Sunday, January 20: 10:30 a.m./Cancelled due to snow/weather
We worship with our partner parish, Church of the Holy Spirit

There will be a service at St. John’s for those who can safely get there this Sunday. 10:00 a.m.

Epi + 1, Feast of the Baptism, Jan. 13, 2019                                   St. John's Church

Rev'd Jennifer Phillips                            Isa.43:1-7; Acts 8:14-17; Lk.3:15-17, 21-22

I am baffled by the lectionary designers' decision to clip out the line about King Herod and his misdeeds on this Sunday, so I put it back in. All of the Gospels describe rather similarly Jesus' baptism in the river Jordan by the prophet John the Baptist (reputedly Jesus' own cousin). John was the one who likely went off to join the strange Jewish cult of the Essenes near the Dead Sea, which, since I was a 1960s child, always makes me think of those folk like the Beatles going off to follow the Maharishi Mahesh yogi, to the shock of their good orthodox parents. Very fringey ascetical Jewish breakaway group, and looking at John, (the food, the clothes, the sandals, the long hair & beard...were there beads?) that seems very possible! Then John himself goes on the road and develops quite a following as an itinerant preacher of radical repentance and ritual washing, and starts laying down the law to some powerful people. The normally missing verse, which you got to hear today, tells us that Herod who was carrying on scandalously at court with his brother's wife just because he was a king and he could (and she was ambitious), was told off by John and Herod did not appreciate it. Herod did not repent or get dipped in the river. He Had John thrown in prison, and - even though he realized John was a pretty upright guy - his own sordid family cornered him into having John beheaded in prison and he went along for the sake of a pretty girl.

This nasty bit of the Jesus story reminds us that in the broken world, righteousness has a cost, a risk. Speaking truth to power has a price - as Martin  Luther and Martin Luther King Jr. knew; as the Apostles Peter and Paul knew; as Jesus knew. Power is self-interested and by turns scheming and capricious. Jesus would die because Governor Pilate, sandwiched between Caesar and a rebellious occupied people, knowingly did the expedient, not the righteous thing.

When I listen to the prophet Isaiah likely writing from his Exile in Egypt holding out a vision of preservation, deliverance and hope to a people already besieged and facing a long period of captivity and suffering, he makes me think of the young King Henry V as Shakespeare depicts him giving a pep talk to the troops on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt on St. Crispin's Day: 

"And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, 

From this day to the ending of the world, 

But we in it shall be remember'd; 

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; 

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me 

Shall be my brother;" 

Prince Hal holds out hope: It will be a costly fight, but we will prevail in a righteous cause; the realm will be preserved for posterity even as individual soldiers lay down their lives. Like the great and brave biblical Queen Esther, young Hal is essentially saying, "Who is to say we were not born for this very day? This very deed?"

So the first prophet 'Isaiah', some 700+ years before Jesus, hymns God's power to shield and protect God's people as a kind of triumph-song to get them through hard times still ahead. Isaiah was not naive, though he held onto an ultimate hope that restoration would follow exile. But still there always is a cost to the journey for God's people. Some will be flooded out, crushed, burned, and led away captive in the process of becoming, and recommitting to be, God's own.

Jesus comes up out of the baptismal waters ready to be launched on his three-year adult ministry ending in death and resurrection. Three years of note in his life, three years that were world-changing because of him and his choices to do God's will as he understood it: to heal, to confront the demons of craziness and corrupt power, greed and theft, hypocrisy and lying, fearfulness and violence. A really short time to make the divine light manifest in the darkness of the historic moment into which he was born. As we heard in the stories of his birth, we hear again as the backdrop at his baptism, death stalks the empire. John dies as much because of venal, capricious stupidity as political opposition; as much because of a narcissistic wound to a petty tyrant as because of any righteous message he proclaimed. Jesus baptized is noted by Eastern Orthodox Christians as the occasion in which the waters themselves are blessed anew by his passing through them - so his first act as a newly dipped person with vocation is something accomplished by his simple being there, a lesson to us who believe that vocation is only about our doing, not also about being.

A good and wise friend of mine, a political, social, environmental, and theological Christian activist and light-bearer all his life, action, always looking for the right moment for a righteous witness in recently said to me that he thought perhaps this present moment of our history might be something he hadn't previously encountered: a moment for sitting still, patiently waiting for the whirlwind to blow through and expend its energy and consume its own destructive power; that the moment for useful action and restoration might be a ways down the road. So he is standing still and praying and watching for the opportune time for action. I may still have a march left in me before I am ready to stand still, but I also am listening and watching and praying. Perhaps you too?

Sometimes it is not the vast international and national and cosmic whirlwinds we confront. Among us are those who are moving bravely through domestic whirlwinds of separation and divorce. Some are traveling the stormy road of the losses of aging, giving up beloved homes and moving into assisted living. Some are bearing up under the crushing weight of mental illness of their own or of family members, trying to stay helpful and hopeful, patient and grounded in the midst. Some are losing spouses and parents to dementia a little at a time, and are faced both with massive responsibility for their care and the grief of the incremental changes and diminishments. In those tempests, too, discernment is needed as to when to wait and when to act, and both are costly, and both are patterns of bearing the light.

We are also joyfully in the presence of young folk just setting out in their own life-changing vocations - young politicians entering the state and national fray; our own baptized dear ones becoming teachers and nurses, scientists, journalists, advocates, athletes and artists - those in whom the light lives.

Baptism isn't just a few drops of water and a "good luck" charm. Baptism calls us to jump all the way in, to turn over our lives to God's direction, to trust in the divine mystery bigger than us and anything we can yet imagine. It summons us to take risks and make commitments. Jesus' whole young life brought him to the river and the moment of choice and resolution. He knew that to be God's own, one can't hover on the edge or hold back. A journey of faith isn't something done on a workshop or an occasional free Sunday. It isn't a once-in-awhile check written to the church or a charity. It isn't watching from a safe distance and then falling in behind a successful enterprise. It is jumping all the way in, offering our lives, choosing a road and sticking with it through thick and thin. In parish life, it involves taking a share of the hands-on work and mission, making a financial commitment, taking the plunge of actual and public membership in Christ's Church, and civic engagement on behalf of the Gospel - talking the talk, walking the walk, sharing the disciplined sacramental life together. It involves the risk of jumping in. And a caveat to those at the later ages of life, courtesy of Parker Palmer [On the Brink of Everything, p. 25] who wrote: "Risk looks different from the vantage of old age. More than fearing the cost of taking risks for the things I care about, I fear aging into subservience to the worst impulses in and around me."

So in this Epiphany season, I say to you, seize hold of your own baptismal calling, whether you are just starting out or coming down the home stretch, or in the middle and holding up a faltering person beside you. Live into it whether by action or standing still, by radical repentance, by creative effort, or simple endurance. Nourish your spirit with what helps you persevere and persist: beauty, art, music, friendship, rest, sea and forest, laughter, contemplation, meditation, Marvel comics, ice cream, great novels, gardening, the stories of Jesus. Be a light-bearer: clearheaded about potential costs and brave in the face of risks, willing to claim Christ's name, trusting and hopeful of God's sustaining power and the divine trajectory toward goodness and life. And as a kind of closing prayer, I share with you this lovely poem of United Methodist Minister Jan Richardson's:

Blessed Are You Who Bear the Light 

Blessed are you who bear the light

In unbearable times,

Who testify to its endurance

Amid the unendurable,

Who bear witness to its persistence

When everything seems in shadow and grief.

Blessed are you in whom

The light lives,

In whom the brightness blazes --

Your heart a chapel,

An altar where

In the deepest night

Can be seen the fire that

Shines forth in you

In unaccountable faith,

In stubborn hope,

In love that illumines

Every broken thing it finds.






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.

Our Magi in the Christmas Pageant

Tuesday, January 15, 7:15: Bible Study at the Rectory

Wednesday, January 16, 10:15 a.m.:
Holy Eucharist

Sunday, January 20, 10:30 a.m.: We worship with our partner parish, Church of the Holy Spirit, Mattapan for their special MLK tribute service. CANCELLED due to snow/weather
There will be a service at St. John’s for those who can safely get there this Sunday. 10:00 a.m.

Looking Ahead:

Warrant for Annual Parish Meeting

of St. John's Church, Westwood, MA

to be held in the church on

Sunday January 27th, 2019

following the 10 am service and potluck brunch.


To hear reports of Officers and Organizations of the parish; to elect officers, vestry and delegates as stated in parish By-Laws and Church Canons; review and receive the 2019 budget; and to conduct such other business as may lawfully come before this meeting.

All baptized persons 16 years of age or older, who acknowledge in writing the authority of the By-laws of the Parish, and who declare their intention to aid in maintaining public worship therein and parish mission by regular attendance at such worship, and who are contributors of record, and enrolled among the Communicants in Good Standing of St. John's Church are entitled to voice and vote. Guests may speak at the meeting with permission of the Chair.

Parish Senior Warden

Bob Murphy

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!