Dear Creator Family,
This coming Sunday, February 27, is our Annual Meeting, an important event in the life of a parish. It is a time to be informed, to be heard, to be inspired. And while, by all appearances, it is a “business” meeting, filled with reports and rules of order, projections, plans, etc., it is also a time for fellowship and to be renewed in the Spirit.
This has been a long winter and an even longer season of life for us and for all communities, be they secular or sacred, in a global pandemic. Coming together for any reason (granted, worship being a little more pleasurable!) is part of our healing. Our coming together is part of our promise to God to live faithfully, communally, and intentionally. Don’t let the “business meeting” part of it fool you. There will be that, and frankly, we need your presence and investment to run a healthy and dynamic parish. But there is also the “business” of God taking place, which is a deeply spiritual component. Even if the pandemic has turned us all into fearful hermits, you are still part of something larger than yourself. God is calling each of us in such a unique and care-ful way, to find your place in the life of our Parish.
As in past years, we will meet in the sanctuary immediately following the 10:30 service (abbreviated) to conduct some very important business of the Church.
At this meeting we will:
It is vitally important that we have a majority of our parish family present in person or online for this meeting. Those choosing to “Zoom” remotely will be registered and counted as attending. There are Canonical requirements for this meeting to be counted as an official Annual Meeting and we want to meet those requirements.
Your Vestry has met and received the proposed budget from the Finance Committee. This Budget, in its approved form, will be presented at the meeting by Bob Glick, our outgoing Treasurer. Additionally, the Vestry for 2022 has been formed based on the length of election status from prior elections. There will be an opportunity to nominate persons for Vestry service from the floor on Sunday. If you wish to nominate someone, please make sure in advance that this person would like to be nominated and that he or she has the standing to serve on the Vestry. If you are unsure whether the nominee is a suitable one, please call the Church Office this week and we can assist you.
There is an open position on the Vestry for 2022. If you would like to serve, please call the office ASAP.
The Vestry has been very diligent in its review of COVID-19 policy and procedures from multiple sources. Since the start of the pandemic, your Vestry has used reflections, recommendations, and policy decisions from The Diocese of Virginia, the CDC, the Governor’s Office and our local Hanover administration to guide us as we established guidelines for gathering and worship. Through the “original” COVID, the Omicron variant, and now the B2 variant, the recommendations and policies of these various agencies have changed very little. While there are several variables that make their decisions, perhaps the most important one is the rate of infection, hospitalization, and COVID related deaths in our county. The infection rate is represented by a red, orange, yellow, blue, grey, scale showing the medically recorded rate of infection over a seven-day period. Hanover County, as the rest of Virginia, has been in red for several months. The good news is that this number has been declining in past two weeks.
Here is the link to this graphic
A second scale is also considered for the severity of the pandemic based on hospitalizations and deaths, this places Virginia in the red as well.
Here is the link to that site
Based on the Vestry’s review, the decision was made to uphold our current policy of masking while indoors on church property. We are prayerful that the rate will continue to fall and that we will soon have the luxury of making this decision for ourselves, based on what each of us believes is the best course of action. At this time, as a gathered community of all different ages, health situations, ideologies, and ways of being and doing (Thank you Lord, for making us ONE at the altar!), we simply do not have that luxury. We are one in the Spirit, we are ONE in the Lord, but we are not one where this insidious and divisive virus has plagued families and communities. We submit to higher authorities and to a state of health in our surrounding community which is measurable—and we pray in earnest for it to improve. I pray you will help transform an unpleasant and sorely contested practice into a minor inconvenience for the greater good.
We know that is not the decision that everyone wants, but please, in this we are suffering together. Though this touches on areas of personal autonomy, our life as children of God and Brothers and Sisters of Christ remains the most important definition of who we are. We rely on Jesus to guide us on our path as a parish and as individuals, and it is His witness of sacrifice for the other that He calls us to. The love of Christ overshadows all and teaches us to sacrifice for each other.
I look forward to our worship and meeting on Sunday with you!
Peace in Christ,
O Jesus, Splendor of eternal glory, Consolation of the pilgrim soul, with You my lips utter no sound and to You my silence speaks. Imit. Of Christ, Bk. 2, Ch. 21
This week we will complete our brief four-week study on The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. I have been delighted and blessed by our gathering and by the opportunity to delve into one of the most revered books in Christian history. What a blessing, I hope to all, to have spent time together hearing, praying, talking, and contemplating issues of God and the spirit.
Perhaps one of the most surprising and exciting elements of this book is the great number of prayers offered in these pages. In a time when prayer is mostly focused on the many and varied issues of culture and society, these prayers are unapologetically intimate and personal. These are prayers of the heart and soul; prayers that we can say and, in the saying, be transported from ourselves to God in humility and grace.
I offer one such prayer to you today and I will, from time to time, bring others to light. Many, like this one, are so edifying as to draw us out of ourselves to the very throne of God. Others are so self-effacing that rising from the ground of prayer is almost unthinkable. I encourage you to pray with St. Thomas this prayer for yourself. Pray with an open heart and mind and be immersed in the words; allow them to be more than they are. Open your spirit to God, allow silence to speak, and be transported.
ABOVE all things and in all things, O my soul, rest always in God, for He is the everlasting rest of the saints.
Grant, most sweet and loving Jesus, that I may seek my repose in You above every creature; above all health and beauty; above every honor and glory; every power and dignity; above all knowledge and cleverness, all riches and arts, all joy and gladness; above all fame and praise, all sweetness, and consolation; above every hope and promise, every merit and desire; above all the gifts and favors that You can give or pour down upon me; above all the joy and exultation that the mind can receive and feel; and finally, above the angels and archangels and all the heavenly host; above all things visible and invisible; and may I seek my repose in You above everything that is not You, my God.
For You, O Lord my God, are above all things the best. You alone are most high, You alone most powerful. You alone are most sufficient and most satisfying, You alone most sweet and consoling. You alone are most beautiful and loving, You alone most noble and glorious above all things. In You is every perfection that has been or ever will be. Therefore, whatever You give me besides Yourself, whatever You reveal to me concerning Yourself, and whatever You promise, is too small and insufficient when I do not see and fully enjoy You alone. For my heart cannot rest or be fully content until, rising above all gifts and every created thing, it rests in You.
Who, O most beloved Spouse, Jesus Christ, most pure Lover, Lord of all creation, who shall give me the wings of true liberty that I may fly to rest in You? When shall freedom be fully given me to see how sweet You are, O Lord, my God? When shall I recollect myself entirely in You, so that because of Your love I may feel, not myself, but You alone above all sense and measure, in a manner known to none? But now I often lament and grieve over my unhappiness, for many evils befall me in this vale of miseries, often disturbing me, making me sad and overshadowing me, often hindering and distracting me, alluring and entangling me so that I neither have free access to You nor enjoy the sweet embraces which are ever ready for blessed souls. Let my sighs and the manifold desolation here on earth move You.
O Jesus, Splendor of eternal glory, Consolation of the pilgrim soul, with You my lips utter no sound and to You my silence speaks. How long will my Lord delay His coming? Let Him come to His poor servant and make him happy. Let Him put forth His hand and take this miserable creature from his anguish. Come, O come, for without You there will be no happy day or hour, because You are my happiness and without You my table is empty. I am wretched, as it were imprisoned and weighted down with fetters, until You fill me with the light of Your presence, restore me to liberty, and show me a friendly countenance. Let others seek instead of You whatever they will, but nothing pleases me or will please me but You, my God, my Hope, my everlasting Salvation. I will not be silent, I will not cease praying until Your grace returns to me and You speak inwardly to me, saying: "Behold, I am here. Lo, I have come to you because you have called Me. Your tears and the desire of your soul, your humility and contrition of heart have inclined Me and brought Me to you."
Lord, I have called You, and have desired You, and have been ready to spurn all things for Your sake. For You first spurred me on to seek You. May You be blessed, therefore, O Lord, for having shown this goodness to Your servant according to the multitude of Your mercies.
What more is there for Your servant to say to You unless, with his iniquity and vileness always in mind, he humbles himself before You? Nothing among all the wonders of heaven and earth is like to You. Your works are exceedingly good, Your judgments true, and Your providence rules the whole universe. May You be praised and glorified, therefore, O Wisdom of the Father. Let my lips and my soul and all created things unite to praise and bless You. AMEN.
Imit. Of Christ, Bk. 2, Ch. 21
Peace in Christ,
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Molly Bawn, 1878 "The Duchess," Margaret Wolfe Hungerford
Definition: Beauty cannot be judged objectively, for what one person finds beautiful or admirable may not appeal to another.
While this is absolutely true, it is also a sad witness to the misplaced emphasis on social acceptance and the seeming necessity for compliance. Madison Avenue is the home to multi-billion-dollar companies whose only goal (besides making money) is to dictate and then satisfy the cultural definition of beauty. According to their insanely successful methodology, for one to have the right clothes, hairstyle, make-up, and body type is by far the most important consideration of life. The truth is (and the majority of people agree), that to get where you want to go you have to look the part.
Perhaps there is some merit to this view, in that it serves as an inner motivator. Let’s face it, in our world appearance is important and to most people, looking good feels good. This is not a bad thing; it can even be a good thing, but there is a darker, desperate side. For years, mental health assessments have noted the obsessive behaviors associated with social and cultural pressures. Anorexia and bulimia are the most well-known, but there is a score of emotional disorders related to “the need to conform” to social norms. At their core, these obsessive behaviors are built on a detachment from God and misunderstanding or ignorance of our relationship with God.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornments, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
Throughout Scripture, the love of God is presented as constant and pervasive. The standards of God are not our standards, and the requirements of God are not based on an economic model. God seeks us and wants us to know and seek Christ. God loves us and wants us to know and love ourselves. We can and should present ourselves in a fashion that makes us feel good; feeling good in this way is not contradictory to God. As we adorn ourselves, whether in diamonds or rhinestones, our feeling good should rest only on the foundation of God’s desire for us to find pleasure in ourselves.
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'” 1 Samuel 16:7
God looks to our true selves and seeks to heal us there. Imagine going to the doctor for a stomachache and in response, he puts a band-aid on your stomach. A pretty little band-aid won’t help, and we wouldn’t tolerate that treatment. The beauty that God sees is the true beauty of who we are made to be; the rest is window dressing.
“Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important. It promises a reward in both this life and the next.” 1 Timothy 4:8
Taking care of ourselves is important and a faithful response to our knowledge that God made us. We honor God by caring for ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically. Our care for ourselves is an affirmation that we understand God’s initial plan and respect God’s companionship along the way.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
We are wonderfully made, and we should take care of the wonder that we are. Thinking about this draws us closer to God in the same way we are drawn close to others when they make sacrifices to help us. We thank them and are humble before them in our gratitude, how much more in our relationship with God!
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Yes, and the beholder is God—and in turn, us as well. We need to see ourselves as God sees us and love what God has made.
Peace in the Beholder,
Oh, for the love of God!
When I was a boy, I can remember hearing a neighbor of ours saying, sometimes yelling, this phrase. Of course, I did not understand what he was saying, because when I heard him he didn’t sound like he was expressing much love. Sadly.
What is the love of God and why is it important to understand it?
In the 1st Letter of John (the same John as in the Gospel of John) he writes,
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him." 4:7-9
There are several types of love defined in language and by use in Scripture delineated by the use of specific words.
According to John and by the witness of Scripture, agapos or agape love isn’t just the love that God gives, it is part of God’s character. God loves from an outpouring of who God is, not what God does. When we are told to imitate Christ, to love each other as God loves us, we are being told to love with God. Realizing that agape love is God’s self and that it does not come “naturally” to us in our sinful state. Only by drawing closer to God and experiencing God personally and intimately are we able to express love as God loves us.
The fullest expression of God as love is the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, the Word made flesh, Jesus the Christ. We must grow in our knowledge and closeness to Jesus to experience the character of God and love as God loves us. John declares, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." 1:14 God has made clear that God’s manifestation of God’s self (love) through the Son is the Way in which we are to find maturity in our relationship with God.
I don’t think my neighbor was actually expressing these truths when he cried, Oh, for the love of God. We know that it is actually the cry of one who knows that the sacrifice of God in Jesus Christ is the single saving act of life. It is the cry of one who understands that this love is not sentimental or conditional but is absolute and eternal. It is the cry of faith acknowledging the Father and accepting God’s guidance, correction, caring, and punishment that come from a loving and devoted parent.
As we draw closer to God through the agape of God, we must rely upon God to help us sacrifice for each other and not expect the others to sacrifice for us; “if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” Luke 6:33
Oh, for the love of God!
Father Bill Burk†