Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 52 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 new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Monday, December 17, 2012

From the Rector - Advent/Christmas Eagle 2012

Once again we enter the season of preparation as we also come to the end of the calendar year. 

Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas when we concentrate on preparation for both the coming of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, as well as the preparation for Jesus’ return in glorious majesty to judge the world.  Christmas preparations are obvious even to the secular world - since there is a set date when it will come.  We have until December 25 to make all our preparations, both secular (shopping, etc.) as well as spiritual.

But it is the second item, known as The Second Coming, that is harder to gauge.  No one knows the day nor the hour when the Son of Man returns. (Matt 24:36).   18 months ago the world was distracted by talk by a Christian radio network owner proclaiming a date when Jesus would return.  That day has come and gone.  Now the world is atwitter about a Mayan calendar which does not go into 2013 and therefore is a sign of the end of time (rather than perhaps running out of space on the calendar!).  Using that logic, the fact that the 1928 Book of Common Prayer lists the dates for Easter from 1786 to 2013 would mean that there will be no Easter after 2013.  That is as ridiculous as the Mayan prediction.  FYI—the new Episcopal prayer book does list Easter further into the future.

The end is coming!  Jesus will return because he has said so.  But what we do not have is the luxury of knowing the date.  Jesus could return before Easter 2013, or the Mayan calendar date, or before the end of the day today.  No one knows but our Lord himself.  Or the end may come for you with the end of your earthly life today.

Since we do not know when, we must be prepared RIGHT NOW.  Do we love Jesus?  Are we trying to love our neighbor as ourselves?  Are we in a state of Grace by repentance of our sins and reception of the sacraments?  Are we striving to live the lives Jesus wants us to live by that Grace?  The time to start is not tomorrow because we do not know if tomorrow will come!

 As we close the calendar year we also will be closing the books on our financial year as well.  Thank you to all who have, and continue to, support the revenues of the parish.  The vestry has been busy adjusting the budget to our current and projected financial realities, and preparing the coming year’s budget as well.  Even though we have parking lot income and other sources, the majority of our parish income comes from the good people of St. John’s!

If you are in a position to make an extra contribution to the parish before the end of the year we would be grateful.  Also, the parish is able to take gifts of stocks and securities if that is a tax advantage for you.

Our King and Saviour draweth nigh; O come, let us adore Him!

~ Antiphon for Advent


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rector's Rambling - 12/13/2012 - Gaudete!

We are past the mid-point of our Advent observance, which means we have come to Gaudéte Sunday, sometimes known as Rose Sunday.  It is a chance for us to “lighten up” in the heaviness of a penitential season, which is signified liturgically by the use of the rose colored vestments and altar hangings in the place of the “heavier” purple.
Advent is certainly not the heavy penitence of Lent, but is still one of repentance of sin since being in a state of repentance is a part of that preparation for Jesus’ return.
But with Christmas Eve only eight days away, one’s heart certainly should be lightening up in anticipation of the coming celebration of the Feast of the Nativity at St. John’s.  Enclosed as an insert in today’s Order of Service are several copies of our Christmas invite.  Please give them to people you would like to see here Christmas Eve!  Offer them a ride, or offer to have them follow you down here for services.
This past week we mailed 2000+ invitations to those on our mailing list, to neighbors around the church, and to those addresses submitted to us by parishioners.  Some members have already informed me of their plans to be out of town for Christmas, others about their plans to have people here with them (we will have nine houseguests at the Kelly house coming to services).  Christmas Eve is a time when people who are not regular about Church attendance are looking for a place to go to Church – you need to invite them!  Advertising may be good, but person to person invitation has shown to be the most effective (and affordable) method of church growth.  St. John’s is a great place – God is powerfully at work – and you should be sharing St. John’s with others.

Teach Note - 12/16/2012 - The Great "O" Antiphons

Perhaps the most familiar of all Advent Hymns is “O come, O come Emmanuel”, hymn number 2.  Each verse, describing a title for the expected Messiah, ends with the refrain – “Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”
What most people do not know is that this hymn is based on an Antiphon for the Evening Prayer Canticle, the Magnificat. (p.26 in the Prayer Book).  Antiphons are appointed for special occasions, to be said at the beginning and end of the canticle.  The hymn O come, O come Emmanuel is based on the Great “O” Antiphons, said from December 16th through December 23rd in preparation for Christmas Eve.
Listed below are the antiphons for the proper days, with the verses in the hymn to which they correspond:
12/16 – O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence. (v.2)
12/17 – O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, who appearest in the bush to Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the law in Sianai: come and redeem us with an outstreached arm. (v.3)
12/18 – O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at whom kings shall shout their mouths, unto whom the Gentile shall seek: come and deliver us, and tarry not. (v.4)
12/19 – O Key of David, and Scepter of the House of Israel; that openest and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth: Come, and bring the prisoners out of the prison-house, them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death. (v.5)
12/20 – O Day-spring, Brightness of the Light everlasting, and Sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death. (v. 6)
12/21 – O King of Nations, and their Desire; the Cornerstone, who makest both one: Come and save mankind, whom thou formedst of clay. (v. 7)
12/22 – O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, and Desire of all nations and their Salvation: Come and save us, O Lord our God. (v.1)
12/23 – O Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any seen like thee, nor shall there be after.  Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rector's Rambling - 12/9/2012 - attending Church

I recently had an interesting discussion on Twitter about attending Church, and how non-attendance not only harms the non-attender, but also how that non-attendance hurts the Church as well.
Thanks be to God for those who are quite regular in their Church attendance.  But increasingly in our society, and even among some members of St. John’s, attendance at Sunday worship is sporadic at best, and something fit into an otherwise busy schedule if time is available, if at all.
Church attendance is important primarily because our Lord desires it of us.  But it is also important because it is through worship and reception of the Sacrament that one is spiritually nourished.  To absent oneself from the Sacrament is to starve oneself of the grace necessary to live the Christian life (see John 6:54).  Additionally, being absent from Church harms the Body of Christ.  Her worship, singing, and responses are strengthened in number and encourages others who are also present.  Also, a fuller church is more attractive to the visitor than one with emptier pews.  Your presence may be the tipping point for the visitor to return as member.
Church non-attendance becomes habitual.  The more one makes excuses to miss worship, the easier it is to do so.  One falls into the sin of presumption (“God will forgive me for missing this week”) and pride (“I know I am supposed to go to church, but I am the exception to the rule”).
The good news is that, like the Prodigal Son, the Father is always willing to welcome us back when we return to Church (Luke 15:11–32), and make it a priority and good habit!  I know my heart leaps for joy when I see someone in Church who hasn’t been for a while, and God rejoices even more so.
As we prepare in Advent, being present is a major part of being prepared!

~ Fr. Kelly (@StJohnsPriest) tweets about church, family, sport, and life at www.Twitter.com/StJohnsPriest

Rector's Rambling - 12/2/2012 - Be prepared!

Advent and Lent share some similarities, both being penitential, “purple” seasons.  But they have differences as well.
Both seasons are about preparation.  In Lent we are preparing for the death and resurrection of Jesus by a season of fasting, penance, and examination and confession of our sinfulness.  Although this is a part of our spiritual life year round, it is magnified in Lent as we prepare to celebrate Easter.
In Advent the preparation is not only for the coming of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but also His return in glorious majesty to judge the quick and the dead.  The penitential aspect is not just a self-denial (a fast) before the feast, but a realization that with Jesus’ return happening at any time He chooses, we need to be in a state of repentance at all times!  We need to learn to be prepared today, and perhaps there is no better time to be conscious of that than during the season of secular consumerism leading up to the Holy Day.
Like Lent, Advent is a good time to take on a few extra disciplines, like the lighting of the Advent wreath at home and taking opportunities for charitable work.  Praying the Daily Office at home (Morning and/or Evening Prayer) is a good discipline any time of the year!  And, of course, examining the state of one’s soul, and making a good confession of sin, is always in season.
Let us be prepared…  He is coming!

Rector's Rambling - 11/25/2012 - Sunday Next Before Advent

This Sunday after Thanksgiving is a bit of a strange one.  Although the Christmas music has been playing on the radio for weeks, decorations up in the stores even longer, and the official shopping madness begun in earnest on Friday, one “regular” thing is missing.
Most years the Sunday after Thanksgiving is also the First Sunday in Advent.  But because Christmas is on a Tuesday this year (we skipped the unenviable Advent IV Sunday morning/Christmas Eve Sunday night because of a leap year), combined with an early date for the 4th Thursday in November for Thanksgiving, we find ourselves finishing Ordinary Time today.
A seminary classmate of mine was called to a small parish in a small rural college town directly out of seminary, with no advantage of a position as an assistant first to help him adjust to parish ministry.  That first Monday after Thanksgiving he called me at my parish where I was serving as an assistant.  “Steve, do you know how most years Advent starts right after Thanksgiving?”  He had started Advent a week early!  His big dilemma was whether to do Advent I again, or do the previous week’s readings out of order.  We decided it would be best to apologize, do the same readings but different hymns, and preach on the other lesson.
I know this year I have the week correct…and today we anticipate the season of anticipation.