Sunday, October 21: 10:00 a.m.

Pentecost 18,Pr23 B. October 15,2000                                            St. John's Church

Rev'd Jennifer M. Phillips                                 Amos 5:6-15;Heb.3:1-6;Mk10:17-31

 "At that saying, he was gloomy and he went away

 grieving, for he had great possessions"

 When was the last time that you stopped and felt and knew your own deep longing for God? Was it on your last vacation, watching the path the water traced against the land, or the mountains against the sky? Was it just this morning as you swam up from sleep into the turbulence of the day? Was it when someone you loved greatly walked out your door and you stood alone for a long space? Or after the delight of something new and intriguing in your life inexplicably died away and you realized you were looking around for something else? When your child went off to college or kindergarten? When a word someone spoke touched your heart to the quick and left an opening inside you that had not been there a moment before? Or watching the infinite reverence of someone beside you stretching out her hands to receive the bread of the Eucharist? Or maybe when the last note of transcendent music that showed a ladder to the sky up and down which angels were passing before your sight fell into silence? You have  longed for God, else you would not be here. Whether you have let yourself know it or not, you do  long for God.

We've heard again today that vivid story of the rich young man, a good  man himself in the ways his world counted good, and in Jesus' eyes, too, immediately loveable. So much so, that Jesus offered him exactly that one word which he most needed, the word of challenge and invitation to open his hands and let go of his possessions, and began that intense process of shock and grieving which comprise the way that we deeply invested human beings release ourselves from what we love and die from what is known into the unknown which is God's fathomless love. This is not, I am convinced, a story of failure. Rare is the human being who can walk away from everything in an instant to move toward God, though there are those people and those transformative moments of crisis in which such a decision is made, maybe to save another life or avert a catastrophe, or when someone's whole being is poised on the brink of change and ready to take flight for the sake of love.

Perhaps it took the young ruler a day, or a month, or a year, or the rest of his life to grieve all the stuff and status he had acquired and to bit by bit let it go. What Jesus confronted him with was the place of his own deepest longing for God, and the particular obstacle that lay in its path: with his life work, in the truest sense.

And those listeners to the story were meant also to be shaken by the reminder that, despite their own efforts at goodness, "the first shall be last and the last, first", that God's logic and order is radically different from what we expect. We too are met by the divine invitation -- in that off balance place where we don't know if we are first, last, or lost in the middle, in which we can't calculate our own virtue nor the abyss of our own sinfulness, where we can even less judge anyone else.  We are cast back on our longing for God at the point at which all we have and know is being taken away. We jump forward into a deep commitment to follow Jesus into unknown places, wherever God leads, whatever the cost. Or perhaps we are blessed with lands and friends and kin, but there are also those "persecutions" to remind us that what we have, we have temporarily, precariously, accompanied by suffering, destined for loss and grieving. Those persecutions and losses remind us: don't invest all your hope in stuff or status. It will all pass away. It's not what really matters.

Over time, for any one of us, the little deaths of loss and failure, those pressures to have more and rise higher, and to hold on tighter to it all, can add up and gain momentum and bulk and begin to obscure that opening of longing for God. It can happen to whole groups- even churches - anxiety of loss and not having enough, pressure to succeed or grow, fear of change and letting go. Fear of losing, of not having enough, of failing, of others we think might diminish our portion, can drive us to close in and turn away, angry, resentful, or even grieving, like the rich young man.

The prophet Amos speaks scathingly of those who steal from the needy and amass property at the expense of the poor. Those efforts of ours to stave off our losing and dying by accumulating cushioning of possessions, or by walling out the needs of others, also obscure that  channel of grace and healing from God, like large stones piled over a well. The water of our desire for salvation may still seep out and muddy the ground, for it cannot be entirely stopped by all that rubble, but it does not function as a watersource for a deep drink of healing and nourishment as it could.

We enter the church season of stewardship- a time for taking stock. As I heard the Gospel story, I wondered what would have been the young man's response if Jesus had said to him (as the church says to us according to tradition): Go, sell 10% of what you own and earn and give it to the poor, and to the work of your worshipping community. Would he have gone away sorrowing? Or made a counter-offer: How about if I give one percent? Or give you a few dollars in those weeks I have time to come and see you?

Today, I invite you to stop and attend, to follow the trickle of your thirst for God's love and healing and strength, to clear away the stones of hurt and disappointment and anger and offense, of anxiety and drivenness, if you have gathered them. Perhaps you may feel the weight of what you own, or crave, and feel the call to let go and follow after Jesus more freely. Perhaps you will feel the loving and challenging words of Jesus, looking at you and loving you,  naming your place of blockage, or the treasure you cling to that you are not willing to let go that  keeps you in some way from longing for God and realizing God's longing for you, and the life of generosity into which Christ calls you.  

Maybe you will offer a word of confession or petition for help. And then you will come forward for the primary Sacrament of healing and renewal in our Christian life: the Bread and Wine of new life and forgiveness, our Holy Communion with God and each other.

Under and over and through all the prayers of your heart, make room for this one: Blessed and Holy God, teach me to long for you. Let me prize and desire you above everything. Help me to love you. Help me to know your endless love for me, making me whole. Free me to be generous, that I may help manifest your love for all humankind and all that you have made. Kindle in me the joy of your Resurrection life that awaits me when I let go. Come, Blessed One! 



WEEKLY SCHEDULE                          

Sunday Worship: 10:00  a.m. 
Wednesday Eucharist: 10:15 a.m 

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 2018:

Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. Phillips
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Jennifer joins us at the Norwood Sports Center for bowling with members of Ecclesia Ministries.

Sunday, October 21, 10 a.m.:  Holy Eucharist

Wednesday, October 17, 10:15 a.m.: Holy Eucharist​ 

Monday, October 15th, 7-9 p.m.: at First Parish of Westwood: a multi-faith Women’s evening program: Women In Faith Leadership - speakers and round-table conversation about women’s leadership callings, experiences and roles.
Tuesday, October 16, 7:00 - 8:15 p.m.: Bible Study, followed by Celtic style Compline service at 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 20, 8:00 - 10:45 a.m.: Middle School youth volunteer at the Norwood Food Pantry

Looking Ahead:
Sunday, October 28, 10:00 a.m.:
Holy Eucharist
K-5  and High School classes 

Christian Discipleship in Action via St. John’s

Come join in:

Oasis Ministrieswe cook and serve a monthly hot chicken dinner to about 100 homeless neighbors in downtown Boston on 2nd Mondays.

Ecclesia outreachwe invite homeless and poor neighbors from Boston to Hale Reservation for a summer picnic and for a Spring bowling afternoon in Norwood.

Tutoring after-school reading and homework help for city children at Church of the Holy Spirit, Mattapan on Tuesday afternoons.

Pantry support for the Westwood Food Pantry and the Center for Life elderly housing complex in Mattapan – bring non-perishable groceries to church year round.

Habitat for Humanity home buildcoming soon, a St. John’s team to help build an affordable home in Westwood.

Prayer Shawlsknitting group prayerfully makes shawls for people facing illness or crisis.

Urban Promise Honduras missioners from St. John’s & CHS travel to learn and work with children at a school in Copan every few years.

Boston B-SAFE summer program our team works during a July week each year to provide meals and a field trip & picnic for this large city children’s program.

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.

Speak to Rev. Jennifer if you’d like to put your discipleship to work in one or more of these parish ministries!

Old West Church Boston: Our new site for our monthly Oasis Dinner