Sunday, February 7, 10:00AM
St. John’s Church, Westwood Rev’d Jennifer Phillips Jer.1:4-10; Ps 71:21-6; 1 Cor.13:1-13;Lk 4:21-30
Epi 4C 1-31-16 Annual Meeting
Jesus discovers the honeymoon is over. One moment they are amazed and singing his praises. The next, they are complaining about his family, his job performance, and his innate defects…and they are ready to chase him to the cliff-top and hang him by the neck from it, as the Greek says pungently! And between the lines, he is also complaining about his flock: no respect, no honor, no granting of the benefit of the doubt! This is not a happy mutual ministry review. Mine is happier and less dangerous! I have been with you just short of a year, since arriving with the last big snow. Some of you have been asking me privately: “How are you finding us at St. John’s? Are we what you expected?”
Your calling committee did well in depicting you as a church to me. You are warm, appreciative, with a committed core of long-term members who carry the biggest part of the leadership load on their shoulders. You who have built up this congregation by your faithfulness and hard work and prayer for a decade and more are truly a treasure I was warned about summers in the suburbs; how 189 worshipers in May become 97 in June and many don’t show up again until mid-September. Still it was a bit of a shock, and hard for our summer first-time visitors to see not a child in the mix some Sundays, having heard about our vibrant youth and children’s ministry. Extending the feeling of community to newcomers is very tough, even with a full-time rector, with a very part-time congregation.
I am in awe of the deep commitment you as a church have to outreach and mission, a sign of much health. So many of you, youth included, feed hungry people at Oasis and Abundant Table and the Mattapan Center for Life and Westwood Pantry, B-SAFE lunches, the Ecclesia picnic, not to mention parish potlucks and social gatherings. You tutor children and gather school supplies at Epiphany School, support kids at Glorious Orphanage in Tanzania, send your young people to learn from homeless men and women at CityReach with piles of winter clothing to give, and many of you are wonderful parents and devoted grandparents, aunties and uncles to children in your own family. Those children from very young make cards and Easter gift bags for frail seniors. It’s been fun to do these things with you. A huge underpinning of this
outpouring of generous labor is the work of Emily Sugg and I can’t imaging a finer partner in ministry than Emily! Or a more effective Senior warden than Vic – and a fine vestry and officers. Well done everyone! I know those many of you who become hands and feet for Christ in this work find you are blessed beyond any expectation.
The downside of the commitment and energy and hard work you not only do, but teach and believe in is a along with the social location and privilege many enjoy here, is a chronic exhaustion, ever-more demanding jobs, and children for whom school, sports, and striving are becoming toxic. We all do well to pause, to come apart and pray regularly, and enjoy one another and God, and to ask ourselves, “When does the cost become too high for us, for our children, for our grades and promotions, trophies and victories, stimulating and enriching activities of every sort?” I know some of you wrestle inwardly with this, desiring balance and health. One of the callings of ours as Christians is to ask always, “what is most important? What do we owe God, our families, our friendships, and our souls? What really brings life?
The Apostle Paul penned a timeless hymn to love, the words of which have become almost trite, so often are they heard at weddings. I chose the J.B. Phillips (no relation of mine!) version so you might hear it freshly today. Paul didn’t write this for a marrying couple; he wrote it for a community –one being split at its seams by difference, by the runaway arrogance and bossiness of some people and the frailty of others, and above all by back-biting, gossip, and resentfulness of more than a few. I am delighted to say I do not – repeat, do not experience these behaviors among you. Well, a little touchiness, once in awhile, maybe…. You are kind, grown-up, and truth-speaking people, and I thank God for you.
I think a few of you (who shall remain nameless) were old hippies of the Woodstock generation – flowers, mud, grass, electric guitars, great idealism, picketing and marching against the Vietnam war, or getting shipped off to serve in it! My fellow Baby-boomers may now be a bit jaded, wake up with achy joints, feel some contempt toward the government, and wish others would take up the mantle of high ideals – though I don’t want to speak for you! Most of you have done well in life, even very well, worked hard and still are. Might it be that that precious and limited energy you have, that comfortable resource you have developed, and the power and social standing you have whether you realize it or not, might be harnessed better to go downtown to meet with legislators and insist on better performance?
Say to them things like, “Don’t you get it that, (as the Secretary of HUD says,) it costs $40,451 a year (in 1999 – more now) to taxpayers to provide support services to a mentally ill homeless person living on the streets compared to $24,170 to keep them in supportive long-term decent housing?” "We learned that you could either sustain people in homelessness for $35,000 to $150,000 a year, or you could literally end their homelessness for $13,000 to $25,000 a year," he said. I believe we can’t afford homelessness as a society; we must not accept it humanly! It is good that this congregation feeds people; it would be better if we could put a dent in hunger. Over 48 million households including over 125 million children and over 5 million seniors live in chronic food insecurity in the USA. These people are sicker, absent from school and work more often, unhappier and less likely to build good lives than people with reliably enough to eat. It is morally unacceptable and socially unnecessary for this suffering. We are among the people with the power, the education, the transportation, to be able to insist on change. Do not permit the demands of the daily grind, the wealth of exciting experiences, or even the lowered energy of age, or fear, to prevent you from lobbying, speaking up, urging the youngers, to change these conditions. It is plain good sense. It is good economics. It is the right thing to do. How long shall we put up with lawmakers and business leaders who dawdle and obstruct and distract from what matters. If we want, as a certain person keeps saying, America to “Be great!” this is what will take us in the right direction. It can be easier and vastly more gratifying to serve a meal in a soup kitchen than to go face one of the dim bulbs, or even one of the harried good guys that we have elected to office and entrusted with government! Keep asking, “what will help most?”
As God said to Jeremiah, might God be saying to us: “You shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you”. “Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything.” So, little St. John’s, Westwood, let’s see what we can do to stop those ‘throwing the bodies in upstream’. And teach the children and the grandchildren this! Get several churches together to practice this!
Younger members: your lives are so jam-packed; you are balancing a lot. For a long time the grandparental generation has been keeping the infrastructure of your church going – they won’t be here to do that for ever. For the good wood work to go on for our grandchildren, for the loving community to go on, it is necessary that thirty- and forty-somethings in larger number step up and take a turn to lead in your church.
Everyone is busy. Just about everyone has a demanding job and a family, growing kids, aging parents. Pretty much everyone goes skiing, boating, goes to the shore or the mountains or Europe or the Caribbean, goes to the golf course and the stable, etcetera – and you need play and vacations. Nonetheless, there must be leaders for a church to survive, let alone thrive. And there must be time set aside for our children to stop and pray with their parents, to go apart on retreat and be silent, and to learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit with the same attention they give to their sport. That skill of finding outer and making inner silence needs to be learned and practiced, so that when life is overwhelming, when losses hit, when sickness and death approach, when they lose their way, they will have the ability and habit of immersing themselves in God’s abiding presence. Tell their coaches, their principals and teachers, that the spiritual life of your child is vitally important and needs time and community on a regular basis; insist on it. “What does the Lord require,” the prophet Micah asked – and answered, “to love kindness, to do justice, and to walk with God humbly.” The deck of our culture and times is stacked against the handing on of faith to our grandchildren, against the survival of churches like this one. How, then, shall we keep church thriving? What shall be our priorities? You are not unusual across the American churches in these challenges, but they are urgent here.
There is so much to love in this community; you deserve good leadership, celebratory times, safe and attractive facilities, and a good name in the wider community. These are worthy aspirations and I am honored to serve God alongside you. Getting to know you is a joyful journey for me and I hope for you. Thank you! God bless you.
Wednesday, February 10, Ash Wednesday
This is St. John's Episcopal Church...
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Tuesday, February 9th
The annual St. John’s Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper will take place at the home of Tammy and Dan MacDonald. Please join us for a supper of pancakes, bacon, fruit and dessert and celebrate “Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday.”
Tammy and Dan are providing the pancakes, and there are a few of us providing bacon and sausage. We need beverages, fruit and dessert. When you respond, please let us know what are able to bring.
There will be plenty Mardi Gras decorations for the kids, and a talent show!
Please RSVP to Sharon Ricci at email@example.com or (781) 710-4903
All are welcome! If you need a ride, please speak to Rev. Jennifer.
Time: 6:15 PM
Location: Tammy and Dan MacDonald 16 Hawktree Drive Westwood, MA
Sunday, February 28 - Pot-luck Supper
Women of St. John's: Please join us for a pot-luck supper in the Narthex on Sunday, February 28th, at 5:00 p.m. Sign-up sheets are posted in the Narthex so you can indicate what you are planning to bring.
Randa Khuri will be presenting a short summary of her heritage, her Palestinian background and the transition which changed her life.
We look forward to seeing you on the 28th.
Jackie Collier, Randa Khuri & Brenda Martin
Saturday, February 27 - Concert to Benefit the World Food Program
I would like to invite you to a benefit concert that Medford's Grace Episcopal Church is holding on to help feed Syrian refugees by funding the World Food Program. In addition to music, we'll have some interfaith prayer, a Syrian supper, a silent auction, and some activities for children. Go to http://gracemedford.org/syrian-relief for more information and to buy tickets on-line. If you are unable to attend, please consider supporting the event by making a donation through the website.
Many thanks.----Catherine Smith
Would you like to support one of our Parishioner for a great cause?
Kristen Boger is running the Boston Marathon to raise money for Hale Reservation summer camper-ships for children from the city. If you'd like to support this great cause, check out her link
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.