November 29, 10:00 a.m.

Morning Prayer together for those who feel able to come, and live streamed on FB for those who want to participate from home.  

Hi!! from St. John's

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Last Sunday after Pentecost,The Reign of Christ Pr.29A*           11/22/20

Rev’d Jennifer Phillips                                                 

St. John's Church online


How do we recognize the reign of Christ arriving and being revealed among us? Today is the Feast Day of the Reign of Christ and a fitting time to consider who Christ is that for two thousand years, people have been acclaiming. That one who walked through the world as a Galilean laborer-turned teacher, and who fell afoul of the authorities of religion and state and was tortured, executed and died and then appeared to hundreds of witnesses raised and full of new life. And what he communicates about the nature of God and the faithful life! Who we become because of him! So to ponder one story, I tell another, a borrowed one - perhaps some of you know it - though does anyone read Leo Tolstoy anymore?:

The story is Tolstoy’s classic, “Master and Man.” In the Russian winter, snow falls hard and fast in the deep cold. The rich merchant Vasili Andreevich Brekhunov urges his serf Nikita to whip up the horses to press through the gathering storm so that he may beat his competitors in the purchase of a stand of timber. But as the night wears on, they become lost, and the horse and sledge founder in the deep drifts and are stuck. At last an angry Vasili Andreevich climbs down from the sledge, pulls his two lavish fur coats around him, and unharnesses the horse to ride on alone, driven by a panic of dying in the woodland snows, leaving his servant to watch over the sleigh.

In the blinding storm neither horse nor rider can see, and after hours of trudging, they come upon Nikita and the sledge again. They have been riding in a circle. Nikita, now half frozen, tells his master he is dying of the cold apologetically, like a man leaving his duty post of a hard necessity. Vasili Andreevich stands motionless for a moment, then, Tolstoy writes,“with the same resolution with which he used to strike his hands when making a good purchase,” he begins to sweep the snow off Nikita, and then lies down on top of the servant, pulling the fur coats around the two of them.

“There, and you say that you are dying! Lie still and get warm, that’s our way…” began Vasili Andreevich. But to his great surprise he could say no more, for tears came to his eyes and his jaw began to quiver rapidly… “seems I was badly frightened and have gone quite weak,” he thought. But this weakness was not only not unpleasant, but gave him a peculiar joy such as he had never felt before. “That’s our way!” he said to himself, experiencing a strange and solemn tenderness…”You see, friend, I was going to perish. And you would have been frozen, and I should have….”

Lying that way through the night snow, Vasili Andreevich grows colder and has a series of visions and dreams, and at last has a dream that he is lying in his own bed and cannot get up but is waiting for someone…the someone who had called him, and told him to lie down on Nikita who now sleeps warmly under Vasili and his furs. And finally, Tolstoy describes, it seemed to Vasili Andreevich that he was Nikita and Nikita was he, and that his life was not in himself but in Nikita. He strained his ears and heard Nikita breathing and even slightly snoring. “Nikita is alive, so I, too, am alive!” he said to himself triumphantly.

And he remembered his money, his shop, his house, the buying and selling, and his millions, and it was hard for him to understand why that man, called Vasili Brekhunov, had troubled himself with all those things with which he had been troubled. “Well, it was because he did not know what the real thing was,” he thought, concerning that Vasili Brekhunov. “He did not know, but now I know and know for sure. Now I know!” And again he heard the voice of one who had called him before. “I’m coming! Coming!” he responded gladly, and his whole being was filled with joyful emotion. He felt himself free and that nothing could hold him back any longer. And after that, Vasili Andreevich neither saw, heard, nor felt anything more in this world.’

Today’s Scripture readings point us toward the paradoxical reign of Christ on this feast day of that title. Ephesians paints a picture of a cosmic Christ throned in glory in the heavenly places above a pantheon of heavenly beings with everything under his feet. And Matthew even through his bitter anger at Jesus' rejection, shows us Christ the hidden King, the one to whom righteous people do kindly service without even realizing that they are serving God by serving the little and least of God’s people: “Sir" they ask, " when did we see you hungry or thirsty, naked, or sick or imprison, or an outsider and fed you, gave you drink, clothing, looked after you, gathered you in?” Even the agnostic, someone completely uncertain of who God is or what faith community they might join, someone full of skepticism about the whole religious venture, is invited to enter into humble service to those around them in any need or trouble - just because they are fellow human beings and this is the right human way to behave, “our way” as Tolstoy’s character puts it. And doing so, that person is serving the Holy One, Godself. It is a lynchpin of the whole Gospel of Jesus- this mandate to love the neighbor as oneself by service, kindness, mercy. And underneath Matthew’s layer of harsh judgment against failure is this Christ who desires only the service that comes through mutual charity and care and who shows royal power only through self-emptying on the cross for the sake of others, even for enemies and disbelievers, and finally for the salvation of the whole cosmos. God can work through and for anyone, no matter how flawed, even a savior who does not save himself from humiliation and death and who wields only the power of love and service in the world.

So, it remains the question for the person coming to know Christ in every generation to ponder: what sort of king is this to which I might bend the knee? Who is this that earns my loyalty and trust? What sort of power is it that is made perfect in weakness and humiliation? And then: What is our power to be, we who are called and call ourselves Christ’s disciples? What is our calling for? What is it to? Never more than in this historical place and time, is it good and necessary to inquire, what is our way? Our human way. Our righteous way.

The lost and circling, panic-smitten  Vasili Andreevich comes back upon that place from which he started, (as the poet T.S. Eliot was later to echo). Hefinds the peasant huddled in the sleigh under his thin covering, blue with cold. There is a moment where, startled, the master stands and looks at him, and in that momentary pause, the narrator is silent as to his inner thoughts. But then, as one called, Vasili acts, climbing into the sleigh and sharing his warmth with the servant Nikita, saying, “This is our way!” It is clearly not the usual way, not the norm of master and serf to cling to one another sharing the master’s furs, but rather an extraordinary shifting of usual boundaries and a change of inner states, so that “my way’ for Vasili Andreevich, and ‘your way’ for Nikita the servant, become “our way.” The master can no longer separate his own need for warmth and life from the need of his servant. His act is not one of heroism, but an act of humility. He sees for the first time their common plight and is freed to answer it. Joined in humanity with Nikita, he then finds liberty to know his connection to the One who called him.

The act -- though it never claims the name -- is one of repentance. Repentance is not really about feeling bad because we have been bad. Repentance is about recognizing our call, the vocation of our baptism, and in the brilliant clarity of its searching light, seeing our own condition clearly and finding the marvelous power to  act in compassion for ourselves and others, in a Christly way, in a self-emptying way. Realizing what really matters! Seeing our neighbor as like our self! Like Vasili Andreevich, we so often launch ourselves into great danger blinded by self-interest and habit. We cut free the horse from its traces to rush toward our self-preservation at any cost, alone. We find ourselves riding blind and in circles, and coming back inevitably upon the scene of our own stuckness. It is in some way or another - the place where we have abandoned our own authentic humanity by disregarding our human neighbors. In that moment of recognition and turning around, stopped in our tracks, our new and original call comes to us. Disregarding all our grand ideas of rank and difference we are transformed, even in our imperfect selves, into the likeness of a child of humanity  (a “son of man” in the old parlance). We bear the image of Christ, the One who calls us and was himself as the Gospels say, Son of Man, The Truly Human One, “the man for others” as the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer titled him.

In the storm of this cold world where as mortals we are all dying, the one who is divine King lies down in the snow to embrace us and give his life to save us; and to give us also our calling that we, too, shall come back to our true selves and embrace one another to share the abundant life we have been given so that others shall live.

Prayer for a Pandemic
By Cameron Bellm
May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.

 95 Deerfield Ave
 Westwood, MA 02090

WEEKLY SCHEDULE                          

Sunday Worship: 10:00 a.m. live streamed. Please email Jennifer for access:

This is St. John's Episcopal Church... please click on photo below to see more photos of church life!

This is St. John's Episcopal Church, Westwood MA

Want to check on the readings for a particular Sunday or other day?  Click below to go to the Lectionary page...  all readings available for 2019-2020:

Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. Phillips

We are now accepting pledge payments online.
Please click the link below.

Please - keep your pledge payments current if you are able. The expenses of the church continue in this time of crisis as does our outreach and mission (with necessary modifications). We rely on our members contributions to keep doing Christ’s work at St. John’s! And if you are in a financial crisis - let the rector know. If you need to modify your pledge, let Alan Macdonald, our Treasurer, know. 
Thank you!

Sunday, November 22 & November 29, 10:00 a.m.:
Morning Prayer service at church on via live-streaming on the church's FaceBook page. 
11:30 a.m.: 
Zoom coffee hour
Please email Jennifer for the Zoom invitation, if you haven't already. 

Tuesday, November 24 & December 1, 7:00 p.m.:
Bible Study, followed by Compline, on Zoom. Please contact Jennifer to receive the Zoom invitation:

Wednesday, November 25, 6:00:
There will be a live-streamed Evening Prayer Thanksgiving service that will be archived on the FB page.

Sunday, Dec. 6: Middle School Zoom conversation. Time TBD.

Monday, December 7, 7:00 - 7:30 p.m.: High School youth Zoom conversation.

Thursday, December 3 and 17, before 8:30 a.m.:
St. John's will deliver 50 nutritious sandwiches & 50 pieces of fresh fruit to Ecclesia Ministries, to feed homeless neighbors in Boston. Epiphany, Walpole is partnering with us in this important ministry. Please email Emily if you can help out: emilysugg30@gmail.com

Norwood Food Pantry also needs help, and you can now order directly from Amazon through Norwood Food Pantry's website: 


Looking Ahead:
We are putting together a video pageant with lots of households adults as well as kids taking part. If your family would like to film one of the short clips, please let Jennifer know!

Please join in:

Oasis Ministries –we provide a monthly hot dinner to about 60 homeless neighbors at Old West Church in Boston on 2nd Mondays. Right now Jen Whitmore is cooking our meal for us, which is an extraordinary gift. We continue to support Oasis financially. 

Ecclesia outreach – This fall and winter we are providing sandwiches and fresh fruit approximately every two weeks, with the help of Epiphany, Walpole. This is greatly appreciated! Also, our kids and youth have made beautiful drawings for the guests of Ecclesia, which are posted for all the homeless guests to see. Here's one of them: 

Pantry support – for the Westwood Food Pantry:  The pantry is accepting food donations Monday - Friday, 9:00 - Noon. Please make any deliveries to the Council on Aging, 60 Nahatan St., Westwood. OR you can drop off food in the designated box in front of the Westwood Library, any time of day. Many thanks! We are also helping our the Norwood Food Pantry on a regular basis.  Please click on the link at the bottom of this page or at the top of the left column to see our Covid19 Outreach page. There are many ways for us to help right now!

Prayer Shawls – knitting group prayerfully makes shawls for people facing illness or crisis.

Eucharistic Visiting  members are trained and take the Sacrament, offer healing prayer, and make friendly visits to people who are homebound, in hospital, or other institutional settings. This will resume when it's safe to do so.
Speak to Rev. Jennifer if you’d like to put your discipleship to work in one or more of these parish ministries!

 When online shopping with Amazon, please consider supporting St. John's Protestant Episcopal Church by using amazonsmile.  For more information, click the link below.

For Health Care Workers


Sanctify, O Author of all healing, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing and to the prevention of disease and suffering (especially N.). Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.


In Confinement


My Creator, you rolled out the heavens,

you spread the sky like a tent:

bless to me the small confinement of this room,

the long days, disturbances of night,

immobility of body, unease of soul,

that this place of exile

may become my holy ground

and Jesus my deliverer. Amen.


In times of Widespread Illness


Holy God, our times are in your hand;

calm our minds, anxious in this time of illness;

lend us your wisdom to act with prudence,

be mindful of the needs and fears of others,

and be people of resolve, kindness, and courage,

following the path of your beloved Son Jesus,

in the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Subpages (1): Outreach during Covid19