All Saints Messenger


All Saints Messenger - October 19, 2017

posted Oct 19, 2017, 11:40 AM by Church Secretary

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The Forward Day by Day Meditation for THURSDAY, October 19

Jeremiah 38:4 Then the officials said to the king, "[Jeremiah] ought to be put to death, because he is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm."

Nobody likes that guy who goes around saying, "We're gonna lose. You might as well give up now." At the siege of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was that guy. So, the prophet who once spoke on behalf of the Lord is thrown into an empty cistern-to sink into the mud and into the silent oblivion of death.
  
In my own life, it has often been the stranger who ensures that I cannot compartmentalize God's challenging word away so that it remains unheard. The self-giving love of the student who rearranges her life to raise funds for her disabled father's rehabilitation care shows me that I need to change the way I love and honor my own family. The stranger sets God's insistent and unyielding word of judgment before us, so that we might turn away from idolatry and toward love.

MOVING FORWARD: Offer comfort to a person in your community who may have recently either received bad news or been the bearer of bad news.

All Saints Messenger - October 12, 2017

posted Oct 19, 2017, 11:36 AM by Church Secretary

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The Forward Day by Day Meditation for THURSDAY, October 12

Matthew 9:22a Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well."

When this woman says to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well," she knows what could happen. But she also knows no one must see what she is about to do. Determined to be made well, the woman sneaks through the crushing crowd, reaches out, and brushes Jesus' garment.
  
Jesus turns and sees her; the woman's eyes are downcast and drowning in shame. In this one moment of connection, Jesus banishes shame, fear, social stigma, and physical pain from the woman. The crowd pushes and pulls the action in another direction, but the woman doesn't notice. She is a new creation-she is daughter, not unclean. In the freedom of this new peace, I can imagine Hosea's words arising in her mind: "Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call beloved" (Romans 9:25b). "And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' there they shall be called children of the living God" (Hosea 1:10).

MOVING FORWARD: Visit a friend or community member who may be recovering at home or in the hospital. Talk to your priest or clergy person about taking communion to them as well.

All Saints Messenger - October 5, 2017

posted Oct 5, 2017, 12:40 PM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

In the days of Jesus the purpose of God's vineyard had been rationalized away. The righteously religious had replaced the intent of God's covenant promises with nationalistic pride, self-interest and self-justifying traditions.

How long does it take to develop such theological blinders? The historian Phyllis Tickle, in her book, "The Great Emergence", observes that it takes around 500 years for religious communities to lose their spiritual way. It's just 500 years since the time of the Reformation. Perhaps we are sitting at the juncture of another moment when the tenants of the vineyard are likely to kill those sent to collect it's valuable produce.

In today's parable Jesus does not suggest God will withdraw the covenant promise, but he does warn his hearers: "Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom." Does any part of that warning ring true for the congregation of which you are a part of? Does any ring true for the larger church with which you are in association? With whom in your circle of faith can you ask humbly and honestly, "What is our purpose for being here, and how does it relate to the cross and empty tomb of Jesus?"
God of the covenant promise, renew in us a clarity of identity and purpose. Grow in our lives and in our communities a rich harvest of faith, hope and love. Amen.
See ya Sunday,
Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - September 28, 2017

posted Oct 5, 2017, 12:39 PM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

While at seminary one of my professors had an old beat up Saturn that appeared to be kept together with bumper stickers. Most of us who counted them one day stopped after we reached 100. One of the stickers I remember well was, "Question Authority."

On the face of it, this gospel reading seems to be about authority. The religious leaders challenge Jesus' right to teach and preach, particularly in the Temple. The real issue isn't about authority. It's about the extent of God's grace. Jesus offended his listeners when he pointed out that those who are viewed as immoral or outsiders seemed to understand repentance better than those who were religious insiders.

What I find interesting in this passage is Jesus' comment that sinners are "going into the kingdom of God ahead of you." He doesn't say, "instead of you." Sometimes our understanding of God's love is way too small. Jesus welcomed all kinds of sinners--"freaks" and outsiders. There is grace enough for everyone and room for all of us in the kingdom.

Heavenly Father, there is a wideness in your mercy. Empty us of our pride, judgments and prejudices, that we might be instruments of your peace, love and welcome in our hurting world. Amen.

See ya Sunday,
Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - September 21, 2017

posted Sep 21, 2017, 12:47 PM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the name of  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 

Jesus tells us the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who hired people to work, and who reserved the right to choose how to pay those workers. The landowner shocks all when the landowner avoids all semblance of conventional wisdom in the process. Jesus is describing a God who is not stingy,  who lives in the abundant world...not the scarce world and whose dream is to bless the whole of creation. Those who heard Jesus' parable complained because the landowner (God) didn't think like them. 

Like the disciples, we are to hear Jesus' words as an invitation to get involved in God's work at any hour, in any life situation, without needing to analyze how others are called or rewarded. "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," we pray as followers of Jesus. We need not stop to think about how God's Kingdom or God's way of doing things will be scandalously different than the ways we might construct things with our prejudices and limited insight and sight. God is God. God gets to choose. Not us!

Merciful God, your ways are beyond our understanding, but we trust your ways with our whole lives. Thank you for your wisdom, choosing to be filled with generous abundance; rather than being scarce and stingy. Enable us to live in this grace, now and into the life to come. Amen.

See ya Sunday!

Fr. Gary+ 

All Saints Messenger - September 14, 2017

posted Sep 21, 2017, 12:46 PM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the name of  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 

The work of a bishop often requires mediating conflict in the church--between rectors and vestries, congregation members, with the diocese and other scenarios. Our Episcopal tradition confesses that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. Most often (maybe ALWAYS) our conflict erupts because we do not love God with our whole heart, and our neighbors as ourselves.

In Sunday's gospel reading Matthew makes clear that such conflict has been with the community of believers from the beginning. There are temporal consequences for our behavior, and Jesus doesn't let the community off the hook easily. Yet, he reminds his followers that we are called to be people of forgiveness because we have a God who eternally forgives through Christ. So forgiven we must take that call seriously. But how many times should I forgive? Seven times is great plenty right? No. Those who have been forgiven are called to forgiveness that is extravagant beyond measure.

Forgiving Christ, you stretched your arms out on the cross to gather all into your embrace. Help us to move past our grief, anger and selfish ambition to seek wholeness, peace and forgiveness. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.

See ya Sunday!

Fr. Gary+ 

All Saints Messenger - September 7, 2017

posted Sep 14, 2017, 9:57 AM by Church Secretary


Greetings in the name of  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 

My stomach gets knots while reading this text. As a priest in the church we often receive disapproving communication from the church family. It is painful...sometimes people leave the church over what I say. However, if I am honest I am not blameless as well. In the past, as a parishioner, I know I also have communicated criticisms that disappointed maybe even hurt others. Often times we are able to recall our own pain, but are unaware of the pain we cause.

Isolating this Sunday's passages (Matthew 18:15-20) painful reproving and excommunicating instructions from this chapter's wider context risks missing Jesus' overall loving message. In previous verses, Jesus says the "greatest" have child-like humility, warns against being stumbling blocks or sinning, and tells the Lost Sheep parable about God's unrelenting efforts to reunite each sheep with the flock. In the verses following today's reading, Jesus says to forgive limitlessly and he shares the Unforgiving Servant parable that teaches how God forgives us infinitely more than we forgive our neighbors. Sunday's reading instructs us to communicate our concerns--but for the purpose of loving reconciliation. If reconciliation fails, God keeps calling--just as Jesus lovingly remained in community with Gentiles and tax collectors.

Forgiving God, we praise and thank you for continuously calling us to return to you each time we stray. Please be merciful with us when we are too quick to reprove and too slow to forgive. Guide our communication so that we lovingly reconcile with our neighbors. Amen

See ya Sunday!

Fr. Gary+ 

All Saints Messenger - August 31, 2017

posted Sep 7, 2017, 11:03 AM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the name of  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 

This Sunday's Gospel passage from Matthew contains one of Jesus' hardest sayings in all the Gospels,  "If any man would come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."  I often find myself thinking that this is one of Jesus' sayings that we could do without.  We prefer the warm and fuzzy passages of Jesus, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted," "Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me," and "Peace I leave with you, my own peace I give to you."  These are warm and fuzzy passages that are comfortable, safe, and provide stability in our disruptive and frightening world.

But who needs to hear Jesus saying "deny yourself and take up your cross?..."  when you are knee deep in flood waters without power and a warm place to lay your head, keeping up with the bills, caring for a dying friend or parent, or just trying to meet the challenges of the day ... who really needs to hear these words?  We often want to believe that Jesus was only talking to those twelve special disciples but we all know better don't we?  It is not just the 12 who Jesus is calling to take up their cross, it is you and I as well.

The deep secret of Jesus' hard words to us in this passage is that our fear of suffering and death robs us of life, because fear of death always turns into fear of life, into a stingy, cautious way of living that is not really living at all.  The deep secret of Jesus' hard words is that the way to have abundant life is not to save it but to spend it, to give it away, because life cannot be shut up and saved any more than a bird can be put in a shoebox and stored on a closet shelf.

Episcopal Priest and noted preacher Barbara Brown Taylor writes about this passage, "Better yet, life cannot be shut up and saved any more than fresh spring water can be put in a mason jar and kept in a kitchen cupboard.  Yes, it will remain water, and if you ever open it up you can probably still drink it, but it will have lost its essence, it's life, which is to be poured out, to be moving, living water, rushing downstream to share its wealth without ever looking back."

To be where God is -- to follow Jesus -- means going beyond the limits of our own comfort and safety.  It means receiving our lives as gifts instead of guarding them as our own possessions.  It means sharing the life we have been given instead of bottling it for our own consumption.  May each of us make it so!

See ya Sunday! Remember to join us for breakfast.

See ya Sunday
Fr. Gary+ 

All Saints Messenger - August 24, 2017

posted Aug 24, 2017, 12:15 PM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the name of  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 

Recently, a discussion at Vestry meeting brought up the perceived rowdiness of the Passing of the Peace.  We discussed it for a while reflecting on its purpose and the stated concerns and decided I would try something new at last Sunday's 8AM service during the Passing of the Peace. At that service I asked parishioners to pass the peace just to those they could reach without moving out of their pews.

The rite itself went fine, yet afterwards as parishioners were departing, the topic came up again and again. "I didn't like not being able to greet everyone"; "The Peace was how I got to be known and how I got to know others" were just a few of the comments I heard. If I am honest with myself, I also noticed a reduced sense of energy and joy which, of course, is the exact opposite of what we hope for.

So I'm going to attempt something else: According to The Episcopal Dictionary, the Peace is "a liturgical exchange of greeting through word and gesture. It is a sign of reconciliation, love and renewed relationships in the Christian Community." Of course, the challenge for us comes with how we DO the "exchange of greeting through word and gesture."

It has been said that it is a bit ironic that the part of our service which we call the Peace is often the least peaceful part of our worship. I've heard the terms, "chaotic, hippie love fest, part election campaign" when some talk about the exchange of the Peace. Additionally, as a welcoming and inclusive church we have to be aware of the guests and those new to our traditions in our midst. To be truly hospitable is to be aware of those new to us and to include them "Fully."

We need to remember that some guests, and if we are truthful, probably some of our own members are introverts and might rather have a root canal than have to struggle through a long and drawn out Peace. I have also heard some say "I went to a church where only one or two people greeted me, yet the rest of the congregation was enthusiastically greeting those they knew and were their friends. I wondered if I was already labeled as part of the "out" crowd."

The Peace is the time of the service where we are expected to extend Christ's peace, to be at one with Christ's family before we receive Christ's Body and Blood...to be at unity with Christ and one another. Maybe, just maybe, at the Peace we reach first, not to friends and family (who we will have ample opportunity to share and greet them after the service) but to the visitor, the guest, the stranger, the lonely, the isolated, the one who can do nothing but receive without giving back. It does not mean family and friends are to be ignored; but if they are given a ritual handclasp and a "Peace be with you," then perhaps there will be enough time to greet more folks before the Eucharist begins.

In closing, I recall the following personal experience: We were a young Episcopal family, probably only two years in to this new and strange tradition (I had been Presbyterian, Chris had been raised Roman Catholic) and a woman and her quadriplegic son settled into a pew a few rows back one Sunday. During the Peace our daughter Emma seemed to sense that others were uncomfortable and the mother and son were not getting much "Peace" attention. Emma drifted back took the young man's hand in hers and said, "The Peace of the Lord be always with you." He could not respond, his face did not change. His mother's eyes filled with tears as she mouthed, "Thank You." The mother and son remain in that parish to this day.

See ya Sunday
Fr. Gary+ 

All Saints Messenger - August 17, 2017

posted Aug 17, 2017, 12:56 PM by Church Secretary

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Greetings in the name of  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 

Is there anyone who hasn't felt the hurt that comes from being snubbed? Rejection is the  unkindest cut of all. In our reading, a woman with an agonizing family problem steps outside her religious comfort zone and comes toward Jesus with the cry, "Have mercy!" Her plea is met with--silence! If there is to be any answer at all, she will have to wait. And wait some more.

What Christian hasn't experienced this? You pray, but wonder if anyone is listening. You get the feeling that few, if any, of your prayers go anywhere but up into thin air. You wonder why God seems to be hiding from you. The silence this woman met didn't snatch hope from her soul. She let her faith carry her past uncertainty, past silence, past rejection, past humiliation and right into those words of Jesus, "Great is your faith!" Her daughter's inner torment found instant healing. God heard her cry, after all. Times of silence can let us know just how carefully God is listening.

Heather Heyer's (the young woman killed in Charlottesville this past weekend) mother could easily have slipped into a state of God not hearing her in her grief over her daughter. Instead, she rose up and challenged all of us to accountability for what is going on in our world today. She shared one of her daughter's facebook posts which said, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." Sounds like Jesus to me calling us to love and forgive our neighbor always ensuring us that he is with us, listening to us and loving us. By sharing her pain, grief and hope Heather and her mom reminds us that God is with us always, always listening and always active in our world.

Gracious God, We ask that our courage not back up, nor let up, nor give up. Keep our faith grounded in your faithfulness. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

See ya Sunday,
Gary+

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