teaches.  Do we realize that the Lord's prayer, a prayer Jesus teaches, reveals all of us as brothers and sisters.  And if you relate to the experience of the younger son, your Father is waiting for you to come home and experience his Love once again.  And if you relate to the elder son and you don't want to mix it up with others you don't like, then the Father doesn't condemn you either, but leaves an open invitation to you to join the party perhaps someday.  The Father leaves us free, only loves us and forgives us, inviting us to the party if we'd like to come.

The "New Creation" in Christ that St. Paul talks about is coming about slowly, but surely.  It is living in the Fatherhood of God where brothers and sisters are reconciled to one another.  Living in the New Creation means giving up constantly defining oneself over against others, making comparisons, keeping rivalries alive, requiring the death of others, and remembering always that any vengeance is God's and God will repay.  This is regarding everything from God's (Jesus') point of view, and not a "human point of view."

Paul calls us Ambassadors for Christ.  An Ambassador is a person called out of their own nation to represent it in a foreign land.  We are followers of Jesus, our citizenship is in heaven with God.  We represent this "nation" in a foreign land where there is much ignorance of God's Fatherhood and love and the deep knowledge that we are most truly sisters and brothers of one another in God's family.  This is the Good News we can bring to the world with God's help. 

 Amen!

John+

  

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) 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)