Translate

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

John Bell: 25 Years a CHAMP among CHAMPS - John Bell, is the founder and president of Educational Resources of Antigua Guatemala.

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, people standing
Meet and greet some of our friends at "Casa 80"  Antigua, Guatemala

Dear Friends


Greetings from St. Albans!


Sometimes you see a good work taking place and just have to tell your friends about it. Such is the case with Casa 80 (Casa Ochenta) here in Antigua Guatemala.. Often we receive requests asking for help. The needs are so great everywhere near and far. How can we make a difference and make the most of our days? Sometimes we’re overwhelmed by our own issues. But I still want to tell you about Casa 80 in case you may consider it as a place in your giving.

Our friend and member of St. Alban, John Bell, is the founder and president of Educational Resources of Antigua Guatemala. John has lived and worked sacrificially in Guatemala for 25 years and has spent those years motivating young people to embrace their visions and find values to live by. They are people with special needs physically, emotionally, and spiritually. John provides scholarships and opportunities for vocational trainings. Fourteen young people live together in Casa 80. The able-bodied assist the disabled. A young couple with a new baby watches over the house and prepares meals. All are engaged in furthering their education. These are people we can lift up, offer hope, assuring them that they are God’s beloved creations, just like us.

Nowadays we pay bills directly from our bank accounts for many convenient reasons. Terri and I send small amounts, through our bank or Paypal to good works as we identify them. The amount is usually small $5-$25 monthly and it is our hope that over time, and added to the contributions of others, it will make a real difference to the recipients. Often we forget what we did because it becomes natural, without a second thought: When you give don’t let the left hand know what your right had is doing. It’s a joy, not a burden.
.
We can do the same for Educational Resources of Antigua Guatemala with a cheerful heart. A young man who is also a member of St. Alban, Nazario, who lost both arms accidentally by a machine at younger age did a great job on the link below. He is a university student studying Computer Technology.

Would you please consider this prayerfully and act as you are able
Donation Button and Facebook links are below. All contributions are tax deductible in the U.S. Thanks! Checks made payable and mailed to:


Educational Resources 
PO Box 133 
Coventry, RI 02816

Love in Jesus, John+ and Terri too 

Follow Us On Facebook


St. Alban Episcopal/Anglican Mission, Antigua, Guatemala, Episcopal diocese of Guatemala, IARCA
(Anglican Communion)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Bread of Life VISION: "Human beings no longer had to be scapegoated and killed in order to find peace" The Reverend John Smith

A Difficult Teaching
          This Sunday we hear the fifth and final excerpt from Chapter six of John’s Gospel.  This chapter is called the Bread of Life because Jesus refers to himself as the Bread of Life and the Bread come down from heaven five times.  In order to provide context to Jesus’ assertions on being the Bread of Life for the life of the world, we’ve talked about the “bread of death.”  If Jesus has come among us as the Bread of Life it must be because the world has been eating another bread:  the bread of death.
          The difference between these two “breads” couldn’t be greater.  The world and its human culture has been eating the bread of death from the earliest times after the Fall.  A culture of sacrifice developed which required, at the order of the most powerful, that human beings had to be sacrificed, enemies needed to be conquered, in order to find a lasting peace.  This kind of peace never took root.  Those in power and control, with the people surrounding them, feasted on this “bread of death.”  This was just the way things worked in the real world.  Scarcity was/is everywhere so you needed to get as much as you could and protect at all cost what you had.
          Into this same “real” world Jesus was incarnated.  What we have been talking about these past five weeks in Chapter six, and really the whole Gospel, is that Jesus came to bring a different Bread for the world to feast on (this bread is celebrated and memorialized in the Holy Eucharist).  Jesus offered himself on the Cross and rose from the dead to empower this new Bread and change the “menu” for the world’s insatiable appetite.  Human beings no longer had to be scapegoated and killed in order to find peace.  Everyone would enjoy real peace and this Bread could be multiplied and shared in abundance.  The hungry and poor would be truly satisfied and everyone would benefit.
          This is a beautiful vision, but it hasn’t become part of day to day reality.  How come?  St. Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians explained the difficulty:
          For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
          What Paul is saying to the Ephesians and to all of us is that there is a struggle going on for the “menu” of the world.  The bread of death continues to appeal to the palate of the world, due not to individual corrupt and power-hungry leaders (blood and flesh), but to whole institutions under the control of spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, ie. Satan or the Devil (diablos= the one who holds a person in scandal).  Most people think that if we can just remove one corrupt leader after another the problem would be solved, but because of the evil present in the institutions themselves, one corrupt leader will be replaced by another (to be) corrupted leader.  Thus, the struggle will go on for a long time, perhaps even until Jesus’ return, so put on the armor of God. 
          Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to . . . stand firm.  Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.  As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.  With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Pray in the Spirit . . .
          All people are created good by God, even the bad guys.  We are all caught up in institutions, some hallowed by us, but continue to be under the influence of forces counter to God.  Even the Church itself, especially after Constantine, gave in to, and claimed an imperial culture, but Jesus’ message and example in the Gospel still continues  
          Jesus’ teaching is difficult.  Many of his disciples and listeners left his following scandalized by his criticism of their “sacred” institutions and the sinfulness of the leaders within them.  What can we do?  We can confess our sins, put on the armor of God, and feast on the Bread of Life.
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

*The Anglican Church in Central America (Anglican Communion)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Reverend John Smith: "When we receive and eat the Bread of Life in the Holy Eucharist we are ingesting the Risen Body of Christ, not eating human flesh."

Imagen relacionada
Feeding on the Bread of Life
          When I was in the seminary I spent the summer between my second and third year of theology working around my home parish with two other seminarians.  One of the perks of working around the church was being taken to dinner at least once to a really nice restaurant by our pastor, Fr. Lavelle.  I’ll never forget what Fr. Lavelle said to us as we were being seated at table by the host.  “Tonight gentlemen, I’m going to teach you the difference between eating and dining.”
          Jesus makes this same kind of teaching to the Jews and disciples in today’s passage from the gospel.  This is the fourth week of the five that Liturgical Year B gives us in chapter six of the Gospel of John.  The theme of this important chapter is Jesus teaching about himself as the Bread of Life that gives true life to the world.  When we take the Bread of Life are we slow dining or eating it with gusto?
          Fr. Lavelle, my pastor, was trying to upgrade the table manners of future priests:  take our food slowly, don’t wolf it down, really taste and savor each bite.  For him this would be real dining, not just eating to fill our bellies as fast as we could.  Jesus, on the other hand, was not concerned with fine dining, but with an urgency to eat the true Bread which is his life.
          On our journey through John chapter six we come to the most problematic part of the chapter centered in two verses:
The Jews ask “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” and Jesus responds “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.”
There are two Greek words for eating:  phagein and trogein.  Phageinis the most common word for eating (normal dining).  Trogein is the word used when speaking of an animal devouring their prey and gnawing on its flesh. 
          When the Jews talk about their difficulty with Jesus giving them his flesh to eat and his blood to drink, they consistently use the wordpfagein, but when Jesus responds to them he introduces the wordtrogein.  I think Jesus is trying to make two points here: The Jews and the crowd will devour his flesh when they demand his crucifixion by the Romans and hang him on the cross to die, but for his followers, his ensuing Resurrection will power their thanksgiving as they break the Bread of Life, feeding on it and learning how to live Eucharistically until he comes again.
          Jesus’ introduction of the word trogein into his dialogue has been problematic for many over the centuries.
          A story:  My first parish as Rector was in a cotton farming area of Arizona.  Most of my parishioners were county and city employees or school teachers.  The wealthiest parishioners were those who owned cotton farming operations and/or the water rights to land. As you know, parishes are sustained by the giving of all their parishioners.  There was a widow lady in the parish who was the largest giver by far.  She attended the Eucharist every Sunday and put her tithe in the basket.  This woman had always wanted to go to Africa on a safari, so she planned a three week trip.  When she returned she never came back to church again.  Of course I went to call on her to see how she was and if there was a difficulty of some sort.  She explained that the guide of her safari, (who she described as a very charismatic fellow), spent some time explaining the practice of cannibalism and, when the discussion turned to religion, convinced her that if she was a practicing Christian and received the Body and Blood of Christ, she too was practicing cannibalism: devouring human flesh.  She told me she had made a decision to never take Communion again.  Nothing I said could change her thinking.  I was very sad.
          When we receive and eat the Bread of Life in the Holy Eucharist we are ingesting the Risen Body of Christ, not eating human flesh. Eating human flesh is, as we talked about last week, eating the “bread of death:” the need to sacrifice and victimize others out of fear of loss and our own survival.  Jesus desires that we feast on him as the Bread of Life to empower our own living in thanksgiving, imitators of Jesus who walked through a troubled world, with open-hands to those truly in need.  This is to know true freedom, peace, and God’s love.  
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

*The Anglican Church in Central America (Anglican Communion)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

"We are 'drawn' to Jesus and learn to imitate him and walk as he did through a troubled world, doing what we can to assuage its cravings, all the while maintaining a deep inner joy and a sense of real peace. " The Reverend John Smith

Resultado de imagen para Holy Eucharist, photo?
Eating the Bread of Life or the Bread of Death
          I think it is normal for all of us to get depressed from time to time:  you just want to stay in bed, you have no appetite, and you dread interacting with anyone or anything. Fortunately for most of us this state lasts for a few hours or maybe a day at the most.  A loved one might tell us to get up and eat something.  We eventually do so and “snap out” of our temporary depression.  For many however, depression can last longer and sometimes even it can take away the desire to continue living in this world.
          In our first reading from 1 Kings 19, Elijah finds himself in a deep depression or PTSD.  He crawls up under “a solitary broom tree” and wants to just stay there and die.  Elijah has just come from winning a fire-lighting contest with the prophets of Ba’al.  He proved to everyone that the God he served is the only true God. Thinking about his great victory when he called down fire from heaven on his soaked pile of wood and it happened, a person would think that Elijah would be on Cloud Nine, but this wasn’t the case.  After he won the contest the whole crowd was ready to carry out his orders.  Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” Then they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon, and killed them there. (I Kings 18:40)
          Elijah was a real prophet of the Lord, the God we believe in today, but that doesn’t mean that he did God’s will in murdering the 450 prophets of Baal and create such bloodshed.  (This is what we call “sacred” violence:  violence we think God approves of, after all, we’re only killing a lot of bad guys, aren’t we?  NOT!)
          No wonder in the very scene we see Elijah completely exhausted and ready to give up.  He is not hungry at all.  Why? Elijah has had his fill of the “bread of death.”  He thought that if he could sacrifice and victimize God’s enemies, God would be pleased and finally all would acknowledge the living and true God and there would be peace.  But, after all the shedding of blood, people didn’t come to know the real nature of God as a loving and merciful Creator, so everyone continues in a state of depression until another challenge or battle presents itself.  What about Elijah?  After all this, Elijah handed over his prophetic call to Elisha and took an early retirement, riding off in a chariot of fire.
          The hunger and need for more sacrificial victims in order to find some semblance of peace in the world was, and still is, insatiable.  If this is not what God wants for God’s created human beings, is it surprising that he would send “Someone” who, by his own “self-sacrifice” would show the bankrupt nature of all sacrificial behavior and victimization and replace all of this with Sacrament: a visible sign of God’s love?  In other words, offer to extricate people from feeding on the “bread of death” and instead offer them the Bread of Life.  This is the only way the world will find peace and create Holy Communion.  I think Jesus knew It would take time to change and wean people, including ourselves, from the desire for sacrificial victims (the bread of death to our enemies) to Sacrament.  Jesus described it as a process of “drawing” (elkuw) people to come to imitate himself:  Jesus Christ, who incarnated, above all else, the love, mercy, and forgiveness of his Father who, “makes the sun shine on the just and unjust alike.” 
          All God’s children are free to choose between the Bread of Life and the “bread of death.”  To choose the Bread of Life is to choose to live in thanksgiving to God for everything we have with an eye to sharing it with those most in need.  To choose the “bread of death” is to live in  fear of loss, and to sacrifice others to maintain and keep what we have.
          Every time we gather to hear God’s Word and celebrate the Eucharist (give thanks) we fast from the “bread of death” and receive the Bread of Life.  We become what we eat:  Mann ist was er isst.  (Fuerbach) We are “drawn” to Jesus and learn to imitate him and walk as he did through a troubled world, doing what we can to assuage its cravings, all the while maintaining a deep inner joy and a sense of real peace.  
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

*The Anglican Church in Central America (Anglican Communion)






Sunday, August 5, 2018

"Jesus wants to lead people beyond the scandal of their constant cravings, to believe in him and not just what he can do for them. " The Reverend John Smith

Resultado de imagen para Quid for Quo Faith? photo
Quid Pro Quo Faith
          Last week we began our five week reading of chapter 6 of John’s Gospel sharing how Jesus was trying to move his listeners, and by extension all humankind, from living with a fear of scarcity to a contented life in abundance.  There is a learning curve to living with an attitude of abundance, a learning curve helped greatly by the celebration of Jesus’ actions in the Holy Eucharist:  Taking, blessing, breaking, and sharing.  We learn to take what God gives us, offer it back to God in thanksgiving, and making it useful to others (breaking), sharing what we have, especially with those most in need.
          In today’s scriptures we learn what happens when we don’t like or appreciate what God has given us.  We were expecting something different or better than we think we deserve.  Like the hungry Israelites in the desert who murmured against God for not having what they wanted and when God gave them manna (made from the flour-like substance gathered off the desert plants and made into bread), the very substance God gave for survival becomes a scandal (scandalon= something small, like a pebble, that trips a person up on life’s journey) to them. 
          God loves all his people and wants to give them what they need, but there is always a risk that when God gives what they are craving, they will be famished soon after and will want more and more.  And, if the “more” isn’t what they like or desire, they are scandalized in the Giver.  Like the phrase we use today:  I know what you did for me before, but what have you done for me lately?  The people who had their fill of the loaves and fish want more:  What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe in you? Satisfying their famished cravings did not bring people to belief in Jesus.  People remain in unbelief, scandalized by a God not of their own making.  The same is very true today when it is so easy to be scandalized by the humanness of the Church of God, a mystery of holiness and human sinfulness.
          Bottom line:  Jesus wants to lead people beyond the scandal of their constant cravings, to believe in him and not just what he can do for them.  Jesus tells them that he is the true bread of God which came down from heaven and gives life to the world.  In other words, unless a person comes to believe in Jesus as the True Bread that satisfies our famished cravings, the cravings will continue and even when we experience moments of fascination and joy with “signs” attributed to God, boredom, apathy, and despair will take over again.  The crowd, who ate their fill, the  next day demanding fresh new “signs” from Jesus, finally disperses, but sadly will come together again to call for Jesus’ crucifixion.  This is the real meaning of the word “devil” or diabolos:  a human person locked in scandal.
          The Holy Eucharist we receive is a sacred sign or sacrament of Jesus, who, as the True Bread come down from heaven, satisfies our famished cravings as human beings.  The Eucharist leads us out of scandal into abundant living.  It is all we need.  Catherine of Siena lived years of her life on the Eucharist alone.  Sociologists have done studies that as people’s wealth increases and they have everything they want, their happiness goes down.  St. Teresa of Avila prayed Solo Dios basta.  To believe in Jesus, just for himself, accepting his mercy and love, is to have everything we really need.  
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

*The Anglican Church in Central America (Anglican Communion)