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, January 27, 2014

Blessed Charles the King - Rector's Rambling for January 26, 2014

This week, on Thursday, we celebrate at the Feast of the Martyrdom of King Charles I of England.
Although not on the calendar of the Episcopal Church, he is commemorated on the calendar of the Church of England, our mother church, and much of our worldwide Anglican Communion.
Ascending to the English throne in 1626, Charles I ruled in a time of intertwining religious and political turmoil in England.  His father, James I (of King James Bible fame) was a convert from Calvinism and endued in his son a love for the Church’s Catholic understanding of the apostolic ministry and the sacraments, which the Calvinists did not agree to.  The Calvinist-controlled parliament condemned Charles to death for his refusal to diminish the Church’s divinely inspired order.  He was beheaded in 1649.
His feast day is a powerful reminder to us that although we are a Reformed Church, we are also a member of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.  Charles I gave his life for the Church to continue in that teaching, which was reaffirmed when the monarchy was restored in his son in 1660.
The Diocesan Canons call for the Annual Parish Meeting to occur in January, but we have been advised by the Bishop’s office that we can open the meeting today during the 10:00 AM service, and then immediately recess the meeting until February 2, at which time we will continue and complete the business of the meeting.
The Annual Parish Meeting booklet with reports from the various ministries of the parish, the 2013 financial report, and a budget for 2014, is available today after the service for members of the parish.
It is important that ALL parishioners participate.  A soup luncheon will be served, vestry members elected, and the good news of what God is doing at St. John’s reported.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Christian Unity - Rector's Rambling for January 19, 2014

Yesterday we began the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the days between the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter (January 18) and the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25).  The first Feast Day honors St. Peter’s acclamation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16), the second being the story of Saul being converted by God while on his way to persecute Christians.
The two dates honor the two great evangelists, with Peter being considered the Apostle to the Jews and Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles (although they shared the Good News freely to both!).  They are appropriate patrons for the Ecumenical Movement in the Church.
Jesus prayed that we all be one, as He and the Father are one (John 17:21–22).  But the reality is that the Church is deeply divided because of human sin.  From the beginning of the Church there have been those from within who have sought to change and distort the teaching given to us by Christ through his Apostles, and others who have tried to syncretize the Truth with surrounding pagan myths and superstition.  These early heretical sects were cast out.
But more recent divisions have continued over interpretation of the authority of the Church and her Scriptures.  Some of these honest disagreements have been to seek greater holiness, other disagreements are based in a desire for power or to justify sinfulness.  Despite Jesus’ admonition for unity, there are thousands of denominations in the United States alone, new ones appearing regularly.
Yet if it is Jesus’ prayer that we be one, then it is our bounden duty to work and pray toward the unity of the Church.  This begins in personal conversion and greater holiness, continues with conversation and lifting up what we have in common with each other, and finally helping to correct, and be corrected in, the ways that the various churches have erred.
And although this is a week to spotlight the need, unity is year-round work to glorify God and work for the common mission to bring the whole world to know Jesus is Lord.

History of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - Teaching Notes for January 19, 2014

History of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
The Church Unity Octave was first observed in January, 1908.  Celebrated in the chapel of a small Atonement Franciscan Convent of the Protestant Episcopal Church, on a remote hillside fifty miles from New York City, this new prayer movement caught the imagination of others beyond the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement to become an energetic movement that gradually blossomed into a worldwide observance involving many nations and millions of people.
To fully appreciate this stream that had been fed by some and had converged with others in the historical development of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we will note some aspects of the movement's early history.  Two American Episcopalians, Father Paul James Wattson and Sister Lurana White, co-founders of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, were totally committed to the reunion of the Anglican Communion with the Roman Catholic Church.  As such, they started a prayer movement that explicitly prayed for the return of non-Catholic Christians to the Holy See.  Needless to say, such an observance would attract few of our separated brothers and sisters except for a small number of Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics themselves.  This idea of a period of prayer for Christian unity originated in a conversation of Fr. Wattson with an English clergyman, Rev. Spencer Jones.  In 1907, Jones suggested that a day be set aside for prayer for Christian unity.  Fr. Paul Wattson agreed with the concept, but offered the idea of an octave of prayer between the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair on January 18 and the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul on January 25.
When Fr. Paul and Sr. Lurana became Roman Catholics, Pope Pius X gave his blessing to the Church Unity Octave and in 1916, Pope Benedict XV extended its observance to the universal church.  This recognition by papal authority gave the Octave its impetus throughout the Roman Catholic Church.  Until his death in 1940, Fr. Wattson promoted the Church Unity Octave, later known as the Chair of Unity Octave to emphasize its Petrine focus, through his magazine, The Lamp.
The theme of the Week of Prayer this year, “Has Christ been divided?” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:13) is to focus on a theme that cultural diversity is a wonderful gift, but it cannot lead to division for Christ himself is never divided.  Such is the ideal set before the Christian churches in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity theme for 2014, so that the world may believe.
~ Edited by Fr. Kelly from http://www.GEII.org/

Avoiding hibernation mode - Rector's Rambling for January 12, 2014

Winter has settled in here in Detroit, and we are all trying to avoid the “hibernation” mode of staying inside too much, fattening up, and isolating ourselves from the rest of the world until spring.
But we are not bears!  Instead we are called to get up and get out, even if the weather itself is not completely cooperative!  Thankfully, for most of us, the modern convenience of central heat makes winter less immediately life-threatening, but staying locked away is not healthy – spiritually and psychologically.  Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as our selves, and this assumes some contact with them.  Church is of course a great starting place for this!
We have now entered the Church season of Epiphany.  This past week we celebrated the coming of the Magi – the Wise Men – to worship the newborn Jesus as the great King and God whose very birth is announced by the appearance of a new star.  Unlike the shepherds who arrive on the night of his birth and represent the people of the original covenant, the Magi are not Jews.  Their arrival signals to us that the Gentiles, those outside that original covenant between God and the Hebrew people, are going to come to know Jesus Christ, and ultimately be incorporated into this New Covenant with God that Jesus Christ himself will seal in his own blood on the hard wood of the cross.
The Magi’s mystical gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh are gifts for royalty and represent an acknowledgement by those who “dwell in darkness” outside God’s revelation in the Old Testament that this child is a God (incense), King (Gold), and Sacrifice (myrrh – a bitter perfume used at a burial).
From now until mid-February (when the Pre-Lent “gesima” Sundays start), we are called to deepen our understanding of Jesus as God, and King, and Sacrifice!  This should be a deepening “epiphany” to us – a showing forth of the deeper and deeper truth that Jesus Christ is Lord.
So let’s get out of our hibernation mode and throw ourselves deeper and deeper into relationship with each other and the Good God who loves us!

Venite Adoremus Dominum - Rector's Rambling for Christmas Eve/Day 2013

And thus that manger poor
Became a throne;
For He whom Mary bore
Was God the Son.
O come, then, let us join
The heav’nly host,
To praise the Father, Son,
And Holy Ghost.
Venite adoremus Dominum;
Venite adoremus Dominum.

One of many favorite Christmas Carols, this one begins with the line “The snow lay on the ground” to describe the scene in Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born.  And although we generally think of the Holy Land as being warm and on the cusp of the desert, we saw earlier this month, reported in the media, that in fact Israel does get snow occasionally. 
Now whether there was snow on the ground the day Jesus was born is not recorded for us.  And in fact it is only St. Luke’s gospel that records for us the details of the Angels and Shepherds, no room at the inn, and the manger.  St. Matthew mentions the birth in Bethlehem but skips forward to the adoration of the Magi (commemorated January 6) and Herod’s slaughter of the innocents (commemorated December 28).  St. Mark and St. John make no mention of the occasion of Jesus’ birth.   None of them mention the weather.
But as with so many hymns, it is usually in the ending verse that we get to the ‘meat’ of the story.  After describing the snow, the stable, Mary, Joseph, angels and shepherds, we get to the meaning and reason for this heralded occasion.  In that stable, adored by the angels and shepherds, was born not just a baby (always a miracle and gift from God), but GOD HIMSELF!
And just like all the characters in the story of Christmas, the subject of the story should drive us to our knees in adoration! 
Venite adoremus Dominum
O Come, let us adore the Lord!