The extended winter break for Thursday Bible Study ended on the 25th. Between all the distracting busy-ness during the last weeks of Advent, Christimastide, and my absence after the Epiphany, it had been six weeks since we were last together. I wish I could say our first gathering was crowned with glorious insight, and we all felt we had gained greater insight into Paul's message to the Corinthians. I wish I could say that, but I can't. If anything, I think some of us left more puzzled than when we began.
Noting that Graham had studiously avoided the Epistle in his fine sermon for last Sunday, and that I would have been clueless on what to say about it had I been the preacher, I thought the passage (I Corinthians 7:29-31) merited further study. To paraphrase, Paul encourages the Corinthians (and us) to not be, as they/we are -- married, mourning, rejoicing, buying or otherwise doing business in the world, and all because "the appointed time has grown short" and "the present form of this world is passing away." Usually reading the context for the verses provides some clarity about what is going on. On Thursday, that practice added to our shared frustration.
Sometimes Bible Study is like that. We don't want to be appeased with simplistic explanations that mute the biblical message as we attempt to take the Bible seriously. A former rector of mine would say in these situations, "Best to just leave that where Paul (or Jesus) flang it!" So, I did just that. Then, when I was not looking for it, I received an insight that I found truly helpful on, of all places, Facebook: Perhaps what Paul was trying to tell his readers is that whatever their situation in life, that is not their fundamental identity. Our fundamental identity is rooted in who and whose we are, adopted children of God, reconciled and restored to full relationship with God, and (hopefully) one another by God's gracious gift.
We also live in unsettled and changing times; the culture around us would gladly pigeonhole us and tell us whether we matter or not. But even as the world changes around us, we too can know fundamentally who and whose we are -- members of the household of God, branches of the vine, inheritors of the Kingdom and Christ's own forever. At least for me, that assurance is worth the occasional frustration in studying the Bible.
We will continue to study the readings from I Corinthians appointed for these weeks following the Epiphany. Coffee and tea are served, and we aim to begin at 9:30 Thursday mornings in the Rectory dining room. Please feel free to join the conversation!
During Sunday's Rectory Forum, we will continue watching, and discussing, topical clips from the producers of "The Sultan and the Saint: The Story of the Sultan of Egypt and St. Francis of Assisi." This week's clips focus on religious thought in the time of St. Francis --particularly the thinking of medieval Islam and medieval Christianity. Although the term "Dark Ages," has passed out of use to describe the life of western Europe, it was particularly inappropriate for regions under the rule of Islamic leaders. Indeed, it was in just these regions where the science, philosophy and literature of antiquity was preserved in Arabic translations, having been destroyed in their original Greek. The tolerance of medieval Islam toward Chrisitanity gets lost in the violence of contemporary extremism. Coffee and tea will be ready in the rectory entry hall, and we will begin as soon as we can after 9 a.m.
In addition to groups focusing on the parish's finances, and on service within and outside our parish community, our Strategic Planning process also encouraged on-going conversation about our ministries with children, youth and their families. These conversations began again during the fall, and will convene for a first time in 2018 on Sunday, January 28, during Coffee Hour. At one of its last meetings in 2017, the group decided to title its efforts "Faith Formation; " all are welcome.
In faith, hope, and love,
Your Friendly Neighborhood Rector
This letter is almost always sent well before Sunday evening! And, I usually give us all a week off from this letter to the parish while on winter break. This year however, t think you'll want to know about the following -- even after Sunday worship.
We have been praying for Mother Anne Richards for some months. First, we offered prayers for God's healing; then we prayed for God's compassion and mercy after she entered hospice care; now, we pray for her repose, and for consolation for her husband, +Richard Grein, her sons Jeff and Matthew, and her extended family including all who knew and loved her. Anne+ died on Thursday in the Bronx, New York. According to my sources, services have yet to be announced.
In July 2016, Anne+ spent three weeks with Christ Church, leading Sunday worship and Bible study with the Vestry. offering counsel, enjoying your hospitality, and staying in the Rectory while she tried to finish some writing. Anne's impact on the parish during those three brief weeks cannot be overstated. It was Anne+ who recommended the Consecration Sunday stewardship education program.
In one of her sermons, Anne+ commended nine words to you. These nine words form three brief prayers that can make all the difference in our lives: Lord, have mercy. Thee, I adore. Into thy hands. So, now it's our turn to do what she taught us. To commend her into the merciful hands of Jesus, her savior and ours.
May light perpetual shine upon her.
To honor Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, Guilford's Witness Stones Project in collaboration with the Guilford Human Rights Advocates will co-host a screening of the film "Selma" on Thursday, January 18th in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. You are invited this showing at 7 pm in the Whitfield Room of the Guilford Community Center. I found this film very gripping, and recommend it highly.
It also occurs to me, that you might want to read Dr. King's final Sunday sermon, which he preached at Washington National Cathedral on March 31, 1968. Fifty years ago Dr. King talked about "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution." Much has changed since he spoke these words from the Cathedral's massive Canterbury pulpit. However, the revolution to claim freedom for all God's children continues, and his principles seem keenly pertinent in our own day. You can find the sermon here.
Many thanks to all who participated in our Epiphany Celebration Evensong and Supper last Sunday. I trust all felt amply rewarded for coming out on such a bitterly cold evening. The Sunday School's anthems got us off to a great start; their tableau of the Epiphany story was as dear as could be; our Acolytes and reader were all spot on; the Church twinkled in candle-light; and the Choir wrapped up our prayers in stirring fashion. Thanks to all who provided so many delightful appetizers and desserts, and to all who helped with set-up and clean-up. Special thanks to my chief assistants Sue Shackford and Sheward Hagerty! From my vantage, it seemed like folks had a terrific time!
I trust you all had a fine Sunday morning with the Rev. Patricia Hames! I appreciated being able to worship with All Saints' Church, Beverly Hills this morning as they said farewell to their rector. The Rev. Steve Huber and I are friends and former colleagues from our days in Washington, D.C. Tomorrow, we start packing. I'll need to come home for a rest. God, and the TSA willing, I will see you next Sunday.
In faith and hope,
Your Friendly Neighborhood Rector
Today, January 6, is the Feast of the Epiphany -- the day when the Church remembers the revelation of Jesus to all nations. In Matthew's account of the Gospel, wise watchers of the stars represent all peoples outside the Israelites; they see something amazing, bring their gifts, and come from the East to worship a newborn King.
Thursday's blizzard bumped the ECW's lunch at Sue Shackford's to today, the Epiphany. And, notwithstanding today's single-digit temperatures, the lunch is on for noon.
On January 7, we're going to observe the First Sunday after the Epiphany in the morning, and then, in the early evening, flip back to celebrate the Epiphany story at our 4 p.m. Epiphany Evensong followed by an Epiphany party and Rector's Roast Beef Supper. So, Jesus will be an adult in the morning, and a baby on his mother's knee in the evening.
With the Epiphany Evensong, we conclude our celebrations of our Lord's Nativity with a final sighting of the Holy Family, the Star, and the Kings. The Sunday School -- especially children who were away on December 24th -- will present an Epiphany tableau, as young readers relate the biblical account, and we finally get to sing the Epiphany verses of favorite carols. The children will reprise their "Gloria" and "Mary's Song;" and the Choir will bring out an old favorite, "The Coventry Carol." All the children's necessary rehearsal of songs and parts will happen during Sunday School time tomorrow morning.
Our celebration will continue with an Epiphany Party and Rector's Roast Beef Dinner. Please bring an appetizer or dessert to share, and any adult beverage you would like to offer your table. It would be great to have a "King's Cake" or two. Please also consider helping with the set-up for, serving during, or clean-up after the dinner.
January 7 will be a busy day for the Sunday School, but parish education gatherings will not meet the following Sunday, January 15, due to the Martin Luther King Holiday.
I hope this finds you safe and warm! God bless you all for your generosity in helping keep our neighbors warm during this winter's frightful cold. Your Angels-under-the-Balcony monetary gifts will continue Christ Church's traditional outreach to those now served by the Town's Heating Assistance Program. The gifts of gloves, scarves and hats with which you decorated the Mitten Tree, and the bags of toiletries and treats you placed around the base, will warm and delight those served by New Haven's Chapel-on-the-Green.
It's not too late to make a gift for the Heating Assistance Program; please make your check out to Christ Church with "Heating Fund" or "Angels" in the memo line. After Easter, we will prepare a Chapel-on-the-Green lunch as part of participating in a Sunday afternoon service.
Sunday's Rectory Forum will view and discuss a brief video about The Crusades, prepared by the producers of "The Sultan and the Saint." The Crusades were the occasion for the meeting of the Sultan of Egypt and St. Francis of Assisi in 1220. The documentary presents The Crusades as the archetype for how to incite mass hatred and violence within one population towards others.
It is into such a world that God took on human flesh to live among us; that's worth celebrating!
In faith and hope,
p.s. Graham Marsh, our seminary intern, is still at home in Minneapolis this week, recovering from the General Ordination Examinations, which he wrote all-day Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. His High School group may choose to worship with the congregation throughout Sunday's 10 a.m. service, or join the Middle School class. Graham's first Sunday of this semester will be January 21st.
We feature various authors from around our parish, commenting on topics of interest to our community. Enjoy! Comment if you are so moved!