Translate

Sunday, December 31, 2017

God's Will: "...So today, gathered for Eucharist, we do God’s will by putting ourselves in the presence of Jesus, listening to the Gospel, and expanding our vision to include care for all of our brothers and sisters in the human family. " John+

AMEN!
The Light that Enlightens Everyone

This week after Christmas is often called Holy Family week.  The Church shares the scriptural story of the time right after Jesus’ birth when Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem to register for the Census and then, when Herod ordered the killing of all the first born males, flee to Egypt for safety.  Jesus was a refugee, like all refugees before and all refugees after.  Right now the powers of this world are creating more refugees than ever.

          I think of this because of the very real truth that each of us belong to three families.  We have our biological family into which we were born.  We also have our church family, or “I don’t do Church” family, whatever might be the case.  The third family we belong to is the human family.   I’m reminded of one congregation, who, when the drums were beating to invade Iraq in 2002, all put on “I have family in Iraq” buttons.

          Sometimes it is difficult to decide which of these “families” is most important.  We say or hear things like “My family is the most important to me.  My family comes first.”  The same kind of statements can be made about our Church family, or maybe not, as the case may be.  Early in Jesus’ ministry when he was addressing a crowd of people, his mother and family approached the group and asked for Jesus. 

          “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.”  And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brother?”  And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

          I would suggest, if we look at Jesus’ words and actions, that our human family is the most important of our three families.  His biological mother and brothers and sisters (cousins?) were close by, and his disciples (the budding church) were who knows where.  It seems that Jesus was talking about all those sitting around him.  They, representing the human family, were his brothers and sisters.  Were they pure and morally perfect?  Did they never sin or hurt others?  If they were anything like us, they probably did.  So, in what sense were they doing God’s will?  

Those folks put themselves in the presence of Jesus, listened to his words, and, slowly but surely, allowing their thinking to change (repentance) to adopt Jesus’ way of looking at the world.

          This way of looking at the world and our fellow human beings would not have become possible if it wasn’t for Jesus’ Incarnation among us.

          But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law (please excuse the interruption here, but “law” refers to the whole institution of sacrifice, the myriad of ways humans have brought about the sacrifice of others in order to please God), so that we might receive adoption as children (read:  know we are part of God our Father’s human family).  And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying “Abba!’ Father!”  So you are no longer a slave (under the law) but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

          When I first began to think theologically, I thought this quotation from St. Paul referred only to those who were baptized and everyone else was left out, but I’ve come to understand all people are God’s children, the whole human family, and that we who are baptized are to bring this Good News to the whole world and live accordingly.  This was Jesus’ primary ministry and is ours also through Baptism.

          So today, gathered for Eucharist, we do God’s will by putting ourselves in the presence of Jesus, listening to the Gospel, and expanding our vision to include care for all of our brothers and sisters in the human family.  Jesus is the Light that helps us see this.  

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


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"As followers of Jesus, we need to deal with our enemies (either on the personal level or the level of nations) in the Spirit of Christmas." The Rev. John Smith

Resultado de imagen para Christmas greening, photos?
Christmas Reflection:
Preemptive Peace over Preemptive War

With this reflection Terri and I want to wish everyone a blessed Christmas!  During Advent I asked the question:  What kind of Jesus will return someday?  Will the One who came among us as a humble, vulnerable child, a human being who grew into the One we call the Prince of Peace, undergo a drastic change of personality and return as a vengeful, angry judge who will conquer all our enemies?  There is no scriptural evidence for the latter.

As followers of Jesus, we need to deal with our enemies (either on the personal level or the level of nations) in the Spirit of Christmas.  Jesus came to teach us about preemptive Peace toward those aligned against us, not preemptive War or violent response, ie. North Korea.  Preemptive Peace means not provoking anger in others, or at least cultivating tolerance of those who wish us harm.  This kind of response is not popular at all because it seems to allow those who wish us harm to “get away” with their negative behavior.  Instead we hold on to the doctrine of preemptive strikes and war and end up perpetuating ever greater violence and strife.

One time, a young monk was frustrated by his inability to make a difference in his monastic community.  A wise spiritual director told him:  Just keep yourself at peace and others will find peace just being near you.  This Christmas let’s commit ourselves to the preemptive Peace Jesus came to bring among us!

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, December 17, 2017

BE JOYFUL: "The Bread we break is a Sacrament of Joy. Jesus Christ is present with us right here, right now." The Reverend John Smith

Resultado de imagen para Photo of Gaudete Sunday?
Gaudete Sunday:  The Difference between Joy and Happiness
          
Advent used to be a lot like the season of Lent.  It was a penitential time to prepare by fasting and self-sacrifice for the feast of Christ’s birth.  Advent used to be longer, actually starting on the feast of St. Martin, November 11, and last until Christmas Day.  The church shortened Advent to four weeks: the four Sundays before Christmas.  Most no longer fast during this time (just think of all the Christmas parties during these weeks), but if we are more generous in our giving to the poor and most vulnerable, then we come close to the original spirit of Advent. 
          
When the Church invites us to a penitential season like Advent or Lent, it always puts in a Sunday of respite from the rigors of the season.  In Lent there is Laetare Sunday and in Advent there is Gaudete Sunday.  Gaudete Sunday means “rejoice” in Latin.  All the scriptures for this Sunday point to the meaning of joy.
          
In Isaiah 61 we hear declared a year of Jubilee:
          
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. . .
          
The poor, those in debt, and any downtrodden folks got a reprieve during the time of Jubilee.  When Jesus entered the synagogue in Luke 4 he rolled the scroll to this text from Isaiah.  What Jesus was saying by proclaiming this text was that he himself was Jubilee.  Jesus is true freedom and reprieve for all who have been beaten down by the powers of this world.  On the Cross, Jesus identified with all victims of power and prejudice in this world:  past, present, and future.
          
The end of the First Letter to the Thessalonians leaves the recipients there with the admonition to
          
Rejoice, pray unceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances.

.This admonition is raised by the writer to the level of “the Will of God."  These words were directed to the Christian community in Thessalonika just twenty years after Jesus’ death and Resurrection.  By extension, thanks to the time machine miracle of scripture and liturgy, it is directed to us as well!  It’s the earliest text we have in the New Testament.  This is definitely a saying to put on our bathroom mirror to look at first every morning.  Give thanks in all circumstances.  Our world economics operates on a basis of scarcity.  There’s not enough for everyone, sorry.  But God’s economics operates on abundance.  There’s plenty for everyone if we are willing to share

The theme of Joy is a little harder to see in the Gospel of John this morning.  John the Baptist is preaching and baptizing at the river Jordan and is called aside and questioned by the priests and Levites.  John declares that he is not the Messiah, but he is preparing people for his coming.  The Messiah’s coming will bring Jubilee, but first the Messiah will have to suffer violence and undergo death on the Cross.  (Christians have tried to make the violence of the Cross a unique, one of a kind event.  God the Father was willing to let his Son die to save us, so, we reason, we sometimes have to be willing to let our sons and daughters die to save us.  Jesus’ death on the Cross by the powers of his day was NOT unique, but like all other victims of violence down through time.  When the world does violence and puts people to death it is exactly what happened to Jesus himself!)

This leads to the question of the day:  What is the difference between joy and happiness?  The theologian and spiritual director Henri Nouwen (He was my retreat master once) said:

While happiness is dependent on external conditions, joy is “the experience of knowing you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take that love away.” Thus joy can be present even in the midst of sadness.

This has been one of my greatest convictions and it is always reinforced when we gather for the Holy Eucharist.  The Bread we break is a Sacrament of Joy.  Jesus Christ is present with us right here, right now.  

Be joyful, 
Alleluia!
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, December 10, 2017

GOD WILL BRING FORGIVENESS: ".. This reverses our usual thought that repentance must come before forgiveness." The Reverend John Smith

Resultado de imagen para 2nd Sunday of Advent, photo?
Why I Need to be Have Patience

          One of the early scandals to afflict the early Christian community was the delay of the Lord’s return.  Times were tough.  The Roman persecutions and the disdain of the Jewish leadership took their toll in lives.  The apocalyptic hope that the Lord would return and take vengeance on their enemies lingered with some of the early followers of Jesus.  It was hard to explain the delay of the Lord’s coming to their critics and detractors.

          We have the same problem today.  Many have given up the practice of their faith when they see so much violence in the world and scandal in the church.  Most want to believe in God (though polls say this number is dropping), but choose to do so without any active participation in the local Christian community.  People want results, and want to see that God is making right what is wrong with the world, but they see very little evidence of it.  There is a loss of patience with belief systems and so people comfort themselves, taking pleasure in material things.  The Epicurean philosophy of old rules the day:  Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.
          
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

          These words were directed to those who were left behind in Jerusalem, while all the most talented were taken away in exile.  Life was hard in exile, but it was even worse for those who were left in Jerusalem.  After a “term” exiles were returning and things would be better for everyone.  The “comfort” Isaiah prophesied was more than the lessening of suffering, or doing away with it altogether, but instead a willingness to bear and share the burdens of one another and a promise that God would send a good shepherd to lead them to green pastures.

          Jesus is that Good Shepherd.  Jesus stepped into the stream of apocalyptic hope, that God would return and do violent justice to their enemies, acknowledged it, but led this thought in a different direction.  God, his Father, cared about all his children in this world.  When God returned he would identify and comfort all his children who have suffered the most from the powers of this world.  God would not be a vengeful God as people expected.  God would not add to the “sacred” violence that human beings do to one another, but rather identify and save all the victims of that violence.  When Jesus returns it will be as a true Prince of Peace, in contrast to the princes of this world, the Principalities and Powers, who have caused so much death and destruction to secure their goals.

          What we see in Jesus’ teaching is violence gradually purged from the notion of God’s return on Judgment Day.  Instead God will bring forgiveness of sin as a way to bring about repentance (a complete change of thinking) in humankind.  This reverses our usual thought that repentance must come before forgiveness.  Jesus taught the opposite.  When a human being realizes they have been forgiven all their sins, their tears of freedom and gladness wash away the stains of even long years of sin and un-repentance.

          This is the big difference between John the Baptist and Jesus:  John preached that a person must repent first or else face fiery judgment, but Jesus taught that forgiveness should come first as a first step and help make possible a sincere change heart in a person.  The “embarrassing” delay in Jesus’ return is a function of God’s patience.  God is most patient with us and forgives us over and over.  Why?  So that we might change our thinking (especially our desire to see God wreak vengeance upon our enemies) and be able to truly rejoice in the Lord when God returns to establish peace on the earth, either at the End of time, or our personal last day.  We don’t like delays, but often a delay is for our eternal benefit.

          This Second Sunday of Advent teaches us patience in the face of delay in the Lord’s coming.  God is patient with all people, in various stages of repentance or not, so they might experience the joy of repentance and change their lives.  The Lord we await is coming.  The Holy Eucharist is an experience of God with us in the here and now and a pledge that God will come and save us in good time.  

Come Lord Jesus!  
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