June 16,  10:00 a.m.

Rogation Sunday 5/26/19                                                                St. John’s Church

Rev’d Jennifer Phillips                                   Acts 16:9-15;Rev.21:10-22:5;Jn 5:1-9


“Jesus saw the man lying by the pool of Bethzatha and knew that he had been there a long time.” I guess so! Thirty-eight years he had been lying beside that same pool, presumably too crippled to make his way down to the water at the particular moments when it stirred - maybe from an influx of an underground spring - and took on magical healing properties for the first person to dip in it. Thirty-eight years and this man had developed no strategy to get him into the water, made no connection with a kindly friend to help! Someone must have assisted him since he was still alive after decades - someone fed him, helped clean him, gave him shelter. Thirty-eight years! So was he maybe making too good a living as a beggar to be motivated to really be healed? Or too accustomed to his misery to try hard enough? Or just a really, really unlucky lonely guy? I wonder.

Or was he perhaps in an underclass in his time that thought truly that it didn't matter what they might want, hope for, imagine, aspire to. There was simply no chance of improving his lot based on anything he had ever seen? Often enough we today think less of people who seem hopeless and unwilling to stand up and believe their circumstance could change - when in fact their experience is that circumstances don't change. The angels pass by. Someone else gets the benefit.

In any case, in the story, Jesus cuts right to the chase - the key question. “Do you want to be made whole?” Does he? I suspect suddenly he has to ask himself that question, and perhaps it is the first time he has thought through it to his heart’s desire - not what is expedient, not what he’s used to, not what he just accepts as the status quo, not his own love of complaint and his victimhood and learned helplessness; his heart’s desire. And imagining what a different, healed life might look like, might require of him! I imagine that perhaps he startles even himself when he finally comes out and says it to himself - because he still can’t say it right out to Jesus: “Yes!” He launches into his usual whining complaint…no help, not fast enough, others too pushy, people won’t stand in line. Jesus blesses him with a stern command, I think. How could it not be stern, for this person who has made a career out of being a victim, who can’t even verbalize what Jesus sees is his deep yearning for wholeness. I picture Jesus with his hands on his hips, looking the guy square in the eye and saying, “Fish or cut bait! (a good fisherman’s expression, that!) Stand up. Take up your mat. Walk. Just do it!” Now that day is a sabbath! Says the narrator, John. Yes! That day is a Sabbath, the Lord’s Day, rest from the long labor of being stuck in misery.  Start of a new time, a new life. - re-creation! The reign of God come near him. A new chance. Resurrection. Standing up and beginning to walk.

I've been to the site remembered as this pool of Bethzatha, or Bethesda, now dry and partly in ruins: a steeply terraced sunken set of rectangular pools with arched cloistering along one side and walkways between. The Romans were serious about their public baths. They often piped water to them over distances. They made use of thermal springs - perhaps this spot once had an upwelling spring that would occasionally spout up and disturb the surface as the text describes. If so that groundwater has likely been drawn away by irrigation and city usage long ago. But in that time to those people, it seems this surge of mineral waters had some healing properties, so that they thought an angel came and produced it for the purpose. We can't know for sure. But clearly for this anonymous sufferer, Jesus was the angel who came to stir things up. It was the man's life he troubled with his challenge and question- and then healed.

These few days from this Sunday are known as Rogation (from Latin rogare - to ask) days in the calendar of the church. From ancient times Christians took to the streets to process and pray and sprinkle, to ask for healing from epidemic disease, to ask for fertility for the planting season, for the human community, and for a future successful harvest. In the settled church world, parishes were encouraged to walk the boundaries of their jurisdiction so every one knew who lived in which parish, who should be served, who should be looked for in church. There were picnics along the way and lots of prayers. There's a strange custom in England whereby small church choristers were hoisted upside down and gently bumped on the ground with their heads, switched with willow wands, or occasionally thrown into a convenient pond near the corners of the boundary so they would remember the occasion, the prayers and where the bounds were. Afterwards they were given a treat to make up for these indignities. As you might imagine,  modern Safe Church policies don't permit us to follow those traditions! Later on, church members carried willow sticks and beat the corner markers instead of the boys. Alms would be given to the poor along the way. Any discovered trespass by building over the boundaries could be addressed by the law, and disputes should be reconciled along the way as well.

We churches no longer have tidy parish geographies to defend. Our civil society takes care of its own boundaries and has the latest technology to do this. But we keep to the prayers. And right now, most of us have a fresh sense of urgency in our work and prayer for our planet. Our vestry is exploring new and larger solar collection panels on the roof so we can reduce our carbon footprint in these building and even sell energy to some of our neighbors, along with several other Westwood churches as a joint venture. Brian and Bob can explain details to you if you are interested. We have newly insulated rectory and church and school, updated some windows, changed to virtually all LED lighting and installed remotely controlled thermostats. We are planning some more work to control erosion on our sloping property and the well-being of our trees and rain garden. We want to reduce use of plastics, and we already recycle as much as we are able. Maybe it's even more important to stay in touch with legislators at every level of government and urge them to make care of the environment a priority, and thank them when they do this.

When most of us have done things a certain way in our lives for decades - our patterns of consumption, of travel, of generation of waste, of use of scarce materials, of energy use - and particularly when in our circumstances it feels like there is so much to go around, so little shortage we directly experience - it is hard to take up our mat and walk in new ways. Think how much harder it is for people who live at the edges and bottoms of societies  to help the planet: people who don't know where there next meal is coming from and must burn down the forest they live in to raise food; people without drinking water - 780 million or so human beings on our globe; 2.5 billion people who do not have facilities or resources to have effective, safe sanitation; people in poor urban landscapes without trees, without choice of food stuffs, without access to insulation and non-leaky plumbing, and new light bulbs; people in the midst of wars where even what they have is being reduced to rubble daily. It really is up to us to take the initiative and major steps to be the stewards of creation in ways that honor God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Do we want to be whole and to live in a whole/healed/wholesome planet? Can we find it in ourselves to make the care of a sustainable earth the center of our hearts' desire? Can we? will we?

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

Sunday, June 16, 10:00 a.m.
Holy Eucharist

Tuesday, June 18, 7:00 p.m.: 
Bible study followed by Celtic style compline @ 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, June 19, 10:15 a.m.
Holy Eucharist

Saturday, June 22, Noon - 2:45 p.m:
Picnic at North Beach, Hale Reservation for guests from Ecclesia Ministries

Helpers are still needed for food offerings, fishing, and driving our guests back and forth to the Norwood Depot Station. This is always a very special event for our guests from Ecclesia. Please email Emily if you can help: emilysugg30@gmail.com

Summer Changes To Note!

On Sunday July 7 we will begin our summer schedule with the service at 9:30am through July and August up through Labor Day weekend. 
As you arrive, expect that you may be called on at the door to help as a reader, intercessor, greeter, or chalice-bearer. This is a great opportunity for those who haven't done these things before or regularly to step up and take a turn. Instruction is always available if you ask. Youth are welcome in any of these roles! And anyone who might like to help as an acolyte carrying a torch and helping the priest prepare and clear the Communion Table is always welcome, as there is no summer rota. 

If you can bring a couple of bottles of iced tea and juice and some cheese and cookies or fruit for those who might linger for conversation, this is much appreciated in the summer when there are no formal coffee hour hosts signed up. If you'd like to bring a bouquet from your garden for the altar, this is also most welcome...and after church you could take these to someone shut-in or ill and unable to attend. Please join in the hymns bravely, no matter your voice or ability, as we sing unaccompanied this season - remember song is part of our shared prayer.

July 31- August 1, 2, and 5: our new B-SAFE summer program dates!
We will serve lunch to roughly 85 kids, counselors, and teachers on the 31st, 1st and 5th, and offer a field trip to the Capron Park Zoo on Friday the 2nd.

This is loads of fun, and a wonderful enrichment program for children who live in the neighborhood of our partner parish, Church of the Holy Spirit, Mattapan. Sign up in the narthex to help out --- there are many different ways to participate! 

Calling all Artists!
Painters, Photographers, Potters, Quilters, Poets, Fiction Writers, Musicians and More--
We need your talents for the St John's Harvest Moon Arts Night next September. Plans are in the very early stage.  We envision an art exhibit in the Narthex, a poetry reading with open mic signup, maybe dance, instrumental music, song, finger food and wine and sparkling cider, and a silent auction of donated art, from paintings to poetry books. We also need volunteers to  design  a flyer and poster,  handle publicity on social media and in local news outlets, help with planning, managing and organizing the art, to do setting up and breaking down of the exhibit, to organize the silent auction, to help with the food and drink, and to do cleanup.
If you are an artist, let me know about your talent. If you are a master organizer, or helper, we need you, too. Many hands will make light work!

Lynne Viti
cell 781 248 5020

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 downtown 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. This year's picnic will be on Saturday, June 22.

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. We are beginning plans for a service trip with our partner parish, CHS Mattapan, for June 2020!

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. St. John's week this year is July 29 - August 2.

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!