My Own Private Wormwood
Please join us SUNDAY afternoons for our Lenten Program,
“My Own Private Wormwood”
We will gather after the 10:30 service on Mar. 5, 12, 19 & 26 for
Sunday lunch and fellowship
followed by our Lenten Program
“For we must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our Enemy; He (God) really loves the hairless bipeds He has created and always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left.” --Screwtape
Fellowship is so important in our lives as to make the difference between depression and happiness. We have suffered long through the pandemic, separated from each other and unable to participate in regular fellowship events. Sadly, the “Prayer Corner” and prayer cards from our last Lenten Program (March 2020) are still pinned to the dividers downstairs in the Parish Hall. Suffering the outbreak of COVID and being forced into isolation, we stopped that Lenten Program after only two meetings. How wonderful it will be to gather again, in the company of our Lord, to restart our Lenten Fellowship!
As we re-gather for our Lenten Program, things have changed a bit. We are meeting on Sunday afternoons this year, instead of Wednesday nights. This is a big change. We may return to Wednesday night next year, but we have made this difficult decision based on responses of parishioners wanting and being able to attend this season’s program. It’s a brave new world, in-person friends! I am sincerely hoping you will give it a try, even if the subject and format are not your first pick.
As always, there will be a Zoom link provided for our out-of-town friends and for others who cannot attend in person. And as always, long before the pandemic, come to all or one; come to any portion you can in whatever way you can, and you will always be welcomed. That’s what the Creator family is all about!
And now, for some “teasers” from our Program:
"The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn."
"The devill . . the prowde spirite . . cannot endure to be mocked."
“Why did you do that?” The old answer, “The devil made me do it,” was once so popular it was the title of multiple pop songs. Our culture still wrestles with its understanding of good and evil; and, of course, so does the church. Renowned theologian C. S. Lewis takes up this question in his masterful 1942 manuscript, The Screwtape Letters.
Through Lent, we are going to hit Screwtape head-on and wrestle with his diabolical instructions as he counsels “Wormwood,” his devil apprentice, in the art of human corruption. Through a study of Lewis’s satirical and didactic “Screwtape’s letters,” we will gain new insights into the ways of “the devils” and perhaps learn a few things about ourselves in the process.
Come and join the other “hairless bipeds” this Sunday (and the next three Sundays) after Church for food, fellowship, and a close encounter of demonic kind…
Be alert and of sober of mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him firm in your faith. 1 Peter 5:8
By the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread,
till thou return unto the ground;
for out of it wast thou taken:
for thou art dust, O mortal,
and unto dust thou shalt return. Genesis 3:19
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday.
In the Book of Esther, Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes when he heard of the decree of King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes, 485-464 B.C.) of Persia to kill all of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire (Est 4:1). Job, in response to his awareness that he had conducted himself equal with God, repented in “dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord that the Babylonian captivity would last 70 years, so he “turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Daniel 9:3). When Jonah arrived in Nineveh to proclaim God’s wrath and condemnation on an apostate people, the king “arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes” (Jonah 3:6). In each of these occurrences, and others in Scripture, it is a revelation--that is, self-awareness in the light of God’s presence, that drove people to dust and ashes.
As people of faith, it is hard to believe that being exposed to the Revelation of God would produce anything less immediate than humble devotion. The witness of Old Testament accounts affirms that once God is realized, the physical response mirrors the spiritual awareness, but this was not always the case. Jesus himself spoke of a growing and obstinate refusal to enter into the presence of God even when God was present in the flesh.
Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed because they did not repent.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. (Matthew 11:20-22)
Throughout scripture, sackcloth, dust, and ashes symbolize mourning, mortality, and penance, but the revelation must be encountered in the spiritual center—from the inside, for the symbol to have true meaning on the outside.
Tomorrow, during our Ash Wednesday service, you will be invited (in the words of the BCP) to the observance of a Holy Lent, by self examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self denial; and by reading and meditating of God’s Holy Word (265). With blessed ashes made from the burned palm branches distributed on the Palm Sunday of last year, the sign of the Cross will be marked on your forehead with the words, Remember that thou art dust of mortal, and unto dust thou shalt return.
Before the imposition, we recall that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23) and we mourn and willingly anticipate penance for our sins. We again commit our hearts to the Lord, who suffered, died, and rose for our salvation. We renew the promises made at our baptism when we died to an old life and rose to a new life with Christ. Finally, mindful that the kingdom of this world passes away, we strive to live in the kingdom of God now and look forward to its fulfillment in Heaven.
The revelation of God is made manifest in us through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and that awareness drives us to sackcloth and ashes. For 40 days we are compelled to a Holy Observance, painfully aware of our sinful nature, but we are embraced by the love of Christ even as we take up our cross.
Receive the ashes in humble awareness and persevere through Lent in humble devotion and joyful expectation of a new life in Christ!
Faithfully in Christ,
Present, momentary events
Dear Creator Family,
Many thanks to all who attended the 2022 Annual Meeting this past Sunday. It seems strange to hold the “2022” Annual Meeting in 2023, but for all parishes, the annual congregational meeting is mostly reflective of the past year, with only two items that look forward to the new year: vestry election and budget presentation. Reports are intended as summaries and tallies, often with acknowledgment and gratitude woven in; for what is parish life, if not the people who act, tend, and steward our common life? That being said, our lives, and especially our faith, are present, momentary events. Present because all we really have is the present: Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself” (Mt 6:33-34a). And momentary events, because the moments of our lives are acted upon.
That which we held dear in 2022—our faith and our family—remain our greatest strengths, which carry us through each moment as time passes around us. Below is my report to the parish for 2022. God bless you all.
I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess. Martin Luther
2022 was a year of recovery, transition, uncertainty, and light.
We entered 2022 as the COVID crisis transitioned from acute to chronic. We had lived through a “never before” and were realizing a new normal that would change every aspect of our lives. With fears on the rise concerning economic recovery, international relations, internal political strife, and fractured familial relations (due to the distancing of COVID), it became apparent that many had “thrown out baby with the bathwater.” Popular media and polling services reported a drop in church attendance and an up-trend of individualized spirituality. To complicate matters for our Creator Family, we were also recovering from three major facilities breakdowns and growing concerns over our drop in attendance.
It has been difficult to embrace the “new normal” of the post-COVID experience. Try and try again, there are aspects of our cultural and societal life that are so foreign that phrases such as “I don’t understand” and “it's incredible” have partially lost their meaning. Interestingly, the process of transition has been itself a transition. Once transitioning was an active, even energetic process, but now it seems to progress more through attrition than dedication. Every day draws us closer to a passive acceptance of the “way it is now” and frees us from the angst and fear of personal failure.
The new normal of 2021 continued to prove itself as we optimistically entered 2022 with a broken water main and broken boiler. Logistical expenses continued to mount as we struggled with financial concerns and questioned our methods. Still, amidst the distress of the moments and the reality of the observable trends, we went on. Step after step, plowing through the new normal with time-fashioned resolve and optimistic intent. We repaired and talked and met and loved each other despite how tired we all felt. In a way, we were recovering from our COVID malaise and moving towards wholeness precisely because of the challenges we faced. In fact, in a recent conversation, one of our Creator Family said it should be called “new wholeness,” -wholeness encompassed by self-awareness in the light of Christ and faithful devotion to God. I like that.
I am sure this process is taking place everywhere, but here it’s not self-focused, it is Christ-centered. Here, we have not lost ourselves. The same two years that have diluted the faith of so many and led them to chronic spiritual navel-gazing have led us to a wide-eyed stare at the Cross. The light that blinds some illuminates others. Our devotion to Jesus and our Parish is not “blown about by the winds of doctrine” as St. Paul says; we did not “throw away our confidence” as the author of Hebrews says; we are not “abandoned of destroyed” as Moses proclaims; for God is our only Rock, and salvation, our fortress (Psalm 62:6); …our refuge and our strength, a pleasant help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1); our…refuge and our stronghold ( Psalm 9:9).
2023 meets us with many challenges ahead and we are ready to greet them! To be a Parish Family means to take care of all we have been entrusted with--together! It means to seek one another and hold up each other through whatever may come—and go, and to love with a great BIG love! We are here together because God has called us here together, and our witness of faith in God is illumined by the light of Christ who calls us to persevere and overcome--together.
Jesus said, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. John 17:6-10
We reply, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20
Fr. Wm. H. Burk+ OP
Annual Congregational Meeting
Dear Creator Family,
This Sunday, following a shortened 10:30 service, we will gather for our Annual Congregational Meeting. Please consider yourself an important and appreciated attendant with a voice in our parish’s mission and operations. As we draw closer to Sunday and all the information and amazing opportunities we will hear about, there are a few misgivings I have heard that I would like help with:
See you Sunday,
Father Bill Burk†