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

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter Day - Rector's Rambling for March 27, 2016

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!
        The Lord is Risen indeed!

After a long Lent, it is with great joy that we proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
That first Easter was one of fear and unknowing, which was then overcome by witness and acknowledgement in seeing Jesus alive after His crucifixion on Good Friday.  The last thing Mary Magdalen expected to see was an empty tomb as we hear in John’s Gospel.  In Mark’s Gospel, as depicted on our super-reredos over the altar in the church, the Marys too were astonished to see an angel announcing Jesus’ resurrection.  But it would be later in John’s Gospel where we hear about Mary Magdalen encountering the Lord and thinking at first He is the gardener, and the surprise and awe of Jesus appearing to the groups of disciples in the Upper Room later that day.
The Book of Common Prayer has special readings for Holy Communion assigned for Monday and Tuesday this week, with the account of the disciples encountering Jesus on the road to Emmaus the day of His resurrection, and Luke’s account of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in the Upper Room.  Next Sunday we hear John’s account of that same encounter.  The Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer cover more extensively the various narratives of these events.  I highly recommend that you read these accounts this week to get the fullest of the story of Jesus’ resurrection appearances.  As always, the reading of the Bible is highly recommended for encouragement and our learning.
Just as Lent was 40 days, so too Easter is 40 days long.  We will continue to celebrate with extra “Alleluias” until the Feast of the Ascension on May 5.  Long after the marshmallow peeps are gone, and chocolates devoured, we should continue in the joy of this great celebration.  Jesus has conquered sin and death!  Thanks be to God!

Holy Week 2016 - Rector's Rambling for March 20, 2016

Now it all gets very serious.  I know that may sound odd, as if the rest of our growth in the spiritual life is not.  But this week is called Holy Week for a very good reason.  During this week the holiest of events happen in our Lord’s life, and the effect of that holiness is for us and for our salvation!
This week contains a bevy of opportunities for worship, so that you can go more and more deeply into the mystery of our Lord’s sacrifice.  For a period of time these liturgies became the purview of monks, nuns, and small religious communities who could concentrate their time and effort to such important worship.
Thankfully, restorations in the church, particularly by the more catholic-minded elements in Anglicanism, helped to restore the liturgies of this week to common use in the parish church, and opened their participation to all those who are members of the body of Christ.  The spiritual life and health of the Church has been greatly enhanced by this correction.
BUT, all that being said, there has been in the last few years, both here at St. John’s and other parishes in general, a slackening of attendance at these service.  This is a cause for concern.  Are we too busy to spend a couple extra nights at St. John’s (Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday) or a portion of our Friday afternoon?
Although we do read the Passion Gospel on Palm Sunday, we certainly do need a full week of devotion to enter deeply into this wonderful mystery of Christ’s sacrifice.  The Church offers the opportunity to do just that!
Here is your challenge this year: I want you to DOUBLE your Holy Week Service attendance this year!  If last year’s attendance was zero, you need to add one.  If it was two, go to four this year!  The doubling of your attendance should also then show in an increase in attendance at the services, which is not only pleasing to God, but also an encouragement to others who have made time to come as well.
Let’s make this our best Holy Week ever.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Passion Sunday - Rector's Rambling for March 13, 2016

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.”
I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is for us ALL to enter deeper yet into our Lenten observances.  Now is the time to make the PUSH to finish strong.  Last chance for Stations of the Cross is this Friday.  Our last Thursday Lenten Instructive Service and Soup Supper is this Thursday.  The following week, Holy Week, has its own particular and wonderful liturgies to be observed.  Make the extra effort this week!

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Laetare - Rector's Rambling for March 6, 2016

Happy Lætáre Sunday!  This Sunday is also known as Rose Sunday (take a look at the vestments and hangings today to figure out this title), and in our mother Church of England it is known as Mothering Sunday (like our Mother’s day in May).
Still a Sunday in Lent, this Sunday is a mid-point when we “lighten up” a bit.  The deep penitential purple vestments are replaced with the lighter rose.  The Latin title gives us a hint as to this lightening up of the day.  Lætáre is the opening word of the liturgy in Latin, on which our liturgy is based.  The first word of the Introit, sung by the choir at the 10:00 AM service, is “REJOICE”.
Although a penitential season, on this Sunday we rejoice that we have passed the half-way point of Lent.  We rejoice because Passiontide (the last two weeks before Easter) and Holy Week are in sight.  We rejoice because Easter is just around the corner.  We rejoice because to date we have kept a good Lent OR because we still have a chance to have a good Lent starting today.  But above all we rejoice because we have a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who paid the price of our sins.  We rejoice that in Jesus Christ we have forgiveness of those sins and are reconciled unto the Father through His blood.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Hang in there! The end is in sight!" - Rector's Rambling for February 28, 2016

“Hang in there!  The end is in sight.”  That was the advice given to me this past week by the construction crew working on the roadway and new sidewalk in front of St. John’s.  I had enquired in the hope that we will have the Service Drive open in time for Easter Day.  The workers, when asked, looked at each other, were obviously doing the math in their heads, and responded with a tentative, “maybe”.
It is only the 3rd Sunday in Lent, but already I am looking forward a few weeks.  Next week is Rose Sunday when we lighten up a bit.  The following week is Passion Sunday which brings with it the veiling of crosses and the liturgy made more austere.  Before you know it Palm Sunday and Holy Week are upon us with it’s full agenda of worship and devotions.
It is about this time of Lent that many of us come to the realization that Lent is hard, and lasts a long time.  It is supposed to be both those things.  Sin becomes entrenched in our habits, and sloth makes us want to take the easier, softer way to solve it.  But it will take both time to get out of the bad habit of sin, as well as effort to replace it with positive efforts that support virtue.
But it is hoped that by the long, arduous training that Lent should be, we will be well-prepared spiritually when the celebration of the Resurrection and it’s 40-day season is upon us!
If you haven’t gotten started with the discipline of Lent, NOW is as good a time as any, and if you are struggling, or perhaps failing at some in your resolutions, NOW is also a good time to be rededicated to the effort!  And if you find yourself still on the right path, but frustrated with a seeming lack of progress, remember that “time takes time”.  In other words, advances may be slow, but will come.
“Hang in there!  The end is in sight.”