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Friday, June 30, 2017

FINDING PEACE: "We are enabled to leave the old familiar habits and patterns of life that foster pride, greed, lust, anger, prejudice, and hostility and leave them behind... " John+


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(Background:  Since Trinity Sunday I’ve been talking about the “density” of God’s Love.  This Love is so dense it can admit no violence or retribution whatsoever.  Our human love changes and admits hatred, violence, and division, but God’s Love does not.  How do we deal, then, with Jesus’ saying about bringing not peace, but a sword?)

Not Peace but a Sword

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

          This verse from today’s Gospel is one of the most problematic sayings of Jesus.  We’re taken aback by this saying  because we want believe that Jesus did come on earth to bring peace among all the peoples of the earth, and yet when we look around us, read the daily news, it seems things are getting worse, not better.  There is more sword than peace, more division than unity.  What gives?

          We usually think of a sword as a weapon, but a sword, apart from killing an enemy, can also cut things open, exposing something hidden.  Could it be that when Jesus brings a sword it means that he is exposing something that has been kept secret for a long time, namely:  the human need we have for victims and scapegoats to bring or “keep the peace.”  The sword Jesus brings is not a sword of war (if Jesus would have brought a sword of war he would been the most popular of men), but instead Jesus brought a sword that once and for all time exposes the futility of humankind’s way of seeking peace (making Jesus hated by many and a source of division, even at the level of flesh and blood). This “exposing” of evil makes things worse before they can get better.

          Jesus was persecuted and executed by the “powers” of this world, like the prophets before him, for exposing the unpopular truth that behind the world’s desire for power, greed, and disrespect for creation and human life, is Satan, who has always despised humanity and who, in every way possible, enjoys fostering turmoil, hatred, and loss of life: giving the “finger” to God.  Satan, the “god” of sacred violence, seeks to destroy humanity and God’s Creation at every level, in whatever place.  Satan, not God, encourages the “living by the sword and the dying by the sword” that keeps the world in constant conflict and resulting death.  Satan, not the true and loving God, is the one to fear and “has the power to cast into hell.”

          Jesus told us that he came that we would have life and have it abundantly.  For each one of us it’s a question, as it was for Paul, of finding ourselves, aided by the Spirit, with a new way of looking at the world through Jesus’ eyes.  This is a process that, for most people, begins with our baptism in Christ.  We die with Christ in baptism and rise to new life, we realize that we no longer require the death of others in order to find peace.  We are enabled to leave the old familiar habits and patterns of life that foster pride, greed, lust, anger, prejudice, and hostility and leave them behind.  We find peace, not as the powers of this world give it, but as the Risen Jesus gives it to us directly.  It may take time, but we find this peace of Jesus alive in us and are able to live a new way and see the world differently, with compassion.  Paul describes it:  No longer is it I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

          All of this “seeing the world through the eyes of Jesus,” is a real time, this world, experience.  This is not about “going to heaven,” but something real, in the here and now.  It’s not a question of “doing” something to arrive somewhere, but a question of finding a new, Holy Spirit within us, thankfully acknowledging it, and living life differently, no longer beholden to sin and violence, but confessing our sin, living in God’s grace and nourished by the Sacrament that gathers us here today! 

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

          

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Reverend John Smith: "The whole purpose for Jesus’ coming among us was to bring healing, peace, wholeness, and shalom".

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The Density of Love II

          Last week, on Trinity Sunday, I described the Love of God as extremely “dense.”  Like the densest of the elements on the Periodic Table which disallow any admixture of any other substance, the density of the Love of God, admits nothing but the essence of Love Itself.  The Crucifixion of God’s only Son, Jesus, demonstrates the density of God’s love.  All thoughts about God to the contrary, whether from Scripture or any other source, of God’s desire for vengeance, punishment, retribution, or support of holy war or violence, are projections by human beings on God to suit their own ends.  If we think God approves of violence in certain circumstances, then we can be violent too when we think situations warrant our violence!

          The scripture readings for the Sunday are demonstrative of the density of God’s love we’re talking about.  The story of the “three” visitors (Trinitarian sign?) to the home of Abraham and Sarah, announcing to this childless, very elderly couple that they would conceive and bear a son, bespeaks the loving plan of God.  Evil and death have come into the world by human willfulness, but God does not give up on the world.

          God sends his Son, Jesus, to be incarnate among us.  Jesus is made the Scapegoat of all time:  Let us get rid of this Jesus and we (human beings) can pursue our own “holy” ends and desires.  Jesus is executed on the Cross, forgiving all those who put him there, showing the density of his Father’s love for his sinful children.  As Paul explains in Romans

          For while we were weak, Christ died for the ungodly.  Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

          Jesus didn’t die to fulfill some retributive blood lust of his Father that would hold back God’s wrath from humankind. Jesus’ death proves God love for his children from the beginning and always, patiently waiting for them to return his love.

          Jesus’ death on the Cross shows us the only response to the world’s violence is forgiveness.  Being forgiven after we have done evil can break our hearts in such a way that we recognize our need for forgiveness.  Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.  God’s saving, forgiving love, if we would receive it, is completely gratuitous, with no strings attached, except that we would pass on this forgiveness to others

          Today’s Gospel expands upon these thoughts.  The whole purpose for Jesus’ coming among us was to bring healing, peace, wholeness, and shalom.  Unfortunately, the followers of Jesus, who are called Christians, have often forsaken God’s love and done violence to their enemies.  This has been the case for a long, long time.  We need to learn from Jesus who truly loved those who were putting him to death.

          The Holy Spirit is trying to soften the hardness of our hearts and create in us shepherd’s hearts like Jesus had.  The shepherd heart of Jesus was able to look at the threatening wolves in this world and see their “sheep-ness.”  Like Francis of Assisi, who was able to win over the infamous Wolf of Gubbio, by changing the hearts of the angry townspeople to love for their feared enemy, we can, with the Spirit’s help, win over our neighbors to love of our enemies.  We can do this, because we are baptized into God’s dense, inexplicable agape love for us and all our fellow human beings, sisters and brothers of the same Father.  (emphasis added lr)

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY: "One of the greatest distortions about God is that God is a demanding, punishing, vengeful God that requires various sacrifices, including the death of human beings, and demands absolute obedience to revealed law, in order to love us." John+

The Density of Love
Today is Trinity Sunday, the only Sunday of the church year dedicated to a doctrine. The Doctrine of the Trinity is not some cold, intellectual statement that we are forced to believe if we are Christian, but rather the best attempt to bring together an understanding of who the God who created heaven and earth really is. The reason it was important for the church to proclaim this doctrine is because of so many distorted notions of God that are about in the world since the beginning of time.

One of the greatest distortions about God is that God is a demanding, punishing, vengeful God that requires various sacrifices, including the death of human beings, and demands absolute obedience to revealed law, in order to love us. The study of comparative religions bears this out. Much of Christian history witnesses this distorted notion of God as well.

The Doctrine of the Trinity corrects this distortion by seeing God as loving the world from the beginning of Creation. The world and all its beauty was created for our enjoyment, sustenance, and discovery. Human beings are stewards of this Creation. When, as Eucharistic Prayer C states: “We betrayed your trust and we betrayed one another,” there was set in motion a loving plan for the Word, the Father’s only begotten Son, to show us another way to live and how to love one another. Jesus showed God’s love by dying on the Cross, not to make it possible for God to love a sinful humanity, for as St. Paul says in Romans “God loved us while we were still sinners,” but to manifest once and for all God’s love for every human being! And because it was not Jesus’ desire to set up a theocracy and rule on this earth, but to return to the Father, he fulfilled his promise to send the Holy Spirit, the love between the Father and Himself, to be with us forever. We are baptized into this loving relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is Love, Love, Love, and nothing but Love!

The distorted notion that God is a God of blessing and cursing is forever rejected by the Doctrine of the Trinity. The violence and cursing of God’s people by the Almighty is only and always human violence projected on God, sacred violence “willed” by God to defeat enemies. This is a distortion of God’s purpose. Jesus could have called upon legions of angels to defeat his executioners, but he didn’t. This is not the way of God. The Crucifixion is the meeting point of human violence and the love of God incarnate in Jesus. Like the densest elements on the Periodic Table, Osmium, Iridium, and Platinum, God’s love for us is extremely dense. God’s love is so dense that it admits of no other element except Love. Hatred, vengeance, and retribution can have no part in the density of God’s love shown to us in the Cross of Christ.

The Doctrine of the Trinity is to understand the truth about God’s love for us, its full extent and density. As it reveals the truth about God, it also reveals the truth of who we are as human beings. We are loved and created to live in love, coming to know, love, and serve God, to seek to achieve love’s density in our own lives, and one day to return to God to experience the beatific vision of this revealed mystery of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
Amen!
John+
St. Alban Mission
Antigua, Guatemala

Sunday, June 11, 2017

HELP REQUEST - YOUTH PROJECT JUNE 30 - JULY 2: "Quetzaltenango, Episcopal Diocese of Guatemala" Deacon Phyllis

My Holy Alban-ians, I know that's probably not proper nor correct (but then neither am I), but that's how I think of you at Saint Alban Mission, Antigua.  "My" because you're so close to my heart, "Holy" as you're so ensconsed in the heart of God, and "Alban-ians" because you inspire smiles so.  .  .


Youth Retreat, diocese of Guatemala, St. Alban Mission, Antigua
My Holy "St. Alban-ians", you've have always been generous with the youth of the Diocese of Guatemala, a couple of years ago you even hosted their retreat.  Now, I'm asking you to step up again.  The weekend of June 30 - July 2, the youth will gather in Quetzaltenango to study, worship, and perform service.  This retreat is a little different. There will be no team building games, no t- shirt, no Bible to take home.  The big investment, half the budget and all their heart will be a service project:


They will be building stoves for families who up to now have cooked on a wood fire on their dirt floor (Guatemalastoveproject.org).  These families will breath cleaner air and avoid the catastrophic burns these fires occasionally cause. 
The entire budget for the weekend is 6000 quetzales, a bit more than $800.  Each stove costs 1500Q and although the recommended team is 3 people we're going to stretch that to 4.  Four stoves, four teams, there's 3000Q, half the budget and all of Saturday morning.  We will eat, sleep, worship and study at a retreat center at a very reasonable cost.  I will be doing the Friday night talk on service.  Thoughts and suggestions welcome.


Can you help?  The Diocese provides minimal financial support for youth ministry.  Much of the work Deacon Eddy Garcia and his wife Gabby Ortiz do comes out of their family's budget. Will you help?  If you're part of of corporate worship in Antigua, please speak with Father John Smith or your senior warden Elizabeth Bell, junior warden Mary Lou Redinger, or treasurer Jeanne Shepherd and let them know how your gift could support the youth of our diocese.  

I have guaranteed funds for one stove and will offer that money from my own pocket if needed.  An anonymous donor has subsidized another stove.  Should you feel moved to offer a donation personally I will be at church the next two Sundays and will gladly accept your kind gift.  If you're out there in blog land/Anglican Commuion/other and the Holy Spirit has inspired you to give please contact me directly at phyllismanoogian@yahoo.com.
Deacon Phyllis Manoogian
Thank you seems inadequate for the importance of this ministry and the future of Guatemala and her church. Enjoy the photos of last April's retreat and see how valuable your support is.  

God bless you.

Yours in Christ, 
Phyllis +

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Reverend John Smith: "Core convictions about the Holy Spirit"

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The Reverend John Smith, Vicar, St. Alban Mission
Sunday, June 4, 2017

Core convictions about the Holy Spirit:

1) The Holy Spirit is love itself and very powerful, like the wind (ruach) in Genesis. You can't see the Holy Spirit itself, but you can see the fruits and effects of the Spirit manifest in people: unity, peace, joy, love, self-control, patience, etc.

2) The Holy Spirit alive in us from Baptism nudges us to do things that we really do not want to do and don't come naturally to us, among them, prayer, study, giving sacrificially, and a desire to share the Good News! It's easy to forego prayer and worship in our busy lives. We like to entertain ourselves more than study or read a holy book. We give what we feel we can "afford" and not set us back very much. We are reticent to share our faith with others, fearing their response or rejection. Responding to the grace of the Holy Spirit within us changes are natural tendency not to grow in these practices. (PS This also goes for others who have other spiritual paths.)

3) The Holy Spirit manifests itself primarily in mercy and forgiveness to those who have wronged us. In today's Gospel, John 20, Jesus forgives his disciples who fled from him when he needed them the most. Instead of scolding them and firing them, Jesus forgives them and gives them the Holy Spirit to go out and forgive others, making forgiveness how we respond to hurt, rather than vengeance. Priest do this through absolution, but every baptized person can forgive others. To carry grudges and not forgive is what Jesus refers to in talking about "retaining" sins. Today in our world there is much retention of forgiveness, like the retention of water in CHF (congestive heart failure) that cuts off the heart's ability to work, so too, retention of sins of others (individuals, groups, or nations, spiritually blocks our hearts from love and forgiveness. The Holy Spirit seeks to unleash the power of forgiveness in each person.

4) The Holy Spirit is the only Source of unity and peace the world seeks. In the reading from Acts 2 of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon people from every language and nation, people hear the Good News of God's love in their own tongue. The "catholic" church is borne. This story reverses the outcome of the Tower of Babel story in Genesis, where, in trying to reach the heavens with a Tower created by human effort alone, without acknowledgement of God, people from the nations find their languages confused. Onlyu by speaking the language of love and forgiveness, a gift of the Holy Spirit, can humankind arrive at unity and peace.

5) The Holy Spirit stands by, supports, and seeks to bring to God, all those made victims and scapegoats by the world in the human efforts to find a semblance of peace. "If we can just get rid of this one or that one, we will have peace." It doesn't work like that. The Holy Spirit is the Paraclete (one called alongside for support) and Advocate for all victims, excluded and marginalized, by the powers of this world.

6) The Holy Spirit comes to people in various ways. For us, the Holy Spirit is given in our Baptism in Christ. We have the Holy Spirit, but often we choose not to respond to the Spirit's urging. The Holy Spirit then lies dormant in us, sometimes for years, but we can ask the Spirit to be renewed in us anytime and start to be more readily attentive to the Holy Spirit's action in our daily lives and realize the fruits of the Spirit. For this reason, on Pentecost Sunday we renew our Baptismal Promises and ask for a fresh sending of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Come, Holy Spirit, come! 

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

Friday, June 2, 2017

QURAN and THE BIBLE: "Historically, we are brothers and sisters or at least distant cousins, descendants of the book, heirs of the Abrahamic tradition."

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Visitation (Christianity) 

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Ramadan (Muslim)

Besides Memorial Day, many of us observed the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, while others observed Ramadan this week.  Quite a variety of reasons to stop and think, but they have a lot in common.  During Ramadan our Muslim sisters and brothers celebrate when the Quran was first revealed to  Mohammed.  In today’s frenzy of anti-radical, anti-ISIS sentiment it’s easy to forget that Isis no more represents the faith of Islam than did the KKK represent all members of the Christian faith.  Historically, we are brothers and sisters or at least distant cousins, descendants of the book, heirs of the Abrahamic tradition.  Combine chapters 3 and 19 of the Quran and Luke chapter 1 you get a lushly detailed picture of Mary’s birth and childhood and a detailed portrait of Zaharias from the Quran and the beauty of the visit of Mary to her older cousin Elizabeth in Luke.

According to the Quran Zaharias, sometimes referred to as Zachary, was a righteous man, humble and poor, of the same lineage as Mary’s mother, and he was Mary’s guardian.  Mary had been dedicated to God at her birth by her mother.  Zaharias visited her daily and found her well provided for with fruits out of season, “by God” Mary reported.  Both Luke and the Quran agree though Zaharias had no earthly wealth, but he prayed for an heir to inherit his priestly tradition.  His wife Elizabeth was barren and beyond child bearing years and Zaharias himself was old and gray, but still yearned for a child.  When an angel told Zaharias he would have a son, out of disbelief Zaharias asked for a sign - the sign: Zaharias would be mute until the child was born.  In Luke instructs the child be named John and outlines the life he will lead.  Silently, Zaharias leaves the temple.

A few months later, Mary is visited by the Angel Gabriel and learns, though a virgin, she is to bear a son.  In Luke she is living a distance from Elizabeth and Zaharias , but travels to visit them and share the news.  As soon as she enters their home, the son in Elizabeth’s womb leaps and Elizabeth recites the verses we now know as the Magnificat.  Each woman gives birth to a son some months apart, names them as directed by the angel, Zaharias regains his voice.  Both sons grow into the heritage foretold by the angel and meet at the Jordan River when John baptizes Jesus.

This history is just one that can be found in both the Quran and the Bible.  We share a history.  At time when others worshipped a pantheon of gods, Islam, Judaism, and the emerging Christian faith recognized but one God.  At baptism we promise to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself” and “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being”.  Let us remember that when we listen to the news of the day. 

Phyllis+


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.


Deacon Phyllis Moonogian
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE