November 24,  10:00 a.m.

Pentecost 23. proper 28C. 11-17-19                                               St. John’s Church

Rev’d Jennifer Phillips                       Isaiah 65:17-25; 2 Thess.3:6-13; Lk.21:5-19

"Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will by no means enter it." So says Mark's Gospel, chapter 10, enigmatically. For none of us can define exactly what territory 'the kingdom of God' defines, nor just what 'receiving it like a child' describes, this evocative poetry hinting at what Jesus also mysteriously named as his gift: "that peace that passes understanding."

Between 1812 and 1849,  a Quaker minister in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Edward Hicks, born to a very poor family, improbably - opened a small painting school and producing masterworks, mostly biblical themes, in the style we call American Primitive. As a youth, he had trained to make and paint coaches, signs, and houses. In his youth by his own description, "in my own estimation a weak, wayward young man ... exceedingly fond of singing, dancing, vain amusements, and the company of young people, and too often profanely swearing". The Society of Friends and its quiet worship and disciplined yet free-thinking community changed his mind and heart.

Painting things - farm equipment to tavern signs, did not pay the bills by the time he and his wife were expecting a fifth child. Nor was this occupation approved of by his Quaker community, though working as a preacher didn't pay well either. He painted a glorious Noah's Ark, and also his favorite historical theme of the treaty of William Penn with the Lennie Lenape tribe at Shackamaxon, PA at the estuary of the Delaware river, and at least a hundred versions of his most famous subject, The Peaceable Kingdom described in Isaiah 11 and 65. You heard it from chapter 65 this morning.

Why did he love this image so deeply?  There he found what was best - the peaceful encounter of the natural world with humans, and of European settlers, both merchants and Quaker religious folk,  coming to agreement with Native peoples. Behind the animals, we see those human beings on the canvas, doing their contracting amicably. In the foreground are two children, male and female like infant Adam and Eve playing in the grass between a leopard's paws. The animals, large on the right, stand looking tranquil and wide-eyed, childlike themselves, the lion perhaps stunned at the idea of eating the same straw the oxen are contentedly munching. And at the back of the animals is another child- the Christ child, with a white scarf of graveclothes or swaddling (take your pick) across his shoulders, supervising the scene. Isaiah's "little child [who] shall lead them"] all.

But we know the back-story, and it is not so peaceable: the carnage of settlement of this and every continent, treaties broken, the uncivil looting and pillaging of the natural world by 'civilization'. Forced transportation - the Trails of Tears. Ethnic cleansing. Isaiah (the third, writing Chapter 65 in the Book bearing that name), knows it, too: The best part of a people carried into exile after decimating conquest by Babylon. Farms laid waste and left to grow wild. Walls broken down. Occupying squatters taking over houses that had belonged to families for generations and cutting down the old orchards, vineyards, and olive groves (which scripture identifies as an offense against God as well as the land). Deaths of infants and those too old to flee. The sound of wailing and weeping.

Luke knew the back-story in his time, writing of Jesus a generation after Jesus' lifetime, when that prophecy of the temple being reduced to rubble and its priests killed and its people dispersed and the holy city devastated by Rome, had already taken place in the year 70 CE. It must have felt like the imminent end of the world, of all history, to live in that day, around the year 90.

And perhaps we also know the back-story now: not yet having come to terms with the bloody history of enslavement and slave importation, and of the decimation of First Nation peoples here, and the rough use of the resources of the country: soil blowing from the dust bowls, water drying from the rivers and flowing polluted through cities, air filled with smoke and smog, the ancient forests being cut down for paper towels, toilet paper, and shingles. But the difference now of these old and dishonorable human behaviors is the scale and power of the changes and the way each small activity has cascaded into massive effects: the shifting of the jet stream - the rivers of air that bring either moisture, or polar cold, or simmering desert heat to one place or another, and the turbulent force of the winds; the reduction of the forests' ability to produce humidity and rainfall downwind; the moving of the Gulf Stream and the other four great gyres of sea motion so that the warmer waters that heat the coasts and carry the fish shift from their ancient routes, and the entire world ocean warms and rises. These things have not happened like this before in the history of humankind.

So on the one hand, we cannot afford to look at the world childishly, expecting everything to come out alright while we are sleeping. We are the responsible stewards for Creation, as some four or five millennia of Judeo-Christian tradition has taught us. We are the willful and murderous tenants of someone else's vineyard, as Jesus pithily sketched it. We are God's co-laborers in this world, answerable for our conduct and care. We must see the environment, natural and human, around us with eyes wide open. We need to adult-up! Reconciliation - as Scripture envisions it - only starts with confession and saying 'Sorry!' God says, I have forgiven you, but now get on with it! Change. But the prophet also hears God saying, encouragingly, "Look! I am creating new heavens and new earth - see I make everything new." I'm not done with the work and I have not abandoned it, nor you!

Childishly, we might hear such words saying, 'Sit back. Relax. I will save you even from yourselves. I will fix it for you." But that's not what Jesus Christ was about, nor the prophets who spent so much energy and suffering in order to point out what new behaviors were needed to set things right in the world. We no longer have the luxury of being childish.

But, childlike, we look around with wonder, delight and horror at the world. We see, as the author of Ephesians put it, with the eyes of our hearts enlightened. We see, as Edward Hicks and the Quakers say, illuminated by the Inner Light - the Christ-God within us; the energy of the Holy Spirit. Childlike, we are aware of our littleness and dependence on the Divine Assistance. Childlike, we trust that we can accomplish things we have never tried before. Childlike, we are eager to help in the work. Childlike, we demand the human realm be made safer for all the children: that the cages be opened, that violent predation be restrained, that the conditions that foster hope be produced for them, that they may be at home and nurtured here. After all, we grown-ups want that for ourselves, don't we? Childlike, we are determined to take the first steps, and we don't let trip-ups and falls stop us, when we are determined to move forward, and Now!

Childlike, we listen for the song of the planet so we can join in. Childlike, we don't just hear a dirge and lament; but also a melodic strain of joy. And as adults we figure out how to sing harmony, and like the whales and birds, and God Godself, to compose new songs of celebration. There are more resources behind us when we act for good than we are aware of. So I leave you today with famous words attributed to Albert Camus, the Existentialist novelist not chiefly remembered for his cheery disposition and optimism. After all the Existentialist philosophers thought one needed to begin from an experience of dread in the face of painful reality, and then to choose - in a very grown-up way - to be responsible, authentic, passionate, engaged, and determined to be one's best self no matter what. Jesus might pretty much agree. God does not offer a bail-out, but a hand-up in the work to be done. It's tough, the tasks will outlast all of us here, but the goal is worthy, the vision of the divine realm is good, and joy in the midst of it is possible. Camus' thought: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there's something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

 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

Tuesday, November 19, 7:00 p.m.: Bible Study in the Rectory,  followed by Celtic style Compline, 8:30 p.m. 

Wednesday, November 20, 10:15 a.m.:
Holy Eucharist 

Sunday, November 24,  10:00a.m.:
Tuesday a.m., November 26: St. John's volunteers will deliver 45 turkeys to the elders at the Mattapan Center for Life.  All turkeys will be donated by Roche Bros and Wegman's this year!

We'd love donations of clementines to accompany the turkeys. If you can help, bring a bag of clementines to church on Sunday, November 24. There will be a marked box in the narthex. Thank you!

Looking ahead:
Saturday, December 7, 9:00 a.m.  - Noon, St. John's Christmas Fair!
We are taking part with other churches and stores in the Westwood Weekend Stroll!
Emily  and youth will be helping kids decorate gingerbread houses  and will be coordinating a visit from St. Nicholas (played by our very own Tom Viti).  Jackie will be organizing the other portion of the Fair. 

The Fair will focus on two main things:  Greens and Cookies.  The greens will include decorated wreaths, swags, centerpieces, and decorated artificial trees.  We’re looking for an interesting variety of cookies to sell, so please plan to bake, bake, bake!

Donations Requested:  A box has been set up in the Narthex to collect decorative items for the greens we'll be creating to sell at the Church Fair.
Suggested items:  Floral picks & stems, small ornaments, wired ribbon for bows, 8" & 10”  candles (red & white), vases, baskets, etc.  Some of these items you may have on-hand or they can be found at Dollar Tree in Norwood & Walpole, JoAnn Fabric, Michaels, etc.

Please help us to make this event a great success!

Jackie & Emily

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. 

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!