This past week I received communication from Bishop Greg Brewer and the Diocese of Central Florida regarding my journey toward Holy Orders. I have moved forward in the process and I am on track (God willing) for being a Candidate later this fall and then being ordained to the diaconate in January 2018! This discernment regarding the priesthood has been a rigorous process with many stages involving clergy and lay leadership throughout our diocese. I am excited and humbled for the days to come and I covet your prayers. Once I am ordained to the diaconate, a period of no less than six months will be a final discernment period before ordination to the priesthood.
Fr. Reid values my leadership at All Saints' and plans to keep me here once I am ordained. I, too, value being a part of our parish family and look forward to continue serving as I do with the children, teens, and families of our church as Director of Family Ministries, along with continuing to be involved with women's ministries, the Order of St. Luke, outreach, and altar serving. I already enjoy the many opportunities to teach, preach, care for our members and visitors, to be part of outreach ventures, to lead in worship, and to do so working with men, women, boys, and girls of all ages. At All Saints' I have been given encouragement and exhortation to share the spiritual gifts, talents, and passions for ministry that God has given me, and I am grateful to Fr. Reid for the freedom and blessing to do so. He has trusted me to work as needed and there have been many opportunities to collaborate in ministry which is a joy.
I love All Saints' Church and I am grateful to be a part of the vision that God has for us.
Galatians 5 : 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness [emphasis is mine], goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
For relationships to succeed long term—at least as the New Testament describes success—kindness is essential. It is a partner with humility. Kindness means to be tender, gentle, sensitive, loving, compassionate. I think we should view it as a skill that we practice in regard to others. It is not merely a nice feeling or sweet intention. A skill involves what we actually do and the manner with which we do it. Kindness is an antidote to self-centeredness, projection, ambition, and aggressiveness. To be kind requires self-knowledge and self-restraint. We have to be able to “see,” be aware, in order to recognize both others and ourselves, to love both others and ourselves. It then requires skill to respond first to the other person and not first to ourselves. We are able to set aside ourselves in order to focus on others and respond to them where they are, where they are coming from. Our response is based fundamentally on compassion. Of course justice plays a role, but in the Christian life love is greater than justice. I Corinthians 13 says that love is the greatest.
Homily for Youth Sunday, September 24, 2017, 8:50 a.m. Service
I am titling my homily today as “Knowing the Heart of Our Father.” It is my hope and prayer that we will discover the hearts of the people in today’s scripture lessons, and that by that discovery we will hear and know the Father’s prompting in our own lives. I, in particular, hope that all of our children and teenagers here today will be listening for a new thought to help them know and follow our Father in heaven.
The first scripture lesson we heard this morning was from the book of Exodus, chapter 16. The lesson captures the struggles that the Israelites experienced in traveling through the wilderness. Given our recent experiences of Hurricane Irma and seeing the news from Harvey and Maria, it is not too difficult for us to imagine a tribe of people going through a journey without the materials from home and struggles because of the environment. We here in Lakeland lost power and many of us were uncomfortable, but what the Israelites lost was their familiar surroundings - they lost what they called home in Egypt – they lost pots of meat and bread to fill them up - to then go day after day in a dry land, not knowing where they would end up. They had no food and they were hungry; they complained and they complained against the Lord; their lives had become unfamiliar and they were tired of camping. They did not believe that God was taking care of them, and their hearts were revealed when put in a difficult situation.
Many of us have been bracing for days in preparation of Hurricane Irma. Only a week ago we had been watching the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and many of us were moved to respond with Christian charity. They will continue to need our help, as well as parts of Louisiana and Tennessee who experienced flooding from the storm. Thankfully, there are Christians organizations like Episcopal Relief & Development and Samaritan's Purse who are mobilized to provide resources through people like us, and they will continue to do so.
Now here we are waiting for Irma to come our way. We have felt the build-up and we have learned by what we witnessed with Harvey. I remember asking my husband just a week ago, "if you just had a garbage bag for carrying your most needed possessions, what would be in your bag?" It was a way of asking myself, when I pair down to the true essentials, what would I have? I have read on disaster preparedness sites about what they recommend, so I am doing that, but then I am reflecting upon all that I can let go. When it comes right down to it, I am taking two wedding photos off the wall, insurance documents, passports, ownership of property documents, a change of clothing, toiletries, two books, the Bible, my phone, my laptop computer, and my pets. I can let everything else go if the storm takes it from me. I could even let some of what I am taking go, but I can take a little more than a small garbage bag.
Now where am I going, you might ask? Why the need to pack? Charles and I have been preparing our home for the chance of flash flooding, so we are taking just these few things (and Charles has his short list which can't include his piano!) and hanging out in my parents' home in S. Lakeland since it seems less prone to having the water issue. It's hard to predict what will happen, but we are working on our intuition and street smarts!
I King 9:11-13: Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper [emphasis is mine]. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
To hear God we must slow down, be present, be aware. The NIV translation quoted above says God was not present in the dramatic and obvious but rather in “a gentle whisper.” The NRSV translates these words as “a sound of sheer silence.” Developing this kinds of spiritual awareness takes humility and practice over time. We must spend time with the Lord and practice being in his presence, learning to hear him with spiritual ears and tender hearts. So part of our spiritual practices must involve practice just being with God, communing with his Spirit, listening with the ears of the heart. Only in this way can we learn to hear him in gentle whispers and even in the sound of sheer silence.
If you've been paying attention to national news since Friday, you know that our country (and our world) needs Christ and his love more than ever. My response to the displays of civil unrest, hatred, and violence has been to pray for Jesus to intervene and bring healing to a broken world. I have also responded by personally sharing lessons and encouraging our midweek teachers to share lessons on loving others as Jesus would want us to do.
On Sunday I asked myself the question, what does it look like for our children to love others as they start a new school year? Perhaps they are in classrooms with children of different ethnicities and skin color? How should they respond to other children but find ways to be loving, kind, and welcoming...to go the extra mile to get to know every student's name as soon as possible so that they start building relationships and help to create a loving, family atmosphere among their peers and classroom.
Our Epistle lesson from Romans 10 this past Sunday reminded us that the feet of those who share the good news are beautiful and I encouraged our children to be those "beautiful feet" who share Christ's love with every one in their classes. Perhaps for our young children, they might be asked to share crayons or markers and they might not always get what they want, but that gives them an opportunity to love a classmate? Perhaps our older children might have to show a new classmate how to do a classroom task and that gives them an opportunity to love and grow in responsibility? Perhaps our teens have the opportunity to invite new students into their friendship circles and they can grow in showing Christ's love to others? There are so many opportunities for us to teach our children to make this world a better, more loving place in which to live. My prayer and hope is that we all continue to reflect on how we can pay attention to the needs of others as we love our neighbors as ourselves.
Philippians 4:1-- “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!”
When we think of the Apostle Paul, we may think only of his forceful, brilliant, intricate pronouncements. But I think it is important that we first think of his tender, humble love for God—and for God’s people. We don’t want to forget these words of his: “…my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for…” (Philippians 4:1 ). We need to make it a priority to cultivate this kind of tender, humble love among us, for one another. If we don’t, we could be very successful, very efficient in worship planning or Christian education, but have failed on the main thing. In Revelation 2 , Jesus said this to the impressive church of Ephesus, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” May our lives be marked by a tender, humble love where we often say to one another, “My brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for.”
I recently heard a pastor friend mention this idea that we are called human beings and not human doings. What a fun play on our English language, I thought! A day later, I was attending a centering prayer gathering where one member of the group mentioned that she was praying about how she was "being" before God. Then, I reflected upon a billboard that had been up around town which asked, "Who do you want to be?" with the idea that the institution would help you develop your qualities of being rather than specifically focus on how to help you do something as a career. It seems to be a good word that I need to hear this week. How does this thought resonate with you? Let me explore a little bit...
So much of our lives are focused on doing projects, whether it is for work or home, or whether it is for getting our family members to activities and to support them, or perhaps for organizing activities and studies for schools and churches. We are a project-oriented society! I cannot deny that I enjoy having projects and find fulfillment in "human doing"! And I also cannot deny that God does indeed want us to be doers of the word (James 1:22 ), but that drive in us to be active in our faith needs to be balanced with a deep sense of who we are as God's children .
So I, in addition to being a "doer", also realize the deep need for simply being. I think about my family members and friends who know me well and how I can enjoy being myself when I am with them. I can take that for granted, but I receive a huge blessing when I am aware of the love and peace that comes by simply being who I am with and for them. It's a true gift from God and one that comes when I take time to slow down and quiet my doings to simply be. I know that my family and friends value that from me, and I know that when I slow down to be quiet before God (Psalm 46:10 ), I am able to know God better and to know myself better, too.
John 10:10 : “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
We are now in Ordinary Time according to the Church calendar. Ordinary Time occurs outside of special Church seasons, like Easter or Advent, in which specific aspects of the mystery of Christ are celebrated. But Ordinary Time is far from “ordinary.” All time is God’s time. The General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar declares that the days of Ordinary Time "are devoted to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects." That’s pretty exciting. But it’s even more exciting that all time is God’s, and it’s in the dynamics of everyday life, with its challenges as well as satisfactions, that we are to come to consistently experience and manifest God’s presence and action. The promise of God is that we can. The calling of God is that this be our practice.
The theological and biblical doctrine of inerrancy explains that the Scriptures claim to be true because God always speaks the truth and does not lie (Psalm 190:160 ; John 17:17 ). The Scriptures themselves and a variety of scholars tell us that the Scriptures do not and cannot err, deceive, or speak falsely and are a dependable and reliable source of God's revelation. They bear the stamp and imprimatur of truth and lead us into truth. The Scriptures are without error in what they affirm regarding the will and purposes of God and are the only infallible guide to living. Their primary content is the living Word, Jesus Christ, and the gospel proclaimed by him and his disciples (Mark 1:14-15 ; Acts 2:37-39 ). No greater truths exist.
The inherent, transcendent truths of the Scriptures are normally not readily received, but only understood by the illumination and guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 8:47 ). Donald Bloesch defines illumination as "the inward awakening of the believer to the truth that is revealed." Unfortunately, man is particularly susceptible to his sinful nature and swayed by lies, untruths, and heresies. Without the Holy Scirptures in our lives and a proper understanding of the gospel, we have a tendencey to embrace error and wrong thinking. FitzSimons Allison astutely observes: "We are susceptible to heretical teachings because, in one form or another, they nurture and reflect the way we would have it be rather than the way God has provided, which is infinitely better for us. As they lead us into the blind alleys of self-indulgence and escape from life, heresies pander to the most unworthy tendencies of the human heart." Because the Scriptuees are inerrant and true, when they are correctly interpreted, they can be relied upon in their teaching and instruction and are a sure and trustworthy authority.
II Cor. 13:14: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God andthe fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."
Trinity Sunday is June 11 in 2017. The Trinity warrants some thoughtful, caring meditation. Not primarily logical analysis, but primarily deeply spiritual, deeply loving attention—being fully present, open, and surrendered to both the Unity and the Trinity of God in love. The medieval classic The Cloud of Unknowing says that God cannot be thought but that he can be known by love. In John 17 , Jesus prayed that we could be one with him and the Father the way that he is one with Father. If Jesus prayed this oneness for us, surely we should make experiencing it a priority. God desires to bring us into the midst of the loving unity of the Trinity. Obviously we need the Holy Spirit in pursuing the fullness of God, all that Trinity Sunday celebrates. I long for God’s fullness for all of us. Another great prayer on our behalf is found Ephensians 3. In vs. 19, Paul prays “that you [i.e, you and I] may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Let us seek for Paul’s prayer to be “fulfilled” in us.
Archbishop Justin Welby is leading our Anglican Communion to set aside these next 10 days to be intentional about praying for others and our world. The website is www.thykingdomcome.global/?thankyou=1#Pledge2Pray where you can let the Archbishop know that you are participating, and there are many resources for your personal prayer time or for your familes or teens. There are videos sent to your email which share a good word each day.
Charles and I are committing to praying together toward this cause and we began this morning. We chose 5 people for whom to pray with the hopes of reaching people who don't have a relationship with Jesus.
I hope you'll consider looking at one of the links shared below and praying as an individual or with your family. The resources are varied and unique and well produced.
May can be a challenging month for families as the end of the school year brings about a series of transitions and changes. Some students are graduating and preparing for next steps; some students are preparing for being at a new school in the fall so they are already preparing themselves for leaving their current school and the friends they have there; some younger children will be getting ready to leave daycare and start a formal school setting. Then there are the transitions to the summer schedule and what that will mean for the family routine with more time at home, or summer camps and family vacations. Here at church we help see our students promote to the next small group such as Kids' Club, God Squad, Middle School Youth Group, and High School Youth Group, as well as new Sunday School classes. Thankfully, our hands-on leaders Priscilla Baez in the nursery, Carrie Kotal in the children's area, and Stephanie Paul with our teens are steady and consistent with our children and teens and will help welcome them as they move. Transitions are everywhere!
As always, during these seasons of transition, we know that we have God as our solid foundation upon whom we put our trust. He guides us through all of the changes, especially as we remain faithful to his leadership and call in our lives. For me personally, I am glad that God has brought me to All Saints' Church. I know that God has brought me here for this season in the church's life, and I have every reason to believe that God wants me here for many years to come. I continue to be in the discernment process with the Diocese of Central Florida toward Holy Orders and there has been much affirmation during this journey.
I am still on God's timing and planning for the priesthood, but Lord willing, I should be at All Saints' to serve as a clergy member in the future to continue being part of the wonderful team and family that is All Saints' Parish. This is readily and openly affirmed by Fr. Reid and I am grateful that others are excited, too. I covet your prayers for the variety of ministry opportunities that are available for our children and teens as our Family Ministries team of staff and volunteers come alongside our families to encourage our students to love Jesus and put him first in their lives.
Matthew 5:8 : “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
When you just focus on just it alone, separate from the other Beatitudes, this beatitude is startling. Of course this is true for all the Beatitudes. So often we simply read all of them together as a package and don’t make ourselves fully present and open to them individually. In this short reflection, let’s be present and open to this one by itself, slowing down and fully engaging it. It is a striking statement: “The pure in heart...shall see God.” Wow, what a promise! And what a challenge! I don’t think this just refers to when we are in heaven. I think this beatitude calls for us to be wholly, completely, singly, fully connected to God now. In our lives now, to not be divided, fragmented, partial in our relating to him. In doing this, it is vital that we don’t seek to see God with our natural eyes or merely natural reasoning, nor that we strive with our own strength. Instead we surrender to God’s grace and seek to see him with the eyes of our hearts, by love. That’s why our hearts must be pure. For as Jesus said, “The pure in heart...shall see God.” This is the calling, this is the direction, the heart of our spiritual lives.
I am looking forward to our week together as we move from today's Palm Sunday celebration to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. I think about our opportunities to gather for worship each day (and multiple times on some days!). I think about our opportunities to be with our young people (on Wednesday evening, Thursday evening, and Saturday morning) to encourage and teach them about the importance of this week. I think about our personal reflections in scripture and daily devotions to walk each day of this week with Jesus.
As I think about Jesus' final days, I reflect upon the persecution that he faced. And Christians throughout the ages and in various parts of the globe have suffered in the name of Christ. Non-believers simply cannot accept Jesus as fully God and fully man. They cannot accept his grace, love, and mercy. The novel/movie Silence helped to illustrate this reality of rejection, and just this morning we read or heard about Coptic Christians in two different locations in Egypt who were killed in their houses of worship as the result of a terrorist strike from non-Christians. Also, last week I received an email from English clergy friends who are currently serving an Anglican Chaplaincy in Sicily and they expressed that they don't feel safe wearing their clergy clothing in Palermo. We live in times where persecution of Christians makes our headlines and it is something we should consider with prayerful hearts. The world in which we raise our families is global and we can't forget that.
The Promise of Easter, 2 Key Verses: (1) Colossians 3 : “1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (2) Romans 7 : “24…Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
We know that Easter is the celebration of Jesus being raised from the dead. But we should also remember that it is the celebration of our new life, too, of our resurrection, for we have been raised with Christ, as Col. 3 says. By embracing Jesus, we have died to our old self-involved, ego-dominated ways of living—and been delivered from living according to our own strength and our own understanding. The struggle between the old self and the new self is a repeated theme throughout the New Testament. The old self is self-centered and self-oriented. But the resurrection of Jesus provides us with a new self, one centered in God, not in our ego. Receiving our resurrection self is simple; it just costs everything. We surrender all that we are and all that we have. Then we can declare along with Romans 7:25 , “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
The Call of Lent, 2 Key Verses: (1) Luke 9:24 (ESV): “24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (2) Galatians 6:15 (CEV): “15 It doesn’t matter if you are circumcised or not. All that matters is that you are a new person.”
The Call of Lent is a call to transformation, to continue on and go deeper in the process of becoming a new person. If we aren’t careful, we can miss the essence of the Lenten call. Instead of responding to God in the depths of our spirit and surrendering to him at the core of our being, we can think only of external activities. External activities are good, enriching, stabilizing; they are a very important part of the Christian life. But if we want the most important gift God has for us in Lent, we will need to spend time opening our inner being to his deep cleansing and healing work even as we are faithful to our external practices and responsibilities. This kind of work has been called Divine Therapy. It engages our unconscious motivations and reaction patterns. These are aspects of our old self, our flesh. But as Gal. 6:15 (CEV) declares, “All that matters is that you are a new person,” what the ESV translation calls “a new creation.”
The authors of the Bible did not invent their material, since the origin of the Scriptures is from God and not from the imagination of men. The Scriptures are the living words of God through the words of human beings and are divinely inspired (II Peter 1:20-21). The Holy Spirit supernaturally led and guided the human writers, but did not cancel their personalities (Acts 1:16 ). God's words were theirs and their words were God's; so what was actually written was the word of God. The only way this could have been successfully produced is that the faculties and wills of man were acted upon by the Holy Spirit to express the very words of God (Luke 1:70 ; Acts 28:25 ). Paradoxically, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God belong and work inseparably together in unision. Donald Bloesch says that "The Word is animated by the Spirit, and the Spirit always directs us to the Word." By the grace of God, the Spirit makes the true and dependable words of Scripture intelligible and understandable to the believer and efficacious for their life.
Ephesians Chapter 3:14-21
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.