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, October 27, 2014

Homecoming Sunday @ St. John's - Rector's Rambling for October 26, 2014

Welcome home!  Nothing sounds better to one’s ears, especially after a long time away, than to hear those words.  Welcome home.
We have lots of friends who at one time or another made St. John’s their parish home.  But a move further away, and then the birth of young children, caused them to settle in a neighborhood parish closer to home.  Others discovered St. John’s at one time or another, and have made us their special occasion church; Christmas, Easter, Tiger Baseball game.
I suggested we start celebrating a Homecoming Sunday in the fall as an occasion for both groups of folks to make the excuse to come to St. John’s.  And as we all know, a parish potluck always adds to the fun of a trip downtown to worship in this great old building, using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and accompanied by a glorious choir.
This year, under the leadership of the St. Catherine’s Guild of the Episcopal Church Women, we are also having a rummage sale.  Heavenly Treasures, as we have called it in the past.  Be sure to wander over to the Chapter Room side of the basement (under the offices) to see what you might need or just want!  Money raised will support the ministries of the Guild.
Although much about St. John’s doesn’t (and shouldn’t change), today you will also have an opportunity to view some of the proposed designs from Olympia Development for changes in the neighborhood.  In addition to the new hockey arena being built, there are plans to build apartments and retail spaces in the two Olympia parking lots in front of the baseball stadium, spilling over Montcalm onto our property.  Discussions are underway that would include leasing of some of our property to them, their tripling the size of the garden, and free use of the four-story parking garage to be built directly behind St. John’s.  There are lots of details to be worked out, and nothing has been agreed upon, but the prospects for the good of St. John’s and opportunities for ministry are exciting to think about.  All by His Grace, and all to God’s Glory.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Glorious worship diminished.... - Rector's Rambling for October 19, 2014

St. John’s offers some of the most beautiful worship on this side of heaven.  The church’s primary and unique vocation is to glorify God through her worship of Him.  We are His Body, Jesus the head.  And the Church has also been called The Bride of Christ, adorned and beautified for the coming of the Bridegroom.  Both images help us to envision that we have a task to do, just as a body functions under the head, as well as being loved and desired for her beauty (internally and externally) as a bride and groom.
When I had my first phone interview with the search committee here at St. John’s 14 years ago this month, one question I asked was, “why does the parish continue to use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer for worship?”  After a moment, one of those around the speaker phone said, “because it expresses the faith most clearly for us”, or something to that effect.  It was the answer I was looking for.  I wasn't interested in a parish that used the “old” prayer book just because they didn’t like change.  The 1928 Book of Common Prayer does a wonderful job of drawing us together to pray in common AND does so by the careful expression of the biblical faith once delivered to the saints.  As the old expression asserts, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi; the Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief.  What we pray, and how we pray, forms and encourages our faith.  Sublime worship not only glorifies God, but also equips us and builds us up in the faith.  We are the Church, and through worship we grow in grace to witness, to share the good news, and to perform the good works that He may be calling us to do.  Holiness is grounded in worship, prayer and thanksgiving.
However, most importantly, we MUST ATTEND AND PARTICIPATE in the weekly worship of the Church!  St. John’s offers glorious worship that is DIMINISHED by the non-attendance of her members.  We must be here and worship together to glorify God, to be equipped AND TO WELCOME newcomers.  Non-attendance damages all three.  Make our Lord and His worship here on Sunday your priority!  And invite others to join you!


Monday, October 13, 2014

"No resting on one's laurels" - Rector's Rambling AND Teaching Notes for October 12, 2014

October is Stewardship month in most parishes in the Episcopal Church, and we are no exception to that.  At this time of the year we ask you to evaluate your giving to the parish and how God may be asking you to increase that giving.  But even more importantly, we ask that you look at what money is to you, what hold it has on you, and how God would have you be in relationship with money.  Stewardship is about gratitude for what God has entrusted to us, and how we respond in gratitude.
When the vestry makes a budget, we look at patterns of giving and income over past years, as well as expenses anticipated.  However, we don’t do Stewardship in the parish by saying we need to raise _______ amount of money to balance our budget.  We don’t want to limit you or us!  We expect that God will continue to bless us, and in so doing we will respond in gratitude, not because the church needs a certain amount of dollars to pay the gas and electric bills, but because we are people of God who give with a cheerful heart to the parish as a part of our bounden duty…to work and pray and give for the spread of the kingdom.  (Book of Common Prayer p. 291)
After a few years of uncertainty with the economy, and a pervasive fear by some that the parish would fail, St. John’s has not only continued to thrive, but we are completing our second year of not using any endowment income to cover operating expenses, something the parish had depended upon out of necessity for over 40 years.
As a part of the spiritual life, there is no resting on one’s laurels when it comes to stewardship!  Proposed changes to the neighborhood should benefit the parish both in ministry opportunities as well as financially in the coming years.  But that doesn’t release us from working toward the biblical principle of tithing of our income.  WE NEED to give, because it is good for us and God wills it.  Stewardship is about the spiritual health of the parish of which generosity is vital.


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Tithing

When discussing stewardship the word “tithe” comes up frequently.  What is a tithe, and how does it apply to your spiritual life?
The tithe is an offering to God of the FIRST 10% of your incoming.  In the Old Testament God requires this, saying the first 10% of your fields, flocks or vineyards are to be given as an offering to the Lord. (Leviticus 27:30)  It is a sign and symbol of gratitude that the Lord has provided for you.  One of the offertory sentences for the Holy Communion Service sums this up saying, “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee” (1 Chronicles 29:14).  With the offering we show gratitude because it is 100% God’s and He has blessed us with the provision of it.  It is also a sign that we trust that God will continue to provide for us in the future as well. (Malachi 3:10).
In the New Testament Jesus mentions the tithe in reference to those who are doing it for appearances or self-righteousness, not with a joyful heart.  Rather than saying the Pharisees are wrong for tithing, he says our righteousness must EXCEED that of the scribes and Pharisees. (Matthew 5:20)  We should be giving and doing so with a right heart.
But throughout the New Testament there is reference to the support of the ministry and need to not be so attached to one’s possessions that they become a distraction or even an idol.  Giving with a cheerful heart is a great antidote to such a malady.
In the Book of Common Prayer we read in the Offices of Instruction, My bounden duty is the follow Christ, to worship God every Sunday in his Church; and to work and pray and give for the spread of the kingdom. (p. 291)  The support of your parish church, working toward a tithe, is an important aspect of that duty.  And to do so with a cheerful heart is a spiritual treasure.
If you are not tithing now pray the Lord to help you to move toward that level of giving to His Greater Honor and Glory, and your sanctification.

Monday, October 06, 2014

St. Michael and All Angels - Rector's Rambling for October 5, 2014

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle.  Be our guard and protection against the snares and wickedness of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell, Satan and all evil forces seeking for the ruin of souls.  This we beg in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Although the Feast Day fell on Monday, September 29, we are celebrating this great holy day today, within the Octave (eight day commemoration) of its Solemnity.  Today we sing all the wonderful hymns for this day, including the unofficial “official” hymn of the St. Michael’s Conference for Youth: Christ the fair glory of the holy angels.  During the course of the conference we sing this hymn four times, and many an alumni Michaelite will tell you that the opening notes of this hymn bring to mind the joy of conference weeks past.
Ss. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, three of the four most commonly known archangels, get a mention in the hymn (not mentioned is Uriel from the apocryphal book of II Esdras).  The Eastern Orthodox churches list seven or eight, and there could be thousands for all we don’t know.
The numbers of the ministering spirits are uncountable.  We are blessed to know that they serve God day and night, which we will understand at our earthly end as blessed souls at rest (but not as angels – they are a different created order) in heaven.