Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rector's Rambling on Palm Sunday - March 24, 2013


Since the beginning of the year we have had more funerals than we generally have in an entire year.  Active parishioners, as well as those whose failing health has not permitted them to be regular about church attendance, have gone home to be with their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Several of those funerals have included, at the cemetery, the playing of taps as a part of military honors and remembrance.  Even those family members and friends who have been quite stoic in not showing emotion at the service at St. John’s or at the beginning of the prayers at the cemetery, find themselves moved most powerfully as those mournful notes sounding from a distance.  There is something in that simple tune that touches hearts.

This Sunday we run the gamut of emotions in one service.  We start with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem for the Liturgy of the Palms, and then we hear about the trial, suffering, and death of Jesus Christ during the celebration of the Holy Communion.  We go from joyful acclamation to sorrowful suffering and loss.

We have the grace of hindsight to know that this would not be the end of Jesus, but rather it is the way in which he pays the price of our sin and conquers death through his resurrection.  Today the story is couched in glorious worship and celebration.

But I want to commend to you two things.  First, take some time to read today’s gospel lesson alone, at home, and really meditate on the price Jesus paid for us.  Secondly, come to the Good Friday service and spend 3 hours with him as we meditate liturgically on his sacrifice.

There are several hymns on Good Friday which, like Taps, evoke such strong emotion.  And they should.  JESUS DIED FOR US.  Let us this week enter fully into that mystery, so that we can even more fully embrace the joy of his resurrection on the third day.

Veiling of Crosses - Rector's Rambling, March 17, 2013


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.”
Today of course is also St. Patrick’s Day.  We will certainly celebrate the occasion with our Corned Beef Luncheon in his honor.  Although the day has become a secular celebration of all things Irish, we remember that St. Patrick was about JESUS, and the conversion of the Irish to the faith, for which we give thanks!
Since Sundays in Lent take precedence over other Feast Days, we will move the commemoration to Wednesday, March 20 at the 12:15 Holy Communion Service (Tuesday being the Feast of St. Joseph).

Friday, March 01, 2013

Rector's Rambling - March 3, 2013 - Transition Month


March is a transition month;  winter transitions into spring, the regular college sports seasons transition into tournaments (March Madness).  And so too the month of March, at least this year, will be full of transitions for the Church.  This week we have the 3rd Sunday in Lent – a regular Lenten Sunday.  Next Sunday we transition to Rose or Lætáre Sunday when the vestments and hangings lighten up and flowers make an appearance on the altars.  The following Sunday we transition back to the deeper purple, the crosses are veiled, and we enter Passiontide (the last two weeks of Lent).  The next transition is to Palm Sunday and then the wonders of Holy Week, The Sacrum Triduum (three holy days) and ultimately the Feast of the Resurrection.  This year all this falls in the month of March.
NOW is the time to invite your friends, family, and neighbors to join us.  Get them in the door for the glorious worship as we transition through Lent to Easter.  We will advertise and send mailings, but the best way to get people to come to St. John’s is by personal invitation, and praying for the person before and after the invitation (even if the answer is no for now).
Easter is just four weeks away!  Let us get on to the mission of being the Church by knowing Christ and making Him known.  We do the first by praying, studying, and worshipping.  One way we do the second half is to invite others to join us here to worship and be informed about the good news of the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ.

"Private" Prayer


“Private” Prayer and Meditation
Last week we gave instructions about how to pray the Holy Communion Service, and in the past how to pray the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.  Today we will talk about “private” prayer and meditation.
Although it is called “private” prayer, because we do it alone, in fact no prayer is “private”.  All prayer is joined together with other’s prayers for the same intentions.  God hears each prayer individually, yet we know that even if we are kneeling down at the side of our bed or sitting quietly in a chair in our living room, those prayers are being joined to the great assembly of saints on earth and in heaven.
Fr. Martin Thornton, the late great writer about English Spirituality, said that our prayer lives have to be Trinitarian in nature.  In other words, it has to be balanced and equal, just as the Persons of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) are equal.  He even assigns a Person of the Trinity to each type of prayer.
The Daily Office is like God the Father, with its great orderliness.  The Holy Communion is Jesus Christ Himself.  And Private Prayer is the Holy Ghost – giving some freedom and empowering that freedom in prayer to be directed to the Father, through the Son.
If we are “All Daily Office” at the expense of the other two, we risk becoming rigid or stale in our prayer life.  If we are “All Holy Communion” we risk missing out on the bigger picture of what Jesus’ saving act was for.  If we are “All Personal Prayer” we risk become too self-centered and self-indulgent in our prayer life, just as a charismatic who is only concentrated on the Holy Ghost is apt to be lead off on tangents that lead to personal regard for some, and rejection of other Church doctrines.
There are many types of prayer that many Western Christians have felt helpful.  But best of all is to just start praying by speaking to our Heavenly Father as you would someone who loves you.  After all – He does!