All Saints Messenger

All Saints Messenger - February 9, 2017

posted Feb 9, 2017, 11:48 AM by Church Secretary

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

Last week's preaching experience was both heartbreaking and liberating. Heartbreaking because I never intend on offending or hurting anyone; Liberating because being who God called me to be and speaking MY truth (What the Holy Spirit has moved me to say) means I am being honest and transparent. I struggle with things the same way each of you do. We don't struggle about the same things, we don't feel the same ways...but, the important thing is, we struggle together and we come to the altar rail together raising our palms upward to receive the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood and we are, once again, refreshed, made clean and new.

As Episcopalians we live in a world of dynamic tension. We encompass such a degree of diversity, and that is very good, that all of us are bombarded with issues that tense us and go against some basic understandings and beliefs that have been with us since childhood. When we face these "tensions" one of our natural human responses is fear: fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of change, etc.

We follow a Resurrected Savior who was a refugee, rebel, lover of all people who sacrificed himself for these beliefs. If we are to follow Him we have to act in His name.

I grew up believing God doesn't give us a spirit of fear. However, it seems like our nation is acting out of fear more and more each day. For us Christians, who get wrapped up in this fear, we forget who it is we follow and are already saved through Christ's death and resurrection.

In the Gospels, when the disciple Peter is asked if he is associated with Jesus, he denies him, later saying he doesn't even know him. It isn't anything he does that rejects his faith; it's what he refuses to do. Like it or not, we (myself included) are denying Jesus in these times of national discourse (or lack thereof) as we tolerate words, actions and conduct that are entirely opposed to Jesus' life and ministry.
We are The Episcopal Branch of The Jesus Movement. We are on the same side, each and every one of us: the side of love and mercy and justice and gentleness and joy; the side of loving our neighbor and of turning our cheek and washing feet. We need that; our communities need that; our country needs that; our world needs that. If our faith can't surpass man-made politics, it isn't worth much. If we can't be united in love for all people, we will surely become the worst kind of clanging cymbal. May we act, speak and listen in ways that open our hearts and model respect for those with whom we disagree.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
See ya Sunday,

Fr. Gary+

*Some of these words were inspired by an article by John Pavlovitz 

All Saints Messenger - February 2, 2017

posted Feb 2, 2017, 12:18 PM by Church Secretary

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

The first time I was at sea on a destroyer I went forward to the Forecastle (foc'sle in Navy terminology) also known as the front part of the ship or bow. As I climbed the ladder to the main deck I was struck by the power of light in the darkness of the night. Once my eyes had acclimated to the darkness after emerging from a well lit passageway the moonlight seemed to be able to light up everything. I could see the horizon, the ripples of the waves and yes, the dolphins swimming alongside us. It seemed like I could see forever, even though it was very dark. It was as if nighttime were not so. Light truly was not overcome by the darkness.

In Mathew's fifth chapter Jesus calls his followers to be the ones that shine bright in the darkness...that is Jesus' reality. This calling has found its way into the liturgy of baptism and in many ways serves as the marching orders for those of us who follow Christ. Like the moonlight on a dark night at sea, you also are called to shine in such a way that the power of darkness is overcome by the gift of light. How will you do that this week?

God of creation, give us the courage and strength to be, speak, live and love in a way that brings light into our world so often filled with darkness. Ignite the fire of justice and mercy inside us so that it overflows from our very being. Amen.

Blessings & Peace!

See ya Sunday,
Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - January 20, 2016

posted Jan 24, 2017, 11:14 AM by Church Secretary

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

Our son would occasionally wake up screaming at night when he thought that his beloved stuffed animal had somehow swam away and forsaken him.

"Lobby is gone!" he would shout in a panic. One of us often had to run into his room and turn on the light for him so that he could see that "Lobby" was indeed still in the bed lying next to him.

Today is the inauguration of our new president. I know that there are people on each side of the aisle at All Saints and that's OK...that's your right and I honor that...even more than that...I fought and some of my friends died for that right with 31 years of sacrificial service. Our place as The Body of Christ in Gastonia and the world is to remember that our only true allegiance is to Jesus Christ. It is in him that we place our trust.

There are many in our nation right now who are screaming, "God, your kingdom is gone!" For those who are suffering now and for those who will suffer in the future place in the center of your fears, the knowledge and assurance that our Savior, Jesus Christ is the light of the world, and shines on us to reveal that God's kingdom has been here all along and it is always closer to us than we think. As Kabir Helminski puts it, "We are knee deep in the river looking for water." We need not be afraid of the dark. God's kingdom hasn't gone away just because we think that it has been misplaced. The light visits us and constantly reminds us that God is much nearer than we think. Strive always to remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that." 

God, help me believe in the sun, even when it is not shining. God, help me believe in love, even when I don't feel it. God, help me believe in you, even when you are silent. Amen (from words found on a wall at Auschwitz).

See you Sunday!

Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - January 12, 2017

posted Jan 12, 2017, 12:16 PM by Church Secretary

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

This Sunday is special and exciting for a couple of reasons. First, it is our Annual Parish Meeting where we gather for food, fun, fellowship and business. Contrary to other denominations we have only one meeting of the parish each year. This is because the Vestry of the church conducts all business of the church up to and including the selection of the rector. Since the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church were written at the same time as our country's constitution it is easy to see certain parallel in our polity (how we govern ourselves). The parish's input to the Vestry is your opportunity to have your voice heard through the people you elect to serve on Vestry. We do this at our Annual Meeting this Sunday so it is important that you join us. Additionally, you will hear reports on ministries, finances and Fr. Gary will share with us his "State of the Parish." Please join us.

Secondly, this Sunday is exciting because Bishop José has assigned The Rev. Cris South as deacon at All Saints. Cris has been worshiping with us for over six months and has gone through the appropriate checks and balances in our diocese to be assigned as deacon. Cris has been ordained about three years and comes to us from The Diocese of Hawaii where she served a couple of parishes. She moved to North Carolina to be closer to her family. Her passions are Outreach and Pastoral Care. Deacon Cris will preach this Sunday and will share with us parts of her life story and call.

Some of you may be asking if Cris' arrival affects Martha being with us. The simple answer: No! Martha remains an essential part of the ministry team here at All Saints and the assignment of Cris will allow both Deacon Martha and Cris to support one another, the parish and me more deeply. Thanks be to God!

Please join me in welcoming The Rev. Cris South into the All Saints Family!

May the Light of Christ shine upon you this Epiphany!

See you Sunday!

Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - December 29, 2016

posted Dec 29, 2016, 12:42 PM by Church Secretary

All Saints Messenger - December 22, 2016

posted Dec 22, 2016, 12:17 PM by Church Secretary   [ updated Dec 22, 2016, 6:03 PM by All Saints Gastonia ]

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

The Incarnation, the coming of God among us in human flesh, happened in such a quiet and out of the way place that few even noticed when it happened. However, the impact on human existence has been like a bolt of lightning that continues to grow and generate new life and fire in all who share that hunger.

Jesus comes among us like the short seasons of firefly's - will we notice his presence in the street-sleeper? He pierces the dark like a silent, streaking hawk seeking food for hungry and defenseless new born babes. He will overturn this world's unjust foundations like termites undermining a window sill or wall. Like the bat's sonar, his call comes to each one of us uniquely - have we heard his urgent "come and follow"?

God is among us, and within us, and around us, encountering, nudging, loving, transforming the world and its creatures toward the glorious dream the shepherds announced so many years ago, toward the beloved community of prophetic dreams, and the nightwatch that proclaims "all is well, fear not, the Lord is here."

May Christ be born anew in you this Christmastide. May his light burn in you, and may you labor to spread it in the darkness. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and it is the harbinger of peace for all creation.

Merry Christmas!

Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - December 15, 2016

posted Dec 15, 2016, 11:44 AM by Church Secretary

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

What follows is our Presiding Bishop's Christmas Message. Enjoy!

From Isaiah Chapter 9:

For unto us a child is born,
unto us a Son is given;
and the government shall be upon His shoulder;
and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
These words of Isaiah are often seen as words that foretell and foreshadow the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary. The truth is, these words befit Him because this child changed the world. This child changes lives. This child changes us.
I remember when our oldest daughter was a baby. My wife and I were young. We were footloose and fancy-free.  It was just the two of us newlyweds, so if we wanted to go out to eat dinner, we went out to eat dinner. If we decided to go to a movie at the last minute, we just went.  We actually felt like we had money back then.  And we did have a little bit of discretionary income. We could pretty much do what we wanted to do, within reason, and we didn't have to think too much about the consequences or impact of a spontaneous decision and what we had to do to make that happen.
And then, all of a sudden, this little, innocent human being, a little child, came into our lives, and literally gained control over our entire world. Before we could do anything else we had to think about, "Who's going to keep the baby?" or "Is this a good time for us to go without the baby?"  We soon learned that we were not in control of our lives anymore.  Even our sleeping patterns became very different. We would stay awake when the baby was awake and we went to sleep when the baby went to sleep. Literally this child began to control our lives and the child didn't even know she was doing it. And then we had a second one she did the exact same thing. And I've since learned that that's what babies do.  When they arrive they take over!  And their parents begin to develop their lives around this child. To mold their entire lives around this precious needy baby.
Isaiah wrote, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given . . . and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  This child who was born of Mary changes everything. This child born in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes changes how we live. This child born to the sound of angels singing Gloria in excelcis Deo - this child to whom the wise ones came from afar bearing gifts - this child, changed the way the entire world works. 
And this Jesus, born into a world torn by strife and hatred and division and pain and poverty, this child is born anew wherever men and women say, "I'll follow Him. I'll follow Him as my Savior. I'll follow Him as my Lord."
When this child grew up, He said His reason for coming, again quoting Isaiah, from the 61st chapter, he said,
The spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach Good News to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, the recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty all those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
This child, when He grew up, came to show us the way to live lives of love, lives of compassion, lives of goodness, lives of kindness, lives of justice. This child came to show us how to change the world. So this Christmas, make room for him to change us.  This Christmas help us change the world.  And make a new commitment, to go out from this day, to let this Christmas Day, be the first day of a new world.
God bless you. God keep you. Have a blessed Christmas.  A Happy New Year.  And go on out and change the world!

See ya Sunday!

Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - December 8, 2016

posted Dec 8, 2016, 7:19 AM by Church Secretary   [ updated Dec 8, 2016, 7:22 AM ]


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

I wrote a few weeks ago about how we spend our money and how we make decisions about where it goes. I highlighted the fact that Jesus speaks about money in one out of every seven verses in the Gospel of Luke and that 16-19 of Jesus' 39 parables speak about money.

This past Sunday was our "Ingathering Pledge Card Event" and so I spoke about money again (No, I don't think I am Jesus, but the topic is applicable to us today in very real ways). I shared with those who were here last Sunday that our wallets and pocketbooks are the single biggest thing that gets in the way between our hearts and God.

Next, I let everyone know that I was "Guilty AS Charged" because I have struggled mightily with giving out of my abundance for a long time. I am happy to share that the scarcity thinking of my past has been replaced with a real appreciation and understanding of the abundance that I have and that we all have here in this corner of God's Kingdom.

This week we are hosting families who have no place to lay their heads through the "Family Promise" program. We provide warm beds, hot showers, food, a safe place to stay and we even have a "homework helper" who helps the children with their studies. It is one of the wonderful ways All Saints embody being stewards (read Stewardship) to our world.

Stewardship involves our whole being, all that we are. We give generously and joyously all of our selves and souls and bodies as our Prayer Book reminds us.  We are called to be joyful givers and one can be a joyful giver only when we are giving out of our abundance and not reluctantly or forcefully out of our scarcity.

On Sunday, I shared the story of a friend of mine who tells this story, "Years ago, we started letting friends come to our house to pick out their wedding gift." They could walk around our house and pick anything that they wanted. Yes, being that generous and vulnerable cost us some of our favorite paintings, a couple of wonderful pieces of pottery, a few pieces of furniture, etc., but the joy that comes from sharing something that will continue to give joy and demonstrate generosity is incomparable.

I believe this is a wonderful example of giving and I share it with you as we try and complete our Annual Stewardship/Giving Campaign for 2017. We have received about 50% of expected pledge cards. If you have not filled out and turned in your card I hope you will do so this Sunday.

All Saints relies on your being generous out of your abundance. As the above story about the families we help through Family Promise show us, All Saints exists to transform lives, not ours only, but those in our community and world as well
We are called to give out of our abundance, out of our "First Fruits." Jesus gave much for us, can we afford to do anything less?

See ya Sunday!

Fr. Gary+

All Saints Messenger - December 1, 2016

posted Dec 2, 2016, 9:23 AM by Church Secretary   [ updated Dec 2, 2016, 4:17 PM by John Woodward ]

The Forward Day by Day Meditation

THURSDAY, December 1

Psalm 18:37-38 You lengthen my stride beneath me, and my ankles do not give way. I pursue my enemies and overtake them; I will not turn back till I have destroyed them.

Twelve years ago, when my doctor recommended I add vigorous cardiovascular activity to my life, we adopted a beagle mix named Patches. Her entire attitude echoes the psalmist's gratitude-God is generous and life is good.
Patches wags her tail with gusto every time we return home. Whether running on the grassy field across the street or exploring the nearby forest, Patches offers me a daily opportunity to see how God lengthens her stride. Her enemies (squirrels and deer) provide further opportunities to run and exercise.

Patches is an old dog now. She's going deaf, and sometimes she loses her balance. Despite her limping, Patches insists on running. If she loses her balance and falls, she just gets back up on her four legs and keeps moving. Her optimism and hope for the future are unshakable.

Why is it hard for us to be as happy as our canine companions? What life lessons can we learn from their cheerfulness, innocence, and loyalty?

All Saints Messenger - November 24, 2016

posted Dec 2, 2016, 9:22 AM by Church Secretary   [ updated Dec 2, 2016, 4:18 PM by John Woodward ]

Greetings in the name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
We are at that time of year where the Finance Committee and Vestry are working on next year's budget. It is often a difficult time because hard decisions often have to be made, or, at least considered. 
A Quick Question: Besides the Kingdom of God, what did Jesus talk about most often?
Love? Peace? The poor?
Jesus talked about money all the time. I remember in my first year of parish ministry I was attacked for talking about money from the pulpit. My response: "Jesus talked more about money than anything else except The Kingdom of God." Fact: Jesus talked about money and possessions in 16 out of the 39 parables and in The Gospel of Luke he talks about money in 1 out of every 7 verses. The Bible, in total, talks about money in over 2000 verses yet only 500 verses on prayer and faith. Why you might ask? I will use Jesus' words to respond: In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (You can find further Scripture references at the end of this column)
This week is All Saints first week of our Pledge Drive. All Saints only exists by and for the people we serve. From now through December 4th we ask that everyone prayerfully consider what All Saints means to you and then consider and ask yourselves "What is my Church family worth to me?" Jesus, time after time in the Gospel, calls his disciples' attention to the use of money.
Let me share with you some questions that may apply here (sent to me by a friend):
  • Why do we give 10%, 15%, 20% to wait staff for a good meal but only give 1-2% to the Church?
  • Why do we religiously send Time Warner Cable or DirectTV $100 per month but forget about the church for months on end?
  • Why do we resist the sacrificial giving of our "First Fruits" and decide later, when our financial picture is more complete, what we give to the church?
The late Richard Halverson, a chaplain of the U.S. Senate, in his book, Perspective, wrote, "Jesus Christ said more about money than any other single thing because money is of first importance when it comes to a human beings real nature. Money is an exact index to a person's true character."
Jesus saw that money and wealth often cause a poverty of character, a lack of what really mattered. That is why - when the rich young man "went away sad, for he had many possessions"- Jesus said "it will be hard for those who are rich to enter the kingdom of heaven." It's also why he told us to "give to the one who asks of you" (Mt 5:42) and that we would be judged by the measure, the generosity, by which we give (Mt 7:1).
What we do with wealth - whether that be a plenitude of money, power, talent, influence or anything else that comes to us through the grace of God - shows where our heart is.
This is the very danger Jesus recognized when he told us to store up "treasures in heaven" rather than "treasures on earth" (Mt 6:19-20). If we focus only on our wealth, on getting more and not losing what we have - that wealth can take on a power of its own, just like the false god Mammon.
Instead, as good stewards, Jesus calls us to focus on God - and to put our wealth freely at his disposal. If we do, we will be living what Jesus taught, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

See ya Sunday,

Here are some Scripture references that you may find beneficial:

Many parables touch on material wealth: the Prodigal Son squandering his inheritance (Lk 15:11-32), Lazarus and the rich man (Lk 16:19-31), or the day laborers in the vineyard (Mt 20:1-16).
The use of money also occasioned many of Jesus' teachings: the widow's two coins (Mk 12:41-44); Caesar's taxes (Mt 22:15-22); the rich young man (Mt 19:16-24); and Zacchaeus the tax collector (Lk 19.1-10).
Then there are the famous quotes: "Where your treasure is, there also your heart will be" (Mt 6:21); "Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, not food, nor money" (Lk 9:3); and, most famous of all: "You cannot serve both God and Mammon." (Lk 16 and Mt 6:24).
Mammon is a word from the ancient world. In Greek, it was mamOna, meaning wealth or riches, in the personalized sense, even as the riches were taking on a personality their own. Mammon meant wealth idolized and sought after. It was also recognized as something that could debase and dehumanize. Mammon could truly be a god, a false one.

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