Come in. Rest and Pray.

"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, 
I will be exalted in the earth!"  Psalm 46:10

The tenth verse of Psalm 46 calls to stillness, and it links quietness, rest, and stillness to the exaltation of God. Often, the praise of God is linked to exuberant action and singing out. This Psalm reminds that stillness, silence, and listening, are just as much a part of the worship of God as is crying out in praise. Our culture values what is active, productive, and industrious. There is a pressing drive to always be doing something. People text, browse, call, work, and move at incredible speed. The pace of even the lives of our children can reach a frenetic pace. This leads to lives that move so fast, one can always feel tired, spent, and fatigued. It is unhealthy and unsustainable.

God calls His holy people to set aside time for rest, to set holy Sabbath. The connection between rest, refreshment, and holiness is not incidental. It is intentional. The Sabbath was more than a day dedicated to rest. It was dedicated to God. There is a difference between Sabbath and days off. There is an intentional nature to setting Sabbath aside. We need it. Our hearts, our families, our lives, need it.  

We need to worship together. It has never been, and never will be an optional part of a spiritual life. If we do not gather for worship, we are diminished. If other things have us moving so quickly, so busily, that we choose not to worship with one another, faith that is meant to reach out to God and others, becomes pseudo-faith that is self-centered. Faith becomes just another consumer product where we can pick or choose what we want and when we want it.

God calls us to seek what He wants for our lives and for the life of the world. God’s call is always to deeper commitment. This means changing how life is lived and how time is spent. One must listen in order to seek the will of another. Listening in prayer is essential to turning our lives, our time, and our commitment toward God and His purposes.

This is not only a matter of when we worship but how we worship. In our worship there are times we sing some of the music in the liturgy, and times we listen. Both are central to a healthy life of worship. Much of the way that we plan our liturgies is to provide the opportunity to do both. It is essential to our spiritual life that we learn to listen as well as to speak.

Some pieces of music that our choir sings are often heard in concerts and performances. This is much like viewing a statue in a museum rather than in its original context. We don’t get the whole picture. We don’t see it as it is meant to be seen. It is not often that these compositions are used in worship, most hear them in concerts. It is an unfortunate turn of events, that many works of sacred music are now regarded as concert pieces, rather than works sung to the glory of God in worship.  We are one such parish where we can seek to reverse this trend. When we pray the words the choir sings, we embrace the stillness to which God calls us.

If it is uncomfortable to listen while others sing, it is worth taking time to reflect on what is uncomfortable. Often stillness is uncomfortable, and the business with which we are surrounded distract us from the parts of our lives where stillness and peace are most needed. I have often found, that when I step back, rest, pray, and listen, the priorities, fears, and concerns that most troubled me, are met with the peace of understanding that I am not God, and that God is. Seemingly limitless concern and activity, attempted by human beings, which by nature are limited, gives way to the understanding of God who is limitless, and through whom all things are possible.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”  

As the sign in our narthex reads, “Come in. Rest and pray.” 

It matters.

 

Faithfully in Christ Jesus,

Fr. Jon +

Rector's Lenten Message

Beloved in Christ,

Today the season of Lent begins. Ash Wednesday is a reminder of our mortality and is a moment to reflect on our brokenness and sin. It is important to remember that as we do so, we are also reminded of the resurrection and the merciful grace of God. The solemn remembrance of Ash Wednesday is meant to draw us into a deeper knowledge of God’s love for us, and to make us mindful of the hope of resurrection and renewal.

Lent is an important time in the church year. For generations Lent was a time of preparation for the sacrament of Baptism. It is a time of special discipline and devotion that prepares us to receive the new life offered to us in the Resurrection. It was also a time of reconciliation, when the penitent were restored to the life of the church.

The practices of Lent include prayer, fasting, alms giving, self-denial, and reading of Holy Scripture. All of these practices are part of keeping a Holy Lent. I encourage you to pray and consider what disciplines you will undertake this Lent. One of the best analogies for this season is that of a runner training to run a race. Each practice, each discipline, builds toward the goal. Lent trains us to be able to sacrifice for each other and for our faith. Just as an athlete carefully considers each competition, Lent is a time when we take care to consider our own actions and priorities mindful of the love of God. When we are estranged, we are reminded to reconcile with God and our neighbors.

Some helpful suggestions for this Lenten season:

Attend worship         

find a time within the week to worship, and really listen. Open your heart and attend to the Word proclaimed and the Sacraments offered.

Give Alms                  

Give of yourself, your time, and your treasure in a sacrificial way. Take time to take part in the outreach ministries of Calvary or elsewhere, and show the love of God.  You may even decide to forgo a meal once a week and give what you would have spent to feed the needy.

Pray                           

Take time each day to pray. Whether it is in the morning or the evening, or anytime, set aside time for this purpose.

Read the Bible           

If you wish to take this on as a Lenten practice, read the Gospel of Mark, read a Psalm a day, or read St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.

Be kind                       

Be kind to yourself and others. When you choose your Lenten fasts, remember that you may not always succeed in them. Let this be an opportunity to reflect on your need for God. Let every discipline you undertake be out of love for God and one another. Remember Paul’s words in the Thirteenth Chapter of Corinthians, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing… So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

I wish you all a blessed and Holy Lent. May God bless you in your Lenten practices and guide you to a fuller celebration of his resurrection, grace, and love this Easter.

Faithfully in Christ Jesus,

Fr. Jon +

Reflection for the Eve of the Presentation

Simeon took Jesus up in his arms and blessed God and said,

"Lord, you now have set your servant free *
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, *
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations, *
and the glory of your people Israel."

Simeon’s joy is full of the hope of Gospel. He knows that he will not see the complete fulfillment of the promise of salvation in his lifetime. Instead he holds it in his arms. He is offered the blessing to cradle Jesus, the young God the Son of God in his arms. He holds the full hope of all the world, the fulfillment of all who seek the truth, and gazes at the face of the love of God his savior. 

Tomorrow, the feast of the presentation, let us remember that we too are offered a chance to behold and see the face of Christ as we worship him. Let us remember that we cradle him in our heart as we receive him in prayer, word, and sacrament. 

Having worshiped him and been filled with the love of God, let us follow, and make known the light of all nations and peoples. With the love of God empowering us we are able to follow him in word and action, by words and acts of love. 

By God’s grace, and through our work, may all be set free to say “these eye of mine have seen the Savior”

Rector's Christmas Letter 2012

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made . In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Beloved in Christ,

The words of Saint John’s Gospel herald a new beginning. John writes with joy of the new creation made present in Jesus Christ. The darkness of the night is overcome by the brightness of the life of God made man in Jesus Christ. Each year, for each of us, Christmas comes. Christmas comes amidst the hurry or hush of our lives. In restlessness or repose, Christmas comes. Each year is different. The milestones, achievements, joys, sorrows, and losses are different for each of us, yet Christmas comes. The moments of our lives are different from day to day and year to year, and yet Christmas comes. Some years, Christmas comes in a time of joy. Some years, Christmas comes in time of loss or grief. Christmas comes.

The light of the child in the manger shines for you and for me. It shines upon the darkness of the world that surrounds us and shows God’s love for the world he has made. Christ comes to us where we are, and in whatever circumstance we face. God is with us – Emmanuel. The Christ-child shows us the depth of the love of God – that God is not only willing to bring us new life, but that he also breaks into our lives as clearly as the cry of a newborn child, and that he is here to stay. Christmas comes.

The incarnation of Jesus Christ points to his death and resurrection. The cry of the newborn in Mary’s arms signals forever that God is with us. Christ takes our burdens as his own, shows us what it means to live a life of love regardless of the cost, and gives to us the promise of life. This cry comes amidst the darkness of Herod’s tyranny and a people occupied. It comes today to a world that is still dark, cold, and hungry, seeking the love of God.

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, let us remember that the promise is not only that God will bring us from darkness to light, but that we have a part to play in the promise. We are to be messengers of the love of God and to bring the light of Christ to the furthest corners of darkness that we encounter. We are to let all people know they are never alone; they are beloved of God. As each of us holds a candle this Christmas season and sing of the silent night of Our Lord’s birth, let us remember to bring that light wherever we may go.

May God bless you in this season of incarnation, and may the light of our Lord Jesus Christ shine in your hearts and lives.

 

Faithfully in Christ Jesus,

 

Fr. Jon +