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

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Three Persons: One God - Rector's Rambling for May 30, 2021

   Today we proclaim and rejoice in a great mystery: the Holy Trinity.

My first sermon as a newly ordained clergyman was on Trinity Sunday in 1994, something my rector relished.  “Everyone will want to hear from the new curate on his first Sunday at Good Shepherd.  Just don’t screw it up by preaching a heresy about the Holy Trinity.”  Talk about intimidating!  I somehow managed to get through the morning without being pulled from the pulpit and burned at the stake.

Now we fast forward 27 years later and I am still preaching on the Holy Trinity VERY CAREFULLY.  And in fact, as I have gotten older I have in this way gotten wiser, because I know that I will never be able to explain how God is in Trinity.  And I don’t have to be able to comprehend it fully.

To be Christian is to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.  We are monotheists, and we proclaim the truth that God is a unity of three persons.  So often, the beginning of a full-blown heretical sect is rooted in poor doctrine about God in Trinity, and eventual denial of this truth altogether.  The Pilgrims/Puritans who came to North America to escape the Anglican religion found large portions of themselves within a few generations jettisoning right doctrine and becoming what is now the Unitarian/Universalist Church, devoid of the faith that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Other groups like the 19th Century Millerite Movements morphed, after their failed predicted dates of the end times, into completely mis-informed sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

We may not understand God in Trinity, but we believe on the sure Word found in Scripture, and we worship Him in the Unity of Persons as the Church has done for 2000 years!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost – One God throughout all ages.  Amen.


Monday, May 17, 2021

An in-between Sunday - Rector's Rambling for May 16, 2021

   Eastertide has now come and gone, and in a few weeks we will be back in the “green” of ordinary time, also known as Trinitytide.

Easter is certainly the primary feast of the Church calendar.  It is by Jesus’ death and resurrection that we have the price of our sins paid, and death conquered by Jesus himself.

Ascension Day, which was last Thursday, is the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Jesus takes his human body, resurrected, with Him back into the Godhead to intercede for us.

Today we are between times.  Like the disciples, we are preparing for the promise of the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.  We have been praying since Friday a novena for the gifts of the Holy Ghost, just as the disciples spent those nine days between Ascension and Pentecost in prayer.  You are most welcome to join this novena – there are forms for it at the back of the church, and it is being sent daily to the St. John’s email list.

Sunday, May 23, is Whitsunday, also known as Pentecost.  On this day we celebrate the birthday of the Church, by the coming of the Holy Ghost to empower the followers of Jesus to continue His work and propagate the Gospel.

The following week we have Trinity Sunday, when the Rector feebly tries to explain this vital dogma about God being one God in three persons.

The following Thursday, June 3, we have our celebration of Corpus Christi – the Body of Christ – at our 9:00 AM Mass.  We rejoice and give thanks that Jesus feeds us with his own body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.  We will also keep the Feast of Corpus Christi as the external Solemnity on Sunday, June 6.

After that it is the long season of Trinitytide with a few Sunday exceptions: St. James on July 25, St. Michael and All Angels on October 3, and All Saints Sunday on November 7.


Monday, May 10, 2021

Rogationtide - Rector's Rambling for May 9, 2021


As I write this column we are getting much needed rain.  This time last year lake/river levels were at unprecedented high water marks, with flooding on area creeks leading to the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair.  I know as one who rows daily on those bodies of water that this year’s levels are lower, and those who keep track of these things are telling us that this spring has been comparatively dry and that some rain is most welcome.

Why do I write this?  Because today, in addition to being the 5th Sunday after Easter, is known as Rogation Sunday.  Today, at the 10:00 AM service (weather permitting), we will process around the perimeter of the building, singing the litany hymn in a symbolic “beating of the boundaries” of the parish.  It is an opportunity for us to implore God’s mercy upon us and our community as we begin the planting season.  Our common welfare is tied up with the ability for crops to be planted, grow, and be harvested so that we can be nourished.  The Church this weekend acknowledges that all things are a part of God’s providence, including the temperate weather and the ability for us to grow and harvest.

Today is also the secular celebration of Mother’s Day.  Although not a part of our liturgical calendar, we do honor our mothers, past and present, with the singing of our Mother’s Day Hymn.  We thank God for the moms in our congregation and all the moms in our own lives who give of themselves for the good of those they raise.

And a reminder that this Thursday is the 40th Day of Eastertide and a major feast day!  We celebrate the Feast of the Ascension.  Holy Communion will be celebrated on Thursday morning at 9:00 AM to keep the Feast.

On Friday we begin our preparation for Whitsunday (May 23) with our daily Holy Ghost Novena.


Monday, May 03, 2021

St. Monica, St. Augustine, St. John - Rector's Rambling for May 2, 2021

    This week we have some GREAT Feast Days to celebrate.  This week we celebrate St. Athanasius, Ss. Augustine and Monica, and St. John before the Latin Gate.  A wonderful panoply of Holy People!

On Monday, we celebrate today’s Feast, transferred.  St. Athanasius lived in the 4th Century and was one of the great defenders of “Nicene Christology”, taking on those holding heretical views about Jesus’ nature as both God and Man, being of one Substance with the Father, rather than a “like” substance.  The Athanasian Creed, which we recite on Trinity Sunday, is attributed to him and his school.

On Tuesday, we celebrate the Feast of St. Monica of Hippo, also from the 4th Century.  A godly woman, she is credited for one particular gift to the Church – the conversion of her son Augustine to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith.  Although it was God the Holy Ghost who ultimately brought him to conversion from the Manichean heresy, he credits her unceasing intercession for him as a major part of his coming to the Faith.  She died shortly after his baptism in 287.

On Wednesday, we celebrate St. Augustine’s Conversion itself.  The wonderful story of that event, as well as what lead up to and followed it, is recorded for us in his autobiography, known as The Confessions of Saint Augustine – a book highly recommended to all the faithful!

Thursday is the Feast of St. John before the Latin Gate.  This secondary feast of St. John (his first primary feast day is December 27) is attributed to a tradition that his detractors tried to kill him by putting him in a pot of boiling oil, but he came through it unscathed.  A Church in Jerusalem, commemorating the place where this was to have happened, exists today, outside the Latin Gate to the city.