Sunday, July 23, 2017

Seventh after Pentecost

Proper 11 A-2  Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43

If you were in church a little over a year ago,   on Sunday, June 26, 2016, you will certainly remember with crystal clarity the gospel reading and of course the rector’s  inspirational sermon that morning on the text from the ninth chapter of St. Luke’s gospel.  To refresh our memory:  after their experience on the Mount of the Transfiguration Jesus and his disciples began their great journey toward Jerusalem to observe the Passover.  In Luke’s story a long and increasingly dramatic procession to Holy Week.  The road from the Galilee to the Holy City passed first through the region of Samaria, the home of people of a mixed Jewish and non-Jewish ethnicity whose religious beliefs were different from those of orthodox Judaism.   Between Jews and Samaritans a kind of deep and persistent hostility over generations and centuries, and Jewish religious pilgrims would be to say the least unwelcome in Samaritan neighborhoods.  And  so as we heard on June 26th, 2016,  Luke chapter 9 verses 52-56: “And he [that is, Jesus]  sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; but the people would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.  [all the local hotels and motels and Air bnb proprietors see them coming and hang “no vacancy “ signs in the windows]  And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them.  And they went on to another village.”

The disciples must have wondered why Jesus was hesitant to act more decisively in response to this disrespectful opposition.  But in the depth of the mind and heart of Jesus there was a different knowledge.  And as you will recall from my sermon just a little over a year ago this episode in Samaria to what we will later hear in the eighth chapter of Acts, after the arrest and stoning of St. Stephen, when the little Church of Jerusalem is attacked and dispersed.  Beginning at Acts Chapter 8, verse 4: “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.  Philip went down to a city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ. Then the multitudes with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip, and saw the signs which he did.  For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice; and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.  So there was much joy in that city.”

For James and John in Luke 9, all they could see was what was right in front of them in the present, and they were ready to pull the trigger--but Jesus knew that among these Samaritans were those he came to save. We might say: the first rich foreign mission field.  These Samaritans who would soon, very soon, hear the gospel from Philip and respond with joy, when the time was right.  Just wait, James and John.  There is more going on than you can see or know in this moment.  Be patient.  Which is what I am thinking about as we approach the gospel reading this morning.  God’s patience.

I remember my friend our retired dean George Werner used to say that the challenge for Moses and Joshua was that they were to lead the whole people into the Promised Land, not just the Commandos.  The weak and the wayward, the very old, the very young.  Everybody.  Not just the strong.  And that takes time, and it’s a messy process.  The Good Shepherd is not going to allow even one of his sheep to be lost.  Not even the last and the least.  It may take a long while sometimes for the fruit to ripen on the vine, to shift this evolving metaphor.  The point is, not to be so quick to judge, to leap to conclusions.  Not to be in such a hurry.  Wait and see, give space for the full work of the Spirit to be made known in God’s way, in God’s own time.  My ways are not your ways, says the Lord.  Jesus already knew his own among these Samaritans.  He knew them long before they knew him.  He knew them already and loved them.   People of his pasture, sheep of his hand.   And in the generosity of his heart he was going to give them all the time they needed.
Anyhow, as I said, that was a year ago, Luke9.  But it came to mind for me as we would turn this morning to this gospel reading taken from Matthew 13, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.    The same concern and emphasis, on the patience of God.  His thoughts not our thoughts, nor his ways our ways.   Which we would hear this morning as good news, and something we can be and should be very thankful for.  For his patience with us.

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.”   Once again as in the Parable of the Sower and the Five Kinds of Soil that we read last Sunday:  the sowing of  the good seed, which Jesus tells his disciples has to do with the proclamation of the kingdom, the preaching of the Good News.  In the first parable the issue was that the seed fell on all different kinds of soil.  Dry, or hard, places where the birds can get at it, or ground already covered with thistles.  Here in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares the seed is all sown in the one field, in good soil.  But even so, there are complications.  An enemy  comes in secretly, while the farmer and his servants are sleeping, and scatters another kind of seed in the same field.  Not the good seed of the kingdom, not the gospel, but something  that doesn’t belong.   When time passes the farmer and his servants see that as the good growth is taking place in the field, so also the weeds are growing.  The servants are upset and agitated and want to do something right away, to get in there and clean things up.  Don’t just stand there, do something!  Like James and John in the Samaritan village.  But the farmer  tells them to be patient.  When the growth is young it’s just not always possible to tell which sprout is of the good seed, and which is a weed.  They are just simply to be patient-- to let all grow together, the good plants and the bad.  Until the harvest, when the truth will be known.

A bit later in verses 36-40 Jesus explains the parable.  We see that the Sower is Christ himself, who is and who fulfills and who proclaims the Word.  The seed, Jesus says, stands for the “Sons of the Kingdom,” what grows from the Word, the harvest, the names inscribed in the Book of Life.  The enemy is the Evil One, God’s enemy, and the Weeds that grow alongside the good plants are his offspring.  The two live side by side in this world, they look very much alike, they occupy the same space, they grow together, flourish together.   They seem as near as anyone could tell by observation to share an equally bright future.  But this is simply on account of God’s patience.  In order to avoid even the slightest possibility of collateral damage, so that not one good plant is endangered, the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness are left to grow together for a season.  But on the Last Day, at the Harvest, the discernment is to be made with a thoroughgoing precision.  All the “causes of sin” and those whose lives are allied to evil are pulled out by the roots and cast into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  While the “righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

In part this parable directs us to recurring questions about why evil exists in the world and in our own lives and so often tragically in our own hearts and minds.  Why the eternal Son of the Father isn’t recognized by everyone right away, when he has come into the world.  Why bad things keep happening to good people, why even in us,  after we have put our faith in Christ alone, we feel resistance and temptation and disobedience both externally and internally, in the world, in our own hearts and minds—all the rest.  It doesn’t make any sense!  Why doesn’t God just act?   Let’s call down fire from heaven and destroy these Samaritans!  Pull up the weeds right now by the roots, to purify the field.  Let’s get the job done!

But then, catching a breath, perhaps we think of the story of our own lives.  How messy we all are.  Faithful and rebellious.  Brave and fearful.  So much of the time two steps forward and then one back.  Or even one step forward and then two back.  Seeking to hold onto Christ and trust in him alone, but so reluctant to let go of the gods and goddesses of this world.  So, gains and losses.  A lot of moments along the way when anybody looking at me would think, “now that’s a weed for sure.”   And maybe sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and see nothing but a weed myself.  We can be so swift to judge others and so swift to judge ourselves.  So again, a word about being thankful from the bottom of my heart that God is as patient as he is with me, as I do my best to sort things out.  And certainly as I seek to be one of his disciples and ministers, and we are here this morning all of us with those disciples, the ones Jesus sends on ahead of him to proclaim the news, to seek to find in my own mind and heart as well a space for patience. 

The Lord is patient.   That’s the key and the take-away.  And it is his will that those who would live in him would share that patience.   To say, “Those folks over at St. Andrew’s, my goodness: how patient they are with one another.  You don’t hear them praying God to send down “fire from heaven” whenever they find themselves in difficult situations.  They have their opinions, for sure, their personal preferences and inclination.  They have their goals and priorities, their hopes and dreams and programs and plans.  But they know also that it’s God’s timing that matters, that he rules over days and seasons and generations.  And so there is this sense of graciousness.  Forebearance.  Generosity.

To be clear, this doesn’t deny the reality of evil, and it doesn’t undermine the absolute righteousness of God’s justice.  In the words of the hymn, “God is working his purpose out.”  No question about that. The Scripture is clear that God hates sin, and that’s not too strong a word:  that he is unalterably opposed to every evil, and that his patience isn’t an everlasting patience.  But those are his judgments, and we can come to know what they are and what they will be as we read his Word and seek in our hearts and minds and lives to follow the direction of his word and the pattern of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.  For this hour we are to take a deep breath, and remember that he’s in charge, and we aren’t.  Trusting him to care for the whole field of the kingdom, even the weediest looking sprout in the garden, treating even the weediest weed as though it might eventually in this growing season show itself to be not to have been a weed at all, but good growth--trusting that in God’s own good time every last precious plant grown from the seed of the Gospel will be seen and known and brought safe to his storehouse.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sixth after Pentecost

Proper 10 A2 Matthew 13: 1-23

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Third after Pentecost

Proper 7: Matthew 10: 24-39

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fifth Easter and Bishop's Annual Visitation

The Rt. Rev. Dorsey W.M. McConnell
John 14: 1-14

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Second Easter

John 20: 19-23

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing you may have life in his name.”

Good morning, and grace and peace as we open into the adventure of Eastertide!  The four gospels lead us in an orderly and solemn procession, step by step through Holy Week.  But the sun comes up on Easter morning and suddenly it’s like fireworks exploding overhead all at once in the sky, light and movement all over the place, in wild and unexpected patterns, surprise after surprise after surprise.

The disciples come to the tomb and find it empty.  The women come to the tomb and meet an angel, or angels.  Mary meets him in the garden.  Two old friends suddenly find themselves in his company as they walk home to Emmaus.  He’s there suddenly there with them in the Upper Room, despite locked doors.  Twice, as we hear this morning.  Or they seem him by the Sea of Galilee, on the shore near the very spot he had first called Peter and Andrew and James and John to join him in this new ministry.  '

In First Corinthians 15 Paul tells of other Easter meetings, some not recorded in the gospels: “that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time . . . then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles . . . .”  The sky had gone dark.  And then suddenly everywhere things are happening, exploding with light and sound.  Easter.

The Church year devotes 50 days to the season, Easter Day to Whitsunday and Pentecost-- in the same sacred pattern given in Scripture of the 50 days between the night of Passover and the Giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.  And we need those seven weeks to hear the stories, to allow them to rest in our hearts and imaginations.  Most of the time the basket of Easter Eggs and Candies will disappear after a day or two, but we’re going to take our time.  Not to rush.   Taste and see that the Lord is good.  Just to savor it all.

This gathering in the Upper Room on the evening of Easter Sunday in the first part of our reading from John 20--and I’m just going to be looking at the first part of this, verses 19-23.  What a wild moment.  It probably felt like there wasn’t enough oxygen in the room.  Hard to breathe.  Cleopas and his companion must have just returned from Emmaus, rushing in to tell the other disciples they’re strange and really incomprehensible story how they had seen Jesus on their way home to Emmaus, and then all at once, right there, there he is, himself.  Jesus.

The room falls silent.  “Eirene umin”  John’s Greek.  Probably “Shalom, shalom.”  His familiar greeting.  Peace be with you.  And they can’t believe their eyes and ears.  We picture this.  He lifts up his hands to show them his scars, pulls up his shirt to show where the Roman soldier’s spear had pierced his side.  They can’t believe what they are seeing, and yet, can there be any doubt?   He’s right here.

And then he speaks.  “Eirene umin.”  Shalom, shalom.  Peace.  Peace.   And then three things happen, as John tells in these verses.  Three words.

“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”  The apostolic commission.  Back in their earlier journey to Jerusalem he had sent them on ahead, two by two.  And on the Mount of the Ascension he would send them again.  “Go ye into all the world.”    It’s a recurring theme of these Easter meetings with Jesus.  We remember how at the Transfiguration Peter had wanted to build three shelters on the mountaintop.  He didn’t want to leave, to go down the mountain and back to the world of conflict and strife.  Just to bask in the glory of the Father, the brilliance of the Son, the embrace of the Spirit.  But that’s not what Jesus had for them.  They took a breath, and then headed back down the mountain.  And so for Easter.  Lord, we would stay here with you.  Remember what he said to Mary in the Garden.  “Don’t hold on to me here, but go tell the others.”  And here again, “as the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”  Getting ready for Pentecost.

And then the second word, also all about Pentecost.  “he breathed on the them, and said to them, receive the Holy Spirit.”  A foreshadowing of what would soon happen in that same Upper Room, when the 50 days had passed, and the Spirit would rush in with the rushing sound of the wind and rest over them like tongues of fire and fill them with the energy that would power their proclamation to the ends of the earth.

And then finally, he turns to them.  This third word.   “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

The Sadducees and Pharisees were absolutely correct when in their astonishment they raised their objection to Jesus.  Preaching, teaching, healing.  That’s one thing.  But: “Only God can forgive sins.”  They’re absolutely correct.  They just didn’t know who it was who was standing before them.  So in this word the whole mystery of the Cross is established in the new reality of Easter.  That as Christ has taken on himself every sin, every dark power, the whole weight of the Prince of this World, and with his death has accomplished a total victory, so now that power of mercy, the triumph of blessing, is expressed fully and completely in his living Body, the Church.  The whole company of faithful.  As we stand at his Cross and offer him our brokenness, we are incorporated into his resurrection.  New birth, new life.  This is how his mercy is to be made known.  This is why he sends us out.   For the same reason the Son was sent from the Father.  Blessing, grace and forgiveness. 

My friend Wes Hill, who teaches New Testament, wrote an article recently to review the new book by Rod Dreher called “The Benedict Option.”  A bit of what he had to stay really stood out for me:  He says, “the beauty of holiness isn’t about us always Getting It Right.  It’s about us striving for holiness while not covering our sin, not lying about our lives.  It’s about us seeking always, again and again, to live lives of repentance and dependence on forgiving love . . . .  “. . . Bare ‘morality,’” he says, “shorn of its rationale and distinctive motivations, isn’t our primary Christian gift to the world.  But there is one distinctive thing we have to offer.  There is only one place in the world where you can hear words of absolution that assure us that God in Christ is a God of prodigal mercy . . . .” 

That place is right here.  In the circle of his church, his Body, those who have beheld his glory, received grace upon grace.  Who have stood at the foot of the Cross, who have laid down the burden of sin before him, and now are filled to overflowing, made one Body with him, one Body, that he might dwell in us, and we in him.  Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.  “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” If the world thinks that’s beyond you, it’s just because they don’t know who it is that is standing before them: who you are now, who you have become.”   You in me, I in you, just as I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.  Very members incorporate in the mystical Body.  Through faith in the work of his Cross.

That’s Easter.   Real Easter.  And we are just invited to take some deep breaths and let it begin to sink in. 

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing you may have life in his name.”

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday

Sermon for Good Friday
Passion Gospel of St. John
The Rev. Daniel J. Isadore

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Fifth in Lent, Passion

Sermon by the Rev. Daniel J. Isadore
Assistant Priest of St. Andrew's Church
John 11: The Return to Bethany and the Raising of Lazarus

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fourth in Lent, Laetare

We weren't able to manage an audio file of this  sermon, but we do have the written text.

Sermon by the Rev. Dean Byrom
 Pastoral Assistant of St. Andrew's Church
John 9: 1-41

 The Siloam Reservoir

“The Placebo Effect”

        Do you have something that’s ailing you?  I have just the cure for you!  A small dab of mud will definitely get you to feeling better.  You don’t believe that?  Pity.  If you did believe it, you’d probably feel much better.  You might even be cured.

        It’s not magic.  It’s the placebo effect – the mysterious ability of our bodies to sometimes heal what ails us, if only we believe. 

        Placebo in Latin means “I shall please”.  In medical research, placebo refers to a pharmacologically inactive substance – like a sugar pill – or a phony medical procedure that is administered as a control in testing the effectiveness of a drug or a course of treatment.

        Walter Brown, clinical professor of psychiatry at Brown University, is at the forefront of research into the placebo effect.  He and others are trying to learn why about 30 to 40 percent of the people who suffer from conditions ranging from asthma to high blood pressure to depression actually benefit from taking a placebo.

        In the ninth chapter of “John”, a man born blind receives sight.  Jesus puts mud on the man’s eyes, tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam, and when he comes back he is able to see.
        At first, the man says that he doesn’t know who Jesus is.  Then he says that Jesus is a prophet.  Finally, he stands before Jesus and says, “Lord, I believe.”  Although he never figures out just how Jesus has healed him, he knows that if Jesus were not from God, He couldn’t have done anything.

        Call it the Messiah Effect – the mysterious ability of people to be healed, if only they come into contact with Jesus.  But, at the same time, it is a placebo effect, because a mud – and – spit poultice plays an important part in this miraculous healing.

        What a strange and wonderful story this is!  Jesus refuses to put the label of “sinner” on either the blind man or his parents, but says that “he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

        With such an introduction, one might think that Jesus would go on to treat this man with courtesy and respect, but He does exactly the opposite.  He treats him like dirt.  Jesus spits on the ground and makes mud with His saliva; then He spreads the mud on the man’s eyes.

        Note that He uses wet, sticky, soft, dirty earth.  He uses mud – a symbol of all that is degrading, such as when someone’s name is dragged “through the mud.”  Jesus puts this man in an awkward position.  In effect, Jesus may have been the first person to utter the humorous drinking toast – “Here’s mud in your eye” (hardly the sentiment you expect to hear from a teacher who is healing by the power of God.

        And yet, the man born blind believes.  He believes enough to follow the command of Jesus to “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam,” and to stumble through the streets of Jerusalem wearing a ridiculous mask of mud.

        We don’t know exactly how far the man had to walk after receiving his mudpack in the eyes, but it could have been quite a hike.  “John” tells us that Jesus encountered the man after leaving the Temple, but he doesn’t reveal the precise location of their meeting. 

        If Jesus puts mud on the man’s eyes right outside the Temple compound, then the man had to walk at least 500 yards to the pool of Siloam – the length of five football fields!  That’s quite a distance for a blind man to cover, groping and stumbling and trying to ignore the jeers of the crowd:

        “Hey, filth – face!”
        “He’s got mud balls for eyeballs!”
        “What happened?  Kids play mud pies on your     noggin?”
        “Nice look!  Be glad you’re blind, boy!”

        So it’s not a pleasant walk.  It’s degrading, embarrassing, humiliating.  But the man has been in touch with Jesus, and for some reason he believes.  He believes that this teacher who calls himself “the light of the world” is somehow going to bring an end to his life – long darkness.

        Besides, what does he have to lose?  His pathetic progress down the dusty streets of Jerusalem would be mocked by some people whether he had mud on his face or not. 

        So he goes and washes – and comes back able to see.  The dirt and spit poultice opens his eyes, and he proceeds to testify that it was Jesus who had given him his vision.

        Standing before the Pharisees, he says, “He put mud on my eyes.  Then I washed, and now I see…. He is a prophet.”
When they counter that Jesus is a sinner, the man says “I do not know whether He is a sinner.  One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

        And the man asks the Pharisees mockingly.  “Do you also want to become His disciples?”  He might as well have said to these religious leaders: “Here’s mud in your eye!”

        Finally, face to face with the One who healed him, the man discovers that Jesus is none other than the Son of Man.

        “Lord, I believe,” he says, and he worships Jesus.  It is important to note that his healing comes BEFORE this statement of faith.  The man does not believe in Jesus prior to His touch, the man receives the touch and then believes.  The mudpack acts as a placebo, inspiring the man to trust that he will be healed.

        Does this sound crazy?  Whatever you do, don’t scoff at the power of the “powerless” placebo.  Don’t assume that dirt and spit had nothing to do with the healing of the blind man.  At the very least, it helped to focus his faith.

        What helps to focus our faith?  Sometimes it’s the unpleasant experiences that life throws at us.  In such circumstances, when we take even a small step of obedience, despite the uncertain path ahead, we discover that Christ Jesus is alive and active and working for health and wholeness.  There’s nothing magical about it, but it certainly is mysterious and miraculous.  The application of a “mudpack” can lead to the healing of our bodies, minds and spirits – if only we believe.

        The question is: What are the dirt – and – spit placebos that Christ Jesus would use to help us believe?  Surprising healing can happen when a person is in close touch with Jesus.
        Oddly enough, one of the placebos that can help us to be healed is pain itself.  Yes, pain.  Pain is as unwanted as a mud ball in the eye – physical, emotional or spiritual suffering, in ourselves and others.  We may want to deny this pain that threatens to disrupt our happiness and destroy our well-being, but we should not, because pain can be the megaphone that God uses to arouse a deaf world.

        So pain can be a placebo: a surprising bit of mud in the eye that reminds us that our true good is in another world, our real treasure is in Christ Jesus, and our ultimate dependence should be on God.

        Struggles in this life can take our eyes off worldly pleasures and give us a vision of the joy of God’s reign.  Financial problems can focus us on the priceless treasure of an investment with Christ Jesus.  Even illness can help us to see that health is much more than freedom from disease – it is rooted instead in a life-giving and eternal relationship with God.  Pain can have a placebo effect if it leads to reconciliation with the Lord.

        Surprising healing can happen when you listen for God’s Word, and when you move close enough to Jesus to get a mudpack placebo!

        In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Second in Lent

John 3: 1-17

First in Lent

Dan Isadore's sermon from the First Lent Sunday --

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Seventh after the Epiphany, Sexagesima

First Corinthians 3: 10-23 (Robison)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Seminarian Jim Taylor,

preaching on Matthew 5: 1-12:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

 Matthew 4: 12-23

Almighty God, who didst give such grace to thine apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of thy Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give unto us, who are called by thy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Good morning.  The reading from St. Matthew today is certainly familiar to us.  It is the reading appointed in the lectionary every year for the observance of the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle.  I hear those words, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men, and I almost instinctively look over to the transept and expect to see our good friends of the Syria Highlanders.  If we listen carefully, perhaps we can hear the echo of bagpipes in the far distance!  The calling of the Andrew and Peter and James and John out there by the Sea of Galilee is always a wonderful launching place into the themes of our annual parish patronal festival, as we are invited to follow Andrew as a mentor and inspiration in willing, heartfelt response to the invitation to new and full and eternal life in relationship to Christ Jesus, as his disciples.  That the symbolic action of this moment would be a kind of point of reference for each of us.  I always find the hymn so powerful, “They cast their nets in Galilee.” Based on a poem by the early twentieth century Roman Catholic poet from Mississippi, William Alexander Percy, who was the uncle of the famous mid-century novelist Walker Percy.    One of my favorite writers.

In any event, this morning: to hear his voice, the voice of Jesus--to put down our nets, however that image might expand into our lives, to follow him, to dedicate ourselves to this new and different kind of fishing enterprise, making space in our lives for him to work in and through us to build up his church and accomplish his purposes.  Whatever it may cost us along the way. 

The four gospels give us different perspectives on and share some distinctive memories, each of them,  of the first days of what we sometimes call the active or “earthly” ministry of Jesus:  that stretch of the story that begins more or less around the time that John the Baptist was arrested and then executed and then continues of course through the memories of Palm Sunday and Holy Week and Good Friday.  This period of time in the story that begins with Jesus connecting in some way with this small group of men, his inner circle, who were like him mostly men from the Galilee, from the hinterlands, and who were formerly followers of John the Baptist.  They seem to have scattered perhaps in fear and certainly in great disappointment when John was eliminated from the scene in that horrible story about King Herod Antipas and his wife Herodias and her daughter Salome. But soon after that Jesus seeks them out and connects with them in a new way.  Here in Matthew 4 Andrew and Peter and James and John have returned to their old lives, lying low in the countryside, hoping to stay under whatever radar Herod’s authorities might be turning in their direction.  But once Jesus meets them and invites them to join him, there is immediately a sense of a fresh start and new beginning.   A sudden boldness, an enthusiasm.  They thought the story was over, but in reality it was just getting started.  Matthew’s quotation from Isaiah 9 in this context seems to capture the moment.  “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned.” 

Last week we had the reading from John that remembered these tumultuous early days slightly differently.  As the authors of the gospels collected the stories from those who had actually been there, there might have been some varying memories.  When was it that we really become Jesus followers?  Was it when we first met him, back at the time of his baptism, before John was arrested, or was it after John was arrested, when he came out to Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee and recruited us for his new mission?    In all that, though, there was certainly consistent agreement about this sense of a revival of spirit, of a new start, a new direction.  Last week as we read in John’s gospel they remembered Jesus inviting them to “Come and see.”  Come and see. And this week in Matthew, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

One thing the memory recorded by Matthew and then lifted up in our sermon hymn captures for us is I think not just the energy moving forward, which we get also in John’s story, but also again that somewhat tender reminder of what we might call, to echo Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous book title, “the cost of discipleship.”  Something about the pile of nets left behind in the boat by Peter and Andrew.  The old way of life.  The old securities.  For us that would be like, I don’t know: our wallets and checkbooks, our car keys.  Our laptops.  Our toolbox.  Jobs, hobbies, commitments, relationships.  The things that are in some way for us the instruments we use to support and navigate our lives.   Leaving it all behind, to go with him.  The peace of Christ, it is no peace, but strife sown in the sod.

In our story from Matthew 4 I find myself pausing and just taking in the expression on the face of old Zebedee, the father of James and John, as he is left behind to finish the work of cleaning the nets by himself.  This doesn’t mean that over the next days and months and years the disciples would never see family and friends again, of course.  And we know that they did keep fishing, at least occasionally.  Perhaps when the group’s cash flow situation was running low.  We know they even stayed right there in Capernaum for quite a while, perhaps mostly at Simon Peter’s house.  And their missionary efforts were at least for a good while really centered in the same neighborhood.  But there was a real break with the past in this moment nonetheless, a real sense of separation.  It’s not a sabbatical, a summer internship.  It seems to happen pretty suddenly, but there is clarity from the beginning that this is for the long haul.  You’re all in, or you’re not, but nothing half-way.

So Third Sunday after the Epiphany, and continuing to sort through the implication of the story we heard Christmas Eve.  The Shepherds came into town to see what the angels had announced with such fanfare, the newborn baby in the manger.  And then they returned to their flocks.  The Magi from the East have knelt before the Holy Child and offered gifts and worship.  And then they returned to their homeland.  We never hear of any of them again.  They disappear into the mists of history.  Yet I think we know somehow deep down that if their experience was anything like the experience of Peter and Andrew and James and John, if their experience was anything like our experience, everything must have been different for them from then on, until the end of their lives.  Those minutes or perhaps a few hours in the presence of the Child who was and is the Savior of the World must have been a regular, a daily, a constant element of thought and feeling and memory, wonder and prayer, awe and worship.  Not something that you ever would forget.  A moment that would put everything from then on, relationships, work, everything, in a new light.  I am absolutely sure that for each one of them, as years and decades passed, in the countryside of Judea, in the ancient cities of Persia, for all of them, shepherds and magi, as they lay on their deathbeds, there  must have been even in their last moments of thought this one image and certainty: that they had seen him, knelt in his presence, somehow over all the years since continued with him until the very end.

Time for us, in these weeks between Epiphany and Lent, to think through all this and to pray through all this again, as he comes to us now in Word and Sacrament, as we study and pray and worship.  As we kneel in his presence.  To look to our mentors and guides.  Shepherds and magi and Andrew and Peter and James and John.   Finding ourselves somehow in the picture when he says: come, follow me.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

John 1: 29-42

So these four or five Sundays every year in the interval between the great 12 Days of Christmas and the beginning of the pre-Lenten season on Septuagesima give us a bit of space liturgically and devotionally in the calendar of the church year and in our own personal lives of reflection and prayer, to pause, step back, and to continue to digest the meaning of the word first spoken to the shepherds by the heavenly angels: “Unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.”

We remember that there are two steps in the story.  First the angels sang that good news to the shepherds, and then, hearing the news, the shepherds replied, Let us go now even unto Bethlehem, to see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us.  The Angels announce; the Shepherds respond. They get up and go!  A pattern that will be repeated again and again through the gospel, in the life of the early church, and in every generation. 

There is a saying about the character and nature of Christian life:  Jesus meets us where we are, but he doesn’t leave us there.  Jesus accepts us as we are, but he never leaves us as he found us.  The key word in the first sermons recorded from both John the Baptism and Jesus, “metanoiete.” 
The literal Greek means “have another thought, change your way of thinking” but the word is used consistently in Greek to translate the Hebrew shuv, which means change your direction.  It’s not simply about some kind of mental action.  It’s the word you use when you call out when you see them turning the wrong way down a one-way street.  Turn around!

In the beautiful candlelight, midnight of Christmas Eve every year the story flows like a gentle river to cover the rough places of our hearts and to sooth our troubled minds and to refresh our spirits.  But as the calendar pages continue to turn, that sacred stream seems to begin to run dry.  “Real life” reasserts itself, with all its hard edges.   The birth of a savior certainly sounds like it ought to be good news 24/7/365--really good news.  But the sun comes up on the 26th of December or maybe the 6th of January, and so often really it’s all just a fading sentimental memory.  We find ourselves in our day to day lives just exactly where we were and doing pretty much the same thing, headed in the same direction we were headed before Christmas happened.

So the Bethlehem shepherds in Luke chapter two, and this morning, the disciples of John the Baptist.  They come to us early in this New Year as examples, mentors, guides. 

Like the shepherds when the angels spoke to them, the disciples hear John’s word about Jesus, Behold, the Lamb of God, and at once they get moving--they set out to see what he’s talking about.  And I love this first interchange, as it certainly reinforces the point.  The question the disciples ask Jesus: Rabbi, where are you staying? And instead of answering that question, Jesus extends an invitation.  Maybe more of a challenge.  Come, and see.  He knew that what they were asking wasn’t really what they were asking.  The point isn’t for Jesus to tell them his postal address.  “We want to know if you just might be the real deal, the one we’re looking for.  Israel’s hope and consolation, joy of all the world . . . ; dear desire of every nation; joy of every longing heart.  Is that you, Jesus?  Not just the question of disciples and shepherds, but deep down in all our hearts year by year by year as we sing the Advent hymn.  Are you the “long-expected Jesus?”  The Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world?  Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?  The one who is going to make a difference in my life.  And Jesus answers,   Come and see.  Come and see.  Because that’s the only way we’ll ever know.

And again, this interval between Epiphany and Septuagesima, a time to consider just what to do with this invitation.  The sleepy shepherds didn’t just roll over and go back to sleep when the angels departed. 

The disciples didn’t hear the word of John the Baptist and say, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and then continue on with whatever they were doing before. 

A moment for us: to rush to the manger, to come and see where Jesus is staying, what he is about, what he might be for us, in our lives.  We’re all here this morning as a part of that response.  However we got here, whatever the presenting occasion or stated motive.  Simply to begin to puzzle through that question, is it really possible that what happened at Christmas can have anything to do with me?  Can it make a difference?

There is a saying sometimes attributed to Albert Einstein, of all people, though with a question mark.  Somebody said, anyway: “A definition of insanity is to do the same thing but to expect a different result.”  January is a season of New Year’s Resolutions, and if we want to take this opportunity at turn of another year and in the space of this Epiphany to think about a resolution to take the question about Christmas seriously this year in our lives, we maybe can begin by doing some different things.  Metanoite, repent, change direction! 

And here on the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, just three simple thoughts.  Not a complete list of possibilities by any stretch of the imagination, and perhaps you’ll be prompted in a different direction.  But just by way of suggestion.

One would be to hear the words of Jesus,  “Come and see,” as an invitation to a New Year’s resolution to engage in a fresh way and a deeper way with the Bible.  I think I mentioned before the image I saw once in a German stained glass window of the Bible resting on a bed of straw in the Bethlehem manger.  Maybe that’s an image to keep in mind if we imagine ourselves as following the shepherds.  “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”  Whether we’re already regular and daily Bible readers, or whether the most Bible we get most of the time comes in the snippets of the lectionary on Sunday mornings.  Maybe “come and see” could be an invitation to a renewed or extended or expanded practice of prayerful reading, daily or at set times through the week.  Alone is fine, though I always find the opportunity to share the process of reading and reflection with others.  Reading, studying, praying together, discussing, seeking to hear what God has to say to us.  My small group Bible Study meets at 7:30 in the morning at the Oakland Panera, and it’s not the only one going on in that Panera at that hour on Tuesdays, which is kind of neat to see.

Or perhaps the Sunday morning 10 a.m. Bible Study over in the Old Rectory Parlor would be a helpful support.  In this New Year they’re just beginning to read and discuss the New Testament Letter of James, so this would be a great time to start.  Or maybe you’d be interested in joining my new Facebook Group for Rector’s Bible Study—an invitation to spend a little time reading and praying about and discussing the readings for the next Sunday.  We’re just getting that started this week, and it’s kind of experimental to use that format.  If you’re interested, let me know.  Anyway, there are lots of resources out there, lots of opportunities, groups, classes, study guides--but the important thing I guess would be just to get started. 

A second way we might begin to “come and see” would be to resolve for each of us a deeper commitment to private prayer.   We have this wonderfully rich contemplative prayer group of course that meets on Wednesday evening for Centering Prayer, and I know they also would be delighted to have more folks join them.  But perhaps this kind of a resolution would simply be about finding a few quiet moments two or three times a day, maybe just five minutes at a time, to step back, close our eyes if that’s helpful.  Perhaps to say the Lord’s Prayer slowly and inwardly, and to lift before God’s presence the concerns of our hearts.

 Perhaps simply to say the words of the Manger hymn:  “Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray.”  If you have a prayer book at home, perhaps to find the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer and to pray one or two of the Collects slowly, meditating on a word or phrase that seems to catch your attention.  Perhaps to take home each week our Sunday morning service leaflet and to turn to the pages with our parish prayer requests, to take five minutes or so every morning or a few times a week to say a prayer and then to read through that long list of names.  We don’t always know why they’re on the list, but we know that they or someone who loves them have asked us as a congregation to lift them up in God’s attention and care.

And a third way we might respond to this invitation to “come and see” in this New Year would be to renew and refresh our commitment to the worship of the church.  I know I’m speaking to the choir here!  Those who come to church on a winter, Steeler Playoff Game Sunday!  But even if we are already coming to church every Sunday, or most Sundays, whatever the weather, whatever the alternatives on offer around us—this renewing and refreshing may be more about what’s going in on us when we enter these doors on Hampton Street.  Not simply to say, “I’m going to church this morning” as a matter of routine.  But to expect to meet him, to expect to change, to expect to be sent out in a new direction.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving.  Come into his courts with praise.  To make that a prayer, to have that intention, when we sit down in our pew Sunday mornings a few minutes before 11.

Christmas is over now, for another year, but the New Year’s Resolution of the Shepherds is still here for us: Let us go now even unto Bethlehem, to see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us.  It has been two thousand years since the disciples first met Jesus out there by the Jordan River, but his invitation to them are still here for us:  Come and see.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

First Sunday after the Epiphany

Isaiah 42: 1-9
Baptism of August Isaiah Newman

Good morning.   The Sunday after the January 6th Feast of the Epiphany and the day of the traditional observance of the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as we’ve heard in the hymns and the gospel reading.  The event at the Jordan River in all four gospels launches the public ministry of Jesus along the road that leads eventually to Good Friday and the cross.  In the Eastern Orthodox Churches the day is known as the Theophany, as the divine nature of Jesus is revealed by the Word of the Father and in the descent of the Holy Spirit.

And here this morning we celebrate the baptism of August Isaiah Newman.  The launching of his public life and ministry as a follower of Jesus, a disciple.  “Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.”  Thank you Tom and Meredith for coming all the way from your home in Buffalo to share this great day with all of us.  A great way to enter a new year as a congregation and extended congregational family, with this reaffirmation of our shared baptismal identity and life in Christ.

August Isaiah’s namesake, the Prophet Isaiah, was living and prophesying in Jerusalem in the 8th and 7th Centuries before Christ.  The job of the prophet is to call attention to God’s Word in a fresh and compelling way when the people around him seem to have forgotten it. And Isaiah’s ministry took place in a complicated time.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been conquered by the Assyrian Empire of what today would be Eastern Iraq.  Its ancient cities and sacred shrines destroyed, its civilian population decimated and displaced in a disorganized refugee diaspora throughout the Near East.  Its cultural identity and history and faith traditions wiped clean, its orchards and farmlands distributed as the bounty of war to the soldiers of the victorious foreign army.  Yet just a few miles down south across the border in Jerusalem, the capital of the southern Kingdom of Judah, there is this sense of deep, deep denial.  “What happened to our cousins up North,  that could never happen to us!”  The country is protected for the moment  by a fragile network of alliances and vassal state relationships.  The Kings are big on ceremony and show,  pomp and circumstance--while in reality they are weak pawns in a game between the great powers, Egypt and Persia and Babylon and Syria.  The aristocracy is humming along like the courtiers of Louis the XVIth.  Eat, drink, and be merry!  The influences of foreign powers, foreign cultures, foreign religions are percolating through the nation.  Whatever the latest fad.   In all this what it was that made the sons and daughters of Abraham special, unique, a Chosen People, a sacrament for the world, a People of the Covenant, was slipping away.  The word of the Lord was set aside—the discipline of a holy and consecrated people ignored, forgotten. 

Isaiah could see disaster ahead.  You didn’t need a Masters Degree from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.  It was pretty straightforward to anyone who knew God’s word.  The wages of sin.  But then also, what Isaiah could also see, as the truth written deeply into God’s character and word, was that God’s faithfulness to Israel was greater than any failure of faithfulness in Israel.  That no valley was so deep, no mountain so high, no grave so final, that God could not and would not prove himself true to his promise.

Our reading from the 42nd chapter is sometimes called the First Servant Song of Isaiah, a part of Isaiah’s prophetic vision of what it would look like beyond the catastrophe, when that perfect faithfulness of God would be made known. To look at those words again (there on page 7):  He will bring forth justice,  righteously but not violently, not by shouting louder than everybody else, not by steamrolling over the weak, not by snapping and crushing every bruised reed and extinguishing every weak spark and flame, but faithfully, carefully, with gentleness, with love.  A sign of new and renewed creation, the First Creator bringing forth a new heaven and a new earth, giving breath and life and spirit to a healed and restored human family.  Bringing light and sight to a dark world, freeing every prisoner, sweeping away all those false gods that command our worship and loyalty.  “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare.”

 Isaiah’s vision is not an easy one.  Because real death must always come before there can be real resurrection from the dead.  But he sees how an Israel rescued out of  and through the calamity that would soon befall it would be refreshed in God’s word, would trust God’s promises, would obey his commands, and so would become in reality what God had first described to Abraham so long ago, a sign of blessing and grace and right relationship with God, to all people, to every tribe and race and nation.  Every nation on earth will be blessed through you.  And from the very earliest days of Christian memory and witness this has been heard as God’s word to us of the fulfillment in Christ of his everlasting and perfect Covenant.  We hear the echo this morning.  The Song of Isaiah 42 begins, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.”  And as we heard this morning as Jesus and John stood side by side in the River Jordan, the word from above, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Epiphany and Theophany.  The delight of the Father, now with us and for us in a new way.

We pause in this season of Sundays after Epiphany to go deeper into the meaning and purpose of Christmas: what does it all really mean, that God became Man?  This story, Mary and Joseph and Child in the Manger, Angels, Shepherds, Wise men from the East—what does it mean that this child was born for us?    Words of the Prophet first spoken eight hundred years before the night the angels sang to the shepherds begin to open that up for us.    What difference does Christmas really make, once the trees come down?  I hope we would each one of us ask ourselves that question a few times in the coming weeks.  Thinking back to Christmas—and not, I mean, to the outward expressions and festivities, but to the heart of the story itself.  To the fact of Jesus.  Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.  Of the Father’s love begotten.  Israel’s hope and consolation.  To this promise that as we would follow him and become a part of his life and attend to and become obedient to his word, we ourselves may be lifted up in him as he brings about a new creation, a new heaven, a new earth.   

The Christmas holiday comes to an end.  Back to work.  Back to school.  The newspaper headlines proclaim wars and rumors of war, terror and disaster, conflict and strife.  The trees are put out for the landfill, the decorations get boxed up and moved back to the attic for another year.  But the one who was born for us at Christmas remains with us, the Father’s delight,  inviting us to remain with him, to find our own true lives in him.  From the Catechism: “Holy baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God.  The inward and spiritual grace in Baptism is union with Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God’s family the Church, forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Holy Spirit.”  And the word of the Lord spoken by the Prophet Isaiah this morning to August Isaiah, to the people of Jerusalem and to the people of St. Andrew’s Highland Park—his promise to:  “I am the Lord.  I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations . . . .”   

Welcome to the family, August Isaiah.  Blessings and joy and Happy New Year!  Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

January 7, 2017 Burial Office Otto Harry Gruner III

January 7, 2017
Otto Harry Gruner III (July 27, 1927 – December 9, 2016)

Jesus speaks to his disciples in the 14th chapter of St. John:  “Whither I go, ye know, and the way ye know.”  He says this in the night of the Last Supper, with the whole story of Good Friday and the Cross about to play out.  The story that begins in the winter of Christmas, in a silent night in Bethlehem, ends in the victory of the Cross and the Empty Tomb of a bright Easter morning--Jesus unconquered.  The power of death overturned.  And we do want to hear that report today.  That news: the power of death overturned.  The Ascension into heaven.  The promise of his return.  The good news of sins forgiven, of the mercy and forgiveness and tender Fatherly love of God ready to take up residence in every home and every heart.  Christian life and Christian hope.  In the Old Testament words of Job, in the midst of his many sufferings, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.  And though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.”

It is very much an honor and a privilege to share in this service for Harry Gruner.  Son, brother, husband, father, grandfather.  A fullness of life: 89 years!  Naval officer, sportsman, businessman and entrepreneur, community leader, and friend.  To remember his life in all its richness—and I so much appreciate the tributes that have been shared with us this morning.  I have known Harry only in the past few years of his life—his last years, colored so much by age and then by his journey through Parkinson’s disease.  I enjoyed reading in the obituary you all prepared about his exceptionally active life, full of energy and enthusiasm in so many ways.  Fisherman, hunter, golfer, athlete.  And I loved the sentence, “most memorably, Harry was funny, blessed with a gentle, wry sense of humor.”  That’s an aspect of Harry I would say that I was able to experience and enjoy, even in these later years—and something he continued to communicate through his eyes and expressions even when other forms of communication began to deteriorate.  A great man.  The first time I met him, you’ll remember, Nancy, was at a dinner party a number of years ago at your home up in Fox Chapel, along with our mutual good friends and prayer partners Tom and Liz Phillips.  (And I would share that in e-mail and other communications over these weeks I have heard from Tom several times, and from Brad Wilson down in South Carolina, and from my friend and colleague Alex Shuttleworth, who is the current rector of Christ Anglican in Fox Chapel, three really fine pastors and friends, and all have communicated their love and continued prayers.)  I think the second time I saw Harry was not long after that dinner, on a Christmas morning when he was being cared for over at St. Margaret’s, and the three of us, you’ll remember, Nancy, had the chance to share Christmas Communion and a prayer.  Other times of hospitality and visits after you guys had moved over to Longwood.  And then such an amazing gift, on Tuesday December 6, just a month ago, just a few days before he died.  You had a lunch date with my wife Susy and I got invited along as a third wheel.  Very kind of you both to include me!  And after lunch I drove you back up the hill to your place and Harry was sitting up in the living room in a chair looking over a number of family snapshots.  Kids and grandkids.  We chatted for a bit, and then I was able to share with him an anointing with holy oil and prayers of blessing and healing and strength and peace.  Didn’t realize it, of course, but this was a prayer and an outward sign of preparation for the new journey he would begin just a few days later on Friday.  Passing from this life into greater life.     

So blessings this morning.  As we offer together the ancient prayers of the church for Harry, not just as we say the words but as we gather the faith and life and witness of the whole Christian family and offer the deepest knowledge and desire of our hearts to almighty God.  As we hear the words of scripture, the psalms, the lessons, the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Born at Christmas.  The light of world.  “Whither I go, ye know, and the way ye know.”   Or, as St. Paul says in our reading from Romans 8: “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor thing to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus and St. Paul are both talking about something more than what we might call our religious opinions and theories, our theological positions or understandings of various issues and concerns of the day.  Our churchmanship or our denominations.  What they are talking about is a deeper kind of knowing than that.  The kind of knowing that we talk about when we say that a child knows his mother.  It’s about relationship.  About the word we use in the Church with real meaning and sincerity: about faith.  Something that can be expressed in words, but really is much deeper than words can express.  About being in relationship with God securely.  “You know where I am going, and how to get there,” Jesus says, “because you and I are going to the same place, returning to the same home, to that mansion that the Father who loves us has prepared for us.  And I am the way to that home, the Truth, the Life.  No man cometh unto the Father but by me.”  It would be my hope and prayer, family and friends, that as we share in these prayers for Harry we would each one of us hear and feel and know as well an invitation to enter, and to enter more deeply, into that relationship, with the one who has loved us and has longed for that relationship with us from the beginning of the world.   We can pause for a moment: take the opportunity of that invitation.

The Funeral Sentences from the ancient prayers of the Church, “In the midst of life we are in death.”  Thinking how very fragile we are in this short life.  How precious every day is.  Every day is a gift, a real gift—and of course a gift that comes with no guarantee.  Even when we say, “see you tomorrow,” we don’t really know.  We may have the fullness of nine decades, as Harry did.  Or not.  But always one day at a time.  And so as we come together today to hear, to remember, to comfort one another, to give thanks for Harry’s life, we might also be reminded of a certain urgency in our own lives as well.

 “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord.  He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

Blessings all, in this new year.  I would ask that we would stand now and to turn in the Blue Hymnal in the pews to Hymn #562, and we will sing together stanzas 1, 4, and 5 of the great old hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

January 1, 2017 Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

The Rev. Daniel J. Isadore, Assistant to the Rector