Author Archives: sjadmin

Thursday Reflection 12.13.18

Thursday Reflections
What is God Calling Me To Do
December 13, 2018
What are the events, experiences, gifts-you-receive, services-you-do-for others that bring you joy this time of the year? I know so many of us are running amuck trying to balance family and work, children and spouse, shopping and prioritizing, travel and home, community and (perhaps) church. So many folks longing to be happy and to “feel” all that peace and joy we are supposed to feel at this time of the year. Heck, we might even tolerate the nasty unusual cold that has hit our region prematurely. It feels better (so I am told) at Christmastime! (yeah .. right!)
           But as I have written in years past, I also know that this time of the year brings, to some, not all, a mixed emotional bag full of memories – terrible image – and not all of them so good. Clergy know of this season as a time of telephone calls and walk-in unexpected appointments of those who continue to struggle with life’s unfairness and pains. There are those feel no joy do feel angrier because they can’t find whatever it is they think they need to give them that peace.
           One of the few blessings of growing older is to live through such times and to learn that in spite of certain undeniable truths (such as: life is unfair; your friends will never always support you; death always takes away those we love much too soon; family is loveable but at times infuriating – and a plethora of other annoying facts), I have come to learn that joy comes in simpler ways. And I have to stop running, and take that moment to experience them and not just rush to where I think my schedule next demands I must be.
           So I found great joy in the voices of all those carolers singing up a storm last Saturday Evening at the Christmas Carol Sing-A-Long. Perhaps for some, this might be their only experience of Church. I hope not – they know not what they are missing. But if it is, then they were touched at least for a moment. A parishioner shares a good moment in what I know to be a struggling relationship at home – and for a few moments I feel the joy and hope within that person that is not always there – again, for good reasons!  No matter what time of morning, afternoon, evening or night when I come schlepping back to clergy residence, I am greeted by the world’s most opinionated control freak puppy with sniffing snout and wagging tail and a wondrous “I am so happy to see you; you are my joy and life; I love you always; now don’t I deserve a treat?” welcome.
           I find joy when someone, anyone, remarks that a religious message at this time of the year, not necessarily from me but from any religious leader to whom they have listen of whose text they read, has made a difference for them and made them think. I am filled with joy when people find Christ in Christmas and know that this truth will set them free.
           You can’t make everyone happy. You will not always be happy. But there will be moments when God’s hand can slow you down and touch your soul. I hope you’ll stop and experience those moments.
Fr. Joe

Thursday Reflection 12.6.18

Thursday Reflections
What is God Calling Me To Do
December 6, 2018
           Today is the day on the Christian calendar (East and West) that marks the memory of one Nicholas, Bishop of Myra who was tortured and murdered for his faith and his leadership role in the local Christian community during the time of the persecutions instigated by Roman Emperor Diocletian (maybe 342 A.D. – ish?)
            A man renown for a holy life and courage, if you same his name in Latin (a language he NEVER would have spoken as an Eastern Bishop, you would call Holy Nicholas: “Sanctas Nicholas.” And if you say his name fast enough for centuries, and cut the name up a bit, you get: “Santa Claus!”   If you dress him up in the red robes of a western European Bishop (robes he NEVER would have worn as an Eastern Rite Bishop), you get the red robed Santa. Amazing what lives on after our time – how we are remembered.
           This man’s life is shrouded in mystery. All we know with certitude is how he died as a leader and loving pastor of his people. But we know enough of legend. He is considered the patronal saint of sailors – for reasons I know not. He is also considered the patronal saint and protector of children. He was known to oppose those powerful ones who would have forced girls from among the poor into prostitution in order to support their impoverished families. He saved children. He made powerful enemies. He was a man of God who took being a Christian seriously. He was known to give away church resources to assist the poor. And now you can connect the dots and see how our cultural icon reflects the only vaguely remembered generosity of a hero from a long lost era in a land so far away.
           Being a disciple and a member of the Jesus movement is serious work. And costs us love. It may cost us life. But it is so rewarding. So we might now visualize or remember Nicholas as he was. But we can imitate him to a point and strive to be more generous, loving courageous and mindful of those who do not have as much as we.  That’s why this is such a special time of the year. Remember “Sanctas Nicholas.” Be like “St. Nick.”  Let generosity fill your heart and spill into your actions!
Fr. Joe

Thursday Reflection 11.29.18

Thursday Reflection
What is God Calling Me To Do?
November 29, 2018
           So the “holiday season has begun! Sooo have you already seen too many of those icky sweet plot-less Hallmark Holiday Christmas type fantasy movies or has your MD warned you about the dangers of sugar overload? Have you paid homage to shopping malls or been plastered to your chair for your online shopping binge? Have you decided (and I can’t) which song on the radio is more likely to push me to drive off into oblivion: the relentless rendering of Burl Ives’ Have a Holly Jolly Christmas or a recent addition to my “I-must-miss-list”: Madonna’s (thinking she is Eartha Kit?) rendering of Santa Baby!
           This is not to be your pre-Christmas post-secular rant! I’d rather offer things to be proud of and grateful for as we Christians are called to move beyond the mundane and proclaim “Good News” to our broken world. I am proud, once again, that the teens in our Confirmation Class are saving up and offering a gift for a child in Haiti. I am so proud that our small parish is going to support two unknown- to- them families with gifts (and food?) so they are not forgotten. I am proud that several members of this parish, on their own, did make the sad but important trip to the bedside of the dying Mary Frances Lynch to say a prayer, sing a song or simply to offer a touch in the hope that she might know that she was not going to die utterly alone.
           I am proud when I am told by more and more folks that this year, they are going to give to charity rather than spend on themselves or giving to those who have so (too?) much already.    I am so proud that this parish, through the inspiration of two vestry members, has made the commitment to establish a food pantry for the homeless and underfed among us. Heck I just watched our border collie this year (with her boundless energy and semi-pathological need to be in charge) pay homage and treat with such soft kindness a very old and fragile street dog – not just greeting her but almost communicating that Abby would be her protector. It’s not “magic” – it is “our bounden duty” as disciples of Jesus.
           If the author of Ecclesiastes was correct, “there is a time and purpose under heaven” for everything, perhaps this is our moment (our time) as believers in the Jesus Movement to show those around us that we all need to take a step back, tone down the language, spend time with those who are alone, spend more time with our own family, and do for those who walk in our midst as if in the shadows. This is that time of year not just to feel special but to BE special for others – “love one another as I have loved you” – our master and Lord has commanded us.
           In some ways this season drives me to distraction, but in others, it gives me pause and makes me hope. Maybe I’ll just not turn on the radio for a while.
Fr. Joe

Thursday Reflection 11.22.18

Thursday Reflection

What is God calling me to do?

Thanksgiving Morning, 2018

Beyond the obvious of wishing each of you a happy feast – a blessed day and perhaps one of the last “acceptable” quasi-religious celebrations allowed in this culture of ours, I offer you the words of prayer coming from our Anglican Tradition.

Happy Thanksgiving

Fr. Joe

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the

fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those

who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of

your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and

the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

Thursday Reflection 11.15.18

Thursday Reflection
“What is God calling me to do?”
November 15, 2018
Since we are approaching Thanksgiving, I thought I would have some fun with you? Can you match the following quotes that touch upon being thankful with the author of that quote?
The Answers
True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach.     SENECA
Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.   MAYA ANGELOU
If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.
 MEISTER ECKHART
True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience”.   OPRAH WINFREY
We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives                                JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY
When you have a good friend that really cares for you and tries to stick in there with you, you treat them like nothing. Learn to be a good friend   MARILYN MONROE
THE AUTHORS OF THESE STATEMENTS  (in alphabetical order):
Maya Angelou (Author)
Meister Eckhart (Medieval Philosopher/Theologian)
John F. Kennedy (U. S. President)
Marilyn Monroe (Actor)
Seneca (Ancient Philosopher )
Oprah Winfrey (Author, television personality/ host, philanthropist )
–Fr Joe

Thursday Reflection 11.8.18

Thursday Reflection
“What is God calling me to do?”
November 8, 2018
 Since we are approaching Thanksgiving, I thought I would have some fun with you? Can you match the following quotes that touch upon being thankful with the author of that quote?  HAVE FUN:
True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach.  ___________________
Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good. ________________________
If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough. _________________________
True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.” ____________________
We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives______________________
When you have a good friend that really cares for you and tries to stick in there with you, you treat them like nothing. Learn to be a good friend______________________________
YOU MUST CHOOSE FROM (in alphabetical order):
Maya Angelou (Author)
Meister Eckhart (Medieval Philosopher/Theologian)
John F. Kennedy (U. S. President)
Marilyn Monroe (Actor)
Seneca (Ancient Philosopher )
Oprah Winfrey (Author, television personality/ host, philanthropist )
(I’ll give the proper answers next week!)
–Fr Joe

Thursday Reflection 11.1.18

Thursday Reflection
“What is God calling me to do?”
November 1, 2018
           I know that just as many of you find my “conversations with Abby” (our border collie) cute, there are others of you who get bored or turned off. Hopefully this reflection is not cute, and hopefully those who are not dog lovers see beyond the metaphor of what Abby stands for and is, and give a prayerful listen!
           This has been yet another terrible week (and I am not referring to the thrashing your 401 K’s took in the stock market the week of Oct. 22). We’ve experienced the power of hate. You hate someone’s politics, simple: put together (non-working?) pipe bombs and mail them to your philosophical opponent! You have been feeding on ethnic hatred and want to finish the evil work that that Austrian madman had started in the 1930’s, simple: use your easily purchased and legal high powered rifle and spray death into a place of worship.
           Trying to explain “hate” to Abby is a challenge because she reminds me that while dogs certainly know fear, hunger, and can be defiant and stubborn, and even on that not so rare occasion [when food is involved] will lie through their teeth), dogs do not experience the human emotion of hate. They are protective. Some will attack if they feel they (or their parent) are threatened, but they cannot know hate. It is not in their DNA.
           We, sadly in our so called “enlightened, post-Christian, God-is irrelevant, don’t-judge-me, my-kid-never-does-anything-wrong, I can say anything I feel like through social media, blaming, shaming, I-want to destroy you” culture are ever so capable of hate.
           Abby asked me if I was surprised by the events of last week. “Of course not” I snarked at her. Once we accepted the murder of little children in their schools – a.k.a Sandy Hook – (and do not lie to yourselves – by having done NOTHING to deal with the issues of gun violence/gun laws/gun rights), we have accepted the murder of our children as our “new normal”, we just better start getting used to this over and over.
           Abby asked me why we humans choose to hate. I wish I could give her an answer. Is it something bred into us? Do we need to be taught (cf. South Pacific)? Are fear and hate of the “other” the inevitable consequence of a world where God is ignored and God’s word is perverted?   Have the seeds of the “politics of destruction” which both sides spew so well finally born this poisoned fruit?
This four legged creature (who barks excessively, to be sure, but who was created for love and to give love) looks at me, mumbles a Border Collie sigh, and shakes herself to remove the stench of humanity from her fur. Why would anyone want to hang around with creatures who love to hate. And I have no answer for her.
–Fr Joe

Thursday Reflection 10.25.18

Thursday Reflection
What is God Calling ME to do?
October 25, 2018
           So …you are going to see a new “tagline” this year: “What is God calling me to do?” A question like this has profound and long reaching consequences. In a few weeks we’ll be starting the next and new liturgical year beginning with the Season of Advent as we prepare for the festivities of Christmas.  Even prior to this time, we’ll be speaking quite overtly about Stewardship and our annual pledge drive. We’ll be preparing for a new calendar year (which arrives in about 60 days – have you even begun your Christmas shopping yet?)
           So with all this “new beginnings” and in light of the welcomed, blessed and newer faces within our parish community, let me ask you what the parish leadership teams have been struggling with. It’s a question that began as: “What is God calling us to do?” This was to be a parish wake up call. This is a reminder that of all the communities of those who claim to be disciples of Jesus, this community of St. John’s parish has a purpose! Why are we here in this place and time? What is the Lord expecting of us? How can we make this world something of a better place?
           But as one (or more) pointed out at last week’s meetings, the question must be posed in the singular: what is God calling me to do? It’s all well and good to speak of a collective purpose, and that conversation is necessary. But there is the deeper personal issue: why am I here in this place and time? What is it that our creating, redeeming and sanctifying God is asking me? What differences have I been called to make, and for whom? As the seasons pass, so will I. Will it matter that I was here?
(“Time time time, see what’s become of me, as I look around for my possibilities ….”)
– Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel,  A Hazy Shade of Winter
Lyrics by Paul Simon
–Fr Joe

Thursday Reflection 10.18.18

Thursday Reflection
Inspired to Make a Difference
October 18, 2018
     I have a small banner hanging in my office. It displays a picture of a lighthouse with the words of Ps. 119:105 beneath: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
         That image of a light shining from an old New England lighthouse is a powerful one. A light in the darkness! A light that shows me where I am going. A light that keeps me from tripping and falling. A light that guides the ship in a storm, gives it a sense of both placement and direction, and importantly keeps it from being ripped apart by rocky coastline and hidden reefs.
         I keep wondering from where that light, which humans really need, is going to come if our culture has determined in its hubris that there really is no God, and matters of religion are of just such nonsense for the elderly or the weak willed.
         If the Lord does not light my path, how do I get a sense of direction or see what really matters? Is it any wonder that the numbers of the poor or homeless grow, but we don’t see them among us?
A few weeks ago, we all were immersed in a tragic drama – televised for our viewing “entertainment” – as we were forced to listen to memories of what may have been sexual criminality or inappropriate high school drunken behavior or memories of an incident that did not occur as remembered – we will never know – but I had kept asking over and over where the parents of those privileged youth had been that night. How can we hope that our youth walk that right path if there is no light to guide them?
         I am looking more and more at a world that ignores its Creator, scoffs that matters religious as merely mythological, and then wonders why it is torn by violence and hate. Take away the light, you get darkness. Remove the guidance in the storm, you get a ship wreck.  St. John in one of his letters has the very brief verse: “God is light.” So take away the light that guides us. And you’re surprised that all you’re left with is darkness?
–Fr Joe

Thursday Reflection 10.11.18

Thursday Reflection
“What is God Calling Us to Do?
October 11, 2018
           This is the time of the year when, as a Mets fan, I am so often asked if I am rooting for or against any particular team in the baseball playoffs since, for reasons only divine wisdom will fathom, the team of my rooting interest is usually long eliminated. It’s been my experience that this simple question is usually a veiled attempt by the supporters of New York’s other team to either elicit praise and support (“last man standing”, I suppose) or just a way to rub salt in already festering wounds. Now, if truth be told – so often it is not – I was raised to be a gracious loser even if I seethe within. For in truth, while I always acknowledge those who have bested me, I HATE to lose. Always have! Always will!
           I really can’t bounce this idea off Abby because she doesn’t understand acknowledging our limitations, congratulating those who do succeed, or dealing with the times when we were not good enough. Border collies may (almost) always win. We humans – not so much.
           I have seen enough of how our political landscape has deteriorated into a battleground where there can only be chest bumping / taunting winners and rage filled losers. I have seen this spill into youth sporting events where parents who make the conscious immoral decision to live vicariously through the success of their children act out in utterly reprehensible fashions. We see this in the media from time to time.   I can even tell you a story of a long ago incident where a teen boy [someday to become a priest] was asked to substitute referee a CYO basketball game in the place of a sick classmate. There was a foul call made against a player whose elbow clearly connected into the shooter. Then there was then an outraged aggrieved and disagreeing / disagreeable parent who ran on to the court, screamed at this 16 year old, threatening him physically in front of a ¼ packed gym. Oh and yes, I even could tell you about the equally unpleasant aftermath where, after the game , this parent ran into a certain uncle of that teen [who would someday become a priest] and the physical consequences endured by that parent for his lack of “respect”. One should not be happy about either incident – both are shameful!
           The point I hope you all get is that how we deal with “winning” or “losing” – when the symbolic “referees” of our life miss the calls, when the unfairness of life brings either something expectantly joy filled or outrageously unpleasant into our lives – how we deal with our feelings at such moments speak volumes about not only our maturity but also the sincerity of our discipleship. If social media is a mirror of exactly how much rage and taunting, shaming and intolerance for any opinion other than my own truly infects this culture of ours, then God help us. We have all lost! We can’t be authentic disciples only when it pleases us or when life goes well. I choose to follow Jesus in this faith community as long as I get my own way. I love those who agree with me personally or politically and hate all others. How do I deal with being a disciple, living into my calling, and knowing that at times all will not go well with me or my life!
–Fr Joe