Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
Memorial Day offers us a time to recognize the martyrs of our nation; it is a day we set aside to honor and remember those who gave their lives in service to the United States and the ideals of her people enshrined in the Constitution.
For those in the military community, it can be particularly moving and a time of acute sensitivity. We not only remember and honor heroes far removed, but we recall and commemorate those we knew intimately, cared deeply for, and still miss: our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and colleagues. Many will no doubt recall personal experiences in which they were injured or their lives were in danger, and they may be looking for hope and meaning.
The Christian church has its own memorial day of sorts. All Saints Day, celebrated annually on Nov. 1, is a day in which many Christians remember those who have gone before us in the faith and paid the ultimate price for the sake of the Gospel.
In the book of Hebrews, the author offers encouraging words of hope to a dispersed and persecuted Jewish Christian community. They have already suffered some loss but have not yet had to face martyrdom (10:32-36; 12:4). The writer encourages his audience to a life of faithful endurance, pointing them to Jesus Christ as the key to finding the needed strength.
After reminding them of Christ’s magnificence as the divine Son, agent of creation, radiance of God’s glory, and by His very nature, God, the author points the Hebrews to three things to consider for aid in endurance: 1) those who have gone before in the faith; 2) the goal toward which they strive (i.e., Christlikeness and our heavenly home); and 3) Jesus, the author and perfector of faith.
At the beginning of chapter 12, the author of Hebrews encourages his audience to run the race with endurance because they (we) are surrounded by a large number of witnesses. He refers them back to chapter 11 — the roll call of faith — which begins by recounting great acts of faith and culminates by noting the courageous resolve of prophets and others killed for their faith (11:32-38); those who went before serve as an example and an encouragement for us to remain faithful.
In the early church, stories of martyrs were told to encourage Christians to remain steadfast, even in the face of persecution, even if they were called upon to give their lives for Christ. These stories tell of how those persons testified to Christ not only in life but also in death, and they serve to strengthen Christians by providing examples of faithfulness grounded in the hope of a future resurrection and eternal life with Christ.
In an analogous way on Memorial Day, when we reflect on the stories of heroism and sacrifice of those men and women who put on the uniform, we are inspired in several ways.
First, we are stirred with a sense of thanksgiving for those who have sacrificed so that we may enjoy the freedoms of our nation that are grounded in our creation in God’s image.
Second, we are moved to consider how we may serve our local communities, states and nation. We gain a greater appreciation for what it means to be a participant in society and are impressed with the responsibilities of citizenship.
Last, we hope to use those stories to inspire future generations of Americans to grasp the ideals of duty, honor, integrity, loyalty, commitment, selfless service, respect, excellence, and courage that are so central to the armed forces and that touch upon the ideals of Christian character.
As Americans, we benefit from the service and sacrifice of our military members. This Memorial Day, may we all offer thanksgiving to God for the men and women who have died defending our ideals; may we support their families; and may we pray for those who continue to serve and place themselves in harm’s way on our behalf, whether in the various armed forces or in support of their mission.
With grateful thanksgiving for those who have given so much,
*portions reprinted from John D. Lang
God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship (koinonia) with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought (1 Corinthians 1:9-10)
Think for a moment about the people you know and the relationships you share. Each of us is constantly enriched by family and extended family, friends, and acquaintances. Beyond that, many of us have, literally, hundreds of other connections in the virtual world of social media. Simply put, relationships are the most important aspect of our lives.
Our associations with those in the body of Christ are especially important. As Christians, we have become brothers and sisters in the family of God through the blood of Christ. The Bible gives these relationships a special distinction beyond mere friendship. That’s because the bonds between believers are capable of developing a degree of spiritual closeness that far surpasses the limitations of natural human friendships. Christian relationships enjoy biblical Christian fellowship.
The word fellowship is derived from the Greek word koinonia. Koinonia can be defined as “holding something in common,” and is specifically used 20 times in the New Testament (e.g. Phil. 2:1-2, Acts 2:42, 1 John 1:6-7). Koinonia describes the unity of the Spirit that comes from Christians’ shared beliefs, convictions, and behaviors. When those shared values are in place, genuine koinonia (biblical fellowship) occurs. This fellowship produces our mutual cooperation in God’s worship, God’s work, and God’s will being done in the world.
Our Church is more than just the place where we have chosen to worship; it’s a community of believers who have chosen to share our lives with each other. It is a spiritual home where we gather together in the Holy Spirit to grow closer together and in the likeness of Christ.
Christians refer to one another as “brothers and sisters” because we are all children of God. We are all part of God’s family. It’s hard to feel like a family if you only go to church on Sunday, listen to the message, leave, and return a week later. Our growth in Koinonia with each other and God is fostered in regularity and familiarity.
As we strive to live into God’s call and enjoy the blessings of God’s promise of fellowship, our parish has several opportunities to gather in the Lord. In addition to the occasional call to gather for parish needs, during the summer we are overjoyed to gather…
After the 10:00 service each Sunday
As in years past we hope to gather for a few minutes after the service with refreshments to share and catch up. Lemonade and cookies (and more) on the portico as you leave, will be a call to pause a minute and share with our brothers and sisters. Jenny Burk has a heart for this ministry, but she needs your help each Sunday to make it happen. Feel free to reach out to her or jump to the opportunity when she calls you.
On 2nd Sunday after the 10:00 service
In addition to the wonderful worship services each Sunday, during the summer we will gather each 2nd Sunday after the 10:00 service for fellowship and the breaking of bread. Plan on bringing your own special luncheon meal and a little something extra for everyone else.
Starting Wednesday night, June 7th at 7 pm, via Zoom–The Chosen
Wednesday nights via Zoom we will gather to continue our viewing and reflection on The Chosen series. Having completed a wonderful session last year exploring seasons 1 and 2, we will embark on season 3 anticipating the same blessed insights and revelations.
Thursday night at the Rector’s Bible Study
We are finishing up the Book of Revelation and starting a new Book of the Bible. NOW is the time to come on board. Join your brothers and sisters as we grow in our knowledge and love of the Lord!
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Koinonia in Christ,
Praise and adoration! That is the call of life in Christ. We are celebrating the Easter season, celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and the promise of new life fulfilled in His holy sacrifice, but so often even the most joyful events are overshadowed by our personal struggles. The everyday grind, upcoming events, worry, and depression weigh heavily upon us as we struggle to persevere through the joyful while experiencing emotional pain. How can we raise ourselves up to praise and adoration amidst these chronic or sudden travails that seek to rob joy and deaden hope?
Can we not hear the voice of Jesus, calm and assured, speaking gently to us?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-29
At first, Jesus’ counsel seems counterintuitive: “Take my yoke upon you.” What?! How can he ask for us to “take my yoke” when we are already carrying so much? Could it be that bearing this new burden will somehow liberate us from the old, or perhaps, replace it?
We must understand that when Jesus offered his yoke to us he was not offering the burden of the law (which afflicted Jewish people and was outside the self); he was not offering the burden of pride or selfishness or self-deceit. You will also notice that Jesus does not say, “I will throw off your yoke and set you free,” for he knew we would not be free in any of the ways humans may wish for their version of “free.” Remember that a care-free life is not a life free from care. Our generation knows that all too well; we pride ourselves on our independence and yet we are not free of spirit, or emotion, or even of mind. We are not going to raise ourselves up to praise and adoration–we can’t; if we could we would have done so already.
Jesus tells us to take His yoke, to bear His life in relationship and service.
To do so does not mean we abdicate our responsibilities or are suddenly free from our chosen path of work and family. It does mean that as we fulfill those same responsibilities we are doing so by relying on Christ and His love. It means that His sacrifice and call to us to follow Him are more than just words once spoken; they are the actions of our lives that we depend upon, and He is the Savior that provides and transforms. In Him, we find perfect service and peace and that peace covers all of our goings and comings. Our efforts are sanctified because we are striving in Him and it is His love that covers us and makes our burdens light and easy to bear. He promises us that His love will bring new light into the gloom of our responsibilities and free our spirits to soar with His energy as we joyfully overcome that which was insurmountable before.
As we seek the ability to give Praise and Adoration! through the power of the Holy Spirit, we must also remember that Jesus told us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” He has invited us into Himself to learn from him in order that we can accomplish these things and so much more. Praise and adoration are possible through the gift of the Holy Spirit and by way of our trust and relinquishment in and to Christ.
In Praise and Adoration,
Henry van Dyke Jr. (1852-1933) was an American author, educator, diplomat, and Presbyterian clergyman. He served as a pastor in Rhode Island and New York City for many years before becoming a professor of English at Princeton University in 1900. During his lifetime he wrote many books, essays, and poems, one of which I offer below.
You will note, in reading it, the twin emphases on “labor” and “rest.” Perhaps I have Arts in the Park on my mind, or my feet and back are reminding me just how much “toil” was expended this weekend. Indeed, parking cars in the hot sun makes it hard to “work without complaining” or conclude that “toil is good.” Raise your hand if you felt like a “burden bearer” this weekend! Still, it is the recurring message of the Gospel that work done in his Name is always good and worthy, and can result in peace–and in the words of the VanDyke below, even “sets the soul free.”
So, before I sign off and leave you to consider these beautiful and meaningful lines below, I want to thank those who worked at our 2nd largest fundraising event of the Creator calendar year. Arts in the Park is still a vital means of income for our parish, and it is a project immediately and directly made easier by the number of volunteers who help. Thank you to those who came to park and those who prayed us through. Thank you especially to our “double shifters” (and triple and quadruple shifters-those who worked the entire weekend), to our “first timers,” who braved the unknown, and to Don and Elizabeth Lafoon, our fearless leaders who oversaw the event and dealt with all the staffing and stress and PR, to name just a few “toils” they faced.
Let us all thank God, who gives us this opportunity to work and to fellowship in His Name, commit ourselves to a “good-fit, can-do” way of helping next year, and when you see Don, give him a hearty thanks for leading us in “deeds of love and kindness.”
Blessings and gratitude,
Jesus, Thou Divine Companion
Jesus, Thou divine Companion,
By Thy lowly human birth
Thou hast come to join the workers,
Burden bearers of the earth.
Thou, the Carpenter of Nazareth,
Toiling for Thy daily food,
By Thy patience and Thy courage,
Thou hast taught us toil is good.
They who tread the path of labor
Follow where Thy feet have trod;
They who work without complaining
Do the holy will of God.
Thou, the Peace that passeth knowledge,
Dwellest in the daily strife;
Thou, the Bread of heaven, broken
In the sacrament of life.
Every task, however simple,
Sets the soul that does it free;
Every deed of love and kindness
Done to man is done to Thee.
Jesus, Thou divine Companion,
Help us all to do our best;
Bless in our daily labor,
Lead us to the Sabbath rest.
Peace in Christ,
Dear Creator Family,
Easter! This season of hope, joy, and wonder as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, brings with it new hope and the sense that all things are possible. It is a time when the routine of the day and the pattern of the year are interrupted by an acute spiritual awareness of the possibility of true change. The gift that we received from God, in the Resurrection of the Son, is not only the miracle and the promise of New Life in Christ, it is the witness to a new perspective.
When Jesus rose from the dead, God proved to us that it was possible to see the world in a different way. Our lives are not written as they are, immutable and frozen; they are the seedbed of new and amazing possibilities. Perhaps the greatest gift we have received is the imagining of possibility itself: the ability to dream–to see life as it does not yet exist, and the power to make that new existence a reality. Hope, Joy, Love, and the intensity of the uncreated, all exist within us in the heart of our imagination made real by the power of the resurrection.
“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.” – Jonas Salk
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson
“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” – Barbara Kingsolver
Hope is not a desperate thing; it is the root of possibility. To hope is to turn the mind, heart, and spirit toward God, and to know that God is fostering the possibility of our hearts.
The sadness that we often feel when we hope is the sadness of unrealized realities. We hope for something that did not manifest in our lives, but that is not real hope, not the possibility of things beyond ourselves. That is lost hope or feelings based on what is past. True hope embraces new possibilities and new realities. True hope is a manner of life that realizes that things may not be exactly as we want, but there is spiritual and heartfelt fulfillment in what is possible. Our hope is not tied with an anchor to the past, but anchored in the present, an open door looking forward in eager anticipation of what comes next.
“The hope that God has provided for you is not merely a wish. Neither is it dependent on other people, possessions, or circumstances for its validity. Instead, biblical hope is an application of your faith that supplies a confident expectation in God's fulfillment of His promises. Coupled with faith and love, hope is part of the abiding characteristics in a believer's life.” – John C. Broger
“Hope is called the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19), because it gives stability to the Christian life. But hope is not simply a 'wish' (I wish that such-and-such would take place); rather, it is that which latches on to the certainty of the promises of the future that God has made.” – RC Sproul
“Now that you have a deeper understanding of what hope is really all about, how can you not apply it in your life today?” – Unknown
Father Bill Burk†