January 2017

Greetings in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

Having a Lectionary—an agreed selection and schedule of lessons for use in prayer and worship throughout the year—is a blessing.  It allows us to focus on God’s message in common with our brothers and sisters throughout the wider Church, it allows us to plan how preaching can develop thematically throughout a season of the Church year, and it keeps the preacher from beginning a sermon with the words “Our text for today is …,” and then just focusing on what he or she might otherwise want to say.  A Lectionary also provides a schedule for us to experience almost all of the Bible in worship.  But no Lectionary is perfect, and one of my quibbles is the omission of Jeremiah 6.16.

In warning the people, in exhorting the people to faith, Jeremiah says”  “Stand by the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”  These are words that apply very much to us in a year of transition.  As detailed in last month’s newsletter, we are undergoing a lot of change.  We are, in fact, at the crossroads, and at these crossroads God requires that we continue to walk in those ways in which have been accustomed to walk, and to build up and renew these ways, and God provides that we find blessing and rest in the reality that since our Way is Jesus, when we focus on following where He leads even change involves blessing and rest.

Change involves rest?  Allow for the Italics for this question (and just think of all of those “change” jokes you know that begin “How many Episcopalians does it take to change a … ?”)  But change does involve blessing and rest when change involves seeking to rest in the living God who is Jesus Christ.  God is alive, not static, and His blessing is certainly not past tense!  God is dynamic, a Spirit of power, a Spirit who has been given to each of us, and to us together.  We find blessing and rest not only in what God has done but in what God does:  as the Creator who creates anew each day; as the risen Lord who rules in heaven and on earth, and who leads us in the Way which He Himself is; as the life-giving Spirit who leads us into all truth.  We find blessing and rest in the “almost-too-good-to-be-true” reality that the living God not only abides with us but calls us to abide with Him.  It is in this Way that we become those both called and sent; sent to do God’s work.

A biblical passage that is included in the Lectionary is Luke 10.1-11 (appointed for the ninth Sunday after Pentecost in Year C), in which Jesus appoints disciples who He sends before Him.  The disciples are sent to “every town and place where he [Jesus] was about to come” (v. 1).  In sending His disciples, Jesus instructs them to take nothing with them.  In other words, Jesus reveals that what we most need in ministry is … opportunities for ministry!  What we need as a parish in how we will follow Jesus in a time of transition is a laser-like focus on the Way.  This will involve the “ancient paths,” all that has come before in the rich heritage of this parish and her people and clergy.  It will involve how these ancient paths continue and are reinforced in the “good way,” God’s Way.  It will involve the humility that allows each of us and all of us to focus first on discerning God’s will, and then on how God reveals to us that we shall accomplish this will.

How we shall accomplish God’s will lies in being faithful, not in what funds we can raise, not in the blessings we enjoy already, not in any matter or thing that is subject to our will part from God’s.  When our prayer may echo that of Our Lord, “… not my will, but as you will …” (Mtt. 26.39; Mk. 14.36; Lk. 22.42; cf. Jn. 12.27), then we incarnate God’s will and presence.  Blessing, indeed!  Blessing which changes the world.

 

Yours in Christ Jesus,

The Rev. Dr. Karl C. Schaffenburg

Rector

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