Rev. Jennifer Phillips on vacation from 10/3 - 10/10

In the case of pastoral emergencies, please contact Rev. Chris Dodge: 781-956-2411 or Rev. Stephanie Salinas: 781--690-9933 

            No Wednesday Eucharist on October 7

October 11: 10:00 AM: Holy Eucharist Rite II, 
Rev. Dr. H. Paul Santmire preaching:

The Rev. Dr. H. Paul Santmire is a pastoral theologian and practitioner in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and served for 3 decades as chaplain and lecturer at Wellesley College.  Widely recognized as a forerunner in ecological theology, he has published five major studies in that field, beginning with Brother Earth:  Nature, God, and Ecology in a Time of Crisis (1970).  His most recent work is Before Nature:  A Christian Spirituality (2014).     

October 11 @ 4:00 PM: Blessing of the Animals and Children's Service

Saturday, October 17: Workshop on Stress in Children & Adolescents, 9:30 - 1:00 PM at St. John's 

 Tuesday, October 27 at 10 AM at the rectory: book group will discuss “Ordinary Grace” by Krueger


Pentecost 18, Proper 21B RCL             9/27/15                 
Rev’d Jennifer Phillips   Esther 7:1-10;9:20-22;Jas5:13-20;Mk9:38-50

The politically subversive Book of Esther was banned and burned by Hitler early in the days of his power as a piece of “dangerous Jewish mythology”! A Jew, an underdog, a woman, an exile, and in effect a slave becomes the agent of the liberation of her people and the execution of a xenophobic bully. Small wonder it was considered dangerous to tell!

Queen Esther is a young Jewish girl living in Persia who is gathered (forcibly) into the harem of King Ahasuerus where she finds favor and wins the affection of the king and is made queen. Those in the palace are apparently unaware that Esther is Jewish, or that her only relative her uncle Mordecai, is working in the king’s employ. The backdrop to today’s reading from the wonderful book bearing Esther’s name, is that a prominent enemy, Haman, has become outraged that Esther’s uncle Mordecai, who is palace gatekeeper, refuses to bow down to him as he passes. Haman decides to have all Jews in the Persian empire killed at the end of a year as revenge for this slight and manipulates the king into signing an irrevocable royal decree to this effect. In the most moving moment from the story of Esther, Mordecai speaks privately to his niece, urging her to use her influence with the king to spare the Jews. Esther is terrified. To go into the king’s presence without being summoned means to risk immediate execution. Mordecai pleads with her, saying: “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” 

So Esther approaches the king, who listens kindly to her, and then she plots craftily to have Haman exposed as an enemy of the crown and hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. But the story does not end as tidily as it seems from the excerpted portion we heard today. A Royal decree cannot be called back. Even the king is subject to the law in Persia, including the law he makes himself. Instead, he grants the Jews permission to gather, arm themselves, defend themselves, kill any who rise against them, and even take their opponents’ property afterwards. There is a great battle, and the well-armed minority of Jews defeat those Persians who take arms against them - a potential genocide has been averted by Esther’s courage and their self-defense.
The celebration of the feast of Purim on which Jews read Esther and cheered for the queen and booed for the villain and danced for the victory – as Jews still do on that feast - was prohibited under the Third Reich. The little Jewish harem girl turned queen Esther still had power to frighten a great bully after 5 thousand years. I think this book should be on the required reading list for teenage girls! 

But step into the story for yourself, as it questions each of us in its ancient wisdom. Few of us stand at the apex of a moment of history for a people the way Esther did, but each of us stands in our own life and at points along its way must ask ourselves: why are you on this planet? What have you to contribute…in youth, in midlife, in older age? 
We also face moments of decision and action, courage and generosity, from which we would like to shrink back because they will be costly to us, or because we feel ill-prepared, or because the possibilities of success seem so small. Old Mordecai would say to us, “Perhaps you stand in the dignity of your own life and circumstances for just this moment, just this choice.” Maybe we don’t get to know, like Esther, how much will hang on our decision, how the consequences will play out for us or for others, but we know that this moment matters. The choices matter.

Consider the lives of three of the great martyrs of our Anglican heritage commemorated in the month of October:

William Tyndale began his career comfortably as an Oxford scholar, priest, and the chaplain and tutor to a prominent household of Sir John Walsh in Gloucestershire in 1521, and then to a rich London merchant. His aspiration was to translate the Bible into English, not a venture supported by those in power. He fled to Germany pursued by the agents of Cardinal Wolsey and King Henry VIII who were determined to destroy his translation and kill him. Moving around constantly, he continued to work on his singular passion in hiding, determined that even the humblest farmer behind his plow should be able to read, hear and know the Scriptures as thoroughly as the princes of the Church. He got much of his work safely finished and preserved before he was betrayed by a friend and arrested, then strangled and burned at the stake on October 6th 1536.

Hugh Latimer was an admired preacher in England of the same century, devoted to improving the moral life of clergy and people in the pews. From a modest background, he went to Cambridge, was ordained, and became a chaplain to the King, and then Bishop of Worcester. He resigned his bishopric in protest against the King’s crushing of Reformation ideas – a resignation of protest on behalf of freedom of conscience- an act of civil and religious disobedience. At the same time, a fellow Cambridge scholar, Nicholas Ridley had become bishop of Rochester. Ridley was caught up in the new ideas of the Protestant Reformation, and assisted in the writing of the first Book of Common Prayer of 1549, and in calling for reform of the Church and clergy and righting of the social injustices perpetuated in the name of Christianity. He also was an eloquent preacher whose words swayed others. In the great turmoil that followed King Henry’s death, and the accession to the crown of the Catholic anti-reformation Queen Mary, Latimer and Ridley were convicted of heresy and both taken to be burned at the stake. Latimer’s words to his friend as they were led out side by side on October 16th 1555 have been immortalized as a testament of their courage: “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as, I trust, shall never be put out!”

The books we hear and read in our own language and hold in our hands whenever we like - the Bible, the Prayer Book - we have these treasures because of the courage and singular devotion of these men, Tyndale, Latimer, Ridley, along with a few others who also paid with their lives. Coming from ordinary circumstances, each stood in the dignity of his life in a costly choice and chose to be faithful to his vocation when he could have avoided, compromised, or given up. Like Esther, each became remarkable by standing strong in their moment for the Gospel of Christ as they understood it, and for the sake of a great good for their people --and for us who come after. 

Felix Adler has said [quoted in Guideposts, 1996, adapted], “The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for others to see by. The saint is the person who walks through the dark paths of the world himself or herself a light.” 

As we enter the season of the year when we feel the near presence of the saints and angels, the great luminaries of history, as well as the ordinary souls who have helped build up God’s reign in the world in their times, the Communion of the saints who have gone into the greater presence of God and - we believe - feast at the royal Banquet of Christ which we, too, shall join by the mercy and grace of God, I invite you to allow yourself to be questioned by your own life and time: Why might you be here in the world at this moment? What might you contribute? What is worth everything to you?   We ask these questions also collectively as a church: why are we here, in this moment, in this place? How may our life together burn brightly as a beacon so as to invite others into the joy and rich life of the Gospel?

Ask bravely, and with a sense of possibility yet ahead, no matter your age or condition. Ask also with a respect for the mystery in which, as Scripture says, our life is hidden with Christ in God, and none of us can measure the full purpose or meaning or accomplishment of our own presence as part of the fabric of divine design. Ask, listen, be of good hope, and do not be afraid to choose and to act according to your highest calling by God.

 Imagine our worship space lightened and brightened with comfortable flexible seating…. here’s a church somewhat similar to ours just to give you an idea…

1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,*

the world and all who dwell therein.

2 For it is the Lord who founded it upon the seas*

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.  – Ps. 24

St. John’s Church

Why are we planning to spend money on beautifying our worship space with color, comfortable, attractive seating, good lighting, textiles and vestments? Some will ask: shouldn’t all that money be spent on outreach, or education?

There are reasons rooted in our identity as Anglicans and Episcopalians that we care so much about our physical plant and the aesthetics of our worship.

In the history of philosophy, if you take the triad of goodness, truth and beauty: beauty is defined as wherever truth and goodness are present or longed-for. In the history of philosophy you can start with any one of the triad and look for the other two. It is our Anglican way to start with beauty, then move to goodness and truth. Our spirituality is incarnational: God came to us in a human being – Jesus. Along with Genesis’ message that God found the creation good, the incarnate God communicates that the body and pleasure are all right, and the world is not negative for the most part, even though sinfulness and mishap tarnish its beauty. God is hospitable, so God formed the creation to be not simply functional but beautiful, delightful, even elegant.

So typically, we Episcopalians do not see money spent on art, music, architecture, as a denial of care for the poor, because our experience says that if you don’t know what beauty is you are not going to live with goodness. We enter by the door of beauty - not better than the other denominations of Christians, just our starting point. Our buildings and ground matter; our music matters. These are avenues through the senses  to appreciate the sublime beauty of God.

Anglicans embrace the arts as a primary way of praying and being formed in prayer. Stained glass, poetry, painting, dance, theatre, sculpture, novels, architecture, the furnishings, flowers, vestments, and space of worship - communicate the divine to us and help us become more holy through our sensual. These are not adornments, but essentials. It makes sense to us that people spend money on making church beautiful. Our prayer is rooted in appreciation… God comes to us on every channel of our being. (Thus we also fight about our buildings and sometimes over-venerate them!) We like real bread and wine, abundant water and fragrant oil, (and lots of us like incense.) - we like things to both mean and be. We like them to be beautiful.

 Our building is ungainly – a Gothic shaped nave with modernist additions. But it is blessed with a wonderful acoustic for voices and instruments which we must preserve through the careful balance of hard and soft surfaces. It’s towers afford some nice light cast on the front wall, and some of the colors in the stained glass will form the palette for enhanced color that will be visible from every seat. We can work with our heritage to make it even more lovely, so that all who enter are moved to appreciate and to pray.


Office Hours:  Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday 9am-12pm                    
7 PM Bible Study                             
8:30 PM Compline

10:00 AM Eucharist

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 2015:

Eucharistic Visitor Training:
It is a blessing and privilege to take Communion to church members who are ill, in hospital, or unable to leave their homes to come to church. You could be trained for this tender ministry of our congregation. The Diocese is offering a training day Saturday October 24th, 9-4pm at our Cathedral Church of St. Paul (1438 Tremont Street, Boston). you may register online at <<>> or call Connie Melahoures at 508-367-0516 or 
Let Rev. Jennifer know if you would like to be licensed to take Communion from St. John’s. This is also a great way to become more comfortable visiting people who are sick or frail.