Monthly Archives: November 2016

A Thursday Reflection 11.24.16

From our Anglican heritage:

 The General Thanksgiving
Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up ourselves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Have a Blessed Day and do something for as well as remember anyone who has less than you! – Fr. Joe

A Thursday Reflection 11.17.16

Warning:  This is NOT a POLITICAL Rant or Reflection!  I’m never surprised by how people react to what they either did not (or claim they did not) expect or want in an election!  Forty-one years of ordained ministry have taught me that lesson.   Were there parishioners and at least one other person who “walked-in” the church office to discuss their angers and fears about the election last week?  Yes.  Do I have my own strong suspicions that may explain what has happened? Yes, and I am more than happy to share them in any non-ecclesiastical forum – not here.

My responsibility (and love and ministry) as a pastor of souls impels me to remind any person who reads this to keep in mind certain truths by which we Christians must abide.

(1)    Jesus confronted his Roman “judge” and told him: “My kingdom is not of this world”, and as Christians while we are citizens of the “city of man” (to quote St. Augustine), we are supposed to be primarily citizens of the City of God.  Before all else, I am a disciple of Jesus and it is by Jesus I live my life.

(2)   My faith is always in God and never in human structures or systems.  And my faith teaches me that (hold it… bumper sticker time): God is in charge.  The election or non-election of any individual will not frustrate God’s actions to redeem us through the life, death and resurrection of His Son.  Come and study Acts of the Apostles with me on Tuesday nights and you will listen to the words of a member of the Sanhedrin who, when confronting this new Jesus movement, simply professed:  “If this is of God, you cannot fight it.  If it is not, it will fail.”  God ultimately is always in charge whether we choose to live by this or not.

(3)   Every loss has taught me something about myself (and yes, being  a Mets’ fan, I have had my share of disappointments and losses; but more seriously, in years past,  I was overlooked by parishes in search of a new rector or commissions in search of persons with  my background and training).  “What does one teach our children?” asked one parishioner.  Unpleasant but truthful answer:  sometimes even with all the best of intentions and qualifications and hopes and dreams, you lose!  In the “city of man,” life is not fair.  “You can’t always get what you want” – as the lyrics go.  [c:  Keith Richards / Mick Jagger]   If we don’t prepare our children to face this truth, we are not preparing them for life.

(4)   There is no permanence in life.  Not really!  Think about it. Policies will come, and change, and die, and get reborn by another name. “Rising Stars” and those who are so popular or strong today often find themselves ousted.   The last infallible truth of life has passed away into history:  The Cubs will always lose!  The only thing that lasts forever is God’s love for you.

I have other thoughts I could raise, but that’s enough.  Just a question for you:  So as a Christian who is called “to wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ,”  just what did you learn last week?

A Thursday Reflection 11.10.16

Last Friday/Saturday (Nov. 4th and 5th), I (as Rector) and Frederick Rueck (as your elected Lay Delegate) participated in our Diocesan Church’s “Annual Convention.”  Fred is going to speak to you in a week or so after a Sunday liturgy to give you both his impressions and updates regarding what went on.

From a vision and structural perspective, I can tell you that just as our parish has been dealing with and living into its three year strategic plan (“Strong by 17”), so now our diocese is entering a “strategic plan” of its own.   The same physical and fiscal realities (fewer members, smaller staffs, the need to discern what is truly a viable congregation and what is not, how ministry should evolve in the 21st century – these are all issues that our Bishop, as pastor of the Diocesan Church, must face just as we face those same issues on our local church level.

Some say “change is good.”  Others say it is bad.  Like it or not, change is coming and will have an impact upon us as a Diocesan community or communities; e.g., the decades old structure of CSP ( “Congregational Support Plan”) that kept struggling congregations afloat will end Dec. 31st.  Congregations of tiny membership, or those in decaying buildings (some even lacking insurance) must now either merge into regional worship communities or they will pass away into history.

This is not about doom and gloom.  But it is a reminder that that we are members of the Episcopal Church, not some other Church-in-Exile.  We are not supported from above, and beyond that, we need to be aware that we must support each other and help to build one another up as best we can.  It’s never about “my” mission or even “our” mission but it is always about God’s mission and how we contribute to that.  It is about our worship and commitment to a prayerful and sacramental life.  It is about seeing stewardship not just as “giving money” but how I live my life in gratitude to God for all God has given me.  In the end, structures come and go, but the power of God’s love and how that love is revealed in my life – that is what makes us who and what we are!

A Thursday Reflection 11.3.16

Last Sunday afternoon, after Rev. Chip Andrus and I met with our respective parish’s middle schoolers, I headed down to Rye, NY to help represent our Diocese (and this parish) in an Ecumenical Prayer Service held at Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester.  This was a Prayer Service for Peace (as you might expect) but with a twist:  instead of the “vanilla” approaches where we try to tone down our differences, this time, we celebrated them.  We prayed and sang from our diversity as Christians, Jews and Muslims.   Our traditions were Jewish (Reform and Orthodox), Islamic, Roman Catholic, Anglican and various Protestant denominations.  (No Eastern Orthodox Christians, sad but not unexpected.)  We prayed to Jesus and Adonai and Allah.  The music came from Choirs Baptist, Mormon, Methodist, A.M.E. Zion, and Jewish.

I was one of the prayer leaders who used a text that is part of our Prayer Book tradition but found in other traditions as well.  I was assigned to sit next to a Cantor with an extraordinary voice who sang / chanted a portion of her talk in the most haunting of melodies and challenging of cries.  I heard an Imam quote a text in the Koran which tells a lovely story of Jesus teaching his disciples to look beyond appearances – and while the text does not appear in our holy scriptures, Jesus’ need to explain things to the group who just didn’t “get him” sounded so authentic that it may as well have been.

Our political environment screams that we are divided and always at odds with “the other.”  I sat through and participated in an event that screams “NO .. we don’t have to be at odds with each other because we are different and see things differently!  We can celebrate our differences and do God’s work in our world.  In fact, we must do so!!!!!!!!