Eventide Reflection – April 26

By Robert Brown
Shared at Eventide, April 26th, 2017

Read John 17: 20-26

In this passage from the Gospel of John is a continuation of Jesus’ petition to his God, our God, on behalf of his disciples. This intercession follows the lengthy discourse he presents to his disciples at the last supper in the upper room.

If we go back a few chapters in John’s gospel, and read through to today’s passage, we find a number of quotes wherein Jesus explicates what’s going on in the present moment, what is to come in the next few days, what things will be like after his death and resurrection, and what all this means for them, and for the world.

It’s really quite a bit of concentrated and rich personal, social, spiritual and theological information. It’s interesting for me to wonder how the disciples may have heard these foundational points, as I continue to evolve and grow in my own understanding of them.

Starting at the beginning of chapter 13, here are a few highlights leading up to today’s passage:

Peter’s objection to Jesus washing his feet, and the resulting commandment: “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

Jesus refutes Peter’s claim: “I will lay down my life for you.” Peter’s 3 denials follow.

Jesus responds to Thomas’ claim to not know where Jesus is going. “I am the way,and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus assures the disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.”

And: “ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”

From Chapter 15: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

And from just a few verses before today’s passage: Speaking to God of his disciples: “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”

The gospel according to John is seen by Biblical scholars as fundamentally different than the other three synoptic gospels. This gospel contains a full compliment of theological assertions, principles and explanations, which theologians and scholars have been working with since Jesus’ time. It’s likely that scholars, theologians and all of humanity will continue to attempt to fully understand, in a systematic and coherent way, not just the gospel of John, but all of Holy Scripture.

All Christians, believers who walk the faith journey, have their relationship with both Scripture and with God, and this journey is one of evolving understandings of meanings and beliefs. In this sense you and I are all theologians, because of our interest in understanding God, the nature of human nature, and the relationship between God, humanity, and all of Creation.

So the gospel passage will be read again. This time see what stands out for you, what you see as having special meaning for you. All reflections are welcome shared or silent.

Read John 17: 20-26

 

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Two Oranges

By Barbra Mousouris

Originally delivered at Eventide, April 5, 2017

(take 2 oranges) Here we are in the 5th week of Lent already! A period in which we are invited into a time of self examination and reconnection with spirit.  Some of us interpret this to mean fasting and self denial…which is sometimes easier than self examination. Of course, in our normal lives we examine and choose our behaviors all the time.  We act appropriately with colleagues, we are courteous to people in line, we stop at red lights, we edit our writings before we hit “send”!  We reevaluate our careers, our relationships, our eating habits, our plans, our weight, our habits.  Self examination in Lent is a SPIRITUAL course correction.  The church gives us this chance for a do-over… To examine our spiritual life is not to see where we feel we are not measuring up, as it is the human condition to be imperfect…  It is an opportunity to look at ourselves, not everybody else, knowing that God also looks at us honestly, forgiving and loving us no matter what, and reminding us during Lent of the goal of heading toward spiritual growth and peace.  This is a personal, individual journey, whether you give something up, or add meditation or spiritual readings or charitable service, or whatever you choose that brings you closer to spirit.

When it comes to choices, everyone makes choices, even animals! My golden retriever would eat an entire bowl of kibble, laced with special verboten human food gravy to hide her seizure medication…of course after much glopping and slopping, a tiny white pill would remain in her otherwise spotless bowl.  She too was making a choice, much to my chagrin.  We all take what gives us joy, and let the rest go.  Like a citrus juicer that separates the sweet juice from the pulp, our “blessing extractor” can take any experience and draw goodness out of it.  Or not.  In gratitude we can take the best, and leave the rest… Be open to the golden nugget God is trying to give you in each experience.  We are all given 24 hours in a day, every day.  It is our choice how to spend it. Lent is a time to let the light shine through the darkness, the spring after the winter.

One  gospel reading for Lent is about the feeding of the multitudes. It is a familiar biblical story that appears in each of the 4 gospels, each time miraculously written.  On a desert night, Jesus blessed the meager food resource of 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and miraculously fed 4000 hungry souls ! Pretty weird if you ask me. Within this story lies the essence of what Christian living is about, providing bread for the world.  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that bread is more than, white or wheat, but as a universal symbol for that which is necessary to sustain us. In John chapter six, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Those who come to me shall not hunger or thirst.”  In the Eucharist on Sundays, we experience this miracle, through the invocation of the spirit and the word of God, our bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ, the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation.  With this, he not only feeds us, but empowers us to feed the whole world. In a world filled with needy and hungry people, Jesus taught us to share food, water, money, shelter, clothing, medicine and education.  But even the wealthy in their marble palace can be experiencing a hunger of the soul. It is so easy to make excuses for not sharing…not enough time, not enough money, not enough faith…imagine if the Albanian nun Teresa had walked into the slums of Calcutta to minister to those dying in the streets and said, “No Lord, this is beyond me.”

Has this Lent season been a time in which you have grown in love? As Fr. Richard Rohr says, there is nothing we can do to make God love us more…and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.  And we need to know, God does not love us because we are good.  God loves us because He is good.  He instructs us to become a more loving person in mind, heart, body, and soul.  Are you more loving today than you were on Ash Wednesday?  And what does love let us see in one another, in the world, and in ourselves?  If everyone just share the little they have, that little will add up to a love of love going around. Jesus is our bread for the hungry, our bread for the soul.  We needn’t worry that there will be enough to go around, because as the story tells us, the left overs from those who love and trust, will fill many, many souls.

On the Jewish holiday of Purim, it is the custom for neighbors to visit each other’s homes with gifts of fruit. One Purim, three men on a business trip found themselves miles from civilization, with but one orange between them.  One man took the orange in his hands, held it close to his heart, turned to the other man and said,  “My dear Chaim, with this orange I give you all my love, and I pray that God grants you a life of peace and plenty.”  Chaim appreciatively accepted the orange and faced the 3rd man, saying, “My brother Yosef, this is a symbol of my deepest thanks for your friendship in my life.  I wish you all the happiness your heart desires.”  Yosef, nearly in tears, received the fruit and turned to the first man. “Beloved Jacob, you are a true man of God. May the angels of mercy walk by your side and return to you a thousandfold all the good you give.”  Jacob received the orange and, brimming with ecstasy, gave it to Yosef again with an additional blessing.  So the 3 men went on all night, adding more and more love to the orange until their souls were filled beyond measure.

The only gifts we truly have to offer one another are the gifts of spirit.  Physical objects are but cups we will with love.  A gift, no matter how expensive, is not a gift unless it is given with sincerity and kindness.  Even if your physical gift seems meager, if we imbue it with intention, it will bless the received in the deepest way.  When we give from the heart, we, too, are full.

As Rabbi Siegel said, “From you I receive, to you I give.  Together we share, from this we live.”

So I wonder…can I feed all of us with this 1 orange? Even if we were starving? In the interest of time I will actually share two…So I ask you, to please pass it to your friend sitting next to you, giving them a blessing…a few words…perhaps one word…perhaps a silent prayer…as you see we can fill our spirits and still have 2 oranges left over.

Amen.

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Response to Our Stewardship Campaign

By Fr. Paul Collins and Kathie Deviny

Fr. Paul and Kathie have listened closely to the recent Sunday talks about how the financial condition of the All Saint’s Budget affects our important outreach, family/children and capital campaign ministries.

Kathie especially likes concrete information, so appreciated the information that a 5% increase in pledging by all members would cover our operating shortfall. It may seem sacrilegious, but she sees our annual budget much like the condo dues she and Paul pay, which keep their home safe, sound and solvent.  Our church “dues” cover all those things, as well as providing us with the spiritual sustenance we need, and indeed, depend on.

To cover our annual pledge, we tap into our own “operating expenses.”  Believe it or not, it can be fun to juggle various spending categories and realize that a  small percentage reduction in food, meals out, travel, etc. can make it happen.

Denny Bacon’s talk on the Capital Campaign stressed how early payments on our capitol pledge would boost the bottom line.  That caused us to rethink our schedule of payments. Why can’t we speed ours up?

And then Heather Hawley broke our hearts as she spoke about our new Godly Play Program and what a blessing it’s been to her and the children.  And then a member of the outreach committee held up one of the darling duffle bags for the Cleveland kids to take to camp (instead of a plastic sack).

At coffee hour we talked to a university student who was among the ones devoting all those summer hours to establishing  Godly Play.  And he was working with the youth group, who have a different program!  We all know how else he could have been spending that time!

We realized that to start growing and thriving right now, all of us need to be thinking beyond five, to a six-plus percent increase in our annual pledge.

For that young man and for many of us, stretching our financial contribution is probably not possible right now.  But he has more than met this goal through his time and dedication.  As have so many more of us who have contributed the time and talent part of the equation by serving on vestry, committees, volunteering in the church office, as tutors, in other outreach ministries.  And so can we all.

It sounds corny, but now we two parishioners have not only faith, but hope in the Love that our parish is contributing to our neighbors, our community and our planet.  Thanks be to God!

Fr. Paul Collins and Kathie Deviny

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Resources for Listening to Christ

The Rev. Aimee Eyer-Delevett

Recently, our lectionary assigned gospel readings have invited us to focus our energies on

praying to God. Amid the noisy and often troubling news of our world, we who follow Christ are

invited to quiet ourselves and spend time in prayer and the presence of the Divine.

There are times when we need to stop: sit and meditate; read scripture; pray; take a silent,

contemplative walk. These provide an opportunity to switch our minds and our lives away from day-

to-day work. God has difficulty entering a mind that is caught up in the business of the day. Taking

a break opens us up to the presence of God and a chance for learning and growth.

In her book That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist, Jewish/Buddhist author Sylvia

Boorstein talks about how, when life gets overwhelming and she takes on too many things, she

needs to increase her time in prayer and meditation. That can seem incongruous to many – often

when life seems to overtake us, prayer is one of the first things to go. But Boorstein emphasizes the

importance of prayer to strengthen not only the mind, but also the whole being. Without that, she

queries, what use are we to God or to humanity?

We are all called to listen to Jesus. We can even find that, as we listen, we are freed up to do

more and reengage the world renewed.

So take some time to read and meditate on scripture; open a Book of Common Prayer to

page 80 and pray morning or evening prayer, or compline (or use your phone to go to

www.dailyoffice.org); find an app that will send you a daily scripture meditation, such as Jesus

Calling or d365.org to find devotions for every day of the year. Find some time to devote yourself

to stillness and listening in the presence of God.

No one can do the listening for you. No one else can listen with your ears and heart and

absorb the words of God. You are the one who needs to hear what Christ has to say to you.

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“Can We Be One with Christ?” A prayerful response to the primates’ call

Aimee low resDear friends,

Many of you have heard of recent news from the Primates of the Anglican Communion regarding the sanctioning of the Episcopal Church. This past Sunday, I preached a sermon sharing my thoughts regarding current developments. I thought it wise to share in writing the portion of my sermon addressing the sanction.

I pray that my thoughts, and the links provided for additional reading, will be a resource for you as we find our way ahead.

In Christ’s Peace,

Aimée

 

“Can We Be One with Christ?”

There is an ambiguity in this question. One might take the question to ask whether we can be united with Christ. Can we be so identified with our Savior that we might be said to be one with him?

But I mean the question in this way: Can we be alone with Christ? Can we be solitary Christians, having a personal relationship with Jesus but disregarding the community of the local church and of the broader church – the entire body of Christ?

This question takes on great relevance for us in light of current events in our wider Anglican Communion. Many of you heard the news last week from within the Anglican Communion regarding the sanctioning of the Episcopal Church. Some of you have asked me about it. On January 14, at a gathering of the Primates of the Anglican Communion— which means Archbishops and Presiding Bishops of members churches of the Anglican Communion throughout the world— a majority of the primates called for a three year period during which the Episcopal Church would ‘no longer represent [the Anglican Communion] on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee, and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, …not to take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity…. This call comes in response to the decision by the Episcopal Church’s general convention last July to change the canonical language that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman and to authorize two new marriage rites with language allowing them to be used by same-sex or opposite-sex couples.’

What does this mean for us? Quite practically, it means that while the Episcopal Church will continue to be present at the table within the Anglican Communion, we won’t have voting power to shape decisions. One of our staff members described this as taxation without representation. But it means more than that….

You see, our bonds within the Anglican Communion are based on something much deeper than our decision making bodies. Our bonds grow out of the relationships we build with one another across cultural, national, ethnic, linguistic, even theological, divisions. When we travel to the Diocese of Jerusalem to seek understanding and offer solidarity, when we build a school in the Diocese of Haiti to educate children, our bonds are strengthened. Indeed, our unity within the Anglican Communion is based on something much more momentous than theological differences. We are each members of the body of Christ.

Paul reminds us in today’s reading from 1st Corinthians, “each of us has a role to play within that body, just as each of our organs has a role to play within our physical bodies. There are many more passages in scripture that underline our essential unity in Christ, a unity that is more than a number of humans who share the same beliefs or are members of the same organization. We are, as Christ taught, branches of the same vine. We are one as the Creator and Christ are one. We are one in that we are all temples of the same Holy Spirit. We cannot ignore this unity and claim that our personal, or local, relationship with Christ is all that really matters.

In light of the news from the primates, some have wondered if the Anglican Communion is relevant anymore, or if it’s simply a left-over relic from colonialism. But I contest we in the Anglican Communion need each other in a fundamental way to grow spiritually and to become all that Christ calls us to become. We cannot be who Christ calls us to be without one another.

Those of us surrounded by the abundance of Santa Barbara need to remember that we are grafted to the body of the child dying from diarrhea. We are grafted to the body of the mother watching her child slowly starve because she has no food to give her. We are grafted to the body that wastes away from AIDS because he doesn’t have access to the pharmaceuticals we take for granted. We are grafted to the body of the child soldier forced to do unspeakable evil, and to the refugee seeking sanctuary from such evil. These lives are not theoretical; our debates about doctrine or polity will not save them. But the missional relationships through which we share God’s mercy and loving-kindness might just save us all.

So, no, the Anglican Communion is not outdated. The relationships that bind us together as the body of Christ across the Anglican Communion are necessary for the carrying out of God’s plan for salvation.

Likewise, the member churches of the Anglican Communion who disagree with the movement of the Episcopal Church need us, too. They need our witness to God’s all-inclusive love. The Presiding Bishop of our Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, reminded his fellow Primates of the essential role our Episcopal Church plays in the Communion, saying, ‘many of us have committed ourselves and our church to being ‘a house of prayer for all people,’ as the Bible says, where all are truly welcome. Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all….While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul…are true for the church today: …There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for ALL are one in Christ.’

That’s who we are here, friends: a group of distinct and diverse individuals drawn beyond the opinions or affiliations that would seek to divide us to find our unity in Christ.

The Church, both local and universal, is a gift entrusted to us. It is the visible manifestation of God’s grace, mercy and loving-kindness on earth. We, the body of Christ, are called to make God known in a special way. And we cannot do it alone. We need each other. Only together can we grow spiritually to become all that Christ calls us to be: a house of prayer for all people, where all are truly welcome.”

To learn more about the primates’ call, and responses across the Episcopal Church, follow the links below.

Original news report from Episcopal News Service

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s response to the primates’ action

House of Deputies President response to primates’ action

Episcopal Church bishops respond to primates

 

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An Invitation to a Holy Advent

Advent is a season of expectant waiting for the in breaking of God among us in the birth of Jesus and anticipation of Christ’s coming again at the end of time. During Advent we prepare ourselves for God to come into our world, our lives, our hearts anew. In Advent we’re invited to wonder, “What can we do as the Church, Christ’s body here on earth, to welcome God’s reign of justice and peace today? What can we do as individuals to reorder our lives in the light of God’s love? What would it mean to live as people who believe in Jesus as the Savior of all the earth and who expect him to come again at the fulfillment of time? Each Advent we turn to these questions.”1

Living into these questions requires quiet reflection and an inward turning. I hope you will find such opportunities at All Saints. Sundays in Advent will offer an atmosphere of reflective preparation for Christ to be born in our world and in our lives. Our readings this season invite us to examine ourselves and make a clear path for Christ’s birth within and around us. Our music turns toward the contemplative with the use of plainsong. Our senses are drawn toward the transcendent by the faint scent of frankincense and the simple chime of bells. Our altar is dressed in blue, the color of Mary, inviting us to follow Mary’s example to be bearers of God in our world.

That we might be inspired by the faithful acts of Mary, and others, in God’s plan of salvation, Wednesday evenings from 7:15-8:45, adults are invited to gather for our 3 week series Advent of the Savior. We will consider the roles Isaiah, Mary, and Joseph played in making God’s promise a reality. This series will introduce you to the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, remind you of God’s faithfulness and power to fulfill divine promises, and draw you more deeply into the love that brought Christ to earth.

That love, of course, is God’s self-giving love poured out for us in the birth of Jesus. God’s self-giving love is the primary impulse of the incarnation, and one that we are invited to follow. We will do so this Advent by following the witness of St. Nicholas, the 4th century Bishop of Myra. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. On St. Nicholas Day, Sunday, December 6, we will offer our gifts to assist the needy in our midst. Giving Tree gifts given to people in need will be brought to church that Sunday and gathered at the altar as our own act of self-giving love to others. Come on this special day to learn more about the witness of St. Nicholas and be inspired to your own acts of self-giving love. I pray that Advent at All Saints will provide for you the time and space to prepare for Christ’s birth, God’s greatest gift to us. All so that when God is born in Christ this Christmas, he will find in us a mansion prepared for him to dwell.

In the peace of Christ,

Aimée

1 “Advent,” Daily Prayer for all Seasons, (New York: Church Publishing, 2014), p 1.

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Parishioner David Boyd: God the Giver

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God the Giver
Parishioner David Boyd
October 18, 2015

Praise God from whom all blessing flow, and I first thank God for giving me a long and active life. I have used my life in both wise and unwise ways and in different relationships with God during different phases. In my present old age phase, I experience God The Giver as I try to extend God’s life-giving grace by being able to show his love for outcasts living on the margins of our community here in Santa Barbara. These human beings, made in God’s image just like you are I are, are the homeless, the hungry and those living with additions and mental and physical afflictions. I celebrate this gift to me by helping some of these lost souls on a personal level. They are also helped by those who serve on non-profit boards, raise and grant funds and manage programs for unfortunates, but I choose to do this work of the Lord on an individual lever to celebrate God’s gifts to me.

This outreach is up close and personal and requires time, lots of time, to stay in contact with homeless friends who may not have a cell phone or a post office box, to transport them to appointments with physicians, social workers, case managers and agencies when the bus is not an option, to visit them in hospital or in jail, to be with them in court, to help them fill out forms submit applications, to hear about their misery, hold them and advocate for them.

To make using my time in this way reasonable, I praise God for his gift to me of Alyce, my ever loving wife of 64 years and partner in doing outreach. Life in our home would not pretty if Alyce were not as committed to outreach as I am. Time spent helping unfortunates might otherwise be spent for ourselves. It amazes me to see how sometimes agitated street people we meet can be calmed by just the presence of this little lady, and I thank you Alyce.

And most important, I praise God for giving Alyce and Me this generous, loving All Saints church family. Alyce and I are only two people, and you the members of this family are the muscle and force multiplier. You inspire and make possible all of the Lord’s work done through the Outreach Ministry here at All Saints. You do this by pledging to support the Annual Budget which includes a significant allocation for grants by the Outreach Committee, by participating in the golf tournament fundraiser for Outreach, and by responding to appeals for your time, energy and money to make individual outreach programs successful.

I accept with humility your recognition of my work in a small area of this overall outreach ministry, but it would not be possible without all of you who help by donating food, money and time for the monthly Transition House dinners for homeless families, by transporting dinners twice a week for disabled, elderly and low-income residents of the Victoria Hotel, by distributing free food to the needy in Carpinteria, by serving lunch weekly to residents of the Casa Esperana Homeless Center, and by providing and serving a dinner entrée monthly to homeless souls living in Isla Vista.

I praise God from whom flows the blessing of your support for Outreach, and I thank you for spreading God’s life-giving grace with me.

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Parishioner Michael Swift: God the Giver

god-the-giver-logo-finalGod the Giver

by Michael Swift
September 27, 2015

I moved to Santa Barbara just over two years ago to pursue a PhD in Physics at UCSB.  For my first year, I lived in the overpriced grad student housing just north of Isla Vista.  One night in September, shortly before classes started, I got an email.  Rent was due.  In fact, two month’s rent was due.  And I didn’t have enough money to pay it.  Most of my cash had gone into moving expenses, and my first paycheck for TAing wasn’t for a month.  I freaked out; this sort of thing just doesn’t happen to me.  I paid what I could, and then went to bed, but I couldn’t sleep.  I kept worrying about how I was going to pay this bill.  As I tossed and turned, I said a quick prayer.  I didn’t really know what to ask for.  I just reached out to God, and trusted that God would take care of me.

In the morning, I got an email from the university saying, “You have a Graduate Fellowship Check for ready for pick-up.” It was for the exact amount of rent I had left unpaid!  I was stunned.  God the giver was taking care of me.  It could not be more obvious if it hit me in the face.

Of course God the giver works through human hands, in this case through a fellowship which is partially intended to offset moving expenses and the high cost of living for first year TAs.  But that does nothing to change the fact that this was a gift of God.  I was a stranger in this strange land of Santa Barbara, but I trusted in God, and God provided.

When we think of the blessings flowing from God, these sorts of physical, tangible blessings are often the first ones that come to mind.  These blessings are important, as are what we choose to do with them.  This is particularly topical as we begin our annual stewardship campaign.  We will look at the relationship between our economic and spiritual lives in an upcoming Sunday morning class, “Silver, Gold, and Soul”.  But it is my sincere hope that, when we think of the blessings of God, we don’t stop here.  The generosity of God the giver is so much bigger than that.

For instance, I think of the moment when little 9-year-old me got to go visit the hospital, and hold his brand new baby sister for the first time.  The joy and wonder of new life is a gift of God.  Though my mom certainly put a lot of work into that baby too.

As she grew older, I remember teaching my little sister to read.  She got so frustrated at times, loudly announcing at one point, “I hate reading!”  But we persevered, and slowly the reading became more natural, and she started seeing the stories behind the words.  I remember the pride and joy I felt as she decided she liked reading, then started to discover picture books, and chapter books, and before you know it she was devouring any book she could get her hands on, sci-fi and biography and historical fiction and epic fantasy.  Her eyes shine with the joy of the new worlds each new book opened in her growing mind.  Learning, perseverance, imagination, wonder.  These truly are gifts of God.

I could go on and on.  I could talk about the many other gifts of God I’ve experienced through my family: love, support, and encouragement.  I could talk about the gift of my fiancée, and falling in love, and planning our life together, and falling more and more in love every day even though we live three time zones apart.  I could talk about the gifts of God I’ve experienced right here, being welcomed warmly and joyfully on my first Sunday by Heather Childress and Sally Messerlian and Sheri Benninghoven and Nathan Sigler and countless others.  The blessings have only continued to flow at All Saints: through Eventide, through teaching Sunday School, through the vibrant energy of Rev. Aimee’s ministry, through the All Saints Food Wagon.  The generosity of God the Giver truly has no end.

And you know what unites all of this?  In every single one of these gifts, God the Giver was working through human hands.  Think about it.  The donors who endowed the fellowship that paid my rent.  My mom who carried my sister and gave birth to her.  My sister who worked through the frustration and learned to read.  My fiancée who teaches me to love and brings out my best self.  Each and every one of you whose ministry makes All Saints a place I can call home.  God works through people.  God works through us.  We don’t just receive gifts from God.  You and I are the very instruments of Divine generosity.

So my brothers and sisters in Christ, as you think on all the many gifts you have been given, as you come forward to receive the Eucharist in remembrance of God’s greatest gift, the gift given on the cross, as you are sent out from this place with the gift of the power of God’s Spirit, be ready.  Be ready to let Divine blessings flow through you to a world in need.  Be ready to be the hands of God the giver.

Amen.

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Celebrating the many gifts God gives us

Aimee low resThis weekend we will celebrate the many gifts God gives us! The festivities begin this Saturday, October 3, at 10 a.m. when we liturgically mark the work we being as priest and people, our lives merged in service to Christ and his kingdom. At our Celebration of New Ministry, I will be officially inducted as your rector by The Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool, our bishop suffragan. I am honored to serve as your rector, journeying with you through life’s joys and sorrows. And I am overjoyed to share in Christ’s ministry with you as fellow baptized members of the Body of Christ.

Baptism is the inauguration of the ministry of every Christian. We are each called to ministry by virtue of our baptism— our full initiation into Christ’s Body the Church. My call to be a priest in the church, and your rector, is simply a specification of my baptismal ministry to “carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world” (“An Outline of the Faith, commonly called the Catechism,” Book of Common Prayer, 855). Indeed, our Catechism tells us that all baptized members of the Body of Christ are called, “according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church” (Ibid). In other words, Baptism = Ministry. As your priest, I am called from among the baptized to order our common life around Word and Sacrament, that we all might grow more wholly into the full stature of Christ. Together as people and priest— the Church— our mission is to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (Ibid).

Mind blowing, isn’t it…? If your mind isn’t blown, let me repeat: our mission together is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

What a holy and sacred privilege we share. God knows, we cannot do this alone. And so God gives us the gift of one another. It is this shared, sacred call we will celebrate on Saturday, as we enter into a covenanted relationship of mutual ministry. You will be asked to claim your ministry among the baptized at All Saints. I will promise to love and nurture you, and empower you for ministries that glorify God. Together we will renew the covenant we made at baptism and seek the power of God’s Spirit to help us carry out the service God sets before us. I can’t wait to celebrate with you this sacred mystery we call church!

On Sunday, we will continue the celebration at our gentle, and pet-free, 8 a.m. Holy Eucharist service, and then at our St. Francis Day Pet Blessing with Holy Eucharist at 10 a.m. Genesis tells that God made all of creation and called it good. To celebrate the blessings of God’s creation, and our role as stewards of God’s creation, we invite our pets to join us in the sanctuary this Sunday at 10 a.m. Bring your favorite furry, feathered or finned friend, and join in the chorus of all creation.

St. Francis Day is also a special day of Intergenerational Worship at All Saints. We will again celebrate the ministries of all the baptized, as children help lead worship in Word, song, and sacrament. They will also be invited to gather at the altar for a special Gospel story. It will be a joyful day of celebrating all of God’s good creation.

I do hope that you will be present to add to the spirit of the celebration on Saturday and Sunday, and to give thanks to God for the beloved community we are blessed to share together.

God’s peace be with you,
Aimée

 

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Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people: Eventide Reflections

By Michael Swift, All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church Parishioner

Below is an Eventide Reflection delivered by Michael Swift on Wednesday, May 27

Good evening everyone.  It is wonderful to be with you all in this place.

Today we stand right between Pentecost, which was last Sunday, and Trinity Sunday, which is next Sunday.  So I am departing from the assigned readings for today to talk about the person of the Trinity who is active in Pentecost: the Holy Spirit.

John 14:15-21

Jesus said, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’

Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people.

Isn’t that a wonderful way to end a reading?  “Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people”.   It perfectly encapsulates what the Bible means to an Episcopalian: traditional words come alive, the collected stories of our faith through which the Spirit speaks to us where we are, inspires us as we are, and directs our path in the way we should go.

For me, this is the doctrine of “inspiration of scripture”.  It is not a statement of Biblical inerrancy, or a proclamation of the Bible as literally true and the only reliable source of truth.  It’s simply an expression of this principle: “Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people”.  If you’ll indulge me, let’s dive into some linguistics, and explore the beautiful imagery around this notion.  The phrase “inspiration of scripture” comes directly from Paul’s second letter to Timothy, in which he says, [3:16] “All scripture is inspired by God.”  Let’s look at the Greek.  The word translated as “inspired by God” is “theopneustos”. “Theo” is God, and “pneustos” is the adjective form of “pneuma”, which is the word for Spirit, wind, or breath.  This is our connection to the Holy Spirit, “to pneuma to hagion”, the Holy Breath.  Paul is telling us that all scripture is God-breathed.  And God has not stopped breathing. God breathes through God’s people, as it has been since the beginning.  Our forebears captured what they could on paper, cherished it, translated it, and present it to us, a living history of our faith, and God breathes through it still.

OK, the Spirit is living and active through the Bible.  So let’s hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people in the gospel passage I just read.  Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”  Advocate.  I can’t resist, let’s go back to the Greek.  The Greek word here is parakletos.  “Para” means beside or next-to.  “Kletos” means “to call”.  So the word “advocate” is actually a perfect translation, “ad” is Latin for beside, and “vocare” means “to call”.  This is such a beautiful word, with so many layers.

The Spirit is our advocate to God.  As the author of Romans says, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”  The Spirit, the parakletos, the beside-caller, stands beside us and calls out to God on our behalf.

 

The Spirit is also God’s advocate to us.  The call of God is not always big and majestic and imperious.  The Holy Spirit, the parakletos, the beside-caller, stands next to us, calling us gently, helping us along the way.  The call of God is personal, immediate, and immanent.

 

So the Spirit stands beside us, calling to God, calling us.  But there’s more to this word. We’ve talked about the parakletos as the one doing the calling. But it could just as well be the other way around.  Parakletos can also mean a person you call to stand beside you.  The person you turn to for help when you need it most.  The person you can count on.  The comforter, the encourager.  The Holy Spirit is all those things and more.

So, we’ve talked about the Spirit as the breath of God, breathing life into the scriptures.  We’ve talked about the Spirit as Paraclete: advocate, comforter.  I could go on and on.  There are so many beautiful ideas about the Spirit.  But I fear that with all this linguistic and theological analysis, we risk the Spirit becoming too abstract.  In this age of spiritual awakening and religious skepticism, the Holy Spirit more powerful and relevant than ever.  But often we don’t really know how to talk about it without some pretty abstract theology.  That’s where you guys come in.  Eventide is a perfect setting for us to make the doctrines of the Holy Spirit personal, alive, and relevant.

I’d like to break you up into groups.  I’d like you to discuss ways in which you’ve seen or felt the activity of the Holy Spirit, and then choose one of your group as a spokesperson to share your reflections.   To guide your conversation, I will give you each some Biblical imagery.  Group 1, I’d like you to discuss the Spirit as wind, like the strong wind that blew in the room where the disciples gathered on Pentecost.  Group 2, I’d like you to discuss the Spirit as fire, like the tongues of flame that rested on the disciples’ heads.  Group 3, I’d like you to discuss the Spirit as a dove, like the one that settled on Jesus when he was baptized.  So again, Dove, Wind, and Fire.  I’ll give you guys a few minutes to talk in your groups, then I’ll ask you to choose someone to share a few key points from your discussion.

To close, I’d like to share a passage from the Novena of the Holy Spirit by St. Benedicta of the Cross

Who are you, sweet light, that fills me

And illumines the darkness of my heart?

You lead me like a mother’s hand,

And should you let go of me,

I would not know how to take another step.

You are the space

That embraces my being and buries it in yourself.

Away from you it sinks into the abyss

Of nothingness, from which you raised it to the light.

You, nearer to me than I to myself

And more interior than my most interior

And still impalpable and intangible

And beyond any name:

Holy Spirit eternal love!

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Our Episcopal Witness: Confirmation

Rev. Vicki MouradianBy the Rev. Vicki Mouradian, Interim Associate Rector and Director of Children & Family Ministries

As a child growing up in the Episcopal Church, I couldn’t wait to be confirmed.  In those days Confirmation signaled not only strength received from the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands by the Bishop, but also first communion.  My Sunday School friends and I thought we were making a grand entrance into the adult life of the church.  I turned eleven, most were already twelve, when I joined the Confirmation Class.  An exception had been made for me to be confirmed as long as I passed the class.  My sister was twelve and in the class, and my parents though it would be wonderful if we could be confirmed together.  I don’t remember much about the class but I do remember we had to memorize many Bible verses, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer.  The day of reckoning would come when we individually had to recite verse, creed, or prayer in front of our teacher.  I remember the feeling of dread.  What if I froze and couldn’t remember a particular verse?  What would happen if I failed to recite the Creed or the Lord’s Prayer?  No Confirmation? No Communion?  On the day of reckoning, I was so nervous I thought I would fail.  Thankfully that did not happen and I proceeded on to the next step, shopping.  In those days girls were to wear white party dresses with small white lace veils on their heads and boys were to wear suits and ties.  I’m sure we all looked adorable.  After Confirmation, I remember receiving communion.  What a thrill; I was now a full member of the church.

What I didn’t realize was that I was already a full member of the church.  The water of baptism had initiated me into the church in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Ghost) and the chrism oil placed on my forehead sealed me to Christ forever.  I had therefore already been given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  What I couldn’t do was receive communion and what I didn’t realize was that Confirmation and communion were not necessarily linked.  Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist were essential sacraments to life in Christ; Confirmation was not.

The Episcopal Church has since evolved in its theology toward Confirmation.  Instead of marking a particular passage in life, like an initiation, as a follow-up step to baptism in order to receive communion, Confirmation is now understood as a rite in which a baptized person makes a mature and public affirmation of faith in light of our Baptismal Covenant (no memorization required).   Baptism is understood as the rite in which a person becomes a full member of the church and which includes being welcome at the Lord’s Table, regardless of age.  A person receives strength from the Holy Spirit in the rite of Confirmation to continue in the life of Christ.

Episcopalians are very subtle in their approach to evangelism. We seem to try to live it as opposed to speak it.  Quite frankly, that is one of the best ways to evangelize, because if you don’t live according to life in Christ, you really can’t speak it.  Making the decision to be confirmed in the church means you are publicly stating your belief and your willingness to live life according to our Baptismal Covenant.  You are professing your faith before God and witnesses and testifying to your spiritual journey.  There could be no better witness to the church!  In light of our upcoming visit by Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce on February 22 I invite you to review our Baptismal Covenant.

The Baptismal Covenant

 

Do you believe in God the Father?

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

He was conceived by the power of Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again.

He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

I will with God’s help.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I will with, God’s help.

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Thanksgiving at All Saints

Steve O'Connor casual


By Steve O’Connor, Director of Music Ministries

As I approach Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of I Corinthians 10:16 and the Apostle Paul’s reference to the “Cup of Thanksgiving.”  Here Paul is referring to the ancient Jewish practice of concluding a meal with a prayer of thanksgiving over a cup of wine, known as a “cup of blessing.”  This ritual act acknowledges God as the giver of all good gifts and consecrates the meal.

Borrowing this expression from ancient Judaism, Paul applied it to the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Eucharist, the Thanksgiving Meal in which we re-enact the saving acts of Jesus.

This year, once again All Saints will gather on two occasions to celebrate our gratefulness to God, for the bounty that we enjoy in our lives.  November 19th at 7:00 p.m. we’ll join the churches of the M-4 (4 churches in Montecito) in an ecumenical service of Thanksgiving at Montecito Covenant Church.  On Thanksgiving Day, November 27 at 11:00 a.m., we’ll gather in our own church to celebrate Holy Eucharist – the Thanksgiving Meal of salvation.

Join us, won’t you, for these two very important worship services. 

God’s deepest peace, as you enter this special season of Thanksgiving.

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