Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 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 160 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 25, 2016

Praying for Unity - Rector's Rambling for January 24, 2016

This past week, and until Monday, we are involved in what is known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  Begun by an Episcopal Religious Order called the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, located in Garrison, NY, the founders felt called to develop a ministry of ecumenical relations.  When the Order became Roman Catholic, they petitioned the Pope in 1916 to recognize their ecumenical work as their primary mission, which he did.  By doing so the Roman Catholic Church joined in what had primarily been a pan-protestant work until this time.
Couched each year between the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter (January 18) and the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25), the week is dedicated to the important work of our unity as Jesus desired when he prayed that we all may be one as He and The Father are one (John 17:21).
The unhappy divisions in the Body of Christ are a result of human sin and obstinacy.  Small schisms in the early years of the church due to heretical teachings came and went, but the largest division happened in 1054 AD, when there was a separation between the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman Catholic) Church.  The 16th century saw the church in Europe divided over theology, politics, and personality.  Unfortunately, division usually brings yet more division, witnessed in the United States with 217 major protestant denominations, and upwards of 35,000 independent or nondenominational congregations according to a study by the Hartford Seminary.
Even within Anglicanism in the United States there are counted at least 30 different groups that have separated from The Episcopal Church, and from one another.  And at this time even the Episcopal Church finds itself in a tenuous relationship with the rest of the Anglican Communion because of our theological novelties.
Pray for the Church.  Pray for Unity.  Pray that we all be one.  This is Jesus’ will for us.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Back at work - Rector's Rambling for January 17, 2016

I know that the new year began a few weeks ago, but I was away on my annual vacation to someplace warm, arriving back last Sunday afternoon.  I missed being here, but of course enjoyed being away and getting some rest and relaxation.  But this week has been for me the start of the new calendar year as I returned to the regular routine of weekday Masses, visits to hospitals and nursing homes, and planning for Sundays and future classes.  I love being your parish priest, and am grateful to be here ministering in this portion of Our Lord’s Vineyard.
Several things to think about for the coming weeks:
The educational opportunities have resumed, with Sunday School, Adult Education, and the Thursday evening programming back in session.  Please take advantage of these classes for you and your children.
Additionally, plans are being finalized for the Lenten Season, including new classes, a new series of Prayer Book devotions, and planning for our new Sunday evening worship service as well.  It is exciting.
Today is our ONE green Epiphanytide Sunday.  Because Easter is early this year, March 27, we start our pre-Lenten –gesima Sundays next week!
Our Annual Parish Meeting is in two weeks.  Please be sure to get in your reports if you are the leader or treasurer of a parish organization for publication in the meeting booklet.  These are exciting times for St. John’s as we transition to a new relationship with Olympia Development, and see our neighborhood grow and expand in exciting ways.  St. John’s will be on the leading charge in renewing this neighborhood with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And on a personal note, 27 years ago today I began a spiritual journey, taking the first step of a series of 12 Steps repeated again and again, aided by a group of fellow travelers, growing through a personal relationship with the Lord, and helping others to achieve the same grace-filled progress, one day at a time.  I’m grateful.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Epiphany Musings - redux from a previous Rector's Rambling - January 10, 2016

The the Rector away on holiday this Sunday, this is a reprint of a previous Sunday after Epiphany Rector's Rambling.

This past Wednesday we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany.  Some years the sixth of January falls on a Sunday so we get to celebrate it at our regular Sunday worship.  But this year it fell on a Wednesday, and as one can expect, it was a slightly smaller gathering of people then if it were on a Sunday!
Every year when we do our children’s Christmas Pageant inevitably someone asks, “where are the wise men?”  At the Christmas Pageant the children are dressed as angels, shepherds, Mary and Joseph and that is plenty of story to tell!
But the wise men are a part of another story.  At Christmas the shepherds coming to see the child Jesus represent for us the people of God’s original covenant, the Hebrews.  They come and adore him on bended knee and worship him as Lord and King.
The Prayer Book calls this feast not only The Epiphany, but also “the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles”.  Thirteen days after Christmas the wise men (Magi) arrive, representing the various nations outside that original covenant.  They represent us (well, at least most of us) who are gentiles (not Jews).  The Star they follow is a sign of the birth of this new king, one that will be King of all.
Today’s lessons have us jump head a dozen years, to the finding of Jesus in the Temple.  As a fellow seminarian once called it in a chapel sermon, “the original HOME ALONE” episode.   Jesus, growing toward adulthood, goes with his family to the Temple – the central location of Jewish worship, sacrifice, and devotion, and stays behind to be with his father (heavenly father).  However, being a good Jew who honors his Mother and Father, he returns to Nazareth to grow in stature until the time that he is made manifest publicly at age 30.
Epiphany is a SEASON.  May we in the coming weeks be drawn to be with our heavenly Father in the “temple” of the life of prayer, in the temple of the Sacrament of His Son’s body and blood, and in the temple of our hearts where He is present in the person of the Holy Ghost!

Friday, January 01, 2016

Goals, Resolutions, Good Habits by Grace - Rector's Rambling for January 3, 2016

I hope that everyone has had a good celebration of the calendar new year, and that we have set some goals for 2016 in the form of New Years Resolutions.
I know that it is almost comical when people speak of such resolutions, because so many of them are broken within a few days.  Exercise more, be healthy, etc. are some of the most common of these resolutions, and we see the health clubs signing up a glut of new members in early January, only to have attendance levels drop back to ‘normal’ by February, if not sooner.
But I think it is human nature for us to be setting goals and tying them to particular days or dates.  Starting a workout program or stopping smoking on a Monday since it is the first day of the work week is another example.  And of course, if January’s start fails you, then there is always “giving something up for Lent” which begins in a little over a month from now.  And in the case of giving it up for Lent, if it is sinful it should be given up NOW, rather than as a spiritual discipline for 40 days.
Although it is certainly a good idea to set goals and strive to attain them, the reality is that most people are habitual.  We get set in bad habits and the bigger challenge of a resolution isn’t just taking something on, but giving up the bad habit so that it can be replaced with the good.  And then of course, the good habit has to continue to be reinforced in order to avoid backsliding into the bad.
The same is true of the discipline of the Spiritual Life.  Being regular about prayer, reading scripture, loving God and neighbor, and attending Church has to become habitual.  We are saved by Grace, but we attend to these things because they encourage us and strengthen us to respond quickly to the promptings of the Spirit, helps us to discern God’s will in our lives both in general and in specific situations, and to avoid the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. 
Make a good resolution for Him TODAY.