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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Reverend John Smith: "To create more focus on Jesus all we have to do is to reject all impulses to rivalry (and there may be many each day) and love God with our whole heart and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves."

super_jesu...
"Hit Song"

(homily for July 17)
We probably never think about it, but the earliest followers of Jesus had hymns they would sing when they gathered for the Eucharist, and today we have one of their favorites, entitled:  Jesus is the image.

Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-- all things have been created through him and for him.

He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Each verse of this song is rich with the understanding of God and who Jesus is and how crucially important Jesus is for our world.  Jesus was before all things that were ever created:  the visible we see and the invisible, like the angels, who we don't see.  All things hold together in him and all things are reconciled in him.  Christ pre-existed before Creation and is a free gift to all humanity to enjoy.  God in Christ has put creation into our hands to take care of, and, once given, it is ours, without a desire on God's part to control or dominate it.  There is no rivalry:  Here, it is yours.  Any rivalry over creation's control, domination, use or misuse is solely a human problem.

The above point about rivalry explains about 99% of our human problems.  We've made God's free gift of creation a source of contention and division.  How we get out of this situations of rivalry that lead to so much sadness, suffering, and death?  The only answer is Jesus Christ.

Jesus, like us, had favorite places to enjoy hospitality and a good meal.  Number one on his list was the house of Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus, not too far from Jerusalem.  In today's Gospel, Martha and Mary are at home when Jesus arrives.  After hugs and kisses, Jesus sits down and Mary as well, at his feet.  Martha heads for the kitchen.  There is food to prepare and the table to set.  After a bit, Martha realizes that she's doing all the work and begins to resent that Mary is just sitting there with Jesus and not helping at all.

A example of human rivalry takes place before our eyes.  Martha complains to Jesus:  "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?  Tell her to help me."  

Martha, worrying about producing a meal, forgets Jesus.  She is task-driven and has taken on too much.  Martha sees herself in rivalry with her sister and worries about how Mary is spending her time.  Martha puts Jesus in the middle of her difficulty and tries, by triangulation, to get Jesus on her side.

Jesus doesn't take the bait.  He values Martha attention to the meal, after all,  he's hungry, but can't bless the display of rivalry and Martha's complaint.  "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her."
  
There is need of only one thing.  What's the better part?  Answer:  Focus on the only One who can reconcile all things in himself:  Jesus Christ.  But isn't it unrealistic to think the world could ever focus on Jesus?  There's so much work everyday, to be done by so many people, coming from so many different places and religious traditions, or none at all.  Do we need to mount a new Crusade to forcibly convert the world to focus on Jesus?  Absolutely not.  All that would do is create more rivalry.  To create more focus on Jesus all we have to do is to reject all impulses to rivalry (and there may be many each day) and love God with our whole heart and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves.

I'm learning that by not giving in to rivalry and hate, and trying to go about my tasks with love, is pleasing to God, and so are frequent quiet times spent in the presence of God.  Jesus came to teach us to resist all rivalry and do everything in the love of God.  Singing this song with our lives will restore creation and create true and lasting peace.. 

Good News.  

Amen!    
John+



St. Alban
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 

  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Patron Saint of Antigua, Guatemala: A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint James the Apostle

The Feast Day of Saint James the Apostle, Antigua - Sacatepequez, Guatemala

(thanks to Kendall Harmon+)

O gracious God, we remember before thee this day thy servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that thou wilt pour out upon the leaders of thy Church that spirit of self-denying service by which alone they may have true authority among thy people; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

The Reverend John Smith: "Prayer is absolutely essential to our life with God."

Free Wi-Fi
If I had to say what type of clothing I have the most of, it would be t-shirts.  I've bought a few, but most of the time, I get t-shirts as gifts or by donating or participating in an event.  One of my favorite t-shirts (recently I looked for it, but couldn't find it- darn!) says on the front:  "Prayer:  the fastest wireless connection."  When I first saw it, I smiled, and thought it was so clever and so true.

"Prayer is absolutely essential to our life with God"
John+
Prayer is absolutely essential to our life with God.  The Trinity are three persons we can talk to, and listening, we can be nudged into the ways God is leading us to do God's will.  St. Teresa of Avila, one of my favorite saints, defined prayer as "frequent solitary converse with One whom we know loves us."  She's talking about an inner dialogue that runs constantly in the background of our lives and frequently during the day can come into the foreground and be the focus of our intention providing a deep joy even in the midst of our daily routines and struggles, and when needed giving us a nudge to some action.
Related image
There's two main parts to prayer:  the talking part and the listening part.
John +
There's two main parts to prayer:  the talking part and the listening part.  The talking part is the easiest.  It's perfectly fine to ask and make our needs known to God.  God might know them already, but it is still good for us to determine what they are, think about them, and make them part of our dialogue with God.  The listening part of prayer is not as easy for us.  This is where, after we've made our needs known to God, and put them in God's hands, we stop and listen for the "nudge" of the Holy Spirit in the direction of God's will for us.  We leave these moments of dialogue and get up to carry on the activities of our day more confident that God is with us and God's is working itself out in our life.  Aware of this, even a little, leads to deep contentment and joy.
The disciples of Jesus:  Jesus taught them to address God as Father.
The disciples of Jesus noticed that he often went apart to pray.  Most of them knew the synagogue prayers and psalms, but the idea of going "apart" and praying by oneself remained a mystery to them.  One day they got up the gumption to ask Jesus to teach them to pray.  Jesus taught them to address God as Father.  Today's version from Luke's Gospel is a little shorter than the version Matthew's Gospel gives us.  

Here's Luke's:

Father, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.  And do not bring us to the time of trial.

Matthew's version comes in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount and fills out Luke's version:

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.  On earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

The differences:  Luke shared his version with a largely Gentile audience who had no notion of "heaven."  Matthew's audience was largely made up of Jews who did have a notion of heaven.

But both prayers contain a petition that God's kingdom come.  As I've mentioned before, the meaning of this petition is not about dying and going to heaven to experience God's kingdom, but instead it's asking that God's kingdom be realized here on this earth.  On earth as in heaven.  Earth is where the action is.  This earth is where God's kingdom of love, peace, and justice (in the sense of sharing earth's resources, not putting bad guys in jail) must, and is, taking hold.  The day is coming when heaven and earth will be one reality.
 Our lives are in God's hands, not God doing our will, but living in God's will.  And sensing joy! 
John+
When we pray and talk to God, the Lord's Prayer, can always be our "go to" prayer.  And then we listen, mostly in silence, as God irradiates us with his love and then, getting back to our daily life with confidence, nudges us in ways that can accomplish God's will for us and the others around us!  This is exciting stuff, being guided by God's will in the here and now.  Our lives are in God's hands, not God doing our will, but living in God's will.  And sensing joy!  Wow!

One of the most frequent questions people ask these days is:  does this place have wi-fi?  We can't live without it.  Just think about this:  In our life with God, the wi-fi connection is always open, and if we desire to "connect" with God, it can always have five "bars."   (emphasis added, LR)

This is Good News!  

Amen!
John+
St. Alban
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 

Monday, July 11, 2016

LOVE GOD AND LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR: "Our neighbors, for purposes of Jesus' kingdom, are the ones who are beat up and robbed by the world and left for half-dead. The poor keep getting poorer, beat up, and left behind." John+

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"Crossing the Road"

Football fans often see a sign with a scripture verse held up behind the goalposts by some Christian folks during field goals and point after touchdowns.  The verse is John 3:16.  Many of us have it memorized:  God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, so that all who believe in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.
  
Today's scriptures help us focus on the meaning of the last part of the verse:  might not perish but have ever lasting life.  The good meaning folks who hold up the sign see it as an invitation to believe in Jesus (which really is wonderful!), but they invite to this faith for the wrong reason (if you don't, you will perish and go to hell).  But the better reason for believing in Jesus is to know you are loved and experience a new joyful life, an eternal life that begins right now, not when you die!

The problem is with the notion of "Everlasting Life."  Most of us growing up, and maybe even now, think of this everlasting life as a life we will live out of space, time, and matter.  But this whole notion of everlasting life with its roots in Judaism, would never refer to anything out of this present world that, in John's terms, "God so loved."

So when the young lawyer comes up to Jesus and asks him "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"  he's not talking about what he needs to do to "get to heaven," like we are inclined to think, but about something very "this worldly."  Or we could say "What does it take to experience eternal life in God's kingdom- now?"  The whole point being that Jesus' enterprise is not to rescue people "out of the world" as our friends sign suggests, but rather Jesus has come among us to rescue the world itself from its present state of corruption and decay.  Don't worry about wrath coming from down upon us from God, but worry about the wrath human beings are raining down on each other because they don't really believe in Jesus and the resurrection promised to them.

Just like the lawyer, we continually want to justify our thoughts and actions before God.  We all know the two Great Commandments:  Love God and love our neighbor.  These two are intimately related.  You can't say you really love God unless you love your neighbor.  For the lawyer, and for us, the crucial issue is "Who is my neighbor?"  I'm sure both the lawyer and each of us could come up with a good list of who our neighbors are, but I wonder if who we consider our neighbors to be would match up with the example Jesus gives us today:

Our neighbors, for purposes of Jesus' kingdom, are the ones who are beat up and robbed by the world and left for half-dead.  The poor keep getting poorer, beat up, and left behind. 
 
The "neighbors" Jesus is talking about are on the other side of the road in my life and, frankly, I'm afraid to cross over.  The "religious" priest and Levite (he was the one who kept up the scrolls and the Temple surroundings), see the half-dead guy and cross the road to the other side.  The Samaritan, probably walking on the opposite side of the road from the priest and Levite, crosses the road toward the victim.  (We've mentioned Samaritans recently.  They were hated by the Jews for escaping the exile in Babylon, compromising Torah by intermarriage with foreigners, not keeping Sabbath regulations, and for not worshipping in the right way or place.)

Jesus holds up the Samaritan, the one that every one disliked, feared, and hated as an example of one who was justified.  Jesus turned all the usual religious thought and practice on its head by clarifying what God's grace really is:  turning to the victims of this world.  The priest and Levite didn't experience God's grace because they justified their actions by the Law and what was right and noble in their eyes.  Any compassion they might have had was blocked by their own judgment, blindness, and self-righteousness.  On the other side of the road, the hated Samaritan was moved to pity (the Greek word means having his heart and guts ripped out), there were no blocks to his compassion.  This "bad guy" experienced grace and what it means to live eternally in the kingdom.

In Paul's terms today in Colossians, the Samaritan had experienced "redemption and the forgiveness of sins."  In his action on behalf of the beaten up guy, the Samaritan stepped out of the power of Satan which seeks to block Compassion in this world at all costs.  He didn't require that the half-dead guy be "worthy" of his time and resources, he just looked to his needs and then some.

This story gives us great insight into Jesus' mind for us as his followers.  He came among us to show us that "from the beginning it was not so."  There's a tendency among religious folk to get off track and need to find their way back from being swept away by the impulse of our passions and fears that block compassion toward victims in our world- our most important neighbors.  This is what Holy Eucharist is all about- learning radical hospitality and forgiveness first which allows us to live into a change of heart and mind (metanoia=repentance=change of thinking).  This is the "Inn" where is taking care of us so we can take care of our neighbors.  (emphasis added/lc)

Amen!  
John+

St. Alban
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 

Friday, July 8, 2016

YOUTH EVENT - DIOCESE OF GUATEMALA: St. Alban Episcopal Mission hosted 17 youth leaders in training, July 1st - 3rd



St. Alban Episcopal Mission in Antigua was host to a retreat for youth leaders of the Diocese of Guatemala. Seventeen young people, ranging in age from thirteen to twenty-four, from eight different parishes arrived Friday afternoon, July 1st, and spent the next 48 hours in prayer, leadership training, and fellowship.


The retreat was led by Gabby Ortiz and her husband Eddy, both responsible for a five year Diocesan plan to reach out to young people and invite them into church life. 

Deacon Phyllis
They were assisted by the Rev. Ramon Ovalle, and deacons, the Revs. Laurel McMarlin and Phyllis Manoogian.

The Rev. Ramon Ovalle
The Rev. John Smith and Doña Terri
Hosting the event was the Rev. John Smith, Vicar of St. Alban, and his wife Terri. Fr. Smith gave two presentations on how young people need to bring the Gospel to the church and the practice of radical hospitality. Many members of St. Alban contributed money and food during the weekend. Jeanne Shepherd from St. Alban used her photography skills to document the event. The weekend culminated in a festive, dual-language Eucharist with some of the young leaders, including one seminarian, leading parts of the service.


A blessed medal with the image of the Holy Spirit was given to each participant by Fr. Smith as a reminder of their commitment and ministry to the youth of Guatemala.

The lush grounds and garden of Casa Convento Concepcion, Antigua

St. Alban
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