Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 50 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and impending hockey arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Monday, May 15, 2017

Easter 4 AND Mothers Day - Rector's Rambling for May 14, 2017

As a liturgical church, one with an inherited liturgy and calendar, The Episcopal Church keeps the second Sunday in May as whatever Sunday after Easter it is (Easter being a Feast Day that moves according to a lunar calendar).
In my last parish we had a few people from local protestant churches who attended our church on this day because we did not celebrate Mother’s Day as a liturgical holiday, with all hymns, readings, and the sermon based on the virtue of being a mother.  They were unmarried, or unable to have children, and appreciated that although we certainly acknowledged Mother’s Day, we were bound by the scheduled readings and ecclesiastical calendar for our worship and sermon theme.
Here at St. John’s, I hope we strike a happy medium with our wonderful Mother’s Day hymn, written by a former priest of this parish, and a hearty welcome and thanksgiving in prayer for mothers present and those who have gone on to eternal life.
But primarily we are today about the Fourth Sunday after Easter, with the emphasis on the Resurrection, and our looking forward to Jesus’ Ascension and the coming of the Holy Ghost.
In 11 days we begin our program of Thy Kingdom Come.  Please be sure you sign up on our Prayer Warrior board down in the undercroft, and sign up to promise to be present for at least one of the 6:00 PM Evening Prayer services out at our Prayer Wall from May 26 through June 3.
This will be a wonderful opportunity for us to pray that Jesus Christ may be known and loved by more and more people.  It is good for the community, the world, and even for us to be praying together for this wonderful thing, just as the disciples prayed together between Ascension and Pentecost for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Prayer Suggestions for Thy Kingdom Come

People have asked, “what should I pray for while preparing for, and during, Thy Kingdom Come?”   First and foremost, the theme of the week is that more people will come to know Jesus Christ.  This is the most important thing we need to pray for!  

You can begin by reading the prayer which thousands of people across the world will be praying during Thy Kingdom Come, and which will be at the heart of every event.

Almighty God,
your ascended Son has sent us into the world
to preach the Good News of your Kingdom:
inspire us with your Spirit
and fill our hearts with the fire of your love,
that all who hear your Word
may be drawn to you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additionally, we can be praying for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to hear Jesus and turn to Him in prayer, for our country, for peace among the nations, for missions, for children and those who are sick, and for us to better understand His Will.  We want to be open to how He may be leading us!

Following are some prayers from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer,   They are a starting point to ‘prime the pump’.   Add to these prayers your heartfelt personal prayer to God – speak to Him as your loving Father! 

 For the Spirit of Prayer.
Almighty God, who pourest out on all who desire it, the spirit of grace and of supplication; Deliver us, when we draw nigh to thee, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with stedfast thoughts and kindled affections, we may worship thee in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Quiet Confidence.
O  God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength; By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Guidance.
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly; Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of Wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Our Country.
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the Family of Nations.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, guide, we beseech thee, the Nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

For Missions.
O God, who hast made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the whole earth, and didst send thy blessed Son to preach peace to them that are far off and to them that are nigh; Grant that all men everywhere may seek after thee and find thee. Bring the nations into thy fold, pour out thy Spirit upon all flesh, and hasten thy kingdom; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Children.
O  Lord, Jesus Christ, who dost embrace children with the arms of thy mercy, and dost make them living members of thy Church; Give them grace, we pray thee, to stand fast in thy faith, to obey thy word, and to abide in thy love; that being made strong by thy Holy Spirit they may resist temptation and overcome evil; and may rejoice in the life that now is, and dwell with thee in the life that is to come; through thy merits, O merciful Saviour, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest one God, world without end. Amen.

For Sick Persons.
O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need; We humbly beseech thee to behold, visit, and relieve thy sick servants [N. & N.] for whom our prayers are desired. Look upon them with the eyes of thy mercy; comfort them with a sense of thy goodness; preserve them from the temptations of the enemy; and give them patience under their affliction. In thy good time, restore them to health, and enable them to lead the residue of their life in thy fear, and to thy glory; and grant that finally they may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Various Collects
Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers, and dispose the way of thy servants towards the attainment of everlasting salvation; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, they may ever be defended by thy most gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Almighty Lord, and everlasting God, vouchsafe, we beseech thee, to direct, sanctify, and govern, both our hearts and bodies, in the ways of thy laws, and in the works of thy commandments; that, through thy most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be pre served in body and soul; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Almighty God, who hast promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in thy Son’s Name; We beseech thee mercifully to incline thine ears to us who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have faithfully asked according to thy will, may effectually be obtained, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may, by thy mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and, that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Monday, May 08, 2017

Getting started on prayer - Rector's Rambling for May 7, 2017

Excitement it picking up for our special program Thy Kingdom Come, a time of prayer between the Feast of the Ascension on May 25 and Pentecost/Whitsunday on June 4.
Occasionally I hear from parishioners that they like the idea of praying, but are uncomfortable in doing so.  Recently one person said to me, “I am afraid I am somehow doing it wrong”.  It led to a very fruitful conversation about praying as a conversation with God, and I assured the person that it would be much worse for them to not talk to God than to perhaps get something wrong.
One great gift of our Anglican/Episcopal heritage is the Book of Common Prayer.  Morning and Evening Prayer, or the shorter forms for prayer beginning on page 587, are good starting points for our prayer time.  The Prayer Book is grounded in Scripture, and tested by the generations of saints who have been aided by it to become holy.  But once you have spent time praying formally, be sure to make time to just talk to God.  Thank Him for blessings.  Confess your failings and ask forgiveness.  Tell Him your needs, desires, and fears.  And pray for others who have asked your prayers, or anyone you would like to offer up in prayer.  And be sure to pray for St. John’s Church, for her members and her clergy.
The primary intention for these special days is for us to pray that more people come to know Jesus as Lord.  You can do that both by praying in general, as well as by making a list of people you would like to see come into a relationship with Jesus, and then praying for them by name every day.
One caveat is to make sure that as we are praying, we are open to how God the Holy Ghost may want to guide and direct us as we pray, and always to pray, “Thy will be done” – acknowledging that the results of our prayer will be His doing, not always our desired result.

Lesson One in Prayer by Dr. Peter Kreeft - St. John's Teaching Notes for April 30, May 7 and 14

Let's get very, very basic and very, very practical about prayer. The single most important piece of advice I know about prayer is also the simplest:   Just do it! 

How to do it is less important than just doing it. Less-than-perfect prayer is infinitely better than no prayer; more perfect prayer is only finitely better than less perfect prayer.

Nancy Reagan was criticized for her simple anti-drug slogan: "Just say no." But there was wisdom there: the wisdom that the heart of any successful program to stop anything must be the simple will to say no. ("Just say no" doesn't mean that nothing else was needed, but that without that simple decision nothing else would work. "Just say no" may not be sufficient but it is necessary.)

Similarly, no program, method, book, teacher, or technique will ever succeed in getting us to start doing anything unless there is first of all that simple, absolute choice to do it. "Just say yes."

The major obstacle in most of our lives to just saying yes to prayer, the most popular and powerful excuse we give for not praying, or not praying more, or not praying regularly, is that we have no time.

The only effective answer to that excuse, I find, is a kind of murder. You have to kill something, you have to say no to something else, in order to make time to pray. Of course, you will never find time to pray, you have to make time to pray. And that means unmaking something else. The only way to install the tenant of prayer in the apartment building of your life is to evict some other tenant from those premises that prayer will occupy. Few of us have any empty rooms available.

Deciding to do that is the first thing. And you probably won't decide to do it, only wish to do it, unless you see prayer for what it is: a matter of life or death, your lifeline to God, to life itself.

Is this exaggerated? Are there more important things? Love, for instance? We need love absolutely; but the love we need is agape, the love that only God has and is; so unless we go to God for it, we won't get it. And going to God for it means prayer. So unless we pray, we will not love.

Having got that clear and having made prayer your number one priority, having made a definite decision to do it, we must next rearrange our lives around it. Rearranging your time, preparing time to pray, is like preparing your house to paint. As everyone knows who has done any painting, preparation is three-quarters the work, three-quarters the hassle, and three-quarters the time. The actual painting is a breeze compared with the preparation. The same is true of prayer: the hardest step is preparing a place, a time, a sacred and inviolable part of each day for it. Prayer is like Thanksgiving dinner. It takes one hour to eat it and ten hours to prepare it. Prayer is like Christmas Day: it took a month of preparation, decoration, and shopping to arrange for that one day. Best of all, prayer is like love. Foreplay is, or should be, most of it. For two people truly and totally in love, all of their lives together is foreplay. Well, prayer is like spiritual love-making. God has waited patiently for you for a long, long time. He longs for you to touch the fringe of his being in prayer, as the woman touched the hem of Christ's garment, so that you can be healed. How many hours did that woman have to prepare for that one-minute touch?

The first and most important piece of practical preparation is scheduling. You absolutely must schedule a regular time for prayer, whether you are a "scheduler" with other things in your life or not. "Catch as catch can" simply won't work for prayer; it will mean less and less prayer, or none at all. One quick minute in the morning to offer your day to God is better than nothing at all, of course, but it is as radically inadequate as one quick minute a day with your wife or husband. You simply must decide each day to free up your schedule so you can pray.

How long a time? That varies with individuals and situations, of course; but the very barest minimum should certainly be at least fifteen minutes. You can't really count on getting much deep stuff going on in less time than that. If fifteen minutes seems too much to you, that fact is powerful proof that you need to pray much more to get your head on straight.

After it becomes more habitual and easy, expand it, double it. And later, double it again. Aim at an hour

What time of day is best? The most popular time—bedtime—is usually the worst possible time, for two reasons. First, it tends not to be prime time but garbage time, when you're the least alert and awake. Do you really want to put God in the worst apartment in your building? Should you offer him the sickest sheep in your flock?

Second, it won't work. If you wait until every other obligation is taken care of first before you pray, you simply won't pray. For life today is so cruelly complicated for most of us that "every other obligation" is never taken care of. Remember, you are going to have to kill other things in order to pray. No way out of that.

The most obvious and usually best time is early in the morning. If you can't delay the other things you do, you simply must get up that much earlier.

Should it be the very first thing? That depends. Some people are alert as soon as they get up; others need to shower and dress to wake up. The important thing is to give God the best time, and "just do it."

Place is almost as important as time. You should make one special place where you can be undisturbed. "Catch as catch can" won't work for place either.

What place? Some people are not very sensitive to environment and can even use a bathroom. Others naturally seek beauty: a porch, yard, garden, or walk. (I find praying while you take a walk a good combination of spiritual and physical exercise.)

You probably noticed I haven't said a word about techniques yet. That's because three-quarters is preparation, remember? But what about methods?

I can only speak from my own experience as a continuing beginner. The two most effective that I have found are very simple. One is praying Scripture, reading and praying at the same time, reading in God's presence, receiving the words from God's mouth. The second is spontaneous verbal prayer. I am not good at all at silent prayer, mental prayer, contemplative prayer; my thoughts hop around like fleas. Praying aloud (or singing) keeps me praying, at least. And I find it often naturally leads to silent prayer often, or "mental prayer," or contemplation.

Most advice on prayer focuses on higher levels: contemplative prayer. But I suspect many of my readers are prayer infants too and need to learn to walk before they can run. So these are some lessons from one man's prayer kindergarten. Let's "just do it" even if "it" is only crawling towards God.
Copied from here, with permission

Monday, May 01, 2017

Praying to be better pray-ers - Rector's Rambling for April 30, 2017

We continue our joyful celebration of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead with what is known as Good Shepherd Sunday.  Just as we concentrated last Sunday on the various Resurrection appearances of Jesus on Easter Day, so now we move forward in understanding the mission of the Church.
Last week’s Gospel reminds us that when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room, He breathed upon them and gave them the gift of the Holy Ghost for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus’ first day out of the tomb and He is already putting the disciples to work for the spread of the Kingdom of God!
In last week’s sermon I charged the congregation to begin praying earnestly for our upcoming Thy Kingdom Come program from May 25 (Feast of the Ascension) to June 4 (Whitsunday, also known as Pentecost).  The primary purpose of these 11 days is for us to emulate the disciples in prayer, as we read in the book of the Acts of the Apostles.  After Christ ascended into heaven, Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.  And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphæus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.  These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. (Acts 1:12–14)
So too we are going to continue in prayer and supplication as the disciples did in preparation for the gift of the Holy Ghost.  And until May 25, we need you to pray everyday for God’s blessing on this endeavor.  We are praying to be better pray-ers, that we may be open to God’s direction for these important days.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Low Sunday - Rector's Rambling for April 23, 2017

Last Week we had a fantastic celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!  I am grateful for all the participants who helped to make such a wonderful day possible, from acolytes, choristers, ushers, and altar guild, to all the friends, family, and members who were present for worship.  The brass accompaniment was great, and the choir sounded fantastic, but nothing topped having so many people present for worship and fellowship!
If past proves provident, we will have half the people in Church today, or fewer, than we did last Sunday.  Three quarters of the choir take a week to rest their voices, and many of our guests go back to their neighborhood parishes for the regular week to week worship in which they participate.  Others, who attend worship less frequently, will go back to their regular non-attendance.
But I have something for all of us in the parish to think about.  St. John’s could be as well-attended on a “regular” Sunday as it was for Easter.  This could be accomplished if all those who consider themselves members of the parish were to attend every week.
Although some members have moved out of the area, we have enough people locally (or relatively locally) who are or were regular worshippers here, that if all made an effort to be here at least three Sundays a month, we would find the nave as full today as it was last week.
Regular attendance at worship not only helps you (receive the Grace of Communion, teaching, and fellowship), but your presence also encourages others in attendance.  The congregation also sings better when there are more people gathered.  And think of the impression a fuller church makes on a visitor!
Today this column reaches those who are here and I hope you will be here next week as well.  But for those not here, let us pray for them, that they return soon!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Thy Kingdom Come - an introduction - April 23, 2017

As announced last week from the pulpit, we will be participating in The Archbishop of Canterbury’s program Thy Kingdom Come.

The official dates of the program are May 25 to June 4.  These are the days beginning with The Feast of the Ascension (Fortieth Day after Easter) and Whitsunday, also known as Pentecost.  We will begin with a special evening Holy Communion Service on May 25th to celebrate the Feast Day, and then for the 9 days following we will have daily Communion and a special Evening Prayer session out at the Prayer Wall (weather permitting, or inside) with an opportunity to have a parishioner give a testimony to their faith in Jesus Christ. 

The daily Communion Service is important because it is primarily who we are - a Christ-centered, Bible-believing community that takes Jesus at His command to eat His flesh and drink His blood under the species of the bread and wine of His Sacrament.  The Catechism defines a Sacrament as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us; ordained by Christ Himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof” (p. 581 - Book of Common Prayer).  Jesus has commanded and given it to us with the promise of His Grace.

The other daily event, Evening Prayer, is also something that helps to define us as faithful Christians in the Anglican Tradition.  This tradition has for centuries molded the lives of holy men and women in a regular systematic form of Scriptural reading and worship.

Common to both these daily events is that they are forms of PRAYER.  Prayer is the vehicle for Thy Kingdom Come.  But our praying is not confined to just these two Prayer Book formularies.  NOW is the time for all of us to START PRAYING!  Every day ask God to bless the upcoming program, bless this parish, and pray that He will help us to know Jesus better so that we can share Him with others.  LET US PRAY - every day, starting right now!

He is Risen! - Rector's Rambling for April 16, 2017

The shock of Jesus’ death, and the mourning of His followers did not prepare them for the surprise of an empty tomb.  We know they were not prepared because the Gospel accounts tell us that they went to the tomb to mourn, as well as properly prepare the body, because he was hastily buried on Friday before the High Sabbath Day for Passover.
The Sabbath prohibition against work being over, the women go to the tomb with spices to anoint the body (notice the woman depicted above our altar with a jar in her hand).  And we even hear their concern that they would need help rolling away the stone from the front of the tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, who had offered it for Jesus’ burial, so they could accomplish this task.
Jesus had spoken plainly and openly about His impending death, and that in three days he would rise again.  St. Thomas mentions that the disciples will go to Jerusalem to die with Him, and St. Peter tries to forbid Jesus from going to fulfill God’s will (and was suitably rebuked by Jesus for it).  Yet once arrested, all but St. John flee from Jesus, and we hear that they were cowering together for fear that the authorities would come for them next.
How often do we not want to hear the hard things that Jesus has to say?  They couldn’t hear or accept his warning that all this was to come, and that it was a part of a bigger plan.  How often do we go on with the easier things of Jesus’ teaching with blinders on against what we don’t want to hear?
The Good News is that just as they were all surprised by the Resurrection of Jesus, we too can be surprised, caught unprepared, by the miracle that is Jesus Christ and His plans for us.  Like the disciples, it is our response after that surprise that makes all the difference.  Let us rejoice, as they did, and follow Him as Lord and Saviour.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Passion Sunday - Rector's Rambling for April 2, 2017

As you may have noticed, the crosses on the altars and around the church are now veiled.  Although most Episcopal churches follow the modern Roman Catholic form for veiling the crosses on all the Sundays of Lent, we keep to the old tradition of doing so from Passion Sunday onwards.  Dr. Taylor Marshall, a former Episcopal priest, writes on his blog Canterbury Tales, “In the old days, Passion Sunday (5th Sunday) ‘ramped up’ the Lenten season.  Passion Sunday (also called Judica Sunday from the opening Introit) is the traditional day for veiling the crucifixes and statues in the churches.  The practice allegedly derives from Bavaria (though I’d love for someone more knowledgeable to shed light on the origin of this custom).  The crosses and images remain veiled and add to the dramatic effect of the Paschal Vigil when they are unveiled for the glory and wonder of our Lord’s resurrection.  The famous medieval triptychs that opened and closed were constructed for the purpose of closing them for this season.”
In today’s Chronicle you will find several copies of an invitation to our Holy Week services, which begin next Sunday with Palm Sunday.  Write the dates on your calendar and plan on attending as many of them as you can!  Your attendance will be good for you, and an encouragement to the others who attend as well, especially guests.

      And once you have written down the dates, share the invite with a friend or neighbor.  Offer them a ride to church with you, and pray they find a home here