Wednesday of Holy Week, April 1, 2015

Today is Wednesday in Holy Week.  At sundown tonight the season of Lent officially ends and the sacred triduum begins.  The triduum are the last three days of our Lord’s earthly life celebrated as Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day!

Our Gospel reading for this day is John 13:21-30.  It is Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.  Let us read it, “Jesus… was troubled in spirit, and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom He spoke. One of His disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to Jesus; so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, “Tell us who it is of whom He speaks.” So the disciple moved even closer to Jesus and said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this bread when I have dipped it.” So when He had dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after Judas received the bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why He said this to Judas…. So, after receiving the bread, he immediately went out; and it was night. (Jn 13:21-30)

What on earth happened with Judas? He knew Jesus well.  He witnessed many miracles, many healing, and he knew the poverty of most of the people who came looking for Jesus and he also knew the genuine love Jesus had for every one.  Judas was so trusted that he had been chosen and called to be an apostle by Jesus Himself.  What happened to him that he would now betray his friend for thirty pieces of silver?

Looking at how Judas ignored his heart may be a clue as to what happened to make him change. Judas was acting like a person whose once intense love has now grow cold?  Maybe his confidence and enthusiasm for “the way of Jesus” had grown to be merely external and stale.  Judas lost his way.  Love when it has grown cold becomes stale.  But Jesus knew that even cold hearts can be warmed up and made new!

Pay attention to how Jesus identifies His “betrayer.”  It was by dipping a piece of His own bread into some oil and giving it to Judas.  Seems simple.  This was common to do in that day. Often the host would begin the meal by doing just this.  Selecting one person and share his bread to show special appreciation to a friend, neighbor or family member.  It’s like making that person a guest of honor.  Jesus uses this gesture to begin the “Last Supper.” He tells Judas to “go and do what you must” (Jn 13:27) but know “as you leave… you leave as a guest of honor!”  How much did Jesus love Judas.  In Eucharistic Prayer D we recall the “Last Supper.”  We pray, “When the hour had come for Him to be glorified by You, His heavenly Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end… (BCP 374)

It’s important to keep this in perspective.  Because we too can struggle with our love growing cold. Things we are deeply committed to can become mere external living. We can loose our passion.  Pushing through those “cold times” and persevering is the work of grace helping us in even small everyday things with faith; but “pushing through” must be supported by the humility desiring a beginning again when we go astray through weakness.

Judas found that his love for Jesus was still there. He figured this out.  He also realized that he allowed himself to be used by the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus. For Judas his shame was so deep there was no going back.  Yet, Jesus loved him, and took that love for Judas with Him to the Cross.  He loved Judas to the end.

Jesus loves you. Can you love Him with an everlasting love?  Try by opening your heart to grace, and humble yourself before Him and pray for beginning again.  Be not afraid, God desires to bless you!

 

The Holy Eucharist – Part One

The principle means of Sunday morning worship worship at St. John’s is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. From the earliest days of Christianity “the chief act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day” (BCP, p. 13) has been eucharistic worship.

Gregory Dix (1901-1952), an English monk and priest of Nashdom Abbey which is an Anglican Benedictine community was a noted liturgical scholar. His book “The Shape of the Liturgy” remains a classic of research in the study of the apostolic church and the development of eucharistic liturgy.  He wrote that at the Mass enshrines “the eucharistic action, a thing of absolute simplicity— the taking, blessing, breaking and giving of bread and the taking, blessing, and giving of a cup of wine, as these were first done by a young Jew before and after supper with His friends on the night before He died. . . . He had told His friends to do this henceforward with the new meaning for the anamnesis of Him, and they have done it ever since. . . . week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei—the holy common people of God.”  (Shape, pp 743)

When the Church celebrates the Holy Eucharist she is most clearly being the Body of Christ, the people of God.  Like the sacrament of holy Baptism, the eucharistic mystery is rooted to the mystery of our Lord’s dying and rising. This is all by Jesus’ design that when the Holy Eucharist is celebrated the mystery of Calvary unfolds before us.  This is not some form of repetition as if their is a new sacrifice every Sunday, but rather through sacramental re-presentation to allow every baptized soul actual means to participate in the event that defeated Satan and all His spiritual forces of wickedness and that brought life and eternity to light!

The service of Holy Eucharist in the Book of Common Prayer follows the simple eucharistic actions of Jesus as He did them in the Upper Room on the night He instituted His passion.

Amen

Growing the “Anglican way.”

The people of St. John’s are dedicated to Jesus Christ and to His Church. Looking at Sunday morning alone and what is involved in orchestrating three services on Sunday morning, from altar guild, choirs, readers, coffee hour in-between, Sunday school, adult formation, and vestry coverage and so much more, we easily have over 65 people committed weekly to responsibilities and schedules that make everything come together and work so smoothly.

Looking beyond Sundays the list goes on. Hours of office work generate material and scheduling that supports our ministry. Leadership in ministry areas work through plans, clean and set up, they organize, rehearse and practice instruments, and assemble people. Those who teach our children and provide adult formation devote hours weekly to prayer, study, sometimes even building materials, and working through lessons. All of this is done so we may open our doors and greet the people God sends our way. This happens every week of the year.

The fruit of this weekly labor is producing at St. John’s the “Anglican way.” That is, God is worshiped and loved, and His people are fed with His Word and Sacraments. Space is made for anyone to find a quiet place for prayer and communion with God. The historic truths of the Christian faith are preached and celebrated. God’s love and assurance is made manifest in a community spirit.

The conduct of liturgy at St. John’s is based on a simplicity that is true historic Anglican catholic worship. Simplicity is not blandness, casualness, or negligence. Simplicity affords concentration that allows our worship to focus on the themes provided by scripture, music, prayer, and receiving Christ at the Altar. Our worship has two integrated components: Word and Sacrament. We proclaim the Word of God (the Bible) and receive in Holy Communion the Word of God (Jesus).

The bottom line is that God is everyday at work in what we do. In fact, He is always doing more in our midst then we can ask or imagine. The Holy Spirit has given us the gift of faith, and we count it a blessing at St. John’s to be Christ’s servants to make a broken world whole.

How to grow the Church

Grow the ChurchThe Great Commission extended by Christ to all the Church is a call to grow the Church.  Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mat 28:19 RSV)

  • How does the Church “grow?”
  • How can we contribute to her growth?

How does the Church grow?

The Church of Jesus Christ grows from the inside to the outside.   The Church above all is an interior union with Jesus, a union that is formed in prayer, Word and sacraments; and upon the dispositions of faith, hope, and charity.

How can we contribute to her growth?

So what must Christians do to help grow the Church.  We must strive above all to ensure that we nurture faith, hope and charity in our daily life.  That we pray daily.  Love and prayer build up the Church in the sense that it strengthens her, builds community, and keeps our heart open to God.

 

St. John’s Architecture

At the heart of Anglicanism is the worship of the Triune God.  When you walk through the front doors of St. John’s you know you have entered into sacred and consecrated space.   When Joseph Patterson, a member of St. John’s was appointed architect he chose an early English Church architecture to best express the joy and the beauty of the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is architecture common from A.D. 1180 to A.D. 1275, which makes St. John’s a Pre-Reformation design.  This era of English architecture emphasized height, as if the building were reaching for the heavens.

Architecture is important and it has great influence upon us.  The physical attributes of the building become prayer and expression of faith and hope.  The contours and colors function as a silent partner in our worship of God, “speaking” to our mind and soul the great story of our Redemption in Jesus Christ.

When you enter the interior of Saint John’s Church you step into sacred space illuminated with beautiful sounds, smells, colors, and light.  The light of the sun filters through the stained colors of glass forming a sense of the transcendence of time.  The images and designs in the stained glass not only create a distinctive atmosphere of worship but they also reflect and embody many of the fundamental insights and mysteries of the Christian faith.

All of this can give people certitude in the transcendence of God and a true feeling of joy and appreciation of His love and mercy towards all.

Stewardship. Is it a season or a way of life?

Stewardship Chart

Stewardship.  Is it a season or a way of life?

In the church we all know about the “stewardship season” which coincides with pledge drives to produce the parish annual budget.  This “season of the parish” happens once a year with the focus to raise money to run ministries, pay salaries and bills.

But the Bible shows us a different picture of stewardship.  Stewardship is not an “annual thing” nor is it about raising money.  Stewardship is about dealing with all that God has given us; and how we are to manage it for Him.  Stewardship is the work of a steward.  A Christian steward realizes that everything belongs to God and we are mere managers of His stuff.  A well repeated offertory sentence at Mass is from 1 Chronicles 29:14, “All things come of Thee, O, Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee.”  Amen

So really stewardship is about how we handle our marriage and family life, how we deal with all our neighbors, those we like and also those we may have problems with.  It also focuses on our self, who we are and what we are.  We see the fullness of life through a different set of filters.  Stewardship touches our deepest dreams, our hopes and all we are interested in.  Living as a steward of the Christian message makes us examine spiritually and theologically many of our goals and wants and what we labor so much for.  A big issue is often how we handle time especially in how it relates to our many commitments and energy spent building and acquiring a certain life style. 

Christians who live in the peace of Christ know that such contentment is a choice. They know it “inner peace” is not a reaction to what may be happening around them.  Instead, obtaining peace about one’s life is an available decision despite what’s happening around one.  Christians find that peace by first investing in the Kingdom of God that is now in their midst.  They don’t need to have everything perfect before joy in life is experienced.  You can read about this in Matthew 6:25-34.

On the other hand, people of this age are always searching and wanting for happiness. They believe that to be happy and at peace they must always be in a state of acquiring something new or something different.  It’s so easy to knock on false and empty doors.  Often we find ourselves knocking in all the wrong places.

The Stewardship Chart

The chart above are categories I selected simply to illustrate the comprehensive scope of living as a Christian steward.  Many sub-categories could be listed.  You might think of other categories could that would better address your life right now.

For me Psalm 8 is a beautiful meditation on 1 Chronicles 29:14,  “All things come of Thee, O, Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee“.

When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is Man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of Your Hands; You have put all things under his feet… O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!

Christian stewardship celebrates trust in God’s wisdom and providence.  Our loving Father provides us with everything we need.  He sustains every particle of nature and life.  The animate and inanimate.  Everything!  A Christian steward lives in gratitude and should always be aware that he or she is a living testimony of God’s providence.  That testimony is lived through the values we exercise.  A Christian steward is “kingdom-driven”?  To live in such a way we must surrender to our heavenly Father’s providence and to His timing and abundance.  He has after all, and is, and always will provide for what is needed to care for every soul, the fullness of His creation and all that God has entrusted us with.

Thanks be to God.

Fr. Klein

Three Important Words

WordsThere are three important words that a person needs to understand if they want to have a correct understanding of the Christian faith. These words are revelation, faith, and reason.  Lets look briefly at each one.

Revelation. The first important word is revelation.  Christianity is a living breathing relationship with the living God who reveals Himself and His will.  In fact God delights in revealing His purpose for all things.  This means that He unveils and makes known by disclosing what was previously unknown by man about man and the universe.  St. Paul explains this adequately in Ephesians 1:9 where he writes that God “has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to His purpose which He set forth in Christ.”  Jesus Christ is the center point of reconciliation of all things to the Father; so through Christ and aided by grace and love any person might have access to the Father and come to share in God’s divine Nature eternally. See 2 Peter 1:4.

This divine gift of revelation is realized in both the natural order and in the supernatural order.

Natural revelation:  St. Paul explains how God is truly discernible in the natural order.  He writes, “Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” (Rom 1:19 RSV)  The natural order and its laws of being are intimately linked to the Creator through the Son.  By reflecting on creation using human reason man can come to know of God in the beauty, order and the laws that govern the natural world.  “For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.” (Wis 13:5 RSV)  Natural revelation is accessible to all people at all times.

Supernatural revelation:  This is everything God makes known about Himself and His purpose and will that is unknowable and unattainable by human reason alone.  Most natural revelation will eventually led to a supernatural origin.  Truths of a supernatural origin cannot be perceived in creation as a whole but must be revealed in measured amounts, incrementally developing over a great amount of time.  Supernatural revelation is incremental and consequently is cumulative in that in what is being currently revealed in linked and builds upon what has been revealed in an intrinsic way.  Beginning with Adam and culminating in Christ, God and His love has been fully definitively disclosed in history.  “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; 2 but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world.” (Heb 1:1 RSV)

Faith.  The second important word is faith.  Faith is both God’s actions towards us and our response towards Him.  This relationship of faith builds up trust and confidence.  An example of our need to develop faith in God is found in Matthew 6:30, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?” (Mat 6:30 RSV)  Jesus is explaining that faith is openness to God’s providence… it is being fully transparent to God.  Faith draws us into deeper understanding of God and develops in us hope and charity.  As we grow in faith we grow in maturity in the pattern of Jesus Christ.  Paul explains in 2nd Corinthians 13:5.  “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2Co 13:5 RSV)

Reason.  It has been said that faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.  God is truth.  We need faith and reason working in partnership for us to receive the gifts of natural and supernatural revelation.  We have a huge advantage because God has placed in our heart a desire to know the truth, which means we have an innate desire to know Him.  As we come to know God so we grow to love Him and choose to live as best we can within His plan and purpose.  The closer we come to Christ the more we come to realize and accept the truth about our selves (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2).  Faith and reason work hand-in-hand to reveal God to us.  Jesus wants each of us to “reason things out.”  So He says: “If any one has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mar 4:23 RSV).

In summary, mystics and martyrs have joined Christians in every age as witnesses to how revelation, faith, and reason when working in partnership even in frail human nature enables men and women everywhere to rise to great heights and achievements.

Amen!

The Penultimate


FromI Want to Live These Days With You, a book of Daily Devotions from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Translated by O. C. Dean Jr.

The thrust of the Christian message is not for us to become like one of those biblical figures, but to be like Christ himself. This comes , however not through some kind of method, but from faith alone. Otherwise the Gospel would lose its price, its value. Costly grace would become cheep. . . .

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