Dear Creator Family,
I write with good news this week (lower case “good news,” that is. One must always keep perspective on what we’re about!) After such a long process we have turned the corner on several fronts. We have received the Health Department approval for a new drain field and have contracted with C & W Hanover Septic to do the work. We are on their calendar and hope to begin construction in October.
After the disappointment of our Yard Sale cancellation, we were able to connect with Redeemer Roman Catholic Church and join them in their ministry to Honduran Christians. Redeemer has had a mission to Honduras for many years and the recent unrest and natural disasters there have made their support all the more vital. A crew from Redeemer was here on Monday and was able to take over half of our items to sell in their yard sale to support our brothers and sisters in Honduras. This blessing to them is—by extension—a blessing for us that we can help those in such need in the name of Christ. That’s how the Gospel works, after all—by so many small, often unseen, connections. Praise be to God and our brothers and sisters at Redeemer! Please pray that their event goes well this coming weekend, as if there’s anyone who knows the hard work behind a big yard sale, it’s Creator folk!
Many of the remaining items will be donated to Fix Ministry, a Thrift Store which reaches beyond sales to help the most in need. After that I earnestly ask for help, after we plan a date(s) in the next month, to clean and clear our Sunday School rooms—straightening, tidying, getting rid of the last boxes, trash, and what-have-you. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to “take back” our building? Please help me mobilize a one-time effort along these lines.
In the church office, we are nearing the completion of our research into electronic giving software and hope to have “on-line-giving” as an option very soon. Mary has completed her renovation of the online directory and, while the new format may not very noticeable to you, it will be much easier for her to maintain.
What’s on Deck?
After our Parish Hall is emptied of the accumulation, we will dive into the Vision Ministry’s recommendations. These plans start with a thorough cleaning and an assessment of the building. From there we will move to a few much-needed improvements, which will open the door for our Parish Hall to be a multi-use building with available rental space. The completion of our portico lighting and bathroom fixtures will finish up the outside until special projects are re-engaged.
The fall is looking to be an exciting time of completion and new beginning bringing glory to God and opportunity to our Creator Family. Please contact me or your Vestry person to find a way to connect and contribute—our family, and our parish, is all of us together!
Peace in Christ,
The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin and…they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” The Lord [said to] Moses, “Go out in front of the people...Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” Exodus 17:1-7 abbreviated
This is a very abbreviated version of what transpired in the Desert of Sin (a real place), and I encourage you to read the entire text for a complete account because it’s a great story!
Basically, the people are hot and tired, and their water is running low and there is no stream or pond in sight. The people are, well, afraid, and they turn on Moses because he is their leader, and they are now frustrated with themselves that they may have thrown in with the wrong guy. Their fear and frustration are legitimate, and their complaint is valid—or it would be if their focus and understanding were correct, which they are not.
The Exodus event is a people thing. The People of the Exodus are on the move, both physically and spiritually, and they are being challenged in both areas as well and tried in their emotional state. So much has, and is, happening that their heads are spinning, and their fears have taken over their better judgment. In response, God makes a very public show of power and provision providing for their fear (water) and their faith (miracle). God shows that, while they are being tried by the circumstances of their travel, they are also participants in the blessing of their journey. How is this not akin to our current situation?
The Psalmist writes in Psalm 121: “I lift my eyes unto the hills, from where is my help to come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (vs. 1-2). To liken our last year of COVID- 19 vigilance to the physical Exodus journey may be a stretch; however, to understand our fears and trials as a likened experience with our ancient brothers and sisters is appropriate.
As we continue down untrodden paths encountering strangely familiar obstacles which frustrate and scare us, our eyes must turn to the hills! By many accounts, COVID-19 in some form or another will be with us forever and if not it, then some other virus or disease. So, what has really changed? We are always encountering health difficulties and hearing about new terrors that shake us to the core. There was a time, not remembered by many, when Tuberculosis and Measles were killing and permanently afflicting people in comparable numbers to our current COVID affliction. Where did people turn to for help back then? Doctors, science, and—if they were people of faith, God. I can still remember my mom praying for the children who had died of measles during my early 1960s childhood. I can still remember her praying in thanksgiving and hope for the vaccine that my siblings and I received.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:7-8).
It’s hard to hear these words when we are sick or in pain or thirsty, and not wonder if they are simply hyperbole. Our physical well-being is important to God, and our physical life is constantly in peril, but our spiritual well-being is also important, and God speaks to us about both.
Each day, we must force our eyes to gaze at the hills, to look for God present and coming. We must remind ourselves that God is constantly caring for us through the love of family and friends, the attention of our doctors and medical professionals, the brilliance of scientists, the comfort of familiar things, the witness of history, the beauty of creation, and the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit. Turning our eyes to the hills means seeking the presence of God in everything and everyone. Turning our eyes to the hills means living in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection and the absolute assurance of the presence of the Holy Spirit always—even right now!
“My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”
Peace in Christ,
It takes three weeks to start a new habit!
…he said to me last week, but I have heard it many times before. Truth be told, I have always felt a bit of a failure in this regard because no matter how I tried I could not say that I had truly been successful in changing a habit in the allotted time. What is wrong with me? Today I decided to look into it and find out!
As a plastic surgeon in the 1950s, Maxwell Maltz began noticing a strange pattern among his patients. Whether a nose job, amputation, or chin tuck, it took an average of 21 days for the patient to accept the change from his or her procedure. In 1960, Maltz published a book on behavioral change called Psycho-Cybernetics in which he shared his observations. This book would go on to become a bestseller, selling over 30 million copies.
Psycho-Cybernetics was adopted as a “staple of learning” in various fields of behavioral science for the next 30 years and, as it happens, certain assertions in the book made their way to the public arena. Today, over 70 years later, many counseling professionals have fallen prey, and repeat the same misinformed assumption that so many people tell each other: It takes three weeks (21 days) to start a new habit.
(As an aside, this is a great example of a larger problem in our culture today: If enough people say something enough times, then everyone else starts to believe it.)
In reality Maxwell Maltz never claimed that his observation of 21 days was a scientific truth, in fact he wrote, “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to gell.”
So, how long does it take to form a habit? How long does it take a break a bad habit? Is there any science to back this up? And what does all of this mean for you and me? In 2009 Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, published a controlled study of 96 people over a 12-week period in the European Journal of Social Psychology. Their conclusion was that it takes an average of 66 days to form or break a habit. However, there were examples, based on environmental conditions, of some who took as long as 254 days!
In other words, if you want to set your expectations appropriately, it will probably take you anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behavior into your life — not 21 days. So, I now know I am not such a failure after all!
I’d like to apply this finding to our best intentions as a congregation of deepening our relationship with God, namely in our “habit” of devotional study. Finding time to pray and read Scripture is vitally important for each of us. The Church provides opportunities for regular Bible Study on Thursday nights, but if we take that 254-day number, that could mean it would be over four years, with a few misses, to acquire the habit. In reality, these things are best done every day. Regular Bible Study and prayer are essential for our spiritual health. Start small: make a 10-minute event and work your way up. If you miss a day, that’s ok; statistically, there is no harm done if you get back to it.
If you have tried before and failed, don’t beat yourself up. You really didn’t fail—that was just the primer!
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29: 12-13
…again and again…
Peace in Christ,
“In this the WORD too bloomed and bore fruit, having become flesh, and those who tasted of its goodness, he made alive, since he too was not made known to us without the wood.” Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 5.11.72
Our faith understood as the indwelling gift from God that has led us to God, is vibrant and alive. This may sound strange since we are used to things that are alive (aside from ourselves) as being separate from us. Yet we are told that our Faith is alive. Thus, a journey into Faith is actually a journey into God!
And what an exciting, joyous, and awesome journey it is! We are met at every turn by revelation and encouragement. God reveals God’s self to us as we engage in speculation and question—even as we hold fast and hunker down. When God finds us in our ‘holed-up’ position, tightly grasping the comforting traditions, truths, and icons of our past, God is pleased to join us there. In that place, we can feel the warmth of Christ’s embrace and the acceptance and love of our Savior. There, with calming love and pastoral presence, Jesus radiates stability even as the Holy Spirit leads us on.
Into the ‘little-known’ and ‘less traveled’ we are invited by the loving arms of our Savior through the compelling guidance of the Holy Spirit. As we journey, we are invited to sample—to consume the gifts from God that will feed us and help us grow. Today, we eat from the Tree of Life to be fed and to live forever.
“Then the Lord God said, ‘. . . Now, lest [the man] reach out his hand and take also of the Tree of Life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the Tree of Life.” Genesis 3:22b-24
In the Garden, Adam and Eve did what we do: they consumed, not as they should, but as they wanted. They took and ate from the Tree of Good and Evil, consuming that which was forbidden and leaving that which was freely given. In their broken state they were protected from themselves by being denied the freedom to eat of the Tree of Life lest they live forever in their broken state. The Tree of Life was a healer, a re-newer, a resurrector; it was the Revelation and person of God’s-self made present through which eternal life was given. In their pure state, Adam and Eve ate freely of this tree, but in their broken state with no better understanding than selfish desire, they could not.
Now separate from the Garden, we have been cut off from the Blessed Tree. Now alone, we continue to consume everything we can, trying to rid our pallet of the bitter taste of the tainted fruit, but to no avail. Only God can reveal that Tree to us and invite us to eat once again, and God has! The “Hard Wood of the Cross” rises from the earth, arms outstretched to shade the weary and embrace the traveler. “Take… Eat…” the Tree speaks the Word; the words of life feed and heal the broken into wholeness. Journey there and you will find the Tree of Life, the Cross of Christ, the first fruit, the Body and the Blood of Eternal Life freely offered to make you whole and fill you completely. The Tree of Life, the Cross of Life,
What an exciting, joyous, and awesome journey!
Peace on your Journey,
Friends in Christ,
In my sermon last Sunday, I shared with you that to be a joyful, devoted follower of Christ you don’t have to dance in the street, but you can! I shared with you that one meaning of the passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians was exactly the constant expression of the inner life of the spirit expressed in everything we do, but there is also a very familial application to what Paul said.
St. Paul wrote: “Be filled with the holy spirit, as you sing Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the Name of your Lord Jesus Christ.” We take these spiritual psalms and songs with us everywhere, but we also express them with each other! Thanks to our gifted and dedicated minister of Music, Martha Purvis, we “sing and make melody” every week, frequently in varied and creative ways. I am thinking especially of the chimes choir and grateful for something new and wonderful in such a difficult time. Thank you, Martha, and Chimers!
Jesus was very direct in Sunday’s Gospel about devotion and participation in Him: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Here, Jesus is talking directly to our hearts and requiring participation in his life and sacrifice through which we, as individuals, have eternal life, but Jesus also speaks within the context of the “gathered community.” When these words are translated into action, Jesus paired spiritual communion in him with physical communion with one another: “eat this bread and drink this cup.” The event of weekly worship is nothing less than the consummation of Jesus’ own words and deeds in our imitation of his sacrifice.
When I was in Jerusalem, I attended an Arminian worship service which lasted several hours! This service included a rotation of three choirs which relieved each other to stave off exhaustion! This effort was the Arminian church’s witness to the instruction in Ephesians to “sing…and making melody to the Lord…at all times.” In our denomination and through our theological understanding, we have accepted that once a week and for about an hour (ok, maybe a little longer!) our sacrifice of time and place is pleasing to the Lord. Once a week we gather as Christ’s own people; we gather together to consummate (make perfect) the words of Christ in us by holding up and leaning on each other. Those of us still begging God to show us our path, show us the (W)ay, show us a sign, and make clear God’s desires for us find that our spiritual communion with Christ is indissolubly connected (challenged) with each other.
Inspiring beautiful hymns and spirituals filled with centuries of theological dissent and strife alike reflect the lines of the Gospel truths to those of us who believe. Jesus’ body—his earthly, fleshly body—really was broken for us, and our weekly Eucharist (literally thanks-giving) is our closest approximation to what occurred in the Crucifixion: a gift of unimaginable, impossible love and unmerited grace saving your life, forever. Restoring a contract made at Creation and ruined by sin. So, when the one who gave all tells us to gather in his name and commune, I think it’s best we take that seriously! Call it my Anglican upbringing or Marine Corps background, or whatever, but at one level I have a very practical and logistical view of weekly (sacramental) worship, as the gas that fuels the car, the battery that powers the device, the food that nourishes and sustains the body. Without it, we are soon dead to the transformative power of true life (right now) through the eternal promise of Christ as we are separated from the benefits of being in regular communion, as a corporate body and an individual believer. You have life in me means something this very moment as well as for your eternal life, and that truth grows more real, more apparent, and able to be apprehended and lived out, with every Communion you make. Our time of physical separation notwithstanding, that and those times of unavoidable physical distance should empower us all the more, through the process of spiritual maturing, to anticipate and eagerly rush to the opportunity for Communion!
To be sure, our belief in the Resurrection and our valuing of the Sacrament of Eucharist is (in part) what make us Episcopalians, and Anglicans. The “living” bread is new week to week and as dynamic and life-changing as was the Crucifixion, which we relive each and every week if we are churchgoers (or, yes, church Zoomers). That’s why you might feel a little emptier or flatter, or like something is missing, in the week following an absence. Summer, especially, can be a “thin” time in the pews as folks come and go, take their vacations and trips, fall out of regular worship. In the Episcopal Church, we even have a tradition of “Welcome Back” Sunday sometime in September, welcoming back to weekly worship the members of the parish who have been scarce over the summer months. That floored me at my first parish, as I did not know God takes vacations as I do. Over the years I’ve gotten used to it as a human season, as natural as the ebb and flow of a congregation, its passions and programs, ministries and missions. Surely change is our only constant. But wait that’s not true: Our God is the only constant in a changing and unpredictable life. And communion, gathering together and gathering in, grounds and re-grounds us in that truth.
Here’s one thing we learned in Seminary: you can’t wreck Communion. The human considerations—priest, polity, policies and procedures, the weather, the administration thereof, the constitution of the elements—nothing ultimately matters or stands in the way of God’s grace reaching God’s believing, worshiping people. There are all number of theological treatises and cumbersome terminology for this simple truth. The Eucharist, instituted by Jesus Christ on the last night of His earthly life, cannot be diminished. It stands as immutable and critical as it did on that night all the way to this present day. Sounds a little like the famous Romans passage: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39). I believe that, and I believe in the power of the gathered Body to commune-icate that to each of us.
So, while the diocese works out how to safely commune in round 3 (4? 5?) of the pandemic, and our faithful congregation waxes and wanes, beset by a “to do” list bigger than we are, and no doubt suffering separately during the week, trying to carry on in a world made of sin and selfishness, know this: “My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” (Jn 6:56). The “hard wood of the cross” we name each Sunday in the words of the communion service …the hard wood of our altar rail (or our un-cushioned pews)…these stand as weekly reminders, weekly re-groupers and re-purposers as to the point of it all. Let us recommit to our regular weekly worship life and there find strength and courage to go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Might I be so bold, then, in the name of Jesus, to ask you if you haven’t been in a while – to come to church!
Peace in Christ,
Dear Creator Family,
Thank you for your prayers after last Sunday’s online worship service. The COVID exposure which caused us to cancel the in-person service was a confirmation that we must remain diligent. Please continue to pray for David and all members of our Parish Family as we struggle to stay abreast of the changing information regarding the virus.
Today I welcomed Energy Auditors from Eco-House Now, an energy use and planning company engaged by the Diocese. Not a cursory visit! They walked our property for a couple of hours, making an assessment of our current energy footprint and designing a plan for changes we could make. Their recommendations will include, among other things, new portico lights (already on the list to complete the painting project outside). I am very excited that these changes include a plan for solar panels and possible energy independence. The state of Virginia is very SLOW to embrace the value of solar power, but there have been some advancements that may make a project like this possible for us. I expect the full report in two weeks.
Last week, I submitted to the Health Department a “Soil Scientist” design for our new drain field. They also will respond in two weeks with an approval or a request for modification. In the meantime, I have also submitted that plan to several companies to bid on the project and hope to have their bids prior to receiving the Health Department report. As soon as we receive the report and the bids, I will inform the Parish and the Vestry to move forward with the repair of our septic system which has been in disrepair for months, interrupting our Sunday worship and making the facility off-limits for larger gatherings and groups. As you know from the joys of home ownership, that 30-40 year mark can be a doozie, as appliances and large home systems “expire” and need replacing. Remember that Creator’s 1970s drainage and septic system has far outlived its expected lifetime!
While we take on property care and maintenance, we are hastily looking to “take off” the accumulation of items for our yard sale. Here is where you can help. Our Junior Warden, Jim Eppes, is actively working with several charities to donate Yard Sale items to their ministries. In one week, we will move to more aggressively liquidate furniture, which may include a one-day fire sale—an “all bids welcomed, take it now” sort of affair. The details of this proposal are still being worked out. It will require no work on the part of the Parish aside from manning the door and coming behind to clear and tidy what remains. I can’t emphasize enough that there are many little helpful ways we can restore our parish building to its clear, clean, hospitable best. Please don’t assume that a tireless few have got it “all taken care of.”
Touching the first phase of the Vision Ministry’s reflection, Lee Barron and Mary Anne Taylor have been working daily to clean and organize the Book Sale items. Their hard work is an inspiration and an important piece in the plan to revitalize the building. Additionally, Mary Anne Taylor is organizing a crew to inventory and clean the parish hall kitchen. If you can help with this project, please contact her ASAP at 804-730-4625.
These are only a few of the projects we hope to check off soon so we can move on to fall programs and ministries. Thank you for your prayers and patience—and for finding a way you can serve. I look forward to the cleaning out of our Parish Hall and the exciting opportunities that are to come.
Peace in Christ,
Dear Creator Family,
Can you see it? Can you feel it? God is blessing us with so much action and opportunity in our parish, it is hard to know where to start! From the recent meeting and wonderful reflections of the Vision Ministry (soon to be presented to all!) to the ongoing sanitation repair, (yes, that is an opportunity as well) each of us is called to follow God to grow in spirit. And we always start with prayer and relinquishment to God in all things. It may seem to be an unreachable goal to “give all to God,” but it is not if we just shift our understanding a tiny bit.
God loves us; God loves you! God’s love for you is immeasurable and God is walking with you along this entire life journey. Imagine walking with a person you know loves you and wants the best for you—say, along a beach. This person invites you into a conversation and through love and openness, you, at once, feel comfortable and honored to share, almost at a spiritual level. I hope you have had that blessed human experience and know the joy and wonder it brings. In that moment, we willingly give all of ourselves to the conversation and would give more if we could. When we enter into this posture in our daily life it is the true experience of prayer.
Prayer is speaking with God, but prayer is also the manner of life, the interaction of life, the opportunity and routine of life. Prayer is doing and considering God in the process. Prayer is giving up ourselves because we can—to the glory of God, in everything we do.
Next week we will be deep in Yard Sale preparations and then “Yard Sale Day.” We know what it’s like to offer ourselves for our parish and for our community. Knowing this is just a shadow away from the realization that our service is really “walking with God”. Being aware of that, we are able to give at a spiritual level. No wonder that feels so good. Service, as I’m sure you’re aware, has a way of reorienting the perspective and resetting our priorities in ways that are healthy, healing, and wholesome. I encourage you to find your niche in our Creator family as we tend our parish and serve the Lord in the joy of community.
Faithfully in Christ,
It seems we are living in an era when the choice to attend Church is understood as an individual “right”. I believe this is true and I bless our for-mothers and fathers who secured this “right” for each of us. This benefit of living in a free and democratic society is a “secular blessing,” that is, it is an advantage or perk-based on birth or migration. If, however, as a Christian, we try to say that attending Church is a “right” in which we have the freedom to choose without responsibility beyond ourselves. Well, that is just nonsense.
In truth, if we look at ourselves and our thoughts and our wrestling with sin, we are not living in a time very different than any other time in history. People have, in every era, postulated that they need not attend Church or gather with other Christians. It is the mantra of the defiant that they “find God” in the garden, on the boat back, or down the nature trail. And in truth, God is most certainly there—always, but in saying these things the person really means that “finding God” here or there replaces the need to go to Church.
In the New Testament, Jesus regularly talks about (part 1) the individual relationship with God (himself) which is both a blessing and a requirement for spiritual growth and human completeness. Jesus also talks about (Part 2) gathering as God’s people in the same manner and more emphatically still, as he requires certain actions to bring fullness to that gathering (i.e., “Take and eat this…”).
C. S. Lewis lived much of his early adult life as an atheist. He was not known to gather much with any group, as this may have been “part of his make-up.” When Lewis became a Christian and joined the Anglican Church he not only whole-heartedly took on the relationship, (part 1) but realized the necessity of the gathering (part 2). Lewis regularly attended Holy Trinity Church in Headington, Oxford, England, even when he did not want to. So devoted was he to the truth of part 2, that he chose to be buried in the graveyard outside this little village church, to remain part of the gathered community.
People wrote to Lewis throughout his life, and he always wrote back. In a letter written in 1950 to a Mrs. Arnold, he provided reflection and instructions “Regarding the Church.” Lewis spoke of the Holy Communion as the Sacramental rite we must emulate per Jesus’ instruction, but also as the symbol of the gathered body as a whole, the “Body of Christ.” It is for this reason that Communion cannot be celebrated alone. As Lewis notes, “The New Testament does not envisage solitary religion,” at all times “some kind of regular assembly for worship and instruction is everywhere taken for granted in the Epistles. So we must be regularly practicing members of the Church.”
Lewis acknowledges that people, “differ in temperament,” for instance being pre-disposed to avoid gatherings. Temperament, however, is not a reason to not attend Church, rather, knowing one’s temperament may just be the reason to run to Church. On more than one occasion Lewis mused about “wasted time” in Church but was always there anyhow. It does not matter if we are extraverted or introverted, grumpy or elated, we are called to Church. “For the Church is not a human society of people united by their natural affinities,” Lewis says, “but the Body of Christ, in which all members, however different (and He rejoices in their differences and by no means wishes to iron them out) must share the common life, complementing and helping one another precisely by their differences.”
He instructs Mrs. Arnold to read 1 Corinthians 12: Verses 12-14, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”
We are called by God in Christ to be members of the body of Christ–the church and to be gathered as the Church. This might make us uncomfortable or give us feelings of vulnerability. We might have a childhood memory that repels us, that shows the Church to be less than perfect, but then again it is not a perfect place; it’s a redeemed one. We might also think we’re better and less needy than the people found in Church and therefore have an excuse to not go. Lewis continues, “If people like you and me find much that we don’t naturally like in the public and corporate side of Christianity all the better for us: it will teach us humility and charity towards simple lowbrow people who may be better Christians than ourselves. I naturally loathe nearly all hymns: the face and life of the charwoman in the next pew who revels in them teach me that good taste in poetry or music are not necessary to salvation.”
Church is not an easy place, but the world will be redeemed through the Church, for its people—you and me—are the witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection—salvation, which Christ bought with his blood (Acts 20:28). Lewis ends his letter this way: “‘Regular but cool’ Church attendance is no bad symptom. Obedience is the key to all doors: feelings come (or don’t come) and go as God pleases. We can’t produce them at will, and mustn’t try.”
St Paul wrote, Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:19-25
Peace in Christ,
The “Great Commission,” as it is called, is found in Matthew 28:19-20.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matt. 28:19-20
When I have attended Evangelism conferences in the past, this scripture passage set the foundation for everything else. Euangelion in Greek, Evangelium in Latin—this word literally means Good News. Evangelism is the active process of teaching and preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ to a broken and needful world. And yes, we are each called to do that. In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ commissioning, we can sit back and admire the Disciples’ fortitude, courage, even their divine appointment. We might even think, “lucky them!” Then we realize, Jesus is speaking to us as well. He has commissioned you.
I have a print that hangs in my office of a beautiful stained-glass rendering of the commissioning. The window used to be above the altar at the seminary chapel in Alexandria, Virginia before it burned, so I’m grateful to have the window preserved in this print. I have used the imagery many times over the years as a teaching, as it was handed down to me when, so long ago, we sat gazing on the real thing in glass: here is Jesus, his hand raised in teaching and blessings, sending out his disciples two by two. At his feet, robed disciples in muted colors and eager poses receive their call. But wait! Why are there only eleven? That’s not right! Did they run out of glass? Artistic energy? Is the 12th figure supposed to be Judas, already absent after the great betrayal? The unfinished number is unsettling, causing one to get involved in the setting, to study it more intently—until you realize what the preacher/teacher I once heard expound on that window revealed. As he looked ceremoniously out over the congregation sitting there gazing up at the stained glass: “There are 11 disciples pictured in the window. The 12th disciple is…sitting in the pew. The 12th disciple is … you.”
When we think of evangelism, I believe this is what we think of—and what we are afraid of. At some level, we each know that Jesus has called us to live life in him, and that at some point this may not be to our liking. Happy to be called, Lord, so happy to be called by you. But, um, could you give me something different to do?
Being told to go out and teach and preach can send anyone screaming from the room! In some circles “evangelical” is practically a dirty word; something us Episcopalians would not want to be associated with. And yet it literally means "of the Gospel". Are you telling me you don’t want to be associated with the Gospel and godly living? Not everyone is called to teach or preach. Evangelism defined this way is the description of a set of specific gifts of the Holy Spirit and the call to use those gifts for Christ. But what if you don’t have those gifts? Are you not being called to witness for Christ? Remember, beloved; Christ’s call is unique to each and every one of us. I do not answer a call extended to another disciple; I answer the one extended to me.
In Acts of the Apostles 1:8, Jesus calls all his followers to a way of life that does not require a special set of gifts; rather he asks for something in our control (and also, sometimes not!): our devotion and love. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” You’ve heard the wisdom in the contemporary observation: “Your life may be the only Bible other people may read;” or in one of the hymns we loudly and proudly sing: “Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; they will know we are Christians by our love.” The ability to witness is simply the practice of intentional living for God.
To be a Witness for Christ is simply the practice of meeting every day in love with God and giving God credit for all that is. A Witness for Christ simply lives and moves and has their being as they always have, and are, with the addition of the vocal practice of acknowledgment. “It sure is a beautiful day…” “Sure is, and I thank God for it.” Giving Jesus credit for our happiness or our hope, when in conversation with someone who can't find either happiness or hope, invites that person to think in a different manner. This is the witness of every Christian and its potential is amazing.
Witness speaks for itself out of who we are. Witness sits down, is present, listens, and waits for God to act out of our own testimony. Witness walks alongside, lives life with others, and responds to what we see. We are witnesses by being the people of God and sharing the natural way of devotion in which we live.
You may one day be called to Evangelize; in the meantime, you are always called to witness.
Peace in Christ,
Dear Creator Family,
Amidst the blessings and the joyful companionship of our Lord, we are tasked with working through the constant and occasional difficulties of life. These are not “injustices” from the purely human perspective; they are just the expected meanderings of an entropic universe (stuff breaking down). So, I wanted to drop you all a quick note regarding several of the “fix-it” issues at the Church.
The road construction on Rt. 360 continues with the gas lines being moved this week. This piecemeal approach will be with us for a while as they make final preparations for major construction. I will keep you appraised of road closures when I can, but it is an on-again-off-again occurrence.
It all seems like so much, and it is. But it is also the expected and normal process of living in this world. Thanks be to God that we have our Lord to bring joy and humor to the trials of life through which we can see beyond the discord to the love.
Peace in Christ,