Sunday, October 23, 2016
8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist
10:00 a.m.  Blessing of the Animals with
an adapted service of Morning Prayer.

Pentecost 21, Proper 23C 10-9-10.                               Stewardship.  St. John’s Church

Rev’d Jennifer Phillips                                       Jer.29:1, 4-7; 2 Tim.2:8-15;Lk.17:11-19

Growing up as an immigrant, today’s portion from Jeremiah was one of my enduring favorites. It says essentially: ‘whether you are happy or miserable, free or in forced exile, in the land of your dreams or in some alien place, seek the welfare of the city- the community – where God has planted you.’ We are stewards of the place, of the community – human and environmental – where God has brought us. We are to seek its well being, regardless of how we may feel about it. And we are stewards of the stuff, the wealth, that passes through our hands about which we like to feel proprietary even though we know that it’s not just our work that brings it to us. Good fortune, family, teammates at work, and the privilege of where we are born and live, what color and gender and class we are, also affects the share of the wealth we consider ‘ours’.

Consider the role of the bursar, the “holder of the purse” in a monastery. It’s a little different than a corporate or organizational treasurer or bursar. When a man or woman entered a monastery to begin a life of intensive prayer, he or she would either give all possessions away at home ahead of time, or make over any remaining possessions, land, or money to the bursar whose job it was to provide for the simple needs of all the monks and who would disburse all other funds and resources as needed to care for the poor outside the walls. The bursar also sold or traded any goods the monks manufactured. So the bursar’s ministry was to be a middleman who liberated the monks from anxiety about either managing their wealth (be it great, or meager), or about being in want, freeing them to focus on the greater treasure of their life in Christ. Only a steady, experienced monk would be trusted to do this important job while not to losing sight of his or her own life of prayer. No matter where the monks had come from, the community within the walls, and surrounding the walls, was the place God had planted them, and the commonweal of the communities within and without now were bound up with their life of prayer and the giving of their wealth.

Outside the monastery, Bishops and their deacons fulfilled these same role as bursars for the first churches and dioceses , providing services of food, shelter, and health care for the poor out of the collected abundance and wealth of the diocese, mostly with the support of affluent benefactors who gave because it was their Christian obligation as well as for the benefit of their souls. To perform these charitable and essential works for the good of the whole community was understood as the just and right use of creation - and it still is!

I wonder, have you thought of yourself as a bursar - not as an owner of wealth (whether small or large wealth) that you have - but one into whose hands God has entrusted resources for the commonweal, (including your own basic sustenance,) with the guiding principle that you are to use creation rightly - justly, lovingly, compassionately, hospitably, and with self-restraint - in order to honor God- while maintaining a life rich in prayer, and of adequate and sustaining simplicity?

The leaders and well-to-do of the prophet Jeremiah’s day were failing miserably to accomplish this, and today we heard God - through the voice of the prophet’s lamentations - grieving for the hurt of the poor, wounds that are going undressed, violence that has broken the society, lost and restless souls that have forgotten how to discern and act rightly, forgotten that they belong to God and are called to right relationship with the creation and with their neighbors. Social chaos and war have resulted in Jeremiah’s eyes.

Luke, by comparison, shakes us up a bit about wealth. In the familiar story of the lepers who are healed, we remember that the group who went on their way rejoicing got to enjoy their healing – it wasn’t taken away because they took it for granted once it was theirs. But the one who turned back to give thanks to his healer, that one truly entered into abundant life, entered into relationship with the source of healing that would lift and sustain him his whole life through, and beyond. God does not take away our air and water and food and health because we do not stop to give thanks for them and to the one from whom they come to us. But to know the source and to transform ourselves by entering into grateful relationship with that Source, that changes everything. We may have been used to thinking of our glasses as half-empty, or even half-full. Suddenly when we return and give thanks, we find them overflowing and joyful in a way that has little to do with whether we are rich or poor. And we hear God saying to us, “Knowing this, then how shall you live your life?”

We today hear the prophets giving answer -- over ancient  centuries describing and modeling the enduring ways of right living – of justice, charity, bold advocacy, self-giving, and gratitude, and of seeing the world as the reign of God – a grain measure, filled up, spilling over into our laps. We need not be anxious, in fact, we are summoned to be bold, brave, open-handed, open-hearted, especially when this seems tough to do. But we are accountable to God for whether we live kindly and generously or not.

In these economic hard times for many, Luke’s Gospel Gospel slant seems really useful, saying: Get your priorities straight:

*Put relationships first. Build up connections of community.

*Care generously for the poorest who can’t make it without your help.

*Be trustworthy and honest in even your small dealings.

*Be sensible and practical, but also generous, non-anxious, and compassionate.

*Do the best you can with what you have - knowing that you are the bursar, not the safe-deposit-box - that your wealth must pass through your hands for the good of the whole community, and that this is good for you, too, in this life and the next.

*Jesus also said in several ways and various times- remember you can’t take it with you when you die, and God is going to ask for an accounting of what you’ve done with your wealth!) Make a will, but don’t wait till you’re dead to know the joy of living generously!

*Know at every point that God is number One in your life, and not your money, and be thankful. And you will be transformed.

These are good principles and strategies for our parish financial decision-making and stewardship as well as our individual choices and actions. Likely they would do well for our state and nation, too. So in these Stewardship campaign weeks especially - but always - pray and discern wisely about use of the resources entrusted to you - and do use them. Pledge generously to your church’s work. Give to the charities you find vital and efficient. Use them to care prudently for yourself and your loved ones. Beyond sensible savings, don’t sit on your wealth or bury it in your backyard. Talk to each other honestly and frankly about money- yours and the parish’s. There are no taboos in Christian conversation about our finances. It’s all on the table for inspection and question. Talk about what makes you anxious and what makes you glad, and what God is calling you and us together to do and to be. Talk about what relationships matter and how best to serve and preserve them. Talk about the righteous care of creation. And - as St. Julian of Norwich famously said: in the love of God, “all shall be well and all manner of thing be well.”





WEEKLY SCHEDULE                          

Office Hours:  
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Thursday 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Wednesday: Holy Eucharist 10:00 a.m. 
Sunday: 8:00 a.m. & 10:00 a.m.

This is St. John's Episcopal Church...

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 2016:

Sunday, October 23:
8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist
10:00 a.m. Blessing of the Animals 

Tuesday, October 18:
7:00 p.m. Bible Study followed by Compline @ 8:30

Wednesday, October 19:
10:00 a.m. Eucharist

Wednesday, October 19:
A Concert of Russian Vocal Music

LYRA is coming! October 19th we will again enjoy a concert of Russian a cappella sacred and traditional music, open to the public, starting at 7pm. We may have the privilege of hosting the musicians for two nights – if your household can provide bed and breakfast for a musician, please speak to Jennifer. It’s a great opportunity to start an international friendship and learn about another culture.
LYRA brings professional musicians from choirs and concert halls in St. Petersburg around the world to introduce their music and costume and vibrant spirit to new audiences. Most are conservatory-trained, some are students. Lyra in Russian means inspiration, and you are sure to find their visit inspiring. Let’s show them real American hospitality



 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.