Give to God the things that are God’s: The struggle the real and the ideal.
Dear Friends and Parishioners at Christ Church,
Today in my devotion I was reading a commentary on what it means to have “salt in yourselves” (see Mark 9:50) and the famous passage from Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth …” These two scriptures exhort and call each one of us to be a preserving influence against the moral rottenness and hatred that is in our culture. Then later this afternoon I received in an email, “A Statement from the Bishops of Virginia about the Charlottesville Tragedy.” I have attached the statement below because I wholeheartedly recommend it to you as a practical guide with much that needs to be discussed and applied to our lives as we think and pray about concrete ways that we can make a difference in the world.
Vicar of Christ Church Lucketts
A Statement from the Bishops of Virginia about the Charlottesville Tragedy
On Saturday our hearts were broken. An angry group of neo-Nazi and fascist protesters came into Charlottesville, Virginia, armed and armored, looking for trouble. The violence and loss of life suffered in their wake signaled yet another escalation of the hate-filled divisions of our time. The peace of a beautiful university town was shattered. The images that some had of America were broken.
The echoes of the heartbreaking tragedy that was Charlottesville will remain with us for a long time to come. We have every indication that we will be seeing more of this. Angry white supremacists seem already to be organizing to bring their ugly and racist rhetoric to other towns and cities across our Commonwealth and across the United States. Angry resisters are more than ready to meet their violence with violence.
It’s hard to imagine a time when the Church is more needed in the public square. It’s hard to imagine a time when our need would be greater for God to take our broken hearts and break them open for wise, loving and faithful witness in Christ’s name.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are admonished to heed God’s call to love our neighbors through prayer, through speaking out and through other concrete action for the sake of all, particularly the poor, the oppressed, the judged, the demonized. That witness was on display Saturday in Charlottesville in the peaceful march by hundreds of clergy leaders from Charlottesville, from our Diocese, and from other religious traditions in Virginia and beyond. Such witness must continue.
There will be more rallies and more divisions. We must be prepared to meet those challenges, not with violent confrontation, but by exemplifying the power of love made known in concrete action.
As your bishops, we commit ourselves to action of the kinds we list below. We invite you to join us and to share your actions with us so that we can grow together in wisdom, faithfulness and love.
Whatever we do we may not, we must not, be quiet in the face of evil during this violent era of our lives together.
The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston
The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick
Concrete actions in the face of white supremacists and others whose message is counter to Christ’s embracing love.
- Be clear about the issues. Make distinctions of the following kinds:
- All individuals and groups in this country have a right to free speech. All have a right to their convictions and to speak those convictions publicly. Individuals and groups do not have a right to assault, attack or cause violence against anyone else based on their views – or for any reason.
- The issue of removing Confederate monuments is a complex one with a number of legitimate points of view. Reasoned discussion and decision-making processes are called for. Using these points of view to justify violence is wrong and cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.
- Many Americans lovingly cling to their heritage, which provides them with pride and identity. Some suggest that the white people who gathered to protest in Charlottesville were there to proclaim and protect Southern heritage. However, Nazi and fascist flags, symbols, salutes, slogans and uniforms are not and never have been part of the heritage and history of the American South. We as a nation suffered over a million American casualties in order to defeat the Nazi regime. We have been clear as a nation that the Nazi worldview is evil, and we must remain clear.
- As Americans and as the Church, we believe that inclusion of all persons in our common life is central to our identity. We seek to welcome and include all people. We understand that there is a wide range of legitimate perspectives on the issues that are most important to us. We do not, however, welcome, include or legitimize all behaviors and all words. Some words and actions are simply not acceptable. We need to keep making distinctions about what behaviors and actions we will not tolerate.
- Write to your representatives in the Virginia General Assembly:
- Urging them to enact legislation to track hate crimes in the Commonwealth. As it stands now, we do not have the tools we need as citizens to track what seems to be an escalation of violent acts and therefore to respond appropriately.
- Urging the Legislature to form a task group, in the language of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, “to propose how Virginia can create an environment that welcomes and offers opportunity to all people of color, Muslims, immigrants, women, LGB and poor white men.”
- Create conversation groups in which you can get to know people from different backgrounds or with different political perspectives from your own. Talk to one another. Listen deeply to one another. We as a society have forgotten how to talk and listen openly. We in the Church can help rediscover the skills.
- For the civic and religious leaders of Charlottesville, for all citizens of Charlottesville, for all the people who live and work in the Charlottesville area.
- For those who died in Charlottesville on Saturday: Heather Heyer, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, and for their families.
- For all who were injured in violence in Charlottesville on Saturday.
- For those with whom we disagree.
- For peace in our nation and in the world.
- Pray alone and in groups. Join in the prayers of those who pray from different traditions or styles from your own. Hearing the prayers of others can expand and deepen our own praying.
- Do a moral inventory of yourself. How do you feel about free speech? Are there limits? If so, where do they lie? What is not acceptable? What resonance do you have with exclusionary rhetoric either on the right or on the left? As Jesus said, take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
- White people, speak out against white supremacy. It is we white people who must speak to white supremacists to make clear that we do not agree with them, that they do not speak for the “white race.” Our silence will be heard as complicity.
I love to share stories that are part of the folklore of different parishes that I have had the privilege of serving. And of all the stories that I have heard and shared, one of my favorites concern an event that happened in early September, 1965, when St. Paul’s in New Orleans endured Hurricane Betsy. During that disastrous storm the large Ascension Widow over the front altar was blown out and laid scattered and broken all over the front lawn of the church. In recollecting the details of the event, Ted Dawson, who was the rector at the time, remembers that many people from around the neighborhood came together to pick up the broken pieces of glass, hoping that the stained glass window could be restored. Ted also remembered two distinctive pieces of glass that remained unbroken even though the storm had thrown them into the mud—one was the face of Jesus which is painted on one piece of glass, the other was Jesus’ right hand.
I believe there is a message that lies amid all that broken glass that is so symbolic and representative of our lives, and there is also an important picture for us in the two pieces of unbroken glass that is so representative of our Lord. Amidst all of our brokenness, God’s hand of power is still intact as he extends his sovereign grace and mercy to us. And even though the storms and clouds may seem to hide his face in the mud and mire of our lives, He is still there ever ready to shine on us with the warmth and sunshine of God’s unbroken love.
During the month of May and early June we will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension and the Feast of Pentecost. These two major Feast Days remind us that Christ has not only risen, but that he also reigns. He reigns over the storms in our lives and he reigns in the hearts of those who have yielded to his grace and will.
Storms and disasters still batter the church, but God’s will and purpose for us will still be fulfilled. He is willing and able to take the broken pieces of our lives and use them to build his church and empower us to be a blessing to his people. And by the way, with the pieces of broken glass collected on that day, the stain glass window was restored. That, too, was just another reminder that “…the gates of hell (whether they come in the form of storms or adverse circumstances) will not prevail against us” (Matthew 16:18).
Grace and peace to you, for the Lord is with you.
Yours in Christ,
New Life and Resurrection are Happening!
Our celebration on Easter Sunday features the most positive of all Christian messages: “Jesus Christ has risen, the Lord has risen indeed!” It is a message that is celebrated by all that we do, both in our service and worship on Sunday mornings. And the reality of this message is seen as our church is growing and coming alive. Like Ezekiel’s image of a valley of dry bones, God is breathing new life into us. The bones are shaking and signs of the resurrection are occurring, but it is not without growing pains. Gerald Hughes in his book, “The God of Surprises” mentions three features that are common in all of the resurrection accounts. The most common feature he pointed out is that before Christ appeared everyone was in a negative mood: the women who came to the tomb, came only expecting to embalm Jesus; the disciples on the road to Emmaus are sad and disillusioned; the disciples in the upper room are afraid and living behind closed doors; and Thomas is in doubt. In every case, their pain and disillusionment revealed their poverty of spirit and need of God. Yet in each person our Lord’s love met them in the midst of their despair and led them to a life-transforming faith.
The second common feature of those who came to faith was the slowness of those to whom Christ appears to recognize that He really was the risen Christ. The disciples on the road to Emmaus walked several miles with him before they recognized him. Those of us at Christ Church as we have met in small groups during our Lenten programs, were made more aware that Christ is a living presence in every detail of our lives. But this awareness has grown slowly. We at Christ Church have come to realize, week by week, that the church really is the living body of Christ, a place where the presence of Christ is revealed through us to others. So if your spiritual progress seems to be slow, don’t worry. You are in good company. In fact, it is comfort to know we have many among us who are willing and ready to support you.
A final feature common to the resurrection is that those to whom Christ appeared are commissioned to go and tell others. For us, it is by our daily witness to a life lived in the grace of giving and serving others through our individual vocations and ministry. Our Lenten programs have encouraged us to discover the life of Christ as he lives and abides in us, empowering us to fulfill his will and purpose.
God is calling us to a glorious future—a future that requires that each live in joyful obedience to his will and plan. Let the miracle happen, and may it continue in each and every one of us. Alleluia, the Lord is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Grace and peace,
The Lenten study entitled “Living in Hope” will meet on Wednesdays starting March 8 and ending April 5.
We will begin each study with a light meal from 6 to 6:45 pm in Church House. You may arrive anytime during that time frame for the casual meal.
The study will start at 7:00 pm.
If you can’t attend these sessions, Father Stephen has provided links so that you can study independently at home. Click here to learn more.
This is a special prayer form that is used for Memorial Day. It comes from the Book of Common Prayer, page 488.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead: We give thee thanks for all thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence; and give us such a lively sense of thy righteous will, that the work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.
Recently, I saw a documentary on the discovery channel on the making and launching of NASA’s space rovers to Mars, prophetically named Spirit and Opportunity. One of the most interesting and dramatic parts of the presentation was the tests that the rovers went through. Some of which were potentially destructive shocks delivered to the rovers computer systems. As they delivered the shocks they explained that because of the high cost of the apparatus they could only afford to send the same equipment that had been tested into space.
The same is also true for us. God has no other equipment with which to work and we have our own spirit which has the opportunity to be tested and developed through the storms, struggles and temptations we face. In fact, that is what discipleship is all about. It is no accident that Jesus is baptized and then immediately sent to spiritual boot camp. (See Luke 4:1-13 in the gospel that is read for the first Sunday of Lent.) It is never pleasant, but it is true to life.
It never ceases to amaze me how obsessed we are in our modern culture with physical and emotional health and well-being, and yet how negligent we can be in tending to our inner spiritual life. It’s as if we don’t really believe we have a soul, or it is as if we think that somehow our spiritual lives will just develop on their own with no particular attention being paid to their nurture and growth. In fact, what too often happens is that we grow to maturity in body and intellect, but our soul is young and undeveloped because we are afraid to do the work required to challenge and stretch ourselves spiritually.
The choices Jesus is given were hard to resist. He was tempted to provide for himself using his own means instead of trusting in God. Aren’t we tempted to do the same? He was tempted to take a short cut to God’s purposes for him by avoiding the cross. Aren’t we also similarly tempted? And if the devil couldn’t get Jesus to succumb to the first two, why not tempt him with spiritual pride, i.e. “Throw yourself down from pinnacle of the temple” with a grand display of power and superiority.
In all of these trials Jesus had to rely on a source of truth outside of himself. And so he quotes from the Torah. His body might be dehydrated and famished and weak, but he relies on God to deliver him. And as a result, Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit for having come through his own ordeal in faithful obedience.
During these weeks of Lent we can and should spend more time in prayer, offering ourselves up to God and asking God to show us what we need to see in order to draw closer to God. And when you do this kind of work, do not be surprised if you find yourself being tempted to do anything to avoid that kind of intimacy with God. What I am advocating is hard work. It is not easy. But when we are tempted to give up and give in, remember that we have one who has come to help us. He was tempted in every way as we are, yet was without sin. So now, he is with us as our great high priest to help us in our time of need.
May we journey with him, finding in him all the strength we need to overcome as we experience together a holy Lent.
Vicar, Christ Church – Lucketts
April 28, 2015
To the Members and Friends of Christ Church, Lucketts,
I am sure we are all grieved by the events that have taken place in our nation with what appears to be the unjustified use of force and the taking of young black American lives by police officers, at least this is the picture we are given by majority of the media in our country. The reaction, anger and rebellion to these events expressed in the riots in Baltimore has escalated these emotions to a boiling point where untold destruction has occurred and who knows if and how it may end. In the scriptures we are exhorted, “They have made void your law, it is time for you to work.” (Ps. 119:126).
I therefore am calling on our church to a season of repentance, fasting and prayer on behalf of our nation and world. Our Prayer Book gives us resources how to begin to effectively pray:
First begin with ‘The Supplication’ BCP pps. 154-155
Secondly with ‘The Great Litany’ BCP pps. 148 -153
Collect #28 ‘In Times of Conflict’ BCP p. 824
Collect #3 ‘For the Human Family’ BCP p. 815
Collect #18 ‘For our Country’ BCP p. 820
Collect #19 ‘For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority’ BCP p. 820
Collect #22 ‘For Sound Government’ BCP pps. 821-822
Collect # 39 ‘For Those who Influence Public Opinion’ BCP p. 827
For those of you who may not have a Book of Common Prayer you may go to the following web site to download these prayers at: http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/formatted_1979.htm
God has given to us a great and precious promise: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Let us do our part to participate in the healing of our nation.
Yours in Christ,
Vicar of Christ Church, Lucketts
In Jewish tradition, it was the custom at their most sacred feast day to have one of the older children who attended to ask this question: “What makes this day more special than any other day?” And so I want to ask you, “What makes this day more special than any other feast day we have in the life of our church?”