September 22,  10:00 a.m.
Holy Eucharist

Pentecost 14, Proper 19C 9-15-19                                                   St. John's Church

Rev'd Jennifer Phillips                   

Jer.4:11-12,22-28; 1 Tim.1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10


Our lives are so full of lost things and lost people...more and more as we get older. Today's Scripture readings invite us to think a bit about our experiences of losing and finding; of being, ourselves, lost and found.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote, full of grief and bitterness, sure that God Godself shared the disappointment, rage and grief he was feeling. He speaks for God who desires to be merciful, but is looking for a change of heart from the people of the kingdom of Judah: "I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger. For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back." You noticed God saying "yet, I will not make a full end"? God is exasperated but has not given up on these wayward folk. There is room for them to return and allow themselves again to be found and cherished. The harshness they've brought on their own heads can be transformed with some effort. Mercy is patient. Psalm 14 lays out the process for restoration through repentance.

The 2nd century author of the Letter of Timothy wrote from a moment in which his own grief and guilt for a corrupt life had been transformed into a sense of joy for lovingkindness received and change of life made possible by that grace. He said: "though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence... I received mercy, so that in me,...Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life."

The little portion of Luke's Gospel shows us some critics of Jesus who are outraged that this Jewish teacher, one of their own community, is hanging out, teaching, and even sharing meals with some people that they regard as worthless - deserving to be lost and beneath notice. We mostly see them through the lens of the old story as arrogant, contemptuous, and angry. But in human terms, maybe we also spend a moment reflecting how sad it is - what grief of loss can come - when they, or any of us, shut someone else out of our hearts. It seems like it would be easier if we put up walls leaving those others outside, but it takes more energy than we imagine to man the barricades against them, without ever working through our animosity to make some room for forgiveness and mercy. This is not to say that one can or should take all the boundaries down that keep some safe space from abusers and those who wish us harm. Nations and hearts need some boundaries and limits of conduct and thoughtful negotiation of right relationship. But the heart- and mind- walls and barriers that exclude people we judge as unworthy, impure, and contemptible  -- those cost and damage us, too, more than we know.

So Jesus paints two vignettes of urgent searching after something precious that has been lost - a lamb, a coin -- to stress that the joy of finding, the joy of being reconnected with what has been absent, is huge. Even the angels throw a party when a lost one is found! So it's clear that Jesus' shared meals with those labeled outcasts and sinners are full of the joy of reunion and reconnection that spring from forgiveness and mercy. And - parentheses - forgiveness and mercy are for us effortful. In the story there is hiking and sweeping that has to happen first, after noticing that something (or someone) has been lost.

In those ancient times, but for us, now as well, in our own lives and times, so much seems alienated, lost, and a cause for sorrow and suffering. We've just passed the anniversary of 9/11 and maybe you felt, as I did, that we don't really need to see all those horrific images again, while we are also inundated with images of crushed and washed away Bermuda and parts of our South Coast, and the suffering and grief of those and many other losses.

As the teacher Steven Levine wrote[1]:"When we survive an event that others did not, sometimes the reason we don't quite know where to put our feet is that we can't even believe we still have feet." We share communal and daily grief under the load of images and words of past disasters - wars our parents and grandparents fought in, newsreel from eighteen years ago, last week, or just last night. And we often feel so tightly tied to those we love who have died, while we go on. All we can do when their faces come to us - in memory or on film - is wish them well from our hearts and trust them to the same mercy we wish for ourselves. The pain of the past is done and cannot be helped by adding our suffering to it. There is trouble we can help with - and should, and there is trouble we cannot help, except by allowing ourselves quiet hearts and making room for mercy to work for others and for ourselves.

"Everyone still alive is a survivor. And the price of survival is the grief and praise and lamentation and delight for what has come before, for what has led us to this very moment. And here we are, alive and sad, alive and happy, alive and confused [any or all of those]-- bewildered but alive." And so, we are -in a ceremonial way - about to throw a feast! It's good to be alive! Take a deep breath. If there is someone, some ones, whose loss pains you at the moment, wish them well from your heart. Someone whose suffering you wish you could, but cannot right now fix? Wish for them peace and help; surround them with your heart's compassion. Someone who has gone ahead of you in death to whom you still cling? Let your heart wish them release and Godspeed and joy in the divine presence until you meet again. And you - you are a survivor and you are one of Jesus' own who has been and is found! Wish yourself the mercy and forgiveness and loving delight that the angels feel about that, that God feels about that! And, as the Risen Jesus said to his friends who were mourning his death, as they came in from fishing and spotted him on the beach making a barbecue for them: "Come and have breakfast!"

[1] Unattended Sorrow, Rhinebeck, NY: Monkfish Pub. Co., 2005

 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 2018:

Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. Phillips
  Jennifer reads her poetry at our Arts Festival                                                                                                                                    

Tuesday, September 17, 7:00 p.m.                      in the rectory, followed by compline at 8:30

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

Friday September 20: City Hall Plaza Boston, 9-3, Global Climate Strike rally to kickoff a week of climate-saving action. Would you like to be part of a parish group to attend at least part of this day's rally? Info:

Saturday, September 21, 8:00 a.m. - 11:0 0a.m.: Middle School youth help at the Norwood Food Pantry

Sunday, September 22, 10:00 a.m.:
Holy Eucharist

K -5 and High School classes 

Also on September 22: Westwood Interfaith mini-Walk for Hunger, All ages are encouraged to join in this  interfaith fundraiser! The walk is a fun way to help Project Bread. St. John's will also be delivering our September food donations that afternoon. 

You can walk, sponsor someone else who's walking, or bring healthy, non-perishable food donations to church this Sunday! Thank you!

Looking ahead:

Wednesday, September 25: 3:30 pm departure, 7:15 p.m. back to St. John's: High School youth serve  dinner @ Epiphany School dinner in Dorchester

When online shopping with Amazon, please consider supporting St. John's Protestant Episcopal Church by using amazonsmile.  For more information, click the link below.

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. 

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.

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!