December 15, 10:00 a.m.

Advent 2A*  12-8-19                                                                            St. John's Church

Rev’d Jennifer Phillips                                      Isa.11:1-10;Rom.15:4-13;Matt.3:1-12

John the Baptist seems to have been the kind of man you might admire from a distance but you wouldn’t want in your own family or at your dinner table. Irascible- a grouch. Extreme in his personal habits and religious practices. When the effectiveness of the message he is preaching brings some unexpected fans to be baptized – some well-educated and probably comfortably-off members of the Jewish community who made the journey through the back-country all the way (on donkeys, on camels, or on foot) to the Jordan river to be washed and cleansed from their sins, he lambastes them: “You brood of vipers! You may think you are important, but God can replace you in a heartbeat” I am guessing they didn’t make big pledges to his ministry after that.

As is my responsibility and part of my canonical mandate as your rector– Feeling a bit like John the Baptist, and at the close of stewardship season, too - but as is my canonical mandate as your parish priest – I remind you in this Advent season of preparation to make plans for the end of your life, if you haven't done so. 

Boeing has been in the news. I've been on a plane over the Atlantic that hit clear air turbulence and dived 10,000 feet in a minute - trust me, it wonderfully concentrates the mind! Ten minutes later, the co-pilot came walking up the aisle calmly, looking out the windows to inspect the wing surfaces to make sure we weren't missing anything vital. Apart from some minor injuries to people walking about, and some broken glass in the luggage, we landed safely in Paris. Hmm…If you are the parents or guardians of minor children, or grandparent advising your children who have young children -be sure you have made legal provision for their care if all the guardians should die unexpectedly.

Awhile back, two churches stood in neighboring towns of Cloverdale and New London, Illinois. A tornado ripped through their towns in twenty minutes and both were destroyed leaving little but matchwood. Remember your church in your estate planning so there will be endowment provision for its future. Consider your parish like one of your children who will go on after you, doing the good you believe in.

In the path of those same storms two women took refuge in their closets. One died in the collapse of her house and closet, the other survived unscathed in her hiding-place despite massive damage to her home. If you have not made a will, whether you are young or advanced in years, rich or poor, make one and file a copy with an attorney and a copy with your relatives. Even a sturdy closet is not an adequate provision for disaster.

You are not a brood of vipers, by the way! But bad stuff happens! John the Baptist got his head cut off and served up on a platter through the just plain spite and politicking of an enemy. Plan for the worst case…and then when you have done that, hope for the best!

In Paul’s Letter to the Romans we have been reminded that Holy Scriptures were written “for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by [their] encouragement…we might have hope.” In that Spirit we glimpse (as we did 2 weeks back in another bit of the same book,) the lovely images of Isaiah’s “peaceable kingdom” where the animals are no longer governed by predation and children play safely and the one who leads is righteous, wise, just, and kind –so that all peoples can see God at work. The royal psalm 72- perhaps composed for a king’s coronation – prays for those same qualities – that the leader practicing them will follow a peaceful path. I suspect nothing matters more than that we choose leaders of good character who embody the values and virtues we want for our nation - that and a modicum of good sense! We are those endeavoring, longing to trust that God will empower us to move toward that kind of future by practicing those virtues ourselves, in whatever walk of life we find ourselves. We do our best to live as though God’s reign were already accomplished, but not walking without prudence – we reasonably carry our pepper spray when we are walking near the lion’s den, and check the credentials of the charities to which we donate. The peaceable kingdom isn't arrived just yet. But practice the virtues befitting God's Holy Reign, namely:

If you are a child- play fair, don’t be mean, be a good friend, respect people and animals around you. Learn as much as you can and never stop learning. A teacher asked the class, “Which is more important, the sun or the moon?” A youngster answered, “The moon, because the moon shines in the night so we can see but the sun only shines in the daytime when we don’t need the light.”

If you are a teen – practice forgiving those who hurt you instead of hitting back. Respect does not equal power and force. Be strong in patience. Befriend those whom others pass by. Stand with the weak one who is bullied or scorned. Share the good stuff you have with some who don’t have as much. And - a gem of wisdom for you - “what do you do when you see two snails fighting? Leave them to slug it out.”

If you are a young adult - Keep learning with humility. Make important decisions carefully. Reign in desires and impulses and don’t get carried away by the foolish moment – like the guy who seized the moment of exuberance when his team won, slid down the stadium stair-railing, overshot the end and landed on some poor man in the stands below who may now have to deal with brain damage for the rest of his life. Practice being your best and wisest self. You’ve heard about the teenage girl who shopped at the mall and stopped at the perfume counter. She examines bottles called, “My Sin”, “Desire”, and “Ecstasy”. She says to the salesperson, “I don't want to get emotionally involved...I just want to smell nice.”

If you are in mature adulthood – practice the wisdom of self-giving for the next generations, of wise repair and care of the earth and its treasures. Pace yourself for the endurance-race of life and keep a cane handy. Care kindly for the even-elders who are facing constant loss in their life-stage. When people become ancient, they  need some new, younger  friends, because the old ones are likely gone. Carry on leading bravely. And as one church bulletin cheerfully suggested to its parishioners: “Don’t let worry kill you. Let the church help.”

If you are getting up there in years yourself– practice graceful letting go; accept help in ways that honor those who are trying to give it even if they are really annoying; keep rejoicing in the good, releasing regrets and resentment, counting the blessings, and making new friendships with great appreciation. Dare to believe that good things lie ahead for you, even when your knees creak. Like not having people expect you to fix everything that goes wrong in the church crawl-space. Oh- and you heard the one about the man who goes in to his doctor and says, “I must be getting old. I forget my car keys. I get to the market and forget what I came to buy. I get to the checkout desk and find I have forgotten my wallet. Is there anything I can do.” To which his doctor replies, “Yes. Pay me in advance.”

The poet Maya Angelou, of beloved memory, said that “courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” The ancient Stoic philosophers thought so, too. Mother Teresa of Calcutta famously said: “God has not called me to be successful, but to be faithful.”  Steadfast faithfulness needs a lot of courage, and Jesus was fond of saying, "Take heart. Don't be afraid. Be of good courage!" I am also fond of a saying of Winston Churchill: “Success is tumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

This is Advent: not just the season or fretting and planning, but the season of hope and joyful expectation! Really! “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

 95 Deerfield Ave
 Westwood, MA 02090

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 2019-2020:

Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. Phillips

Sunday, December 15, 10:00 a.m.:
K-5 and Middle School classes
Pageant Rehearsal right after church, approx. 11:20 - Noon
Upcoming Pageant Rehearsals:
Saturday, December 21: 10 - 11:30 a.m.
Sunday, December 22: 9:15 a.m. run-through before the 10:00 Pageant

Tuesday, December 17, 7:00 p.m.: Bible Study in the Rectory,  followed by Celtic style Compline, 8:30 p.m. 

Wednesday, December  18, 10:15 a.m.:
Holy Eucharist

Celebrate Christmas at St. John's!
Dec. 22, 4th Sunday of Advent: Children's Nativity Pageant 10 am
Dec. 24, Christmas Eve Family Communion with Carols and Candlelight 5 pm
Dec. 25, Christmas Day Communion 9 am
Dec. 29, Christmas 1 - keep celebrating the 12 Days! 10 am
Dec. 31, Feast of the Holy Name Communion 6:00 pm - start the New Year with God!
    ...and mark your calendar Jan. 26 Parish Annual Meeting after church & International Potluck  lunch - bring a dish of your ancestors to share. We'll work a bit and laugh a lot.

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Christian Discipleship in Action via St. John’s

Come join in:

Oasis Ministrieswe cook and serve a monthly hot chicken dinner to about 60 homeless neighbors at Old West Church in 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. 

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.

Prayer Shawlsknitting 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.

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