April 22, 10:00 a.m.
Fourth Sunday After Easter

Easter 3B* 4/22/18                                                                             St. John's Church

Rev’d Jennifer Phillips                              Acts 3:12-19;Ps.4;1 Jn 3:1-7;Lk 24:36-48

Have you ever not believed the evidence of your own eyes? After Easter day, after the women visit the empty tomb and run to tell the male disciples what they have found, over fifty days as the Gospel traditions tell us, a risen Jesus kept appearing to individuals and groups of followers in a variety of places, and in a manner that baffled and terrified them and utterly changed their lives:

*Mary Magdalene first sees Jesus in the garden of his tomb and she – of all people who were so close to Jesus during his life as to know him intimately –mistook him for the gardener until he spoke her name.

*On an unnamed hill in Galilee, Jesus appeared to eleven of his disciples at once, and Matthew tells us, “they worshipped him, but some doubted,” (28:16) and he commissioned them to go and make disciples of all ethnicities and nations.

*On a road between Jerusalem and Emmaeus, two disciples found themselves talking about the arrest and death of Jesus to a stranger on the road, and analyzing the Jewish Scriptures over quite a period of time as they walked together in which it appeared that the stranger was connecting in a fresh way prophetic writings from Hebrew Scripture to the expectation of a Messiah, and yet these two good souls did not recognize their own teacher until they sat at dinner with him and watched him break bread and bless the cup of wine as he had done in his last meal with them. Then, Luke describes Jesus appearing a large group who were so frightened they were convinced they were seeing a ghost.

*The two unknown authors who added on to the end of Mark’s Gospel a few decades after it had been completed referred to Jesus meeting disciples and sending them out on mission “from East to West”, also describes Jesus appearing to the eleven central disciples to scold them for their skepticism and send them out to proclaim the good news to all the world.

 *John’s Gospel – as we heard last Sunday – recalls Jesus appearing to a group of disciples in a locked room on two occasions a week apart, the second including Thomas, and doing “many other signs…which are not written in this book”, and then appearing on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias at a beach barbecue including Simon Peter.

 * And Paul, who never met Jesus during his lifetime, encounters him in a vision (as described in Acts Ch. 9), and also hands on the tradition to the Jesus-followers at Corinth (1 Cor 15:8) that the risen Jesus appeared to Cephas/Peter, and to the twelve, and then to “more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive” at the time of his writing, saying that this tradition “is of first importance.”

All these remembrances seem to have come from disciples in one of two conditions, either when some were very frightened for their own safety and in hiding, or when others had returned to their old lives and taken up their trades again – fishing for instance. In both cases, the first reaction is fear and confusion – people either don’t recognize who they are seeing, or if they do recognize Jesus, think they are seeing a ghost. Most, though not all, quickly become convinced that this really is Jesus after he eats with them – for meals together in his lifetime had been absolutely central to Jesus’ proclamation of the nature of God and God’s kingdom. The meal with Jesus was and remains revelatory, pointing to the presence and activity of the divine energy. And the meal with Jesus is transformative; it shakes people out of both their fear and their old ways of life and makes them apostles, sent ones, with a message to carry everywhere they go that is to be good news for all. As Jesus went about in his lifetime healing people, turning people from sin to amendment of life, and raising the dead, the Gospel’s tell us, “Seeing was believing!” People watched and many ‘got it’ about who God is and what God is up to in their world.

But after Jesus is raised, we might better say that “eating is believing!” The divine banquet is the hallmark of the reign of God to which everyone is invited, and that knows no class, gender, religious distinction, or boundary or hierarchy among the diners. “Eat with Jesus and you will never be the same again,” might be the summary of the great fifty days of Eastertide. In the mysterious power of the sacramental meal, Christ is present and we are re-charged with the Holy Spirit and nourished in faith.

When I served a church in the center of Boston some 25 years back, we had a big feeding program that served hot suppers, weekday Communion services,  and sandwiches at lunchtime and groceries for households in need, assisting hundreds of the homeless people of the city, the mentally ill and addicted ones among them, and poor residents of the local rooming houses and shelters tucked among some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in town. Some of these hungry guests also came to church on Sunday and were made welcome. Among our regular guests was a man named Eddie, a tall craggy thin gentleman of indeterminate age, who was so chronically unwashed that he looked like a chimney sweep, and who – in his periodic cycles of going off medication – would mutter to himself, refuse to be drawn into conversation, and shake his fists at anyone who came too close to him or his shopping bags of possessions. And from time to time he would come on Sundays, some people giving him a pretty wide berth at the Communion rail -though always he was welcomed. Some of you who have been helping with Oasis ministries for thirty+ years may remember Eddie.

We have just learned that, at short notice, Church-on-the-Hill plans to discontinue hosting Oasis Monday dinners - and we are dismayed. Your letters of support are urgently needed for this life-saving and dignity-preserving ministry to poor and homeless people around the Boston Common!

Well, it was just before Thanksgiving, after an early freeze, and I was rushing to the Stop and Shop to buy a turkey to contribute to the church supper in which parishioners dined alongside our homeless guests in a big festive spread that took quite a few turkeys! I headed down the sidewalk about to cross the busy street, and suddenly hit a patch of black ice and my feet were in the air sliding off the granite curb. I heard a crack and then was lying on my back in the gutter with a broken ankle. Someone who had seen my aerobatics came out of a shop and said, “Lie still, I’ve called an ambulance.” With a hospital down the street, I figured this wouldn’t take long, so I stayed where I was, staring up at the sky and gently wiggling parts of my anatomy to see if everything besides the ankle was working. The sky was blue and innocent. The pavement was cold. And then, into my field of vision came a sooty fist holding out to me one of those selfsame bologna sandwiches we had been handing out at the church at lunchtime, half-wrapped in its plastic film. It was Eddie, who in his foggy world of mental distress had recognized me, and did the best thing he could think of in the moment, giving me the grubby sandwich he had excavated from the depths of his shopping bags. I didn’t recognize him at first, but then I saw: Jesus was inviting me to lunch. In the gutter of Boston, the reign of heaven came near. Sometimes the banquet of the Holy One comes to you with the dents of fingerprints, dripping a little mustard.

Sarah Miles, in her lovely little book, Jesus Freaks, writes, “the thing about Jesus, the story turns out, is that he believes in us, the people who betray his love, just as he believed in Andrew and poor frightened Peter. Jesus trusts that humans have the power to truly see him ourselves. He believes that our mortal bodies, our experiences here on earth, are enough to bear and hold God. He knows we can find him in our own flesh, and in the flesh of others.”[1]

One of the things that receiving the Lord’s Supper, dining regularly with Jesus, enlivens in us is our capacity to recognize the divine Presence in the world and in the human community. It transforms us inwardly to see the Christ-Light where it shines, even in the most improbable of places. Even in ourselves! Beloved, we are God’s children now. Not when we get our life straightened out. Not when we turn over that new leaf, get that job, graduate from that program. Not when we come off the streets into housing.  Now. Now, while you may be disbelieving and wondering, or even scared stiff like those disciples at the barbecue! If you are having trouble wrapping your mind around the reality of the divine presence, then go serve someone. Make a casserole for the next soup kitchen meal; go stock the pantry shelves and serve the needy seniors who rely on it. Conquer your nervousness and go visit someone in the hospital, or an elder stuck at home with way too much quiet time alone. Just do it- go be Jesus' hands and feet in this hurting world. It is so often in serving that one suddenly finds oneself being served, and the hand holding the sandwich is Jesus’ own. 

[1] Miles, Jesus Freaks, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010. p.10.

WEEKLY SCHEDULE                          

Office Hours:  
Tuesday 2:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday 2:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Friday 2:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

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 2017:

Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. Phillips

Tuesday, April 17,
Bible Study ~ 7:00pm

Wednesday,April 18
Eucharist ~ 11:00am
Wednesday,April 25
No Morning Eucharist ~ Rector away at a conference

Looking Ahead

Sunday, April 22, 10:00 a.m.
Worship ~Fourth Sunday After Easter

St. John’s Progressive Dinner

Saturday May 5th6:00 – 9:30 PM 

What is the Progressive Dinner?

A longtime St. John’s Spring fellowship tradition, which we haven’t held for several years, but want to bring back. It is a fun time for parishioners to enjoy an evening of dining and togetherness in different homes, returning to the church for dessert at the end of the evening.

 Who is Invited?

All adults and middle school and high schooler's who wish to attend are welcome. We are working on providing babysitting for young children.

 How should we dress?

 Dress is casual and comfortable, whatever suits your fancy

 Do we bring anything?

 No, just come as you are

 Who is hosting the dinner?

Appetizers will be held at three homes and Dinner at three others. When you arrive at the church, you will get your invitations to two homes for two courses.

What is the schedule for the evening?

 6:00: Arrive at the church to get your appetizer and dinner assignments, and depart for your first home where you’ll have drinks and appetizers.

 7:00: Leave for your second home, where you will have your main course.

 8:30: Return to St. John’s for dessert

 9:30: Departure Home

 Sign up to host an appetizer or dessert in the narthex.

Any questions, see Vic and Juanita Kingsley.

Christian Discipleship in Action via St. John’s

Come join in:

Oasis Ministrieswe cook and serve a monthly hot chicken dinner to about 100 homeless neighbors in down- town Boston on 2nd Mondays.

Ecclesia outreachwe invite homeless and poor neighbors 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.

Habitat for Humanity home buildcoming soon, a St. John’s team to help build an affordable home in Westwood.

Prayer Shawlsknitting group prayerfully makes shawls for people facing illness or crisis.

Urban Promise Honduras missioners from St. John’s & CHS travel to learn and work with children at a school in Copan every few years.

Boston B-SAFE summer program our team works during a July week each year to provide meals and a field trip & picnic for this large city children’s program.

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!

Six St. John's volunteers, along with college students from nearby Suffolk & other regular participants, at the end of the Oasis dinner on April 9.