November 29: 10:00 AM Holy Eucharist
Pentecost 24, Proper 28B 11-15-15 St. John’s Church
Rev’d Jennifer Phillips 1 Sam.1:4-20;Heb.10:11-25;Mk.13:1-8
When something or someone strikes us or those we care about, our human first response is often heat: rage, fear, hunger for vengeance. We burn with indignation…and if we put the match to tinder, so tempting to do, to spread the flame, the conflagration we begin is likely to destroy indiscriminately things, people, even ourselves. We have a choice to contain our heat, to calm ourselves, and to remember to whom we belong and what is our calling.
In the moment when fear is all around, breathe in the knowledge that God’s arms are wider, God’s love is deeper and more eternal than any terror we know or can imagine.
When grief swamps your heart and mind, breathe in the knowledge that the small span of each life is held in the weave of the fabric of immortality which is our promise from the Holy One.
When isolation and despair threaten, breathe in the knowledge that you are not alone on a desolate path, for Christ has walked this way before you and walks it now alongside you and will never leave you comfortless.
When stones tumble from stones and the beautiful city lies in ruins, breathe in the deep hope that we have a dwelling place eternal in the heavens, but also breathe in the determination to build here and now the city of peace that is our hearts’ desire.
When wars and the rumors of war overwhelm you, do not be alarmed; breathe in the calm trust that these are birth-pangs of a peace beyond our knowing.
We need not give those who desire to sow terror the satisfaction of terror.
We need not return rage and hatred to those who seek to perpetuate rage and hatred.
As so many of the world’s prophets have taught – violence never conquers violence; but the first place to practice this truth is within our selves.
Before Christ came to earth, there were many who expected a Messiah to arrive on clouds of glory at the head of an angel-army to overturn the powers of the world with fire and the sword. After all the powers of the ancient world did exactly that to the peoples they conquered. Surely God must be the biggest conqueror of all.
But God did not send the only begotten One at the head of an army of destruction, nor clothed in armor, leaving a river of blood of his enemies.
God –shockingly, unfathomably- sent the Only begotten to be
truly human, one of us, to survive infancy and childhood, to learn and grow, to
work and teach and heal, and to make of his whole brief life on earth an
offering on behalf of those so given up to their own violence and fear and need
for power that they put him to death. The river of blood was his own for the
cleansing of the world and the forgiving of the very ones he might have reason
We know these images from history, from every tyrant in the book whose army swept down on an enemy and laid them waste. But as you look at Jesus Christ, really look with great attention, is that the way that you see that God acts through him, in him? Would that be consistent with the message of Jesus taken as a whole? It seems to me, rather, that God acts like that little plant the poet William Carlos Williams once praised: saxifrage that comes up through asphalt, “that splits the rocks” as it presses toward the sun. It seems to me that God acts as the stiller of storms and the calmer of seas. It seems to me that God acts to unleash not death and destruction but perennially new life, even in the most improbable fashion and among the most improbable people.
So today I am thinking – as are many of you, I suspect -of those whose lives have been shattered in France, and by similar violence in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Clearly, there are violent apocalyptic movements in the world that will require serious, calm and considered international response – and we must pray for those who are trying to shape these responses.
But I am thinking of the suffering ones through the lens of Hannah, whose small private grief and despair at being childless and taunted, is transformed into a song for justice that will transform the whole world, that will lift up the needy from the ash-heaps, send the complacent rich ones away hungry and fill the table with the poor people from the streets, and make fruitful the lives that have seemed barren and hopeless. Vindication, but not revenge. I am thinking of them through the lens of the friends of the crucified Jesus who thought that all was lost, that their hopes had been dashed, and their choices stripped of meaning…and then heard news of the resurrection that became undeniable and absolute truth that spun their lives in new directions, no matter the risk, no matter the cost. I am thinking of them through the lens of Jesus himself, who did not hold the sin of the world against the sinners, but whose victory-shout was a word of forgiveness. Not an apocalypse but a renewed world full of the divine energy and light!
In the much-quoted but lucid words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth; that in tranquility your dominion may increase, until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Advent Quiet Space:
Monday, 11/30, 6-8pm, @ St. John's Episcopal, 95 Deerfield Ave.
Wednesday, 12/9, 6-8pm, @ First Baptist Church, 808 High Street
Tuesday, 12/15, 6-8pm, @ 1st Parish, 340 Clapboardtree Street
Office Hours: Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 9am -12pm
7 PM Bible Study
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We Gather Together- A Westwood Interfaith Thanksgiving Service: Will be hosted at First Baptist Church, High Street on Monday Nov. 23rd at 7pm. St. John’s contribution to the event will be 10 pies and some apple cider. Please plan to attend this family-friendly service-with-a-difference, and if you can contribute a pie or two (home-made or store-bought) please let Rev. Jennifer know. There’s a sign up sheet on the bulletin board at church.
Eucharistic Visitor Training:
It is a blessing and privilege to take Communion to church members who are ill, in hospital, or unable to leave their homes to come to church. You could be trained for this tender ministry of our congregation. The Diocese is offering a training day Saturday October 24th, 9-4pm at our Cathedral Church of St. Paul (1438 Tremont Street, Boston). you may register online at << www.diomass.org/event/eucharistic-visitor-training-15>> or call Connie Melahoures at 508-367-0516 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Let Rev. Jennifer know if you would like to be licensed to take Communion from St. John’s. This is also a great way to become more comfortable visiting people who are sick or frail.
Flowers enhance the beauty of our church and greatly contribute to our worship. We place flowers near the altar to remind us of Creation, which brings us to the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we celebrate every Sunday. Here at St. John’s, rather than have a general budget item for flowers, we invite our parishioners to provide the flowers in memory or honor of loved ones, or in thanksgiving for special events. There is a sign up sheet on the bulletin board on which one may select a Sunday, (or Sundays!), for a special tribute. The cost for flowers, which the Altar Guild orders, is $35. (Please be sure to note on your payment that it is for flowers.) We are grateful to Westwood Gardens Florist, which, for many years, has provided beautiful arrangements to us for a modest price.