Translate

Saturday, December 29, 2018

"We hold on to this truth: the light of Christ in our lives can never be overcome by darkness." John+

Imagen relacionada
Jesus the Human Being
          This Sunday, with the Christmas celebration winding down, this “first Sunday after” gives us a chance to reflect on what God becoming human means.  Usually when we use the term “human” these days it’s in the context of making an excuse like “I’m only human,” or “he or she is only human.”  This or that weakness or failing can be explained by appealing to our “humanness.”  But when we reflect on the Incarnation, God’s Son becoming human and taking on our human flesh, we’re not talking, like in mathematics, being the “lowest common denominator,” but something quite different.
          Our human nature, created by God, is something quite exalted really, made as we are, “a little lower than the angels.”  The situation is, however, that we have been brought low by our own willfulness and sin, by hurting and being hurt by others during our lifetimes, so that our exalted nature, except for some saints and prophets or a parent or grandma here or there, has been so wounded so that our exalted human nature is hard to recognize.  This puts Christmas and the Incarnation in relief for me.  Walter Wink, a New Testament scholar, shares this crucial insight:
          And this is the revelation:  God is HUMAN . . . it is the great error of humanity to believe that it is human.  We are only fragmentarily human, fleetingly human, brokenly human.  We see glimpses of our humanness, we can only dream of what a more human existence and political order would be like, but we have not yet arrived at true humanness. Only God is human, and we are made in God’s image and likeness—which is to say we are capable of becoming human.
          So if only God is truly human, then we are human becoming.  This is the crucial revelation:  of who we are as human beings and the task the human sciences, to help us understand, at the greatest depth possible, what it means to be human.  Jesus the human being is the norm and goal of the human project.
          The Prologue of John’s Gospel:  the overture to the significance of Jesus’ incarnation and the rest of John’s Gospel, lays out a pattern, parabolic in nature, of God’s plan:  The Word comes down from the Godhead, takes on our human flesh, dwells among us, is rejected by his own people (other human beings), but those who did/do accept him received/receive power to become children of God (truly human).  The rest of the Gospel of John shares Jesus’ teaching, his formal rejection and death on the Cross, and the complete vindication of his life and teaching in the Resurrection to new life.
          The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it.
          We hold on to this truth:  the light of Christ in our lives can never be overcome by darkness.  A sign of this truth is the Holy Eucharist we celebrate.  Jesus us gives us his body and blood and we ingest it and, as Fuerbach, the German philosopher taught, “Mann ist was er isst.”  We become what we eat.  The goal always is to become human at the highest common denominator, not the lowest.  Jesus Christ sets the bar for all people in the goal to be human.  For us who are baptized the Eucharist is a major help and grace toward the goal, but people on other paths may reach the goal as well.  The Holy Spirit blows where it will.  The Good News is that the goal of becoming truly human is clearer and possible since Jesus came among us.  Jesus is the Human Being!  
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, December 23, 2018

THE ANGEL OF THE LORD SHOUTED: "Stop" - Stop to the exploitation and use of violence against our fellow human beings! John+

Resultado de imagen para Little Jaklin, Guatemala died at the u.s.border, photo?
Little Town of Bethlehem
          In our day to day human culture most of us hold the conviction that “bigger is better.”  But in God’s culture, where the influence of Holy Spirit has free reign, littleness is valued.  Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, was one of the smallest cities in Judah, Judah was the smallest of the countries In the Middle East, and David, its King, was the youngest and smallest of Jesse’s sons.  The Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans, all dominated Judah at one time or another.  The only thing little Judah had going for it was that it was chosen by God to be the place where God would reveal the path of the world’s salvation.
          Human culture, after the Fall from grace of Adam and Eve, was based on sacrifice.  To ensure the favor of the gods for a good harvest and other blessings, various grains, animals, and humans were sacrificed.  Human sacrifice was perhaps the earliest of the primitive sacrifices, later replaced by animals and grains.  Wars between people, however, remained an, acceptable place where human sacrifice continued, and continues, even to our own day.
          This brings us to the true significance of Jesus’ incarnation and life among us:  to change our human culture away from requiring sacrifice in order to achieve our goals, or to protect what we have,  This, the prophets warned, is not what God wills.  As Micah said “What I desire is mercy, not sacrifice, says the Lord.  God’s will is for us to live in peace in love and mercy with our fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters created by God our Father.
          The baby Jesus, whom we revere in the manger (talk about littleness!), became a man who offered himself as a victim in order to transform a culture based on human sacrifice and death.  Jesus’ coming among us, in letting his life be taken, identified with all victims, past, present, and future.  His self-sacrifice started a movement away from a culture of sacrifice to a culture of Life.  Jesus, the divine Victim, forgave those who put him on the Cross because unknowingly, they were victims too!  
The movement away from our sacrificial culture and people’s acceptance of sacrifice as “just the way things are in this world,” began when Abraham was about to thrust the knife into Isaac his son and the angel of the Lord shouted “Stop!”  Jesus’ whole life and ministry was one big loud “Stop!” to the exploitation and use of violence against our fellow human beings.
         . Thankfully, Abraham heard the command to “stop,” and heeded it, but over 2000 years later human beings are slow to hear Jesus’ cry.  The leaders of the nations, and the powerful who support them, still require and permit the sacrifice of the weakest and poorest to achieve their “sacred” goals and principles.  
A recent example is little Jakalin, the 7 year old Guatemalan girl separated from her father, became sick in detention and died in the custody of the United States.  One administration official admitted that this was sad, but it showed the consequences of attempting illegal entry to the United States.  The “gods” of culture, not the God revealed by Jesus, were duly worshipped:  “sacred” values were upheld by a “sacred” death
          Everything about Christmas is beautiful:  the story, the hymns, the decorations everywhere, but it’s in the littleness of Bethlehem, in humility, in smallness, in mercy shown, in the meekest and poorest among us  Jesus is found.  
Merry Christmas!  
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)



Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Guatemala LOVES nativity scenes! Elizabeth Bell, Bishops Warden, St. Alban Episcopal/Anglican Mission, Antigua, Guatemala


Nativity scenes have been a tradition for centuries. St. Francis of Assisi created the first nativity scene, known as Italian presepes, in Greccio, Italy in 1223 
Volcanoes, lakes, mountains, sheep, and ceramic figures of Maya villagers are all part of Guatemalan nacimientos in many homes throughout the country today. Catholic youth groups join in creating nativity scenes around church altars– many with colonial sculptures of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and a paper-mache ox and donkey. The Three Wise Men are side by side local huts – ranchitos – with colorful paper scenario displays showing elaborate landscapes. The baby Jesus is placed in the manger at midnight on December 24th when Guatemala celebrates Christmas with lots of fireworks!
Nativity scenes have been a tradition for centuries. St. Francis of Assisi created the first nativity scene, known as Italian presepes, in Greccio, Italy in 1223 with the assistance of a local landowner, Giovianni Delita or Velita. Adopted in Spain with elaborate figures sometimes made out of gold, ivory and detailed carved woods, the first nacimientos were brought to Guatemala with the conquerors after 1524. Santo Hermano Pedro de San José de Betancur promoted this tradition here in 1625.
Today these are all works of art and great fun to enjoy at Christmastime! Enjoy those at San Francisco, San José Catedral and La Merced. This year, for the first time, a special nacimiento has been created inside the ruins of the Cathedral by their Patrons. Open daily from 9am to 5pm with a small admission, it is also open Friday and Saturday night from 5pm – 9pm (3a Avenida entrance).
 Proceeds benefit this restoration project. Another very special nacimiento is open to the public at the Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro (3a Avenida & 6a Calle). Created by the patients who benefit from this amazing foundation, it is a well- known local tradition to visit and leave a donation for this project which helps the most needy in Guatemala. Happy holidays!
https://antiguatours.net/blogs/2018/12/guatemala-loves-nativity-scenes/

Sunday, December 16, 2018

LEADING TOWARD JOY: "God’s judgment will be marked by kindness, forbearance, patience, and the 'fire' of love" The Reverend John Smith

Resultado de imagen para Third Sunday of advent, photo?
Don’t Worry Be Joyful
          In the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent the church gives us a Sunday to “lighten up” a bit.  The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday, which means “be joyful.”  Joy is a virtue, different from the notion of “happiness.”  Joy is a gift of God’s grace and stays with us in all circumstances- life’s ups and downs, whereas happiness is based mainly in our human experience day to day and can leave us when trials and disappointments come.  Joy is the gift that God wants to give us.
          Joy is very evident in the first two readings this Sunday.  Zephaniah is led by God to remind God’s people, daughter Zion, who have suffered much from moral and religious corruption that would result in exile, that
          God will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.  I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it.  I will deal with you oppressors at that time.  And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.
          Joy is the conviction that comes from knowing God is near and active on our behalf even when we think everything is falling apart.  In the second reading Paul reminds the Philippians to live their faith (in a very pluralistic, big city) with joy:
          Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let your gentleness be known to everyone.  The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything . . .
          The message of joy is harder to discern in the in the Gospel reading where John the Baptist is calling the crowds gathering around him for baptism, a “brood of vipers” and warning them of the wrath that is coming upon them if they don’t repent. 
          The ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Talking about coming “wrath” and fire is not a very joyful message at all, but John concludes his sermon that day with the promise that a powerful one is coming after him who will baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire.
          Where’s the “Joy” in this discourse?  It comes out in a “via negative.”  Jesus is coming after John and Jesus is cut from a different cloth than John.  John the Baptist saw the “wrath to come” as from God.  God is coming to punish his people for their unfaithfulness to the Covenant.  Jesus will show by his life and teaching that all “wrath” is of human origin, not divine.  God allows us, in our human freedom, to experience the consequences of our own harshness and violence to our fellow human beings.  God’s judgment will be marked by kindness, forbearance, patience, and the “fire” of love.  This leads to Joy.
          When John talks about separating the wheat from the chaff and burning the chaff in an unquenchable fire, a fire that never goes out, he may be thinking about Gehenna, a valley outside the walls of Jerusalem where the garbage was burned, whose fire never went out.  Sarah Dylan Bruer, an episcopal priest and scholar, studied what the “winnowing fork” refers to and found that it is more like a shovel.  When the ‘winnower” separates the wheat from the chaff (which blows away with the wind), the wheat falls to the ground and is shoveled up for alimentary use.  In the context of what God’s people were going through, the chaff refers to the futility of using military action for victory over Judah’s oppressors.  Trust in a military solution to their problems would lead only to more and more wrath:  not from God, but human beings.  Don’t be chaff which blows away and is swept up and burned.  Instead, be like the wheat gathered for usefulness to God.  Israel is meant not to be a military victor, but the light of the world.  This is to know true and lasting Joy.
          The root of our Joy on this Sunday is based on the fact that Jesus didn’t act like John the Baptist was expecting him to.  Sometimes we tend to be like John the Baptist, thinking that God’s wrath should come down on our enemies or those that don’t like us, but as we come to know Jesus in Eucharist (Thanksgiving) we come to realize Jesus’ way of looking at the world and other people is so different than John the Baptist, who even sent his disciples ask Jesus (Mt. 11:3) “Are you the one to come, or should we wait for another?”  Jesus is the one.  Jesus gives us the gift of Joy.  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, December 9, 2018

REJOICE AT HIS APPEARING: "Doing the best we can to imitate Christ, asking forgiveness when we fail, we have nothing to fear" John+

Resultado de imagen para second sunday of advent, photo?
The Day of Christ
          As I’ve been sharing these past few Sundays we are reading apocalyptic writings and considering apocalyptic themes:  “unveiling” hidden meanings about the ends of things, the end of the world, etc.  The temptation with these writings is to think that they are trying to describe in detail for us how the end of the world will take place and what we have to do to be ready for it so that we can among the elect and go to heaven.  This literature is so "over the top" that many people today write it off as fiction and the Church as well.
          This Second Sunday of Advent is the last of these “apocalyptic” Sundays.  The focus of today’s readings is the coming Day of the Lord in the reading from Malachi and in the Gospel we hear of the ministry of John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight.
          For centuries, Christians have had a choice regarding the Day of the Lord:  to focus on the return of Jesus at the end of time, or, focus on Jesus’ first coming among us and his ministry and teaching.  If I have to say where this choice has evolved, I think it has been mostly with the details of Christ’s Second Coming and who will be saved and who will be condemned, mostly we think, for not believing correctly in God.
          When the prophet Malachi talks about the coming Day of the Lord and when John the Baptist is preparing the way of the Lord, they are speaking about preparing for Jesus’ first coming and his Kingdom bringing a new way of living life in this world.  These two prophets would have us be ready for this person, unlike any other personage since the foundation of the world, who would make possible fundamental change in how human beings might live together in this world now, and for all time.  
          Unfortunately, the focus on Jesus’ coming, his example and teaching, and his promise of Resurrection to those imitate his life in this world, has not received the main focus of Christianity since the first three centuries.  For example, loving your neighbor as yourself and loving your enemies, eschewing all violence, was completely accepted and lived out by the early followers of Jesus.  This is hard to do, so it became easier for Catholic Christianity and Orthodoxy to emphasize the Second Coming and the necessity of believingcorrectly, rather than radically taking Jesus’ teaching seriously and trusting in God’s ultimate vindication.  After the Protestant Reformation this emphasis became even greater.
          Fortunately, the best biblical scholarship of our day, is providing a new re-emphasis on the first coming among us:  the Incarnation.  With this renewed emphasis the focus is back on the teaching and example of Jesus and the attempt to imitate and have the same mind as Jesus.  The thought is:  If we start to truly live the teaching of Jesus enshrined in the Gospels and supported by all the other scriptures, the world will be changed for the better and the Second Coming will take care of itself.  After all, Jesus' return might never come in our lifetime, like it hasn't for the people who believed in Jesus for the last two thousand years or the next two thousand years.  What is important is to live out the full implications of Jesus' coming among us the first time!  Then we will truly “rejoice at his appearing” as our Eucharistic prayer goes.  
     Doing the best we can to imitate Christ, asking forgiveness when we fail, we have nothing to fear.  Even if we have to lay down our lives trying.  Christ has died.  Christ is Risen.  Christ will come again.  
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, December 2, 2018

Hanukkah GIF - Hanukkah Holidays Judeu GIFs

"Jesus was teaching something for all his followers down through time: violence used against violence is a dead end." The Reverend John Smith

Imagen relacionada
Happy New Year
A reflection on the First Sunday of Advent C
I always feel like surprising everyone at church by shouting out “Happy New Year!” It is really is the start of a new year and when we start it out with the Lord present to us it will always be a happy one!
We start this new year on a serious note. Two Sundays ago, and continuing for this Sunday and next, we continue with apocalyptic writings. Apocalyptic writings are about “unveiling” something that is hidden. Most often when we read or hear these texts we think they are talking of about the end times or the end of the world. This is usually what we think when Jesus, in today’s Gospel, is describing “signs” in the heavens and “distress” among nations. We, and many of our brothers and sister Christians, can think that Jesus is describing our time and the “end” is near.
But then Jesus says that all these troubling things are going to happen before that generation passes away. This is problematic if we are thinking in terms of the end of the world. Here we are, over 2000 years later, and the end has not come. This problem is often rationalized away by saying that Jesus, his disciples, and the early Christian community thought Jesus was going to return very soon but they were just wrong.
But what if Jesus wasn’t wrong, maybe even right? What if Jesus, preaching to a mostly Jewish audience was talking about these horrible things happening in their generation after all, not his return at the “end of the world,” but the end of their world. In the year 66ad the Jews put together an armed revolt against the Romans and they were severely crushed and Jerusalem and the Temple completely destroyed, fire and smoke blocking out the rays of the sun and the light of the moon. Distress was everywhere. If this is what Jesus was “unveiling” then he wasn’t talking about his return at the end of time, but about something different: the absolute uselessness of striking out violently and militarily. The Romans were doing this all over the world and their empire collapsed, so don’t think you can get anywhere following the Roman’s example.
Jesus was teaching something for all his followers down through time: violence used against violence is a dead end. Victimizing others will not save you from being a victim yourself. Jesus was a King like no other. Instead of providing other victims so that he could live and reign on this earth, like other “Kings,” he became a victim himself, all the while forgiving others. His Resurrection and Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man which he referred to was not a description of the Second Coming as much as a complete vindication for his life and teaching (which looked so much a failure to most) as well as for those who would follow him and live in forgiveness and mercy toward enemies and those who do them wrong.
Jesus was teaching that what life in this world, after his coming among us, was a process of giving birth to a New Creation. Giving birth takes time, a pregnant woman experiences all manner of feelings, welcome and unwelcome, ups and downs, strange and wonderful movements within, and the beginnings of labor. Finally,after great stress and pain, a new creation takes place and a baby is born. Everyone rejoices!
We are part of a New Creation that God is bringing out of the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus. It will take time. For our part, we have the example of Jesus to live by and, with it, the hope of complete vindication. We live eternally now, not overly curious about the “end” or worrying about it. If it ever came during our lifetime on this earth, seeing it, we will just clap and sing alleluia! Happy New Year!
Amen!
John+

*The Anglican Church in Central America (Anglican Communion)