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

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Rector's Rambling - July 18, 2010

If past experience is any indicator, when you are reading this on Sunday morning you will have a parish priest who is over-tired, with a hoarse throat, and yet walking two feet above the ground.
I am writing this before The St. Michael’s Conference for Youth. My experience is that the clergy don’t get enough sleep because we are up earlier than the Michaelites and then after they go to bed it takes a little while for us to debrief from the day.
We also sing A LOT during the week at both Morning Communion and Evensong and the hymns are all the old favorites which the clergy tends to over-sing (you can almost see Dr. Lewis’ head nodding as I write this about clergy in general).
But I am sure I am also excited about having spent such a great week at the Conference, teaching the children and being a part of their growing in faith!
The other great thing about the St. Michael’s Conference this week is that I was not near a computer except for the rare occasion. This is a welcome break from the madness of trying to keep up with email and various social networking websites. As much fun, and as informative, as they can be, it is always nice to step away from them for a welcome break.
Next week we have our second annual Founders Day celebration. We will sing appropriate hymns from the period of the founding of St. John’s, and will use the original liturgy used in the first 30 years of this parish. Afterwards we will have an ice cream social in the garden, weather permitting.
It is hard to believe, but 150 years ago this past June 6th the cornerstone of the Church was laid. The story of the cornerstone laying was on the front page of the Detroit Free Press. Back then positive church news was front page news. Within a week after the opening of the Chapel in November of 1859 the vestry began making plans to build the Church because the chapel was already too small for our growing congregation. Wouldn’t it be great to have problems like that today!

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Rector's Rambling - July 11, 2010

This afternoon I and eight parishioners from St. John’s will head over to the Manresa Retreat Center in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan for the beginning of the St. Michael’s Conference for Youth, Midwest.
My first experience with “St. Mike’s” was while I was in seminary, the Summer of 1993. I had been roped by a mentor into serving as visiting clergy on staff at the original conference in Massachusetts and did not particularly look forward to “Church Camp” (which is what I thought it was). What I experienced instead was a dynamic gathering of clergy, laity, and teens, worshipping, learning, and playing, all to the Greater Glory of God! After my initial reluctance to go, I had two great things happen that week: 1) One staff member got to know me and later offered me the position as his curate, and, more importantly, 2) on the last evening I met my wife when she came to visit her younger sister who was attending that week!
I served one more year as visiting clergy at the Massachusetts conference and, after a few years hiatus, was volunteered once again (this time by Bishop Ackerman) to serve at the newer extension of the conference in Michigan. At the time I was the Rector of a parish near Pittsburgh and used to drive a group of teens from that parish to Michigan for the conference. I have been on staff ever since.
At the beginning of the conference the director goes over the rules. The only way the conference can run smoothly is for everyone to know the boundaries of proper behavior. Every year he begins the speech by saying, “you are not here to have fun and make friends. You are here to learn about Jesus Christ and His Church, and to become a better churchman to go into the world as a witness of His Love. BUT, if you keep this in focus as the primary thing, you will find that you will ALSO have fun, and make friends as well!” This has proven true year after year.
This is now my 14th year on staff at the St. Michael’s Conferences. My son Sam is in his third year, and Andrew starts this year. I look forward, God willing, to all my children having the opportunity to participate in this wonderful week.
Now is the time to start thinking about your children/grandchildren going next year!

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Rector's Rambling - July 4, 2010

Today we are commemorating the “birthday” of our country, the 234th year after the public acclamation of our Independence from the King of England.
I went to college in Philadelphia, the cradle of our Independence (pace to those from Boston who think otherwise). While living there, a passing interest in colonial history became an avocation. Not only did I become an amateur tour guide to many historic sites in colonial Philadelphia, but ended up working with a National Guard unit which had its foundation before the Revolutionary War and participated as a Calvary Unit under General Washington. It was with the First Troop Philadelphia City Calvary that I learned how to ride horses and served in their ceremonial parade unit, an interest which continues through my one-time chaplaincy work with the Detroit Police Mounted Unit, and now on the foundation of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Mounted Unit.
Even to this day, I continue to be fascinated with the early history of our country. Being created by fallen human beings (no one is perfect!), the continued blessings and growth in grace that has occurred on our soil is proof of God’s blessing on the endeavor begun nearly 2 1/2 centuries ago.
However, also being interested in reading theology, I am struck by many similarities in our current society, and that which is described in St. Augustine’s The City of God. St. Augustine, describing the fall of the Roman Empire, happening in his own time, is responding to claims made by some pagans that the fall is a punishment by the Roman “gods” for turning from their religion to Christianity. St. Augustine goes on to take apart that argument, not only by defending the truth and virtue of the Christian Faith, but by showing them that the fall of the Roman Empire had more to do with the growing affluence, lack of virtue, immorality, and luke-warm religiosity of the leaders and upper-classes of society. St. Augustine rails on those who try to justify their increasing immorality by projecting it onto their religion, trying to change its teaching. Sound familiar?
“America! America! God mend thine every flaw, confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.”
O beautiful for spacious skies, v.2b

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Rector's Rambling - June 27, 2010

We welcome summer with all its glory by celebrating a baptism this Sunday at the 10:00 AM service.
One great restoration to the liturgy of the Church has been to move baptisms back into the midst of community worship. If you look at the liturgy as published in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (and its predecessors) you will note that the assumption is that the baptism would occur as a completely separate service of the Church. Many of us were baptized on a Saturday, having been brought to a church by our parents and god-parents in order to be baptized in a 10 minute liturgy of re-birth (regeneration) as our Lord commanded (you must be born again of water and the spirit). Others may have been baptized on a Sunday before or after the Sunday liturgies.
In the ancient Church, baptisms took place during the liturgy, the newly baptized entering the community through the waters of baptism, and seeing for the first time the celebration of the Holy Communion. Aspirants and Catechumens (those preparing for baptism) were only present for the ante-communion, which is the beginning of the liturgy through the Sursum Corda (The Lord be with you. Lift up your hearts…). On the day of their baptism, they not only received communion for the first time, they saw the Eucharistic Canon for the first time as well!
So too we now have the vast majority of our baptisms during the primary Sunday worship. It is a manifold reality that not only is the person being regenerate (born-again), but they are also becoming a part of a community that promises to be a part of their being members of the Body of Christ, and helping to uphold them in prayer and virtuous living.
Also, I find baptisms to be encouraging. It is an encouragement to see that more children are joining the Church to be brought up in the faith, and adults are also coming to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord!
We rejoice today at the incorporation of another person into the Body of Christ, the Church, and pray that God will bring more and more people into his flock here at St. John’s.

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Rector's Rambling - June 20, 2010

Today, on the secular calendar, is Father’s Day. Congrats and well wishes to all the ‘dads’ in the congregation! May God bless all dads in their continued responsibility to be a good husband to their wife and father to their children. And above all, may you call upon His Grace to help you to be an earthly example of His Fatherly love from heaven!

Today in the Church there is some desire to move away from the title of “Father” for God, the first person of the Holy Trinity. A combination of a desire to change the revealed doctrines about Him, a desire to make the church more feminine, or a reaction to the hurts caused by sinful earthly fathers giving “Father” a bad name. All these have given some pause to the use of the title “Father”.

But all other titles pale in comparison, since it is this name that He gives us himself, and Jesus calls Him Father as well. The title “Mother” for a deity is pagan in origin, and besides which Jesus had a mother (Mary). But His father is God. Other titles for the first person of the Holy Trinity, as well as the other persons, are usually based on His attributes: Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. These are attributes of all three persons of the Trinity, not proper titles of the persons.

It is unfortunate that some fathers neglect their responsibilities and give “Father” a bad name. All us dads are called to look to our heavenly Father for the example of all accepting love, caring concern and involvement in the life of our children, and strength of character by grace-filled virtuous living. And when we fail, repent and make amends!

Rather than judging the title “Father” by poor earthly imitations, may we always know that it is our heavenly Father to whom the ideal of Fatherhood is to be attributed, and to which all men are called to emulate.

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Rector's Rambling - June 13, 2010

Today we are back into our ‘green’ season. Not green meaning ecologically friendly, but rather green because it is the color of the vestments and hangings.
Each Church season has a color assigned to it. White (or gold) is the festive colors for Christmas and Eastertide. Purple is the penitential color for Advent and Lent. Other special Sundays like Pentecost and for Apostles and Martyrs are commemorated in red.
Now we are in Trinity-tide, or the ordinary season. The Sundays are numbered from Trinity Sunday two weeks ago (the new prayer book orders it from Pentecost Sunday). It is also called “ordinary time” because the Sundays are ordered and the theme is a systematic study of the teachings and miracles of Jesus, as well as the Epistle writings.
This is the longest liturgical season of the year, lasting until just before Thanksgiving. We will be wearing the green vestments until then, with a few notable exceptions: St. James the Apostle on July 25th, St. Mary the Virgin on August 15, St. Michael and All Angels (observed) on October 3rd, and All Saints Sunday on November 7th. All these Sundays, except the red for St. James, will see a re-appearance of the white vestments.
Why the changes? Like many other aspects of our worship, things have meanings to help us to grow in our understanding of the different aspect of the faith. If you see me come out in purple, then you know it is a penitential day. If I have red on it is Pentecost (like the tongues of fire) or a Martyr’s day (gave their life for Jesus and symbolizing blood). If I come out in white it is a special holy day or season. The color is a physical clue as to the tone and theme of the worship that morning.
Finally, let me remind everyone that although summer is school vacation time, we do not take a vacation from our obligation to worship Jesus every Sunday in His Church, and to receive the sacrament of His Body and Blood. Be sure to make attending Church on Sunday a priority in your life….thankfully Jesus made you a priority in His by dying for you!

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Rector's Rambling - June 6, 2010

Last Sunday was a wonderful day, with a large crowd of people in Church, the hot dog luncheon following, and then the Choir singing the National Anthem before the Tigers soundly defeated the Oakland Athletics. After all that we also had a wedding at 5:30pm - a wonderful way to top off a wonderful day!
A hearty thank you to everyone who pitched in to make our Tiger Baseball Outing Sunday such a success! The Armitage Men’s Club and their auxiliary helpers in the kitchen, the choir for a sublime performance in worship as well as at Comerica Park, The Altar Guild members who helped in the morning and Suzie Decker and Chris Golembiewski who helped at the wedding, as well as the Ushers who helped at the wedding after a long afternoon in the sun.
And a special thank you to all who invited friends and family to join us for Church and the game following. A special kudo goes to John Barge who brought over 75 people with him to the game!!!! There were others who had more than 10 or 15 tickets sold. Several first time visitors mentioned that they are going to return again this Sunday - may it be so (perhaps I should have mentioned we don’t have hot dogs every week).
Today is the start of our ‘summer’ season. We start it with a feast day - Corpus Christi. We celebrate the gift of the Sacrament of our Lord’s own Body and Blood under the auspices of the bread and wine. Although the actual grand celebration of the Feast was Thursday, we keep the propers (lessons) today as well. It is so nice we celebrate it twice!
The Choir is now down to quartet size for the summer, the Sunday School is on hiatus, and our dress becomes perhaps a bit more casual in anticipation of the warmer temperatures during worship. But all this being true, our Lord still expects us to be present every Sunday at worship, whether here at St. John’s, or near where you might be traveling during your holiday.
Our Lord doesn’t take a summer vacation from showering his love and grace upon us, we should not expect to take a vacation from our loving and grace-filled response by worshipping Him in His Church!

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Rector's Rambling - May 30, 2010

Although parishes are linked by a common heritage, basics concerning the worship form, and hopefully a common faith, each parish has its own unique set of circumstances that affected its character.
Sometimes this uniqueness is manifest by its adherence to the more ancient forms of worship, well honed by years of theological and liturgical contemplation and participation, such as we have here at St. John’s. Sometimes its character is formed by the physical church structure, which points toward an appropriate expression of faith. The history of a parish, particularly if there is some persecution involved, can also make an indelible impression on a parish. And, of course, the members themselves affect who the parish is and how it expresses itself.
One other way a parish’s character is formed is by its location. An affluent suburban parish will be different in many ways to a struggling neighborhood urban church.
Today is one of those days that we manifest the unique character of St. John’s due to the circumstance of our neighborhood! Our Tiger Baseball Outing Sunday is one of our largest Sundays for attendance! We are certainly grateful for the many friends, family, and neighbors who are joining us this Sunday for worship, fellowship, and of course the baseball game following. No other Episcopal Parish in the Diocese has this unique circumstance of having a Major League baseball stadium built 250 yards away from her back door!
It is hard to imagine today that when this parish was opened about 151 years ago, this building was out in the country! Since then the city has grown up and around her, changing the neighborhood and the make-up of the congregation, as it has changed from rural to residential to commercial and now chiefly entertainment related.
And yet the one thing that does NOT change is Jesus Christ, the faith revealed to us by Him in Scripture, and that same faith propagated in the Anglican tradition through the Book of Common Prayer (1549 - 1928 editions). May God grant us a long lifetime of fidelity to Him.

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Rector's Rambling - May 23, 2010

Happy Birthday to The Church! Today is the day we account as the birthday of the Church as God the Holy Ghost empowers Jesus’ disciples to continue His work!
The past 9 days many people have been praying a nine day prayer intention for the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Below is a summation of those gifts.
“Holy Fear – a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend him. Piety – begets in our hearts a filial affection for God as our most loving Father.
Fortitude – the souls is strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in performance of duty. Knowledge – enables the soul to evaluate created things at their true worth, in their relation to God. Understanding – helps us to grasp the meaning of the truths of our holy religion. Counsel – endows the souls with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must be done, especially in difficult circumstances. Wisdom – the most perfect of gifts! It strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree.”
From these gifts we begin to see the Fruits of the Holy Ghost. As St. Paul describes them in his letter to the Galatians, Chapter 5, beginning at verse 22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
As our nine-day prayer intention states, “The gifts of the Holy Ghost perfect the supernatural virtues by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to divine inspiration. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God under the direction of the Holy Ghost, our service becomes more sincere and generous, the practice of virtue more perfect. Such acts of virtue leave the heart filled with joy and consolation and are know as Fruits of the Holy Ghost. These Fruits in turn render the practice of virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the service of God, to serve Whom is to reign.”
Novena by The Holy Ghost Fathers, 1912 www.ewtn.com

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Rector's Rambling - May 16, 2010

Eastertide has now come and gone, and in a few weeks we will be back in the ‘green’ of ordinary time, also known as Trinitytide.
Easter is certainly the primary feast of the Church calendar. It is by Jesus’ death and resurrection that we have the price of our sins paid, and death conquered by Jesus himself.
Ascension Day, which was last Thursday, is the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus takes his human body, resurrected, with Him back into the Godhead to intercede for us.
Today we are between times. Like the disciples we are preparing for the promise of the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. We have been praying since Friday a Novena for the gifts of the Holy Ghost, just as the disciples spent those 9 days between Ascension and Pentecost in prayer. You are most welcome to join this novena—there are forms for it at the back of the Church, and it is being sent daily to the St. John’s Email list.
Sunday, May 24th is Whitsunday, also known as Pentecost. In this day we celebrate the birthday of the Church by the coming of the Holy Ghost to empower the followers of Jesus to continue His work and propagate the Gospel.
The following week we have Trinity Sunday, when the Rector feebly tries to explain this vital dogma about God being 1 God in 3 persons. Trinity Sunday this year is also our baseball outing Sunday.
The following Thursday, June 3rd we have our festive celebration of Corpus Christi—the Body of Christ. We rejoice and give thanks that Jesus feeds us with his own body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. We will have a guest preacher this day (to be announced soon), and the grandest liturgy we have. It will be followed by a torchlit reception in the Garden.
The following Sunday is our last hurrah for the white vestments before getting into the long green liturgical season.
So even though Easter is past, we still have several weeks of exciting, important Sundays to come.
 

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Rector's Rambling - May 9, 2010

Today is a day chock-full of events. First, it is Rogation Sunday, the Sunday before Ascension Day (Thursday, May 13). We will have a symbolic “beating the bounds” of the parish at the 10am Service by singing the Litany Hymn in procession around the outside perimeter of the Church building.
We will also be inducting five new members into our Chapter of the Daughters of the King, have our Spring UTO ingathering - and also celebrate the secular Mother’s Day
We also introduce and welcome our Summer Intern, Mr. Alex Quick. A native of Saline, Michigan, Alex is a graduate of Hope College. He is currently studying for a Masters degree in Divinity (MDiv) at Wycliff College at the University of Toronto, and hopes to be ordained a priest. Alex is not a stranger to St. John’s. He has been a regular visitor to our parish since last summer. He is a college and larger church friend with people currently or formerly at St. John’s, and has also met many parishioners in his visits here during school breaks.
The purpose of this summer internship is to immerse the intern in all aspects of parish life and work in preparation for professional pastoral ministry. In other words, Alex is getting an introduction into the life of being a parish priest, although he is not yet ordained.
Alex will be with us on Sundays learning various aspects of how the parish functions on its primary day of worship and education. He will also be at St. John’s on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as other weekdays occasionally, to participate in pastoral hospital and home calling, administration and vestry meetings, the Alpha Course, and other projects inside and outside the parish.
It is a privilege for our parish to be able to mentor future priests and to help to train up the next generation of leaders in His Church.

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Rector's Rambling - May 2, 2010

Today we are back to our regular celebration of the Easter Season, having taken a slight deviation last week with the celebration of the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist. It was wonderful to use the new red Solemn High Mass vestment set which will make its next appearance on May 23rd for Whitsunday.
More immediately, next week is a week chock-full of events crammed into one day. First, it is Rogation Sunday, the Sunday before Ascension Day (Thursday, May 13). On the rogation days, we pray God’s blessing on the parish, particularly with the planting of crops - but by extension on all human labor as well. In a symbolic “beating the bounds” of the parish, we will start the service with a procession, singing the Litany Hymn around the outside perimeter of the Church building.
We will also be inducting five new members into our Chapter of the Daughters of the King, already the largest in the Diocese. We are blessed to have so many women involved in this ministry of prayer and service, both here and at the Diocesan level.
Thirdly, it is our Spring UTO ingathering - be sure to bring a check made out to St. Catherine’s Guild ECW for the amount that you have placed in your “blue boxes” for offering of thankfulness celebrated this year.
Finally, it is the secular Mother’s Day and we will be honoring moms, living and dead, at the altar. Be sure to insist that mom join you for the service here before brunch, and moms be sure to insist that the husband/children join you here for worship on that day before the rest of the festivities. Let us not only thank them for their love and care, but also Thank God for them as well!
The primary reason we come to Church is to worship the Good God who sent His Son Jesus Christ to reconcile us to Himself by His own blood and to nourish us in Word and Sacrament. But it is a nice ‘bonus’ to have these extra events to add to our celebration!

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Rector's Rambling - April 25, 2010

Although we are still in the midst of our Eastertide celebration, today we have a “Feast” within the season of Easter. Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist. On page 6 of this Chronicle there is a short bio of the writer of the Gospel that bears his name, believed to be a companion of St. Peter the Apostle, who recorded Peter’s teaching about Jesus for this gospel account.
Today is a “Feast Day” within the season of Easter. It is also known as a “Red Letter” day from the earlier editions of the Book of Common Prayer, when the calendar printed in red those feast days that took precedence over the Sunday of a church season.
Although no longer printed in red, our 1928 Book of Common Prayer contains a calendar for the major Feast days of our Lord, his mother, and the apostles, on pages xlvi - xlix. Other feasts not noted on that calendar fall on other days of the year, but do not have precedence over the Sunday of a church season (such as Eastertide or Epiphanytide). How to figure out what can be moved or used when you can go to the Tables and Rules for the Movable and Immovable Feasts, together with the Days of Fasting and Abstinene, through the Whole Year found on page l - li in the prayer book. OR you can just use the Ordo Calendar distributed at the beginning of the year or check out our parish website!
This can all seem very confusing, but it is a simplified version of the ‘rubrics’ (instructional notes) found in the old monastic office calendar, on which Archbishop Thomas Cranmer based the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer!
Today we are about St. Mark! Tomorrow we are back into the week of the Third Sunday after Easter with its Collect and readings appointed for the days of the week.

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Rector's Rambling - April 18, 2010

As we continue our Easter Celebration (Easter is 40 days, just like Lent was 40 days), we have now come to Good Shepherd Sunday.
As a city/suburban boy, the idea of a Shepherd is not an every day reality for me. But it certainly was for Jesus and for most living in Palestine during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Even those who lived in a big city like Jerusalem (which compared to today’s big cities was quite small) would have experienced shepherds, or even had members of the family who were shepherds.
Journalist and historian Paul Johnson has recently published a book called Jesus: A biography from a believer (Viking Press, 2010). I heard a radio interview with him in which he engages in some speculative history. Musing about those years between ages 12 and 30, when we have no gospel account of Jesus’ life, Johnson hypothesizes that perhaps Jesus himself spent some time as a shepherd.
Although I have heard of some awful theories about those hidden years (the worse being that he went to India to learn tantric magic to use for healing ministry), Johnson’s thoughts are backed up with some loving care and discernment. The tender way that Jesus speaks of shepherds, and their care and concern for his flock leads Johnson to theorize that Jesus speaks from some experience with caring for the sheep.
Whether or not Paul Johnson is correct about those hidden years, we do know that Jesus holds up the shepherd as an example of one who cares for his sheep, and is willing to even give his life for them. Jesus himself is the Good Shepherd, and the word “pastor” comes from the Latin word for shepherd. It is a fine reminder to us clergy that we are called to not be hirelings (who care not for the sheep), but to be shepherds to the congregations committed to our care.

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Rector's Rambling - April 11, 2010

Remembering that Easter is not just a ‘day’ but a ‘season’, I wish you all a blessed Eastertide! For 40 days we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, leading up to The Feast of the Ascension (May 13th this year). After that we have 10 more days of celebration in Ascensiontide, leading up to the coming of the Holy Ghost on Whitsunday/Pentecost.
After all the glorious worship last Sunday — full choir, brass, and a pretty full Church — today is known in Church circles as Low Sunday. Low because the liturgy seems a bit more subdued, with no brass, and the choir at half strength. And yes, compared with last week, attendance is considerably lower. I wish it weren’t true, but I am writing this on Wednesday morning with the assumption that we will have fewer people in the pews on the First Sunday after Easter than we did on Easter Day (I would love to be proven wrong). But whether pretty full, or not so much, God is still glorified, we are nourished in Word and Sacrament, and we are equipped for ministry.
Having said farewell to Richard Newman last week, our new Edwards Organ Scholar begins his term today. We welcome Aaron Tan as he begins his stay with us.
Finally, Detroit Tiger Baseball is upon us. The parish outing to a game will be May 30th. Be sure to invite our friends and neighbors to join us. Please note that with the exception of May 30th, your membership at St. John’s does not entitle you to park in our lot for Tiger games. We have a contract with Olympia Parking which allows us to use their parking spaces for our services (in addition to our spaces) and entitles them to sell our spaces for games, for which we are remunerated. Your St. John’s Parking window decal is to identify your car during Church events, not for free parking during other events at the stadiums. Please respect the attendants on event days as they manage traffic flow, and benefit St. John’s financially.

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Rector's Rambling - April 4, 2010 (Easter Day)

The Liturgy for Easter begins with this joyful acclamation that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, and although we don’t get to say it very often, it should be said with great gusto! It is a solid and vital statement of faith and who we are as members of the Body of Christ - His Church! We are a “Resurrection People” who have been reconciled to God through the atoning death of Jesus Christ, who has conquered death and hell by rising from the dead on this third day.
Easter is wonderful in so many ways. After a long Lent full of extra sacrifices and extra devotions we look forward to savouring those things we have given up for 40 days (assuming they aren’t sinful things we should be giving up permanently). The approaching Spring weather lightens our hearts and moods, appropriate for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection! And the change of tenor of the hymns and readings moves our hearts and minds from the sins from which we are repenting toward the grace-filled forgiveness we have received as this free gift from God in His Son Jesus Christ.
And there is no better way to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead than to be here today with the great joy and gusto of this grand celebration. Thanks be to God for all who are here with us to for this great Feast!
But Easter is not just a DAY, it is a church SEASON. Eastertide, like Lent, is 40 days of celebration, including all the Sundays between now and the Feast of the Ascension (May 13th this year). And Ascension begins another 10 days of prayer and anticipation for the Feast of the coming of the Holy Ghost (Whitsunday or Pentecost).
So let us continue the celebration today, tomorrow, next Sunday, and the weeks to come. Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

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Rector's Rambling - March 28, 2010 (Palm Sunday)

There is no better time to invite people to join us for worship at St. John’s than Holy Week and Easter! God is calling more and more people to come and worship Him, and YOU might be the vehicle He is using to drive them into our fellowship (figuratively and literally).
Let us be like the sower in the gospels who takes the seed and scatters it in all places regardless of what soil it might be. Let us sow our invitations to all we meet and with whom we interact.
This can be done simply by saying, “do you have a place to go to Church on Easter?” If they say “no”, or hesitate, then be quick with an invitation to join you for services at St. John’s. Offer a ride if they seem leery about coming downtown! And then pray for them as they decide.
Continue to pray for them, even if your invitation is declined. You may never know when that invitation today may find fruit in coming years. Remember you are just scattering the seed. Another may water but God will give the growth. We have one member of the Vestry who was invited to St. John’s by our former choirmaster years before, but did not come for the first time until a few years later – and has been coming regularly ever since.
Let us not neglect a more primary invitation to attendance at St. John’s – to our own PARISHIONERS! I would be remiss if I did not mention my disappointment with our average Sunday attendance since the beginning of this year. Extreme weather, sickness, and being out of town is certainly a valid reason one might not be in church on a Sunday for worship.
But let’s be honest with ourselves. Would the reason we miss Sunday worship cut it with Jesus? Would you be willing to stand at your judgment day and tell our Lord, who died on the cross for your sins, that you missed worshipping Him because _________ (fill in the blank)? Could you not find 90 minutes or more to give to Him on Sunday morning?
The good news is that He is about forgiveness! And each Sunday is a new start to this right relationship in Christ. This week, next Sunday and the Sunday afterwards and you are back in the habit again!

Edited from “From The Rector” - The St. John’ Eagle, Eastertide 2010

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Rector's Rambling - March 21, 2010

Today we head into Passiontide: the last two weeks leading up to Easter. We become hyper-focused on the last two weeks of Jesus’ life, concentrating not just on our sin (for which we must repent) but begin to look towards our Lord’s Passion as he suffered for the price of those sins.
St. Bonaventure was a 13th century theologian, the first great theologian of the Franciscan Order (who while St. Francis lived, forbade the use of books because being able to read was, in Francis’ eyes, a sign of pride). He was a contemporary of St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Dominican Theologian (followers of St. Dominic’s rule of life which put a priority on learning). Both Ss. Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas died in 1274.
Legend has it that they met occasionally, and at one meeting at St. Bonaventure’s austere friary (the Franciscan’s placing a high priority of poverty and humility) St. Thomas Aquinas was surprised to see that St. Bonaventure had no books in in his cell (bedroom). When asked “where are your books?” St. Bonaventure is said to have pointed to the crucifix on the wall and proclaimed “That is all the book I need”.
Whether apocryphal or not, the story shows what can be a good focus for us as well. To meditate on what Jesus suffered for us is the crux of what this Passiontide is about. Next Sunday we will hear the story of His passion for the Gospel Lesson, and of course will also concentrate on it on Good Friday. Between now and then let us spend some time looking upon a crucifix and thinking about what Jesus went through for OUR OWN SINS. Read the 4 gospel accounts of his arrest, trial, beating, and crucifixion, and ask God for the grace to claim for yourself the Good News of His sacrifice for our sins.

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