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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

OUR GIFT TO GOD - FAITH: " God will come, God will act, God will change for the better the relationships we care about most, if we activate our faith " John+

Homily for Sunday, May 29, 2016
The Reverend John Smith

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Amazing Faith
We reached the mid-point of the Church year. The first half, Advent through Pentecost, is behind us. The longed-for Messiah has come and lived among us, not as a king, but as a servant, even giving his life for the salvation of the world. Now there have been many good people who have taught, given wonderful example, and died for an important cause. But the story of Jesus is different. The powers that be of Jesus' world didn't think he was good, his teaching disturbed the status quo, and his actions would lead people astray. But Jesus rose from the dead. Everything he taught and stood for was vindicated by God.

That's why we force ourselves to listen to Jesus even when he upsets our comfortable lives. We can no longer look over our shoulders to see what the world wants us to do. We look to Jesus in the Gospel these 26 weeks and try to learn what Jesus' coming among us means and then put it into practice.
Today in Luke's Gospel, Jesus travels to Capernaum. It's interesting that Capernaum means "Village of Compassion." History tells us this village of "compassion" had a strong military presence, mercenaries, working for the Roman Empire. (The Romans had no soldiers in Gallilee until after 44 AD.) One of the mercenaries, a Gentile leader of 100 men, was a friend of the Jews in Capernaum and helped them build their temple. He chose to love the Jews rather than intimidate them.

This Centurion had a servant/slave that was very dear to him. The slave was seriously ill, at the point of death. He knew Jesus' reputation, so he sends a messenger to Jesus to ask if he would heal his servant. Jesus responds and heads to the place where the slave was, but before he gets there, some friends of the Centurion come saying that he is humbled by Jesus' response and is not worthy of Jesus coming under his roof, and, doing so, he acknowledges that Jesus' authority is greater than his own, and all that is needed is a word from Jesus and the servant/slave would be healed.

To this point in Luke's Gospel, people/observers have been "amazed" at what Jesus was doing, but this time, Jesus is amazed. Jesus marvels at the faith of this Gentile Centurion, a man of power, placing his complete trust in him. We know how the story ends: the servant/slave is healed.

This is a great story for our first teaching in this "ordinary" time. When we might think that God plays favorites, we learn that God has compassion on all in our human family. This story follows directly upon Jesus' Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6 where Jesus has taught the importance of loving our enemies and acting with compassion toward everyone. In this story Jesus shows that acting compassionately is much more important than simply feeling compassion toward another.

But the greatest teaching of this story has to do with faith, humbly placing our complete trust in God to act and bring about good on our behalf, as the Centurion did. What amazed Jesus, was how a person with power, money, and all the trappings of self-sufficiency (so valued in our own time) could publically demonstrate such great faith. Jesus, who had been ministering to others, receives from another what he sees as the greatest gift of all: a person's complete faith and trust!

For me this is a great teaching at a time when we value so much our privacy and self-sufficiency. Think of it. Our world values, like the book of the same title, "Looking out for #1." The Centurion, who was #1 in his community, cared about someone with absolutely no status, and was willing, with everyone looking on, to humbly ask Jesus for help. He got the help and healing he needed for his beloved servant. God can do something when we act compassionately with faith.

I like to think of myself as self-sufficient. Right now, I really don't need anything or anyone. But this story invites me to look around and see what I really care about and see what good could come about if I humbly and completely trusted God. God has given us this Ho
ly Eucharist and everything we have and are and the greatest gift we can give God is our faith.God will come, God will act, God will change for the better the relationships we care about most, if we activate our faith: the greatest gift we can give God. Amazing Faith! 

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 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

THE DOCTRINE of the HOLY TRINITY: "...a story of God's real love, mercy, and forgiveness." The Reverend John Smith

The Holy Trinity

(thanks to powerlisting.wikia.com)) 

Today is Trinity Sunday, the only Sunday of the liturgical year that celebrates a doctrine:  The one, living, and true God is a community of persons- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  To many people the doctrine of the Trinity seems something "thought up," abstract, and cold.  This is probably because it is often talked about far removed from the biblical narrative which is the only place it becomes helpful and meaningful to us.

The Trinity is present in the biblical story from the very beginning in Genesis:  God (who we now know as Father) created the heavens and the earth from nothing.  The breath of God (the Holy Spirit) hovered over the chaotic waters from which life began.  God spoke a Word (the Son Jesus) and everything came to be that came into being, including our first parents, Adam and Eve.

The offspring of Adam and Eve, and the tribes generated by them, had a notion of God who was sometimes blessing them and at other times was violent and condemning.  The peoples relationship to God wasn't clear and neither was God's love for them.

"God so loved the world (that) In the fullness of time God sent his Son, born of a woman."  The time came when God wanted to reveal who God really is and clear up the distorted notions people had of God.  The Son was the person who could once and for all reveal the true nature of God:  that God was a God of love from the beginning and wasn't worthy of projections of anger placed on God and the sacred violence attributed to God over the centuries.

Jesus taught his disciples that God was a loving Father that they could pray to in confidence like a child to a loving parent.  Jesus taught that the greatest blessings of life came when we truely forgive others who harm us.  Jesus also promised to send a Holy Spirit to comfort and stand up for us and allow us to live in God's love and peace.  That Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples on Pentecost.

Jesus proved his revelation of God was true by offering himself as the world's victim on the Cross.  In itself, this would not be enough:  to teach something and then die.  But God raised Jesus from the dead and vindicated his story and witness once for all.  If the world would/could understand this Love, put to death and raised up, God's Kingdom would become a reality on earth:  On earth as in is in heaven.

This is the real meaning of the Trinity, not some top-down, over the top, doctrinal orthodoxy, imposed on the world, but a story of God's real love, mercy, and forgiveness.  The Father relates to the Son, and the Son relates to the Father, and the object of their desire is Love, the Holy Spirit. who overflows and is "poured into our hearts."

The Trinity reveals who God is and who we are as human beings created by God as objects of God's desire and love.  It upholds the core of the best modern personality theory:  two persons in relationship and the object of their desire.  This is desire is very important, either based on a rivalry between them, like the serpent's temptation to Eve and her temptation to Adam, setting in place a rivalry with God, or a love that is completely non-rivalrous as we see in the Triune love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  
This is the crux of the matter.  The world chooses over and over again to live in rivalrous relationships between individuals and nations:  unity is sought by being "over against" the other, resulting in violence, victimization, and never-ending scapegoating, instead of choosing to follow the loving desires of God that leads away from all rivalry:  loving one another, receiving God's peace, maintaining unity.

I hope this understanding of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, in the context of God's love revealed in Jesus through the biblical narrative, will be less abstract for us and make sense in relation to our daily lives and change how we understand and talk about God:  three Persons who really love us personally and the whole world as well.  (emphasis added/lc)

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 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What does Pentecost mean? " It means, I think, to ask everyday to be renewed in the Spirit of our baptism and then work, with the Holy Spirit's help, to bring down all walls and barriers, physical and economic between peoples." The Rev. John Smith

Spirit United World

Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' disciples enabling them to fearlessly bring his message to the world.  The Holy Spirit's work and influence is absolutely necessary if we ever hope to love one another and our neighbor, live in the peace that Jesus left us, and maintain a visible unity that we help the world believe in Jesus and the Father.
  
The description of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles is a reversal of what happened in the Tower of Babel story we read about in Genesis 11.  Here's some background that might help us understand the Spirit's coming:

God told Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth, but one of the problems was that the first inhabitants didn't want to spread out.  They had one language with just a few words.  They were content where they were.  Needing a goal, they (in Babylon) decided to build a tower that would connect earth to heaven.  They easily forgot God and his desire to fill the earth.  The tower, not God's will, became their obsession.  They worked on it night and day.  That many died in the process didn't stop them to reconsider what they were doing.

God saw the pride of the people and decided to confuse (babel) their simple language.   This is the origin of the development of different cultures and languages.  That first people were scattered and spread out.  God's plan of "filling the earth" was unfolding.  Unfortunately, the violence that started with the fall of Adam and Eve and the slaying of Abel by Cain continued in the world.  People found their unity by being over against other peoples.  What we call the "History of Salvation" is God's plan to unify all the scattered people of the earth, gathering them in a Kingdom where God's love is acknowledged and where all people love one another.

Pentecost is the day when the Holy Spirit communicates this message of God's love in Jesus to "every race, tribe, nation, and tongue."  When the disciples, filled with the Spirit, preach to the representatives of many nations, they all hear the message in their own language.  The "confusion" of Babel is reversed.  Jesus, by his death, resurrection, and ascension, makes this outpouring of the Spirit possible.  Jesus had told his disciples, "Unless I go, the Spirit can not come to you."  The Spirit, out-poured on the earth, will make real unity among people possible.  There will be, and is now, a long way to go.

Last week we ended on the importance of the Holy Eucharist as a Sacrament of Unity.  Gather with others in God's love and be fed by Jesus' Body and Blood.  This "gathering" doesn't necessarily depend upon us knowing each other well or feeling particularly close to one another, but comes more out of the call we have received by God.  By the Spirit, all men and women are adopted children of God the Father, revealed by Jesus.  If God is everyone's Father, we are related to one another.  Those who are baptized already, mirror this reality to the world, relating to all our fellow brothers and sisters, from every race, tribe, nation, and language, as family.

What does all this mean?  What does Pentecost mean?  It means, I think, to ask everyday to be renewed in the Spirit of our baptism and then work, with the Holy Spirit's help, to bring down all walls and barriers, physical and economic between peoples.  This has not been our way as fallen human beings, building walls to "protect" our interests, but it is God's way.  God the Holy Spirit will and is helping us to overcome the effects of our sin and division we see everyday in the "news."  This is the vision of Pentecost, meant not only for the Church, born on this day, but for the whole world.  This is Good News!  Alleluia!

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 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

"Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday - The virtual birthday of the Church - Help us understand the work of the Holy Spirit " John+

Dear Friends:

Greetings in the Lord to one and all! Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday, the virtual birthday of the Church and the half-way point of the liturgical year. It's easier for many of us to form a notion of God as Creator, or of Jesus walking around preaching and teaching in Galilee, but the Holy Spirit and the role of the Holy Spirit can be elusive for us. This Sunday will help us understand what the main work of the Holy Spirit is in the world. I look forward to joining with you for worship!

Please know that I am here to serve you as priest, with God's help, and I need to know your needs for prayer, healing, and counsel. Please make them known to me. My phone number is 5235 6674 and my email is jrsmith49@aol.com, or ask for a word after church on Sunday. It is a blessing to be able to serve Antigua and the St. Alban community .

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 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

LOVE ONE ANOTHER? "Over the centuries and in our own day there are those who call themselves Christians who actually despise and hate other Christians..." John+

"Visible"
Eastertide, the time between Easter and the Feast of Pentecost is soon coming to an end.  We've tried to "tune in" to the Voice of the Risen Jesus (the Victim whose Voice can never be silenced).  At first we were most attentive to what Jesus said to his disciples (and us) in his first resurrection appearances, and, in the last few weeks we've been taken back to some of the teachings Jesus gave before his passion and death:  two weeks ago on the need for the disciples to love one another, last week the teaching was for the disciples to embrace the peace that Jesus was leaving them, and this Sunday, the teaching to maintain unity among themselves by constant forgiveness and reconciliation.

How have we done in the three areas that Jesus stressed:  love, peace, and unity?  If we were in school, what grade would the church in its history (and our short part of it)receive in these areas?  What do you think?  I think probably a "D."  Of course there were and are steller disciples, the saints, like Francis, Hermano Pedro, and Mother Teresa, who got all "A" grades (with some personal struggles of course), but the Church as a whole didn't do as well.   Over the centuries and in our own day there are those who call themselves Christians who actually despise and hate other Christians.  This doesn't help the "Love one another" grade.  How about embracing Jesus' peace (as the world cannot give)?  How many wars has the Church started or supported over the years and all the death and trampling upon God's gift of Life this "sacred" violence has caused?  And what about the "Unity" grade?  With over the 26,000 plus denominations currently in existence, many of whom have vowed to never unite or forgive those who they have deemed to have lost their way?  This is an example of what Jesus meant when he talked about Satan casting out Satan.

Where's some Good News in all of this?  Well, for starters, Satan would like for the Church to have an "F" average and not a "D."  Even though we are doing poorly with a "D" the Holy Spirit is still with us, advocating for us against the Accuser, Satan.  And the really great thing is we are gathered here today to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, to try to be a Holy Communion, Jesus' number one desire for the world.

The visibility of this Communion is most important.  Have you ever said to yourself, looking at all the divisions in the Church, that the "True" Church of God must be invisible? God sees who is really in the "True Church" even when we can't see it clearly.  It was a cop out, but many christians have bought into the idea of an Invisible Church:  I'll try to be a good christian on my terms, in my denomination, and accept that others are doing the same thing in their denominations, and together we will form the True Church, invisible to the world, but seen by God.  So the reasoning goes.

But the whole point of Jesus' final teaching to his disciples is that their unity must be visible, so that the world may believe.  This why Jesus left us the Breaking of the Bread, the Holy Eucharist, gathering us to be a visible gathering in this world where everyone is welcome, accepted, forgiven, greeted with peace, and loved.  This is Good News.  Relish each opportunity to gather with others in thanksgiving to God.  This is what Jesus prayed for with his last breath.  

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