The first Sunday of Advent always accompanies St. Andrew’s Day. Isn’t it fitting that the first apostle, who led his brother St. Peter to follow Jesus, would lead the Church to the opening of Advent each year? I find it so. In honor of St. Andrew, I give you a painting by Ottavio Vannini and a sculpture by François Duquesnoy; one work of art for each pivotal moment of his life.
Advent is a time of anticipation for Christ’s birth in the season leading up to Christmas. But that is only part of it. The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.” In the Greek translation, it is parousia. During the 4th and 5th centuries, Advent was a season of ‘preparation’ for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany: the celebration of God’s Incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1), His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and His first miracle at Cana (John 2:1).
During this season of preparation, Christians, anticipating Baptism, would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting. By the 6th century, however, Advent was no longer simply a time of preparation for Baptism by a few; it was a time to anticipate the Birth of Christ for all. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming, but His second coming as the Judge of the world! It was not until the Middle Ages when the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming … Christ-mas.
This year, as you anticipate the Birth of Christ and His second coming, add extra prayer time to your day as an anticipatory gift for the new-born King. Following are a few prayers, I hope you will clip and keep close at hand in this busy season.
God of Love,
Your son, Jesus, is your greatest gift to us.
He is a sign of your love.
Help us walk in that love during the weeks of Advent,
As we wait and prepare for his coming.
We pray in the name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.
Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do and seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day,
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!'
Amen. - Henri J.M. Nouwen
Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a wonder at the wisdom and power of Your Father and ours. Receive my prayer as part of my service of the Lord who enlists me in God's own work for justice.
Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a hunger for peace: peace in the world, peace in my home, peace in myself.
Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a joy responsive to the Father's joy. I seek His will so I can serve with gladness, singing and love.
Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me the joy and love and peace it is right to bring to the manger of my Lord. Raise in me, too, sober reverence for the God who acted there, hearty gratitude for the life begun there, and spirited resolution to serve the Father and Son.
I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, whose advent I hail. Amen.
Peace to you in Christ,
“Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to God’s service, you could not give Him anything that was not, in a sense, God’s own already.”
– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 11
As we are praying and reflecting on the stewardship of our parish home, we must remind ourselves of the true meaning of stewardship. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.” The cornerstone of our deliberations on how much we are going to give must be understood through our faith.
In the 24th Psalm, King David reflects on the witness of God’s sovereignty laid out in Genesis 1: “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.” Ownership is, thus, the first fundamental principle of biblical stewardship, and from the beginning, our Creator God “owns” all. As with Adam and Eve, we are simply managers or administrators acting on God’s behalf. How we order our lives in reference to our common life expresses our obedience regarding the administration of everything God has placed under our control. Stewardship is the commitment of oneself and one’s resources to God’s service, recognizing all that we have is from God and is God’s.
In 2 Corinthians St. Paul writes, “God loves a cheerful giver.” (9:7) St. Paul is not simply extolling the mood of the giver, but rather the deep awareness and connection true stewardship displays. God loves a joyful giver because joyful giving can only come from a heart set on things above, not on earthly things. As God has created and sustains all things (including us), we love in response to our creation by caring for all that God has created and by giving of all that is, so that others may also know this love.
Our church has always depended upon faithful giving. Most churches do. In the past, Creator has relied heavily on “fundraisers:” the Yard Sale, the Stew Sale, and Arts in the Park. Even when Creator was at its most prosperous, we still needed these drives to sustain our budget. These events were far more than financial–they built comradery, fostered community, provided opportunities for evangelism, and witnessed to the love we have for our parish and each other. But sadly, they also fostered a worldly perspective of stewardship that moved many away from the biblical witness. Though we have an endowment (funded by single-purpose donations), in truth there is no grant, subsidy, endowment, or source of income that can replace—each one of—our call to support the mission and ministry at our parish to the Glory of God, our Creator.
I have long been saddened in my spirit when I hear lay people and clergy alike maintain the belief that our financial support to the American Cancer Institute or our alma mater is the same and takes the place of our support at the Church. I try always in these conversations to point out the biblical witness of corporate worship; gathering and giving that is the church. Pledging to worthy civic organizations is good and valued, but God’s instruction is not for us to support them in lieu of the church. When we (the church) confuse ourselves that we are simply another non-profit organization or charity, we have lost the connection that marks true devotion and enables joyful giving.
As people of faith, faith itself is the imprint of God, Stewardship in all forms and expression, is deeply embedded in the lives of each and every congregant: a fundamental truth about what it means to live an intentional and faithful life before God. Yes, we support the various organizations sending year-end drives and pleas –give generously from what is left, what you can afford. But when we support the church, our parish home, our starting place (and ending, for that matter), it is the first consideration, the first calculation, after which all other financial concerns flow.
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your income. Proverbs 3:9
In Christ Jesus,
In the Rector’s Bible Study, which meets Thursday nights at 7:30, we have studied many biblical manuscripts. For the past several months we have been studying the Book of Revelation. To say that this Book is misunderstood by many and avoided by most may be an understatement, so it is understandable when my description of the Book raises a few eyebrows: the Book of Revelation is a love story!
Any casual reader, or movie-goer for that matter, most likely has a very negative impression of the Book: obscure, negative, scary, un-understandable, are only a few of the descriptions I have heard. We have been inundated by reports of tele-evangelists and obscure, but news-attracting groups that claim the Book is literally accurate. Others attempt to re-frame the Book as a complete allegory. Still, others say it is an elaborate secret “code book.” There are countless novels, movies, and references in pop culture that have further eroded and obscured the message that God set forth in the Revelation to St. John: the Book is a witness of love, devotion, and faithfulness.
Of the many places in the Book that point us to God’s love, the 5th chapter, a chapter in which the Scrolls are opened, and the judgments start, is preeminent. The Lion of the tribe of Judah is the designation of kingship prophesied in Genesis 49:8-10; this image is one of royalty, power, authority, and might. At the time Jesus came, many, if not most, of the people expected that the Messiah would conquer as the avenging Lion through miraculous power (Moses) or military might (David). The truth of this prophesy is witnessed by the Revelation to John in chapter 5: And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
If this story ended here, it would be enough to know that God, faithful and true, did not abandon the world to sin and death, but it does not. The scripture continues: And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain. When John looks for the Lion, the majestic, conquering King, he sees instead the Lamb, the gentle, wounded, and bloody sacrifice of love. God will open the Scrolls of Judgement, not from a place of overlordship or vindictive righteousness, but out of love and for the purpose of gathering those who are lost.
In the Book, God continues to call to everyone through every means possible reminding them of the sacrifice that God has made to make God’s presence and intentions clear. Parents re-enact this witness every day with children of all ages. The child disobeys, even questions the parent’s authority and the parent, out of love, discipline, and shows examples of sacrifice and hardship that are present and await the child if they do not change their behavior. The child then chooses which way to go, acknowledges the parent’s love in the midst of the discipline, or re-doubles their defiance. The parent then has the option of giving up on the child or doubling down the discipline in order that the child will reach the “saturation point” and choose the better path.
In the Book of Revelation, God is doubling down the discipline through God’s own sacrifice of creation, the creation that God made and loves. God’s purpose is to saturate the children who have chosen the lesser path and bring them again to life and light. The Book is a love story from start to finish, filled with blessings, hope, and repeated calls and offerings of unspeakable rewards for the treasured bride of Christ.
Sadly, one passage in Chapter 5 cannot relate the breadth and depth of God’s love poured out and God’s devotion displayed. That you may receive the witness of what the Book truly reveals, I offer you St. John’s continued witness:
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Please join us on Thursday night so you too may receive the witness and understanding that will bless you as we grow in the likeness of Christ.
Through the Lamb,
LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD SAVIOR,
HAVE MERCY ON ME—A SINNER
Last week we looked at the historic origin and scriptural references for the first part of the Jesus Prayer, “LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD SAVIOR.” You recall that the first half has multiple references in Holy Scripture and is also an acrostic formed by ICTHYS--fish, and used as a clandestine Christian greeting. Today we will finish with the second half: “HAVE MERCY ON ME—A SINNER.”
You will recall I characterized HAVE MERCY ON ME—A SINNER, as a “somewhat offensive sentence” and, “an honest proclamation of self-awareness in the light of divine love.” Allow me to explain. Many times in the past, people have shared with me their displeasure with Scripture as “doom and gloom,” depressing, or as oppressive when it referenced human sinfulness and our need for forgiveness. Many times, I have heard comments that the Jesus Prayer was unfavored due to its accusatory second half and discarded for that reason.
I will be the first to say that it brings me no pleasure when any of my many faults are pointed out to me, let alone when I am forced to confront my own sin. The reason for my displeasure, though, is not because I disagree with the assessment; rather, it is that I am being brought back to face the truth of who I am. The faults I have are simply the outward expression of the sin that propelled them. The sin that formed the fault is simply the sin that interacts with the world; another sin lies behind that sin and it is there where I (we) must go. Embracing the truth of this prayer (as we do liturgically in Lent) we are drawn up into the light —the Light of the Gospel! —liberated from falsehood and offered forgiveness and freedom.
Perhaps the most powerful witness to this section of the prayer found in Scripture is in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 18, where Jesus told this parable:
10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 18:10-14
Sin, once discerned, is an unavoidable reality of our lives. Gone is the presumption to claim, “I am alright.” We are able, then, to reflect that it is not the sins of the flesh or the momentary flashes of anger that really keep us from God. We know these are wrong. No, the sins that keep us from the Lord's mercy are the sins that abide deep inside and are formative in all that we do: inordinate pride in our accomplishments; judgmentalism and condemnation without regard to divine presence; secret envy in the success of others, ambition for more power and more influence; at the root of all of these lies a distancing from God that makes these sins possible. I am a sinner who has separated myself from the vision of God by not considering God first before my own self and desire.
The proclamation, HAVE MERCY ON ME—A SINNER, once embraced honestly, opens the core of my heart and spirit to the Sacrifice of the Cross. We are made aware that we stand in the shadow of Christ’s sacrifice and, in the place of sin, cry prayers of thankfulness and praise to God for our salvation. The salvation to eternal life is also the salvation from self-destruction and condemnation. The mercy we cry for, we are invited to accept as already given and Christ ascends from the darkness of our past to light the life we live in every new Holy, blessed moment.
Holiness, for the Christian, is not an event and does not consist in living an upright moral life. Holiness, for the Christian, resides in the sure and certain hope that our sins can be forgiven—are forgiven, and that we can obtain true amendment of life.
Jesus tells this simple yet powerful parable to show the stark contrast between a worldly view and a heavenly view of life: we are explicitly called to the latter, “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” So well is this understood that the Scriptures abound with this teaching as implicit in the witness of our Savior:
2 Peter 3:9 ESV
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
1 John 1:9 ESV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Titus 3:5 ESV
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Acts 2:38 ESV
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 4:16 ESV
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Romans 5:8 ESV
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 1:8 ESV
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 Peter 1:3 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
Luke 13:3 ESV
No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
The second half of the Jesus Prayer is nothing less than a proclamation of self-awareness and a recognition of Divine Love. Through it we are united to the witness of Christ for our salvation and by it we are remade as children of the light! (Thess. 5:5)
LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD SAVIOR,
HAVE MERCY ON ME—A SINNER
LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD SAVIOR,
HAVE MERCY ON ME—A SINNER
Several weeks ago, I wrote encouraging everyone to pray more and specifically to pray using the “Jesus Prayer.” Since then, I have been asked several times for scriptural references to the prayer. Additionally, in the past several weeks as I have prepared and led the Icon class during the Adult Education segment on Sunday morning, I have been asked for more detail about the ICTHYS: the fish symbol used by Christians to communicate in the first century. As there is a distinct relationship between these two very different Christian actions, I will attempt to relate them today and finish up next week.
First, the Fish!
During the first century under several Roman rulers, Nero (37-68), Vespasian (69-79), and Domitian (81-96), Christians were seen as the cause of social unrest and economic decline, pawns in political popularity contests, popularists of rebellion, and competitors to Roman authority—in short, they were convenient ‘scape goats’ for all that ails, plus they were just fun to hate. If Christians were to remain faithful and meet to share devotion and praise the Lord, they would need a system that would identify them to each other, but not to the world. They soon developed a secret symbol.
When two people would meet, say a traveler and a ‘towny,’ after several minutes of conversation, one of them would take his foot and draw an arc on the ground. If the other person were a Christian, he would take his foot or finger and draw another arc, completing the symbol of the fish. Then they would take turns putting the five Greek letters IXOUS (ΙΧΘΥΣ) inside the fish. This word is pronounced “ick-this,” and is the normal word used in the gospels for "fish" (Matthew 7:10, 14:17, and others). The ichthys in Greek, I-X-O-U-S, forms an acrostic.
An acrostic, LitCharts online dictionary tells us is, “… is a piece of writing in which a particular set of letters—typically the first letter of each line, word, or paragraph—spells out a word or phrase with special significance to the text.”
The early Christians recognized that the word ichthys formed an acrostic for Jesus Christ Son of God, Savior. This combined with the simple, seemingly random “line in the sand” movement, secured the fish as a perfect Christian symbol. So, what is the acrostic and where did it come from?
Ι represents Iesous (Ιησους), which is the Greek word for "Jesus." An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him that his fiancée, Mary, "shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). The Hebrew form of His name is Yehoshua (Joshua), which was shortened to Yeshua and transliterated from Greek as Jesus.
Χ stands for Xristos (Χριστος), or "Christ," meaning "anointed." Jesus is God's "Anointed One." When Jesus was born, the angels announced Him to the shepherds as "Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). Peter declared, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). The Hebrew form of "Christ" is "Messiah."
Θ stands for Theos (Θεου) which is translated "God." Jesus the Messiah is none other than the eternal God revealed in human flesh (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-20; 2:9). In Paul's letter to Titus, he proclaims the divinity of Jesus Christ: "the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
Υ represents Uios (Υιος) which means "Son." Jesus is "the only begotten Son" of God (John 3:16). “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1-3).
Σ stands for Soter (Σωτηρ), meaning "Savior." "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). He is the promised "Savior of the world" (John 4:42). The idea is deliverance, a saving from disaster, rescue from a hopeless situation, and breaking the chains of bondage. Indeed, the Bible tells us, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12).
So, to start us off answering these questions, the use of ICTHYS as an acrostic of Jesus Christ Son of God Savior, is based on many different scriptural references (there are still others as well). It is easy to see the connection between the Jesus Prayer and the ICTHYS as, though they are from different times and are created by different means, they both use the same source material: the biblical witness.
Next week, we will take a look at the second half of the Jesus Prayer, …have mercy on me, a sinner, and learn how this somewhat offensive sentence, is actually an honest proclamation of self-awareness in the light of divine love.
Hello, Creator people!
Let’s take a moment to live into our Name. Hold out your hand, palm up, and then imagine a large, beautiful pearl resting in it.
Now imagine a small treasure chest.
An orange carnation, the color of sunset.
How about a majestic cedar tree outside, or the sound of the ocean, the expanding cosmos!
Our imagination is a miraculous gift, it is a place of manifestation, a portal through which we may encounter God. Have you ever imagined God? Jesus? The Holy Spirit? Have you ever thought about God imagining all things--before they were created? God imagined (designed) everything, including you, at the very beginning; no—before the beginning (which was also imagined).
Miriam-Webster tells us that Imagine means to form a mental image or concept of something not present.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. Genesis 1:1-5
And so, God continued imagining and speaking and
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27
Miracle of miracles! On the sixth day God created humans and spoke your name into existence! You were created in the mind of God bearing God’s own image and likeness, and you could imagine!
You are the blessing of the likeness of God, endowed with abilities and the potential of abilities in God’s own image. Imago Dei. Imagine that! You have the ability to see with your mind things known, yet not present, and to speak them into reality as images for others to receive. As you exist in the likeness of God, your abilities are derivative—an imitation of God’s perfect self.
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:24-25
The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world. Psalm 19:1-4
All creation exists as a silent testimony to God’s glory, God’s majesty, God’s eternal Being. From the duckbill platypus to the Aurora Borealis; the Milky Way galaxy to hammerhead sharks; the monarch butterfly to the double helix; God’s imagination made real is the reality of your imagination! To truly comprehend the amazing glory of God, God’s infinite and eternal being, you must use your imagination to experience creation in the image of God.
Jesus spoke boldly to you, calling you through portals of imagination. Look! In your palm, a beautiful pearl—of great price! (see Matthew13:45-46). Look more closely, deep in the reflection, it is the Kingdom of God! Now, down there, on the floor next to your foot, a mustard seed! How it grows and twines and fills all you see! Over there, on the table; bread and wine—body and blood,
look up now and see the face Christ.
In His Image,
Fascinating! Imagine it, St. Luke, the author of the third Gospel, is also the first Iconographer of the Holy Family--or was he?
It is no secret that when I travel, I want to enter every Church I see. On our trip to Rome and Florence last year, I drove my family mad with diversions and side trips to churches, famous and forgotten alike. After years of doing this, I am not surprised to find that the small, out-of-the-way, “has nothing to offer the tourist” churches, also contain some of the most inspiring and moving pieces of Christian art and iconography.
Christian art and iconography are products of God’s indwelling beauty. They are the outflowing of Spirit-driven adulation and devotion. We all have seen and been moved by wonderous paintings, statues, or Icons that can lift us closer to the face of God, but what if there is more to it than that?
There is a difference between a Christian painting and a Christian Icon. In the West, we in the United States gravitate naturally toward Christian paintings. We revere the skill and accomplishment of the paintings in the Sistine Chapel, and we easily identify all art of similar form. But we have a problem with Icons. Icons seem strange to us, even primitive when laid next to the masterful strokes of Michelangelo, Duccio, El Greco, or Raphael.
There are good reasons why Icons intrigue or confuse us. There are answers to why they are called “Icons” and why they are treated so differently than the art we are used to. There is a special place for Icons in our spiritual life, and the door is open (or should I say “window”?) for us to find a special connection to this unique expression of the Holy.
Starting this Sunday at 9:30 a.m., we begin our journey into the world of Christian Iconography. Please join us during the Sunday Morning Christian Education time for a six-week study, October 16 – November 20. Together we will follow the historic record, our fides quaerens intellectum, as we are inspired by God’s call to fellowship, and open ourselves to the spiritual opportunity that Icons provide.
I hope to see you there.
Peace in Christ,
The webcam I used in my office stopped working about a year ago, so I have been using my cell phone. In order to get the proper angle on my phone camera I have a very high-tech, state-of-the art Acme all-purpose cell phone holder hack: a Hormel Chili can stacked on top of a Chicken of the Sea can, topped with a small piece of Styrofoam on which sits my phone charger, where I prop my phone. It works!
Sometimes at night when I am “winding down,” I troll web cameras on the internet and look at videos of people showing off their “web set up” at their desks. A few times I have gone to Amazon and put a web camera in my shopping cart, but I take out before I close the site. There are a lot of reasons why I have not purchased a new web cam; you can guess a couple of them. What may not be an immediate and obvious result of this situation, is the opportunity for prayer and reflection that is present.
Patience, peace, and relinquishment are not overrated virtues, but they are not popular in cases like this. There is a need (even a want) and justification to buy the camera, but there is also a less than perfect work-around that satisfies the need (if not the want). If I live in the time and space of the workaround I will have to deal with the pressure and emotion of the want side of the equation. This where I find God.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Where are you struggling with disappointment and the disquietude of a satisfied need but unrequited want? Instead of moving quickly past that uncomfortable place or slogging through it in desperation, ask God to help quiet your inner cry so that you can hear the Holy Spirit’s still small voice. Every heartache, every pain is an opportunity to turn and receive from God, comfort, and consolation. These are also opportunities to better understand ourselves and grow in likeness of Christ Jesus.
I am sure that one day I will get a webcam, and when I do, I will be grateful both for the convenience of new tech and for the blessing of a new perspective, for I know that the blessing will far outlast the tech. (That, and I will have salmon and chili for lunch!)
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall I do without a new webcam?’ … But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:31a, 33 mod.
Peace in Christ,
Dear Creator Family,
As we move into the beautiful season of fall with cooler temperatures and changing colors, we are, at last, beginning the process of repairing our broken hot water mains. The hot water mains are the supply and return pipes that facilitate heating the Church. In our system, the boiler pumps hot water from the parish hall to the Church air handler, located in the narthex behind the louvered doors. The water passes through a radiator—very much like the radiator in the front of your car, and the air is blown through the radiator by a very large fan. The air, now heated by the water in the radiator, is passed through ducts into the Church (this same process is in effect in the summer to cool the air by using the air conditioner beside the Church).
The heating system at the Church is not complicated; it is a tried-and-true boiler system which—believe it or not—finds its root design in France in the early 1700s. While changes to water delivery and the invention of the fan have improved efficiency exponentially, the basics remain unaltered. Our water main failure was caused by time, not design.
After receiving three bids and reviewing re-design proposals for routing the new water mains (one hot water delivery and one cool water return), we contracted with Gundlach Heating and Cooling, Plumbing and Electrical to do the work. The bid we approved, without unforeseen complications, is $20,766.00. While this may seem high, it is, we have discovered, a very reasonable price for the size of this job. The work is on schedule to begin tomorrow (Wednesday, September 28) with hopes that the job will be completed by early next week.
I would love to say we have reached the end, but I am afraid there are several areas we have yet to attend to. As we move towards 2023 Creator will face other needed repairs. Our parish is fifty-six years old, and much of the infrastructure needs replacing or repairing. It is to be expected and embraced if we love the house that God gave us! In just the past year, we have borne the brunt of two other high-dollar repairs: the A/C unit for the Church and the parish septic system. In addition, we have had several lower-level repairs including fixture replacements and leaks (toilets), as well as smaller plumbing failures.
Next on our list? The concrete at the base of the parish hall steps must be re-laid, the floors in the parish hall must be stripped and waxed, the current and expanding erosion issue from the portico to the parking lot must be addressed, and the portico roof must be repaired where it has failed due to the poor initial installation. Indeed, there are other areas, carpet, lights, and grounds, that also need attention, but we may postpone these items for larger urgent repair issues.
I know this may seem overwhelming, or at least beleaguering, but as God’s stewards of this place, we are the ones called to care for and repair that which we have received. At a time when we are all stretched to the breaking point financially, we are faced with difficult decisions and deliberations for the long-term health of our parish plant and our parish family. Some days I wonder what God is up to here in our midst. Then I know. I look around our beautiful grounds, I sit to pray in our beautiful sanctuary, I let the memories and the ministries of these years wash over me, and I know there’s a reason we are the Church of the Creator. Ours is a living God, a merciful and loving God, who never ceases bringing all things to God’s Glory—and who creates ex nihilo out of nothing. Let us respond out of our lack, our needs, and our fear of “nothing left” with the same abundance and self-giving sacrificial love we have in our Creator God.
Please pray and contact your Vestry with questions or suggestions. As we are approaching our Stewardship Sunday in the fall, these concerns, as well as our working budget, will help us as we contemplate our financial support of God’s work here.
Peace in Christ,
So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. Colossians 1:9-13
As people of faith and followers of Jesus, we want to do what the Letter to the Colossians exhorts us: to honor and please the Lord. We go to church to learn and grow in our knowledge of the Lord so that we can experience God’s love on a deeper and more abiding level. We may read, watch, or listen to media that reflects Holy Scripture and teaches the lessons of Christ in a contemporary way. We may have friends through whom we find Christian values, morals and ethics reflected and even discussable. We are creatures that have been designed to learn and grow, and as Christians, we are ‘Holy Sponges,’ soaking up the divine witness.
Alas, we are also human: finite, flawed, and broken. We live in fear or at least in a state of anxiety, concerned whether we fit in, are approved of, have standing and voice, and are liked—even loved. As humans, we are driven by our emotions, and as finite creatures, we’re easily exhausted by our efforts. As Christians, we are pulled this way and that by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14), Scriptural and societal, and must navigate and choose our mooring carefully.
The way to get started is actually very simple: Know your enemy! This phrase was written in the fifth century B.C. in the book, The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general, strategist, and philosopher whose insights have changed the course of human existence for centuries. The whole quote is,
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
(Please don’t recoil from this reference because of the use of the word ‘enemy.’ The application is much too profound to be dismissed and the word can easily be substituted.) According to Sun Tzu, without true knowledge of the enemy, to even label someone as “enemy” is a form of self-deception. Having available the resources to understand the enemy and not avail ourselves of that knowledge actually makes us our own enemy, as we have not fulfilled our calling to know.
All too often we find ourselves in the last category: If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle, though we don’t recognize it, or if we do, we don’t acknowledge it. The key is in knowing that we don’t know, or at least, that we don’t know enough.
Socrates, the “Father of the Socratic Method” and one of the most important figures in the evolution of philosophy and learning (circa 540 B.C.), was famous for questioning everything. The Socratic Method is “a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presuppositions.” (Wikipedia) The basis of everything is the truth, based on asking and answering in order to gain understanding (wisdom.)
Socrates and Sun Tzu are both extolling the same process: Socrates at the macro level as a basis of all deliberation, and Sun Tzu specifically applied empirical support. As people of faith, we are called by God to immerse ourselves in Holy Scripture and the practices of spiritual growth in the same way and for the same reasons that Socrates and Sun Tzu taught.
Know your enemy. It is not enough to believe what we believe if we are going be a witness and take a stand based on our understanding. Anselm of Canterbury, monk, theologian, and the Archbishop of Canterbury (1033–1109), coined a phrase in his book the Prostomium: “fides quaerens intellectum, which means “faith seeking understanding.” This phrase quickly became a motto and is highly regarded as the synopsis of the scriptural instruction to learn and grow, it is considered a classical definition of Christian Theology. Anselm’s book, like Socrates’ philosophy and Sun Tzu’s observations, is a call to reflection and study, not simply as a reinforcing structure for our own beliefs, but as an explanation of counter ideas.
To know whether we are being true to our faith and following the Way taught by Jesus, we must be willing to take the opposite path. We must “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the words and lessons of our faith openly and without prejudice (Proper 28, BCP 236). In order to embrace and hold fast to our faith honestly, we must hear and learn what our Lord said and meant, not to bolster our belief, but simply to receive the teaching He gave. When we are able to come to the Scripture in this way, we will be able to engage the “enemy” who holds a different view and an opposing opinion.
The result of this practice will lead us to one of two places. Either I will hear, perhaps for the first time, the true teaching of Christ and know that I have been faithfully following his Way, or I will encounter a truth different from my own opinion. In the second case, the “enemy” must now simply become the “other,” and I must change what I had previously believed.
As we navigate our humanity, we are called by God into deeper and deeper waters, rich in truth and flowing with love. As we faithfully encounter the Risen Christ as He is and not as we want Him to be, we will see through Him ourselves and others and dispel the fear by His grace and mercy.
Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Peace in Christ,
Father Bill Burk†