May 21, 10:00 a.m.

Easter 5A, May 14, 2017                                                                        St. John’s Church

Rev’d Jennifer Phillips                                    Acts 7:55-60; 1 Peter 2:2-10;John 14:1-14

“Drink deep of God’s pure kindness.” What an invitation! Receiving this abundant divine kindness isn’t just comfort food; it nourishes us to grow into our maturity, our full stature as human beings made in God’s likeness and called to the work of building God’s reign. You are fed! You are equipped! You are worthy of this calling.

Not only that, you are to serve in a new sort of temple, a place teeming with life and energy, not as slaves but as holy priests. “What?” you might be thinking, “I don’t feel like much of a holy person, let alone some sort of priest. But that is just what your baptism authorizes you to be and to do. You are to prepare the world as an offering to God, holy and acceptable, as are you yourself. You are to “daily lift life heavenward” in your prayers and in your actions – which together make a seamless whole. Your task is to make this life of yours, and this life we share together, and the life of the whole planet, more heavenly in every way that you can.

Start with your own pure kindness…or even kindness that sometimes isn’t so pure. Kindness is easy sometimes – with those we love, with those who touch our heart, (maybe with our Mums, if we are fortunate). Such kindness springs from the warm impulse to pout someone else’s interest ahead of our own, to seek their well-being and even their comfort and joy.

How urgently the world needs kindness just now. It needs those who believe peace is possible and pursue it. It needs those whose speech is reconciling, calm, reasoned, gentle, and encouraging – for we are surrounded by angry, blaming, denying, and hateful speech. Our children and grandchildren need kind actions and kind speech at home, and to learn that such kindness is not weakness but strength of great value. Those who might in ignorance paint swastikas on a locker, or use racial epithets (perhaps out of fear in the face of difference), or cyberbully another child out of jealousy or spite or to gain acceptance in a group of peers – need from us kind speech, kind action, kind correction. Nothing less is worthy of those Baptized into Christ. We must continue to teach children that their calling is to be priestly people – to live lives on behalf of others in the world. Some of them, I am happy to say, have been learning this kindness very effectively in your homes and in this church!

But kindness for people we don’t much love or like, kindness for people we actively dislike or fear or even hate…that’s a hard calling. We see Stephen, being beaten and dragged in the street for no particular crime – as a deacon, it was his job in the Jesus community to carry the alms and food to widows and orphans and people who were sick, bringing them the prayers and well-wishes of the household of faith. Yet, as he is being hurt and finally stoned to death with no one to help him, he is praying and sensing God nearby, and, as did Jesus on the cross, asking pardon for those who were injuring him…not later on, but right then in the moment of his own catastrophe. That is a purity of kindness that can’t be faked. It is no artifice, no attempt to curry favor, or gain advantage, just sheer goodness emerging from a heart that is habitually given to prayer. So when violence strikes, prayer is as natural to him as breathing. Fear and anger find no toehold in him. Saul, egging on the murderous gang, without even realizing it yet, is witnessing what his own life will become once God seizes hold of him and turns him around. He will learn just how potent God’s forgiveness is for the violence in which he participates on this day, and years hence, he will be called upon to invoke pardon and forgiveness on his own executioners following the example of Stephen- and Christ.

The kindness of God is beyond our measuring or imagining. We simply don’t have a frame of reference adequate for it. All we can say is: “it holds the whole universe in being, and in love”, as it holds each of us whether we know and trust it or not. We can say, with John’s Gospel, in gazing upon Jesus – Jesus teaching, healing, peacemaking, pardoning, suffering patiently, and making his dying an act of love and a gift for others – in looking at him, we see God, insofar as we are able. The vision of God beyond ordinary seeing that Stephen has, that the disciples in their secret meeting room have, is no flight into fantasy but a call to see everything made new, to look with the Spirit of God, beyond our own limits and frailties, fears and doubts.

Those of our members who made an adult profession of faith yesterday at St. Paul’s when they were Confirmed or Received into the Episcopal Church, alongside all of us there, renewed the promises others made on their behalf at their baptism, and made a fresh commitment to follow the path of Jesus, keeping themselves well-nourished with the Sacrament of the Eucharist for their priestly work of repairing the creation and offering it back to God with thanksgiving and prayer. They and we are also – Scripture tells us, living stones that comprise the new temple of God, and also we are co-builders with God of the holy structure of God’s reign. Christ is our cornerstone, and also the architect under whom we labor. And the work we do is practicing - through the divine Spirit that dwells within us - actively performing justice, loving-kindness, and prayerful action, day by day, for those near and dear, and for the stranger, the outcast, and even the enemy. You have the vocation to do this. You have the power to do this. You are God’s priestly people, you have the authority to do this. You’ve had a taste of God.


WEEKLY SCHEDULE                          

Office Hours:  
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Thursday 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Wednesday: Holy Eucharist 10:00 a.m. 
Sunday: 10:00 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 2017:

Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. Phillips

Tuesday, May 16:
7:00 p.m. Bible Study

Wednesday, May 17:
10:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist

Sunday, May 21:
10:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist




 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.